Waiting, Walking, Working Revisited

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Hmmm. My last post was not my most articulate ever. That is okay. There is a lot of newness here. New places, faces and ideas. Hear this though; I love new things (at home I was dubbed the ‘Novelty Queen’ by my mum). They are interesting and engaging, stretching you in all sorts of ways and presenting lots of possibilities. However, there does come a point when the layers of newness begin to accumulate, weighing me down, wearing the edges. Finding new places to buy toilet paper, ‘happy’ meat and gluten flour, joining new banks, phone companies and theological colleges will do that.

We began this week, having spent last week ‘orienting’ ourselves well. Greek, Hebrew, New Testament and Christian Thought and Culture (when I know, I’ll tell you!). More new. More ideas. More Bible. More creative, justice-seeking ways to live it out. More people to share it with. All while the creation-care-come-environmental echoes of the Boat course grow steadily stronger in my mind and the Syrian tragedy bewilders my breaking heart. The accumulated cacophony means I am wondering again about working. And walking. And waiting.

This is a season of ‘knowing’ for me, there is a marked change of landscape to attend to, but, regardless, but there are still lots of books here. Where the focus once was honeybees and sustainability, waste and want, celebration and cake, now N. T. Wright and other New Testament Scholars join me in (trying) to speak Greek at the table. The boat course taught me that knowledge is important. Without genuine knowledge, we live in the dark, unenlightened, wisdom eluding us. Without knowledge, there can be no love or care. But on the other hand we have the 1 Corinthians 8:1 reminder that knowledge for knowledge’s sake ‘puffs up’, it is love that builds up. I want to be with the first group. I want to know more so I can love more. Knowledge of another (or even just other), can humble, can bring godly wisdom. This vision seems important to grasp now.

I have always been an ‘applied’ kind of girl, loving working with my hands, loving ‘doing’ things. As a Technology teacher, I worked in the TAS department, the Technology and Applied Sciences department. Someone said at orientation this week that all Theology is Applied Theology – I love that, but I know that I am going to have to, Jacob-style, wrestle with it before I can settle down, at peace with it (for now, for this season). On one hand I am delighted that God wants my ‘knowing’ to be applied, that He is interested in my everyday-walking-around-life. I love ‘stuff’ (especially food, fibre, fabric, flower type ’stuff’), I love ‘doing’ and making things. I am so glad He is keen on His physical world and for me to live physically in it with all the rest of actual-physical creation. I am so glad He is interested in my walking and my working. But the question rings out again; ‘how shall we now then live?’. The process of wrestling (maybe I should add it to my other three ‘w’ words!), of ‘working out our salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12) so that we know the ‘good work He has planned for us to walk in’ (Ephesians 2:10) seems to torment me at times! But perhaps the clue is in the fact that I jumped books in that sentence. The end of Philippians 2:12 does not have us working, Ephesian style. It actually has God working; ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Paul says] … for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure’. Waiting on Him, being still, knowing and (far more importantly) being known by Him comes to the forefront again. He’s going to work in me, in you, for His good pleasure.

Do I work? Does God? Yes and yes. The tension will remain. Everyday I will get up in this eco-physical-spiritual world and I will try and apply my theology. I will try and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8), rather than running ahead, full of anxious energy. I will try and wait, to live in the season that is happening, aware of my dependence on Him (and the rest of His good, but, in places, very tired creation) held daily before my eyes, thankful not resentful. I will try to do the rather-clear-and-non-negotiable good works He sets before me (instead of getting stressed about which ones are mine to do specially). I will try to love, ‘because He first loved me’ (1 John 4:10), sending His Son to save and show me. I will try and care for the ‘orphans and the widows’ (James 1:27). I will try to a live a quiet [but not a small] life, and ‘work with my hands’ (1 Thessalonians 4:11). I’ll study, I’ll do food shopping. I’ll make dinner and share it. Some days I will reach out and others, bunker down, trying to learn apt stillness. Maybe I’ll even make something beautiful every now and then, a bit like Him. Mostly I want to learn to do it with joy and gratitude* because its gift, and offered back to the Giver, it seems right worship. More about Him, less about me. I am a slow learner. Maybe that is why I am still studying.

