Tag Archives: religion

The elephantness of God

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elephant and blind menThere is a tale from India about six blind men who wish to discover what an elephant is. Since none of then could see the animal, each one was given a different part to touch. The first man holds onto a leg and says an elephant is like a tree trunk. The second touches its tail and thinks an elephant is like a rope. The third holds its trunk and so says a snake; the fourth says a fan because he is touching an ear, the fifth feels the animal’s side and says a wall and the sixth likens the elephant’s tusk to a spear.

The moral of the story is clear: each one of the men only hold a small part of the truth about an elephant and therefore in order to get a larger and more accurate perspective they needed to share that knowledge and listen to one another.

From a Christian point of view it is easy to translate that into our perspective on God and life. God is SO big and awesome and beyond us that we hold onto to the little bit about God that we know and are sometimes scared to take on someone else’s experience and perspective because it challenges our own. For example, I am very happy with the gentle merciful side of Jesus which:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Yet I am extremely uncomfortable with subjects like judgement and hell. I know they are there in the Bible and have to be addressed, so I listen to them, trying to take them on board but they don’t sit nicely with the gentle Jesus I am more at ease with. This is why we need the body of Christ. We all have our own take on God and life. None of us has it pinned down so together we have a much richer and more accurate reflection of God’s nature.

HOWEVER the main point of this post is not about that. My real point is that some of us need to hold onto those parts of God that we KNOW are true in the face of opposing viewpoints. And sometimes the heaviest opposition we face is in church itself. When week in week out I am presented with sermons about how you need to be doing more to becoming transformed like Christ or doing more to serve him it is easy to lose touch with God’s key messages to me this year:

§ Stop striving, instead relax and receive

§ Sit at my feet and listen to me, like Mary of Bethany

§ Learn to live by the unforced rhythms of grace

These are not messages of doing but of being. I ‘do’ best when I focus on ‘being’ with God and ‘being’ myself with him, often gut wrenchingly so. So many times I have come home torn between between what I have personally think I know of God and what I have been told from the front. I end up confused and generally convinced that I must be wrong somewhere, that my experience is false in some way.

Yet there is a positive side to all this: it forces me to go further into God searching for answers. Asking for truth about the matter – his truth not mine or someone else’s. Sometimes it comes quickly such as a verse which leaping out of the page. At others there is no reply and I learn to live with the ambiguity of life but safe in the knowledge that I sought to find answers which in itself gives me an element of peace about it all.

Through it all I am learning to trust the part of God that I know to be true. It is hard and there is much refining to be done and many more parts to discover – however we need to start somewhere with God, whichever part that may be for each of us.

And in the end I just come down to trusting that the God’s elephantness and grace is big enough to make amends when I am blind and deaf to truth.

So which parts of God are you hanging onto or just beginning to explore?  Which ones are you desperately trying to avoid?  Let me know

Jo x

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changed by the chisel

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The other day many thoughts were running through my head (as ever) and somewhere in the background Ephesians 2:10 kept cropping up:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Often I struggle to believe that I am God’s ‘masterpiece’.  What are the good works I have been created to do?  And more to the point when do I ever get to be ready to do them, rather than keep tripping up along the way? 

One moment I am going along and life is fine and I think that I am doing fine.  Then out of the blue, whoops, I blow it somehow and rushing up to the fore come all my bad points. So, then I start feeling ashamed for ever having contemplated that I could ever do doing ok.  Mixed up in all that is the gnawing wish that God would just leave me alone and stop shaping and moulding me – can’t I just stay as I am for a little while.  It would be nice to spend more time in a comfort zone than out of it.  Yes, I can see the benefits of all this moulding in hindsight but a rest along the way to admire the view would be nice.

And then the day after I received this clip.  It is awesome.

If like me, you struggle with struggling, then watch this and be inspired to keep going.

The unforced rhythms of grace

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monetStop striving.  Relax and receive. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

God spoke these words into my life about two months ago.  They sound wonderful don’t they?  Chill out.  Stop trying so hard.  Learn to rest.

So why am I finding it so difficult to live like this?  Everything in me should welcome this opportunity to slow down and live life at a slower, gentler pace but instead everything fights against it because it doesn’t make sense or match up with my experience of life, including the 20 odd (and at times very odd) years of being a Christian.  I always thought it was all about striving to be a better person; going out of your way for others at your own expense; laying down and let them walk all over you.  That is certainly how I read the Bible and interpreted the countless sermons I have heard.

Yet God seems to saying something different.  He is telling me to spend more time reclining against him as Mary did at Jesus’ feet in Luke 10.  But I am still being very Martha-like fussing about all the stuff that needs doing.  It all seems so illogical.

I write this because it may be that God is trying to say the same thing to you.  If so, join me on the journey and hopefully we can learn from one another.

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord,
      the Holy One of Israel, says:
   “Only in returning to me
      and resting in me will you be saved.
   In quietness and confidence is your strength.
      But you would have none of it.
 16 You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.
      They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’
   But the only swiftness you are going to see
      is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!
 17 One of them will chase a thousand of you.
      Five of them will make all of you flee.
   You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill
      or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.”

Blessings for the Lord’s People

18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
      so he can show you his love and compassion.
   For the Lord is a faithful God.
      Blessed are those who wait for his help.

Isaiah 30:15-18 (New Living Translation)

 

Is this something that you struggle with?  How does God help you to rest and avoid the franticness of life?  Let me know your thoughts.

Jo x