Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Green Cheese

There is a Scottish proverb, “Ye ne'er see green cheese but your een reels,” that my husband often quotes. Don’t ask me to translate “een reels” as I have no clue. The saying is about being covetous – seeing what someone else has and wanting it. The whole phrase has been shortened in our house to simply saying “green cheese”. It tends to be me that sees Joe with something and saying, “Where’s mine?” He points at me and chants “Green cheese!”

At work Joe completed a series of tests that led to him getting an ECDL qualification. The European Computer Driver’s License proves to an employer that the holder can use various Microsoft applications effectively to a certain standard. I think these kind of qualifications are always being superceded by something new – but getting the certificate also means you get a little credit sized piece of plastic. It is blue with a circle of stars on it. When Joe wafted in front of me I had a green cheese moment!

It just so happened that the school were able to negotiate a deal for ECDL training. The local authority was willing to pay all the costs for the materials, and tutors and the costs of sitting the tests. I thought it was a good deal. We have 35 hours of personal time that we have to account for every year and although I can easily fill 35 hours, not everything I do qualifies as “the” 35 hours. Marking doesn’t qualify, developing new units doesn’t qualify – anything that you normally do in your capacity as teacher doesn’t qualify! It has to be something that enhances you professional skills.

Well, I thought it would be a stroll in the park. I am fairly computer literate! The famous words of a song come to mind here – Frank Sinatra – “I did it my way”. It turned out that “my way” wasn’t “their way”. The end result might be the same but I got their by a different route. It was all about jumping through the right hoops in the right order. I admit that along the way I have learnt things that I didn’t know before, but much of the stuff was familiar – except maybe for databases which I found the easiest to do as it was entirely new to me so I didn’t have to unlearn any bad habits.

Upshot of it all is my certificate and my little blue card arrived in the post yesterday! I can now drive a computer all the way across Europe!

I was reading Numbers 31 this morning. The Israelites sent 12,000 men into a battle against the Moabites or the Midianites. 12,000 men returned at the end of the battle. They lost no one along the way! They made a point of giving an offering to Moses to give to God because they recognised that their victory had nothing to do with them – it wasn’t their weapons or their training that won the fight, but Gods’ goodness towards them. I just want to say thanks to God for helping me to get my ECDL certificate!

I see a fire burning...

I frequently lie awake at nights and wonder why my husband does not wake himself up with the volume of his snoring! Sometimes it can be quite loud! I suppose that I should not have been surprised when the thunder storm last night didn’t wake him up either. It wasn’t just the grumbles and rumbles that you sometimes get, but really loud cracks and snaps and crashes. It was really loud! But did the man even stir – not a bit!

It seems an automatic response for me to start counting when the lightning flashes. Divide the number by four and you can calculate how far away the storm is. I never managed to count further than five! That is one and a quarter miles away. The lightning was just flashes in the sky. The noise was much more impressive! I actually thought about going outside – not just to take the washing down from the line, but to lie on my back on the grass in the playing field and just watch the show! Then the thought of being zapped and fried like an egg did not appeal!

When I lived in Cyprus one of the most stirring things was to watch the lightning over the Troodos mountains. We lived far enough away not to hear the thunder part of it, but the lightning was really spectacular. It was not just flashes of light, but proper forks and things. It wasn’t just plain, boring white either, but rainbow colours of light flashing and illuminating the clouds.

A number of years ago, someone brought a prophecy over me that God’s lightning would fall on me. I would be spiritually zapped and would be energised to do what God anointed me to do. Holy Ghost fire blazing through me – that kind of thing! I also remember singing a chorus at the time – “I see a fire burning…I see a nation turning..” The idea was of God’s revival fire hitting us and blazing with purity.

At the time I had recently watched a nature documentary about lightning. The film makers had slowed down the film, frame by frame. Just as the lightning from above struck the earth, there was this small fork of light coming up from the ground. The lightning coming down didn’t just land anywhere – it touched the lightning that was going upwards from the ground! The light from the ground was generated by the activity of positive and negative ions in the ground and the lightning from above was being attracted to it! There was nothing random, in a sense of where the lightning would strike – it struck where the ground was generating the ions. The ground was generating the ions in response to the ions being generated in the air!

