Category Archives: WHOO! Jesus!!

He understands

I’ve had times in my life before, when I’ve been struggling-struggling under over-full schedules I self-imposed because I thought that to be spend my time usefully, I had to be busy, or struggling with fear of nightmares that haunted me, and haunted me, and hunted me down, or struggling for next to no reason at all, with loneliness and a weary acceptance of defeat: a weary acceptance of the idea that not only was I not really loved, but that I couldn’t be loved, or was fundamentally unlovable; even acceptance that I was completely replaceable: it ultimately didn’t matter if I was alive or dead.  I even contemplated (as a possible career decision) somehow going off and becoming a hermit, so if I was alone, it was by choice. …I even thought for a while that if I couldn’t be loved, I’d rather be feared and thus surrounded by loyal minions than completely alone! I’m not sure to what extent I believed it, but I thought it!

Amazing, and laughable isn’t it, seeing this array of weird, mostly self-imposed struggles all in front of you at the same time? Not that I believed each of these lies all at once, or that  I wanted to believe them…but I thought, looking at the evidence in my life and the world around me, that these were true.

I knew that God loved people, but somehow I couldn’t extend that to me. I knew that my family loves me, but it seemed kind of obligation-based. Biased reasoning lead to wrong beliefs, and wrong beliefs lead to biased reasoning.

But are you sure you’ve never thought something similar? Are you sure how you view yourself is consistent with the truth? If you’re sure, I challenge you :). (I won’t challenge you to a duel, because that would be silly). But I challenge you to look at your life, and all your relationships. I challenge you to listen.

As for myself, I can guarantee that I still have some munted beliefs about who I am or what part I play in the world. It’s not like I found some magic “I’m suddenly awesome” pill. But as soon as one such false belief comes to light,  I have someone who listens. I know I have someone who understands. And more than anything else, I have someone who loves me, and not only wants to help me, but has the power to help me change, and know the truth, and be free :). His name is Jesus.

The cool thing about Jesus is that he’s always here. He’s never too far away to listen, nor to distant not to want to give you a hug. And he’s always the annoying, but oh so necessary guy who is willing to ask questions, and challenge you, and nag you a little bit so you know the truth.  And he’s always (often annoyingly) right! Always! :). But he asserts this all lovingly, of course. :). Do you know him like I know him?

When a battle is won, the people laud the victorious general, but when prayers are answered in situations where God orchestrates human activity, people only see the pawns.

I suppose that could be read in multiple ways: to call down the general population, or the general atheist population…but I find myself convicted. Do I see God’s movement? Do I see how God answers prayer in my own life, and in the lives of those near me? And do I appropriately laud the general?

It’s so easy, especially when I myself am the pawn in question, to celebrate human endeavour, human virtue. But I know I get two different sets of marching orders each day. I get my orders from on high, and I get the counter-intelligence, the decoy orders from…the other guys. I like to think I’m wise for picking the right orders. I like to think I’m oh so accomplished, and oh so disciplined to carry out the orders. But the truth is, for a soldier, discerning which orders come from HQ, and following those orders are just part of the job :).

I am a soldier in Jesus’ army. I may not bear physical weapons (in fact, I intend not to), but I bear spiritual ones. Every prayer is  a powerful weapon, able to bring strongholds tumbling down. :). I follow orders because Jesus’ army is the only one capable of leaving new life, instead of death in its wake.

The question is: where do you get your marching orders? On what basis do you choose to follow them?

Everyone is a soldier.

Universal Religion

I bet you’re wondering what this post is getting at, already, aren’t you? 😀 Because not everyone has the same beliefs, and not everyone professes the same religion, right???             All in due course.

You see, language reflects people’s beliefs-there have been some influential psychologists historically, actually, who believed language determined thought.  https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Sapir%E2%80%93Whorf_hypothesis.html So if there’s a word, or turn of phrase that comes easily to your tongue, you can infer that (whether explicitly or implicitly) you believe in it-or that it means something to you.

