Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Life of Stuff

The final weeks of July were the biggest of my year so far. For two weeks I was given the responsibility to help shape our church focus around my ministry's theme - "Care for a Hurting World". It has been such a humbling experience to have taken on that role. I am only writing now because it has taken about a month for me to finish all the follow-up, to properly process it, to and to celebrate it in my time with God before getting into the blogosphere. So here's the write-up of the first week, and the second is coming soon.

In the first week, Ash and Anji Barker came to share their stories with us. They are always challenging and inspiring, but it was good to be reminded of their humanness too, and that even in their work and lives, they also struggle with brokenness and fear. Anji spoke to us about the inconvenience of following Christ, from her experiences of God putting people in her life during times when she had other important work to do. She linked that to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, suggesting that we don't know what the priest and the Levite were on their way to do when they passed the man in need. They could have been on their way to feed many of the poor. They could have been on their way to visit a family they knew in need. Still, she reminded us about what it means to follow God's call of love beyond boundaries - that it requires time, space for relationship with God, inconvenience and is often messy - but it is good. She also pointed out that the Bible never said to answer the call for love is easy - in fact, Jesus and others talk about the clear cost of discipleship.

Ash and Anji both spoke particularly into our busy-ness, and how this often acts as a boundary to actually loving anyone. One analogy Ash used that I know connected to many people was about the ladders we climb in our lives. He said, "We spend so much of our lives climbing the social ladder, the corporate ladder, the educational ladder, the wealth ladder, and often, even when you make it to the top of this ladder...you find that the ladder is against the wrong wall." This was particularly a challenge to a church where so many people's lives - even from school days - are always incredibly busy and full of stuff.

Early in the year, I had a conversation with someone who was saying they felt disconnected from God. I asked them to draw up their week for me, and then show me where their time with God or even thinking about where God's place in what they were doing was. What we ended up with was a timetable of 90% stuff, about 25 mins possible where they thought they could think about God, and an admission that they probably wouldn't do it anyway. When I shared a similar drawing during a sermon, many people - adults, children, students, professionals, ministers, elders - felt they could identify with a life that had no room to appreciate God at work and were stirred to do something about it.

I have recently realised too that despite my efforts to block off time for God, that I still do not allow myself to appreciate God at work. Even in my set-aside time, I make it about what I am going to do, what I will read/pray/write/sing/reflect on in that time, instead of just sitting and listening. It is not surprising that often if I do feel God is saying something to me, it is: "Shut up and listen." The other day I sat in the sunshine for a good hour, shoes off, and had one of those moments when you are reminded that life isn't all bad, but was made and intended to be good; that it is not all under my control, that I am not responsible for 'fixing it', but merely walking humbling with my God in it; and that I just don't spend enough time appreciating beauty. I wrote in big letters in my journal, "A life starved of beauty allows us to only concentrate and express the ugly." And the past month or so has been such a good time spent sitting regularly just appreciating God at work, being grateful for beautiful things, and it has helped me operate out of a much healthier space.

I will post soon about the next week of the series - and something that happened that was one of the most beautiful stories I have been privileged to be part of.

PS. Also... we got a puppy. He's pretty special himself:

Currently nameless. Suggestions?


  1. Mufassa.
    That is a suggestion for the dog's name.
    Also, good to hear about how good you felt about this first of two weeks. The stuff about there being too much stuff in our lives is totally true, and I have been realizing that myself for a while also, and attempting to do something about it, maybe. Can't wait to read about the next week!

  2. It's a slow process removing that stuff hey? We come up with all sorts of doubts and reasons not to. But ultimately, I've just come to realise that no matter what I do, my life is always going to be witnessing to something. And if I haven't made space and time for God and loving others to be the dominant focus of my life (not about the 'things' I do as much as who I am and what I am seeking in all of that), then my life really just says that I care about other things more. And I don't want that.

    Appreciate you reading my stuff mate.