The garden continues to grow. He tends the tiny seedlings, patiently watering and pruning as needs arise. Progress is slow but steady.

* (not fear, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18), and there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1))

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Waiting, Walking, Working

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There is a logic to Psalm 33 that I enjoyed reflecting on a few months ago and sharing with my mum. She said some lovely encouraging things and, perhaps my head got big, but I thought I would share a little of what I was thinking then and what I am thinking now. Somehow sharing something often makes me try and articulate it better for myself anyway. So that’s my excuse. The psalmist begins, insistent that we should sing to the Lord because His word is right and true, and because He is a powerful creator. Because His word is right and true and He is a powerful creator, we are right to fear and revere Him. Because He is a powerful creator He has control over the nations, and over history. Because He has control over history, the nation whose God is the Lord is blessed. If we are blessed to have the ever-loving, ever faithful God of justice and righteousness as our God, then it is right that we wait for Him. As we wait, we are called to sing joyfully to the Lord, and as we sing, we both seek and receive His unfailing love.

It seems so sensible doesn’t it?! But sometimes we don’t feel it. Sometimes I don’t feel it. These deep truths about who God is and just how good it is to be counted among His people are transformative, if, and only if, we still ourselves and give them a chance to soak down into the soil of our lives, to whet us on the inside. Asher and I are waiting at the moment. Waiting for work, waiting for the garden to grow, waiting to start study, waiting to settle. Waiting is not always particularly comfortable. I have never been very good at sitting still, but elsewhere in the Psalms comes the call to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exulted among the nations, I will be exulted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

I am beginning to think that perhaps, “Be still …” might just be the flavour of my month, or year. Or perhaps even life! Asher and I just did a summer school course at Regent Bible College called Technology, Wilderness and Creation. It is an immersion course that involves living with your fellow students and lecturers, with whom you go on a rowing and camping expedition, all the while exploring the issues of Christians and Creation. We asked questions like, what does it mean for us to be God’s image bearers looking after and caring for His creation? What does it mean for us to have a good relationship with creation, even ‘wilderness’ areas? Does God meet us in the wilderness (like He did Hagar)? Is creation care important to Him and our Christian calling? How are we as a human race going with that? Does creation care offer a regenerative connection to the land? How can technology be used in a way that encourages human flourishing and does not diminish it? As we talked, the idea of knowing came up regularly. There seemed to be a sense that knowing who God is rightly (His creative power, His wide ranging and intimate knowledge of all of His creation (see Job 38-42 as an example!) is key to knowing who we are and what we were made to do. Psalm 8 begins to catch the sweep of it: He’s big and majestic and cosmically able – we are far smaller but called to greatness under Him. Called to care for His creation. In his book For the Beauty of the Earth, Steven Boumer-Prediger says that to care about something, you have to love it, to love it, you have to know it and to know it you must first experience it. Paying attention to God’s creation, from the minnows, to the minerals, to the mountains, helps us to know it, love it and to care for it.

Back when I first read the Psalm and started thinking about it I was struck by the way that our ‘waiting’ on the Lord somehow needed also to encompass the ideas of working and walking. Ultimately we are waiting (with creation, none the less) “for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For the day when “all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of His death, His blood that poured down from the cross” (Colossians 1:20 MSG). But as we wait we are called to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV) in His ways (held mercifully by His grace), working for Him (Ephesians 2:10) (in our small ways towards His final and complete redemption).

Sometimes the waiting overwhelms us, I find myself railing against the stillness I am called to,  just wanting to do something. Sometimes the work overwhelms us, we look at the world and its needs and feel so infinitesimally small that to do anything seems to be as doing nothing.
Sometimes the walking overwhelms us, the path is unclear, our feet are heavy and God’s hand seems to be slipping from ours (in my case, this is probably because I am pulling away, getting frustrated with His leading!).

