Category: Spiritual


One of my dearest friends is an officer in the army. In what we think, the ways we think, the convictions and beliefs we hold, it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that we are diametric opposites. He once said to me, “Steph, we’re never going to get anywhere talking about religion. You’re as stubborn as I am!”

I remember grinning at him, sheepishly.

The funny thing is that it’s totally true, but also totally not.

1. There is a world of difference between a person who is stubborn, and a person who holds a conviction strongly.

I think one of the many blessings of university, is that the longer you spend time in an environment where your views are constantly rubbing up against the views of other people (who are often a heck of a lot smarter than you are), the less likely you are to be overconfident about what you think.

I think it is possible to listen to a person attentively in such a way that you genuinely seek to see the logic, or at least merit, of their opinions. Even if it is an opinion that you really disagree with to start out with. Especially when it is an opinion that you really disagree with.

I think there must be a way of listening in which, instead of calculating in your mind all the ways in which you could undermine their argument with interjections of your own, you listen. Not just attentive to the argument. But attentive to the person. Because until you understand the person, you won’t really understand the argument. Because you won’t understand the worldview that underlies the argument.

But I don’t think it’s accurate to say that if, after listening to the other person sincerely, you hold the same opinion you did to begin with that you are stubborn. It might just be that the other person has not presented you with evidence convincing enough, or an argument compelling enough, to sway you from your strongly held conviction. And that’s legitimate!

2. The pride residing at the root of stubbornness is a poison that we cannot root out by trying harder

Every day for a month last year I wrote “Phil 2:3” on my hand, to try to retrain my mind to resolve to “consider others better than myself.” It was an attempt to train my mind and my mouth.

I think it was a good thing to do.

But it didn’t go deep enough.

You see, I don’t just have a stubborn mind. I have a stubborn heart. Gosh, even when I’m thinking to myself in a conversation, “Consider this person better than you,” another part of me is thinking, “And aren’t you just GREAT for trying to think of them (a person who is clearly inferior to you) better than you?”

!!

You see, I am fundamentally incapable of considering other people better than myself; it’s going to take a lot more than looking at scrawls of ink on my hand throughout the day for me to consider others better than myself!

I need to go deeper. To trace back my words to the thoughts underlying them, and the ways of thinking underlying my thoughts, and to the genesis of these ways of thinking. And, maybe you’ll agree – the spring from which these ways of thinking, from which all of my life flows, is my heart.

3. It takes a heart transplant

I do not think that holding an opinion strongly is necessarily ‘stubborn’ in a negative, ignorant, unresponsive sense.

But I do have a stubborn heart.

When I jotted down this thought a few weeks back, I had just had a week of many refreshing conversations in which I had been reminded of my spiritual amnesia, of my inability to root out these stubborn and poisonous weeds in my heart.

When I say stubborn, I mean this: like a smoker, my heart returns time and time again to the same unsatisfying addictions; like a disobedient dog, I stray back into bad habits; like a distrustful two-year-old, I deliberately forge on towards decisions that I know will upset the ones who love me, and I can’t change it.

I genuinely can’t change it.

Sure, I can change the behaviours: I can stop speaking badly of a person, I can try to think differently about them and rebuke myself every time I slip in the hope that, like Pavlov’s Dog, my behaviour will change. But changing behaviours doesn’t change a heart, and if the heart doesn’t change, then the root which bore the fruit of the behaviour will simply crop up in a different part of my life, in a different way.

4. Persistent grace

The reason these conversations were refreshing and not depressing?

I was reminded of the astounding work that God has done in me by regenerating my heart and giving me new cravings and affections to replace my old ones. I was reminded of the relentless pursuit of God in His endeavour to reclaim ALL of my heart for Himself. I was reminded of His faithfulness in saving me from myself, from my stubborn heart, and from the unkind masters I am prone to devoting myself to.

He hasn’t withheld any of His infinite resources in His redemption of this death-bound creature. It does not make sense to think that He would save me on a cosmic, eternal scale, only to leave me to change myself, alone.

No. His grace is persistent. He persists in wooing me to return to me from the rebellion of sin, and He persists in the gradual work of regenerating all the cravings and desires of my heart.

I am fundamentally incapable of changing my own heart. But He is not. He is the only one with hands that are strong enough, delicate enough, and loving enough to change my stubborn heart. But the incredible thing is that unlike my manufactured self-resolve, His purposes cannot be thwarted. He will overcome my stubborn heart.

