Friday, December 31, 2010

HE IS

A contrived conversation with God on what the future holds

Me: Lord I need to ask you something.
God: Fire away.
Me: Well, I have been praying for a few things lately - some for others, some for myself - and it crossed my mind that I may be praying for things that will never happen. I have faith in you and that you can accomplish anything but I've given up on the idea of demanding answers as if that proved my faith.
God: Your reasoning is sound and it's true that believing harder doesn't justify your faith. You need faith only as small as a tiny seed and so long as your faith is in me you can accomplish great things.
Please explain why you think you might be praying in vain.
Me: Well, if you know everything that's going to happen it would make sense for me to be privy to that information so I can pray just for those things that will come about rather than running through a wish list.
God: But that would give you knowledge without wisdom. Could I trust you with that sort of information?
Me: No, probably not. I see your point. But what do I do with the niggling doubts? It doesn't feel right praying "Your will be done" all the time because that kind of negates the point of praying and if I keep praying for stuff that doesn't materialize how can I justify my faith.
God: You will have to deal with your doubts because no matter what I do they will surface. Doubts and fear must be met with courage and the only way to prove courage is to be reckless in confronting them. You will also need to be reckless in your faith and pray with conviction, not fearing the consequences if you're wrong. I'm not telling you what you don't already know but I understand how you can get confused.
You require wisdom and courage: wisdom so that you don't make a mockery of your faith and courage because your apparent lack of faith is actually fear of doing the wrong thing.
Me: But it's not just fear of being wrong, its also fear of loss - of not having my needs met or of others being dissappointed. Am I wrong in being afraid of disappointment?
God: No, you are not wrong. Your most basic need is to be loved and that doesn't simply mean being cared for. It means being valued and affirmed. Your sense of who you are is vital to your wellbeing and if, in any way, your faith in me is undermined your spirit will be crushed. Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
Go on.
Me: Given that I have to accept I can't be certain of the future the gnawing doubt about the usefulness of my prayers still troubles me. You have told us of things that will happen and we have stories in the Bible where what you have predicted has come true. I think the real issue is a feeling of fatalism - not so much whether we can know something will happen but the inevitability of it.
God: This is no mere curiosity is it? Its about the future.
Me: I suppose it is. If you know everything that will happen then surely it will happen.
God: What you say has a logic about it but assumes many things. Firstly you assume there is a single space time continuum on which we all travel; that your future is my future.
Me: I don't understand.
God: Let me explain.
Your present and future don't actually exist any more than the horizon or the equator. As soon as you name the present it has passed; your future is mere conjecture and your past is no longer under your control. I have no past or future; I am forever present. Your past, present and future are all current to me.
Furthermore my ways are beyond your understanding. To say I can foretell what will come is to place me in time. For you that is true but for me it is altogether different. I have never claimed to be a seer - I don't see, I know. But what I know you cannot comprehand. It's therefore futile for you to attempt to understand what it means for me to know the future.
I have given you all you need to pray effectively; all you need to be significant and whatever you don't have, ask and I will give it to you. Simply know that I AM your Father, the one who IS.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ghost of Christmas Cancelled

I decided to work late into the night and complete something I promised I'd do over the last couple of days. At 11.30 I was really tired and a little cold. I wasn't sure whether to push on through the tiredness or lay down for a while and nap but gave in and lay beneath the duvet, fully clothed so that I didn't get too comfortable. At midnight my computer alerted me to the time but by now the drug of sleep had made getting up an unpleasant experience and I gave in and went back to bed. That too was unpleasant as I couldn't get comfortable and as I turned over a part of the bed was cold. I got up, went to the toilet, then made myself a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal and sat in front of my computer. I then, as is my habit these days, pictured what it was that I was feeling and the picture was of heading into a black tunnel - that tunnel being Christmas.

There should be nothing frightening about Christmas - nothing traumatic has happened for me to associate it with blackness and I won't be alone on Christmas day. That day is actually a picture of light but it's a fluorescent, cold, shadowless light; of smiles, good food and general enjoyment yet devoid of meaning. I can see myself travelling towards darkness that will apparently vanish when I arrive at it, only to reappear when I exit the other side. It's not the blackness of shadows but the blackness of nothing. It's absolute zero; a vacuum; deep space. It's like a black hole that isn't black because there is no light but because it sucks all light into it.

This has been coming for days and though I have had moments of lucidity the fog hasn't really lifted. I'm thinking that maybe I should give into it and explore the twists and turns my mind has made in coming to its conclusions. We can underestimate the power of our minds to reliably assess the truth yet weave an alternative reality that, as convincing as it is, leaves a paper trail of clues that if followed can unravel the mystery of our subconscious. However, as fascinating and therapeutic as this may be it leaves me with the knowledge that, though I can change my outlook, my circumstance will be unaltered by my consideration of it. And herein lies the conflict. If I were to deduce that I was suffering from some sort of depression I could possibly obtain a remedy that would make me happy. But happiness is just a feeling and is not the solution I'm seeking.

