Monday, 21 October 2013

Seeking God – Creator

When you say you believe in God as 'Creator' these days people are pretty much ready to sign you up to the ranks of the crazies. The whole concept has been so hijacked by people on the one hand insisting on a literal view of the Bible, that I don't believe the Bible text itself warrants, and on the flip side those insisting we narrow the scope of our thinking to only that which can be examined under a microscope.

Don't get me wrong there is a whole world of spectacular things that can be learned through observation and empirical study of the world but we are one of the first eras that has insisted that this is the only way to understand the world. There will always be break points in our understanding, the place where our comfort and control ends and the unknown stretches out before us. We will always have the question of what to do with that, with those the ultimate questions. To my mind, we can close them down because we can't pin them down or we can be like the great philosophers that came before us and ask the questions.

My first degree was in Biology and I have always credited this as a major part of the opening of my mind to the possibility of God. Looking at the sheer wonder of the natural environment, its regenerative potential, its diversity and its sheer beauty was what made a believer out of me. Not a believer in God at the time but a believer in hope and in eternity. It is of course true that death is a fundamental part of the natural world but seeing the amazing power of evolution and how life always overcomes, adapts and perseveres put a deep seated sense of peace inside of me.
Snap by my lovely friend Hannah at
The Christian story, then, of hope rising up out of death made a lot of sense. The world is decaying every day, every thing is born with a shelf life and yet there is something in the natural world that speaks of regeneration and renewal. When a forest is affected by natural fire it looks like the end has come but that fire releases seeds which spring up to form new ecosystems, new life and new ways of being. It's the 'Circle of Life', if you will!

By Hannah Ruth King
The sheer diversity of that life, when I did develop a belief in a 'creator' (not I might add as a chap sitting there making Zebras like clay animals but the author and architect of all life commanding life into being like the conductor of an orchestra) left me in awe. Because I wonder how people who claim to believe in God can ever see him as joyless when they wonder on the fact that there are 400,000 different types of flowering plants on earth? I wonder how they can fail to see humour in the baboon or majesty through the elephant? How a great storm cannot help but stop and make them think about the tiny place we occupy in this great big world under a great big God.

Photo by my other lovely friend
So 'Creator' means a lot to me and I'm not willing to relinquish it, despite the connotations today. 'Creator' means walking outside and looking up at a thousand stars and being deeply amazed..That, to me, is something to hold on to.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Seeking God - Home

Home is one of the most fundamental human needs.The greatest gift we can be given, that we should thank our lucky stars for everyday if we had it, is loving parents and a warm home. Life is often about builidng a home, finding a place to put down roots, to make your own, a place that speaks of you are your place in the world. We Brits are thoroughly obsessed with home, aren't we? Stick on Location, Location and pop us on a sofa and we're golden. I love mine to bits. It is thoroughly trussed up and often reinvented. It is my haven and my resting place.

When out house was broken into I realised what happens when your home no longer feels safe anymore. Suddenly your security is gone, the place where you curl up in a ball in front of the telly after a hard day has been forever changed. The place where you are most vulnerable, where you sleep, cry, laugh and throw birthday parties, has been trampled on. I wailed when it happened to me. And yet the idea of home had dramatically changed for me since I encountered God and I was glad for it at that time.

Home was the second word I spoke about God (I'll leave you guessing on the first!). A sense of 'home' was one of the first feeling that I associated with him. Not that I suddenly had a window on some heavenly place, full of fluffy clouds and angels playing harps and some bearded man standing arms wide open where I instantly hoped I'd go to one day. No, the Christian story I embraced of God made man is a commitment to everything we are - flesh and blood and dramas and laughter and baking and telly and gardening and dog walking and box sets and chips.

I think that the Christian story tells us that God is fundamentally, wholeheartedly fixed on transforming what is broken in our world and putting it, and us, back together.  God will give anything for that end, even himself. Home is not a place we go to. It is the one who comes to us. Who fills us with a sense of peace and belonging because we have found what it is we are made for. Home is not a place, it is a person. Home is God. It cannot be shaken, or trespassed in. No one can take it from you, or burn it down, the price of it will never fall, you will never get sick of it.

I love this poem by Emily Bronte because it reminds me that I am both on a journey to my 'home' and already in it. I journey on as I discover more of God and yet I live in this tragic and broken world, and yet somehow my heart is already at home with God and always has been. That 'will be my pole star to the grave'.

Now Trust a Heart That Trusts in You

Now trust a heart that trusts in you,
And firmly say the word 'Adieu';
Be sure wherever I may roam,
My heart is with your heart at home.

Unless there be no truth on earth,
And vows meant true are nothing worth,
And mortal man have no control
Over his unhappy soul;

Unless I change in every thought,
And memory will restore me nought,
And all I have of virtue die
Beneath a far and foreign sky.

The mountain peasant loves the heath
Better than richest plains beneath;
He would not give one moorland wild
For all the fields that ever smiled;

And whiter brows than yours may be,
And rosier cheeks my eyes may see,
And lightning looks from orbs divine
About my pathway burn and shine;

But that pure light, changeless and strong,
Cherished and watched and nursed so long;
That love that first its glory gave
Shall be my pole star to the grave.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Seeking God Series

Last year, just before I started theological college, I made this picture.

I did it because I wanted to make a permanant reminder of how I felt about God. I wanted to mark who God was for me right then just in case, when times got hard and academic work overwhelmed me, I lost my way a little. I'm now so grateful for this reminder. It is like a slice out of my life of faith that reminds me of what was, and is, important to me.

These last few months have been wonderful, I have explored new ideas and had many new experiences. I love exploring the scholarship behind the Bible and Theology, to think about the history of religion and how the world has changed. More than anything it enhances my faith. To me, God is truth and there is nothing to be afriad of when heading out into the world to weigh the evidence. That, after all, was how I came to find faith in the first place as a very sceptical Biology undergraduate.
To question is essential to any alive faith. If you have never questioned your beliefs then how can you help anyone else in their questioning? If you have never reasoned it out with yourself then how can you stand up and present this stuff week in week out with any conviction? Studying with this level of intensity shakes everything up and you have to wait a while to see how things settle. That is where I am right now and that is what this series is about, forging ahead and putting down some of things I am seeing along the way.

Quite like becoming a Christian for the first time I feel like I am stepping out of one world, full of familiar assumptions and understandings, into something brand new that I don't quite understand yet. As Taylor Swift would say it is miserable and magical! All I know, and what I knew then, is that I have to step out of what is comfortable to discover what is ahead of me.

So that is what this little blog series is all about. I'm not presuming to be able to describe God to you. If I could so easily put God into a blog post what kind of God would that be? No, one thing I have constantly found is that the moment you try to squeeze God into a box, God bursts the box right open.

Rather I'm going to talk about what I have seen so far as I navigate this time of change for myself. This series, like all blogging, is partly to aid my own journey. To give expression to the things I am discovering and the things I rediscovering from my past. To put words to things that I haven't attempted to put words to before.

Each week I'm going to look at one of the words for God I stuck in that frame, written out in scrabble tiles, and share some thoughts for your perusal. I'm offering this little series not to tell you what you should think but in the hope that they provide a springboard and a starting place for your own explorations.

One thing I know from the years that I have been on this strange and wonderful journey is that it is always surprising, always inspiring and always, always brings life.
You are most welcome to join me.