27 Jan 2015

Love shows us the details matter

I never had much patience for details.

I would finish your sentence (in my mind of course) which meant I pretty much stopped listening by that point. In school, I used to make notes and doodle and as the teacher's voice trails off, my mind would be busy with connecting what I heard with other stuff and maybe even have my left brain begin debating with my right! For meetings, I would draw up the agenda, and move the meeting along, satisfied that we had taken a helicopter ride across the terrain and had a big picture view, never mind the individual trees that may require attention.

I'm married to someone who has a head for details and feels much happiness when he knows the exact route, location and cost.
How long will this take?
Who will be there?
What's this costing us again?
His questions used to rile me as petty, nervous and unnecessary; and so the uneasy and often painful dance of opposites called Step-on-toes was a regular feature in our life.

Now, many years later, I pick up some new dance steps - and I realise how important the details can be; indeed how life-saving. When I listen to someone, I have to listen for details. In my coaching and mentoring, often what is most needful is muffled between the lines and need to be probed and surfaced. Only when the vital information is gleaned can the response be truly helpful. No point giving someone painkiller for a hemorrhage.

But there is a threat to this necessary life skill of noticing the details that count.

Today with hi-spped ethernet, we - naturally detailed or learning to be - can be so swept by the traffic on this colossal highway that we lose sight of what we stepped into the traffic for in the first place. One link here and another post there, one tweet here and another instagram there. The speed on this information highway I find my introvert, cautious, detail-oriented half losing his edge as infornever ever slows or pauses for you. Everything becomes a blur as we careen down the autobahn - making it hard for us to pick up any details! We can read stuff and jump to conclusions, tempted to 'like' something because we really want to be liked by our friends.

Our lives are a blur too as one task piles up on another and one moment morphs into another - we grasping and munching at life, hungry to suck the marrow out of it in our hyper-consumerism.
a baby is born. next.
a friend marries. next.
a family member is gone. next.
a vacation is over. next.
what's next....?
Always on the the next thing. And people, even our souls become vague. We hardly truly touch, feel, know anymore 

- until -

Humanity teeming at 7 billion. Such a huge mass. We become just Homo Sapiens, a species, surviving by the fittest - until -

God became man.
God an difficult, vague, faraway, abstract idea, reality ... becomes concrete, near, specific, detail.
He has a face, speaks a certain twang, has his laugh and his own eye-twinkle, perhaps a favourite dish or colour.
We may not know these bits much but there is enough to think of Jesus and get to know Him.

The early church looked to Jesus in a disciplined fashion. He was constantly in their consciousness. They devised a new calendar to reflect that life revolves around God's purposes. January is the season of Epiphany.

Originating in the Eastern Church, the Epiphany takes its name from the Greek epiphania, which speaks of a revelation and an awakening. It celebrates the divinity of Christ shining through his humanity when the Wise Men came, guided by a star; during his baptism, and at the first miracle when Jesus turned water into wine.* It's a beautiful notion. It is noticing the details. Is Jesus God? What details give that away?



When I think back on how I came to Christ and how I have grown; I can see moments of awakening and of deepening. Personal epiphanies where Christ becomes particularly striking and meaningful to me. The details of a faith being filled in on a large canvas.


And love - cannot happen in the abstract. It is concrete, specific, particular. Who wants to sing a general love song? No, the songs that reach our hearts are ballads of one man and one woman's trials and triumphs.

In our hurt and busyness, we use a very large brushstroke and apply general strokes
all men
all teens
all boys
all girls

But love is about 
this man. this teen. this boy. this girl. at this time

As we move in February where Valentines are bought and given, I am going to look at some specifics and details of love. Join me and share with me what strikes you as we go.

*catholicculture.org

23 Jan 2015

374, not 24/7 living - and here's one moment of it!

Everyone and everything is hurtling toward 24/7.

food
banking
friendship
on-line living
work

Did you hear about the CEO who lives in the sky? He travels so much, he doesn't have a home. His life is string of transitory moments in hotels and peering out plane windows. Perhaps, a piece-of-real estate-in-the-sky. {watch here: the homeless CEO}


It is a world that spins on its own axis and goes round so that 'nothing is new under the sun', but also one bugeoning with hope and Newness; often coming out of strange quarters like this Ghanaian's who could be earning far more and putting his poverty behind him. Instead, he chose to return to the rural poor and give them a hand up with his design and manufacture of bamboo bikes!. Here is a man who knows what matters is a life that is self-forgetting.

Of self-forgetting. there is a lovely verse from the Psalm. This verse speaks of a Delight so massive and great that it brings with it the gifts of our heart's desires. A strange non-equation: getting what truly matters not by going after them, but by going after the Giver Himself.

Psalm 37v4:

delight yourself in the LORD
and he will grant you the

desires of your heart.

