#AmListening

Tomorrow there will be a blog post on a microstory – a splash of inspiration from every day life.

You know the kind, you’re walking along on your way to work and your mind is trying to convince you that you should really be writing instead of going to this other “day job”. Something minuscule will spark a creative ember, and bam, now your brain is in full creative mode…

But in the mean time, here’s a song that I really like recently. (I admit, you do have to overlook the excessive warbling and be OK with simple lyrics). They are, however, beautiful lyrics backed up by a good melody.

But that’s enough about my listening habits. What songs have been on repeat for you lately?

Advertisements

Writing Boundaries (1)

In this two-post series I discuss my evolving passion for writing and how it fits in as a component of my life. In a subsequent post I will share how my Writing Boundaries determine what I will write about.

You might have noticed I missed my weekly post last weekend. It was mostly because I was still mulling things over in my mind. Sometimes to rush a post would be worse than missing an arbitrary deadline. With something important to say, it should be said right.

Continue reading

Who’s your god?

The bulk of today’s post is about Christianity. But if you follow me for writing, I highly recommend reading this long, but informative piece: Publishing’s Parallel Universe by Louise Merrington, which talks about her experience with both traditional and indie publishing.

Now onto faith… To highlight the point I’ll be making in this post, a passage from The Heavenly Man which I gushed about earlier. This is a section written by Deling, Yun’s husband:

God helped us greatly while my husband was in prison. There are two special miracles that I’d like to share with you from this time.

With only Yun’s mother and me left to run the farm, things were desperate! We had no clue what we were doing. We decided to plant sweet potatoes, but didn’t know how to do it. I found out later that we should have planted the roots about two feet apart. I had planted them just a few inches apart!

All summer long our neighbours who heard about my foolishness mocked us and made fun of us! The news spread rapidly and I was the butt of many jokes.

Then in autumn, all our neighbours started cursing because they had very poor yields from their harvest. Their sweet potatoes were only the size of tennis balls.

When we pulled up our sweet potatoes, we found they were almost the size of basketballs! It was a great miracle and everyone knew God had taken care of us. Our neighbours respected us more from that moment on and they didn’t view my husband as a cursed criminal any more, but as a man who’d been unjustly incarcerated.

Our neighbours saw “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:18.

The second miracle took place when Isaac was three. We had to exchange a portion of whatever crops we produced because we owned no animals or fertiliser. Therefore it was imperative we had a good harvest, or we would not be able to buy food to eat or the other items we needed to survive.

This time I didn’t know how to plant wheat seeds. I placed them so close together that they carpeted the soil!

Just a week before the wheat harvest, a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of tennis balls fell from the sky. I rushed outside when the hail started and could already see that some of our neighbours’ wheat fields had been completely flattened by the storm. Yun’s mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, “God, have mercy on us!”

A great miracle happened. Our field was the only one protected by the Lord. All our wheat was standing upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone else’s fields in the whole area had been obliterated.

People came out of their homes after the storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus Christ had protected us. It was another powerful testimony to them.

While we enjoyed thick, healthy wheat that year, our neighbours had no harvest and were forced to use what was left of their crops as food for their animals.

Looking back, despite the hard times, the Lord was faithful to us!

As most Christians understand, knowing God doesn’t mean your life is suddenly gold. It is fantastic in many ways, but it doesn’t spare you all of the hardships like some kind of mystical genie. As was the case for Deling above – her husband was still in prison, and she still struggled to survive. (The majority of us in the affluent West don’t understand what it means to literally be desperate. [Desperation is not waiting for your internet to buffer]).

Thinking that you’ll suddenly be prosperous and have everything you need is at the far end of the scale. But the other end of the scale is equally wrong: thinking of God with a little ‘g’. God doesn’t confer a small advantage in life, he’s the only advantage you’ll ever need.

It also shows that he’s a God who cares about the individual, and our earthly circumstances. Not only does he want to protect us from the ravages and consequences of sin (e.g. the woman caught in adultery), and pain but he knows us intimately even down to how many hairs are on our head.

Deling and her mother-in-law couldn’t just sit back and wait for rescue – they did what they can, and asked God to help. Note that God came through at the end which is so typically God. He didn’t have someone helpful come along and explain how to farm, but instead worked a miracle to show his power.

If we are being obedient to his call in our lives, then we can be confident that he will look after us. That doesn’t mean we will be saved from incredible hardship, but that he will help us through the hardship. It is, after all, what we’re called to do.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

A Treasure of a Book

As I begin rereading The Heavenly Man, the story of Chinese Christian “Brother Yun” I am deeply stirred.

heavenly manWithin the pages is a man who has experienced the power and miracles of God in modern-day. He has been faithful under incredible persecution and his continuous joy is proof of a deep relationship with God. Expressed clearly is his motivation: an abiding love for God and people.

