The biggest ‘but’ in history

There must be numerous contenders for the most game-changing word in the history of the world, but today I’m going with this one: ‘but.’

Today I was reading through Mark chapter 14 and was meditating on the time Jesus spent in the garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.

The first half of verse 36 struck me like never before. Jesus was praying and said these words: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.”

In this are two profound things. First, Jesus knew that God could do anything. He knew that it was well within the power of his Father to pull the pin on redemption and instantly take His son back into the eternal glory from which He had come. Furthermore, Jesus asked for it. Such was his agony at the thought of what he was to endure, that he asked his Father to remove it from him.

The Father would not deny the Son. Except for one entirely game-changing word: ‘but.’

At the most intensely pivotal moment the world has seen, the Son surrendered his will to His Father’s saying ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will,’ and the Father, in that moment of Jesus’ submission, overruled the will of His Son. Together they endured the cross, despising the shame, for the redemption of mankind.

How grateful I am for Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father, and how challenged I am by my lack of it.

What I would tell my student-teacher self

I’m working with a pre-service teacher at the moment, which has caused me to reflect on my own days as a prac student.

How far I have come!

My first teaching placement occurred in the fourth year of my degree, and I soon thought I’d made a terrible mistake. The enormity of the job overwhelmed me. I was staying at the school until after dark every night and then going home, anxious and feeling unprepared for the day to come.

I distinctly remember lying in bed one night, with thoughts and worries rushing chaotically through my head, praying for rest and sleep. I remember praying through Scripture, trying to get some rational perspective, reminding myself that the things of this world are temporary (lesson plans and unit plans would pass away!)

I didn’t sleep all night.

I feel for that young woman, all those years ago. I wish I could sit beside her on the side of the bed and tell her that I’m still in the job ten years later. That I can’t remember the last time I lost any sleep over work related issues, and that lessons flow out of me now with hardly a thought.

But I can’t tell her that. I can only remember, today, to trust Jesus better than I did back then. To take on the advice of Hudson Taylor, and, looking to the face of Jesus, determine that ‘whatever did not agitate the Saviour, or ruffle His spirit, was not to agitate mine.’

 

Do you want what’s good for you or not?

I took a sick day last week. It was a beautiful day outside, blue sky and sunny, with birds chortling, even though it was the first day of winter. I sat in bed with a stuffy nose and my cup of tea, and as I looked out the window I realised how full and whirring my mind had been over the last few days. What I really needed was to re-centre, to lay out several aspects of my life before God and work out what He wanted.

As I reflected on something in my life that I’d promised, only days earlier, to lay down before him, I found myself praying ‘Lord, you and I have been at cross-purposes on this one…’

Almost immediately, the thought hit me: If you and God are working at cross-purposes, then you’re working against yourself.

How is it that I consistently forget that God wants only good things for me; that His ways are perfect and that His burden is designed to be light, not heavy?

Only minutes before this thought, as I looked out into the bare branches of the tree outside my window, the song had come to mind, ‘be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.’

What a deep comfort this should be to me. How quickly I should hasten to line my will up with his knowing that he asks for no sacrifice or step of obedience that will not ultimately lead to my good.

Everyone’s awesome… so everyone’s inadequate

I spent my afternoon at a SACE clarifying forum. I always manage to leave feeling inadequate.

At the forum, year 12 teachers get together in a room with paper cups of instant coffee and read exemplars of student work.

There are two types of people that scare me in these groups – the innovators and the ‘I-wouldn’t-have-graded-it-that-high’ experts.

We had an innovator at our table. Fresh out of University, new ideas and perfect English literary lingo flowed from his mouth. He spoke with the authority that only a new grad or a thirty-year veteran can.

I spent my time between feeling impressed, indignant and inadequate. Clearly this barely-even-an-adult was more competent than me. Thank goodness he didn’t know I’m running the faculty at my school.

The ‘experts’ were also out in full force. Irrespective of the piece, they always thought it was about two grades worse than I had. No matter that they were technically wrong, their air of superiority made it clear that their standards were higher than mine. I felt my insides wilting with the knowledge that I wouldn’t even know how to teach to their standard.

Many times I’ve felt a niggling feeling that I’m an imposter in this word of academics.

I wondered after, though, whether we’re all playing the same game. For all I know Mr. University left feeling inadequate next to the experience of the others on the table and the experts left wondering how, after so many years, they could still be marking too hard. We all put our best foot forward. We all want to look awesome. And, no doubt, we all struggle with feeling inadequate.

Christian, turn the cheek on Facebook

Today I woke to news of another terror attack, this time targeting Christians as they celebrated Palm Sunday in Egypt.

It is tragic and frightening and naturally created an emotional response in the Christian world.

We live in an unprecedented time in which a person’s opinions and responses can be publicly proclaimed through social media, and it makes me wonder… how are we using it?

I question sometimes, as I see Christians around the world taking to Facebook as a soapbox to remind the world of our rights, whether we’re getting it wrong.

I was reminded yesterday of Jesus’ command to ‘turn the other cheek;’ of the promise of persecution and of the cross we all vow to bear. What happened in Egypt is a human rights tragedy, but I wonder whether the response of Christians stems more from fear for their own future safety, than from a true understanding of what it is to live the Christian life.

Christians in Australia have experienced peace for generations, and we must admit that we have sometimes used our high and favoured position to look down at, and isolate others. Now, as the tables turn, we take to social media and condemn those who are against us. Maybe it’s time to turn the other cheek. Maybe it’s time to take up our cross with the meekness of our Saviour and use any words we have to preach His Gospel of salvation, even to those who persecute us, rather than asserting our rights.

