Saturday, 23 May 2015

Created to create

I like to write. I like to start with nothing but an idea – sometimes even a vague one – and try to make something from it. I like to play with words and arrange them on a page, to tell a story, to explore an idea. To share something with other people. 

I love the idea that I might create something that changes the world, even if only a little tiny bit. I want to make something that adds beauty, or gives inspiration. I’d like it if people were to read my words and feel a bit happier for having read them, or to change their mind, or to make them nod in recognition and realise that they’re not alone. 

Earlier on I was watching my daughters draw and paint and colour. I watched them make wonderful imaginative things out of paper and sticky tape. 


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Continued over at The Association of Christian Writers, where I post on the 23rd of every month.


Find out more about the ACW by checking out their website: www.christianwriters.org.uk

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Knocking on the door

Afternoon, Lord God.

Let me run this past you. 

You know when Peter was miraculously released from prison? I know it in terms of Acts 12 in the Bible, but I imagine you remember it as if it were yesterday. For me it's a story that I believe is true but can't quite get into the reality of; for you it's a fond memory.

Peter was in prison and then it got all dramatic; an angel appeared, chains fell off, doors opened by themselves and he walked free. I know he was pretty confused because it tells us so. At first he thought it wasn't actually happening to him, but just a vision, and then as the angel left we hear that Peter is standing in the street gaping. Well, that's how I imagine it. It says that '...when he came to himself...'(Acts 12:10) he makes his way to where he knew his mates were hiding. I wonder what he was thinking. Amazed, scared, awestruck, confused, overjoyed, excited? I'm quite sure that he couldn't wait to find his friends and tell them what had happened. Then maybe a glass of wine or two?

So he knocks on the door and Rhoda answers it. 

'Peter! Wow! We thought you were in prison! It's a miracle! Come in and tell us all about it.'

Nope. 

'Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognised Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the door!'
Acts 12:14

The disciples and Rhoda debate this for a while. Surely not. Peter is in prison. He's not at the door. Maybe it's his angel? (Seems to me that the disciples at this point were much more used to angels than we are these days. Why is that? If I'd been there I'd have suggested that it wasn't Peter at all but perhaps someone who sounded like him, but no, his angel. What about that?) 

Anyway, Peter's still at the door. Ahem. Knock, knock. 

It is Peter. It isn't Peter. Yes it is. No, it can't be. And so on. 

Knock, knock.

'But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.'

Acts 12:18

When they eventually open the door, Peter can get in. I'd love to have been there. 

'Of course it's me, you halfwits. I've been out there twenty minutes!'

Acts 12:18b (my version).

How wonderful, the tale he tells. A miracle indeed. Saved from Herod and secure in the knowledge that God Almighty is watching out for him and has a job for him to do. I bet the wine flowed and they talked into the night, even after Peter left (it says, '... for another place.' Where? That sort of thing intrigues me. Where did he go?) 

Anyway. It was a night to remember indeed.  I bet songs of praise were sung. I bet your name was lifted high that night. 

The thing that made me think was this: the disciples had been praying and praying for Peter. 

'So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.'

Acts 12: 5 NIV

They prayed earnestly. They prayed, presumably, that he would be alright, that he wasn't having too nasty a time, and that he might soon get out of prison.  

So they pray that he might be released, and he is. And yet, when he arrives at the door, they don't believe it. To the extent that Rhoda leaves the poor bemused man standing in the street knocking and knocking and looking over his shoulder for prison guards while she gets a bit high pitched in the living room with the disciples. 

They prayed fervently and their prayers were answered. And yet they were astonished. 

Nothing changes, does it? How incredibly reassuring that the disciples were taken aback and disbelieving when their prayers were answered just like I am. 

I pray about something (how often can I actually say I pray 'earnestly'? Feeling a bit uncomfortable about that) and then, sometimes, I am aware that you have answered my prayer. Of course, I suspect that you answer them much more often than I realise, but on the occasions where I see it and recognise it, what do I do? I run about like Rhoda telling people, 'You'll never guess what's happened! It's amazing!'

So I pray in faith, and yet I don't expect an answer. I'm sorry. The faith part is a bit thin, hey? 

Is it a sign of spiritual maturity when answered prayer, even the dramatic type, doesn't send me into a flat spin? When I'm not 'astonished' as the disciples? When I can say, 'Of course God answered my prayer. I'm not surprised; I knew he would'. Hmm. Is that faith, then? 

