Tag Archives: Family

Traveling The Valley Of Shadows

I gathered with loved ones to see a star. A star whose light was changing but was still beautiful and at times younger somehow. This star shone despite death’s dark shadow which loomed over the valley where we were, like storm clouds forming in the distance we each knew what was coming.

The line in psalm 23 The Lords My Shepherd, speaks of such a valley, the valley of the shadow of death. This psalm that is still fresh in the memory, one that we see written on cards or spoken at funerals. This is not a valley I am particularly familiar with, though I have repeated the psalm many times. There is another line in its narrative that reads.

“his rod and staff guides me…”

This line gives gives me a sense of forward motion, that it had a purpose. God knew my questions and heartache. Within such moments scripture was read, in the quiet prayerfulness of my private space, it was like holding onto the actual staff of the good shepherd. Just as a child holds it’s parents hand, walking and moving in synchronicity matching the gait of the step and each twist and turn.

To my surprise the valley was a place where love deepened. The shadows had not halted the growth of these precious blooms. Love was experienced in the nurses and doctors care, in the embrace of family, the quiet kiss good bye on the forehead, of the one whose starlight was passing from our awareness to something beyond. Love shone in the glisten of tear filled eyes, and the vigil kept day and night.

As we journeyed together there was occasional laughter, and abundant generosity, where people showed up the best of who they are, to pay respect to the one who was leaving so soon.

Silence would settle like a warm blanket between conversation, people lost in their own thoughts, or listening for the slightest change that indicated that her light was changing.

She was the star in the room, those gathered loved the star that was changing before our eyes, until we could no longer perceive her light anymore.

I am grateful for her light that guided me. However her light carries onwards, into the place Jesus prepares. We can discern the light in our relationships, in the reasons behind the choices we make, in the gifts we share. Giving our lives shape, depth of meaning, and teaching us values of substance that lead us forward.

Farewell Irene.

Building Family Wealth

‘Why don’t we spend as much time together as a family anymore’? Their son asked staring up at his parents.

Mum had just taken some extra hours at work and dad had assumed increased work responsibilities, meaning that he was busier than ever. The family all loved where they lived and the increase in  income meant they could save a bit more, which was a real blessing. However, it wasn’t apparently what their children wanted. The question hung in the air and its truth and challenge caught the parents by surprise.

By the time the parents had formed an answer for their son, he was already onto the next thing, happily playing. Yet for mum and dad the challenge rested heavily on their hearts, and so internal intentions created to be more available, more present for both there son and daughter.

Its all very easy to make promises in the heat of the moment, as they had done not to the children but to themselves, to make things better. How actually could this work in practice in the cold light of day.

Looking at the schedule what realistically could be cut? Because work still demanded what it demands and then there is the child activities, cleaning the house, walking the dog, and hobbies, actually spending child free quality time together to keep the marriage strong, it all becomes too much, to huge and impossible.

For such a schedule to work there are perhaps some options that immediately come to mind that might help:

Firstly become very wealthy so you wouldn’t need to work, but the kicker is, that you would have to work even longer hours to get rich, which kind of defeats the object! Unless you win the lottery of course! Secondly one half of the couple stays at home, but then for us at least we couldn’t afford to well, live!

Thirdly do nothing, and let the distance grow between the family members. When the kids leave home, the fear might be though that for the children at least, they are actually just leaving a house where they lived once with some people they used to know.

Lastly live sacrificially. Put personal dreams to one side for now, store them away carefully and lovingly for tomorrow. There will be moments for those dreams when the kids are in bed, or the children are away or grown up. Then you can reward yourself and perhaps those dreams will blossom. For now its their time, these little ones we love and are loved by in return, that journey with us and for a short time who dwell with us.

Children will still demand the latest thing, or say to every advert on TV, “I want that.” But time is what they need, time to be loved and be known, time to flourish and be shaped by the wisdom of experience and a parents unconditional love. In that they become wealthy in what matters.

So as well as saving for christmas and birthdays, why not deposit time each day into the lives of your loved ones. The interest that will accrue will be far more than you could imagine, and you will become rich in away that truly matters.

A wise clergyman told me once, that despite a busy working week, he ring-fenced time with his children after school until after tea. I have committed to this and one week in, not every day but most days I have managed this. As the children were dropped off at school, my eldest asked, ‘daddy can we play lego after school’? ‘Of course’, I said. He looked at me again as if to make sure, ‘building stuff, together’? I smiled “yes we can”.

For him and our daughter they look forward with renewed enthusiasm for what we might be doing together after school as a family, indeed as we do. That is a measure of success long may it continue for this season and beyond as they grow and find their wings.

Your Forever Family In Faith

When we are hard pressed, when we are out of work, when we need something and when we want to share a significant life moment, we share it with a member of our family. For me a family is that unit of people who you willingly choose to be bonded to and who love you in return, no matter what.

Two sisters of faith Ann and Claire both from different churches had a conversation, Anne worshipped at the new Triumphant Hope Church, a lively young and busy congregation, whereas Claire went to St Luke’s a moderately lively small congregation trying to serve there comunity with dwindling resources.

Beneath the surface of their dialogue was Anne’s attitude that because she was part of a growing church they were more important and didn’t need to work closely with others. Claire was aware of the success of Triumphant Hope Church and wanted to understand and learn from them, but felt the burden of insecurity of being a smaller fish in the missional pond.

It wasn’t long ago at all, that Roman Catholic, Protestant and free churches were in competition and often in conflict with one another, and certainly on issues of women in leadership and the sacraments there is still work to be done.

A family is that unit of people who you willingly choose to be bonded to and who love you in return no matter what. I believe in a perhaps simplistic way, that if you call yourself a christian you are part of my faith family we are bonded together by blood, the blood of our saviour.

Numerous conversations go on in our churches today across the globe seasoned with a similar attitude of Anne’s, believing that their corner of the church family is the only one that has got it right. For centuries since Jesus there have been factions and splinter groups in our faith comunity. yet for the most part we hold to the revelation of the cross and tomb. So despite our religious disunity, or brokenness with one another we are still bound by something we can agree on, and that is the strongest bond that holds us together as family and perhaps is where we should begin with one another.

So when we try to score points remember they’re family, when we judge the decor or song choices, remember we are family. Let’s find a narrative a way of talking to one another out of respect for each other, out of love for our neighbour in faith.

When the weapons of point scoring and pulling the other down are put away, the witness to the world is immense and powerful, we demonstrate the best for what family can be. The collection of individuals though different, choosing to be together for the betterment of each other.

As I sat in a room of clergy from several local christian denominations who all wanted to share communion together, there was a genuine sadness over the catholic preist being unable to partake because of religious catholic rules. It was the methodist minister who suggested that they had a love feast instead, an ancient service dating back hundreds of years, of sharing testimony, or eating bread and water, and remembering the bond of family. Collectively they found a way to accommodate one another out of respect and love. May this image of faithful inclusivity season your thoughts and flavour your conversation with all members of our family today.

Go with God. 🙂

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