The number ONE reason we should follow Jesus… isn’t to get eternal life

Why do we invite people to come to Jesus?

This questions was raised in my lunchtime Bible study group today, which amazingly, this year, includes two atheist students. I see reflected in it many mistakes of my own evangelical history.

Over the years I have invited people to come to Jesus for many a reason, some more flawed than others:

To some I promised a more purposeful life

To others, increased happiness.

At times it was because they were at risk of hell

And on the flip side, who isn’t enticed by the promise of heaven?

Shamefully, I admit, there were also times when I merely wanted to recruit allies; people who would see the world from my point of view and not oppose me.

Today, however, I was reminded, as I studied the Word with these students, that the number one reason that we should invite people to come to Jesus is because He is worthy.

If God is as powerful as he must be as creator, and Jesus is truly Lord of all, then people should come to him in humble worship, simply because He deserves it.

The beautiful paradox of Christianity is that God invites us to come, and then blesses us with every spiritual blessing and life eternal when we do.

It is His kindness that brings us to repentance, but we must never forget who He is or how worthy He is. We must call people to worship the giver, not come for the gifts.

 

 

 

On the dislike of teenagers

I was sitting with a group of (lovely) ladies a few weeks back and the topic of teenagers came up. Perhaps forgetting that I actually choose to work with this vicious species on a daily basis, they described them in less than complimentary terms. One lady piped up “Well, you must remember, we’re living in the age of the narcissist.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with her premise, but her accusatory tone made me feel surprisingly defensive of this generation that is both loathed and feared by much of society. Teenagers, beneath their narcissism and behind the luminous screens of their smart phones, are precious individuals who are finding their way in the world and forging a new path for our future.

Teenagers hold our future whether we like it or not, and before we despair or shake our fists, we do well to look at where they came from. If a teenager is narcissistic, who did they learn it from? If they can’t function without technology, who gave it to them? If they are undisciplined or entitled or lacking respect, who is the generation who raised them?

The last thing that teenagers need is our condescension. They are not the enemy, and if we treat them as such we draw battle lines for a war that will have no victor. Teenagers need the love and support of society. They need freedom and boundaries, encouragement and discipline. Our condemnation foolishly despises that which we, as a village, have raised ourselves.

The Western dream… no servitude

I was in year 12 when I first heard about ‘The American Dream.’ We were studying Of Mice and Men and my teacher was explaining George and Lennie’s pursuit of land to call their own as the ultimate American dream.

This goal has become the veritable ‘pot at the end of the rainbow’ for much of western society; to own a piece of land has become both the American and Australian dream. We may have masters at work, but at home we are slaves to no one. Even our political systems are built on the premise that the common man does not serve the leader, but the leader serves the common man.

As a result, one of the greatest challenges I face is that of servitude to God. No longer does my generation feel any real duty to ‘King and Country.’ In fact, if I’m honest, the concept of truly living my life in servitude to anyone seems foreign to me.

There are many who have laid down their lives for our liberty, and for that I am grateful, but I am afraid that it has created a dangerous illusion. I struggle to lay down my life in full servitude to God, because I have been falsely led to believe that my life is my own. Not only to I fail to see that I am a slave to sin or self, but I have lost all comprehension of the honour it is to serve a great master.

But I’ve been patient for a long time!

573785_35739861950403bcce628b84f7b54513_largeDoes anyone else have things that they’ve been praying about for a long time?

For ten years I prayed that God would heal me from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For even longer I’ve had a desire to get married. For a lifetime I’ve been praying for unsaved family members.

Sometimes God answers prayer quickly, but sometimes, as I found yet again the other day, the Still Small Voice says to me ‘Sarah, be patient and trust me.’

I must confess, I responded with an indignant lament: ‘But God, I’ve BEEN patient… for a really long time!’

It felt like a valid point. How could God still ask for patience when I had already waited so long. And therein I discovered my error. Patience and waiting are not the same thing. It was quite possible that I could have waited for something for ten years and yet never actually been patient.

I looked the word up:

Patient: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like.

It turns out that patience is an attribute that still needs great cultivation in my life.

It’s funny how God reminded me to be patient and trust. For the Christian, the two must go together. How can I bear hardship and delay with great fortitude and calm? Because I know that my God, who holds and ordains all things, can be trusted to bring me that which is good, in His perfect time.

Gratitude and a busted microwave

When I was a teenager, my parents’ microwave broke. It seems odd to me now, but I distinctly remember feeling surprised when my dad went out that weekend and bought a new one.

microwave_212022

I imagine I’d reached the age where I realized that things cost money, and perhaps begun to have my eyes opened to the fact that there were lots of things that some people couldn’t afford.

A microwave seemed like a big expense, and when dad came home with a new one, I realized, probably for the first time, that my parents were rich. Not filthy rich, perhaps, but comfortable rich. I remember saying to dad, ‘Wow, it’s pretty amazing that you can just go out and buy a new microwave. Some people couldn’t do that.’

I’ve been reminded of this many times over the years when I face unexpected expenses. Last Friday my car wouldn’t start. Within an hour the RAA had come and I had a new battery. The $170 was an expense that was very inconvenient and I felt like getting annoyed, but then I remembered to be grateful.

I will still eat this week. I will still pay my mortgage and I still bought the shoes I needed. Many people can’t do that. I have to remember that any time I receive a bill I can afford to pay, it is a time to be grateful.