my minds journey

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who is this God?

It was mentioned at Church on Sunday that our understanding of who God is directly shapes our response to God.
On reflection I came to realise that the image we have of God will determine our thoughts about God, the world our response to mission, to the environment, other people.
It was a challenge to me to consider what my image of God is and how this image influences how I live and respond to God.
Part of the challenge is to examine what forms my image of God and how I have come to create this image.

Another interesting thought I have pondered this week... Seemingly unanswered prayer.
We consider Jesus prayer the night he was crucified, "take this cup from me..." An unanswered prayer, if you believe that Jesus was crucified and died. We often come to God in prayer frustrated when we don't get an answer, or the answer we were hoping for. There is something to that, the fact that Jesus prayed and did not receive an answer.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Creating home...

We had our first full week in Footscray this week. I am still on holidays from work, so I have had plenty of time for just "being" and the flexibility to do more than I might in a usual week.

It is nice to have most of our stuff unpacked and not be living out of a suitcase, I feel like I can settle in and begin to make this place my home. I now have some idea about where places are and am getting to know people in the community, well at least at a surface level.

Church was a challenge today. We were talking about giving/sharing, in the context of a parable in Mark, "Jesus feeds the 5000" Someone was sharing about how they were trying not to buy anything new, but to buy something second hand (Obviously, staple items such as food, they bought new)

Their motivation for this was to help minimise the consumption of things in our world and reduce the need for more "stuff" to be created. It is a challenge to me. I don't go and buy new stuff all the time, but I do buy new things without even thinking if I could get them second hand. It has made me stop and consider how much I consume and how sustainable it is.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

well rested...

My husband Liam and I have just come back from some time away. It was a lovely holiday, nothing overly special, but a time to stop and be together, a time to stop and relax without the need to be anywhere!

I am feeling remarkably refreshed and renewed. I am feeling ready to face a new year of new challenges and new adventures!

Liam has been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer and he has been reading some of to me. (I know it's slack!! I'm not a heavy reader!!)
Bonhoeffer has been discussing the Sermon on the Mont. What a challenge!

"Love your enemy" says Jesus. Bonhoeffer reminds us that this love isn't just being superficially poliet - but a deep sense of compassion towards our enenies (the same love we have for ourselves and our friends)!

What a challenge! A challenge that I have failed many times. As I came to the realisation that the love that Jesus talks about is so deep that I cannot understand it, I came to realise how much I need God to show how to love and to create this love inside me. For I will not possess this love in my own doing, it must come from God.

Friday, December 29, 2006

stories...

Liam and I had dinner with my Grandma (Gran) and My Great Uncle (affectionately know as Gruncle Ron), it was a lovely meal. As the dinner progressed we moved into a time where Gran and Gruncle Ron began to reminiss events from their childhood.
It was a lovely time of sharing, one of those moments I value.

"You must be tired of hearing our ramblings" Gran commented, but I felt quite the contrary, I really value the stories she has to share. They form part of my heritage not only on a broad scale, hearing about life before cellotape and plastic bags, but also on a personal level, hearing about the cockatoo that flatly stated to the milkman, "No milk today."

These stories are memories of those who have gone before me and I hope to pass these stories, along with my own to the generations that follow me. It is through these stories that the memory of those we have loved continue to live in our hearts.

A time of storytelling around the table after a good feed (care of my husband a great cook!) is a time more precious than gold!

Reflecting further on the stories we share between generations leads me to recall the stories of the bible and how they were originally shared through stories told to each other, perhaps recalled after a good feed. Stories that brought hope and revelation of who God was. Stories that shared the life of Jesus, God incarnate.

Stories past down generations that form the basis of a community of faith that continues to evolve and deepen.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

hello... goodbye

Life can be measured by how well we welcome and let go...

Life is full of comings and goings, we move through many stages over our lifespan. Childhood to Adolescene, Adolescene to Young Adulthood, Marriage, Becoming a parent, Becoming a parent with adult children, Working, Retired, Elderly and that's just a few!

Today was a day of change for me, well I guess it is a signifcant day amoungst the change.
We are moving house, not just house, but suburbs.

Most significantly it means leaving friends and an adopted family that I have made in the place I have called home over the past three years. It took me a long time to make this place home. But now that I am leaving, I realise how precious this place has been to me. I have been truly blessed by the people here and I am truly sad to leave. I will miss them a lot!

