Finished reading Blue Like Jazz last week. It was great. Honest. Authentic. Spiritually it felt like taking a very deep breath. It left me feeling proud to be me and excited about Jesus. I can be quirky and awkward with people sometimes. It reminded me that thats ok though. God made me the way he did. He loves me outrageously just as I am. He’s immensely proud of me. I know that. What about other people though… will they ever be as accepting…?
This bit made me smile:
I don’t want to get married right away. I think it will take me a while after I meet the right girl. I like being single. I am one of the few who like it. I want to marry a girl who, when I am with her, makes me feel alone. I guess what i’m saying is, I want to marry a girl whom I feel completely comfortable with, comfortable being myself. I can be very immature and awkward in moments, and I want to be able to be like that with her and not have her walk away or be embarrassed.
I’ve had about fifty people tell me that I fear intimacy. And it is true. I fear what people will think of me, and that is the reason I don’t date very often. People really like me a lot when they only know me a little, but I have this great fear that if they knew me a lot they wouldn’t like me. That is the number one thing that scares me about having a wife because she would have to know me pretty well in order to marry me and I think if she got to know me pretty well she wouldn’t like me anymore.
Donald Miller – Blue Like Jazz (p142)
Disney’s old school robin hood. Its a special special film. Seriously. 83 minutes cuteness and carnage. Love it. Anyways, in the middle of one of the more carnage moments (above) Little John chips in with “Who’s driving this flying umbrella?”. I’ve adopted it and made it synonymous with God’s sovereignty over my life. When things seem out of control and I feel pressure to keep up, it gives me a light-hearted way of remembering that Gods got a far firmer grip on my life than i’m able to appreciate. I may make certain active choices in my life but its God who determines my every step. Continuing along these lines, i’ve been read this recently. I thought it was interesting.
Even before his birth, Jacob’s future had already been determined by God. There was nothing conditional about the promise. God simply decided that he would bless Jacob. No matter what he did, no mater where he roamed, no matter how hard he hustled, the blessing was waiting for him. As simple as that promise was, Jacob could never understand it. That is because he kept thinking the future was determined by the decisions of the present. The blessing claims, however, that the present is determined by the future.
We live in a society that bombards us with choices. We can choose whom we will love, where we will live, what we believe and how we will spend our time. Our government lets us choose our leaders and our politics. Our churches let us choose our worship styles. Our families let us choose what we will do for a living. It is easy for us to think that all of these choices are critical for determining our future. If we make good choices, then our lives will turn out fine. And if our lives have not turned out as we dreamed, we have only ourselves to blame. That is why Jacob hustled through every day of his life. He was certain that the only way he could get the future he wanted was to make the choices today that would lead him there.
The bible claims that is exactly wrong: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” God has already written the end of your story. By grace it ends wonderfully. There isn’t anything you can choose to do that will make it end any better. If you know that story ends well, then the only choice that is really left is to enjoy the mystery as it slowly unfolds. That is the path called faith.
M. Craig Barnes – Hustling God (p21/22)
The Carina Nebula from the Hubble telescope. Although part of the milky way like us (aka our relative back yard) its estimated at being between 6,500 and 10,000 light years away (light travels at 186,282 miles per second-ish incase you’re interested). That seems quite far. To put it in context though, the region of the universe visible from Earth is a sphere with a radius of about 46 billion light years, and the universe itself is quite possibly infinite apparently! That’s fairly insane… and makes me feel pretty small in comparison.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Every now again I attempt creativity. Chills me out when I get fed up of thinking. I’m calling this attempt “Arthur’s seat from Blackford hill”. Cryptic. I know.
In scripture God consistently blesses us with the reminder of our finite nature . We’re likened to dust, like grass that withers, like flowers of the field that spring up, beautifully, but briefly… and quickly gone and forgotten. Psalm 103:14-16 says:
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
I love the perspective on offer. We are fragile and our lives are short-lived. It puts us in our place and makes God look rightly massive. Personally, it serves to take the pressure off and reminds me not to take myself too seriously. Being “dust” makes us anything but useless though. Applying a bit of divine creativity God formed Adam from the stuff! Similarly, in His hands, our potential is limitless! Amen.
