Friday, 14 June 2013

Don't Zone Out - Appreciate

Today at dinner.

I sat eating my food (I was hungry) and in between mouthfuls I was spoon feeding Zach his sweet potato (regularly enough to stop him whining, irregularly enough to enjoy my own dinner).

I was quiet, I didn't feel like talking - I was tired, I wanted some 'me' time. I sat thinking about how I really ought to try and make conversation, but I didn't; I just sat indulging in my own thoughts.

After Riley had eaten his food I went to the freezer and got him a ice pop. Amy was making Zach laugh and so I took out my phone to record a video of it.

As I started recording and Zach giggled, Riley let off some wind (loud enough for us all to hear). I turned the camera on him and we all fell about laughing (like at the end of an episode of Peppa Pig except without the falling over). Afterwards Riley wanted to watch the video back over and over and over again. It was funny.

Around this time I found myself 'back in the room' and engaged again with family life. I was struck by the blueness of Zach's little baby eyes, the giggles, the colour, the love and laughter and the beauty of my little family. Amy is gorgeous and her servant-hearted character and attitude to adds a quiet strength that supports everything we do. Riley loves life, he laughs a lot, he wants to play Angry Birds a lot and he seems to be learning new phrases and words everyday. Today, when Amy gave him some of her food/drink (I can't remember which) he made us all giggle by saying 'good sharing mummy.'

I know how privileged I am. I love the people in my life and the scenes our little family of four creates. I want to stop and take in moments like this more and to ensure that I don't 'zone out' or retreat into myself for some 'me time' where I can switch off and selfishly indulge in the comfortable life of noncommittal-ness.

I contrast this with the restlessness and discontentment I often feel. Just this morning I was sat trying to read the Bible and engage with the Lord when all I could think about was 'how can I rearrange the furniture in the house to make me like it more?' I am always wanting to change things, knock walls down, decorate rooms. Always living with a sense of what more should I be doing? Regularly I wonder 'Am I winning? Is my work meaningful, is my life fruitful.'

Amy was right this week to rebuke me and point toward a friend's recent sermon on what he coigned 'Individualitus'. I have a bad case of it.

I love my family, love my boys, love my wife and want to record and capture every moment of beauty we enjoy together. I know it'll be gone so quickly. I know I'll be waking up one day to a very different scene. Today won't come back around.

Don't zone out - appreciate.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Little Legalist

So... I'm going to start using my blog to try to capture moments as they happen in family life. Riley's starting to come out with some classic lines and I don't want to lose them. Sometimes I'll blog them with explanations and observations, other times it'll just be the quote or moment as it happens.

To kick things off (with a blog I'm sure my wife would roll here eyes at - yes I can see that from here) - here's a theological  observation from something amusing that happened recently.

The 16thC Reformer John Calvin once said that the 'default mode of the human heart is toward religion.'

I take that to mean that we are, all of us, hard wired toward a works-based-righteousness approach to life. Whether religious or not we learn quickly that the way the world works (or at least the way we think it ought to work) is that nothing comes for free and everything needs to be earned.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Tit for tat.

This is why the Christian message of grace is hard to stay on course with. Many people (most in fact) begin with grace but need nudging (or firm prods!) to stay with grace as they continue in their Christian life. 

By grace I mean - undeserved, unmerited favour/kindness. 

'Grace' has come to mean little more than respectability and poise or perhaps a meal time prayer (or a girl's name) but 'grace' as the Bible uses it is rich and glorious. 

When the apostle Paul says - 'it is by grace you have been saved, not by works so that no one can boast.' this is how he's using the word; undeserved kindness shown to you is what has rescued you from separation from God. Trying to earn blessing by good behaviour (in Bible language) is called 'legalism'.

Back to my Riley-dote. Since we're hard wired for 'works based' rather than 'grace based' (namely : I earn through good deeds vs I receive as a free undeserved gift) it shouldn't surprise me to see early signs of this emerging in my 3 yr old :)

Riley was in the garden doing puzzles with his nanny. He completed them all and as a reward my mum (nanny) said: 
'well done Riley, you've done so well. You can have a lolly. Would you like one?'
'Yes please.'
(calling to me) 'Jez, do you want a lolly as well?'
Riley: 'why, what's he done?'

There it is. That's how the world works. 

Riley thinks 'I receive reward for hard work and so therefore everyone else should.' 
My little legalist of a son.

It reminded me in that moment of the beauty and incomprehensibility of the beautifully counter-intuitive  message of grace that turned the world upside down in the 1stC and has been doing so ever since. Not only have I received from God something that I didn't deserve, the Bible goes several steps further and declares that Jesus stepped in my place and took on himself the punishment for all my wrongdoing.

Grace is - Jesus is punished and I'm rewarded, and that's how God works.