In a World of Tears and Sorrow

How to keep intercessory prayer fresh, alive and meaningful? That, for me, is a question I repeatedly ask myself, for two key reasons. The first, simply, is that when we do something day after day – whether it be prayer, a world-of-tears hobby, a job or anything else – it’s hard for it not eventually to become repetitive, performed out of a sense of duty or habit rather than with any spontaneity. The second is equally important. In a world where suffering, sorrow, evil and hatred seem as rife today as they have ever done, despite the prayers and hopes of generations across the years, we can become increasingly disillusioned, wondering whether anything will ever actually change. Yet if faith turns in on itself, it is not only of no use to anyone, but it flies in the face of everything we believe about God and his love for all.

It was with these concerns in mind that I wrote my latest book, In a World of Tears and Sorrow. The title is bleak: deliberately so, for the world, today can seem equally grim – injustice, poverty, warfare, intolerance, and oppression continuing to blight the lives of millions. Yet the conviction underlying the hundred poetic reflections that make up this book is that we must continue to hope; that love can still conquer hatred and good triumph over evil; above all, that through working together – not only praying but turning our prayers into action – we can help to make a difference.

I’ve chosen poetry to convey this message in order, hopefully, to get that message across more effectively; to breathe new life and relevance into intercessory prayer. Too often such prayer can be so vague that it says virtually nothing. Or, in attempting to cover all the pressing needs of the world in one go, it ends up failing properly to cover any. The idea behind this book is to encourage prayerful reflection on specific issues, whether those be of social justice, of war and peace, of poverty and human need, of our daily relationships, or of something other. The poems are designed to stimulate thought, stir the heart and invite a response – above all, to move and challenge us. My hope, as I indicate in the introduction, is to speak in a way that other prayers may sometimes fail to do, leaving the issues covered and needs prayed for fresh in the mind long after the words have first been heard.

Yes, it is hard sometimes not to feel that nothing changes; that our prayers fail to make any difference; but that should never stop us from praying, any more than we should allow ourselves to fall victim to what is often referred to as charity fatigue. There are countless people out there – real people – hurting, grieving, pleading, longing. They need us to remember them. They need us to respond.

Written by: Nick Fawcett

In A World Of Tears And Sorrow is available now on our website only £8.99 -  eBook is also available

 

 

About Nick Fawcett

Nick Fawcett

Brought up in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Nick Fawcett served as a Baptist minister for 13 years, and as a chaplain with TocH for 3, before deciding to focus on writing and editing, which he continues with today, despite wrestling with myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood. He lives in Wellington, Somerset, with his wife, Deborah, and – when they are at home from university – his two children, Samuel and Kate. Delighting in the beauty of the West Country, Nick and Deborah love nothing more than walking stretches of the South West coast path at weekends, and Nick – as well as finding time for online games of chess and Scrabble alongside his many editing commitments – finds constant inspiration for his numerous books in the lanes and footpaths near his house. His aim, increasingly, is to write material free of religious jargon that reaches out to people of all faiths and none.

To see more about Nick Fawcett also visit his website at www.nickfawcett.wordpress.com  Also you can follow Nick on Twitter at   @nickfawcett

Have you ever imagined yourself as a castaway on the popular radio programme Desert Island Discs?

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Have you ever imagined yourself as a castaway on the popular radio programme Desert Island Discs? Along with the favourite records, book and luxury item, the guests are given a Bible as a matter of course. Now, suppose that instead of the entire Bible, you could only choose one book. Which would you go for? One of the Gospels? A favourite Letter, perhaps? Top of my list would be the Book of Psalms, the song book of the Bible: 150 rich pickings, a cornucopia of prayer, praise and worship to God. I love the Psalms and they were the inspiration for my new book Deep Calls to Deep, the title of which is taken from verse 7 of Psalm 42, one of the Psalms chosen for the collection. Through these reflections, I hope to encourage and help the reader to draw nearer to God and go deeper with him.
God has much to say to us through the Psalms and their timeless poetry gives us a language to express ourselves to God in return. We can make the words of the Psalms our own, engaging in prayer intellectually and emotionally, as we admit to God our true feelings. It’s been said that the Desert Fathers regarded tears as the purest form of prayer. We offer our whole self: heart and mind, soul and spirit, as we show our longing for a closer walk with God, who desires for us to go ever deeper with him. Our prayers should be vibrant and lead us into the very heart of God.

