Ruminations from the back pew: happy clappin’


I’m not what you’d call an effusive worshipper. I’m not a hand raiser or a head throw back-er. I don’t tear up or mimic actions described in songs. If I’m clutching my heart meaningfully, I’m probably having a heart attack; please alert someone.

The farthest I go is sort of undulating on the spot. Not rocking or swaying, really, just…undulating. What I’ll do is I’ll scan the pews ahead of me, identify someone with an excellent sense of rhythm (we’re so lucky we have an ethnically diverse congregation) and copy theirs because God gave me none of my own. This is biblical. I believe it’s called the body of Christ and as we all know, one hand washes the other.

Last week at Bible study someone was talking about how they wish our worship sessions were more open to such Spirit-led displays. More?! I thought, rather cynically, left eye ticking. I was raised in the Dutch Reformed Church. Generally speaking, just twitching along to the beat of the music was considered daring, even (God forbid) progressive. Instantly dark thoughts of pentacostalism loomed.

I’m split two ways about overt displays of praise. My initial reaction is suspicion. Because I’m not very emotive myself, I immediately distrust this in other people. But then I sort of goggle admiringly for the exact same reason. And, frankly, people with a voice as thin as mine are forever indebted to the bubbly singers throwing their arms in the air like they just don’t care and cancelling out our sound waves.

This gives us enough space to undulate, spiritually :).

Reblog: The Mystery of Original Sin | Christianity Today

God is not a boundary around the edges of our lives, a limit to our abilities that we are always striving to surpass. Nor, we might add, is he the keeper of a boundary imposed by legalists who think we can be changed through an ever more encompassing set of rules. He belongs in the center. Were God merely an outer boundary, we would be left with an inner boundlessness, an emptiness at the heart of things—left, that is, without any true organizing center for our lives. It is only when our relationship of glad obedience to God governs everything that we will be truly free. Then we will find no need for a boundary at all. The more we find ourselves needing to shore up boundaries, or feeling driven to escape them, the surer we may be that something is wrong at the center.

The whole article is worth a read: The Mystery of Original Sin | Christianity Today.

I’m glad I came across this article. Lately I’ve found myself scrabbling for ‘balance’. This is something I revert to whenever my faith is in crisis; when I realise I’m wandering but am in denial about it. I try to find a ‘balance’ between my faith life and my life life, often unconsciously (but often consciously, too). I try to set ‘boundaries’ for my faith: finish the Christian to-do list (Scripture, devotion time, prayer), so I can have the rest of the day “off God”. As if that’s possible, or real faith.

And then the Holy Spirit chipped in and told me (outside a municipal office, of all places), ‘It’s not about balance, it’s about infusion.’ We compartmentalize faith: it’s just one box of many (‘marriage’, ‘kids’, ‘school’, ‘work’, ‘friends’). But in reality, of course, it’s not a box, it’s the storage space. Everything else should fit into it.

This reminds me of something I read in Mere Christianity:

The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see…

What simple, profound principle has the Holy Spirit been leading you back to?

Reblog: Saying Good-bye to Old Friends and the Me I Used to Be

I do remember, as I entered into the life of a practicing Christian, that I thought that I wouldn’t be like the other Christians. I wouldn’t lose the friends I had before I converted. I would be cool. Nothing was going to change. I was going to keep on being the same person I had always been, believing the same things I had always believed.

[…] I didn’t reckon with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. God didn’t seem to mind if I wanted to begin my Christian life by being cool. He just didn’t pay much attention to it. At that stage, he didn’t seem to be trying to change what I did. He was changing what I wanted to do.


See if you recognise your first few years as a Christian convert in the rest of this article: Saying Good-bye to Old Friends and the Me I Used to Be.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

(Galatians 5:22-24 ESV)

Passion, prayer

Lord, take my lips and speak through them; take my mind and think through it; take my heart and set it on fire.

— W.H.H. Aitken

I like this: take my heart and set it on fire.