if I was God

And God saw everything that he had made,
and behold, it was very good.

If I was God, I would change the world.

I would zap the swords and guns and cannons and tanks and land mines and war planes and weapons of mass destruction.

I would take the Hitlers, the Gaddafis, the Idi Amins, the Kim Jong Ils and give them new thoughts so they would not crave power and wealth at the expense of those who question their evil authority.

I would change the minds of the Jim Joneses, the Jack the Rippers, the kidnappers, abusers and molesters of children and women. I would destroy the chemicals and drugs that control and distort the minds of young people. I would provide the necessary work for idle hands so old ladies can keep their handbags and hard-working people their possessions. Old people will live in safety and with dignity.

The family home would be made the safest place in the world, along with the mother’s womb.

I would do away with cancer, typhoid, malaria; all diseases that kill and maim. I would send rain and do away with drought and famine. I would even do away with ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’.

There would be no wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy or gluttony.

I would give hearts of warm flesh where there are hearts of cold stone.

If I was God and I did all this, what would be the response?

Adam and Eve had all this and more, yet they turned their back on the God who provided them with all things necessary for a good, fruitful and happy life.

If I was God, I would get no thanks, only people saying to me, “Why have you made me thus?” “I want to exercise my will,” they would say.

If I was God and I changed the world resulting in little or no gratitude or credit from those who would benefit, I would be highly offended. I would … well … I am not God.

But God was offended. A read of the first three chapters of Genesis will tell us how God dealt with our insult and his indignation. A read of John chapter three will reveal God’s gracious response to our lack of gratitude and rebellion.

so much education, so little learning

… although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning. (Dorothy L Sayers)

My daughter, who home schools her children, recently asked me to read a paper by Dorothy L Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning, which was presented by Sayers at Oxford in 1947.

While I vaguely recalled her name hailing from the dim dark recesses of my time at university, I knew nothing of her ideas. That is surprising as old ideas are old and not worth a moment’s consideration and the ever-evolving new concepts are the ‘messiah’ in the world of education.

As a teacher of English, I was most interested to read what Sayers had to say on the subject of education. The lost tools she spoke of were the tools of a classical education based on the Trivium which consists of three stages:

—the Grammar Stage which lays the foundation using the skills of memorisation
—the Logic or Dialectic Stage where the ability to analyse, link and draw conclusions is developed
—the Rhetoric Stage when students synthesise their ideas and learn to effectively articulate through writing and speech.

The Trivium was used as a teaching methodology during the Middle Ages.

As Sayers lamented the state of education and its product in her time, I found in her words my own experienced during my time as a senior high school teacher. And this around fifty to sixty years later into the twenty first century.

What I found in my students was the inability to express themselves with lucid arguments. They regurgitated facts and clichéd phrases, never really getting to the heart of their theses. They would extensively quote authors and commentators, not really understanding what they quoted or why they used the quotes.

When they made statements, usually just stating facts, the students could not appreciate why I continually asked, “Why is it so?” They simply did not understand that they had no understanding of the topic under discussion. They had learnt some facts, but had not truly comprehended the deeper issues of their subject. They were not able to critically analyse and draw their own conclusions.

These students at sixteen and seventeen years of age should have been in the Rhetoric Phase of their development, learning to communicate effectively with clarity and persuasion through speech and writing. Sad to say that they really had no understanding of their language and their vocabulary was appallingly limited. Words such as ‘awesome’ and ‘wicked’ were used ad nauseam. It seems that they were still in the Grammar Stage, memorising information, but not able to analyse and synthesise.

It is refreshing to know that there are some educators who are bringing back the ‘good old days’, even as far back as the Middle Ages. I trust that my daughter will be able to implement the Trivium as a teaching strategy in her classroom so my grandchildren will begin with a solid foundation and their knowledge will lead to understanding and further to wisdom. (Proverbs 2:6)

ephesians 1

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

ephesians 1For my birthday this year, Benny, my little six year old grandson, chose two gifts for me which I treasure. One was a beautiful blue dragonfly fridge magnet. The other, a plaque which states: “Nanas are flowers in the garden of love.” That is very cute.