I feel excited about my new venture, the opportunity and the new challenge. As well as feeling slightly anxious about what lies ahead or me. But my anxiety is calmed as I remember my motivation for change, it is what I feel God has called me to.

A time of mixed feelings, of deep sadness of what I leave behind and of excitment of the opportunities!

So as I let go of this part of my life, I welcome something new...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

That curious parent child relationship - what are the influencing factors?

The second year cadets had their silver star luncheon today, it is the meal where the parents, well the mother I believe, is given a silver star upon the pending commissioning of their child as an officer. It got me thinking about parents in general. People have such a variety of relationships with their parents. In many eases, the parent has implicity or expliciting had an influence on who the child becomes. This biological parent provides nature, the child rearers the nurture. In many cases the two are but one and the same. What an influence - yet in many ways I feel it unfair to heap all the 'blame' on the parents. I read one article that spoke of children as strangers entering the space of your home. People in their own right, whom the parent learns about and gets to know. I guess I found this freeing for the child, a restoration of the child as an individual is part of a greater community, even as small as the family. It would be just asa naive to claim the parents had no influence as to claim they held full responsibilty.

I am reading a book, "We need to talk about Kevin," in which a mother reflects on her journey as a mother to a son who at 16 commits a murderous act. It very blatantly asks the question, just how much did she shape what her son had become? I'm often told that know my mother, "oh you're so like your mother." I see in myself aspects of my parents that I like and perhaps some traits that I am less comfortable with. It begs the question just how much do our parents shape who we become? Whe do we begin to take responsibility for it ourselves?

I think in some cases I have felt a sense of responsibility for my parents, for their behaviour, for who they are. Yet I am led to question myself as to where my responsibility stops and theirs begins.

In some ways I guesss it is not dissimilar to the embarassment of a young person when their parent is in the presence of their peers. the embarassment is caused by the feeling of responsibility the young person has for the parent's actions. Yet in reality the child has usually little contol, much less responsibility for their parents behaviour. The point of my ramblings is to explore the curious link we have with those who we call family.

To what extent is the parent responsible for the child they produce? Following on from that, as a child to what extent is a parent a reflection on the child?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Chocolat

A Lasse Hallstrom film, Chocolat delights the senses and evokes a sense of passion for life. Vianne, driven by the north wind arrives in the small town Lansquenet, with her daughter Anouk to open a chocolaterie using recipes over a thousand years old. Vianne enters the stark town and is welcomed by the Comte de Reynaud, the Mayor of Lansquenet, who has extraordinary control over the church and consequently the entire town. This relationship becomes one of frustration as Comte de Reynaud realises that Vianne will not comply with his expectations and social norms. This is highlighted by her refusal to attend church. Controversially, Vianne opens her chocolatier (during Lent!) and proceeds to reach into the hearts of the people in the community through her chocolate. However, not without facing the many obstacles forced upon her by the Comte. The story reveals the harsh reality of who is included and who is excluded and contemplates what it means to belong. It highlights the tension between what it means to deny oneself and what it is to be free in Christ. It explores the concepts of sin, redemption and forgiveness.

Although labelled as evil by the Comte de Reynaud, Vianne’s chocolatier is a place of acceptance and refuge for many in the town who are hurting. Francoise Drou enters the shop for the first time and Vianne connects with her in the usual way selecting a chocolate she believes will be her guest’s favourite. Vianne sends a gift home with Francoise for her husband to lift his libido and consequently the couple become regular visitors to the shop. I can not help but sense some form of renewal for their marriage as a result of their encounter with Vianne and her magical chocolates. Curiosity overcomes Josephine as she takes a look inside the Chocolaterie. A withdrawn woman, viewed by others as quite deranged, Josephine is persistently loved by Vianne and finds her value from this encounter. Vianne’s openness to share her chocolates with the people seems to create a sense of acceptance. Then almost like magic, the chocolate melts the social rigidities forced upon the people of the community. Josephine shares with Vianne in response to her invitation and the relationship blossoms, eventually giving Josephine the courage to leave her abusive husband and become confident in herself. Josephine begins to work in the shop and finds some purpose in her life. Once again renewal is revealed through this encounter, Josephine has been redeemed. It is in the Chocolaterie that Vianne brings together Armande Voizin and her estranged grandson Lu. In the refuge of the shop around a big mug of hot chocolate the love between Grandma and Grandson is ignited and another relationship is redeemed. But what about Serge (Josephine’s husband), does he find restitution? He is forced to confess his sin and to change his way by the Comte de Reynaud. However, there is a strong sense that Serge does not find any freedom or forgiveness in his acts. Sadly, Serge is used by the Comte to publicly illustrate the Comte’s understanding of sin and redemption. However, for the Comte de Reynaud there comes a point when he banishes Serge from the town, almost casting him aside as unredeemable. What will become of the dear old Comte? It appears to me that he finds restitution when he is set free from the things that bind him and cause him to become pious and judgemental, perhaps when he is broken he is truly redeemed.

