“More than Watchmen for the Morning”

Eva:

I’ve just read that Gary died last night. He was an early encourager of my blogging efforts and I wanted to share this, his last entry.

Originally posted on It Is Written!:

My soul waits for the Lord

More than watchmen for the morning

More than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 130:6 (ESV)

While this post has nothing to do with the stated purpose of this blog ( I posted it on my other blog) I wanted to place it here, because I hope it’s message will resonate with some of my readers who do not subscribe to my other blog.

For many years I felt I possessed an insight into this verse that a lot of people could not appreciate. Whenever I read this verse, invariably an image would come to mind of experiences I had in Vietnam. I remember being on guard in Vietnam, staring out into the darkness, praying that I would see nothing throughout a long and fearful night. Most of the time, the night would pass uneventfully, although it was not always to be so. But it’s that…

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Mysterious ways and all that.

If you’ve read here for a while, you would know that I like a bit of god/religion/bible talk, and I don’t get a lot of chance to do that in my day to day life. (Well, theoretically I could get more of it would involve a lot more ‘all christians are delusional and religion starts wars’ than I’m comfortable with).

Now, we have a ‘granny flat’ on our property and recently a friend and her family have moved in to rent it for a while. If you’re an introvert, you will understand that having people living 10 metres from your front door and sharing a washing machine is EXACTLY THE SAME as living together, so we’re basically living together. I knew that she and her husband were real-proper-christians which is something I find a bit intimidating because in my mind christians = all life figured out and probably quite eye-rolly at me and my ill-conceived notions of god and my cobbled together belief system.

But of course that’s just me projecting and my stereotype of what a ‘christian’ is has been proven wrong time and time again. I’m having a lovely time hanging out with an actual grown up and our two year olds LOVE each other and she cooks meals for my husband which quite frankly he isn’t used to at all and had better get un-used to in about six weeks when they move out.

Then yesterday I discovered that they are creationists and don’t believe in evolution one little bit. At all.

Yep. I’m living with creationists.

Actually, I’m friends with creationists.

Do you ever get the feeling that God engineers situations purely so she can have a good old laugh about things from time to time?

Shermer the Splitter

Well, not quite, but a vague Monty Python allusion is always a nice start, don’t you think

This article is interesting. A bit ambiguous; I don’t quite know what’s going on with it, and I can’t seem to find any commentary. Michael Shermer was part of my holy trinity (Shermer, Dawkins and Harris, thanks for asking) back in the day and I have a pile of Skeptic magazines upstairs that are still good if I need to rebut a homoeopath or anti-vaccer.

But is he saying that this was a paranormal experience? In the past he has explained occurrences away with the precise ‘billions of things mean that a coincidence will happen’ explanation that he seems to dismiss in the article. I’m annoyed by the fact that he admits that he would dismiss it out of hand if it had been someone else. YES, WE KNOW. It’s always the skeptics arrogantly telling people that they didn’t have the experience in the way that they think they did because, well, science and the dominant paradigm and all that. But ‘shook my skepticism to its core’. Really? or hyperbole? I’m expecting him to reveal it as a social experiment or similar next week.

The comments aren’t particularly glowing, are they? Skeptics are such poor losers. Much arrogance, many rudeness. It reminds me of when Anthony Flew came out as a Deist in the 2000s. Of course he had to be suffering mental decline, didn’t he? No possibility that his lifetime quest of following where the evidence leads could direct him to belief.

God I sound cranky tonight. I must go and carry some water.

Chopping wood for God.

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So the other day I was getting into one of my BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEEEEAN?? tizzies. And although I nearly completely definitely believe in god, I realised that I don’t live my life as if I do.

And then I though ‘How does someone live their life as if they really and truly believe in god in a life shaking and world changing way?’.

And then I decided to meditate on what it actually means but clearly I feel asleep because that’s what happens when I start my meditations at 10pm

And the next morning, when I went out to buy a (fairtrade) cup of coffee I saw the following Zen proverb (I think it was in The Guardian but I’m not sure)

Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

And I laughed and laughed at my own earnest ridiculous and went home to hug my children.

Just say No.

I’ve just read a meh-don’t-bother book called Love Skip Jump; Start Living the Adventure of Yes (what can I say, I’ve got a thing about Evangelical American women who write forgettable books). It’s about…oh god I can’t even be bothered, but basically it reminded me of the swathe of books recently that have ridden the bandwagon of Yes! Say Yes to Life and Wonderful Things Will Happen!

Now the little tricky fine print with this (because otherwise we would eat cheezels all day and get many ill advised tattoos, amirite? ) is that the Yes is a yes that is in line with what God wants for your life and you will have to carefully listen because you will need to discern between your own selfish desires and God’s true and perfect plan.