Heck. Yes. !

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

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Loose change

It had actually happened.

I’m sure you can relate, but I often will say, off-handedly, that I ‘have no money’, or ‘have run out of cash’, but in truth, I usually have about $15 or $20 in my bank account, at very least.

Not this time.

Let me set the scene for you: it was a cold Friday’s morn. I had returned to Sydney from Byron on Wednesday night to an empty house. Well, it had stuff in it, but no people. It was weird; the house felt remarkably different. In any case, there were 3 eggs, 100mLs of milk, and tins of food. No probs.

As I headed off to uni the next day, I bought some food for a lady, got the Big Issue from Bill, and paid for a Law Revue ticket in $20’s worth of shrapnel, leaving me with about 50 cents. It was good to get rid off that loose change. I went to buy some lunch, queued up at the ATM, only to be greeted with that horrible, horrible message: ‘Your account has insufficient funds to make this transaction.’ Tried again for a lesser amount. Same message.

First world problems, hey.

In any case, wasn’t fussed, just went to class, then skittaddled off home. My brother asked me to pick up a suit for him from the tailor, so I trundled up the stairs to his shop, only to find that I needed $48 in cash to get the jacket. In hope, I dashed over the road to the local grocer, hoping that I could get some cash out by overdrawing my account. No such joy. Went home, cooked something up with an array of canned goods, then Em came over with a lemon and coconut cake. We had tea, using the last of the milk, and all was merry.

.. This is becoming an unnecessarily long story.

Come Friday morning, I realised that there was nothing for breakfast. Well, I’m exaggerating. There was rice, pasta, lentils, and – wait for it – KIPPERS. To be honest, it was luxurious relative to what billions around the world nourish themselves with daily. And my kippers were totally tasty. The issue came when I realised that I didn’t have money for a train ticket to get to work.

I genuinely had access to 50 cents, in 5 and 10 cent pieces.

I assessed my options with calm calculation. Thoughts of God’s provision at just the right time to those who needed something crossed my mind; maybe God would move a kind stranger at the station to help me out? Immediately my mind dismissed the notion that God would provide for me in this way. After all, I’d spent the last of my money unwisely, on a Law Revue ticket! I didn’t deserve that kind of timely providence. I went to leave to the station anyway, but then remembered to feed the dog.

15 seconds later, my brother walks in the door.

He had come back home unexpectedly, to pick up his jacket from the tailor. I asked if he could lend me $4 for a ticket, after explaining my predicament; he laughed, and gave me $10.

The thought that sat in my mind for the next hour or so was that how foolish I was to think that God’s providence was proportionate to my deserving it. If God provides what I need on a cosmic, soul-rescuing level, and He did not withhold even His own Son to rescue someone who was His enemy; why on EARTH do I keep slipping back into the thinking that He will only bless me if I have earned it?

I don’t deserve it.

And that’s the point.

You don’t earn grace. You receive it, in thankfulness, and you receive it to bless others. This little provision of loose change was a reminder to a spiritual amnesiac that I can also afford to spend to love others, even if I feel uncomfortable because I don’t have the security of having enough cash, because God will provide what I need. I believe this is true even if He hadn’t orchestrated by brother to come home and given me $10. His provision isn’t always in the ways we want or expect. But I believe this: His grace is an abundant sufficiency. His grace to me may have been in refining away something in my heart by causing me to lean more heavily on Him, not food, just as equally as His grace to me happened to be the provision of some loose change.

His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness. Amen.

Swollen hearts

As gross as a swollen heart sounds, it’s the only way I can describe the way I feel when I watch these.

‘Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word ‘glory’ a meaning for me. I still do not know where else i could have found one.’ (Lewis, ‘The Four Loves’, p.30)

My brother proposed to his girlfriend last night. And she said YES!

I think I was quite probably equally as excited as he was in the hours leading up to it, but it’s been a hugely joyful time of celebration with family and friends. And what’s more, there will soon be TWO Steph Judds! Oh, the frivolity. Andrew has dubbed us Steph Judd the Wise and Steph Judd the Brave, for differentiation purposes. (Yes, he has always been a geek).

