Archive for November, 2005

See- a journey…


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Advent Journeys

It is Advent. One of those Christian calendar times that you can eschew in the knowledge that it’s not about observing special days and seasons, or maybe embrace knowing that there are many things that are put into our journey to help us remember the reality around us. Advent is one of those times. A time to stop, think and remember why we are here, what it is we are waiting for and the reality of one God, one man, coming to earth to sort things out once and for all.

I love this time of year, mainly because I’m a sap and love Christmas, warm cozy winter evenings, mulled wine, mince pies and general holiday light in the dark of December. But also because it reminds me of the BIG story. The one we are all part of. The one that defines our lives, whether we accept it or not. And so over the next few weeks I shall be blogging the adventness of life. Mainly to remind me each few days of the reality of what Jesus did, the reality of waiting until he comes again and the hope of Light one day obliterating the darkness forever.

Here’s a classic old style Advent Hymn to kick things off.
Because what happened 2000 years ago affects the whole of our lives, our choices, who we are and where we are going in the end. One day he will come back. Until then we wait in exile, hoping in the God who made this world. Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!

Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!

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Coming home.

Moments when my heart feels like it has come home:
Saturday afternoon, sitting with a friend by a kitchen table, leaning against a radiator, warmth spreading throughout my back. From the other room sounds of Saturday afternoon rugby, a mug of tea rested in my hands, and across the table from me a friend. A friend with whom I have no labels, am expected to play no roles and with whom I feel at peace with.

The sky darkened outside. Good food was eaten, followed by sitting in front of an open fire listening to poems and songs of heaven. We talked, and opened up to the ache in our hearts to be home. We talked of the struggles, the good things, the reality of this mess called life. And although we had no answers to most of the questions a peace found its way into the conversation. In the naming of the fears and hopes peace is found, peace coming from someone else knowing, and from knowing that we know the One who dwells in this mess.

And then we put on Anne of Green Gables on the TV. Which was the perfect end to such an evening. Soothing for the soul is the best way I can describe it.

This morning I headed around the M25 to the warmth of my parents home. Coming home feels safe. The town I grew up in, the memories that unfold as I drive along the streets, the welcome in and the familiar banter of old conversations finely tuned over the years. Hugs and people who know everything about me, have seen me through all the rubbish and the delight of my life, and who still love me. The grace of coming home is wonderful. And is something which makes me ache and feel homesick for where my home really is. For that day when all these moments that feel so fragile and fleeting now will be outclassed for eternity. The shadowlands revealed for what they were, pointers towards the blazing reality of Forever.

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It seems we have two choices in this life, to live as if our Creator didn’t exist, to bumble through wondering if there is a point, to forget the reality all around us, to believe the lie that has been pulled down over our eyes. Or live in the knowledge that there really is a God of heaven right here down on earth, who is somehow working in the mess, in the details, in the stuff of our everyday lives. This is the choice that awakens us each morning.

This is the decision we have to make. 1 Peter 4 makes the choice slightly more stark. Because each of these choices has consequences. We can face judgment on our own or with someone who has taken the punishment for us. (And yes I am aware that I am using words that send us running to the hills in fright. Judgment and punishment just aren’t in our vocabulary any more. But they are in the Bible, and however much I want to I can’t ignore them.)

So I don’t want to live the first way, the life of living my life for evil human desires (how stark does God get at times?) and face judgment on my own. But is the second life better? Surely living for me is more fun? Surely the second way involves lists and rules and things I don’t want to do.

But then, that always has been one of the greatest lies around. That life under God is restrictive, second rate and impossible to live. God offers a better way.

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”

It’s a beautiful life, the best kind of life, the life lived where we get to administer Gods grace to each other. The way to loving life isn’t to carry on seeking pleasure in the stuff we build around us, but to walk in God’s ways. He made us to live this way, any other way just isn’t going to fit. I love these passages, that living as we were made to live is true freedom and results in loving life. That I can administer God’s grace, I can be someone who brings something of God into someone else’s life. That’s something to blow your mind. It takes the focus of my work off me being able to do it and places it to being about the King of all Creation working in me, giving me strength and words to say to the people I meet each day.

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The only, and I mean only, music I have listened to over the last week is Bright Eyes with “I’m wide awake, it’s morning”. Really, really, really, if you haven’t got this album you must buy it now and play it over and over and over again. It’s beautiful. Each song is so richly worded and developed it makes you skip back and play it again, and again, and again. I think I might be addicted to this album. And the sad truth is, I don’t even own it. I have stolen my housemates copy. And she’s not getting it back. No, no.

