Thursday, August 31, 2006

No Other Gods


Speak not too gently, lest I miss
The nuances of what You say.
Seal me to You with burning kiss
That banishes false gods away.

Be fire to my complacent soul,
Lest I should sleep the sleep of death.
With ruthless fingers make me whole,
To vibrate to Your Spirit's breath.

To be one word, to be Your word,
Your utterance to earth's desperate plight;
Your love declared by flesh and blood,.
My soul smoothed to reflect Your light.

Good night and Good luck

Finally caught up with this movie last night, and loved it. Ok, as an Aussie I'll never understand the finer points of American politics, some of it makes no sense to me at all, and I don't want to go down the path of bashing someone else's system. That doesn't help anyone. But it was very educational. I learned about McCarthyism at school, as a backdrop for studying the Crucible -- it was another thing to see inside the actual period. It jumps off the screen that, just as Miller used the witch hunts to critique McCarthyism, so Clooney is using McCarthyism to critique the present political climate (which is just as true of Australia as America, I fear). The politics of terror, of using the rhetoric of fear to take away people's freedom and autonomy, are ugly and evil in any era. I was deeply stirred by Murrow's words:

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility."

Oddly enough, the thing that came to mind, when I read this was from years ago (17? 18?)when we were burgled. It was inconvenient, we needed to replace things that were stolen, get the broken door jamb mended, consider improving our security ... but, we were fully insuured, and in the end the greatest worry was our (then) young son's concern that they were going to come back and steal his lego. The thing thatamazed me, and still does, was other people's reactions. So many people spoke sympathetically about how terrifying it is to have been robbed, how you walk in fear afterwards and live a lot more defensively. Huh? It was an annoying inconvenience, not a sentence of fear. if we had had a personal encounter with the burglars or been personally threatened in any way, yes, it would have been much more traumatic. Yes, we reviewed our security and took sensible measures, but we didnot turn our home into a fortress or choose to live in fear.i said then, and continue to say, that if we capitulate to a fear-based lifestyle, the evil have already won -- they have taken away our freedom. Exactly the same is true, for me, of international politics today...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Madeleine L'Engle quotes

I never read "A swiftly Tilting planet" until I was an adult, but it stirred me in the deep places, even those bits I couldn't quite figure the sense of. so, because they inspire, delight or challenge me, here are some quotes from her various writings:

"Darkness was and darkness was good. As with light. Light and Darkness dancing together, born together, born of each other, neither preceding, neither following, both fully being, in joyful rhythm."

"An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers. To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy.

"There's the rub; an icon can far too easily become an idol. Idols always bring disaster to the idolater. An icon is an open door to the Creator; when it becomes an idol, the door slams in your face."
(Penguins and Golden Calves, 39)

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.
("After Annunciation", WEATHER OF THE HEART)

"Only Christ can free us from the prison of legalism, and then only if we are willing to be freed." (Penguins and Golden Calves, 85)

Not the large thunders

Not the large thunders, for I cannot hear
Your word to me within the shouted phrase.
Whisper with gentleness, for I am small,
Cramped to the fragile limit of my days.

Show me no maps of heaven, eye’s not seen
Grandeur so vast, nor can I count its gauge.
Dazzled by dewdrops, mesmerised by mice,
My sight cannot encompass such a stage.

Not the vast eons, flaming through the sky --
Limit Your love to now, this second’s span.
I, not eternal, but poor child of time,
Would hold Your finger in my finger’s scan.

I would hold and be held, and I would know,
To the small limits of my littleness,
Love, not as the transcendent spirits know,
But, in this breath, this heart, Your soft caress.