As we sat in the front room drinking champagne, I commented to Steph about how crazy seasons of life are, and how from the vantage point of one season, it is very unlikely that you can anticipate what or when the next season will be. 6 months ago, Steph wasn’t even dating anyone, and now she is engaged to a man who she will covenant to spend the rest of her life with.

I’ve been reading a book by an Australian woman who spent years as a physio in Nepal with an organisation called INF. I’ve been turning over some thoughts in my mind, about how you can’t speed on the turning of the seasons in your own life. In fact, restlessness with the season you are in robs you of much of the focus and richness and benefit of where you’re at right now.

As a chronic visionary, I always want to keep my eyes on the horizon; and I don’t think that’s bad. It becomes unhealthy, though, when the horizon becomes the focus of your gaze and the things in front of you blur to the peripheries. Because we only ever live in the present, right? Surely it’s better to dwell fully in the present, to be attentive to the details of now, whilst constantly being aware of the horizons?

But what then do you make of the mandate to ‘SET your mind on things above, not on earthly things’ (Col 3:2) and to ‘FIX your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith’ (Hebrews 12.2)?

I was mulling over this (granted, only for about 30 seconds, so it might not hold up), and I concluded that perhaps the hope of the impending Kingdom, and the reality of Jesus’ Lordship, is the lens through which we focus on the things before us in the present. It’s not a ticket to disengage from this present reality and gaze off into the future with sighs. Fixing our eyes on what is unseen, not what is seen (2 Cor 4.18), doesn’t preclude this. Nor does groaning with longing for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8). This reality is both physical and spiritual, right? Which means that being attentive to the NOW means having an accurate understanding of the times in which we live, the condition of our world, and the trajectory on which its heading.

It’s like when you’re playing hockey: sure, you can focus intently on your stickwork by keeping your head down with single-minded attention. But your stickwork in a game works much better, and according to the purpose for which you learn stick skills, when you are spatially aware, and are constantly looking up to see where you are running, which defenders/attackers you’ll need to handle, and so what stickwork you’ll need to use. (I don’t know if that made sense to anyone else apart from me…) Similarly, the purpose of Kingdom vision is so that your present-mindedness will be more ‘spatially aware’, if you will. If you locate where you are at now within God’s broader purposes, your focus on the present will be according to reality.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13)

It would seem that setting our hope fully on the grace of Jesus means that we engage more faithfully, live more boldly, love more radically, and focus more attentively on the people and circumstances around us with each precious passing breath that has been entrusted to us.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this unintelligible babble.

Renewal

I have been sick, lately. Like the rest of Sydney, apparently.

My usual approach to sickness is to ignore it. If it gets worse I’ll drug up and become more socially inept than I normally am. But very rarely, I get slammed by a flu that morphs into an infection, and end up bedridden for days.

It must’ve been years since the last time that happened, so I was more than a little frustrated when it happened to pop by on the last week my dear friend, Blythe, was visiting Sydney from Oklahoma.

During this time, another friend, Cloudy, sent me a text one evening. It instructed me to check my front doorstep. ‘Lo and behold, this is what I found:

What an act of unmerited kindness!

The card she’d written included this poem, by Helen Steiner Rice. It’s entitled, ‘A Time of Renewal’. It might be a bit cutesy for some (it rhymes, so all the indie kids out there will be cringing in their skinny jeans and fake frames), but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe you will too.

No one likes to be sick

And yet we know

It takes sunshine and rain

To make flowers grow.

And if we never were sick

And we never felt pain,

We’d be like a desert

Without any rain,

And who wants a life

That is barren and dry,

With never a cloud

To darken the sky?

For continuous sun

Goes unrecognised

Like the blessings God sends,

Which are often disguised.

For sometimes a sickness

That seems so distressing

Is a time of renewal

And spiritual blessing.

TALK 1: My Treasured Possession

More expansive notes (for brief summary, see this previous post):

The week started by acknowledging that there is a disconnect between how we see the church, and how God Himself sees the church. At worst, we have contempt for it, and at best, ‘Christians have fallen into the bad habit of acting as if the church really does not matter as we go about trying to live like Christians.’ (Hauerwas & Willimon, Resident Aliens, p. 69.)

Our understanding of anything should defer to, or derive from, how God sees it. The reason? God IS ultimate reality. Through Him, by Him, in Him, all things exist and hold together (Col 1.16-17); ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17.28).

