Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day of Ash

I am sure I am not telling you anything you don't know by saying that today is Ash Wednesday. If I am, then... now you know. Technically known as the day of ash, this is an opportunity for Christians to attend a special church service, which includes the imposition of ashes on their forehead as a sign of penitence, and preparation for lent.

The ashes are made by burning the palm crosses and fronds left over from Palm Sunday last year. That's right; we burn last year's crosses, and keep the ashes to put on our heads this year.


Well there are many theological explanations for this, but I am just a simple FISH, and so this is how I like to see it.

Palm Sunday was the day the crowds welcomed Jesus in to the city by waving palm branches. Then five days later they cried out for his crucifixion. Five days! The same people; some of them probably still had splinters of palm branches in the hands that they made into fists to shake at Pilate. So wearing the palm cross on my forehead, reminds me of the times that I have acclaimed Jesus as lord of my life, and then turned around and betrayed him with my next breathe. The 40 days when I am figuratively wearing the ash, is 40 days where I need to focus myself on preparing myself for Easter, and my own response. 40 days where I need to try and draw closer to him, and remind myself what he did for me, and my own guilt in making it necessary. 40 days where I need to keep that 'splinter' in my proverbial hand, as a reminder not to be part of the crowd calling for his crucifixion.

Of course, that's just what it means to me.

Day of sack, day of ash.
As we burn last year’s sins,
And wear them on our brow.
So we carry other’s burdens,
and hope to lighten our own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Because He Lives

My friend Mark has launched a new blog over here called 'Because He Lives'

It's still a little too early to tell whether it's any good or not, but he's had some good insights in the past, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Seriously though, check it out. He's got some good stuff up so far, and having followed his notes on Facebook for a while, I know it should be worthwhile.

Also he added me on his blogroll, so I suppose he deserves a heads-up.

Good luck mate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A prophet is not funny on his own blog.

I'm a funny guy. Really I am. In fact, that's kind of my thing... being funny.

I've never been excessively handsome, good at sports, or good at making friends; but I am smart and funny, and that has to count for something.

So why is it that I am not funny on this blog? I wonder. When I visit other blogs, I leave comments behind that have people laughing for days afterwards. I get messages about how funny I am, really I do. (No, seriously. I can show them to you if you don't believe me.)

So why, when I post on this blog, are my posts so serious and lacking in humour? I don't know. When I used to have the Reef on facebook, before I was deleted, I used to have good-natured banter going with each post. I used to make (bad) puns about my name, I used to use sarcasm and irony to make my point.

Now, not so much.

At first I thought that it was because no one actually read The Reef on Facebook. Except for a few friends, it was pretty much me talking to myself. Out here, in the wild water as it were, I feel like people are watching me all the time. Like a goldfish in a bowl I suppose. I am afraid people might take my humour for flippancy, or disrespect, when talking about a serious topic. So I tone myself down.

Then I realised that actually it's not my fault. It's all your fault. That's right. YOU.
I need banter to be funny. I need to feel like this is a conversation, not a performance. But you just sit there quietly and watch me. Judging me. I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!! SAY SOMETHING!!

So drop me a comment, disagree with me, tell me I have cute fins. Engage, and we can have us some fun.

Let me know you are out there.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chew on this for a minute

"Gandhi tried to follow Jesus without being a Christian.
Today, we try to be Christians without following Jesus"
Brian McLaren.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Higher Ground

And every hour of every day I'm learning more
The more I learn, the less I know about before
The less I know, the more I want to look around
Digging deep for clues on higher ground...
(Higher Ground - UB40)

I used to love this song when I was at school. I don't know whether it was the cool melody line in the chorus, or the fact that the lyrics made no sense. I could nod my head and pretend I understood, and that this was just too deep.

Now, many years later, I think that these words kind of describe my relationship with God. Over the last few years I have been trying to learn more about him, but I find that the more I learn, the less I understand. Or, the more I learn, the harder it becomes for me to understand. As a child I was content with what I had, now as I learn more, I start to realise that God wants more from me, and less. All he really wants is a relationship, and then for everything to flow out of that. So simple, but also so difficult. Following rules I can do. Reading and learning I can do. Being kind to others, well.... I can try. Loving God and wanting him only for him? Can I really? I don't know. It's a hard one.

