Communication

Communication

How many different ways can you think of to communicate with other people? What is your favourite method of communication?

I may be wrong but I think a lot of people choose to communicate through messaging of some description now rather than in person. That may be an email or some form of chat, but why is that? I think it is because it gives us the opportunity to hide behind something, and also the opportunity to not respond. Unfortunately it also means that we can get the wrong message across, because people are unable to see or hear the real meaning behind what we are saying. I know there have been numerous times when I have had to apologise because people have been upset by what I’ve said in a message, when that wasn’t what I meant at all. Charles Dickens was well ahead of his time and said:

“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true”

Dickens recognised the importance of face to face communication not only for the person giving the message, but also for the person receiving the message as they can receive encouragement from that face to face contact.

So face to face contact is vital for any relationship, we know that Jesus spent time with his disciples, getting to know them and allowing them to get to know him. But we also have to be careful with how we communicate with each other. In the book of James he gives this advice  

My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry.”

We live in a society where we are encouraged to have a voice… to say what we want to say… but sometimes that means that we don’t always listen to other people. James isn’t saying that we shouldn’t speak up, or that we don’t have a voice, but that we should listen first. Once we have listened, we should take that in, and then we can respond. So often, when we give it time, when we may have initially been angry, that anger may go away.

As we continue to look at the key characteristics of relationships, communication is key. There are bound to be disagreements in all relationships, but through communication we can work through those disagreements. More importantly through communication we can build each other up, encourage each other, support each other, and not hide behind a screen.

Challenge: How can you build up and encourage people in your relationships this week?

Prayer: Father God, thank you that you demonstrated listening and speaking to others through the person of Jesus. Help us to communicate with others, and encourage them. Amen.

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Vulnerability

Vulnerable

If you could be any superhero which superhero would it be? What powers would you have? If I’m honest I’m not entirely sure but I do remember from watching Disneys The Incredibles that you shouldn’t have a cape! People do seem to have a fascination with the idea of superheroes and yet… to have a super power is not one of the characteristics of relationships we are looking at this term, in fact this week’s characteristic is the opposite – vulnerability.

So often we try to put on a show in front of people, pretending to be strong, putting on a brave face when in fact our strongest relationships are probably those with people who we are willing to be weak in front of. People who we are honest with, admit our mistakes to, cry in front of. No super power or costume required at all. Our thought for the week comes from M. Scott-Peck who says

There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community

I think this quote is fantastic. It shows how important vulnerability is for community to develop, but also how difficult it is to be vulnerable in the first place. To be vulnerable means taking down the barriers, removing the costumes, completely being yourself – and that is scary. Once you find those people that you are able to be vulnerable with, then you will find people are able to be vulnerable to you.

As is often the case, we find an example of this in the person of Jesus. When we think of God we think of an all powerful being – the ultimate super hero. However, he chose to become fully human, to open himself up to human pain, suffering, emotion. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” which occurs when his friend Lazarus died. But… because Jesus became vulnerable we are able to have community in the Church, and we are able to have Life through him.  In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he reminds the church that it is OK to be weak, because it is when we are weak that our reliance on Christ is strong, because we recognise that we are unable to do things in our own strength but can do it through His.

We may not have super powers like the action heroes of films, and we may not have costumes. However, to be vulnerable  with each other, builds strong relationships, removes any costumes we may be hiding behind and creates strong relationships which others will struggle to break.

Challenge: look at yourself and work out what barriers you are hiding behind and how you can try to remove them

Prayer: Father God, thank you that you chose to come to earth through your son, taking away the barrier of heaven. Help us to remove barriers with each other and with you that we may become strong, even when we feel weak. Amen

Respect

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I have lived in Canterbury now for about 18 years, and yet I still find it strange when people comment when I say words such as path, bath, or tooth because I pronounce them slightly differently to southerners. – ie correctly! I have to admit I get a little bit confused… we are encouraged to be different and to be proud of the individuals that we are, and yet we also often find ourselves wanting to be like others around us. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but there is one thing that is essential throughout it all, and that is our characteristic of relationships that we’re looking at this week – Respect. Our thought for the week says:

To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater

Relationships are strongest when they are working together, towards a common cause. That does not necessarily mean that they are going to all like the same things, or be the same the kind of person. In fact, often they are stronger if there are people with different skills, strengths, and likes. However, it is essential that people respect the differences that people have. To respect doesn’t mean to become like them, but to acknowledge that people have differences in thoughts and opinion to you, and recognising when that might be a good thing.

In Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi he gave this advice Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.”. Jesus demonstrated this in his life, he had no need to as he was God on earth. YET… he chose to spend time with people that other people in society ignored, he washed the feet of his disciples. He didn’t just respect people, but he demonstrated that respect as well.

We are called to love others, and one way to demonstrate that love is to respect ourselves and to respect each other.

Challenge: Show respect to those who have a difference of opinion to you this week, and challenge those who do not respect.

Prayer: Father God we thank you that chose to come to earth even though you did not have to, and that you spent time with people that were rejected by society. May we learn from your example of respecting others and demonstrate that in our lives. Amen

Friendliness

Friendliness

As we start another school year we are going to be looking at relationships, and the key characteristics that are important within relationships. School life is full of relationships, and it is all of those relationships that we are going to be considering. Christianity is based upon relationship, as we see the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we are also able to have a relationship with God, and the Church is full of relationships as well – lots of examples!!!!!  So let’s get started.

