Category Archives: freedom

What is Truth?

Now, I know I can be a drama queen… But, seriously – I just heard one of the best talks I have possibly ever heard.  The following is my attempt to share a little of the awe and worship inspired in me…

Beginning as what appeared to be a history lesson in the modulation of the definition of truth over time, I just knew it would be worth the work to stay focussed and follow his lead.

It was all really well presented and explained (if a little boring for your average student): the state (ie the church) used to define the Truth – “We say it, its true”; then science became dictator of what was true by declaring that if it could present proof of something, it must be true (and by implication, things like faith and religion which could not be proved must not exist…); then it gradually became the more recent “there is no absolute truth” (which of course in itself is ridiculous as – in its very stating – it claims absolute truth.  Duh.).

So, then he talked about the Bible and self-referential, propostional truth (All males are men, Jesus was male so Jesus must be a man).  I got a little lost at this point, but it was all vaguely familiar from stuff I did at Bible College and in my final year French degree philosophy module – maybe someone else can fill in this gap, cos I haven’t grasped it well enough to re-explain it here… 

Cue a tiny bit of zoning out as I try to write something down in my notes that will help me later on…

Suddenly, he begins to talk about the invitation the Bible offers to discover relational truth.  Truth that is shown to be true by the experience of it and the effect that it has and a little flicker of light begins to dance in the peripheral of my mind…

He begins to talk about looking at the moon from a hill, and how one might call to mind numerous scientific facts about the nature of – truth about – the moon: its so many miles away from earth, its made of such-and-such, reflects so much of the sun’s light etc etc etc…  But, then he talks about sitting on the same hill, looking at the same moon, but in this scenario you’re falling in love with the person you are with and suddenly the moon has altogether much more significance than a bunch of scientific trivia.  It no longer signifies the amount of sunlight it reflects back to earth- it casts a romantic glow over your encounter with love.  It no longer signifies the amount of miles it is away from earth – it serves to remind you how big the world is and how glad you are to have someone to share it with…

My heart starts to beat faster as the flicker of light grows and glows to an incredible illumination of the genius of God (my puny attempt to name the glorious sovereignty and omniscience etc of my God…).

You see, God began to tell his people what he was like, how he intended his creation to be.  He chose Israel to display his character to the nations with laws that cared for the poor and needy, secured rest for the busy, gave shelter for fugitives, brought forgiveness to screw-ups…  But he didn’t stop there. 

He became flesh and dwelt among us.

Creator God engaging with and participating in a world of broken humanity.

He took those laws and lived out what they really meant, his whole life demonstrates how the law works out in practice – ie relationally!  Things like “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man”.  (Man was not made for grace, but grace was made for Man?  Can that be right?  I don’t know if that’s right.  But I’m gonna write it…test it, try it, eat it, drink it, breathe it… and see what happens).  By His life, he invites us to experience his truth, invites us to even enter the relational nature of his being: Father, Son and Spirit in perfect relationship with each other.

“I am the way, the truth and the life”. Yes, we need creeds and study and books and practice, but it is in incarnating the gospel – the good news of Jesus – that we see and know God’s truth at work in us and through us!  Theology without faith is dead – dry bones in a desert valley.

In engaging with the world around us – the undesirables, the suffering, the enemy – we truly begin to understand the absolutely true-ness of God’s love, justice and mercy… and the Truth sets us free.  I KNOW this!  I’ve seen it before, but I’d forgotten.  How could I have forgottten?

Why did I get so excited?  Not just because I’m a drama queen – but because its just what I need.  My God teaches me in just the way I need.  So often I feel inadequate in discussing theology, incapable of understanding and articulating the truth, incapacitated in dealing and engaging with hurt and guilt and conflict… But to hear again that God came down to show me how?  That he will show me more of that truth as I follow and obey his call?  That he IS proving his truth in and through me in a way that even I can totally understand?

.