Modern-day life may bear no resemblance to the experiences of the Psalmists, but basic human nature and emotions don’t change. We can easily identify with the range of feelings expressed, as the Psalmists poured out their hearts to God in sincere, earnest prayer, holding nothing back. King David’s love for his Lord and his enduring personal relationship with God shine through. He wasn’t afraid to show his emotions, from the anguish and agony of spirit in Psalm 22: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ to the spontaneous exuberance of Psalm 103: ‘Bless the Lord, all my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.’
In this collection of Psalms, many of which were penned by David, I’ve chosen an extract from each Psalm as a springboard for my thoughts and ideas, which are presented as a short reflection and then rounded off with a prayer or poem, a verse or two from Scripture, or part of a well-loved hymn. It’s a book to dip into when you have a few minutes. You’ll find a variety of themes, including upbeat praise and worship, crying out to God for help in times of trouble, admitting doubts and fears, expressing an intense longing for God, and confessing sins.

In our fraught, pressured world the call to be still before God and rest in his glorious presence is more imperative than ever, as illustrated below, in an excerpt from my book:

STOP!

Be still, and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

I am exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

You know how it is: you’re worn out, run ragged, pulled in all directions and everyone wants a piece of you. Juggling frantically to keep all the plates up in the air at the same time, you somehow keep going beyond the point of exhaustion, even though it’ll all catch up with you sometime soon and you’ll collapse in a heap. It’s madness but you keep going.

You haven’t intentionally stopped reading your Bible regularly and surely God knows how busy you are at the moment? After all, you’ve been working hard for God all this time, so praying on the move is ok, isn’t it? Except it’s hard to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes and the distractions come thick and fast. Before you know it, and however unintentionally, God has been side-lined and his voice drowned out by the clamour of daily life. There’s been no time to spend quietly with God in his presence, seeking his will.

Finally, God has to shout to be heard, and it’s not the gentle whisper that Elijah experienced, but loud thunder that booms over the busyness. Unmistakeably, it’s God who is speaking and he won’t be ignored: ‘That’s enough! Stop what you’re doing, right now and listen to me!’ It’s time to refocus, put things in perspective and ask yourself what’s really important in your life. Where does it get you, all this chasing your own tail? Could it be that your energy is being expended needlessly? If only you’d asked for God’s help and guidance much earlier, instead of trying to go it alone.

There’s no need to start feeling too guilty, though. God understands how and why this has happened to you. Instead of chastising you, he’s offering a solution, a lifeline, reminding you that he is with you (Psalm 46:11) and giving you the opportunity to find a resting-place in him, amidst the apparent mayhem of life. Take it right now, don’t delay! Don’t be like the people the prophet Isaiah wrote about, who ignored God’s message to them:
In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one lay down,
thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn and sad;
I found in him a resting-place,
and he has made me glad.
Horatius Bonar

Written by: Linda Ottewell

Deep Call To Deep is available now: Only £6:99

Click here to view 

Margaret Rizza writes:

These beautiful reflections on the Psalms draw us right into the heart of Scripture, giving helpful insights into our ordinary, everyday lives. Deep Calls to Deep is a book which will inspire and awaken us to new horizons and this will reflect the way we go about dealing with the very ordinary things which we encounter every day of our lives. The thoughts and reflections after the extracts of the chosen Psalms are very helpful and constructive, allowing us to see anew some of the very difficult things arising from a culture which poses many things which need much reflection.

