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Archive for June, 2007

I’ve always said the best thing about my job is working with Relay workers, getting to walk alongside people as they struggle with encountering Christian ministry for the first time, dealing with the joys and the sorrows of it all. It’s been great to walk through the last three years with Lou, Jonny, Sam, Jess and Ceryn. It’s not easy, it’s not easy to get right and I’m all too aware of the times I’ve got it wrong. I’ve felt some of what it must be like to be a parent at times, and have loved seeing God transform, challenge, change, equip and work in, and through, these people.

On Thursday we ended the year well in typical English style, a picnic against the backdrop of gathering dark clouds and a strong wind. Still, it was good to ponder the highlights, to reflect on what God has been up to and the fun times we’ve had. It’s good to know that these times mark more of a beginning than an end and that God most definitely works beyond Relay. So, I’m grateful for another year of good times, dark times, strange times and confusing times, I’m grateful for being able to be part of it all. I’m glad that God is their God and that He is into the business of completing the excellent work He starts. Next year I walk with Anna and Sarah and I’m looking forward to more of the same.

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But as for me?

Everytime I hear about someone who has walked away from this thing we call living with Jesus, walking in his ways and trusting that there is more than this, I find myself sent into a spin of analysis. I wonder what drove them too it, how God could let them go, how these things work at all. I find myself asking the questions again, asking what makes me stick this storm out, what holds me here? Is it just the way I’ve been brought up? Is it because this is my job? Is it because I’d be out of money and friends if I turned from it all? The questions are loud, and maybe they should be. Maybe we should ask these things instead of taking on the beliefs of all around us, maybe we should shout out, question, search, and ask the why at the heart of it all.

But the doubts are to be contained in the corner of my mind, left to sit for a while, not entertained, not fed, not drawn into unbelief, hard heartedness or rejection. The thing is, in the wondering on others lives, I am not expected to live as others do, in the face of all this the one who stepped into time and space gently lifts my head, gazes into my eyes and asks. “What about you? Do you want to leave too?” The answer remains the same. “Lord to whom shall we go?”. The gaze is a gaze of love, of knowledge. I’ll stick with the Maker, because he really knows, because the old story of the cross, the cup and the hill is still true and because he sticks with me. The questions need to be faced, but the loving eyes of my Maker also need to be sought. There is more than this.

I’ve quoted this before but it remains brilliant:

“And laments have a purpose and laments have a cost
A requim playing gathers the lost
It sometimes tastes sour, the sweetness of hope
When the blizzards are raging on this lovers slope
Yet I don’t want to freeze inside or out
For it’s you that disolves the cold walls of doubt.

So turn me tender again
Fold me into you
Turn me tender again
And mould me to new
Faith lost it’s promise
And bruised me deep blue
Turn me tender again
Through union with you.”

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Snapshots.

1. Sitting in my friends room, being introduced, once again, to something that will broaden my perspective on this life. Sitting watching this. Sitting watching This American Life. To say it’s a show merely about people’s lives would be to cramp it’s style. It’s a programe that tells stories. Real life stories. It opens your head up to other worlds, and that’s probably the best thing you can say about something. Things are beautiful when they open up your head space to new ideas, different ways of thinking. The moment when you see the world in a way you’ve never seen it before is to be savoured. Hearing crafted stories does that, sharing someones experience sometimes alters your experience and causes the world to be seen differently. I like that feeling.

2. Sitting staring at the rain, pounding the ground, watching the wind move the trees in ways they aren’t supposed to be moved, watching the sky change through shades of grey as clouds edge across my view.

3. Sitting in a coffee shop gazing out of the window watching all the people walking past. Watching peoples lives, the young mothers with babies afixed to their bodies, working out how to order coffee without abandoning the babies, and working out if they have anything in common if the conversation switches from babies. Watching the working lady meet up with her son and handing out ten pound notes to her teen, plus girl friend. Was he her son?

4. Driving a Mini Bus talking through life with someone who I’ve never talked to before, sharing stories, hearing life from the perspective of a mother with teenage children, musing on similar thoughts and ideas together, finding hope in voicing life to each other.

5. Doing something inherently practical. Something simple. Something that has no emotional consquence, no bad reflection on my character, just something simple for 2 hours. Craving more of a job that is bound by measurable time.

6. Reflecting. Realising. Thanking and hoping.

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Relay 3

The best part of Relay 3 is the presentations on peoples years, (actually the best part is the Bonfire, but that doesn’t work for this post…the presentations are a pretty close second and that’s good enough for me). These always feel a little like a AA meeting with lots of honesty, tears and acknowledgement of a higher power, without whom things would have been impossible.

I got to do one this year as I’m leaving the staff team (sob). I went for honesty, for the Kath who is a little bit vulnerable, not very confident and stuffed full of stinking pride, wanting to be liked, wanting to be God. It is strange looking back at my Relay past. I can clearly remember my first Relay conference about 8 years ago, the sheer freedom of grace, of knowing there were no levels anymore and that God really did want to use me. As time has worn on, I’ve felt more like the older brother in the Prodigal son story than the younger. It’s all too easy to grumble, complain and think I’ve earned more by sticking around for a bit.

