Clarity

29 Clarity.png Authors note: I’d like to introduce Kevin for those of you who haven’t met him. Kevin is a man who sits on the streets of Kolkata. He begs. He pops up from time to time.

 

Sometimes clarity is a bitch. Like when it bites you on the bum at the supermarket.

As tragic as it sounds, I found myself excited by the prospect of a new supermarket opening in my neighbourhood. Yeah, sure it is the same as all the other surrounding supermarkets, selling the same produce at the same price, but this one is new!

Wide clean isles, boxes and jars aligned perfectly in rows, a bounty of fresh produce in plentiful supply, the latest in trolley design and cash register technology. It's like stepping into an artificial universe. It is… perfect. Except for bloody Kevin. I push my not annoyingly wonky because it is new trolley through the fresh produce aisle. I see Kevin sitting in the corner, wishing someone would throw him an apple, even a blemished one. Get lost Kevin. I start to feel nauseous. The perfection of it all, the over abundant supply, it starts to make me sick. Is there something wrong with me? I wondered.  “Nice trolley” says Kevin as he sits slumped on the wooden trolley he is wheeled onto the street on every day. I notice the ergonomic design of my trolley handles, moulded to maximize my trolley pushing comfort. I feel a bit dizzy. Is this real? Is there really a place as perfect as this for me to purchase to my heart’s content while Kevin sits on the street in Kolkata and begs for his own survival?

I happen upon the pasta sauces and browse the 12 different varieties of the same sauce, trying to decide what sauce I feel like having. I start to feel a bit anxious, I get a bit teary in the pasta sauce isle, no one notices, I just blend in with all the other depressed shoppers. I wonder what would Jesus say to me? Is this ok?

Of course it is. It must be.

For goodness sake can’t I just buy my baked beans in peace Kevin? Do you have to follow me everywhere? WHAT DO YOU WANT??

What are you trying to say Kevin…..?

“Remember me.”

My friend Jen and I went on a girl’s trip, of sorts. We are both a bit weird to be honest, although I’m certain Jen outranks me in a big way on the weirdometer. Anyhoo we decided, as you do, that we would visit Bangladesh together. This was the first time either of us had visited this part of the world, and it was a life changing experience. Jen has since gone on to create a hairdressing training school in Bangladesh that trains women/girls and gives them relief from their grinding poverty. I, on the other hand, am hallucinating in supermarkets…. Hmm perhaps I’m tipping the weirdometer scale…

Anyhoo this trip, as I said, was life changing.

One day while we were in Bangladesh we had the privilege of visiting a village right near the border. Most of the people in this village had not seen white people before, so we were fairly popular. Kindly the villagers charmed some snakes for us (!) and showed us around their houses made of mud. These people were heartbreakingly poor.  After an hour or so of trying to communicate with smiles and head nods, and trying not to dry reach at the stink of poverty it was time to leave. As we came to get in the car one of the older men of the village approached me with his toothless grin and took hold of my hand. He looked me in the eyes and said “remember me”.

I smiled, squeezed his hand and slid into the back seat of the 4WD. As we drove off I looked through the back window of the car, I looked at this weathered desperately poor man and I whispered to myself with tears welling in my eyes, I will remember you.

I swung around in my seat and told Jen what the man had said to me.

She looked at me a bit stunned before she reminded me of one small fact I had forgotten.

He doesn’t speak English. He hasn’t even seen a white person before today.

Holy shitballs.

That’s a moment of clarity I will never forget.

I remember you. Forgive me brother. I remember you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letterbox

24 Letterbox.png  

What if we all had really ugly letterboxes?

Today I was assigned an important task by my husband. I have been asked to research letterboxes to purchase.

Because we have an embarrassing letterbox.

A letterbox is a box… for letters.

Who am I kidding? A letterbox is a defining statement of our worth on the posessioness ladder, a metaphoric finger at your neighbours, my letter box is bigger than yours, a phallic symbol of our success and enormous wealth. DO YOU KNOW HOW IMPORATNT MY MAIL IS?

Our embarrassing letterbox is clearly a bit of a weakling, a bit scrawny, somewhat flaccid.

I find myself apologising for it. Boring people senseless with my bashful banter about our silly letterbox *shrill stick poke in the eye level of annoying giggles*.

Please, don’t think we chose this letterbox, or that we can’t afford a better one.

Lord have mercy.

It is a box, it functions perfectly, it stores letters which I retrieve.

So why the angst?

How can a box on my front lawn designed to collect my Telstra bill and annoying real estate magnets (does ANYONE put them on their fridge?) cause me angst? How did this box become a defining statement of worth for me and my family?

