Sunday, February 18, 2007

if it's allowed...

Here is a list of some of the people I would like to meet in heaven. Assuming it's possible to meet other people in heaven, and leaving out the obvious choices of family and friends, I make this list without passing any judgement on who has gotten there; this is simply a list of dead people I would like to meet, who are not Bible characters, and since I feel half-confident most of the time that I'm going to heaven, it seems a likely place to meet them.

1) Of course, Jane Austen tops the list. This is the one person who I really, really hope that I'll get to meet one day. When I read her books I feel like I'm reading something a friend has written. She is always there, hidden behind the words, with a little smile on her face. I know that sounds very, very weird - it just is that way.

2) C. S. Lewis. This is probably not a very original choice. All I know is that I love the Narnia Chronicles and one of my most vivid ideas of heaven itself comes from the last in the series, The Last Battle. The things he has written have helped me so much, and I think he would be a very interesting person to have a chat and a beer with. Besides that, the writing group I am a member of is named after his!

3) Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Usually known as Mendelssohn. I have no idea what Mendelssohn's religious leanings were, but when I play or listen to music of his such as 'Hear My Prayer' - especially 'Hear My Prayer' - I am absolutely certain that he understands the call of the human heart for God. It is quite possibly my favourite piece of classical music, and definitely my favourite vocal classical music. I would like to talk to him and tell him how much his music means to me. In this category, special mention goes to Handel. His Messiah has also influenced me very much, and I would love to discuss it with him.

4) Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre is one of my very favourite novels, and I will always feel indebted to Charlotte Brontë for creating characters so compelling despite being unattractive physically. I think it's taught me a lot about writing well. Also, I am very curious as to why she disliked Jane Austen's writing and if she ever changed her mind about that! Special mention in this category goes to William Thackeray, whom I would like to meet, and discuss Vanity Fair with.

5) Oscar Wilde. He strikes me as one of the cleverest, funniest people that have ever graced the English language with their wit. I think he must have been an electric person to be around but at the same time I don't see him as a self-obsessed or selfish man. Not that I would have any fair judgment of the case at all, but that's just the feeling one gets. I also have a lot of sympathy for him, and what became of him. I see it as very sad that someone so talented and clever became so unacceptable to other human beings.

Other special mention goes to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Grieg, Bach, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Wycliffe, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Corrie ten Boom, Gandhi, and probably many more that I cannot think of right now.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


The other day I met up with a friend from church, JP, for coffee, and, as you do, we got talking. Sooner or later, she started telling me what someone #1 had told her what someone #2 had told them. A certain man at our church is rather disliked by someone #1 for saying something slightly unkind about their father, and someone #1 told my friend that this man was getting an African mail order bride who was somewhere between the ages of 12 and 20, who couldn't speak English, whom he'd never met before, and who was being paid for in cattle and sheep. I found this almost unbelievable and shocking, and just a little bit disgusting, and listened in awe.

But when I went away, I started feeling really guilty for letting JP tell me this. It was absolutely none of my business and I shouldn't have listened. Someone #1 has a bit of a knack for exaggeration and I shouldn't have even considered it to be reliable until I heard anything about this that wasn't gossip.

Well, tonight I heard from the man himself, and I came away feeling even more guilty. The woman this man might become engaged to is African, but apart from that, nothing JP told me was true. She speaks good English, she and this man met in Africa, she's definitely over 20, and she is most definitely not a mail order bride. I can't believe that the gossip I heard was so far removed from the truth. Usually gossip has some element of truth in it, but this - definitely not. It's really taught me a lesson. I guess one of the things I dislike the most about gossip is that it leaves you unable to form your own impression of a person; your first acquaintance with them will always be marred by someone else's negative words. In this case, there wasn't even an ounce of truth in what I heard. I can really see why God hates gossip so much now. From now on, I want to really try never to gossip myself, or to allow anyone to gossip to me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

persecution western-style

Okay, so last night on the news, or rather, the discussion show that follows the news, they featured an Englishman who has been writing a few articles about the racism issue raised by the famous Celebrity Big Brother scandal in Britain. One of the things he said struck me quite a lot. He said that a lot of people say that making fun of Christians on comedy shows, etc etc, is actually disguised racism. Why are we allowed to do this when we're not allowed to make fun of Muslims, Hindus, etc? His answer was that the context is different; Christians are already in a position of power and don't need to be protected. However, when Muslims or different races are attacked by the media or by popular entertainment, we need to think about the effect this might have on the way, for example, schoolkids treat children from other cultures.

To some extent, I think he makes a very good point. It is very true that Christians are seen as more normal, and living in pseudo-Christian cultures, us in the west get off quite lightly when all is said and done. That's why it's worse to lightly mock people who don't have anyone to defend them, or don't have the political or social strength to ride through such attacks with ease. Personally, I quite enjoy the satires done of Christians. Christian authors themselves have done this extremely well, such as Adrian Plass, and I don't mind non-Christians mocking us as well. Satire is an extremely good tool to expose hypocrisy in the Church, which surely we should be trying to rid ourselves off. In my opinion, we should take such mockery as a spur to make us rid ourselves of all the things they are accusing us of. Only then can we complain of persecution.

All the same, there's a point where mockery goes too far. I hate, hate, hate it when someone mocks Christ himself. I often hear non-Christians saying, it's only a joke, don't be so wound up, etc etc. It's just that they are mocking someone who doesn't deserve to be mocked. Allright, so I have to accept mockery of myself because I am not perfect. But mocking Jesus is like mocking the ideal. How can one do that successfully? Anyway, most of the satire people create about Jesus just displays their glaring ignorance of the man himself. I can't explain the way I feel about this fully. But whatever the context is - whether the Church is powerful or not - I don't like it when people mock Christ himself.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

me, myself and I

[spoken by John the Baptist] The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.
John 3vv29-31 NIV.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire". Hebrews 12vv28-29 NIV.

Lately I've started writing down my prayers to God in what you could probably call a prayer diary. I've never been great at praying because I get distracted so easily but this is a really helpful and important step for me and I hope it lasts.

The point is, however, that I've had the unavoidable problem of seeing the sort of things I write and the sort of things I ask God. Me, me, me. Despite being so exhausted today that I had to take strong black coffee to church in a thermos, the service today reminded me of the sort of God my God is. A consuming fire who doesn't exist merely to placate me from my worries about the future and to give a big tick to the things I've already chosen to do. I don't want to be the sort of Christian anymore who is always thinking about myself. So I've had a few problems. It's not original. God hears it every day. I want to have a real, exciting, consuming relationship with God, and yet I don't want to enter into it lightly because I know what being consumed by God entails - thinking about others first. Right now I have to think out and decide what my priorities are. I have to pray and find guidance from God that doesn't, as I already mentioned, simply verify the things I want to do already. I have a few plans for the next decade or so that I haven't really run past God, and I don't want to enter so far into them that I can't extricate myself when I realise I'm not where I'm supposed to be.

I just counted and there are twenty-seven "I"s or "me"s in those last two paragraphs, not including the one at the start of this sentence. Let me rephrase it into one short sentence. I have to decide how much I want my life to be about me. In some ways it's very tempting. In other ways I already know it doesn't fulfil me or make me any happier. I will make no promises to God because he takes them very seriously but from now on I want to change.