I think that God is always present in my life. It is me that is not always present to His presence. So really this post should be called, “How was I present to the presence of God in my life today?” (well yesterday, this post actually going to be about yesterday)
I went walking in the mountains yesterday. I had actually wanted to go for a swim but when I got there they were emptying the pool out so I decided to run up the hill instead. It probably was a bit of a risky thing to do but I felt like some exercise. I made it to the top and sat under the cross up there and looked over Chulucanas and contemplated God’s presence in this town. I then walked down the hill. I noticed the purple flowers and as most of you know the colour purple always makes me aware of God’s presence in my life.
Then when I was almost down the bottom, two guys started running up the hill towards me. At first I thought they were just running like me but when they put up their hands to indicate I should stop I realised what was really happening. They were robbing me. I quickly handed my bag over. There was nothing of particular value, a towel, some sunscreen, my goggles. sunglasses, my purse with about $20 in it and my keys. The only thing I was really worried about were the goggles as I can’t get them here but with only four weeks to go I wasn’t going to fight for them. Then one of the guys pulled out a screwdriver and started indicating I lift up my shirt. Of course at this stage I stated backing away and begging them to just take the bag and go but he told me again to lift up shirt. I am not sure I have ever been so scared in my life so I did it. The guy with the screwdriver advanced closer but soon realised I had nothing else and started running away. I realised they were looking for a money belt and nothing else but my heart was still pumping fast and I have never been so relieved to see them disappear in a taxi who was waiting for them at the bottom of the hill.
I made my way down the bottom of the hill and stopped a taxi myself. I was crying by this stage and told the driver I couldn’t pay as I had just been robbed but if he could just take me away from there I would be very grateful. He dropped at the end of my street and I walked home. When I got home Martin wasn’t home and I sat out the front wondering what had happened to God’s presence.
However, as I sat there waiting for Martin with nothing else to do but reflect on what happened I remembered many of the other struggles in my life, the hurts and disappointments that God had carried me through. The fact that I had been robbed did not mean God was not there. He was there holding me together in my fear, he was there in the taxi driver who drove me home, and He has been there as I have tried to pray for those young guys. I haven’t quite pulled it off yet but He is present in my attempts.
Then last night again we had to take Nina to the hospital again. It was the same cough she had last time and we just wanted to get her nebulised as we had last before to help her be able to breathe. Knowing what it was certainly makes it less stressful but being at a hospital at 1am in the morning, holding a mask over my crying daughter’s face is never what you call pleasant. But God was there. He taught me a valuable lesson when my beautiful girl was born. That lesson is, He is just as present in my defeats as He is my victories, probably more so.
I have been sitting on this topic for a long time now. It really is a very difficult topic to write about. The word itself comes loaded with so much baggage for many people including me I suppose. It’s not that I don’t think sin should be talked about. Lately as I become more and more confronted with my own sin I would like to be hearing more conversations about it. But unfortunately, some how whenever it is talked about people end up being burdened down with guilt which often has the effect of isolating them from God. But God’s grace is bigger than any sin. This means it doesn’t isolate us. I have been moved lately by how God is using my sin to bring me closer to him. He is using it to bring me closer to others and myself as well as I am humbled by it. I don’t know why I am surprised by this as there are numerous examples of it in the Bible. In fact the whole Bible could be seen as the story of redemption, of God’s constant love and forgiveness of people who keep failing. Of a God who in fact runs out to greet us when we have turned our back on Him and then lifts us up.
Recently, I was traveling to Ecuador to fix up some visa stuff for Nina. Half the trip we were traveling on a pilgrim route during the month of October when people make pilgrimages to pray to “el senor cautivo de Ayabaca” (a statue of Christ who people believe was created miraculously by angels). We passed literally hundreds of people making the journey, many of them were carrying crosses. I was told they make these pilgrims to either pray for a particular need, eg if they or someone in their family is very sick or if they have committed a grave sin that they want forgiveness for. There is part of me that is deeply moved by this. By people’s faith and hope and by the fact that people are wishing to redeem themselves of a sin and show they are sorry. We could perhaps all do with a bit of reflection time on our sin and for most of them I think it does bring them closer to God so it is a good thing. On the other hand I worry for some it kind of misses the point. Is not the point of the cross is so we don’t have to do this? God forgives us unconditionally. Before we have even sinned we are forgiven. We do not need to beg and grovel and carry crosses across the desert to gain it. It is already ours we just need to accept. Again if that is helpful to the person to help them let go and move on then great but if it is out of some belief that they need to earn God’s love I am saddened by that.