Because that’s just how fucked up I am.

Truly.

I am seduced. Somehow, my brain is so conditioned, so covered in layers and layers of wealth filth and deception that I allow myself to be seduced by a letterbox.

I need a perfect letterbox.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg isn’t it?

Guess what. It’s a lie.

I don’t need a perfect letterbox.

But guess what else? I need help, I need help to not need a perfect letterbox.

Because that’s how strong the pull is, the deception, the slimy clever evil one will use anything at his disposal, even a freaking letterbox, to keep me from finding that there is freedom to be had.

I’m serious.

I am so fallen, so broken, so sold into the lie, that I would think for one nanosecond that anything, that any possession here on earth could come close to the majesty of Christ, and the freedom to be found in following him.

1 Chronicles 29:11   New International Version (NIV)

 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

And here I am, clinging to my letterbox like a spoilt brat.

Rebel I say.

Be brave. Let go. Repent. Give it ALL to him.

I was going to smartly say in all my smarty smart smartness to save your gold letterbox for heaven ready for letters from Paul. But guess what? I reckon heaven will be full of ugly letterboxes, cos we will be too busy living in freedom to care.

 

Ps. I NEVER swear in real life! I tried and tried to replace that word but the creative in me just knew it wouldn’t be strong enough, and still the nerd in me must apologise – soz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing

21 Fishing.png  

Matthew 4: 18-20   New International Version (NIV)

 

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.

 

When Jesus said “I will send you out to fish for people” did he mean:

a) Find a beautiful stream, make sure you wear on trend branded clothing, gear yourself up, (no not that rod, that’s sooo last season), gather some mates, throw your line in the water, sit back and enjoy the serenity, if you don’t catch anything, it’s all good just enjoy yourself, relax.

b) Stand out in the desert reading your fishing almanac and scream at the top of your lungs “You fish are all swimming in the wrong place, idiots!”

c) Sit in your dinghy staring at the fish around you, whingeing. I’m not really in to fishing, I’m not gifted in that way. I would however like a bigger boat…

d) Find a school of low key, bottom dwelling dull fish. Join them. Then proceed to judge the future prospects of the showy tropical fish given the climate change issues the ocean is facing.

e)Become vegan.

f) Get a massive net, scoop up as many as you can. It doesn’t matter if they flap around with no idea where they are or what is happening to them, as long as you catch lots.

g) Get a sharp hook, trick the fish into swallowing it thinking it was something else, yes it’s painful, but also effective.

h) Tease the fish, reel them in, then release, reel them in, release a bit more, until they are so confused that they acquiesce.

i) Get a baby fish, keep it in a bowl as it grows up, never let it out, maybe invest in a fake plant and rock.

j) Stand on the beach, marveling at your strength and cleverness. Haul in as many salmon as you can, unhook them and bleed them, bleed them dry, while you sit back and have a well deserved beer.

k) Gather as many shiny lures as possible and drag them in the water in the hope that the fish will miraculously understand your subliminal message that there is also a real fish to follow, its just a bit embarrassing to mention overtly,  but look at all our bright shiny lures...

l) Become a blow fish so you repel all the other fish.

m) Find out where the fish are swimming, dive in, join in, wiggle your tail and lead them to a stream of living water where you can be free together.

n) I’m not really sure, but I know it made a cool song when I was a kid ♬♪♫ “I will make you fishers of men if you foollloooww meee.”

NZ Breakers

19 NZBreakers.png  

In an effort to throw me off my game a Kiwi gave me the word NZ Breakers for my 30 day writing challenge.

Initially I was flummoxed. What was I going to write about? Dealing with devastating Loss? Being second best? Grace in the midst of agonising defeat? The lifelong battle to pronounce vowels correctly?

But then, it came to me. I should reminisce about the time I was set upon by a gang of 40 somethings.

Do you know what I love? I love getting up early on cold winter mornings to watch my son play basketball in the sub zero climate of a basketball stadium. Combine that with teenage man sweat in the air and you’re on a winner.

One such morning was extra special, because it was the grand final! Yes!! My son’s team had reached the final, and the air was a buzz of expectation. I sat down on the slightly too narrow for my girth icy bench seat (WHHHYYYYY do they make them out of metal???). I was super anxious for my son’s team to win, but had also researched and rehearsed the platitudes for a crushed teenage soul in the face of devastating loss. Either way I could see a trip to McDonalds in my future.

I sat ready for the game trying to blend in as instructed by my son (apparently it was not a good idea for me to spray paint the team colours on my hair, how dull.)