Went for a walk last week. I love Blackford Hill. Edinburghs amazing.
A few more photos:
Thanks for making it fun to be a Newcastle fan again.
I skipped church last Sunday morning and went for a wander instead.
I read more of a book i’ve been reading, I thought and prayed, for a good while I simply sat there, not thinking, not waiting for anything particular, simply being, and losing track of time.
I believe prayer is everything, I need no convincing, but its tragic how easily I can get develop a bored and lazy attitude towards it, being subtly persuaded to believe that for the most part we can get by alright without it. Foolishness. A few paragraphs I read that morning (p71) brought back some perspective:
The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. It doesn’t matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father’s.
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, “My house shall be a house of preaching”?
Does it ever say, “My house shall be called a house of music”?
Of course not.
The Bible does say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Preaching, music, the reading of the Word – these things are fine; I believe and practice all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God’s dwelling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than on ten of my sermons.
Faithful Father, forgive me for my pride and the foolishness of my self-sufficient and independent spirit. Cure my blindness, open my eyes, convict me of my sin and of my need for you. I’m sorry I forget so easily Lord, teach me to fear you.
A few months ago my pastor recently asked a group of us to come up our “5 rules for life”. Some people liked the exercise, others didn’t, some found it easy, others more difficult. Personally I enjoyed it and found it really got me thinking. 5 wasn’t enough but I managed to keep it down to 7. Naturally everyones were different, for me they ended up focussing on my particular weaknesses. Anyways, the 7 I settled on were:
1. Always pray, always praise
These are non-negotiable essentials for me. I need connection to God. Sin is inherently self-focussed but praising draws me out of myself and lifts my eyes, to behold something much bigger, far more glorious and beautiful. I was created to praise, I guess it makes sense to make a point of doing what I was designed for. Its not all about me – helps keeps things in perspective.
2. Just do the right thing (especially when it hurts)
One of the most God-glorifying opportunities I have. This is where the rubber hits the road and the world around us sees our faith for what it really is. For me when its hard to do the right thing, its all the more important that I do it.
3. If God speaks, believe and obey – don’t get stuck on the why
I like to feel in control. God offers me wisdom, insight and instruction for every circumstance. The question is do I trust in his wisdom and love for me enough simply to obey without my needing to fully understand why? Do I believe that he truely knows best… enough to let go? Always a challenge.
4. Never base a decision on fear. If in doubt, do it
I am a recovering coward who desires to love better. 1 John 4 paints a clear picture that fear and love cannot exist together. Subconsciously fear paralyzes me given the opportunity and so i’m always striving to recognise how the devil would use it against me to hold me back. It requires me to be brutally honest with myself and my motivations, knowing I exercise courage in the face of fear, not in the denial of it. My perogative is inaction over over-action hence the “if in doubt do it”.
5. Destroy idols ruthlessly, show no mercy
Idols are awful things, promising satisfaction and fulfillment outside of God. Our hearts covet many many things. In Psalm 86 the psalmist prays for an “undivided heart”. I ask for the same. But as God faithfully reveals to me the idols I worship (and they get everywhere!), I must fight against them, fighting always to de-throne myself and to allow God sovereign reign over my heart.
6. Why not me
I can often find myself thinking stuff like “Why should I have to do that?”, “Why me God?”. In sin my heart demands its rights relative to others. However, if I instead turn it round and ask myself “Why not me?”, “Why shouldn’t I do it…” I can have no complaint given what Jesus teaches about serving. I can never serve enough. Another bad tendency I have it to quickly disqualify myself and deny my gifts and abilities. My pastor suggested I should take “why not me” as a reminder not to.
7. Don’t worry, you’re not here forever
This is one of my greatest comforts. Don’t get me wrong, I love life but I groan with creation in longing for perfection. Heaven is up ahead and so even when life can appear to really suck, I can lift my gaze to the horizon I can joyfully slog it out while I wait. Its my inheritance and where my hope ultimately lies. Nothing else will last. Ultimately, its all good! :)