I'm a mother to four delightful mischief-makers. I love them very much.
There are times when I indulge their desire to make up stories and let their imaginations fly. It's fun, and it's part of growing up, and learning how the amazing gift of intelligence works.
I also feed and clothe my children, which may come as a relief to you. I'm teaching them to read, teaching them how numbers interact, and most importantly, teaching them how they are made in the image of God, but that they fall short. I often do this by discussing my own struggles with sin with them.
There are also times when I have to be very firm with them, because they are behaving rebelliously. In each of these different tasks, I employ different 'tones'. It's important that I use the right tone for each thing.
It would be ridiculously harsh to remind them, when they are telling fantastical stories, that there is a place for all liars in the lake of fire.
However, it would be equally foolish to encourage them while they were defiantly flouting authority.
I love my children in all these ways. Love. Quite an astonishingly powerful thing. So much bigger than the world's definition.
I'm a mother to four delightful mischief-makers. I love them very much.
I'm wondering if there's a reason why Cecil, Basil and Colin are said with a short vowel sound in the first syllable in the UK, but a long syllable (Ceecil, Baysil and Cohlin) in the US?
Or are you from the US and say them differently? Or the UK, perhaps?
It's always puzzled me since hearing people pronounce Colin Powell's name. In the UK, these names conjure up certain cliched images, as no doubt some names do in the US. I always picture a Colin with a flat cap and bottle-bottom glasses, being very enthusiastic about trainspotting. That's a Co-lin, not a Coh-lin.
There have been some horrifically awful crimes highlighted in the UK over recent days, and thoughts of them combined with all the film and television images I've seen over the course of my life, ran like a slide show in my minds eye, and I just couldn't turn it off.
It's easy to become desensitized to these things, even with the limited exposure to such things that I allow myself. But not last night. Last night the utter horror of what sin really is, and the perversion of the image of God we bear that it represents, was something so overwhelming I could almost taste it.
I looked at these things and wondered how I could ever have any affection or attachment to any of my personal, secret sins. How could I bear to have them in the same space that the Holy Spirit of God occupies within me? It's like deliberately allowing a snake in a baby's cot. It makes no odds if that snake is an enormous boa constrictor or a teensy little asp. It's still deadly.
I finally got up at three am and went to pray with the light on. I poured out my heart before Him, wishing I could reach within myself and wrench the darkness out physically. I sat for ages on my knees, begging Him to burn away the sin that remains in me. I know that my overwhelming sense of abhorrence for sin is but a tiny fraction of how the Thrice Holy God sees it, but even that fragment of horror was enough to nauseate me.
How thankful I am for His grace, and how stunning it is in the reality of the stench that sin gives off. Praise Him, for He lavishes grace freely on His beloved. As wicked as sin is, His goodness surpasses it to infinity. Words seem so inadequate to express it. How worthy of adoration He is.
Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors.
But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies — make straight your way before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.
Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Once in while, popular culture throws up something brilliant. Ebay is a fount of serious oddities, but there are some real gems, and I don't just mean the items at auction.
Read this all the way through, I have a feeling it will become legendary.
There's a modern chorus called 'Open the eyes of my heart'. It's been going around in my head for a few days now. The song itself talks about opening the 'eyes' of our heart to see the Lord.
But my thoughts were focused on a different kind of vision. I've blogged on this before, here, and surprisingly that post didn't solve the problem. :-)
I had a wonderful time at church on Sunday. I woke up tired and really didn't want to go. I wanted to stay in bed, to stay home and play catch-up with housework, to do some reading and not have to faff about getting the children ready.
But I didn't stay home, and all the way to church I was praying that I would be in the right frame of mind to worship the Lord and fellowship with brothers and sisters when I got there. The Lord graciously answered yes, and everything went like clockwork and it was all good.
I have prayed in the past that I would be able to get something out of the service, and that prayer has been much more hit and miss. The reason for that, I believe, is that the very worst kind of attitude to attend church with, is the attitude that has me at the fore-front.
