Monthly Archives: December 2017

Grace and God’s Approval

More wisdom from the brilliant Jeff Turner:

The unconditional grace of God, while the most glorious truth in the cosmos, can, at first, lead one into a place of feeling purposeless, and even into a brief season of nihilism.

Why? Well, when you’ve spent your entire existence believing that your actions earn and equal out to God’s approval and blessing, a sudden realization that nary a single work of yours has ever changed God’s opinion of you in the least can feel like a bit of a slap in the face.

This is why the religious will always fight a message of grace and mercy, tooth and nail. It invalidates their efforts and works, and forces them into finding better reasons for being good than earning brownie points with their overbearing, rule-obsessed dad in the clouds.

To the self-righteous and religious, grace will always feel like death at first. But to the broken, exhausted and contrite, it is life itself.

20

Arctic Intercept!

My friend Toby pointed me in the direction of this article, from the website UK Defence Journal:

“The Royal Air Force will reportedly be on high alert in the coming weeks in order to track cargo flights from the Arctic region.

“The move has been prompted by an incident around a year ago in which Typhoon aircraft escorted a Lapland registered aircraft (flying from the Arctic region) over the UK’s major cities, the pilot of the craft was said to be under the influence of alcohol and very “festive”, this is especially dangerous due to the sheer volume of cargo the aircraft was carrying. This is expected to happen again.

“An MoD spokesman had this to say:

‘ “Interception is part of what the QRA* force do. We have to identify and confirm who or what is flying through our airspace or approaching our airspace and since the craft appears at the same time each year, we have a fairly good idea who will be flying but we don’t take any chances.” ‘

“The Ministry of Defence used satellites with infra-red sensors to track the aircraft last time this happened, it is understood that the heat from an animals red nose was clearly visible and it was at this point RAF aircraft began escorting the bright red aircraft over every British city, town and village.

“More on this as it develops.”

Here’s the link to the original article.

 

 

 

In case you haven’t got it yet, it’s a joke. I won’t spoil it for you; go and read it again if you didn’t ‘get’ it.

 

 

 

Of course, it’s about Santa Claus. Father Christmas. Yep.

 

I do think it’s sad that at this time of year, so many religious people moan and protest about Santa and about the emphasis on him, rather than on the ‘Reason for the Season’: Jesus Christ. They trot out ‘Put the Christ back into Christmas’; ‘did you know that ‘Santa’ is an anagram of ‘Satan’ ‘, and other such tired phrases. What happened to the joy of celebrating that God gave us the ‘Gift’ of His Son, to show us how much He loves us? And then there’s the classic religious conundrum: How does a Christian family approach the unavoidable problem of the Santa story? Do we ‘lie’ to our kids and tell them he exists? Will they feel betrayed when they find out the ‘truth’? What about their friends who believe in Santa; do they tell them the ‘truth’ as well? Well, let me tell you our story first.

Y’see, I can really identify with that RAF story I led with, spoof though it is 🙂 Because I must confess that when my eldest son, David, was a toddler, at the beginning of 1991, we jokingly told him that Santa had been shot down over Iraq…  😉 As the story went, he had been clobbered by a heat-seeking surface-to-air missile homing on Rudolf’s nose…

But it wasn’t as bad as it sounds! David already knew it was a joke. You see, our view as a young family in those days with regard to the Santa stuff – and don’t forget I was really ‘religious’ back then – was that we never told our David and his brother Richard (born in 1987 and 1989 respectively) that Santa exists, but we however did tell them that other kids believed in him, so it was our secret that he was not real – and that they were not to tell their friends. In this way, the boys had a secret that they knew they had to keep, so we involved them in the Santa myth in a passive sort of way. The point that it was a secret meant that they kept it to themselves with great joy – the ‘we know something you don’t know’ principle! And so they already knew that Santa had not perished by enemy action; that was how they knew it was a joke – or at least David did. Rich was only 19 months old at that point…

For my daughter Ellie, though, born nine years after Richard, we had matured somewhat, and we decided to ‘let’ her believe in Santa right up to the point where she asked us if Santa was really ‘you two’. She was about ten years old when she rumbled us. And we ‘fessed up, of course. She wasnt fazed by it at all; she had really outgrown it by the time she worked it out. And she never suffered any psychological damage; the Santa myth was useful for her childhood.

