Monday, 31 December 2012

Theology and Justice

I love theology. I love my Bible. I was gifted with growing up in churches where the Bible was taught faithfully and where my love of what God has to say about the world around me grew.

As a children’s worker I explain the term “theology” as “What God thinks about stuff”. We learn what God thinks by studying the Bible. Simples! (To quote a well know meerkat) 

But quite obviously - we’re not God, and it’s often just our interpretation of Scripture that gives us our theology. I’m careful to keep that in mind when working and having fellowship with friends who may view what God thinks in a different way to me.

In short - I am fallible, along with every other human who wants to follow God. I try to bear this in mind when I hear others with a different point of view, by agreeing to differ on many things that do not affect our belief that Jesus is the son of God and is the source of our salvation.

Our organisation (Children Worldwide) has a diverse membership, with just about every flavour of churchmanship represented. In my opinion - this is healthy. It causes me to think, to sharpen my study of different subjects and to look at why I believe the things I do.
We unite on the important things and happily differ on the other things.

Over the last year I’ve seen lots of views on differing theologies, with people attacking others about various points of doctrine  - and I have been sad. I have ended up being disillusioned about the church nationally. Not with God - my love for Him and my faith remain firm.

I am sad because there are some church groups whose love for the Bible and theology appear to be more important than caring for the vulnerable. They comment on social issues from a so called theological standpoint and then do nothing to be part of the cure.

Yesterday I saw a tweet from Jamie Reed MP:
“7 years as an MP. Still waiting for a 'Christian' to send me a letter on child poverty. Plenty on homosexuality and abortion.”

I was horrified. That tweet really summed it up for me.

It is a fact that many churches are just ‘getting on with’ helping those who are vulnerable, in poverty and needing support - they just ‘do’ what their Heavenly Father commanded them to do…. Care. They probably haven’t written to an MP about about homosexuality or abortion either, because they are getting on with being Christ in their communities. I applaud them.

There are many ‘judgements’ made in the the name of theology, but only a few acts of justice.

I want to see that change.

My New Year resolution is simple - to gently challenge those who "judge but don’t challenge injustice".

My first example is this:

If you write to your MP about abortion laws, you must also write to him about child poverty, about the lack of care for children who will be born with additional needs - or better still, as a community, do something about it.

If you don’t want abortion (And I don’t), there will be consequences to that. More children with additional needs (Are your churches able to cope with that?) and more children living in poverty. There will also be more children in need of fostering and adoption. Are we up to the consequences of answered prayer.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Horror Statements

A UKIP candidate thinks kids with additional needs should be aborted (, and a mensa member  referred to those with an IQ lower than 60 as ‘carrots’ on the BBC (

Most of us gasped in horror at both of these statements - especially those of us who have family and/or friends with additional needs and disabilities.

It’s only right we should gasp in horror at these things!

But I have a provocative question for the Church and Christians in general - are we horrified enough? Or by our passivity in dealing with the subject of additional needs and disability, are we guilty of causing the same distress?

There is a wealth of info and training materials out there on making a difference for those who have additional needs and disabilities - especially in children’s work, and some are using them, and attending training events - but not enough. Some churches are engaging with these children and their families, but again, not enough. 

I speak at many conferences and training events. If we put on a seminar about puppets - the room is packed to over flowing. Put a seminar on about additional needs and we get a handful of folk (Strange when you look at the statistics of how many children have additional needs!) The only seminar that’s even less well attended is the one on prayer - which also says a lot!

There is a Biblical mandate to care for the vulnerable. We make lots of noise about caring for our communities, but if we can’t care properly for those who have additional needs and disabilities, we’re only caring for part of our communities. 

We also have a Biblical mandate to evangelize, but children with additional needs and disabilities are often overlooked in this too.

It’s a subject many in our churches prefer to skip over - and I for one would like that to change.

I’ve spent most of my (long) adult life wanting to change how the Church in this country cares for those with additional needs and disabilities - have you? The fact that you are reading this tells me you are of a similar mind!

Would you like to join a conversation on this? To create a vision for change?


Well that’s the whole point of the forum we are holding on Feb 1st in Eastbourne, which will be the start a longer, bigger conversation about this. But this won’t just be a talking shop - this will be a group of people with a passion and a vision for all these children are and can be. From this, I pray, will come change.
There will be further forums in different areas of the country, and an on-line forum to share ideas and work on a way forward.

This won’t be ‘my’ group - this will be a team effort, and the team will consist of anyone who joins.

Please - come join the conversation.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Record of God's Faithfulness

Every year, when we fetch the Christmas decorations down from the attic we say "Surely it was only last week we put these away...."

The year has flown by with great speed and little pause for breath. Together we've laughed a lot, cried a little and sighed when we've had no words to express our thoughts. We've hugged people, cried with people, encouraged them, sent many emails and driven many miles to be to people what they need - all this in the name of children's work, and keeping kids workers working with kids. We've also supported organisations in what they do and provided expertise where needed. It goes without saying that we've also done a lot of children's work! (A summary of our year went out in our Christmas Cards - you can download a copy here)

We have had a mixture of blessings and difficulties, both in the work we do and personally.

