Sunday, November 25, 2007
As some of you know, my niece Ruby was diagnosed with Leukaemia in September. She is a wee trooper and is doing really well with her chemo.
I was able to be home in September (shortly after diagnosis) and was absolutely blown away by the support that there was for the family through the Child Cancer Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House. Both of these organisations run on the generosity of donations from people like you and I. They make a huge difference to families undergoing very traumatic situations. It has made it alot easier for me to be away here in Korea, knowing that Tony, Claire and the girls have the support network that has come around them through friends, families and the kindness of complete strangers. This really is the global village in action.
Many of you have been praying for Ruby and the family and your prayers are making a difference. Thankyou. I wanted you to be aware of a very practical way that you can be of support if it should interest you.
A few years ago, some people got together to raise some support for a friend and came up with the concept of Fun Razor - a movement which has grown and been a huge success. On the 6th of December, my brother Tony is participating in this in Nelson. He has a goal of raising $4000 (NZD) and with a week to go he is halfway there. I would love to see him reach his goal (or even better - exceed his goal) and the cause is such a worthy one. Wouldn't it make a great Christmas gift!
You can check out his page which has some pictures of the girls and his story as Ruby's Dad. If you like, you can also sponsor him - and it is really simple to do as the site is a secure encrypted site that takes credit cards.
Any donation helps ... if you can not donate, please continue to pray for them and pray for this event - that it would be a huge success.
Monday, November 12, 2007
In Mark 10, people are bringing little children to Jesus to be blessed. The disciples are a bit put out - perhaps they thought Jesus was too busy to have to deal with a bunch of kids. After all he had people to heal, miracles to do, teaching to impart. Jesus rebuked the disciples and gave them a wee object lesson. Basically he said unless we come to the Kingdom of God like a little child, we shall never enter it.
So this got me thinking. What does it mean to be like a child? What are the good qualities of children? My friend Susie and I looked at this as a Bible study and then, as we are both teachers, we made a list of characteristics. I forwarded this onto another friend Kathy Koch who has a ministry to kids (check out her website at Celebrate Kids) and my friend Julie. They had some great input and I would like to present this to you for food for thought. I would love thoughts or comments to be added into the blog as I am still barely into this one!
Positive Attributes of Children
1. Simplicity of faith. They believe in faith and not in works. They never think they can gain heaven on their merit or because of their effort. Simplicity, not sophistication, impressed Jesus. Adults often overlook or complicate things.
2. Trusting. If you promise it or say it is, it just is – no questions asked. (Until trust is violated often enough to cause them to question – how sad.)
3. Children are quick to forgive.
4. Children believe the best in us and of us.
5. Teachable, receptive, and humble.
• They know they need instruction and there’s much for them to learn.
• They are fluid in their thinking and able to bend and change with little resistance
• "Children have a natural enthusiasm for learning. They know there are many things they don't understand (whereas adults are usually so sure they know everything there is to know!). Luke 10:21 is interesting...Jesus opinion of the 'wise and learned.' He was 'full of joy' over the child-like enthusiasm for the new spiritual things the 72 had been learning about and practicing." (Quote from Julie)
6. They’re willing to be dependent on others, especially God.
• Dependence is seen as a natural state rather than a weakness
• Trauma of separation … when a child is separated from its parents it is traumatic, and there is no comfort except from the parent – do we mirror this with God.
• They want to be cared for. They love closeness.
7. No hidden agendas.
• What you see is what you get – good, bad and ugly! Absolutely sincere. Without guile
8. Responsive to Jesus’ call.
• Like the little one Jesus called to Him, they don’t analyze what’s going on. They are often quick to give, sing, pray, talk about Jesus, etc.
10. Keep their eye on the central point of reference
• When children are playing they often keep one eye on their parent. Their security comes from this point of reference.
• When they are involved in an activity they can be totally engrossed in what they are doing but when they see the one they love, nothing else matters. They drop everything and run to you. Nothing else in that moment matters.
• Children react on instinct. Initially they have a strong sense of right and wrong. They do not tend to over think things.
12. Short Memories
• When children are hurt, they cry and its over! They have a short memory and look ahead to the next thing rather than stay in the hurt.
13. We Know Children by Their DEEDS not their words
• Young children often do not have the ability to articulate. They communicate where they are at by what they do.
15. Have Joi de Vivre (Joy of living)
• Think of Kathy’s “Dance of Life” illustration
• They have no shame – they are not afraid to run around like crazy and laugh from their belly
• In Luke 5:36-38 Jesus talks about new wine needing to go into new wine-skins. Keeping that child-like wonder of the things of God and seeking to know Him in new, fresh ways seems to be hard for adults. We get bogged down with the day-to-day grind very easily. For children each day is still a fresh, exciting and new opportunity. (Julie)
16. Live In The Moment
• Children are great at capturing and maximizing the moment. “I’m going to take all that can be experienced right now.” They are often more present in the moment than adults.
