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Archive for September, 2007

Saturday

Things to do on a Saturday.

1. Lie in bed encased by a big duvet and smile at the weekend.
2. Go for a big fat bike ride on the downs, get covered in mud.
3. Listen to Jonathan Ross all morning whilst sorting, cleaning and generally sitting.
4. Eat amazing food.
5. Talk to nice friends on the phone who make you laugh.
6. Listen to random acid folk music. (what on earth is acid folk?)
7. Read the paper.
8. Watch an episode of the West Wing and smile.
9. Write some letters.
10. Watch the X factor. Laugh at the bad bad singers.
11. Watch a film with friends, whilst eating Lindt chocolate and drinking red wine. Let the film be one you can recite backwards. (“I want the Truth”, “TRUTH, you can’t handle the TRUTH.” Jack Nicholson at his best.)
12. Crawl back under the duvet safe in the knowledge that tomorrow is another day off.

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The understatement.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but the understatement is a pretty cool rhetorical device. Now I’m not talking about annoying English politeness which refuses to get passionate about anything, that kind of understatement we can probably do without. Understatement at it’s slightly average is great to highlight the brilliance of the thing that it is understating. Understatement helps when we think about God. God is pretty hard to get your head around, getting that the Creator of the Universe delights in us, loves us with an everlasting love, is glorious in majesty etc etc is difficult. He’s a little too big for us (notice my cunning use of understatement in that very sentence). Our brains can’t cope so well and God seems highly distant (and yes sometimes it is good to realise again the majesty of God and remember that his is big…put your stick away).

Most of the time we just need to remember that God is nice and he likes us. (blame Adrian Plass for the phrase). That of course is a ridiculous understatement. He’s a God who has showered all the love in the world on us. But it’s hard to see how that could be personal, the understatement helps us cope with such love, and realise that it is indeed directed towards us. I’d like to amend that statement to ‘God is kind and he likes us’, due to the word nice being such an insipid word. But the sentiment remains. Fundamentally we need to believe and grasp the goodness and love of God towards us silly humans, and if it takes a dramatic understatement like ‘God is nice and he likes me’ to do that then I’m all for it.

Another use of the understatement I recently partook in was to say, “God is sovereign – that’s handy.” Of course it’s SO much more than handy that God is sovereign, but that’s the point. The understatement highlights the ridiculousness of what is said, it makes us laugh because it points to the genius of God without dressing it up in unaccessible high flowery language. Thus we retain a sense of humour, our sanity and we begin to grasp how incredible it is that this Massive God we deal with on a day to day basis is working in and cares about the small details of our lives.

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“She said, ‘we’ve gotta keep walking, keep walking.’
She said, ‘we’ve gotta keep walking on.’

We lost the highway
With smoke in our eyes.
With these hands and this place,
We will spread our own design.
Spread our own design.

She said, ‘we’ve gotta keep walking, keep walking.’
She said, ‘we’ve gotta keep walking on.'”
(Willy Mason- Gotta keep walking)

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So, in the aftermath of emotional whirlwinds I’ve been doing some more pondering. Pondering on what we expect from this life. The problem with this walking with God thing is that God isn’t a magic genie who will grant my every wish. That just doesn’t seem to be how He works at all. He seems to be a God who is more interested in who we are than what we do or achieve. A God who is concerned that we remember who He is, and then live in the light of that. A God who wants us to know that He really is in control, even when we have no idea how that is working out.

We aren’t promised an easy life, a life how we want it, a God who will sort the universe out so we can be happy. The call for us, is always: will we follow God even when life is not working out how we want it to? Will my life be about seeking after friendships and relationship that will make me feel secure and reassured that I’m ok? Will my life be about scowling when things are not going the way I want? Or can I turn and trust in a God who knows me, made me, has good things for me, will work for good in every situation I am in? Will I trust in the one who has promised to bring me home, who calls me to love the people around me, to make the most of my days, to remember that He is God and there is no other? The answer is I don’t know. I want to trust. I want to trust when it seems like the hardest thing to do. I want to know his work on my hard cold heart. I want to accept the days of darkness whilst holding tight to the One who will bring the light. I want to obey through it all.

