God is frustrating. As creatures in his image we yearn for control thus making trust – or faith rather – difficult. The absurdity of prayer, its necessity, the frustration of unwanted responses – silence included – add to this difficulty. All we have is the hope that within the eternal scope, the completely wise allpowerful will be true to his promises of unconditional ans unflinching love.

Calling people to him, we musnt hide from the difficulty while marketing the hope. Keeping aware of our own pain makes us sensitive to the pai mm of others. Only then can we draw near to the cross together in gracious hope.

I celebrate muamba’s recovery but likewise mourn with the many whose pain has been rekindled and highlighted in its wake.

Good reflection.

Thanks

astoryoffailure

It’s been quite a while since I wrote on here. I have surprised myself with my silence. The truth is – the quiet has been a combination of two facts-of-life: 1. Busyness 2. Complete dearth of inspiration.

Work has been busy – for which I am deeply grateful. Life as a freelancer is constantly unpredictable and I am very happy to have an influx of work, which will keep me busy and out of trouble for a few weeks.

Mostly – and this I suspect is the “real” reason – I just haven’t felt inspired. Haven’t known what to write about. Haven’t felt that I had anything to say. Fleeting thoughts have crossed my mind but nothing has taken root.

Until today.

This morning, I went to church. It was a lovely service. On the whole. A guest speaker and lots of happy faces. All was going swimmingly. And then…

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Poetry 026: Fruit Picking

They were the hot summer days,
The ones we favored for picking.

She smiled whenever the idea came up,
It was possibly the only thing that I saw
Would light up her demeanor.
Excited she would dance, almost glide
Her way to the car and wait beside
The passenger door.
Her strides small and quick,
Making her hips swing and hair float.
She’d never gloat but it seemed
It was gentleness she gleaned from me
As I slowly, as was my pace,
Walked toward the door and
With a smile, opened it for her.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

Radio four would carry us there,
Away from the care of a crumbling exhaust
Or the sticky clutch.
She’d sat in silence as the seconds flew
Alongside the cascading landscape.
For she had said and knew,
That in those moments the roots
She dug and tended would –
After winter had come and gone
And spring had rained
and sun had shone – bear fruit.
She watched the world without a care
Staring through opposite windows.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

The warning light flashed and the gate
To the farm, a local favorite,
Slowly swung open as the heat
poured in through my window.
She fanned her face with paper,
One of the ‘just in case cards’
She usually stashed in her glove-box.
We exchanged smiles,
Her hand resting on my thigh
I quickly pulled my trouser legs
Down over my socks and steered.
The car – a present from her dad –
Obeyed.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking

Her hands, whose touch I often feel
Even her absence, softly caressed
The rose red cherries that hung
From the upper branches of the tree.
With her small feet pointed
She tiptoed and stole for me
The fruits she thought were sweet.
Her lips, watered with desire,
Wrapped around a raspberry
Soft pink blushes washing
Across her happy face as she ate
Free from, work and worry,
And almost free from me.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking

Her eyes spoke of days without end
Fires without ash
Or burning heat: just warmth.
Her smile spoke of receding pain,
Eroded by the warm soft rain
That fell upon our faces and hands
As we stood entwined: and sold.
Her heart, like mine, sang of hope;
Our hymn of a happiness bespoke,
Spread upon the grasses,
Glistening as the evening sun
Sat in and glowed.
I couldn’t have loved her more.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

© Denis Adide 2011

 

Broken to be shared

 

The sun beat thorough the windscreen keeping me awake while I waited in the parked car for the school bell to ring. I work with Children and had to supervise this particular child’s contact with his brother. On the radio, the last minutes of the Radio play ended followed by the news. Most of what was being reported was innocuous and breezed from ear to ear without registering. This until the story I will focus on for this rant-ish.

Two clergymen were arrested for allegedly assaulting a series of young men. I turned the radio off. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Context

I had just come back from a weekend away ‘Exploring the call of God’. There had been teaching on ‘calling’ – that deep sense of a specific direction within which to pour our passion. Mine felt like it was to be in the church, working towards healing and reconciliation by building gracious communities.