I keep thinking of that phrase 'Open the eyes of my heart, Lord' in connection with the people that attend church with me. Yes, I should certainly go to church with the intention to worship God. That is the primary purpose of such a gathering. But I should not go with any sort of individualistic mindset. I know that the times I have worshipped in a charismatic setting, an unfortunate side-effect of that sort of style of worship has been that the 'communal' aspect of worship - that we are worshipping together - is unintentionally side-tracked.
I really want the Lord to open the eyes of my 'heart', my compassion, to see those around me. It is utterly scandalous that someone may come among the people of God and not be acknowledged. It should not be the province of the 'welcomers' or the ushers. God's people should all have open eyes to see the new person.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Psalm 68:6
The church is the family of God. There should be no better place for the lonely ones to come. May the Lord help us to have open eyes and open hearts, living out His commandment to love. If we do not, I dare to suggest we are being rebellious, and we will dwell in a dry land if we do not welcome in the visitor with love.
As regular readers know, one of my little foibles is a liking for Doctor Who. Season 3 of the New series finished some weeks ago, and I was quite glad to see the back of it.
Not because it was rubbish, because it really, really wasn't. It was excellent, and I spent far too much time thinking about it, analyzing it, and generally being tremendously geeky about plot-lines and spoilers. It was such a relief to turn off that part of my head for a while (at least until the proper run-up to Christmas, at which point I shall likely be twittering about Kylie and the Titanic).
Season 3 was, by and large, an emotional roller-coaster. There were some low points, which was always likely. The Daleks inevitable reappearance had all the menace of a slightly grumpy kitten, sadly.
However, the rest of the series was brilliantly executed, new companion working well, and David Tennant's performance by turns gloriously manic, terrifyingly stern and desperately vulnerable. But if I'm reviewing a series which finished over a month ago, I'm a little off the boil, wouldn't you say?
No, I wanted to get down some thoughts I had after sitting through the last episode and being, well, quite disappointed. It's taken me a while to process that through. Was it because it was the end of the series? Was it because after the first two episodes of the three-parter, any finale was going to have to be 100% perfect to not be disappointing?
Actually, though those reasons may account for some of it, it was something altogether bigger. One of the delightful things about Doctor Who is the irrepressible enthusiastic optimism about life. The series had already been exploring what it means to be human, looking at curiosity, creativity, hope, romantic love, valour and family.
The run up to the final three-parter had built carefully, and the first two episodes had set up an enormous dilemma, giving the Doctor the tantalizing possibility of family, and that one possibility being a genocidal maniac who had turned the Doctor into an incapacitated old man.
With the human race being systematically destroyed by mysterious flying spheres, The TARDIS torn apart and Martha Jones, new companion, completely separated from the Doctor and alone, things were looking desperate.
The final episode showed Martha walking the whole earth, telling the story of 'The Doctor', building a legend for humanity to believe in. On her travels, she discovers what the spheres are - human beings from the very end of time, who have survived by becoming monsters, and have teamed up with the Doctor's nemesis, the Master, to escape the collapse of reality.
Eventually, she gets back on board the Master's ship, and reveals her mission, now he is powerless to stop her. She had built the legend of the Doctor so that somehow, by connecting the satellite field that controlled the populace with the alien abilities of the Doctor, he would be able to regenerate with the power of positive thought.
Now, anyone who isn't into Sci-Fi (and no doubt many who are) will probably be thinking "What a load of old gubbins". I watched it myself, thinking about how many sermon illustrations were, even now, being prepared, especially as the Master scorns the very idea, saying "Is that your plan? Prayer?"
But that is indeed the plan, and the Doctor rises up from the cage in which he had been held, shining with CGI razzmatazz, his arms outstretched in an obvious allusion to Christ. He floats towards his enemy, saying "Tell me the human race is degenerate now, when it can do this!"
When he reaches his enemy, he embraces him, and against the Master's whining protests, The Doctor offers him forgiveness. Well, if you know anything about drama, you'll guess that it doesn't end there, but eventually, the Master is despatched, and the Doctor is once again reduced to the last of his species.
A great big red plot reset button is pressed and everything goes back to the way it was, and it was like it never happened. The spheres are once again trapped at the end of all things, and all there is left to do is wait for Kylie at Christmas.
