Beauty in the Strangest Places

IMG_1272464560519683A friend of mine posted this picture a while back, and I saved it because it captivated me. It’s clever, it’s funny and it’s beautiful.

It reminds me of the last time I was in Germany. I regularly saw huge paintings like this on the side of buildings. In a country in which the skies are often grey, things like this can really lift your spirits.

We live in a world that can so often become monotonous. Sometimes it feels like all we do is eat, sleep, work and commute. The cares of this world can weigh us down, and the never-ending power lines, roads, skyscrapers and reams of paper can prevail in sapping the beauty out of life.

But the beauty is still there.

I encourage you, as you go through your day, to look for something beautiful; it can be found in the strangest of places.

What beauty have you seen today?

Advertisements

I Wish the World Were Black and White

border-fence_19-136576I wish the world were black and white

Because I like compartments and squares and boxes.

I like to know what is what and where is where, and which side you’re on and which side I’m on.

I like to control and segregate, and separate and articulate.

I like to say black is black and white is white and wrong is wrong, and right is right

and you can be either one or the other.

I want to say ‘I’m whiter than you’ or ‘you’re blacker than me’ but at the end of the day, let’s face it I’m grey.

And I want the world to be black and white, but I want it to be gracious to me while I’m grey.

So perhaps I should return the favour.

When the world gets stifling…

305404_10150342156123143_1587486762_n

I have a lot of things on my mind at the moment. Nothing major, just all together they start to add up. I find my mind spinning with plans, agendas, moral issues and sometimes fears.

My mind is so busy, that it’s time to stop for a minute and think about some things that I love; the simple things; the things that are still there when all the busyness fades away.

Today I’m thinking about the night sky. Living in the city I don’t always get to see it in all it’s glory, but it makes it all the more special when I get out into the country and lie in a field and become captivated by the vastness of the sky. I love to drink in the millions of stars and the complexity of the universe.

Somehow the more complex the natural world appears, the less complex my life seems, because it reminds me that I have a God who holds it all in His hands.

My life and its complications will fade away, but my ability to wonder over and delight in the complexity of God will live on for an eternity.

So, when the world gets stifling, it’s often time to look beyond. Beyond our politics and selfishness and general humanity, beyond time even, beyond this world to the eternity that we are to live for. And if eternity had a face, for me, it would look like the night sky.

What has the right to judge me?

smallLet’s face it. We don’t like to be judged.

We live in the age of relativism. What’s right for me is right for me and what’s right for you is right for you, but you know what all that really boils down to? An innate, inner desire to have ultimate authority over our lives.

The relativist looks at the world around them and says: If I see it, if I feel it, if it’s within my realm of experience, then it is truth. Right and wrong can be whatever I want them to be.

Even Christians are far more prone to this than we like to think. Sure we look to the scriptures, but too often we hold them in one hand, balancing them against a hand piled high with reason, experience and feelings.

This makes me think of one of my favourite quotes by Tozer: ‘[The scholar] may compare scripture with scripture until he has discovered the true meaning of the text. But right there his authority ends. He must never sit in judgement upon what is written. He dare not bring the meaning of the Word before the bar of his reason. He dare not commend or condemn the Word as reasonable or unreasonable, scientific or unscientific. After the meaning is discovered, that meaning judges him; never does he judge it.’[1]

May we never bring the Word of God under the judgement of our own corrupt reasoning.


[1] Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy, p24

Thoughts on Hell from the Hottest Place on Earth

1186903_28200330Today I’m apparently living in the hottest place on earth. With temperatures predicted to soar to 46 degrees Celsius it’s definitely a scorcher.

But you know what? Although it’s definitely hot, sitting in an air-conditioned house I’m hardly feeling it; I’m not being hit with the reality of 46 degrees.

This reminded me of a sobering passage from Jonathan Edwards’ famous 1741 sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:”

 

‘There is the dreadful Pit of the glowing Flames of the Wrath of God; there is Hell’s wide gaping Mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, not any Thing to take hold of: there is nothing between you and Hell but the Air; ‘tis only the Power and mere Pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of Hell, but don’t see the Hand of God in it, but look at other Things, as the good State of your bodily Constitution, your Care of your own Life, and the Means you use for your own Preservation. But indeed these Things are nothing; if God should withdraw his Hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin Air to hold up a Person that is suspended in it.”

How great is the grace of God that holds us out of hell! And how fearful the day that He removes His hold from those who, by their own will, have rejected it.

Does God Only Give Good Gifts?

During a time that I was very sick, a friend told me that ‘God doesn’t want you to be sick,’ and that ‘God only gives good gifts.’

