Category Archives: Sharing other’s inspired thoughts

God’s window

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In this past week I was involved in quite a few conversations and scenarios where the idea of “doubt” came up: What is it? What does it do? Is it good or bad? (etc. etc. etc., as the good king would say :D) And you, knowing me by now, should know that these situations and conversations got me a’thinkin. This is how far I’ve gotten; maybe you can comment and take us all a little further?

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” – Khalil Gibran

I have always been one to ask questions – from the obvious to the awkward – which means I have always asked questions of my faith as well. In studying theology I found a certain freedom – finally it wasn’t frowned upon to ask questions! In fact, it was encouraged. But in this process of letting go, of going farther and asking more than I had ever imagined, I lost something. Something precious, something that I only realised the worth of a few years later – I lost faith…I lost the capability to know when to let go. I got lost in the pain and the uncertainty of doubt, arrogantly thinking I had finally gotten to where everyone should be journeying. When in fact all I had become was hollow. It was in this time that God graciously introduced Himself to me again – through the faith of others, through their lives and their stories. I was confronted with a freedom I did not know anymore, for I had chosen to become confined within my own small mind and the things that mind could think of and could handle. I thought I had found the answers, because they were answers I could work out; when, in fact, I had only lost the capability to venture outside of myself. I had gotten stuck. Luckily, I got “pulled out” again before there was no turning back. But from then on the debate has raged within and around me – for “doubt” as such is not a bad thing. It makes sure we do not become complacent. Become petrified in our ways.

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” ― René Descartes “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom” – Ancient proverb

Doubt can be exactly the window God needs to be able to settle Himself in our souls – it very often is. And doubt can make sure that we are still in relationship with the real God, not our imagined or accepted picture of Him. So when does doubt become negative? When does it scoop all meaning out of our thoughts and our lives? When there is nothing left but doubt and cynicism. When all we do is question and doubt and fear. For then we have nothing to live for, nothing to drive us, nothing to strive towards. All we have is emptiness and trying to live through it.

Faith in doubt

Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief, but it is belief that is the positive, it is belief that sustains thought and holds the world together.” ― Søren Kierkegaard ” “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

May there always be enough doubt in our lives to keep us honest and our minds and hearts clear. But may there (also) always be a little faith in our doubt, enough faith to make the doubt an instrument, not the end. And may God, the true Source of all doubt and faith, keep watch over us all in our journey on this balancing act called life.


Isn’t it funny?

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Life will always remain a strange thing…an enigma…the biggest variable in any one of our individual life’s plots…filling it with both pain and beauty. We can experience death and new life all in the span of one week. We can reach the most glorious highs on some levels, while simultaneously experiencing the lowest of lows. Funny that. Funny using an expression like “isn’t it funny” for something that’s actually not “funny” at all, but rather difficult, bizarre or uncomfortable.

When the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time for everything”, he makes it sound so neat in a way. Yes, he mentions things like a time to cry and a time to die; but it still sounds so ordered – like there is a rhythm even to those times, that they will follow on each other, that you will always be able to move from the one to the other. And yet, in our living life, we come to realise that those times aren’t “neat” or “rhythmic”, mostly they are intertwined – joy with tears, success with disappointment, and life with death. Which is so contra-instinctive for us – we WANT life to be more “reliable”, more predictable. We NEED life to be simpler. We NEED to hold on to the belief that tomorrow will be different…will be better…will be more. But life continues on its “merry” way, and tomorrow usually ends up being the same as today – complicated. Which means that we can (and often do!) spend a lot of time questioning the meaning of our existence, the sense our living holds, the reason for our being. Getting so caught up in thinking about life that we don’t live it. But, you might say, such a complicated mess is not worth calling life, never mind living it! And yet, it is what it is, and it remains so no matter our thoughts on the matter.

So why is it worth it? What is the significance of this quagmire? Where is God in all of this? “Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the surface of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.” – Annie Dillard “Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blending and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” – John Muir

We should not strive for peace and calm and simple, for it is only in the difficulty and the chaos and the mess that we can plumb the depths of who we are. You cannot be truly brave and courageous without having felt fear tinge your being and overcoming it. You cannot truly live without confronting the complex reality that life is. “I don’t believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or make you feel miserable either. Life is just supposed to make you feel.” – Gloria Naylor In the fullness of the total experience, in our giving ourselves over to every piece of it, in our looking every part of life and death straight in the eye and conquering it; therein lies living. For if you’re not ready to die, then how can you live? So…hoohah! “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” – Mary Oliver

Sore thumb

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“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” – Albert Einstein