I'm stuck with being utterly disappointed with myself and with prospects that horrify me more than my current situation. I want what many would declare a hopeless wish and nothing else. Christmas appears to mock me and for that I hate it. Yet the opposite of love isn't hate, its indifference. I've recently read A Christmas Carol for the first time and was a little disappointed that it ended so happily because up till then I was strangely comforted by Scrooge's misery. But it occurs to me now that perhaps my subconscious attitude towards Christmas is, in itself, a paper trail that may ultimately lead me to keep Christmas well, if any man possessed the knowledge.

Humbug anyone?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Teacher

All is nonsense - to paraphrase Solomon's opening words in the amazing book of Ecclesiastes. It's all chasing after the wind. Flatulence will get you nowhere - you might say. Here I am at the back end of 5 in the morning writing stuff and, well, nonsense.

I had planned on getting some work done last night but wandering into the slough of despond I opted to finish my online 'A Christmas Carol'. Do you ever feel like you've immersed yourself in a book - identifying with situation and the characters, gripped by the tension, anticipating the climax - only to feel deflated when it all resolves? It's like when your best mate gets married. Yes you're pleased for him but to be honest you feel betrayed. Not that you wouldn't have done the same but that's not the point. I like tunes that end on a second, like there's something else to come, films that leave you in suspense and books that ask more questions than they answer.

Life has more commas than full stops. When the party's over your life carries on and for most of us its no party. Ecclesiastes isn't a happy ever after book; it ends warning that God will judge you according to what you do. But interspersed throughout are little nuggets like 'enjoy life with your wife, whom you love' and 'follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see." The author knows that when the party is over there'll just be tidying up to do, hangovers to look forward to and meaninglessness. Don't refuse that dance because the chance will be gone once the last waltz has been played.

My life seems to be surrounded by meaningless nonsense. I'm getting very skilled at building castles in the sand and used to listening to other people's plans for their next silica'n empire. Life's a beach. So why am I up writing at the crack of dawn? Well, after bidding Scrooge goodbye there seemed only one good thing to do and that was go to bed even if it wasn't yet nine of the clock. Earlier in the day I had been pondering the endless possibilities that lay ahead of me but beginnings take more energy than endings - it's all to do with inertia (or unertia in my case). I was spent.

God save me from meaningless claptrap, that masquerades as wisdom; coincidences, that claim to be miracles; fiction, that claims to be fact; spirituality, that deals in fairy tales. When the high tide laps at your feet, seemingly answering your prayer, don't dive in or you will be swept out to sea. Instead walk out to the low tide. Wait, and it will cover your ankles; tarry, and it will reach your waist. Your patience will be rewarded and your wisdom will profit you. There are no signs or wonders in Ecclesiastes, no mention of the Messiah. You could say it is a low book but all the better to dip your toe in.

Ecclesiastes means teacher [of the assembly]

Sunday, December 05, 2010

That Great & Terrible Day

with a twist

Strange patterns on the surface of the waters
Like cellophane over liquid clay
Almost imperceptibly twisting, shifting, turning
And all becomes clear - it is a whirl pool

The moment is no longer an event
But the tail of a string whose head is hidden
Yet we see it as though it were proud of the surface
So near yet distant, unseen yet filling our vision
The inevitable, the irresistable, the conclusion

No need for oars or compass, sail or sextant
Abandon hope of any other outcome
We all, on that day, will share a common bond
The proud and lowly, the same inevitable fate
When multitudes will rise from troubled sleep and cry
Happy Christmas

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Potluck or Pot Bound

I remember as a child building a dam on the beach, attempting to impede a stream of water as it made its way to the sea. It was no grand project. All I wanted to do was construct my own little pool that I knew would eventually be washed away but I hoped, at least, to be able to admire my handiwork if only for a moment. But all was in vain and as soon as I'd fixed one breach another would appear. My sister came to help me as I was reduced to tears through frustration. She knew it was a hopeless exercise and persuaded me to join the rest of the family as they were building a more solid structure further down the beach with stones and seaweed. My tears vanished and my frustration evaporated as together we successfully completed our family project.

We all have our own pet projects and rightly want the satisfaction of saying "I did this". In passing exams, attending interviews or taking a driving test there comes a point when we are on our own and, in the final analysis, stand or fall on our own personal performance. Persistence and determination are admirable qualities yet stoicism can often verge on plain stubbornness and attempting the same futile strategies reduces persistence to plain stupidity. It's easy to learn from the beach where lessons are swift and fleeting but in the complex activities of our lives consequences are often far-reaching and sometimes far off. We are adept at finding a cause to fit an effect rather than facing our actions head on and instead of honing our skills of deduction, as we grow older, more often we learn obfuscation, simply masking our mistakes.

It seems to me that one of the root causes of our frustrations in life is our obsession with self-determination. With most obsessions its not what we do but why we do it that is the issue (obsessive cleanliness has little to do with being clean). We seek to take control of that in which we feel we have little control but all we are doing is building dams with beach sand. What we need to establish is what we can control and what we can't and if there is something we can't control we need to let it go because it will simply sap our resources. To make matters worse we often put our efforts into controlling something that doesn't exist: bearing grudges when no offence has been meant; imagining the worst outcome; chasing pots of gold.

