Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quick Word: Love and Its Failure

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

(Note: Some of my regular readers may recognise some of this quick word for a post earlier this year 'Child of Mine: Bye Bye Baby').

I was reading an essay recently called ‘Bye Bye Baby, on Mother Guilt and Poverty’ by Abigail Stone.  In it she opened up a world to me of complex love and failure.  She loves her daughter; but failed her too.  She failed her child because as a mother she was young and poor and stupid and selfish.  But not because she didn’t love her.  Not because she didn’t have dreams for her.  In the essay she reflects on her daughter, an adult now but with so many problems – a daughter who can’t stand being with her mother, can’t stand her own body.  And she looks back, feeling so guilty for her mistakes, so overwhelmed by her love. 

It is a powerful essay. It reminds me that failure in relationships doesn’t mean there is no love.  Because you could reverse this story – make it about the love of a daughter, me, for a parent, God, and I would be the one who is too stupid and selfish, the one whose love is mixed with failure. 

The Bible records a story much like this one – the story of Peter.  He loved Jesus - passionately, wildly - but he fails him, abandons and denies him.  And what does Jesus do?  In John we see Jesus meeting Peter and asking him ‘Do you love me?” 

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

And Peter, we are told in Matthew, this man who loved but failed, is the rock upon which the church is built.

What a story, what a hope!  I bring a complex mix of love and failure to my relationship with God but he cares only for the love, and has provided a solution for the failure.  Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quick Word: Crawling Christians

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

My daughter is ten months old and is discovering how to move.  She shuffles along on her bottom really well but I’ve read one too many parenting books which have scared me into insisting she crawl.  After all, how else will the left side of her brain know about the right side?!  Most people laugh at me about this, others are appalled, but I continue preserving with it encouraged by one thing – I think she really wants to crawl.  Sometimes she’ll just throw her face and arms to the ground and then let out a cry of frustration that her legs haven’t miraculously made their way behind her.  On her tummy she’s pull her legs inward with palms punching the ground, willing the middle of her body to rise up, letting out a screech when she slides backward instead of forward.

And I guess that’s what’s surprised me – how frustrating it is for her.  She somehow knows what she should be doing, but knows she isn’t doing it.  She tries and tries and I have faith one day it will happen, but it hasn’t happened today.

Watching her brings to mind a less physical, but still very real, struggle which I face – the struggle to be who God wants me to be.  Like Paul I “want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7 v 18b and 19).

I frustrate myself when I know I should be kind but can’t bring myself too.  When I set everything up to have a positive day but fall into moaning and gossiping.  I must look to God like my daughter looks to me.

But here’s the thing – I have faith in my daughter.  I believe she will crawl, and then walk and then run. We talk about faith sometimes as if it is a one way thing – we have faith in God, yes, but God also has faith in us.  Faith that we can become more like him.  That we might choose that.  And just as my daughter has everything she needs to learn how to crawl I have everything I need to become like Christ – I have his very Spirit.  And so do you. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick Word: 'Team Paul' Anyone? Anyone...? v 2

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

In the tv comedy drama, Gilmore Girls, the small town of Stars Hollow wasn’t celebrating when the local inn keeper, Lorelai, and the diner owner, Luke, started dating.   They were worried about a future break-up so when it came they were ready with a plan – coloured ribbons.  You wore a pink one if you supported Lorelai, a blue one if you sided with Luke.  The main street shops were even decorated with large ribbons showing their allegiance. 

It may be fictional but it’s not far off reality – remember the ‘Team Jen’ and the ‘Team Ange’ shirts which shot to fame after the break-up of picture-perfect celebrity couple Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt? 

At least Lorelai and Luke, Jen and Ange, had people on their side.  People to care for them through the pain and support them.  We need that, don’t we?  That’s probably why my heart breaks to read about Paul in Second Timothy – facing death and imprisoned, someone who cared for so many seems so alone.  He tells Timothy that “everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes” (- 2 Timothy 1 v 15).  It seems only one person has been willing to face the shame of being associated with him – but thank God for that man! 

“May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family,” Paul tells Timothy, “because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.”

- 2 Timothy 1 v 16-17

Onesiphorus it seems was the only person wearing a ribbon for Paul, the only person willing to buy a ‘Team Paul’ shirt. 

Relationship breakdowns are messy and they affect many more then the two or more people involved.  It’s easy to see this with romantic relationships but it’s just as true with friendships, families or churches.  If you know someone who is suffering through something like that today – maybe a pastor who is no longer welcome at his congregation, a friend split from her husband, a son no longer talked to by his parents – think how you might be able to reach out to them.  Visit and encourage them, without judging how they’ve ended up in their current situation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quick Word: Change and New Things

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I read somewhere that the average family has a revolving repertoire of around eleven main meals.  If you try a new recipe (and the family likes it!), it goes on the list but something will generally fall off so that the meals you cook change but the variety of meals stays around the same.  Is this true for you?  I think it’s totally true for me.   Caesar Salad drops off the once-a-week menu when the weather turns cold and stew makes a come back.  If I find a new soup recipe the old soup favourite drifts away.  (There are of course favourites which never change – I don’t think I could make it through life without spaghetti bolognese for example!)

But for me, it doesn’t just happen with what I cook, but also with other areas of life.  I only have a certain amount of time, energy or attention to go around so if I decide I’m into knitting, the photo album I was working on begins to languish, stuck in 2009 when I last updated it.  Realising all this – about my cooking and about myself – has got me thinking about how this affects my spiritual life. For example, I’m big into spiritual journaling, but I’ve started to do some private worship at home and I’ve realised I haven’t picked up my journal for ages. 

There are so many things we can do to enrich and deepen our relationship with God, but we, well most of us anyway, probably can’t do it all at once.  I think it’s natural that at times the Holy Spirit might lead us into something new; but hopefully there will be a few favourites – prayer, scripture reading - which always stay on our repertoire.

So don’t despair if you find change in your life means that some things aren’t getting done anymore.  Remember the often quoted words of Ecclesiastes 3 -

1 For everything there is a season,
      a time for every activity under heaven.”