Suddenly the coach approached the pumped parent group with a furrowed brow (I’ve always wanted to use the phrase furrowed brow, tick!) he was saying that he needed someone to volunteer to operate the electronic score board. Eye’s darted, awkward pauses commenced, a sudden need to fossick in my handbag overcame me, but as often happens my mouth works faster than my brain and I accidentally volunteered.

How hard can it be?

The game commenced. I sat aside a delightful woman from the opposing team. She had the hard job, she held… the pencil. She dutifully recorded every point, foul, and knee scrape. She was AMAZING. I sat there and pressed a button. 2 points = press 2 times, 1 point = press one time. I SO NAILED IT.

The game was close. Really close, but I kept up with my score board duties with aplomb.

In the last quarter I was informed that because it was the grand final, when the ball was not in play I had to stop the clock, and then of course start the clock when the ball went back in to play. How hard can that be, after all I’m a woman, I can multitask.

It was, shall we say, harder than expected.

Tension was high, 2 minutes remaining, scores are tied. We missed our shot, they blocked the ball, it went out of court, STOP THE CLOCK, the umpire passes it, the player passes it in, START THE CLOCK he trips over, there is teenage man sweat on the floor STOP THE CLOCK, the young fella wipes it up START THE CLOCK the player fouls STOP THE CLOCK she scribbles with her pencil START THE CLOCK, he blows his whistle, STOP THE CLOCK, he blows it again START THE CLOCK…. It was terrifying!! My finger is trembling, my mind racing, the scores are so close, each second counts, I hope I’m doing a good job, my heart is beating out of my chest, 10 seconds remain and the scores are… wait.. the scores… teeth clenching bowel twisting blood rushing Oh Em Gee… I had forgotten to adjust the scores.

So, as you do, with 10 seconds remaining in a hotly contested grand final you adjust the score board you had momentarily ignored from my sons team losing by 2 points to my sons team winning by 2 points.

…I tried for a sheepish look on my face but it didn’t cut it.

The stadium erupted… (so I stopped the clock)…

They descended upon me, it was, actually, a bit scary. They were ANGRY, I was surrounded by a mob of 40 something angry parents. Not players. The young boys were just standing on the court, understandably crushed and perplexed, but the parents… There were finger pointing, accusation spitting, forehead vein popping tirades being fired at me from all directions. The umpire had to position himself between them and me and blow his whistle. He checked the score on the sheet recorded by the pencil lady. Yes, it was correct, we were winning by 2 points.

So… I started the clock, 10, 9, 8… the time ran out… and we won. (yay…)

There’s so many deep and meaningful illustrations I could draw upon from that character building moment in my life, but that would be trite so I’ll just say…. I’m available for hire if the NZ Breakers need a little help getting over the line ;)

Serenity

2 serenity Serenity : Content or composed; untroubled

If Jesus was Australian, would he rock up to the barbie in his flannie and his stubbies?

Would he bring the beer? Would he knock the top off a cold one, slump down on his fold out chair with his feet on the esky, take a swig and proclaim “ahhhh maaate, how’s the serenity?”

Or would Jesus float around with a cool calm and collected air about him? Seemingly above it all? Serene?

Cos Jesus was serene yeah?

Serenity mate. A bit of inner peace. That’s what we all want isn’t it? That’s what I want.

Angst. I hate angst.

In fact I will go to great lengths to live an angstless life.

But is that how Jesus lived?

Let’s see.

Matthew 26:36-46    The Message (MSG)

36-38 Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

40-41 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42 He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”

43-44 When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.

45-46 When he came back the next time, he said, “Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it? My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s get going! My betrayer is here.”

I think I like the lazy dog sleeping by the fire life. Well actually… I don’t think, I know I TOTALLY ROCK that life. That sounds like serenity to me! But Jesus seemed to be like, a tad anxious. In fact he plunged into an agonising sorrow… “This sorrow is crushing my life out”. What a party pooper.

It doesn’t sound like he perched himself atop a mountain where he sat like a pretzel humming. I doesn't sound like he spent his time trying to escape life with all its responsibilities and angst. In fact, he fell on his face.

Then he says something interesting (I have found that Jesus quite often says interesting things). He says “There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

I’m going to take a stab and say that Jesus meant that a life that is eager and ready for anything in God is the kind of life we should pursue NOT the life that is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by a fire.

An old dog sleeping by the fire sounds like the picture of serenity to me! Sounds like the life I aspire to. One power ball and I’m a comatose dog bro.

Isn’t that the peace that surpasses all understanding? The one that makes you so lax you start to drool?