For me the issue is one of agendas and deciding how the problem is going to be solved when I don't have the tools to analyse the problem in the first place. Before remembering the beach incident I pictured myself clearing autumn leaves. When its dry and there are high winds it's a futile exercise so is a perfect example of frustration. Before that I was thinking of seasons, which brings this discussion full circle. A wise man will do things in season. He will dig when it's the right time to dig, sow when it's the right time to sow. He has no control over the seasons and therefore takes no care that winter is coming. Likewise, the deciduous tree doesn't hold on to its leaves for fear of being exposed, it sheds them knowing it will grow more in the coming spring.

Going with the flow just means taking potluck with your life but taking control when you have none is worse. You will just go round in circles.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Revival Regurgitated

or Revivalism is OT

Round Table Christians Part IV

According to the Online Dictionary, revival means to restore to life, vigour or strength. The word 'restore' indicates bringing something back to a former state that presumably was glorious but has since died, decayed or fallen into disrepair. The dictionary specifically defines a spiritual revival as an awakening of interest relating to personal religion. When Christians talk of revival reference is often made to the Old Testament but unfortunately this is fraught with difficulties as the church is not Israel in revival. Jesus teaches that new wine must be put in new wine skins and that you cannot restore an old wins skin with new leather. We can therefore only draw lessons from Israel's history and infer what God might be saying to us because the church was started from scratch.

The New Testament is largely concerned with the birth of the church and spans less than a century so we have little chance of seeing a church in decline or restoration. Its probably only in Revelation that God speaks directly about revival as we understand it today. The church in Ephesus is called to return to its first love or be snuffed out and the church in Sardis is told to strengthen what remains and is about to die. However, we are not informed as to the response of the churches and, anyway, the focus is normally on the book of Acts. The problem here again is that the church in Acts is being born, not restored. Many will say that the New Testament church is a model that we need to return to; they will point to the power and effectiveness of the early church and, moving on to the new Testament letters, will say that these are the guidelines for how the church should look, with the five-fold ministries beginning with apostles. This warrants a great deal of study and debate but I would suggest that there is a common denominator amongst the restorationists and revivalists that both defines and contradicts their thinking.

Going way back into the Old Testament God told Moses that there would be a prophet just like him that would guide Israel into all truth. It was Moses who gave Israel their Law but it would only be the prophet who was like, but would supersede, Moses who would fulfil the Law and give his people the ability to live a godly life. That, of course, was Jesus. The problem I see with revivalism is that it is an Old Testament paradigm. While it holds that the new is come and the old is passed away it has, in effect, restored the old rather than replacing or superseding it. By citing the book of Acts as a model and Paul's letters as manual, it simply gives us new rules. Instead of putting the Old Testament in context, the New Testament becomes The Bible Part II. It could be argued that the Bible (proper) ends with the Gospels and the rest is a God inspired commentary because everything is summed up in Jesus - he is the alpha and omega.

In short, while revivalists go on about God doing a new thing, what they teach and prophecy sounds rehearsed and regurgitated. Instead of looking forward and seeking fresh ground they continually look back to what has been. You hear talk of a new wave, times of refreshing, "you ain't seen nothing yet". Anyone who is serious about the Great Commission that Jesus left us with will want to see the outpouring of God's Spirit but there is a God chasing mentality that troubles me. If there is one lesson to be learnt from Jesus' teaching it is that we must lay everything down in deference to him. That means scrapping our own agenda no matter how noble it may seem. God knows we need stimulating and if he doesn't put zest into our lives we will find excitement elsewhere but if we have faith that God will meet our every need at the opportune time we have no need to chase anything.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When the Devil Whispers

It's no accident that theatrical tragedies have been so popular for millenia, that clowns wear a frown or success often rises from the ashes of defeat. Is the twisted life of a comic genius the source of his acerbic wit?

Through a combination of fault and fate I've walked a rocky path this last year or so and though I've had to face up to harsh realities there have been times when I've wondered if I've been over analytical. The truth is: this has probably been the most incisive and creative time of my life though I would swap it in an instant. It's only through pain you can identify the hurt which I might have missed had I been more stoic. I asked myself if it was wise to seek enlightenment whenever thoughts troubled me and though I concede that bread is more useful than wisdom, on this occasion I thought it worth the detour.

And so I thought maybe I heard the devil whisper and was there any benefit in listening. If you read into this the morality of truth or a theology of evil you have completely missed the point.

When the Devil Whispers

When the devil whispers
I strain to hear
Though I'm told
He is the master of deceit
And father of lies
He is no fool

As old as the hills
And counsellor of kings
He is neither jester
Nor civil servant
Even Jesus did not dismiss him

Only when it is obscured
Is the window honest
No man is true
Nor demon false
A clean window
Is perfectly hidden

So I will doubt men of God
When they claim to see
And myself
When I think I understand
Or know what's true

Like marks on the window
Tell me when it has rained
So my troubled mind
Echoes his whispers
And through his stained glass lies
I see the truth

© Chris Price 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hopes Deferred

A Poem

With willing flesh
And heart replete
A thousand miles these feet would walk
In searing heat

These heavy eyes
Would gladly gaze
Upon the sun's relentless
incandescent rays

But heroes faint
For lack of hope
When lesser mortals less prepared
Would somehow cope

The flesh finds strength
From scraps and spills
And breaks out of its boundaries
When the spirit wills

But flesh's
anaerobic burst
Will face the hearts inertia
When it fears the worst

The spirit hides
Behind the skirts
Of fixed primordial paradigms
And ancient hurts

The heart made strong
With longings stirred
grows weak with dreams betrayed
And hopes deferred

© Chris Price 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Read Any Good Books Lately?