Earlier today I was talking to my mother – a woman of beautifully simple and childlike faith (something I have always envied in a way) – looking at the tears in her eyes as she explains to me how stupid she feels when comparing her faith and life to those of others. I tell her that she shouldn’t be comparing herself or her journey/faith to others, as it is exactly the uniqueness of her life that makes her special and mesmerising. And yet, at the back of my mind, I know that I should actually be “preaching” this to myself, for I know that I am constantly comparing. We are all constantly comparing…from our bodies to our things to our faith…and we almost never come out on top… We are so quick to see and appreciate the value of others, yet simultaneously always quicker to dismiss ourselves. But then I am reminded that you can only see others as clearly as you see yourself…which implies that we aren’t really seeing other people as accurately as we think we are…and that we are using skew images to compare ourselves to…like walking in one of those classic carnival “Hall of Mirrors” and taking whatever we see – no matter how disfigured – as our only truth…

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou

But that means that I, that every one of us, are not living within the identity God gave us. We might be confessing that belief every day, but we sure aren’t living it – for our every need to compare ourselves to others is a warped sense of self worth and a not-so-solid self esteem, based on a definition of success that we never chose in the first place! The solution, obviously, would then be to stop comparing yourself – by building your self worth and developing a solid self-esteem that cannot be disturbed by outside factors and opinions. For doing so will give you the freedom to be the only person you were ever meant to be – yourself. The wonderful – and terribly embarrassing – thing is that we do not need to search for a source of self worth or a basis for developing self-esteem, because WE ALREADY HAVE IT! We have had it all along!

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule…you’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you…you’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…you’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat…you’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” – Matthew 5:3-8

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers – most of which are never even seen – don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” – Matthew 6:30-34

So, if we truly are the believers we claim to be, we have to stop comparing! We have to start finding ourselves where we should always have been looking – with God. And we should RELY ONLY on His opinion! “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.” – Johann von Goethe “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin

“Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit.” – Mary Lou Retton

The only constant…

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Jaco and Lindsey Barnard, 6 April 2012

I will always struggle with how quickly time flies – just as I struggle with the practicality of how time zones work 😀 I was looking at wedding photos of a beautiful and magical wedding – Jaco and Lindsey Barnard’s – and I was reminded of the fact that Sarel and I’s marriage journey had its beginning more than eight years ago. And, me being me, I started thinking back on those years…about the people we were…about all the things that have happened…about the people we have become… And, in a way, it seems so strange that we are still together, for so much has changed in our lives and in our beings.

It is not for nothing that one of the most memorable and oft-repeated quotes of all time is “the only constant in life is change”. And that makes marriage seem like such a strange concept – for you are promising to be with someone forever…yet you cannot be sure who that person will be in ten years…hell, even who you will be! Especially if you are committed to being self-aware and have a desire to always become more yourself, to keep growing, for growth means change and change involves risk, involves stepping from the known to the unknown. With the person you now give your heart to it could mean stepping into being with someone “new and unknown” a few years along the line. I certainly know this to be true of our lives…our marriage…I am not the same person I was on that dewy-eyed day. You are promising to be committed to (and very involved in) a roller-coaster ride…

That's the story of...that's the glory of...

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett

What makes it worthwhile? For worthwhile it certainly is, this rollercoaster called marriage. What makes the change, and the discomfort and grief it often brings, something to commit to and look forward to? “Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.” – Bruce Barton

Exactly that – knowing that your journey brings change and growth, not only in your own being, but also in the being of that one person who has committed to staying. And if you have set out on this journey together for the right reasons, that change will always be for the better. The grace (and discomfort) of marriage is the privilege of having your own purifying fire, bringing with each passing year more clarity and shine. But encapsulated with that fire also the one person who will always be in your corner, who will always be there in your striving towards yourself. Relationships change with time, they only last if you learn to adapt and except that change.

Luckily, we can “always remember that the future comes one day at a time” – Dean Acheson Marriage might begin with that one beautiful day, but it has to continue with a daily renewal of commitment to that day’s spouse. And before you know it, you are ten years down the line; you are different; yet you are loved. May the blessing of the journey be yours.

Here's to you, kid

Risen indeed!

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He is not here!

“The story of Easter is the story of God’s wonderful window of divine surprise.” – Carl Knudsen

“There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou – Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.” – Emily Bronte

“Easter is not a time for groping through dusty, musty tomes or tombs to disprove spontaneous generation or even to prove life eternal.  It is a day to fan the ashes of dead hope, a day to banish doubts and seek the slopes where the sun is rising, to revel in the faith which transports us out of ourselves and the dead past into the vast and inviting unknown.” – Author unknown (as quoted in the Lewiston Tribune)

He is risen!