It's not a badgering for the goodies. It is enjoying the good that will come as we self-forget in the presence of Someone who occupies our attention, longing and imagination.

This is of course a constant turning over of our longings, distractions and frustrations over to Someone wiser, stronger and totally good.... and then, surprise, surprise: the 374 moment comes: like this one in the video.

I love music - and what a blast to see two of my favourite ppl make music together!!


video

Come on, live 374 with me! It's a New and Living way to go.

16 Jan 2015

Newness: it happens when we walk like Jesus

The most amazing endeavour any human can undertake


is to get out of his own skin.

After all, the furthest distance is between two hearts.

This means the most courageous exploration and the grandest discovery is the road of com-passion: to share and come along, in suffering. Indeed, the happiest times the heart, the home, and even the earth has known are times when we reach out to each other and sought to understand and co-operate. But our world is scarred with recurring reminders that pock-mark our humanity - just this past week, the crazy grief as hearts filled with suspicion and rage give vent to its poison gunning down innocent lives.

Cutting through all the rhetoric and press perspectives, the needy question no one can answer in our media remains: what can bridge these hearts?


She told me how she visited her neighbour with dementia and was surprised the old lady could call her by name. the old lady is locked up at home the whole day while her son goes to work. It's a terrible plight; and I asked if God may desire her to reach out in some small way, maybe to bring a meal? I see the reluctance in her eyes. It would be easy to chide someone for being selfish; but aren't we all? And the distance within our divided heart is enough for a heroic conquest.

The church service began and this song came on King of all the earth {listen as you read on}.

Suddenly, i see a picture before me as the song played on. I caught a glimpse of someone's back and felt instinctively that it was the Lord. I the follower, a few steps behind my Lord, watching him from behind. Then it hit me.

Most of us carry about us so much dissatisfaction. There are so many bits of our life we don't like and our constant desire and sometimes prayer is for God to remove or change the circumstances. Sometimes, we reach a spot where we allow that perhaps what needs to change is ourselves. But we often linger there and stay our gaze on our unhappiness. The change doesn't come for a long time or even; never ever comes.

What about Jesus? Does he implore God to remove him from sticky situations, zap his enemies or with a divine sleight of hand re-arrange his circumstances?

We hear him plead in Gethsemane, yes, but in his daily life, there is none of this terror. Everything in the world that he went through is not known to him when he was in Eternal Union with God beyond our time-space. But the Cross is a particular terror of such cosmic proportions; Gethsemane is beyond our comprehension. I refuse to claim it as a picture of our need to surrender.

Let's face it. we have hoped for that boss to disappear, that colleague to flop, that friend to quietly un-friend us so we can breathe again... Yes, include all the venomous, murderous thoughts while we are at it.

Those are the thoughts Jesus won't entertain because it is not in His being to go in that direction.

I know. I used to protest too: he is God after all! Yes he is, but we are "partakers of the divine nature" Peter reminds us. {see 2 Peter 1v4}

Peter's fellow apostle puts it across in a different way in his letter called 1 John. He made it pretty clear: it is one way or the other. Either you are following Christ, trusting Him for your salvation, and one of His... in which case, you are to "walk as Jesus did" {see 1 John 2v6}.

I thought back to what I saw while the song played. His back was a little bent, as he is trying to fit into a smallish space; as if he sees something, or someone, and wants to reach it.

I hate bending myself to adjust, adapt and risk pulling a muscle or two. I'd like to avoid those uncomfortable spaces, those unlovely people who make me feel like they are draining the living lights out of me.

But Jesus is going to
Encounter
Enter
Engage

He is going to
Throw light
Touch
Transform

and this is precisely how Newness works.
We follow the Newness Bringer - he who has wrestled with the worst of darkness, been held hostage by death, and triumphed over all of it. And now, through His Spirit working in us, He is seeking to spread Newness for and through us -- as we walk as He walks.

I just returned from a gathering of national pastors.One of the best pieces of news I heard is that some young people in Singapore have found out that those garbage cleaners, mostly from Bangladesh, save on their finances by living in the dumps, sleeping next to the rodents who recently grabbed the headlines. These young people have started visiting and befriending these workers. This is Newness in a sleek city of good looks, organised days and clean streets!


Martin Dugand* found seven traits in all good explorers who actually carve out new trails and solve mysteries: 

Curiosity, 
courage, 
passion, 
independence, 
perseverance, 
hope and 
self-discipline

What a new way to think of our Lord, the Explorer! We too are now explorers because a whole new territory has opened up for us.

Go on, look hard. If you see Jesus walk right ahead of you, walk right into that scary, disconcerting, stressful, uptight and inconvenient situation. he will even slow his step and take your hand.


*The Explorers, the book