Posts by Jen

What does it mean for Jesus to live in my heart?

What does it mean for Jesus to live in my heart?

By on Oct 28, 2013 in Blog |

I must admit, I can’t remember how old I was but as folk law often dictates, I remember where I was; sat on the floor in my youth leaders’ house in Liverpool. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure what they were thinking, showing this film to us – but what I saw that night helped crystallize some ideas which came to define my faith in my teenage years. Prisoner Andy Dufresne abuses his privileged access to the wardens’ quarters to play Mozart over the public address system in Shawshank prison where he is serving life for a murder he didn’t commit. The scene sweeps over a vast exercise yard and the inmates stare longingly upwards at the source of this unexpected female voice as her presence resounds throughout the prison. Upon rejoining his friends after his punishment for this stunt, Andy explains that he does not regret his actions and says, “that’s the beauty of music … they can’t get that from you”. He continues, “there’s something inside that they can’t get to … they can’t touch … it’s yours.” I, like many other Christians, made the instant connection between the way Andy felt about the transcendent beauty of the music he connected with and the idea of the transcendent God who lives inside my heart. It fitted beautifully with the idea of God as an internal, faithful companion, a kind of talisman, a good angel who allows beauty to dwell inside me. Somehow I, like Andy, would be able to resist the limiting patterns, places, authorities and injustices of the world and get ultimate justice for myself, if only I could train myself to hold onto, leverage this inner God who no-one else could get to or take from me. But, returning to the movie (*spoiler alert*), when Andy doesn’t emerge from his cell at the proper time one morning, it becomes clear that it is not this musical experience or any other inner meditation which has led to his freedom. His circumstances have been changed by his nightly ritual of digging through his cell wall and emptying it out onto the exercise yard. For years. Just before he leaves, he puts words to this. “I guess it...

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Bookcases, Lattes and the Restoration of my Soul

Bookcases, Lattes and the Restoration of my Soul

By on Sep 5, 2013 in Blog |

I often hear the Bible characterized as an instruction manual. But instruction manuals are mono-layered, have a single purpose and method. If I want real, life-giving, applicable, intimate advice, I don’t go to my IKEA flat-pack furniture manual, I go to a close friend. A well-chosen friend can offer me what the manual can’t. They still offer instruction, sure, but their words mingle with empathy, love, care, respect and all manner of other emotions to offer an experience-drenched interaction, not just a dry, lifeless transfer of information. If we believe that the God of the Bible chooses to reveal himself through the Holy Scriptures found in the book the Church refers to as the Bible, then he invites us to engage with a friend at the kitchen table, not a bullet-point, bookcase instruction manual. Allow me to explain what I mean: Among all Old Testament passages, Psalm 23 and I became deeply acquainted when I was a child and have been good friends ever since. However, after having muttered Psalm 23 under my breath, I do not feel an immediate sense of deep equipping (although I’m sure God works in this way too). My first reaction is “ahhhhhhhh”. I breathe more deeply, its poetry washes over me and I inextricably feel more whole than before. Psalm 23 has become part of my journey – or I have become part of it, as I am literally led beside the waters and made to lie down in the pastures and in the process I begin to understand what it means to be restored and pursued by the things of God’s heart. Recently though, my friendship with Psalm 23 took an interesting turn. I learned to speak its language. I learned how to read Hebrew. The process of being invited to access a Psalm I knew so well in a totally new way felt a little like what I imagine it is to be asked to be someone’s best man. It comes with a deep sense of privilege but equal sense of responsibility. Only one verb in Psalm 23 (other than ‘to be’) appears more than once, which is significant, arguably pivotal, in a short Psalm such as Psalm 23 (only 6...

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