A Final Eulogy

It's been nearly four months since my mum died and this weekend the family got together to scatter her ashes. I was thinking about what would be appropriate to say on this occasion that was not so applicable at her funeral. I gave the eulogy at her funeral and in deciding what to say I went through a few ideas including the concept of the circle of life. While living appears to be linear if you join the two ends you have a continuous line with no true beginning or end. However as this is conceptual rather than illustrative it doesn't really lend itself to a eulogy. Pondering on this about an hour before scattering the ashes the illustration of a library came into my mind (though I can't quite remember how it came about) and as I thought about it the idea of borrowing a book worked quite well and the following is, in essence, what I said.

When an author writes a book it first takes shape as a manuscript which goes to a publisher and eventually is printed in several copies, some of which find their way onto a library shelf. These books are merely clones of the original manuscript and being created or destroyed do not affect the existence of the story itself. The original is like a blueprint which defines the copy and even if the copy is burned the blueprint remains. The Bible says that from the dust we come and to dust we will return which is like a library book that we can only keep for a while. Once we have read it must be returned to the shelf in the library where it came from.

We said our farewells nearly four months ago - we waved goodbye as she took her final journey. Today we honoured her memory as her ashes fell on the same ground that received those of my dad 11 years ago. We also acknowledged our mortality and gratefulness as we honoured the stamp of the great librarian and returned what was never ours to own or keep.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Can I Have a Word

Praying At & Speaking Into (1)

Round Table Christians Part III

My favourite book of all time is Lord of the Rings and, apart from The Mission, my favourite film(s) would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don't think its purely escapism that lets us believe in orcs and sentient trees, there is something in us that knows there are forces out there that we do not understand. When I think of the giant redwoods and marvel at the wonder of the oceans I am engaged with nature in a primal union that lies outside of my knowledge. As a Christian I believe that there are spiritual forces abroad and that there is a battle between good and evil just as the Fellowship of the Ring were pitted against Saruman, Sauron and their evil armies. I also believe that I am called to fight with spiritual weaponse6.12 in order to defeat the works of darkness.

Unfortunately many Christians fancy themselves as Frodo or Aragorn and actively seek out Ring Wreathes to do battle with. They search the bible for weapons that they can arm themselves with, warriors they can model themselves on and strategies of war. They read the bible as if it were a book of spells with hidden meanings behind every verse. Because they are (rightly) told that the Holy Spirit will reveal all truthj16.13 they are convinced that if they dedicate themselves to its study then God will reveal truths that are hidden to everyone else. Then, once they are convinced that the bible says what they believe, you cannot question what they say because you are then questioning the word of God. Now they have a biblical framework they set to building a world view where every situation confirms their belief and any counter explanation is simply worldly.

A whole language is built around their understanding with strange phrases which give them a sense of identity and fellowship but which sound religious, cultish and wacky to everyone else. Unfortunatley, if something is repeated often enough it can worm its way into the vernacular. I find myself uttering phrases like "I'm so not going out". Maybe I want to be current or it just has a cozey feel to it. In a modern church setting where people pray from the hip they say things like "I just want pray for...". The 'just' is redundant but many people put it in unconsciously because its the way they've heard other people pray. Habit and familiarity is one thing, ignorance is something else.

I will continue this in another post but, for now, I will leave you with a quote from VOICE OF FREEDOM.

There is something mysterious and powerful about our words when we say them. It is the way that God has designed the power of the Gospel to work. He wants us to speak to our situation; yes, to turn the negative situations around through the Word of God. Paul said God ordained deliverance through the mystery of preaching. God has made every born again Christian at least to be the preacher of his own destiny. When we speak positive words to our situations, we are not talking about using empty, vain, unproductive words. The way a lawyer goes before a judge with well chosen words; the way children go before their parents with words that will invoke parental sympathy; so we are to choose and use words that will work for our deliverance.

It may not sound too wacky but the reasoning is fatally flawed and the seeds of wackiness are there as I hope to make clear.

  1. Ephesians 6.12: ...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against ... the powers of this dark world...
  2. John 16.13: But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.

The Full Circle

or Why Doesn't the Church Learn Joined Up Thinking

We had a study this evening (actually it was two evenings ago) on world views. We looked at animism and eastern philosophies, western materialism, post modernism and a biblical, or Christian, world view. We also looked at what the bible describes as the world as opposed to the kingdom of God and the way the world influences our thinking. The debate about post modernism was interesting because the author of the study naively suggested that post modern thinking meant that you simply believed whatever you wanted to as opposed to the biblical view that truth was absolute. Rather uncritically, the study left little doubt that a Christian biblical world view was the one we should hold.

