Month: April 2016

Meekness and Majesty

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On Thursday the country celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday. Queen Elizabeth II, who is now the oldest reigning monarch, and the longest reigning monarch. I know the Queen can bring up a lot of controversy, not the Queen herself, but the very idea of a monarchy is one that can cause discussion and debate. I’m not going to even tackle that subject as I don’t think I would say be able to do it justice, but I do want to think about the example of the Queen, as a person and as a Christian.

Yesterday I was watching the documentary that was shown on BBC on Thursday, with the family looking at old videos. There were a few things that struck me whilst I was watching. Firstly, it was that the family, were a very close family that like to have fun. A lot of the videos involved laughter and playing. There are many videos of the Queen as a little girl teaching her sister dances and songs. There was a lot of rolling down hills, through all of the generations. Princes William and Harry spoke of how the whole family, including their Granny and Grandad do enjoy banter.

The second thing that really hit me, was a comment that Prince Charles made. He was talking about the fact that she was the longest reigning monarch. As he pointed out, this is a record she would prefer not to have. She became Queen because her father died at a young age. She was a new mother, with two young children. She didn’t become Queen because she wanted to, but because she was destined to. She became Queen under horrible circumstances, in a time of grief, but she took that role as she was meant to.

The Queen has spoken at length about how, at the centre of everything that she does, is her faith. Her faith is a living faith, not just something that she does for show. The quote for this week comes from the Queen who says

For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example

The Queen, like us all, has gone through difficult times, and yet throughout it all she knows that she is not alone. She speaks about Christ’s words and example, and I think that that is evident in her life. She is in the spotlight, and she knows that she has a certain role to fulfil, you can see from the videos that she loves her time which is just her and the family, but she knows what is expected of her and she does that.

What better example to follow, than Jesus, who too, had to do a certain job. We see a few times, that he has to battle with that job. Whether that was during the time in the dessert before he started his ministry, or when he is in the garden of Gethsemane and asks his father to take the job of dying away from him.

It is very easy for all of us to look at others, and think, oh I wish I had that life. But I know that as great as it may look having various houses, having exotic holidays, and having servants. I know I wouldn’t want to swap places with the Queen, and I have the upmost respect for her. She never publically questions what her role is, she does it, with the grace of God, and the example of Jesus keeping her going at all times. Do we do that with our everyday lives?

She knows she couldn’t do it alone, in the same way that Jesus had to draw on his Father. They both show those two contradictory characteristics… Meekness and Majesty.

Challenge: Think about what your role is, at home, at school, at work. Do you do it unquestioningly, or do you fight it/whinge about it/ complain about it?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the example that you have set for us, and that you never leave us. Thank you for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and that you are her cornerstone, and her example. We pray that you can be the same for us. Amen

Mind Your Language

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We are coming up to the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. I feel, at this point in time, that I should own up to the fact that I didn’t enjoy English at school. I love reading, and I have always loved reading, but I wasn’t a fan of having to analyse books. I wanted to just read the story, and enjoy the story, without having to analyse each sentence. Then, I discovered Shakespeare, and it was a different language. I couldn’t even just enjoy reading, I had to work out what was being said. BUT THEN…

We were reading Twelfth Night, and we went on a school trip to Warwick Castle, where Twelfth Night was being performed in the grounds. Different scenes were in different parts of the castle, and we had to run around to watch the play. The trip started off well because our English teacher was wearing yellow tights (that will only make sense if you know the play), but the play was fantastic. Suddenly Shakespeare made sense, I didn’t necessarily understand every single word that was being said, but I understood the story – and not just because my teacher was reading it to me.

My best friend’s dad plays percussion for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, this meant that we got to go to quite a few opening nights. I had developed a love for Shakespeare, and I would take any opportunity I had to go and watch the plays.

