Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Messy mitts, broken bits and a face of infinite lux: a portrait of the Son of Man

Rev: 12-16 (ESV)

DoctorDave gave a lovely talk in church yesterday, starting by looking at Numbers 22-26 - especially 22-24 (Aaron's blessing) which, he says, could be read as "The Lord Bless you and keep you, the Lord be gracious to you, the Lord be gracious to you, the Lord be gracious to you, and give you peace". I found that really encouraging. I think that he has a valid point. You see the verses in Numbers 24-26 go like this:

24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 
25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 
26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

God 'making his face to shine shine upon us' is an act of his graciousness; God 'lifting his countenance (face) upon us' is also an act of his graciousness. In Exodus God says that any man that looks upon his (God's) face will "surely die", and then goes on to say to Moses that he would show his face to all Israel, but Israel were terrified and said they wanted none of that. So Moses beetled up the mountain and God made Moses's face shine instead - but even a puny human shining out just a titchy bit of God's glory made them wince and Moses had to wear a veil...

Another time, God hid Moses in a cleft in a rock and covered Moses's face with His hand as he passed by so that Moses would not die...

And yet here is God saying all this stuff about showing his (lethal) face to His people, Israel. What does it mean - what did it mean for them, and what does any of it have to say to us today, and what the bobbins have I pasted Revelation 1:12-16 up top for?

Well, bear with me. I was really struck in the service on Sunday by God's abundant Grace. (This was even before DoctorDave whipped out his scribbled scrap of paper and essentially confirmed all that I had been pondering. Jesus, you are well sneaky!) So yes, I was sat there holding my mug of tea and feeling eternally, deeply grateful for each person in the room with me, for those of the Church that were not there with us, and for all the prayers that these people have prayed for each other over the years, and of course for me too. I was humbled by the grace with which people have managed to handle some of my insane moments over the last few months, where I have gone completely off the rails, and I was just aware of a mere jot of the Grace that is just one part of God's esse

For the people of Israel in the centuries before Jesus' birth who were hearing Aaron's words of blessing from YHWH for the first time, they must have thought Aaron was mad. (As most prophets might appear to be, to be honest... Ahem!) They would know that seeing God's face would kill them, yet here was Aaron saying that The Lord was going to make his face to shine upon them, he was going to lift his countenance upon them (face to face encounter) and give them his peace. No death, no burning in the bright sun, just his peace. Shalom. God choosing to reveal himself in a face to face encounter reveals his Grace and that Grace flows from the burning Love that he has for each of us. "The Lord be gracious to you" means "I have grace enough for you to be able to see me and still live". God chose to bless his people with the offer of a face to face encounter. Why? 

I think that God just really loves being involved in our lives. Not in a control-freak kind of a way; he has no need to be a control freak because he is the beginning and the End, no other power can wrest control from him. God is content and able to just' be' with us. God wants closer encounters, face to face moments with us. That is most likely why he became flesh and walked among us in the person of Jesus. See Jesus: See God. Clearly the messages were not really getting through our thick skulls, so God thought he'd come and really get up close and personal. Not content with manifesting himself in pillars of smoke or fire, burning bushes or being squished into the Ark or left at the top of the mounTains, he thought "bugger this for a game of stratiotes, I'm going to show them that they need to be more involved with each other and get their mitts really grubby and while I'm there I'll bash a few of their heads together."  (Well, the bashing together of heads is metaphorical, not literal...) and He came into the world in humble circumstances and really experienced the fullness of life in the post-Fall world of Mankind. Not a pleasant thing. Kind of the ultimate "Back To The Floor" or "Undercover Boss", you could say...

Anyway, back to the face-to face-thing. Most of us find it better to work things out with the help of another, whether that is talking to a friend, a counsellor, a doctor, an MP or even a real person in a branch of our bank or building society... We are not meant to walk through this life on our own, irrespective of whether we are an 'independent spirit' or not - there comes a point when every single one of us will need to lean on another. It is a fact, and we need to wise up to it.

