Tuesday, September 22, 2009

... slapped upside the head by God

so i've been on a fast for the past couple of weeks - a free-to-air-television fast. i don't have cable tv, so i'm not fasting from that much choice, and i'm not including videos or dvds either, so it would be easy to look at the whole thing and say, "well, where's the sacrifice then?" i know that if left to myself i'll happily stare at the tv for three or four hours straight of an evening with nary a blink, especially if i can channel-surf. not difficult most nights. thing is, though, if i choose to watch a dvd or video (yes, i still watch programmes on videotape!) i have to make a conscious decision about what i watch. if i channel-surf on the tv, the only conscious decision made is to turn it on - the channel-surfing happens on automatic pilot until the time/guilt factor kicks in and i decide to go to bed.

so i've been watching less tv, overall, and i've been reading and praying and listening to the radio all a lot more. my kitchen is tidier. i'm cooking more. (i know anything is more than practically nothing but hey...) it was while i was listening to light fm's rebroadcast of focus on the family that i was slapped upside the head tonight.

i can't even say that i've been feeling particularly sorry for myself lately in the usual "i hate being single" kind of way that i can be prone to falling into. it's long been a matter for prayer that God would give me contentment with the single status i currently enjoy (no pun intended) and i believe i can say that that contentment is gradually settling into my spirit. the loneliness that i've felt in the past doesn't have quite the bite that it used to and i firmly believe that it's God enabling me to trust his hand on my life that is the reason for this; i'm no less single than i was a year ago, or five years ago, or twenty years ago - it simply doesn't loom so largely in my field of vision. i pray earnestly that this perspective might continue, and improve.

tonight's focus on the family episode was part two of a discussion between dr james dobson and elisabeth elliot. as soon as i heard that elisabeth elliot was on air, my ears pricked up because i know the popularity and impact her book, passion and purity, had when i was younger. i'm encouraged to hear that that popularity and impact continues to endure. they talked about a bunch of stuff and the thing that jumped out at me - slapped me upside the head, so to speak - was her recollection of jim elliot's letters to her and his reference to amy carmichael's poetry. she mentioned a fragment from carmichael, who wrote:
if thy dear home be fuller, Lord, because a little emptier my house on earth, what rich reward!
i've said that as time has gone by i feel that in my experiences in youth ministry i feel that i have many more children than i could have been a blood brother or father to and that considering those times in that light lets me see the truth that "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." [luke 18:29-30, niv] (i know that the corollary passage in mark mentions persecutions as well but in the depths of i-hate-being-alone depression that usually feels like being persecuted by God anyway...)

what made this a bit of a slap upside the head was elliot's follow-up argument - that we are not our own, that we were bought at a price! the sacrifice that Jesus talks about in luke, above, isn't about trading one-for-many, it's about sacrifice for the kingdom of God. the service that we render to God in heaven begins here on earth and how insidious and easy it is to forgetting/ignoring that fact! satan's lies don't stop at doing everything he can to stop us looking at Scripture but continue to strangle and contort our perception of the truth even as it stands before us! i am certain that i could stand at the foot of the cross and satan would be doing everything to make me see Jesus' self-sacrifice and weakness in that action as human frailty and futility, rather than divine humility and grace.

so i'm praying hard now; not that God would make me content with my life where i find myself but rather that he would make me passionate for the kingdom of God, whatever that might mean. (argh!!!) it's probably one of the scariest things i've ever prayed but at this moment it is the only thing that feels right to ask. i don't want to be a jonah. i want to be a son.

Monday, September 14, 2009

... rhyme and rhythm

when i was a kid, my uncle (i think) gave me and my sister a cassette tape called "rhyme & rhythm". it had a lot of interesting and old poetry on it - it was the first time i'd heard the hilaire belloc poem, matilda, who told lies and was burned to death - and there were some english folk songs and poems set to music - the death of admiral benbow, the coasts of high barbary and bruton town. this last one was made popular by a group called "the pentangle" and, given the subject matter, i am these days surprised that such a dark and gruesome murder balled should be on a tape given to six-year-olds and not found instead on a nick cave album!

i've been thinking of a poem that was on the tape but i could only remember the last line: "and the moon sank red". turns out the poem is by a war poet named siegried sassoon; here is the poem in its entirety:

i heard a clash, and a cry,
and a horseman fleeing the wood.
the moon hid in a cloud.
deep in shadow i stood.
‘ugly work!’ thought i,
holding my breath.
‘men must be cruel and proud,
‘jousting for death’.

with gusty glimmering shone
the moon; and the wind blew colder.
a man went over the hill,
bent to his horse’s shoulder.
‘time for me to be gone’...
darkly i fled.
owls in the wood were shrill,
and the moon sank red.
just something i had to exorcise from my brain and now i know where i'll always be able to find it if it gets lodged in there again.

