rediscovering god: making sense in a broken world (sample preview)

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This is a sample preview—to buy the book, visit most of us, the world makes less sense every day. We struggle to find meaning in our work, our relationships, and our place in the world. Common sense has become less common. And Christian faith, which shaped us growing up, slips from our grasp.In this series of short, wise perspectives, Tim Attwell helps us find direction in daily life and the vastness of the universe. He reintroduces us to the people and God of the Bible that we easily lose sight of, and helps us think in fresh new ways.About the authorTim Attwell is a writer, speaker, radio presenter, ecologist and mountain guide. He spent over forty years in urban and rural Methodist ministry, leadership and teaching. He asks a lot of questions: ‘Why is there something and not nothing? What makes something true? What is God, and why is God so compelling? What flower is that? How did that rock form?’ His lifelong love of nature and endless curiosity make his insights new and thought provoking.


  • Rediscovering GodMaking sensein a broken world

    Tim Attwell

  • cingela pressCape Town, South Africa

    Cingela PressPO Box 352, Bettys Bay, Western Cape, South Africa

    Tim Attwell

    This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to theprovisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduc-tion of any part may take place without the written permission of theauthor.

    First published 2015

    ISBN (print edition): 978-1-928313-05-2ISBN (reflowable ebook edition): 978-1-928313-06-9

    Design: Arthur Attwell

  • Contents

    Acknowledgements 5

    Preface 6

    Introduction 10

    1 Ceaseless creativity 15

    2 News junkie 20

    3 Beyond self-indulgence 23

    4 Okay, not okay 26

    5 Will it be alright? 29

    6 While minding our business 32

    7 Jesus wife 35

    8 More than right and wrong 38

    9 Not about the silly boat 41

  • 10 The young man blew it 48

    11 Its despair that ruins us 51

    12 I am somebody 54

    13 Creative transformation 57

    14 In the spotlight 60

    15 Useless vessels 65

    16 Less is more 68

    17 Mature love 71

    18 Attilas Lent 74

    19 Bad goodness 77

    20 Transcending goody two shoes 80

    21 Two men in big trouble 85

    22 Not kidding 88

    23 Love inside outwards 93

    24 Homecoming 96

    25 Old self, new self 99

    26 Spirit 104

    27 Its all good 109

    28 Mutant missions 112

    29 Stardust 115

  • 22

    Not kidding

    The French Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaignehad a friend by the name of tienne de La Botie. Thefriendship lasted a mere four years before tienne de LaBotie died. Eighteen long years later Montaigne stillmourned the loss of his friend. He wrote: If I comparethe rest of my life to those four years it is butsmoke and ashes since that day I merely dragwearily on. (Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philos-ophy, page 147).

    What was it that was so special about that shortfriendship? Montaigne explains: He alone had the priv-ilege of my true portrait. In other words De La Botieallowed and enabled Montaigne to be himself. Mon-taigne contrasted tienne de La Boties friendship with

    88 not kidding

  • other friendships in which, to avoid raised eyebrows ordisapproval, he could present only an edited version ofhimself. And that was five hundred years ago!

    More recently a Salvation Army theologian with thedelightfully simple name of Fred Brown observed: Theworld seems to be full of people whose primary aim inlife is to be somebody else! (Fred Brown, Faith WithoutReligion, page 64).

    It is very hard to come to terms with the truth aboutwhat we are and accept ourselves as we are. We know,or at least we think we know, what kind of people wewould like to be. Although we try to live that way, it isoften with a sneaking sense of frustration that we arenot getting it quite right or fear being found out andexposed as a fraud.

    Other, perhaps darker, sides of who we are keep pop-ping up when our defences are down. We entertainthoughts and feelings we can scarcely acknowledge toourselves let alone to other people. Its these unac-knowledged or, to us, unacceptable, often darker, sidesof who we are that keep messing with our lives andrelationships usually unexpectedly. So we make it ourprimary aim to be somebody else.

    Having made that point, we hear Jesus saying thesewords: My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and theyfollow me. (John 10:27).

    I know them. Who was Jesus talking about? First, hewas talking about Simon Peter, James and John, JudasIscariot, the woman at the well and all the rest.