When Elijah built his altar and placed his bull upon it, and then doused the sacrifice with water, the bible account tells us that the lightning fell. The fire consumed the bull, the wood, the water and even burnt the stones. The fire fell in a very exact spot. It was as if Elijah’s faith and fervour were like those positive and negative ions building up on the earth and God’s fire was attracted to it. God is always attracted to our demonstrations of faith. The greater our demonstration of faith is, the greater His display of glory is.

I was musing about this prophecy about being zapped by Holy Spirit fire. God impressed on me the need to generate the spiritual ion activity in my heart – the negative ions being a total hatred towards sin, the positive ions being a whole-hearted pursuit of righteousness. Not either one – but both. Too often I embrace the pursuit of righteousness in my Christian walk, but too often do not take as harsh a stand of sin in my life than I aught to.

I am wondering now if I ever experienced that lightning bolt that was prophesied. Just because someone speaks a word does not make it happen. These things need to be coupled with faith to bring them into being. The very fact that I am wondering makes me think that perhaps I never did. I am sure that people struck by lightning don’t forget it! Maybe all I ever settled for were the rumbles and grumbles of thunder, but I never managed to generate enough ionic activity to attract a bolt of lightning!

That was then – some ten or more years ago! Hmm…it is amazing the things that come to mind when you are cowering underneath the covers as the storm rages outside the house!

Monday, July 24, 2006

When God is silent

I had been keeping an eye on the Open – the golf tournament that Tiger Woods won. The very first day, Tiger was paired up with Nick Faldo. For some reason or other, the radio commentator was very impressed that the two of them were smiling and chatting happily as they walked the course and potted their shots. It seems that some hatchet of other had been buried. One would imagine that if the two if them were not seen to be talking, the conclusions drawn would have been about continuing hostilities. It seems to me that the two of them could have been enjoying a companionable silence enjoying each others company without the need to talk!

Silence does not have to mean enmity. But how do we react when God seems to be silent. I know that present day theology seems to be sure that God is always talking and if we can’t hear Him, the problem lies with us, some hidden sin perhaps, or a gluey spiritual ear. I am not so sure that God is always talking!

Between the writing of the Old Testament and the New Testament there were 400 years when God was silent. There was a whole lot of books written during this time that did not make it into the Bible, but they are a collection called the Apocrypha, which appears in some versions. They don’t carry the same authority as the Bible. Silences happen.

A friend of mine was sharing with me earlier on last week that she has been going through a season of God’s silence. It is distressing her as she knows that she knows God’s voice and she can’t think why He would be so silent. Rather than feeling that she is receiving sparks of revelation, life is very much flat and her Christian walk has become a lonely path in the dark. She is becoming discouraged but holding on.

There is something Christian mystics call the 'Dark Night of the Soul'. I read about it in a book I found in a second hand bookshop, “The Celebration of Discipline” by Roger Foster (?). God seems to withdraw and stand at a distance. A person hasn’t done anything wrong so it isn’t linked to sin. The author made the point that it is an experience not to be avoided because there is a deeper blessing that comes with it. He also wrote that it was an experience not to be dissected and examined or reasoned about but simply lived through. Another friend described it like “a father who is trying to lead his child further on by walking ahead of it out of sight.” The child doesn’t understand what the father is doing, or enjoy the experience.

The author made the point that in our generation things like silence and solitude seem to scare us. When you think of communication today –everything happens in thirty second sound bites. We surround ourselves with noise and do not know how to live in silence. We don’t teach our children to sit still anymore!

I posted the topic on the FW message boards. Here are some the comments made:-

“Sometimes the greatest boost in our relationship with God comes in the form of a dry and barren land that seems to have no reason. It causes us to question our faith - a faith that may have become more formulaic than vibrant. We go through the motions without coming to the event with prepared hearts.”

