“Joy is an Act of Resistance.”


“Joy is an act of resistance.” This stirring phrase is a revelation to me on how to live in troubled times, and anytime!  It is a call for an inner revolution that transforms our response to our outer realities. As a realist and one who is susceptible to seeing the negative side of everything, it is a summons to choose joy no matter what I perceive to be happening on the ground! Joy insists on resisting the negativism and self-doubt and lean into the positive possibilities come what may!

Last Friday I went to an event that brought refugees and the rest of us together. I saw the event on Facebook and was intrigued by the idea of playing sports and eating food with refugees. I clicked I would go. Since it was Ramadan and many refugees come from Muslim countries, the food would wait till after sundown. Okay, I can do that!

So that evening I trekked the 30 minutes  underground on Metro line 8 to Ecole Militaire station and then walked the rest of the way. When I came to the sprawling ‘Champs de Mars’ next to Gustave’s marvel, the Eiffel,  I searched for what might look like a group of refugees  ready to play games. But I just couldn’t find the group among the myriad of picnickers. I walked and walked some more. No luck. When I asked some guys selling beer to tourists if there was a playing field somewhere they gave some dubious directions and walked some more in the wrong direction! Of course the joke was on me!

So I pretty well gave up and sent a few ‘woe is me’ texts to my wife and making the last full circle of the ‘champs’ I had decided to leave. “Oh well, at least I got to see the Eiffel Tower” I sighed. Then in the corner of my eye I saw a makeshift volleyball net being erected. That’s them, I was sure of it. So I made my way to join. Time to forget my tired legs, my feelings of frustration, and my empty belly. Time to hang out, and play sports! Right?

raineiffelWrong! The skies decided otherwise, and opened up and dropped rain drops. The lightning eventually partnered with the increasingly heavier rain drops and I found myself huddled under a tree with complete strangers. Some hard-core sports types tried to play volleyball but soon gave up too. The event was over in a flash. Then I noticed an unused mini umbrella at the foot of the tree still wrapped tightly in its bindings. Seeing no one else go for it, I did. And holding it up I was joined by two others, refugees wanting to stay dry like me. The conversation began to flow and what seemed like a waste of time for the realist, became a moment of joy to live into. We said our goodbyes and ran at once under the wet heavens and earth to our metro and bus stops. The rain really did wipe out our night!

The next morning listening to a podcast with my wife I heard the phrase, “Joy is an act of resistance.” I had to write it down. Afterwards the podcast was done Patricia asked me how have I seen this act of resistance, this joy at play in my life? She knows my natural tendency to negativism. So I had to think hard. And then I realized how precious my rain filled adventure actually was. She said, “You were present. You made an effort. ” I saw it, just as she said, I realised that even though I was cold, I was present in the moment and surrounded by people from countries none of us would choose to live in. No, this wasn’t a waste of time. I knew then and there I needed to resist more. Joy was calling my name!

So I will pray and invite you to pray these words with me even if you aren’t a prayer kind of person: “Help me, God of creation, to resist all negativity in my life. Don’t let my thoughts go there. Make me know your joy. Let it be in me today. Let me feel it all day long. No matter the responses around me or circumstances I find myself in. I resist all negativism and complaining. Amen”

 Hebrews 12: 2, 3  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

 

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Christmas Conspiracy


He sees the violence in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, Myanmar… and beyond. He sees the blazing fires in America and famines in Africa. He sees the systemic greed of big corporations with so many of the super rich hoarding wealth while the poor drown in despair. He sees the nuclear warheads being tested and others positioned to strike. He sees the destruction of the earth’s resources and many beautiful species of animals dwindling. He sees, not like Santa, looking to punish ‘the naughty’ with a gift of coal and ‘the nice’ with sparkling toys under the tree. He sees our planet, believe it or not, not through the lens of disappointment, but through eyes of hope that mankind would embrace an alternative world.

It is our belief that something cataclysmic already happened, a beginning of a new earth and a new heaven became a reality when some angel woke some sleepy shepherds in a field with an unbelievable proclamation….

“For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a saviour…”  (Luke 2:11)

What? A saviour! Call us believers gullible, or worse; no worries we can handle it. Call God a ceaseless romantic, a subversive strategist, a lover who will not relent and you have a better picture of who He really is! The merry message of Christmas is a divine conspiracy of hope and true peace for our threatened planet and for all those who live in it. It’s the greatest turn-around of all times.

In a tiny place called Bethlehem, there was no room at the inn for a pregnant young Threewisemenwoman and her fiancé, they found a spot in some stable. It began. The birthing of something so alternative that not many could believe. It went almost unnoticed but for a few. The unexpected, as described by Isaiah hundreds of years before, was birthed, (Isaiah 9:6). A new kind of King of a new kind of Kingdom, with glorious outcomes. Yet as Isaiah foretold, it was a study of the unobvious: He grew up as a tender healing plant, like a root out of dry ground, (Isaiah 53:2). His beginnings so fragile, a solitary voice with a message so radical that few recognized his beautiful revolution or took to his message of a generous benevolent forgiving God.

