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About my faith experience

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You should know I am not a professor. I am  not an academic. I’m definitely not a professional blogger. I'm a guy who used to cut down trees for a living and still owns a chainsaw. I'm a guy who used to do the garbage run. I still don't know how I ended up piloting military and rescue helicopters. Nor do I know how I ended up study finishing literature honours. I still have an ochre accent... 

Nor do I know how I married beauty and wisdom and gentleness and steel all in one superb woman and then ended up with three daughters better than Job's. I do know I was once given a promise, as a dead-end lumber jack in a small town, depressed in a back-yard caravan, that there would be a hope and a future. I just could never have imagined it to be this! A hope and a future with four beauties, rotor blades, literature and a churchling website. 

I remember at some point really wanting to hear from the best teacher of them all - really wanting to be personally trained by Him. I don't know how that has all worked out but I want that now, more than ever, that deep teaching, because I truly want to see precious people, the church, and churchlings, and me, and mine re-Formed. 

Part of this hypenated re-Formation, and part of the theology of conflict, is not to ignore disagreement but to engage it - to engage with the operations manual, bowed knee and an authentic humility. Maybe that's what I've done, maybe not. I've certainly tried to do it… And tried means succeeded and failed and succeeded again because of the power of the Holy Spirit who is very good at reconciling. 

Sometimes though I've just been flat out oppositional: studying not to meet Jesus and hear from Him but to find a dead kill argument Still, perhaps there's flowers, not just thorns in all this stuff. Maybe you'll get something good here, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll be able to keep at least one flower or two without getting pricked. 

In any case, If nothing good comes it's your own silly fault for wasting time reading this when you could have read, with bowed knee and seeking heart, the same operations manual I've got. 

After all I'm just a lumberjack with a chainsaw and an internet connection. And also a husband, a dad, a helicopter rescue pilot. I'm a pastor and a post grad student in literature (true story) and yep, I am a Christian - and maybe even an annoying one. (please don’t stop reading)

Many of the things we call ourselves, 'husband', 'dad', 'rescue pilot', etc can be separated and categorised fairly neatly into 'defining' activities like date nights, father-daughter time, flight planning, etc but very few of the things we call ourselves breach, or encompass, all of life. You don't know I'm a dad when I fly (unless you ask) because my role as a dad is distinct from my role as a pilot. And you don't care that I'm a dad as well as a pilot although you might care, at 6000 ft, if was a dad and not a pilot. (Alright, stop reading if you want.)

The point is our life roles are often more independent then we think. The guy in the shop you bought the long machiatto from could be a spy, communist, ex-astronaut, opera singer but to you, in that moment, in that life-category, he's a barista and nothing else (although I'm sure spies could probably make a good machiatto). 

There are only a few descriptors that encompass all of life all the time - like 'man'. Hopefully, at 6000 ft, at the cafe, at home you know I am a man because of stubble, squareness and certain boof headedness (although now that gender comes with stubble, squareness and breasts all at the same time even 'man' gets blurrily neutral) 

(Yep... annoying.)

Years ago, in an African country, as a young boy, I was caught up in what many would call ‘a religious experience’. In a boarding school called Sakeji, on the headwaters of the Zambesi River, I had my first taste of two thousand year hero stories of a guy called Jesus. In them I was introduced to the story of a super being called God - the story of Him who affectionately named every star, energised the thermonuclear energies of our sun, spun the world into poised orbit, and breathed - pnuematised - human life as the pinnacle of all life. A God who was a massive as He was relatable and as pervasive as He was individual and who ingrained his divine DNA, His image, into the substructure of every human being - pilots, pastors, dads, baristas and spies included. 

This was the story of the God who witnessed, tragically and inexplicably,  those first and ‘very good’ humans trade their affections for him for the affections of a piece of fruit. In an act of grace, separation rather than termination, was the call God made. And so He separated Himself from the first humans in profoundly tragic ways and yet, in just as profoundly magnificent ways, executed, very literally, their redemption beginning with blood-costing pelts and ending with the blood-costing price of His son. This was humiliatingly magnificent: His own appearance as the man Jesus Christ, the perfect life lived, the ugliest of deaths died, and the most thrilling of returns imaginable, as the stone cold corpse of God in flesh - Jesus - emerged from the tomb and sparked the most enthusiastic evangelistic push ever by a bunch of barely literate, and up to that point generally pathetic, apprentices. These apprentices transformed the world with hope on their lips and faith and love in their hearts - faith and love with arms and legs on. Never a sword raised in the first three hundred years. A story more historical than Julius Caesar, more factual than wikipedia, and more compelling than any other event in antiquity. 