So God's desire for us to see his face means that actually we get a massive blessing, because we are able to approach him with boldness, because he says that we can, and we get to experience this Grace at first hand in several ways, starting with not dying when we look upon him. :D Isaiah says that when he found himself in the presence of God he fell to the ground - "as if dead" - and then a couple of sentences later points towards the point of salvation - when God has forgiven us everything - as being the time in which we can look upon God's face and live.

The verses from Revelation at the beginning of the this blog post describe what John saw when he first encounters the risen ChristDoctorDave read the verses out as we sat in silence with our eyes closed, asking God to show us more. What happened during this time was wonderful. The picture that most of us had already undoubtedly fixed in our minds of the white hair, gold sash, two-edged sword and bronze feet started to come to life in our collective meditation upon the words. It was like looking at a work by Dalí, and we all began to see more things in this picture: broken people, faces smeared with tears and dust, outcast, sick and dying were revealed as hiding in the folds of the garments; indentations in the garments that made it look like a cat had just got up, but also where people can go for comfort; worker's hands that had dirt under the fingernails, yet were outstretched to gather people in, and to heal; the bronze feet were stable and firmly planted upon the earth, sure and solid, marking journeys and stamping about on the earth; darkness fleeing in the presence of such radiant light and glory; people felt the warmth from the face shining as bright as the sun; people saw Goodness; others were overwhelmed by his power; and so on. 

All of the things that were revealed were just still more of God's grace in allowing us to see him a little more closely. I loved noticing the dirt under God's workman's fingernails and knowing more fully how much he is involved in all the mess of our lives - not by creating the mess, but fixing us (not via Disneyesque 'magical' clicks of the fingers) but by joining in our toil and our crawling, stumbling, walking and dancing through the Valley. I was looking at the hands that created and hold the world so lightly yet firmly, the hands that pushed mud into the eyes of a blind man and gave him sight, the hands that were wrung in grief at the death of Lazarus, the hands that were nailed to a tree. It seems easy to write out, but really, just one aspect of such a face-to-face encounter is breathtaking

All that said, however, I think that we are to be very careful in how we picture Jesus or God and how we represent that. I respect Islam's notion of not reproducing or creating an image for Allah because the argument goes that we cannot know what God looks like, so anything we come up with is never going to be wholly accurate and a very, very poor guesstimate, almost an insult, one could say. Although of course, in the book of Revelation we do get glimpses of what the Risen Lord 'looks' like in Glory (see the verses above). Of course, we also get the pictures of Jesus as a lamb, a lamp, a tattooed horseman...

For me, the revelation of Christ to John is more about God wanting to let us seek all that he is, in this brilliantly vivid technicolour piece of theatre, than it is about giving us a signed photograph labelled "I AM, heaven, year dot, Love ya, YHWH."... . Essentially the main thing is that John is transported to heaven to see and thence to reveal to us the total 'Other'-ness of God and the heavenly realms. It makes no sense to us most of the time. It makes no sense because we do not have the mind of God, but we DO have these glimpses of Christ there in sheer resplendent glory. And by looking closely at those snapshots we see more of God's character revealed. We will always learn something more, something deeper if we just open our hearts and our eyes and not allow ourselves get too freaked out by its total randomness, or remain in a state of fear at approaching the throne.

What Revelation says is that we are able to approach the throne boldly, we are invited into the throne room and to hear the angels singing and to see the face of God and not die. Revelation just confirms what DoctorDave was talking about regarding Numbers 22-26 - that God is gracious unto us and that he wants us to know that loud and clear.

So because we can see that the Lord does allow us in, and yearns for us to enter his gates with praise and to look upon his face, it does seem that this face of infintite lux is not so much deadly as just full of light, life and Love. It might seem fantastical, weird or just plain rubbish, but the truth is God, whilst all mighty and all knowing and all 'those other things' he really is also all loving and consumed by his infintite love for each and every one of us. He flung the gates of heaven open and ripped down the veil when Jesus was nailed to the cross and tore the temple curtain in two in the hour of Christ's death.

