Tuesday, July 26, 2011

... only nine more sleeps to go!

it's down to single-digits in terms of sleeps and i'm fairly excited. today i booked my accommodation in astoria (oregon) and in a moment of awesome synchronicity i also bought the goonies on dvd. i'm absolutely going to watch it before i go. i think last time i watched kindergarten cop and on my last trip i also had my picture taken in front of "astoria elementary school" (actually john jacob astor elementary school). i also booked my bus ticket from portland to astoria, so i have effectively locked in my first sixteen days of my holiday. yay.

all the excitement has, i fear, taken the edge off my preparation for my small group bible study. it's very difficult to focus on planning a study - especially using my computer to do it - when with a couple of clicks i could be looking at the next place i'm looking at travelling to. argh! so, i think i'm going to go have a quick shower, reboot my brain, and knuckle down. small group may not be until thursday night and i think have a pretty good grasp of the material but i don't want to be building with straw and sticks when i could be building with gold and silver... so to speak.

if you're so inclined, please keep praying for me, that i'll keep focussed on the things i'm meant to be doing now and not dreaming of the things i'm hoping i'll be doing in a couple of weeks' time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

... getting psyched!

it's perhaps a little premature to get all Christmas-y about things (even though today there's only five more months until Christmas!) but it feels a bit like it for me: ten more sleeps until i head overseas on my next holiday.

i'm pretty excited, especially since this holiday might not have happened at all, except for some divine expediting of my tax refund. this was the first year i've used e-tax online and it worked a treat. not difficult to use at all and since (despite the fact i do have a couple of computers and an ipod and whatnot around the house, i am something of a luddite) i'm particularly leery of putting a lot of confidential private data out into the ether, i felt a bit audacious using e-tax. this from the man who still has every tax pack he ever used to submit his income tax.

in any case, i have my tickets and travel insurance sorted out, my first lot of accommodation booked and the rest pretty much lined up too. i had been keen to re-visit astoria but their bicentennial celebrations seem to be leaving the place pretty much booked out for the weekend i'd planned on being there. not all that surprising, i suppose, given that it's a concert weekend. meh.

once i've dashed this off, i'll be re-evaluating my travelling itinerary and trying to contact 3m (makers of post-its and micropore surgical tape (i think)) about seeing if they have some kind of public showcase of their history and whatnot. i've been selling stationery now for over seventeen years and much of that stationery sold has been branded with the 3m logo. i'd love to be able to see where it was born. i'm not a motorcyclist and as interesting as the home of harley-davidson motorcycles might be, i'd rather visit the 3m factory!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

... long way round

if you know me at all, you'll probably know that i'm not exactly my own biggest fan. over the past week or so i've had reason to think a little bit about this, think about who i am and where i've come from and where i'm going with my life. hardly the first time i've engaged in this kind of serious navel-gazing and i'm sure it won't be the last but each time i do, i find that i'm bringing a slightly different perspective. this is not a bad thing.

i firmly believe that when i became a Christian, the circumstances were such that God had allowed me to paint myself into a corner that i couldn't get myself out of. i'm fine with that - God in his sovereignty made room for me in my brokenness to pursue a lifepath to its particular conclusion. i often joke that if i weren't a Christian i might be an international assassin or some such. i have some pretty firm ideas about what i think is acceptable and what isn't. if i weren't a Christian, i think i'd be tempted to believe that that would be reason enough to start cleaning up the world... and i know i'm not the only person who thinks that.

the truth is, though, that if i weren't a Christian, i wouldn't be here. period. the day i became a Christian, i faked a headache and got out of school so i could stay at home. i spent a bunch of time in the morning going over a heap of stuff i'd been writing in the previous months, destroying some things and collating others. i ran a bath.