The tears fell because I knew that dysfunctionality wasn’t something that few suffered. Something only experienced by the impoverished. It is, in fact, something that everyone must deal with. The bible says that ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God’. There are no exemptions made for neither pope nor murderer. We all bear the scars of sin and sinfullness and are all in fact working out our salvation in attempting to lean on the Grace of God through Jesus.

The tears fell because I not only empathised with the young men who were allegedly assaulted, but also felt a deep sense of sorrow for the clergymen. We are all victims of sin. It wasn’t into a glowing beacon of perfection that I was being called to serve, it rather was, and is a collection of Fallible men whose hearts are directed toward good.

Depth

Jesus took the bread, and broke it. If he didn’t break it, it wouldn’t be shared. Here we see the Son of Man, who yielded himself to being broken: the bread of life, exemplifying the heart of God while teaching the solution to the human problem. None of us are whole. The more we attempt to deceive ourselves and others into believing that we are whole, the more we break them. When we do not accept out brokenness and share our pieces, we break others by taking from them. The opposite to service is abuse.

For a Christian, the core is Christ. So unless you break and share, you keep Christ hidden within and stifle light from shining, not only into your life, but into the life of others. It’s like putting a cup over a candle, with no oxygen to burn, the candle dies out. Do not harden your heart, be bold, be strong, be free and vulnerable, let Christ out and watch him pour in.

For the Church as an institution, accountability is key. What price is being paid for the lack of accountability between these two men and their fellows. Being called to serve is being called to break even further. To open your hands, and heart, and mind to those you serve. Knowing our weaknesses, and having them known, helps protect the vulnerable world we work with, but also us from temptations that the world presents. Acting out of fear, folds away the hands of love.

Confess your faults to one another, and pray for each other that you may be healed

James 5:16

I shed tears because I knew that the story would be told every half hour for the next day, portraying the church as an unsafe place and tarnishing the good work of many great friends: fathers, daughters, sons and sisters to whom the call to serve is received. It is for these, equally broken but diligent in love, servants that I wept, praying all the while that their work would not be stifled or undermined.

I wiped my cheeks with a growing determination and a prayer for continued humility within me. For that hope in Love to increase so that when the time did come – if God willed it – I wouldn’t shudder and hide.

Healing

The church is imperfect. It has imperfect people within it. It needs your accountability – so ask questions of it. It needs your input – so ask how you can help. Most of all it needs the same forgiveness it preaches. These three things will ensure it continues well in its work of healing, one person at a time.

 

“The Woman YOU put here”

The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.

I decided to catch up on BBC’s Question time this morning and abruptly stopped a second after David Starkey finished speaking. It is a mystery to my why the T.V channels insist on bringing him on their shows because for a historian, he seems out of touch with the many lessons that need learning from the scoured past. His comments on race during the London Riots were bad enough and I assumed that he would have learnt something from the backlash that followed. It was with attentive ears that I listened as he pigeon holed women as sentimental and irrational (how irrational of him.)

I tried to watch the rest of the show but couldn’t, the bee was disturbed and its buzz would would only be satisfied by the hammer of fingertips on keys so here.

Supremacy is one of the biggest problems humanity faces. it is this sense within us that we are completely without blemish, and should be so in all circumstances. It is the resistance to vulnerability and the root of negative pride (the kind that surpasses the honest sense of self worth). It is the same that resists repentance – by which I mean a changing of the mind as well as an acceptance of brokenness. I will delve further into the ramifications of this later.

The most crucial part of Adam’s response to God’s question about the forbidden fruit is not the part where he blames God for his wife (A thought worth developing on its own). It is the part where he admits to eating the fruit himself. In the moment that he blames his wife, Adam ceases to act out of love for her and quite selfishly dooms her to guilt while keeping himself elevated in his illusion of innocence. Now, whether you take this story as literal or not, it is clear to see this thread of selfishness across human history. The man declaring himself as superior instead of accepting his equal capacity for folly.

Someone once asked me what I thought of women in positions of leadership and authority. My response was to ask whether they would happily be led by a woman. If yes then I needn’t respond to the first question, and if no then he/she was proud. The testament that the women I know have given for their gender is extensive and the vast expanse of wise, intellectual, Spritiual, as well as sensitive, women keeps growing. Honestly speaking, I find their potential intimidating.