Now I don’t know if I’m just really crap at discernment (although I do love me some Ignatius) or if the lessons that I’m supposed to be learning are just too high brow and abstract. Message to God- simplify dude, simplify. This is me you’re dealing with.

So let’s look at a few personal examples to see just how wonderfully well saying Yes! pans out in the experimental petri dish that is my life.

I said yes when; my neighbour rang and asked me if I’d take the box of newborn wild rabbits that they had just accidentally dug up from their burrow. That ended precisely as badly as you would have expected it to. But slowly, over a two week period that included getting up at night for eye-dropper feedings.

Lesson here? No idea. Everything dies, maybe?

I said yes when; my boss dobbed me in to be interviewed because apparently I’m an amazing techno-wizz star type person who uses technology amazingly brilliantly in the classroom (I’m paraphrasing here, clearly) and therefore should be interviewed to model ‘departmental best practise’. Guess what? In front of the camera I babble like a lunatic and my chest goes red and blotchy (true fact; the director type guy felt the need to give me a big hug at the end, it was that bad).

Lesson learned? Disobey your boss, maybe? Call in sick when under pressure? Don’t pretend to be competent when you’re not?

I said yes when; I was asked to help judge a Romantic Short Story competition despite the fact that I a) am not romantic b) don’t like romance stories c) don’t know anything about writing short stories. Somewhere out there there’s a legitimately talented writer who was crushed by their failure to place and probably never wrote again. And somewhere else out there is a really crap writer who is either still elated that they won or perplexed at why they can’t get a book published. Sorry, by the way.

Lesson learned? Feign illiteracy when asked to judge short stories.

Now given that these are all, on the face of it, helpful acts, I assume that they would be God Mandated. Saying Yes to them, according to current wisdom was exactly what I should have been doing and the goodness in the world would have exponentially multiplied (yea verily) by it.

But to my mind they all ended badly (and I’ve just included the ‘G’ version ones. Believe me, I’ve missed out a few) and I’ve had no great insights or clarity or epiphanies except ‘conversing or mixing with other people often ends badly, limit where possible’. Which I’ve always suspected so again, no epiphanies.

So this is my permission to say No! Don’t be guilted into going out of your way for other people just because you think god might want you to. God may very well be playing Bridge with Zeus while you’re making these decisions so basically, assume that you’re on your own and take it from there.

What’s the worse that can happen?

Comfort Zone Jesus.

I really like Jesus. He was great, wasn’t he? All radical and visionary and sticking-it-to-the-man type action (Have you seen the actor that’s playing Jesus? I particularly like that version).

He’s not particularly comfortable though. Just as CS Lewis described Aslan as ‘… not a tame lion’, Jesus also was not tame. And if you had been around at the same time as he was, not a particularly relaxing person to ‘have a personal relationship’ with, I suspect.

Jesus has become so sanitised. I was going to say ‘lately’ but then I remembered the picture that my Nan has in her kitchen of Jesus, all conditioned beard and pastel robes and halo and lambs and it shows me that this isn’t a new thing.

But actually, he annoyed a lot of people. He pissed off the religious leaders and the powers that be in general and if you thought that life was going along quite nicely thank you, he probably had some pointed questions for you to answer. Most people wouldn’t vote for someone with a vision like Jesus if they stood for election today because he demanded too much, challenged too fiercely and asked the hard questions about just how we want our society to be.

And of course the irony connected to the fact that many christians are also political conservatives would be something that I would find hilarious if it wasn’t so painfully real.

It’s all in Matthew. I don’t need to quote swathes of it; you’re probably familiar with the message even if you haven’t actually read it (It’s good though. You should. I love a biblical action plan rather than crazy Revelations rhetoric). Help the poor. Be merciful (Define that as you wish but I don’t think that war and unlawful imprisonment fall in to most definitions). Social Justice as a major building block for a just society, one that impacts not just the most needy but also the environment and consumerism and discrimination…

Well, just everything, really.

On an unrelated but still related note, a country that needs to spend as much time trying to learn how to declutter as we do has got screwed up priorities. Google ‘decluttering in Australia. 1,430,000 results.

Authentically following Jesus is counter cultural and uncomfortable.

Mind you, I don’t do it, even though I think its an amazing idea. I’ve spent my entire life making decisions that keep me within my comfort zone. In fact, on reflection, if I look at the major decisions that I’ve made in my life, I can now (a little late) easily identify that they were made essentially because they put few demands on me and kept me within the parameters of what I can do without actually pushing myself or evolving. I’ve also become very good at persuading people to let me carry on in that manner which probably isn’t a great thing but let’s not make this about all about me.

