end of my rope

This past week has been both very excellent, and very hard. Excellent because of many surprises and gifts, not least for my birthday, and because of lots of sunny experiences outdoors, including going to see the bluebells on the Warwick campus, which only last for about a week.

bluebell path

sea of blue

It’s been hard because something in me really rebels against being given things that I want to earn. After all these years of supposedly “living by God’s grace”, I am still, again and again, confronted by the fact that I obstinately think I should be able to make it alone. Surely surely, if I work hard enough, and am charming and pretty and bright and well-educated enough, I will make a success of my life and then I will be able to present it all to God for His approval. Up until then, God, really, it’s fine. I’m working on it, but it’s fine really and I’ll see you when I’m done. You’ll be pleased, I can tell you.

 I might shoot up a prayer on particularly desperate occasions, in the hope that God will align His powers to my agenda, but by and large, I put the food on my plate. I pay my bills. I cultivate my relationships. I get the promotions at work. I solve my own problems. And, just to show how competent I am, I help other people to solve their problems too.

But life has a way of blowing a fuse on you, which — sometimes — is Mercy’s way of reminding you that you can’t make things happen. (Sometimes it’s just crap that’s happening for no good reason.) And, you can also choose to do things that make you hungry for God, that enlarge that God-shaped hole inside of you, so that, even if you aren’t feeding yourself on Him yet, at least you know you’re hungry.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” — Jesus, Matthew 5.3

Awhile ago, someone I work with asked the question, “how can we arrange our lives in such a way that they won’t work unless God turns up?” That is, how do we make space to see God move, rather than just fending for ourselves in normal life? It’s quite a good question, if for no other reason than I have found that if I make my own heart desperate, God has less need to let the bugs get my attention. That’s part of what fasting is about, right?

Anyway, I think this is pretty much a season of learning to put myself in that hungry, desperate place. It’s funny because when we (my housemates and church community and I) started thinking about intentionally living in this season, I was really keen on it. I thought that it would be really satisfying, this having been my whole previous experience of ‘living by faith’; we would do some crazy radical things*, and then shortly after God would turn up, and we would have great stories to tell, right? Sure, we might go hungry and be miserable for awhile, but that would be a small price to pay for the miraculous returns and peer kudos in the longer run. (Did I mention I’m an achiever?)

God, however, is a lot cleverer than that, a lot harder to pin down and manipulate, and as a result, six weeks into our now-named ‘season of high challenge’, I am a lot more sobered than when we started. Whoever knew that He would bless us and provide for us, but not in the ways that we were expecting or asking for? Whoever knew that He doesn’t do things the same way twice? Whoever knew that He would use the delay time on coming through for us, and the fact that He’s just doing it in small and quiet ways, to shake my need for social approval? Whoever knew that He knows how to, while providing for me, still make me hungrier and more desperate than ever?

stretch of bluebells

very very blue

Someone I really respect once said that we make following Jesus easy and complicated, but it’s supposed to be simple and hard — all stripped back to that which really, really matters.

Hmm…I’m starting to think that I’m actually in a really good place.

*Sorry that I can’t be more specific about the crazy radical things yet, I’m sworn to secrecy until our season of high challenge is over. But watch this space…

Handmade

 

I spent the weekend travelling to old places and new. I didn’t tell many people I was going, and as a result spent three days not speaking to anyone other than shop assistants. I went to this which was amazing. The picture above is from here, I bought postcards by the artist from the ARTs*LABO stall at the market.

It was good. I spent a lot of time by Tokyo Bay, watching ships depart and wondering why most of them are named something- Maru. I went to Meiji Shrine, where I was too early for the irises, then went back to the humid embrace of the rainy season, which is 9 days too early.

I am trying to forgive. I hold on to grudges unremembered by anyone else, and honestly, I think if I told someone what exactly I remember, they probably would find it quite horrifying. I find it quite horrifying. So I’m trying to forgive these little things I remember, to make space for new things. Memory is difficult, and talking about it is hard, because you don’t know how much people remember, and how much of yourself you will lay bare. I do genuinely wonder if my memories are my own, and how many of my stories in my head are just stories, half remembered conversations I’ve stiched together from different people, places I’ve imagined that I may not have been. It’s terrifying, this doubt. I envy those people who’ve had friends who’ve been with them ever since they can remember. I suppose that’s pretty much like a communal memory, for some things.

So I am trying to forgive, everyone, really, that I can, and slowly dissolve these unyielding pinpricks of time. For my own sake, and no one else’s. Since no one remembers, it is mine to let go.

Singlish office romance

Does anyone else find Singlish really funny? Not in a kind of snooty “I am so fabulous, darling and above this” way, but in an affectionate “this is just where I come from” way. It makes me giggle a lot.

Anyway clearly, some other people think Singlish is funny too, because they wrote a song using it. My housemates have been in stitches over this song this past week. It is the tale of Charles and Chelsea who find love in a Singaporean office.

HOWREVER HOWBOURRIT, indeed.

Happy weekend, lovelies!

crazy friends and cathedral ruins

cathedral silhouette

So I have this couple of brave and crazy friends, who are locking themselves in a cage in the beautiful Coventry Cathedral ruins for a week, in order to talk to people about what freedom means. We went to visit them.

cathedral greenery

cage view

They’d just started when we dropped in, and were so far pretty warm and dry. Someone had bought them coffees; they were enjoying chatting to strangers. It was uneventful that day, but I wonder how the rest of their week’s been.

I always forget how lovely the Cathedral ruins are; they’ve been turned into a kind of sculpture park. The city of Coventry was basically flattened by bombing in World War II, and the shell of the old Cathedral is one of the structures that has been preserved and refashioned into something beautiful. It’s such a good place for being still and quiet in.

cathedral ruin steps

schoolkids visit cathedral

reconciliation

That last sculpture above is possibly my favourite in the whole entire world. It’s titled reconciliation, and another copy is in the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. It makes me think of love, real companion-friendship love, and humility.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing […]”

This is one of the things that I love best about Coventry: that it is a city of peace and reconciliation. A city that said in the wake of destruction that it would forgive. So I think I’m going to leave you, not with lots of words or knowledge or faith or radical acts, but mindful of love that humbly transcends all these things.

silver linings playbook

this one will be short, because i’ve just arrived in japan and have a dinner in thirty minutes.  watched silver linings playbook on the plane (and got quite drunk; but that’s nothing new).  before actually watching the movie, i was wondering how in blue hell jennifer lawrence could have been picked over emanuelle riva for the oscars.  now that i’ve watched the movie, i’m wondering how anyone other than lawrence could possibly have had any chance.  she’s sublime.  and bradley cooper isn’t half bad either… he’s crazy good when he goes ‘loony’ (in quotation marks because the movie makes you wonder whether the joke’s on you rather than them), and all in all it makes you wonder what the hell you’ve been doing with your life (that said, if you’ve a face like a potato, chances are you aren’t gonna make it to hollywood).

so a link to youtube, and i’m off: