Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gratitude, expectation, entitlement

A man was hungry; on the streets.
He approached a fish merchant to beg for small change.
The fish merchant took pity and a fish.
The pity touched his heart and the fish he cooked for the man.
The man's heart swelled with gratitude.

A man was hungry; on the streets.
He approached a fish merchant expecting a fish.
The fish merchant recognised the man.
Pity was joined by friendship and the fish was once again cooked.
The man was pleased; he got what he expected.

A man was hungry; on the streets.
He approached a fish merchant expecting a fish.
The fish merchant was sad, he had no more fish.
"Where is my fish? I am entitled to a fish."
The man left; hungry and angry.

The fish merchant wept.

Of course I am not like this man. 
I know how to be grateful when others do kind acts.
I never let myself expect, nor feel entitled.
Wife, where is my cake? I always get cake with my tea!
I feel so disappointed that there is no cake today!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Wedding Feast

And on the third day, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding. And when the[a] wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine!” And Jesus said to her, “What does your concern have to do with me,[b] woman? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it!” - John 2:1-5

The popular interpretation of this scripture always bothered me. I was taught that Mary essentially forced Jesus into a miracle. That his mother came to him and told him to solve the wine shortage, which he did even though he says his time has not come. That seems to be inconsistent with who Jesus is and how he worked. He always only did the will of his father. If his time had not come then nothing Mary could say would make him go against the father's will.

It occurred to me that we could see this conversation from a different angle. I'm sure others have thought of this and maybe theologians will explain why the popular interpretation is used instead. I'm no theologian. 

Imagine Mary coming to Jesus at the feast telling him there is no more wine. This is tantamount to saying, "Time to go home Jesus. The wine is finished. The party is over." Jesus, being Jesus says, " Don't tell me that, I'm not leaving. I haven't done what I need to do here." Jesus knows he has a miracle to do here. The time for leaving is not now. Mary, realising that Jesus has something up his sleeve, tells the servants to do whatever he asks. I'm not convinced that Mary knew Jesus could turn water into wine, he had never done something like that before or showed any signs of things like that, but I think she was confident that he would do something.

This seems to be consistent with how John describes Jesus' response when his brothers urge him to go to the Feast. Again there he says, "My time has not come, it's not time for me to go to Judea yet." 

To me, that perspective fits better with who Jesus was and how a typical Mother/Son relationship might work.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Moments of Wonder

Occasionally I experience a moment of wonder. That moment where i realise that i am here and this is now. That "here" is Germany. That "now" I am riding a bicycle through the German countryside, with nature - so different from Africa - surrounding me. 

These moments never occur when I am busy. Seldom when I am at home. They happen unexpectedly. When I have time to free my mind. When the stress of life falls away. When I open myself up to God and free my mind from the concerns of the "daily".

Oh that I could more often free myself to experience these moments of wonder, instead of rushing from one task to the next.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


I feel inspired to write more. I think I might do that here in my old Blog space. So here come the reboot of Interesting Times!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Retreating from discipline

Over the next month I will be experiencing 2 retreats: An organization one and a personal one. Why? Well my organization leaders decided that it's important for us all to go on a retreat. Isn't that why we do things? Someone else decides what is a good idea spiritually? Oh and my personal retreat? I'm doing that because a guy wrote about how important that is for spiritual growth. Again, I'm following. I've often looked at leaders like that plan these things and longed to be like them, with all their depth and wisdom.

I've realised that the core difference between many of the spiritual leaders that I look up to and myself, is discipline. In my case, the lack of discipline. I've realised I am so much a product of my generation. A product of the information age. The technology age. The age of instant gratification. I long to achieve certain spiritual progress, but I'm unwilling to exercise the discipline to get me there.

How do you develop discipline? Well as an adult I'm now wishing I'd worked harder at discipline when I was a child. It's much easier to develop these character traits as a child that as an adult. The cartoon above is funny, but actually maybe it's a good start. Start small and work at one small thing until it becomes habitual. Then grow that habit by extending the time, pushing the limits, until the discipline becomes second nature. It's harder than it sounds!

I hope that on these 2 enforced retreats I'll be able, in some small way, to start developing good discipline in my life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reflections on God52

I must admit I've fallen behind on the God52 weekly posts and exercises. This has partly to do with recent events in my personal life and partly with my own procrastination and has lead me to think about the God52 process and it's impact on me, personally.

I think the idea is great! Each week a new discipline being challenged. A new focus for spiritual development. Behind the idea is the feeling that we are falling short in certain spiritual disciplines and so we need to challenge ourselves to improve them.

This, however, is where God52 starts failing for me. I find myself approaching the exercises as a sort of check list; Give extravagantly? check; Focused prayer? check; 1 hour meditation? check. Been there, done that. What it isn't doing is helping me to develop these into disciplines that I practice every day. Once I've achieved a task I move on to the next week's challenge and forget about what I learned in the week before. I certainly have not practiced any previous week's challenge consistently this year!

So I've decided to not follow every challenge every week. I will rather choose specific challenges to work towards developing into disciplines. This week's challenge is a great example for me to start on - meditation. Sitting still for 1 hour just focussing on God. Not praying. Not singing. Not listening to worship music or podcast sermons. Just sitting quietly. It's a massive challenge for me; someone who is always multitasking at least 10 things in my head while working on 5 things at work, but I can see the value of meditation and I can see how it's missing in my daily life.

So God52 is great. I'll keep checking up on what each challenge is for each week because you never know how it might challenge you, but personally I'm going to be picking just a few challenges to work on, so as to develop them into disciplines.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reaching out...

Ultimately the goal of our Christian walk is to go and make disciples - after worshipping and loving God of course. I suspect I am not alone in feeling inadequate in this area. The first evangelical challenge of God52 was therefore a big challenge, not just for me.

I take some consolation in reading about the efforts of other bloggers in the challenge of praying for a non-believer. Many of the bloggers are full time ministry workers who you might expect to excel at this sort of thing. It was with some measure of relief therefore that I saw how others were struggling to fulfill this task. Everything from offering to pray for people via a Twitter hash code, to stealth praying for people - they won't know what hit them!

Don't get me wrong. My missionary life has led me to many opportunities to pray for, and with, non-believers. Yet I am still afraid to declare my beliefs aloud. Not to mention the fact that these days I hardly even come into contact with non-believers. All my friends are believers, I work with believers, I serve in worship in my church... with believers. So it's already a bit of a challenge.

Put it to God though and He will make an opening. I went on a very important trip to buy something. On this trip I was praying, asking God for favour to get a good price. I threw in a prayer at the end for an opportunity to be a witness. I thought I could use the interaction with the sales clerk to initiate a conversation that might allow me to pray for him/her. Plan in place I entered the shop... and was approached by a woman with head covering....Muslim!... In an instant all my resolve fled. Any plan I had to use my missionary status to negotiate a better price was crushed! How could I share with this woman? How could I dare pray for her?

In hindsight I realise I had been given an awesome opportunity and I blew it! I should have entered with boldness and courage and shared what God had placed on my heart, but I fled into the security of a stealth prayer. I'm not knocking quietly praying for people without their knowledge, but in this case it was just an excuse to avoid standing up for my faith.

This God52 stuff is a hard! Sadly I seem to be failing more than I'm succeeding. Hopefully as the year progresses I'll improve and learn.