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I found a lie inside my heart today

i found a lie inside my heart today.
it reeked of cleanliness and perfection.
that i’m better now,
that i’m better than i was.
another lie answered back
i found comfort in the familiarity of its grip
that i’m just as broken as before
and that i’ll always be
all these things i crave
that they’ll never leave

i ache to agree
to choose my pain
but i ache greater to be at peace

all i know of lies
is that they distort the truth
all i know of truth
is that it is you

lost between
i resolve to know nothing
i remember i know nothing
but you

and

i remember where to find you
because i know where i am
we are between my heaven and hell

this?
this.
this is love.

– Lauren @ Deeper Story

The Hunger Games

Many, many people I know have read these books now so I thought it was about time I jumped on the bandwagon. I managed to read all three (they’re each about 450 pages long) in just five days – I’m not sure if that says more about the books or my vast amount of free time pre-semester – and am torn between loving them and writing them off as more Twlilight-esque drivel. Or maybe that’s the same thing?

*Spoiler Alert*

So the similarities with Twilight are pretty obvious. Teenage female central character who strops a lot. Weird love triangle where female central character can’t decide who she loves. Continuous build up of suspense to be thoroughly disappointed by lack of action (usually as female central character blacks out). I just hope Jennifer Lawrence can pull off moody female protagonist better than Kristen Stewart when the movie comes out in March.

But the books do point to something deeper. Set in a futuristic North America, where the majority of the human race has been wiped out through civil war, those in command in the Capitol keep their subjects in the outlying districts under control by forcing them to sacrifice two of their young people to the deadliest form reality TV has ever taken. The Hunger Games. Twenty-four teenagers must fight to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol citizens and to remind the districts that the Capitol is in control. Eventually, partly due to the actions of the main characters as they fight for their lives in the arena, a rebellion begins as the districts try to overthrow the corrupt regime.

An interesting comment on reality TV and the perverse ends such forms of “entertainment” might one day be used for, has become much more, I think, in light of the Arab Spring this past year. Suzanne Collins presents different reactions to such situations of oppression – do you subvert the system with acts of non-violent rebellion or resort to militarization and force? And does one necessarily lead to the next if there is to be true liberation? She also conveys the corrupting nature of power and the dangers of trying to establish a democracy, especially when a rebellion has a clear leader who wishes to step in to the power seat.

Though the books were clever and entertaining and just the break from reality that I needed before the craziness of semester begins, there were moments of disappointment. Such as the numerous times when the protagonist would black out or be injured just at the climax of an event and we would have to hear about it hurriedly through its retelling by another character. There were also moments, in the last few chapters of the third book in particular, where I actually laughed out loud at the stupidity of the characters or the predictability of the plot.

I’m still really looking forward to the movie though.

Post-Christmas

We all know that one of the best things about post-Christmas is the left-overs. We had two Christmas dinners this year, one on Friday and one on Sunday, due to relatives coming and going, so there were even more varieties of meat left over than usual. The obvious conclusion being this:

Bacon
Mini-sausages
Cheddar cheese
Turkey
Cranberry Jelly
Stuffing
Gammon
Duck
Orange Sauce

AMAZING.

We’ve decided it’s going to be a new tradition and that we’re not going to eat for a number of days, or a few hours at the very least!!

Christmas

If you haven’t seen it already, I’d urge you to watch the Queen’s Christmas speech.

The media keeps describing it as being all about family but they’re skimming over the whole second half which was all about Jesus:

“Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.

God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. . .

It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love. . . “

There were more than a few tears in our house. It was a little surreal to hear the monarch be open about her Christian convictions, doing something so counter cultural and difficult for many within the church at times. I had a huge amount of respect for her already but it has just increased a whole lot.

There were more tears later in the day too thanks to Doctor Who and Downton Abbey – hooray for happy endings! And as The Doctor says, happy tears make us human. Like Jesus, at Christmas. Incredible.

And post-Christmas . . .

Pre-Christmas

Unlike my younger brother who has a job and earns a wage, I am a poor wayfaring student. So, while he was able to splash out on everyone – myself included, super grateful for DVDs and a box of Lucky Charms, which I’ve been craving since my return from the states – I had to be a little more thrifty for some folks.

A friend of mine had made microwave heat packs and I thought it would be perfect for my Mum and my Aunt. I bought some material from the Fabric Store down the road from my flat and got some porridge oats and rice to fill them with as well. I brought it all up to my parents house and rescued the ancient sewing machine from the chaos that is our attic. My Granny had to re-teach me how to use the sewing machine which brought my Dad much amusement as he looked on.