Praise God.

Beauty.

The difference between space rock reflecting sunlight and moonlit romance.

Incarnation.

The difference between a DIY manual and a constant workmate.

Faith.

The difference between systems of theology and a relationship with the Living God.

The difference between death and LIFE.

That makes all the difference in the world.

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Filed under beauty, freedom, grace, hope, love, perfect love, perspective, relationships, truth, worship

Bloggy and the Beast: Will the real Small Corner please stand up?

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Aaahh, WordPress – how I adore thee!

I spent some time this afternoon expostulating about the benefits of WordPress over other blog service providers.  I did it with such passion I could’ve been preaching life or death!  It is perhaps a little sad (how did people ever describe that concept of sad before ‘sad’ came to mean anything other than unhappy?!?) that I care so much about my small corner of the internet and how it looks and functions, but I AM NOT ASHAMED!  I will stand loud and proud, declaring my love of all things blog.

Just don’t link to my page in case anyone I know reads it…

Hmmm… a strange thing, perhaps, to be rather choosy about to whom one discloses the details of where one publishes one’s contribution to the community we call ‘Blogging’, but I am reluctant that anyone and everyone should know where to find my online voice.

I suppose its mildly ridiculous in many ways, because a blog is hardly a private affair: random strangers from all over the world can tune in to my latest ‘un-intellectual musings’ (I stand by that, Mr Zoom – you can take it up with me later) at the click of a button.  Also, how many people in the actual real world of my life spend much time reading blogs?!?  Not many (enough, but not many)!  AND, even if they read blogs, it is, perhaps, arrogant to assume they would put much thought into reading what I’ve written…

The Beauty of blogging, you see, is the sheer pleasure of expression: finding exactly the right word in exactly the right place to convey exactly the right tone… its an ART!  Then of course the pleasure of reading the rants, stories and thoughts of others who are, if not similarly minded – at least similarly appreciative of the craft:  creating dialogue from monologue, banter from battle and in many tiny steps ultimately plotting to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

The Beast, however, is my fear is that people will judge me  solely by what they read here and that they will judge me to be something worse that what I already am.  For someone who has recently yelled: “ENOUGH!  I am DONE with worrying what people think of me!” I’m pretty worried about what people think of me.  Someone told me that once you hit forty you get over such fear because you’re more confident in who you are.  Someone else said it was because senile dementia begins to set in…

two_faced_cover.jpgYou see, the thing is… its not that what I choose to publish online is a different persona than that which I project in life and work – that I lie or falsify myself in either area.  But I guess I’m just wary of publicising the fact that some of my thoughts have made it into written form and are emblazoned across the Web because, in a sense, its only one part of me.  A part that can be held up and spread around out of context (if anyone actually could be bothered doing so!).

I’ve heard it said that “who you are when you’re alone is who you really are”.  I could be being rather hasty (it happens when you think ‘out loud’), but… b*ll*cks.  Maybe even with a capital ‘B’, but I’m not sure yet…  Surely different situations bring out different parts of your personality in a way which is neither false nor schizophrenic?

So, for example, if I’m with my best friend, I’m laid-back, blunt as a sledge hammer and sometimes ridiculously silly; if I’m with students, I’m more upbeat, phrase my sentences more carefully (sometimes!) and am generally more pragmatic; if I’m with older people from church I’m more measured, thoughtful and serious; and on my blog I’m much more flippant and articulate (its all relative, huh?!).

Which one of those people is the real me?  Surely all of them!?  I am not a two-dimensional character… I am a person, created in the image of Yahweh, and I cannot be summed up by the examination of one part of my life and to do so is to judge wrongly.

Is that what we do when we judge people?  We only look at one (maybe even two or three) ‘parts’ of a person and come to a conclusion, put them in a box and sit back with our arms folded smugly thinking we know them.  We look down on people’s insecurities because we don’t take the time to understand why they act or feel the way they do; we gossip about one thing someone once did without making the effort to find out why; we give up talking with someone we’ve known ‘inside out’ for a long time because we don’t recognise that their thoughts, opinions, dreams, desires, likes and dislikes are fluid and don’t fit inside the box we built any more.

