When Everything’s On Fire

Two years ago, mum passed away. And in her passing I discovered a gate that led, out of the garden in my heart, and into a wide panorama of beauty and life. I chose to open the gate and found myself exploring The Great Adventure.

For the first time in my life, I was finally free to think what I wanted, believe what I wanted and live how I wanted. And that, at sixty-one years old! Quickly it became a journey of discovery. For too long, and under the fear of eternal damnation, I was imprisoned in doctrines and beliefs that I was terrified of. I began to explore and question, read and talk over coffee. I soon became clear about what I no longer believed in, but struggled to be certain about what I did believe in. It is a scary place if you have been imprisoned all your life.

Slowly but surely I began to emerge from thick forests of uncertainty. Depression and anxiety came to stay for a while. Love and kindness, from family and friends, helped to make sure that their stay was short.

There have been two or three friends who have walked with me. My Band of Blokes is growing, the walks and the coffee and the conversation have become very real encouragers along the way. And there have been two or three authors, new to me, who have significantly helped me to rethink and reimagine my faith. And Brian Zahnd is one of those.

The timing of this book was perfect. He described what I had been through, given some of it names, and illuminated with force some of the conclusions I had come to. I loved the way he challenged certitude – our attempts to put God in a box and ensure he never leaves it.

But for me, the chapter “House of Love” created a finishing line to my explorations… for now. There are other books waiting to be read, and I am sure I will revisit the writings of Brian Zahnd again. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I don’t recall ever saying about a book – “This book is filling my heart with joy!” I did this time.

That Persistent Whisper

I had just had a great cup of coffee and a good catch-up with one of my close friends, an honorary member of My Band Of Blokes. I always leave invigorated and thoughtful. And today was no exception.

As I slowly walked (thanks to sciatica) home, I approached a very small car, the size of which will become significant soon. A lady approached the car in a wheelchair. I was going to say she was an older lady, but then realised that she is probably about my age. She wrestled the drivers door open and heaved herself from the chair into the car. I paused. As I was about to walk past the car, the woman pushed the back of the drivers seat back, so that she would be almost lying flat. I realised that she was about to heave the wheelchair over herself and onto the passenger seat. I thought carefully. These situations can be tricky.

“I don’t mean to insult you, but would you like some help?” She smiled. “I’m not insulted, and some days, I appreciate the help, but today, I’m fine, thank you.” I smiled. “Then, in that case, I will continue walking, feeling inspired.” When I mentioned it to my daughter, she told me that the woman goes swimming, heaves herself out of the pool and onto her waiting wheelchair. She swims faster than my daughter, all with upper body strength. I’m impressed.

I had barely crossed the road, when the whisper I have come to know and love, asked a very pointed question: “So, which miracle draws more attention to me (God)? The miracle of supernatural, instantaneous healing? That, quite frankly, is often forgotten within days? Or the miracle of somebody exhibiting supernatural courage and grace as they face the challenges of every moment of every day?”

If there is a correct answer, it is probably, “Both/and.” And please, do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting for even a second that we shouldn’t be believing in miracles, or even praying for them. I’ve seen enough to know that miracles, whatever shape they come in, give My Great Papa bucketloads of credit, and inspire faith and confidence in him to do it again. But I wonder – that’s all – whether we underestimate the stories of those who are never healed, but exhibit the same faith and confidence in God by their courage and resilience in the face of adversity?

Speaking for myself, I am inspired by those close to me, and those who are strangers, who have no faith or bucketloads of faith, who face their challenges with courage and resilience. And my faith is lifted and injected with new life – yes, with the way they deal with their lives, but also when I see and hear stories of Papa’s supernatural interventions in the lives of others.

It is often not what you are looking at, but what you see and the way you see it.

Where the Light Fell

I have always absorbed Philip Yancey’s books. He has never been afraid to ask awkward questions of the church, or of God. The rebel in me kind of likes that.

This is subtitled, “A Memoir” and in his usual way, he shines a light on his own life, and the pain that has been endured by all of his family and many more.

What I didn’t expect was the book to become a mirror and a spotlight onto my own life. In so many ways, our stories are similar, though what he endured at the hands of Church and Bible College leaves my pain in the shadows. And it appears that the soul ties that exist between fundamentalism and Republicanism in the US are more obvious than they are here in the UK. Although… when I was growing up, it was almost insisted on, at least by my parents, that the only party a Christian should vote for is Conservative. Really?

As I read, and looked in the mirror, and allowed the spotlight to shine into the dark shadows of my own life, I saw, in a new way, that I am more free today than I was even a couple of years ago. And if only to ask questions and to allow the answers to send me on an inner journey of adventure and discovery. As you will see in the coming year, my reading material is varied and diverse. And before you blame somebody else, I requested these books for Christmas and Birthday, myself, and with purpose.

I would heartily recommend this book by Philip Yancey. It makes for painful reading, but the story of redemption and grace shines through, even in the darkest moments.