Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lent

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. Does that mean a lot to you? It never really has to me, but this year I'm going to try and change that.

The season of Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, not including Sundays, and it's meant as a time of prayer and penitence, in preparation for the celebration of Easter. While I've never been involved in any fanfare over it, some churches follow rigid schedules of fasting and worship in order to strip themselves bare before God and concentrate more fully on his incredible mercy. As far as I can see, it isn't supposed to be a happy and joyous time, but a time of remembering the loneliness, anguish and pain that Jesus suffered, in his life as well as in his death.

My previous Lent experiences have been nothing like that. A few times I've made pancakes for breakfast on Shrove Tuesday, mainly because I like eating pancakes, and one year I think I tried to give up chocolate. That was highly unsuccessful, but I did feel quite virtuous for a few days at least. And that's where I was seriously missing the point. Lent is intended to be a time of humbling ourselves before God, of reflecting on the enormity of Christ's sacrifice and our own overwhelming sinfulness.

So this year, I've decided to make something of Lent. I'm going to dwell upon Jesus' life by reading all 4 gospels between now & Easter (go here for a plan I found to do it). I'm going to cut out television and use the extra time to be brutally honest with God in prayer. And most importantly, I'm going to remember why I'm doing it: because Jesus made a sacrifice that I can't even begin to comprehend just so that I, a hopeless sinner, could be made right in the eyes of God. And that's worth remembering, any time of year.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Forgiveness

Lately I've been thinking a little about forgiveness. Namely, how incredibly bad I am at it.

Last year I had a falling-out with a friend when they treated me pretty poorly. Ok, very poorly. They later apologised, though, and seemed quite geniune in their apology. I was quite hurt and didn't feel at all like forgiving them, so I turned to that handy list in the back of some Bibles: "What to read when... you've been mistreated."

I found it staggering the number of very clear and compelling passages urging Christians to forgive. The general message from my Creator was 'I've forgiven you more than you could ever forgive any person. Forgive your friend. I'm not asking.' (The parable of the unforgiving servant in Luke particularly hammered home this message).

Having realised that God's grace compelled me to forgive my friend, I set about the task. It's been almost a year, and I think I'm almost there. I've almost completely forgiven them. It seems like a pretty poor effort when I consider the number of times I've prayed to my Father, with 'my tail between my legs'. Begging forgiveness after repeatedly disobeying or ignoring Him.

Am I alone in these feelings? Or is this a common struggle I share with my Christian mates?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CCLI Top 25

CCLI (christian copyright licencing international) is the body to which churches all around Australia (and the world) report the song they use each year. Every 6 months CCLI compiles a list of the 25 most used songs. I thought that every now and again we'd take a look at this list. (Don't go and look it up for yourself, or you'll spoil all of the fun!)

Let's start with a quck survey.

1. Which of the following songs is not in the top 25 (August 2005)?
  • As the deer
  • Brother let me be your servant
  • Majesty
  • Shine Jesus Shine
2. Which of these songs ranks highest (August 2005)?
  • Jesus, what a beautiful name
  • Lord I lift your name on high
  • There is a redeemer
  • How deep the father's love for us

3. What song would you really like to see in the top 25 (Feb 2006)?

  • It's no longer I that livith
  • Angels brought me here
  • Now unto him
  • Voodoo child

Monday, February 20, 2006

A good, clear, cantus firmus

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is my favourite person to read at the moment. I find that his work stimulates my head and my heart. The passage quoted below is from a letter in which Bonhoeffer helps his friend Eberhard Bethage deal with the tension between his love for God (and the contentment he thought he should feel about death) and his desperate desire to live and be with his wife and child. [Bethage was a German soldier in WW2.] I'm sorry about the musical jargon - if you can understand it, it makes a beautiful picture!

"...God wants us to love him eternally with our whole hearts -- not in such a way as to injure or weaken earthly life, but to provide a kind of cantus firmus to which the other melodies of life provide the counterpoint. One of these contrapuntal themes .. is earthly affection... Where the cantus firmus is clear and plain, the counterpoint can be developed to its limits... Do you see what I'm driving at? I wanted to tell you to have a good clear cantus firmus; that is the only way to a full and perfect sound, when the counterpoint has a firm support and can't come adrift or get out of tune, while remaining a distinct whole in its own right. Only a polyphony of this kind can give life a wholeness and at the same time assure us that nothing calamitous can happen as long as the cantus firmus is kept going."

Love for God is not something that consumes the other facets of our lives. Rather it provides the loom upon which all the different threads of our lives can be woven together - work, family, romance, gym workouts - and enjoyed to their potential. What a wonderful Lord we serve!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

First Post

Hello. I've been looking at various blogs to find out what to write in a first post. It seems that it is generally considered ok to begin a blog in the following ways:
  • by apologising for the failure of previous blog attempts
  • by explaining the intriguing story behind the name of the blog
  • by writing out the lyrics to every Backstreet Boys song ever recorded...

I don't think I'll do any of these.

But did you know that over 90% of blogs currently on the web have been started in the last two months? And can you believe that most of these seem to have been abandoned after only one or two posts? How much staying power will bellevue tce have? I've no idea.