Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thought for the day...

In my devotions, the theme of "Sabbath" has come to the fore. The time to take a break and refocus on God. This does not need to be a long stretch, but spaces throughout the day when the demand of the world are put on hold. This past week has been filled with many different challenges and conflicts to be resolved. It has been a time for new deadlines, planning of essential projects affecting the lives of other people, and hopefully new ways of empowering people to be able to live moral and ethical lives.

And so I'm looking at my diary, asking when the next moment will be for a Sabbath. I think I can spot a few days in September after Conference, but for now, it is "close laptop lid", put cellphone on silent-mode and drink Rooibos tea with honey while watching a cartoon with my sons.

Almost forgot, thought for the day: "If you can't fix the problem with a hammer, it is an electrical fault."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some thoughts on Psalm 14

Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21;
John 6:1-21

“The fool says in his heart: ‘There is no God’”. There is no God. Who would say such a thing? From a place of faith, one can join with the Psalmist in frustration and anger, saying ‘Surely, only a fool will say such a thing’. With the Psalmist we may very well even become very condemning of such an action, warning that God will show Godself and that those fools will soon come face-to-face with their own foolishness. In this Psalm, we are asked to draw a line in the sand and to separate the fools from the wise. We are asked which side of the line we are standing on. Are you standing with the wise, or are you standing with the fools? I’m afraid that life is not as simple as that. I’m afraid that the Psalmist may have made it seem too easy, for one either to belong to one group or the other. I’m afraid that however strong our faith may be, there are still parts of our lives which cry out “There is no God”. If it were not so, we would be completely Godly, completely perfect, completely holy. Anybody here walk on water latterly? You know what I’m talking about. It is the place where one watches the news, sees the suffering of the innocent and for even that split second entertain the thought :”There is no God”. It is the moment of hearing devastating news that shapes your life forever “There is no God”. Sometimes these are fleeting thought, at other times a whole chapter being written in our spiritual growth. But today, we are faced with other ways in which we claim: there is no God.

There is no God outside my expectations.

In ancient faith there was no such thing. It all depended on the will of the gods. It is a very recent development in human history where we live by the philosophy that we are as big as our dreams. The American dream, the dream team, the dream body, the dream job, the dream wife, the dream husband. It is the modern search for perfection and happiness. With this way of life comes the belief that our expectations need to be met, otherwise we feel we have no meaning or purpose. Realistically speaking, of the 6 billion people in this world only a few will become famous, a few will become educated, a few will experience good health for the majority of their lives. Think about it this way. If you have satellite TV at home, the emount you spend on that per month is almost twice the amount of money that the majority of people in this world lives on per month. Isn’t that scary? Yet, when our expectations are not met, when our dreams don’t come true, we dare to say… and you guessed it “There is no God”.

There is no God outside my control.

This is the art of directing God. On the one extreme we pray as if we need to educate God, instruct God, coax God to do what we believe to be righteous and just. There are the folk who believe that God follows their instructions word-for word. A couple of years ago, a famous tele-evangelist came to South Africa. There were posters all around stating: Be in such-and-such a place and you will witness the hand of God performing miracles. To which I thought “Well, I hope God diarized the event”. But it is the subtle forms of struggle with God which affects us more, and I suppose that this is the crux of spiritual struggle, the struggle between the power of God and the will of self. The place where we are not explicitly stating that God doesn’t exist, but that my Will should count something in terms of God’s action.
There is a new U2 song which has been buzzing in my head, especially when these moments arise. The line in the song says:
“Stop helping God cross the road like a little old lady”
It may sound a bit strong, but I think it carries the just of the situation.

But hear the words of the Gospel and the Epistle:

God’s grace is sufficient for all. The miracle of the loaves and fish? Perhaps we have given it the wrong name. Perhaps it is not about the loaves and fish at all. Another reading of the parable suggests that as soon as the boy brought his food, people were touched by his generosity and starting bring out their hidden food. The miracle of the changing of hearts. If we are tempted to believe there is no God, perhaps we need to open our hearts and we will find God using what we have to ensure that there is enough for all: Enough to live, enough to love. Paul is convinced of the extent of this gift of God’s presence, for it is found in one gift: The gift of love. It is this gift which binds families together,, this gift which forges relationships, this gift which ensures that no-one should ever be in a place where they say “I’m on my own” – a place which says “There is no God”.

The fool says: “There is no God”. Let us surrender the places of our foolishness to the wisdom and Lordship of Christ.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A new chapter

I can remember my first day in Grade 1. I went to Laerskool Jongspan in Carletonville. My mom was crying and I asked her to leave so I could learn to read and write.

Today we enrolled my little-big boy at Glenstantia Primary.

I cannot say that I felt brave walking down the passage, knowing that my son's primary school days are about to start. The school seems so big, there are so many new faces... will he be ok?

Knowing Matthew, it will only take a few days for all of this to become familiar to him, but as a dad I cannot help but feel a bit scared for his part.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Psalm 91

In my devotions I read Psalm 91:7-13.

It was a passage I needed to hear today. I am tempted to read it literally, somehow hoping that it is a sign of things to turn for the better, especially after I heard some more bad news regarding my parents today.

And then I wondered: "What a great world it would be if the righteous were blessed and the wicked were punished?", or would it? There are so many good people who suffer tremendously and there are so many, shall I say "bastards", who have it all going for them: "Health, wealth, seemingly not a day's worries". Oh, the world can be glad that I'm not God, especially today.

Perhaps this is why evil prospers; there does not seem to be any incentive to be good. In a world of retribution, especially divine retribution, people would be good, or else... One might say that the reward is in the long-term. Religion would suggest it's either heaven or hell. Problem is, most of the baddies don't believe in the afterlife in any case, so they'll continue in their ways and won't bother seeing the righteous struggle.

Then again, not all people who struggle are righteous, not all people who prosper are evil. Sometimes I feel like I don't want to help God cross the road like a little old lady. I want to get behind this lady, grab her by the back and PUSH, running, with walking sticks flying, just to get to the other side quickly.

Meditation: "Stop trying to help God cross the road like a little old lady". Yes, Lord.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Stop trying...

"Stop trying to help God across the road like a little old lady..."

I love U2. This is a phrase in one of their new songs. Since my news and operation I have struggled with issues concerning my own mortality, God's will for me and my family etc.

Needless to say, I have tried to theologize God's behaviour in all this, trying to understand who God is and where God is. The more I search, the less defined and uncontrollable God becomes. And then I listened to my favourite band and heard the message loud and clear.

I will not have answers, I will not be able to rationalize all that has been and all that will come. More than that, I cannot patronize God by prescribing how God should act or how God should spare me this struggle. Like Paul, I can ask several times for this "thorn" to be taken away. I still pray for that, but in the end, this becomes a journey where I become strong in my weakness.

So, in all my questioning, in all my hunger to gain some energy to face the tasks that lie ahead today, this sentence is before me, a central point for reflection and meditation. Why not make it yours and tell me what you've discovered?