• They travel lightly without a lot of baggage. At times they travel through hard places but they don’t camp there. They keep moving forward.
17. Love To Dream
• Children place no limitations – love to use their imagination and think about what could be
• Fantasize about what does not exist and their dreaming is the beginning of making it reality
18. Invest In People
• Children are more interested in friends and people than the things they can get out of them or what their relationships will do for them. Many adults surround themselves with things rather than quality relationships.
• When children set their mind on something, they do not easily give up! They pursue what they want.
20. Not Easily Discouraged
• Children have a lot of self belief and confidence … they often think they can do anything!
21. Spiritually Aware
• children have a natural awareness and belief in what cannot be seen – the supernatural. They don't have difficulty with many of the concepts about God that adults seem to struggle over. What makes them loose this natural awareness I wonder? Keeping that child-like awareness of the spiritual realm can be difficult as adults in this 'logic' focused world. (Julie)
• Children (especially young ones) will tell you about anything and everything that's exciting to them. They get emotional easily (for good and for bad). They will openly share their deepest fears (unless they have learned not to trust adults) and joys. I think this is how God longs for us to be both with Him and with one another. (Julie)
• Babies are often at the center of their parent’s world and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is here that they learn to trust and receive love. Parents to babies are like God’s hands extended – every care, touch and love is reflection of God’s love to them.
• Children do not recognize their own powerlessness. That’s what empowers them and allows them to dream.
• God gives us everything from the get go. It is ours for the taking. This world teaches us that we are not perfect and we do not have it all. We are insufficient. The world teaches us that we will find what we need externally. God have already given it to us and it is all within – his presence in our lives releases it. God writes us a cheque and says it is blank. The world stamps “insufficient funds” on it and tells us, “you are not enough”.
Class Moment From Julie
I just want to tell you something I overheard one of the little Norweigan boys in my class saying to a friend the other day:
Friend: '...but you might die!'
Benjamin (in an extremely excited, thrilled voice): 'But I don't mind if I die because then I will get to be with JESUS! WITH JESUS!'
Being with Jesus was so obviously the best thing Benjamin could imagine that it blew me away. I don't think I've ever heard anyone so excited about the thought of dying! I had to admit that although I love the idea of being with Jesus some day I really am not as excited as Benjamin about it!! Interesting that with that he also has nothing he fears about his future, including death! A little wake up call for me.
This study is a Pandora’s box. Looking at each of these characteristics begs the question, what makes children lose each of these qualities? I would love to explore each of these in depth.
What Stops Forgiveness?
• Quantifying and qualifying behaviour
• Liturgy of Sins. Leave the past in the past. I remember many times (I was very naughty and willful as a child) that my parents would recite my liturgy of sins and failing in this area. When we do this we are teaching our children that we do not forgive and forget as God does. We teach them to remember which often leads to judgment and holding offenses.
What stops Humility?
• It is seen as weak in the world – where do we see it modeled in pop culture? How many world leaders have this trademark?
• Insecurity/low self worth
• World attitude of “just do it”!
Monday, November 5, 2007
Okay ... there is nothing spiritual in this post ... if you want something edifying try the post below!
I really hate bugs ... and in particular in Korea ... I hate these centipedes. They like houses ... In my first week here, I was washing dishes and saw something out of the corner of my eye on my shoulder. It was one of these. They run fast and it shot off. My lovely neighbor Isobel came to get it for me but it was in hiding. A week later I was in the shower (pre lasik days) and I stepped back and felt something under my foot. "What"s that?" I thought. Lifted my foot up and watched as something long wriggly and dark headed for the plug hole.
So here is the sad sordid story of an epic battle and murder most foul that occurred in this very apartment last night.
Two weeks ago a big one of these charged at me from the sink and took off … My neighbor Buffie came to get it and it had gone. Last week while playing my guitar I saw it shoot along past my bathroom door and around behind my tibetan chest. Not good for my sanity … I named him Houdini. His disappearing act has been outstanding.
Onto the story ...
