Monday, January 30, 2012


Belonging to Jesus drags me back from the clifftop brink of condemnation. And if that was all, I'd be leaning over the edge again in no time.

Belonging also brings the Spirit.

I sometimes think there's a fight going on inside me. A fight between the right thing and the wrong thing. Which one will I do?

This is a different picture.
There's an animal trapped in a small box, with very little food, barely any light and a few sips of water. It's not aware that when the supplies run out, starvation will arrive. It doesn't even wonder beyond the next mouthful. Someone comes and lifts the furry little thing out of the box, placing it in a protected garden with sunshine, snacks, water to drink and to play in and other animals to befriend.

The Spirit has come and lifted me up out of the murky dark and I am no longer trapped. I have been freed from the fight within me, because I am no longer alone in it. I used to have to strive to be good enough to beat sin or death. Now God's Spirit has freed me from it.

The life I've been given is in the protected, abundant garden.
Listen and remember.

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, January 29, 2012

Brushing up on a classical education

I read a great letter last week. It was written by a specialist, when he saw a patient again after many years. The patient had a particularly bad injury but it had healed with resulting eye problems.

The specialist commented on his difficulty remembering the details where once he would have remembered every 'slice of the scalpel'. He was self-deprecating in reflecting on his increasing age. And then he said...

Tempus fugit.

I wish I could see Latin (or French, or Greek etc.) phrases and know what they mean. Oh, for a classical education, and the chance to go up or come down at Oxford (yes, I've read too much Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh in my time).

Praise the Lord for Google, I did a little wiki-research, and I discovered that tempus fugit means 'time flies' (or flees - which I like a little better).

It is from a poem by Virgil,
"Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore"

which means,
"But meanwhile it flees,
time flees irretrievably,
while we wander around,
prisoners of our love of detail."

Wow. How does he know us so well?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A faithful life

The funeral today was for a woman who has lived a faithful life. She has been having palliative treatment for cancer for six months and, four weeks ago, the funeral was for her husband. I can only imagine what it is like to see both your parents die within a month.

Her sister's husband looked stooped and worn today, his smile broad and sad-eyed. Her son's ex-wife will be more alone without her. She was praised by her doubting son for her faith in God and His love for her.

This family draws people from all through our community together. Gathered today, I saw the butcher who retired last year, the 'girls' from the chemist, people who've moved away from our church many years ago. They are well known for their extended family meals, their camping adventures and their loyalty. There's a prison officer who mows their lawn regularly because he remembers the years they let him live among their family.

The couple, who had been at our church for forty years, had loved many people, through youth groups and boys brigade, sporting teams and after school care, neighbourly love and inviting homeless young people into their family. They had seen the boom times and the broken times of our church and had served on, despite many people moving to bigger or newer churches.

They are well loved, because people had felt and seen the generosity of their love.

They were never celebrities and they lived a quiet life. They faced many hardships, losses and disappointments, particularly through chronic illness. But they didn't let those hard things shape them, they never became bitter or angry. Instead they continued to praise the God who loved them and to love people around them.

Sometimes I long to be recognised and for people to know the good I do. But that's not what a faithful life is about. I hesitate to start a heresy, but perhaps the most famous Christians are not necessarily the most faithful.

It may be faintly cliched to wonder what people will say at my funeral one day, but I do hope that however quiet it is, that people will say that I have lived faithfully.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Listen to the Light

I've talked about feasting on truth and I heard a couple of Sundays ago that reading the bible brings 'light in a dark place'. I'm going to spend some posts letting Romans 8 savour. I want to help it settle in my memory, like we did more than 15 years ago on a Summer Mission I went on (We learnt Romans 12 in 10 days). I'm going to take it a little slower than that, but I'll be trying to memorise it as I go. Join me?