The first characteristic of relationships that we are going to be looking at is friendliness. Quite often when we think about relationships we may think about those who are close to us, maybe our family, or our close group of friends. However, our thought for the week challenges that, it comes from Joyce Meyer who says

Every day can be exciting if we see ourselves as God’s secret agents, waiting to sprinkle a little salt on all the lives we encounter

We have many relationships, essentially anyone that we come into contact with throughout our day, friendliness is something that we can pass on to all of those people that we come across. Stop… think about it now… who will you come across in your day. When I was looking into friendliness I found a quote which differentiated between friendship and friendliness. Friendship is something that we build up with particular people, whereas friendship is something known as a virtue. A virtue is a characteristic, something that we can show to anyone. A virtue is something that helps us to flourish as a person, and we develop these characteristics through practice. The best way to practice is to do it. So… how can we be friendly?

From what Joyce Meyer says we sprinkle a little salt. What does that mean? She is referring to when Jesus spoke about being Salt and Light – very simply being and showing God to the world. Why do we add salt to food? Salt preserves things but it also adds flavour. You don’t need much salt, but just a little makes all the difference. How do we add a sprinkle of salt on the lives we encounter? Say hello, smile, open a door, share some food, say thank you.

God created the world, became human, died on the cross, and rose again so that we can be forgiven and live in relationship with him. That was one almighty act of love, and we can respond to that love, and demonstrate that love in small ways in our everyday lives.

It doesn’t need to be much, but the more you do it, the more it will become like a habit. You won’t think about it, but one of your virtues, your characteristics, will be friendliness. You will be known as someone who adds a bit of flavour to the world. IMAGINE if everyone just added a little bit of flavour to the world… I’ll leave you with that thought!

Challenge: Actively try to ‘add a bit of salt to the world’ every day for one week.

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you taught us to be salt and light to the world. Help us to show your love to the world in the small actions of our lives. Amen.

Promise

As we come to the end of the school year, and our term of looking at the creation and stewardship of the earth, we are looking at God’s promise and how that is reflected in his creation.

When I got married I made certain promises to my husband, those promises were made in front of our friends, our family, and God. Those promises were then demonstrated through the giving of rings. Similarly when I was a brownie I made a promise, this was demonstrated through a uniform and a badge. The ring and the uniform stood as reminders of the promises I had made.

After the flood in the book of Genesis God promises that he will never do anything like that again, and then the rainbow appears. The rainbow is a reminder of God’s grace but also of Gods promise.

The Bible is full of promises, promises made by God and fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross. Martin Luther the sixteenth century theologian said “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime”. Martin Luther is encouraging us to see the beauty of God in all things around us. Not just just that God made things beautiful but that when we look around we should be reminded of the promise of God loving us so much and giving us eternal life.

Prayer: Dear God thank you for the promises that you made and fulfilled in the Bible so that we know that all the promises you make will be fulfilled. Help us to see the fulfilment of those promises in the world around us. Amen.

Challenge: how can you see the promise is the resurrection in nature?

How can we take better care of our world today?

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Over the last term we have been considering the concept of stewardship and the role that we have to play within that. We have considered a number of things, but I guess that question is… is it all just a load of words? What is the use of the words if we’re not going to put those words into action. Our thought for the week comes from Wendell Berry who says “We do not need to plan or devise a “world of the future”; if we take care of the world of the present, the future will have received full justice from us” suggesting that if we take care of the world that we are living in today, then the future world will benefit from that care. We don’t need to come up with cunning and amazing plans, we just need to care for the world we are living in.

The big question really is are we actually doing that or are we just good at talking the talk, and making people aware, that we know what the problem is and how to solve it, whilst actually not doing a huge amount about it at all?

Many people have the misconception that Christianity is all about following rules, but actually that is possibly the furthest from the truth that you could get. People do things that are wrong, those things may be thoughts, they may be actions, but they are things that separate humans from God and are known as Sin. So… humans are separated from God, but God had a plan, and God came to earth and made himself human in the form of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, he had done nothing wrong, and he died in our place, which means we can be reunited with God. Therefore no matter what we do, what we think, we can be forgiven if we ask for it. Christians don’t do the things they do because they have to, they do the things they do because they choose to. It is a response to what God has done for them. In the letter of James he writes about faith being dead without deeds; and that although there is not necessarily any specific instruction or guidance of how people should act it seems clear that it is not sufficient to say that you have faith. James even says that people should be able to see faith through deeds.

This then could be reflected in our focus on the environment. People should be able to see that we know what the issue and the solution is with the environment by our actions, we shouldn’t need to say anything. Our actions will then be passed on to other people and the result of our actions will be appreciated by the future generations.

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for what you did for us, so that we can be reconciled with you. Help us to live our lives to reflect that love in our actions, and to love our environment today for future generations. Amen

Challenge: How can you take better of care of the world today? Think of one change you could make.

Peace

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Quite often when we think of the word peace we think of quiet but there are two definitions. The first one is freedom from disturbance; and the second is a state or period in which there is no war. Considering we have been looking at the environment this term and our role within it I think it is the first definition we need to be using this week.

We started off by looking at the belief of God creating the world and everything in it. When it was created it was perfect, everything was working together perfectly and it was working at peace. But then… humans got involved… they started making choices… those choices had consequences. Not only did we break the peace between humans, but also in the environment.

Our thought for the week comes from Ellen DeGeneres who says

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter.”

Humans are the ones who have brought disturbance into the world, but humans also have the power to bring peace. God loves us so much that He has given us free will, we have to use that free will to make wise choices to bring peace for us, the environment, and future generations.

Challenge: What choices can you make to bring peace to the environment?

Prayer: Father God thank you for creating the perfect world for us, we are sorry for decisions we have made that have brought damage in to the world. Help us to make decisions that will bring peace in to the world, for us, the environment, and future generations. Amen.