A couple of years later I was in Copenhagen, Denmark. I had gone on an Orchestra trip with my school. We had had a tour, and some lunch, and then we had free time. We had to meet back at the place we had lunch, at a certain time. My friends and I got lost! We knew that the place we had eaten at was called “The Ugly Duckling” (after the Hans Christian Anderson story) so we asked people for directions. Unfortunately, it is not called “The Ugly Duckling” in Danish! So no one knew what we were talking about.

Language is essential, it is a necessity in life. How else would we be able to communicate with each other to explain things? The problem comes when the meaning is lost. In Denmark, we needed to know the Danish. Shakespeare wrote plays, not books. They were meant to be performed. Would you sit down and read a script from Eastenders?

Things being lost in translation, it’s something that happens a lot now. But that is mainly through social media, texts and emails. I can be rather sarcastic at times, it’s not my strongest feature, and I completely blame my dad. But what I find is that you can’t always get sarcasm across in a text. The tone we use when we speak, and also our facial expressions, help to explain what we are trying to say.

I know so many people who have been hurt by words that have been sent in a message. I know I feel safer hiding behind technology, but we have to be careful, and sometimes we have to realise that we do need to speak to people face-to-face.

The quote I chose from Shakespeare for this week was

“Words are easy like the wind; faithful friends are hard to find”

This is so true. We can say things to people easily, but actually many friendships don’t really need words.

A teaching that I feel is key to the Christian Faith is that actions speak louder than words. Jesus showed this, if we think about the Last Supper, when he washed his disciple’s feet. He wanted to show them something about himself. This is something that the Salvation army still do today, for homeless people.

Challenge: Think about how you use words. Try to make a special effort to say at least one nice thing to people each day this week. Think about whether your actions reflect or speak louder than the words you say.

Prayer: We thank you that you have given us language to communicate with each and to communicate with you. Help us to use the language you have given us, to worship you, and to show your love to those around us. Amen

To be a pilgrim

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If you could drop everything and go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? It might be somewhere as far away as possible, or somewhere you have special memories of, or maybe somewhere with special meaning.

This week we are thinking about being a pilgrim. A pilgrim is simply someone who goes on a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a special journey to a special place. Within Christianity there are many places that people would go on pilgrimage to, including places in the Bible, Lourdes, Rome and of course Canterbury cathedral.

One of my best friends went to Jerusalem last year, and she went to many of the places that are mentioned in the Gospels about Jesus. The places have given her a much more real understanding of those Gospel stories and you can’t mention any of the stories without her saying ‘I’ve been there’ but I’m not sure that she would say it was a pilgrimage, it was a holiday where she visited places important to her faith.

The special thing about a pilgrimage is that it is actually more about the journey than it is about the place. It is about specifically taking time away from the normal everyday life and things, to go to a place, and to develop as a person in faith. Many pupils in the past have taken part in the Easter Monday youth pilgrimage to Canterbury cathedral, and I have heard many say that it wasn’t necessarily the planned bit at the cathedral that was the highlight, but the walking together with other members of their church, and other churches along the way.

The pilgrimage is the journey, not the destination. Our entire lives are journeys with highs and lows, sometimes they seem a bit mundane and sometimes they seem crazy and really difficult. It’s always good to look back and realise where you have been and how you have got to where you are.

The thought for the week says
The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t think to ask

In September I started a course to answer a very specific question that I was struggling over, and had been struggling over for some time. During the course that question was answered but so many more questions were asked and answered as well. I learnt so much about myself, and this was mainly because I took the time to answer that one question in the first place.

The challenge with pilgrimage is taking the time out of the busyness of life to go somewhere, but to go there on a journey rather than just arriving at a destination. Yes there are specific places which are considered holy within Christianity but this could be somewhere special for you.

Prayer: Father God we thank you that you journey with us and we pry that we will take the time to specifically walk with you and spend time with you on our journeys. Amen

Challenge: plan a date when you can go on a pilgrimage to Canterbury cathedral (or somewhere else of your choosing) but don’t just get a bus/train to Canterbury choose one of the many walking/cycling routes – and make sure you let me know if you do manage this one!