Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CP 161 A very wet towel

CP 161 A very wet towel

Over the years I’ve often reflected on the fact that most days at least 5 boys in our family would use the same bathwater as dad. Recently I found myself musing over the other reality which accompanied that bath ritual. Unless my memory deceives me, there was only one towel! Dad used it first, then brother 1, brother 2, 3, 4, and 5… Imagine! Bath-user no.6 might just as well have washed himself down using the towel without even bothering the bath. It seems yuk today. Back then it was normal. But here’s my point for this blog. Just because that’s how it was then, it doesn’t have to be that way now.

All of us have such a family ‘history’. It’s about the way we handled hygiene, (including sunshine soap for everything!), the foods we ate and how we cooked them, (thinking among other things of the kitchen stove and cooking margarine!), the sorts of chemicals used as garden sprays, (DDT), the circumstances of our play, the way sleeping arrangements were handled, and the dunny arrangements out the back, (thinking of carefully torn newspaper on a nail).

And who had central heating or insulation in the roof? It’s also about getting a kick up the bum when naughty, or a spanking when we really crossed a parent’s line. For some of us there was kerosene lighting, a fridge with ice-blocks, bread delivered by horse and cart, no car and no phone. The circumstances of our lives played a fair part in who we were and who we became.

But I repeat; just because that’s how it was, doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be today. (An aside…I do understand that someone who experienced the famine in the years immediately after WWII might draw great comfort from having a fullish sack of spuds in the pantry at any time.)

Our “other histories”.

All of us have other childhood histories. Things that happened, or which we perceived to have happened. And we responded to them internally. Events and circumstances which caused fear and uncertainty. Feeling unprotected, abandoned or exposed. Being abused or bullied. Watching parents fight. Death of a sibling. A life-changing accident. Always feeling insecure and shaky. Even paralysed by some situations.

Seeing terrible injustice, or being on the receiving end of it generates anger and bitterness. Unfair treatment compared to others. A parent has a favourite child and it is not you. Undeserved punishments. Betrayals. You grow up with rage and hatred and unforgiveness as normal.

You got the message you’re a failure. Someone is disappointed in you, you couldn’t or didn’t live up to expectations, your very best was inadequate, you did something shameful, or unforgiveable. You think yourself dirty, unworthy, undeserving, always feeling guilty. You feel ashamed when you can’t even explain why.

The older I get the more I am convinced that almost everyone I know has such a history, and they are trapped by it. We are stuck-fast, and we connect that ‘stuck-fastness’ with what happened. Allow me to tell you a truth. Your imprisonment is not from what happened as much as it is about how you responded to what happened. It is always our inner, heart response, which comes from that part of us where we are who we are, that determines how life will be for us. Another truth is called for…

And here it is. There is freedom to change wherever Jesus Christ gets a hearing! You do not need to be bound by the past of your inner spirit. I promise you that if Jesus were to meet with you face to face he would not leave you in your frozen, hardened state. Still does it today you know. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is alive. Read and digest what he says to you and to me:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

I’ve seen it happen, hundreds of times. He did it then, still does it now. He’s done it for me. He wants to do it for you. Do yourself a favour and go ask him for the rest which is truly rest.

Bless you heaps in Jesus the Christ.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

CP 160 The day the neighbourhood changed

A damp Wednesday afternoon in November in a suburb near you. An altercation occurs between some local boys. Why the fight? Who really knows. For this piece it doesn’t matter. What matters is that just a few moments later one boy is dead.

For his family everything is changed for the rest of their lives. Empty rooms, empty place at the table, empty hearts. Grief will be a constant in their lives. Heartache will not be imaginary. The pain is real and will never be forgotten. No 18th or 21st birthday celebrations. The relationships between all family members will be affected. One has to pray for recovery and forgiveness.

Nothing will ever be the same for those other boys either. Day by day on their way to school they will pass that spot. Further on they pass the entrance to the street where the dead boy lived. These boys too have mums and dads, brothers and sisters. What pain and suffering to bear. One has to pray for forgiveness of self and others. And for healing.

All these relationships, in both groups, including grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, friends and neighbours, fellow school students, are scourged by this brief and fateful encounter. The tragic outcome has consequences beyond imagination..
The neighbourhood has changed. It will never be home again with that innocence and security which is freedom.

(I cannot sit in judgement. Many years ago I was present at a fight at the Wagga Beach in which the loser was repeatedly kicked in the body and face while on the ground. The victor had training in martial arts, especially kick-boxing. The outcome could so easily have been the same. The brutality was halted only by the Council Health Inspector who happened to be in the area. I was there, with many others, and said and did nothing. I learnt much about personal ugliness and self-cowardice that day.)

The details of this story are unique to that event, but they are also echoes of the same theme, recurring again and again in human society and community. Sometimes things happen on a global scale. Other times it’s within a country or city. Sometimes deliberate malice is involved, sometimes it comes down to negligence. Sometimes there are accidents. And often enough, just silliness or stupidity without thought of consequence. But every time it happens, the neighbourhood, wherever or whatever it is, is irrevocably changed.

