Tag Archives: Peacemaking

What time is it? by Gemma Dunning

4 Mar

One more guest post inspired by our peacemaking challenge, as Gemma Dunning explores the difference between peace-making and peace-keeping…

It might sound like a Christian cliché but there really is a time for everything (Ecc 3:1) and this week’s challenge of peace making is a perfect example. But in order to share this story we need to go back in time…

gemmadunningIn 2006 the leadership of my church supported my plans to attend a local bible college. I had been getting stuck in with the mid-week youth group, teaching in the Sunday school, and we had grand plans to forge relationships with the parents from the toddler group. But starting Bible College raised challenges that we simply hadn’t seen coming! The first year portfolio required evidence and examples of Christian ministry that I had previously not been involved in, moreover, historically no other woman had been involved in these areas. In an attempt to change this I began conversations with people about moving into new areas of ministry but I was quickly met with responses that were, well, less than encouraging. It seemed that this issue was set to be a bigger challenge than we had foreseen, and I had two choices: I could either be a peace keeper or a peace maker.

Well it wasn’t my intention to cause debate or to divide. I didn’t want to be the awkward elephant in the room and I didn’t feel particularly called to engage in a war, so I left the church. I chose to be a peace keeper. No big fights, no harsh words, no tears, I simply found another place where I could fulfil the criteria and could try all that God had in store for me.

Back to 2013 and you can imagine the surprise when last Sunday I was inducted as the Children’s, Youth & Families Pastor of the very same church I left in 2006!

As I said at the start there really is a time for everything and 2013 is a time for peacemaking. Peacemaking, as Sarah Hobday points out so well, is a hands-on approach that calls us to stand in the messy/difficult places. In this case it means leading well; it means saying ‘Yes I am a female pastor’ and it means dealing with people’s responses however difficult or challenging they may be – even if this means that others, sadly, leave the Church. There is a time for being a peace keeper and there is time for being a peace maker, the bigger challenge for me is in discerning what the current time is calling for… so I ask again ‘What time is it?’

Gemma Dunning bakes cakes, and loves red polka dots and hats. In between being the Children’s, Youth & Families Pastor for a local Baptist Church and a Youth Worker in Charge for local LGBT Youth Project she is often found enjoying the sunshine on Bournemouth Beach with a cuppa. Follow her on twitter @gemmadunning

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The opposite of peace, by Ruth Baillie

3 Mar

It’s been a vintage week for guest blogs, and we’re not finished yet. The latest comes from youth worker Ruth Baillie who, inspired by our latest challenge, reflects on how it feels to embrace the peace of God… and reject the alternative.

ruthbailliePeace.
The word conjures up an image of stillness… quietness… serenity.  It’s something that most people yearn for, and spend their whole lives searching for, but a state of being which few manage to attain, and sustain.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says simply, ‘Be reconciled to God.’  To be reconciled to someone means to restore a relationship with someone or, to put it another way, to ‘make peace’ with someone.  So, in other words, we are told to ‘make peace’ with God.

What’s the opposite of peace?

The absence of peace is discontentment. Unhappiness. Fear. Worry. I know this because I know what it is to reject God’s promised peace; to fight against Him, and like a stubborn child to want my own way.  When we refuse to submit to God’s best for our lives, we give up the precious gift of peace that He promises to us who remain steadfast in Him.  We give up the one thing that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

And what do we get in return?

In my personal experience, what we receive in place of peace are many undesirable traits… A discontented soul, always striving for bigger and better things, and never happy with what we already have.  A jealous heart, always comparing oneself to others and wanting what others have.  A heart full of fear and doubt: fear for the future, and doubt in God’s faithfulness and promises.  And all these things together lead to an anguished soul, unhappy and bitter and never succeeding in finding contentment and satisfaction in anything, no matter how much STUFF or how many friends you have around you.

