Monday, December 17, 2012
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I don't know if you've ever read the Greek myths? When I was at school I loved reading them. The gods, heroes and monsters make fantastical reading. They lead you on stories of glory and wonder. As a kid, he goriness of lot of them caught my attention too!
In one story there is a group of creatures called the sirens who lived on an island. Women that sang so beautifully that every man who heard their voices would steer their ship towards them. They'd wreck thrir ships on the rocks of the island and the sirens would feast. Grizzly stuff I know. But one hero had a plan. His name was Odysseus and he decided that when he and his crew were drawing near the island, they would put wax in their ears but tie him to the mast. As they passed the island, he would hear their singing but would be safe. So as they passed the island the sailors kept rowing and Odysseus heard the rapturous singing. He strained against the ropes and screamed at his crew to untie him, but they kept rowing. As they rowed away and returned home though, Odysseus realised he had survived the Sirens but had lost his heart. He was burned out inside, hollow.
This is me. I've been captured and enthralled by all sorts of things which may have entertained or satisfied me for a while, but have left me hollow. Burnt out and empty. These things are not enough. They don't fully satisfy me. What's more, I can't run from them. I can't ignore them as they pass me by. I give in and let my mind think about things which aren't helpful, use my time in unhelpful ways.
I am drawn to hese things because they capture me.Yet all I end up doing, if I'm being honest, is dash myself on the rocks of these things. I allow these things to feast on me. I end up broken and empty. Consumed.
But there was another Greek hero, whose name was Aeneas. Like Odysseus, he had to pass the island of thr Sirens, but he didn't try to restrain himself, hold back & stop his ears. Instead, he brought with him a group of musicians. As they drew near the island of the Sirens, he ordered them to play the most beautiful music they could until they had passed the island. The result was that Aeneas and his crew were so transfixed by his far more beautiful music that they weren't interested in the Sirens' calls. In light of this new music, their calls turned to screeches and cries for the men to come back. They survived the island of the Sirens with their hearts intact.
This is also me. I've got another choice when the noise of things around me threatens to devour and empty me. I can tune in to a more beautiful music which doesn't just drown out the other noise, it captures me. It fills me and warms me. This new music moves me to be satisfied in nothing less. It becomes as if the volume on this old noise has been turned down so it becomes nothing more than white noise. In engineering terms, the frequency in the soundwave has been filtered out. It has been far surpassed by this new, rich and enrapturing music.
This music keeps me whole.
This music guards my heart and enables me to become the person I was meant to be. Jesus enables this in me. His good news is this more beautiful music. When he world tells me I'm not good enough, his more beautiful truth reminds me that I am perfect in Him. When I'm tempted to watch or look or listen to things I know will be unhelpful, will empty or devour me, He reminds me that he is refining my mind to be something So much more beautiful. When people make me feel wretched, betrayed or useless, Jesus' more beautiful song reminds me He will 'never leave me, nor forsake me', and that His strength is enough for me, and that my hope is entirely in Him.
Like Aeneas, who chose to listen to more beautiful music in the midst of the sickly sweet song of the Sirens, I can choose to listen to the more beautiful song of my loving Father, the one who chose me first (not the other way round) and chooses to call me His son. A song which reminds me that I am His, that he loves me deeply, that he went to the ultimate length in giving His son up for me.
This song of His drowns out the noise around me. It drowns out temptation, it drowns out the lies of my worthlessness and low self-image. It roots me in the one thing that does not change - Jesus' love for me. It fills my ears, tunes out the noise and satisfies me fully, while preserving and even warming my heart.
Some days I choose to listen, and let the more beautiful music fill my ears. If I'm being honest, more often I listen to the noise. It is familiar to me because it's what my sinful nature knows best. But I also know now, through God's goodness and mercy, that His more beautiful music satisfies me like this other noise never can.
He wants my heart, but not to feast on it. He wants me to hear this more beautiful music 'that drowns all music but its own', and feast on Him.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Lest we forget
Blood red flowers fill the scene
Where brave men fought and died for me.
That through their sacrifice, unseen,
I might live a life that's free.
Free from rule of dark, cruel powers,
Free from their hard tyranny.
Free to know through Flanders' flowers
I'm not locked in to slavery.
Reminded of a Father's love
That gave His Son to die for me
A single perfect sacrifice
Upon a bare and ruddy tree.