There is no separation in the throne room, because of his Grace.

The LORD bless you and keep you; 
the LORD make his face to shine upon you be gracious to you and be [yes, still more] gracious to you
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you be gracious to you and give you peace.



Sunday, 12 December 2010

Love divine, all loves excelling...

I am aware that I have done quite a lot of ranting so far through this blog (*coughing*'"I'm generally just annoyed with our - and my - 'worldly' ways" is what I heard her say'. Barney), so I figured it was about time that I actually wrote some positive words of light and life down so that you don't all think that I really am being completely consumed by darkness.

Truthfully speaking, the DMoDs are really wreaking havoc in the life of The Loris. Somehow though through it all I am finding that the one constant in all of this has been Love. Not the sugary-coated gooey sweetness of what most people think of as love, but a real deep, burning and passionate love that is all-consuming, all-sustaining and often all-surprising in the ways and places in which It reveals itself. It is the very thing that drives and gives source and space to the Universe. This Love is uncompromising and unstoppable; it challenges, melts, grows and keeps us going. The best thing is that it is no respecter of persons: it is truly unconditional.

There is nothing that I can do to deserve this Love and nothing that you can do either. This Love flows and floods around us whether we want it or not. Things begin to change the moment that we allow this Love in. And this is what The Loris has been doing of late - properly, not with the door of my heart slightly ajar and hoping that this Visitor would soon go away and leave me alone - but trying to accept it and understand how it changes everything. I have been made more and more aware that without Love I have nothing, absolutely nothing - but I have learned that there is always Love surrounding me, if I would only just open the eyes of my heart to see it...

... so, my heart has realigned its sights and is firmly focussed on the Love that is calling me onwards and upwards. Life shapes us in how we respond to love, so sometimes when we have had a very rough deal at the the hands, or vicious tongues, of others we find it a bit disconcerting, confusing or even ridiculous or offensive that the very thing we have come to mistrust or view as a mere emotion should go about its business of rescuing us.

Rescuing us? From what, exactly? We might well ask this question, as, indeed I have been. Well clearly for me at the moment one thing it is rescuing me from is my desire to be rid of my life and to dash my self onto the rocks off St Abb's Head. Almost all of us experience the unconditional love of our parents at least in infancy and hopefully on through our lives. For some of us we learn very early on that love is not all it is 'cracked up to be' when we are bullied, abused or derided at home, in school, in work etc, so that we either think it is cheap and worthless, or hold it to be something so precious and unattainable that we will never experience it and both mean that we don't quite know what to do when we are told that we are loved. I think that I fit mostly into the latter 'unattainable' category.

I feel embarrassed because I feel unworthy. I feel unworthy because I feel unloveable and I feel unloveable because of - oh So. Many. Things... I never understood why my real friends stick by me even when I am hiding from the world under my duvet and crying through the night or cancelling things at the last minute or not having the capacity to talk to anybody. Yet, I am also amazed that I should be so unsure and mistrusting of receiving Love from others when I know that I am capable of loving with this very unconditional Love and know that it is the most precious gift that I, or anybody, have/has to give. The DMoDs have stamped all over my heart as well as my brain. They have spat poison into the well of hope and muddied the waters of Bethesda and left me believing there was no healing, no way out.

However, one night recently I thought I would just shove some 'worship' music on and see if would help me feel any better and as I grabbed tracks off Spotify I prayed simply, "help me Jesus!" , and something happened! Suddenly I was completely silenced and overwhelmed by the fullness of God's Love. I have no other explanation. It wasn't the music that took me there - in fact I was quite peeved at the irritating repetition of saccharine twaddle - it certainly was not my own thoughts for they were dark and gloomy. No, here, in my room at that moment was the Glory of God transcended and come simply to put some lovin' on me.

The next day I was sent a text by a Wandering Clay Man that said that they were standing with me and that I am loved and if I need to cancel things because of the crazy horrid DMoDs that it is OK and that I was not to let their sneaksy lies get the better of me; he also said that I was going to be kidnapped and taken out for food - which I was. I felt very humbled - if still rather bemused - by it all.

