Category Archives: truth

In the Workshop

A friend once told me an illustration she’d been given about how God’s sovereignty played out in her service.  Wracked by fear of making a mess and not being good enough, she was encouraged by the following…

Its like we’re in the workshop of a master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard.  We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that the work we’re doing is very small in light of what he’s done and so it doesn’t matter if we don’t measure up – he’s done it all already.  Its like a father who has given his child a spare bit of scrap wood to mess about with, just so that they feel loved and feel part of what he’s doing.

I suppose it could be comforting when we feel our efforts for the Kingdom are pitiful or that we’ve made big mistakes in our life choices – its good to know that there’s a Master craftsman who’s really building and who’s getting it right and making it beautiful.

Others I’m guessing would feel much more like what is really in play is the following…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that what we need to do is to get out of the way and let him do it.  So we sit back and watch the Master at work, peeking over his shoulder trying not to get in the way, marveling at his skill and whilst there are things he’s doing that we don’t understand, we simply know that in the end his finished work is glorious.

I’ve been thinking about this ‘workshop of life’ 😉 about this Master craftsman and me.  Both the above scenarios mean that the work gets done – in the end there is a pure and beautiful masterpiece on the workshop table and whilst I feel a certain sense of security or comfort of life being that way, both pictures end up leaving me cold.

The second paints a picture of a God who does whatever he wills in order to get the work done, regardless of what we do to get in the way.  Our part is to watch and glory in the craftsmanship.  We have no real part, we’re just tools (or even distractions) in what he’s doing.

The first picture, then is surely better as we get in on the fun – we hammer away and design things and glue stuff…  we’re given a scrap piece of wood to muck about with while God is doing the real work.  Our part is to have a bash and keep ourselves busy, have a go at copying the glory of the craftsmanship while not actually making any impact on it.  We have a part, but it doesn’t matter about how it goes, because really its just a scrap that the Master has thrown at us to muck about with.

The cold feeling these images bring means that really I think there is a third way at work in God’s sovereignty.  Of course, no one image will fully convey it, but I’m thinking that if I’m going to think about such a workshop scenario, it would go much more like this…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – he is teaching and training and showing and hanging out and inspiring and repairing and (dare I say it…?) marveling and smiling at what we’re making together.

See, I think I really am building something here – and not just mucking around with scrap – it is of great value, it is important… essential even.  I really am making decisions, I’m designing and crafting and shaping life.  I really am doing the work, but I think I might be a master in training with THE Master.  An apprentice, if you will.

I am learning to create and craft at His side.

The bits where I have no clue how to do it, how to make it fit, he’s working on – but always in a way that teaches and trains me and my workmanship in his masterpiece.  The bits where I’ve accidentally gouged a great big chunk out of the wood, or mucked up the design, he transforms into something more beautiful than i could have imagined – showing me what it looks like to heal and refine and redefine.  I can be careless and flippant or meticulous and particular or creative and flamboyant.  Such freedom gives both weight and value to my choices and creates the beauty of true partnership.

This is a frightening concept.

It means that when I have a choice to make – about marriage or about career for example – I cannot sit back with my fingers in my ears and sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ and wait til it all works out or til Jesus comes back – whichever comes first.  Rather, I must take steps towards seeing things happen, recognizing that I have a responsibility to bear for my own life; to live life rather than to simply let life happen.  That my choices  (or lack thereof) have consequences carries weight but therefore also worth.

This is an incredible concept.

The biggest part of this freedom is that even when I’ve no effing clue what to do, or how to proceed, or things seem impossible, the Master is there.  Not to take control and do it for me, not to relegate me to the scrap woodpile, but to put his hands on mine and guide me through in a way that not only accomplishes something, but that also means together we create something beautiful.  Something beautiful in me and through me and even for me.   Something beautiful that is part and parcel of this Master’s greatest work of art.

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Rediscovering The Shawshank Redemption

You know, I used to call this film my favourite film ever.  Then someone told me (disparagingly) that everyone says that.  So I stopped saying it.  Yes, I’m that easily influenced.

But, I had some friends over tonight – one of whom had never seen it – and we watched it.

I’d forgotten.  It really is a beautiful film.  Don’t think I’d have said that before.  Think I liked it because of the twisty-clever way Andy escapes – the satisfaction that the baddies get what they deserve and because Morgan Freeman is cool.  It was a cool film.

But tonight I discovered that its a movie about hope and friendship.  Andy brings inmates hope through beer and music and a library…  He teaches hopeless Red to hope and it pays off.

The thing is that Red’s instincts about hope being a dangerous thing is right.  Andy discovers the pain of that when the only person who could prove his innocence is removed from the equation.  And yet life without hope is no life at all.

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Brilliant.

A beautiful film.  If you’ve never seen it, watch it immediately.  If you’re pushed for time, here’s the plot in a minute… 😉

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Thirst

When I listen to you live my throat feels dry.

My lips crack and dry up,

Thirsty for water that breathes deeply

Into my longing.

Lifting the cup to my mouth I hesitate,

Pursed lips tentatively gasping,

Drawing you in like hot tea that might blister my tongue

Rendering all else tasteless.

But I’d rather drink you down

(with

–     no fear of getting burnt     –

reckless

gulping

drafts)

Drink you down to the depths

Of sweet Spirit, and of Truth

And of grace.

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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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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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