I'm overdue, it's time to flog the blog! I try to get in one post a month and I'm a little behind, so for the five people out there who wait with baited breath for something new to read I apologize. We had a good summer break with Jess; she did three summer camps and two weeks of vacation with Mom & Dad. The first week of July we were in Mt. Robson provincial park in B.C.; we ended up coming back early because of the weather, that and Jess wasn't feeling well. The second week of holidays was in the last week of August, where we stayed with Angel's uncle & aunt. They run a resort 45 minutes north of Revelstoke, B.C. There we stayed in a cabin and woke up every morning to a beautiful view of the mountains and the lake. Our new dog Tinka got to run around off leash and let me tell you she wasn't the only one who felt a sense of freedom up in the mountains. It was hard to come home and settle into fall routine of work and school, but we're hopeful that after a good summer's rest this year will be a better year for Jess than last year.
The Reason for God left quite an impression on me, as it was the most thoughtful presentation of the Christian faith I have ever read. In an age of scepticism I found it to be a breath of fresh air. His second book is the one I just finished, called The Prodigal God. While The Reason for God was a real meaty book for the brain The Prodigal God was more of a heart touching message about the love of God. Based on Jesus' parable of the lost son the book aims to remind Christians of and introduce seekers to a very basic truth of Christianity: having a relationship with God is totally dependent on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through faith in Him we become the children of God; not by our own merit but by the free gift of God's grace we find forgiveness and the motivation to live for God.
Keller points out that in the parable there are actually two lost sons; the one who leaves home with his inheritance and blows it on the party scene and the one who is morally upright, stays at home and works for his father. Both didn't have an appreciation for the father's generosity. The one who went away eventually comes home and is restored to the family, but the elder brother resents both his wayward, newly returned brother and the father who throws a lavish party for the younger son. It contrasts the prodigal (meaning wasteful, extravagant) son who wastes the money given to him by his father, and the prodigal father who spares no expense to celebrate his son's home coming. And the story ends with the father pleading for his older son to share in the celebration, who refuses because of his self-righteous pride.
It's good news for all of us, that those who are wayward and those who are using their morality to please God are both in the wrong, and yet both are loved and invited to the table of God the Father. Reading the book helped me see that there's a bit of both brothers in me - a part of me that gravitates towards sensuality and a part that is self-righteous. But there's another path I can walk, one where by internalising the prodigal grace of God I can enjoy the pleasures of life within the boundaries of a moral life. We are made for pleasure and for goodness, pleasure and goodness that's defined by God. And we can live it out in the unconditional love of God. The thought of God's love being completely given without merit is scary, because neither the one who rebels nor the self-righteous who tries to earn their place in life is really in charge. But it also means that I find a remedy for my wasted life - wasted on both bad choices and noble pursuits based on pride - the wasteful love of God.
Enjoy what's left of the summer, dear readers, and may you sense the prodigal grace of God :)
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Sometimes we don't realise what we have in us until a moment comes when that ability is called upon. Last month is a case in point for me. As you may know it hasn't been an easy time for us as a family this year, and when one is struggling with one's own problems the plight of others is not on your radar. It feels like you have time and energy for your own stuff and not someone else's. So you can imagine what went through my mind one day back in June when one of my neighbours called upon me. "You're a preacher, right?" Ouch. If you know anything about my background, you'll know that question hits a nerve. "Um, let's just say I'm on sabbatical" I replied. "Oh, OK" my neighbour said. "My mother's in the hospital, she's only got a couple of days left to live and I was wondering if you could pray for me and my family." And the tears began to well up in her eyes. Now I'm struggling as it is myself, hanging onto the promises of God's goodness found in scripture without really experiencing a lot of them at the time. And here's a lady who's desperate for a touch of hope from above.
And yet at that moment something just kicked in for me. It didn't mean that all of a sudden my own problems were solved, but I was able to set them aside and focus on the need in front of me. "Sure," I said. And so I prayed with her. Nothing deep or fancy, just a simple prayer from a broken heart for another with a broken heart. And then I took the time to just listen as she told me her story about her mom's condition. After a while we wrapped up and parted ways. As I walked back to my unit I turned around and asked her, "How did you know I was a preacher?" And she replied, "Oh, everyone around here knows." She laughed and continued, "Everyone around here's got a big mouth!" I laughed too and walked back home, feeling a little apprehensive about my apparent reputation but glad that I could do something small for this dear lady in her time of need. It actually felt pretty good that God had opened a window of opportunity for me in my neighbourhood. And little did I realise that in a few weeks I would be back in (dare I say it) pastor mode, helping out the family of one of Jess' friends whose mom has some serious health problems.
Like I said, I get so absorbed in my own stuff that I don't realise that there is a God who actually is building a kingdom around me, in me and even through me. And yet I am reminded that He is doing just that. It's not a finished work in this world, and I guess it shouldn't surprise me that He doesn't need to finish it in me in order to bring it to others. Maybe I need to spend just a little less time preoccupying myself with, well, myself. Maybe I need to be a bit more thankful for what God has given me and done for me. Maybe I need to clue into the notion that in the end things will be alright - not just for me and my family, but for the people around me. A little bit of perspective is gained when for a moment you put your own stuff on the shelf and help out some others who are suffering just as bad, or worse, than me. And maybe it shouldn't surprise me when I find that there was something in me that for a moment gave a bit of light and hope to another suffering human being. Maybe when the next time something like that happens I won't be so surprised and ask myself, "How did I do that?"