Discovering the Pastoral Heart of Christ (Ros' Blog)
When I was two years old, my parents left the south coast because of my father’s job and we moved as a family to Worcester Park. We remained there until I was six years old, and were members of Worcester Park Baptist Church. Our family had several more moves until I got married almost 40 years ago and moved to Hampshire, where I’ve lived ever since. I hadn’t been back to Worcester Park in the intervening years, although I retained some fond memories of it, and stayed in touch with one of the church members from there until her death about nine years ago.
But now the Through the Roof office has moved to Morden, and I drive through Worcester Park to get here every time I’m in the office. Although I was so young when we moved away, I still retain some vivid childhood memories of the place – the road where we lived, the Baptist Church, my first school, the raised footpath under the railway bridge, and the little shop where I used to walk with my mother to buy bread specially sliced for us to order, pats of butter, and ham which we watched being carved from the bone, wrapped in greaseproof paper and handed to us in a paper bag – no plastic waste in those days!
But my most vivid childhood memory from that time is not of the external features of the place, but of something more internal to myself. There was a green at the end of the road, which is still there, a large grassy area bordered by trees. And at night I used to lie in bed thinking about the stories of Jesus which I heard from my mother and in Sunday School. I would picture Jesus sitting on the green at the end of the road, with all the children coming to Him, and I would picture Him picking me up and sitting me on His lap. I would indulge in this reverie for a while, and then the guilt would start to kick in. I mustn’t be so selfish, thinking that Jesus would pay any attention to me. He was much more interested in the good children, the ones who did as they were told. It was very selfish to think that He would pay special attention to me, and I must not allow myself to dream this dream any longer.
So I have very clear memories of lying in bed, wrestling with myself, wanting to picture Jesus there on the green picking me up and sitting me on His lap, but feeling it was very wrong to have this thought, and desperately trying not to. Looking back now as an adult, I can see that the Spirit of God was drawing me to Jesus, and that other things were trying to keep me from getting close to Him – whether the voices of the adults around me (I remember the exasperated school teacher who exclaimed, “Why can’t you be good, like your brother?”) or whether there were spiritual forces at work, it makes little difference. It took until I was twenty-five for the revelation to hit me that Jesus wants to draw me to Him and to have a close and deep relationship with me.
All of this comes back to me whenever I drive past the little green at the end of the road where I lived for those four formative years. I was thinking about it very particularly as I drove home last week, because I had just had a conversation with Jenny Edwards. She has asked me to come with her to the DCF retreat at Brunel Manor next April, and I asked her what the theme of the retreat is going to be. She told me she wants to theme it around “the pastoral heart of Christ”. As I drove home, I thought about how that pastoral heart was longing to draw me to Him even as young as I was, and how a spiritual battle was already going on at that tender age to keep me away from Him.
We’re all familiar with the passage in which Jesus rebuked His disciples for trying to turn the children away, and showed them the importance He placed on children. Sometimes, to get past the familiarity, it’s good to read a well-known passage of Scripture in an unfamiliar translation, so here is Luke 18. 15-17 from The Passion Translation: The people brought their babies and small children to Jesus so that he might lay his hands on them to bless them. When the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents and told them to stop troubling the Master. But Jesus called for the parents, the children, and his disciples to come and listen to him. Then he told them, “Never hinder a child from coming to me. Let them all come, for God’s kingdom realm belongs to them as much as it does to anyone else. They demonstrate to you what faith is all about. Learn this well: unless you receive the revelation of the kingdom realm the same way a little child receives it, you will never be able to enter in.”
One of my great joys over the years has been to share my testimony of God’s goodness to me, and in particular how he used the birth of my daughter with multiple complex disabilities to reveal Himself to me and draw me into a very real and sustaining relationship with Him. So the idea of exploring the pastoral heart of Christ with Jenny next April is an exciting one to me, and I’m really looking forward to the event. If this appeals to you too, there are still plenty of places available, so why not consider booking and coming to join us? Follow this link to find all the details.
Churches Inc in Sierra Leone - Day 5
Through the Roof has a Churches Inc team in Sierra Leone for the next ten days. They'll be bringing a message of inclusion for disabled people, and working with the church and leaders there to help communities welcome, encourage, and support disabled people. Please pray for them on their trip - we'll bring you blog posts from them as often as they're able to send them through. Here's the team's report from the fifth day of the trip.
