Monthly Archives: June 2012

Questions

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I recently travelled to Normandy with Emma to visit Mont Saint Michel.It was awe-inspiring. Like the fulfillment of a fairytale. Yet more amazing than this castle-like cathedral surrounded by water was our journey there and the people we met on the way. I guess God is teaching me that life isn’t about arriving to our destination and more about the people we meet and the things He whispers into our spirits as we just keep moving in the knowledge we have.

I was at a dinner the other night and someone I only know the tiniest bit came up to me and said, “I read your blog the other day. It was just what I needed. Thank you for your honesty.”

I felt good about this in a strange sort of way. Sometimes I worry about what I write. I lean over to my husband and ask, “Do you think it is okay to say that? I don’t want people to think I am falling apart.”

The truth is I am falling apart but not completely. Somehow by writing all my honest thoughts I feel like Humpty Dumpty. It’s the writing, not all the King’s horses or all the King’s men that put me back together again. I love reading the raw thoughts of others. I love it when people say it how it is. I love a good narrative with an unsolvable complication that somehow gets resolved in an unexpected way.

I’ve spent a good part of this week reading the narratives of my Literacy class.  Some of their stories grab me with such intensity that I find myself reading them all the way through lunch. I am captivated by my student’s creativity. Other stories are submitted with problems that don’t grip me at all. I send them back asking them to make the problems bigger, more believable.

Amongst my literary heroes are Anne Lamott, L.B. Cowman and Moses who all seem to have been down the road that I am on, someway or another. The way they capture their journey through suffering fills me with such hope.

Coehlo writes, “If something touches the code of our soul, it is remembered forever and affects whatever comes afterwards.” This is, I think, what great writers do. By daring to ponder the deep questions truth is laid out straight. Like in a still stream our own thoughts and fears are reflected. What they write has resonance.

So many of the people I love are suffering from hardship. They are asking the difficult questions. The same questions I asked when we couldn’t find a donor for Sam. The questions I asked when she was febrile and we wondered if she’d make it through the night.

We all have questions, don’t we?

Take Abram for example. He had lived a prepared life long before anyone recognised him as a leader. He had 318 trained men born in his household who were ready for battle. He knew how to organise his men, how to guide them, how to recover their goods and possessions. Abram was a giver. He knew what was his and what belonged to God. He didn’t look for short cuts or to gain success through the people he knew. To the king of Sodom he said, “I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread, or the thong of your sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich.” (Genesis 14:24)

Yet when “the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward,” Abram’s response perhaps wasn’t as holy as you’d expect (Genesis 15:1).

“What can you give me,” (Genesis 15:2) and

“How can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Genesis 15:7) he asked.

Long before he had his name changed or went down in history, as the great man of faith; Abram was being honest with God.

We all grew despondent at times. You’ve worked hard, been diligent, looked after everybody else as best you could. You’ve been to battle and celebrated small victories but when God’s word comes to you in a vision, reminding you of a promise, it’s tempting to think He has arrived a bit late.

As you stare into space, pondering Abram, you are transported back in time. You feel the sand between your toes as you squat by the seaside, funnelling and scooping with your hands. The castle is built and you are anxious to get the mote dug before the next big wave heads for the shore. “Here, grab the bucket, run for water. Let’s test it first!” you yell to your brother who obligingly takes it from your hands. Your sister looks up from her book and turns on her towel to sun her other side. “If you keep digging you’ll make a hole to China,” announces your dad, looking over the top of his newspaper.

“Really?” you ask, astounded by the things he knows. Then you see the glint in his eye and the smirk on his face, you know he is only playing. It doesn’t really matter about the hole to China. What you want more than anything is the perfect castle with a full mote and as the wave comes to shore you have everything you need.

“Coffee for you,” the barista says and you thank him with a half-awake smile. Looking around, you see that all the usuals are there. The tradies in boots, the girls in heels, the schoolboy having an early hot chocolate with his dad. You watch their feet, as they come in, as you ask your questions in your journal, as you seek out answers in God’s word. You think of the bare feet of your girlfriend who walks along the seashore seeking answers as well.

