Monday, February 22, 2010

RDM #14 – Some thoughts about lent


Here we have another instalment in the exciting Rainy Day Mondays series.   This is an opportunity for me to pull something out of the archives, either an old post from my blog or another blog, and to re-post it for fresh consideration.

This week we will be doing something slightly different:  This is not strictly from a blog, nor is it strictly an old post.  Some friends of mine started a facebook group called The Lent Challenge, which is going very well.  It is an opportunity to get ideas for performing “totally senseless acts of niceness in the name of the Lord” during Lent.  However even if you are not observing lent this year, it doesn’t mean you can’t join and be nice anyway. :-)

Well one of those good friends, Cherolyn Amery, posted a wonderful comment on the first day.  It was kind of an introduction to lent, and possibly a new way of looking at it for some people. 


Some thoughts about lent…

Most of us know about all about lent: a 40-day period in the church calendar leading up to the big Easter Sunday celebrations. I immediately connect it with giving something up, denying myself some pleasure in a way to grow spiritually. I have tried to "do lent" many times, and honestly, have only succeeded (made it all the way through lent without giving in to my cravings!) a few times. And every time I messed it up, I felt guilty and berated myself for being a spiritual wimp.

I was thinking about lent this weekend and trying to figure out for myself what the whole point of it actually is. If lent is about self-denial, it's not exactly joyous and pleasant. So what's the benefits? My immediate thoughts ran to the idea that somehow it earned us "God brownie points"... that God is impressed when we are especially disciplined and self-denying for Him.

And then I picked up a book (The Ragamuffin Gospel) and idly stumbled across something on a page that hit me smack between the eyes as I was thinking about lent. It said that there is nothing that we can ever do to make God love us more.

I know it's a simple truth. But suddenly I realised that "doing lent" is never going to make God think more of us. It's not going to get us any closer to Heaven. It's not going to make God love us more. All of that is already sorted for all of us, without question or exception. Whether or not we "do lent", God loves us exactly the same.

And yet lent can be a time of change. It won't change how God feels about us, but it has the potential to change us, and grow our relationship with God as we choose to set aside something of the world for 40 days and pursue Him a bit more, or to focus on Him as our deepest need.

The 40 day period is intended to reflect the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, where He faced and overcame Satan's tempting. But I also like two other 40s in connection to lent: the 40 years of the Israelites travelling to the Promised Land, and the 40 days that Moses spent up on Mount Sinai in the presence of God. My hope for myself and all of you this lent is that we would be incredibly blessed as we journey with God and pursue more of His presence...

Don’t forget to leave a comment in the comment section below, and if you are also taking part in Rainy Day Monday then put a link to your RDM post either in the comment section, or in the Mister Linky Widget (if it is working). 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weekly Letter Writing Challenge

If you remember I am doing this Weekly Letter Writing Challenge from Learning as they Grow, then....

...You've got a pretty good memory, because it's been so long since I wrote anything even I had almost forgotten. Then today I had an opportunity to write two letters. (Count them - one, two!) So I guess I'm doing a bit of catch-up.

I was going to write an e-mail to two friends of mine, congratulating them for a new programme they are running, when I realised a letter would be much more personal. So I penned a short note this afternoon, and dispatched it with a trusted messenger. (Which is much cheaper and safer than sending them by mail.)

Let's hope they get them sooner than the last time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Whatever we give up for Lent, we never give up our sense of humour.

Today is Ash Wednesday, as you may have noticed; and as such Lent is begun. I am going to be trying out a few new things for Lent this year.

One of which is that instead of jsut giving stuff up, I will be taking on a few new "disciplines." Some good friends of mine have started a facebook group called "The Lent Challenge" where they will be answering the question, What would happen if we all committed totally senseless acts of niceness in the name of the Lord? Everyday the members get a suggestion (two actually) for nice ways to bless others, and we try and choose one to do. Sounds cool. Come along and try it out.

Also, I will be running a seperate blog during Lent with the name FISH for Lent. I will be posting one thought a day, every day, about an area where we (I) need to work on getting closer to GOD. Then I will be taking that thought as my challenge for the day. I don't know how that will work out, but come on over and see there as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

RDM #13 - Day of Ash


It has been about 5 months since I did a Rainy Day Monday post. For those of you who don't know what that it, it means that on Mondays I post an old blog post of my own, or someone elses, that perhaps didn't get as much recognition as it deserved. I have decided to start again, and have been stockpiling a few ideas.

If anyone has any old posts that they would like me to feature, please e-mail me at I will be contacting some people for permission to use posts that stuck in my memory, but feel free to volunteer something as well.

To re-open the RDM vaults, I will be posting an entry I did last year for Ash Wednesday. Technically Ash Wednesday is only on... well, Wednesday. But I thought you might want to look at it before then. So just ignore the fact that I refer to Ash Wednesday as today.

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.
Day of Ash by DavidSeven

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Taking the plunge

So here's the deal. God and I have been chatting this week, and I'm not sure I like what I'm hearing.

