Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

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Short story time: He left me

January 20, 2011

In December 2010 I posted a series of short paragraphs on a common theme on my redbubble site. Here is the three-part piece in its entirety.

I. He Left Me To Die Here – 1 of 3

[Read the original post here.]

When I finally opened my eyes, it was into the searing white heat of a desert landscape. Sun-bleached stones and striated mesas came into focus. My limbs ached and the thirst was unbearable. Spiky tussocks of grass poked my bare, burnt skin. I became aware of my prone position, face down, skin scraping on harsh, rocky soil. I was cut in places, with dried blood caked to my arms.

He had brought me here. I was sure of it.

He left me cut and bleeding, and in a ditch?

I thought he was loving. I thought he cared about me. It was a strange kind of love that did this to a girl.

Did he not know that I was already mired in self pity, in old hurts, in a wounded spirit? Was that not enough for him?

To call me into this wild place, fraught with danger, injured and left to die; how could he do that to me?

The ghostly howl of the wind as it rushed between rocky passes and through the sharp-bladed grass was broken by a soft voice. “Here, drink this,” he said, holding a flask to my mouth.

It was him. Wrapped in coarse robes. Despite the dry heat, he wore heavy, dark clothing. His feet were bare, and he must have been tough skinned to walk on the rubble and thorns.

I drank, and drank, feeling the life slowly coursing back into my broken body.

He squatted next to me in the dust and dirt, and held out his hand. I glared at him, knowing that my naked, bruised, and wounded state would steal any authority or strength from my countenance. He waited. I refused to stir. An age seemed to pass as I tried to stare him into submission, knowing it was a fruitless task, knowing he could wait forever.

“I didn’t try to kill you,” he whispered, “but I brought you here so you could stay with me and heal.”

Lies. It had to be lies. He had told me he would protect me, stay by me, always love me. Then he had disappeared and left me to die here.

“I am here now,” he said. “And I was never far from you.”

A sharp jolt of pain ran through my body. I groaned and clasped his hand. His skin was cool, his touch kind. He lifted me to my feet and wrapped me in rough robes like his own. I hurt, but I could stand, still holding his hand.

He almost smiled, and his eyes were gentle. I wanted to hate him. What was this lonely desert? The heat, the pain, the blood. The scent of unseen flowers caught in the wind’s howling rush across the land.

“Come with me,” he said. He walked ahead of me, releasing my hand. Tears began to fall. I did not want him to let go, not again. I hated him and I loved him.

He walked onwards, and I struggled to catch up. I saw his feet dig into the rocky soil as he climbed over a rise. I followed in his footprints, dented in the white earth.

“Where are you going?” I cried. My voice was weak and lost in the natural noises of the wasteland. He glanced back toward me and smiled. I struggled after him.

II. He Let Me Hold His Hand – 2 of 3

[Read the original post here.]

It was hard travelling with him. He moved so quickly and easily in the soft, shifting sands and over rough, sharp grass and rocks. Sometimes he looked back and caught my eye. Something in his glance gave me courage.

He never answered my questions, merely walked ahead. Shimmering waves of heat distorted the horizon, which became flatter as we headed into the white desert.

I had so much to ask him. Why had he brought me here, to this desolate waste? Why had he let me nearly die before restoring me? How did he move so lightly, so swiftly? How could I ever trust him to lead me when he left me for so long? How I hated him, hated with a passion. I had loved him, that was the only reason I could despise him now.

Yet, he had come for me. Late, but not too late. I saw him now, climbing a small rise. He stopped and waited for me to catch up. I reached out to touch his hand. He stood still and let me entwine our fingers together. He smiled now, as he looked across a green plateau. The silvery thread of a river wound its course through the grassy expanse. The sky here was less harsh, a pale blue, rather than glaring white.

To touch him was like touching the source of life and light. It was overwhelming, and I wanted to let go, but wanted to hold on. I was entirely torn. Who was he? Why did he bring me here? Why not someone else? Though, it seemed, there was not another soul in this strange place.