We also present such narrrow definitions of sin. Definitions that end up presenting God as some kind of dictator who made up a bunch of irrelevant rules just for the hell of it to take away our fun. We forget to mention that when we sin we hurt ourselves and we hurt others and God, because he loves us so completely, is also hurt when that happens. The “rules” are to help us live free, fulfilling lives, that don’t take away anyone else’s ability to do the same. I also think the collective nature of sin is almost always left out in discussions about sin. We focus so much on personal sins, especially the ones of a sexual nature. I guess these are obvious black or white, either you are a virgen or you are not. As opposed to sins of selfishness that have so many shades of grey.
I attended an evangelical church here a few weeks back. I have had a little to do with this church community and I have always been quite moved by the community spirit of these people so one night when I was feeling the need to attend a church service I went. The pastor happened to be doing his sermon that night on sin. When he started I shifted uncomfortably in my chair and wondered if there was a way I could leave without been noticed but as he went on I actually found myself really agreeing with a lot of what he was saying and found it relevant to me personally. He talked about many of the sins I find myself struggling with. My struggles to truly love some people in my life, my selfishness, my fear and anxiety when I have so much, my greed and jealously, my judgements, my desires to be popular and recognised and powerful, my hypocrisy, my anger that is often not used productively. He talked about the impact these things have on the community and how they effect families as well as God. He also talked about the sexual sins and the sins of gossip but in terms of the hurt it causes to the community as a whole for example men who have children with various lovers.
He started and finished though as I wish to start and finish talking about grace. The amazing grace of God that allows us to forgive others and ourselves and thus move on from sin to love and full lives. I am so grateful for this amazing grace.
Form now on in I am going to refer to soccer as football. That is what it is called here in Peru (and in most of the world) not to mention it just makes more sense.
Since first visiting Peru 10 years ago and then marrying Martin football has become quite a big part of my life. I have watched the World Cup, the World Cup qualifiers, the Champion’s League, the “Copa Libertadores”, the “Copa America, the women’s World Cup, the Australian A grade. I have even been known to get up in the middle of the night to watch games.
Despite all this I am not sure I enjoy football. When I don’t care who wins I find it a bit boring after awhile and when I do care who wins I find it very anxiety provoking. For example right now we are in the middle of the World Cup qualifiers. Every time Peru plays our house fills up with people and a very tense atmosphere. I want Peru to win so much that I just can’t sit still for the whole 90 mins plus extra time. It’s too stressful especially as things aren’t going too well for Peru. There’s still a small chance we’ll get in but not much.
In saying that what I do love the communal atmosphere created at most football games. I love how people gather outside shop windows or in bus stations to watch. I love how it crosses barriers of wealth, race and religion. And as I am also now obsessed with being in the present moment I love how in the middle of a football game everyone is entirely present. Almost no one is thinking about their past or their future but only what is happening in the game.
I have had some pretty special football moments over the last ten years. I think of getting up at 4am to watch Aus play in the World Cup at the Enmore theatre. I think of waiting in a bus stop in Ecuador during world cup qualifiers 10 years ago. Ecuador was playing and it felt like half the town and came to the bus station to watch. Obviously they didn’t have TV’s to watch it but I am sure watching it there would have been more fun. “The atmosphere was electric.” I think of watching Bolivia also try out for the world cup four years later with a bunch of shoe shine boys in La Paz. We had invited them to our hotel so they could see the game and I don’t think I have wanted a team to win so much. And now recently it’s world cup qualifiers again (some how I am always in South America at this time) every time Peru scores a goal and I hear shouts all across Chulucanas I am so happy.
This post going to be about my first memory but I don’t know what it is. I really cannot distinguish between what I remember and what are things I have seen in photos. Also, I have a memory of standing by the blackboard on my first day of school feeling very shy and scared while Gemma was all confident but then I think that maybe it was the other way round. Thus I just don’t trust my memory at all.
I am also totally into the “Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle at the moment and I find all this trying to remember what my first memory was is not at all helping me to stay in the present moment. It just gets me all caught up in head and dwelling on the crappy memories or feeling the bitter sweetness of nostalgia so I don’t really want to keep trying.
I have been meaning to start blogging about the books that I read again but to be honest I haven’t read much this year that has really inspired me to blog. This book though has been haunting me for a few weeks now since I finished reading it but not in a good way. Although it was certainly a well written book I found it too devastating. It would most definitely be one of the most tragic books I have ever read and I have read a lot of tragic books. I don’t mind a bit of tragedy in a book (something I can attribute to my mother I am sure) but this was too much for me.