This argument could open up an interesting can of words if I were talking to people who swore a lot.

But in the meantime, I argue that a large proportion of people-possibly even all- believe in or worship one thing in common.

Luck.

“I’m so lucky”; “Oh, bad luck”, “Good luck!”; “I’m fortunate that…”…

These ritualistic greetings, and almost codewords reflect a belief in an impersonal force, beyond our reckoning, that turns the world to our advantage, or not. Some believe they can influence this force-that doing certain things will change your luck. Walking under ladders, smashing mirrors, killing spiders…even cutting your toenails at night! These behaviours and beliefs vary from culture to culture, but the core is pretty consistent.

Now, having made you put your back up a little bit, I’ll put it up a little more :).

You see, luck doesn’t equate to probability, which can be measured, and which has mathematical laws governing it. Au contrare, luck is seen to be a fickle beast, unique to each person or situation. Almost as if, say, people were using it as an excuse for lack of skill on their part, or lack of effort. Or almost as if you were trying to make the world a more pleasant place by hoping it would be (for some light, extremely repetitive and amazingly sincere reading on that belief, feel free to pick up a copy of “The Secret” sometime. Then burn it.) The thing is, walking under a ladder does make it more likely for it to fall on you. The thing is, smashing mirrors is a great way to get fragments of glass everywhere. Possibly in you. Let alone the fact that the owner may be a bit miffed (especially if, say, they were the kind of person to whom mirrors are very important).

But the fact is, probability is not determined or influenced by luck. The stars aligning reflects more about how you tilt your head than it does your future, your past, or your personality. Amazing as it may seem, if you randomly select a group of people, you may get a group with the same interests, even the same name, randomly. Because that’s how randomness works. Sometimes statisticians use semi-random sampling just so that they can’t get those crazy random patterns.

And I’m not saying that there isn’t a God who does do stuff. But any god that really is God, wouldn’t be magically swayed by you saying certain words, or have to give you a bad day if you accidentally squash a spider. A real God-the real God in whom I believe-is bigger than all that.

And the thing is…The real thing is, if you don’t believe in luck, don’t follow the religion! Don’t say the codewords. Don’t obey the rituals!

And for goodness’s sake, please think about what you say!

🙂

Image

(Image from http://animal-backgrounds.com)

 

Feel free to comment below. Or argue :).

Unsent letters

I’m a bit of a fan of letter-writing. So after “Up & Go” Student Life conference last year, I decided to write letters to the other girls in Wellington Student Life as a way of “catching up” but more importantly, encouraging them in their walk with God. Even girls I didn’t know so well.

Many of those letters never got sent.

The thing was, I could be meeting up with a person that day to give them the letter, or standing right in front of the postbox, or their letterbox, and start having these thoughts: “It won’t be relevant to them…they’ll just think it’s weird…it’s just going to offend them, saying that…it really doesn’t matter anyway…who do I think I am, saying things like that?…it’s just going to remind them of something they wanted to forget…what a load of rubbish, who’d want to read that… … …”. Not a few got scrapped at the writing pad!

And the thing was, that I don’t think like that. I may be a bit of a cautious person sometimes, but not so pessimistic and afraid.    So, not expecting them, l took these thoughts seriously.

Apart from on days when I didn’t. And I just went ahead and posted it, or embarrassedly handed it over.                                        But here’s the key thing!! : I noticed that the more doubtful I felt about a situation, or a piece of writing, or a letter of encouragement…then the more good it did! It was a direct correlation!! Interesting, huh?

So I know now…and, ironically, I am encouraged by this. The more doubt I feel, the more I grit my teeth and keep writing.

  • Because I know that the enemy doesn’t want glory to be given to God…so will try to stop this happening.
  • The enemy doesn’t want you to be encouraged, or your walk with God to be strengthened.
  • He doesn’t want people to hear about the Good News, or the hope we have!
  • He doesn’t want people to hear the truth!
  • And finally, he doesn’t want us to be happy.

So, there you go, spiritual warfare 101. And believe it or not, this is the tame stuff.