Poor Reggie is DEAD. I would like to think that it was Houdini, but Reggie looked a little larger (although by the time I was finished, he didn't look large at all …) … I came in last night and he was sitting around in my sink. After a shriek and a little arm flapping, I ran for my flyspray, only to realise that I no longer have any! So what to do … I knew at any minute Reggie was going to make a run for it … so I splashed him down into the plug area … and he ran people … he RAN … he just shook off the water and ran … so I splashed him again … another deluge … and then a third one …
Reggie was fighting for his life … it was not pretty … but I knew … this would be a duel to the death … I turned on the tap and let a deluge of hot water fill the plug hole … but still he fought … spinning around and around trying to run up the sides ... at this point I am seriously freaking … thinking this is it. It’s like the movie Halloween. He just won't die. It was time to get out the big guns …
I left the hot water from the tap pouring into the sink … I got a pot and filled it … I put it on the stove to boil … and then when it was bubbling, gurgling and steaming I poured it (while the tap was still running) into the plug hole … Poor Reggie … but by then I was convinced he would come back from the dead and be downright vicious … so … I boiled another pot … and when I was done with that, I left the plug jammed in … just in case he arose from the dead … My cleaner will be dealing with the body today! Take a moments silence and remember him. He fought bravely.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Journal Entry 23rd February 1996
“Stop the world! I WANNA GET OFF! Yup that’s how it is at the moment. Once again I am too busy at life. The roundabout goes around and around, getting faster and faster until it’s a blur of colour and activity – frenzied music billowing out …It’s gonna blow up soon. Smoke is gushing … there is a whine in the motor…
I’m thinking of Mary and Martha. I would like to be like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus but I would be worse than Martha if you stopped by my house Lord. She flustered around the house … I wouldn’t even be home!”
Hmmmm … this is an all too familiar song.
However … that’s the dance of the world we live in. I am tired of it. I am tired of being too busy … I am tired of significant people in my life being too busy and I am VERY TIRED of pressure crowding out priorities. It is wrong. The Bible says that we are not to be conformed to the standards of this world. We often look at this in terms of our thinking and morals, but what about in respect to how we use our time?
Time is major currency in the world we live. We have more time saving devices in our lives than at any other time in history and yet we are busier than at any other time. This infection of busy-ness is so crazy, that we even catch ourselves competing with others in who is the busiest. Come on … I am sure you have had the conversation at least once in your life … you ask someone how they are doing and they reply with how busy they are. Your response is …” yes, I know … because I have blah and blah and blah and then I have to blah!” It’s almost like we have to be ashamed if we have time in our lives to rest.
People, this is not the plan of God. It is not how he wired us and it is not right. As my friend Kathy says, “we are human beings, NOT human doings.” All this doing is damaging to us, to our walk with God and to our relationships with others. Lets look through God’s eyes for a moment. What is important to him? Hmmm … could it be … PEOPLE? … ummm … RELATIONSHIP …!?!
Are we living a life in balance? Are we exercising? Are we eating right? Are we tanking ourselves up spiritually and emotionally? For a moment, take some time and imagine this … you have 4 tanks in your life: Spiritual, emotional, physical and mental (of course life is not that compartmentalised, but stay with me). All these tanks need to be filled. It is very possible to be tanked up spiritually and drained emotionally. If this happens, there is likely to be a brittleness in your response to people. Perhaps you are tanked up in other areas and not spiritually so you miss the nudgings and promptings of God. What are you doing to fill your tanks? If music helps tank you up … put some on. If a good book recharges your batteries, take time to read. If a latte and conversation with a friend charges you up … take time. You get the point. Put yourself on the list and stop blocking out your time for everyone else’s pressures (work included). This is not an excuse for laziness; it is an encouragement to say, LOVE YOURSELF. You are no use to anyone if you have not got your life in balance and centred on Christ. You might notice I said “take time” not “make time”. As I told my kids the other day, time is not elastic. It is finite. It is limited and we need to manage it well. So TAKE back the time you need to achieve your priorities. If you are running with your tanks full, you will be more efficient with all you have to do.
I recently had a colleague compliment me on a workshop of mine she attended. She then went on to say she wanted to do it but it would have to wait until she had time. I hope she wasn’t too offended when I responded with, “well then, it won’t happen. Either you determine you are going to use this and prioritise the time to make it happen or you don’t. Personally, I don’t mind what you decide, but don’t wait for the time because it will never happen. I am only using it because I determined it was something that benefited my students and put in the time.” I just can’t leave a comment like that any more because we are kidding ourselves if we think time will just open up. It’s not the world we live in.
So how do we take time to achieve our priorities, as opposed to having it all gobbled up by pressure? We put in boundaries. Boundaries are tricky things. We often don’t prioritise self-care, so we find it easier to look to everyone else’s needs. This is even reinforced by a song we learn at Sunday school. “Jesus first, yourself last, others in between.” This sounds all very spiritual. It’s WRONG. Of course God should be first in our life. However, Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself. If you don’t care for yourself, how can you care for your neighbour? We are not called to live life for ourselves, but Jesus modelled it well. There were times he withdrew to recharge. Times that he spent with friends or family – those close to him. Times when he pulled back. One of the difficulties with boundaries is that people who don’t have them, often resent those who do. When we put boundaries in, we can disappoint others or, we can feel guilty because we see others running around. Determine your priorities and then put your boundaries in accordingly.
