I have enjoyed discovering some new summery reciepes on this beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and look forward to the meals ahead even if the rain comes some of the time. And while I don’t mention desserts don’t forget to enjoy the delights of summer fruits to round off a good meal in the presence of great company be it a dinner party or a family weekday supper.
Life has been distinctly crazy in the last week, and before that I was away having a concentrated week of study, so there has been little time for “extras” like blogging. However, I have been trying to read a bit while waiting for son no. 1 to go to sleep – and in this time period I’ve sought to read something for my own spiritual refreshment (rather than yet another iteration of the, according to one recent study, 40 different types of suggestion for the interpretation of Exodus 4:24-26), and my current choice is this book:
The quote that sets the scene for the one I want to post is this:
“Jesus’ good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live. To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God’s knowledge and control – though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes it. It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices.” (p71)
“Central to the understanding and proclamation of the Christian gospel today, as in Jesus’ day, is a re-visioning of what God’s own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it. It is a great an important task to come to terms with what we really think when we think of God. Most hindrances to the faith of Christ actually lie, I believe, in this part of our mind and souls. If he cannot help us at all with understanding God’s life, he cannot help us at all to that salvation/life that is by faith. But of course he can and he does.
We should first of all think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseperable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilerating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breath and depth and richness.” (p72)
He continues along similar lines for a page or so, emphasising his point. He adds these words:
“Now, Jesus himself was and is a joyous, creative person. He does not allow us to continue thinking of our Father who fills and overflows space as a morose and miserable monarch, a frustrated and petty parent, or a policeman on the prowl.” (p73)
And then he adds the words that blew me away on first reading the book, and which still reach down into my soul. Words that I need to dwell on and let sink into, and penetrate the core of my being. Words that have the capacity to heal and restore. Words that we need to speak to those who need them:
“So we must understand that God does not ‘love’ us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as ‘Christian’ love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each individual human being on it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural overflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love.” (p74 – emphasis original)
I read those words as I pondered my sleeping and about to be sleeping children, and in my love for them I see a feeble reflection of our Father’s love for us. The way I love the curiosity and freshness of the world through my 5 year old’s eyes as he sees a shiny red tractor outside a supermarket and just wants to climb on it, walk round it, examine each detail and wonder what it is doing there. The way I love the cheeky grin as my 2.5 year old wants to be turned upside down and tickled again (and again) with ever new hysterical laughter… The way I love the smile on my daughters face as she follows those brothers of hers.
That love I have for each child in their individual particularity is a pale reflection of the love our Father has for each one of us. That is something indeed to rejoice in, and indeed something to motivate our love for those around us – other people who God feels this way for. So perhaps today is a day to come back to God in imitation of son no. 2 in our house – with arms outstretched and the word “hug”. Or may be it’s a day for asking those questions, for coming to our Father who is love and is a safe place for those questions. Or perhaps we just need to smile in the assurance that we are indeed truly, totally and utterly loved by the creator of the universe with a never giving up, never stopping, always and forever love (to quote from the Jesus Story Book Bible). Maybe Paul’s prayer is a good place to end:
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
In honour of my amazing husband who loves our children so well and deeply. They may not be able to express it yet but he shows them a rich taste of God’s deep sacrifical love and servant heart every day. He never clocks off in his role as Daddy and gets up more often than I at night and is always at the end of the phone, ready to come home if need be. He wears out jeans at a great rate of knots due to hours of being down on the floor playing trains with the boys and playing lego. He bakes with them and takes all 3 to the park to let me sleep. I cannot remember who first said that the best way a father can love his children is to love their mother deeply and he does just that. Thank you Mark for stepping up to all that God is asking of you in our family. Love Roz
This one is from book Vi1
Accept the sacrifice of my confessions
offered by the hand of my tongue
which You have formed and stirred up to confess your nameHeal all my bones and let them say Lord who is like You?
He who is making confession to You is not instructing You of that which is happening within him
The closed heart does not shut out Your eye,
and Your hand is not kept away by the hardness of humanity,
but You melt that when You wish, either in mercy or in punishment
and there is none who can hide from Your heat
Let my soul praise You that it may love You
and confess to Your mercies that it may praise You
Your entire creation never ceases to praise You and is never silent
So from weariness our soul rises towards You
With You is restored strength and true courage.
