Posts Tagged 'faith'

The Cave.

We’ve come so far.  S0 far from the caves we once inhabited…

We make plans.  We build futures.  We long to be living in a not too distant point in time when these things come to fruition or have been realised.  We spend our time pouring over brochures, making selections, refining our grand designs and then working longer and sacrificing more in order to achieve the desires of our hearts.  We build these palatial homes where we can feel secure, find sanctuary, enjoy the fruit of our labour.  They can be temples to our success or status, little Babels of one sort or another. 

We sit and unwind savouring our perfect sea view, enjoying the warmth whilst listening to the sound of the rain beating on the windows – content in our own seclusion from the world outside.

When the rains fall hard and the floods rise and the whole thing collapses around us in the midst of the storms of life, we realise with shock that we have built hollow kingdoms of dust – epitaphs to nothing much of substance.  We recall tales of a wise man who built his house on a rock whilst a foolish man built on the sand.  We always assumed we were the former and laughed at the latter.  But, when we discover there is little depth or foundation, we lament with the writer of Ecclesiastes that everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

We discover we are destitute, a flood victim stripped of all our possessions.  Naked.  Blind.  Poor.  We recall stories of Jesus calming the storm and stilling the seas.  We get angry at the inconsistency of a God who is seemingly able and who doesn’t seem to intervene at times.  Our perception gets skewed and distorted.

I believe in a God who humbles the proud and calls us to see ourselves as we really are.  I believe in a God who wants to make the, seemingly, pitiful beautiful – a God of rescue and restoration.  A God who will give back to us the years that the locusts destroyed.  A God of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  A God of hope.  A God of fresh beginnings.

“So come out of your cave walking on your hands.
And see the world hanging upside down.
You can understand dependence
When you know the Maker’s hand.

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want.
I will not hear what you have to say.

Cause I need freedom now.
And I need to know how.
To live my life as it’s meant to be.

And I will hold on hope.
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck.

And I’ll find strength in pain.
And I will change my ways.
I’ll know my name as it’s called again”.

From “The Cave” by Mumford And Sons.
 

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Brickbat.

“I used to want to plant bombs at the last night of the proms.
But, now you’ll find me with the baby in the bathroom
With that big shell, listening for the sound of the sea.
The baby and me”.

From “Brickbat” by Billy Bragg.

 

Douglas Coupland entitled his 2001 novel, “All Families Are Psychotic”.  I think the title was memorable and connected with many of us.  It put a smirk on our faces.  It became a cult classic.

The thing is that we all belong to families.  They may be conventional nuclear families or a whole myriad of other set-ups.  You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

I find it easy to think of church community as a family.  That has been my very real experience in the darkest hours of life or the most trying times.  My four best friends are like brothers to me.  I refer to them all as “bro” regularly.  Would we be as close if we didn’t share a common faith that bonds us that way?  Would my marriage be the way it is if I stopped reminding myself that I’ve to love my wife in the same way that Christ loves the church?  I think that means I’d be prepared to die for her.  That thought often puts tidying up after myself or other menial tasks in proper perspective…

Yesterday, however, Karl said something that really got me thinking.  I know many people find it hard to relate to the concept of God as a “Loving Heavenly Father”, because their own perceptions have been tarnished by the way their own Father’s are or have been.  Thankfully, that has not been my own experience.  That said, if our own experience of our earthly Father is the lense through which we see our Heavenly Father, then that’s a really big deal.

The thing that struck me right between the eyes is that the way in which my children will perceive the notion of Father God will be influenced hugely by how they perceive me.  Now, that’s a REALLY BIG deal!  I think fondly of happy, sun-speckled, cozy, snap shots of intimate moments with my little family unit, but I also recoil in the thoughts of those times when I’m at my whit’s end, hassled, grumpy and determined to get onto the next thing…

It’s good to have another hook to pull my attitude back into line…

Spirit

“Man gets tired.
Spirit don’t.
Man surrenders.
Spirit won’t.
Man crawls.
Spirit flies.
Spirit lives
when man dies.

Man seems.
Spirit is.
Man dreams.
The beautiful spirit lives.
Man is tethered.
Spirit free.
What spirit
is man can be”.

From “Spirit” by The Waterboys.

I was scrawling through my notepad today and came across a quote I’d scribbled down a few weeks ago, “Earthly wisdom keeps us grounded, but, we were created to fly”.

