Monday, November 28, 2005

The revealing nature of storms

At the weekend, I treated myself to a writer's magazine. I suppose that deep within there is a desire to not just improve my skills, but also to widen my horizons. I am conscious that most of my work tends to have a spiritual bias. There are very few things I have written over the last couple of years that I would label as secular!

One of the tasks that one of the writers set was to look at a newspaper and find an article that could inspire you to write something. There was a lovely little story about a disappearing scarecrow. It had gone missing from its usual place, only for the farmer to find it scaring crows in a field a few miles away. I like that and I will have to sit on that particular egg and see what hatches!

The other article that caught my eye was about recent storms unearthing the remains of ancient skeletons on a island in the Outer Hebrides. Hurricane force storms tore across the Isle of Barra revealing an infant and an adult skeleton. It made me think about the revealing nature of storms! Storms have a tendency to strip away things that are not firmly rooted, or nailed down - whether that be soil or trees or the shed roof. I know I said I would try to be more secular - but this just lends itself to a spiritual point!

It was the storms, the wind and the rain beating upon the two houses in Jesus' parable that revealed the nature of the two houses. Had there been just sunshine and gentle breezes, the house that was built on sand would never have fallen over. The poor quality of the foundations would never have been revealed. The house that was built on the rock would not have fallen over either - not that it did anyway - but the builder would never have known the strength of his foundation. It is in the storms of life - and I have been through a few - that the quality of the building is revealed. The quality of my walk with Jesus is clearly demonstrated when I go through difficult times. As much as we don't like trials, they are good for us, as they test and prove our faith to be strong.

It was the storms, the wind and rain beating upon the fishing boat, that caused the disciples to wake Jesus up and ask him to save them. Had there been sunshine and gentle breezes, the boat would never have been in danger of sinking. There is a tendency to think we can manage all by ourselves, that we are experts in certain areas of life and that we don't need help. It took a violent storm for the disciples, some of them seasoned fisherman, to realize that they were out of their depth and in need. Without the storm, the disciples would never have known that Jesus was stronger than the storm they faced.

As I look back over some of the "storms" that I have faced, I am not always sure I like what they reveal about me. The foundation is solid, but I think a few of my windows get broken, and one or two slates fall of my roof!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Footprints in the snow

I woke up this morning to a world of snow! It is much colder than I would like it to be. I am also much colder than I would like to be! I remember one year of snow needing to walk to the shop to get milk or bread or something. Either it was the days before we had a car, or the days when the snow was so deeply settled, and my confidence not so. Not being so tall, it can be a real trial ploughing your way through snow. Someone esle had been that way, and I thought that rather than forge my own path, I would just step where he stepped. He didn't take the mincing little steps that I do - no ambling for him. I found myself really stretching from print to print. It was an abnormal stride for me. Quick as a flurry of snow, the Holy Spirit said how much he longed for me to stop my mincing little steps of faith, and my ambling and start striding out in my Christian walk. What was an abnormal stride to me, was his natural pace. If I maintained it, it might also become my normal pace too!

Faithwriters topic this week was "Winter". That incident came to mind and I wrote a poem.

Footprints in the Snow

Winter snow, a crisp cold blanket
Covers all in glistening white
Trees bow low with branches heavy
Bathed in yellow morning light

All is silent, sound is smothered
Still the air, with peaceful calm
Here I walk with careful measure
Captured by the winter charm

Someone else has walked before me
Steps like stains upon the snow
Dark and deep, they mark his passing
On the path, his route they show

I begin to fill his footprints
Treading out to walk his way
Step by step, my pace is stretching
Matching stride I aim to stay

Tall this man with legs extended
In his steps I move so slow
Always striving pushing forward
His, the way I choose to go

Picture this, my walk with Jesus
His own steps I make my own
Onward pressing, forward slowly
As he makes my pathway known

In step with him, always trusting
Faith so small will surely grow
As my walk grows ever closer
Joy complete I’ll come to know

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The West Coast of the Periodic Table

I am not one who sees magic in the Periodic table like chemists and physicists do. To me they are just letters and numbers.

Last night, on my way home from work, I was listening to a radio programme about the periodic table. The presenter likened it to a map and talked about the “west coast”, the line of elements that are on the left hand column of the table. He talked about potassium being just south of sodium.

Then he told an interesting tale about the two elements. Apparently they look very similar and they have about the same atomic weight. It could be easy to mistake the one for the other with quite disastrous results.

Apparently someone had been carrying a sample of potassium in a bottle. After transferring it, or using it – I might have been negotiating a tricky corner in the car at this point as I don’t remember what he did with it – he bought the empty bottle back to the lab. Thinking to clean out the bottle, he turned the tap on and filled the bottle with water.

The bottle exploded, fire shot up from the sink and set the curtain alight. Clouds of black stinking smoke filled the room.

He thought the bottle was empty. It certainly looked empty, but apparently wasn’t empty at all. Just the tiniest sliver of potassium had reacted with the water and exploded. It seems that potassium reacts to quite a few things, and reacts explosively! I think that it is one of the ingredients in fireworks! It is also in bananas – which will make me treat them with a bit more respect!

Has the sample been sodium – which looks very similar and has a similar atomic weight – no amount of water would have caused a reaction.

To the untrained eye, sodium and potassium may look alike, but they behave in very different ways.

Christians and not-yet Christians may look remarkably alike! They may live in similar houses, have similar jobs and incomes, or similar hobbies and interests. Both may take an equal concern in current affairs and be into voting at elections, buying organic produce and recycling empty bottles and cans. They may even both be earnest church members and give generously.

I like to think that genuine Christians, those with a vibrant relationship with God, are like the potassium – reacting negatively to the presence of sin, and positively to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Touched by the presence of God they blaze with purity and passion! The not-yet Christians are perhaps like the sodium. They dwell in the presence of sin and perhaps even accommodate it, giving little sign of the awareness of the presence of God.

Sadly, sometimes Christians forget how to blaze. Maybe they loose a few essential spiritual atoms and protons, and end up as something less potent, less reactive, more accommodating – less like who and what God has called them to be.