Well, now you've sat through those reams of exposition, how do you feel? I'll tell you how I felt. Utterly pointless. This convoluted plot may have been full of heroism and loyalty, showing the power of humanity in adversity, but so what? According to the plot, the same humanity still ends up trapped as mad monsters as the universe collapses around them into nothingness.
I suppose I could see a good illustration of total depravity there, but total depravity without a redeemer is one of the most depressing, despairing ideas ever. Russell T Davies, the writer of these episodes, and the brains behind the entire new series, is well known as an atheist.
The finale was just exactly what it should be in an atheist worldview. Yes, humans are capable of amazing, breath-taking things. We create and we love, and sometimes we do things that go so far beyond the normal we can scarcely believe it. But that's it, really. Ultimately it's all meaningless and the darkness will crash in on us. Martha saved the world - for what? So that humanity can continue on, and eventually dissolve into nothingness. What was the point?
I suppose the atheist answers that we have to embrace the now, and you could certainly take that view of the series. But do people do amazing and sacrificial things out of a motivation of embracing the now? Or do we do those things because of the hope of the eternal, because of the belief that something is bigger than ourselves?
Hebrews 11 tells us of a list of people who did things in the light of a hopeful eternity, not a meaningless and ultimately dark universe. The finale of Doctor Who series 3 left me cold because it was completely undermined by the basic premise that, yes, humanity is eventually evil and destroyed and nothing we do will change that.
It reminded me that, though the Doctor is a fantastic imaginary hero, he can never bring redemption, not even in the fictional universe he inhabits. So many really believe in the worldview behind that universe, and that's a frightening thing. The sphere-humans knew they had no hope, and they became monsters, without any restraint against evil.
One of the ways I think Christians are meant to be salt and light, preserving society, is because we insist that there is hope and meaning. It's partly through that witness that the Lord holds back the darkness of the human heart. Living in a post-Christian society is an unnerving thing sometimes, watching the scaffolding of Christian belief slowly being dismantled from the public arena. You know the edifice isn't strong enough to stand without it. It may take a little while for the subsidence to have an effect on the super-structure, but it will happen. What then?
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:14b-15.
I thought this was an interesting idea for a meme, over at Kim's, and I've been doing some housekeeping in my archives recently, so it didn't take too long to do..
My worst post: I've been pondering this, and in all honesty, my worst posts never made the light of day. They're all lurking in draftdom. I did delete one post about IVF, because it led to some misunderstandings, but I obviously can't link you there. How about this one which rather aptly shows my latent Luddite tendencies.
My best post: Not sure. I was pleased with Magic Eye Gospel. I think my two-parter about three funerals, beginning here and ending here is probably the best, though.
Post on which I have changed my mind: My Pride and Prejudice movie review. We don't watch swashbucklers on romantic evenings much now, we go to sleep.
Post which generated the most comments: It was actually a post about being gracious in discernment, here. A count of 126 beat the previous total on this post about painfully awful 'Christian' lyrics.
Once in a while, you come across a really good example of why the gospel is foolishness to the world. We can have lots of highbrow in-house conversations about why the world doesn't like the message of Christianity - be it packaging, judgementalism, not having a drummer, whatever. The reason I see most often is nothing to do with any of that, not really.
I read a discussion the other day sparked off when a non-Christian realized that their Christian friends believed that, just because they didn't believe in Jesus Christ, they would go to hell.
They were considering whether or not to remain friends with them, because this was just such a very offensive thing to believe about someone. The bulk of the conversation was about how deeply wrong it seemed that a murderer could believe in Christ and go to heaven, but a very good person who only rejected Jesus Christ would go to hell.
It's like the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, from Matthew chapter 20:1-16. Like the workers who were content until they saw what was given to others, they found it unacceptable that the Owner of the vineyard was the One who decided what was fair and just.
They were right - the gospel is an enormously offensive thing. It only goes to illustrate how backward our priorities are as fallen beings - we think so lightly of scorning and rejecting our loving and merciful Creator, who holds our lives in the palms of His hands. The world has absolutely no problem with God being forgiving and kind, and that good people go to heaven. That's not contentious in the least.