How? Well, you see we ‘adults’ look at this question with the black-and-white ‘logic’ of, at least for some of us, ex-Evangelicals. We see it as being either lies or truth. But kids’ minds don’t work that way. Kids routinely enact fantasies that they know full well are untrue, but the fantasy thing is simply a game to them. It’s probably even more than that too; at that age they are developing the ability to think and develop ideas of their own, and fantasies are all part of the way that they test reality. For that reason, amongst others, I would say that a belief in Santa is actually healthy…even if as they grow up, they realise all the incongruencies and inconsistencies – how does Santa manage to deliver toys to over a billion kids in eight hours without waking up all the kids (even the good ones!) with a sonic boom – all this does is to help them differentiate between fantasy and reality; fact and fiction. Comic books and superheroes do the same thing. They know it’s not true, but it doesn’t matter; it’s fun – and that’s the main thing.

But also that knowledge and ability to distinguish fantasy and reality mean that we can still indulge, as adults, in fantasy, even just for a little escapism. I know full well that what Spiderman can do is impossible – but that doesn’t stop me enjoying a Spiderman film *precisely because* I know it’s all made up.

And then, to bring it full circle, I also think that an ease with fantasy actually helps us cope with the ‘fantastic’ – in the sense of it looks like fantasy – truth of our real Superhero, Jesus. He is the One of Whom all these other guys with ‘magical powers’ – Santa, Superman, the Hulk – are but a reflection. An ease with such earthly fantasy therefore makes it easier to grasp the real supernatural world, much of which we can indeed only access by imagination, and not entirely through empirical experience. I have previously written on this idea here, using the Star Wars universe as my model.

Of course, the decision of how to approach the Santa story is entirely up to parents. And, partly because of the reasons I have put forward here, amongst others (especially that it’s none of anyone else’s business), there are as many different outcomes to this as there are families. Each family needs to decide these things on an individual basis, based on their own views, beliefs, philosophies, personalities, relationships and needs, and without recourse to others’ opinions. Especially where those opinions involve guilt-tripping and condemnation. While, for some reason, this is the sort of subject on which feelings can run pretty high, yet people also need to respect each other’s stances on these often sensitive decisions.

For a most interesting piece on this subject, I’d also like to recommend a post by my friend Tim, author of the blog ‘Jesus Without Baggage‘, which served as a primary inspiration for this present piece, along with the discussion afterwards, in which I took part. You will no doubt recognise most of my ideas in this piece in that discussion.

Click the graphic below to go to the article, where Tim talks about five different ways that people approach the Santa story:

And while on that subject, here’s a tip for any fellow bloggers reading this: I have had some of the best inspirations, for my blog articles, from discussions resulting from others’ blog posts. This is mainly because it gets you to think about things that you might not normally think about, you form new opinions, and you see things from different angles, including the viewpoints of others. This is a great way to build wisdom and maturity! Try it!

Finally, back to old Rudolf:

 

 

 

I think that’s brilliant. Of course, there was an explanation for it. It’s just a bunch of guys setting up a Christmas display in a shopping mall in Hull, Yorkshire, UK. Here’s what it looked like when it was finished:

So you see he didn’t really kill them. It was all just a fantasy 😉


*QRA stands for ‘Quick Reaction Alert’; an originally Cold War term referring to interceptor fighters ready to scramble (launch) against an incoming threat – like a Soviet bomber or reconnaisance aircraft. There are pictures of QRA fighters intercepting Russian ‘Bear’ reconnaisance bombers on this page.

 

10

The Party We’ll Have in Hell…

My regular readers will know that I don’t believe that God torments people who don’t believe in Jesus,  forever, in a terrible place called Hell. Here’s a brilliant post about the incongruity of the idea of Hell by one of my favourite Christian bloggers, John Pavlovitz.

