Tag Archives: Spirit

God’s got it covered

17 Apr

Rejection, betrayal are the two greatest fears women have. And you have had to deal with both. So many women can identify with you, including me (Let’s have coffee one day and I’ll spill the beans) But this didn’t sneak up on God; He has a plan for your future – I am living proof.

That’s a comment I read on a blog post over at (in)Courage. And it fell into place for me today.

At the moment, what’s on is probably what most other people might not recognise as major in my life. But everyone near me and/or who hear my daily outpourings are generally bringing me flowers and chocolate and little notes. My colleagues too – and one of them has had to go be with her family in London. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. But we get chocolates and visits and all that.

Oxford exams are really that big. Exams generally are a pretty big deal, being Asian and all…

Digression: In some parts of Asia, the suicide rates spike up in April and I have research to prove it. Still, taking as I do, my identity in Christ rather than cultural boundaries, I’m very grateful for my relationship with him and with the family I do have!

In addition though, I’ve had a student affairs spike. I’ve also had to negotiate a petty crime, and its fallout in the community. Plus a couple of personal hiccups as you’ve probably figured from that last post of mine 😉 For the record though, I haven’t had personal betrayal – no, not that.

And yesterday, God gave me a much-needed ‘moment’. I called a friend and prayed with her. And she kinda demurred at the prayer… This is a friend with whom I went to church, and we’ve been to a fairly charismatic (you know, pentecostal but not Pentecostal and a fairly traditional Anglican/Presbyterian church together. We’ve been in small group together. We’ve known each other for nearly seven years now. We’ve travelled together, visited each other’s homes. Um, you would assume that we’d be free to pray with each other. But I knew that she wouldn’t actually be so free to pray out loud, even with her family. She told me yesterday that I was important to her and the least she could do is take a day off and buy me lunch – in another city! I’d depend on her to listen in my horrible moments too. But all of this friendship-boasting to show that – no, it wasn’t the easiest thing to pray together.

But hey, I was feeling pretty selfish. So I got online, grabbed a hold of her and said she had to pray with me. That she had to try, and that doing it out loud was a token to ME not even to God, and that He knew her silent prayer but I didn’t. I was at a point of need. So could we please do that? You know – you get the point. I repeat myself generally, but I think this time you got it.

I wanted her to be there and.to.pray.with.me. It wasn’t a major thing. But it was something I didn’t want to do without – the beauty of communion and shared love for Jesus, the vocalising of trust in His provision.

Still I didn’t think it was such a big deal. I thought she’d stumble and pray but she’d pray and I’d have my… silly little token.

Actually, she didn’t stumble. I prayed. She prayed.

Then she said this:

I think you’ll appreciate a random of sequence of events without which this might not have happened.

And the story was this. Over the weekend, her boyfriend had told her she needed to practice to pray out loud. I mean – we all know she doesn’t. We all know she loves God. So then she was amused and didn’t understand and she probably rolled her eyes at the boy. But he made her practice AND pray about it and then said ‘You never know when you might need it.’

And there I was the next day – I wouldn’t have really grabbed a hold of anyone else, and said friend might well have said no, if she hadn’t been made to think about it and consider it necessary. And God showed her how he’d got me covered. And he showed me how he’d got her covered.

And that brings me back to that comment. While facing rejection, fearing it, or uncertainty or betrayal or hurt or simply even just the unknown – I’ve got to know this…

It didn’t sneak up on God.

And now, I’m sitting here thinking how un-random life is in some ways. How very God-like life plays itself out. And how, in a time I needed Him, He put a hand on my shoulder and said ‘I’m watching. I’ve got you covered.’

Shoqed.

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iAnalyse

7 Apr

I analyse. Incessantly. Mostly myself, mostly critically, ‘most all the time…

Here is what I have come up with. I have upper-middle class sympathies and inclinations, I am quick to recoil from the failings of society that can be massed into a statistic, I have several of my own failings that sadly are less open to scrutiny. I don’t know if analysing my categorisability will make me want to fall into another category… In fact, I don’t think it will. But I am intrigued by the quirks of judgement that go with categories and labels.

Teen pregnancy, alcoholism, addiction, lack of a college education – Lord, may it never come into our lives. And I agree – amen! I don’t want it there. But but – there is little said about the domestic friction, the violence in Indian homes, the gender dominance, the deep-seated resentment of familial structure and dependence – these things, we will never bemoan openly.

I’m not bringing down the standards. Far from it. I’m saying in giving ourselves obvious standards, social standards, we find it easy to be the new ‘genteel unhappy’…

The Lord weighs the heart…

And then there is more to my self-analysis. This is the real cruncher. The level at which I analyse most of the time… Just plain ol’ me. I don’t know where you are on this spectrum – but you can be objective about your thoughts, about your beliefs, you can tell when you’re irrational, you can tell when you’re instinctive, you. can. criticise. and be your worst opponent in an argument.

This is a blessing. I kid you not. I mean, it’ll take you a while to find out but it really is… Because when it comes to accountability, you’ve already done the hard work. I am also grateful for the times when this isn’t self-induced but instead I am listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, convicting, moving and gently nudging to acknowledge truth, to hear His heartbeat and not my own.

And although it hurts, and although your self will try to take over and be merciless, I love that vulnerability in the presence of God.

I give you all my pieces, Lord. Hold me together. And take the unbroken parts and break open the flaws set in stone… Change my heart.  Find it here, as I lay myself before you. I give you only broken worship. There is no one else I trust, but You – Your Holy Spirit and His revelations, and the people you use and nudge me to listen. Hold me close into wholeness then. I do, I really do – I give you all my pieces.

Praying for Japan

17 Mar

I tried to pray for Japan. And I did pray. But I felt slightly ridiculous…

How does one articulate the depth of pain, without feeling hypocritical just knowing how much worse theirs must be? How do you cry out when you know that their desperation is beyond compare? How do I touch God and say He knows best, when I cannot see clearly to know what they might need that I can bring or pray for and my head is a haze of black fog… relieved by the images of the water covering the landscape like so much tar, or a creeping oil spill, or an advert for glossy paint? Still it’s the sea and in it are the thousands of lives and livelihoods it has claimed.

On Monday, one of my kids came to me and said: ‘Miss, I don’t understand… I never saw the video. What happened?’ We watched the newsreel. We were shocked. Again.

How do you pray? When your own life’s overwhelming tide is swamped as your breath is taken away by such blatant and helpless pain? It’s the same in every story of helplessness – except this is one that we all share, in this time. How do you pray when you’ve seen someone die in a road accident? How do you pray when you find a community in a slum? How do you pray when your friend’s mum dies, when your best friend’s career is ripped away from her?

Seriously, how do you pray?

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Rom 8:26b, 27

I am trusting God to intercede today, in the Spirit, in tongues, in new songs, in my writing – whatever it takes – for these walls to break, for Japan, for family, for children, for our calling, for who we are, for such a time as this… For you, for us – and yes, even for me.

Tienen tu color

13 Mar

Church today was one of those days.

You knowwhen your heart is all scrunched up and hurting because you recognise – thud thud thud BOOM BOOM BOOM – this is the voice you love. Every time I come into his presence and feel the whisper of his love, his arms, his voice – the vulnerability gets me.

HE made HIMSELF vulnerable to us. Forever. You know, once you’ve stripped away your defenses, everyone always knows they’re defenses, nothing else… Ever had someone hurt you really badly? Only the people you love can really do that… unfortunately! And the pain lasts! Unless – unless you have then opened up yourself to the other person. Completely. And they have to you. And you’ve talked about it. And then the love lasts…

On the cross, Jesus bore all our pain. Sometimes familiar words become innocuous… Jesus. felt. all. our. pain. All that was then and would be now. Emotional, mental, physical – wrenching pain in the foreknowledge of which he prayed in agony in that garden. Alone. And we kept hurting him. And in that pain, as he was dying, as he was being fully human, more human than any of us could be, he was opening up his space as God. The veil tore.

And we saw into the holy of holies. The heart of a God who loved us enough to die for us, to give us his dearest, most precious relationship – so he could have ours. The heart of a God who hurt under all the sin of our making, whose glory physically could not hold the sickness of sin. The heart of a God which we now could see – everyone could see if they wanted to look.

Putting that veil back there now is kinda pointless. There is power in knowledge.

And he was giving that power to us – to know that that was how much he loved us.

This is the God I want to follow. I want nothing outside of his will, or his glory. Nothing outside of him. His will for my life, for my career, for my relationships… for the things he knows I need I cannot put in words or don’t even know of. I want his glory to come rest on what has been in my life, what is and whatever will be. And intentionally, I want to make my life about him, in the fullest sense.

We shortchange God’s purposes for us and think to be ‘good’ is what he wants us to be, to be churched, to be ‘regular’ or even to be faithful… YES, oh yes, he does want that… But he wants so much more. He wants the riches of the nations, the hidden treasures, the purpose He set us apart for before we were born, the glory of the Lord, the honour of His name in our lives.