Just last week I was thinking vaguely about something I had felt called to do before, but kept saying, "I am not ready yet. When the time comes."

Then I get a message this week that the time might have come. Then another one - The same day. Then another one today.

The only problem is that the whole week I've been praying to GOD to tell me I don't have to do this; that letting me do this would be a big mistake.

He's not really listening to me I don't think, because so far he hasn't let me off the hook yet.

In fact I think he is laughing at my reasons: My nicely formulated and logical reasons, why this would be a really bad idea.

Apparently he has some idea about my reasons being meaningless if He is with me, and how the weaknesses I see are only opportunities for His strength. (I think I read that in a book somewhere.)

What is a FISH to do?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comic relief

After all those serious and heavy posts this week...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Biblios Hokku - John

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
John 1:1

Right from the beginning, the Gospel of John pulls no punches. This is all about telling the world that Jesus was more than just a good man, or even the Messiah. He was GOD! There are no parables told in this gospel, and only seven miracles appear. Instead, it is full of what Jesus said about himself. There are a number of "I AM" statements: "I am the bread of life", "I am the good shepherd", "I am the way, the truth and the life"

In the beginning-
There before Heaven or Earth.
This is who I AM.
Go visit all the chapters here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Biblios Hokku - Luke

The Gospel of Luke is a unique Gospel. Luke is (probably) the only Gentile writer in the New Testament. Luke includes in his account words spoken by Jesus as a child, and many parables not found elsewhere. It appears from the introduction that Luke studied and researched the stories told about Jesus, and probably used Mark as one of many sources.

The Gospel is focused on showing that Jesus was a saviour for all people, both Jew and Gentile. Stories of salvation being extended to all are prevalent. The book ends with Jesus going up to Heaven, however it foreshadows the coming of the Spirit, and the book of Acts is considered by many to be a continuation of the Gospel, also written by Luke, showing how Jesus' life lead to the growth of the early Church.

Salvation for all,
Through his great mercy and love.
So much more to come.

Read the rest of the Gospels, as well as the Old Testament, here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Biblios Hokku - Mark

So yesterday we featured a haiku about the Gospel of Matthew.

Today we go onto Mark.

Mark is very different from Matthew. It is a shorter, faster Gospel, and appears to address a Gentile audience. It presents Jesus as a suffering saviour, and reminds us of his Sonship. It shows that as Christians not only will we suffer, but that suffering is a pathway to a new life. That we can't avoid it, and still follow Christ.

A man of sorrow.
Our salvation bought by blood.
“Follow me, and live.”
As always, you can find all the piece here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Biblios Hokku - Matthew

For those of you who have only started reading my blog recently, or were not paying attention last year, I have an insane project called Biblios Hokku, where I convert the whole Bible to Haiku. One book at a time. In order.

I told you it was insane.

So last year I finished the Old Testament, and this year I am starting on the new.

If you want to catch up, go here. Every Haiku written so far is in one place.

I am starting on the Gospels now, and they are hard. All four books tell the same story, so how do you capture their individual 'flavour'?

Tell me after I am finished.

As requested, I am only publishing one a day, so you can meditate on the words before the next one.

So what makes Matthew different?

Matthew is a very Jewish Gospel. It aims at showing, among other things, how Jesus was the Messiah, and how his life and death were a fulfilment of the centuries-old prophecies. It is the only Gospel to use the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" and to focus on Jesus as King as well as Messiah.

A King from Heaven.
The long-awaited saviour.
JESUS is his name.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Study Prep

The Church where I worship is going to be running a course during Lent this year. As a small group leader I got my handbook a while ago, and it looks like some good stuff.

It also looks like some pretty heavy stuff.

So right now I'm doing one of my favourite things. Spending a quite weekend with the Bible and some study material, preparing notes for us to use. Have I mentioned before how much I love making study notes. (For the new readers, that is not sarcasm. I actually do. I'm such a nerd like that.)

Of course copious amounts of coffee might also be involved.

How does it get any better than this?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We, The Miserable Ones.

Warning. Today's post is quite long, so bear with me.

I love musicals. Really love them. My favourite though is Les Miserables. It is based on the French novel by Victor Hugo, and translates roughly as "The Miserable ones" or "The Wretched." If you've never seen the musical I can highly recommend it; and if you don't know the story... you might want to skip this post, because I'm going to tell you how it ends.

Among the many sub-plots and story threads, runs one central theme and story-line. The story of Jean Valjean and Javert. Valjean is a prisoner who goes on the run for 27 years, and Javert spends those 27 years chasing him across the lengths of France. Talk about dedication.
One of the things I love about the musical is the clever way that similar themes are introduced, and contrasted, by having different characters sing the same/similar lines in different circumstances. There is a brilliant piece at the end of the first act, where all the cast sing the same song "One day more" explaining how in one more day, everything is going to change.