“The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world.  Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice.  But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.” – Henry Knox Sherrill

“Ye sleeping buds, break
Open your green cerements, and wake
To fragrant blossoming for His sweet sake.” – Margaret French Patton

Bated breath and open doors

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The elements

“Passover Seders are like the night sky:

A moment of moments long past and just gone;

Starlight years old next to planets nearby

Shining as though joined in one joyous song.

Over our heads is a book of the ages

Vividly chanting the stories of old,

Even as under our fingers are pages

Resplendent with light come from cauldrons now cold.

So may we gaze at the past in the present,

Each prayer a jewel in a darkness undone,

Destined to light on our eyes in a moment

Embracing all slaves out from Egypt as one.

Rejoice, then, in this living graveyard of light,

Singing the words, that they last one more night.” – Nicholas Gordon

Yesterday, as the sun set on the different parts of the world, Jews everywhere celebrated the Passover Seder. The very same Seder that Jesus and his disciples celebrated on that fateful night before the crucifixion.

The Passover Seder is a beautiful ritual – one that has blessed me every time I took part in the celebration. It is good and necessary to remember the way that our family of faith has been walking from the very beginning: to eat of the “karpas” and the “maror” and be reminded that our tears are not the first shed, the bitterness of parts of our journey not the first to be experienced; to take part in the “yachatz”, the breaking of the bread, celebrating that God would even part the seas for those He loves. In each different phase of the meal, in all the different elements, to know as concretely as the things that we smell, touch and eat that – though this life is often filled with suffering, pain and bitterness – we are enfolded in the promise and the blessing of God’s presence…of his unceasing love and involvement in our lives.

I am the bread of life...broken for you...

“Palpably, You are in this room,

A presence just as certain as our own,

Singing with us — family friend, well-known —

Someone, not just something we assume.

One can know You only intimately.

Vast as You are, You fit into our home.

Every tick of life we’re not alone,

Rejoicing in a love we feel and see.” – Nicholas Gordon

The wonder and grace for those of us who have come to know Jesus for Who He was? That our Passover Seder does not need to end with a prayer to Elijah, the opening of a door to symbolise our expectation for the coming of the Messiah or the words, encapsulating the hope that the Messiah will come, that “next year (will be) in Jerusalem”. For God and the Kingdom have already entered the door – as unexpectedly strange as only God can be – and all the offerings needed have already been made. “Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread-simple, genuine, unpretentious.” – 1 Cor 5:7-8 So, on this “Silent Saturday”, find time to be at peace and bask in this time…God’s reminder.

“Pour yourself like wine into the glass,

A liquid shaped by glass blown long ago,

Singing every year the words you know,

Songs that do not change as your years pass.

Old glass, new wine; new matter, ancient form;

Vintages that burst with life and joy;

Enduring hope no horror can destroy;

Ritual that makes a faith a home.”

– Nicholas Gordon

Milk and honey

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Easter – our blessed reminder and most significant time of year – is approaching fast. By this time next week we will (should?) be right in the middle of the weekend’s remembrances. The Passover lamb now only a memory, a sacrifice made obsolete by the Lamb of God. The door, left open at the end of every Passover Seder as a symbol of their expectant hope for the arrival of the Messiah, no longer necessary – the Messiah and the Kingdom are already near…are here…

Thoughts that enliven me with thankfulness and a re-ignited passion, as I’m sure many of you are, too. Because when I am again confronted with what exactly God was willing to do to reach me, I realise that the sky should be the limit where my life for God is concerned. But this passion and these best of intensions are so often exactly like New Year’s resolutions – they last as long as the feast does…we are inspired to do more, as we should be, only to then fall back into our routine faith – our biggest (only?) desire the desire to be comforted each Sunday…is that the Kingdom of God that Jesus planned? That He gave His everything for?

This is my body, this is my blood...for you...

“So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God…Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God….You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted…Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” – 1 Peter 2:1-11

Yes, the basics are important – we need to start out with comfort and security…with milk…but we cannot stay there…for if we stay there we cease to grow. Milk, the desire to be comforted, should only be our BEGINNING; and not the end we have made it to be. Yes a firm foundation is absolutely essential – sound knowledge of God’s being and what He has done – but a building is not built only to look at, it is meant for living in and around, as the provider of shelter and comfort and a safe space. The laying of the foundation, our new identity as living stones in God’s house, has to have life-altering consequences – for ourselves, yes, but even more so for the people who surround us everyday. A building can only really “be” a building if it’s serving its purpose…we can only really “be” the faithful if our lives become less about ourselves with every day we are given.

We must become the change we want to see in the world.”  – Ghandi

May this Easter be the push we need. May we become the faithful Jesus envisioned while giving all of Himself.