He doesn’t want much but he wants everything – He wants us. Don’t make this my prayer. It isn’t – although God knows I need it… But I’m telling you this, so you can nod and smile and join me in giving him this.

I want my thoughts, and hopes, and dreams, and desires to be his. For people, to somehow hear his voice in my words – to see when I mess up, and to see his grace. To want to seek him, to see him. I know that I am unworthy, except for him. I want him to be my all. The fragrance of Christ in me, the stamp of the Spirit dwelling in me and moving out through me. Even. me.

Esas palabras del cantador, Jesus Adrian Romero, expresan mis sentimientos maravillosamente:

Todos mis anelos tienen tu color
tienen el latido de tu corazon,
yo no quiero nada sin tu direccion

Todos mis anelos son de ti señor
tienen tu cadencia, tienen tu pasion,
no me importa nada solo tu favor.

The Crazies

7 Mar

“Oh, R”, I laughed to one of my co-teachers, after hearing her itemised list of which teachers sit with which grades and in which appointed places in the sprawling gym area, “we just sit with the crazies 😀 .”

I meant it. First grade can be pretty crazy and even crazier if you’ve been teaching adults for most of your professional and academic life! Strange little humming noises, five off-key tunes together, head-banging to nursery rhymes, a random trip to centre-stage, intense debates on why the sun has bigger muscles than the moon, on why your teacher is tall, and what your latest snot sculpture was – really, you name it… we’ve probably got it.

Some moments, in the middle of our guided reading workshops, I’ll hear ‘Twinkle twinkle… the fuuuuu-uhst NoEEEEERRRRRR… jingle bells jingle bells jingle bells jingle jingle bells jingle bells-one ‘ouse open say, YAY’. My co-teacher is patient. I admit to having said ‘Cut it out’ once. The selection of music depends on the season. The selection of fantasy story ideas also depends on the season, or whatever real thing has happened that can be moulded into magic. Yes, it’s pretty crazy.

It’s also pretty full of energy and affection. Affection that people learn to hold back in later years. Little children don’t, y’know – if they love you, then they just do. They’ll pick favourites. They will take sides. And they’re terribly loyal. And they depend on you to sort out anything from snot to bullying to romantic relationships (even when you can’t quite believe they have them). And any moment in the day, when they see you walk past, whether they are doing Math or Literacy or P.E. or recess, they will appreciate you in whatever way. The classroom or the chairs or the rules don’t constrain them. Or whether they’re in a different school and they have no classroom, or teacher, and they’re waiting for your time. You get introduced to their (real and imaginary) friends, their betrayals, their plotting and everything else inbetween. And just as you finish one station, and ask them to clean up their whiteboards, they’ll quickly scribble ‘I love you’ on it and show it to you shyly. And it short-circuits your thought processes (and your lesson plans!) incredibly quickly and leaves you only with a familiar, stupid grin. Funny – never had that effect on me with the adult learners!

I think that is what Jesus meant when he said this. I have, in my old Children’s Bible, an illustration of many different kids scrambling up on Jesus’ lap or responding as he makes them laugh with (I imagine) his stories. This is the God I know. The picture I carried with me for a long time, before I gave my life to him even. And all through my life in him, I’ve returned often to this sense of relief to be found in getting up there. Right by my father. Letting him make me laugh. This is the God we know.

They drive me crazy, yes. But the kids also trust me. Some of them, not all. Some of them are starting to consider other things. But when they do trust me – WOWZA! I feel so honoured.

And they’ll do the things I ask them to do. I might think of a zany activity like ‘Write about camping’ eeeerrrrr ‘under your tables’. It’s cool – it works for them to imagine the tent idea – and they remember the exercise for next time. We turn the lights off maybe… Or I make up rules like ‘Write your names on the whiteboard and I’ll come to you in turn’, so that they aren’t always following me and my co-teacher around the room. Sometimes I decide to go to where they’re at. And I’ll make up whacko actions. And they’ll do it – like touch your nose round your head. And sometimes I have a unit plan that I want to stretch over days because of some literacy skill or the other, and they’ll ask me why they can’t finish today – but for the most part, they’ll stick to my crazies.

Maybe that is the second reason Jesus said that and that. I know I posted about thinking Christianity – in thinking about God and seeking him in his word, the experience of an everyday, working relationship with God in complete obedience only becomes more real. I read this today, over at (in)courage. I almost copied it here and said nothing myself 😀

We sat with the crazies that day. And had them cheer for us every time we breathed. And chatter every time someone else breathed. Seriously, pretty intense. 🙂

Seeing faith

20 Feb

I could have written this –

Questioning Faith.

