I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable … Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.Charles H. Spurgeon (2011). “We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven”, p.298, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Quoted here.
Above all, guard your heart…
I attended a lecture about disability and the role of the mind. Fascinating. So important to (try to) tackle our fears. Here are a few quotes:
It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person hasHippocrates
Patients with the same illness or injury can have widely different perceptions of their condition and these perceptions can lead these same two patients down very different illness projectionsPetrie K and Weinman J Clinical Medicine 2006;6:536-9
* The most powerful negative driver in all chronic conditions is fear
* Fear leads to avoidance of the activity/situation
*’Avoiders do not have different demographics, pain or medical history from other back sufferers but they do have a greater fear of pain & reinjuWaddell 1998
In plainer English, quite a lot of how you fare with a disease depends on the state of your heart.
Here’s a book we were referred to — about back pain but with much wider applicability. Given the price, maybe ask a doctor friend to lend it to you!
In Tozer’s book ‘Paths to Power’ there is a chapter entitled ‘Miracles follow the Plough’. He contrasts two types of ground: fallow ground (fallow meaning ground which has been left for a period of time without being sown), and ground which has been broken up by the plough. The fallow field has chosen safety, security and contentment. But, says Tozer, at a terrible price. ‘Never does it see the miracle of growth; never does it feel the motions of mounting life nor see the wonders of bursting seed nor the beauty of ripening grain.’
In contrast the cultivated field has yielded itself to the ‘adventure of living’. ‘Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery: it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken, but the rewards come hard upon its labours.’
I’m sure you can see the parallels which Tozer then goes on to draw with our lives: the fallow life that doesn’t want to be disturbed, that has stopped taking risks for the sake of fruitfulness, contrasted with the life that is marked by discontent (at fruitlessness), yearning for the work of God, willing to be bruised and broken so that seed can be planted.
Which kind of field am I? What kind of field are you?
Breaking up the fallow ground begins with seeking God. Prayer, deep longing crying out to the Lord for Him to work in us, in our teams, in our places of ministry – this is where it begins. Are we doing that?
This is a short extract from a longer article that got the original author into hot water.
I recommend it as a long read.
Like hot water, it stings a bit but it’s really good once you’ve climbed in. Super article that (arguably) upsets all the right people.
The gospel that infuses the body of Christ is about the restoration of broken relationships …Poverty is a broken relationship with God, with my neighbor, with the earth, and the broken places inside me.
Our task as the followers of the true healer is to help mend these fissures we find in life. Without this understanding we easily become purveyors of I’m here and you’re over there. The truth is that because I am broken, through my wounds I get to heal somebody else who also, in some strange way, begins to heal me as well. Jesus said that because of the injury and death he experienced, he could heal us. In humility we follow his lead and offer ourselves as his agents in sacrificial love.
For thinking about your country
While I’m familiar with hope as a quality applied to persons (and myself) the idea of applying it to whole nations is refreshing.
…[Hope] makes an individual or a group, or even a nation, producers in their own drama, and not merely actors repeating the lines set by others or by some mysterious fate.
The Christian undestanding is that hope is an essential … state of mind for all human beings…
..[Hope] makes an individual or a group, or even a nation, producers in their own drama, and not merely actors repeating the lines set by others or by some mysterious fate.
Francois-Xavier, Cardinal Nguyen van Thuan, wrote an account of more than a decade in prison in Vietnam after the Communist takeover of te south in 1974. His is a testimony of hope, despite torture, solitary confinement and a near certainty of death in prison, forgotten by the majority of the world. He was sustained by the presence of Christ, by Mass said each day with a grain of rice and enough rice wine to hold in the palm of his hand . He was sustained by the story, the narrative of hope that centre on the resurrection of Christ and his living presence with us now. He was not destroyed by circumstance, or a sense of fatalism, but neither did he have a false hope of survival, a vain optimism. The story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most powerful narrative shift in world history, enabling a small and scattered group of disciples full of despair to set a pattern and style of life that conquered the Roman Emprie without violvence.
