Showing posts with label Bristol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bristol. Show all posts

30 August 2012

Ten years in the wilderness

Responding to a post from Felicity Dale, here is my story of spending time in the wilderness. For me it spanned a ten year period and began when our friends moved on to other things but we knew that we were to stay put. It was a lonely and seemingly bleak experience.

Part of Gale Crater on Mars
In a recent blog post, Felicity Dale asked the question, 'Why do we go through wilderness experiences?' Thinking about this I quickly realised I wanted to write much more than would fit into a comment. So here goes...

I became a follower of the Way some time in the period between 1968 and 1970. I can't pin it down to a particular time or date, there was a time when I did not believe, and later a time when I did, and between the two a process of searching and growing understanding.

In late 1970 Judy (my first wife) and I began hunting for a place where we could meet other people with similar faith and a heart to follow Jesus simply and intentionally. We hunted high and low around Bristol where we had a flat, but failed to find what we were looking for. Eventually we found a little ex-Brethren meeting, Zetland Road Chapel, less than a five minute walk from our front door and we knew right away that this was home.

In 1975, buying our first house in the nearby village of Yatton, we found a similar welcome and good fit at Horsecastle Chapel.

After a few years at Horsecastle, we were very excited to discover other believers in the village with remarkably similar ideas to our own. We began meeting in our homes together and quite soon there were fifteen or so of us. We soon discovered the gifts of the Spirit and realised we were part of what was known at the time as the Charismatic Renewal.

Eventually we left the chapel to fully immerse ourselves in this new thing that Jesus was doing. They were exciting times!

But after a few years people began to join the new organisations that were beginning at this time. There was Bank House Fellowship in Clevedon, a new group in Yatton with clear leadership by a couple we knew, and several others locally. Most people were looking for leadership and structure of one kind or another while Judy and I were certain that meeting at home and led only by Jesus through the Holy Spirit was the right way to continue.

Gradually we found ourselves on our own, our time in the wilderness had begun, probably by 1980 but certainly before 1985. How this wilderness time ended about ten years later is another story. But what did we learn through the experience? Several important things, I think.

  1. We learned not to depend on other people, but to depend only on Christ. This was a valuable (if painful) lesson. It's not so much that we felt let down by people, but at first we grieved over them because we felt they had lost the most important thing.
  2. It seemed to us that our friends were following other people at least as much as they were following Jesus. I know that they did what they believed to be right and with clear consciences, but neither Judy nor I could follow them there. At first Judy was very hurt, I tried to build bridges. We learned to let people move on without blaming them and without resentment.
  3. It would have been natural to return to Horsecastle Chapel where we had many friends. But we knew that was not what we were called to do. Doing what seems natural can be the wrong thing. Another useful lesson.
  4. We learned that staying where we are can be an act of obedience. Sometimes we are called to move into new and perhaps difficult situations. Sometimes we are called to remain in changing and perhaps difficult circumstances.
  5. And above all we learned the need to listen, hear, and obey. Judy and I shared Tony and Felicity's feeling that the Lord had somehow moved on and left us where we were. Even reading the Bible and praying seemed empty sometimes, yet we persevered because the Spirit had shown us we were to meet informally, in homes, and led only by him.
  6. We learned not to confuse stubbornness and faithfulness. Stubbornness comes from wanting my own way, faithfulness from wanting Jesus to have his way in my life. To those outside the situation the two may appear very alike.
  7. We learned to respect the leading that others have, even when it is different from our own.
  8. And finally, we came to see that the wilderness is a place of value. It builds character. It teaches patience. It breaks down pride and self-sufficiency. At first it seems a place of failure and defeat, but it proves in the end to be a place of new beginnings and victory. The wilderness is a place of preparation.
See also: Related article on Felicity Dale's blog.

02 May 2011

RESPONSE: The death of Osama bin Laden

We live in a violent world. Today's news that United States forces have killed Osama bin Laden in a reinforced hideout in Pakistan just emphasises that. What are we to make of it?

Osama bin LadenViolence seems to be everywhere. A civil war is under way in Libya, pirates are active off the Somali coast, in Iran retribution is quick and severe for those who dare to oppose the authorities, the battle continues in Afghanistan and Iraq is racked by shootings and bombings. Closer to home trouble is stirring again in Northern Ireland and in Bristol there have been clashes between protesters and police over (of all things) the opening of a small, local Tesco shop.