My thoughts exactly.

Except I might not call it ‘questioning’. I’d call it what I just have. I hesitate to say more in praise of the writer because I’ve just said that could be me 😉 But I will say it is a beautiful post. In its honesty. I find that hard sometimes. The key is to know that you are fighting for your faith, not fighting it. Because He asked you to. And keeps His promise.

Beauty is

17 Feb

Today, I am left without words.

Beauty is having a child run after you because she wants to hold your hand.

Beauty is having a child – a different child from a different home – ask you wonderingly if you would still play with him. Broken beauty, but beauty.

Beauty is an animal who trusts you so completely that she will sigh her frustration into the hollow of your hand, as she lays her head there, and licks you, while the doctor administers painful treatment.

Beauty is knowing that that is what God wants us to be like with him.

Beauty is a train ride through Snowdonia, knowing that my help comes from the Lord who holds the cattle on a thousand hills – and hearing this God remind you in his whispers.

Beauty is telling a friend about a God-encounter and hearing her words echo your thoughts.

Beauty is when someone knows you’re sad when you’re laughing, and no one else knows.

Beauty is the homeless man who will smile at me every time I pass outside the store he frequents. Beauty is when he recognises you and you smile back.

Beauty is when you write a kind email, an email hoping for a coffee one of these days, to someone who has slighted you.

Beauty is letting go of the hurts you’d forgotten you remembered, until God asked you to let them go. Beauty is knowing that an apology might never come, but that you are hearing God’s voice in the situation.

Beauty is pain that nobody else knows you’re holding until suddenly God looks you in the eye and tells you ‘I know it hurts. And I know how much’. Beauty is when you believe that and share the fellowship of his suffering in the smallest measure, that he may grow you into his image in disproportionate recompense.

Beauty is when it draws you closer to the sanctity of the cross and people know you’ve been with Jesus.

Beauty is when someone on a random protest day, in the central square on the shopping street, walks up to you and asks if you are Christian. Then beauty is when you nod and they say they saw it.

Beauty is an old friend’s unexpected call or email.

Beauty is a new friend you haven’t yet made decides to ask you to listen and pray.

Beauty is when God sees the ugliness and decides to use it. Like me.

Today, I am in awe of this beauty. I know His name. And all I can bring myself do is to curl up into him and say one thing. If my words fail, and I choke up inadequately, then I can look at the face I know. And let Him look on as I confess it.

This: Jesus, I am so in love with you.

 

God, Exods 15, Exodus, Bible, beautiful God, awesome God, God is awesome, love God, love of God, Jesus, Christ, Father, Holy Spirit, miracles, wonders, Snowdonia, faith, worship, love, beauty, beautiful



I’m in love!

4 Feb

This is from a devotional I wrote in November, ’08.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. John 7:38

Don’t you just know it when people are in love? They hold hands, they seek each other in a crowd, they keep wanting to tell each other the precious things they’ve stored up for the other because they know s/he’ll want to hear! And doesn’t it feel like everything should be different?

It’s the same with Jesus… Is that news to us? His relationship with you is the greatest love story ever! He died so he could have you. And when we accept Jesus, our lives show it.

That is actually a promise. His Spirit will flow out of us if we let him control our lives. If he fills our hearts and minds, people cannot help but see it. Let’s not be discouraged about whether our witness to God is making a difference but rather let’s be aware of the One we love every moment. And then our witness will make a difference. Jesus said *whoever* believed in Him would be an overflow of His thirst-quenching Spirit to others. God wants you and no one else in the place HE put you in to testify for Him.

If worship were sweet oil

27 Jan

I give you my worship, I pour it out upon you like an alabaster flask of precious essence. And then – I’m afraid of being empty. I’m empty in myself.

Lord, may your Spirit be the one that conceives my worship, leads me to you. May my words and my songs and my worship never be without your Spirit in me, the essence, the fragrance that carries it on the air and the object of my praise.

What is wrong with this picture? – Thoughts on Christ, Context and Identity

5 Jan

I am always here because something has blown me away. Always it’s God. Often it’s for world missions. Today, anyway, he’s done it with a Chinese guy singing in Tamil. Kinda related, right? 😀 In my limited experience, I’ve never seen the two ethnicities (yeah, yeah, social scientist) have much to do with each other in homelands. So this was special but also sad – that it was special, I mean. Tamil is a language spoken by … well, the Tamils in India but also in Sri Lanka (yes, that Tamil), Malaysia and some parts of Singapore. I think this video was from Malaysia. For some time recently, our perceptions and prejudices of differences has spoken to me often and unerringly.

