Thursday, 18 December 2014

Reuben the image bearer

Our son is made in the image of God

Human beings are made in the image of God. That means lots of things. We're creative, we rule, we're communicative, and we're relational. In the beginning, when The Lord was creating, he declared "good"over everything. That is until he made a solitary man. In all of creation, the only thing that was "not good" was that this man was alone. After the Lord had made a woman for the man, he then stood back, admired his handiwork and with satisfaction declared that the universe that he made was "very good". (Note that, feminists; God thinks the addition of women is the icing on the cake!)

This makes sense when we think about the nature of God. A triune God. A loving community. Father, Son and Spirit loving each other from eternity past. If the creator of all things is by definition a relational community, then it makes sense that human beings are wired not to be solitary creatures but to live in community too.

Which takes me to our son Reuben. Reu is six months old. He's (most of the time) pretty easy to please. He has some physical needs that he needs us to meet. He needs food when he's hungry, he needs sleep when he's tired, he needs to be bathed, changed and kept clean and dry. He's needs to be kept a happy temperature. But even if all these things have been seen to and he's perfectly content, he still needs one other very important thing, he needs company.

Reu is a little human being and he's a social creature. Nothing starts him crying more quickly then when I walk out of a room. He hates being alone. That's why he's happiest when he's playing with someone, when he's being cuddled and sung to, when he's sleeping in our bed (we're trying not to love it so much, and break the habit!) But of course he loves these things, because he's one of God's image bearers. And while he will become more independent from us as parents as he gets older, and while these years of physical affection and constant cuddling are short lived, Reuben will never outgrow his need for relationships. He will always crave them and I pray his life will be full of satisfying and loving relationships.

So as I struggle to do any housework because my little boy wants me to carry him, or as I relent and let Reu sleep in bed with me because it stops him crying, or as I flinch because as he tries to affectionately stroke my face but ends  up scratching it to pieces, I just need to remember this; he's acting according to his God given desire to be in community.

It's not good for Reu to be alone. I'll remember this the next time he scuppers my plans.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Reuben from 2-4 months

Here are some things that little Reu is doing now, that I'm afraid I'll forget all about when he's older. They probably aren't of interest to anyone else, but it's surprising how brilliant these little milestones and personality quirks are to a parent. I'm keen to remember them.

1) Smiles. When someone's talking to him, singing to him, tickling him, reading 'that's not my lamb!' to him. He even smiles when he doesn't want to, like this morning when I woke him up and changed his nappy and he was hungry and disgruntled and crying. He still couldn't help but smile :)

2) Praying hands. Reu has got into the habit of holding his hands together like he's praying - too cute.

3) Giggles. He's a ticklish little chap and he chuckles lots when Scott dries his neck after the bath. He giggles when you give him an Eskimo kiss. He giggles when you smell his feet.

4) Using his hands.
These three were a progression
- Hitting. Reu learnt to hit the toys that hang down on his baby gym. He would lie for 15 minutes concentrating on hitting things and watching them move. Around this time Reu spotted that he has hands and feet and would spend ages looking at them and moving them in fascination.

- Grabbing. Reu then learnt to hold things in his hands and hold tight to the toys that hang on his baby gym. He also attempts to stroke textures in books. The concentration on his face is adorable.

- Putting things in his mouth. Anything at all. Toys, mummy and daddy's fingers, muslin cloths. The other day he was determined to bring the plastic toy that he'd grabbed on his baby gym to his mouth. It definitely wasn't going to reach but he has his father's determination/stubbornness - and his whole fist went white!

5) Chatting. The wee man enjoys a natter and occasionally a little monologue to get his feelings off his chest. Therapy sessions often go on mid- meal time.

6) Rolling. He's rolled over three times. Once with some assistance ('roll for the toy son!'), once when we were watching him, and once when I was out of the room and I noticed that the babe wasn't where I left him, nor was he on his tummy!