So, how does God see the church?

Well, preserved for us in the Old Testament scriptures is an incredible story of God calling to himself a people. They were to be his ‘treasured possession out of all the peoples’ (Exodus 19.3-6), a priestly kingdom, a holy nation. This apparent favouritism often jars with me. But, as Bill Dumbrell says in The Search for Order, ‘Israel’s role as a priestly kingdom and holy nation means that she must serve the world by her separateness […] By her difference Israel is to lead the world. The holy nation of Israel is to exhibit that character of national purity befitting one who is Yahweh’s “treasured possession”; the priestly kingdom of Israel is to be a worshipping community […] the call of Israel in Exodus 19.5 has the world in view.’ (p. 45)

God rescues his people out of Egypt, and idolatry to the ‘detestable things your eyes feast on’ (Ezekiel 20.7), rescuing them from physical and spiritual slavery.

God gathers them out of this slavery and idolatry because of HIS great love and faithfulness, not any inherently worthy quality in the Israelites. ‘[T]he LORD set his heart on you and chose you’ not because they were more numerous/powerful/significant/worthy; they were the ‘fewest of all peoples’ (Deut 7). No, it was because of the Lord’s love and faithfulness to the oath he swore to the ancestors of this people, recorded in Genesis 12.

This extravagant action by the living God, who has called them to be His own, warrants a response; Israel was to be holy, to reflect the holiness of God (Lev 11.45; 20.7-8). Their holy worship of the Lord looks like:

LOVING THE LORD ALONE: Deut 6.4-5. This was expressed through temple observance (including sacrifices and festivals), the Sabbath, circumcision, and ritual purity.

LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOURS AS YOURSELF: Lev 19.18. This was expressed through the way they dealt with property, injury, sex, strangers and family.

They were blessed with his presence (Ex 29.46), which dwelt at Mt. Sinai, and then a continuing presence over the tabernacle, and eventually over the temple.

At this point, it’s helpful to clarify that there is a distinction between God’s ambient presence and God’s localised, intensified presence. God fills the heavens and the earth (Jeremiah 23.24), but God also is capable of intensifying His presence in a particular locality (e.g. in the camp of the Israelites: Numbers 5.3).

More than that, the Lord manifests His presence amongst His people by both His WORD (Lev 1.1-2) and His SPIRIT (Isaiah 63.11-14).

Throughout redemptive history, and particularly evident in God’s Old Covenant people, there coexists grit with glory; the grit of the failures and inconsistencies and disloyalty and stubbornness and faithlessness  of Israel, and the glory this nation experiences because of the faithfulness and mercy and unmerited love of God.

The glory of the Church is the faithfulness of their God to His promisesnot their impressiveness as a people-group. So, this means that there is reason for me to stop gauging the worth of the church, both global and local, according to my standards (usually measured by how awkward/cringe/whingey/selfish/uninspiring the people are) and start recognising that it is precisely that weakness that makes the faithfulness of God’s promises to this motley crew all the more ASTOUNDING.

What kind of a God would extravagantly love THESE PEOPLE? What kind of a God would be faithful to THESE PEOPLE?

The one, true, living God.

Grit and Glory: The Church 1.0

If you follow me on Twitter, you would have noticed that last week, I was perpetually hashtagging “ancon11” at the end of pretty much every single tweet.

The reason for this is that I was engaged in a highly competitive race to the top of the Twitter Cloud of the Annual Conference (AnCon) of the Sydney University Evangelical Union (EU). The elbows were out, attempts to sabotage reception were rife, and …

(I really shouldn’t try to be funny)

But the purpose of these next few blogs is to try to consolidate the crazy amounts of teaching we received. Rowan Kemp is notorious for his thorough and illuminating theological instruction, and the Spirit often uses him to explode our minds with His truth over the course of the week.

Sadly, I missed the first talk, which was apparently a ‘framework’ through which we could understand the week’s talks. That said, the notes in the booklet we take notes in are very thorough, so I will attempt a concise summary of each talk (and some of my own tangential ramblings). Keep in mind they were an hour+ long, so there is a lot of content to cover.