Lines from some of the songs:

“And in the ear of every anarchist that sleeps but doesn’t dream
We must sing, we must sing, we must sing”

(really you should buy it for that line alone)

“Well if I could tame
All of my desires
Wait out the weather that howls in my brain
Because it seems
That it’s always changing
The winds indecision
The sorrowful rain

I was a postcard
I was a record
I was a camera
Until I went blind

Now I’m riding
All over this island
Looking for something
To open my eyes”

“I’ve grown tired of holding this pose
I feel more like a stranger each time I come home
So I’m making a deal with the devils of fame
Saying “let me walk away, please”
You’ll be free child once you have died
From the shackles of language and measurable time
And then we can trade places, play musical graves
Till then walk away, walk away

So I’m up at dawn
Putting on my shoes
I just want to make a clean escape
I’m leaving but I don’t know where to
I know I’m leaving but I don’t know where to”

“The sun came up with no conclusion
Flowers sleeping in their beds
This city’s cemetery’s humming
I’m wide-awake, it’s morning”

Brilliant, and making me remember how much I love music all over again. Contented sighs all round.

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Milky thoughts.

In milky darkness
Opaque thoughts dance around.

Which is a neat summery of my brain right now. Sometimes I have so many thoughts dancing around inside, and sometimes they seem as elusive as the morning mist. It’s somehow too easy to write justifications of my existence here, to tell tales of the last week of my life, and to slip into diary recordings that show to anyone passing by that, yes, I have a life. I’m not sure where that need comes from, but I’ve found it disturbing me recently. Almost as if I need to prove my life has worth and value to the world out there. Which is what happens when my worth and value are found in external things and circumstances.

It scares me how easy it is to engineer life and friendships so that everything revolves around my comfort and happiness. But what happens when the cracks begin to show? When the sin that we hide from under layers of looking perfect begins to climb to the surface? The problem is, when I live in friendships to surround myself with people to provide ballast to this life, I start hanging on too tightly to the gifts and forget the giver. Life feels weightless at times, Nick Hornby describes this very well in his books. Life feels like it’s going to slip away in emptiness unless we surround ourselves with people, with things that provide gravity and weight to it.

It is tempting to do that, tempting to asses the worth of my life through the things I do, the people I know, the amount of fun I appear to be having. But when those things are made the primary thing in my life worth living for, the cracks appear. I get lonely, I mess friendships up, I am a jealous human being, I don’t have the ability to juggle lots of friends and love them well in that. But strangely, when I remember that God is the one who defines my life, who provides the ultimate weight and gravity in my life, things take on a different perspective. I’m not saying that all my problems go, that I suddenly become a perfect friend, well balanced and sane. But I am saying that He makes a difference. He places the right perspective on my friendships. He is the basis for my security and worth. He is my rock. He makes me able to love and be self sacrificial in friendships because I can move from seeking my all in the life I create, to seeking my all in Him.

The best thing is, that when I attempt to lift my gaze to Him, to stop seeking the idols of ‘Kath’s little world of friends and fun’, He gives me the best relationships with my mates, and lots and lots of fun. The best kind of fun. The best kind of relationships. The ones based in the reality of grace, truth, a God who loves us anyway and a beautiful world of love, music, beauty, truth and joy.

I want to hold lightly to the things I hold so dear in this world, the approval I seek from others, the things I think I need around me to be seen to have a good life. The good things I turn into idols. Because when they are placed in His hands, He does stuff with them. He redeems the mess, He brings beauty into the picture and I am able to love. Because I am not so concerned with finding my security in these things, but am able to love from a position of ultimate supreme unfailing steadfast love poured on me by the inventor of all.

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Tired and in need of going to bed, but the whistfulness of the last two lines of the Bright Eyes song gets to me. One day I’ll be a writer, write a book and feel much brighter, and try to solve the problems of the world. But all I really want to do is get home in one piece. There are so many things I don’t have the answers to, so many thoughts that go unsaid, so many tangled knotted lives to encounter and be. Weariness gets to me and to you. The simplicity of needing someone and wondering if we can come home is sometimes so elusive.

“Yours is the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
Now I don’t know where I am
I don’t know where I’ve been
But I know where I want to go

And so I thought I’d let you know
That these things take forever
I especially am slow
But I realize that I need you
And I wondered if I could come home”

(Bright Eyes- First day of my life)

“O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee
That in your depths it’s ocean flow
Might fuller richer be.”

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