Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fragile moments

I used to do Scripture Union, or some kind of Bible club in school. I don’t know where I picked it up from, but we did an activity that involved an assault course of mops and buckets, chairs and other obstacles.

For the first step a volunteer was blind folded and encouraged to stumble through the course. This was like spiritually blind people, stumbling through life.

The second step was for someone to talk them around the objects, telling them to move a little to the right or to the left. This was supposed to be about hearing the voice of God and being guided by Him through all of life’s obstacles.

The third step was to introduce a second voice that was supposed to tempt them to ignore God’s voice, to introduce the idea of the devil leading us astray. Whose voice were we listening to?

I had the opportunity a long time ago to try it in a church setting. It was one of those “involve the children” moments. A girl volunteered to be blindfolded, and stumbled through the course, hands outstretched, bumping into things. I couldn’t get another child to volunteer to be God, so the girl’s father volunteered.

He did something so unexpected! Instead of merely talking his daughter around the objects like he was supposed to, he picked her up and carried her around the objects. I loved it! I loved the concern he showed that he didn’t want his daughter to bump her knees anymore. He just picked her up and carried her.

There are times when I just need God to pick me up and carry me around the obstacles. It is not that I can’t walk. It’s not that I can’t distinguish His voice from any other. Sometimes it is just because I am a bit bruised and feeling fragile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What if?

What if
I had nothing
But a little oil
In a jar?

What if
Told me to do
Something ridiculous?

What if
I were to borrow
Jugs and jars
From friends and neighbours?

What if
From my jar
I could fill
Every empty vessel?

What if
With every jug filled
There was always more
In my jar?

What if
I never stopped
Finding and filling
Another empty jar?

What if
The only reason
There’s an empty jug
Is because I stopped pouring?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Scattering a few seeds

My sister, Sharon, had a dog called Chester. This was before she was married. I’m not sure what breed of dog he was – probably the usual Heinz variety. He was very lively. He didn’t walk – he bounced!

He was a stick chasing dog! However, he had a curious habit when it came to retrieving sticks. My sister would start off throwing a reasonable sized stick, and Chester would obligingly run and fetch it. If he saw a slightly bigger stick, he would pick that one up instead. He would not a pick up a very big stick – just something a little big bigger. When the “slightly bigger” stick was thrown, Chester would pick up another one that was slightly bigger than that. As the walk progressed, the sticks would get bigger and bigger, until Chester was hauling half a tree back to my sister!

The stick that Chester had started with had been abandoned in favour of something bigger each time. The stick he had been given, had been dropped in favour of something else.

In a study last night, I breezed past a verse taken from the parable of the Sower. Speaking of the good seed, it reads “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” The Message puts it this way, “But the seed in the good earth – these were the good hearts, who seize the word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there is a harvest.”

I stopped breezing and went back for a good look. I just knew that the good soil produced a harvest. Looking closely at the four conditions for producing the harvest was quite a revelation and quite convicting!

A noble and good heart

Time and time again, it is not about what you do on the outside that counts but what you are on the inside. Jesus told the Pharisees and the teachers of the law that it wasn’t what went into a man that made him corrupt but what came out of him. I ought to be more shocked at what comes out of me – in terms of what I say, or how I say it. Perhaps I ought to be more shocked with what doesn’t come out of me that should. The things that aren’t there, that can’t come out, because I didn’t put them there in the first place – that is something to consider.

Hearing or seizing the word

I often accuse my students of allowing things to go through one ear and out of the other. When I think of all the sermons I have listened to, all the books I have read, the quiet times I have spent – I wonder how much has gone through one ear and out of the other. I can remember buying a second hand book “The Bourne Identity”. I read the blurb on the back cover and decided it was my kind of book. Taking the book home to show Joe, he told me that we already have a copy and I have already read it! I argued my case – as I do, but then he disappeared upstairs for just a moment and returned holding the book we already had. My name was faithfully inscribed on the back of the cover!

To seize is very aggressive almost. You can’t passively seize something! I need to do a bit of seizing!

Retaining it, or holding on no matter what

Chester dropped the stick he was carrying because he saw a bigger one. Reading back through the story of the sower there are other kinds of soil. There’s the path. The seed doesn’t even get picked up at all. It is snatched away before it can get picked up. It is not seized. The second one is the thin soil over rock. The seed is seized “with joy”. When “the hot winds of testing blow”, that seed is probably dropped! There is nothing worse than carrying something, or holding onto something when things get hot. You want to shed things in the heat, not hold on to them. The other soil, the thistles and thorns – again the seed is seized, but later surrendered because something more appealing come along.

I think for me, the problem is not so much holding on to things, but knowing when it’s time to let go. It reminds me of the Ecclesiastes passage – a time for everything. There is a time to keep and a time to throw away.

Lying in bed this morning, God said to me that it was time to shed the winter coat. You know how some animals during winter grow a thicker coat to protect them from the bitter cold? I do something similar. I dislike winter – I miss the sunlight and I drop into a pessimistic mindset. I grab a whole load of God’s promises and I repeat them like mantras throughout the winter months, I suppose to sustain my faith. That way I don’t drop too far!