It was super simple. A white polycotton inner approximately 15cm by 45cm filled with oats and rice, with a fleece-y outer just slightly bigger so that the filled inner can be put in it. I put cloves and cinnamon stick pieces in one and used lavender oil on the other. The inner just needs to be removed, put in the microwave for a few minutes and then returned to the outer before it can be enjoyed in all its warm relaxing goodness. Simples!

I really enjoyed doing it, especially with my Granny who was once a seamstress and had lots of little tips and tricks to teach me. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more crafty gifty things this year though I’ve decided that boys are difficult to make stuff for becaus it all tends to be pretty things and boys aren’t so keen on that! Suggestions for boyish crafts gratefully received!

And then there was Christmas

An Advent Scrapbook

Having exams immediately before Christmas really makes you understand the “waiting” aspect of advent. You’re longing for that moment when you walk out of an exam hall, finally free and able to relax again. And this semester has been so relentless that it genuinely was the first relief I’ve felt from that pressure for almost thirteen weeks. It would be a serious understatement to say that I was happy!

I want to share with you some things I’ve been dwelling on this advent, some things that have made the meaning of it all really come alive for me.

Mamamonk has been posting a series of poems for the season but my favourite is definitely this one: Darkness. I think it captures beautifully the humanity of the birth, the messiness of it that we don’t see in our carols and lessons.

Sarah Bessey has also posted a beautiful piece over at Deeper Story about the messy humanness of the incarnation: Incarnation

But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.  It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy…

The guys over at 24/7 Prayer have been posting prayer spaces videos all through advent for daily reflection. I particularly enjoyed last week’s ones on Joy and looking at both Mary and Simeon’s songs of praise in Luke.

And finally, another wee video that beautifully portrays the humanity of this whole Christmas thing.

So there you have my advent-y scrapbook. Somehow  the whole thing seems more real to me this year, more mystical and wonderful. Jesus came, he is here still and I love it!

Anticipation and Advent

I love the build up to Christmas. The decorations, the mince pies, the snowfall. The transformation of the city with it’s lights and markets. I love the songs and carols that come in to use at this one time of year. I love the excitement and the anticipation that you can feel building as the days count down.

I’m thoroughly prepared for the day itself to not be quite as spectacular: presents, a nice lunch, the Queen and Doctor Who on the telly, don’t quite live up to all this hype. But there is something about this season of waiting that I think is wonderful.

We await the celebration of the coming of the King.

It’s like waiting for the bride to enter at a wedding, when you don’t know whether to focus on her and the dress or him and his face as he sees her. It’s like those days when everyone is talking about the arrival of the baby and “it’s just bound to be any day now”. You get restless, anxious in a good way. You can’t sit still or stop smiling. It’s so exciting!

It’s a time for joy because you absolutely know the miracle that is coming next.

It’s got me to thinking. What was the first advent like? Not even for Mary and Joseph (who I think spent most of it on a donkey) but for God?

Can you imagine Jesus in Heaven waiting for His time to come to earth? Can you imagine the Father’s excitement that soon it was going to be done once and for all, the way would be made? Or the Holy Spirit anticipating the power He was going to reveal?

Do you reckon God got antsy? Paced a little? Do you think there were moments when He just wanted to jump up and down?

If this is my excitement, how much greater God’s must have been!

And I don’t think it was just that one time. I think that every time God knows that one of His children is going to return to Him, He gets excited in the pursuit. Scripture says there’s a party for each and every lost sheep return home, so why not the time of eager anticipation too.

It astounds me to think that God was waiting for me. Knowing full well His plan, he was excited for its fulfillment. And He still waits, and He still hopes, and He is still excited over me and over you. Incredible.

I want to dwell in this period of anticipation. To savour it. To allow the excitement to seep down into my bones so that I can carry it all year, knowing this is the longing of God’s heart too. And so that the coming of Jesus is never ordinary. That the incarnation is as wonderful and mystical as the word itself sounds.

Come all you weary

I’ve been looking for this song since I got back from SF but was unable to remember the name of the group or the song and only had one short line of lyrics to go on. I’d given up after a fruitless google hunt. Stumbled upon a random guy’s blog today, scrolled down half a page and there it was. Boom!

You’ve been spurned at fine restaurants and kicked out of church
Got a couple of loaves sit down at my feet
Lend me your ears and we’ll break bread and eat

Do you mean what you say?

I should be more careful about what I say.

This is a means to an end.

Grades aren’t important.

Really, Rachael? Do you mean that?

God has a plan, He’ll make it work out.

