Monday, February 27, 2012

What controls me?

Am I ever really in control of my choices?

Or do I just choose in reaction to my history, or my emotional state, or just that mistaken idea that I am the centre of the universe? It's easy to believe the lie that I choose. That I know the alternatives and possibilities and that I make right choices because I am clear-sighted, wise and perceptive.

Maybe this isn't true for you, but I frequently get confronted with my wrong choices, or realise the oddest things have influened me. Autonomy is a fraught concept because we cannot escape our participation in the network of humanity.

Paul just talked about wanting to do right but failing, not wanting to be false, but doing it anyway. I am caught in his contradiction - my heart longs for right but my nature bends away from it.

And these next few verses in Romans 8 dissect the dilemma. They collect all the forensics and divide us into those on the Spirit's side and those on sin's side. I admit I'm scared. The evidence accruing for me feels equivocal, but Romans 8 doesn't give that option. Listen with me as I try to wrestle with Romans 8:5-8. I'm memorising...

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
Romans 8:5

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hey, my friend...

Yes, you.

I want to pray for you.

It's exam time again, and I sent out a text for some faithful friends to remember me in conversation with God. Our church family prayed and checked on me, too.

I've been anxious this week, but I've been supported by the knowledge of those prayers - the brief whispered ones, the long patient ones, the barely spoken ones, the matter-of-fact ones. You have helped God walk with me.

And it's not about the results. It's about knowing that God's people are faithful and kind, and that no matter what happens, God will be here with me. He'll rejoice with me or mourn with me in two weeks time. He'll know my impatience, when it creeps up into my throat, every couple of days, till then.

He'll be there with you, too. He'll be answering my prayers for you. Helping you through the maze of your life, knowing the flutters and falters of your heart. Sharing your excitement or soothing your weariness. That's just what he does. All day, every day. Deep in the night and in the pale dawn, he's with you.

So can you let me know what to pray for you? Put it in the comments. Email me. Even if we only meet here, I want to hear from you.

That is real connection. Praying prayers for you that allow me to participate in God's care for you and presence in your life. I'm there with you when I pray for you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Justice fully satisfied

My eldest son loves justice. He's the one named after a prophet. The farmer prophet who shouted God's call for justice flowing down like a river.

I see this love of justice when he argues "That's not fair" or shouts at his five year old brother because he's not being ten. The hunger to see things truly measured and rewarded needs shaping and refining in him. I'm praying for wisdom in that task...

But I'm thinking of his love of justice because there's a touch of God in that pure desire. God loves justice and God will see it satisfied.

A friend reminded me of karma today. I tried to gently question the idea that good will always be rewarded with good, and we barely even got to reincarnation. The bible talks of reaping what we sow but I think that is with long sight towards eternity. I see good people suffer and careless people prosper. I find it difficult to distinguish 'goodies' from 'baddies' sometimes. Most of us hurt and get hurt to differing degrees.

But God loves justice. And the law requires justice. So he did what the law could not do, and he fully satisfied his justice in Jesus' death. His love fully satisfied his justice.

He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:4

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Link to someone else's giveaway, because of the pretty shoes...

Not being particularly cool, I love to admire other people's hip taste. It is easy to skip from blog to blog and dream about craft/sewing but never have time to actually do it.

Like most 21st century people, although I haven't done much personally, I've seen most eventualities on the internet.

Ali posted about this giveaway at Georgie Love and I'm entering because I want to wear these shoes to church! The prize also includes a gift voucher and I'd spend it on this 1970s Bow-Back Dirndl Dress. So go and have a look at Georgie Love's blog and online shop if you like to browse the possibilities...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What law cannot do

We're driving through traffic and the morning show comes on the radio. I listen to the discussion about today's dilemma, the one tossed out by the presenter to tempt people to ring in.

"Umbrella Etiquette" is the spin and someone rings with the suggestion that all umbrellas should be clear so that when they're held low, the view is not obscured. Nice. Simple, creative idea.

Suddenly the talk is of 'policing' the move to clear umbrellas and 'standards' for maufacturers of brollies, and my eyes do that cartoon thing that reminds me of minds boggling (not good in traffic). What the? I punch the off button with my finger, because there's no point in getting infuriated at morning radio.

Why does a good idea have to mean a new rule or guideline? When did suggestions become acts of parliament and law? Who said that wisdom or right living must be legislated? Is the purpose of a law to keep those who should know better out of trouble or is it to protect potential victims?

Can the law make me a good person?