So what am I saying?

If we all stop trying to be superior to each other (As the devil attempted on God). We would find ourselves in a more open and honest space where in accountability we would lead each other by serving each other. Furthermore, we would help each other lead by serving each other, and thus make each other better leaders.

The seed that led Mr Starkey to make the comments he made is sowed in all of us. My apology is to the many women who have been belittled by the result of such thought. It is a sad fact that in this day, that we glorify as advanced, lessons haven’t been fully learnt that’d ensure greater equality between men and women.

Blessings.

The Pangs of Desire

This has been quite an interesting two weeks, thus my silence. I have encountered a whole host of people who are either unaware of the ill they do, or are aware and ignore the voice of conscience. Ok, I wont stand here and judge like I never disobey what my conscience says or even claim to have never caused any harm by my disobedience so take this toasted lament with a pinch of salt, a hint of pepper and some Marmite (which I hate by the way).

You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?

Jeremiah 12:1

The question that has been marinating in my heart is this. Do the wicked have no conscience or is its voice dimmed?

In my own life I’ve found it quite hard to make a cup of tea for myself without offering one to whoever was around me. I struggled to eat the last biscuit in the pack, and used to buy two chocolate bars so that when asked I had one to share. I try to do what I can to be a positive in people’s lives. This is quite difficult as my desire is to serve myself, thus wrought for others seems vain. My conscience however, loud as a drum, kicks in and wrangles with my self-centeredness whenever I turn away from serving others.

This moreover is a world full of people who can be ungrateful, and utterly selfish with no regard for their neighbour’s wellbeing, and seemingly get away with it. This makes the whole turn the other cheek thing tough; not because the other person is relentless but because deep down I wish I could get away with doing what they are doing. This is at the core of my complaint. It is such a devastating lens focused onto my own depravity: that it isn’t against the wicked that I lament but a desire at very center of my heart to be one. I genuinely love God and would like to think that my actions in line with His will are rooted in a love for Him rather than a fear of my actions’ consequences. But that root isn’t as straight forward as I find as similar a mystery as is the nature of Grace at the core of my desires.

I honestly do wish I could get away with half of what I have seen people do this week and am – like Jeremiah – complaining about it. At the same time, I know how harmful selfishness can be and am – in a small part – grateful that I know I wont actually get away with it. It doesn’t stop it being painful to witness, neither does it make doing good easier.

Our faith is difficult one. I suppose if you aren’t grappling with it constantly then you’re either almost in heaven or most certainly angelic. It’s answer to the pangs of desire is to ask us to pursue someone else’s: God’s. This doesn’t stop them from being pangs. I suppose the idea of ‘carrying a cross and following Jesus’ is this sense of doing something difficult for a cause that transcends our own. It’s a noble thought that like a drop of water skims the surface of a furnace almost mocking the hope of dousing the flames.

Evidently I am in complain mode so I will not put my positive thoughts. (Out of disobedience because I hear and feel the answers to my complaint: take what you will from that.)

 

 

 

Love came down

“The truest gift is that of fearce, undying, unconditional, and preemptive love”

So, last night as I sat with my wife, her mother and brother, unwrapping the presents we had got each other, I cast my thoughts back across the afternoon. We had sat together and read from Luke 2 after which we sang a few carols and finished with a prayer.

Over the verses concerning the birth of Jesus, I had poured many times before; so too had I sung the carols time and time again. There was however, something quite different taking place. In this intimate space, where I was part embarrassed by the sound of my voice joining the harmonies filling the room, the canvas of monotony was lifted and fresh meaning began to emerge from the verses and the lyrics.
 I was overcome with a deep sense of appreciation for the expression of love shown to me by the Father through – and by the Son. The sense of celebration transcended the Gifts underneath the tree, sailing past the feeling of belonging : as I was gathered with family, and resting on a Spiritual awakening: that the gift was to my heart and soul. The birth of Christ became a tangible, as well as a Spiritual, joy.
Opening my presents, I was surprised at the way in which my wife and her family surpassed my expectations. They had given me far above what I deserved and it made me feel equally loved. It was here that the other verses i had forgotten began to pour past.