One thing you should know, is that no matter what, if you are glorifying God, if you are obeying God, if you are building the Kingdom of Heaven, is that there’s someone out there who doesn’t like that and will try to stop you. Be encouraged.

So today, I asked God for truth…

It’s amazing how out of everything I study, maths, of all things, elicits the greatest emotional response. SO today, I was feeling really really stupid. Not the “I made a silly mistake” kind, but the “I can’t believe I’m the only one who doesn’t get this and WHY does the lecturer keep looking at me?” kind. 

…In any case, I was shoving unjust accusations of stupidity down my own throat (who needs bullies when you can do it yourself?)…so l asked God to shine a bit of truth into my day:

About five minutes later, on the way home, I was marching up my hill when I saw the sky: dark clouds skudding past, and two clouds in lovely peach lit by the dying sun. They formed a picture: a bird flying out of two cupped hands. It was beautiful. And those hands were really realistic. I walked home a bit in awe.

And then I came home to a pile of Christian books on my bed. This was pretty fascinating, as my household’s not hugely Christ-friendly. Turns out they were set aside so as “not to brainwash anyone not already brainwashed”… so yeah. But they’re really good books! Solid teaching on the TRUTH. 🙂

God has a beautiful sense of irony.

A beautiful ability to use anything that is done-whether done well or badly, whether done for His son Jesus, or against him…for good.

There is a picture I one day want someone to paint, in colour, for all to see.

The best I can do is paint it for you to imagine :).

Consider a rock, turquoise and spotted white, roughly squarish, about the size of your shoe. Seamlessly it fits together with others, each with different shapes, colours and sizes. Running your fingers between stones, there are no chinks, no grips, no footholds. Each stone fits perfectly here and only here, in this wall, this part of the building.

It is an old, yet timeless building. It has grace and character. It is beautiful.

Now look wider, and see that the building is filled with light! And the rocks filter the light, so the building is lit in some places more than others-simply as some gemstones are more opaque than others, and some more translucent. So the building is filled not only with light, but with light of all shades and all kinds. 🙂 It’s pretty.

And this building’s foundations dig deep into the hill on which it stands. Unchanging, solid, unshakeable.

Towers and turrets, domes and bridges and balconies, buttresses and windows- a bit over the top maybe, but it works. 😀 Don’t you love that? And at the highest point of the highest dome, there is a rock which holds that whole dome together- the cornerstone.

Now this building is the temple of God, his dwelling-place; that light, the Spirit of God, which floods the temple, and the cornerstone, our saviour, Jesus the Christ.

And we (Christians) are the rocks which make up this temple. We do not have to become uniform, clay, ugly. But God takes us and uses us as we are-with all our quirks and rough edges! And we each have an irreplaceable place in his plans!

->Ephesians 2:19-22

This is my picture. Can you paint it?

Recently, I’ve been praying for God to help me to trust him. Then suddenly I got an email from my Japanese teacher. It was for a scholarship to Japan! But l got the email on Monday, and the deadline was Wednesday!
…What the Lord does to make me trust him.

最近、神様に祈っていた、’主に信頼して助けてください’。それから、急に日本語の先生にメールをもらった。日本に行き奨学金のために!でも、月曜日にメールをもらって、締め切りはその水曜日だった!
。。。主は私が彼を信頼するために何をするか。

Following the lead

I like ballroom dancing. Most of the time (but not always) I’m “the lady”, so I’m pretty good at following a lead. It’s great when someone has a strong lead, ‘cause it’s easier to trust that they know what they’re doing, and easier to “see” what’s going to happen next. (Of course the “seeing” is a lot easier if I’m used to the person’s lead, too). If they have a really good lead, I can manage most dances fairly well without any idea what I’m doing!

But I know that if the guy doesn’t lead well, or doesn’t know the dance, I start leading. This is all well and good if my partner’s fine with it. But some aren’t…and well, it takes two to tango.