Therefore withhold the music of the spheres,
Until I grow to meet You face to face.
Now, showing mercy to my finitude,
Grant me my this-day’s-portion of Your grace.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

a thought on the gospels

God has four people recount the life of his incarnate Son, in each case differently and with inconsistencies. Is this not just in order that the literal word is not taken too seriously, and that the spirit may be given its due? In other words a mediocre account is to be preferred…’Wittgenstein, 1937

Not quite sure about the "mediocre" bit, perhaps that depends on what we measure excellence by... I would prefer to put it in terms that our modern post-enlightenment ultra-rationalistic definitions of excellence might be out of synch with God's value system. God seems to delight in loose ends, incomplete explanations, untidy miracles, revelations of wonder that mess up our neat theology. Perhaps we have settled for honouring a lesser excellence when God is calling us to a higher. The foolishness of God is still wiser than the wisdom of men, we who have made idols of our own intellectual systems, who think that we understand something when we have stuck a label on it (and oh, how we argue over those labels!) must repent of our arrogance and return to the manger and the cross where we see again, astounded by His grace, that the perfection of Divine order is imperfectly expressed within our understanding, not because the order is incomplete, but because our understanding is, and to try to bend it to be complete within our understanding is to warp it out of shape. It is we who need to be remade (or unmade) to become like him, and the first step into glory is to learn humility.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In The Morning

I wrote this several years ago, in response to a situation where I felt betrayed, abused and falsely accused by a group of people. it was beyond the point of trying to argue or justify myself; I decided to leave it in the hands of the One who will one day sort it all out for us:


I will meet you in the morning when the joy lights in our eyes
And the shadows of our night have fled away
When this hard, dead seed within becomes a flower in full bloom ..
I will meet you at the dawning of the day!

I will meet you in the morning when misunderstandings cease
When clear truth in all her frankness is revealed
When the heart is washed from all the muck she has to swim in now
And integrity no longer is concealed.

I will meet you in the morning when our laughter learns to skip
Like a lamb across the hills of our desire
When we clap our hands in wonder at the simple, perfect things
And delight is not a fragment, but entire.

I shall meet you in the morning when our wings are given out
And we soar like eagles up into the sun
When our feathers stretch to feel the wind which we were made to sail
And our crawling over broken glass is done.

I will meet you in the morning at the feet of Love and Truth
Where the Arms that always held shall hold us fast
In that place of all fulfillment where our tears are wiped away
And we fully know as we are known at last.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Great quote

“If I could have said it, I wouldn’t have needed to dance it.”
Wright, N.T. The Challenge of Jesus – Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is

yes, our minds must be fully exercised towards rightly understanding the truth of God, but to imagine our set of propositions is the Christ life is like mistaking an analysis of the map for actually taking the journey. At the end of all our arguments we are silenced by one glimpse His reality, we no longer analyse but fall in worship, and then, wonder of wonders, God Himself bends down to us, lifts us up into His embrace and starts teaching us His steps!

Me? a leader?

LOL! I think this proves pretty conclusively that these tests are very idealised ..

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Let the broken fountains flow

Let the broken fountains flow
With salt tears where else was dry
Let the heart abandoned know
There are many ways to die
Let the grief that cannot show
In its hidden cistern lie.

Here the arms that hang like stone
Yet are yearning for embrace
Here the soul that walks alone
Wary of pretended grace
Here the laugh that hides a groan
Only empathy could trace.

Let the living waters flow
Through the streambed gaunt and dry
Let the broken hearted know
There is life for those who die
Wounds of Christ, in mercy show
There is love which cannot lie.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Core Principles

In one of my first college courses, I had to write a paper on five core principles that i based my life on. That was 3 years ago, it's equally true of me now:

Principle one -- WORSHIP

I was created to worship God. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), which to me means worship as a total lifestyle. To live in relationship with the One who loves me more than His own life is the fulfilment (ultimately the only real fulfilment) of my deepest needs. And worship is not only the aspiration and praise that springs from the deepest places of my heart, for Jesus said “worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), and also, “if you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15), so worship is also obedience and action. I think of it as ‘God-centred living’, seeking to learn to keep in step with the Spirit in everything I’m doing, to seek His will in all I do, and constantly “keep the channel open” for prayer and praise and listening to Him.