This is a book of great depth and will be a great blessing and resource to many people seeking a closer relationship with our Creator God.

‘Spiritual espresso – a shot of strong, stimulating spiritual reflection to start the day!’ Don Egan, Director of RSVP Trust

 

 

 

A question of Blame

Currently, I am quite busy writing a book on fear and anxiety, called ‘Be not afraid’. In my head, it’s a sort of follow-up to my book on happiness, called Happy Talk. Whether the new book actually ever gets published will be up to others. I can but hope.

The intention is to look at general fears that are around in society at the moment, things like fear of violence, economic collapse, ecological disaster and those fears that particularly hit us as individuals like fear of a lack of worth, isolation and embarrassment, fear of growing old, illness and death. There’s also a chapter on fear in the Bible and the most frequent phrase ‘Be not afraid’.

One of the things that I’ve picked up on is the anxiety created by our society’s ‘blame culture’. I feel to me as though this has become toxically pervasive. Its roots appear to lie in the increasing individualism that we are experiencing that focuses so much attention on ‘me’ and ‘my’: my wants, my happiness, my rights, and the growing willingness to go to the law to claim compensation for someone’s mistakes.

Blame is a protection ploy – protecting me from getting the blame by pointing to someone else, usually, it’s actually the wrong person. Blaming someone else seeks to get us off the hook. The bad workman blames his tools, the employees blame the managers, the salesman blames the customer. It’s a contagious virus. In a company, someone starts blaming someone else for mistakes made and gradually others join in over totally unrelated matters until a whole culture of blame is established. It undermines trust, diminishes efficiency, breaks down a sense of teamwork, and stifles innovative creativity. If mistakes always end up with some form of retribution people fear making mistakes, don’t own up to them, blame others. But everyone makes mistakes, and everyone can learn from them. A learning and forgiving culture undermines a blame culture.

How easy it is even for congregations to harbour a blame culture. Church numbers are in decline – it must be the vicar’s fault, or the bishop’s, or the general assembly. Three children have stopped coming to Sunday school – it must be the new Sunday school teacher’s fault. The hall was left in a mess last week – let’s blame the youth club.

We need to distinguish between being blamed and being accountable. Taking responsibility for my actions, including my mistakes, is a willingness to be accountable. That’s very different from blame. I don’t find Jesus blaming people.  What the Gospel speaks about is learning and forgiveness and transformation. These are what should be found in a community of trust and love – a church.

I’ll have to make sure that if the book does not get published I don’t blame anyone else but me.

 

*Written by John Cox – April 2018*

Happy Talk that is to be published by Kevin Mayhew this September.

During Lent, I’ve been leading a Bible Study Course in a small Suffolk village. Despite a less than warm village hall and freezing weather, a faithful group of around 14 people have met each week. We’ve been looking at the Beatitudes as found in Matthew but exploring why Luke had a different version and what different translations and other Biblical texts can teach us of their meaning.

It has always struck me as slightly odd that any number of people I have met who have little interest in the theological intricacies of Christianity and are very sceptical of the possibility that Jesus could be the Son of God, nevertheless feel that in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular, Jesus was saying things they think are good common sense. It seems to me that whatever else the Beatitudes are, they are not common sense – they are radical counter-intuitive challenges to the way we normally think. Why should the poor, those who mourn, or the persecuted be considered blessed or happy or, as Nicholas King has in his translation,* should be congratulated. There’s a shock to these sayings when you look at them seriously.

It’s the NEB and the Good News Bible, among others, that have ‘Happy are . . .’ And I find that interesting, not simply in trying to understand what Jesus was saying but in exploring what we think happiness is. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this recently and have written a little book called Happy Talk that is to be published by Kevin Mayhew this September.