(Reimagining Britain, pp 25, 26, 27)
Why we should do more of it
Congratulations to writer Michele Guinness, whom I have not met or even read very much. Her story Chosen of being a Jewish person and meeting Christians (and eventually becoming one herself) has not been out of print in 35 years and is being re-issued by Lion in a new edition in October.
She still has loads to teach us, not least about eating. This is from an article in Together, magazine for Christian retailers, July/August 2018:
‘My first visit to a church was a shock to the system – so gloomy and dull. The congregation chanted “and make thy chosen people joyful” as if they were at a funeral … A greater understanding of Jesus’ worldview is liberating. It brings colour and richness, significance and celebration, wonder and joy to the Christian faith.
When I first became a Christian it seemed to me that around 50% of the New Testament was lost on Christians … I think it is more relevant than ever to encourage families to invite in the neighbours, single friends and children of all ages to celebrate at home together with story-telling and symbol, food and worship around the table.
Highlighted below is her book about celebrations, The Heavenly Party.
How wonderful if it happened
Just started Justin Welby’s new book ‘Reimagining Britain’. The introduction is intriguing:
- ‘British Values’: have come to mean ‘democcracy, the rule of law and respect for other’.
- As a phrase they strike the wrong note somehow
- These values are necessary (obviously) but not sufficient for the task of ‘re-imagining Britain’
- ‘I suspect, and argue here that there are values that come out of our common European history and Christian heritage, which have been tweaked and adapted in each country and culture.’
- Given the amount being written these days, and the great rumble of the Brexquake shattering everything around us (my phrase), ‘this really is one of those rare moments when we have both the risk and the opportunity of rethinking what we should do and be as a country.’
A rare moment to change direction, by redigging some old wells. Super stuff. This is slow mission. Bring it on. Looking forward to the rest of the book and hoping to blog further about it.
I bought this book, counter-intuitively, by walking into Waterstones and handing over my credit card – full-price, hardback, from a high street store that pays UK tax. Then I went to a coffee shop to blog about it. Life is deeply, wonderfully good that I get to do these things.
But here’s a reference for those of us, me at the top of the list, who also happen to appreciate Amazon:
Sometimes organisms make things easy for each other
‘[Fungi] are often completely essential to the trees they form a relationship with, and can even pass nutrients from one plant to another. This is yet another example of how the ‘red in tooth and claw’ picture of the living world is only one side of the story. Cooperation is every bit as important as competition. It is thought that fungi helped plants to transition onto land, and that in fact nearly every major transition in the evolution of living things involved a new type of cooperation. In other words, in the struggle for survival, a bit of snuggling is often needed.‘
Quoted from Ruth Bancewicz’s Science and faith blog — always worth a read.
My blog’s theme, thought of by someone else and expressed better
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Summarizing the environmental work to do
Thomas L Friedman’s stimulating book ‘Thank you for being late’ reminds us that the Holocene era, an era of unusual stability, has lasted just the last 11,500 years or roughly the same time we’ve had farms and civilisation.
Can we ourselves disturb this happy Holocene stability? It seems we can. Friedman summarizes eight different ways we may be inducing planetary organ failure, based on work by Rockstrom, Steffen and others in Science on Feb 13 2015:
- Climate church – already reached Holocene-rocking levels (they claim)
- Loss of biodiversity -ditto
- Deforestation – ditto
Then he lists four more that his source considers within safe levels, but only just:
- Ocean acidification
- Freshwater use
- Atmospheric aerosol loading (diesel particulates and whatnot)
- Introduction of novel entities (plastics, nuclear waste etc)
Finally one example of where we did breach safe levels but are now retreating back to safety: stratospheric ozone.
A useful summary, then, of the big main environmental issues. Human civilisation has only thrived in the Holocene bubble. Will we pop it, a DIY apocalypse? Or will we seek God for our ‘daily bread’ and manage to preserve our species and our planet for further adventures?