Tuesday, May 31, 2011


"I'm waiting on God for healing. Don't you do that?"

I wasn't sure how to respond. There was hesitation in her eyes after I answered.

So I'm sitting here thinking about healing and waiting and what we mean when we say such things. I realise I have never thought I needed healing. I don't have a serious illness, and I assume that's what healing is for. I pray for people with pain or with cancer, for friends after accidents and babies with congenital problems. And I prayed for this questioner, today.

Are the medications and therapies we give her the answers to my prayer (and hers)? Is it what she is waiting for? Would it be more obviously the work of God if it seemed more impossible or miraculous? Is waiting on God an active or a passive process?

We each speak a language of faith, and the words can be vague. There are a range of dialects. Because I understand her words in my own way, I cannot meet her with clarity. I cannot answer in a way that engenders trust. I became just another doctor whose faith is suspicious and doubting about the glorious, miraculous healing of God. I really want to taste her uncompromising hope, and I fear that I have bound God into my own rational, scientific paradigm. Have I forgotten that His possibility and scope far transcend my conception of Him?

But I want her to take her medication, because she has been crippled, imprisoned and gagged without it. I am responsible to engage her in this treatment and not give her a reason to doubt it. Then I find myself with deeper ties to her than I had supposed. She is my sister, and that counts. It matters if she thinks I'm her sister, too.

There is another quiet question in the room... Is she the one who sees God clearly? Is her psychosis actually ecstatic communion with God?

I know that Jesus healed a psychotic man and his mind became clear. This tells me clarity is better than psychosis. But are religious delusions really delusions or are they just a breaking through of an intense, consuming meeting with God into someone's life? If Peter described the transfiguration to me in a moment of excitement, would I think he had been hallucinating and that he was unwell?

I need to wrestle with these questions. I need to know that God is working in the rational and explainable and that he also labours in the mysterious and transcendent. Paradoxically, I can trust in medication that is the work of human hands and therapy guided by human minds, while also putting my faith in the inexplicable divine touch to bring healing.

In the midst of madness or surrounded by sanity, Jesus is present and is not overwhelmed. He knows and understands, even if I am still puzzled.

What do you think?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mysterious Gold

We didn't boil the kettle. We agreed on mandarins instead. The shell of skin fell away into my palm and the fruit was incense between us. I tasted a lifetime of Autumn sun-soaked lunches, and the cool juice was soothing.

And we talked of the motivation that has fled and the deep fear that this time will not end. We nodded about the loss of space, and order and self - she has been invaded, overtaken. And I can say little. She has always 'done the needful', but now they seem to need her to be everything and nothing all at once.

I watched her weariness and that she had started to tell herself that she is nothing. And I offered her a sweet golden nugget, a brief taste of nectar sweetness. She accepted the fruit but found it hard to hear the words. A tentative smile that disbelieved me.

And yet this conversation was not all heaviness or darkness. It was veined and traversed by gold and other light. Woven together they are able to withstand the being overwhelmed or the helplessness. As she laughed or told of joy flashes she affirmed her not-nothing-ness.

This variegated gold and grey, this Spirit-shot life in her heartened me. This is why she can go on. This is her refined-gold heart - that cares for a dying husband and bears with a needy daughter. That reaches love in many directions despite her worn heart. It is a mystery.

sharing with a prompt from three - Gold

Friday, May 20, 2011

I like this song

This is a very beautiful song.

(HT - Genevieve at Turquoise Gates)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Learning to pray

There are times when the muscles in my throat grip. I am conscious of my scalp stretching tight across my skull and skipping thoughts get stuck to the knees in molasses.
But it happens when I read inspiring books. Or when I hear about church growth strategies. Or consider living out an authentic faith. That's right - it scares me. Deeply.

I get deep-in-my-core anxious. I hear an honest challenge to give more of myself and risk more in an attempt to love and serve people I don't yet know. And as I hear it, I briefly contemplate shutting my ears, ignoring the challenge.

Because I'm sure I can't do it. I don't know how, and I'm puzzled about where to begin. I prefigure failure as I play possibilities in my mind.

And often I don't want to go to all that trouble. What if I put myself into this sacrificial life and it doesn't work? Or its ignored?

Do you get that fluttering-bird fear, trapped in your ribcage, that you just can't do the stuff required to be a proper God-follower? That the mission that defines us is too hard? I am enthralled by a vision of the cross-bearing, Jesus-following life but I struggle to see myself in that vision - I feel too prosaic, too clumsy, too selfish to inhabit such a view. Truth is, I am. I cannot live out a life of righteousness, of sacrifice, of Jesus-shaped cross-carrying proportions on my own.

Being helpless, anxious, restless, I pray. Slowly I am learning that this is where I need to be. That God has been patiently waiting for me to ask him for help here and not just try to manage things myself.

Relieved, I pray. My humanity wishes for a more capable response but the Spirit in me sighs and groans. Let the Spirit speak.