For me in particular, it's been an iconic year. Many things that I have had a vision for and dreamed about for years  are beginning to happen. It has been so encouraging to see my vision for children who have additional needs and disabilities come to fruition, to begin to get like minded people together and start to make a difference. I haven't been banging on lots of doors to make this happen - all I've done is pour out my heart about it and then watch things happen

God is indeed gracious.

At our council of reference we keep what we call a "record of God's faithfulness" A reminder that amid all the difficulties of leadership - God is still faithful. The list is getting very long!

Some of the things we are thankful for have another 'side', such as being awarded DLA over a year ago, allowing us to have a reliable car and a very useful rail card. This is great! But with the changes in DLA (Being changed to PIP) it does  cause a little uncertainty. I was given a permanent award due to the degenerative nature of the conditions I have, but I will now need to be re-assessed under the new system. If you believe the way things are reported in the press, if I was re-assessed tomorrow I wouldn't qualify for PIP (Which is slightly ridiculous!) BUT, thankfully I won't be reassessed for some time, and hopefully a lot of the negative side to the changes will have been sorted out and the qualification list will be more realistic. So there is still a need to be thankful!

(I am prayerfully aware of my disabled friends for whom the changes are causing severe hardship and difficulty - please join with me in praying for them)

We live by faith - our role as general directors of Children Worldwide is voluntary and squeezed in between our children's and consultancy work. Some folk sponsor us personally, our church gives us a monthly gift, and we are paid for some of the work we do (by no means all of it). In the last year we have lost a considerable amount of our personal funding - thankfully the DLA has  helped a little with this, but without it, things would be quite difficult.
Payment for some of my writing is helpful, but a lot of the work I take on costs us money to do, as those who need help and advice can rarely afford to pay for that help - but we remain convinced that getting the message out there about quality kids work and quality work amongst children who have additional needs, needs to be out there, regardless of whether people can pay.

We aren't destitute - we currently have enough to live on, and a personal gift that unexpectedly comes once a year pays for us to have a much needed holiday. (we can't rely on this gift always being there, but we are very thankful if it does arrive!)

There are other exciting things afoot for next year - the possibility of achieving more for kids, and especially kids who have additional needs and disabilities. Despite my own disabilities I can do everything I need to do - but I need to be wise. I need to know what to to take up and what to put down.

As we come close to Christmas and the New Year (Steve's Birthday on New Years Day!) We look back over 2012 with thankfulness - even for the hard stuff. We look forward to 2013, with a mixture of anticipation and a little apprehension. We have much to do, much to organise and lots to say.

Please pray for us - talk to us - hug us and encourage us. We 'give out' and care for people a lot - all willingly! But we rarely get asked how we are ourselves, so feel free to ask!

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

The Message (MSG)
7-12 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Carols? Bah Humbug!

I got myself into a little bit of trouble on social media last week.

My crime? I hinted at the fact I’m not too keen on Christmas carols - a truly heinous crime apparently!

I’ll start my saying I like listening to carols…. when done well. I love them done in their original form (Fire and Sleet and Candlelight by Coope, Boyes and Simpson is brilliant!) and hearing the Salvation Army Band is also awesome. 

I am not a Scrooge - honest! And this admission has nothing to do with being a musician and hating them done badly and like a dirge. (Although I do dislike that too!!)  

I concede that having a carol service can draw people into a church, and that it’s a great tool in working with our communities. Brilliant. I’m glad people do this sort of outreach.

But my comments are made as a children’s worker.

Many carols give a fairy tale view of Christmas - twee, pretty, sentimental etc, and we get the kids sings these carols in family services because it’s “sweet” and it gets them “involved”.

Yes, we tell them the true story with all the facts…... and then we make them sing something that is totally different. It can be very confusing for young children - even more confusing to our young friends with autistic spectrum disorders!

My God is big - He chose to come to earth in the form of a baby - weak, helpless God child. He was a real child - that’s the whole point. He cried, messed his nappy and gazed up at his mum like any other child. THIS is amazing.

He grew up, He did awesome stuff, He pointed to God the Father and is the only way to relationship with God the Father, He did no wrong, He died…. And rose from death. THIS is amazing

Many Christmas carols trivialize What God did (with a few notable exceptions!)

Why are we so surprised when people can only see Jesus the baby (Who apparently wasn’t a ‘real’ baby, because the carol said he didn’t cry….)

Why are we so surprised when children relegate the greatest story in history to the level of a fairy tale along with snow white?

Why are we so surprised with reports like this from the daily mail where people can’t separate fact and fiction in the nativity story?

I WILL sing some carols this year, and I will rejoice in those ones that give me a glimpse of the bigger story. But I will continue to cringe at those that trivialize what God did.

This is because I care for our children and I want them to have a clear understanding of who Jesus is, along with how He came, the reason He came that way and the consequences of Him becoming human.