Sunday, 27 November 2011

Feeling Good

Feelings. Great things aren't they? Life would be, well, dead without them. Robotic, puppet like, going through the motions without e-motions. Personally, I'm a thinker so if someone asks 'how are you feeling?' I tend to say 'hang, on let me think about that'....

I had a lunch appointment with a friend. They didn't show. I felt hurt, devalued and a bit angry. A few hours later I realised I had written down the meeting time wrongly, that in fact the missed arrangement was my fault!

But guess what? My feelings didn't change! In my head I knew the fault was mine not theirs, but my feelings stayed the same! Outrageous I know, but worse, I carried that sense of disappointment into the future of the relationship, even though, in truth, they did nothing wrong!

This got me thinking (spot the irony). I know that there are times when I think wrongly about me, about God, about others. We're told because of this tendency to 'take every thought captive to Christ'. It's so important to live out of the truth. But what about our emotions, does something similar apply?

The Bible tells us that 'the heart is deceitful above everything else'. In other words, our feelings can be a terrible basis for deciding what is true, yet often that's exactly what we do! We feel aggrieved, therefore we have been aggrieved. We feel let down, therefore we were let down, we feel unloved, therefore we are unloved. We take the feelings and we assume that they indicate truth. But what if they don't?

This is the profound truth that God has been showing me...

Emotions that are based on truth bring life and courage

Feelings based on lies kill us and our relationships. 

If this is the case we should be asking 'is this a valid emotional response to the truth about the situation?' rather than blithely believing that what we feel must be valid and therefore true.

Back to the lunch. I felt let down. I couldn't believe that this person that I trusted, who I had given myself to, could do such a thing, missing that lunch I had so looked forward to. Grrr. Oh, yeah, I had the date wrong... These feelings of hurt, anger, bitterness - all very real and powerful - that building desire to hurt them back, to make them feel as devalued as me... are utterly ill-founded and inappropriate. But I still feel them! If they came in the room now, far from apologising to them for my mistake, I'd likely throw something at them! 

What should I do? How can I reset these powerful emotions onto the right track - to bring life rather than kill relationship?

Like with untrue thoughts I reckon. Just good old Biblical basics. Confession, repentance, forgiveness, cleansing and restitution.

Right Lord, I repent / change my mind from the way I am now thinking about that person. I confess / agree with your perspective on the situation. I was wrong, it was my error not their lack of care that is at the root of the issue. The truth is they are kind, loving and my good friend.

Lord, forgive my quickness to judge, my vulnerability to the temptation to feel aggrieved. Please release me from the age old insecurities that cause me to leap to the wrong conclusion - that I am unlovely and rejectable, the pathetic and lying thought that my friend wouldn't want to meet with me and was looking for any excuse to get out of the arrangement.

Lord, cleanse my heart from these inappropriate feelings that are erupting. I acknowledge that where there is hurt, anger and bitterness, there should be warmth, kindness and joy. Please rekindle these as I choose to resist the onslaught of these false emotions.

I choose to think rightly about my friend, I choose not to be motivated by these false feelings. I choose to act in the opposite spirit - instead of hatred, I choose to think and do something loving.

Guess what? As I spend time with God going through that process, the lies are exposed, light shines in and the peace of Christ comes, settles the volcano and laughter and lightness of spirit return. And the emotions swing back in line with the truth.

Here's a song from Catherine which says it nicely:

When my feelings they are leading, they tie me up in rope
they speak that I'm a failure, alone and have no hope
I see the pain around me and it overwhelms my soul
I feel you cannot save me and doubt the truth I know

But your truth stands firm when chaos overwhelms me
in the storm of my emotions your truth stands firm to me

I'm gonna stand on the truth and not all the lies,
on the power of your word not what I see with my eyes
not the whirlwind of emotion that floods me inside
I'm gonna stand on the truth gonna stand on the truth

and the truth says I am good
and the truth says I belong
for the truth says I'm a child of the king,
and truth cannot be wrong

and the truth says I am saved
and the truth says I am loved
and the truth says I am pure in your sight
All because of Jesus's love

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Long days, relaxed holidays, carefree childhood. Sunshine, warmth, picnics, bbq's, fun, freedom, laughter. Shirtsleeves, shorts, warm breeze, evenings outside with friends.

Summer days - when you're in the middle of them they seem endless. Hard to imagine how it could ever be different.

Most of us have phases of life like that. Especially when we are young, or young in faith. Full of optimism, hope for the future, confidence in our selves, our bodies, our immortality.

The sun still has warmth, the evenings are still pleasant. Sit round the chimnea with a nice glass of wine, enjoy the fruit from the trees, the fresh produce from the garden. As it progresses the beauty of the fall colours takes our breath away. The rolling mists, the glorious sunsets, the wonder of creation. A beautiful season.

Just like those key years of fruitfulness. Marriage, children, career... Ironically, although we can't run as fast as we could, we do seem a little more prone to catching things! But we're assured, have status; youth is still a nearby memory if not a current reality!

Things are good, maturing well.

But suddenly, the chill in the air that was refreshing now sends us scuttling indoors. Now the wonderful twilights have started in what seems like the afternoon. The truth is clear.

Winter is encroaching.