TALK 1: MY TREASURED POSSESSION

The Story of the Old Covenant People of God

Summary:

1. God has a view of the Church that is different to how Christians see the church. We ought to align ours with His.
2.  In order to understand the Church now, we need to understand how God has interacted with His people, His own, throughout redemptive history. i.e. the Israelites.
3. God rescued a people for Himself out of slavery and idolatry and into holiness (set-apart-ness/distinctiveness) so that they might testify to the character of God as holy, faithful and loving.
4. The holy worship of God’s treasured possession was to be expressed primarily through (1) loving the Lord alone and (2) loving your neighbour as yourself.
5. God blessed His people with His presence, manifested by His Word and His Spirit.
6. The glory of the Church is that God chooses to show mercy, shower love upon, and be faithful to His promises to a people who are thoroughly unimpressive, unfaithful and outright disobedient. Their brokenness serves to highlight the character of God and magnify His great worth and glory.


Tangled

Perhaps I should be bashful about having watched two movies in two consecutive nights.

But I’m not.

The background to this is that I’ve been coughing my lungs up (with great elegance, I might add) (…? who am I?), and so I’ve been bedridden for the last day and a half. Consequently, I’ve been reading, knitting, chasing thoughts whilst staring at my ceiling, and watching 30 Rock with my dear brothers (it’s rare that they’re both home).

My dear friend Claudia has given me company for much of the past 2 days, for which I am a little bit overwhelmed – thankful, grateful (there’s a semantic difference there, surely?) and feeling very blessed by her gracious love towards me. In fact, that’s something that I was talking with Blythe and Clouds today about: how being sick for the past 6 years has been something that God has used to weather down my stubborn independence from people. In that, I used to not ever want to accept help from people. I would never take days off school, I would refuse assistance and would generally try to do things by myself. Because people helping you makes you incompetent, right?

Praise be to the grace of God that He has saved me from myself, and is refining that part of my personality away. Generally being physically unable to do the same things I used to do has taken me on an uncomfortable road to accepting help, initially out of necessity. I think that necessity broke a lot of my barriers down, which may have paved the way for greater humility to accept grace from people.

But this totally wasn’t what I started this entry to write about.

TANGLED.

I’m getting tired, so this is briefly what I wanted to say. Sometimes people get angsty about Disney movies, and the way they instill unrealistic expectations about what a child’s life can be into their impressionable hearts. But, you see, I feel that there’s something in the DNA of humanity that instructs us to lift our vision to grander stories; legends, mythologies, dreamtime stories, fairytales… aren’t these a testament to the longing of the human heart to live bigger, to be a part of something greater than themselves and their present circumstances? Definitely, I think that there is a place for skepticism, in that we don’t want to have our heads so up in the clouds about what could be in a different reality that we spend our real lives gazing longingly into the horizon, and never actually do anything with the time given to us. BUT cynicism, that reactive disposition of the heart that fears the pain of those dreams never being realised, is crippling and destructive.

See, I think that we WERE made to live bigger, bolder and riskier lives. Lives of faith, lives that see us stepping out in heavy dependance that our God is in control and will come through for us. I think our hearts were wired with the grand narrative of eternity set in them, this deep pulse that knows that our lives, our selves, were made to participate in the greatest story ever told. That we are valued and treasured. No, I don’t think that the happily ever afters are ours on this side of Jesus’ return; no, I don’t think that this longing for a fairytale life is helpful or healthy if it leads you to put off living your life, perennially waiting for something magnificent to occur.

But living boldly, loving recklessly, and living a life of risky faith – living OBEDIENTLY to a wildly passionate and steadfastly loving God? Doesn’t that sound like a life worth writing a story about? Or, rather: doesn’t that sound like a life that is a penstroke in the greatest story ever told?

I certainly think so.

 

Stranger than Fiction

Four years ago, around this time of year (June/July), you could find me watching, pausing, re-winding, and re-watching two Marc Foster films. One was a beautiful piece starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland), and the other was this present piece, featuring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thomson and Dustin Hoffman (even Queen Latifah?!). The former was a supplementary text for 2U English in my HSC, and the latter, Stranger than Fiction, was a supp text for 3U English.

To say that I loved 3U would be an understatement. For starters, I had the best and most influential teacher I have ever had: Hoody was my debating coach, my 4U mentor, and my 3U teacher, and he made Postmodernism a JOY. Our class of about 10 was ridiculously entertaining, intellectually rigorous, and really relaxed, which was such a fantastic learning environment.

Hoody and Jamie. Hand = Very self-aware. Classic.