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  • Jesus had an uncanny ability to see right into theirinner core. He knew that Peter would deny him beforePeter knew it. He knew that James and John were jock-eying for positions of status and privilege behind theirfellow disciples backs. He knew Judas was plotting tobetray him. He knew about the woman at the wellsdubious relationships with men. So when Jesus says: Iknow them, hes not simply saying he has met them.Hes saying that he knows things about them they areafraid to admit to themselves.

    When he says further: I give them eternal life, andthey will never perish. No one shall snatch them out ofmy hand (John 10:28), hes not talking about givingthem some sort of reward for good conduct. Their con-duct was far from good. So when he says he will givethem eternal life he is promising them resurrection.

    It is important, at this point, to notice that resurrec-tion and eternal life are the same thing.

    Readings from the Books of Acts and Revelation giveinstances of people who were resurrected. In Acts9:3643, Dorcass resurrection was in this life. In Rev-elation 7:917 the resurrection described happens inthe afterlife. The point of the readings, taken together,is that resurrection is to be experienced before andafter we die.

    Eternal life does not only mean everlasting life.Eternal life, or resurrection, is not about adding an infi-nite quantity of years to our life. Eternal life is aboutadding an infinite quality of life to our years.

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  • Eternal life refers to a quality of life, a quality of ful-filment, of wholeness, of reconciliation and at-one-ment with ones self, with other people and with God.Eternal life is a quality of life, to be experienced now, inthis life, that transcends the barriers that shut us offfrom life abundant or life in all its fullness whichJesus refers to in Johns Gospel chapter 10, verse 10.Eternal life is for now, in this life. It is merely a bonusthat life in all its fullness, eternal life, resurrection,transcends the barriers of death and has an infinitedimension.

    So what does eternal life feel like? Words like fulfil-ment, wholeness, reconciliation and at-one-mentsound great, but what do you feel when you experiencethem?

    Basically, you feel accepted and acceptable. You beginto experience eternal life when you discover that youare known fully and that you are still loved! For exam-ple, eternal life, or resurrection, began for a middle-aged woman whom Fred Brown wrote about, who saidthat the happiest day of her life was when she stoppedpretending she was twenty years younger (Fred Brown,Faith Without Religion, page 64).

    When Jesus says I know them, he is really saying, Iknow them as they are, not as they would like to beknown. And he also says of them: No one will snatchthem out of my hand.

    It is that assurance that sets us free. Eternal life startsfor us when we realise that the good news from Jesus is

    not kidding 91

  • that we are accepted and acceptable as we are. That iswhen we begin to grasp real fulfilment, reconciliationand at-one-ment. No more pretending, no more hid-ing, no more dark side that catches us unawares andmesses with our lives, no more sneaking feelings thatwe arent getting it right or are about to be found out.Its a resurrection, the beginning of a whole new qual-ity of life.

    referencesActs 9:3643, Revelation 7:917, John 10:2230

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  • 26


    Whenever I visit the Little Karoo I go looking for a par-ticular plant. Its called Astroloba corrugata. Very fewpeople notice it, so it doesnt have a common name.Mostly I find it among sharp rocks in dry windsweptplaces, sheltering under another plant or hiding behinda rocky outcrop. Although it can get bigger, its a nat-ural bonsai, about as tall as your middle finger. Itspointy, thick, spiky, knobbled leaves are neatlyarranged around a tough little stem. Its a perfectlyformed, feisty little aloe with attitude, wonderfullyadapted to its harsh world. I love it!

    The most marvellous feature of planet Earth is thecontinual emergence, growth and adaptability of life ineven the toughest circumstances. Aeon after aeon life

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  • develops new forms, becoming ever more complex.From primitive life barely distinguishable from the pri-mal ooze it started in, to the complexity and beauty ofclassical music, the ingenuity of technology, the forma-tion of organised communities, the making of art andthe splendour of human love, life grows, adapts anddevelops. When catastrophe strikes, within nanosec-onds life begins again and grows, better adapted to thenew situation.

    Life is a dynamic process, always on the move tosomething more. To be alive is to be continually on theway to what can be but is not yet. Philosophers andtheologians speak of the way lif


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