One of the things I have learnt to do with boundaries is just say I am unavailable if I have something scheduled, rather than telling people what it is. I found that when I would say what it is, there was pressure about why something else was more important. My priorities for my time are not always the same as other people’s priorities for my time! If I have scheduled coffee with a friend going through a hard time, or a workout at the gym, is this not as important as a work meeting someone is scheduling at short notice? Of course my work is high up my priority list and I want to do my job and do it well in a God honouring fashion. However, I find (and it is the nature of teaching) that work will consume everything I give it and still want more. Lines must be drawn. Similarly, with church and ministry. A friend was telling me of a great coffee she had with a workmate. She was building relationship with someone who did not know God. Previously, she would have been so busy with all the activities going on in her church she wouldn’t have had the time. Have you been there? I have! So then, if this is our reality, how do we fulfil the great commission? Just a thought!
C S Lewis has a great passage in Screwtape Letters. Wormwood is trying to derail the “client” (the new Christian). Wormwood’s advice is to get him really busy. And … not just busy, but really busy doing GOOD things … so busy doing the work of God, he has no time FOR God. Hmm … recognise that tune?
Ephesians 5:16 (KJV) exhorts us to “redeem the time, for the days are evil”. I have to say that this is a much clearer message than my NIV, which says to make the most of every opportunity! Lets look at what that means:
Redeem (exagoranzo). It means, “paying a price to recover from the power of another, to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are, as it were, the purchase money by which we make the time our own.”
I like that! We certainly do pay a price to take our time back. We disappoint others, we have to say no to things we would really like to do. I also like the idea of taking it back from the power of another. This ties in with what I was talking about earlier – not being conformed to the standards of this world. We must take control of our time – not let external pressures dictate.
What does it mean, the days are evil?
Evil (ponhrov – poneros).
Get this! The first two meanings are
1. full of labours, annoyances, hardships
2. pressed and harassed by labours
WOW! Full of labour … pressed and harassed by labour! Are you getting this? Are you feeling harassed and under pressure? What are you busy at? Do you have too much on your plate? Is it causing you to be out of balance? What pressures are you reacting to? Stop. Breathe. Refocus. Be strong and be courageous. Your life has a purpose. Stop rushing. Where is it going to take you? I heard a speaker once who had been talking with people in the concentration camps back in the Holocaust. She said the thing that stuck with her was the comment from one of them to rush. The survivor said everywhere they went, they were rushed and herded … not allowed to stop … shouted at to “hurry, hurry” … all the way to their deaths. One of them reflected back and said, the sheer numbers of people in the camps were huge in comparison to the numbers of guards … maybe they could have done something … but they were driven, exhausted, fearful … not a moment to be in any shape to even think or be organized to act differently. Obviously the situation was more complex, but this is a really important thing that the survivor brought out. Rush, rush … all the way to their deaths.
In his book Prophet, Frank Peritti writes an incredibly memorable scene. It so captures the way our world is today (and he wrote this in 1992). John (one of the main characters) is in a shopping mall. While there, he is people watching and starts to muse on how it all is fluff. People are consumed with shopping and spending and eating … but none of it is real … none of it is life. It is empty and meaningless. He starts to have a vision. He feels a draft and a disruption in the balance of the floor. He wonders if it is an earthquake and looks around to see what the people are doing. They don’t seem to notice but their activities increase … get faster and louder. The mall starts to tilt. He looks again at the people. This time they notice something. They look around and their voices go up. There is more of a buzz in the air. The floor tilts some more and now, when he looks to look at the end of the mall, all the lights are out. Everything is in darkness. He starts to hear screams and cries of people in pain. As he looks, he sees the end of the mall is not just dark, it is a huge cavernous vortex – a spinning whirlpool of darkness, sucking everything in. He looks back towards the area he is in and people are shopping faster, buying more, talking louder … completely oblivious to what is happening at the far end. Then the people start to notice, start to panic. But instead of fleeing, they become frantic to buy things, see things, handle things. Now the vortex is sucking with the roar of a tornado, the mall is a crazy tilt and people are flying into the gaping throat. As they are sliding by, he sees they are still trying to spend and shop and hold things … all the while the voices screaming in pain continue.
I read this and to me it is a picture of the world we live in. A frenzy and blur of activity and froth – while all the while people are in pain, are dying … What are we going to see? If we do not stop and step out of the frenzy ourselves, we will not hear the still quiet voice of God. We will not sense the nudges of his leading and we will not be Jesus with skin on to those around us.
Redeem the time my friends, for the day is evil.