They gave their all, and most their lives
To buy the freedom we enjoy.
They chose not 'I' but 'them' instead
And lived that out to their great cost.
Oh Flanders' fields, your poppies sway
Deep rooted in earth, washed dark red,
Each day may we know freedom's kiss
And remember still, lest we forget.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Oh sweetest adoption
I was once an orphan child
Alone and unawares
Of what it meant to be
Loved by a father who cares
I wondered what this could be
To know a father's hand
But I stood amazed as he loved me
And made these lame feet stand.
For you came to make me yours
Your dear and cherished child.
Oh sweetest adoption
To know my father's love
Oh sweetest adoption
That Abba I can cry in love
Oh lovely adopter
You now call me yours
Oh beautiful Jesus
In thanks I give my all.
I knew not adoption
Nor my father's love
Til you revealed to me
Your lovely son.
He came before
And loved me first
He poured himself
And quenched my thirst.
Oh sweetest of saviours
My Lord and my King
Oh sweetest of saviours
My soul's everything
Oh sweetest of choices
You chose me first
Oh dear sweet redemption
Your gift, Lord, to me.
As you love the Son
So now is your love for me
Unreserved and full
Is your eternal love for me.
And as for inheritance
Of this I will sing,
That I am joint heir with Christ
And share everything.
Oh sweetest adoption,
When my greatest of stains
Was taken by you
As you welcomed me in.
Oh sweetest adoption,
Most lovely of kings,
My friend and my healer
Your praise my heart sings.
Oh sweetest adopter
One day you'll return
And in light and in glory,
Life's race full run,
You'll turn to your family,
With beaming dad's smile
And say 'Welcome home
My dear, full-loved child.'
Oh sweetest adoption,
My God and my king,
When they ask, who's your hope?
'My Jesus!' I'll sing.
My Abba, my Father,
My beautiful one.
Let me always remember
I'm your child through your son.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
However, when I came to uni, this 'taking Sunday off regardless of what needed doing' mentality started to niggle away at me. There were some times (usually involving coursework deadlines or exams) when I'd feasibly need to work on Sunday (usually because of dedicating too many hours to playing PC games) in order to meet a deadline. This gave the enemy a hayday when it came to my thoughts, which went something like this:
Me: Hmm, need to get that work done.
Enemy: But it's a Sunday. You shouldn't work on a Sunday!
Me: Mmm, maybe, but I really need to get it done.
Enemy: Don't do it, or you'll be letting God down! He wants you to rest, remember?
And so sometimes I didn't work, and then worried about the work for the rest of the day and ended up more stressed through worry. Or I did work, and then had a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I ought to be resting instead. Catch 22. After all, wasn't I suppose to be resting one day a week?
Fast forward to a week ago and I remembered something someone had mentioned in passing a while back. And it was to do with why God rested after creating the universe over 6 days. Part of me has always just accepted that this is 'what God did' when it came to universe creating. And as such, this was a good rule - work 6 days, take one off. Bargain, sorted. But this comment of my friend compelled me to look at it again. Here's what it says in Genesis 2:2-3
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (NIV)
The first thing that struck me was that God rests, not because he was tired (this is the all powerful God we're talking about), but because the work was finished. I am called to rest after my work is completed. As a teacher this sometimes feels like a neverending cycle - of planning, teaching, marking, resourcing etc. But God says (after creating the world, I might add), that he chooses to rest - because the work was done. The trick I think, is looking at what needs to be done, and then doing it. Not putting it off, nor procrastinating, or finding a million other little jobs to do, but to just get on and do it. And then, when it's done, rest time arrives and the second thing kicks in.
The second thing, and this part really rocked my socks, was in verse 3 where God blesses the seventh day (the time he rested) and made it holy - literally, I think, separate or 'set apart' from the working time. it is time to be enjoyed, to not work (or often in my case, think about work!) and to simply enjoy life. For me, this is time with just Cat and myself. It might be having friends over for dinner or playing a game. It might be reading a book or listening to some music. For me, this includes making things (and remembering to tidy them away afterwards!). But, I think the thing that's stuck with me most from verse 3 is that this time is blessed. Blessed to be a time of resting from all the work you've done. Time to enjoy life outside of work.
