Category Archives: modern life

Tears in the mirror

What is it about being made over that reduces women to tears at the shock of their beauty in the mirror?  So many cases where the woman has forgotten to take of herself, or has no time to take care of herself, or has too much fear to take care of herself, or feels herself is not worth taking care of.

What is it about the right clothes, haircut and make up magic formula that peels off the layers of forgetfulness, carelessness, fearfulness, worthlessness?

Is it just the harsh comments of passers by which shock and shame her to agree to the change?  Is it  just the relief then to see unveiled an image of herself in the mirror she knows will be approved by Joe Bloggs on the street and more so her nearest and dearest?

There’s always a story of the outer care birthing or unveiling the beauty that was always within but not seen, not believed in.  What is it about the beautifying treatment that touches a woman’s emotions in this way?  How far is it the Way Things Should Be?

 

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Filed under beauty, modern life, questions

Was it meant to be dynamite?

I’ve heard a lot of Christian talks in my lifetime.  It seems that in a fair number of those talks, the idea that the bible and that the gospel are explosive (or could be so) featured so heavily as to have been engrained in my head.

I’m just wondering… Is the bible meant to be ‘dynamite’?  Is the gospel?

Its just… well, when I think about it, the idea of the bible of the gospel exploding in a great big BANG doesn’t seem to fit.  There is something slow and steady about scripture, something growing, something expanding.  Like sunrise or sunset – where you can’t quite tell the moment where they begin and end.

The whole smell of the Jewish culture in the Old Testament, the simplicity with which churches met and began to grow in the New Testament… Yes, there are moments of great drama and ‘explosion’, but is it not mostly the simple bread and wine of daily life under a new King?

We are exhorted and exhort people with the message that the power of scripture and the gospel are incredible.  Which of course is true.  But do we do more harm than good when we light a fire under people and tell ’em to go and use dynamite to change the world?

Dynamite is powerful and impressive – you certainly can’t go hiding your dynamite under a bushel.  Dynamite is effective, speedy and the results are immediately discernible – not just by the one who lit the fuse.

So what happens when our use of the ‘dynamite’ is more of a fizzle than a bang?  What happens when our use of the ‘dynamite’ brings no visible results and certainly not speedily or even effectively?  What does it say about our lives when they are… frankly… normal?  No wham-bam-pizazz here.

Too many times people (especially young people) are being told to go and shine, go and change the world, go and… blow up the bastards!!!

That may be paraphrasing a little.

What does that mean for the kid who is shy?  What does that mean for mother of two small children who barely sees the outside world never mind have time to light a fuse?  What effect does that have on the capable, dynamic young person who has grown up in a quiet country church with very few outlets for ministry?  What does that look like for a new church-plant in secularist Western Europe whose members are not yet on spiritual meat?

Running around talking about chucking dynamite seems like it could leave people feeling useless, stressed, arrogant and dissatisfied…

It seems to me (tonight as I think ‘out loud’ onto this blog) that everything about the way Jesus came was on the small-scale.  A town no-one wanted to go to, a young girl no-one would know of, a birthplace less than immaculate… A carpenter from a town no-one thought of, from a people who’d been crushed and despised for centuries, hanging around with a bunch of nobodies…  New life coming to prostitutes, tax collectors, undesirables.  A criminal’s death.  Angels witnessing to ‘little women’, powerful preaching from unschooled fishermen, centres of learning for tradesmen and non-scholars …

Yes, all of it had an incredibly life-changing, profound effect on the cosmos but yet happened in such ‘ordinary’ circumstances

If we’re talking about ways to ‘get people’ with the gospel, dynamite is a pretty messy way to do it – I’d think its much more along the lines of putting the frog in the cold water and heating him up…!

How would it affect us if we thought of what the church is doing as a heating up rather than a blowing up?

We’d be less concerned with being impressive.  Fewer ‘slick’ youth programs and polished worship bands, more real relationships and genuine engagement with truth.  Depth rather than height.

We’d be less concerned with efficiency.  Fewer 12 step-plans to greater holiness, more stickability when the going gets so tough it seems to be going nowhere.   Faithfulness rather than results.

We’d be less concerned with seeing results, fast.  Fewer unrealistic expectations of what it takes to know God, more actual living with and knowing God. Endurance rather than ‘success’.

