A poem for Tori

Recently, I’ve been following the story of a beautiful baby girl called Tori and her parents, Brennan and Lesa Brackbill. Tori has been diagnosed with Krabbe disease, which is terminal – but people all around the world are praying that God would heal her and strengthen her family at this time.

You can read their story over at Lesa’s blog: https://thebrackbills.wordpress.com

A few days ago I was rereading some of my old poems, and I came across this one. It seemed so pertinent to their situation that today I am dedicating it to Tori and her parents

.teamtori


In the midst

Of another sleepless night

Where worries weigh

And thoughts twist, turn and tumble

I again can only trust

That You are true

Watching over the worn out, weary and weak

Strengthening the strained

Refreshing and renewing the restless worrier

Keeping the called in Your care

When we are empty

You can refill

When we are burnt out

You can refuel

When we are broken

You can remake

When all is torn apart

You recreate


I am #TeamTori

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The precious words of God

Psalm 12

In my personal Bible studies I am still sloooowly working my way through the Psalms. There is so much to love in those pages that I am taking my time and dwelling on each one. I make detailed notes, which I have been using to write some of these posts. If you followed my old blog, you may have noticed that these jumped about all over the place, and when I moved to WordPress I decided to be a bit more systematic: starting from the beginning of the Psalms and working my way through. I don’t manage to read and reflect on Scripture everyday, but I am working on this as I think it is vital when studying theology not to forget the point – which is to love God with my whole mind as well as my heart, soul and strength. My notes have got a few Psalms ahead of my blogs, so this week I have been looking back at my reflections on Psalm 12.

If I could meet any Bible character to sit down and have a chat, David would be pretty high on my list. He is such an interesting person – a warrior poet, a shepherd king, a messed-up man after God’s own heart. I often find the Psalms resonate with my experiences today, and Psalm 12 is no different.

In this Psalm, David feels isolated, like he is the only person around who is faithful to God (and this is actually quite common for Bible characters – Noah and Elijah, to name a couple, felt similarly isolated in their faith). David feels like he is surrounded by deceitful people, those who boast and flatter, and he wants God to bring truth to the situation.

The Psalm seems to take a jump here, to God speaking up on behalf of the poor and needy – but one thing I’ve realised as I’ve been looking more into issues of social justice is that deceit is a big part of the mechanisms of injustice, whether it is to trick someone into slavery, to cover up a crime or to keep someone trapped in a life they haven’t chosen. God sees all of this and He is a God of justice who will act – often through us – to free the oppressed. He keeps His promises to us, and He will protect those who seek His help.

Sometimes trying to live God’s way is a lonely and isolating experience, especially in a culture that is increasingly at odds with what we believe, but God is always with us and strengthens us to live for Him. Sometimes those around us will deceive us, and sometimes our culture and the media will try to convince us that we are idiots for wanting to believe in God and live a way that honours Him. Instead we need to listen to what God says – primarily in His Word, the Bible, but also through Christian friends and older, wiser people in our churches. Because, as David says, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace” (v6) – they are true, clear and precious, and He will not lead us astray.

Book review: The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

I have been intending for a while to post book reviews on here, particularly of books that I would like to encourage others to read… I just don’t seem to have got around to it yet.

Take this book, for example, I actually read this book in the summer, and wrote the review then, I just forgot to post it… So here it is… [I hope you like it, I don’t know when there might be another one]

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The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman.

This book is an excellent text exploring the role of the prophetic in the Bible and how it relates to our lives today. I would recommend it to people who have already had some experience of prophetic ministry in church, as it is quite dense in places, but it will greatly increase the reader’s understanding of the purpose of prophecy.

The aim of the book is to use the example of the Old Testment prophets to help us to challenge the consumer culture that surrounds us today and has begun to seep into the church. The first couple of chapters establish the role of the prophets in the Old Testament – first Moses as a voice against the oppression of the Pharoah, then the later prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah who spoke against the corrupt Kings of Israel and Judah. They were not just telling the future, but explaining what that meant for the present. They had two main purposes: they were trying to counter the numbness and apathy of the people by bringing to expression the fear and grief the people should be feeling over the state of their nation and their future, and they were presenting an alternative new world promised by God to free the people from their hopelessness. The second half of the book explains how these two tasks were fulfilled and continued in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus – the criticism of the current system and the energising power of the new Kingdom that was emerging. The final chapter gave more detail on how this relates to our situation in the present day and its impact on our prophetic ministry.