Principle two --INTEGRITY

By integrity I do not just mean honesty in my dealings with others (though that is a crucial expression of it) but honesty with myself, and a submissive attitude to the convicting revelations that come from the Holy Spirit. I want to have the same attitude as David, who said “Search me O God and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23), for he says of the Lord “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts” (Psalm 51:6). It is all too easy to live in self-deception and hypocrisy. Somebody once suggested to me that deer can stay sure-footed on the heights because their back feet track exactly where their front feet went – to me this makes Habakkuk 3:19 “he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the high places” -- a perfect image of the integrity I long to run in, discarding, like old coats no longer needed, the fears and falsehoods that hamper me.

Integrity, to me, also means keeping my word, whether I mean the absolute, binding nature of my marriage vows, or a casual “promise” made to an acquaintance, seeking to live as one who “keeps his oath even when it hurts”. (Psalm 15:4)

Principle three -- GRACE

I can live in freedom and joy because I have been “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) – “this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:2) Therefore, I have an absolute responsibility to show to others the same grace and forgiveness that God, through Christ, has shown me. Jesus said “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14), and, in James 2:13 we are told, “judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful”. I have learned it as a living truth that we cannot stand at the foot of the cross and immerse ourselves in “the incomparable riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7) and have contempt and unforgiveness for our brother or sister at the same time, no matter how badly we have been wronged. For instance, until I fully forgave those who had abused me, I was still chained to them, and could not fully experience God’s love myself. All human beings desperately need to receive grace, if Jesus’ words “let your light so shine before men” (Matthew 5:16) are to become a reality in our lives, in my life, surely it must begin by being channels of His grace and mercy to one another?

Principle four -- FAITH

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and pleasing God is my deepest desire. But, to me, living by faith goes further even than trusting in Jesus’ work rather than my own for my salvation; it means choosing to view life from the perspective of God’s Word, even when that conflicts with the way that things feel and appear to me. It means acknowledging that “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18), and re-setting the parameters of my will so that I might walk in step with God, rather the world, the flesh or the Spirit of the Age. Therefore faith is something that requires courage, demanding that I leave the “comfort zone” of self-pity and powerlessness, and learn to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) and “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16), even when I have every human reason to be negative and discouraged.

Principle five -- COMMUNITY

As a person who has been hurt, and whose tendency is towards introversion, I have an innate preference for withdrawing from people rather than risking further hurt, but my commitment to community compels me back into connection. As a new Christian I had the privilege of hearing a speaker share deeply about his experience of real fellowship, and it planted a dream in my heart of “how it ought to be”, which has only strengthened since. I long deeply to see the Body of Christ really being what God has called it to be (eg John 13:35; Romans 13:8; John 13:14; 15:12: Galatians 6:2), but I have learned the hard way that our dreams do not become reality by wishful thinking, but by deliberately choosing to sow what we desire to reap (2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7); therefore I, myself, must learn how to model appropriate vulnerability and be willing to reach out and get humanly involved rather than sitting on the sidelines in my comfort zone protecting myself.

DISCLAIMER (or conclusion)

In the words of Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12)


River or ocea, the loveliness of water ..

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Risking relationship

Someone on another forum was talking about their struggle to venture back into church after bad experiences, and I felt prompted to share some of my own experiences, including a glimpse of what I went through when I ventured into a home church looking for the loving community I longed for. After a bit of autobiography, I continued with this:

It’s over 7 years since I left, and the healing is still happening. I now know that God loves me and that, however flawed I might be, I can still be a channel of His grace simply because I am in Him. There are a couple of friends that are real grace-givers to my life, and who, amazingly, actually seem to want MY friendship. I am still cautious in relationships, because of my past history of falling for abusive people, but one of the things that’s convinced me that real change has happened is that those patterns seem to be finally broken. It has taken me 50 years (slow learner) but I finally have a monster radar that blips internally when someone is being manipulative, dishonest etc. Or maybe I’ve finally begun to believe more in my own heart than in what other people with their own agendas tell me.
I can’t see that anything I’ve said is even relevant to your pain, except that I can personally say to you that my experience says that God is still there with us as we struggle with all the junk and that dipping back into relationships again can be a little like the story of the disciples who’d been out there fishing all night and caught nothing. Not only do we keep coming up empty, but we’re getting snagged and snarled and broken in the process, and we know a painful session of net-mending is in order. And then Jesus tells us to dip in one more time, and everything inside us shrieks out that this is wasted effort. But, hey, this is Jesus, so, in spite of ourselves we say, “nevertheless at Your word” and do it, with every muscle screaming out in protest.And this time the result is very different ..

