Monday, 24 September 2012

When God was a Rabbit?

Firstly let me say I am a BIG kindle fan! Never has feeding a baby at 11pm and 5am been so entertaining than with my kindle in the other hand. Since Athol has been born I have read more books than I have read in the previous year (and he is only 3 months now!). So having moved to Leeds and left my dearly beloved bookclub in Hartlepool behind, Ben and I have decided to give another one a go in Headingley. The first title we are reading is 'When God was a Rabbit' and I just finished it this afternoon while the twins were having a riotous time in the softplay area.
My thoughts are:
  • I love the relationships that are shown between family and friends and how friends become family. The brother-sister relationship between Elly and Joe is beautiful (although maybe slightly unrealistic!) and the friendship that were made between Elly and Jenny Penny was very touching. It made me realise again that actually life is all about relationships - we are deeply relational beings. The fear of death that pervades the book is also a fear of relationships ending, of the finality of death. The strange mysticism and odd happenings (Jenny Penny's telling of the future, Arthurs musings about a 'greater something that illuminates inconsequence in our lives') within the book seem to be the authors attempts to explore  this. To be honest, the vagueness that surrounded this did annoy me rather! We all seek out and crave friendship and closeness with others - Elly invested heavily in Joe and when he loses his memory we realise that this could backfire - but it also made me think about why we all crave this so much, wonder me why we all fear death/disease as the end of a relationship (as I most certainly do). As a Christian I believe this is because God is a relational being  - and he created us to be so too. If I think of the joys in my life, they are all about relationships, husband-wife, parent-child, sister-sister, friend-friend. But as Elly realises in the book, nothing is perfect, everything spoils or comes to an end ('I blamed it on the coming New Year....we would start again, could start again, but I knew we wouldn't. Nothing would. The world would just be the same, just a little bit worse') - I know this all too well! 

  • While I did enjoy lots of the first half of the book, some parts even made me laugh out loud ('bath time'!) it was ultimately the depression and lack of hope and joy from the main story teller  - Elly - that made this book become increasingly difficult to read (although there were other things too - the odd unexplained happenings  - 50p from a future date coming out of Jenny Penny's arm?! A coconut landing on Arthur's head and he regains his sight?! It all became too unrealistic for me when the Twin Towers were also brought into it!) I know life is full of broken relationships, awful abuses happen that mess people up for life, dreadful things happen that cause grief and life long mourning to millions - but the author for me tries to find redemption and fulfilment in relationships that last  - Jenny Penny and Joe - but they too will fail at some point. For me the hope and joy that this book lacked are found in Jesus - who came to restore my relationship with God (who a rabbit was named after in the book  - hence the title and several funny parts of the book) and who is working to make all things new - even our broken relationships and one day they will be on earth as it is in heaven. Now that is hope!
Conclusion  - this book is a good read at times, I did enjoy some of it. But if you're looking for something uplifting - this is perhaps not for you!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Prayer - what it reveals about my heart.

We've recently been thinking about prayer at Redeemer. Matthew 6 has a whole load of challenging things to say about how we approach prayer and about our priorities in approaching God. I guess the most challenging thing for me is just thinking about the amount of time and quality I give to talking to God. It's not that I don't THINK it's important, in my head I really do. I have many moments in the day when I send up arrow prayers. There are moments of desperation when the twins are fighting constantly or being deliberately disobedient when I sit down and pray with them  - I do want them to understand that the only way we can be changed is through God's grace. BUT when I think of the quality time I spend in prayer with God, in talking to Him, contemplating His goodness and grace towards me and getting to know Him - I am ashamed to say that most of my prayer life consists of a brief list of thank you's and a whole list of 'help me here!' 'help her there!'.
I'm sure that God does want us to rely on Him and ask Him for things. He loves to give us good things and provide for our needs. But so often for me these come first. I have to conclude that actually the time and quality of my prayer life reveals more about my approach to God and my relationship with Him than I care to admit. No matter what my head THINKS  - it is the actual working out in my life of prayer that shows where my true heart lies. I spend more time in activities serving God than I do talking to Him. I spend more time checking my email and sending texts to friends than in talking with Him. I want the good things that God gives, rather than God himself. In the end do I think being a Christian is about doing stuff - serving others and carrying out church activities or do I believe that being a Christian is about a relationship with God and being shown continual grace through Jesus?
If I do believe the latter then the time and quality that I give to prayer should be radically different. I should rejoice in praising God for who He is and what He has done in Jesus to save me. I should be amazed at his glory (v9) I should be praying for God's Kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven  - not a list of requests  - but a real consideration and desire to see how relationships and situations would be if they were renewed as God wants them to be.
Do I believe in earning my way into God's favour through works of service? Or do I believe in a relationship with Him through grace? My prayer life reveals this about me!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

I belong to Jesus.

