Monday, August 28, 2006

All I know to do is go...

Yes, that time has come. Once again I get into a car, drive oddles of miles up the country and stay in the delights of the Qunita. Every time I manage to resist the need to buy a T Shirt from the centre declaring that I have 'binta the Quinta'. But I have been there a lot of times. Housemates have been abandoned, e-mails left unanswered, blogs unattended and although I'm sad to leave I get to have fun doing what I love, hanging out with my mates, working in a team and generally getting to see God do some stuff. I've bought my Qunita survival kit, consisting of lots of fruit, dutch blitz and new clothes to feel happy in. I've put good tunes on the ipod for those introvert moments, I've even baked cakes to provide the lovely staff team with energy. All I need to do now is go.

"But if I weren't leaving you
I don't know what I would do
But the more I go the less I know
Will the fire still burn on my return?
Keep the path lit on the only road I know
Honey all I know to do is go"
(indigo girls)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tonight we had a sermon on the epic showdown between David and Goliath. Or between a 9ft tall man and the Creator of the Universe. Our preacher man pointed out a few things about the way God does things. Which again hit the spot of my agonising thoughts over the last few months, anyone would think that someone was out there wanting to sort my head out a bit on this score.

Anyway. The first point was: God uses people in his purposes (the preacher actually didn't use that wonderful alliteration, I made that up all by myself, are you proud?). Which sounds simple enough, but is a pretty balmy thought. I mean, people like you and me who get it Oh so wrong lots of the time, he uses us. Weird. A couple of questions were posed; "Have you got out of the habit of expecting to be used for God?" and "When did you last say to God, I'm here, use me?". Hmmm. Ponder those for a moment.

The next couple of points reminded us that God is the central figure in this drama, because David puts him there. David knows his God, he knows his strength and character, and trusts in that relationship with his life. God's provision is immeasurable, God is a God who provides. A God who knows how to look after his people. We can trust and depend on Him.

Whatever the random warblings of my brain about who God is and how he works, the reality is that I am in a relationship with Him and that He wants to use me for his purposes. I give up, it's too hard to argue with God all the time. Time out, time to sit back and marvel a bit at His character. I'm sure more wrestling will follow soon but for now I give up. God works in ways beyond ours, and tonight that is going to have to be enough. I'm reassured about the way he works and his character, and the crazy grace that is kind enough to reassure me. The timing couldn't be more perfect and I head off to conferences this week with a little more certainty that the Maker of the Universe has good stuff for us to do there, people to transform, lives to change and that He wants little old me to play a part in it all. Weird but reassuring.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What about the questions that don't go away?

There are many things I don't get about God and how he works in this world. There are questions that will not leave. There are things I don't understand, especially our language that claims his work over many random things in our lives; so God got me my 2:1, God found me a parking place, God found me a place to live. The question is, if God did do these things, why? And why did my friend get a 3rd? Why do many people live homeless? Why didn't he solve the suffering in the world? Why didn't he make my mate better? There seems to be a lot of inconsistency when we talk about God's work in this world. And I'm sure many could come up with a list of responses to these questions, but sometimes we are still left with more questions than answers.

I've been reading Philip Yancey's new book on prayer, a book that asks all these questions and more, a book that makes me cry with relief as I realise that these loud, unanswerable questions are not the end of faith. But, in some way, the cries and struggles and wrestling of true faith. Having a relationship with the Maker of the Universe will lead us to these places. It's a book that is reminding me to carry on wrestling with God in these queries, doubts, incomprehension and despair.

The questions that don't go away aren't the sign of the need to walk away from this relationship but they call me to cry out more, to batter on heavens door, to kick and punch and shout, to ask with boldness, to desperately ask for more mercy and to address all of these cries to the one I don't understand. In that I hope to find out more of His character, so I can trust that he knows what he is doing. Because I don't know how to live without God. But sometimes it seems to hard to live with him.

Really I love this book because it says all the questions out loud without quickly jumping to the 'right' answers. It lets you sit with the questions and realise that their presence doesn't make faith run away. God is big enough for the questions. And in articulating them I realise I'm not asking them in a vacuum but in the context of a relationship. I cry out, 'I don't understand', but I cry out in the arms of the one who does. Sometimes that's enough.

Of course, sometimes that's not enough, sometimes that seems like a neat solution to make me feel better. And in those times the rain really does seem to be coming down too hard. In those times I stand, not alone with my weak emptiness but with the many others who are traveling this journey. We stand together in the rain, the strong, the weak, the hopeful, the despairing. We face the rain together and in that find the stronger hope in the darkness.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tea, glorious tea

It is fitting that my 200th post should be this one. Finally science can prove anything, hoorah. Tea is offically Good For You. Tea Goodness

Hove, actually.

The phrase, Hove actually, comes from the posh residents of Hove objecting to the notion that they are in any way connected to Brighton. Thus any conversation about where you might live would go like this:
Person 1: Do you live in Brighton?
Person 2: Well, Hove, actually.
This is a source of much comedy amongst some people in our fair city, when the film Love Actually came to Brighton many of the posters were changed to read, well I'll let you work it out for yourselves.