When Adam and Eve chose to grasp for equality with God, to act for self first, to enter into disobedience, and to reject accountability, their actions had consequences. The neighbourhood changed. Innocence was gone. Death entered in. God’s image became blurred so much that it was usually invisible to the naked eye. Mistrust and deceit became the norm. Relationships were always marred by self-interest. Every subsequent child of the first pair has been tarred by the same brush. Everybody somehow, someway repeats the behaviours. It is the neighbourhood in which we all live. Is there hope?

Enter Jesus… the Messiah who came to save sinners. He came to a sick and sorry world, an enslaved and desperate world, a violent and ugly world. But always a world and its people loved by God. His goal was restoration. His task was to open the way so the lost could come home. His call was simple… Follow me. His journey was not above sin and death but through sin and into death. It was the only way to break the satanic stronghold. He stayed the course and was never drawn off track. He is the pioneer of our salvation, who opened up the new and living way, as Hebrews tells us. He died and was buried.


A Postscript… for example, by next morning one of the members of the Good Shepherd Church here had erected a white cross which became a focal point for a grieving neighbourhood… and again, something changed in the neighbourhood. I praise God for him and what he did.

Be blessed in Jesus the Christ.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

CP 159 A provocative story from Keith Miller

One evening several years ago I was taking a young friend out to dinner. He had just graduated from the university and was going off to enter the Christian ministry the next day. John was one of those fine, clean young men who somehow get through college without scar or blemish from the world. I found him hard to believe, but he was evidently sincere. We had eaten in a cafeteria and were talking about his future when a good-looking young woman sauntered up to our table in a pair of very short shorts, sandals, and one of those brief halter type tops. She was followed by a tiny daughter in a similar outfit. I recognized the woman as a member of the Sunday school class I taught. The class was rather large, and I had seen her only as a member of an audience. A few times I had spoken to her briefly before or after class, but I had definitely noticed her.
Somehow at the cafeteria, however, she looked very "un-Sunday schooly." I introduced her to my young friend as a fellow member of the same Sunday school class, and asked if she would like to join us. She did, and said at once, "There is something I've been wanting to talk to you about for months."
"What's that?"
"Paul, I think he was a sex deviate:'
My young friend's eyes were protruding slightly in horror, and I sort of wished I had not asked.
"Paul who?" I asked, smiling weakly.
She laughed, "You know who I mean, Paul the Apostle."
So we began to talk about Paul's views concerning women and sex. After about 40 minutes it was apparent that Paul was not the problem she wanted to talk about, and I told her so.
Her whole attitude changed. She said almost wistfully, "I really believe you've found hope in your faith, and I would honestly like to make this beginning commitment of my life to Christ... but I can't do it."
"Why not?" I asked gently.
"Because I've got a personal problem that I can't seem to resolve."
She was biting her lips and looking down at a paper napkin she had folded into a small bulky square.
"But that's why Christianity is called 'good news,' "I said, coming on strong. "We can't solve our own basic hang-ups and separations, and God is offering through the Holy Spirit to furnish us the motivating power to cope with the seemingly impossible situations in life. That's why I'm such a nut about Christianity. I can't promise to change anything. All I can do is to accept His love and grace."
"But," and she hesitated. .."I don't feel acceptable until I whip this problem."
"Listen, Susan, the old song doesn't say, 'Just as I am when I whip
my major problem.' It says, 'Just as I am without one plea,' one problem, one guarantee."
She looked at me with the strangest dawning look of hope. "Do you really believe that?" she said.
"I'd bet my life on it."
She looked down at her hands for several minutes. " All right," she
said, almost as a challenge, "I'm committing adultery every Thursday night with a man who has a wife and several young children. And I cannot quit. Now can I come into your Christian family?"
I just looked at her. I certainly had not expected that. My first conditioned reaction as a Christian churchman would have been to think she is not ready for Christ, or to say something like, "Baby, don't you think you could at least cut down a little?"
Suddenly I realized how phony we Christians are. Of course we would expect her to quit committing adultery. We don't mean, "just as I am without one plea." We actually mean, "Just as I am when I promise implicitly to straighten up and quit my major sins." And this girl had nailed me with her honesty. She had heard the real intent of our church's congregational invitation and knew she did not have the strength to meet its requirements-to quit her "sinning." And yet it was her weakness which had brought her toward Christ in the first place.
I thought about Jesus and what He would have done. Then I looked up at her, "Of course, you can commit your life to Christ just as you are," I smiled. "He knows you want to quit seeing this man, and I don't know where else you can ever hope to find the security and strength to break up with him. So if you commit your life to Christ right now, then Thursday night, if you find you can't help meeting your friend, take Christ with you in your conscious mind through the whole evening. Ask Him to give you the desire and the strength to break off the relationship."
And she stepped across the stream and became a Christian.
Keith Miller. Habitation of Dragons. pp. 69- 71