Day 3: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

I heard some time ago that South Africa has a unique kind of sunset that looks differentsunset 2 to almost all others – especially those in the Northern Hemisphere.  The reason ours seem so much more splendid is because ours have a magnificent red hue.  In fact, one of the most iconic images of South Africa is that of a tree (or giraffe or elephant…) silhouetted against a red sky and a bright yellow sun.  The reason for these lovely daily paintings in the sky?  Red dust.  We have an inordinately large amount of red dust and it floats about in the sky making our cars dirty and turning our sunsets red!

Now, I live in a city.  Johannesburg is hardly known for its vast landscapes and endless plains.  It’s more like cars, trucks, looming office buildings, and lots of pollution.  But because of the number of cars, trucks, taxis, buses… (the list goes on) we get to set in traffic for a really long time.  Especially if we travel on a highway or at peak times.

sunset 1I say “get to”… A lot of people hate traffic with a ferocity that causes cold shivers even on the hottest summer days.  But me?  Well, I’m strange.  I like the anonymity of traffic.  It means I get to sing and dance and say hello to total strangers, and then never see them again.  Many a soundtrack has been memorised in my car while waiting for the traffic.  But there’s another great advantage to sitting in traffic – one that I managed to capture today.  Not very well, mind you (hey, I warned you I’m a terrible photographer), but capture it I did.DSCN4507

And this is where we get back to sunsets.

Rays that shoot across the sky in seemingly endless beams.  Yellows and pinks and blues and purples and oranges – colours that would look ridiculous together on a painting but somehow look incredible in the sky!  Silver lined navy clouds that hint at a cooler night, juxtaposed against white clouds that still have the sun DSCN4511spotlighting them in the great show that is the sunset.

Sitting in traffic tonight for 45 minutes meant a free 45 minute show of one of the greatest spectacles in the world.  With a repeat performance every night!

I realise that this series is supposed to be about South Africa and touristing.  But I’m quickly realising that it’s simply impossible to see the beauty of this country and not recognise the creator.  No one could choreograph anything as grand as the movement of the clouds.  No one could paint anything as breath-taking as the sunsets seen each dusk.  No one but my Lord.

The heavens declare the glory of God.

And here in Jozi, I get to see God’s handiwork in all its spectacular glory every single day!  If that’s not a reason to visit this place, what is?DSCN4509

Day 3 and I’m learning to love my country a lot more than I ever did before.

#25daysatourist

 

The Dead Theologian

Hi, my name is Cayley, and I am a theology student.dead theologian 2

(The blogsophere in my mind responds with: Hiiiiii Caay-leey.)

Is there a support group for people like me?  I’m pretty sure there should be one!  I have a feeling that the answer should be “yes, of course!  It’s called the church, silly!”  Unfortunately, I have the feeling it’s not quite so simple.

The problem with studying theology is that it becomes awfully easy to dismiss God as part of your studies.  (Here you go, God, here’s a nice box for you to stay in, right beside Ancient Greek and Demonology.)  It becomes far too easy to dismiss miracles – after all, they happen all the time in the Bible. And speaking of the Bible, that has a habit of becoming a little too much like a textbook.  Nope, better read something else today – just for your own sanity.

It terrifies me that a person who wants to study God would become the person to dismiss him and so easily believe lies!  It scares me even more that I am that person.

I called this post the dead theologian for this reason: we know we’re made alive in Christ.  We have the Spirit of the Living God in us.  We have been raised into the fullness of life with Christ…  Yet something seems to have died.  It’s hard to place my finger on it, but I know it’s dead.  Inside this living, breathing, born-again theologian wanna-be is something festering.  It’s the dead theologian syndrome.

So how do I combat the rigor mortis that is taking over my spiritual life?  How does this dead theologian live again?  Well, as I type this, I realise that the answer is quite simple… it’s just that, as per normal, the practice of it is not quite as easy.

Remember good ol’ Ezekiel way back in the Old Testament?  Well, he had a similar question when faced with a pile of dead bones.  He just got to do it in dialogue and slightly more eloquently.  The Lord asked him if the bones could live; if they could rise again.  And Ezekiel’s reply?  It wasn’t a sigh and a shake of the head.  Ezekiel didn’t hold a memorial.  He simply replied with the only thing he knew for certain: You alone know.

And lo and behold!  The bones lived!  God breathed his Spirit into those dead, dried up bones and they lived!  Those things were well passed rigor mortis.  Those things were practically decomposed.  I’m thinking elephant graveyard in Lion King.  Creepy, right?  Yet God made them live.dead theologian 1

That same Spirit lives today, and that Spirit is in me – I simply need to give myself over to God completely and allow Him to do His work.  As I said, harder in practice…  I’ll take a guess and say that what’s required is a broken, begging, fearful and worshiping heart.  I’m guessing God is asking for free reign. And this is one outlandish request I am more than happy to agree to!