As his co-worker acknowledges:

Yun’s testimony is written with blood and tears; his journey has been one that encountered many bitter struggles. Instead of complaining and grumbling, he learned to tackle all obstacles prayerfully, on his knees with God. … In the Chinese church I have seen many of God’s servants come with great power and authority, but with brother Yun I saw a servant of Jesus who always came in humility and meekness, reflecting the heart of the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life.

The words of his testimony are like being touched by a red hot coal. Instantly it grabs your attention and calls for a response.

Honestly, with all of the distractions in the Western world I could ignore the call. The safest route for “self” would be to discard the book. However I began the book knowing it would light a spiritual fire under me. I want that fire, I crave it’s heat. Yes, it will burn and at times be uncomfortable, but it is also a purifying flame. It will burn away that which does not belong.

As a Christian I made a commitment that Jesus Christ would be Lord of my life. He’s in control, not me. And yet, as a human, I often wrestle for control, in varying degrees. Or like a woefully out-dated navigation system, I offer ludicrous suggestions on which way to go.

What burns most is the knowledge that my relationship and experience of God isn’t as strong as Brother Yun’s. And that’s on me. The truth is my relationship with God is only as good as I want it to be. The Bible is clear: God wants a relationship with us, and has done all of the necessary work. And yet he will not impose himself. If I give him a fraction of my day and then shut my heart – intentionally or not – I’ll enjoy only a fraction of what the relationship could be.

It’s like this… The King has adopted me. Not because of who I am or what I’ve done but because of his nature of love. Not only do I have a relationship with him, but he also has appointed me as an ambassador on his behalf. As son and ambassador I have unparalleled advantage; wealth and purpose.

None of that potential is fulfilled if I choose to stay locked in my room, or act in a way that doesn’t represent the King.

[Marie] Monsen told the Christians it wasn’t enough to study the lives of born-again believers, but that they must themselves be radically born again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. With such teaching, she took the emphasis off head knowledge and showed each individual that they were personally responsible before God for their own inner spiritual life.

Just as I am personally responsible, as are you.

If you haven’t read Heavenly Man I strongly urge you to do so. Why not read along with me, and let me know your thoughts on it?

A Great Reason for Optimism

As a young lad, my natural tendency was towards optimism. The experience of being a disabled adolescent crushed the optimism and gave birth to the foul taint of pessimism. It wasn’t always visible, but pessimism lurked like a dark reflex-action in my heart. 

Like a broken but long-held habit it occasionally reappears, offering it’s cynical view on everything. It’s about as helpful as water to a drowning person.But praise be to God and my patient wife for righting my attitude with a thousand well-earned admonishments.

Sure, there are things I could be worried about, or sad about, but there is so much more to be thankful about. A bitter heart never warms or blesses anyone.

Chief among the things I have to be happy about is my relationship with Jesus Christ. On Easter Friday we celebrate the death of Jesus, crucified upon a cross. It is through this undeserved death, prophesied throughout history, man can re-enter relationship with God. And so we celebrate on Easter Friday redemption, followed by complete victory when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Monday. 

It is from this future hope, and a growing knowledge of the character of God, that life has meaning, purpose and endless amounts of joy. Life doesn’t become magically easy but it does take in a deep richness. 

What is Christmas?

Christmas for some is all about the presents. Either the pleasure of giving or more often, receiving. Depending on your personality and love-of-shopping quotient it will either be heaven or hell. While some people have an innate ability at finding the perfect gift (or fantastic systems of recording potential gifts throughout the year), others like me step foot into a shop only when absolutely required. When absolutely required and only with a tactical plan so that I can get out again with strike-force precision.

Remember those who aren’t wealthy enough to buy their loved ones’ gifts. Those whose only toys are found not in a store full of toys but on a rubbish dump where they eke out a living.

Christmas for some is all about the food. I have to admit I understand this more than I do the shopping. Whether it be shrimp, lamb, turkey or some other meat sacrificed on the carvery of yum. Christmas is the one time of year when all of the ovens align and the delicacies pour forth.I for one could eat Christmas pudding all year round.

Remember those who don’t have access to enough food to survive let alone to feast upon. While we will endure bellies swollen with gluttony, they will have bellies swollen with hunger.

Christmas for some is all about family. It’s a time to gather with loved ones and re-connect. For some this means traveling from afar just to be back together again. It’s about celebrating the connections and remembering the good times. It’s about a shared experience and a common identity.

Remember those who don’t have supportive families; who are separated by dysfunction, circumstances or death. Invite someone to your table who would otherwise be alone.

Christmas for all is about faith. To those who recognise that there is a higher power in their lives than just themselves, Christmas can be a time of great celebration and hope. As foretold in the Bible hundreds of years before his birth Jesus, son of God, came to earth as a man destined to die. In that act of sacrifice Jesus paid the debt of sin (rebellion) on our behalf, so that we could re-enter a relationship with God.

This opportunity is for all. It doesn’t matter what your past or current situation is.

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

Jesus made the way ready, all you have to do is receive his gift.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

And one final thought: drink drive and you are a bloody idiot.