For me, the only thing the study proved was that the author was either ignorant or was simply using opposing views as foils to his conclusion. It would have been more productive to explore what the bible meant by the world and how God's kingdom not only stands opposed to it but powerfully exposes the subtle lies it uses to ensnare and oppress. A discussion on world views would hardly be necessary in the face of such clear and unambiguous teaching from the mouth of the Son of Man himself. It would be like observing a small child at play then asking her to explain what she was doing. Her explanation might be interesting, if she was willing to vocalise it, but it wouldn't be as illuminating as the observation. Its made me think about how we formulate our theology and explain what we believe.

So often now when I listen to a speaker I find points to criticize or argue or even dismiss and I would like to think that there's more to it than me hardening as I formulate my own theology and build arguments in defence of my opinions. I honestly believe I am becoming more open to genuine and original thought as I reflect on the wisdom, dogma and ignorance that has shaped my thinking. Its probably true that wisdom is narrow in that all that is wise has a similar ring to it so commending itself to us while ignorance is wide but has a dissonance that jars and draws attention and, in the end, repulses us. I hope I am becoming more discerning, savouring the juicy bits and putting the pips on the side of my plate. I hope also that it's because I am becoming more interested in how we comminicate through actions than through words.

So I thought not only of children who, though they may chatter endlessly, are more concerned with doing than talking but heroes of old who's legacy is far more than words of wisdom, words that would sound hollow were they not outstripped by acts of bravery, compassion and social justice. People like Elizabeth Fry, William Wilberforce, Gladys Ailward, Lord Shaftesbury, Dr Barnardo, Martin Luther King Jr. Even for Charles Dickens, though his legacy is the written word, it is a commentary on the social evils of his day told through story books rather than from the pulpit. These weren't heroes of exposition or philosophy, of rhetoric and apologetics, these were men and women after God's own heart who tired of talk that did not result in action.

I'm thinking that true faith is not like drawing a boundary to define what we believe so that we can safely say, "If its inside its true and if its outside its false" but more like a spiral that starts from the centre, making a path, ever expanding, self defining, building on truth rather than formulating it within some arbitray bounds. Discovering faith and the truths of God's word is not like building a jigsaw where you find all the edges and corners and work your way in, its more like building a house where you start by digging a trench, filling it back in and then working your way up. Its growing an oak from an acorn which must first be buried. You don't know what shape its going to turn out but you know it will look like an oak.

Post modernism is not like a squiggly line that ends wherever it fancies, its a circle that has rejected the straight line with its distinct beginning and end and instead asks you to seek the centre. Truth is more difficult to measure and define. Rather, you are defined by it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Length of a Jetty

My fingertips are cold but not as cold as my heart. How can there be so much noise yet it seems like there’s a deafening silence – tinnitus, white sound that drowns out all sounds of joy and peace but I can still hear the clock ticking and the traffic outside.

Where is God in all this? When all the reasoning and words of encouragement have settled like house dust the air is clearer and lines and angles of the furniture and window frame are sharper and clearer. When chattering has ceased the sound of the house moving and settling reminds me that the earth moves.

It doesn’t just remain static while humans take care of their busyness and God’s creatures go about theirs. The earth moves – very slowly, definitely, irresistibly taking no heed of our short and hurried lives. But I’m getting older and as long as I’m alive I will be swept down the river of life along with the detritus that brushes my shoulder and muddies my view. And the landmarks become memories as new horizons entice me and eventually pass by into history.

God is the constant. He moves at the speed of light yet in 25 billion years he hasn’t moved one inch. He is everywhere yet he is always here. He is nowhere to be seen yet his glory is revealed in the mightiest of volcanoes and the most delicate of flowers. He is the constant that defies verification, the black spot in my vision - when I look straight at him he disappears - the hobo that moves on as soon as you have him settled.

The earth moves and I can’t see it, it creaks and I can’t hear it. I leave this plot of ground motionless as I hurtle on towards a goal that eludes me only to come full circle to that plot of ground that is wiser than I. Whether I sit and let the world go by or try to defeat time as it laughs at my folly, I will end up in the same place.

I will lie down to sleep with unfinished business and in the blink of an eye I’ll be back at the coal face, my hands still grey with coal dust from the day before, my pick just where I left it, a foot further but still a mile underground. I carry my burdens like a haversack. Even when it’s empty I won’t take it off because it keeps my back warm.

You don’t know what I carry in my bag. When the flask is empty and the sandwichless cling film flits about, the lies and dark secrets still cling to the inner seams making sounds like flasks and empty crisp packets. They need very little space and can live on crumbs.

But God the Father knows me inside out. He waits like the earth and moves like the wind. He counts my efforts as nought against the backdrop of eternity yet he counts every hair on my head. He leaves me to dig my own holes and winces as the spade hits another stone as he recalls nail on hammer pinning flesh to wood. He waits impatiently for me to unbuckle my burden and lay it at his feet; but wait he will though it has been an eternity.

I am no Job – he was a righteous man – but we all, like sheep, have gone astray. If only I had misspent my youth - I would have learned and been wiser. But I am learning wisdom the hard way and I am yet a student. I may yet learn the length of the jetty when I have overreached it’s end by a foot.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thankfulness

What can I thank God for?