Vianne’s open hospitality creates a space where all people are welcome and validated. Unlike the hospitality of the church people, the chocolatier is a place where all people have the opportunity to be included. The gypsies came to town and are excluded from every shop, except the Chocolaterie. Vianne welcomes them into her home almost in spite of those who reject them. Vianne and her crew bring together an amazing meal for Armande’s birthday party. After enjoying a delicious main course together Vianne announces that dessert will be held on the gypsies’ boat. This is followed by a moment of great tension as the people of the town are confronted with the challenge to interact directly with the outsiders. However, the people join together on the boat for dessert and appear to have a wonderful time together. From the shore, it is those who could not accept these outsiders who wallow in their grief. This meal demonstrates how the sharing of a meal can break down the tension between people and create a deeper level of acceptance for each other. When considering those who would consider themselves “in” and the others, it appears that the “insiders” are so much more miserable than the “outsiders.”

This leads me to ponder what it means to be free in Christ and how self denial is connected to that. It is Lent and the “holy” people of the church have given up all indulgences until easter. The main characters who are striving for this are Comte de Reynaud, Caroline Clairmont, the priest, Serge (during his attempted redemption) and Lu Clairmnt (under the instruction of his mother). Consequently, these characters are obliged to refuse any hospitality offered by Vianne through her chocolates. Throughout the film one cannot help but notice that those who are miserable are the Comte, Serge and Caroline. It seems that their act of self denial has become an act that binds them. Meanwhile Lu (without his mother’s knowledge) makes the decision to stop his fast and indulge while he is at the Chocolaterie. Lu, along with the others who venture into the shop and experience the hospitality of Vianne appear to have found a new freedom in their lives. It leads me to question what Jesus meant when he said that he came to give life in all its fulness. In the film, those who experience life in its fullness are those who were accepted by Vianne and received redemption in their lives: Josephine, the Drous, Lu and Armande. The denial of self for the others led to frustration and a determination to be good by their own means. The Comte becomes increasingly frustrated and eventually cracks. Eventually, the Comte breaks into the Chocolaterie and indulges in the chocolates. Vianne accepts the Comte de Reynaud as she does anyone else who enters her shop. The peace that the Comte was striving for was found in Vianne and those who accepted her hospitality. However, I do not believe that the fullness of life was a result of indulgence rather a recognition of the need to change. Looking deeper into Vianne’s character she did display self denial during the film. Vianne denied her own acceptance from others by accepting those who were considered outsiders. Perhaps self denial can lead to fullness of life if we undertake it with a more helpful attitude. Rather than seeking holiness through self denial as something to separate the good from the bad, we need to discover how self denial can bring people together. The film encourages us to look deeper into our understanding of what it means to be a good Christian. In his final sermon, the priest says that the people need to “measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.” This is statement encapsulates the main message of the film and on reflection it is embodied through the hospitality displayed by Vianne and her daughter Anuk.

Finally, near the closing of the film, all the towns people come together embracing Vianne’s hospitable attitude and create a feast for Easter Sunday. This act of love displays the enormous impact that Vianne’s character has had in their lives. Surrounded by food and celebration the people come together, even the Comte, and the small town Lansquenet, has been redeemed.

I could not help but shed a tear of joy as the people finally embraced one another. My immediate response to the film was to be challenged by how people see God’s hospitality reflected in my life and encouraged me to question if I am as accepting and loving as Vianne. I can identify with many of the characters, who identify aspects about my own behaviour and attitudes that I share. Some of the realisations act as an encouragement while others speak out against unhelpful attitudes that I may hold. I do not believe that one can be passive as the enter the world of Chocolat. It draws you in and holds you there as you journey with the characters throughout their turmoil and joy. Gradually you realise it is the characters’ willingness to value each other which unites them and creates a sense of community around the table.