Category Archives: perspective

Goodbye Death

Its hard to say definitively that I’ve said more goodbyes than your average 30 year old, but I suspect I may at least be above average in these stakes.

The more I say it, the more it feels like death, even if I know it is not a forever-farewell.  Maybe it is the very fact that I’ve turned 30 that makes this process harder?  Something to do with my biological clock perhaps???  Or maybe just that, as a spring reaches the point of no return, I’ve said so many in such a short space of time that I’m fast approaching the “I’m-done-with-this-can’t-do-it-anymore” point.

Whatever it is, it sucks.

And yet…

The pain of goodbyes and changes is in direct correlation with the joy of love.  It hurts only because we love.  Okay, so I’m sure that it is not always purely altruistic – I might cry when you leave because I’m lonely and don’t want to be – but a large part of it is because of love and our pain serves to help us see and appreciate that we love and are loved.

If we allow ourselves to ignore the pain of goodbye, we are in denial of love.  If we focus only on the pain of goodbye, we miss the joy of love.  To engage fully with the relationship between love and the pain of farewells, is to celebrate the power of resurrection life.  Jesus did not merely ‘come back from the dead’, he passed through death, he went beyond it and broke its power over us.

We need no longer fear.

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Filed under fear, love, perspective, suffering

On being not single.

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Ah, Valentine’s Day… The day on which we (I?) make jokes about how difficult it was to open our front door with all the cards and flowers in the way.  Otherwise could be known as “Marmite Day”… You either love it or hate it.

Facebook testifies to this fact.

From schmushy declarations of love, to boastful photographs of “oh-gosh-I’m-sooo-surprised-by-this-bouquet-of-flowers-aren’t-I-sooo-blessed?”, to bible verses about love and to downright “fnuh”, the 14 February has got people status-updating to the max.

*     *     *

One of my life’s most creative and romantic gestures (thus far, I hasten to add!) was to make a handmade story book of high school friends who became college sweethearts.  I poured my heart into it and it took weeks.  After the then-current-day page of our love story, I marked “To be continued…”.  When I gave the gift, my sweetheart thumbed through the pages after “To be continued…”, smiled and said “Oh good, there are lots of pages still to come.”  *Sigh*  Perfect!

Except two months later it was all over.

Love is a risk.

*     *     *

Not so long ago, I lived in a house with two other girls.  A little while after we moved in together, one housemate began a dating relationship.  What struck me about the dynamic of that this time round, was that while we two single housemates were feeling left out of the “couples”, my newly “dating-someone” housemate was feeling left out of being single.

Over the next months, she and her boyfriend went through millions of ups and downs and ins and outs on the journey of working out if they could build a life together.  They eventually tied the knot and are now facing the rest of life’s challenging adventures together as husband and wife.  We got to be part of that as the three of us housemates honestly walked the path of our changing circumstances together.

Love is a risk.

*     *     *

I never thought I’d be one to advocate for the American way of things, but if my friend and colleague is a good example of the American take on all this, then do it their way…

She made “Valentines” for the members of her choir : little red boxes containing lots of little items each related to some aspect of love.  I can’t remember exactly, but like “a poem, to read and share”, “a piece of ribbon to bring together the ones you love”, “a plaster, to remind you that broken hearts heal” things like that.  She’s determined to help them think differently about Valentine’s Day today.

She also invited me around to share in their new family tradition of Valentine’s Chocolate Fondue complete with red napkins and heart-embellished fondue forks.  When its shared with family and friends, there’s no need to be single when you can be together.

*     *     *

Love is a risk and if Valentine’s Day can be a way to celebrate the fact that the risk is worth taking and that we are not alone in any part of that, then I’m up for that.

And chocolate fondue.

But perhaps there’s no need to boast about your PERFECT life on Facebook…??

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Filed under dating, friends, heart, love, perspective, relationships, singleness

Celebrate good (or not so good) times, come on.

The Jews were a celebrating-y kind of people.  Its seems that every few weeks they’d some sort of knees up, or at least some sort of special meal to commemorate something.

There’s something appealing about this kind of ritual celebration.  They were often commemorating important events that were HARD, not just good things – but even this sense of marking the past has a significant place in the present, giving weight and depth to what has gone before, what will come around next year, placing the present firmly in the context of the greater story.

I’ve been struck recently of the need for this perspective, for the need to allow room for the greater story to alleviate the drama of the immediate story.  The deep, rhythmic breathing of the years to soothe the sprinting hearts of the days : He was faithful, He is faithful, He will be faithful.

Who was, and is, and is to come.

Immanuel.

Roll on 30th birthday, roll on.  Let’s party like its 1981.

 

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Filed under change, God, perspective, story, Uncategorized

The One where I attempt to talk about Hope.

I’ve been reading Luke’s gospel.  Twasn’t my idea, but I’m doing it.

As I sat on my sofa with my feet on the old repose-pieds, I experienced one of those wonderful moments where you discover all over again – from your head to your toes to your heart to your tears – that Jesus is the most incredible person who ever lived.  This particular experience was poignant and somewhat unusual in that all the while knowing in my knower that who he is is true and real and that nothing makes sense otherwise, I also had the question : “But… are you big enough?”

In the face of suffering in the world – from personal loneliness, to 2 year olds with throat cancer, to earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear emergencies all in one small nation – is the truth of Jesus big enough?

Questions like this can be easily answered but seldom satisfied…

In my faltering grasp of what the voice of God sounds like, I think he spoke to me about hope as suffering.  I was reflecting on the passage (that makes it sound awffy spiritually mature of me – it was kind of by accident which is what makes me think it wasn’t just my own ‘wisdom’!  Plus the savvy amongst you will note its not even IN Luke so really I wasn’t even concentrating properly!) where Jesus talks about taking up our crosses and following him and assures us we’ll know suffering.  Fun.