Casting Crowns came out with a song some time ago with words that went like this:

A pastor stands before his congregation
Once a mighty army for the Lord
But now he stares into the lifeless eyes
Believers leading carnal lives
He wonders what they’re fighting for
But driven by a calling on his life

He spoke God’s word like
He’d done a hundred times before
But this time he comes broken and weeping
With tears of a broken heart
And he cries out to the Lord

Oh Lord, send Your wind into this valley
And breathe the breath of life into their souls
And raise them again a mighty army
For soon these arisen warriors will battle again
For they have been filled with the spirit wind

dead theologian 3I’m going to start praying hard for that Spirit Wind.  And I don’t need a theology degree to know that God answers prayers!

And that support group I so desperately need?  Well, church family – sorry for you, but you’re going to have to help this family member who needs to go to rehab…

 

PS.  If you know me personally, please don’t comment to me on what you’ve read here.  As Flannery O’Conner put it, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say”.

The Spirit of the control freak

control freak 1

We are the ones with anxiety disorders
The ones with five year plans
We take ourselves very seriously
We are peacemakers, do-gooders, givers, savers…
We are on time
We are overly prepared, well read, and witty
We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible
And thrive on self-deprivation
We are relentless
Judgmental with ourselves
And forgiving to others
We are the daughters of the feminists who said:
“You can be anything”
And we heard:
“You have to be everything”

My best friend sent this to me recently and I could identify with all of it.  I smiled and nodded and laughed in that weird awkward way we do when we know something so accurately describes us that it’s just scary.  And then I read it again and felt my heart sink to my stomach.  This just makes me sad now.  In this simple description of an unnamed people I see positive, powerful ideals that I want to attain to.  But I also see a shaded vulnerability and a fear of never being enough.

I am control freak.  I claimed the title long ago and I’m ok with it.  I know that I lead because I want to know the process and outcome.  I plan ten years ahead.  I get frustrated when a new idea or plan is sprung on me.  I don’t do spontaneous.  I do control.  To me, the end justifies the means, and so I plan the end in order to arrange the means perfectly.  I don’t do unplanned – it throws me!control freak 2

Which is why, when I read 1 Corinthians the other day, I felt so much relief.  See, as a control freak, mysteries are annoying.  Yes, I like gifts and the mystery of what’s inside, but I hate events or circumstances that are a mystery.  This is one reason I can’t understand people who don’t believe in God – how do they survive not knowing why or how or when or who…  Life is HUGE mystery to most, but it’s made quite clear to us that God has revealed the mystery.  We’re not in the dark anymore!  Hallelujah!  And how do we know what we know?  Well, take a look for yourself at 1 Corinthians 2:10 (and you can be in control of this discussion for a while): “But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit…”

It really is wonderful to me to know that what I need to know is all there – it’s all laid out in front of me if I just let the Spirit of God open my eyes.  I wonder how often I miss stuff because I’m squinting so hard my world goes blurry.  I guess in that regard, the Spirit is like glasses – suddenly everything is a whole lot clearer!

But on top of the comfort of knowing that not only has God got it under control, but he’s also allowed me to have some control and to see the bigger plan, there is also the comfort of knowing that I am enough.

Remember how I spoke about being freakishly controlling as being secretly insecure? Well, God deals with that too.  1 Corinthians 2:15 says “The Spiritual man makes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement…”  That whole insecurity thing comes from trying to seem enough to other people.  We’re so desperate for the affirmation of those around us that we forget that God affirmed us long ago – when he MADE us!

And I totally understand that when people are looking at you like last months tuna mayo sandwich, it’s kind of hard to remember that God is looking at you with love.  But again, maybe it’s time we insecure control freaks took hold of the gift of the Spirit and used some discernment in our thoughts.

The whole passage ends with “But we have the mind of Christ”.  I could sit and read that line for ages!  We are so incredibly undeserving.  It’s actually insane!  I’m being serious, if you’ve made it this far through this post, take a moment to stop and consider the immensity of what those seven words are saying.

Did you stop?

No!

I said stop.

Ok… I guess I can’t really make you, but I tried.

All I’m really saying here, I guess, is that it’s ok to be a little controlling.  It’s ok to be me and to want to know what’s happening and to control certain areas of life (after all, when I bake a cake, I need to control a whole lot of aspects!)  But I’m also saying that it’s about time I give that control over to God and trust the Holy Spirit to control and to comfort.  This world is not enough.  God is.

Sorry this one turned into more of a Bible Study, but that’s what was on my heart.