Even at 5.30 with two out of three children wide awake…
And at some point this coming month I must find time for this new recipe http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/recipes/carrot-cake-scones
Recently I was stewarding at a wedding where the final hymn was this one:
Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.
Of his deliv’rance I will boast,
Till all that are distressed
From my example comfort take,
And charm their griefs to rest.
O magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt his Name;
When in distress to him I called,
He to my rescue came.
The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliv’rance he affords to all
Who on his succor trust.
O make but trial of his love;
Experience will decide
How blest they are, and only they,
Who in his truth confide.
Fear him, ye saints; and you will then
Have nothing else to fear:
Make you his service your delight,
He’ll make your wants his care.
The hymn is actually a paraphrase of Psalm 34 which is worth a read through too. I was really struck by the last verse. It seemed to cut right through the complexity of life in someway, and get right to the heart of the matter.
Fear him. Fear God. We don’t talk much about fearing God, but it is a theme that runs right through the bible. It’s not about a cringing fear that we have to tiptoe around God in case he suddenly explodes like an irascible old man. But it is a right fear of the One who holds our lives in his hands and who will bring down the final verdict on our lives. It is a fear that causes us to run to him, for the only place of safety from our God, who is a consuming fire, is his embrace.
If we really fear God, then all other fears fall into perspective. The fear of what others will think. The fear of failure. The fear of not measuring up. The fear of mistakes. The fear of loss. Because if we really fear God we will make his service our delight. And then our wants (i.e. the things we lack to serve him – our real needs) – he will make his care. His care. There is a childrens CD playing in our sons’ room right now with a song on it that has this line “remember, God knows what you need, remember to follow him first, and he’ll provide the rest…”)
Remembering that is hard right now in the fog of no sleep. In the fog of a baby waking twice each night to feed, and a 2 year old who wants the comfort of our big bed half way through the night. In the fog which results from broken night after broken night, and consequent exahustion. In the fog of figuring out how to get work done, and of how to go about looking for the next steps. In the fog of not getting done what should be done. So I put up this hymn as a great reminder of what it means to trust in God, and pray that I might do what it says.
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””
(Matthew 11:27–30 ESV)
I think I’ve always subconciously read 11:27 on its own, and read on its own it gets caught up into all the difficult debates about God’s sovereign choice. Today though I read straight on to the next verse, and it hit me forcibly that read together these verses explain exactly to whom Jesus chooses to reveal the Father.
Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to all who labour and are burdened. To all who struggle under burdens they cannot bear. Read on in Matthew and the next stories show how Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and came to restore Sabbath to its original purpose of celebrating and giving life, rather than being a burden. Read on further and Matthew quotes Isaiah 42 to describe Jesus, the one who will not put out a smouldering wick, or crush a bruised reed. To all who struggle under man made burdens, to all who are weary Jesus says one word:
Come. Come to me. He will give rest. He will give us a yoke that we can bear. It takes some learning. But we have a gentle and humble teacher. It could actually be that these verses are the source of the much maligned description “meek and mild”. We’ve taken those words to mean wimp. But they don’t. Not unless standing while you are whipped to an inch of your life before you are nailed to a cross (when you could call down a legion of angels in your protection) means you are a wimp.
And as we come, and as we take up His yoke, and as we learn from him what real gentleness and humility are we will find rest. Not an absence of work, but a yoke that fits. The ESV translates it as “easy”, but it could be translated “kind”, a yoke that is kind, and a burden that is light – the same word Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 4 about our “light and momentary troubles” which are outweighed by the eternal glory.
Do we want to know the Father better? Then come to Jesus, and take up his yoke – be ready to learn from him and know what it is to truly have rest – a work that fits us, and that is bearable – because it is Jesus who gives it to us. He is the God of the broken, the friend of the weak, he is the one who washes the feet of the weary and embraces those in need – he is the humble king – the God who loves so much he gives his all to draw us to him. The God who kneels in humility and washes our feet. The God who shows his glory by giving it away – whose glory is most clearly seen on a cross.
In all our strivings, all our works, all our efforts to serve God and do his will let us remember these things, and be those who point others back to the God of the broken.
I love this Vineyard song which sums up most of what struck me this morning: