Guest Post by Ruth Gyves: the Twists & Turns of Life


A warm welcome to my guest on the blog today – Ruth Gyves 🙂 She was with me on the Wednesday Night show on Spirit Radio this week. I’ll let her tell her story…

Last Wednesday night, I made my debut on Spirit Radio. I was the guest on the lovely Annmarie Miles’ show. We spent time chatting about finding God in the twists and turns of life, in the context of some of my own life experiences. Here is a summary of our discussion.

Ruth Gyves
Ruth Gyves

I am an ordinary person living an ordinary life – my story doesn’t consist of thunderbolts and lightning! I am from Dublin, the youngest of a family of 5 and was brought up in a church going family; I had a great childhood. At the age of 11, at a camp in Greystones I responded to the verse in Revelation 3:20 that says ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’. I had just discovered it was not automatic that I would get to heaven, and the guarantee I sought was to ask Jesus into my heart. Simple? At that age it seemed so, but of course life is not that simple. The journey begun on that camp so long ago, has consisted of many twists and turns but has always brought me back to knowing that no matter what I go through, God is real; His love for me is real, his forgiveness is absolute and he gives peace, hope and security that nothing else can give.

As I reached the end of my teens, I had a ‘burning bush’ experience at another camp when I could almost hear God speaking from a bonfire. I couldn’t actually hear him speak, but the sense of his presence was so strong, I knew there was more to this Christian life than just the security of heaven.

I married in 1984, have 3 grown up children and a beautiful granddaughter, Amelia who is 5 years old. Over the years, life has thrown many surprises at me such as the breakup of my marriage, bringing up 3 children through difficult teenage years, and walking with my 18 year old daughter (and my sons) through the loss of her little baby, Ruby.

Some months before my daughter became pregnant, I didn’t know why but my heart was stirred to ask 3 people from my church to pray for my children. I can’t help but wonder how we would have got through that difficult year, if I hadn’t had that prayer cover. I don’t know why it all happened, and I might never know, but I do know that God was very real to me in the pain and sadness we experienced.

medium_534074080So many negative things happened at once; the illness and subsequent death of my dad, a wayward teenage daughter and a long drawn out divorce process. My closeness to God was not as strong as it is now but I was conscious of God walking with me and hanging on to me when my grip was slipping. Often it was hard to put on my positive face and keep going – times when getting through a whole day was difficult, so I broke my day down into slots – breakfast to lunch, lunch to dinner, dinner to bedtime! As time went on, I was able to look at whole days together and things became less difficult.

How did I find my way back? How did I find God again in the twists and turns?

Four key practical things that got me through, and continue to strengthen me on my journey are these:

Prayer
I pray about everything, all the time! I used to give God a list of issues and how I thought he should ‘solve’ them. God often has different ideas and I have learned that praying for God’s solution is better. I was unemployed during 2009 and through that year I saw God’s provision for me in a very real way. One month when money was very short, an anonymous bank draft for exactly the amount I needed came in the post. I believe that God’s way of answering my cry was to prompt someone who knew my plight to respond through generosity.

The Bible
The book of Psalms is a great place to start. I have found endless strength and encouragement in reading the writings of David and others, in all sorts of situations. Psalms like 46 ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ or 62 ‘My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.’ It’s through reading the bible that I have learned so much about the God in whom I trust and rely on. If I want to know about someone famous, I’ll read about them – if I want to know about God, then reading Scripture is exactly where I’ll find him.

Writing/Journaling
Writing has been a great way to make sense of it all. I write anything – prayers, thoughts, rants, poetry. It has been a huge encouragement to me to look back over the many many notebooks I have written in and see how God has led me and ‘worked it all out’. Just like the children of Israel – it was when they looked back, they could see all God had done for them. I write about hopes and dreams, reviews at the end of the year – anything and everything. One day I’ll write a book…

People
This may be the most important. I am blessed with people in my life who have supported and challenged me. I have also found it essential to be part of a church family where I can learn and grow with other people who love God and are willing to walk with me on my journey. We were not made to be alone – finding someone to walk with me, cry with me, laugh with me, bless me and encourage me has been vital in finding my way through the storm.