That, I suppose is why only God can judge – He truly knows us inside out, upside down, right side up and back to front.  He sees all our ways, thoughts and actions all of the time.

I’m not saying that we can’t be false – just that when we’re different with different people its not always as deceptive as we think; nor is it something to get hung up on. Where is the line…?  I’ll leave that to you to conclude (or perhaps to the Jewish World Review?).

So, who is the real Small Corner…?

I am.

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Another (similar) Kerfuffle…

Not wishing to diminish the impact of my announcement of The Great Crash of January 2008, but just something for those with some time on their hands to consider and wrap up neatly for those of us who take much longer to form an opinion…? 

At a friend’s house for dinner the other night, she drew to my attention a Kerfuffle within the Presbyterian Church which the Belfast Telegraph have been reporting on over the past few weeks.

The crux of it is that one minister (male) refused to let another (female) preach in ‘his’ pulpit at a joint Christmas service.  The event of a joint service between these two churches in the same town has been happening for years and years, but only recently has the female minister been installed at the church.

Some interesting questions raised by both journalists and citizens who wrote in.  The following are in date order.

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The earliest article I could find (kind of ugly, but later articles paint a different picture of the lady’s reaction).

Regrets expressed over inability to find compromise.

The ‘unholy row’ – call for consistency within Presbyterian Church policy.

Some comments from the Moderator

Letter of support

Journalist (and choir member) opinon – quite random, done in context of the new Irish Presby hymn book!christinab_262288d.jpg

“I will not back down”

Letter of disappointment with how the situation has been handled. 

More general article on the challenge facing the Church in secular society.

… 

You see, randomly enough – this stuff makes me think about the should-have-been post on the blame-claim culture RE The Great Crash of January 2008 (my neck’s doing well, thanks)…

Larger questions about the assertion of ‘rights’ by Christians.  Jesus gave up his rights to defend himself and was pretty selective in the battles he fought, right?  So how do we know when to stand up and fight and when to make sacrifices or put up with losing face?

Much wisdom, grace and love required methinks.  Especially in current politically correct culture.

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And then Tuesday came… (a.k.a The Great Crash of January 2008)

There have been several posts brewing in my illustrious mind in recent days and there may well be a sudden blogging boom in this small corner of the ‘parallel universe’.  This one, however, is most unexpected – or at least it was until it began to brew as I sat in the office today.  Who knows where it will go?  Who knows when it will stop?  Watch for the sign of the lollipop…

Last night at approximately 16.47, I was in a car accident.  From henceforth it shall be called

“The Great Crash of January 2008”.

Panic not, I am – as you can (hopefully) tell – still alive to tell the tale (soon to be the only 365-able part of yesterday). So, in true anything-and-everything-is-blog-fodder style, we must go back to bygone days of yore in order to set the scene for said Great Crash…

 *cue wobbly flashback screen*

I remember my friend Roberta and I taking a notion to cycle a couple of miles downhill to the local leisure centre when we were about 13.  Great idea at the time, not so good when going back UP the hill (the road with the graveyards if anyone is familiar with the Valley Leisure Centre).  It was half way through the uphill homeward slog that we composed our should-have-been-a-hit-record “Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo I wanna car” (I still remember the tune!)Do you remember being 13 and the driving test glory days of 17 are a million years away?  Painful.  I longed to drive ever since that day.

Eventually the day of my test rolled round.  I passed.  First time.  Oh the freedom!  Oh the joy!  Oh the days of two years free insurance!  It was wonderful.  I bought sunglasses, I made mix tapes, I sniffed magic trees… and a passionate love affair with driving began.

