Monday, February 20, 2017

Comfort from Author N.T. Wright via Editor Dargan Thompson

N.T. Wright: When It Appears God Isn't at Work
What God's work in our lives actually looks like.
August 18, 2015
Dargan is a former RELEVANT editor turned freelancer. Find her online at darganthompson.com or follow her extremely random train of thought on Twitter @darganthompson.

The Bible is full of stories of God directly interacting with humans—He speaks to Moses from a burning bush, He sends fire down on Elijah's offering, He comes to earth as a man.
Today, it seems like we don't see God directly intervening as much. Sometimes, it can even seem like He's not involved at all.
We talked to theologian, author and professor N.T. Wright about why it might seem that way, what we can learn when it feels like God isn't answering prayers and how we should pray when a situation seems hopeless.
It seems like we don’t see God moving today as clearly as we see in the Bible. Why do you think that is?
I think part of our problem here is that when we read the Bible, we read it with long hindsight. We look and we say, “Oh yeah, there’s God rescuing His people from Egypt.” Well, yes, that is dramatic and that happened, but then, in the Psalms, the poets are saying, “Has God forgotten us? Has He forgotten to be gracious? Has He abandoned us? It’s been a long time now.”
The great book of Isaiah, promised a great new moment when God would come in person and would become king. And yet, it was 500 years before Jesus came. During those 500 years, many wise Jews pondered and prayed and struggled. Other people said, “Oh, it’s just a load of old mythology. It’s never going to happen.” But they kept on praying and waiting and finally, this explosive thing happened, which we call Jesus.
It seems to me that’s often the way for us, too. We wait and pray and it looks as though nothing’s going on, and then to our surprise, something suddenly happens and we think, “Oh my goodness! That is what I was praying for, but I didn’t know it was going to look like this!” That is the characteristic experience, both in the Jewish world we see in the Psalms and the prophets, and in the Christian world.
"If God has kept you in the dark at the moment, it may be because you have to go through a winter season in order that the spring, when it comes, will find those new plants well rooted and well bedded in."
In my pastoral experience, working with many people in many different contexts, the idea of “Well, that happened then, but it doesn’t seem to be working for us,” that is a characteristic sense. Then quite suddenly, out of the blue, so it seems, God will do a new thing, and people say “Oh my goodness, that’s extraordinary. How did that happen?” The answer is: that’s what we’ve been waiting for and praying for, only we didn’t know it was going to look like that.
So what do you say to people who are in a rough period and they’re waiting for something to happen and it just isn’t coming?
In that period of waiting, it’s like when you sow a seed in the ground in the fall, in the autumn, and you want to be impatient. You want to say, “I planted the seed, I want something to grow straight away, please.” But you have to wait through the winter.
During the winter, it isn’t that nothing is happening, it’s that the seed is germinating out of sight underground. It needs to be there. In the spring, when the new shoots happen, it looks sudden to us, because we haven’t seen anything going on until then, but actually, stuff has been going on underground.
Again and again, God works underground in our lives, in our imaginations, in our personal circumstances and in the wider world, and then suddenly something new happens, a new project, a new moment in our lives, and we’re astonished at it. T.S. Elliot had that wonderful poem that’s part of his four quartets where he says, “Wait without thought, for you are not yet ready for thought.” In other words, don’t even try to figure out what’s going on. If God has kept you in the dark at the moment, it may be because you have to go through a winter season in order that the spring, when it comes, will find those new plants well rooted and well bedded in.
That’s very difficult, because the darkness looks just dark. But that’s where we cling onto the teaching and promise of Jesus. Jesus taught those parables about seeds growing secretly and so on precisely in order that people could latch onto the promise that even when it looks dark, looks as though nothing is happening, God is at work and the seeds will indeed produce fruit at the right time.
What do you think about praying for healing? Some people pray directly for healing while others just pray for God’s will to be done. Is there a best way to pray in those situations?