There is so much more that I could have shared on the show if time had allowed – and so much more I could share here. Perhaps this might not be the last you’ll hear of me!!
Ruth 🙂

photo credits:
Ruth supplied her own photo
Mary Anne Thygesen via photopin cc

Guest Post: Paradise on a Penitential Island (Part 2)


I hope you enjoyed the start of Mary’s story (if you haven’t read part 1 just click here.)
So without further ado…

Paradise on a Penitential island Part 2

I will interrupt myself again with some notes I wrote at approximately half way through this glorious weekend:

“12.35p.m. Day 2
They are queuing for the tea and toast already – they run the danger of me eating them.
…Another boat full has arrived – all energetic and light of foot – they’ve only been fasting for 12 hours after all!
Way more young people here than I’d expected.
It’s clouded over now was sunny – sooo beautiful.
There’s worse ways of doing penance I’d say! Like doing here in the rain!
Smelt the cooking rashers earlier – had to move!
Foodhall opens at 1.15. queue is growing. Good job I didn’t accidentally bring supplies – they’d be gone by now.
Real spiritual stuff this. Can’t even think of a prayer, can only think of my body – sore and tired.
Maybe eating and exercising might engage my spiritual side more… My head feels so numb.
Queue gone! Where? Been eaten?
Should have at least put on toenail varnish – I am so unprepared!
So God… besides eating, what do I do with myself? …when I get home.
Can’t even miss the girls anymore.”

Now, back to the real world:
Let us briefly reflect on what the people were queuing for
– black tea or coffee, dry toast, oatcakes.
But also sugar.
White granulated sugar, in a glass dispenser that pours continuously into your black coffee until you stop it.
But why stop?
The thin flat oatcakes look like cardboard.
Dunked in your sugary coffee they look like wet cardboard.

But, eat nothing for 20 hours, put a warm damp oatcake between your parched lips and wait to be amazed.

The average Hobnob contains 1.1g of protein, 3.1g of fat, 0.8g fibre, and 9.4 g of carbohydrates, of which 3.9g are sugar.

Information again pilfered from the web – God bless my creativity and the world wide web!

The nutritional composition of Lough Derg oatcakes is not available online, but that is of no real account because my second discovery on the penitential island was that if your BLACK coffee contains almost as much SUGAR as it does water, then a strange thing happens when you consume your dunked oat cake.

On this penitential island, St. Patrick’s purgatory, you’ve discovered paradise.

And paradise is a hot oatcake that for all the world tastes like a Hobnob, and you don’t even miss the milk from your coffee because this just tastes so great!

No I don’t just mean great, I mean one of the best tasting things you’ve ever eaten in your whole life.
The only thing that comes close is the tea and toast you get after you’ve delivered a baby, but even that doesn’t taste this good.
The best food in the world is the Lough Derg oatcake – dunked.
Rachel Allen, Jamie Oliver – eat your heart out!

But there is only one meal a day, so it doesn’t matter how good it tastes, you are only going to get it twice.

Notes from sometime later on that second day:
“Short choppy stepping, protect, or are demanded by tender toes grazed on rocks and pews.
People’s feet more recognisable than their faces.
Father – daughter identified by their long slender piggies. Then the white sparkly toe-nails, the flat, fat footed woman, the corroding fake tan feet, bunions – a whole medley of bunions! Strapped ankles, wide feet, narrow feet, archless feet, trousers tied around their legs.
Overnight vigil now surreal, a body of people, rising and swarming, bound by the devotion but singular in its execution, but still part of the swarm.
Waiting for the sky to brighten – victory over night for the sun and the penitent.
God – where are you in this? In a late rosary for the unborn?
Warm breeze – is that you God?
Silvery lake turns pewter in the rising breeze.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit – help me to trust that you are showing me the path of life… taking me into the fullness of joy of your presence and at your right hand – happiness for ever.”

Maybe, just maybe I’m not all flesh.

