Sunday, August 05, 2007

Preliminary reflections on the Psalms.

Everytime I sit down at my blog I feel a twinge to write something about my view of the psalms... frustratingly however I still feel hugely unprepared to do so. The emotional spectrum paletted throughout the grace+spirit-meeting-humanity+dependency sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touches of the psalter is universally unique. So unique in fact that it not only gives us an inspired song book, but also a reflection on how we are to live and breathe our very lives in full open-handed worship. The psalter is where we learn the majesty of lament, the legitimacy of the metaphor, the power of Spirit-warfare, the soul-longing for justice, the presence of God in His songs, and the place and power of full,powerful,artistic expression in Worship. The psalms are a river of doctrine flowing as doctrine should out of and through and towards a heart of praise. Sing the psalms, chant them, breathe them out, memorise them, read them again and again, love them, pray them, need them, search through them, ... reflect them.
These are obvious random expressions of my thoughts...but the papers met the pen now, I've committed myself, so watch this space.


Teenagers on the edge of the Kingdom

'Can I buy a fag off yer?'

I shrug, and exhale slowly with my mouth closed, as if I wanted nothing better than to sell this young man a cigarette.

'Sorry mate I don't smoke.'

He turns away, I walk on around the corner and past the familiar old house which I recently discovered was where my mother grew up. Coming back around the house I see another 13 or 14 year old boy, on a bike, a Liverpool shirt on sporting 'Gerard' on his back. He spares me a glance and turns away.

'Vicky!' He shouts, a booming, possibly taunting, whisper affect in his voice. Then he disappears into the adjacent alley. I continue, now walking back towards the park I just came from. The boys are still there, possibly approaching me.

'Thought you didn't smoke,' mocked one as the others grinned.

'Just saw you with a fag' another joined, although he was cut off mid sentence from the lad that approached me before I rounded the corner just before,

'Where'd you get that lighter'?

I grinned what I thought was a charitable grin, then continued on my way into the park as the lads continued on their way. I of course don't smoke, they didn't see me smoking, and I wasn't carrying a lighter.

Going further a teenage girl is trying to squeeze through the children's playpark boundary bars but getting stuck in the process. A similar aged lad, possibly older, in a spurt of misplaced or distorted chivalry jumps over them just next to her. A third girl walks away from behind them. There's a makeshift rope swing hanging from a tree on my path just past the young 'gymnasts,' I push it and listen to it swing on the tree as I pass by. I continue, out of the back exit of the park and onto a main road where yet more, and slightly older, teenagers are parading.

I'm sure many would find this pastime a little odd, perhaps even offensive. But watching young people is life to me. Not so much that they inspire me, or make me envy what they have. I don't. I don't even want to watch their culture so I can learn to become more of a part of it in order to reach them. No. Placing myself among them renews in me the burden for them, as people who should be inheriting the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the savior. Being around them, behind them, in their 'natural habitat' makes the burden in my mind, not more fresh, but more raw. Some burdens are not meant to remain fresh. Some burdens are meant to sting, to bite, to grip, and to cling. This is, for me, one of those burdens.

Another thing I observe and 'catalogue' so to speak in these times, is the similarities and differences; between me and them, them and me, them and Christ, me in Christ and the world, Christ and the world. When it comes to me and them, the differences flow too easy, whereas the similarities are so much harder to process and deal with. 'God make me strong.'

I love these young people, and a yearn for God to keep them close to His heart, I will battle them into His kingdom, and tear Satan from them with my teeth if I must. But I feel God needs me to be more 'me' with them. To be the counter culture -with- them. Not of their culture, not an imitation of their culture either. I've seen 14 year old lads crumble under the piercing stare and wise words of an 80 year old, and I've seen 16 year old girls sit riveted at the feet of a 50 year old professor. I long to be the real, firmly gentle, Christ-like presence in their life. To be an arm and a shoulder, to share footsteps with, and to counter their world with Christ...and see who stands. It is Jesus in these young people that attracts me so tenderly, and Jesus who calls from them. And it is to Him who I must respond.

Reflections on the absence of borrowed words as thought stimuli. The Glory of God's Spirit-Fuelled mind.

I find myself in an odd place of present; for the first time in some years I have no access to my books. After graduating from seminary, my books were packed and remain packed as I'm now awaiting another move to London to start a new job. I find the absence of littered bookshelves, and smoulden-used books daunting and slightly intimidating. The places in which I found solitude, wisdom, and general grace-empowered fuzziness are sitting in boxes in lockup 273 behind an old Hammond organ and several cases of clothes.
But God is good. My Spirit-owned mind is having to solidify its allegiance to God on its own prayer-fuelled searching. I need to stretch it not only through written gifts of inspired implications, but to the first pieces and causes provided usually by the big volumes of Jonathan Edwards, or the pencil-littered pages of John Piper. And I must tell you - the mind, devoid of borrowed words to be used as thought stimuli can be a real treasure chest of goodness and grace.
Now hear me right, I'm not saying the mind of tim gough or of any other human (other than Jesus) is especially gifted or, far from it; but the mind that is created by, filled with, and depending on God for sustenance is like a showering avalanche of admonishment and edification. Not just thought stimuli, but building and creating and life-changing grace.
So a word to all, who like me, love their books for Spiritual-encouragement. Use them with discretion as tools to receive understanding to more of the promises of life indeed... but do not neglect the power and gentle-grace contained in its own extensions. Sit. Walk. Be quiet. Think prayerfully. Love the prayers of a broad-thought mind. Worship God with all your mind.