Maybe I’m over-emotional by nature, or maybe its this weirded-out nothing-in-my-life-is-the-same-what-the-flip-am-I-doing-in-this-country-again?-ness that’s making me even more so sensitive… But there’s something in beauty and goodness that really hurts sometimes.

You see, beauty and goodness awaken and feed hope.  And hope is the voice that -as Emily Dickinson wrote – ‘sings the tune without the words’ even when all around is yelling and screaming “Impossible!!!!”, it is the light that should not be hidden under a bushel when all around is enveloped in darkness and despair, it is the feet that keep climbing, one step at a time, when the crowd is going the other direction.  It’d be easier – less painful – to give in and give up.

Hope is a longing for the fulfilment of who I am, of who I was created to be, of Who I am created to know.  To hold on to these realities is painful because that fulfilment is still to come – its like being in labour (I imagine!) – painful!  But it is sure and certain that the end result will be worth it.

Sigh…

I don’t feel I’m quite communicating it.

But anyway – hope as suffering.  I really don’t like that Jesus says we’ll suffer – I never have.  I guess I feel that if I were in a country where I’m physically persecuted for my faith or where my life was at stake etc, that that reality would have much more meaning and immediate effect and my super-Christianness would kick in.  Whereas tucked up in relatively comfortable (however an admittedly nuclear-energy-making:S ) corner of Western Europe its hard to engage with in any sort of real way.  I’ve heard too many John-P-esque insinuations that God gives you cancer for the hell of it (or, er… sorry, His glory) to hear ‘you will suffer’ in a faith-filled ‘God-is-good-and-he-reigns’ kind of way.

But as I thought about the pain hope can inflict, I figured that that’s the kind of suffering I’m up for – not that my personal inclination should dictate interpretation!  But, you know what I mean?  As we breathe and drink and eat and sing and shine Hope, as our hearts and souls bleed its very essence where we live and work and do life, we suffer and yet we live.  We crucify our way of life so that He might live in and through us, so that Hope is filled and Joy comes with the morning.

Pregnant pause….

Eugh.  That’s the best I can do in trying to explain it.

But I guess He’s big enough to sort that out.

 

 

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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

Rambling (but not so random) reflections on the way things might be

Darkness is the absence of light.  Evil is the absence of good – or rather of God.

In giving his creatures love, creator God gave his creatures the choice of not-love.  In plucking that fruit from that tree, the creatures sought Me-ness which is, indeed, not-love.  In the way that love is light, not-love is the absence of that light and in the way that love leads to light, to the Light, not-love leads to darkness, to not-light.

Where there is light, there is no room for darkness; where there is love, there can ultimately be no not-love.

Creator God promises to one day reveal the fullness of Light to those who choose Love.  Not only will those who chose not-love not be able to support that Light, neither will that light be able to support its darkness – there will simply be no room.  Darkness is nothingness, light is fullness.  Where there is fullness there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.

For those who live in Love, who live in Light, they will no longer know not-love or not-light.  Where there is fullness, there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.  If not-love and not-light are allowed entry, there is not fullness – Love and Light are not full.

One day not-love, not-light and not-fullness will be put away and Love and Light will reign in all His fullness.  And we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

(Oh yeah, oh yeaaahhh)

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Filed under beauty, God, gospel, grace, happiness is, home, Jesus, love, perfect love, perspective, sin

Certain People

Its bad news when you have more blogs in your ‘drafts’ section than you do actually published so I think its about time I got back up on here for a rant.

I had a most unexpected chat today with a friend I hadn’t seen in a good while.  This friend’s family circumstances are nothing short of heartcrushing.  A daughter with profound learning difficulties and a husband who was diagnosed with MS a few years ago who has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and even more recently severe osteoporosis (with the bones at the top of his spine crumbled to nearly nothing.) and bouts of ill health herself recently.

Often when I think about suffering on the individual/family level (as opposed to worldwide hunger etc), this family’s circumstances come to my mind.  I question how and why God could let it all happen to one family?  It is frightening the depth to which I am shaken to think that Certain People say that THAT would be God’s will. How the bleep can Certain People say that God gave her those circumstances?  That God causes such suffering “for His glory”?  Seriously… what kind of bleeping “glory” is that?

It makes me sick.

I asked my friend today how she reconciles all that she is facing with her faith in God, does she see Jesus in the midst of it all?  Without a second of hesitation she replied “Oh yes… constantly.”  No fake smile, no ‘God knows best’, no ‘there must be a reason’…  In fact she claimed that even when she meets Jesus, the last thing she’s gonna care about is ‘reasons’.  Her hold on the umbilical cord of her relationship with God is unbroken and unshaken even by circumstances of this life – this life which is significant but by no means the full story.

Her response fills me with hope and beauty and life and faith… is that not the glory?  That in, through, above and beyond this world – this life – which is broken and f*cked up, God is… God is! He doesn’t need to inflict suffering to show us what a nightmare things would be without him, how much better off we are or how powerful he is.  We don’t need to claim that in order to be ‘good Christians’ or submit to that kind of masochistic “sovereignty” or to show how much we know things are a mess without him…  We bloody well know he’s powerful and sovereign and that we need him because God is who He is!

Eugh.  I know I’m hardly being very gracious or even coherent, but do you know how popular Certain People are becoming even though this is what they are saying about El Roi ‘The God who sees me’???

(I also wonder what Certain People would say about this family seeing as the wife is the main breadwinner because the husband can’t be?)

I think Certain People should just shut the hell up.

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