Preamble: A little background so you can see where I’m coming from, then you will better understand where I’m going. I had a rough day yesterday and sunk into self-pity wondering when my god-awful life was going to turn around. Yet a few days earlier I was encouraging someone to be thankful (it’s funny how you are taught your own lesson). I am slowly learning that good things happen when I am thankful and my life goes down the pan when my head is in it. It’s not magic or even peculiarly biblical.

It’s good to thank God when you are happy, successful, content and life feels good but life’s pleasures can be deceitful. And it’s easy to forget God when prayer is routine rather than necessary; when you are crying out for others but have no obvious needs yourself.

The world is so deceitful that it will allow you to see its deceit to a depth that will satisfy your self righteousness and guilt and reward you for your apparent honesty and contrition. To this end you can hear sermon after sermon about the deceitfulness of wealth and what the world has to offer and be satisfied that you understand. You may convince your friends and be a shining example of someone who loves the Lord and cares for others, a standard for others to model their lives on.

But the heart is deceitful above all things (even the devil dresses as an angel of light). If you are poor you should delight in God because it is he who makes you rich; if you are rich you should delight in God because all you have can be taken away and your true wealth will not be touched. If you are poor don’t despise the rich because only God knows their hearts. If you are rich don’t despise the poor because God gave you your wealth. Think of yourself with sober judgement and take pride in what you do, not your position, because God can bring you down with a single blow and make you an object of scorn and derision. God has given us all the gift of life. To each one of us he has given gifts that we should administer in faith and faithfulness. God has given his grace freely and without condition to any that will call on him. For all these things we should be thankful.

God isn’t waiting to bring you down nor does he take great delight in bringing you to your knees to teach you humility. He is for you and not against you. He wants to build you up, not break you down but he is more interested in the state of your heart than the state of your bank balance. He can fill or empty your bank account but to fix your heart he needs some cooperation and a thankful heart is the easiest to work with.

Thankfulness is not the icing on the cake, it’s the grease that stopped it sticking in the baking tin.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Past I'll Keep

A Poem

They say the pain will surely pass
The tunnel's light will cast its beam
Your feet will touch new blades of grass
New dawn dispel a troubled dream


The lesson of the starless night
Trod wearily with leaden feet
Will soon give way to warmth and light
Your aching bones infused with heat


And though the new seem odd and strange
Familiar faces will be seen
Some things not even times can change
They will be what they've always been


So life beyond the tunnel's end
Will be to you the future's gift
And if you make the path your friend
The journey long may well be swift


But I'll not take the sleeping draught
Or drag my feet as if asleep
Stride to the fore my face abaft
With steely grip the past I'll keep

© Chris Price 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Reflection

What Curse is This?

What curse is this?


That I find pleasure
In a trickling stream
Refreshing rain
A scone with cream


Disparate thoughts
that come and go
Some small talk
Or a TV show


My company I can happily bare
Come rain or shine I hardly care
As long as I don't have to share

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Bus Called Grace

My Mum was born on 14 January 1924 and died 14 June 2010


On 28 June family and friends congregated at a bus station called Stafford Crematorium where I gave the following eulogy.


Mum would have given you her last Rollo - she was the most selfless person I've ever met - but I recall a charity event which Mum felt she ought to contribute to. She found a birthday card she hadn't used and wrapped it in cellophane. It would have raised a few pence at best. I wouldn't want her send off today to be like an act of charity, wrapped in cellophane, rather more like giving our last Rollo because we would have rather kept her for ourselves.


This is more than the end of a life its the final chapter of a love story stretching back 66 years. Born Edith Betty Holland, she met a man she would dedicate her life to, to honour and obey, till death do they part. Dad died just over 10 years ago and if you knew him you would know that he was a truly great man but as they say, behind every great man…


They fitted perfectly. My Grandma used to say that they were the best mum and dad in the world and she wasn't given to flowery sentimentality. Mum was strong and resolute, not one for forgiving and forgetting. Fortunately Dad was a peacemaker - Mum the dependable, brittle, oak, Dad the strong but flexible willow. Mum had little self confidence but she had an inner strength she didn't believe she had and drew strength from the man upon whom she could utterly depend.


The last few years Mum battled with vascular dementia but she clung on to the memory of her family and husband like grim death when, by all rights, she should have slipped into blissful ignorance. Its as if Mum and Dad had journeyed together for 60 years and when they got to the last stop but one, Mum had to get off and watch Dad ride on to glory. She watched all the buses to happy land come and go because she wasn't looking for a bus called Mercy, she was looking for a bus called Grace. For 10 years she waited and finally the bus has arrived.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

May day May day

Round Table Christians Part II - Faith & Disability


As is evident from the title of Andrew Wommack's publication 'Gospel Truth', he believes that many of the issues Christians face arise from a misunderstanding or wrong teaching of the Bible, the foremost being the sovereignty of God.

Wommack believes that God willingly gave up His right to be God in the Garden of Eden and handed His sovereignty over to us. He also believes that Jesus was spoken into existence and was crucified by Satan. Apparently, God only reclaimed authority after raising Jesus from the dead. Andrew would have his followers believe that this is a revelation from God, whereas it is actually a carbon copy of Kenneth Hagin's heretical teachings. See Andrew Wommack: 'The MOST DANGEROUS MAN On Christian Television'.