7) Sleeping. From 11.5 weeks (not that we were counting or anything!) Reu has slept through the night. Often for around 12 hours. We are so thankful to God for this and recognise that it's not a given that your babe will sleep well. I've gotta be honest though, we've loved getting sleep after those sleep deprived first few months.

8) Dramatic yawns. Reu has got into the habit of doing very loud, dramatic yawns, which always distract the people around them from what they're doing or saying.

9) Being affectionate. He often tries to grab your hands or to gently stroke your face. He just likes to know that you're there.

10) He's got much better at listening to his bible story. Instead of just crying or feeding he actually listens and smiles. V sweet.

11) Reu has started to take an interest in us eating. We put him in his bumbo and he watches us eat our tea at night. We all hold hands (Reu grabs a finger) for grace.

He's so much fun to be around at the moment (and he's pretty easy going). We're definitely enjoying him lots at this stage.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Things that I'll miss about Reuben as he grows older

My wee boy Reu is five weeks old now. Already he is doing new things and some of the cute things that did in the very early days he's grown out of.

So here's what I'll miss about the new born version of Reuben George.

1) The way he curls his body into the foetal position. It's so cute the way he crosses his legs... With his chubby tummy and thighs he really looks like a fat Buddha!

2) The cute (and at times frustrating) way that he panics when you put him down, but how he chills out and is so reassured when you pick him up to cuddle him.

3) His funny little expressions.... Shock; frowns; suspicious eyes; drunk on milk; contentment.

4) The way that he is so into us as his parents. He looks at us in a way that seems so contented and that says that he feels safe and secure. He loves us singing to him, cuddling him, feeding him and bathing him. I love how he looks at Scott adoringly with his happy big blue eyes when Scott is bathing him.

5)  I love the way Scott styles his hair after bath time, he's had spikey hair, a Mohican and a comb over.

6) His skin is so so soft.

7) The fact that I often when look at him - even in the middle of the night when he's screaming - I can't get over how cute and tiny he is. I can't help but smile!

8) The way that he is so curious. Since birth he would try and throw his head back to look at my face. This was a bit terrifying but endearing too!

9) His shark impersonation, when he is keen to get his food. Funny now, perhaps not when he's got teeth!

10) The sweet little noises he makes....squeaks, sighs, hiccups and whimpers.

It's sad that he's already grown out of his new born clothes and has stopped doing some of these things. But I'm excited to get to know his wee personality as he grows older, and I'm going to really enjoy watching him explore the world.

It's taken forever to actually get round to posting this and he's now 8 weeks old! Smiles galore but no more foetal position. Each stage has joys of it's own.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Baby First Aid

Today I went on a baby and child first aid course.
It was really helpful!

It was 6 hours long and run by the British Red Cross. I wasn't sure who else would be there today, but it was just a bunch of ordinary people. Two sets of grandparents with childcare duties; two parents; a woman with a messy play business and another pregnant lady.

It was really helpful that the content of the course was taught for all learning styles - there was power point, videos, card games, demonstrations and lots of trying it out yourself. How else does one learn how to put on a bandage or give CPR without trying it out?

I loved the course and would recommend it to anyone, however it made me ask the question, 'why on earth is this an opt-in skill?' It seems ridiculous that the government hasn't made learning first aid a compulsory part of school education, or a compulsory thing for all employers to get their employees trained in. I really think first aid courses should be free for the general public and subsidized by the government. Everyone should have to practice giving CPR on a mannequin.

It only takes a few hours to be taught comprehensively how to administer first aid for a whole range of life threatening and serious situations. When so much is at stake why do we think it's ok for some people to think it's not their responsibility to know what to do? Surely we have an ethical responsibility to each other to be first aid trained. Surely it would benefit the NHS and therefore the government if as a society we were prepared and equipped to help save lives?

Until that day comes however, book yourself on a first aid course. It's only £45, but, invaluable.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Wonder Woman Must Die

I've been reading a book recently called 'Ordinary Mum, Extraordinary Mission'. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I've found it really helpful for preparing me for the changes ahead.