Postmodernism is fundamentally a dynamic concept, because it is reactionary; it offers a response to the dominant themes and discourses of the social, cultural and intellectual epoch in which it exists. It shouldn’t be altogether surprising that there are several, not necessarily cohesive, impulses encompassed within postmodern theory. But there are bound together by a similar approach to textual construction and analysis.

Baudrillard said, epitomising the sense of belatedness which pervades postmodernism, that “everything has already occurred… nothing new can happen.” Accordingly, the postmodernist seeks to play around with the existing material, in order to present their message. It is innovation, not creation.

Stranger than Fiction focuses explicitly on itself as a construct, exploring originality, the control of meaning and authorship in a brilliantly executed artwork.

The premise is simple, but the nuance comes in the execution. Harold Crick (Ferrell) is a senior IRS agent whose bland existence is interrupted by the sudden intrusion of a disembodied voice, apparently narrating his life. Playful ontological games ensue, blurring the barriers between the constructor and the constructed, as the author who narrates Harold’s life (Thompson) enters the plot as a character on the same ontological level as the character whose story she is constructing. What is pricked my interest as I watched it again last night, was how much it reminded me of Don Miller’s ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’, and the whole notion of living a good story. You see, Karen Eiffel (Thompson) is an author who is notorious for killing off all of her main characters; Crick discovers this, much to his alarm, when she narrates that, “Little did he know that this seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death.” Without disclosing much of the plot, this revelation catalyses a totally new life for Harold; he LIVES boldly, forging headlong through his fears and insecurities, doing things he would never have dared to do in his ‘previous life’. Freed from the tyranny of routine, he is reckless in his pursuit of love and life – he has a clarity of vision about what is significant in the face of the brevity of his life! This is the final voiceover:

As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.

At its heart, I think the movie valorizes experience over theory and love over cynicism. I think it wouldn’t be stretching it to say that it is a universal sentiment to long to live to suck the marrow out of life. To have a sense of one’s own mortality, to invigorate and motivate the self to dwell fully in the present and to live according to what matters – this sentiment isn’t novel!

In fact, the Psalmist expressed this longing:

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.” (39:4)

But I feel that although living in a gear of life that savours the nuances of life isn’t all there is to the sentiment. I think it finds its roots much deeper in the human heart. We are but a breath. We long for our lives to count for something. And I think that’s because our hearts were fashioned to participate in a great story, to be caught up in greatness outside of ourselves, a magnificence so captivating and other that we revel in the bliss of self-forgetfulness. We become more ourselves than we have ever been before; everything is illuminated by the brightness and beauty of the one in whom true life is found.

There is not a frenetic striving to make your life count, because settling in your place within the grander narrative lends a joy in soaking up and leveraging the insignificant moments. It isn’t all about you. So you can be content in simply being faithful with the moments given to you.

Why waste life on trivialities

 

 

This is a response to a guy’s blog from earlier in the year. It’s pretty much what I think about justice, and is heavily derived from the writings of NT Wright, Tim Keller, Frederick Buechner and the thoughts of my dear friend, Ed Springer. I still find it hard to live this. But in His gracious mercy to me, may His Spirit continue to teach me to love as He has loved.

It’s the hope of the new creation that propels us headlong into the darkest of places. Because this hope was secured by a love from which we will never be severed, the joy that springs from it is resilient. It can withstand the buffets of pain and frustration, at least in part because its source is not our own love for these people. When I burn out or feel weighed down by the brokenness of it all, it’s often because I have been looking to my own resources.

A dear friend once unpacked the beautitudes as resting on the foundation of ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’. From that posture of spiritual bankruptcy, we come to the foot of the Cross and cry for help. Not just for salvation; everything. Including the fight for justice.

When we cry to Him in anguish over the corruption of the world, I think He responds by energising us with two things:

First, the assurance that the in-breaking of His Kingdom has already begun, and there is a Day fast approaching when all things will be restored. Justice and healing are His purposes; and His purposes will prevail.

Second, the love with which to fuel the fight. Not our own limited resource we approximately call ‘love’. His love for people. And with that love flowing through us, to them, from Him, we are free to love – without fear, and without self-regard.

As Buechner says, ‘He says to follow him, to walk as he did into the world’s darkness, to throw yourself away as he threw himself away for love of the dark world.’