If he were encouraging his followers to have free sex, live in the mountains and practice polygamy, many would no doubt see him as a wacko and reject his teachings but because, through his heresies, he is promising healing, prosperity and trouble free life he has folks eating out of his hand. He quotes verses like 'by His stripes we are healed', inextricably linking healing with salvation and reasons that because God wants only our good, anything bad that happens is to us must be from the devil and can be countermanded. He backs up his theology with claims of healing and deliverance and quotes that thousands of souls have been saved and healed through his ministry proving the maxim that a tree is known by its fruits.

However, when you critically examine the faith movement and TV preachers such as Andrew Wommack, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland and resist the faith-lacking guilt trip they burden you with, you discover some sinister under currents and very disturbing conclusions. Apart from being eroneous and guilt-laden (we all are healed, we just haven't claimed it or don't have enough faith), Wommack's teaching is positively offensive. The Spring & Summer 2010 edition of Gospel Truth carries an article entitled 'Diagnosis Cancelled' which tells the story of a Christian couple who are given the diagnosis that their unborn child has Downs Syndrome. They refuse to believe that God would give them anything other than a perfect baby so they pray against the diagnosis. Their faith is apparently rewarded when the baby is born perfectly 'normal'.

The following quote is taken directly from the article with no gaps or added emphasis:

"To me, it was very clear that Satan was trying to attack God's plan for our family," says Steve. "I knew this baby was a gift from God, and I knew God did not want him to be anything less than perfect."

Steve knew what he had to do. At a very young age, Steve was taught by his mother that when you're given a diagnosis that doesn't line up with God's Word, you cancel it in Jesus' name.

Can you see how insulting, hurtful and obnoxious this is to someone with special needs or the parent of a child with special needs? If you cannot see how insidious and dangerous this sort of thinking is (never mind that its glib and ultra-simplistic), take a look at The Works of God.

Knowing Wommack's belief that anything less than perfect never comes from God I immediately question why Steve is so convinced that this is a Satanic attack and the next statement confirms my suspicions. I may be jumping the gun here but it reads to me like the baby with Downs Syndrome that the surgeon has promised them has just been canceled (though to be fair, the couple told the surgeon that they would never have an abortion).

I wouldn't want to judge or condemn the couple or begrudge their joy at having the healthy baby they desired but the article clearly implies that having a baby with a disability is not in God's will and is, somehow, due to lack of faith. This may not be the intention of the article but it is its logical conclusion. It is discrimination by the back door and underlines how dangerous prosperity preachers like Andrew Wommack really are. They dream up their own fanciful theology then find scriptures to back them up, hence justifying themselves by the Word of God.

This is not 'Gospel Truth'; its a bunch of erroneous, offensive, subtle, dangerous lies.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Round Table Christians Part One

Sorry, I'm not talking about knights and chivalry here. Gloves off, I'm a Bible believing, born again Christian. I've been there, done it, got the fish sticker, but I've repented and managed to reverse the frontal labotomy. I never wanted to be normal but prefer not to be wierd.


I think the Bible is an absolutely amazing book but unfortunately some Christians take their meat pre-chewed so when they talk its not the real deal. Its second hand theology that they have accepted as new. And they sometimes retell accounts that they have not witnessed or tested in the light of what we call the Scriptures. Or they replay scenarios that have little to do with the real world. As someone has said 'tell a lie often enough and it will become the truth'. Similarly, a myth told often enough will become history.


If you believe that the earth is flat then you will also believe that if you sail into the sunset you will drop off the edge. You can demonstrate this by pushing an object along a round table until it reaches the edge and falls on the floor. This actually proves nothing but if you can focus your audience's attention onto the table then the rest is plain sailing (pun intended).


Jesus taught using parables but Christians are often prone to talking in fables and when they mix them with their flat table theology things can get very distorted. The thing is, once you have established that you will fall off the edge of the table if you wander too far, you can then build a system of values based on staying away from the edge of the earth which is an extension of the table. You can then introduce a story of a sailor that sailed over the edge and was never seen again which proves your hypothesis. Its not called circular reasoning for nothing.


History is littered with shipwrecked theologies based on stuff like demons and end times. They are either self affirming or so far fetched that reason cannot penetrate the twisted and convoluted logic. But there are many more Christian fables that dress up as truth, so bound in Christian tradition and claiming Biblical justification that its very difficult to untangle them. If you are interested in exploring this further or just curious as to what I will say next, watch this space...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mountains and Mole Hills

Everyone knows the saying about making mountains out of mole hills. Its all about keeping things in proportion, whether its refusing to see an innocent remark as a slanderous insult or accepting that a broken finger nail isn't life threatening. But the saying can only really apply to yourself. Just because you can't see someone else's mountain, it doesn't mean its not there.