Preferably two who aren’t fighting to be in control every step of the way. That gets messy, the fighting. Feet stood on (with heels!), shoulders wrenched, really sore arms, sometimes a sore back/neck…and that’s if I don’t trip up (or trip my partner), or bump into every other couple that’s in our path, or the furniture, or the walls. Because, between the two of us, direction’s a little bit questionable.

And in knowing all this, I know I have a little problem when it comes to following God.  I suck at following His lead.

He knows what He’s doing. He knows how to make my life into a beautiful dance-into a work of art. But I can’t seem to help trying to seize control. And I can’t seem to help trying to figure out what’s happening next. … every time I seize control, I’m demonstrating a lack of trust-saying I have a better idea, or that I know the dance better than Him; I’m changing direction, probably so that someone gets hurt.

And the dancing isn’t so pretty. And I get sore. And resentful-I wish that I could just bend the world to my will…but as you know, that simply doesn’t work. Knowing doesn’t stop the wishing though.

This is a matter of trust that (should just) get easier with practice.

SO, ladies and brave, brave gents! Let’s practice dancing with Jesus! He’s a forgiving, patient teacher, and a wonderful dancer, who never errs. Let’s trust Him with the lead!

It’s an exhilarating experience.

And I can’t wait to see how the dance turns out in the end. ^.^

Story of my life

I have two testimonies to tell, a lesser and a greater. The lesser is less dramatic, not that it’s had less impact on my life.  I’ll tell the lesser first.

I’m the youngest in my family, the youngest of six. This is crucial. As a little kid I was lovely and gullible, so these siblings of mine ended up teaching me a whole bunch of lessons…usually the hard way. They persuaded me into things, and tricked me into things, and generally taught me a lot. But what I can really thank them for is driving me towards God. How, when they don’t believe?

Well. I loved singing. But I really either sucked at it, or had an annoying voice (I’m not sure which). Anyhow, through their various discouragements, I became really shy of singing around them. That only left school choir, singing when I was completely alone, and church. When nothing else attracted me there (especially in junior school when there was no choir), church was the place where I could go to sing.

Again, I loved dancing-had never been taught, apart from at school (ballroom), but I loved it. I was auditioning to dance in this musical, and they asked me to just dance to the music-how??! So I just…closed my eyes and danced. …fine enough, I thought, but I was in a very few seconds so soundly mocked for it by my family, that for many years I simply couldn’t dance unless it was ballroom.

And the last, was emotions. When I was little, I felt I couldn’t challenge my siblings (apart from the next youngest-we fought all the time). So I would just shove aside any anger or frustration, and it accumulated. One day, at my dad’s house, my other brother was teasing me about something (I forget what), and I snapped. I yelled at him for a long time-strings of abuse made of every horrible feeling I could remember having had about him. I yelled until it had all been said. And he looked hurt, attacked, defeated. In some ways, it really restored his humanity in my eyes. He asked me to promise never to bottle up my emotions again.

So I took another, equally destructive tack. I denied its existence. And I grew like a stone, thinking that to be strong I needed to discard anything-any emotion- that made me weak. I didn’t express emotion-apart from anger and violence and this amused face- and so I stopped feeling it, for the most part. I worked on an amazingly short fuse, and lashed out at anyone or thing that I could get away with hurting-mostly my friends. I was my own worst enemy, really. I convinced myself that the reason no guy I liked, liked me, was because I was impossible to love, and totally unlikeable …so I stopped liking guys, because it was a futile endeavour … I had trouble believing compliments-I took them as veiled insults… and (apart from my Mama) I never really believed that I was loved. I was a ball of painful contradictions.

At Parachute a couple of years back, the first of the chains fell away. It was the last morning, and someone lead us in a prayer-looking back, I think it was the prayer to receive Christ-I found myself crying-I hadn’t cried in years- and, what’s more, in public! I was able to feel again. What a painful blessing! I could feel other’s misery, but I couldn’t feel my own joy because I still didn’t believe in it.