Cuter still was Benny’s inscription in the card that accompanied the gifts: “Dear Nanna, I love you when the earth was created and now I love you on your birthday.”

I think the sentiment is that Benny loves me no matter what and for all time. Out of the mouths of babes … as the saying goes.

What a great truth that sentiment signifies. I know Benny was not there at the creation of the earth, but God was. In fact, before the creation of the world God knew me and predestined me to be one of his adopted children. I was chosen by God to fulfil his purpose and his will here on the earth he created.

I wonder why he chose me. I really have nothing that would endear me to the almighty God. Rather, I know I have done everything in my power to thwart God’s designs for me, including dedicating my life to the service of Satan in one of my weaker moments when I was a teenager.

God’s purposes, however, will not be frustrated. Despite my best efforts, here I am, a child of God enjoying the blessings of his kingdom forever in his love … and in Benny’s.

and life goes on

We are as the grass that withers and dies and is forgotten.

dead grassSadly, a young man I have known since he was a young boy of eleven years recently died. The ravages of cancer took him. He was only thirty something.

My eighty two year old mother died last year and, at the time, I felt a great sense of loss. Mum, who had always been there, was there no longer. That sense of loss is slowly diminishing although it does occasionally well up, especially when I think back on our years and I want to talk to her about her early life or her family as we did when she was alive.

The death of a family member or a friend has always left me with a sense of wonder. It strikes me that this life is so fragile and can be so easily and sometimes so quickly extinguished.

What is even more striking to me is that the world does not stop when someone dies. Those of us who knew the one who died do pause, albeit momentarily, to attend a funeral or memorial service, but on the whole, people still carry on with their frivolous and capricious life affairs. With one breath we sympathise, even empathise, with the next we crack a joke or revel in how good the coffee is.

In short, we enjoy life in the face of death.

This raises the question: who will stop when I die? Who will mourn for me longer than a fleeting moment?

The answer is fairly obvious: probably my family and close friends. I will doubtless leave a Marcia or Mum or Nanna space in their hearts for longer than a moment, but then they will carry on enjoying their lives as they ought, as I did when my mum died and when Cameron died.

God, through David in Psalm 103:15-16, asserts that “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field, for the wind passes over it and it is gone and its place knows it no more.” This is the way we have been created: to be born, to live, to die, and to then be forgotten.

The real blessing is that this life is but for a moment in eternity. When we die in Christ, then the living really begins. The next verse shows that the Lord’s steadfast love “is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.” We are remembered by God, not in mourning, but with a deep and abiding affection.

Live on Cam.

truth & love & nits & warts & all

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.

liceWhat if there was a ten year old girl who had a very bad case of head lice and was ostracised by many in her community and her mother, because of a disability, was unable to help her to be rid of the lice.

What if one day this little girl went to church at the invitation of church member and the good church folk could see the head lice jumping on her head and the tiny white specks, the nits, close to her scalp.

What if the minister preached about acceptance asking if the good church folk would welcome into their midst a person with lots of tattoos, a person who was a drug addict or a person who was an alcoholic, any such person – warts and all – into their midst, and if all agreed that, yes, everyone was welcome to sit with them in church.

If this scenario happened in your church, what would you do?

Would you shun the young girl keeping a very safe distance and instruct others not to give her your address for fear that she would visit you and play with your children?

Or would you welcome the young girl and have her sit with you and your family in church and invite her into your home allowing your own children to play with the young girl placing your children in a position where they would get lice and nits in their hair?

Would you purchase head lice treatment, wash the young girl’s hair and consistently treat the lice over a period of three or four months then enjoy watching the young girl’s long dark hair become shiny and beautiful and clean and free of lice and nits?

Would you love the young girl and bring her under the instruction of the gospel teaching her the truth about Jesus Christ and his love for her even while she is a lice-ridden sinner and in need of his salvation?

And would you thank and praise God for lice?