It can be agony waiting on the Lord, but at the same time the Boat course was a reminder that the work that needs doing in our world is so huge, so all encompassing, that we long to cry out “Come Lord Jesus, come” (Revelation 22:20). However, that in a sense is the only right thing to do because, ultimately, it is He who has done and will do the work. He alone is powerful and capable, able to untangle wrong, bring Life, breathe Spirit with His words. We can only ever make baby steps in the right direction, lead by Him. We are like Isaiah, after experiencing Who God is, presents himself to God saying ’send me!’ … but we’ve got to get the order right; Isaiah knew who God was and who he was, and after his ‘unclean lips’ had been atoned for, could ‘go’ for God.

When, by His goodness and enabling, we begin to try and balance the waiting, working and walking, holding lightly to our own strength and ideas and leaning more heavily on His shoulder, that is perhaps the beginning of what life should be. We can and must do each because of Who He is. Each, in a sense is too much for us, bringing us to the edge of ourselves and our capacity, showing us again who He is, that He is beyond us and before us. We must do each and yet we can’t do them well enough to save ourselves or the world.

Thank God that He steps in where we aren’t able. Every time.

Do you have the wisdom to count the clouds (Job 38:37)? He does. So we will sing.

How does your garden grow?

Asher is constantly amazed and delighted by the produce he has been able to harvest from our little garden this year. Requests for herbs, spinach and other greens, onions, carrots and potato to use in the kitchen are met with a grin, which only gets bigger as he returns with his green bounty. We have enjoyed baked potatoes, herby salads, spinach, kale, beetroot (and beetroot greens), carrots and spring onions in our dinners and salads … and have been able to give away samples to friends and family. I took a few photos before we headed south for our holiday break so we could record how it has developed through the spring.

With sunshine, rain, lots of watering and God’s blessing, this is a peak into how our garden grows!

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Digging for buried treasure – in our case, potatoes!

Going ‘home’ – reprise

Today is my Dad’s birthday. I’m sending love and ‘happy birthday’ wishes from afar. We are here, with friends for brunch and a weekend to revel in, and they are there, doing a birthday together. I hope that my recommendation of gelato at Chatswood gets a look in! The photos below are a reminder that I was present there (not here), just a week ago. Two ‘homes’, a number that I am sure will only grow with time, two places to celebrate, to enjoy.

Thanks for having us, Mum and Dad and we hope today is beautiful over there and worth celebrating for lots of reasons! Hope you enjoy this ode to a wintery garden.

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Greener still (or the continuation of Growing Things)

It is time for a celebration of green things! The holidays have been kind to our little vegetable patch and we wanted to share some of the lovely living things that are growing in our garden. Many of the green leaves are at the stage where I will need to start planning recipes to use them up! We did cook some of the beetroot stalks this week – with capers, olive oil, lemon juice and a little pepper (as per this suggestion) – they were very tasty!

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“O the green things growing, the green things growing, the faint sweet smell of the green things growing! I should like to live, whether I smile or grieve, just to watch the happy life of my green things growing”

Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

Growing Things

This is our vegetable garden. I married a gardener. Not that I knew it then, but finding out this year has been a happy turn of events for everyone involved, especially my dad, who has always been happy in the garden. He came and gave some expert advice … and it is looking pretty green out there! It has brought much joy, this shortening of the distance between us and the earth. It seems right that we, its stewards, should get our fingers dirty, just like our creator did in making us. Asher is really enjoying this aspect of imaging his creator, and the green tomato chutney in our fridge is evidence of the fact that the land does bring forth food in season!

“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up (except those old palms and the big weed in the corner), for … there was no one to work thre ground …” Genesis 2:5)

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“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” Genesis 2:15

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Bringing order out of chaos …

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Some of the herbs and tomates had a head start … the seedlings and seeds were new the weekend Dad visited.

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And a few weeks later … now we are getting somewhere!

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“These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” Psalm 104: 27-28