I love writing this blog but it’s beginning to feel a bit one sided. Occasional comments are great, and I do get quite a few emails, but for the most part it’s just me yammering on. But I suppose that’s how it’s meant to be? Yesterday we had readers from the UK, the US and China, and that seems quite exciting to this little brain, whirling away in West Wales. I start to wonder who you are, where you’re reading this, what you’re making of it.
I have done a fair bit of public speaking (usually about drama/writing) and that’s rewarding, especially the Q&A sessions after any talk, and the chat amongst the tea-cups/wine glasses. But addressing real live people in the flesh can also be a little daunting; when you catch the eye of some stoney faced individual slap-bang in the centre of the audience, an implacable face that never breaks into even the ghost of a smile, or when you become aware of a general uneasiness and shifting of feet, a few unnecessary coughs, all the unmistakeable signs of boredom, or when you’re in the middle of a ‘set piece’ and a hand goes up to ask a random question in no way relating to the topic. And once, just once, when a man was helped out with a suspected heart attack.
That’s something I don’t have to worry about blog-wise. You could all be having cardiac events and cerebral accidents every five minutes and I’d be none the wiser. Or you could be sitting there, stoney faced and unamused. So, a blog seems to be the coward’s version of public speaking, without the tea and biscuits and all the bother of travelling.
I have recently been asking myself quite a few questions about this blog: why am I writing it? Who is it intended for? How do I want it to develop? And then again, why am I writing it? And again, why am I writing it?
Is it because I like the sound of my own voice? Because I think I have the right to bend your ear? Because what I have to say is wise and right and valuable? (That’s a definite ‘no’, by the way) Is it because I’m bored and need to write something, anything? Or is it because I need to reach out and feel that, although I live alone and work alone, I can still connect with people? Or do my thoughts excite me and demand to be spoken? Is it a compulsion? Yes, maybe that’s it. My internal world excites me and I need to share it, I need to know if I’m the only one to think this thought, or to feel this emotion…. I want to ignite your thoughts and in turn to be set ablaze by you.
And I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, I think best (or maybe only) when I write. It stretches the muscles of me-ness. I remember who I was and the life I had and the confidence I had before I came to West Wales and was lost in the greyness of this early autumn day. Writing is the last little bit of recognisable me.
I am, loud and clear and unapologetically, a follower of Christ. But the effect of becoming His disciple is complicated and multi layered. On the one hand, I’m filled with joy and assurance. On the other I am humbled as never before, aware of my own weakness and God’s great strength. I attend a church where there’s very strong teaching that God transforms lives and I do believe that, indeed it’s been my experience, but you know it’s not all beer and skittles being a disciple. Life now can truly, truly, leave me feeling like rubbish. Washed up, irrelevant, unwise, failing rubbish. And then, in juxtaposition, intellectually I know I am wanted, loved and accepted however alone I feel. Strangely conflicting messages.
I have been given several books about Christianity. Not, you may notice, about Christ, but about the ‘ianity’ bit of the word. I usually start off really liking them, because they set my mind on a new path, but by, say, page 40, I’m bored and annoyed, and just desperate to get back to the Bible. In the past I’ve been called ‘perverse’ more than once and ‘contrary’ which means the same but with a bit more huffing and puffing involved. Is that why I don’t finish these books or fully appreciate them? How come then, I can read a commentary on the Bible and have no argument with it at all? How come I can listen three or four times to the same sermon and submit to the teaching and take something new away every time?
You know where I’m going with this? Is there too much bumph in the world? Too many books? Too many writers? And am I one of them? Are we all clamouring for the attention we don’t get otherwise, shouting “Me! Me! Me!” with every chapter, devotional or blog?
I help to produce a church magazine. I write this blog. No one has asked me to do either thing. In themselves they seem to achieve nothing. Is this self-indulgence, big headed cleverness, or is there a point to it all? If there is a point to it all, will someone please tell me what it is? I know what the point is supposed to be “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. but is that what this blog achieves?
Nope, ya dope. It’s just, as I said at the very beginning, me yammering on. So, here (at last!) is a thought that’s worth writing down: this morning, on the beach, I met a man who is fascinated by the realisation that because He is all knowing, God knew each one of us intimately and fully (fully!) at the very creation of the world. This thought blows my friend’s socks off. As we walked away from each other, I remembered the instances where Jesus, here on Earth as a man, had divine knowledge of the people He met – He knew the Samaritan woman’s marital history, He knew that Nathanael had been sitting under the fig tree, He knew that Judas would betray Him, that Lazarus would be raised from the dead to glorify God, He knew the thoughts of the people He spoke to, and the condition of their hearts. And above all, at some time during His ministry He knew the death that awaited Him and why it was necessary, and He walked on towards it.
I don’t think He could have known this when He was a child, could He? We know that Jesus was fully human, and no child could absorb this knowledge and be undamaged by it. What child could cope with that dreadful knowledge, the inevitability of God’s plan? At some time, maybe during His ministry, after His 40 days in the desert, or maybe during those days of fasting and prayer, Jesus came to know the enormity of who He was, is, and of the torment ahead. Thinking about this, there on the beach, I turned on the audio bible app and listened to Matthew Chapter 20
‘ On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’
You would think that was a pretty clear warning about the horrors ahead, wouldn’t you? In that culture everyone was only too familiar with the cruelty of crucifixion… you’d think that might give them all pause for thought, but NO! Like us, the disciples were a bit stuck on reward and ego…. and so a woman came bustling forward, full of hopes and plans and ambition….
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’
‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’
Jesus had said over and over again, that He would be crucified, mocked, rejected, that the only sign that would be given was the sign of Jonah, He had warned them and would warn them again… but the knowledge was too much for them. They heard only the bits they wanted to hear. The comfortable bits.
I think that’s why I am not in love with devotional books. I am afraid that the writers have heard only the bits they want to hear and that when I read them I will hear only the bits that I want to hear, and so we water down and water down and water down the word of God.
I have friends who are real devotees of preachers and gospel-celebs…. but I don’t know these preachers, these millionaire evangelists….. how can I listen to them with the same enquiring and receptive mind with which I listen to the sermons of my Pastor, whose life I know to be prayerful, whose integrity I value? How can I listen to some hyped up stage orator with the same submission and joy with which I read the Word of God?
So why am I writing this blog? I think I’ve worked it out as I write;. I want to point the way to the Bible, and to Christ. I want to say loud and clear ‘Hey! The Bible – it’s a fab read. It’s deep and exciting and insightful and revealing and amazing and vital and you can’t afford to read this blog if you’re not also reading the Word of God.’
Don’t accept any imitations. Don’t be content with something vaguely interesting when you could have something sacred, other, completely life changing.
What is this blog? A fifth rate imitation of the real thing (at best).
The Bible. It’s amazing. Wherever you start it…. whatever page you light upon. Living word of living hope.