So, for two happy, happy years I trundled away in a little dark blue Corsa with ne’er a scare nor bump.  Then the free insurance ran out.  The first quote we got was actually in the region of £5000.  I artistic-license you not.  Crazy.  We shopped around and around to try and get a better deal, but – alas – no affordable insurance for little 19 and a half year old me.

Thus began the Driving-less Years.

The human spirit is resilient and so my life went on.  I became accustomed to my lack of freedom and social life-less existence, sometimes aided by car-insured friends, sometimes dependant upon moody-driver-always-late-when-its-raining buses.  But – oh! – how I always longed for those heady days of “mumsie-pays-for-my-petrol” splendour.

Three long non-driving years ensued.  It was only when considering a second year at Bible College that I began to pray seriously for the miraculous provision of a car.  Four bus journeys a day and no mates had really begun to wear thin!  For ages I hummed and haa-ed whether to do another year at Bible College or to move to France.  (Who needs a car in France?!  Its only in Northern Ireland that a fifteen minute drive on clear roads takes one hour to travel on two buses.)  I finally made my decision and informed the college registrar that yes, she could tear up the one-year certificate I’d already received at my graduation and start writing the two-year diploma one instead – I was coming back.  She said: “Oh great!  It’ll be good to have you around.  You don’t happen to need a car do you?”

Whaaaaaaaat?!?

“Yeah, I got a phone call from a man who wanted to donate his son’s old car to someone who needed it.  Do you want it?”

Does a bear…?!?

(“I saw a bear once”)

Thus began a beautiful relationship with a lil red escort called Samuel (which means ‘asked of God’).  This is Sam:

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Isn’t he lovely?! 

For 18 wonderful, free-and-independant months, Sam and I (and sometimes Daisy, but that’s another story) chugged merrily all over Ireland (well, the North and Sligo- do any other parts matter?).  It was so wonderful! *sniff, sniff*

Then disaster struck… Sam one day began to choke (she conveniently applies artistic license in omitting to tell the reader exactly why he began to ‘choke’) and nothing could be done to save him from a scrap yard fate.

Well done, good and faithful steed, well done and fare-thee-well…

(moment of reverent silence)

 The period of mourning over and a brief flirtation with a red Corsa later, the search began for my perfect car: a Ford Focus.  Not exactly the stuff of dreams I hear you cry, but I didn’t want anything too flash (only partly because of money issues!).  I wanted solid, reliable, quietly attractive with room in the boot for a guitar.  Several debates took place as to whether I should be waiting for the much-desired Focus or just test-drive whatever came along in the meantime.  Yes, many drew the obvious parallels to the husband/wife search.  Honestly, can’t a girl even get a car without people over-analysing?!  Gosh.

Then I saw him… the One.  A sleek, affordable Focus, all mine for the taking!!!  His name shall be call-ed Milo because… well, because girls have to give their car a name.  Its, like, the law.

(again conveniently omitting the exact details of this naming process for fear of being deemed completely bonkers.  The Daisy story is definitely worse, though…)

That was 11 months ago and Milo and I have been very happy ever since.  Bit of a wobble with a recent screw loose (!) but otherwise, great.

And then Tuesday came…

There we were, driving from the North Coast to the Glens of Gormley (or the Rock of Fergus to be more precise) when all of a sudden a numpty – SMACK! – bangs into the back of us at a roundabout:  My neck!  My CAAARRRR! MY goodness – its pouring out here!  Neck and shoulder banjaxed, a new bumper required.

*cue vast waves of sympathy*

We’ll survive.

You know, I envisaged this blog to be about the annoying-ness of the current blame-and-claim culture; the paranoia that makes you wary of saying anything more than ‘Give me your contact and insurance details, mate, then nark off’.  But telling a random story about the cars in my life so far has been much more fun.