This book has been inspiring and also quite challenging for me. It has helped my understanding of the Old Testament context and purpose of the prophets and how their situation relates to our society today. I have been struck by Brueggemann’s explanation of the Kingship of Solomon not as a fulfilment of the Promised Land, but instead as a return for the Israelites to their situation in Egypt under the Pharaohs – a time of affluence for the few which led to complacency, oppressive social policy and “the establishment of a controlled, static religion in which the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king”[1] – where people are numb to experience and devoid of hope that things can change. In many ways it is easy to see the parallels with modern society, where wealth determines who is ‘in’ or ‘out’ and there is much hopelessness. Unfortunately, this also seems to be the situation of the Western Church, where the comfort of its members, the protection of tradition and maintenance of the status quo often seem to have taken precedence over love or justice. This has led to the consumerist culture invading the church, with it becoming more about what the individual wants than a community worshipping God. I wonder if one reason many people leave the church is its unwillingness to change, its protection of “the royal consciousness” to use Brueggemann’s term[2] – the status quo that tell us that nothing can or should change. In this situation, as in ancient times, we need prophets to remind us of the faithfulness of God and the reality of our situation, and to help us hope for a better world, because bringing that world into reality begins with our imagining it.

On a personal level, I became more aware of areas in my own life where I was falling prey to the royal consciousness – lacking hope and thinking that having more things could satisfy my need for God. I also have become more hungry again for the touch of the prophetic in my life, and have started to seek out more opportunities to receive prayer but also to prayer and prophesy over people to bless them too. It has also fed my passion to see a better world than what we currently experience, and to take opportunities to speak out for the oppressed, those suffering under the royal consciousness, and to encourage others to wake up to the truth of their situation and the newness that will come and is coming with God’s Kingdom. More practically, the book has helped me to get back into reading more Christian books, and reading them more deeply. I really wanted to spend time over this book and remember and reflect on what I was reading, so I decided to make detailed notes and copy down my favourite quotes from each chapter to help the book stay with me. This meant that I took longer to read the book than I would usually spend reading a novel, for instance, but that meant the joy of reading it lasted longer. It is definitely a book that I will return to and reread many times in the future. It is a deep text, but so worth persevering with, and will greatly enrich anyone’s understanding of the prophetic and help them towards a more spiritual life.

[1] Brueggemann, Walter, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd Ed., Fortress Press (Minneapolis, 2001) p28

[2] Ibid., p21

Finding God and where to look for Him

In studying theology, I am learning things I didn’t expect to, primarily about God, but also about the world and about myself.

Over the first few months of the course we’ve been asking ourselves: how do we know what we know about God? Where does our information come from? We have been challenged to consider what presuppositions we might hold, and think about how they affect what we believe.

I discovered one of my own this week, one of my deepest and most strongly held presuppositions, in that process, I was shaken.

My presupposition was this:

When I look for God, I will find him. When I seek Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, or even when I catch sight of Him out of the corner of my eye, I will encounter Him and be brought deeper into relationship with Him.

Why did learning this about myself shake me?

Because, for some reason, I expected that having presuppositions was a bad thing, and the academic process has a tendency towards suspicion – something I’m starting to notice in the responses of my coursemates in forum discussions. I felt like someone was trying to tell me this week that I had to be cautious when it came to my experiences of God, in case the worship music had heightened my emotion; that I had to mistrust my reaction to artwork that wasn’t biblically accurate; that I need to separate myself from culture in case it leads me away from God; that I am out of my depth on this course because I want to see the merit in everything.

Of course, I didn’t realise this straight away, my primary reaction was emotional because I feel very deeply. But I think deeply too, and my mind wouldn’t rest until I figured out why I was so hurt by comments that were in no way intended to be hurtful.

Last week I wrote about my words for 2015, and in a lovely twist of God-incidence, this week at homegroup we were talking about what it means to have core values. I realised that this is what picking a word for the year is for me – it helps me to make decision to define my year, but each word gets absorbed into my life. I am still dedicated (2012) to serving God; I am still seeking to change (2013) and grow; I still want to be healthy (2014) in all areas of my life. This week I realised that trust (2015) is already an integral part of my character, that suspicion is quite alien to my nature.

I’ve realised that I cannot be cautious is seeking to encounter God, but instead that I trust Him to be true, even if my motives or emotions or thought processes are faulty.

And I still trust that I will find Him when I seek Him, even if I am searching in places that others wouldn’t think to look.

I love allegory. I love it when God turns up in a place I hadn’t expected to find Him. I love being led to worship Him at a rock concert or listening to a pop song. I love discovering truth about God when watching a film about good and evil, or someone sacrificing something for someone they love, or someone going on an adventure. I love watching tv shows that challenge me and remind me of the terrible state of the human condition and how much we need a saviour. I love seeing people use their talents to create something amazing, because the creative process gives glory to the Creator God, who made us in His creative image (even when the ones doing the creating don’t realise they are doing this).

Yes, I have presuppositions, and yes, some of them will need to be challenged.

But this is one I am holding onto:

“You will seek me

and find me

when you seek me

with all your heart”

(Jeremiah 29v13)

Be on the look out for God and you will find Him, even in places you’re not expecting to see Him.