I wonder what the things are that keep me tethered, bound and shackled?  Could a justified slave call himself a free man?  Do I see my life in those terms?

Am I afraid of flying?  Part of me loves the sense of soaring.  Another part of me likes to feel that I am rooted and grounded.  A big part of me looks at the horizon and feels such a huge rush.  A bigger part of me looks to the world and thinks to myself, “everything is wrong…”

Surely it’s impossible to defy gravity and keep my feet on the ground?  Maybe I need to jump off the branch in faith?  Maybe that will not lead to my head being in the clouds, but will give me a fresh perspective as I come back in to land, as I look around me whilst setting my eyes and my heart on things above…

The Question Is Complete.

“Your lack of faith is useless…”

From “The Question Is Complete” by Aereogramme.

It’s that time of year again…the papers and television shows chronicle the highlights and lowlights of the year fading out.  We look back before looking forward.

How would you sum up 2009?  What words or pictures would you use?  What were the defining moments?  Could you make sense of them at the time?

Mine is here.  It’s a post I wrote on this blog back in April.  It all seems so much clearer now as another year ends.  The third interpretation in the blog post seems to ring true.  As 2009 ebbs away I have laid down worship leading and small group leading.  Family life will change in 2010 as we eagerly await a new arrival in May.  Work brings new responsibilities and new contacts – even with surveyors who share my love of surfing!

The lure of the sea with all its symbolism pans large on my horizon and I’ve been spending much less time on my blog and much more getting this off the ground.

Here’s to the New Year!

Sweet Thing.

“And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky.
And count the stars
That’s shining in your eye.
Just to dig it all an’ not to wonder why.
That’s just fine.
And I’ll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines.
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again”.

From “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison.

Is it just me, or does the pace of life step up a gear every December?  A constantly growing “to-do” list of presents to buy, places to be, people to see…all before we collapse into an exhausted heap come the holidays or the period when we get our space back to ourselves.

I seem to be juggling a bunch of things at the moment.  For the most part they are good things – things I am glad to be a part of.  I am looking forward to laying some of them down in coming weeks though…

Karl has talked a lot about the speed at which God moves.  Is it faster than the speed of light or sound?  Yes.  Is it slower than we often want?  Yes.  Is it at the speed of life?  Yes.  Is it at the speed of love?  Yes.  What is that?

Last night on my way from the office to another appointment I blew a puncture on my bike.  It forced me to stop – to think – to walk and talk with God.  When I looked beyond the Christmas lights, I noticed that the sky was clear and the moon and stars were bright.  The air was cold and sharp (0.5 degrees) and it was strangely refreshing and invigorating.  I dropped my agenda and was in a much better head-space when I arrived at my next destination.

Sometimes we just need to slow down.  Maybe the speed of love is 3 miles per hour.. That is the speed we walk at.

My next stop was to inhabit a, somewhat, secret place and just to be still.  To think, to reflect and to pray.  The two of us who met had a really useful bit of time out as we turned our eyes away from ourselves and towards others for whom we are grateful and to whom we would love to be good news.

The One I Love.

“This one goes out to the one I love”.

From “The One I Love” by R.E.M.

One of the best books I have read this year is “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller.  The passage below is probably the most beautiful thing I have digested in years.  It comes from a monologue for a play Donald Miller wrote called “Polaroids” which recounts a man’s life from birth to death. 

In the play the man and his wife experience tension after their son dies in a car accident.  Don Miller was originally going to portray the ugliness of divorce as a result of this tragedy.  He changed his mind, however, after a deep and meaningful conversation with one of his married friends whilst sat on the roof of a house.  

The reality is 50% of marriages in the UK end in divorce or separation.  I have friends who long to be married more than anything in the world.  I have other friends who wish the reality of their marriages was different to their daily experiences.  And, yet, there is the mystery of marriage being symbolic of something so much bigger.

“What great gravity is this that drew my soul toward yours?  What great force, that though I went falsely, went kicking, went disguising myself to earn your love, also disguised to earn your keeping, your resting, your staying, your will fleshed into mine, rasped by a slowly revealed truth, the barter of my soul, the soul that I fear, the soul that I loathe, the soul that: if you will love, I will love.  I will redeem you, if you will redeem me?  Is this our purpose, you and I together to pacify each other, to lead each other toward the lie that we are good, that we are noble, that we need not redemption, save the one that you and I invented of our own clay?

