31 May, 2016

How To Make Autumn Soup

Back in early autumn, we went camping in the mountains. Each night the fog rolled in, and I had a good time taking photos in the morning before the skies cleared. I also went down the creek and found a series of waterfalls, a mossy tree, and a wallaby who didn’t know what to make of me.
Now, autumn is over. The weather is feeling like winter too; I’ve put extra blankets on my bed, and dragged out some oversized wool jumpers. And, it’s caught me by surprise again. Weren’t we just in summer?!
I like to do monthly challenges, because I think a month is a good length of time to push one’s self and make changes, yet the end is still in sight, so it doesn’t get discouraging. For March, a friend and I did a photo challenge together, where we took a photo each day. In April, I practiced every single day, tried to send/text/email something encouraging to a friend each day, and also did a #growingtolive challenge for a week. And May: I didn’t have any challenges to do every day, but I did achieve some goals I set, such as make a garment, begin a blog ‘series’, and send some articles (hopefully) for publishing.
I’m trying to actively push my comfort zone, or at least, sometimes I try. Other days I’d rather stay holed up and not see anyone. Anyway, this autumn I busked by myself for the first time. It was in my local town too, which made it extra-scary because people I knew saw and heard me. (Does anyone else get more nervous performing for people you know than strangers?) Other than that, I had two articles published in the Grass Roots magazine, and 40cms cut off my hair to donate to the AAAF (don’t worry, I still have some left). I haven’t had my hair this short since I was about seven, and I’m still wondering who I am.
A few exciting things happened in the world of blogging this autumn. Janie wrote a wonderful guest post here on Apples of Gold, and I guest posted and shared an interview on her blog too. I found a few new sites to add to my reading list, like Scattered Journal Pages – I like Amanda’s spiritual insights, and thought provoking posts; Storyshucker – his stories had me laughing; and Humans of South Auckland – a website sharing inspirational stories of everyday people. And this post offered another aspect on beingprolife which I really appreciated.
I’ve been slow at reading this year, but May was a good month – I read nine books. My favourites would be The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Little Red Writing Book, but Out of the Black Shadows, Horse Sense for People and Love in the Driest Season were good too.
I’ve also been reading through the New Testament, and found some incredible promises: But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58) We can be steadfast and unmoveable, because we know our labour is not, and will not be, in vain. Isn’t that encouraging?! I also like 1 Corinthians 14:10, which says, There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. In other words, chin up chickadee – your voice, your words, thoughts and ideas matter. They’re significant.
So that’s my basic recipe for autumn soup – a little bit of whatever’s happening, a few challenges and stretches, some excitement; some relaxing ‘home time’, and a dose of reading, blog perusing, and claiming God’s promises.
Now, don’t leave without telling me how your autumn (or spring) was! What have you been reading? Have you ever thought of donating your hair, or gone busking, or done monthly challenges? What’s been your latest discovery in the blog world, or your latest favourite promise? What are you looking forward to about winter (or summer)?
P.s If you’re wondering where the name autumn soup came from: I tried skeletonizing leaves once - I collected a handful of different leaves, and boiled them in water and bi carb soda. They had a strong smell, and the siblings decided I was making autumn soup. I thought it was a good name for the conglomeration of activities my autumn consisted of, and decided to use it. :)

21 May, 2016

Made In His Image Part Two - Fallen

It is exciting to think about the way God created us – to be like Him – and to realize that that’s what His salvation is about: He created us like Him, and now He wants to restore us to be like Him. But it’s the in between that got me thinking next. 

God created us in His perfect image, we were like Him. But then sin entered, humanity fell, and Satan began his work of transforming creation into his image. Looking around, it’s seems like he’s doing a pretty good job. Our world is full of hurting humanity, of suffering, of pain. Innocent people get sick or killed. Children suffer. 

I think at some point in time we’ve probably all asked Why, God? I know I have. Why is it like this? Where is Your plan in this mess? How does Your love explain sin and innocent suffering? I don’t have answers. I still struggle with these questions, especially when I come face to face with hurting people looking for answers who’ve ruled out the possibility of a loving God, because they wonder how a good God could allow bad things to happen. I won’t be suggesting any solutions, or proposing an explanation, but something did come to mind as I thought about it.

I remember we had a garlic crusher (or garlic press, whatever you want to call it) once. We’d had it for years, and it was strong and did the job it was meant to do – crush garlic. But then someone decided to try crushing some nuts in it. And that garlic crusher broke. The nuts were soft and oily, surely it wasn’t too much of an ask for a strong garlic crush; why did it break? Well, of course a garlic crusher is not made for crushing nuts. It is made for garlic.

It’s a simple analogy, but the point is this: when you use something for other than its intended purpose, it may break. It puts extra stress and strain on it. It’s not a fault of the item; it’s simply that that not what it was made for, what it was created to be.