The handmaid

I always struggle with the discrepancy between the church as presented in the bible(the mystical Body of Christ, the glorious bride) with the struggling, frustrating often besmirched reality we often see. It is not a tension that I think can be resolved this side of eternity, but, then again, it is exactly the same tension as I find in my own life, between sinner and saint! (and that shouldn't want or need an exclamation mark!) This poem is simply descriptive, one day ugliness, sin and failure will be stripped away and the beauty of Jesus will be seen in His people


Behold, the handmaid of the Lord!
Behold her tatters, rags and dirt;
Besmirched by sin, bowed down by fear,
Disfigured, wounded, sorely hurt!
Out of her mouth come ugly things;
Greed in her eyes, grasping her touch.
Her feet have walked in filthy ways.
She sins, and she has hungered much!
Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
More like a beggar, reeking, foul!
Can any fountain make her clean?
Can any healing make her whole?

Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
Blood on her brow, her hands, her feet!
Dressed in white linen, wondrous, fair;
Ransomed, renewed, and whole and sweet!
Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
Joy in her heart, her arms stretched wide;
One precious name upon her lips,
Behold the handmaid, now a bride!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Isn't it?

But isn't life full of strange tricks and surprises,
And pain and uncertainty, anguished surmises;
And joy breaking through the dull ache of despair,
And love shining bright with the sun on her hair;

And hope turned to ashes, and laughter to grieving,
Our deepest securities rising and leaving;
The song of the wind and the catch in the heart,
And flood-tides of worship that drown every part?

Thomas a Kempis

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.
-- Thomas a Kempis

Is there a greater danger for the Christian than mistaking our learning about God for knowing Him better? I know I must be prayerful, not only that I should not imagine that my little knowledge equals wisdom (that is quickly dispelled, I only have to remember how much more my teachers know than I do) but even more that I should never mistake my little learning for increased godliness. knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Though I learn my smattering of Greek and Hebrew, and can write essays on the intricacies of justification or argue my beliefs on the Trinity so what? It is all worthless vanity, dust and ashes, so long as there remains in my heart any pride in my own self-righteousness or any disdain towards a fellow human being. Increasing my theological vocabulary is a waste of time if it does not make me more eager to get down on my knees to serve and pray. Grace not works is not a formula, but the only real life there is ..

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Head and heart

Another great quote, fitting straight into the thoughts on the limitations of propositional theology:

It has pleased God that divine verities should not enter the heart through the understanding, but the understanding through the heart. ... Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Your Word in me

Let Your word be in me
Through me
Embracing and surrounding
Touching every atom of my being
With the grace that heals, transforms;
Giving sight and insight
And the love that gives and gives.

You are my Rock
The only solidity
The words of truth that stand against the storm
And he who clings to You will not be swept away
And he who stands on You can never fall
Out of the hands that hold.

Let me hear You with my heart,
Drinking Living Water with my desperate thirst
Re-hydrating my dreadful desiccation.
Let me bathe, swim, splash
In its sweet invigoration
Laughing as it washes clean
The old encrusted sores.

Let my frail mind find a dwelling place
In the habitation of Your truth
Let me find a stronghold
In the fullness of Your furnishings.

Let me never be afraid
Your word takes nothing from me
Except the dead wood
And the branch that bears no fruit
Leaving room to engraft abundance.
Let it be a part of me
Flesh of my flesh, Your Spirit
Like the raising yeast,
Lifting ... lifting ...