It is not winter anymore though – and I feel like I am still in hibernation. I am still repeating my mantras, instead of looking for fresh food! In the middle of Jesus’ story of the sower, he says, “You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God.” I have a back stage pass, not to be tucked away in a pocket, but to be used. God has opened the door and invited me in to come and, not just look around, but to take whatever I need for life and godliness.

Persevering or sticking with it until there is a harvest

I once told the gospel outreach team I was on that one of my weaknesses was giving up half way through. You just needed to look at my knitting basket to see the truth of that. I get disheartened when I don’t see something visible. Way back in September when I first joined Weight Watchers, I wouldn’t say the pounds dropped off – but there was significant weight loss. Nine months down the line, the body is fighting me for every pound – and winning! I think if I hadn’t paid for six months in advance I just might give in! My husband – bless him – on giving me a cuddle, told me he had discovered bones! There is not longer a layer – a very thick layer – of padding around some parts of my anatomy. It is persistence that is winning the way.

Am I persisting in the things that God has given me to do? In some area – most definitely. But I am not up to scratch in others.

Martin Luther King in one of his speeches said, “I need some victories!” – me too, MLK!

I don’t mean to write a sermon here. Just some thoughts. I have encouraged myself tremendously.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Comiplation Episode

I have been incredibly busy these last couple of weeks. There has been a plethora of things to write about, but no time to write!

One of the many things I introduced my husband to was the concept of the compilation episode in a TV series. It is Star Trek – James T Kirk is in a coma and the crew are advised to talk to him in the hope of rousing him. They do the whole “Do you remember…?” thing, the screen goes all squigglely and you get the replay of the scene.

This is not strictly a compilation blog because it is not stuff you’ve heard before! It comes close though!

On Publishing

You last heard that I had sent a selection of poems to a publisher. I received a very nice email explaining that they were not able to publish my work. It is a small publisher on a tight budget. They host a poetry competition, once a year. The winning entries are published in a small book each year.

She invited me to submit the poems into the competition. However, having read the rules, my poems do not meet the entry requirements – not the ones I had passed on to her. They are too long.

On report writing

My hearing has never been that good. My husband says that I am selectively deaf. I misheard the deadline for first year reports. I thought they had to be completed and handed into the office by last Friday.

I worked extremely hard. It is hard enough having four classes of any year for reports, but first year seem to be very difficult to do. Even with a seating plan, a name means nothing to me, unless I they are in the room at the time. I might see Chloe Murphy somewhere else in the school but unless she is sitting in her assigned seat in my room, I might not recognise her!

I got the deadline wrong. It was this Friday! Still they are all done and out of the way!

On curriculum development

My particular project this year has been to review the fourth year course – Making Moral Decisions. Lots of the information in the workbooks we produce is now seriously out of date. My job was to re-write them all and bring them up to date.

If I was a race horse I would be coming over finishing line just as the all the punters are on the way home, and the security man is about to lock the gates. Slow seems to be an inadequate word.

Suddenly there is a deadline on the horizon and I have been picking around books and sourcing DVD’s, but there is nothing really to work on. So, I am knee deep in egoism and utilitarianism, with altruism and hedonism hot on my heels! I am getting there – slowly!

On third year assessments

Nearly done! The pupils do not seem to understand the concept of “exam conditions”. They are good at the “quiet” part of it, but they seem to think it is OK to ask questions. They seem to think they are entitled to a re-wording of the question so that they know what they are supposed to write about. It doesn’t occur to many pupils that understanding the question is part of the assessment itself! “So what should I write, then?” is a common question!

And then the marking! There are one or two individuals that use the assessment as an opportunity to express their opinions, unhindered, about any religious dispute they have with me! The “hostile witnesses” let their hostility pour onto the paper. A couple of well placed “Why do I have to do RE?” type comments does not make for a pass grade.

On being creative

Once upon a time I used to knit and sew. The last thing I knitted was probably a baby cardigan. One weekend, it was a Monday, a holiday Monday, Joe and I headed up to Ullapool (the home of the fab four according to Joe). There is wonderful wool shop. They don’t sell balls of wool, but skeins. If one had someone who was willing to stand around for a while, hands outstretched while one wound the wool into proper balls – all well and good. The backs of two dining chairs sufficed.

I knitted a scarf. I admit that it ranks rather low in the knitting skills scale – but I did it. I used the wrong sized needles, but it turned out fine. I promptly wrapped it up and gave it away as a birthday present.

I bought myself some more wool. I can do scarves! Knitting is quite therapeutic!

On Being even more creative

Joe and I have been invited to a “themed” birthday party. The theme is the seventies. I was going to say that most of my seventies was spent in Cyprus – but that was most of eighties. The seventies was school. I don’t remember that far back

I googled it looking for 70s fashion trends. I remember at school, in the space of a year, a girl in another class went from wearing the shortest of mini skirts to the longest of midis.

Apparently tie dying was in. I seem to remember doing it in Brownies or guides, or perhaps in school. Joe wanted to tie dye a t-shirt, so we bought the stuff and had a go. Tying bits of string round bunched up bits of t-shirt did not make any sense to Joe, but he followed my instructions.

His is purple and looks really tremendous. Mine is yellow and looks a little less wonderful. I have some fabric paints rattling around the house, so I have decided to paint on some flowers.

I have discovered that there is a limit to which I will go in dressing up. I won’t pull out all the plugs and go overboard – well, there’s a surprise!

There is another compilation episode on its way later!