So then I set to thinking about how rich my life is because of one thing: Love. Or, more properly, YHWH. I am so richly blessed, not least because of all of the people in my life. For example, I have amazing friends and flatmates in The Inked Eskimo and The Punk Preacher who do not judge me for being a total messy heap of a person, who abide with me though I am scatter-brained and forgetful or manic and lunatic and who love me for myriad reasons, but especially because it is our calling*. I am so grateful for them, especially the splendid Eskimo, for her unfailing care and feeding of me. I think things would have been a lot worse for this little Loris had she been left to her own devices...( I am quite clearly incapable of sorting myself out right now and have zero energy these days.) Thank you guys! Love you so much. :]

I have a tonne o' splendid friends around the world (you know who you are), and am really thankful that my heart is in a much better place to accept your gifts of Love - I hope that in time I will be able to put my love for you back into action and not just words.

I thank Jesus for your unending Love, your arms that you let Jesus hug folks through, and your silliness. Thank you for your completely unconditional and sacrificial Love.

In Him,

* this statement actually applies to ALL OF YOU, for you are standing with me and helping me through the Valley, but I just wanted to pay attention to these two folks today cos they have to deal with me every day...

Perhaps my most favourite hymn ever:

Love Divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy grace receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee,
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!



Sunday, 21 November 2010

Strange little musings I

For some reason many of my posts seem to go on for ages, so I though that I would just limit this post to a haiku poem* that sums up what is in my head right now at 3.00 in the morning on Sunday 21 November:

(* I've not written much poetry - and even less haiku-type work - for a few months now, so I'm a bit rusty to say the least so apologies for its quality (well, lack thereof).)

the cloudy-sunny sky over north london
coming back from scotland july 2010
copyright: The Loris 2010

transcendent beauty; cold chill - 
awakening fear.
love draws near: dreams fade to praise



Friday, 5 November 2010


Today I am letting Gurg The Invincible, Eater of Worlds loose on my blog. Gurg is the monster with one swollen eye, a bad headache and insomnia. Gurg is unable to sleep because of her eye being so painful. She has just had to get up for the 3rd, maybe 4th time for hot flannel treatment for her eye. The problem is that I love Gurg, but she always makes my eye swell up and I seem to be in pain whenever she's around. But I won't ban her, she's had quite a hard life already... so, read on...

Gurg the Invincible's cousin,
Gracie (the Irrepressible)
escaped from JunkerJane's junk yard...
GRRRG! Gurg The Invincible, Eater of Worlds, writing to you all. The picshure on the right is actually of my cousin, Gracie the Irrepressible, Treader of Toes. Look at the teefs. Mine are much more biggerer and krunch right through rock and everything.

The spider sat on her tail is a relative of Incy Wincy spider - you know, the one from the nursery rhyme. This one is called Scuttle and I gave him to her as a present on her SewDay (bit like your hoomin birthday) when she was still mostly scraps of material. She was so quiet and cute then. Now she is just craayzeeee and stomps on people's toes. hee hee..

Gracie's parents had a terrible time and were mangled in a terrible automobile accident many sewn moons ago. Gracie was fixed by Junker Jane but later escaped from  the Junk yard, and was then taken in by a lovely hoomin called Little Miss Somebody.

I was not quite so fortunate. I ate my family, totally by accident, one day when Pa and I were practicing rock crushing and how to eat whole houses in one bite. I got a bit carried away and I ate a whole street,unfortunately it was my street so I ate the family home and all its contents (including Ma, my twin brother, Garg the Unconvinceable, Mincer of Words, our pet sock monster Terry and my favourite ugly doll, Target). :(