because He first loved us

love is itself. It is an action and not a response. It is not something that can be cultured or grown, love comes complete and whole. What we mostly mistake for love is intimacy, which takes time to grow and develop. You need intimacy in order to express love because intimacy is the currency of relationship. Love is as love is; a thing with no beginning and no end. It is a space with no boundaries; infinite and incomprehensible in its totality. It emerges – reveals itself – leaving us to react to it with our actions. You cannot show love without its revelation to you; thus the verse.
As I pondered this, the next verse flew by…
for God ‘so’ loved… That He ‘gave’
Generosity  is love’s character. The only thing that proceeds from love is an act of giving. Love gives. A wise man once said to a group of boys, of whom i s one, that love in action is ‘sacrificial giving of what the subject needs, not what they want’. This rings true with sentiment that withholding for a time falls in the remit of love’s generosity. For God so loved the world that He gave… Not only did love act, love sought to get intimate with us so that we may understand it, enjoy it, relate to it, and share in it – with it. (Something worth chewing on)
‘no greater love has a man than this, to lay down his Life for his friend’
This final verse led me to the conclusion that the generosity that love displays is a total one. That is, one that asks for handing over of what is most delicate and precious. Love shared its life – the soft inner part of itself – with us.
How fearce, how free, how complete, how compelling. Death was not the only purpose, He was born to live, to be learnt, to be doubted, to be trusted, to be embraced, to be denied, to be seen suffering, to be seen hungry, to cry, to be human. All so that Love could be understood.
Merry Christ Has Come!

Faith: What if you’re wrong?

Question:

Are you ever scared that you have it wrong, that God doesn’t agree with you?

This was a question I came across on twitter. It was tweeted by a Christian Youth Worker on her feed as one of the questions she had to respond to. I spent the first half of the night envying her, dreaming of being there to witness the prelude as well as the ensuing conversation. The second half of the night was spent considering how I would respond: putting in sensible ways the almost irrational notion of faith. How do you convey something so subjective in a way that resonates in the face of doubt.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,”

Hebrews 11:1

For a very long period of my life I believed strongly that faith was on the opposite side of uncertainty. That faith, my faith in particular, was set in absolute objectively verifiable facts which I could call up whenever doubt arose. The older I get however, and the more I study, the further away from the possibility of absolute certainty everything moves. Just as doubt is necessary for the continuity of the sciences, absolute certainty evades most of our experiences – enriching it.

How can one be sure of what is abstract (bound in hope) or certain of what they cannot see (far from proof). By definition then, faith isn’t the opposite of doubt. In fact doubt is almost necessary for Faith, any faith to be. The key to it all is the abstract idea of Hope. Hope is wrapped in trust and trust requires a reputation (Glory). Hope, being abstract, opens the resulting reality to all the probable possibilities so that, as with the initial question, I could be totally wrong about God in the end. Let’s interrogate this with an analogy.

My mother, note the ‘my’, is the greatest mom in the world. For the years I have been alive, she has nurtured me all the way from vulnerability to manhood. This doesn’t mean that when we sit to eat, the probability that the food she’s set before me is poisoned isn’t present. I have a hope, based on her reputation thus far, that the food is safe to eat. There is no absolute certainty here, just the assurance from faith in my mother that no harm will come to me from her. This hope/ faith doesn’t guarantee the outcome, it is – rather – a conclusion completely based on mine and my mother’s collective history – a reflection of her character so far.

If, however, I had a friend over, his ability to trust my mother will be solely based on my bias. He would have every right to check the food. Because she is not his mother and he doesn’t have an in depth knowledge of her character as I have (the primary relationship and the intimacy between my mother and I being a key factor affecting my assurance/ faith in her).

Therefore:

Romans 10:17

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ

ESV Bible

Put differently

The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

The Message Bible

So where do my assurances about God come from? The come from the reputation of God, as illustrated across scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ. They come from the ongoing intimacy developing between Him and I by His Holy Spirit. They come from the crowd of witness to the Loving Nature of the Godhead. They come from the wide range of promises He has made.

His reputation has given me hope, and that hope has given me certainty – or faith rather (because even in the face of all that’s before me, I still doubt).

Think on this

Mark 9:24

Lord I believe. Help my unbelief

More musings later….

Feel free to comment or query.