Monday, September 07, 2009

... here be spoilers - district 9

i've decided to start a new blog. since i'm seeing so many new movies these days - i've been bitten by the bug to see more movies again - i thought i'd create a blog that i could just say what i think about a movie without worrying that people might not have seen it. the blog is going to be plainly stating that there are spoilers. no surprises.

we'll see how it goes.

what else has been going on? had church camp two weekends ago - that was quite good. our speaker was rob miller, a minister with st jude's carlton and previous at caringbah anglican in sydney. he gave a series of talks on the Holy Spirit and his role in the life of the Christian. the thing i brought away from the talks that most stood out to me was the idea that the Holy Spirit's job is to deepen the Christian's understanding of God as Father. i don't think i've ever thought of it in those explicit terms, although, thinking back on what i've learned of the Holy Spirit and my understanding, experientially, of his work in my life, it does make a kind of sense.

i've always conceived of the Holy Spirit as a counsellor (quelle surprise), interceding in prayer for me when my own prayers fail, and an agent of change to conform me increasingly to the image of Christ. both of these are true and i've experienced the fruits of both in my life, i think, but i don't know how much it's impacted my understanding of God as Father. i pray, "our Father in heaven...", but it's hard to think of God and my dad as both being my father. they're so different but there are a couple of things they share in common.

me, obviously. dad was my father, making me "born of a husband's will" - although he had no idea of what exactly i would be like, my dad decided that i would be his child (in a roundabout kind of way). when i became a Christian i took hold of the promises in the Bible that tell me that before the creation of the world, God had determined to adopt me as one of his children - making me "born of God".

as i mature i am coming to resemble them more and more. in the almost twenty years that i've been a Christian i think i've changed, become more loving, more forgiving, more certain of what's right and what's wrong, more aware of myself and the immensity and power of God's grace. of course, these changes show my flaws and failings in ever-more(?) stark contrast and the variety of context means that not all the pros and cons show up at the same time - it's not always easy to see the changes but i believe they are there.

likewise, in the (soon to be) thirty-five years i've been kicking around the planet i've grown more and more to resemble my dad. i'm a bit of a spendthrift; i enjoy working in retail and dealing with people (mostly); i have a big gap in my teeth; i have a scottish accent that ebbs and flows depending on who i'm talking to or what i'm talking about. i resemble my dad's dad a bit too - more than once i've caught pop looking out at me from the mirror first thing in the morning... it's a wee bit scary...

typically, i've looked at my relationship with the Holy Spirit as if i am a work in progress and he is the one moulding me to be like Jesus. that's true, i think, but also think that i've been conceiving of my relationship with the Father as a similar work in progress. that's false, since the promise isn't that i will be moulded into being a child of God over the course of a lifetime, "kiln-fired" (so to speak) when Jesus returns and changed in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet, then declared to be a child of God. i'm a child of God right now.

so the way i figure it, that means that the more i come to know and understand God as my Father, the more i will be changed as a byproduct of my relationship with my Father in heaven to be like Christ and the more the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit show in my life. hmmm... something to think about there. i'll keep turning it over in my head and let you know what i'm thinking. thoughts and comments would be greatly appreciated.

i'm also settled on a small group at church. this was in a state of flux for a while and i'm looking forward to growing relationships with my brothers and sisters, praying regularly with others and getting into the Bible on a regular basis with multiple points of view to hone my thinking. "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." this will be a good thing, i think.

i've been reading heaps and here's a brief list of some of the things i've been looking at, since before i went on holidays:
  • the consolations of philosophy (alain de botton)
  • cleo - the uppity cat that changed a family (helen brown)
  • dreams from my father (barack obama)
  • the brain that changes itself (norman doidge, m.d.)
  • the girl with the dragon tattoo (stieg larsson)
  • the girl who played with fire (stieg larsson)
  • the hunger games (suzanne collins)
  • hunger games - catching fire (suzanne collins)
  • pride and prejudice and zombies (jane austen and seth graeme-smith)
  • viruses, plagues & history (michael b.a. oldstone)
lots of reading going on and i'm loving it! this month a new kim stanley robinson is out (galileo's dream) and next month we see the third stieg larsson book (the girl who kicked the hornets' nest) and matthew reilly's new jack west jr adventure (five greatest warriors). plus, i've joined a book group! phew!

watch this space...