But that God accepts the most reprehensible sinners on the basis of something that has absolutely nothing to do with their inherent worth - that He would forgive the child-murderer on the same basis that He would forgive the socially responsible Anglican - this strikes modern sensibilities like a rotting chicken carcass on the Sunday dinner table.
That's why salvation is all of God. There is nothing reasonable about it to the spiritually dead. It's not going to win you friends and influence people in this world, that's for sure. It should give us confidence to share the truth with others, though, because they will only ever believe if the Holy Spirit has gone before us into hearts - and He assures us that He will.
I think I'm an incorrigible stuck-in-the-mud. I still call Starburst 'Opal Fruits', I still call a Snickers bar a 'Marathon bar', I still use Oil of Ulay, not Oil of Olay, and I still clean my sink with Jif, not 'Cif'.
Honestly, branding-business people, if you want me to call a product by the same name as everyone else in the world, don't market it to the English with a different name in the first place. Tsk.
I've been reading quite a bit around the topic of tongues recently, from all the varying perspectives. This isn't a post about tongues, though. This is a post about something which is starting to to annoy me.
I keep hearing/reading charismatic writers saying that the accompanying biblical gift to tongues is 'interpretation' not 'translation'.
Now, I am not as versed in the original languages as I'd like to be, but I'm going out on a limb here to say that is just odd. Does the same logic apply in calling the person who 'translates' a foreign-language speaker an 'interpreter'?
Do the same people call english bibles 'interpretations' instead of 'translations'? It's like hearing a person say "It's not cerise, it's pink."
As a distinction it makes no sense at all, unless you honestly believe that the gift of interpretation of tongues is and was always a creative arts gift where someone gave their own groovy slant on the message given in the tongue.
...by being faithful to keep His promises, giving us every reason to put our trust in Him to save us. What He decrees will come to pass, and the fact that He will punish wickedness is why we can have confidence that He will be gracious.
So it's summer (finally, in the UK), the silly season when not a lot really happens. Parliament is in recess, churches tend to be half empty while people go on holiday, or church houseparties, and blogs just sort of tick over.
I imagine when you saw the title of this post, you might have thought I was calling time on the pink place. To those of you for which that was a relief, I apologize - I'm not stopping. But the business of quitting or taking a 'hiatus' has been on my mind for a while now.
Blogs have so many different purposes, and there will, inevitably, be time for some blogs to stop. I recall being most put out when Spunky stopped her homeschooling blog, because it really stimulated my mind about the issue. But she had a purpose with that blog, and there came a point where she felt the purpose had been fulfilled, so she stopped. Completely wise decision.
I remember the cold shiver down my spine when Phil Johnson posted the last entry at Pyromaniac. He acknowledged the enormous burden good, content-rich blogging can be - especially if you leave the comments open. Thankfully for those who love a good fight about meat chubs and schmerydactyls, he went the team blog route.
Recently, another blog I read was nearly snuffed out, but after announcing her intention to stop, she did a u-turn and carried on (and I'm rather glad, I thoroughly enjoy my visits there).
I won't deny it's occured to me a few times to wind this up. The few occasions of real controversy have been a reminder of the very real responsibility a Christian has to be careful with their words.
But, for me, it comes down to why I blog in the first place. I don't blog on one particular topic, I'm not really a current affairs blogger who needs to keep readers abreast of things, and by now, my readership know what to expect in terms of frequent posts - I'm no Carla Rolfe, squeezing in an astonishing amount of blogging while running a home, educating her children, running an online store and doing it all through antidiluvian dial-up.
Essentially, I blog because I have random thoughts about a lot of different things and I like being able to write them down. I've always written - when I'm stressed, depressed, happy, searching, confused, angry and so on. It's always been my main way of unlocking my head and letting the sun in, ever since I was a child. I was a blogger way before blogs even existed - my house is full of notebooks to prove it, too. Being a Christian means that much of what I blog on will be to do with Christianity, because that's what occupies most of my thoughts.
When I came online, I just sort of picked up links and readers along the way. So I can say with confidence that it's very unlikely I would quit blogging, even if I didn't have a computer anymore.
The bare, simple reason for this post - aside from the random thoughts about blogging itself? That picture of Kevin Bacon was starting to give me the willies.