Thanks to Michael Hall for posting the link to this and to Luma Simms (whom I do not know!) for her musings on the matter!

I post this to perhaps balance out the view that I (unintentionally!) created in my previous blog. It is not that I now disagree with what I said. I still passionately believe that living sacrificially in all areas of my life will bring joy to others and myself and most importantly to God. However, perhaps on the children front, taken to an extreme it ends up with a very child centred focus on life, rather than an understanding and pursuit of a closer relationship with Jesus and all the blessings that flow from that.

Quite regularly I have thought, what my kids need is not more stuff, just more of me. Now this is true, but a bigger truth is that what my kids need is not more stuff, not even ultimately more of me (although I am sure that more of my time does benefit them!) but more of Jesus. And what I need is not to try and focus my days and life around my kids (although again, living sacrificially will mean that this will happen at times) but I need to focus on Christ. If my life is focused around Him, then surely that will overflow into my family's life.

Making an idol out of my kids, family and parenting is just what Jesus warns against so many times. I want Jesus to be the only one I follow - it is He who has saved me.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, YOU ARE MINE
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, YOUR SAVIOR
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I LOVE YOU
I, I am the Lord,
and beside me THERE IS NO SAVIOR.
–Isaiah 43: 1,3,4,11

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Joy in Making Others Joyful

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Well, there's a challenge! I have been reading Philippians recently and have been finding the challenge to live relationally everywhere! Basically I think Paul is saying that being a Christian isn't something we do by ourselves, it's not an individual pursuit - rather, it is overwhelmingly corporate and relational. In chapter two he says that if Christ means anything to us then we'll live seeking to glorify God in the relationships we have with other people in the places He has put us.

Of course v 3 seems impossible (in humility count others better than yourself) - my selfish heart thinks itself better than others possibly every minute of everyday. But (and my heart also cries this!) surely at some things I am just better and I therefore should have the praise and rewards that come from being so? But this verse doesn't say that I am not better than others (although I know that I am not!) - it just says COUNT others better than yourself. So I need to decide when my two year old comes to me wanting to read a book or build a tower whether I am going to count them as better than my own selfish desires, or whether I am going to deny them this and continue with my frantic, never ending list of chores.

You might say "well, you do need to cook tea or put the washing on" - and this is very true. But I know that I often spend the time I could put aside for this (when my twins are napping or asleep in the evenings) exclusively to do stuff I want to. And my pursuit of cooking a meal or trying to produce a tidy, clean house continues in the hours that my kids could do with my attention. Now I am not advocating the abandonment of house hold chores and neither do I want my children to only be able to play with me along side them. I'm just trying to think practically about what it might mean for me as a Mum to count my kids as better than myself.

It might mean spending longer to do certain tasks/routines with my children because rushing them through them will cause them stress and anxiety. I'll need to plan my days accordingly.

It might mean thoughtful, longer conversations over situations that have arisen or discipline issues rather than just raising my voice in anger. I need to explain why something was wrong and what Jesus thinks about it rather than just showing them I'm cross.

It might mean going to bed earlier so I am less tired and therefore have more patience and energy!

It might mean sacrificing stuff I would like to do (the TV programme I might want to watch, the book I'd like to read, the person I'd like to meet, the place I'd like to go) because Anna or Hope would like me to do something with them at that particular time.

I'm not suggesting that the desires of my children should rule my life. I'm just suggesting that Jesus knows that MY own selfish desires rule my life and he challenges us to find our joy as Christians in making others joyful, not in pursuing the stuff we want. He is the perfect example of this - although God he became nothing, serving humans on an earth He created - dying for us so that we might find eternal life through Him. There is no greater example of someone who found His joy in bringing joy to others. I want to pray that I'd do this too - as a Mum, a wife, a neighbour, friend and part of my church community. I want to live relationally, like Christ.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Clash of Cultures?

Now you might be forgiven for thinking I am a little addicted to the Guardian facebook app, given that my last blog was on an article from there and this one will be too.......! What can I say, it interested me!
Did I experience a clash of cultures at Durham? I have to say that it probably really depended on what college you found yourself in and who you found yourself living next door to. On the hill, my college was a real mixture of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Although some of us came from grammar school backgrounds, at least 1/3(in my estimation) did not! While the first few days were perhaps a bit of a shock to my system (formal dinners were nowhere near as formal at Trevs!) I soon found some kind of equilibrium and ways to avoid the drinking games I didn't fancy playing.