He led me down the hillside toward the river, feeling the cool grass beneath my aching feet. The wounds on my arms had healed now, leaving fine traces of scars. Still, he let me hold his hand.

I did not know if he would answer me, but he was here. For now. I would have to rest in the closeness of his presence and hope that he would remain close.

III. He Said I Could Never Be Happy In This Place – 3 of 3

[Read the original post here.]

We sat by the silver stream, watching the clouds drift across the caerulean expanse of a kind sky. It was quiet, more peaceful here.

He lay down on the ground and motioned for me to do the same. Lying on the soft grass next to each other, I listened to him breathing. Wondered what he was thinking behind his thoughtful eyes. Wondered if I should ask him what was going through his mind. I did not though, for fear of being ignored. For fear that if he did finally answer me, I would not be able to bear the truth.

For now it was enough to be here, with him. To lie side by side and take in the sky, the distant speck of a hunting raptor high on the air currents, the sound of the gentle rushing river, the sound of his breathing.

“I did not leave you to die,” he whispered. “You ran from me. So I brought you out here. Only here would you see that you could trust me.”

His tone was serious. I struggled to understand. He had never made much sense to me.

He placed his hands on my face and looked in my eyes. It was confronting to face him at such close range. He was overwhelming. Terrifying. He certainly had my attention now, alone together, lost in some wilderness.

“I can’t force you to trust me,” he said gently, “but know this: you will never be truly happy in this place.”

He let me go, then, and I repositioned myself on the riverbank. I could not ignore the fact that, for now, I was happier than I could recall in any of my memories.

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© 2010

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Christmas Time Devotionals

November 23, 2010

Christmas Themed Devotional Readings: https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/tag/Christmas-2008/

In 2008 I wrote a series of 28 Christmas-themed devotionals, beginning with https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/christmas01/.

At the time, I wrote:

I thought I’d take some time out to share a few thoughts on Christmas in the month to come, as a sort-of non-denominational pre-Christmas Advent devotional and musings column. I hope that it brings you some light, inspiration and excitement as we remind ourselves of the true meaning of the festive occasion.

I believe it is still relevant and hope you will consider reading it as part of your spiritual journey during December.

The devotionals incorporate Bible scriptures and links to further readings on related topics of faith.

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Sometimes I feel a bit redundant

September 27, 2010

Yeah, what the heading said.

So, I’m in this weird state of mind where I look at what the people in my husband’s family do (career wise, spiritually, educationally, etcetera) and I wonder what on Earth I’m doing there. I don’t belong there. Everything that I have considered unique about me, or specific to my self identity, has already been taken up by other people there. Strange that it should bother me so much, but here we are!

I used to be an obsessive musician. Granted, I was never a virtuoso, but many people remarked on my innate gift for music. I was even the inaugural music captain at my high school (13 years ago, that was!). Then I moved to the suburbs, joined a brilliant mega-church, and discovered that good musicians are a dime-a-dozen. So, I gave up my music. Oh, I occasionally strum the guitar and I can help my kids with their own piano studies, but I feel like a part of me has died a very painful death in giving up music. Listening to the Karnivool album ‘Sound Awake’ this afternoon, I had to admit that putting my beloved 5-string bass guitar in its case and stuffing it away behind the chest-of-drawers in my bedroom was a terrible, terrible thing. I really should dust the poor neglected guitars off and play, even if just for my own sanity.

Perhaps I’m just in a low point in my life. I look at the high-flying, high-achieving 20-somethings around me and compare myself to them. I’m in my late 20s and what do I have to show for it? A still as-yet-incomplete uni course on the go, no job, no music. I struggle with the things I love, art and writing. I just have to keep reminding myself that other Australian women my age often aren’t married with children like I am, and it feels good thinking that my youngest will be finishing high school when I’m 40 years old!

