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Rediscovering God

Making sense
in a broken world
Tim Attwell

cingela press
Cape Town, South Africa
Cingela Press
PO Box 352, Bettys Bay, Western Cape, South Africa 7141
www.cingela.co.za
Tim Attwell
This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the
provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of the
author.
First published 2015
ISBN (print edition): 978-1-928313-05-2
ISBN (reflowable ebook edition): 978-1-928313-06-9
Design: Arthur Attwell

Contents

Acknowledgements

Preface

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 Montaigne


had a friend by the name of tienne de La Botie. The
friendship lasted a mere four years before tienne de La
Botie died. Eighteen long years later Montaigne still
mourned the loss of his friend. He wrote: If I compare
the rest of my life to those four years it is but
smoke and ashes since that day I merely drag
wearily on. (Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy, page 147).
What was it that was so special about that short
friendship? Montaigne explains: He alone had the privilege of my true portrait. In other words De La Botie
allowed and enabled Montaigne to be himself. Montaigne contrasted tienne de La Boties friendship with
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not kidding

other friendships in which, to avoid raised eyebrows or


disapproval, he could present only an edited version of
himself. And that was five hundred years ago!
More recently a Salvation Army theologian with the
delightfully simple name of Fred Brown observed: The
world seems to be full of people whose primary aim in
life is to be somebody else! (Fred Brown, Faith Without
Religion, page 64).
It is very hard to come to terms with the truth about
what we are and accept ourselves as we are. We know,
or at least we think we know, what kind of people we
would like to be. Although we try to live that way, it is
often with a sneaking sense of frustration that we are
not getting it quite right or fear being found out and
exposed as a fraud.
Other, perhaps darker, sides of who we are keep popping up when our defences are down. We entertain
thoughts and feelings we can scarcely acknowledge to
ourselves let alone to other people. Its these unacknowledged or, to us, unacceptable, often darker, sides
of who we are that keep messing with our lives and
relationships usually unexpectedly. So we make it our
primary aim to be somebody else.
Having made that point, we hear Jesus saying these
words: My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they
follow me. (John 10:27).
I know them. Who was Jesus talking about? First, he
was talking about Simon Peter, James and John, Judas
Iscariot, the woman at the well and all the rest.

not kidding

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Jesus had an uncanny ability to see right into their


inner core. He knew that Peter would deny him before
Peter knew it. He knew that James and John were jockeying for positions of status and privilege behind their
fellow disciples backs. He knew Judas was plotting to
betray him. He knew about the woman at the wells
dubious relationships with men. So when Jesus says: I
know them, hes not simply saying he has met them.
Hes saying that he knows things about them they are
afraid to admit to themselves.
When he says further: I give them eternal life, and
they will never perish. No one shall snatch them out of
my hand (John 10:28), hes not talking about giving
them some sort of reward for good conduct. Their conduct was far from good. So when he says he will give
them eternal life he is promising them resurrection.
It is important, at this point, to notice that resurrection and eternal life are the same thing.
Readings from the Books of Acts and Revelation give
instances of people who were resurrected. In Acts
9:3643, Dorcass resurrection was in this life. In Revelation 7:917 the resurrection described happens in
the afterlife. The point of the readings, taken together,
is that resurrection is to be experienced before and
after we die.
Eternal life does not only mean everlasting life.
Eternal life, or resurrection, is not about adding an infinite quantity of years to our life. Eternal life is about
adding an infinite quality of life to our years.

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not kidding

Eternal life refers to a quality of life, a quality of fulfilment, of wholeness, of reconciliation and at-onement with ones self, with other people and with God.
Eternal life is a quality of life, to be experienced now, in
this life, that transcends the barriers that shut us off
from life abundant or life in all its fullness which
Jesus refers to in Johns Gospel chapter 10, verse 10.
Eternal life is for now, in this life. It is merely a bonus
that life in all its fullness, eternal life, resurrection,
transcends the barriers of death and has an infinite
dimension.
So what does eternal life feel like? Words like fulfilment, wholeness, reconciliation and at-one-ment
sound great, but what do you feel when you experience
them?
Basically, you feel accepted and acceptable. You begin
to experience eternal life when you discover that you
are known fully and that you are still loved! For example, eternal life, or resurrection, began for a middleaged woman whom Fred Brown wrote about, who said
that the happiest day of her life was when she stopped
pretending she was twenty years younger (Fred Brown,
Faith Without Religion, page 64).
When Jesus says I know them, he is really saying, I
know them as they are, not as they would like to be
known. And he also says of them: No one will snatch
them out of my hand.
It is that assurance that sets us free. Eternal life starts
for us when we realise that the good news from Jesus is

not kidding

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that we are accepted and acceptable as we are. That is


when we begin to grasp real fulfilment, reconciliation
and at-one-ment. No more pretending, no more hiding, no more dark side that catches us unawares and
messes with our lives, no more sneaking feelings that
we arent getting it right or are about to be found out.
Its a resurrection, the beginning of a whole new quality of life.
references
Acts 9:3643, Revelation 7:917, John 10:2230