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

It's so easy to define myself by condemning someone else. To comfort myself by consigning someone else for falling short. I inflate myself by letting the air out of someone else.
And when I think I am condemned by my behaviour or by another person's opinion, my perspective narrows. I respond defensively and I refuse to see possiblity.
Condemnation makes me bitter and pessimistic, and it draws the hope out of me. It shrivels me.

Belonging is the antedote. When I am part of the tribe and I know I am accepted, then I don't have to condemn to prove myself. And belonging frees me to accept, rather than condemn others.
But the final piece to the puzzle is who we belong to. To Jesus, the one who chose not to condemn an adulterous woman, as those around her wanted to do. Instead he called her to live as one who belonged to Him.

Belonging to Jesus is my identity. Not just me, but 'one who belongs to Jesus'.
And it frees me from the ultimate condemnation - death and separation from God.

Listen to Romans 8:1 and remember to whom you belong.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On answers to prayers and One Word 2011

We are a small church in a poor area and we're struggling.

A woman came in this morning, responded to a smile, joined us. She was anxious afterwards, needed a cigarette. She's just got out of custody and she's getting back to a life. She knows God and says he's led her into a ministry to lost, broken people. And that He's brought her to us today. That she's a way for us to reach out, to touch people who don't usually go to church.

Where is this leading?

Perhaps she's come to tell her story and find her place. Maybe this is just one Sunday morning and by next week things will be different and we'll never see her again. We've met people who promise things and disappear, before.

But she might just be God's answer to our prayers. We've prayed that God will use us, that people will come into his kingdom here, that we'll be light in the darkness. We've prayed desperate prayers. The prayers of a small and limping church. We've prayed that He'll be known and glorified.

Maybe that insignificant oddness of her arrival is God's miracle for us. His answer in the midst of struggle. How can we know?

Some of us already expect disappointment, some of us are eager to hope. Humanity mingles both. Can cynicism neutralise a miracle, or can fearless hope bring it into being? Perhaps. These questions will only be answered later.

Tonight I am in thrall to the idea that God's answer to our pleas will be someone we could not have imagined.


Commit, was the word I chose, and I have managed to do some things that needed to get done. I handed in my case reports in February and they both passed. I sat my clinical exams in October and passed one of them. I've been training since 2004, and 2011 was definitely a year of getting important things done. This is good, and definitely a result of that decision to commit to and complete some key tasks. I recently spent three months working on the mid north coast of NSW and ticked that off my list, too.

Other things have had less attention, though. I am starting to realise that being a psychiatrist is not a part-time thing. That I need to be careful that I give enough importance to the central things in my life - my family, my church and community. The internet and blogging are interesting, but not essential. That makes me sad because interracting with people and ideas on-line is fun and a little addictive. But I also realise how few real connections I have made beyond reading other people's opinions and experiences.

Recently, blogging has become me sitting in front of the computer wondering what to say. I suspect I may be overthinking it, but I've decided to try doing things a little differently. Just how that will work out I am not sure yet. I would be sad to stop blogging, so (although this sounds a little angsty) I am not currently writing My Final Post or anything like that.

Frankly, I'm not really sure why I started blogging. I don't have friends who blog and I have not got a strong network of friends online. But I do enjoy the comments I receive and there's a few blogs that I love to read. I'll hang around while I have the occasional thing to say. I was reading an old post the other night and came across a comment from a lovely friend of mine who said that I had encouraged her. It made me realise that I have lost a little of that purpose recently. Perhaps that's just what I need to recover.

Anyway, I am in a similar paradox to where I started tonight - am I hopeful enough to believe that writing here can be encouraging despite its oddities? or am I so cynical about my insignificance that I feel unable to see any value in continuing? I am, at heart, a hopeful person.

So... There is not one word for 2012. Not for me.
One Word 2011 - Commit, has served me faithfully (thanks Alese)
2012 will bring lots of words, that's what I'm looking forward to. Hoping for.

If you have read all the way to the end of this rambling post, you truly are my friend. Bless you.