Write Yourself upon me
Etched on my being in light
The word of truth flowing
Till everyone can read
The strange script of Your never-failing love
Giving lilt to the lips that falter
Making stumbling feet dance out
The music of Your praise
And Your song is sung through me!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Living with uncertainty

There is a human preference for certainty, to want to have life neatly delineated, the boundaries safely drawn, so we can huddle safely within. We want the rules and the answers carefully set out. most of all, we want tangible proof that we are basically right, or, if wrong, a simple system by which a little effort can put us in the right. We want to know that our kind of people (whatever dimension we define ourselves by) have basically got it together and the world belongs to us (or if not, then it's because of some conspiracy, and one day the tables will be turned. This is the essence of fundamentalism, a system that provides security for the insecure. But this is not the life that Jesus calls us to. the life of faith is not the life of knowledge, though knowledge must be its foundation stone. But we are not called to cling to the ground but to fly like eagles. We are not called to justify the known, but embrace the unknown. we are not called to manufacture our own goodness, but rest in His. We are not called to save our lives, but to lose them. We do not have all the answers; to claim we do is to make them up ourselves. yes, there are absolute truths, precious beyond our comprehension because they will stand every test, and be our refuge in the earthquake storm and flood. but there are spaces, tensions even, between those truths, and it is in that place where, so often, we must live and move and have our being. cling to one aspect of truth, ignoring the rest; one verse of scripture at the expense of its complement, and you can no longer move forward and grow. but, in the inbetween places, we must step forward with faith, trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth, as was promised, from one degree of glory to another. the command, I seem to recall, was to love, not to pontificate. It is as much a part of Truth to honestly admit what we do not know, as well as to staunchly proclaim what we do know.

String Theory

I have no idea how accurate the physics in the following article is, or how much "spin" it's been given (hey, the last time I studied physics was in 1972 for my HSC -- hard to believe I was ever good at it!) but I find the idea fascinating. As someone who loves the imagery of God singing the world into being, as per the Creation scene in C S Lewis' The Magician's Nephew or the first part of Tolkien's Silmarillion, or, to change the image slightly, the great dance at the end of C S Lewis' Voyage to Venus: I can't help it that my imagination is captured by the ideas in this article:

Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity are both accepted as scientific fact even though they're mutually exclusive. Albert Einstein spent the second half of his life searching for a unifying truth that would reconcile the two.
Einstein was searching for String Theory. It not only reconciles General Relativity to Quantum Mechanics, but it reconciles Science and the Bible as well.
Listen to a group of physicists talk about String Theory and it will slowly dawn on you that they're explaining the entire universe as nothing but the quivering, dancing echo of the voice of God. "Let there be light."String Theory describes energy and matter as being composed of tiny, wiggling strands of energy that look like strings. And the pitch of a string's vibration determines the nature of its effect.In essence, String Theory describes space and time, matter and energy, gravity and light, indeed all of God's creation. as music.Strings of gravity vibrate at a different frequency than strings of light. The strings that make up protons vibrate at a different pitch than the strings that make up electrons. Strings composing the strong nuclear force vibrate differently than the strings composing the weak nuclear force. And electromagnetism vibrates at its own unique frequency as well.We've known for a while that matter is made of protons, neutrons and electrons - which are themselves made of quarks. Now String Theory comes along to whisper in our ear that quarks are made of vibrating, wiggling strings of energy that are unimaginably small.
According to Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist educated at Harvard and Oxford, "If an atom were enlarged to the size of the solar system, a string would only be as large as a tree."Greene goes on to say, "Just as different vibrational patterns or frequencies of a single cello string create what we hear as different musical notes, the different way that strings vibrate give particles their unique properties, such as mass and charge. For example, the only difference between the particles making up you and me - and the particles that transmit gravity and the other forces - is the way these tiny strings vibrate. Composed of an enormous number of these oscillating strings, the universe can be thought of as a grand, cosmic symphony."
According to String Theory, what appears to be empty space is actually a tumultuous ocean of strings vibrating at the precise frequencies that create the 4 dimensions you and I call height, width, depth and time. We live in these 4 dimensions and know them well. But String Theory describes an additional 7 dimensions beyond our ability to perceive.Suddenly the idea of an invisible world isn't quite so hard to believe.Physicist David Gross of the University of California in Santa Barbara says, "It's as if we've stumbled in the dark into a house which we thought was a 2-bedroom apartment and now we're discovering there's a 19-room mansion at least, and maybe it's got a thousand rooms and we're just beginning our journey." H. Williams