Guest Post: Paradise on a Penitential Island (Part 1)


Let me introduce you to Mary Barber. Mary is a member of the local writing group here in Kilcullen. Everything she reads to us makes me think and makes me laugh. On Culture Night she shared this story of her experience of pilgrimage on a cold wet island in the middle of a lake in Donegal, Ireland.
On the promise of a coffee and maybe a slice of cake to go with it, she has allowed me to post in here. 
It’s quite a long piece so I’ll give you half today and I know you’ll be wanting to come back to here the rest of it… Enjoy 🙂

Paradise on a Penitential Island (Part 1)

Photo taken from Wikipedia
Photo taken from Wikipedia

I know that it is ungenerous of me but when someone describes themselves as ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’, a little unkind part of my brain thinks that this is the equivalent of saying that you have a slow metabolic rate rather than admitting that you just couldn’t be bothered exercising.
You see I told you it was ungenerous and unkind, but unfortunately a big chunk of me has ungenerous and unkind tendencies.

I have no real idea what I am, but I think that at this stage of my life, viewed from the outside, I could be considered religious.
Obviously I do hope that there is a spiritual element to my religious efforts, but a part of my brain – the self congratulatory part, thinks that doing religion is to God what laundry or putting the bin out is to your spouse – obviously not essential elements of the relationship but when done with good cheer they certainly help the wheels of the relationship to turn.

This summer, as part of my religious efforts, I ‘did’ Lough Derg. I suppose the hope was that I would have a spiritual experience – whatever that is.

For now I would just like to invite everyone – spiritual, religious or both – to ‘do’ Lough Derg.

Not the balmy one described by Wikipedia as “Lough Derg Shannon”, but the one described as “Lough Derg Ulster, best known for St Patrick’s Purgatory, a site of pilgrimage on Station Island in the lake.”

The reason I extend the invitation is because it was there on that island of purgatory, and penance and stations, that I discovered that I am neither religious nor spiritual.

I am pure flesh

– a great lumbering body of raw animalistic appetites.
Deny me my food, deny me my sleep, and by the second day I might just eat someone alive.

To give some background information and to save me the effort of coming up with original material I will now quote from the Lough Derg website:

“The traditional Three Day Pilgrimage follows a 1000 year old pattern. As soon as you arrive on the Island you take off your shoes and socks. You start the traditional series of Station prayers, walking around the penitential beds.
(At this stage I must digress and inform you that what they call a ‘bed’ is not to be confused with the pocket sprung, memory foam, type of thing we normally call bed.
What they call a bed is actually an uneven circle of rock about the same size as a dinner table for ten. So imagine you and six or seven other people stepping from plate to plate on top of this table for ten. This gives you some idea of the physical dexterity required to walk around the penitential bed.
All eyes are down, focused on rock and other people’s feet. Early on you realise that feet come in all shapes and sizes.
Your eyes are down and your entire mental effort is given over to not falling between the cracks. It all feels insanely pointless but maybe that’s exactly the point.
Back to the brochure…)

At 10pm you begin a 24-hour vigil which ends when you go to bed on the second night.
You will experience a great sense of community as you celebrate Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and take part in time-honoured rituals and prayers.
You leave the Island on the morning of the third day, although your fast continues until midnight.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have managed to complete this pilgrimage, thought to be the toughest in all of Europe, perhaps even in the whole Christian world.

(Another aside – when they say ‘fast’ they are not talking Usain Bolt or ‘one full meals and two collations’. What they are talking about is described in the website as follows: )

Pilgrims are allowed ONE Lough Derg meal on each day of their pilgrimage, consisting of Toast (without butter), Oatcakes and Tea/Coffee (without milk). On the third day of the pilgrimage, once pilgrims have departed from the Island they are permitted to take Soft Drinks. Still water is allowed at all times throughout the pilgrimage and drinking fountains are available, while bottled water is available to purchase in the souvenir shop.
Please note pilgrims must be at least 15 years of age, and in good health.”

Age restrictions and the term “in good health” is always a bit concerning!

With the benefit of hindsight I can admit that there was enough information in those few paragraphs to have given me full warning, but I thought I was made of stern stuff.

Dry toast, black tea – no problem. My waist hip ratio bears witness to the fact that I am well prepared for a nuclear winter.

“Vigil ends when you go to bed on the second night.”