There is a reason that Paul says in Romans 8:6, ‘for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’

Focusing on the world and all its pleasures, and desiring these things above all others leads to death.  Death of any form of peace, assurance, faith, and ultimately physical death.  But being focused on Jesus, and living in submission to Him leads to peace and contentment, no matter what the storms of life may throw at us.

The storms of death and grief… and yet the absolute stillness and peace that enfolded itself around me, my colleagues and friends on hearing of the death of our much loved friend and colleague in a tragic accident.  In amidst all the confusion, pain and grief was an undeniable sense of God’s presence. Peace. The peace that transcends understanding.

The storms of uncertainty… of not knowing what was coming post-graduation. Of worrying about the future.  When I submitted my life to God, he intervened. He spoke to me clearly, saying ‘you will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.’ (Isaiah 55:12)  This stilled me, and my tendency to worry was replaced with an absolute assurance of God’s hand on my life. I knew an absolute peace during a time of great change and anxiety surrounding my future. And sure enough, 3 months later, He led me in to an absolutely perfect job.

There are many other storms of life – depression, financial worries, family breakdown, illness… In amidst these storms, The Lord is stretching His hand out to you with a most precious gift. Peace.  Don’t forfeit that for anything.

Be reconciled to God.  For He is the ultimate peace-maker, peace-giver and peace-keeper.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

Ruth Baillie ia a church-based youth worker.  Also an avid tea-drinker, cake eater, reader, laugher, people watcher, and aspiring blogger. Find her blog at www.rubaillie.blogspot.co.uk, or follow her on twitter @rubaillie.

‘Freely forgive’ – an anonymous post

1 Mar

If this doesn’t touch and inspire you, you should probably have your pulse checked. A teenage girl who’s been following on the God52 journey writes about how this week’s peacemaking challenge has forced her to confront some big issues.

To start with complete honesty, I’ve been dreading a challenge like this. Dreading a time when I would be prompted to do what I’ve been putting off for years and years.

My relationship with my mum has always been fairly patchy, to say the least. A lot of my childhood was spent with my dad as my brother needed many hospital appointments after he was born. The more time my mum spent with my him, the more I would feel she wasn’t interested in me and what I was doing. As I grew up I couldn’t seem to do anything right; I was shouted at a lot. That was probably my own fault; as no one is a perfect kid and I definitely wasn’t. But this continued.

Growing up into teenage years, I tried my hardest to please my mum, and be the daughter she wanted me to be, but this was hard and rows and arguments began to emerge. When this happened I would always, and still do, back out of whatever was going on. I’d let her win; she was probably right anyway. I’d go away feeling weak and hurting, and would long for peace to return and still the air again. Don’t get me wrong, she is a really really fantastic mum and I’m extremely lucky to have her, but we have our clashes and I also happen to have a popular/funny  brother who she takes interest in, and I don’t blame her for that.

So on the topic of forgiveness and peacemaking… well, this relationship could really do with some of that. The whole situation has lead to me feeling useless and unwanted in my everyday life too, and a truth that I’m scared to admit is that I cannot remember the last time I’ve felt genuinely wanted by someone, because if I can’t do anything right for my mum or be enough for her, then I can’t understand why I would be for someone else. Including God.

So as much as I’m a sinner, I needed God’s strength to break this barrier holding my relationship with my mum back, and for peace to enter and be present in every conversation and situation.

After backing out and changing subject many times, I sat down and talked with her. Talked properly and deeply, something we rarely do. What was said is far too long for the space I have, but it focused on me, which again, we rarely talked about. Afterwards, the forgiveness that I’d tried to grant again and again seemed suddenly freed. It seemed easy to forgive her, to forgive myself for the way we’d both acted. I realised that for years I’d held a hurt which now was easing. God was very much in that conversation, crafting both our hearts towards each other in ways that would both help us, and helping me to realise my mum’s heart was for me the whole time, which reduced me to tears.