"The Gospel is really all about learning patience and humility in the presence of God."
One of the things the New Testament talks about in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit is the gift of discernment, of knowing what to pray for. Because sometimes, if somebody is dying and is clearly sick, sometimes it’s actually cruel to say, “I believe God is going to heal this person right now.” Because actually, this may be their time to go.
Sometimes, then, you pray for a good death, rather than to be saved this minute from death. We are all going to die, and it would be silly if we all tried to imagine that even when somebody is a good old age, etc, that God still wants to bring them back from death one more time.
However, at the same time, there are many occasions when somebody has been given up by the medical profession—the doctors just say “There is no hope, this person will be dead within two or three days”—and sometimes through prayer, that situation can be radically turned around.

We have a case in my own family: a niece of mine, my sister’s daughter, who, when she was 6 years old, was given up for dead with double kidney failure. They reckoned she would be dead within a day or two. That girl is now in her mid 30s, she has been a missionary teacher in India, she’s a lovely Christian girl, because there were people around the world praying for her. Astonishingly, the doctors to this day don’t know how her kidneys got better, but they did.
If you’re in ministry, you will constantly meet people who have stories like that to tell. Equally, I know plenty of people for whom similar prayers have been made and who haven’t been healed. That remains a mystery. We do not have a clue to that mystery. That’s why, in Romans 8, one of the crucial, most important chapters in the Bible, St. Paul says we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit groans within us with inarticulate groanings, and God listens to what the Spirit is saying.
In other words, when we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then somehow, God is praying within us for the pain around us. Even though we don’t know what we should pray for, if we are waiting upon God and being patient and learning to pray, then somehow, that prayer will bring about new creation even if it isn’t in the form we instantly want.
It’s important that we wrestle with that question, rather than just pushing it one way and saying, “We must always pray and God will always do what we want.” Or saying, “Well, it’s probably not going to happen, so let’s just pray ‘Thy will be done.’” We can collapse into one of those two directions, and it seems to me that the path of wisdom is to hold on in the middle even though that’s uncomfortable. It teaches us patience and humility—and the Gospel is really all about learning patience and humility in the presence of God.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Happy Surprise of a Movie!

The movie, "A Hologram For the King", has been playing on HBO so tonight I got around to watching it.  To be honest the description didn't make the movie sound particularly interesting and certainly not like something I would enjoy. I only watched it because it stars actor Tom Hanks, one of my favourites.

Well, this movie was a most pleasant surprise for me, much like another unexpected favourite, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen".  It is filled with mild humour around differences between American and Saudi culture but without being over played or over the top hilarious.  It portrays life far more normally than some of the present pop culture movies and is lacking in the crassness, vulgarity and brutality that many recent box office "hits" depend on to entice an audience.

I don't want to say any more and risk giving away the plot line, but if you have a chance DO take a look at this film.  Throughout the movie there are many situations that could have morphed into high drama or ridiculous slapstick, but, much like in real life, the situations diffuse more or less calmly, leaving the other possibilities of how things could have played out restricted to our over stimulated imaginations.

What a lovely surprise to chance upon a particularly good movie when I least expected it.  Tom Hanks plays his character, as usual, in understated fashion.  That is what makes so many of his characters seem like real folk who could be living right next door.

A Happy Baptism Morning

Church was such fun this morning.  Two of one of our parishioner's three grandchildren were baptized.  Our deacon led the service and wow, she is wonderful with kids!  The older boy was baptized some years ago so the deacon invited him to come and help her pour water over the heads of his younger brother and baby sister, getting him to also make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, as she had just done.  What a kind hearted little fellow he was, helping to keep rein on his younger brother throughout the long rite of passage where the family had to stand for so long at the front of the church.  The little guy being baptized is about 3 years old and was wearing a lovely silver striped suit jacket with his brand new blue jeans.  He was particularly proud of the large cloth covered buttons on the cuff and was happy to show them off to anyone who was interested.  The baby gurgled happily when she had the water poured on her head, making splashing motions with her hands.  Mom has obviously been raising these children to know how to behave in public.  They barely made a peep during the entire church service, played happily with the provided toys and crayons and colouring books and were thrilled to be able to accompany everyone downstairs to the social room for snacks afterward.  The oldest boy pushed his grandmother in her wheelchair and was incredibly helpful at the  age of only 7 years.  What a joy to add these little folk into our Christian family.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Sad Farewell

My son lost a dear friend and fellow artist from Ontario recently. Abstract artist and author Robert Linsley was killed recently in a collision between his bicycle and a car in Ontario and it shook my son up pretty badly.  He was in the middle of composing an email to Mr. Linsley when he got the news of the man's death.  