Dad was not very pleased with my behaviour so I got sent away to World of Studentland with a flea in my ear and a restraining order, so I'm not actually allowed to eat real streets any more. So, I was banished for a few years and during this time I learned new ways to manage my wont of eating worlds. I discovered miniature towns that people seem to think are wonderful, but I just think they are a pathetic nonsense that don't even taste good. I also discovered cake and popcorn and found that if I cooked cake or popcorn or bread towns I not only had amazing meals, I also met other cake monsters and we all became friends. That's really how I got to meet Barney James, Dave and The Loris - they are all Cake Monsters :]. I also get to learn about the Jesus and God because I didn't really think that He loved me until The Loris was telling me all about Him and ALL THE LOVINS redemption and forgiveness. Dave loves Jesus - he actually knows all about dinosaurs and the fossil record, but he's not allowed to tell anyone about it. He wants to though cos he wants to upset the scary Christians AND the scientists.  He does roll his eyes and burp a lot. He's very funny.We have a good time together, although I think The Loris zekritlee doesn't really like it when I go to stay at her house, because I make her have problems in her eyes and she's always in pain, but she doesn't really complain a lot, but I think she gets quite sad. She says that she loves me, but it's just the horrible pain in her eyes and the problems with her vision that she doesn't like. Barney and Dave seem to be OK. It's only The Loris that I affect. :[

Well, just so you know, when I came back from World of Studentland I made things right with my Dad, Glug The Unsinkable, Sailor of Skies and now we are rebuilding the house I ate all those years ago. I'm also getting proper help, so I will be eating rocks - instead of houses  - in one bite.Dad has managed to buy a quarry, so we shouldn't go hungry or eat any more relatives... ;]

I have to go now cos I'm getting peckish, so I go now to chew on a block of chalk...





Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hell Houses... Nightmares on Church Street... The Hallowe'en event sensible church should condemn

The other day The Flatties and I watched the HElL H0u5e documentary. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.... There are some days that I question why I call myself a Christian, simply because of the assumptions that people make about the whole of Christendom based upon the actions of a minority of fundamentalist idiots oops, conservative zealots... The programme, though, caused me not to want to sleep... so then the insomnia kicked in. Sigh.

And insomnia can kick in for days or even weeks at a time. At least now I can howl at the moon in company...

Hallowe'en is just behind us and it is about my least favourite time of the year (along with 5th November). The eve of All Saints' (All Hallows) Day should be a time when we are preparing to remember ALL the heroes of the faith, and yet All Hallows Eve (Hallowe'en) has become a riot of commercial insanity. I was walking past a card shop on my way to pay my rent the other day and was astonished to see "Happy Halloween" cards... In the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, the Eve of any major festival is always one of anticipation and  preparation. Now we are plagued by kids dressed as witches, pirates, goblins or whatever crying "trick or treat" and expecting money, generally. Gone are the days when a few sweets and an apple made a good haul...

Doubtless many people that have been knocking on doors this weekend will actually have no idea of what the 31st of October and the 1st of November are really about. Similarly, the 2nd of November is the day when we (the Church) remember all those who have died this last twelvemonth and all those who have gone before (The Saints): in the Roman Catholic church, for example, there will be prayers said (and Masses held) for the departed, throughout November. Indeed, next Sunday, my Pater's name shall be read out in The Mother's Parish Church's Service for the Departed, since he slipped his mortal coil on 8th March this year, may his Soul Rest in Peace.

Mordechai & Esther: heroes of my faith
Copyright: Yale University Art Gallery
So, today  (Monday) is All Saints' Day, when there is a big service to honour all the saints. Whilst I am not one for praying to saints, I do know that The Communion of Saints is very real, the cloud of witnesses that surround me (see Hebrews 12:1-2) means I am not on my own. And what is this cloud of witnesses? Quite simply it is every single one of the saints that are known and unknown. They are the heroes of my faith. Some of them are dead, but some are alive. In Hebrews 11, Paul lists some of the great heroes of his Jewish faith (Paul was a Jew who had a rather dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road, which made him fall off his ass, and blinded him for three days - blinding! ;]) and then he talks about some of those followers of The Way (ie followers of Christ Jesus) who are notable in his community... St Paul often refers to his contemporary believers as Saints, for the work they are carrying out with and for Christ and God's Kingdom.