Over the centuries and in different cultures and religions, the idea of what makes us happy, and what happiness is, has taken quite a number of different forms. To an ancient Greek it was only the gods who could be really happy – living beyond this world of work and trouble, of disease and death. It was only when you were dead, sharing the realm of the gods that a human being could be really happy. However, as in other religions, including the Jewish, it came to be felt that if you were wealthy, had fertile lands, and big herds, a position of power and lots of children you could count yourself happy. Lots of people see it the same way today – have the latest model of car, the biggest, smartest TV you can fit on your wall, all the gadgets you can think of and you will be happy. At least that’s what the adverts tell you. That’s what the consumer society and capitalist economics urge us to believe. It keeps the wheels turning.

But increasingly people are realising, as many of the ancients had already realised, that it’s a mirage, a con. Stuff, more and more stuff just doesn’t ensure happiness. Happiness is relationships, happiness is experience. And for the Christian believer, true happiness is ultimately not something we achieve but something we are offered as a gift – from others and from God.

If you want to know what else I think about happiness, how about getting my book when it comes out? That’ll make me happy!

* The Bible, A study Bible freshly translated by Nicholas King, Kevin Mayhew 2013

Written by John Cox March 2018

The dangers of social media

The dangers of social media have been highlighted by any number of recent items in the news. And as usual, there are plenty of people ready to blame someone, anyone, for what happens. The government should do more. The platform companies should produce more effective algorithms to filter out the grooming, the bullying, the abuse. It’s the schools. It’s parents.

New technologies have always produced their abusers as well as their users. Consequences are not always thought through or even imagined. People who are afraid of change have always been prepared to exaggerate what awful things will happen if you have cars, or railways or travel faster than sound. Those who embrace change don’t always take enough care to protect themselves and others from the dangers.

One of the problems with very rapid change, the kind of change we see in the world of digital communication, is that our common and moral sense sometimes takes time to catch up. Teenagers post a saucy photo of themselves, click the button and just haven’t thought it through that this will now go out to the world with all the potential for embarrassment and worse.

But there is something currently happening in one area of technological advance that is very interesting. While I am well behind when it comes to streaming the latest pop song I did get rid of my old tapes and replace them with CDs and I have gone so far as to download specific tracks both of popular and classical music. I’m almost ‘with it.’ But now I find that I should have kept all my old vinyl records. Technology has gone into reverse! The old turntable, amplifier and speakers hiding in a corner of my study gathering dust could be worth something after all. The music world is enjoying ‘retro’.

My daughter suggested the other day that perhaps the same will happen with social media – that it will decline and the older ‘face to face’ communication make a return. But I wonder. It would take more than a move to the ‘retro’. It would mean considerable changes in our social activity and social patterns. As a society, we are more’ instant’, more individualistic, less willing to take time in our relationships, more anxious about being liked – and the social media feed this.

Changes too in the world of publishing. More online. E-books. Volumes of encyclopedias have given way to Wikipedia. With an iPad, you have whole libraries available without moving from your seat. Bookshops have closed, not least Christian bookshops. But I’d like to bet that just as vinyl has had a resurgence (at least for the time being) so too will good old paper books. In the meantime, publishers have to look for the signs of the times, keep up, even try to get ahead of the latest trend. And Kevin Mayhew Ltd is no different.

 

Written by John Cox 2018

Youth and Children’s work

Taken from the November edition of YCW Magazine (Youth and Childre’s Work

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 Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives. Liz Edge looks at how we can encourage the children and young people in our groups to talk about these issues and seek help where they need it.

If the Bible tells me not to worry, then why am I so anxious all the time? It was questions like this that flooded my mind as a teenager after being diagnosed with anxiety.

I attended a loving church, but no one wanted to answer – or even explore – these sorts of questions. Church members would discourage me from thinking this way and unintentionally pour guilt into my mind for even contemplating these thoughts. Surely I couldn’t be the only teenage Christian living in the void? During my adolescence, I quickly learnt that emotional health and God didn’t mix. Over a decade later, after becoming a professionally qualified youth worker, I realised that young people were still asking similar questions. This void in conversation still exists, yet anxiety in the younger generations is on the rise. The responsibility is ours to help close this void and create a culture of resilient children and young people.