I'm very excited about us having our first baby. As my tummy gets bigger and the baby gets squirmier, it all begins to feel very imminent! There are so many things to be excited about.  It's so brilliant that Scott and I are going to get the privilege of bringing this little one up - I can't wait to get to know him/her. What will they look like? What will their likes/ dislikes/ opinions/ interests/ skills be? In what ways will they be like me? How will they be like Scott? There is so much potential and life in this little wriggly one. I'm so excited about all the special times ahead, the baby's first smile, peek-a-boo, the belly laughs, sticky fingers, their first prayer and all their questions about 'why?'

I've also had some time to think about what life will look like for me as a mother. While I've felt for some time that I wanted to be a full-time mum, I've always felt committed to the idea that I won't really be 'staying at home'. I have wanted to be out and about, getting to know other mum's in the community, blessing the neighbours around us, spending time with Scott's family, investing in relationships at church, doing some theological study, reading the bible with students, and of course sharing the gospel with people I meet along the way. In my mind's eye, the house will be tidy-ish, meals would be prepared for Scott and others coming home, and the baby will be cooing happily for all to dote on.

Now all these things are good things to aspire to. I do want to make the most of the amazing opportunities that having a cute baby give you. However, reading this book has helped me to see what a self-centred and self-reliant vision I've had of parenting.

In some ways, I'm afraid of losing my identity as a UCCF staff worker. It can be easy to find your identity in your work - and for me, the thought of not being in paid employment and of not doing 'Christian Ministry' is a bit scary. The thought of the 'glamour' of staff work coming to an end has resulted in me subconsciously trying to build a new identity on the basis of successful motherhood.

This is what Anna-France Williams says, "When I began writing this book, my idea of what a missional mum looked like was Wonder Woman, soaring around the planet rescuing troubled souls, kids in tow, changing bag slung over one shoulder, cape flying, wearing a freshly applied coat of sheer red lipstick. That was who I aspired to be. I had picked up the idea that mums who could 'do it all' and 'have it all' (running projects, groups, volunteering, baking, preparing endless creative activities for toddlers, earning money, having regular deep chats about God with strangers) were the ones who were truly bathing in the glory of God's favour and obeying the Great Commission in Matthew 28."

As the book goes on, it becomes apparent that the authors, Anna France-Williams and Joy French, have been humbled by the reality of actual parenting! The reality, it seems, is that your deep and meaningful conversations are often cut short due to a need of your child - running to stop them throwing themselves off a piece of furniture, or stop them hitting another child, or to kiss them better when they've grazed their knee. The reality is also that parenting is tiring work, and so however good the intentions of doing evening things - community projects, church meetings, even having people round for a meal - is often a battle of the will, because all you want to do is snuggle up with a book and a bar of chocolate! Also, parenting makes you realise that rather than having the natural ability and resources to serve everyone else's needs - you often really need help yourself in order to keep sane, rested and eating properly. In fact, being real about struggles in parenting can be a much better way of deepening friendships with believers and non-Christians rather than trying to give the impression that you are coping brilliantly.

So the book has been a really helpful corrective for me. I have a bit of a Messiah complex, and trying to be super mum - looking after baby, husband, and all those other needy souls out there, would absolutely play to my selfish pride. It's liberating to know that I'm justified by God's grace and have nothing to prove to my heavenly father. My identity isn't primarily in my employment (or lack thereof), or my marital status, or in how I spend my time - my identity is in Christ. I couldn't possibly be more loved by the Father then I currently am in Christ. So this frees me up to enjoy basking in his love for me, and serve others out of a place of security. Praise the Lord that my identity is found in his son and not my performance.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Questioning Evangelism

Hello again, after a long time of not blogging. I think I'm going to give it a try again...