Volunteering as a kids’ camp leader at El Rancho last year was a huge gift to me-I can dance again! I can sing! I’m not amazing, but the fact that I can do so, as an expression of my emotions even, for fun even, is amazing in itself.

But the biggest one was 2011-my last year of high school. I “went out” with someone-I just wanted to know him better. I was fond of him, but felt nothing stronger.  He, on the other hand, liked me a lot-but I didn’t really believe it. In the end, I dumped him, horribly. But I still wanted to be friends. How screwy is that? Anyhow, he was really hurt. It was this hurt that made me believe him. I could be loved. I don’t know how worthy I am of love, but it’s possible.

And you know what? It was only then that I really, really started believing in- not just brain belief, but with emotions as well, about Jesus. But how screwy was I that to believe in God’s love, I had to experience human love, and to see that, I had to hurt someone. And that’s the really sucky thing about us: we hurt each other without meaning to, all the time. Equally though, it’s an amazing thing about God: He can turn even our horrible nature, and horrible deeds to good.

So that’s my most obvious chains stripped away: The ones that people could see straight out, if they were really, really looking.

 

My greatest testimony though, is my greatest trouble. It’s where I’ve prayed the most, and where God has changed me the most.

Let us begin with the nature of reality.

Things in the world seem and are. But what seems to be isn’t necessarily what is-take visual illusions- and how one person perceives the world is shaped by their own biases, preconceptions, and experience, and so is quite different from how another sees. So what seems and what is is quite separate: Thus, I believe there to be an objective reality, separate from our own perceptions.

So basically what I’m saying is that when I say what is real, I tell you honestly what I believe to be real through the lens of my life: you can, and will, see it however you wish through your own, unique lens.

When people sleep, they usually dream, but most of the time people don’t remember their dreams. But in the dreams they do remember, they usually can’t tell that they’re dreaming. I’ve done a little research, and there are some clues-most commonly, ways to “reality check” differences between dreams and reality.

I’ve tried keeping an eye out, but the “reality check” idea doesn’t work for me, since everything, during my dreams, seems perfectly ordinary and reasonable, or rather, it all seems so real. I’ve had very few dreams where I realised I was asleep.

But what’s so special about that? My dreams seem real to me, and so, to me are as real as waking life. Thus, I have died. Been attacked by the ones I love. I have been chased. Laughed in the face of death. The number of nice dreams I’ve had is still truly negligible, even though the ratio has started evening out a bit. So I know what it is for all of these things to happen, because I experienced them all.

And I can say to you: Fear of death is worse than death itself. God may send you tests in your life, but any fear or panic you feel is not part of those tests. Those feelings are not from God. They are traps.

Strange and horrible dreams you can get used to –I no longer feel fear in my dreams. But until very recently – (at a christian winter conference in 2012) when, after a ridiculously long string of them, and some avoidance of sleep on my part, a couple of guys prayed with me about it)-until that prayer I woke from these dreams to fear. Sometimes after a string of these dreams I tried to avoid sleep-to avoid waking, or at least to make myself so tired that I wouldn’t remember my dreams.

Hell is seeing God as unreachable, in His absence. Hell is reliving to yourself, with no hope in your heart, the worst experiences in your life, the worst choices. Hell has no rest- like waking from a nightmare, and unable to forget, and not tired enough to sleep dreamlessly, unable to sleep at all. Hell is eventually forgetting about hope, and about love, and peace, and every good thing, and knowing only the agony of their absence.

So in some ways, my friends, waking had been to me something very like hell. I was at Strive surrounded by people who would want to know-want to support and care for me- yet, waking, I felt so isolated from them that they really felt like they were in a different world.

That is my testimony. I can say truthfully that that is the area in my life where God has helped me the most-the area that needed the most help.

You can choose to believe, or choose to doubt, but I tell you, I am often surprised when I wake up, to still be alive, to wake up at all. So I marvel at small things-warmth and light and the expressions on people’s faces. I enjoy life “maybe a little too much” and strive to show others, just for a little while, what it is to think, to experience, believe, and to live.