The back of the book says, “A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state”. While I would say this is true for most of the book it certainly isn’t for the ending. I really enjoyed reading most of the book. It followed the four main characters through different trials and tribulations and described beautifully their context and how through it all the strength of their spirits and their growing friendship and love sustained them. However, then in the last two chapters everything fell apart for all of them and the final pages left me feeling totally hopeless and despairing. While I know that there can’t be happy endings for everyone in books (that would not be true to life) this book had no happy endings for anyone at all, not even a glimpse of one. It all seemed to spiral down so quickly too. I felt this was a little unfair of the author. Just when I was expecting something good for them all it went wrong. I didn’t expect the perfect they all lived happily ever after crap but I did expect something of the human spirit’s ability to overcome and it was devoid of that.
Another post that has been sitting in my drafts for a long time. It was about the St Vincent de Paul Society as I started this when I worked there. It’s been a long time now since I worked there so this post is not going to be about that.
Funny to be writing about work as I am not officially working right now. I am not sure if I blogged this but I quit my job at the primary school about a month ago now. Just before they went on holidays. I had wanted to see it through but the truth is it was making me really dislike children and I really didn’t like the kind of teacher I was becoming so I thought it would be better for all if I quit and I did.
I have also thrown in the towel with all the doula stuff. As mentioned the hospital has made it quite clear I am not really welcome and neither are ideas about birthing rights. This continues to be a disappointment to me but I just can’t get the energy up for it when it feels so pointless. With so little time to go I just want to be in the present and enjoy time with the family which feels more meaningful right now.
I have done very little official work for a year. Not that I really planned it to be like this but I guess it’s been a bit of a Sabbath year. What an enormous blessing that has been and we are thankful to God again for the gift of this time to spend with Nina.
In saying that even though I am not “officially working” I still feel like I work quite hard. I really believe the work of caring for a child and a house is probably the hardest work out. It really is so very constant and you really really want to do it very well but so often you feel like you are getting it wrong. Lucky it is also one of the most rewarding too.
We have also started looking for work in Alice when we get back. A few possibilities but nothing totally ideal yet. I guess we’ll keep praying and would appreciate your prayers too but will probably just have to take something to start off with and move into something better as time moves on.
This post has been sitting in my drafts since I lived in Glebe. That was about 4 year ago now which is a pretty long time. I started writing it after one of Geoff’s sermons on eating together. I can’t really remember the details but from what this blog was saying it was about the social boundaries that Jesus crossed to share a meal with people and all the powerful people he offended to do it in a time when there were so many rules about who you could and couldn’t eat with. I talked a bit about how much of a rebel Jesus was too but that’s not a new topic on this blog.
I like eating and I especially like eating with other people In fact I think sharing a meal with people is my most favourite thing to do which is lucky because I sure do it a lot. For my whole life we have had pretty open table and I have shared meals with people from all walks of life. It has been an extraordinary blessing. I have also shared at other people’s tables too which is always an honour. I can’t say I have never worried about hygiene but have always just eaten and now I don’t have to worry much anymore as I think my stomach is now prepared for anything.
It makes me really happy that eating together was something that was important to Jesus too and something that can also be about social justice.
I mentioned a few posts back about how often in my life I read the stories of the Bible and find my own story glaring back at me. It never ceases to amaze me how the stories of people living 2000 years ago are so similar to mine. But then again I suppose the search for God is eternal and it shouldn’t surprise me that much but each time it happens God doesn’t feel elusive at all but very real.
And then so often at a time I am struggling with something I read an article in magazine or a chapter in a book or a friend starts talking to me about having a really similar struggle and in the sharing of that I so often hear the voice of God and it is like he is talking to me directly. Each time it happens God doesn’t feel elusive at all but very real.
Currently I am reading a book called “The Power of Now”. I have come to realise that in the rare moments when I can stop my mind and my ego racing at 100 miles an hour and be very present to the moment I become so aware of the presence of God in my life and as said God doesn’t feel elusive at all but very real.
Then just tonight I have been going over and over again all my current worries and disappointments and I get on the net and I read Tom’s post “the sticking”. It made me reflect how often God feels real to me because of my friends. His light in them shines through to me whenever I can’t see it on my own. Over and over their stories have spoken his truth to me and made God so very real. For them I am very grateful.
So much of what Tom said is so true for me too. God feels so very real for me because he’s never let me down. Every time I have fully put my trust in him he has come through for me. Not always how I thought but hindsight has shown it was better than I could have imagined. And every struggle and disappointment and pain I’ve had to face he walked it with me, holding me and has proved to be greater than it. For me God is not just an elusive idea but very real.