Category Archives: grace

5 of the reasons a “Returning Medium-Term Missionary” might seem a bit weird.

1. “Home” is no longer a clear-cut concept.  Asking ‘how does it feel to be home?’ is likely to be met with a blank look and, at best, a muttered half-truth or at worst, sobs.

2. Feelings change in direct relation to the ticking of a clock, so any question which relates to said feelings (how does it feel to be back? do you feel the cold? do you fancy a cup of tea?) probably means the answer has already changed 4 or 5 times before your voice even has a chance to inflect the question mark.

3. A big part of the brain still operates in a foreign language or some mixed-up version thereof, franglais par exemple.  Therefore common words and phrases like ‘toothbrush’ and ‘go for a walk’ are blanked out and one speaks in structures of sentences bizarre.

4. A big part of the body still carries the habits of the etiquette of the other culture.  When we need to walk past each other in the street, you will politely move over to your left as I politely move over to my right only to discover you’re still in MY way.  At which point, it becomes a game of chicken.  May the best foreigner win.

5. Everything is relative.  Every situation is open to comparison – it wasn’t like this where I was, when I was here before it was like that, I never used to see this, I always used to do that…  The possibilities for difference and discovery and naming of difference are endless as well as the ways in which those differences are important or not.  “Left-hand side of the road, Left-hand side of the road, LEFT-HAND side of the road…”

Tomorrow… a few survival tips (for all involved!) on dealing with a ‘Returning Medium-Term Missionary’ who might seem a bit weird.

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Filed under change, culture, grace, home, story

The problem with being single 3: Shame

Its been just over four years since I last had the guts to write anything about this.  I’m still not married. I just turned 30, so, you know… tick tock, tick tock…

As you may have picked up or know, my small corner has gone from being in Norn Iron to being en France.  Maybe I should change it to my “slightly larger” corner.  Not quite the same ring.  But anyway.  I’m procrastinating.

Having been through the ravages of culture shock (she said, as if its all done and dusted), when a young homeland lady on a semester abroad here got in touch with my mission asking to meet someone here in France, I took pity and went to meet her for an hour for drinkypoos.  I was careful to order nothing alcoholic, especially since even having a coffee in this country requires that one enter a “den of iniquity”.

If you’re not from Northern Ireland, you’re not going to understand that.  But its funny, I swear.

So we chatted and I graciously bestowed every bit of my vast wisdom about all things surviving cross-culturally.  Then our drinks arrived.  Hmmm… what now? So we chatted more generally about life and family and all sorts of inane things that came to my feeling-slightly-awkward-trying-to-make-conversation brain.  Its was fine, we’re meeting again in a couple of weeks so I can introduce her to someone else at the Language Café.

But as I walked away from the meeting, one point of our conversation came back to my mind.  She had asked me about my family and I’d told her about my two sisters.  She asked if they were married and I said yes.  Normal, huh?  Except as I pottered back to my car I replayed my inner workings to that question… I was very careful to mention that my sisters were 4 and 6 years older than me and that they were only very recently married and that therefore means in the natural order of things I have at least 4-6 years before the world needs to start worrying about my naked fingers and half-empty bed.

As a single woman, I dread pity.  I dread comments like “Och sure, plenty of time yet” and “How come a lovely girl like you isn’t married yet?”  I have deep feelings of irritation (slash burningly sinful hatred) when my Uncle ticks my sisters off his fingers and then asks whether or not he should buy himself a hat any time soon.

If you didn’t spend Saturday Nights with our Cilla, you’re not going to understand that.  But its not funny anyway.

You see, the thing is, I want to be married and somehow connected with that desire and the fact it is unfulfilled I have a sense of shame.  How come a “lovely girl” like me isn’t married??  (That’s a rhetorical question.  Just so you know.  Try to answer and I may kill you.)

Through various internet linkage this morning (you know how it goes, you’re looking for the conversion of oz into gms for your pancake batter then suddenly you’re reading an article about the astrophysics of gophers in the Sahara), I ended up watching this 10 minute video about the definition of shame.  She says shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging.”

The reason I feel shame about being unmarried (still being unmarried? I’m not sure this is all that new…) even though I want to be is because there is a voice which tells me I am “flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging”.

So why am I exposing my bits on my blog?  Because shame is a lie we all believe.  It may have nothing to do with your marital status or unfulfilled desires, but it might show up there for you too.  You know that voice, right?  The one that says “How come God doesn’t give me what I want and really desperately hope for or need?  What have I done wrong…?  What’s wrong with me…?”

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 10:9-11 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

The voice that tells us we are “unworthy of acceptance or belonging” is lying.  Part of breaking shame is naming shame, bringing it into the light.  So that’s why I’m exposing my bits on my blog, because I choose to walk into the light of God’s incredible love and acceptance of me and thought you might like to come with me.

I also found this sermon on shame worth a listen : click here

 

 

 

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Filed under dating, grace, hope, relationships, singleness

*sigh*

Reading about our lad John Piper’s latest faff here, reminded me of the post I wrote a while ago about the pressures on men to be something they’re not as anything BUT Jesus.  So, its not a response to the author’s encouragement so much as a little reminder of some of what we’ve thought through here in my small corner…

 

https://meinmysmallcorner.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/conveyor-belt-christianity/

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A lazy repost (because my friend did it too)

Was just thinking about this little poem today.  I posted it a few years ago, but here it is again for your reading pleasure…

 

Life is big,

And I don’t get it.