Mostly people can’t even take it past “what if?” Mostly people think I’m a little crazy. But so what? Aren’t we all? None of us lives the objective experience. None of us sees the world as it really is, so how can we really judge what is crazy?

I would say this is the end, but I’m still breathing. And as every breath of mine is something to marvel over, my testimony, my witness to God and His amazing “ness” is not over.

So we think we are the knockers

So we all think we are the knockers. We stand around this hermitically sealed cell, pounding at it, trying to find cracks and openings, and painting doors on it in the hope that maybe, just maybe, wishing, or talking or thinking about being in there will make it happen. Like magic. Maybe.

That’s what we think, anyway. And in this cell, the secrets of the universe. Riches, youth, health, life, happiness…guarded by a tremendously wise (maybe senile) and extremely old man, or maybe a woman. There’s a general consensus about a beard, anyway. So we keep rapping at the window and tapping at the door (the one we painted. Keep up.)

And inside this cell, unbeknownst to us, this guy is looking at a chain, never-ending and hopelessly convoluted, a chain of cages.

He tries to open them, but their inhabitants rail at him to go away, cling to the gilded cages of their prison cells. The very bars are precious to them.

He tries, and tries. He suffers in the trying. So he does a thing completely unexpected.

This guy-not so very old-looking, by the way, for all his white beard, does something incredible, impossible. In the very midst of these tangles of metal, he places a man. A child is born. A man created from nothing, and borne by one as enslaved as the rest of us. His genetic code would be very interesting, I expect. At least we know his blood is red.

How do we know this? This man lives among the cages, but never within them. Everyone he meets tries to impose a cage upon him, a few bars at the very least, but he declines, and continues to walk among the cells. Finally, a cage is thrust upon him, black and sick, and wrought with pain -a cage bare of gilt, but made instead, of death. That’s how we know the blood is red. He steps into this thing willingly, this night, this hell of hatred and badness and lack of hope.

And, calling out to the one who made him, he escapes this cage. Escapes and destroys.

And he walks between the cages again, invisible until he is at the door-for someone who can deny death can easily deny sight-he comes to every cell in turn and knocks. Politely, gently, and keeps coming back. Most don’t hear his knock. Some do. And some even let him in.

And he comes and eats with them. He leads them out, into the wide hermitage, and the cages vanish, blown, crushed, burned and washed away, not a trace remaining.

I’d like to say we rejoice as soon as this happens, and keep rejoicing.

The truth is that we mourn for the lives we’d lived.

But soon we find ourselves knocking with him, on the doors of other cages. Because pity for others still trapped as we once were. Trapped by their own doing, fills us.

Because these people build their own cages, and build cages for each other.  They lovingly craft locks too. They spend days and years on bigger, better, shinier…bars.  And they forget about the door.

Only when they hear this knock do they remember that the doors exist…do they realise that they can come out, and that others can come in. That locks and bolts, and bars and chains do nothing good.  And only then do they realise that they don’t need their cages anymore.

They come to live in the hermitage with the old man -after all, he’s the one we’ve wanted to know so desperately since we began.

And in that cell is fellowship. And the old man with every secret. And the greatest of these secrets is his love. The best-kept too.  Because the world bars it out. It’s not willing to accept its existence, this true, pure love. But the name is kept, and because it carries some good “ness”, is kept to label lesser things.

And in rejecting this love, the world misses out on the freedom it brings, to those who live with the old, bearded man in his cell.

All the world is in his cell, but they don’t know it.

So, when I knock on your door, hear me. When I call you by name, hear in the air I breathe, the breath itself, a life that is purely given, not one jot of it earned. And join with me in welcoming he who denied, overcame, and destroyed death. Let us walk away from gilded misery, and towards peace, and hope and joy. Let us walk together.

I have one last word to speak to you. You’ve heard it before, and will again. But hopefully this time it will mean something to you.

Hopefully, even just this once, you see it truly is everything. And I mean that. I believe it. It is all.

Love.