It was this story that did something in me.  Months of hearing this story, and of the call to become part of the story, by trust-depending on this Jesus changed something in me. As I heard of the need to turn from my own angers, selfishnesses, gossips, God ignorances - something the ancient texts called over and over again ‘sin’ -  and having it explained by my mum one night, something primordial turned inside me. I knew - soul-deep knew - I had to follow this tomb-defeating guy called Jesus who now, in that very moment, as real as the air around me, and the heart beat within me, seemed in that moment to have embraced me, to have become as real to me as anything in that room. 

In short, and to sum up the religious experience, insomuch as He had taken up residence in my three dimensional existence, and in some profound way become one with me and me with Him, infused my being, I very literally became a Christ-one. Out of all the descriptors, and if God in Christ is really God in Christ - then ‘Christian’ really is, or really should be, the meta-category and the meta-descriptor. It should be the feature that infuses, energises and constrains all the other descriptors. Which means I am a Christian husband. I am a Christian dad. I am a Christian pilot. I am a Christian pastor (yes there are some pastors who aren’t, by definition, ‘christian). I'm not a 'dad-ing' pilot or a piloting husband (well sometimes but don't nuance me yet...) It really can't be any other way with a thermonuclear God who governs all molecules including the maverick ones and the ones that are the miniature building blocks of your existence. 

I haven’t been a very good Christian sometimes. In fact for great swathes of my life I was less a Christian and more a self indulging ratbag - thus giving up God just like Father Adam and Mother Eve for the secondary delights of an apple (or girl, or drunkeness, or video games and yes Amiga games were just as dissipative as Xbox 360 games). But my experience has always been, as the ancient poetry says, of the Good shepherd who tends his sheep well and who ‘comforts’ with rod and staff in uncomfortable (but nonetheless loving and redeeming) ways. My experience has been of the One who constantly comes for me, who does not leave me as I am, but rescues me, redeems me and brings me back. I remember someone once saying to me, in a deeply theo-logical, and probably an ultimately time-wasting discussion, 'how if you don't believe such and such a doctrine, do you ever have any assurance'. My answer seem to leap from my spirit to my brain and it was simply 'because He keeps coming for me...'

Because he keeps coming for me...

Again, it’s hard to explain if you have never felt it but there is no doubt that there is a presence with me beyond five-sense existence and yet infused with it as well. It ebb and flows of course, but it never ceases. It cosies into the experiences and emotions of day to day living and it is watered and tended by the ancient writings in which this God introduces and re-introduces himself to me daily - this spectacular God who names and powers up the cosmos, takes the whip and the nails ,and the thorny crown, and the spear, and finally a death bloodied cross.  As I read those writings, sometimes called the ‘biblios’, the book of books, or  the bible, God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit seem to emerge from the pages to join with me in this life-walk and there to guide, counsel, encourage, rebuke and correct. As I read, or as I hear, and as I pray (which is merely speaking words out loud or 'in- loud' to the God who is there) a meeting place is created in which I get to know this Creator Crucified God. 

And in that meeting place I get to know Him - His personality, His likes, His dislikes, His feelings (for I have discovered that He is most certainly as omni-emotional as omnipotent), which is infinitely weet and attractive and powerfully compelling and fearsome all at the same time. And then, as I live, I live for Him (because there is no better boss or dad or celebrity), and I live with him (for His presence, I have discovered, goes with me) and I live in Him (because in Him I live and move and have my real being and without Him I have no sustaining will or power). And there, out there, in the world, around the kitchen bench, in the cafe of the barista, the cockpit, the hospital bed - an all of living - is where I really know Him. Truth is only truly freeing in this religion, in this true religion, when it is lived and it is only in the living of this that the freeing comes. The freeing from the conformals ‘get’, ‘consume’, ‘own’ ‘sate’ ‘busy’ ’travel’ and the rest (sometimes at full pace) in the truth-freedoms of Him who says.

'Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’ 

I know where I want to be...

But this is where, so far, I have ended up….

 © pastoringpilot@reformplease.com