The power at hand is indeed incredible, but does that mean we wrap it up in red, light a fuse and stand back to watch the explosion?

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Filed under church, God, gospel, modern life, perspective, questions

Empathising with Eve over the Apple

Just so you know… This time next week, I will hopefully be the owner of a sparkly new Macbook.

Selling my soul for an Apple.

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Filed under beauty, happiness is, modern life, morals, perfect love, random, story

Tower of Babel

towerofbabelOnce upon a time in a land far, far away (unless you live there), a bunch of smart guys got together and discovered that if they baked bricks in the sun, they could build all sorts of useful things.  They take this know-how and decide to build a kick-ass tower to show everyone around how great they were and so that they felt secure against any sort of attack.  You can read the story for yourself here.  But basically, the outcome of these men’s scheming to make a name for themselves is that God confuses their language and scatters them around the earth – a further consequence of the Fall in alienating humans one from the other.

Now, as a linguist (dahling), I find this story a little weird because really I LOVE languages and therefore kind of benefit from this scenario in a way that, on reflection, doesn’t seem to go hand in hand with the idea that confused languages is baaad.  Off the top of my head, I reckon maybe my appreciation for languages has more to do with dechipering and understanding them, making sense of them than revelling the confusion or communication malfunctions they bring.  Maybe linguists are part of God’s plan to redeem those things…

But, anyway – this isn’t really about that aspect of languages.  Allow me to elaborate…

Although this story of the Tower happened geographically in a land far, far away (unless, as already conceded, you live there), we experience direct consequences of it every day – not even when we’re away from home in a country that speaks a language unknown to us, but in the sheer minefield that is communicating with one another, day to day, human to human.

There are the small things – the figurative language that, unless you’re a foreigner/thicko, you’ll tend to understand:

eg “I’m dying for the toilet” – Bit of a strange reason to invoke martyrdom.  Or “I’d kill for a cup of tea”  – Again, extreme reaction meriting 20 years or so in the slammer.

Then there are the medium things:

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Then there are the big things like when someone says one thing but their best friend hears something different and a whole pile of shizz ensues.  Or when a girlfriend says one thing but means something different and her boyfriend doesn’t get it and the excrement hits the air conditioning.

But the thing is, that communication – whilst arguably a large part of it is verbal, there’s a heck of a lot going on that has nothing to do with words.  What is left unsaid often communicates more than what is said, ‘actions speak louder than words’ they say.  There’s even a very definite form of communication that can be best described (I think) as how it smells!  Not a physical smell, you understand, but just a feeling an instinct that something smells a little… off.  And (she says, knowing that its grammatically incorrect to begin a sentance with ‘and’…) the thing is that all these things come together – verbal and non-verbal, explicit and implicit, past and present – in the large slippery mass that is communication.

In the story of Babel, the immediate consequence was that the people were alienated one from the other – they could no longer understand one another and then were physically scattered from each other.  The enduring consequences are devastating: immigrant people groups pigeon-holed, work life complicated, friendships broken, families separated…

Remember back in primary school?  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”  Do me a favour and never teach your children such bullshit.  Words and their misuse or lack of use is, I believe, one of the single most harmful weapons humans can wield.

Soapbox ruminated a while ago about this sort of stuff (here), raising the question of our responsibility in communication – if we are misunderstood we cannot just assume that the problem is with the other person.  Rather we must be ready to apologise not just ‘if’ they misuderstood, but that we did not communicate well or ensure good understanding of our meaning or our true feeling.

So, what to do?  How do we deal with situations where bad communication has caused such damage that all subsequent interchange is tainted?  What do we do if we say something or do something that hurts another person?  How do we fix it?  What does it take to rebuild that trust?

Or what do we do if we are the one who gets hurt?  It may not have been intentional, but does that mean our hurt is invalid and we should just get over it?

How do grace and justice work together at Babel?

On Pentecost Sunday my church had asked Mr Preacher Man to follow church tradition and do a sermon on Acts 2.  (He did such a good job that my well-practiced ‘slain-in-the-spirit-shoulda-boughta-honda’ move wasn’t necessary.  Shame.)  He pointed out something I’d never really thought about before – linked the arrival of the Spirit in a miracle of languages to this story of the Babel confusion of languages.  The literal symbolic act of restoration an obvious link to Babel to the God-fearers present at the time…

God is at work restoring all things through Christ.  This includes the confusion caused by the story of Babel.