So the thing I learnt from this week’s challenge was to freely forgive. It was extremely tough but tonight I laid something at God’s feet that was so massive, I’d never felt I could even bring it to Him before.  He delivered, with healing and forgiveness. Next week I have no idea what’s in store, but whatever happens I am loved, by my mum, and even more importantly by God. I’ve learned that to freely forgive can ease the hurt and pain inside. God freely forgives us for absolutely anything that we do, and we should aim to follow His example and do the same.

Freely forgive.

The writer is a 17 year old girl from England.

Peacemaking: divine intervention – by Sarah Hobday

28 Feb

Another guest blog in response to our peacemaking challenge – by writer Sarah Hobday – a light-hearted reflection on an unexpected answer to prayer.

SarahHobdayStand aside!  Rippling with muscle, audacious in action; armed and ready with a determined glint in their eye – the Peacemaker has arrived!

This gifted, all-action hero may not be what I expected when I prayed peace over troubled waters. Surely God would send fluffy kittens and pretty flowers to divert attention away from the turbulent undercurrent, not commission a daring soldier willing to do battle, who would wade in carrying the scars of past conflicts.

But peacemakers are do-ers, they get their hands dirty as they create peace out of the chaos. They get involved and intervene; they act to rectify and redeem; to save and salve. Peacemakers stay and subdue. They are present to bring God’s presence to the situation and he’s the ultimate peacemaker.

Reflecting on Psalm 23 at Home group last night, we focussed for a while on how sheep can be driven crazy by nose flies! These afflicted, demented sheep revert to banging their heads against a rock in an effort to rid themselves of the torture of insects crawling up their nostrils.   But the watchful shepherd is alert. He rubs olive oil over the sheep’s face, which calms the animal and gets rid of the flies. Immediately the sheep can return to grazing contentedly. Peace is restored. Psalm 23:5 tells us that God anoints our heads with oil – in the presence of our enemies. What a thought. When we’re banging our heads with frustration, tortured by injustice, distracted by the million little things God steps in and brings peace. That’s what I call intervention.

And intervention can be a calling. My daughter took part in an expedition recently. After 2 days of rain, heavy back-packs, lack of chocolate and little sleep, a long diversion finally proved too much and brought the group to crisis point. Bad feeling and bad tempers suddenly erupted into something tangible and disturbing. It was then, as everyone else stepped back that my daughter stepped in and, getting between the girls, she faced the aggressor. She knew she had to act fast. If the girls fought, it would take more than one person to deal with the situation and the fall-out would affect everyone, but if she stepped in with boldness before that happened she believed God would help her reason with the girls and calm them down. She longed for the friendships to be restored and so acted to bring peace. I asked: “Weren’t you afraid you’d be hit?” She admitted she was but reassured me by saying that knew she could cope with that better than the girl she shielded. 

Wow! I had never thought of my teenage daughter as a bomb-disposal expert before but she had certainly defused that situation. Like a crack Commando, she was ready for action with physical courage and spiritual strength. Little did I realise when I prayed that God would gel the group during the expedition, he would mobilise my own daughter as the peacemaker.  Go, Muscles!

Sarah Hobday lives in Norfolk, tries to keep the chickens out and the kettle on.  Writing post-it notes  and shopping lists for fun, now attempting  a Christian chick novel!   Heading up Norfolk Christian Writers

An anonymous post on forgiving… and forgiving again

27 Feb

This week’s first guest blog is anonymous contribution, written from the heart in response to our peacemaking challenge. It’s gut-wrenchingly honest, and it makes a vital point.

This has probably happened to any person in a position of responsibility within a church: someone in the church had complained about the youth work I was doing. Complained strongly. I won’t go into to the ins and outs of the situation but in short, it hurt; it was handled badly by everyone involved and I came out a very bitter and angry person carrying a lot of hurt and pain.

I’m still at the same church and doing the same job but it was a long road to recovery. Forgiveness isn’t easy. I think this is why Jesus challenges us to forgive so many times. Not just because an individual may keep sinning, but because we keep needing to forgive.