This bit really did have me worried…

Part 2 coming soon… 🙂 A x

Guest Post by James Prescott – Insecurities


I’m delighted to have James Prescott as a guest on the blog today. James is a fellow
Tribe Writer and a great encourager. Today he’s sharing his thoughts on
 

Insecurities

Hiding JP guest postInsecurities. Those dreaded hangups, fears, doubts, voices in our heads telling us what we aren’t, who we’re not, or how awful we are. Sound familiar? I’ve talked before how there’s not one person without any insecurities.
And this should be of comfort to us.

But having acknowledged we’re all in the same boat, how do we navigate our way out of the insecurity storm?

In the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ we see the main character, John Nash – played beautifully in an Oscar-winning performance by Russell Crowe – battling against hallucinations his mind is creating, of three specific people. To begin with, he struggles to deal with them – in fact early on he won’t believe they aren’t real.

He has a moment of clarity when he realises one of the hallucinations  – a little girl – never ages, never grows up. And once he realises this, he has something to hold on to. He realises these hallucinations aren’t real.

And in time, he teaches himself to ignore them. They never disappear, but he learns to not take any notice of them. In the last scene of the film, after receiving the Nobel prize, he is helping his wife put her coat on, and turns round to see the three people standing on the stairs.

He sees them, and then turns away and walks out with his wife. They are still there, but he has learned to ignore them. They no longer have any power over him. He is not afraid of them, he can look them in the eye, but he chooses not to take any notice of them.

And I think it can be like this with our insecurities.

Often we try to deal with insecurities by fighting back against them, by turning it into a war, a conflict, and this can lead to anger and frustration. Because they usually come back sooner or later.

Maybe the secret to dealing with insecurities is to learn how to ignore them. To name them, to speak them out, acknowledge them – maybe even write them down – and then to cultivate the habit of ignoring them. Refusing to give them power over us.

Almost become friends with them. So we can feel them, see them, experience them. And just smile and walk on.

It’s not easy, and it is a process. But I like the idea of instead of waging war on my insecurities, letting them walk alongside me. Recognising in specific situations I’m probably going to feel or be challenged in a specific way, and allowing myself to experience that but choose not to react to it.

Instead of responding to the promptings of my insecurities, refusing to give them any power over me. Refusing to listen to them. Almost ignoring them.

Jesus said we should love our enemies.
Maybe we need to learn to love our insecurities too.

We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to talk to them. But we can somehow acknowledge the reality of them, and make a different choice.

Maybe then, even if they are still around, they will eventually lose their power. And when they appear to us we can simply acknowledge them and walk on.

Are you with me?

James Prescott
James Prescott


James Prescott is a writer, author and blogger from Sutton, near London.

He blogs at jamesprescott.co.uk on finding divine hope in a broken world.

He is author of the book ‘5 Steps to Encouragement’ which you can download free here.

photo credits:
Lili Vieira de Carvalho via photopincc
Photo of James Prescott supplied by Jamesprescott.co.uk, used with permission

Guest Post by Erin Hatton: What were you made for?


I love making new writing connections and I’m particulalry delighted with my newest 😀
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being a guest on the blog of Canadian author Erin Hatton.
Today she’s returning the favour.

Now I know there’s plenty of you lovely folk who read this blog but you’re sometimes a bit shy with your ‘comments’ – please show some love for Erin eh? 

And so without further ado…

What were you made for?
by Erin Hatton

piano square_4551000445Recently my sister-in-law and I were talking about our love of music. You see, we both sing and play piano at our churches – albeit with stellar musicians – but we both love classical music and miss playing in a more … shall we say “high brow” environment.

She expressed a concern that wanting to play classical music purely for her own enjoyment was selfish – that she should be using her energy to play in a church environment.

That didn’t sit right with me. It brought to mind all the preconceived notions we have about ministry. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we tend to think of certain activities as more spiritual than others. Giving your life to full-time ministry is somehow better than working at a garage. Singing in church is more important than singing in the shower.

Not to devalue those who devote their lives to ministry. We need that. But if all anyone ever did was ministry, what would happen to the church?

