Saturday, 27 July 2019

Too afraid to fail

"And now, baby, I walk alone, and I am lost".
Rhythm of the Blues - Mary Chapin Carpenter.

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall".  Proverbs 16:18.

If there's one thing that I can honestly say about my own spirituality, it's that I so often find myself running on empty.

Prayer is hard, scripture seems to be talking about a never, never land, and my own thoughts, feelings and deeds would look completely in place amidst the desolation of a first world war battleground.

The good news is... That's all OK.
Every morning, I can continue to live because what really matters is a mercy and righteousness that isn't my own, gifted to me at the cross and the empty tomb.
Like the sunrise, that mercy is so beyond me, but it makes me, renews me anyway.

It also allows me to look outward, to the madness and the astonishing pain and beauty around us.

That teaches me.
Trying to find validity anywhere else is truly a lost cause.
We may think we're good, but unless God's love is what is clothing you, we're actually dining on ashes.

Today, I found myself reading the story of someone whose life has, professionally, crashed and burned. Once Pastor of a mega church and writer of best-selling books, he publicly announced that his faith, his marriage, his life that was, is all gone. He's clearly currently finding mercy in the care of others as he steps into the honest reality he's now faced, but as I listened to his story, I couldn't help wondering how often people fall in this way because there wasn't a recognition that failure is often an essential, vital part of becoming truly what matters.

It's easy to shoot holes into this tragic story, but who, when God walks close, isn't in the kind of mess that makes us 'duck and cover' rather than face such naked, untarnished beauty?
How many of us rustle up all kinds of pretenses to disguise just how wretched we've become?
As we crawl around, scrabbling for our petty excuses for what we are, He is the one who has already prepared to clothe our poverty.

When that beauty feeds us, we eat a wholeness that gives us dignity and health, but it's so easy for us to allow pride to spoil us.

Jesus says that when we're weary, when we have had enough of carrying the folly of our self-absorption, we can find ease in His holding us, in knowing the sure wealth of the care that is found beyond us.

As I grow older, it gets a little easier to see just how crazy I've been in so many ways, usually because I'm so busy tripping over myself I miss what counts. The good news is that, in spite of that, He holds us, keeps us, heals us because of His love alone.

Tomorrow, no doubt, I'll be me again.
Mercy, however, will be there, kissing the world again,
so it will all be worthwhile.
I just need to allow His sweet, saving grace to hold me.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

The 'better', or the best?

"And I will show you a more excellent way".
1 Corinthians 12:31.

How often do you settle for second best?
I suspect most of us would want to say when faced with most situations, where we perceive we make the choice, never, but is that really the case?

I was following a major news item this past week and what was fascinating was what people were missing, purely because they were so focused on where the people generating the story were pointing you, and this meant they entirely missed another major event from the same source, purely because they were being distracted from doing so, until the process was over, and then everyone could go "oh, where did that come from?" (I wasn't any smarter than anyone else, but I picked-up on the diversion because of other smart people pointing it out).

In truth, we settle for something less all of the time. Often, it may not matter very much, but what about when it does?

Back in the mid-1990's, my life took a major theological turn when I came across the excellence of a radio show called The White Horse Inn. The impact was huge, and allowed me to really 'breathe' and develop once more in my faith.

In this fascinating little piece, Lutheran Minister Bryan Wolfmueller thinks out loud about what ideas and beliefs primarily motivate our world, and why that is so often settling for less than we should.


Sunday, 14 July 2019

Yes... but (Chandelier's and Mistletoe)

"I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier,
I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist, doesn't exist,
like it doesn't exist".

Sia - Chandelier.

"They are capable, you see, of real repentance. They are conscious of real guilt...
After you have played with them for 70 years, the enemy may thereby snatch them from your claws in the seventy first!"

 C S Lewis - Screwtape proposes a toast.

Life can often be like mistletoe, tenaciously preying on something other to live, whilst perceived as a chandelier - something deemed as pretty, with no practical use.

That's the kind of thinking that's been underlying several of the assumptions I've encountered this past week as I've found myself embroiled in discussions with atheists concerning the purpose of life.

What always surprises me these days is the adamant nature of their convictions - they are atheists, not agnostics... no room for doubt, and yet, as you pry open their resolve, you begin to find there are quibbles... dangerous live fire regions where love and friendship and creativity occur. These are not to be examined too deeply without setting off a tirade of vehement expressions as to why your theism is fanciful and absurd.

Therein lies the rub.
"Religion" is often just below the surface, though it can never be entertained - it's the 'parasite' we cannot allow (because a genuine, beguiling usurper is already jailing us), hence back to the chandelier swinging...
Life is a brief go on the carousel, nothing more.

So why so easily troubled?

If only, in those brief exchanges, people would pause, would think a little deeper about what's going on.

Thankfully, as the arch beguiler notes, they often do.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Beyond the obvious

We sometimes become so familiar with something, that seeing beyond what we know (or think we know) is really hard, at least until someone comes along and allows us to see things in a way that revives our relationship to what had grown 'comfortable' and therefore without the power to provoke.

One of the most familiar pool of stories to Christians are those found in the gospels - fisherman, tax collectors, beggars, soldiers, broken women and priests. We think we know them because of what's recorded, but that can sometimes leave us uncoupled from what it was really like to live in their world and, therefore, what it really meant when they encountered a man named Jesus.

The Chosen is a new look into that world. It brings these people alive in a way you won't have encountered in any other drama, and slowly, but powerfully, unveils what it would have been like to be amongst those who were first to hear the good news and to see the coming of the Kingdom amongst them.

It will certainly get you pondering!