Are you willing to live like that?

I got some grades back last week that I was pretty disappointed with.

It’s easy to say that you’re not bothered by grades when you’re getting a steady 2:1 but it turns out a 2:2 is one of my biggest fears. And now I’m having to look it straight in the eye. My mum will tell me to work harder. My lecturers have told me I’m more than capable. But I’m not a machine and there are times when you’ve worked to capacity. I don’t function in isolation and there are more important things than deadlines sometimes.

I’m never going to be an academic. I don’t have a mind that can tear the theories of others to pieces. I can’t be concise: I will always write the same way I talk. I am always going to take courses that are interesting over ones that guarantee good grades.

I know that God absolutely has a plan. I know that my being in Edinburgh and studying theology as I do is a part of that. But He never said anything about grades. This is a period of trust, of walking the walk that I’ve talked (and maybe working just a little bit harder).

One Weekend in Moffat

This past weekend was my church’s student weekend away and we all toddled on down to Moffat for a wonderful couple of days.

It wasn’t the intense experience of last year where God turned yet more stuff upside down, but more of a peaceful time of rest in His presence. I think, after a pretty tough semester, it was what we all needed.

I found it brilliant to be back in that kind of community living, even if only for a short time. To be eating with thirty other people again and have roommates once more was soothing for me. Being surrounded by the hustle and bustle, always having something to do and someone to talk to brought a comfort I’ve missed over the past few months.

It was also a blessing to have a slightly smaller group this year (35 compared to last year’s 55), almost all of whom I knew already. It meant there was a cosy, family atmosphere to the whole thing with no cliquey-ness. I really appreciated getting to know some folks a lot better and having quality time to spend with them.

We were working through a couple of chapters of Philippians in our meetings. Philippians has been instrumental in my journey of faith, being the book that was studied at the Holiday Club where it all began, so I was really looking forward to going back to it in depth once more. I’ve read it so many times and underlined almost every verse but it never fails to get me:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

(Philippians 2:5-10 ESV)

Amazing!

Also got some good time in to chat with our on of the church leaders who came away as well. He was very encouraging about everything that I posted about the other day (Change) and had some good advise about how to deal with the issues these changes throw up.

The highlight of the weekend was probably the huge game of Capture the Flag which we had on Saturday afternoon. Using all three stories of this massive house, about twenty of us battled it out. With socks in our back pocket so we could obviously catch each other, it became a lot like a game of full contact tag rugby. I’m going to have bruises for quite some time, my team’s pride probably the most bruised of all as we lost without even discovering where their flag was!

I love being a part of this community and am so grateful to God for all that he is doing in them and through them.

Change

My theology has changed a lot in the two and a half years since I came to university. Some of it has changed a lot in the last six months. You may once have been able to fit me into a nice little labeled box but nowadays the “conservatives” could call me liberal and the “liberals” would call me conservative.

It hasn’t been an easy journey and it isn’t over yet but I am glad to have taken it. If there’s one thing this degree does, it’s to make me question what I’ve been told and figure out what I really believe. But the majority of my theology changing has taken place outside of the classroom, as I follow Jesus and experience God, meeting with Him in unexpected places and unexpected ways. I love that the Holy Spirit is inspiring me to seek Truth and I feel like I understand God better than ever before, whilst also comprehending just how much more there is that I will never fully know.

There’s been some discussion among my friends recently about a lack of objective fact being proclaimed in our church. Less “this is what you should believe” and more “this is what I think it says, go see for yourself”. But it’s precisely that “this is what you should believe” of my past that trips me up whenever I face a new understanding of the complexities of God. Every time I edge towards a change of opinion, I feel guilty. I fear being labelled as “unbiblical”. I expect accusations of “unGodliness”. And then I begin to believe those labels and accusations. This propositional model has lead to more crises of faith than it has prevented and I’ve waded through a lot of doctrine to find a simple faith in a living God.

When you have built a relationship with someone, have known them for a time, when you love them and care for them, when you understand their very character: a revelation about their actions or a change in one aspect of their being does not shatter the foundation that you have already. A change in your friends belief system doesn’t change how much you care about them. A change in you wife’s mental health doesn’t change how devoted you are to her. A revelation about your child’s sexual orientation doesn’t change how much you love them.

The Church should be a place for theological exploration. We should be willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers and that the majority of the ones we do have are probably wrong. And then we should search for them some more. Discovering the vast mysteries of God can be a  joy and not something which is feared.

I secretly love being un-label-able and certain that God is holding me in His, I’m able to hold my theology in a more open hand.