As a teacher, work-life balance is something that doesn't come easily, and really makes you think about how you prioritise your time. I value my time with Cat, my friends and family. I enjoy doing fun things. Equally, I thoroughly enjoy being a teacher. Planning helps me get my thoughts down on paper, teaching reminds me I am human and makes me rely on God that much more each day, and working with children is an amazing privilege. I wouldn't swap my job for another at the moment. But equally, I don't want my week to become 6 days of working and 1 day or rest because it's a pattern. I want to use that day of rest to bless those around me. I want to rest because in that work-free rest I enjoy life SO much more. I see God in my wife, my friends, the books I read and the view out my window. Time to enjoy life is vital and nourishing. It is just so good!
And so, as I really need to get on with my planning, I'll finish there. I now enjoy time with our church family on Sunday afternoon and work after lunch, but have Saturday as my time to rest and spend time with my lovely wife. That time is precious to me, and it means I prioritise it. Work has it's place, and now I am finding I enjoy resting more. I rest not because I feel obliged to, but because the work that needs to be done is done. And how much sweeter that rest is because of knowing the work is finished. Just like Jesus did for me. He lived my perfect life so I could have rest. Epic-squared.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Washing up or Jesus
I don't know what kind of morning routine you have. Maybe it includes a shower or shave and a calm, quiet cup of tea or coffee. You may enjoy reading. Call me crazy, I quite like to do useful things like washing up when I get up. Weird, I know. I like to start my day by simply praying up the things on my mind, Cat, her relay workers, my friends and family. I don't always manage that as those of you who know me know very well that I easily get distracted. And that's ok. I'm very thankful that I don't have to pray and start my day reading my bible to be a Christian.
But that's all as an aside. This morning I was about to sit down and chat to God when I noticed the washing up on the side. Now, I can be a bit 'OCD' at times about tidiness, which my lovely wife is very patient with. But I wanted to share the internal 'conversation' that happened as I looked at the washing up. Because I think it happens to us all in some way or another.
The OCD part of my said that the washing up NEEDED to be done. That it would be a BLESSING to Cat to have it out of the way. But another part of my said that washing up can be done at any time, and that praying and spending time with God would be better.
This reminded me of a story in the bible of Mary, Martha and Jesus. Jesus comes to visit their house and Martha busies herself cleaning the house, while Mary just sits with Jesus. Here's the story...
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her"
I realised while considering the washing up that I can be so busily 'getting my house ready'. Part of me likes to be busy, to be doing things. I find it hard that Jesus says to 'be still that know that I am God'. Not 'go do stuff', but just to 'know'. Jesus enables us to take time out and enjoy just being with Him.
In reflection on the washing up thing, spending time reading my bible and talking to God resets my crazy OCD tendencies, helps me get perspective and gives me a fresh appreciation for the sheer hoard of good things God has given me in my life - chiefly in Jesus.
Jesus invites me to sit at his feet, not as a slave sitting by his master. But as a child sitting by his father. Because of Jesus, I am God's son. And as a child, I love my dad. At times I might argue with him, but I love my dad. And sitting with him and just talking to him is just what I need. As frequently as I can!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Monday, May 07, 2012
what should I do?
He waited just one moment to reply.
"Would you enjoy me?"
"Why?" said I.
"There must be more that I could do?"
"More than my son achieved for you?"
"Well, what about the people who
have yet to know you, like I do?"
"But would they know me,
through knowing you,
if you didn't first enjoy me too?"
I stopped and pondered just a while
enough to think on what he'd said.
Could my heart be burning,
yet be dead?
Burnt out on all the things I'd said
that I would say and do?
"But what about the time I spend
reading all that I can each day,
giving myself in both work and play
to find out more in books and word?"
"Do they warm your heart to me?
Do they make your spirit sing
as the Spirit longs your soul to sing
with words that he would give to you?"
I stopped again and thought.
Though reading much, had I simply bought
self-satisfaction that I was
doing all I felt I ought to?"
"And if my heart was cold through all?"
"Then ask me to reveal myself instead.
And in play and work, in trial and ease,
don't feel like you have to appease
He walked the life you're trying hard
He lived it so you'd not have to.
No longer to tightrope walk the sense
that what you're doing's not enough,
Would you accept his life is enough for you?"
Speechless I saw his love,
clear as crystal light,
His son's life enough for me
and the helper who reminded me each day.
"It is enough," I smiled at him.
"Now enjoy me, son." His voice replied.
Sunday, April 22, 2012