Wednesday, May 18, 2011
It’s midnight or so so this entry will consist of scattered and incoherent snippets. This is stating the obvious but just so you know.
Today I went on a walk with my favourite Ashley. It was meant to just be around the Loop which is like half an hour, but it turned into a two and a half hour trek. We braved herds of cattle, mammoth hills, and winds so strong you could lean back and not fall. And discovered mole corpses hung on a fence and a house guarded by stone dragons and other such exciting things.
England is gorgeous. I forget this a lot and then every so often I will walk outside and BAM. Beauty everywhere.
For the next few days we have a speaker named Ridge Burns who is hilarious and out-of-the-box and very very American. He started by breaking us into small groups for discussion and moving the desks out of rows and into random places around the room and then he distributed notes by tossing them off the stage and letting them fall around the room and I thought, I like this guy. So far all we’ve done is a spiritual gifts test (not strictly Spiritual Gifts Called Spiritual Gifts in Scripture, more God-given Gifts That Can Be Spiritual) and I got highest on missions. HAHA. Irony. Who knew. Though he defined it as using whatever other gifts you have, for God’s glory, in a different culture, so not always evangelism specifically, and that fits pretty well, I think... Got just about zero on tongues and leadership and organisation. Surprise!
I made a list of things I am looking forward to about home, because it is 23 days until Capernwray is over and 28 days until I am back in the True North Strong And Free and I am not really looking forward to leaving at the moment. Such as:
-My mum’s cooking... Perogies, waffles with strawberries and chocolate sauce, homemade pizza, curry (proper curry not omnipresent and ersatz Capernwray curry), baked goods of various kinds, meat that I can eat without being reminded of all the terrifying and grim facts that I learned while working at P&G Sausage last year...
-Seeing you people. Obviously. This would be right at the top of the list except that I am justmaybekindof STARVING at the moment. Not like you guessed that, or anything...
-Playing piano without bothering about anyone listening
-Attempting to teach myself guitar
-Being around people who are older and younger than me
-That graduationy ceremony danceish thing that the ingenious Madame Zoe is planning
-Being allowed to use British words (by accident, of course) without sounding like a complete poseur
-Not parting with £1.50 every time I wish to wear clean clothes
-Going to the beach
-Forcing my family to watch/listen to some of the movies and music I’ve discovered since being here (prepare yourselves, guys)
-The TWU choir
-Proper mountains, not these occasional lumps of uneven earth that are known as “mountains” around here
-Having more confidence because of what I’ve seen and experienced here
-Having a chance to put what I’ve learned into practise
Um. Yes. I’ll shut up now. Peace out. Cheers. Farewell.
Friday, May 6, 2011
...To God or to the world?'
Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.
As long as I keep running about asking: 'Do you love me? Do you really love me?' I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with 'ifs.' The world says: 'Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much.' There are endless 'ifs' hidden in the world's love. These 'ifs' enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world's love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain 'hooked' to the world ' trying, failing, and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart. '
I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father? I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me ' my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts ' and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God. Yes, I often carry them off to a 'distant country' and put them in the service of an exploiting world that does not know their true value.
It's almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God's love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. Beneath it all is the great rebellion, the radical 'No' to the Father's love, the unspoken curse: “I wish you were dead.” The prodigal son's 'No' reflects Adam's original rebellion: his rejection of the God in whose love we are created and by whose love we are sustained. It is the rebellion that places me outside the garden, out of reach of the tree of life. It is the rebellion that makes me dissipate myself in a 'distant country.' '
The great event I see [in the return of the prodigal son] is the end of the great rebellion. The rebellion of Adam and all his descendants is forgiven, and the original blessing by which Adam received everlasting life is restored. It seems to me now that these hands have always been stretched out ' even when there were no shoulders upon which to rest them. God has never pulled back his arms, never withheld his blessing, never stopped considering his son the Beloved One. But the Father couldn't compel his son to stay home. He couldn't force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.
Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home. The blessing is there from the beginning. I have left it and keep on leaving it. But the Father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper in my ear: 'You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests.’"
-Henri Nouwen, Reflections on the Return of the Prodigal Son