But some did and some still do. We were not hoodwinked by an institution threatening us with hell-fire. No we saw the beautiful reign of a prodigal-welcoming Father running to us, come to make all things new. This is the hope for mankind. And lo and behold, the turn-the-other-cheek-go-the-distance-Son-of-God/man brought it to us, an alternative way to bring about an alternative world. It is at hand. It is available to where we are and as we are in the ‘here and now’.

Christmas, it’s not over yet. Not even near. He sees all the chaos in our world bent on destruction and despair, but it doesn’t faze this Saviour. He has the patience and kindness to show us the folly of our tired old unworkable ways and bring us closer to His generous heart. This is the Christmas conspiracy. Do you believe it?

Your Gifts


“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

You might not have given much thought to this question lately but it’s a good question. I’d rather live by a good question than a bad answer.  In case you were wondering, it’s a question from the Bible. Paul wants to bring to light what should be obvious, that what we have and who we are should be understood as sheer gifts from a generous God. See if you can hold your breath and read this entire blog before exhaling!  If you are a speed reader you might be able to, but most of us can’t last long without oxygen. And this invisible air we breathe second by second is gifted to us without cost by another much greater than you and I. You wouldn’t be reading this blog without that perpetual supply of that oxygen! So, no room for entitlement or conceit because life, every part of it, is a gift.

So back to the question, what’s the point of Paul’s asking? To not live by a bad answer: Conceit. Conceit doesn’t recognise gifts. The next step is obvious, too. It doesn’t recognise a giver. I found out that the more I knew the more I knew I didn’t know! So I decided trusting a God I believed was beautiful and generous, albeit cloaked in mystery. I found out I didn’t need to throw away my head to believe and I could give thanks. I simply trusted my heart and let my heart’s response inform my head. Realising that all of life is a gift made trusting the guiding hand of God become easy. That’s not a bad place to start this New Year, by enjoying the generous giver, God.

Now after the weirdness of 2016 lots of people are afraid that 2017 is going to be a harder year yet. Those crazy U.S. elections didn’t help much, right?  Add to that the big bear Putin flexing his Russian muscles and aligning with the Syrian tyrant to destabilise the middle polar-beareast even more than it was. And those poor polar bears so used to running around on ice at this time of the year now find themselves swimming, a lot. It’s a weird world. Not to mention that our personal worlds are full of variables too. Will we lose our jobs, our health or one of our loved ones in 2017? God forbid! Yet even if this were to occur, there is reason to not give up hope.

Though the future may seem out of our control, there is an obvious certainty that we can trust: God is bigger than we. He hasn’t lost sight of us nor control of our universe. It doesn’t mean you and I won’t have to face some hard situations. We will. And hanging tuff through that can mean being a part of the white knuckle club! Yet, humbly, I assert to you that our lives and our days are safe in God’s past movements, present moments and future mercies. We, all of us, are on a trajectory towards greater goodness, healing, wholeness of the likes that will last for an eternity! So take a big deep breath, now exhale, and know that where that breath came from, is the greatest gift of all, God himself.

breath

“What Do You See?”


I quickly slipped again into another of the many Catholic Churches of Paris on a weekday. I love that unlike most of the Protestant churches, they keep the doors open for anyone to come and take a look. I often have this compelling to go in, maybe to feel something there, maybe its the ancient history of prayers, tears, community sorrowing and celebrating. Children-All-Nations-These places have been gathering places of great hope for ages. Now Patricia and my daughters, when seeing me dash through the doors of yet another church, must find this a little amusing.  “Do you mind?” I asked Patricia. She didn’t. I walked hurriedly around the outer-court sensing nothing really, but as I passed by one of the last ‘saints,’ a statue of the founding father I presumed, a woman tapped me on the back.

She was about five foot four and maybe 60 years old. She smiled widely pointing to the small cross emblem on the back of my T-shirt and asked in French if I was a believer. I guess she didn’t notice the funny unicorn blazing on the front of my T-shirt! I responded to her smiling face with an affirmative. She then beckoned me to follow and led me to the statue of the priest holding children in his arms.

“Look into his face,” she said. I did. I wondered if at first she thought I looked like the statue with a moustached visage. But I definitely did not! She asked, “What do you see?” I could see her anticipation. After looking again, I responded that the man depicted before us must have loved people, especially children. Her faced glowed at my right answer. She explained to me the virtues of the priest and then wanted to know if I had time to visit other churches in Paris, especially the Miraculous Medallion where the Virgin appeared!

I could have said that I wasn’t Catholic or didn’t believe in Miraculous Medallions. Actually, that didn’t cross my mind as she so graciously was willing to write down all the places I should see and feel God, me a stranger. I simply showed respect to this wonderfully sincere woman and in the end asked if we should pray. “Yes, especially for my children, they have lots of troubles,” she asked. And so for a few moments a tall six-foot-two-accented-man prayed in French for the family of a beautiful white-haired seeker. As I left to go through the doors of that chapel I looked back once more and I saw a glowing smile and wondered, who got more blessed, that woman or me?