In all the self-loathing and moaning and carrying on, I have neglected my Bible study. So, in order to combat this, today I spent an hour scouring a Bible study website to begin a word study on the “elements”: earth, wind, fire, and water. Talk about a massive topic! It should keep me occupied for some time.

Hopefully, as I pour myself into God and into the bigger picture, I will begin to regain my confidence and strength. I hope that one day I can create something beautiful and worthwhile.

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Captivating

September 14, 2010

Today I picked up an “old friend” of a book – John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating (2005). I simply can’t recommend it enough. It is one of the (sadly) very few Christian women’s books that I have read, and re-read, and been transformed by.

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Identity Semi-Crisis

February 18, 2010

*Facebook readers are invited to view the original post. Simply go to https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/identity-semi-crisis/.*

Maybe it’s just the cold and flu medicine speaking, but I am having one of those weird pondering and musing weeks. Well, I guess it’s not that weird and unusual for me. It’s something akin to an identity crisis, I suppose.

Here’s my life in a series of confusing something-or-others. Paradoxes?

Warning: gross generalisations to follow. And I’m not attacking any one individual or person. Actually, I’m not attacking anyone, full stop. Please read it in the semi-amused observational curious questioning tone in which I have pondered it!

  • I’m in my late 20s, married with two school aged children. Few other late-20 something woman I know in my friendship circles have children as old as mine. In fact, few of them are in relationships, and those that are don’t necessarily have children. Those that do have children have newborns. The fellow mums of my children’s classmates seem to average in their mid-30s to mid-40s. I am not trying to be ageist, so please don’t take it that way. It just occurs to me that I don’t really fit in anywhere in my peer circles. As far as school mums go, I’m the little kid Gen Y who likes abrasive rock music and comical t-shirts and jeans and knows how to use computers. As far as my fellow 20-somethings go, I’m the socially malfunctioning old housewife who can’t afford an iPhone and who can’t go out on most nights because my kids go to bed early and my husband works late. (Being a mum is tiring work!)
  • As far as the 20-something mums go, most of them don’t appear interested in what I have to offer them as a fellow mother who is slightly ahead of them on the journey of parenthood. They seem to have a preference for asking their single, unmarried, non-parent peer friends for input than a mum with school aged kids who’s been-there, done that. Perhaps parenting styles and methods have changed a lot in the last eight years. Let’s face it, my hippy-esque preference for carrying the baby, raising the kids vegetarian, feeding babies on demand, and breastfeeding for almost two years doesn’t mesh well with the controlled feeding, timed, early introduction of solids, everything by-the-clock inflexible routines promoted in inexplicably popular parenting books.
  • I’m a country town girl living (rather miserably) in the suburbs.
  • I’m an ex-Catholic, ex-New Age, born again Spirit filled follower of Jesus. To the Catholics in my life, I probably come across as a bit over-enthusiastic about the whole Jesus thing. To the New Ager friends, well, they’re pretty open minded but understandably skeptical about Jesus followers. To the born againers, I’m potentially dangerous. (Insert LOL here.)
  • I find I feel closest to God when I am out in the peace and solitude of rural and bushland Australia, where I can listen to the birds, feel the wind in the trees, smell flowers, touch the earth, watch the clouds rolling across the sky. Somehow I have ended up in a non-denominational Pentecostal mega-church of several thousand believers. For many of them, they feel closest to God in the community of believers. The loud, musically oriented community of believers! (It is a brilliant Christian community and I love it.)
  • I am an outdoorsy person who has myriad allergies to plant pollens, animals and pollution. Sigh!
  • I am a quiet person who gets a kick out of public speaking.
  • I’m the token born-again Christian in an extended family of Catholics,  lapsed Catholics, New Agers and Atheists.
  • I am an artsy, writing-loving person who doesn’t seem to have heaps of talent in either area.
  • I want to be cool but I’m a nerd.
  • I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian who grew up in beef and dairy-farming country.
  • I detest blind ritualism but I choose to celebrate the old Catholic feasts on which I was raised: Easter, Advent, Christmas, and Lent.
  • I’m pretty sure God has been speaking to me about my need to spend this year in a recovery and restoration mode: taking time out to pray, to study the Bible, to not exhaust myself in church activities, to focus on my children and my university studies. So it sometimes confuses me when other Christian women suggest that I am not involved enough in church and Christian activities. Is not following God’s word to me for this season greater than going along with the crowd?