The brilliant thing about Relay conferences as a Staff worker is that they have reminded me of what the Father reminds the son of in the story. To come and join the party, to remember God is always with me and that the invite to the party extends to me in my pride and stubbornness. All He has is mine, why not join in and rejoice? Each conference I’ve joined the party of grace, the party of a God who loves us anyway and who is committed to stubbornly redeeming and delighting in us.

This quote pretty much sums up how life is, as we discover that our sin doesn’t get less as we go on with Jesus. It’s a hard reality to face up to, but there is a better hope than our ability to keep loving God and living His ways.

“But alas! These my golden expectations have been like the south sea dreams. I have lived hither to a poor sinner, and I believe I shall die one. Have I then gained nothing? Yes I have gained that which I once would rather have been without – such accumulated proof of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of my heart as I hope by the Lord’s blessing has, in some measure, taught me to know what I mean when I say, ‘behold I am vile!’ I was ashamed of myself then, I am ashamed of myself now and I expect to most ashamed of myself when he comes to receive me to himself. But oh! I rejoice in HIM that HE is not ashamed of me!”

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Cynical?

So, I’ve been reading this recently, a book which I thought I should read, seeing as how grappling with cynicism seems to be a hobby of mine. It’s a book that also brings a little light to dawn on explaining the title of this blog. I’m a cynical idealist, I think most cynics are. We wouldn’t be so cynical if we didn’t have ideals. The flip side of cynicism is, in part, rampant idealism, which gets crushed. If we weren’t idealists, why would we swing so widely into cynicism? Anyway. Here’s a good quote which sums it all up better than I could.

“The professional pessimist sees one half of the picture, the professional optimist the other. The former calls the latter superficial and is in turn pronounced defeatist. Each possesses a distorted fragment of the Christian truth. The Bible’s realism exceeds that of the worst cynic, for it knows what man has done to God. At the same time its hope surpasses the wildest Utopian fantasy, for it has concrete experience of what this same God will do for man.” (some brainy man)

The Bible gives us the full picture, in our complete complexity of character and understanding. Within that picture there is room to be suspicious, but there is also definite reason for hope. We live with the tension of these two things. We need to beware that our cynicism doesn’t constantly see through things until there is nothing to see anymore, and we need to beware the naivety of idealism with no suspicion to keep us alert. The Bible allows for the reality of our lives as complex humans in the hands of a Maker God. True wisdom, which the cynic and the idealist should seek, comes from Fearing God.

Relay 3 last week was all about that very thing (notice the joyous linkage going on in my thoughts). Proverbs is a book that teaches the reality of true wisdom. That real, practical, applied into living in this crazy world wisdom comes from God, and the way we live that out starts with the Fear of the Lord. A concept that understandably is a little slippery, but a concept that holds the key to how we live in this world (see Mo how I listen to your talks..apologies if I’m about to misinterpret them completely.)

The Fear of the Lord seems to be about living with God as God. With the Maker of the world as the best one to tell us how to live in this world He made. It seems a little simple, which is probably why we struggle with it. We want to be God, we want to live how We want to live. God comes along and tells us that true wisdom comes from Fearing Him, from relationship with Him, from living in His ways, Honouring Him, living in thanksgiving because He is God and we are not. God made the world and knows how it works, it therefore makes sense to live in it as designed.

What is a little more complicated is actually living that out. Walking in Fear of the Lord each day, living out the reality of the unseen, trusting in Him and guarding our hearts from the tugs and pulls of the other ways that seemingly offer wisdom at a fraction of the cost.

One final thought from the talks was the uselessness of self help books. They contain a wide variety of bonkers ideas but also they contain elements of truth, God’s wisdom is out there in His world. Self help books say stuff that works, that makes some sense of this world, that’s why they are so popular (that and our general tendency to self obsession).

The problem is they’ve taken the wisdom out of it’s context. Whilst the stuff they say might be generally true, and whilst someone could take a whole load of Proverbs and create a best seller, they miss the point. The point is, this stuff only works in relationship with the Maker, who gives the power to change, the desire to change, the relationship within which to be redeemed and the final hope of complete redemption. We need to come back to our Maker to learn how to live well and to live as we were made to. He has the key, and the secret and everything else. True life is found in Him and His ways. Fear the Lord, there’s a whole lot more exploring to be done…

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Light Lunch

Ignore the random Home and Away actress, and a 90s Kylie and enjoy the retro days of Mel and Sue. Mm.

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Ever since I’ve finished my 365 I’ve had this voice in the back of my head each day telling me what I would have written on the fair blog, were it still in existence. I find this strangely comforting as if my brain has had a new positive chip implanted within. Even on the dark days the voice is still there. I wonder how long it will last for? Today I lay in bed grumbling to myself on the idiocy of waking up at 7.30am on a Saturday morning, I opened the blind, pushed up my window and got ready for some more grumbling. However, there will be no more grumbling, no no, the sky is blue, sunshine poured into my room and the sea gulls screeched in that holiday feeling way. That is when my brain started writing for my 365 today.

In further news, I’ve rediscovered some 90s treats. Playing loudly in my ear is Moby’s Play album. Go on, you know you have a copy lurking in your house somewhere, stick it on and dance baby. Also a bad old video from Mel and Sue’s genius Light Lunch should be appearing here. Despite the random guests it’s still worth it for a glimpse back into the days of bumming around as a student and purely getting up to watch Light Lunch.

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