Following Jesus can absolutely start with ‘being nice to the people that you see on a day to day basis’ but I think that it probably needs to progress to more than that. Especially because the people that we meet on a day to day basis are very likely people ‘Just Like Us’ – that don’t require us to do hard things or reconsider our values or exercise patience and love on a really monumental level.

Jesus didn’t just live in his own head. He didn’t just have good ideas about the way that things should be and discuss them with his friends and then go fishing. He wasn’t about making people feel secure, and I suspect that if the idea of Jesus makes you all warm and fuzzy then he may have failed in his mission a little. And if you want to share your faith with people, share that you believe that Jesus is Lord and all that entails, then I hope that you really, really understand exactly what you are saying. Because you’re calling for a radical re-evaluation of how most of us live our lives and that is some serious, comfort zone stretching stuff right there.

Slavery, serendipity and my messy desk.

As I travelled to Jamberoo Abbey recently, I caught a shuttle bus from the airport out to the bush (because driving through Sydney wasn’t going to promote my nun like level of calm). I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t the one driving and I was looking forwards to some relaxing chauffeur type time when I discovered that I had the most-awful-of-all-dreadful-things; a chatty driver.

Seriously. Small talk with strangers is my least favourite thing, mainly because I get really involved in it and over share and maybe offer a place for them to stay when they come to Tasmania.

OK, I’ve just realised that small talk gets me into a corner when I’m much more giving and inclusive and community minded that I’m comfortable with so clearly there’s a whole other issue there…

Anyway, chatty driver. Very nice chatty driver who didn’t really expect me to participate in the conversation so that was good. And as time passed he began to talk about his passion for orphans and his desire to fight child trafficking and how he travels to Thailand every year to volunteer at Zoe Children’s Homes (oh look, another fantastic faith based charity).

Now just the week before, I’d promised my grade ten classes that during term four we would study something interesting and relevant and useful to do with the developing world and equity and that it wouldn’t be boring and based on text books but I would have to have a bit of a think about it and decide which direction we were going to take.

And as Chatty Driver talked, I googled the Zoe Foundation and discovered that they provided a whole unit of work for precisely the curriculum I have to teach this term, crossing over from English and Geography. Basically exactly what I needed.

So, life lesson, when you open yourself to other people serendipitous things can occur.

Using this in conjunction with the information that I posted the other day, I’ll have some really engaging and relevant content (which will probably not be needed soon with men like this making decisions).

But although I’ve just discovered the awful truth about the number of slaves that work for me, while working at my desk I had the realisation that there’s a good chance that quite a few of these things were made, if not by actual slaves then very probably in sweat shops.

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It’s one thing to intellectually know something but it’s so much harder to actually act on that knowledge. From being a loving and inclusive person on a day to day basis, to acting in an ethical matter when shopping, sometimes it seems all a bit too hard to me.

All the theory in the world is one thing but moving yourself into new zones; becoming aware of how to spend your money or making an effort to listen to people who you may not necessarily want to engage with, is what will really move things forwards, isn’t it? Those of us who are lucky enough to have the knowledge and have the awareness need to act on it, even if it seems pointless or just a drop in the bucket.

Well, this is what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Why we believe.

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I’ve seen quite a few things lately* along the lines of this article, which describes how the author believes in god because of the glory of the night sky and the infinity of space (although the concept of a midnight cappuccino traumatised me and I had to have a lie down before finishing the article). He speaks to why he believes in god, and how looking out into space is, he believes, beautiful and amazing proof.

I love astronomy and one of my happiest memories is looking through a little telescope at Saturn when I was very young. I can still remember that sight so vividly, and the feel and the smell of that night. I have very few memories of my childhood, but many that I’ve held onto involve being outside at night, on my own, looking into space.

But you know what? Looking at the night sky doesn’t increase my belief in god in anyway at all. I find wonderful and majestic and still spend a lot of time outside at night but there’s nothing that I see that makes me think ‘this proves god’. But I would indignantly say (if anyone questioned me) that my appreciation isn’t limited at all by that fact. I feel the same way now that I’m a kind-of-believer than I did when I was a very-much-convinced atheist. Inexplicably moved and a little emotional and amazed.

The basis of my belief lies in other areas completely (I discussed that here so I won’t bore you again) but it seems to me that how we fall into belief varies enormously. Some people are brought up with it and don’t question (similar to the basis of my deep love of Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, I suppose. Indoctrination) and others find their way there by other means. I’m getting much better at accepting (truly accepting, rather than just saying it) that everyone experiences things differently and their experience is valid even if I don’t understand it. Or like it.

That said, the circular logic of ‘I believe in god because the bible tells me so and god inspired the bible’ leaves me cold and perplexed but it works for some people so… OK, maybe I’m not that great and accepting everything.

*Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, anyone?