And to bring that to the next step: who were we created to be? What were made to be? Could it be that the reason we suffer is because we weren’t made to live like this? We were made in the image of a perfect, loving, caring God; we’re going to feel it when we live in a world of indifference and cruelty. 

When we see someone do something for someone else because they genuinely care, or we witness someone going the extra mile, it warms our heart, because that person is doing something God would do, and that resonates with us because we’re made to be like God! It reminds me of a quote (which I actually did post once before, years ago): “Joy comes to the strong when they serve the weak, not because they have done something grand, but because, whether they know it or not, their actions have aligned them with God. He’s the happiest Being ever. When you do what He does, you automatically sense His pleasure. It’s the way He made you.” Bob Shultz, Practical Happiness p151

It follows through that the opposite would bring pain. We’re not made to live in this world. God didn’t intend for us to suffer and deal with sin. He made us to be like Him, and this is where it gets really amazing: God has given us all the help we ever could need to live here, and His plan includes restoring us back into His image, the way He created us. And, I’m looking forward to discussing that next time, because I found it positively exciting. :)

So, I’d really like to hear your thoughts and opinions! Do you have any insights on the topic of pain and sin? What are your thoughts on being made in the image of God and living in a fallen world? What have you found fascinating of late?

16 May, 2016

Made In His Image Part One - Created

God has been teaching me fascinating things recently, and I’m really excited to share some snippets. Perhaps they won’t be new ideas to you, but they were to me, and I think they’ve changed the whole way I think. It’s quite a lengthy topic, because you know what it’s like: when you start looking into something, you suddenly see and hear it everywhere. So I plan to do a few posts on the subject. That’s also exciting, because in all my years (ha, three) of blogging I’ve never done a series or like posts in several parts. 

It all started when I read these few paragraphs out of an amazing book, The Book That Made Your World, (and I’d recommend that book to everyone):

As I started rereading the Bible’s first chapter, I found a radically different view of the human self. It says that God created human beings in His image (“man” – both male and female). On one hand both dogs and I are creatures. We are similar in many ways. For example, we are both mammals. Yet, in fundamental ways we are very different. I cannot know the essence of my humanness by studying dogs. If I am made in God’s image, would not knowing God be essential to knowing myself? What does this first chapter of Genesis tell me about God and myself?

The Bible opens by declaring: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God is the Creator. A dog is only a creature. What am I? If Genesis is right, then I am both a creature (made by God) and a creator (made in the image of the Creator). I am a creative creature.  The Book That Made Your World page 47

This brought a couple of things to my attention. We are made in the image of God. I mean, there’s no higher honour God could’ve bestowed on us. He could’ve made us after His imagination, but He wanted to give us more, and set us apart from the animal kingdom. He made us like Him. 

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:26-27

Of course, I’ve known that verse for years, but I’d never really stopped to think about it. God made us like Him in more than physical likeness. So much that we put down to nature, hobbies, or interest is a God-given desire. The desire to be creative: God is creative. The desire to communicate: God communicates. The desire to provide: God provides. That push inside to create, communicate, provide, etc, is more than just interest or upbringing. It’s evidence that we were made by a creative, communicating, providing God, and we were made to be like Him. 

There’s a push in today’s world to find yourself, to be yourself. It’s everywhere. I’ve always agreed with it, but something just felt slightly not right, but I never knew what it was. I agree with being yourself, as opposed to being like everyone else, and changing to fit in. I agree with finding your own set of beliefs and principles and sticking to them. But, after reading those couple of paragraphs from The Book That Made Your World I realized what it was that didn’t settle with me. Society’s method of finding yourself is to look within, to dwell upon yourself. Honestly, it’s confusing to look in yourself for consolidation and identity. My head is a swirl of conflicting thoughts and emotions. That’s where this line came in, and to put it mildly, it made a lot of sense: If I am made in God’s image, would not knowing God be essential to knowing myself? 

It comes back to being made in the image of God. To use the dog example, and assuming dogs could reason, the only place a dog can look to be itself is within. There is no greater dog He was made to be like, patterned after. He cannot rise above himself. But, this is where we’re fundamentally different from animals: we were made in the image of God, to be like God. If we want to elevate ourselves, to find out who we’re really meant to be, we have to study the pattern, the One who we’re made to be like. We cannot rise if we’re not aspiring after anything higher than ourselves. 

Of course, there’s something in-between us and the ideal God has for us, and that’s sin. We’re fallen beings. But, God’s got a solution to that as well, and my mind has been swamped with the amazingness of His plans, so I’m looking forward to sharing that next time. :)

So tell me, what do you think? I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments, because I want this to be a discussion, and time of sharing, not me preaching at you. What’s your take on the ‘be yourself’ craze? Do you find it fascinating that those desires, like to be creative for example, come from the fact that God made us to be creative, because He’s creative? What has God been teaching you lately?