Click the graphic below to go there (to the article, of course, not to Hell! 😉 ):

10

Love Beyond Words

This is a simply beautiful piece by one of my favourite bloggers, Chisty Wood. I’m not going to spoil it by commenting further – take it away, Christy!


Love Beyond Words

heart-1693304_1920

I probably should have been scared. He was very noticeable, standing at the Starbucks counter. Not only was he was dressed all in black, with tall black combat boots, he also had this amazing hair. It might have been fake, but it was really long, black, almost woolly, and kind of jagged. As I got closer, I saw the black gauges in his ears, and not one but two rings through the center of his nose. I smiled.

Standing behind him as he ordered, I was close enough to see his chains, tattoos, and black, zippered, leather jacket. My smile got bigger.

We waited for our coffee together, although he never looked up from his phone. From the front, I could see the Satanic goat head on his black ball cap, and catch a glimpse of the death metal t-shirt under his jacket. By this point, I was almost in tears…I could hardly contain the love I felt for this boy-man I’d never even met.

He didn’t acknowledged me. But I do have to wonder if he noticed the overly-happy woman watching him with a stupid grin on her face.

***

I sat in my car for a minute, sipping my coffee, tears trickling down my face, praying for this stranger that I now loved. The Holy Spirit began to whisper.

“I see you just like that, Christy…every bit of hurt and brokenness and mess, and I love you even more than you can imagine. I see you, and I think, ‘How beautiful! What a beautiful, broken mess. I want her.’”

birch-1593725_1920

It’s one thing to read the Bible and believe that God loves us. But, friends, this is how I KNOW that God loves us…adores us. I know, because sometimes He lets me feel a little bit of His heart. God’s love is passionate and ridiculous, intense and crazy. We don’t even have a WORD to describe the power of the love He feels for us. There was no reason for me to love that tall, skinny, potentially satanic, black-clad, young man that I’d never met before. But I did…because the God of the Universe loves him beyond words. And He loves you too!!

Do you believe that? God loves you. And, He likes you! 🙂 SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

We are all broken. That’s the truth.

I think this is one of the reasons I love “alternative type” people so much…they are brave enough to wear their brokenness openly. The rest of us scramble around, pretending we have it all together. We fake it, hoping to be believable. Trying to fool other people, and ourselves, and God. We find more socially acceptable ways to be screwed up.

There is no shame in being broken…not in the arms of Jesus. No condemnation. He already knows our deepest, darkest secrets, and He doesn’t care. They do nothing to affect His love for us. If anything, maybe our brokenness makes Him love us even more.

Think about it…what takes more love? Loving someone who is good, and wonderful, and perfect, and easy to love? Or loving someone who could care less about you, who is your enemy, who hurts you, and runs away? Yeah…

Being broken is part of being human thanks to our sin nature. Accept it. It’s okay. And then bring those broken pieces to the foot of the cross and be healed. It’s not by our own efforts…that would be like trying reconstruct a broken piece of china with Scotch Tape. We are healed by the blood of Jesus. His grace, His forgiveness, His death and resurrection.

When Jesus fixes us, it’s like Kintsugi.

ncPMbsOJ3HSes0Xn9kE6_1065306615

Photo: Wikipedia

Not familiar with this word? I found this great definition online at mymodernmet.com

Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.”

Jesus wants to gather our broken pieces into His arms and love us just the way we are. Then He wants to put us back together. We tend to think God is looking for perfection and we feel our inadequacy. But, Jesus has already given us His perfection…God sees us as perfect because of Jesus’ death! We are broken, but we are whole.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

In the same way that Kintsugi emphasizes the gold lines fixing the cracked pottery, when people look at us, they will see Jesus.

Please hear me. I want you to begin to believe this.

  • Every single one of us is broken. Some of us just hide it better than others.
  • Jesus looks right through our masks, sees our reality, and loves us beyond words.
  • There is no shame in being broken, not at the cross.
  • We cannot begin to be healed until we face our mess and give it to Jesus.
  • Jesus cares more about our broken heart than our outward actions.

Will you let Him love you?


Brilliant.

Click the graphic below to go to the original blog post:

00