Holy Spirit, come.

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Filed under God, love, modern life, sin, story

Caught red-handed (or tongued…)

Heheheheheheheh….

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Found this here.  Brilliant.

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Filed under death, humour, modern life, random

I told you so!

I don’t read much about the news, but my friend soapbox does, and he discovered an article on the BBC website which claims to have evidence that rom-coms and Hollywood mush seriously affects how we think about relationships.

What can I say – I’m a genius.  Read me.

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Filed under dating, love, modern life, perfect love, random, relationships

Feminism and Flat-pack Furniture

While she was building a flat-pack chair, my friend once commented “Does this mean I’m an Independent Woman now? I’m worried that means I don’t need a husband.”

Now, there are several things about that statement that worry me. Apologies to said friend if ever she should read this. It is not criticism of her nor her plight, but it was the perfect example with which to write a blog that has been brewing for a few days. PLUS it gave the perfect alliterative title!

These are only preliminary thoughts which I hope to develop over time. How many of them I publish here depends on my waxing and waning concerns over how I am perceived and judged by any readership that should stumble across my small corner.

Okay, here goes … in no particular order…

1. Inherent is a picture of a God who gives women certain skills so they can cope when he makes them live as old spinsters.

Women I know (in this context of the single variety) often think about whether or not God is ‘calling’ them to be single til the grave (I imagine men also think about this but with perhaps less urgency…). It’s a big thing. Perhaps it’s the bio-clock a-ticking (of which we’re aware in one way or another from a ridiculously young age), perhaps it’s the importance and honour which the media and culture place on couples/romance or perhaps – and I think that often – it is rooted in a tragic sense of ‘What if…?’ What if I’m not attractive enough? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t deserve it? What if God doesn’t love me enough to give me what I most desperately want? Relationship. Connection. Community. What if God is giving me practice at building flat-pack furniture so I can look after myself when all my friends get married and I’m alone?’

Is this really the provision of which ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ speaks?

2. Negative connotations of being independent – as if its not a feminine quality.

Now, I know Beyoncé and the girls coined this idea of an Independent Woman – and let’s face it, if we could wave a wand and be like Beyoncé I’m not too sure how many of us would decline the offer (the Spice Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ might be somewhat less tempting…) – but, actually in reality, culture (at least N.I Christian culture) seems to consider independence in a woman isn’t ‘all that’.

I’m in great danger here of stealing another blogger’s soapbox and start ranting, but I’ll curtail it for now as this, I hope, is just the introduction to a series of posts on these things.

Suffice to say (for now) that, whether explicitly or otherwise, culture says that ‘real’ women are pink and fluffy. Which leads to my third preliminary observation…

3. Desire to be seen as ‘feminine’ in ‘masculine’ eyes.

Again, the fear that we don’t match up to what we’re ‘supposed’ to be. Most women (we cannot be completely free from generalisations here…) are greatly concerned with relationships and connections with people – its what we love, its our frame of reference for our identity. It is both a blessing and a curse. The curse being that we want others to think well of us and thus the concern to be desirable to the opposite sex in the hope of finding that one relationship that will remain til death do us part. So we fuss about our hair, our weight, our clothes; as students we cook for the boys’ house down the road, we do their dishes to ‘serve’ them ‘like Jesus would’, we talk about relationships to show we’re interested,  but not too much in case we look desperate… We want to be the ‘feminine’ friends our ‘masculine’ friends feel safe with, always fearing that if we get it wrong we’ll soon be spinsters with nothing but feline friends to inhabit our flat-pack furniture filled flats… FOREVER.

Perhaps this all sounds very negative and pessimistic, but it is sometimes necessary to talk in extremes in order to illustrate the issues. My intention is NOT to enforce flat-pack furniture lessons and burping contests on girls from the age of three, neither is it to criticise nor diminish the incredibly important, demanding and beautiful work that mothers and homemakers do every day. Nor is my intention to incite hatred towards men – their struggles are as big as our own (I just don’t have the same kind of insight into them.) and we must learn to love each other well as people made in the image of God. Rather, my desire is to become, and help others become, who God has designed us to be rather than what society would tell us to be.

I also will NOT be burning any bras…

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Filed under culture, dating, fear, modern life, relationships, sin, truth, women