Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quick Word: Angels

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

The other night some friends and I got talking about angels and demons – not the Dan Brown book but the real deal.  Although, that depends which friend was doing the talking!  One guy didn’t believe in any of it, especially Satan, yet another shuddered at the mention of that name which in her opinion is better off not said out loud.  Some friends were right into the idea of some other world of spiritual beings fighting it out or hovering around us like so often seen in Hollywood movies.  Maybe you can identify with some of these reactions as I bring up this topic this morning.

Hearing everyone talk reminded me of how often we think of a spiritual world, full of spiritual things, spiritual concerns and spiritual beings, and then our world – physical, full of physical concerns and physical beings. The spiritual world might come into our world, but in the form of guardian angels outside our door or spirits whispering sinful ideas into our ears.  I’m not discounting these things at all, but what if the spiritual world comes into our world through a much more basic level – through us, through me?

All this makes me think of a story my grandmother would tell.  About to head out as a young woman, alone, on a German boat just before the war she clung to this promise in Exodus chapter 23 verse 20 –

“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.”

She couldn’t have needed that angel more than when she left the boat in Cartagena, suddenly surrounded by shouting, pushing taxi men, speaking in a language she couldn’t understand, attempting to get her into their taxis.  During all of this a couple, passengers on the boat who she hadn’t met before, approached her and the wife asked if she would like to spend the day with them.  She agreed, thankfully, and as she hopped into their taxis the women turned to her husband, saying ‘This is my husband.  Jimmy Angel.”

The Angel’s were to go on to discover the Angel Falls on the Vezuelan border and my grandmother went on to be a missionary in South America, telling this story.  And so I go on with my morning wondering how God might use me, spirit and body, in this world today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick Word: Reaching Out

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

I once had a silly argument with a friend and I decided it was her turn to sort it out.  I wasn’t going to call or text or make contact until she did.  I like talking to my friends though so I wasn’t very good at it.  After a day or so I gave in and rang up and do you know the first thing she said?  Aha, I win!

The Barenaked Ladies sing a song called ‘One Week’, it starts like this -

“It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said "I'm angry"
Five days since you laughed at me saying
"Get that together come back and see me"
Three days since the living room
I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you
Yesterday you'd forgiven me
but it'll still be two days till I say I'm sorry.”

I don’t know about you but this is often my default position when I have a problem with someone – I wait for them to sort it out.  But when I was reading Romans 5 I was reminded that God’s example is the opposite – he reached out to me, he didn’t sit back and wait for me to ‘come to my senses’ or ‘grow up’ or ‘stop being so stupid’.  Romans tells us that –

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5 v 6 – 8).

I often wonder what it is to be like Christ.  Here’s a place for me to start.  I can be like him and reach out to people in my life, even when they don’t like me, even when they are wrong or mad or unwilling to change.   I can do it, because God did it first for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quick Word: A Year of Baby

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

The story goes that in 1976, musician Cat Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of California.  In that moment he turned to God and shouted: “Oh God! If you save me I will work for you.”

Steven’s says that right after this cry a wave appeared and carried him back to shore. So he looked for God - he looked for him in Buddhism, Zen, I Ching, Numerology, tarot cards and Astrology and finally landed on the Islamic faith.  Of course, as a Christian I doubt whether that is what God intended when he saved him.  But the story reminds me of how people turn to God in the big moments of life, near death or other tragic circumstances.  How often in the movies do we see someone pray ‘God, if you save her I’ll be better, I promise’?

How different this has been from my own experience this year!  This month my daughter turned one, my precious baby who has, in this year, changed my life and who God has used each day, in the mundane enduring moments to shape me into a more Christ-like Christian.  It hasn’t been the major event of her birth which has changed me so much as the daily act of loving, caring and responding to her.  God has shown me that there is a reason patience, gentleness and self-control are Fruit of the Spirit.  I have discovered I need God every hour to be a decent mother and this has then turned outward as I see what has been true all along – to be in any real, lasting, loving relationship with anyone I need God.

God has shown me this year that I can be better than I imagine.  I have a choice.  Every interaction with my daughter I have a choice.  To ask God to help me; to choose to be the parent he wants.  Or to go on instinct, tradition, feeling. And I have discovered what has been true all along – that I have a choice in all interactions, actions, speech and thought.  I can choose God or my selfish will. 

This year I have cared for another person, another child of God, in a more intimate, exhausting and time-consuming way then I ever have before.  And God has used each day of it, often mundane, often grinding, to lead me to a greater knowledge of him; a greater love for him.

You don’t need a near death experience to be changed by God.  You don’t need some tragedy to turn to him.  Look for God today in whatever circumstance you find yourself in and he will be there.  He will always be there, right by your side, guiding you back to him.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Word: Learning Love

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

I’m usually quite happy to do a little baking, for this and that, so it wasn’t really surprising when my mum asked me to bring a chocolate cake to a family lunch a few weeks ago.  I said yes readily enough, but by that particular weekend I couldn’t see myself making anything but takeaways for dinner, let alone baking a cake.  I started making some mutterings to my husband about buying a cake instead when he surprised me by saying he would make one.

Now, it’s not surprising for A to offer to help me, but in nine years of marriage I had never seen him bake and I’d just assumed he couldn’t.  In fact I probably assumed he would rather do anything but baking because, though he cooks, I’ve never seen him particularly enjoy it.  But no.  He’d done plenty of baking as a kid he informed me and he threw himself into it with enthusiasm making a really silky, beautiful cake.

It was all I could talk about for the next few days.  Of course I talked about how good the cake was but also how – even after a while of being together – he can still surprise me.  There can still be things that I don’t know about him, mostly because they have never come up or because I’ve never bothered to ask.

How true is this in our relationship with God?  I personally don’t think, even after a lifetime of relationship with God, that we could get even close to fully knowing him – which means we should always be learning, always discovering and even from time to time being really surprised.  Afterall, the disciples lived with God here on earth in the person of Jesus, and still constantly were astonished by him and what he did.

“Who is this man?” they ask in Mark 4 v 41 when Jesus controls the elements in a storm.  Later, just after watching him feed five thousand people in Mark 7 they are still totally amazed to see him walking on water.

My challenge however is to want to be surprised by God – to want to know him more then I do now.  Sometimes it seems easier to live with God in the box we have made him then to live with the dynamic creator and giver of all that he truly is.   It is awesome to have strong theology and to know what you believe, but we need to make sure that even then we are searching to know God the creator and not being content to live with a God we have created.