Or maybe (but hopefully not) whilst serenity is important, it isn’t a feeling we are asked to constantly pursue. Maybe we need to face our agony by face planting the ground and wrestling with it. Giving it to God doesn’t mean he will take it away, it doesn’t even mean he will stop you feeling sorrow and angst.

But if we can surrender and be ready for anything in God, perhaps his army will rise! Perhaps millions of sleeping dogs could become warriors? Because following Jesus isn’t about peaceful vibes on a Sunday morning, it’s not about feeling content, composed and untroubled, it’s about drinking the dregs.

Perhaps if Jesus was Australian he would throw a snagger on the barbie, crack open a cold one and say righto you lot, whose up for anything with God? Follow me.

 

 

Cake

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So there’s a story in the bible about Joseph. I’ll give you the Bec paraphrased version (BPV)

Jospeh is a dude with a cool jacket who gets sold by his brothers (nice) and gets put into prison. After he suffers in prison for a few years he gets to be Pharaoh’s right hand man, and his family decide he’s not that bad after all. Ohh, also he interprets weird dreams and shit.

I may have missed a few things but that will do it for now.

So Joseph. He’s in the bible. And there’s this one bit where he is in prison and he interprets dreams.

I’ll put the REAL version in (apparently it’s better than the BPV)

Genesis 40    The Message (MSG)

40 1-4 As time went on, it happened that the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt crossed their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the head cupbearer and the head baker, and put them in custody under the captain of the guard; it was the same jail where Joseph was held. The captain of the guard assigned Joseph to see to their needs.

4-7 After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in the jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning. When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?”

They said, “We dreamed dreams and there’s no one to interpret them.”

Joseph said, “Don’t interpretations come from God? Tell me the dreams.”

9-11 First the head cupbearer told his dream to Joseph: “In my dream there was a vine in front of me with three branches on it: It budded, blossomed, and the clusters ripened into grapes. I was holding Pharaoh’s cup; I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh.”

12-15 Joseph said, “Here’s the meaning. The three branches are three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will get you out of here and put you back to your old work—you’ll be giving Pharaoh his cup just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me when things are going well with you again—tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.”

16-17 When the head baker saw how well Joseph’s interpretation turned out, he spoke up: “My dream went like this: I saw three wicker baskets on my head; the top basket had assorted pastries from the bakery and birds were picking at them from the basket on my head.”

18-19 Joseph said, “This is the interpretation: The three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will take off your head, impale you on a post, and the birds will pick your bones clean.”

20-22 And sure enough, on the third day it was Pharaoh’s birthday and he threw a feast for all his servants. He set the head cupbearer and the head baker in places of honor in the presence of all the guests. Then he restored the head cupbearer to his cupbearing post; he handed Pharaoh his cup just as before. And then he impaled the head baker on a post, following Joseph’s interpretations exactly.

23 But the head cupbearer never gave Joseph another thought; he forgot all about him.

OK.

I like to think of myself as Joseph in this story.  An epic story of how God made him a great leader, and yeah he suffered terribly along the way, but eventually his prayers for that one power ball were answered.

But what if I’m the baker in this story? What if my life consists of  baking cakes all day (bearable but not my idea of fun) and then getting thrown into jail perhaps because Pharaoh didn’t like my sticky date?

So I’m praying for release from prison and God gives me a dream! Awesome. But it turns out to be a nice little heads up that in 3 days I’m gonna have a huge pole stuck up my butt and have my head cut off. (no reference to sticky date required)

#theawkwardmomentwhenyougetyourheadchoppedoffandapolestuckupyourarse

So whilst it’s nice to hear about old Joe and his flash jacket, I’m kind of interested in the baker.

I don’t want to gloss over this poor dude. Cos not everyone gets to be Joseph. In fact most people don’t get to be Joseph. Some people live a horrible unfair torturous existence and die a cruel and painful death.

So if God is good, then he isn’t just good when we triumph with a power ball life that makes our neighbours weep with jealousy. He is good when we live a life that by all accounts seem insignificant, unfair and uncomfortable.

He is good even when we are being impaled. This, my friends, is a struggle. To understand God’s goodness amidst horrific mistreatment and agony.

Don’t worry, I haven’t arrived. I’m still bitching and moaning about having to drive a purple car for crying out loud.

But I do think about the baker (not too much cos it makes my sphincter clench)

I think of him and remind myself that God’s goodness transcends my limited understanding, and I can only hope that the baker met Jesus during those 3 days of gracious warning God gave him, and that he is now sitting on his ring cushion baking triple choc deluxe cakes for the King of Kings.