I once walked home to my little sub-let in a friend’s home, on Coed Mawr, a council estate in Bangor. This was the slightly better off council estate. Fewer at-risk kids, and fewer kids that we worked with through the church. It was dark, in the way that late afternoons can be dark only in the UK. Dark, wet, and ever-reminiscent of the snow-capped mountains in the near distance. This evening was no different.

I liked it, you know. I think I went and fell in love with Wales. And Welsh people. And Welsh accents. And the church family there. I had only recently moved to this neighbourhood and I was enjoying the house. But always when I walked without my housemate or friends, I had the sense of being seen. I didn’t feel different – but to the kids, and probably to their less-unequivocal parents, I seemed different. I was ‘foreign’, but I didn’t look typically ‘foreign’. And by look, I mean dress or talk or eat. I lived with a definitely Welsh friend, and most of my friends weren’t necessarily like me in the way they’d expect, perhaps. They were local, or from the university. So I was so different from them that perhaps I seemed less human. We define ‘right’ and ‘humanity’ by our own measures. I was different but not in the way they thought.

As I turned the corner into our street, I saw the kids from the estate laughing secretively, a boy teasing a girl as if he wished he could do something else instead, a couple of kids on the swings. I knew they would comment on me, but they were teenagers – they would comment on everything and everyone passing by. Instead this time they decided to address me. With animal noises.

I am not all that nice, you know. Really inside of me, I wanted to put on my best upper-crust-can’t-touch-me face (yes, I can do this sometimes but y’all reading this don’t know me so my secret’s safe ;)) and I wanted to say to them: “I’m sorry? I don’t speak Welsh!” Not because I don’t love Welsh because of course, I do, and I had spent a good part of the previous week learning the national anthem in between times! But because I knew that it would hurt them. There – ugh, confession, there’s my mean streak. I thought to myself that it was a good lesson for them to learn. But I didn’t. Aaron told me later that he would have paid me to say it, if he’d been there. He’s Welsh. What I did though was talk to God.

How do we perceive difference? Those kids didn’t know better. I think I might have even had conversations with them later. They didn’t know I would recognise them. But if you are reading this, and you know the Lord Jesus and love his word, then how do you see the meaning of difference?  – Selah, and I mean it. –

Is your identity in being Welsh, or American, or European, or Indian, or Asian, or English, or African? I struggle with this because people might argue that part of our identity does come from these things. From our language, from our colour, our ethnicity, our jobs, our educations and our nationalities. Our identity is a bricolage of influences – think post-modern theory, Strauss, Derrida, even Eckert and others. But what is it built on?

In our first-grade classes, we’re making quilts. We have dozens of little squares, triangles and a few more quadrilaterals because, of course, we’re learning geometry. Every little child gets a certain number of little coloured pieces of paper. Each of them makes a pattern. And then all those little patterns of squares (so far) go on the base white sheet of construction paper. One big quilt. Different coloured little patches, all out of paper, all stuck on one paper. Even that’s not analogy enough.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (emphasis added, KJV)

Get that? Really? All of these influences, every memory, every whisper, every laurel, every pain is subsumed into this one saving identity in Christ. My parents, my education, the good and the bad – they don’t define me. Christ does. He might use these things and he will. But it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. It is not incidental that that whole chapter is talking about Jews and Gentiles.

Does it make you uncomfortable now that we marry, eat, laugh, pray within our own races? Does it make you uncomfortable counting the Christian friends on your Facebook list and realising they have comparable incomes, literacies, families and (this sickens me because after all the struggle against it, it has no excuse) ethnicities? Remember, I’m only talking about Christian friends – we haven’t even started on going out of that box and taking Christ to the world.

How many of them disturb you at all? No, they don’t have to be scandalous and no, they do not have to sin to disturb you. Can they afford pizza at home? Do you know anyone who cannot? Because the whole problem is this – if it makes us uncomfortable, we’re forced to do something about it.

Do you know anyone outside your community, your race, your ethnicity, your settlement, your clan, your club, your caste, your tribe? Are they token people or can you really relate?

Has it surprised you that someone of a different race had a similar emotion to yours? I’ve heard it often enough. Think again.

Who defines you? What defines you?

If this doesn’t make us uncomfortable, then there is something deathly wrong. And we’ve got to change it.

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