Even here there is a stark beauty at the beginning. The spider's webs shimmering with hoar frost, the bright sunlight reflecting off the frost. The delight of being cold outside and the warm snuggly security of  a place by the fire.

But the fun melts sooner than the snow and the harshness pervades. Anxiety leads to fear as the stories of shortages, pandemics and poverty force us to face the reality. Soon the statistics will include us.

We too are mortal.

Of course the seasons don't just represent an ageing process. The two men on the road to Emmaus had been with Jesus, had experienced his warmth. They had enjoyed a summer, basking in his presence, feasting on the teaching, celebrating the miracles. A season full of hope, of optimism, of expectation. Each day getting better than before, the future mapped out with clarity and joy.

Then that final evening of fruitfulness. The fire blazing, friends and family celebrating, everyone expectant for the next few days. The memory of Palm Sunday, the anticipation of kingdom, the presence of the passover meal. And in the centre of it, Jesus, re-writing history - 'this is my body, this is the cup of the new covenant'. The marking of the end of a season and the start of a new one - a better one.

But all too quickly, winter comes. The icy wind of betrayal, the bleakness of the trial, the desolation of the cross, the darkness of death. And in desperation, the two friends leave the place of peace - Jerusalem - for the place of dead familiarity. It is a wearying journey, as they tell the stranger 'we had hoped' but now they hope no more.

So often disappointment, pain, suffering makes us world weary. We walk slowly, disconsolately away from the place that we had hoped would bring peace, to the place that is familar, even if it offers no hope of anything better. We taste the wonder of faith, then the enemy comes, circumstances change and we turn away, sad, disillusioned, a little cynical and walk back to the world we knew. A world that we know offers nothing, but which, because of that, cannot disappoint.

Yet there is this stranger. A man who knows nothing of the disappointment, betrayal or death. A man who seems to be rooted in summer, who, as he walks through scripture, lights the way and warms their hearts, reminding them of all that they were walking away from. As strength and daylight fade, they reach the illusory safety of the familiar. But it isn't home for the stranger and he makes to walk on. They invite him to come in with them. Finally, this stranger is offered hospitality and welcome. From somewhere he once again produces the fruit of autumn; bread and wine. He breaks the bread and with it the stronghold of winter. Spring floods their hearts and minds. The stranger is gone, in his place stands the hope of all the world. What was impossible in their frozen soul becomes a joy with him beside them. They turn back to the place of peace with this on their lips. 'Jesus is alive!'

For everything, there is a season
Here's some great footage from the BBC production of Narnia. Whatever season you or those you love are in, the truth is this: there is no winter deep enough or harsh enough that the resurrection power of Jesus cannot break.

Truly, 'this is no thaw, this is Spring'

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Emperor's New Clothes

We all know the old joke. 'if all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion'

For all the sophisticated models and academic prowess, isn't it really a matter of the Emperors New Clothes? We keep whizzing money around the system at faster and faster rates to hide the fact that there isn't enough. Provided nobody says anything, all is well! But then someone has the audacity to point and say 'not enough'. Then everybody shamefacedly grabs the money that happened to be in their hand and look miserable. At the same time, the wise economists who were yesterday laughing all the way to the bank now utter the dreaded 'r' word. It's the adult version of pass the parcel. Pass the debt. Round and round it goes, faster and faster. Much jolity had by all. Until the music stops. Iceland, you've got the debt, you must pay all of us now. 'Won't, can't , shan't'. Right, you're not in our euro party any more. Not going to buy frozen veg from you now. Let's play again. Oh, Greece, you seem to have it. Naughty boy. Pay up, sack your workers, pay your way. Otherwise those nice Italians might have to pay. And they can't and then were will we be?

It seems like we are all in debt. We owe the bank for our mortgage, the bank owes me for the money we tax-payers gave to the government to pay the CEO's their 49% pay increase. The government owes the European bank in order to pay for Greece's debt. The European bank owes China money to cover the cost of Italy's debt. China isn't really part of the system so nobody knows who it owes money to, meanwhile, the US's credit rating has slipped because of it's enormous debts....

Now I may not be an economist, but one thing seems clear to me. We can't all be in debt. Somebody somewhere must actually be the one to whom we owe something. The balance sheet of the world economy cannot be negative - the assets and liabilities cannot be worse than zero! Unless there really are aliens to whom the earth is in debt, the issue ultimately is not of overall debt, but of distribution.

And in the meantime, the psychology of it all means only one thing. The rich get richer - although there are fewer of them, and the poor get more widespread and poorer. And as we all feel the anxiety rise, generosity is the first casualty. Most Britons in a recent survey argued that foreign aid should be cut.

The blinkers move. Instead of being blind to our own financial profligacy, we become blind to the appalling injustice of a world in which people die because they have no clean water, because we are innoculated and they are not.

I'm reminded that God 'owns the sheep on a thousand hills' that it is him from whom our help and security comes. Shall we be counter-cultural and trust, not in the size of the European bail-out, not in the wisdom of the world's economists, but in him? And out of that genuine security, can we become a channel of God's love and blessing to others, opening our hands, our homes, our resources to generously give to those who will otherwise have nothing?

Because there is one indebtedness that we cannot avoid. The debt we owe to God for our being, for our salvation.

"Father, forgive our debts as we forgive others"