All this has left me feeling like I really don’t fit in anywhere. I’m not trying to complain. This isn’t a whinge fest. It just makes me wonder what I’m meant to be when I don’t really fit in with what the people around me are doing! I guess I’ve never particularly liked being the same as everyone else, anyway. Life is more interesting when it’s diverse.

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Following Jesus – 5 – Dehydrated Broccoli

October 12, 2009

Genesis 2:16 “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…” NIV

Genesis 9:3-4 “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything… But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” NIV

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” NIV

Food… ah food. What an incredibly divisive thing it can sometimes become. No doubt there will be a touch of hmm… irony? Probably not the correct term… but I write as a long-term vegetarian, so if I complain about people making a big deal out of food, it may well seem hypocritical. Sorry if it comes across that way, because that’s not my intention!

Here’s a quote from a book I read recently when researching for a university assignment: “The world now features more overweight than underweight people… This absurd situation is led by the US, where over half its citizens are clinically overweight. It possesses more people on diets than ever before, yet ever-more overweight people, too. Obesity-related illnesses and deaths, often brought on in major measure by gorging on oversized fast foods and drinks, are a major drag on the nation’s economy. In certain countries, fatty foods could eventually cause as many additional premature deaths as from AIDS. The UK has proposed a “fat tax” targeting obesity-related foods such as burgers.”

(From: Myers, N. and Kent, J. (2005). The New Gaia Atlas of Planet Management. London: Gaia. P. 67.)

That was published in 2005; the last I heard it was we Australians who top the list for fattest nation on the planet. Not a proud title, to be sure. I can’t find a straightforward statistic on that, unfortunately.

So, here we are: fat, diseased, obsessing over diets. What does this have to do with being a Christian, you may well ask? As the above Scriptures say, God is the ultimate creator and source of food. The Bible shows that, in the beginning, humans were given “green plants” to eat. As history progressed, and God interacted and intervened with His creation, food was often a part of His instructions – animals as food, but without consuming blood in Genesis 9; Leviticus detailing a lot of rules regarding food; and the New Testament exhorting us to not worry about what we eat, because it’s not the main part of life. God does not ask us to separate the physical and spiritual realms (which is, I believe, an aspect of Gnosticism). He created our bodies, with all their fascinating functions and purposes.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” NIV

However, it is certainly a significant issue. What made me think of it was when I caught a clip on a tv show recently, where the presenters were hailing the ‘newly discovered’ health benefits of broccoli. Then the presenters debated – and I hope it was a joke, but it probably wasn’t – how to get children to eat this magical new form of cancer-preventing, life changing broccoli. The solution was to dehydrate, powder and turn into tablet form a kind of broccoli that children will actually eat. Like I say, I hope it was a sad joke – but the way people around me talk, in their day to day lives about food – one would think that vegetables can only be consumed in tablet form.

Now, perhaps my family is a bit odd. We are vegetarians, after all. But my young children eat broccoli without a fuss. They also eat myriad other vegetables and fruits. We certainly don’t need to give them vegetables in tablet form. They eat all sorts of things – last night (as I write) it was fresh olives, avocado, mixed vegetable patties, and a slice of wholegrain bread. No powdered vegetable tablets. No ice cream or milkshakes or other junk. Just a mixed platter of mostly fresh foods.

Sometimes I wonder if our attitudes to food reflect the way we view the rest of our life. I am sympathetic to the philosophy that food is becoming bland and homogenised and too sped up. Where is the time to enjoy the variety, the flavours, the time spent with family and friends over a good meal?