You know that sometime today she will call you to convince you that the winter chill of the water is so much warmer than the sand. Together you will share mysteries and stories. You will cry together about the way things were and how they have changed. Like Paul you will say “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10) Still you will wonder what to expect next and whether there is meaning to this madness.

Like Abram, you will take your questions to God. At times you will fall into deep sleep and taste the thick and dreadful darkness. (Genesis 15:12) Yet when you wake you will discover you are never alone. He calls you to come. He opens His word to you. Maybe for you it happens on an empty beach, or like me in a crowded café.

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June 24, 2012 · 5:01 pm

Noah

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“Pairs of all creatures that have the breathe of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.” Genesis 7:15 -16

Sometimes obedience doesn’t look the way you want it to look. You dreamed of open doors, opportunities and an open heaven. The open door was an ark, a design from God, but even as you built it you didn’t know what was ahead. Still you built it, you walked with God and you followed his plan. You gathered, you stored up, you took the path that no one around you understood. You taught your family that with God at the centre all would work out.

The day when the opportunity came nothing made sense. Everything you heard was contrary to what you had believed for your life. The words hung in the atmosphere and you were unable to decode them or make sense of them. Surely your God wouldn’t let this happen? Then He opened the heavens and even that was not what you imagined. Instead of light and clarity, the sky grew dark and the wind whirled all around you.

As you watched through the window your life flashed before you, in the same way people say it does when you are dying. You watched as every word you had held onto, all that had been recorded in your book, came loose at the binding. The rain came and the ink of the pages ran. It filled all the gutters on all the streets until the life you once knew was erased. The waters rose. They carried you upwards and yet nothing about it was uplifting.

To the best of your ability you had lived your life obediently. You had made prayer and repentance your pattern. You had lived by the code of what was required, following after the design that had been laid out for you.

“Every living thing that moved on the earth perished…

Everything on dry land that had breathe of life in its nostrils died…

Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out…” (Genesis 7:21, 22, 23)

It is stated this way in the New International Version, three times just in case you don’t get it the first time. Did God cease to care about your life?

Still, you moved forward with the waves on the sea, allowing them to take you. What else could you do? You had no choice but to trust. Your life was at His mercy.

“Have your way, have your way,” you sang. The words stripped the lining of your diaphragm and when they came out of your mouth at full volume, your throat grew sore.

Behind you the door wedged tight because God had shut you in.

It was dark in the ark. You wondered how long. You wondered what life would look like when this was over. Would it ever be over? You didn’t speak these questions out loud. There was plenty to keep you busy. The work of survival is an onerous task. People were looking to you for answers not more questions. So you anchored your thoughts within you. You felt the weight of them in your core and you cried out to God to show you. He in His faithfulness came. He walked with you in the shadows. His whisper was heard above the howling of the beasts that surrounded you, the creaking of the fragile vessel that contained you and the cries of the lost, muffled in the ocean. Every sight, every sound haunted you but you could be still for you knew He was God. You would not drown.

Over time, you adapted to the rhythm of the ship. The way it swayed you, the way it moved you, no longer felt surreal. Then one day the movement stopped and you wondered how you would exist again on dry land. As the mountains become visible you sent out the raven. Like a dark thought it lead you nowhere. It didn’t come back.

You imagined it feasting on the carcasses of the dead.

This brought you more sorrow,

It messed with your head.

All the anguish and the questions returned.

Oh help me God,

Your thoughts still churned.

Coupled over and confused your God visited you.

You felt the warmth of His tender hand on your shoulder

“It is not over.”

He pulled you close to Him in the dark

He let you cry and speak and grieve.

None of it was easy.

Then when you were done crying

He placed Truth, Gentleness, Comfort, Counsellor, Advocate, in your hands, it was a type of what was to come.

He took you back to the opening at the highest point of the ark. The first time you released Him, He returned but seven days later, when you released Him again, He did not return empty handed. This time He returned with an olive leaf and you knew that as hard as things had been, your God had not abandoned you. That He would rebuild your life.

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