St Julian(a) of Norwich (1342-1416)
Saints are all around us. I have friends that I think of as Saints. Och, they might not have not been canonized by a fallible man (or committee of such men) that heads up one part of the Body (church), but these heroes and heroines are great and holy men and women of God, who God works through in miraculous ways at times.

So why, then, when the church should be focussing on observing the important task of honouring the great men and women of faith that have come and gone and indeed, are still here, would a church think that it is good to try to win souls for Jesus by frightening people into the kingdom with ridiculous dramas about real-life events? None that I can think of that are SaNe!... However, this is precisely what IS happening in some super-conservative (fundamentalist, imho) churches, even some in the UK I believe.  Let's examine what such a church hopes to achieve through such an event.

Oh yeps, I know I am a sinner...
The claim is that they want people to understand the basic premise is that Hell awaits all those who sin (and do not confess Jesus Christ as their Saviour). Which is true, inasmuch as Jesus is our way to be found sinless in the sight of God. But then these houses are set up to show what the sins are (as perceived by them) that could cause one to end up in Hell. And they are oversimplifying, and thus hijacking scripture and twisting it into something ugly. The HElL H0u5e will usually open in the run-up to Hallowe'en to capitalizes on the haunted house rides and all the crazy parties that happen towards the end of October (and particularly on 31st October) so they hope to reach the non-believer in a very dramatic in-your-face kind of a way. They hope that everyone who walks through their doors and through their (too stereotypical and insensible) version of Hell will be so shocked by their terrible habits or lifestyles that they will immediately go through the door for prayer and salvation...

Westbo'ro': enough said.
Jesus Weeps for these loons.
lifted from google images
So what exactly can one expect inside the house? The houses have sets where actors (usually congregants of their church) act out the things that we do that can separate us one from another and from God. There are sets that depict a gay man in hospital dying of AIDS while a person dressed - presumably - to represent a demon, or even Satan, telling him that he's guilty of a terrible sin and that God cannot love such an evil person and that their illness is God's punishment for them; a young girl who has taken an abortion tablet is crying out to God to save her, whilst the Satan mask tells her that she is not worthy, that she is a murderer; another scene depicts a rave, where a girl is slipped an (incredibly swiftly acting) illegal date-rape drug, and who subsequently gets raped and is convinced that she is unworthy, God hates her, he was never there for her and she would be better off dead, so she kills herself, and because of the suicide she has condemned her soul to hell*; another shows domestic violence (actually the only vaguely redemptive scene because the woman leaves the abuser and no-one was shouting crap about God not loving anyone)...

Just because God can use somthing, it doesn't mean it's right
 for us to pull a stunt like this...
Image lifted from mikeduran.com

It was the final room that disturbed us the most: a man talking earnestly (aka shouting) AT, not to, each group that had just gone through the House and explained that they were all sinners, but that if there were things they wanted to get straight with God or give their lives to Jesus, there were people in the next room waiting to pray with them. The door opened, and then they guy said "it will only be open for 6 seconds. After that, well, you might just have missed out on getting straight with God"... Um...OK, that might seem harmless enough to some... except: it sends a totally screwed up message about God!!! What, is God only available at certain times? Is there a limit on the amount of patience and love that God has? It doesn't say anything like that in MY (NRSV) Bible...  It seems more like couched judgement to me... 

Watching HElL H0u5e (filmed at a church in TX) the other day just made me ask "Where, here, is Grace?" "Where is Mercy?" "Where, dammit, is Love?" In Short...

Even He hasn't got a clue...
borrowed from the BBC

 Yes, Jesus is in the desert groaning and sighing...
"Oh you foolish and perverse generation"...

Watching those scenes of a young man acting as a gay man dying of AIDS whilst  he was hearing words saying that he was to blame and that God didn't want to know him, or that a young girl who had taken an abortion pill was a Murderer etc, just made me so angry, because here was a fabulous opportunity for the church in question to speak of the Great Mercy and LOVE that God the Father pours out like oil upon us and they totally missed it! 