Instead, we seem to be looking for a quick fix, an easy way out. Stuff down that fatty hamburger and soft drink and appease the guilt with a powdered broccoli pill. We look for cures for terrible diseases that may well be prevented through lifestyle changes. We consume more than we need while millions are dying from starvation throughout the planet. It’s not a surprise that “gluttony” is considered one of the seven deadly sins. It encompasses the concept of complete lack of self-control combined with a withholding of possessions from the needy.

Now, I offer no simple solutions to this. I am not a nutritionist nor a social scientist (not yet!). But I do offer a couple of ideas based on what seems to be working for my family:

a vegetarian or (in the case of some family members) mostly vegetarian lifestyle

eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables

eating plenty of grains – not just wheat, but rice, polenta, rye and many more

including legumes / beans in our daily food intake

sitting down together at the dining table for all meals

trying to allow the time to prepare meals

being aware of seasonal produce

buying local, where possible

not telling our children that we don’t expect them to like broccoli!

ensuring we have a deliberate source of  B12

not leaping on fad diets that promise ‘instant’ weight loss

walking or exercising regularly

switching off the tv

menu planning in advance – and trying something new

incorporating many different styles of cooking – we aren’t interested in tofu substitutes for meals normally consumed by white, middle class Australians, we are looking to try often natural vegetarian meals derived from a variety of cultures.

These aren’t just health options; they are also, we hope, beneficial for the environment – which encompasses the dimension of seeking to help our fellow humans by not destroying the world just to get a fast food hamburger. It also inspires compassion towards God’s creatures. Hmm. That’ll do for now. I’m hungry…

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Following Jesus – 2 – Rules

September 21, 2009

It was an eye-opener to be introduced to the concept that Jesus was not after outwards religious expressions. In fact, I remember feeling outraged that my good deeds were not enough. The thought that God was not after me to be good so much as He was after a relationship – I had never heard such a thing before. In fact, it was so shocking and counter-intuitive, that I remember asking – what human-made religion would ever propose such a concept. A God that is Love Incarnate? Not a lustful, ‘romantic’ love, but a Love that gives itself up as a sacrifice… A Love who would choose to die in the possibility that the Beloved might then turn to Him. It was all a bit beyond me. I had spent so long convinced that Christianity was, ultimately, about being a ‘good’ person. Be nice to other people, don’t be so selfish, help the needy, be a useful member of society – all that sort of stuff. But these things, noble as they are, don’t necessarily require God’s power to work. Plenty of non-religious people are good, useful members of society who work hard, love their families, help the needy and try to do what is right.

Following Jesus is something beyond that. It requires an inward transformation. I see this as happening when I partner with the Holy Spirit, in (hopefully!) obedience to His commands, yes, but also in listening to Him, allowing Him to speak into my life, in not being so hung up on rules and regulations – in being creative and flexible enough to hear what God is saying. Because the problem with rules is that they inspire rebellion, are often really hard to follow, and often miss the point.

It’s like Christian communities that impose dress codes on their members. Yes, the Bible says to dress modestly, but in getting into the rule – dress accordingly – we forget the ‘why.’ It’s not so that we all look like bored, tired, uptight middle class suburbanites – I’m guessing that at least part of it is so that we don’t drag fellow believers down by making them think lustful thoughts! (Matthew 5:28; 1 Timothy 2:9.)

However, relationship with God – that’s something else. The natural expression of knowing and loving God is in desiring to obey Him. That is when obedience to God’s commands becomes an expression of freedom and joy, rather than a burden of rules and regulations.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I suspect that it’s not too difficult to spot the difference between the believer who acts out of joy and genuine inner transformation compared to the believer who is still stuck in the rules and regulations mentality: the former will probably look a whole lot happier than the latter. Just check for the furrowed brow!

Following Jesus

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