And I’m kind of tired of not getting it.

That’s a little sentence, but really its big.

Very big.

A bit like life.

 

Its got to be some sort of haiku or some kind of named form?  Don’t know, but it just came out this way and I kind of like that it encapsulates the simplicity with which we have to face our inability to know and control everything.  It names the fatigue that comes from trying, but recognises that that’s okay.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” ~ Jesus

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Who’s in charge here?

You’ll not be surprised that this small corner should link to a blogpost like this about submission in marriage…

http://www.emergingmummy.com/2012/01/in-which-love-looks-like-real-marriage.html

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Esther

“For such a time as this” is the most quoted line from this little Old Testament book.  As I picked it up tonight, after exfoliating and moisturising my face and scrutinising my flaws in the mirror, I wondered what a story about a beauty pageant winner might have to tell me.

Reading the story from Peterson’s The Message translation (is that the right word for it?) certainly helps with the flow of this little récit about a shaky moment in Israel’s history.  I had never realised before that King Xerxes’s reason (or rather that fed to him and enflamed by his advisors) for banishing and essentially divorcing his wife Queen Vashti were so sexist.

After days of revelry and drunkenness, Xerxes decides he’d like to show off his beautiful trophy-wife in front of all his mates.  She refuses.  We could elegise Vashti and say it was because she did not want to demean herself or whatever, but I’d say it could equally be because she was concerned with her own girly party and was looking worse for wear, or couldn’t be bothered getting changed…!  But anyway.  Her refusal is seen as an affront to Xerxes’ authority and ownership of her – the King can’t control his own wife?!?  The men (some probably trying not to snigger behind their hands) terrify the King that the whole land of women will be in uproar and will be disobeying their husbands right left and centre!

So Queen Vashti is punished – they make an example of her in order to keep the whole nation of women subordinate to their husbands.

Suddenly this ‘story about a beauty pageant’ got more interesting to me…

Its nearly bedtime so I’m not gonna spend ages pontificating about this, but here is what struck me…  Firstly I can almost smell the boorishness of Xerxes and his buddies – not an unfamiliar scent even today.  Secondly, Xerxes’ wife was the least of his problems – it was the power his reputation in the eyes of his male friends had over him that would worry me!  Third, the desire for control, absolute control, over people (in this case women in particular) and their behaviour in relation to one’s own desired state of affairs.  And four – the role of ‘fearful what-ifs’ in making a complete shambles of a situation.

Fast forward to Esther’s reign as queen.  It seems to me that her power and influence grows stronger – she seems to have been given a place in decisions that matter.  Is it that Xerxes was madly in love with her?  Was he under her power because of her beauty?  Or was it that she had proved herself as capable and righteous because of her petition on behalf of her people?  Did he have more respect for her character and goodness?  Was he listening less to those eejits he’d had around him before?  Who knows.

I like that Esther had more influence and that she is hailed for her courage and faithfulness in ‘such a time as this’ is good and right.  But I can’t help but notice that there’s a rather bloody end to this tale…

Once the order to exterminate the Jews was revoked, the King had granted them the right to arm and defend themselves should anyone have missed or disobeyed the revoke.  Fair enough… But suddenly the land becomes a blood bath!  The Jews kill 75,000 people!  Rather than it being a defensive “this-guy-came-to-my-house-to-kill-my-children-so-i-clunked-him-one”, it became a “I’m-a-Jew-yeoo-I-will-kill-you-because-you-hate-me-grrrr”.  The cull might have been half that number, but Esther asks the King to allow the killing to go on for another day.  What the flip??!!

I can’t help but notice that before this request to the King, there is no three days of fasting and prayer.

So, as I head off to get my beauty sleep… What have I learned from this story?  It could take a while to refine, but it seems to me that given a little bit of power, men and women can be complete idiots.

Thank God for grace.

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Rambling (but not so random) reflections on the way things might be

Darkness is the absence of light.  Evil is the absence of good – or rather of God.

In giving his creatures love, creator God gave his creatures the choice of not-love.  In plucking that fruit from that tree, the creatures sought Me-ness which is, indeed, not-love.  In the way that love is light, not-love is the absence of that light and in the way that love leads to light, to the Light, not-love leads to darkness, to not-light.

Where there is light, there is no room for darkness; where there is love, there can ultimately be no not-love.

Creator God promises to one day reveal the fullness of Light to those who choose Love.  Not only will those who chose not-love not be able to support that Light, neither will that light be able to support its darkness – there will simply be no room.  Darkness is nothingness, light is fullness.  Where there is fullness there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.

For those who live in Love, who live in Light, they will no longer know not-love or not-light.  Where there is fullness, there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.  If not-love and not-light are allowed entry, there is not fullness – Love and Light are not full.

One day not-love, not-light and not-fullness will be put away and Love and Light will reign in all His fullness.  And we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

(Oh yeah, oh yeaaahhh)

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