That is in grave danger of straying completely outwith the bounds of Jesus' teaching.

The grey-ish mist of a reflected nebula cloud (NGC):
V380 Orionis and NGC 1999 in Orion
Copyright NASA
Scaring people into confessing Christ is not Godly. It really beggars belief that these kinds of events are even allowed by sensible Christians. As one visitor to the Hell House said "you can't make all of life's issues into piles of black and white... you are totally missing out on the greys...". It's true. Life is lived in the grey mist. Just saying, for example, that homosexuality is a sin - and therefore punishable by death - is not good enough. It's unlikely that a homosexual man or woman is going to say "gosh, you're right, I'll just go get a partner of the opposite sex and then God will love me", isn't it? The reason, of course, is that this is  not true (whether a person understands that or not when they hear condemnations). God loves ALL of us! No matter what state we are in. Whether we sin or whether we are perfect (which excludes, um, all of us - except Jesus, but he IS God, ergo we are ALL sinners) God loves us, knows us and watches over us. The problem is that when we take ONE verse of scripture and use it to form our entire theology OR to back up our own prejudices, we are then in peril of falling into a very dangerous trap... The same trap that Satan uses - and that we stumble into - all the time: divide and conquer (Jn 10:10 (para) Satan will steal, kill and destroy all that is good, Jesus brings life and life to the max...).

Mars' Devil Dust trails caused by surface twisters...
Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA
The most simple, yet effective, thing that Satan does is to set Christians off on the wrong track by twisting the truth to suit our own particular weaknesses, or wounds, or ungodly desires (for power, fame, influence etc). And because we are weak sinners, we are easy prey.

In defence of my fellow Christians that run the HElL H0u5es I understand what they are trying to say. It's not the entirety of their message that is flawed, but the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. There is a lot of ambiguity and there are just too many conclusions can be drawn - the message of hope they desired to communicate was - in effect - completely lacking, and buried behind ugliness and gore and ignorance. Those things are dangerous and do more to keep people away than they do to draw them in. I  felt angry, but also betrayed, because once again, one part of the body is trying to be something that it is not meant to be. It is groaning in agony under false impressions of the gospel message. The essence of the gospel message is simply that

Everything that we do must be underpinned by and done in LOVE. If there is not love, there is not God.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if Love is not present, then Jesus has left the building...



* This is a difficult argument. Suicide is often lumped in with murder because it is the taking of life, but this line is incredibly... ...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The love that flowed and flowed and...

These last few days have been very interesting indeed...

Went to a wedding last Saturday (16th) and Love God was  - almost literally - tangible. Not content with just being something going on between the two lovely people getting married, Love was visible in all of the guests, the church was filled with it. I have been to many weddings in my lifetime, and I have to say that this one really stuck out for the way that everyone seemed genuinely pleased, excited and 'there' for the very happy couple. (And, refreshingly, not a whiff of falsity or forcédness at all.) I felt truly uplifted by the whole service, and did have a chuckle* when the groom admitted that he had forgotten the rings completely, so rings were exchanged at the cake fight cake and champagne reception afterwards. Just goes to show that sextagenarians get just as nervous and dizzy as the younger generations. *Did I say chuckle? CoRRection: oh how we laughed! (Sorry Mr & Mrs W.)

Copyright: The Loris
 taken in April 2010, at Portman Ravine
The sense of overwhelming Love continued on through the evening, when The Mother and The Loris went to watch a glorious sunset up at Southbourne Beach. Sunsets are just one of the things that remind me of the greatness of God's Creation. It's all so beautiful and makes me understand my place in the bigger creation picture. The sky on Saturday evening was so stunning, the sky was huge, the clouds plentiful, the colours so intense and yet the camera on my phone did not really do it justice. Sadly, my old phone does not want to talk to my computer, so the (possibly lacking in impact) pictures will have to stay there, so I've added one from April, take a bit further west down the coast, as Boscombe :(

Sunday's Love then spilled over into Monday. In fact, it's still washing around me a full week on... It's fabulous. An appointment with a dizzy doctor last Tuesday left me quite bemused, but on a higher dose of The Happy Pills and instructions to fill out a headache diary and to go back in one month. Blarg!