I wish that I could fastidiously do all the things that would leave my life unsullied. Sometimes. Other times I just want to spend an hour sitting, eating maltesers and watching Dr Phil.

But I know that making more rules is not going to make us more caring, more compassionate, or less selfish. It just isn't going to happen.

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans 8:3

The paradox is that by living in a finite human body, Jesus invited us into the possibility of living the life God intended - no longer trapped by our own finite weakness.

I'm taking the time to listen to Romans 8, verse by verse, with the aim of memorising it. Join me?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The practice of stop and listen.

Sarah's having a gathering at her blog, around the practices of parenting. She has compiled her practices, or disciplines of mothering, over the past few months and they are definitely worth reading. She commented that her practices have helped her to enjoy mothering, which surprised her.

Everyone is joining in to add their practices, so I thought I'd add a post to the carnival. Click on the button below to go over and check it out.

I rarely read parenting books and I steer away from giving advice that isn't solicited with a question. I hope I'm a good-enough mother, but I'm not an exemplary parent. I dreamed of transcending my own parents but discovered that I make the same mistakes they did. Mums at playgroup say they couldn't imagine me shouting at my children, but that's mainly because I know how to behave in public and they don't live next door to me.

Maybe like you, I have times when parenting goes smoothly and fills me with joy. And then there's times when parenting seems impossible and I'm ashamed of how I behave.

Most of my disasters spring from assumptions, preoccupations and selfishness (and hunger). Good moments spring out of unexpected comments, expressions of love or excitement, and just pausing to enjoy.

The practice I am remembering daily, is to stop, and listen.

When the steam is about to explode from every hole in my head, and there's criticism burning the end of my tongue, I stop. I swallow hard ... and listen. I'm starting to discover all sorts of reasons or circumstances which change the temperature of a situation from red hot to cooling quickly.

When it's bedtime, and I'd rather be checking facebook or watching "Outnumbered", I stop. I lie back down on the bed and hear stories of the day or get spontaneous cuddles. I listen and I'm seeing each child taking shape as they slowly explain themselves to me.

When the job's not done exactly as I like it, or I'm being ignored when I ask for a hand, it's time to stop. Let the hurt or the blunt correction stay put. I breathe out slow and I listen to where everyone is, what's going on and usually my perspective changes or I realise that it can wait for the moment.

When the sound of bodies bounding on the trampoline mingles with shouts and laughter, it's a stop and listen moment. Or that instant when I notice the silence in the hallway, as breaths slow and bodies relax into night. That instant is a stop and listen call.

Rather than react instantly, I'm practicing stopping and listening.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A secret revealed

I lay down on the bed beside him and his tiny hands grip my neck and pull. We laugh, noses touching and he asks me "Why?" when I say that he's little.

"Well, your legs are shorter than mine, your arms are shorter, your head is smaller..."

He's little, but he's big and we tell him he's big so he'll want to stop wearing nappies. How does he not get confused?

I know him, I absorb him, I enjoy him as we compare limb length and kiss goodnight. And tomorrow there'll be new glints of him in our touch and talk.

I started reading Matthew last year, winding through to twenty-eight and back to one again. Finding familiar and new, striking and puzzling side by side. I searched for the deeper meaning, struggled to hold the whole piece in my mind to grasp its uniqueness. Perhaps I strived to be a gnostic and find the hidden secret.

It wasn't till I read Redemption that it crept on me. The secret was not hidden, in fact it was more about revealing, about meeting and seeing. About listening and touching.

The purpose of life is not to be a better person, or to find more theological secrets. The purpose of life is to spend it with God. The purpose of faith is not me transcending myself, it is about me finding myself in the presence of God.

The purpose of reading Matthew, is not mining for nuggets. 

Reading Matthew is sitting on a hillside and eating a feast with five thousand people, or waking in a storm to see the waves suddenly calmed. It's sitting and listening as Jesus forgives, or heals or even rebukes. It is being in the presence of God, the Son.

God is with us, and reading his story is not just an intellectual exercise. It's a little like lying on the bed saying goodnight. It's that time when you meet someone face to face and give them your full attention. You get to know them by seeing them live, by stopping and listening to them.

Anything we gain in pursuing God is hollow without God himself. The fact that he is with us, within us by his Spirit and present before us in the person of Jesus, is miraculous and life-giving.

"we don't just get peace from God; God is our peace - he gives us himself.
We don't just get joy from God; he is our joy - he gives us himself."
p161 Redemption by Mike Wilkerson.

I'm linking with Emily for the last Imperfect Prose for a while. I'm excited that the break's because she's writing a book.