It's not just the residents that are this particular, no no. Hove has grass on the seafront, Brighton has none. Hove has a fetching deep dark green colour covering it's railings and bars, Brighton has a lurid turquoise. Hove has helpful signs under the road names reassuring you that, yes, you are still in Hove. And Hove has Heritage. Or lots of signs pointing out the interesting things about Hove. Brighton is lacking in such items. This one amuses me the most, mainly because it underlines all of the above. The first thing of importance about Hove, is that it is separate and very different from Brighton. Got it?

Now really.

Let me get this straight, I get paid to sit here at my desk and write some seminars about how much God loves, and I mean LOVES to spend time with us, and how wonderful He is in pouring grace upon grace on our lives. In that process I get reminded that it all applies to me as well, that He's taken all my sin away and remembers it no more. And I get paid for this? To remind myself and others of God. Now really.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Camper vans are SO cool

Friday, August 11, 2006

Once again, there is SO much that we don't know, there is SO much I don't get. But we cannot escape the relentless love of our Father. This world is His, He keeps and will never stop keeping us. We are safe in his covenant.

"O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be."

"I know not why God's wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy as I am
He claimed me for his own.

But "I know Whom I have believed
He's able now to save
What I've committed unto him
Until that final day

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,
I know not how or where,
If I shall pass the vale of death,
Or "meet Him in the air."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My old friend the Blues.

So, I was sitting at a Jools Holland gig last night, we were at Audley End house in Saffron Walden enjoying the fine company of many people eating posh picnics and lapping up a summers evening of Blues. The Blues has to be the best kind of music, I'm sure if my soul has a rhythm it's 12/8. You don't get much more melancholic than the Blues, or any more uplifting when it swings into a boogie; 'life is rubbish so lets dance the night away' kind of mood.

The best song of the night for such a sentiment was the delightful "Enjoy yourself" by the Specials.

"Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as you wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think"

There was plenty of melancholy as well, not this song exactly, but it does sum up everything that is great about the Blues.

"Just when every ray of hope was gone
I should have known that you would come along
I can't believe I ever doubted you
My old friend the blues
Another lonely night, a nameless town
If sleep don't take me first, you'll come around
'Cause I know I can always count on you
My old friend the blues

Lovers leave and friends will let you down
But you're the only sure thing that I've found
No matter what I do I'll never lose
My old friend the blues

Just let me hide my weary heart in you
My old friend the blues"

See perfect music to sooth the depths of the soul, and reach into the darkness of my heart and meander through my overactive brain. There were times when I forgot my thoughts and just enjoyed the pleasure of dancing with an old friend. Glad in the moment to know that whatever changes the next few years may bring we'll still be able to head off together and enjoy road trips, summers evenings watching the sunset and chats that descend to the depths and overanalyse this crazy life. The most amusing moment of the evening was watching the small child in front of us have a tantrum and go into one of the best sulks ever. We mused on how painful that feeling is, the agony of wanting attention and a hug, but the pride of refusing to ask for such unconditional love, the only thing you want in a spiky sulk is a hug and someone to tell you they love you and yet that's precisely what you rejected for some reason that isn't quite clear now.

I wanted to say, 'ah do you remember those days, the sulking days, the over dramatics of it all, and isn't it good to be past such days'. But I can't, my sulking days are very much with me, I just know how to hide it better (or like to think I do). Sulking at God is so destructive and yet I carry on, presenting the spiky annoyed little girl to Him knowing that all I really want Him to do is give me a hug and tell me that He loves me, and yet my pride, stubbornness and other hidden dark things stop me. The thing is, the sulks never lasted. When I was a teenager on walks with my family I would sulk for about half the walk, irritated, angry and stubborn, at some point on the walk something would change, it became too tiring to be spiky for so long and I would give in to all I wanted and creep up to Mum or Dad for a hug. I'd say sorry and I'd have a great final bit of the walk (apologies to the parents who were probably totally fed up with me by this point!). It's too tiring to sulk at God, raging at infinity feels like shouting at the Grand Canyon to move. Sooner or later I'm going to have to turn around, say sorry and accept that unconditional love really lives up to it's name.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Back in the UK

I'm back, and in the tired spaced out bit of being back. Yesterday was the over excited talk until you bore the people you are talking to, trying to explain experiences that you've had and trying to explain why some things are so funny, bit. Today it's the loneliness of realising that I'm back, that there aren't six people or more constantly around me to share this life with. I'm in the zone of being exhausted by a trip to Tescos, I honestly picked up an apple today and was amazed at it's shinny red skin smooth in my hand. Oh dear. I've been without sleep, vegatables and fruit for too long now.

I know this is the weird bit and that coming soon are the glad to be back with the CD collection, appreciation of being on holiday, remembering that God exists here, and catching up with friends bits. But for now look at where I was for the last two weeks.