What is anxiety?
Definition: Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. Although we usually find it unpleasant, anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened. (Mind, 2015).

Anxiety is experienced by everyone at different times in their lives. It is often an unpleasant experience, but it is completely normal in most cases. Common times when a young person may experience bouts of anxiety are sitting an exam or starting a new school. After the exam is sat or the first few days of a new school have passed, the anxious symptoms usually stop and you can continue to normal life.

Signs and symptoms
There are all sorts of physical and physiological indicators that show a young person might be suffering from anxiety. Here’s a list which includes some of the most common factors to keep an eye out for:

- Muscle tension
- Nausea
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling ‘on edge’
- Restlessness
- Sweating
- Hot flushes
- Feeling a sense of numbness
- Pins and needles
- Fearing the worst/sense of dread

 

www.Liz-Edge.co.uk

YCW (Youth and Children’s Work)

Click here to view Liz edge’s new book Exploring Emotional Health, Available in Paperback and ebook formats 

 

 

Help! I’m a New Mum! By Pam Pointer

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Who shed more tears? My baby, or me? Probably me. I was pretty clueless on practicalities changing a nappy, for example. Could you fold a towelling nappy to fit a tiny bottom, then stick a giant safety pin in – to the nappy, not the baby…? The arrival of disposal nappies coincided with the arrival of my third baby, by which time I was a little more clued up and had less time to worry about whether I was doing things right. The toughest thing about being a new mum was probably the tiredness from interrupted sleep at night and not being able to interpret what my baby was trying to say through her crying. Hence my tears.

 
The thing is, it’s not the tears I remember now. I look at photos and dig into the recesses of my brain and what I see and recall are happy times – gummy grins, wobbly steps, first words. Baby isn’t baby for long. Her gummy grins evolve into hearty laughter, tentative steps into running and jumping, and from ‘Mumma’ and’Dadda’ new words are added and put into simple sentences. Before you know it you’re discussing climate change, space exploration, the best tennis player ever (Laver? Federer?) and whether the two pieces of a halved worm can grow into two new worms (no, in case you’re wondering.)

 
The first few days and weeks with a new baby may seem endless and exhausting at the time but are a tiny measure on the timeline of life. To some extent, I’ve relived my days as a new mum through the experiences of my daughters. On a shelf above my desk are photos of my five grandchildren. They range in age from 10 to 2 years and look at me with cheeky grins. Below them, on the desk, are photos of their parents who all look remarkably calm and happy though they’ve all had hair-tearing moments and testing times.

 
Two years or so ago I started writing down-to- earth prayers about being a new mum to give to one of my daughters. Scruffy scribbles were typed onto my laptop then sent as email hugs. My book, “Help! I’m a New Mum!” grew from there. If these short prayers encourage new mums to know that God is with them at every stage of life – when they’re confident and when they’re not, when they’re in tears and when they’re laughing, when they’re asleep and when they’re only half-asleep, then it’s been worthwhile. God gives life. He also sustains us through all the changing scenes. All we have to do is say, “Help!” My days as a new mum are long past. My days of calling, “Help!” to God continue. Hindsight shows that I can also say, “Thank you,” for his continuing presence in all circumstances.