The Hiding Place, written by Corrie ten Boom and John and Elizabeth Sherrill, is the story of Corrie and her sister, Betsie, when they suffered during the course of the holocaust in the Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II. The account relates how the barracks were so badly infested with lice that the guards would not enter. Consequently, the sisters were able to read the Bible and pray with others without fear of retribution. When the sisters understood the reason the guards dared not go into the barracks, they thanked God and praised him for the lice.

Praise God for Corrie and Betsie ten Boom who overcame their fear of lice for the sake of the gospel. And praise God for the person who overcame her fear of lice to become a wonderful witness to a young girl of the love of God in Christ Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life and the one who died that we might all be free of the nits and warts and all of our sin. (Jesus Christ—Matthew 25:40)

juxtaposition

Juxtaposition: placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.

Juxtaposition is a wonderful concept.

A notable juxtaposition moment for me is at the end of the film, The Last of the Mohicans. The music is a Celtic folk melody interwoven with the hauntingly beautiful theme. This is set against the violent action of the scene when the antagonist and his cohorts drag the heroine up the mountainside hotly pursued by the protagonists. By placing together the concepts of violence and beauty, the urgency of the chase and viciousness of the attacks that ensue are heightened. I have watched the movie only once, but that vivid scene remains with me.

juxtaposition3When my daughter and granddaughter, with the sun setting behind them, walked hand in hand over the crest of the hill juxtaposed with the telephone and light poles and wires, cars, buildings and rubbish bins, I could not help but note the contrasts. Mother and daughter, nature versus man, light and dark, mature/immature. It is precious to see the mother/daughter relationship in full bloom; a relationship in which the daughter feels safe and free to express her feelings and her thoughts and where, under the watchful eye of her mother, she can develop her personality and become the person God would have her be.The same can be said of the mother/son relationship. A similar image a couple of years earlier shows the same notion and contrast, that a mother can lead her son to become a whole person, who is unhindered in the expression of his ideas and one who recognises his wonderful heritage in the Lord.

My granddaughter and grandson will one day, God willing, be parents who will follow the legacy of their parents and lead their own children to appreciate the juxtapositions of life.

my place

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 16 to me are just the epitome of what God does for his people and who he is to his people. God is faithful to me: he chose me, he saved me and he sustains me. Even more than that, he has placed me in a wonderful place – “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”. The boundaries have been set for me. My place, my ‘citizenship’, is in heaven.

When I look at the world in which we live, there is nature: famines, floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis. Then there are people: wars, tyrant leaders, corrupt governments and organisations, whackos who call themselves Christian, Muslim, religious whatever, who blow up, shoot, kill, maim, rape, pillage … all in the name of their ‘god’, or themselves, which is really the same thing. Not what I call a pleasant place.

The place in which my God, the Yahweh of the Old Testament in the Bible, Jesus Christ of the New Testament, has placed me knows nothing of these things. He takes his people and places them in a position of safety and peace – not the ‘safety’ and ‘peace’ of this world, but that of the kingdom of God, the place of which Jesus spoke when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” It is not a place of violence and jostling to gain the upper hand and power over others. It is a place where I can rest in the knowledge that Christ is King of kings and I am his subject.

On a personal level, as a wife, mother and grandmother, a teacher, a business woman, an ex-sportsperson and all that goes with life in general, the mind and the body have suffered with age (not that I am that old) and the results of a misspent youth. The physical aches and pains, the mental and psychological woes, real or imagined, have all begun to head south.

But … I love this place where God has placed me. I am secure. He is with me. I know his peace and his sustenance. I know my position and identities in this world are of no consequence, but Christ is. I also know my faith and trust in God are weak at best, but like Abraham of old, my faith does not waver because it is dependent on him.

And the best thing about this place – my inheritance? Christ is there. He is what makes my inheritance a beautiful place. Matthew Henry said: “Heaven is an inheritance. God himself is the inheritance of the saints there, whose everlasting bliss is to enjoy him. We must take that for our inheritance, our home, our rest, our lasting, everlasting, good, and look upon this world to be no more ours than the country through which our road lies when we are on a journey.” What a blessing it is to be in my inheritance, in Christ, and to be able to enjoy him throughout the journey of my life.

I give honour to God in Jesus Christ for my place in his pleasant and beautiful world.