Over at my other blog I did a post titled "It's not just about the chocolate" in which I talk about the fact that as Christians we need to be focused not just on eternity, and what God has done for us, but also on the now, and who he is to us. At least that's what I was going for, it might just be a post about chocolate. I never can tell.

In theory, the idea that God is seeking a relationship with us first and foremost, and that this is more important than our actions, is so liberating. But it scare me too, because I don't know whether I am up to the challenge. I have never been good at relationships. I am getting better, but there is still a long way to go. So I guess the more I learn, the less I know about before.

But I'm still digging deep for clues on higher ground.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wild at mind.

Last week I was watching a DVD with my cell group. We were watching the first episode in the Louis Giglio series entitled Lost in Translation. Which, by the way, I can highly recommend.

And while we are watching, I start thinking. I start thinking about what he is saying, and how to apply it to my life. I also start thinking about what questions I can ask the group about what we are hearing. At the same time, I am thinking about the phone call I got at work today, and what I need to do about it tomorrow, and I am also figuring out how to amend the ingredients in a carrot cake to be sugar-free, drawing up a shopping list, making mental notes about the training day I have to plan for later this month, calculating the cubic root of 1331 the long way (don't even ask) and doing scores of other things. And this is all while watching LOUIS GIGLIO, who I like. Can you imagine what would be going through my head if I was watching Pastor J John?

Okay, don't answer that.

The point, and yes I do have one, is that I have a pretty wild mind. But I don't think I am alone in this. (Except perhaps for the cubic root thing. That's just weird!) We all have hundreds of things going through our heads.

Have you ever had the experience of praying, and suddenly another thought comes to you? You get distracted by something you have to do later, or just thinking about something inconsequential. And how does that make you feel?

I can tell you how it makes me feel. Like a failure. Like I am failing GOD because I can't focus only on him. Like I should be able to just shut off my mind and listen to him in silence.

Is that how it makes you feel?

But is that right?

Of course I would love to be able to do that. To just stop thinking, and focus on nothing but GOD. To have a one-track mind. But here's the thing... I don't. GOD didn't make me that way. He didn't give me a one-track mind. He gave me a train-station in my head. Where Louis Giglio DVDs and Cake recipes cross paths at breakneck speed, and where my bible reading for this morning has to run side by side with Finding Nemo and an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Where Winnie the Pooh quotes get hitched up to memories of conversations I had three weeks ago.

In short, its a pretty wild place in my head. And that's the way GOD made it. The sort of place where I can take heavy bible lessons, and break them down by comparing them to a Pixar Animations film. The sort of place where I can listen completely to your question, and run through every book I have ever read on the subject, while at the same time praying to GOD to bring the right one to mind, and put all the information together. In short, the mind that makes me who I am today. The mind that I think GOD gave me to use for HIS glory.

And he knows it. I don't know for sure, but I think that when I am busy hitting my head against the wall, screaming "I am so sorry GOD, I don't know what is wrong with me today." He is saying, "Sharkbait, are you saying I made you wrong? Do you mean that you want me to give you a one-track mind?"

Heaven forbid!!!

In the DVD, entitled "Born to be wild" Louis suggests that the reason we suffer such frustration and stress in our lives is because we try to fit GOD into our own story for our life, instead of trying to fit ourselves into His story.

I want to take that a step further. I think that what GOD wants in our quiet time, is not that we would try and bring him to our problems, but rather that we would bring our problems to him. That we would make him present in every aspect, be it the DVD, or the carrot-cake recipe. That we would make him Lord of everything, not just the cool and holy stuff. That I wouldn't try and clean up a nice empty head so that we can sit in silence together, but that I would say, "Come in GOD, this is what I did today, and this is what I am going to do tomorrow. Please be with me, and let me feel your hand in mine as I go through this."

Or something like that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Faith and Writing #3 - People

Another post in the faith and writing series. Check it out