Live

…God [loves] us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot or will not or dare not love ourselves.

God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

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from idpinthat.com

“Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live.”

Ezekiel 33:11 (GNT)

“I came [so] that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (NRSVA)

Trust

 

Trust clings to the belief that whatever happens in our lives is designed to teach us holiness. The love of Christ inspires trust to thank God for the nagging headache, the arthritis that is so painful, the spiritual darkness that envelops us, to say with Job ‘if we take happiness from God’s hands, must we not take sorrow too?’ 

 ~ from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Being Mummy

My kids still all call me ‘mummy’. The girls will also call me the slightly more grown-up ‘mum’, but for Prince, with his need for things to stay the same, it’s ‘mummy’ even at 16. I love being ‘mummy’ although there have been a few times when I have muttered something along the lines of ‘I’m going to change my name’, especially when there are several voices clamouring all at once. This is even more apparent when we have Grandma with us, too, because with her dementia comes a lessened awareness of those around her (at least, I think that’s what it is). I might have children asking me for help, or advice, or permission, and Grandma happily chimes in with her own observations or question, with seemingly no idea that the kids are bombarding me too! Still, I have to say, I have one of the nicest mother-in-laws on the planet. And three lovely, lively children. We’re far from the perfect family but, by grace, we’re ok. There’s a lot of love in our higgledy-piggledy house. More than enough, because our God is a God of abundance.

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from idpinthat.com

I made peace with feeling inadequate because the truth is I was. I still am; we all are… Look at Mary, the mother of Christ… [she was very young] when she became a mother. I’m sure she was no more ready than I was to answer a high-pitched voice when asked all sorts of questions to which she didn’t know the answers. But God had called her to parent, and so she did. 

When I thought about Mary, I decided not to strive to be a perfect mother, but to simply endeavour to be like she was: completely unprepared, but ready to take the child God handed to her…

Mary was a mother. I am a mother…

God has a way of using inadequate people… We simply trust Him, and then we have everything we need to do the ‘more’ that He has asked of us.

~ from Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20,21 (NRSVA)

Grace Now, Consequences Now

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NRSVA)

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…our decisions do have consequences and meaning in eternity…

Threat and fear is not transformation. [Christianity has become] a soul-saving society for the next world instead of a healing of body, soul and society now and, therefore, forever.

 

All of Jesus’ healings, touchings and salvations… were clearly about now. He never once said, “Be good now and I will give you a reward later.” [There is not] one prerequisite that Jesus ever has for a single one of His healings. The healing… [is] an end in itself and has nothing to do with earning it. For Jesus, all rewards are inherent to the action itself and all punishments are inherent to the action itself, but we largely pushed off all rewards and punishments into the future. I sometimes wonder if we clergy and preachers do not have an unconscious but a vested interest in keeping people co-dependent on us by holding [the] carrot [of heaven] always out in front of them. It is clearly ‘now and forever’ talk in Jesus, but we’ve made it into ‘not now, but perhaps forever if you play the game right’.

~ from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr

 

I can’t decide whether it’s stupid, wicked or just plain sad that for so many (especially we evangelicals) Christianity is about life after death instead of Life now. If Faith was just about ‘salvation’ (i.e. what happens after we die) then Jesus would not have spent several years preaching and teaching and healing and revealing the very nature of God.

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture [i.e. NOW, not just after death] I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

 from John 10:9,10

 

Also, for some this Life is misinterpreted as legalism, e.g. if I follow the list of rules I’m ok. This is understandable, especially when we’re young or have a new faith. We all think if we can be told what to do, we’ll be different. Sorted.

But grace isn’t about rules. First, there isn’t a list long enough that it could hold all of the ‘rules’ if they existed. Second, you haven’t got a hope of following all the rules if they were all written down (did a single person manage to keep the Laws of the Old Testament?). Third, Jesus made it simple. He broke it down:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34,35

 

Legalism is a replacement for grace and one that, I sense, makes God sad, because we can never live up to it. It becomes all about what’s on the outside rather than changing what’s on the inside. Legalism results in shame and guilt, or a wrongful sense of pride (see Matthew 23:27-28).

Fourth, rules allow us to feel in control. It is scary to give everything over to God and to trust Him with every aspect of our lives! But we must relinquish our desire for control (whether of ourselves or others) when we follow Jesus, because grace is free.

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Trusting God is a bit like jumping out of an aeroplane wearing a parachute. Only you haven’t seen the parachute – you’ve just been told it’s there. It is scary! But the views are astounding. And you’ll never be the same again. (image from idpinthat.com)

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:27,28

 

The Giver of Good Things

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[At] Easter… Wilberforce was writing to his sister… on a beautiful day, ‘The day has been delightful. I was out before six. I think my own devotions become more fervent when offered in this way amidst the general chorus with which all nature seems to be swelling the song of praise and thanksgiving… and neither in the sanctuary nor at a table, I trust, had I a heart unwarmed with gratitude to the giver of good things.’

~ William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner

by William Hague

Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

Courage isn’t courage unless you’re afraid

Courage is not courage unless you’re afraid. Courage is being afraid, but trying anyway. Have you ever been afraid? I have. A lot. It left me scarred.

Ann Voskamp has a post today entitled ‘When loving your enemies, the stranger & your neighbor feels way too risky‘ (it is an excellent post; please click to read it). What could be riskier, when you’ve been betrayed in the worst possible ways by those you loved? Never mind loving your enemies, what could be riskier than loving your friends? Especially when it was those who were supposed to love you, to protect you, who hurt you most. They took advantage of your vulnerability so that in every small thing your loss was their gain. If you can call it gain. In the end it’s torture for them, too. That I can see, now. Healing brings clarity. It doesn’t make it any better, though, and it doesn’t stop the past from jumping up and shouting ‘”BOO!” even though, praise God, EMDR lessens the intensity.

And yet, by grace, five years ago, pre-EMDR, I stood at the front of the church and said “I do” to this other man – this man who would be my rescuer, my lover, my surest friend. Friendships are risky, whatever form they take, especially if you’ve been hurt too often to count.

Count. I like counting. That’s why I love maths – because it has no emotions. It’s a relief. We played Countdown last night. I bought the DVD version from the charity shop and four of us, Frank, Fluff, Chip and I, we sat and we made words from letters and sums from numbers. It was good. We made sense out of nonsense, a workable whole from the fractured parts. Isn’t that what following Christ is all about?

 

‘Everything we do in life either brings us closer to God or takes us further away; there are no neutral activities.’

Longing for God, Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe

 

Relationships, friendships: what I most desire… in some ways. And what scares me, in many ways. How do you let someone in without letting too much of yourself out? How do you love without hurting?

I don’t suppose you do – seeing as they’re human. Seeing as I’m human. By grace, we do it anyway.

*’As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.’

John 15:9 (NRSVA)

*The above verse is also, incidentally, my baptismal verse. I get goosebumps thinking about it. There is not one other verse in the whole of God’s wonderful Word that is more ‘for me’ and my life. I remember looking at the pastor as he gave it to me. He seemed surprised. I wasn’t. It seemed perfectly right. The whole moment seemed ‘right’, as if we were fulfilling a beautiful, divinely conceived idea. Providence indeed. Thank you, Lord.