For me 🙂

The moral of the story is, don’t expect anything more intelligent from a self-confessed un-intellectual.  At least until the whiplash goes down…

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Back by popular demand: The problem with being single

Okay, so on the train the other day, my friend added weight to some of the rambling thoughts that this original ‘singleness’ post contained and so that, along with various requests and encouragements means I’m posting it again…

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Am I brave enough to post this…???

I think (in my naive, not-quite-thought-through way) one of the biggest difficulties in being single (once you get over what other people think) is not having that one person to talk to when you’re having ‘a day’. So, like, today my heart is full of a bunch of stuff I don’t know how to explain. Stuff I’m excited about, stuff I’d love to see happen, stuff I need to explore more (I’m reluctant to use the word ‘passion’ for fear of people thinking I’m talking about sex. I’m not.) But, you know – having that one person you can phone at any point who’ll just know where you’re coming from and know just what to ask to help you explain yourself. Or something.

But, you know – then I was thinking… If it were me who had to be that person at the other end of the phone, I’d feel a lot of pressure. A LOT of pressure. I mean, would I always get it? Would I always ask the right questions and have the right answers? I don’t think so.

Methinks then perhaps I have (yet another) wrong perception of how relationships work. I’m sure its not just a girl thing – we can’t be the only ones with skewed ideas. But I seriously DO think that Hollywood movies etc have a lot to answer for. “Female Porn” (could this be the dodgiest looking link ever?!?  promise its nothing untoward!) I’ve heard it called – romantic movies that play with the emotions and perpetuate the ‘Prince Charming’ myth making girls everywhere dissatisfied with their lot. I’ve never really been all that into chick flicks, but I’m still aware that a lot of my ideas about how men (and women) should be in relationships have come from the media. Not good.

However, back to today’s skewed philosophy…

I’m aware that God is really the only one who I should ever expect to fully get it and I suppose that’s something precious that I should revel in, rather than try to replace by having great expectations of someone who’s just as flawed as me. I’m just not sure what that looks like, or how it works. How can my desire for conversation be fulfilled with an invisible God?  How can I feel like he gets it other than just reading that he knows me inside out?  How can he ask the right questions to help me help myself understand when I don’t hear an audible voice?  I don’t understand.  All I know is that the good news of the gospel is that we have freedom in Christ – and I don’t want anyone to take that freedom from me because of their expectations of how I should or should not be and even less so do I want to take that freedom from anyone else.

Hmmm…

I love that some of my students can be more clued in than me. It means that I can sit back and nod ‘wisely’ over my coffee while they share their thoughts and then I learn from them! Keeps ya humble… But anyway, one of them has this theory about a life of singleness not being as daunting a prospect if you could be guaranteed real community. I think there’s a lot in it (apart from the slightly Home-and-Away-Selena’s-been-sucked-into-a-cult-commune-storyline flashbacks).  If you were part of an authentic community where you could live, love and serve without people asking if there’s anyone ‘on the go’ or assuming that there needs to be, imagine the freedom and joy it would bring!

The thing is, though, that’s not just a principle for singleness, is it? Imagine if married couples were also part of authentic community which reminds them of the self-giving love of Jesus; in loving and giving of themselves not just to each other, but to those around them, surely their relationship would be placed firmly in the perspective of God’s purpose…?

 This is the point where my friend’s comments came in…

A good friend mentioned how in the city where her and her boyfriend previously lived, they were quite isolated and spent a lot of time just the two of them.  Of course, she wasn’t regretting the time they spent together, but said that where they’re at now they’ve found community and are thoroughly enjoying being a couple within that.  I imagine that isolation as a couple would bring yet more pressure and a sense of disconnection that can’t be healthy.  Not only does isolation rob the couple of community, but robs the community of the couple.

Equally so the individual.