Today we held a workshop about autism and challenging behaviour. We had a very good turn out, especially as the rain makes travel more difficult. There were 29 people, 25 parents/care-givers and 4 teachers who had been invited by the parent of the child. It was a very positive meeting. Lots of participation sharing both the challenges of autism and also what we love about these children. Some parents were listening so carefully as they realised they are not alone in what they are facing. Evelyn who works for our partner and has a son with autism, Evrique, strongly encouraged the parents to accept their child and ignore others perceptions. One mother said, 'the power of life and death is in the tongue. We need to speak life to our children, that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, not negative words that destroy'. A father who has been struggling to accept his son and thinking of divorcing his wife to leave them came to the meeting, which is his first time coming to meet with other parents and publicly acknowledge his son. This was a very good day and we thank God for all that took place!
Churches Inc in Sierra Leone - Day 4
Through the Roof has a Churches Inc team in Sierra Leone for the next ten days. They'll be bringing a message of inclusion for disabled people, and working with the church and leaders there to help communities welcome, encourage, and support disabled people. Please pray for them on their trip - we'll bring you blog posts from them as often as they're able to send them through. Here's the team's report from the fourth day of the trip.
Today we visited local families in the community who are supported by 'Enable the children.' We met Sacho, who is loved and cared for by his family but has struggled to attend school due to a lack of understanding of his needs. Sacho is a 12 year-old boy living with his mother and sister on a fertile smallholding in Hill Stations part the Western district of Freetown. When he was very young his mother noticed that he could not talk clearly, is slow to respond and easily forgets things. Sacho has autism; he is not in school, but unlike some children in Sierra Leone has not been abandoned and left to wander the streets. He really enjoyed playing with our camera! We also visited three local schools to encourage some teachers to attend the workshop about autism and challenging behaviour - we'll have more information about how that went soon.
Cats: Cute Creatures or Spiritual Parables? (Ros' Blog)
Whenever I go away, I employ someone to go in every day, feed and take care of my daughter’s cat, Fledge, who will be moving in with her and my son-in-law just as soon as they move out of rented accommodation and into their own home. In between the daily visits I think she gets pretty lonely, and she seems to like having the radio left on.
I seem to have been away an awful lot this summer – two separate weeks of holiday, 8 days at the Methodist conference for Through the Roof, 8 days travelling to and representing Through the Roof at ONE Event and UCCF Forum, and I’ve just come back from going on the Babbacombe holiday, mainly as a carer for my daughter, but partly also to learn more about our DCF holidays, an area of our work with which I haven’t had much contact to date.
When I come back the cat is ecstatic. She races all around the house with joy for a couple of hours and then for the next week or so is very clingy, wanting to be in physical contact with me all the time. (If any of this blog post comes out scrambled, it may be due to cat-assisted typing!)
I read somewhere that cats have no sense of object permanence. In other words, once something is out of sight, they have no concept that it still exists. So presumably, while I’m away she can remember me but has no idea that I am still in the world and will one day return to her. She has no concept that the lady who turns up daily to feed and water her, empty her litter tray and give her some friendly attention has been arranged by me.
Writing in the mid-18th Century, Christopher Smart composed a poem which begins with the lines,
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way….
And so on, for a further 72 lines! If you enjoy poetry, you might find it amusing, it’s easy to look up online. I can appreciate the sentiment that made him write it.
It struck me, like Christopher Smart two and a half centuries earlier, that there’s a parallel between the cat’s relationship with me and our relationship with God. As long as we’re aware of His presence, hearing Him through reading His word, our prayers are being answered and we’re meeting for fellowship with other believers, we have no doubt of His reality in our lives.
But what happens when trouble strikes, our prayers go apparently unheeded, and illness, disability or access problems prevent us from getting out and meeting with fellow Christians? Do we put our Bible away and doubt God’s care, or even His existence when everything doesn’t seem to be going well? If someone shows us kindness, do we recognise that it’s a sign of care that He has arranged for us? Or do we lose our sense of His permanence?
The cat is always astonished as well as overjoyed at my return. As we pilgrim through the things that life throws at us, there are times when God seems silent. I’m convinced He sometimes does this to increase our faith in Him. The joy when we sense His presence again is beyond anything the world can give us. In the meantime, our task is to go on praying, to go on believing, to go on seeking and pursuing Him, and not to assume, like the cat, that if you can’t see, hear or smell Him, He isn’t there.
Churches Inc in Sierra Leone 2018 - Day 3
Through the Roof has a Churches Inc team in Sierra Leone for the next ten days. They'll be bringing a message of inclusion for disabled people, and working with the church and leaders there to help communities welcome, encourage, and support disabled people. Please pray for them on their trip - we'll bring you blog posts from them as often as they're able to send them through. Here's the team's report from the third day of the trip.
Today we joined Pastor Jonathan for Sunday worship with his church where we were really welcomed and shared a fellowship lunch. Pastor Jonathan has been speaking with many other pastors to urge them to help reduce the stigma attached to disability in their communities. He speaks very passionately about this. We are thankful for his positive example and pray that more and more pastors will catch his heart.