“Sometimes when God seems to be silent, He may be dealing with us about an aspect of our lives that He wants us to trust Him with.”

A comment that really resonated with my spirit was this one:-
Sometimes when we are low or can't feel Father with us, it's time to go outside of ourselves and do service for someone who is in need. Just the act of doing compassionate service for another fellow child of God brings us closer to Him.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A restoring touch

I noticed it yesterday, but last night I had a proper look! Do you know that in the story of the Prodigal Son, not once does the father speak to his youngest son? He doesn’t say anything as his youngest son ups and leaves for the bright lights of the big city. He doesn’t say anything to his son when he turns up on the doorstep covered in rags and smelling like the pigs he has been living with. The father speaks to the servants to fetch things and to prepare for the feast, but to his son he says nothing at all! He doesn’t say, “Hello, son – it’s nice to have you back.” or “I forgive you and reinstate you as a son,” or “”Hmm.. it may take a while before I can ever trust you again, but let’s be patient.” He says nothing. I love words – spoken or written and in this story, for the younger son, there are none.

In one of the first year units at school we explore a whole series of lessons on symbolic actions. One phrase that we talk about is “Actions speak louder than words.” In the story of the Prodigal son there are plenty of actions. The embrace that the son receives when he comes home is awesome.

I wrote a story about Jesus’ encounter with the man who had leprosy. Rather than just stand at a distance and say the words, “Be healed”, Jesus touches the man. I thought so long and hard about that touch. I didn’t want it to be a light touch on the shoulder as he spoke, so I described an embrace. Here it is..

“There was nothing tentative or hesitant about his touch. He raises me to my feet and wraps me in his strong embrace. I inhale the clean smell of his robes and feel the roughness of the fabric against my cheek. The sun glistens off the pale hairs on his arms. I can feel his warmth seeping through his clothes and through my rags. Long forgotten sensations cascade over me as I stand enfolded. Just as the open sores of my leprosy break and bleed, my heart breaks and my hurts bleed out. He holds me close as I am drowned in a torrent of my pitiful and wretched tears. After a while I am still. I hear his heart beat in the peace after the storm. And we stand.

I am restored”.

When you are on the receiving end of a touch like that, no words are needed. Words perhaps would just dilute what you wanted to say. A cool hand shake, or a pat on the back that accompanies the words, “Glad to have you home, son,” pales into comparison. Give me that embrace any day!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Lost Son 2 - The sequel

There are very few characters in the Bible that get the full story – a beginning, a middle and an end. Take the rich young ruler, for example. The last you hear of him is that the walks away from Jesus, sad because his riches mean too much to him. You don’t find out how perhaps two or three years later, it really hits him just how poor he really is because he is not with Jesus. Perhaps he gets around to selling all that he has and ends up church building in Ephesus! You just don’t know the ending of the story because the bible account stopped mid-way!

I was thinking about the story of the Lost Son this morning. It is just a story. There was a real rich man that walked away, but the lost son was just a character in a story. Even so you don’t really get the next episode in his life either. What happened the day after the party? Or what happened two months later on? Living back on the farm – after a while did it slip back into habit and routine and the longing for freedom return? Did he and his brother become reconciled in the end or was there always tension?

Musing this morning, I believe that his experience of the misery and horror of the pigsty coupled with the unqualified forgiveness of his father coloured his thinking from that day forth! I think every day he woke up almost expecting the smell of the pigsty and when he opened his eyes to experience his father’s abundance, joy just flowered. Each and every day!

He had been so far away from home. He had been so unfulfilled. He had been so empty. He had been so lost. What he was then – it was like someone else’s life. Now he woke up in a house where his father lived. He is given tasks to do that affirm his worth as a son, but also as a human being. He is full – is physical appetites are being met, he knows that he is loved and wanted. I believe that he found his soul when he returned home.

Psalm 90 begins “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born, or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” The lost son discovered that his dwelling place was with his father.

