Thursday, 29 May 2014

Poetic Justice - the game

Played a fun (albeit hard) game tonight: Poetic Justice

Clue - wilting flower : _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _
Ans - floppy poppy

Here's a round for fun: answers below

1) Rainforest blunder - 6 / 6
2) Crooked Gentleman - 4 / 4
3) Lovesick Cat - 7 / 6
4) Drop in the cat population - 6 / 7
5) Changeable gherkin - 6 / 6
6) Discard road plan - 5 / 3
7) elector's transport - 6 / 6
8) saturate hardwood tree - 4 / 3
9) naked challenge - 4 / 4
10) appointment with destiny - 4 / 4
11) broad newly-wed - 4 / 5
12) unusual knack - 4 / 5
13) immobile lorry - 5 / 5
14) fresh adhesive - 3 / 4
15) inn food - 3 / 3
16) elegant food - 4 / 4
17) bedtime snack 5 / 4
18) liberated hive dweller - 4 / 3
19) obese rodent - 3 / 3
20) pull small carpet - 3 / 3

1) jungle bungle
2) bent gent
3) smitten kitten
4) feline decline
5) fickle pickle
6) scrap map
7) voter's motors
8) soak oak
9) bare dare
10) fate date
11) wide bride
12) rare flair
13) stuck truck
14) new glue
15) pub grub
16) posh nosh
17) night bite
18) free bee
19) fat rat
20) tug rug

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Free, to choose

Toddler reins, they're a beautiful thing. Especially when you've got a strong-willed toddler at one end and a busy road nearby. As I walked my dog, sorry son, to the park recently I made sure he didn't walk too close to the road. Then, as we got close to the park I thought to myself 'what the heck, I'm faster than he is, let's see what he does...' I let go of the reins and said toddler was free. I saw a look of recognition flash across his face as he realised he was free. He began to walk away from me, (what had I done?!) and then, just as he was about to break into a full on sprint and make a mad dash for a life beyond the tyrannical regime of dad. Just as he was about to make full use of his freedom, he stopped. He turned, walked back to me and held out his hand inviting me to hold it. He had the option of freedom without rules, freedom to do whatever he pleased - and it pleased him to walk next to me, to hold my hand. 

I can't tell you how much my heart leapt with delight. 

'He loves me' it screamed 'he LOVES me! He had the whole world to choose from, and yet he chose me.' I've made it, I've arrived - I'm a successful dad. I created another person (albeit with some help from Amy), raised him (again, a little help here) but now having come 'of age' he has recognised my value to him. 'I must have this parenting thing all figured out,' I thought 'maybe I should write a book about it, hold conferences or run courses on it: how to give your child freedom to choose and be the object of their choice.' I'm accepted by my son and it feels great! Maybe it was because he knew that fun at the park without dad wouldn't be much fun at all, or maybe it was because he knows that experiences shared are experiences fully experienced. 

Maybe he just needed someone to stop him falling over. No, it can't be that.

I know I'm overreacting just a little bit (out of character I know), and I know I've got a few years to go yet until he's fully free (just a few) but being an object of choice rather than being an unchosen ruler, is surely one of the long term goals of parenting. When your children are free to choose, and choose to use their freedom to be with you, you know you've done well. When your children free as they are still come home, still call (albeit not as often as you'd like), still enjoy your company and still choose to choose you, I imagine is a great moment for any parent of grown up kids.

An insight into Christianity: 

As I walked with Zach a voice inside me also said, 'this is how the gospel works.'

As a Christian, the Bible teaches me that I have been set free for freedom (Gal 5:1) and that everything is now permissible for me (1 Cor 6:12) since I don't have to live morally upright in order to be right with God (Ro 6:14). Jesus is the fully-faithful-to-God One and I'm living before God, hidden in him (Gal 2:20, Col 3:3). So, I'm free as Zach was free, to go off and do as I please, to please myself on the things of this world. I'm free to live independent of rules and restraints, regulations and commands. I'm free to choose. That is Christianity.

For people outside of the faith however, experience tells me this isn't their understanding of Christianity. They have been sold a caricature of Christianity that looks markedly different from what I've just described. For many people God is more like the toddler reigns that restricts our freedom than he is the loving Father who permits it. That simply isn't true. 