that i let the bath grow cold and had to top it up with hot water several times simply underlined to me what a failure, what a waste of space - and water, it proved - and essentially what an oxygen-thief i was. i was bitterly unhappy with who i was and where i was and where i wanted to go but could see no way of getting to. it was such a long-arse time ago that looking back at it now, details are becoming sketchy and are being filled in by the story i've been telling myself about it all these years.

i remember feeling powerless. i remember hoping that maybe it was what it felt like to be dead because i honestly felt like i had hit rock bottom. i felt unloved by my family and rejected by my friends, like an alien in the community in which i lived and couldn't imagine feeling any different anywhere else. i didn't want to be dead - i most earnestly wished never to have been born in the first place.

thing is, i had been born. i knew that there must have been a reason for that and i didn't think it was so i could be pishing my last in a bathtub. God had worked his way into my life in a variety of ways over the years: scripture classes in primary school, sunday school (after which my sister and i would have a weekly ice-cream), friday night youth group (that new friends at my new high school used to go to and turned out to be at where i used to go to sunday school) and through some relatives in my extended family who were varying flavours of Christian. feeling like i had exhausted all other avenues, i could only conclude that God had a reason for me to be born.

now if there had been a hand suddenly appear and write on the fibro of the bathroom wall, "you are loved", i probably wouldn't be writing this now because an experience like that would have surely burned into my mind, my heart, my soul, the truth of it. sitting where i am now, i know that that's probably not true either - people have an unerringly erroneous ability to ignore God in the face of overwhelming evidence and after almost twenty-one years as a Christian i can firmly say that i am no different.

to my bitter shame i can admit that i have wilfully ignored God, probably more since i became a Christian than before. more, since i knew God more intimately after i became a Christian than i did before. it's hard to deliberately ignore a person you don't know. there are plenty of people in the world that i don't have to put any effort at all into not thinking about because i have no memory or experience of knowing them.

that's not the case with God. i know God. he knows me, intimately. he watched me being cooked, he saw me born by c-section as a breach (or is it breech?) baby, he saw me grow up. he knew the struggles i had before i became a Christian and he knows the struggles i continue to have despite being - or maybe because i am - a Christian.

i'm hopeless with money. i'm a spendthrift who feels guilty about it but never seems to change his ways. i swear way more in my head than i do with my mouth, although that wasn't always the case. i'm thoughtless, inconsiderate and cold sometimes. i struggle with sex, less than i used to but more than i would ever wish on another person. i eat too much and i don't exercise enough. i don't read my Bible enough and i've never been good at praying one-on-one with God. there are a whole raft of thing - from fashion to facial hair, vacation destinations to political preferences - that i have no opinion on and mildly resent feeling expected to. i'm quite content to not drive, aside from feeling that that choice (among several) mark me as somehow unaustralian and irresponsible.

despite all this, i believe that i am a better man now than i have ever been. every day i sense that God has changed me into someone who more and more resembles Jesus Christ. (and i'm not talking about my beard.) every day i feel more confident that when the time comes for all of my deeds and misdeeds to be read out from the book of my life before the judgement seat of God, they will be forgiven and passed over by a Father who is only waiting for the procedure to be over before he hugs me to himself and dries the last tears that will ever fall from my eyes and welcomes me home.

every day i understand better than ever that my relationship with God is founded on nothing that i have done but on everything that he has done for me through Jesus; that he strengthens me from within through the Holy Spirit; that he teaches me and talks with me through the Bible and prayer and the created world around me and through the brothers and sisters he has surrounded me with in the church.

i am here. this is now. and i have an opportunity in front of me that i haven't had for a long time, that requires selflessness and vulnerability and patience. i want to take hold with both hands and not let go, not because it's been a long time and not for any other reason, really, not really.

i want to because i believe that God has his hand in this too. that for all that it feels awkward or strange or new, it feels good and right and worth everything i believe it should be. how often i've prayed to God that he would show me a clear path for where he wants me to go - now it seems he has, i'm praying that i'll honour him in how i walk it - how we walk it together.