(Here’s the bit where I expostulate about an applicable lesson to my present and future life)

So, I’m single and right now that’s okay by me.  I mean, I’d like to get married eventually (when Mr Darcy makes it to the North Coast), but I’m just not there yet.  If I do, or don’t, though – I’m created to live in relationship and so I’ll continue to wear my heart on my sleeve and pursue authentic community, trusting that, by the grace of God, I will receive in return as others around me do the same.

That’s not to say, of course, I won’t keep an eye on Lily’s enterprise…  For research purposes you understand.

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Second Rate – Two things to remember…

This is all a little overwhelming for me, all this discussion.  Never in a million years did I expect such traffic through my small corner!  I’m glad it has come up (kind of) and I’m glad its given others a chance to ruminate, illuminate and elucidate!  Most of all I’m glad that this is bigger than me.  Permit me, however, to share where I’m at in it all since it all began…

I think there are two reasons to proceed with caution here…

Firstly, its so helpful to have input from people who have had time to think through this stuff and are further down that road in general.  I’m aware that I’m not quite ready to do all the reading myself.  Not because I enjoy the torment of not really knowing, but rather that I’m still relatively new to this whole issue, as are – and no doubt will be – a lot of women out there.  To have spent my life so far eking out what it really means to be feminine from all the messages bombarding me only to come face to face with people who believe that my worst fears of not being what I should be are confirmed ‘clearly’ by God in the Bible – that is pretty damn difficult.

I’m in mourning. I don’t mean that I spend every waking moment thinking about this stuff, so sorry if that sounds pretentious, but it’s the best way I can describe it – mourning.  I could discover a whole list of convincing arguments, but the fact remains that there are people (not just men!) within the church of Christ who exclude and judge not only me but everyone of my gender: they have done so and will continue to do so for years.

Ouch…

It is good to know, though, that I’m not alone on the road much less travelled.

Secondly, the problem with having lots of convincing reasons as to why my instincts are right, is that the temptation to clamber up on a high horse is immense.  For whilst clever reasoning shows that Jesus’ ministry displays much counter-cultural grace and acceptance of women, doesn’t it also model the rejection of judgementalism and self-righteousness…?

I wrote about a friend who told me I was thinking too deeply; but in his defence, I hadn’t thought it worth much consideration either.  I don’t think I realised that it would ever really affect me until very recently.  Naïve, I know – especially for a woman.  But if I have been ignorant, then can I really condemn men for not considering the issue at length when they’re even further from the equation?

I nearly walked away from a conversation in church this morning about this ‘kerfuffle’, because my feelings around the debate are still red raw and more often than not, tears spring unbidden (as in, more so than usual!) – not so much because I know what ‘side’ the person in front of me is on, but more because I don’t know how I’ll handle it if they disagree with my gut instincts.

The hijacking of ‘feminism’ which gives the term a very negative, militant connotation is deeply regrettable and is not something I want to be associated with.  Especially not in the name of the gospel.  I don’t want to react in a way that makes men everywhere to feel guilty over the way this has all panned out.  Okay, let’s be honest here – part of me wants them to feel the crapness of it all and to wallow at length in the mire that has been perpetuated ever since the Fall.  But is that the gospel?  Nope.  Not as I understand it.

How then…?  What do I do with all this?  Where do I go from here?  Am I ready to move on?

I’m still not sure.

In the end, I had that conversation over coffee in church.  It was good – it was just a young man and a young woman discussing the fact that their thoughts on the matter are inconclusive. And you know what?  If a conversation like that helps just one person to open up to thinking about the role of women in church, then I’m going to try not to walk away from that.  Even if it means being in a public place, a snivelling wreck covered in snot.

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Freedom

A sense of responsibility can weigh heavy on the heart.  So much so that it adds years to the countenance.  It creeps on like day turning to dusk turning to dark.  A thickening blackness that begins imperceptibly, draws on with a vague sense of ‘not-quite-right’ and is only noticed when someone flicks the lightswitch and the life, light and beauty of freedom come flooding in.

“Come to me those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest… My yoke is easy and my burden light…”

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