You might cut yourself and say "I'll survive" but if you suffer from haemophilia any cut is potentially life threatening. You might say to someone "cheer up, it might never happen" but if the bottom has fallen out of their world, it already has. And like many sayings its 'a' truth but not 'the' truth. In other words its OK as far as it goes. Not only do we overestimate the scope of our wisdom we also underestimate our tendency to pigeon hole. Someone will say "boys will be boys" as a way of dismissing laddish behaviour but when that behaviour becomes antisocial its not acceptable. And what that person has in mind when they say this may be widely different from the picture that's conjured up in yours; it can be quite subjective and narrow.


When we see the suffering of the people of Haiti it puts our problems into perspective. A creaky floor board is just an annoyance; the 15 minute wait at the post office is a minor inconvenience. And when we compare what we have to what they have its pretty staggering. But here there is a danger over simplification and pigeon holing. We can be so bowled over with sympathy that all we see are the differences between their troubles and ours; their wealth and ours.


We all have the gift of life but when that is all you have it can seem much more precious. For all your wealth, if you don't value your life, what you have is worthless. And which is worse: a husband losing his wife to an earthquake or a mother losing her son to a hit and run?
If there is good to come from this disaster it won't be that we suddenly get a conscience, it will be that we will not forget that there are real people on that island, that we are more similar than we are different, that wealth is relative and that we need to flatten our mountains and mole hills and anything else that separates us.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ask How - The Why's Can Wait

The recent earthquake in Haiti asks many questions, not least of which is 'how can I help?' The truth is: there is little most of us can do to alleviate the suffering today, tomorrow or even in the coming weeks. The food, fresh water and other aid has already been paid for. Much of it is already on the Island waiting to be dispatched and the workers with the necessary skills are queuing up to do their bit. Having said that I would in no way discourage giving because the suffering will go on long after the media has found another crisis to report (which is what the media does, no criticism there). But the burning question on everyone's mind is: How did it happen and why?


Of course the movement of the tectonic plates was the main event, and being so close to the surface it had a devastating effect. However the terrible loss of life and consequential suffering would have been lessened significantly if the buildings had been constructed to any sort of standard. Rationally you could say that it was the combination of an unfortunate event and human failure, be it corruption, neglect or injustice. But there is still a deeper question.


If there is a God how could he allow this to happen? To ask this question in order to demonstrate that there is no God would be a little pointless. If you want to shake your fist at God you must either allow him to answer or concede that the supreme ruler is capricious and uncaring. This is worse than pointless, it is hopeless. Without hope we are doomed. Our only hope is that there is a God out there who cares, who has grace enough to hear our cries and accept our unbelief when hope flies in the face of all that our senses tell us. If we can have some scrap of an explanation, just enough to know that we are not simply pawns on a soulless chess board, we will find some sense in this cruel and confusing world.


Of course you could always ask the tele-evangelist Pat Robertson what his take is on this disaster. Apparently its down to the devil because the Haitians made a pact with him in 1804 in order to win their independence from their European slave masters. Honest. That's so simple and neat and leaves God off the hook. Thanks Pat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Who is Forgiven Most, Loves Most

Did you ever feign illness as a child to get the attention one of your siblings got? Do you remember any feeling of joy or comfort or is the only abiding memory that you feigned illness? Its often said of an experience "it's like hitting your head against a brick wall, its great when it stops." But if you were just pretending you really can't say that with any conviction.


I can't claim personal experience but I am told that while child birth is excruciating, as soon as the baby pops out, the pain, and even the memory of the pain, goes. What a reward - all the joy and none of the pain. A lovers tiff often ends with rewards that more than justify the initial upset. Some of our fondest memories are of times when we suffered through loss, pain or illness and received love and care from someone close to us. Its hard to imagine a child having all the pain and none of the reward.


I wrote a song called 'The Beauty of Grace'. The message is that God takes no delight in punishing us but positively seeks to bless us. There is no flip side but there is a tough edge. Grace is not the Christmas present that we don't need or a kiss on the knee that we didn't bump. God doesn't comfort me when Jack gets the attention I wanted or Jill looks fantastic in the jeans you couldn't get past your knees.


Grace is the spoonful of sugar when the medicine made you cry. I love the name of my blog. We all need a sweet spoonful of dreams when reality is a bit of a nightmare.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Where the Heart is

I've been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach 2 or 3 times and as well as other rides I've been on Infusion and Pepsi Max. Infusion is a suspended monorail. You sit in a seat with your feet dangling but your torso is held in a yoke that locks around your waist. The main feature on Infusion is the corkscrew which tosses you round and its not gentle. Pepsi Max is more traditional roller coaster but it is very high and the initial drop is near vertical (not for the faint-hearted). Your feet are in the car and you are securely held by a yoke

Somehow, on Infusion you feel more secure because you can sense that you are being held around your shoulders and you feel attached to the vehicle by your upper body. On Pepsi Max you don't get that sense of security because its your feet that feel secure. On New Year's Eve I felt quite insecure riding into 2010, not because I couldn't call on people who cared for me but because the security I longed for wasn't there. It struck me that security is not about what you know but how you feel.

When you know where your heart will be at the ride's end you don't care that your head rattles or your feet swing but nothing can assuage the fear when your heart feels exposed. You just have to endure and hope that your heart will hold out till you stop. Unfortunately you can't always enjoy the ride, sometimes you just have to trust you will get to your destination in one piece.