Look at the metaphor of the Body of Christ: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?” (I Cor. 12:18-19 NIV)

you're free to be who you were mean to be
you’re free to be who you were meant to be

One of the beautiful things about the Church is its diversity. We are called to minister in many ways. We are called to worship in many ways. There’s a need for the stay-at-home mom chatting with neighbourhood parents at the park just as much as the pastor preaching from the pulpit on Sunday morning. God loves hearing us sing Handel just as much as Hillsong. The point is where our heart is at. Are we following Him wholeheartedly? Are we thanking him for the beautiful things he made for us to enjoy? Are we living the way he made us to live,
or are we trying to fit into the wrong mould because we think it’s more spiritual?

So I encourage you to really evaluate, as I am doing, what it is that you were made for. And don’t spend a single moment more on someone else’s job.

Erin E. M. Hatton is a Christian fiction writer from Ontario, Canada with several short stories and one novel in print. Her book Otherworld was shortlisted for the top award in Canadian Christian fiction in 2012. Erin lives with her husband Kevin and four young children.

Website / Blog: www.erinemhatton.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinemhatton
Twitter: @ErinEMHatton

Photo credits:
Piano Magic photo credit: teobonjour – www.matteomignani.it via photopin cc
Freedom photo credit: J. Star via photopin cc

Starting 2013 with Guest Post


HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

I hope you had a great time over the Christmas and New Year break. Most of the writing I did over the holidays was with pen and paper! So I’m hoping to be able to read it all now…

While I try to work out my hieroglyphics and put a post together I’d like to introduce you to Sam Hailes. Sam is a Journalist based in Southampton. This is his review of Don Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance

So! over to Sam…

intol tolMost will know DA Carson as a popular reformed theologian who writes on subjects like the love of God, the cross and how to read the Bible. But just when we think we’ve got Carson nailed down as a theologian who writes on theology, he surprises us. Not only is his latest topic unexpected but the title – The Intolerance of Tolerance is at best shocking and at worst, well, intolerant!

This is where Carson’s thesis begins: To be labeled ‘intolerant’ is a very bad thing indeed! This charge of intolerance is often thrown at people like Carson.
“Christians say salvation is only found through Jesus Christ. They’re intolerant of other people’s beliefs!” the secular world screams.

Before reading this book I disagreed that such a view of salvation was intolerant, but I would have been unsure of how to convince a secular audience that my view was not intolerant. I suspect I’m not the only one and that Carson was writing his book for people like me.
The theologian’s entire thesis is more or less delivered in his 17 page introduction. This is both a strength (brevity) and a weakness (what’s the point of the other 159 pages?)

The author describes two types of tolerance: The old and the new. The old form is to recognize and respect another’s view while not agreeing with it. Therefore I can respect my Muslim friend’s view that Mohammed is God’s prophet and not agree with it. But the new form of tolerance is very different. It moves from accepting the existence of other views, to accepting other views. Carson says this shift is “subtle in form but massive in substance”.

He continues: “The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own. We move from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the acceptance of all opinions”. So when someone says of X, “He is a very tolerant person”, do they mean he respects my belief that salvation is through Christ alone (old tolerance) or he believes everything is equal and only tolerates the view that salvation is found in many places (new tolerance)?

Caron’s second chapter provides excellent examples that flesh out the tolerance debate. But I found his lengthy third chapter on the history of tolerance dull. In fact it was so dull I nearly gave up on the book altogether. Thankfully the second half of the book picked up and left me again astounded at Carson’s ability to think through and write so clearly and eloquently on what is a very tricky subject.

Best thought of as an attack on the new tolerance, Carson’s book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been labeled intolerant (in the new sense). As the Western world becomes more multicultural and diverse, it goes without saying that the importance of tolerance increases.
But in aiming for this high principle, will culture rightly uphold the old view of tolerance or adopt the new form? If culture continues to opt for the new tolerance, the notion of absolute truth will be eroded.

Carson is right to point out, as he does throughout the book, that truth and tolerance are linked. In writing on both of these subjects in such a clear manner, Carson has not just done the Christian church a favour, he’s helped people of all faith and none to use think clearly about subjects which impact all of society.

Reivew by Sam Hailes. Sam is a Journalist based in Southampton. He’s 23 and later this year is getting married. He blogs at holymansam.wordpress.com and tweets @samhailes.

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D. A. Carson
Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (2009)
ISBN: 9780802831705