In my opinion part of the fun of university is the mix of cultures, not just in terms of class - but counties and countries (perhaps less countries represented than I might have expected!) There are very few places where people from different backgrounds mix - let alone live and study side by side. No doubt cliches do arise - generally around clubs, but there is nothing to stop anyone else joining these groups - nothing except ones own feeling of discomfort or inferiority.

I never had wood pidgeon at any meal, certainly not formal. I never met anyone who told me how to eat my food or who made statements about grammar schools. I did meet a whole load of people from different backgrounds and with different opinions. I did discuss and debate with them on a whole range of issues. I was enriched from meeting people who were different to me -although no doubt they found some of my foibles strange and me theirs.

It is funny that however much government and we try to erase class and race from being issues, they still continue to arise. However much we try to legalise and teach and train to create equality, there will always be things that divide us. We naturally gravitate towards people who have same backgrounds and interests as us, whatever walk of life we are in. It is easy and it is comfortable. Wherever there are places where people from different groups meet (school, university, football matches etc) there are clashes - it seems like it cannot be avoided.

Being part of a Christian community should truely be a place where there is a mixture of people from a multitude of different classes, races and ages gathered together in unity in Jesus Christ. It should be a place where those things don't matter any more, where we don't feel discomfort because others behave in a different way, where we don't feel inferior because of how much education we have or how good our table manners are. Jesus was snubbed by the 'upper class' of society because he associated with people that were outcasts from society (lepers, prostitutes, thieves) - but He pointed out that despite where we come from we are all in need of forgiveness. Jesus levels out our differences by pointing out that we all don't come up to scratch - that we all need Him. Perhaps in our churches we need to think more about the kind of group we've become - is it a place where only a certain person will feel comfortable? Or will everyone be welcomed and accepted? Are we radical communities growing together in Jesus, reaching out to everyone around us? Or have we become comfortable clubs with unwritten rules of how to behave?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Earth will expire by 2050?

Having watched Battlestar Galactica fairly recently and now reading an article in The Guardian: - 'Earth will expire by 2050', I am left wondering if there will be any planet left for me (perhaps!) or my children to enjoy.

I have to admit to secret imaginings of how we can become (more) self sufficient, as currently we are not at all and how I can use less natural resources. My plans for a vegetable garden are slowly taking shape and I compost (when I empty the container!). But unfortunately I also have to admit that most of my motivations in this department are monetary, rather than environmental or practical, as having a bin full of overflowing rubbish does not appeal in anyway!

It does seem like the very little I can do at all, when compared to the size of the carbon footprint of one person in the UK, will make very little difference. In fact, when compared to the size of the carbon footprint of the average person in the US (double that of the UK), I might as well use my tumble dryer all day long rather than ration myself (if my electricity budget allowed of course!)

I imagine that I am not alone in this thought and in fact, if we are all as selfish as I fear we are, unless it does indeed benefit us (monetarily, practically or even in an image boosting way) I cannot see that we will be able to stop this 'wasteful lifestyle of the rich nations' which is 'mainly responsible for the exploitation and depletion of natural wealth. Human consumption has doubled over the last 30 years and continues to accelerate by 1.5 per cent a year'. Perhaps I am underestimating what the human race can do when overwhelmed and moved by the plight of whole nations starving from lack of food, brought about by our waste? I think not.

The Bible opens and ends with God as the creator and sustainer of creation. Throughout the big picture of the Bible people are commanded to care for and enjoy creation and all the blessings it provides. The end of the Bible pictures a new heaven and new earth - in which creation is perfect, unspoilt, overflowing with plenty and better than we can imagine. I have to say that it would be easy to despair having read this article. I have no great confidence that next months Earth Summit will create any plan to save the earth from human consumption. But I do have great confidence that the earth will not end by humans destroying it, rather, it will be on Jesus' return. I also have great confidence that although we cannot save creation by our own efforts, God has a grand master plan to create a new earth that will even surpass the most beautiful splendour of this one.

So what should my response to this article be? Should I wallow in despair - the earth as we know it will be gone by 2050 and my grandchildren may well live in space? Or should I redouble my efforts to 'save the planet' and throw out my tumble dryer and only eat food I have grown (i.e starve?!) Neither. I must recognise that while I cannot save this earth by my own efforts, Jesus is the only one who can transform our hearts and this world. It is only through knowing Jesus and his transforming power that I will be able to receive forgiveness for my selfishness and waste and have the strength to follow Gods command to care for His world to the best of my ability. So I will strive to know Him more and care for His world better in all the ways I can. I am sad that this area of mission is one which I have overlooked. As part of God's community I need to remember my calling to care for His creation, but also remember that the only way the world will change is if it knows Jesus.