I wrestled with this for a long time. I struggled with the passage in Matthew 7 which says “Which of you fathers, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?… How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” I read Psalm 84:11 which says “…no good thing doe he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” and I wondered why God was holding out on me.1050853_30933761

If God is good, and gives good gifts, why do I hate so many of the things He gives me? Either God does not always give good gifts, or my perception of what is ‘good’ is warped.

I’ve come to believe the latter. So often my perspective is confined to the here and now. I look at my circumstances and what God has given me, and feel that they really aren’t all that good. However, when my perspective doesn’t line up with that of scripture, it’s me who needs to change.

Sometimes God gives us things that are hard to bear, but if we trust His word, we can see that ultimately He works ALL things together for our good. He is good and he gives good things, sometimes it’s us who need to recognize that what is ‘good’ does not always feel gratifying now.

How can I trust God when He gives no guarantee things will get easier?

cliff-drop-warning-sign--information_19-133742Anyone who has come face to face with the call to trust God in the midst of suffering will understand these feelings of trepidation.

The Christian, never having been promised an easy life, is still supposed to trust God, knowing that He may lead us into hardships. Sometimes it feels like you’re standing at the top of a cliff, fearfully putting your trust in someone who may well push you off, against your wishes and with no warning.

I remember wrestling with this during one of my most unwell times. ‘How can I trust someone who may allow me to go even deeper into this pit of suffering?’ It’s a very real question. If I can’t trust a God who loves me to protect me from what I fear most, then what can I trust Him for?

Sometimes I think we forget what it means to be a Christian. It means that we’ve been crucified with Christ. Crucified! We have given up all of our earthly rights in the hope that we can be restored to relationship with God; that we have a home in heaven; and that all things will, ultimately, work together for our good.

We do not chiefly trust in God to make our lives easier. We surrender our lives, to share in His sufferings, because we believe it is the greatest possible trade we could make. Our trust is in God, not for earthly pleasures, but for the glory that will one day be revealed.

Flying North for the Winter: Half Full

20130710_145039I think Jess and I will look back at this trip and laugh at the irony of escaping the cold to find ourselves in the rain. We’ll laugh about that, but mostly we’ll remember the good things, because experience has taught me that even the most horrible trips can get glorified over time.

And this one certainly wasn’t horrible. For three blessed days and four nights, I didn’t have to worry about being cold. Sure I always had a jacket, but for most of the time I could wander the streets in a t-shirt.

Cairns truly is a city in a garden. It’s a beautiful, vibrant melting-pot of cultures –  even in the rain. Wherever we went, restaurants, information centers or tourist sites, we were assisted by people from all over the world; English, German, French, Welsh, American and Asian.20130710_112504

We were tourists in our own country and the ‘locals’ were foreigners.

We rode in a gondola, high above a rainforest that inspired some of the scenes in Avatar, and shopped in hippie markets. We ate in a restaurant overlooking a rainforest and meandered in a heritage train past mountains and waterfalls and through tunnels carved out of stone.

20130710_144948We ate Turkish food and wandered the esplanade at night, following it up with some amazing gelati. We went horse riding through cane fields, chatted to people from all around Australia and the world, had a massage and shopped ‘til we dropped.

So really, it’s all about perspective.

You can read the ‘glass half empty’ version of our trip here: Flying North for the Winter: Half Empty

Flying North for the Winter: Half Empty

1338463_59722516I usually don’t travel during the school year because my health is too fragile to risk anything that could interfere with work. But this year, seeing photos of friends travelling through sunny Europe as I was sitting in South Australia feeling cold, I was itching to find somewhere warm to relax.

So I booked my trip to Cairns, imagining posting my own enviable facebook pics of blue skies, sun and ocean.

When we arrived it was raining and it hardly stopped. I think I got more rain in three days of Cairns’ ‘dry season’, than I’ve had all year in SA. We didn’t see a single beach and thoughts of going out to the Great Barrier Reef were squelched due to ‘unseasonably bad weather.’ On top of that, my body reminded me continually that I’m exhausted from the end of term and that CFS has stolen my right to be a good traveler.

I felt like a fool having bragged that I’d be posting photos of a gloriously enviable summer, and to rub salt in the wound, SA had unseasonably warm weather this week. While I was sitting in a wet cloud, they were having days of sunshine and blue skies, and some of my facebook friends actually posted pictures of themselves at the beach! In July!

As I sat on my bed on our final night, listening to the thunderous pelting of the rain on the tin roof, my phone chimed. I looked at the weather notification. “Warning: Cairns. Chance of showers.”

Because there are always two sides to a story, stay tuned for ‘Flying North for the Winter: Half Full.’