Once again Mr Lewis has summed things up better than I could.
“Our cause is never in more danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our enemy’s will looks around at the universe from which every trace of him has vanished and asks why he has been forsaken and yet still obeys…”
C.S.Lewis- Screwtape Letters

I have to ask myself, am I in this life thinking that God will sort everything out nicely for me? Or am I in it because I am his child, because he is the Way, Truth and Life? The crunch in those questions comes when I am not getting what I want. I can throw a tantrum or trust that my Dad knows best. I’m off to watch the sunset on the beach to work that out.

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The Wedding.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post on my brother Mark. Here is the said post. It (and some good work by the boy) helped to produce this yesterday:

“This is the best day of my life so far. This is the best day of our life so far. But it is not the most important day. There is another wedding feast that is more important in both our lives. A wedding feast being prepared not by friends and family but by our Creator.”
Mark Arnold 22/9/07

It’s a weird old experience watching your brother and friend getting married. There are so many emotions to process. And right now I feel like that moment in Harry Potter when Hermione explains the many many emotions going on in a girls brain to Ron, he exclaims in surprise, “surely she can’t be thinking that many things all at the same time, she’d explode”. I think I might. Mostly it was a brilliant day of celebration, gladness, happy tears and joy. It’s amazing to see two people brought together and who compliment each other really well. I am proud of him and very glad good things are happening to both of them.

The sad moments were eased with the presence of very good friends who get the complexity of emotions going on on such a day. I was glad to share it with them, and glad to be supported by them. I was also very grateful for Mark’s speech, which was a great reminder of the wedding feast we can all enjoy one day with our Maker. Whatever happens, of good or bad, storms or calm, peace or chaos there is the sure and certain hope of life beyond these years on earth.

My call is to carry on being generous with all my heart and to trust in the One who knows what He is doing with our lives. Right now that seems distant and vague. One day it will be as clear as a crisp autumn day with the sun shining in all it’s splendor. The Bridegroom is coming, the feast is set, hope is real and a big fat steak is waiting.

“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say,”Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:6-11

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Out of your comfort zone?

I’ve been pondering the mysteries of guidance again recently. Soon I shall have to face the thought of deciding what to do with the next few years of my life. (suggestions on a postcard please) One of the least helpful things Christians say to each other when thinking about the future (apart from the endless door analogies) is ‘get out of your comfort zone’. On the face of it, that sounds like good advice, leaving one with the daring notion of not settling for second best, getting out there (wherever there is) and other exciting feelings. Whatever I decide to do next, above all I must get out of my comfort zone.

But there’s a problem, once more, with the language. I don’t really think there is a happy jolly path we could skip down in life, a path with birds singing, sofas at convenient intervals and a big neon sign proclaiming ‘comfort this way’. There isn’t a choice between the way of comfort and the way of hardship. There isn’t a series of choices that will earn me more brownie points in heaven, or a series of choices that will make our Maker just about let me in with the other lameoes who settled for life on a sofa. The reality is, every path we take, every job we go for, every place we call home will involved hardship and suffering, just as much as it will involve joy, laughter and peace. There is no escape, there is no location or vocation that is the comfort zone.

The comfort zone is found in my attitudes, my values, the way I respond to life around me. I can choose the way of comfort or not everyday, whatever the shape of the things I do in this life. I am called each day to put me aside and live a life of love, of self giving, of selflessness in each and every situation in front of me. I’m called to live out the reality of who I have been made to be in response to the circumstances around me. That will bring joy, sorrow, suffering, tears, rejoicing, laughter, pain and ecstasy. If I deny who I am, live for me and my short term smiles then I should be challenged out of my comfort zone. I am called, wherever I may be, to live as I truly am, to obey the call to love and be generous. These things are not dependant on where I am or what I do in this life.

The term ‘get out of your comfort zone’ seems to be employed by people who are looking for more levels in this Christian life, to see people out on the mission field in Azerbaijan as more sorted/holy/really-doing-the-lords-work than those working for a bank in England. The reality is both those things can be done to be self serving or in deep love for those around. The only comfort zone to get out of is the thought and attitude that says I am the centre of the universe and I get to define the terms of this life.

God is about real living in the ordinary everyday things of this world. We need to stop looking down on people we think have sold out to comfort, or elevating people who we think are really out of their comfort zone. Grace says we all can and do face the choice each day to live our Lords way whatever we do. That’s a whole lot more challenging, that means I have a choice to decide how to live today, not just when this job ends. That sets me free to know there is no right path of God’s destiny for me that I might miss. He calls me to use my human responsibility to see what my desires and passions are. I am then do something but with His call to love at the centre, not my selfish desire for me to be glorified at every opportunity.

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