The title is slightly misleading, I'm not going to chat about the importance of asking thought-provoking questions in evangelism (although this is great approach as I'm sure Randy Newman's 'Questioning Evangelism' book lays out). But rather my continuing questioning about how we 'do' evangelism.

It was really interesting to read my blog post from a couple of years ago. I still really agree that we should share the gospel out of a real sense of God's love for us personally. When we are thrilled by the gospel and feel secure in the knowledge that because we are united to Christ, the Father is utterly besotted with us, our evangelism will be warm, winsome, compelling and will sound like fantastic news! We won't share out of guilt or shame, but out of love for God and the person we are speaking to.

However, I feel like the Spirit has been challenging me recently about the content of the actual message that I've been sharing. I'm all for sharing the gospel creatively and not feeling like we need to stick to one particular gospel outline in order to explain the gospel. I definitely think that we can use a whole host of biblical imagery to explain the gospel - law-breaking/forgiveness from the judge; idolatry/ rescue from the creator; adultery/ reunion with the gracious husband; rebellion/ reconciliation with the loving father; leprosy/ restoration and cleanness from the healer, the list goes on... I don't think we need to limit ourselves to one way of explaining the gospel to feel like we've done it faithfully. I don't think that we need to talk about judgement lots in order for it to qualify as a genuinely evangelistic conversation/ talk. I don't even think we need to explain everything in one sitting, or really comprehensively, or at that very moment ask someone to respond to Jesus in faith and repentance for evangelism to be happening. But with all these caveats, I still have been challenged...

The Spirit has really challenged me about not just about the appealing, wonderful, heart-warming nature of the gospel - the perks, if you like of coming to Jesus. 'Come to Jesus, he really is brilliant! And knowing him will definitely bring joy and blessing now and for eternity. In fact your heart was created to know him.' But also the absolute necessity of the gospel.

The reality is judgement is real and deserved because we are sinful. People need to trust in Jesus' work on the cross in order to be saved. This is a critical part of the gospel to explain clearly. How can someone have a crisis moment where they turn to Jesus for salvation unless they are under no pretensions as to their current predicament?

My brother and his wife became Christians last week at Word Alive. It was the most wonderful thing ever and I'm so thankful to the Lord!

We had the great joy as a family of being involved in their journey to faith - my husband being able to answer some of their difficult questions, myself being able to give a couple of talks at the 'Just Looking' course for seekers, and my parents being able to pray with them as Jeanne gave her life to Christ. What a privilege!

However what the whole experience revealed to me was how difficult and painful I found presenting certain truths to them. It was hard to tell them about our sinfulness, Christ's undeserved death on the cross for us and God's eternal judgement for those who don't accept Jesus.

However they needed to see their necessity for Jesus, and not just that - it was so clear that the Spirit was at work in them bringing them to faith, when they responded positively to what was being said. That 'it makes sense' that we are sinful and deserve punishment, but amazing that Jesus pays it for us! It was amazing seeing the gospel message - the offensive gospel message, actually bringing conviction for sin, followed by faith and repentance, not offence and rejection. The gospel is the stench of death to some and the aroma of life to others - I really feel like I saw that firsthand last week.

So where does this leave me now?
Well I still feel committed to gentle, compassionate, winsome and creative gospel presentations - but the content does need, as a vital part of the process, to clearly present people's absolute need for Jesus, and the consequence of rejecting his offer of salvation.

What I found helpful in sharing the hard stuff of the gospel, was telling my brother and sister-in-law that I was really nervous about sharing this stuff with them, and that I personally find some of these things difficult to accept at times. I think that helped them - in fact my brother (pre-becoming a Christian) said that he understood how hard it must have been for us as a family to believe this stuff with him not being a Christian - then he gave his life to Jesus that night.

Praise the Lord that he uses our stumbling words and fearful efforts to bring people to himself. I don't suppose we need to have a sorted and super polished approach to evangelism in order to be used by God - and that's probably the whole point.

2 Corinthians 4:1-7

 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeingthe light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.