I am not scared of you, my love, I am scared of me.

I went looking, I wrote out a list, I drew an image, I bled a poem for you.  You were pretty, and my friends believed that I was worthy of you.  You were clever, but I was smarter, perhaps the only one smarter, the only one able to lead you.  You see, love, I did not love you, I loved me.  And you were only a tool that I used to fix myself, to fool myself, to redeem myself.  And though I have taught you to lay your lily hand in mine, I walk alone, for I cannot talk to you, lest you talk it back to me, lest I believe that I am not worthy, not deserving, not redeemed.

I want desperately for you to be my friend.  But you are not my friend; you have slid up warmly to the man I wanted to be, the man I pretended to be, and I was your Jesus and, you were mine.  Should I show you who I am, we may crumble.  I am not scared of you, my love, I am scared you me. 

I want to be known and loved anyway.  Can you do this?  I trust by your easy breathing that you are human like me, that you are fallen like me, that you are lonely, like me.  My love, do I know you?   What is this great gravity that pulls us so painfully toward each other?  Why do we not connect?  Will we be forever fleshing this out?  And how will we with words, narrow words, come into the knowing of each other?  Is this God’s way of meriting grace, of teaching us of the labyrinth of His love for us, teaching us, in degrees, that which he is sacrificing to join ourselves to Him?  Or better yet, has He formed our being fractional so that we might conclude one great hope, plodding and sighing and breathing into one another in such a great push that we might break through into the known and being loved, only to cave into a greater perdition and fall down at His throne still begging for our acceptance?  Begging for our completion?

We were fools to believe that we would redeem each other.

Were I some sleeping Adam, to wake and find you resting at my rib, to share these things that God has done, to walk you through the garden, to counsel your timid steps, your bewildered eye, your heart so slow to love, so careful to love, so sheepish that I stepped up my aim and became a man.  Is this what God intended?  That though He made you from my rib, it is you who is making me, humbling me, destroying me, and in so doing revealing Him. 

Will we be in ashes before we are one? 

What great gravity is this that drew my heart toward yours?  What great force collapsed my orbit, my lonesome state?  What is this that wants in me the want in you?  Don’t we go at each other with yielded eyes, with cumbered hands and feet, with clunky tongues?  This deed is unattainable!  We cannot know each other!

I am quitting this thing, but not what you think.  I am not going away.

I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer.  I will love you, as sure as He has loved me.  I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God’s own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me.  And I will do this to my death, and to death it may bring me.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God.  I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love.  I will simply love.  I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again.  I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.

God risked Himself on me.  I will risk myself on you.  And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then and only then understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us”.

This one goes out to the one I love –  happy 12th anniversary.

Metal Heart.

“I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind
But now I see.
How selfish of you to believe in the meaning of all the bad dreaming

Metal heart, you’re not hiding
Metal heart, you’re not worth a thing”.

From “Metal Heart” by Cat Power.

Cinema seems to have witnessed a resurgence of 3-D films over the past year.  Something that I thought had been ditched in the 1980’s seems to be being re-explored as a means of pulling us further into the stories that unfold before our eyes.  Is this a fad aimed at children or will we see cinema forever altered by revisiting ideas from an earlier age?

3-D cinema is designed to bring depth.  Everything literally takes on a whole new dimension.  We may feel self conscious or look silly with those 3-D glasses on, but when we are with a group of people with a similar focus our awkwardness seems irrelevant and our resistance dissipates instantly.

How often do I walk through life, caught up in my own little world, missing a whole other realm?

How often does my desire to fit in prevent me from seeing things as they really are?

12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[a] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely”. (1Cor 13:12 – NLT).

It has been a priviledge in recent weeks to be assisting in leading my first Alpha Course.  It has been interesting to discover what the tenets of our faith are seen to be.  It has been inspiring to see the giftings and genuine love of HIWWC as she leads the sessions.  It has been refreshing to hear peoples’ ideas and experiences and to have a place where those are validated and listened to rather than the leaders doing most of the talking.  It has been a joy to see people begin to “get it” or nudge a bit closer with no-one ramming an agenda, but, rather, simply, holding out an offer. 

I have loved to hear questions asked, clarity gained and to catch even glimpses of lives taking on a whole new dimension and people gaining a different perspective and, perhaps, in time, a fresh world-view…


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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