On Wednesday, the DMoDs caught me unaware and dragged my heart through the floor, shredding it as they went, while others set about jUmpiNg on my brain and I barely managed to feed myself a ready-made roll (thank God for mothers) before nearly throwing up. I was not amused and so didn't make it back to the EastSide, until last Thursday. Barney and Dave were most upset as I'd shut them up in my bag, but forgot to let them out to play with the New Puppy at The Mother's house.

The New Puppy arrived in a shopping bag from Sainsbury's nasty killer of local businesses. The Mother claims she only glanced at the fluffy toys in the kiddies' aisle, but when we got home, the little pup stuck its nose out and tried to eat the bread. It was a very good day, because it seemed that The Mother finally understood that, (a) toys are real and (b) being childlike in one's approach to life is much better for one's health - even though she did try to hide all the boys behind the sofa cushions...

See, people think I am strange because I love such elementary things, but to be honest, it's the only way to be.  The Cheese quite likes those with a child's heart... See: Matthew 18:1-4 spells it out...

 Well, OK, some might think that I take this verse a little too much to heart, but The Jesus has a great sense of humour and it really is OK you know.  I am so grateful for the non-stuffy Christians that I am surrounded by. There is a vast gulf between sober, mature, yet childlike wonder, awe and excitement about one's faltering steps along The Way and the sober,  mature, yet slightly imperious or disdainful and prideful march of many of the more conservative Christians I have met over the years. I am happy to be thought of as slightly anarchic in my regard to 'traditional church', but I do not denounce its teachings. Not a bit. (Well, except for the nonsensical prosperity gospel that twists the truth and keeps the poor down, homeless and hungry. But that's a disgusting heresy born straight out of the union of the father of lies with this revolting age of tawdry excess and moral pusillanimity).

I have a very good friend, PD, who is a vicar in a very tough parish in the Northwest of England. He often calls me a foaming-at-the-mouth fundy (fundamentalist), and I regularly call him a Pharisee. The truth is that we are able to have diametrically opposed points of view within the same faith, not because bickering is the only thing that Christians do (contrary to tabloid belief), but because we are held in the arms of a God that has no need to fear our witterings and doubtings. Neither can we outwit him nor can we outmanoeuvre him. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. Nothing we say can harm him - only ourselves (when we are wrong). The beauty of loving the one True God is that He bestows so much grace upon us daily that most of the time we are totally unaware of his action in our lives.

So, this non-fundamentalist here, is assisting her friend in a project, precisely because she sees one part of the same picture at a ǝןƃuɐ ʇuǝɹǝɟɟıp ʎןʇɥƃıןs. A fresh perspective is not the same as a direct threat or a step over the mark into heresy. I mean, after all, as a Jewish Rabbi, Jesus had a responsibility to teach his disciples to adhere to all the strict laws as set out in the Hebrew Tanakh (Torah, Nevi'im, Kittiim). But as he didn't conform to their opinion on what 'religion' really is ( and neither should we - see Romans 12:1), one could say that in the eyes of his contemporaries, Jesus was a heretic, but he was really teaching us all to......................................quest?on and to be  non-conformist Whoesoevers...

So, if you are thinking that Christianity is a dirty word, a fouled up religion and something that you would want to steer clear of, then I would say that you could be forgiven for believing the media hype. However, be none too quick to judge, one really ought to remember that Christians (of any brand) are first and foremost human, and therefore liable to f**k it up at some point. I'm not abnegating the whole of Christendom of her responsibility to seek to live as Christ taught us to, but it is not an easy walk, and we are prone to stumbling, grazing our knees at the very least, or - as is my wont -  gashing our faces open  upon the rocks and rubble littering the pathway through the valley of the shadow of death.

Some days I wish that I could just give it all up. But then I remember that Jesus loves us and died for us (Jn 3:16).
For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life...

... and I am one of the 'whosoevers' in that verse...