'This is too hard, but you are the God who can do what the law cannot. I am overwhelmed but you are not. I feel helpless, but you do not. I fear failure, but you do not. You are the God who makes possibilities and opportunities and rescues my weakness. Show me what I can do today to follow Jesus.'

You can pray this prayer for anxieties, too.

Imagine a world, where we are not ruled by fear or by hopelessness, or even by the need to not fail. Where we can give grace, out of the riches of grace and comfort we receive. Where daily we pray and daily we follow.

Today's thoughts, which challenged me (that is, made me anxious), that called me to pray,

"In the incarnation, God enters fully into close relational and physical proximity to humanity in the pursuit of reconciliation. Likewise, if exiles today are to model their lives and ministries on that of the exile Jesus, they must take a stance that promotes proximity between themselves and those among whom they live……
……Christians must be prepared to go where Christ would go: to the poor, to the marginalized, to the places of suffering. They must be prepared to die to self in order to follow Jesus’ radical lifestyle of self-giving and sacrifice……
……To embrace an incarnational ministry, then, involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others. Of course, our suffering doesn’t atone for the sins of others, as Christ’s did, but our self-emptying or sacrificial love will direct people to the higher and more efficacious sacrifice of Christ…
…Pity, condescension, or paternalism misses the mark; only a compassion that acts is acceptable in incarnational ministry……
……So, if we take the incarnation seriously, we must take seriously the call to live incarnationally – right up close, near to those whom God desires to redeem. We cannot demonstrate Christ-likeness at a distance from those whom we feel called to serve. We need to get close enough to people that our lives rub up against their lives, and that they see the incarnated Christ in our values, beliefs, and practices as expressed in cultural forms that make sense and convey impact."
Michael Frost
(from Exiles: Living Missionally in Post-Christian Culture)

linking with Ann and Emily today.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Things I am thinking about...
  1. The difference between being innocent and naive.
  2. Wondering when being demonstrative or open becomes boasting.
  3. That people who say things that make me uncomfortable are not necessarily wrong.
  4. How my hands can be different temperatures on a cold night.
  5. Whether I write too much about internal/thought life and not enough about details and events.
  6. That suffering can lead to deep loneliness.
  7. That brains are immensely mysterious and interesting.
What about you?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Being proper

Sometimes we believe the lie.

We think that there is a proper way, a right way to live this life.  Everywhere I turn are opinions about what I should be doing, how I should be looking, what I should be believing, how I should be thinking. Rules, opinions, have-tos wherever I live.

And it wears me down.

Don't misunderstand me. I still think that there are wise and foolish, right and wrong things we can do. I still think that there are virtues we aspire to and that character is important.

But my life does not have to look like yours. Or hers, or theirs.
And my life is certainly not going to be perfect.

I've been thinking about depression and the expectations we put on ourselves. Or the image of the good woman we try to live up to, the good mother, the good wife, the good friend...

And I think about my mum telling me that she was not "a proper mother", because she couldn't dare to believe that she, in her lovely, encouraging self-discovery, was sufficient and good enough.

What is a proper mother? Can you be one and get tired or worn or discouraged or frightened? Can you be one and not feel all those things? Do you hold it all together so tightly because the thought of not being "proper" or "good" just utterly breaks you?

The desire to do good can be a law that binds me and a rock bound tied to my ankles dragging me down.
But the story of resurrection transforms this...
It allows grace and mercy to transform this sinking rock-law into the freedom of a spirit-touched life. 
I am no longer living in my own effort but depending on God to help me live "good and proper".
And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:2

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A phenomenon

The sound of Justin Bieber echoes in the hallway. I can hear girl voices whisper that they love him.

I took them (my 8 year old daughter and her friend) to see him at the movies - in 3-D (no less) and I felt my own childish enthusiasm as we were enveloped in the joyful adulation.

The voice of adult sensible-ness, in my head, reminds me that it's spin and that they're promoting an image - Justin Bieber is a product.

But music conveys emotion so well. The footage of the concerts made me want to be there, jumping to the beat and singing along. I wanted to enjoy the excitement and the freshness.

He was also very talented. He sang and danced his sixteen year old heart out (and got strained vocal cords at one point in the movie). He was musically gifted, playing three or four instruments, and seemed liked by the people in his "team". His mum loved him (and he was born while she was still a teenager herself), his grandparents loved him, and other musicians treated him with respect.

It would be easy to dismiss the whole phenomenon, to look down on his youth or his popularity. But is that coming out of jealousy or is it because we feel people should have to work harder or wait longer for success? Sometimes that sort of attitude is a lack of generosity, an unwillingness to delight in the giftedness of someone else.

And I am fascinated by the emotional attachment that we can have to famous people - people we admire or aspire to or just want to know. There were lots of teenage girls in the footage who insisted that Justin Bieber was going to be their boyfriend/husband.

We all long for a connection, for relationship, to be known by another person, significantly. And perhaps famous people are a safe way to begin experimenting in adult attachment. Unattainable relationships have the safety of never having to face real rejection - because deep down we know they will not happen.