I kept thinking to myself, “I’m over this, I’m good, I’ve forgiven”. And then I’d see the person again and the anger would come back – and the hatred – and I’d have to stop and refocus and return to God and say “help me to forgive, again”. I couldn’t just forgive once and move on, it took a long time before I could see the individuals and feel peaceful about our relationships. In fact, there are still times, even several years after, when I’m feeling weak and vulnerable that feelings can re-emerge and I have to remember and forgive all over again. However, I am now in a place where relationships have been restored and I am actually working with those who did complain.

Being a peacemaker isn’t easy. Sometimes it involves swallowing your pride and admitting that even though you may be the injured party it’s still possible to be in the wrong. It involves recognising that forgiveness goes both ways. That grace isn’t limited. That if Jesus forgives us, who are we to withhold it from those around us?

Also, not forgiving just isn’t an option. For a while I didn’t forgive and I just carried around this black ball of pain and hurt. Every time I was in church it was there, every time I did youth work it was there and it just ate away at me and at my relationships. My refusal to forgive nearly ended up causing just as much pain as the original complaint. I don’t think we were designed as creatures to hold a grudge. You never hear of anything positive coming out of grudge holding or refusing to forgive; just more pain and more hurt and more darkness.

So I agree wholeheartedly with Jamie’s words in the original challenge set. We need to bring light. We need to bring forgiveness. And not just once, but over and over and over again until we can truly say we have forgiven.

It’s not easy, but it is necessary.

God 52 – Week Nine (26/2/13)

26 Feb

peasHow many God 52 challenges is it possible to fail due to falling asleep? It feels like I’m trying to set a record. There was the week of prayer (fell asleep), last week’s silent challenge (almost fell asleep), and the fasting challenge (fell asleep, sleepwalked to the kitchen, ate a pie). Ok, the last one isn’t true, but thus far, sleep has been my main obstacle to overcome. Hopefully you’re all doing better than me.

Anyway, on to week nine. Here’s the thing about these challenges – whenever I sit down to write them, it feels like God is challenging me on that theme just at that moment. Let me explain using this week as an example. #TeamGod52 (Martin and I) decided this week’s challenge should be along the lines of peacemaking. I got in from work on Monday, had a couple of bits to sort out and then was going to write this challenge. One of the things to sort out involved my online banking. I logged in and BAM, some scallywag (not the word that initially sprung to mind) had stolen some money from me and used it to pay for stuff I’ve no knowledge of using my bank details.

Grrr.

Now I’ve spent the majority of my evening on the phone to my bank, cancelling cards and trying to get some money back. Evening – ruined, wallet – empty, mood – annoyed. My bitterness and resentment levels are at an all time high. I’m pretty mad at this nameless person.

And I need to write about forgiveness. I am in no mood to forgive let alone write about it. Now I’m annoyed at this person AND God. So, without further ado:

9: Go out of your way to bring peace to a situation.

This could be any situation, but ideally one that involves you. That issue that’s been hanging over a relationship? Deal with it. That person you haven’t forgiven? Forgive them. That storm that’s brewing? Nip it in the bud.

Forgiveness could not be more central to our walk with Jesus.

A good friend of mine went through something fairly traumatic a few years ago, the kind of thing that has a deep, nasty impact on a person. It dawned on them that they hadn’t forgiven that person. They wanted to, but it was a process, and needed time and space. They decided that while they couldn’t forgive that person (and they were working on it), they wouldn’t take communion.

That decision blew me away. At first I questioned it, but then I thought about it and it made sense. Communion is this grand act where we remember God’s forgiveness for us, where we see his restoration; but to go to that table holding a grudge undermines it. God calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven. When we harbor bitterness and resentment we can fall out of sync with God’s salvation plan. We lose the majesty of the freedom the cross offers us – we’re only seeing half the story.

That act of humbly turning down communion was a beautiful picture of what embracing God’s salvation means. And once that person had reached a point of forgiveness they started taking communion again.

So get out there and be peacemakers. Bring restoration to relationships and light into dark spaces.

Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, or to paraphrase it for this week: ‘Blessed are the God52-ers’