Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Imitation (sing it the way U2 sing 'Elevation')

My dad knows Dr Seuss' 'The Lorax' off by heart. He read it to us so many times as kids that it will be imbeded into his memory forever. When he is too old to remember the names of his own children, I bet he will still remember the names of the Brown Barbaloots, the Swammi Swans, the Hummingfish, and the Lorax.

My father has also recited this story to me so many times that when he begins, 'At the far end of town where the grickle-grass grows...' I am able to repeat the words along with him. I am yet to learn the entire story by rote, and I rely on him to help me along, giving me prompts and clues and suggestions for expression.

In Prague I attended a strings performance held in the old museum, which is closed for construction until 2015. It opens in the evening though, especially for these concerts.

The museum sits at the top of Wenceslas Square and is hundreds of years old. We entered the atrium and filed up the stairs to the main landing. From there four stair cases, two on each side, lead to the balcony above. I imagine that the rooms which run off from the balcony are full of history and mystery, and will be nothing but beautiful when the renovations are complete.

The musicians stood on the landing and we sat on the stairs. Sitting on the steps diagonally across from me was a blond haired boy in a blue shirt, about 12 years old. He too knew some of these songs off by heart. He played the air violin note for note, stroke for stoke. I valued his contribution and his enthusiasm. I suspect that the quality of his performance was thanks to his familiarity with the song and his opportunity to imitate the master musicans below.

Imitation isn't mere copy-catting. When I recite 'The Lorax' I am telling the same story as my father, but I tell it slightly differently, with my own particular emphases and personal style. When violin boy plays Mozart he is animatedly and energetically playing the song that was written all those years ago, and he plays with the passion his personality brings.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said 'imitate me as I imitate Christ.'

As I reflect on this I give thanks for those mentors and role models who have significantly impacted my life. I have been blessed with people who are familiar with the story of how God entered human history and showed us what true and perfect love is. They know the story well, they tell the story well. They sing it. They play it. And I have seen something of Christ at work in and through them.

I've been shown how to love the story. I've been shown how to live the story. I've heard the beauty of the song and I've been given space to play along.

Together, let us continue to imitate Christ and share in the life of his story

Sunday, 7 August 2011

He Tangata

My friend Mia has been living in Switzerland and I went and stayed with her for a few days. We caught a train from Gland, near Geneva, to Interlaken - the Queenstown of Switzerland.

The train was quite full so we had to sit with some strangers. Mia and I sat facing each other. I was next to a woman with her ear phones in and her eyes closed. Mia sat next to a man, she looked at me and made a baby motion with her hands. This young dad had his wee girl in a front pouch. She lay asleep against her fathers chest for a while.

Mia is an au pair and over the last few days she's been telling me that although she likes kids, she also likes her time off and can find children irritating when she's in "holiday mode." I felt for Mia when this wee lass started grizzeling and let out a short cry - Mia hates crying babies.

The dad opened up the pouch, kissed his daughter on the head and took out a bottle for her. Four month old Sophie spent the remainder of her time with us wooing Mia with her big, beautiful, blue eyes, staring intently at bright colours and chewing on her dad's finger to help her teeth come through.

As we watched and delighted in new, vulnerable life, and made sporadic small talk, I was reminded of the old Maori saying He aha te mea nui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata (What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.) I whispered it too myself and gave thanks to God for our humanity.

Monday, 1 August 2011

This is the Life

I stayed with the Iona community for a week and learnt about life. We all came  from different parts of the world, with our different journey's and our different stories, and we came together for seven days. We ate together, and worked together, and played together, and prayed together - we did life together. Nothing extraordinary, just everyday life (except that we had left our other everyday lives, with all their routine and reunions, at home).

On Friday we caught the ferry to Fionnphort and said our farewells. I continued on to Inverness to stay with some friends for the weekend.

Wendy, and her girls Megan and Allie, met me at the train station and we had dinner together. Spending time with this family of six (plus the dog and a visiting Granny) was another experience of sharing everyday life together. Callum was kind enough to give up his bedroom for a few days and Hugh had made some space on his floor for his brother to sleep.

We went sight seeing and grocery shopping, hired books from the library and had lunch at Loch Ness. Angus and I chatted about theology and us girls discussed wedding dresses with Granny. Wendy and I reflected on life, and we all played with the dog.

On this journey I have been blessed with community; first at Iona and then at Dingwall. This is what we were made for - for life - and life is something that is shared, something that is done in community. I can not create or sustain life, nor can I live in isolation. I can only share in the life that God has created and sustains.

During those times when I seek my own individual, self-centred life that I can preserve according to my own agendas, I find that I am not creating any kind of life for myself at all. I become arrogant and insular, and that will suck up any health and life within me, and I'll be left for dead.

But when we submit ourselves to God and sharing in his life as his people, that's when we find life, that's when we share in something far more beautiful than we could have ever created. It's not pristine and perfect, it can be messy and laboured, and beautiful.

I am reminded of the time Jesus told his followers that whoever wants to find thier life will loose it, and whoever wants to loose their life will find it. I want to loose myself. I want to be lost in the life of God - the life that his people share. Because, really, that's a pretty good place to be lost, and because, really, that's when I am found, that's where I am found, that's when I expereince real life - life in the Spirit.