 

Click here to view Pam’s website

Still Vaued and Blessed (Review)

Still Valued and Blessed: Patrick Coghlan4 star

Kevin Mayhew In the growing number of books written to help those in their senior years, this will not be a standout addition, yet it does provide a useful resource for those who minister to this significant age group. Coghlan’s main purpose is to develop among seniors a mindset whereby they approach old age with a positive attitude and an expectation that God can still use them. Each chapter is short and to the point, with large-print text. There are many suggestions on how we can be used by God as we grow older: providing a listening ear and a word of encouragement, sharing our wisdom and experience setting a good example for our families, developing a ministry of prayer, and sharing our testimony. The impression given is that old age is not a time for slowing down or of losing focus because God can still use us. Coghlan seems to write for those who are still active, mentally alert and physically fit rather than for those who may be increasingly frail, in need of support and potentially housebound. This makes the book more suitable for the newly retired rather than for those who are true seniors. TH

Featured Author of the Month

Nicholas King

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Nicholas King SJ is a Jesuit Priest who taught for many years in South Africa, and then at Oxford University. After a sabbatical year as a Visiting Professor at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, and another year as Academic Director of Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, he is now Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Heythrop College, University of London, and Provincial’s Delegate for Formation for the British Jesuit Province.

In 2014 Kevin Mayhew published his translation of the entire Greek Bible; and in the same year, Nicholas also produced The Helplessness of God (1501439), on how governance is done in the Bible. He is currently working on The Scandal of Christian Disunion – a biblical approach.

Nicholas King SJ was born into a strongly Catholic family in Bath, UK, and was educated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and St John’s College, Oxford, where he studied Classics. He had always enjoyed the study of Latin and Greek; in those days in the (perhaps rather odd) British educational system, it seemed quite normal that he started Latin and French at the age of 8 and Greek two years later. A series of good teachers made it natural to apply to read the subject at Oxford (as far as he can recall, he never thought of anything else).

‘Exploring Emotional Health’ Kevin Mayhew Blog

‘Exploring Emotional Health’ Kevin Mayhew BlogLayout 1

 

During my teenage years, I felt a void in discussions between my Christian faith and being diagnosed with both depression and anxiety. It was as if emotional health and God didn’t mix; no one seemed to want to talk about both in the same conversation.

As I got older, I knew that there must be others out there having similar thoughts like me. Surely I couldn’t be the only teenage Christian living in the void. Over the years, I would ask myself questions such as;

How can I be a Christian and be diagnosed with depression?

 If the Bible tells me not to worry, then why am I so anxious all the time?

 Does God still love me, even though I self-harm?

 It wasn’t until I became more knowledgeable in the area of mental and emotional health that I realised Christian’s aren’t exempt from experiencing poor mental health. Being a Christian is a lived experience, and that includes living with illnesses of all kinds.

Let’s pause for a moment and see the reality that we’re currently facing:

Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. (WHO, 2015)

In the UK, anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 5-19% of all children and adolescents. (NHS, 2014)

The majority of people who are reported to self-harm are aged between 11 and 25. (Mental Health Foundation, 2017)

These are just three of the many mental and emotional health challenges young people face in our society today.

The great news is that research shows young people want to talk about these challenges with trusted adults; they no longer want them to be ‘taboo’ topics. Whether it’s because they’re facing these adversities themselves or because friends/family are struggling, young people want to talk and therefore we must listen.

So, as youth leaders, how do we even begin to effectively support the young people we work with in exploring their emotional health and Christian faith? Where does the conversation begin in this vast field?

Exploring Emotional Health: Six workshop outlines for youth leaders will enable you to begin these much-needed conversations. This practical resource breaks open the void in exploring these challenges with young people. The book covers six key topics and includes ready to go workshops on self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, identifying and coping with emotions.

Every chapter provides an essential understanding of each topic so you are equipped to run the creative workshops. They could be used as a series during term-time or simply as a one-off at a residential.

Ten years on since my experience, there are still young people today asking the same questions. By using Exploring Emotional Health you’ll be helping to close the void in openly discussing emotional health and Christian faith. Start the conversation now!

 

 References:

Mental Health Foundation (2017), Self-harm [online]. Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/self-harm> [Accessed 7 February 2017]

 NHS (2014), Anxiety [online]. Available at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anxiety-children/Pages/Introduction.aspx [Accessed 27 June 2017]

 

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Twitter: @LizEdge_

Website: Liz-Edge.co.uk