My son followed Mr. Linsley's work closely and admired his abstract art very much.  He learned a great deal about the subject from this man.  On February 25th he is giving a tribute lecture at Vancouver Art Gallery and hopes he can do justice to such a talented artist.

Rest in peace Mr. Linsley.  My son is just one of many younger artists greatly influenced by your amazing works of abstraction.  Thank you for encouraging him and being his good friend.

New Drink Treats

We had a marvellous evening with friends last night. During the course of the evening I discovered two new alcoholic taste treats that will bear more experiments in future.

I all ready very much enjoy Williams Chase gin on occasion. Last night I was able to taste test Chase's marmalade vodka and it is glorious! I never did enjoy vodka, even back in the days when I drank far more than I do now. This vodka though is delicious! I sipped away at half an ounce and thoroughly enjoyed it. I cannot imagine wanting to mix it with anything as it is delightful on its own. I could handle such a wee nip once every couple of months quite handily!

I also have now tried Ungava gin, distilled beside our own northern Ungava Bay. I have noticed it in the neighbourhood liquor store but the yellow tinge to it rather put me off. Turns out the colour is from the rose hips used in the distilling process. I don't think the Ungava will replace the Williams Chase for me, but with just a dash of grapefruit added, Ungava has its very own brand of delicious!

Chubby British Magistrates

That is what the owl statues on our back deck looked like during our last snowfall. haha. The few centimetres of pure white snow draped over their heads, sloping down their necks and across the top of their folded wings, looked like the rolled white wigs of British justice system attire. So cute! I doubt their presence will have any effect whatsoever on keeping the all ready returning geese off the back lawn, but I think we will keep them up anyway just for the cuteness factor.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What Am Amazing Day!!

It is only the middle of February and today is like the start of the first days of spring!  How disappointing to know it certainly is not spring, the temperatures will be dropping off again after the weekend and there will be plenty more snow to come before winter is actually over.  Drat!!  

For now I am going to continue to enjoy every ray of warm sunshine, every sloppy puddle on the streets that is turning all our vehicles a hideous mud brown from roof to wheel well, the huge puddle I have to try to walk around to get to the car outside that is going to freeze solid and become dangerous for walking on again before long, the sound of geese flying over head all ready!!!

Just now I was outside with a scoop shovel tossing some of the deep water onto the higher piles of snow around my path to the car, but not because it is going to solve the continuing build up of water from those melting piles.  It was to scoop up as many goose turds as I could find along that path, left over from last autumn....o my, there were a LOT of them sitting just under the water, just waiting to adhere to the soles of our boots!  I have to admit that my view of spring's arrival has been sullied somewhat by the remembrance of those damned geese!!!  

My hope is that the surveyor who was here a week or so ago, added onto a somewhat cryptic comment the maintenance man made yesterday, is going to mean that the sagging landscaping between us and the building next to us, the giant dip in the ground where the water builds up in spring and summer and funnels itself into our basement, is going to be replaced with properly built up soil that will channel the water out to the street where it is supposed to be going to get it into the drains along the curb.  If there are landscapers around for most of the spring it will inspire the geese to go elsewhere than right around our building.  Two birds with one stone....or in this case 200 birds with one landscaping project!

I suspect this is a matter of "Dream On Girlie!", for 2 reasons.  Firstly, it will be a shock if any landscaping here is replaced. The fact that every tree in front of our suite is now dead, every last spruce and fir tree dead as a duck, should tell them that the underground sprinkler system is leaking badly and killing the trees. But......I have my doubts. Secondly, it will be an even greater shock if any new landscaping is done properly and achieves the ends for which it is supposed to be designed.  I have lived here long enough now to stop myself from getting too excited about repairs, landscaping and what have you. hahaha

Anyway, it surely did feel wonderful to be outside with a scoop shovel, flailing away at those puddles filled with goose poops and wearing only a shirt and suit jacket to keep warm.  Not a glove, hat, scarf or parka did I have to don to get out and do my poop scooping thing!

It is a glorious day!