In the Bible's message of Jesus we're finally free, free indeed (John 8:36). But now, as a freedman I've learnt that the most exciting, satisfying and fully human way to live is to take hold of the hand of God and to walk with him through life. My life lived in relationship and friendship with him is rich and full. I don't get to avoid pain and difficulty. I don't get all of my confusion resolved, doubts dissolved and frustrations worked out but I do get to share everything with the one who rules everything. I live with the one who loves me, leads me and who enables me to make it through this life with my eyes fully open. I don't have to hide from the world or escape from reality, instead I get to hold his hand and engage with him in every step of the journey.

God has revealed himself as Father and now I, as a privileged Under-father to the Chief Father get to appreciate how his fatherly affection works towards us. If he experiences anything like the same emotions I do (and I can deduce from the New Testament that he does), then I can gain valuable insights into how he feels towards us simply by walking my son to the park and experiencing the delight of being the one he chooses to walk with.

That is how we bring pleasure to our Father's heart. That is how we make full use of our freedom. 

You're free, to choose. 

Choose Life himself.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Shifting the cloud.

Yesterday was a 'blah' day. I felt rotten and couldn't shift it. I don't know why but I woke up feeling very sorry for myself. I had no motivation for anything, I resented my role as a pastor, bemoaned the difficulty of trying to share the gospel with people and slumped into a sofa staring into the middle distance at any opportunity. Days like this aren't uncommon but they haven't been as regular an occurrence as they used to be. In the past a moody day like this has turned into a moody week and in some cases I've been racked with doubts and anxieties about faith for weeks or months at a time. On this occasion, that isn't the spiral I went down. Instead I was thrilled to find that only 48hrs later I was back to trusting God and pursuing him in prayer.

How I got out of this pit:

a prayer meeting : 
That evening I was due to lead a prayer meeting. I didn't want to. When it was time to begin, I still didn't want to and once the prayer mtg was going, I didn't want to be there. I wanted to leave, but I didn't; I prayed and led as best I knew how to and I told the group about how I was feeling. Some friends prayed for me. Nothing shifted there and then but it certainly helped.

a devotional Bible study in Gal. 3:13
I'm studying Galatians in preparation for a days teaching I'm doing on it on Impact but this morning I thought I'd use it as my devotional guide. I read about how Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law and I realised that I'm cursed whenever I look to anything to justify me or emotionally satisfy me other than Christ. I had been feeling low ever since church and realised that my feeling was due, in part, to my looking to ministry to fulfil me. Anyone who looks to anything in that way, is cursed Galatians tells us - and Jesus came to take our curse upon himself. I started to feel the cloud lift.

telling Amy what I read in the devotional
Writing my reflections in my study journal helped but speaking them out, even in a brief 30sec conversation helped more. Putting into words what I discovered in the Bible and hearing myself say it, made it real and brought me further freedom.

a conversation with Amy in which we both revealed similarly self-destructive thoughts
We'd both been feeling pretty low and had separately been contemplating the probability of personal tragedy in our lives. The contemplation led to us both feeling slightly more anxious and hopeless about life. The significance of us talking about this was that it opened me up to the possibility that this mood and moment was something other than just 'bad pizza' it was spiritual. The enemy was trying to intimidate us and once I see traces of him at work - it motivates me to act!

a meeting with the elders in which I told them how I felt
In our review of the weekend meeting scheduled for the day after my dip I told them how I felt. I was honest about my feelings of utter inadequacy and my insecurities about 'not being the leader I think the church needs'. They encouraged me and tried to strengthen me. I felt better after this. I had 'breathed out' enough of the junk that I could now 'breath in' some life giving truth again without my heavy mood simply batting it away.

reading some accounts of the power of prayer
The afternoon was spent preparing a sermon for the weekend. As part of my research I read about accounts of God moving in revival in response to prayer. I was strengthened by the reminder that God works powerfully and that prayer, whether by few or many, is powerful. My heart began to sing again as my mood finally lifted.

being reminded that God is engaging with me and weaving a story with my life
This was a major part of what I was preparing to preach on and it was thrilling that before I preached it to the church, it did its work on me as well. I am part of a story, God's story. I'm playing my part as a loved and accepted child, and as someone who needs to learn from him as I go through all of life.
Nothing is wasted, nothing is inconsequential.

Those are some of the key turning points for me in throwing off a feeling that could have lasted all week if I'd have let it. The thing features in it I think are:
'exhale' junk honestly and vulnerably with close friends where possible.
'inhale' truth and find ways of getting it to 'do its work' whether through journalling, speaking it out or reading it carefully.

I know that this experience isn't typical for most people since most people aren't given the luxury of reading great truth in preparation for a sermon but I'm sure there are probably some tools in there that can be useful to people.