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One of the things I find most interesting about Jesus is that He is so counter-cultural; so often the thing that He would have us do is the opposite of what our culture expects. For example, if the media are to be believed, it is normal to want to get back at people who have hurt you. Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, to forgive, but not to be doormats, allowing people to run backward and forward over us, using us to wipe their muddy feet on. It is kind of difficult to discern always the answer. It can be like groping in the dark for a light switch, only to find that when light floods the situation, our own grubby deeds are shown for what they are, as well as the perpetrator’s.

My question is how to know God’s will in a situation? How to know what He would have us do? How to peel back our own mixed motivations and name them for what they are, while walking forward trusting in His light and reproof?

There is only one answer I think, and that is to trust Him, to spend lots of time trying to get to know Him as He really is, and to name our culture’s mores for what they are – people’s best ideas at the time.

To walk in autumn

Is to be beset with leaves

The Welly wind whisks

Them across our path.

The chill wind whips

Our hair into our faces

We grin – glad to be

Together, on the path of life.Image

Denying Myself

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matt. 16: 24

Once upon a time I thought that denying myself was about doing what everyone else wanted me to, what everyone else needed. Now I realise that that is the way to dryness, not wholeness.

Now I think the “deny myself” is about not doing what I would naturally want to do in a situation and instead doing what God wants me to do. For example, if someone is rude to me, my first impulse is to say something cutting back. At the very least, I will tell 100 people afterward what that person did to me (exaggeration.) Instead Jesus calls me to turn the other cheek; not masochistically, but to let Him sort their issues out and keep my heart light and forgive.

In my first couple of months studying at Carey Baptist College, I read a magazine article about the above scripture that said that this scripture had been used to keep women in their place, serving others so that others could have a good life. Even though I did not agree with everything it said, this article had a good point. After reading it I started to examine scripture more closely and more holistically, no longer taking initial simplistic perceptions for granted as the true interpretation, but instead looking at topics across the whole Bible where I could.

One assessment that helps me sort out whether I have a true handle on what scripture says is the fruit produced when it is interpreted rightly or wrongly.

Denying myself too much has led to near burnout in my own life and laziness in those around me. Not denying myself enough has led to inappropriate responses and lack of grace toward others.

I’m still learning 🙂

What about you? Have you had any interaction with this scripture? How do you interpret it? What fruit has it borne in your life?

Tui on the foreshore

tui petoneOne of the places I most regularly walk is the Petone foreshore. It has a good concrete path that is not usually overwhelmed with bikes like other walkways can be. Plus it has fabulous views of Wellington harbour and city.

The sea there has many moods. I like it best when it is blue, whether calm or choppy. Sometimes it is a dirty brown, especially after a storm. There are a variety of birds on the beach and sometimes it is fun watching the people, particularly toddlers as they dig in the sand or paddle in the water.

I walk there often. The only drawback is the traffic can be noisy and sometimes I would like a steep hill thrown in for challenge 🙂

This week while I was walking beside some flax bushes in flower, a cheeky tui flew very close to me and perched on the flowers. He would suck nectar from the flower, tap, tap, then lift his head to check whether I was drawing too close, then go after the nectar again, repeating the process. I managed to carefully sneak my phone from my pocket and snap a few photos. I was very pleased with one of them which has Petone wharf in the background.

I am sure I am not alone in saying that I find the internet distracting!

When I am trying to write, I will find myself thinking “I’ll just look up so-and-so,” and next thing 20 minutes has gone by, I have lost my original track of thought, and sometimes my spare time for writing has disappeared.

What to do?

Obviously the answer is to cut back on the internet. Some people advocate writing on a computer that doesn’t have internet (www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/20/10-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-two?) Some people use a software programme that shuts down the internet for a period of time (http://infospace.ischool.syr.edu/2012/03/17/internet-blackout-how-to-limit-online-distractions/) Both of those are probably a bit extreme for me.

I am going to try to limit myself to checking email/ Facebook/ news etc. 3 or 4 times a day.

That will take some self-control while I am working on the computer. I am putting this on my blog to remind myself and also hold myself accountable.

What about you? Do you find the internet distracting? Do you have any special tricks for overcoming this? Any self-made limits?

On Writing

I have a real desire to formulate a writing project and stick with it.

When I say I have a desire to do this, I’m not talking about a surface desire, an ego thing, so much as deep inside I want to commit myself to something worthwhile, then keep going and finish it. But I keep mucking around with surface stuff, starting things and petering out within a couple of hundred words or so, because mostly I live within my shallow exterior, driven by whims and giving up easily.

Doing things properly is hard. I notice this every time I write a sermon. The part of my job I hate the most is having a deadline hanging over me for a message when I don’t have a clue what I’m going to say. I dive deep into the passage of the Bible which I’m speaking on, and write down some points that I see clearly in the passage, but, if I don’t know how to start the message, it can take me ages to write it. I start with one angle, then delete it, and start with another. This can go on for some time. Finally, when I find the angle that works, the message can almost write itself. Obviously, if I find the original angle early in the week, my message can be in decent form early, then laid down to be finished on Saturday morning. If I can’t find the angle, the week can be agony until that message is done.

The necessity of finishing the message before Sunday keeps me working away even when everything within me is screaming to lay it down and forget about it. Unfortunately, in my writing, I do not have such a goad, so it is easy to drop and dismiss when it gets hard. In one way, I’m glad not to have that goad because my job has enough pressure. In another way, I miss having the goad because then I very rarely do anything worthwhile in writing, because I put it down too easily.

What to do?

Steven Pressfield talks about Resistance in his book “The War of Art.” Pressfield sees Resistance as an impersonal force from inside and outside of us that fights against us doing anything worthwhile and wants us only preoccupied with distractions. He reckons that we need to overpower Resistance if we are to do anything worthwhile in our lives.

What do you think? Do you a project that deep-down you want to achieve but you keep procrastinating instead? What do you do to make yourself do things that are hard but necessary?

Balancing Busy

I have had a busy few days. Some people connected with my congregation are either very ill or dying. Saturday was one appointment after another. Sunday was preaching, lunching, visiting, then feeding a bunch of young adults at home, watching a movie with them and having some deep chats. It was fun!

The problem is the waking up on Monday morning feeling very tired from lots of intense people time. I am an extrovert – I love people and these were some of my faves, but I was tired the next day and I found it hard to start my next sermon.

Ebb and flow, people then solitude and good God-time; I need to keep these in balance otherwise I live on adrenaline and anxiety builds. The answer is lots of space but that is hard to achieve in a smallish house with a big family, plus working full-time. I know what I need but it isn’t always easy to achieve it.

Writing is a help – getting my thoughts down as long as I don’t wrestle too much with word usage.

Thinking is also helpful, either aloud to Grant or Zach, or in writing to God. (Once again a caveat – as long as it is not anxious type thinking, going over and over the same problem.)

The contemplative has been helpful; reading books that focus on spiritual disciplines and the place of the heart/soul before God, going on retreats, visiting the monastery etc. But I am an active contemplative – called to be with and care for people, who like all people are not always easy (although I have a pretty good bunch!)

I am learning how to care for myself, so that I can care for others. Not selfishness as I have often thought, but essential in my present position. And I am looking forward to my big walk with Julie on Friday which usually helps clear out the cobwebs 🙂

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