Let's face it, there's nothing new about violence, it's as old as the human race. But it certainly hasn't gone away!

The latest news about Osama bin Laden's death is astonishing and raises many questions. You can read some of the background in an article by the BBC's Mark Mardell. No doubt more detail will emerge over the coming days and weeks. There is also likely to be strong reaction from Pakistan and perhaps from Russia and China too.

The principles - But what about the principles involved? For those with no faith it just comes down to a matter of morality and personal opinion. Is it reasonable to kill someone who has done bad things? Is it acceptable to mount a raid into another country, even if the purpose seems noble? Everyone will have opinions on these matters and we will not always agree.

Many religions teach that violence is wrong or that it is justifiable only in certain circumstances.

Love and forgive - But what for those who follow Jesus? Three things, I think.

First, it's clear that we are to love the Father. We are to be like him, pouring out love on one another and even on our enemies. Yahshua told Peter that those who choose to live by the sword will die by the sword. It is surely better for us to die by love than to die by the sword. As we judge, so will we be judged. 'Be like your Father in heaven', is not a suggestion - it's a command. But be warned, loving may cause us to die. If we truly love we will certainly die to self. But we may also die physically in situations where violence might have 'saved' us. It's better to be saved by grace than to be 'saved' by violent action.

And secondly, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. If someone murders my wife or my child I am to forgive them. That's hard, isn't it? We are not called to seek revenge or punishment. We are not even called to seek justice. We are called to forgive.

Forgiving a wrong often seems like excusing evil. In fact forgiving and loving our enemies pours fire upon them. Forgiving is harder than lashing out with the tongue or with the fist or a firearm. Grace and patience lead us to love and forgive. Anger leads us into sin.

The actions of others - And the third point is this. Not only are we to forgive our enemy, we are not to judge others who make different choices.

So what about Osama's death? It's not for me to say. All I can say is that it would have been entirely wrong for me to kill him, but others must decide for themselves. My Father gave us freedom of will, freedom to choose. He expects me to extend the same freedom to others. I may not judge, I may only love and forgive.

30 December 2010

RESPONSE - I'm not that Chris Jefferies

There have been almost 2000 hits on this website so far today. The normal pattern runs at around 100 to 150 visits per week, not high by any means but quite steady. So what is going on?

A graph of today's hits on this websiteMost of my visitors come from the UK with the USA in second place, the remainder are mainly from other European countries with a scattering from other parts of the world. But 2000 in one day?

It's all because of the arrest of another Chris Jefferies, the landlord of Jo Yeates who was so tragically murdered before Christmas. The big increase in hits is down to people searching online for the term "Chris Jefferies" and clicking through to my website.

Other people with my name will have found the same thing! Here's a blog post by a Chris who lives in London.

What else is there to say?

I lived in Bristol from 1970 until 1975. I worked at Long Ashton Research Station for more than 25 years. I know the area well and that makes it all so much more real to me. I had no idea that another Chris Jefferies lived in the area!

I can't end this without saying how much I feel for the family and friends of Jo, particularly her parents, David and Teresa, her brother Chris, and her partner Greg. There's nothing I can do for them other than pray that they will eventually come through the pain and distress. But first they will have to endure the unwanted attention the case will bring, the inevitable intrusions by reporters, and the constant question, 'Why did this happen to our Jo?'. My heart goes out to them.

I know they will be supporting one another at this dreadful time. I'm praying that as they do so they will also sense a much deeper support. The question, 'If there is a God, how can he allow things like this to happen?' is perfectly reasonable. A lifetime is not long enough to fully comprehend his nature, but I will always cling to the knowledge that his heart is to love and that he is as sorrowful and angry as we are about events like this. I hope they will (eventually) be able to understand that too.

I so feel for them. How I wish I could help.


2 comments:


Liz said...
Dear Mr. Jefferies, I am one of those people who found my way here due to that other Chris Jeffries! But I am so glad I did. I've been captivated by your blog for the last hour. I've been so uplifted and so needed to be. Thank you very much for your beautiful words. You have a truly wonderful gift. All the best, Liz
Chris said...
Hi Liz, I have no idea if you will read this, but I wanted to say, 'Thanks', for your kind and encouraging words. Kind regards from St Neots to wherever you may be! Chris

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