I want to wake up in the mornings, not forgetting that my existence before I knew God was pretty much a pigsty experience, and remembering now each day I open my eyes to experience his abundance. God is my dwelling place. God is my joy.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

No lily floating on still waters

Do I look mean and aggressive or something? Do I have a face like skelped backside? Do I go around muttering humbug? I am beginning to wonder!

I went to Blue Flame last night. I no longer add the “prayer meeting” part of it as it doesn’t always feature prayer. There was a mixture of praise and worship, and prayer and prophecy. I felt somewhat intimidated when everyone bar one man arrived with guitars. I got offered the use of guitar and encouraged to “bring an instrument” next time. I began to wonder if I had gate-crashed the worship practice instead. I respectfully declined the offer of a guitar and explained that I wasn’t a musician. If I had been more “on the ball” I would have said that my voice was my instrument – and I never went anywhere without it!

The worship was excellent. There was one guitar player who was just awesome. What he played was prophetic – that is the only word I can think of. It wasn’t a specific tune, or a rhythm but stirring stuff that just came on in waves. It reminded me of being on a beach, and watching the tide come in – it was a wave of sound. It prompted me to be very still and soaking in the peace and tranquillity of being with God.

I really enjoyed the worship. I have to admit that it seems very unfair that they get at least four guitar players in their church where we have two – an unequal distribution of resources! But it is more than the music. The heart and the intimacy were there too.

After a time of worship we began to pray. Maybe it is because of Patricia King and her intercession prayer course, but I am aware that I pray differently. I think I am more aggressive in my prayers. The content and delivery is so different! I don’t seem to pray nice prayers, with nice words and nice sentiments. I pray like a seasoned warrior – like I am in a battle! They are fighting words!

One very big problem for me last night was the volume. We were in a big room, high ceiling and everyone prayed in such quiet tones – it was really quiet and because I honestly couldn’t hear what folks were praying I couldn’t add my “Amen”. I know that my ears are not functioning well. I have tinnitus – ringing in the ears – and there is constant noise that I have to hear above. There are some people that I have given up trying to hear – they speak too quietly and I can’t hear them above the ringing that is there already. I wanted to say “Speak up!” If I had to explain about the ear thing I might have had to fend off offers to pray for my ears and I know that my faith level is not there!

Words of prophecy were spoken over people – me included. The first comment – which I think was spot on – was about finding God in the quiet places, by the still waters. I am so aware of the need to simply “be” and not be concerned about what I “do”. That really did register with my spirit. I am busy and involved in things and time spent in quiet can only do good.

The other words were mostly based around the recognition that I was a warrior, dressed in armour and heading out to the frontline. God was dressing me armour, that was highly polished and that I wasn’t green behind the ears but a seasoned fighter! I went with the weapons of worship! I liked that! The first speaker immediately came in with the warning not to replace the battlefield for the still waters – the quietness was essential for preparation for the battles!

A final word that someone walked across the room to say was that I shouldn’t take things so seriously. I should lighten up and have fun with God! I know that I have heard that one before. I wasn’t told to giggle this time! This “fun” thing – why do people suppose I don’t have fun? What is wrong with being serious? What is “fun” about fun? I think it was Tozer that rote once that faith is a serious thing, not something to be casual about. I am not a miserable woman. I hope I don’t look miserable! There is deep seated joy within me that maybe doesn’t erupt out of me in giggles. Maybe I do forget to smile. Maybe I do sound serious. I want to learn to tremble before God like Isaiah did. There are enough gigglers and funsters. Why do I have to be another one? I enjoy my walk with God. Yes, God does tell me to lighten up on occasions and not take things so seriously – but I am not a giggler!

What has this got to do with lilies floating on still waters? Well, later on in the evening as everyone got their time on the hot seat a picture was given about a young woman. She was like a huge white water lily floating on still waters. That was how God saw her. On the tip of my tongue was a riposte which if I had been with people I knew well, I would have said. “How does she get to be a water lily floating on tranquil waters while I get to be dressed in armour and marched out to the front line? Why can’t I be the water lily? I didn’t say it! I have no answer to that one – except I think I have tried tranquil and gentle and I prefer the frontline!