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26
Spirit

Whenever I visit the Little Karoo I go looking for a particular plant. Its called Astroloba corrugata. Very few
people notice it, so it doesnt have a common name.
Mostly I find it among sharp rocks in dry windswept
places, sheltering under another plant or hiding behind
a rocky outcrop. Although it can get bigger, its a natural bonsai, about as tall as your middle finger. Its
pointy, thick, spiky, knobbled leaves are neatly
arranged around a tough little stem. Its a perfectly
formed, feisty little aloe with attitude, wonderfully
adapted to its harsh world. I love it!
The most marvellous feature of planet Earth is the
continual emergence, growth and adaptability of life in
even 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 primal ooze it started in, to the complexity and beauty of
classical music, the ingenuity of technology, the formation of organised communities, the making of art and
the splendour of human love, life grows, adapts and
develops. When catastrophe strikes, within nanoseconds life begins again and grows, better adapted to the
new situation.
Life is a dynamic process, always on the move to
something more. To be alive is to be continually on the
way to what can be but is not yet. Philosophers and
theologians speak of the way life transcends itself.
That wonderful Psalm 104 connects this dynamic
process with spirit:
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
The Earth is full of your creatures.
When you send forth your spirit,
They are created;
And you renew the face of the ground.
For nearly seventeen hundred years we have declared
in the Nicene Creed: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the
Lord the giver of life
When we say those words, we declare our confidence
that human life, the most marvellous and complex of all
life forms, is deeply affected and transformed by the
spirit

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same Spirit who enables the natural world to transcend


itself through the slow and majestic movement of evolution. No wonder we call that Spirit Holy.
The same Spirit of life in the tough little Astroloba
enables you and me to develop personality, mind, intelligent imagination and reason. The Spirit enables us to
exercise the skills of conscious understanding and perception, intention, will and purpose. The Holy Spirit
enables us to work with our drives, instincts and
desires, to negotiate our way through social trends, different moral, ethical and cultural traditions and relationships in even the toughest social, economic and
political circumstances so that we are able to adapt, to
change, to gain new understanding and skills, get along
in a changing world and flourish alongside each other
and all people.
This is the real point of Lukes account in Acts chapter 2 of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus. The point of that story is not merely that
Jesus followers were suddenly able to speak lots of foreign languages. The more important point is that they
were able to be understood by many different sorts of
people and presumably were able to understand them
too. In a word, the Spirit enables you and me to transcend ourselves and become what we can be but are
not yet.
Thats why Jesus says, If, in my name, you ask me
for anything, I will do it. Hes not promising to be some
sort of genie in Aladdins lamp running to our beck and

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call; he deliberately links his promise with the Spirit.


He says, I will ask the Father and he will give you
another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the
spirit of truth (John 14:16, 17).
He does, however, also say (rather alarmingly), This
is the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive.
Now what on earth what does he mean by that?
He means that you and I and all conscious human
beings have a way of blocking out important aspects
of the Spirits work. We do this by harbouring in ourselves another spirit.
Note that other spirit isnt some sort of supernatural bogeyman, but rather a collection of attitudes and
ways of thinking, a collection of feelings which quench
the influence of the Spirit of life in important aspects of
our lives. St Paul, writing to the Romans (chapter 8,
verse 15), speaks of the spirit of slavery [which causes
us] to fall back into fear.
As long as we harbour negative attitudes towards
ourselves (thats the spirit of slavery), as long as we
entertain attitudes of suspicion and fear of other people,
as long as we fear living positively and as long as we
dread the future, we are unable to be energised by the
Spirit whom Jesus promises and therefore we, and the
community around us, become unable to flourish.
When we put aside those negative, enslaved and
fearful attitudes, ways of thinking and feeling, we celebrate the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. We
celebrate the same Spirit who gives life to the little

spirit

107

Astroloba and, as St Paul says in Romans 8:11, who


raised Christ from the dead and who gives life to [y]our
mortal bodies.
references
Acts 2:121, Romans 8:1417, John 14:817

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