But back to Valjean and Javert. Near the beginning of the story, Valjean who has just been released on parole after 19 years in jail, spends the night with a Bishop, and steals his silverware. He is captured and brought back to face the Bishop, where he finds the last thing he would expect; mercy. And not just mercy, but Grace. The bishop not only lies to the police by saying that he gave the silver to Valjean (Mercy) but gives him the rest of the silver in the house (Grace) and tells him to use it to make himself an honest man. He says to him "I have bought your soul for God."

So Valjean has a real moment of epiphany, and sings a beautiful song called "What have I done?" where he says :

One word from him and I'd be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom,
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit came to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

In the end he has a crisis of faith, and breaks out of nearly twenty years of hatred and guilt in a stunning moment of 'conversion'

I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!

Tell me that isn't a beautiful image of our salvation. Jesus 'buys' our souls for God, but we have to decide what to do with it. A spirit moves within us, and we are faced with the whirlpool of our sin. We realise we have to leave our old life behind, and start a new story.


But that's only half the story.

Valjean breaks his parole, and goes on the run. Over the course of the next few years he builds up a business and becomes mayor of a town. Due to certain circumstances, he promises a dying woman he will care for her daughter. Then his past comes back to haunt him. Another man is captured, and the police think it is him. He loses everything in an attempt to save the man from a life in prison, by turning himself in. Then he escapes, and flees. Javery catches him, and they have a wonderful duet. (As one does.)

Valjean promises Javert that he will come back in three days if he will let him go rescue the little girl. He refuses of course, and Valjean runs away and does it anyway. Cue another two decades of running.

Valjean makes a lot of mistakes in his life, but every major decision is guided by his desire to earn the salvation he has been given. He says at one point, when trying to convince himself to surrender to the police "My soul belongs to God, I know. I made that bargain long ago." Not a perfect man, but a man who is struggling every day to live in accordance with the grace and mercy he has received.

So who is this Javert who chases him so long. Javert is a man of great faith. Faith in The Law. He says repeatedly things like "I am the Law, and the law is not mocked." and "Hard work, just reward. That's the way to please the Lord." Javert is theoretically the good guy in the show. He is a completely honest, completely incorruptable police officer, who cannot be swayed from his duty. He gives us an insight into his character when he tells us that he was born in a jail, and comes from the gutter. He has chosen to try and rise out of sin by following The Law. (Do you see where this is going.)

Then there is a final confrontation. Valjean has a chance to kill Javert. In the middle of the Paris riots, he is literally handed to him, tied up by his enemies, and he offers to kill him for them. Instead he lets him go, and pretends to kill him. He goes further, by telling him where he can find him. After thirty years on the run, he not only refuses to take the opportunity to 'save' himself; he turns himself in to the proper authorities. A little later we once again see the two protagonists facing each other. This time Valjean again asks for three days, but so that he can take his daughters dying fiance to safety. (He has been wounded in the riots.) Again he promises to return.

This time however Javert lets him go, and himself has a crisis of faith.

***************spolier alert**********spolier alert**********************

He sings a song, very similar to the song Valjean sang after being offered his life.

It ends with similar words.

I am reaching but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from that world
From the world of Jean Valjean
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on.

He also has difficulty with this Grace he has been given. But he has no way to grasp it. He knows only the Law, and that cannot help him. He finds himself in a position where he knows that his duty is the wrong thing to do.

I should have perished by his hand
It was his right
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live.. but live in hell

Javert cannot live with this situation. Everything he has based his life on is turned upside down. The Law has failed him, and he kills himself rather than try to live with the Mercy he has been given.

Two men. Both given a second chance. Both brought to face their own shortcomings. One uses it to try and become a better man, one cannot live with it, and rejects the gift he has been given. Prefering to doom himself than live in debt to another.

So who are you? Valjean or Javert?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

20 Years gone by

As part of the McLinky Blog Hop I was asked the following question.
Tell us about your life 20 years ago. What were you doing? Where were you? What direction were you heading? How is your life different now that what you THOUGHT it would be?

Well I’ll tell you one thing; I never imagined I would be writing a daily journal on a computer about my life as a FISH. Not that I didn’t enjoy the water you understand. In fact I took to water from a very young age.

Actual portrait of the artist as a young man

For those of you who are confused; Yes I am a boy. Here’s a further proof.

Except both of these pictures are a little older than 20 years old of course.

20 Years ago I was entering my final year of junior school, and contemplating my next year at “big school”. At that stage I was not a lot bigger than I appear in this picture, except in the waist area perhaps. But that’s another story entirely.

I had no clue where my life was going, especially career wise. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had considered being a doctor (too much blood) a pilot (afraid of heights) and an actor (too shy). All I knew was that being a lawyer was not an option. I really didn’t like the look of them from TV. (L.A. Law was a lot to answer for.)

20 years ago, I already felt different. I was starting to understand that I was younger than all my friends and classmates, and that I was going to be the only person starting High School who wasn’t a teenager yet. (I had started school early.)

20 years later, I still feel different. I still feel like I’m too young to be a responsible adult, and that all my friends have overtaken me. I still feel like I am never sure exactly where I am going.

The only difference now is that I’m cuter than ever. :-)