I think so.

'"Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt...you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done."'

Matthew 21:21

Ah. It's about the measure of faith, then. Is it possible for me to have a faith that can move mountains? I pray and I think I'm not doubting... but I'm wavery and wondering and I can't honestly say that I'm particularly earnest, much of the time. I'm in good company, because the disciples (who clearly did a better line in earnest) were astonished and doubtful when it came to answered prayer. Thankyou for them, Lord God. Thankyou that I you comfort me with their humanity. They were the very foundations of the Church and yet were reassuringly slow on the uptake.

I would like to ask, though; is it not always a breathtaking, awe-inspiring wonder that the God of the universe would listen to me and answer a prayer in my little life? I can't imagine taking it in my stride, or being unimpressed, because it's amazing to me that you hear me at all. 

I'm sure there's middle ground. I'm sure that I haven't got to the bottom of this; for now I'll go on trying to practice enough to pray earnestly and I shall be on the lookout for an answer. I shall try to expect one. Help me to notice more of the answered prayers that I know are heaped up all around me. Help me to be more sensitive to your hand in my life, Father. Show me how to pray with expectation, not just on the offchance. 

Give me more faith. More and more, Lord. I want to be faithful. I want to be what a friend of mine calls a 'Power Pray-er'. I want to hear from you so often that your voice becomes familiar to me. I want to chat. I want to listen. I want to pray in such a way that your will is done, here on earth, as it is in heaven. I want to bring a little bit of your Kingdom right here. I want to make a difference. 

I don't want to leave Peter knocking in the street. I want to see him stumbling down the road towards me with a startled expression because I was waiting for him to arrive. I was expecting him to arrive.

I just can't guarantee that if - no, when it happens I won't dash off excitedly to tell the world about it. I shall shout it from the rooftops. 

My God is good. He answers prayers. 









Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Broken Trust

My Trust is broken. 

It fell off the wall and landed awkwardly and even though it's been glued, it's wonky.

I can't help thinking that this is deeply significant. 

My word for last year was 'Trust', and, as I did the year before that, I had my word cut out of MDF by a gentleman who cuts things out of MDF for a small fee. 

There's a little space just above the wardrobe in my bedroom that is just made for fixing MDF words to - and so that's where my words live. 

I can see them from my bed, which is one of my favourite places in the world. I see them before I put the light out at night and I see them when I wake up in the morning. 

But 'Trust' fell off. Thud. It landed at an angle on the last 'T'. Bent, cracked, now glued, but (as they say in this neck of the woods) it's all skew-whiff. 

A metaphor for my life. I trust - yes I do - but it sometimes slips. I come unstuck, and on occasion I fall and land badly, and that hurts. I bruise. I mend, but I have scars. 

My trust in God is hugely variable. I wish it were not so, but I know that I do not have the staying power to stick closely to Him. When I am there, right by His side, holding on tight, I am safe, I am secure, I am right where I should be; but then I get distracted and I loosen my hold, and - there - I get pulled away and a gap yawns between us. When there is distance between God and me, it is easy to pick me off like a pack of hyenas with the slowest buffalo left behind by the herd. 

I am a slow buffalo, sometimes. 

However, good news. 

My Trust is back up there. 

It's been glued, but it's not quite straight. It will always droop a little now, following it's fall, but it's back where it belongs. The damage is subtle, but definite. However, because of the strength of the glue, it will never break in the same place; it's stronger than ever. 

Funny, that - the area of fracture is now stronger than the surrounding bits of MDF - a bit like bones. Bone callus is denser than normal bone and so it's rare for a fracture to take place where there's already been one. There are other weak points, but this one is healed. A little uglier now, a little smudgy, a little out of line, yet tough and resilient. 

My trust keeps taking knocks. There are days when I scribble urgently in my journal, 'I trust you, Jesus' and 'I trust you - I'm trying to' and there are days when I don't write in my journal and I forget to trust at all. Those are the days when my tenuous hold is weakening, weakening.... Lately there've been a few occasions where my need to trust has been overwhelming and yet I realise how poor I am at it. 

But, He is endlessly patient.  He soothes the hurts, heals the wounds and puts me back where I am safe. 

This year's word is 'Peace'. I've ordered my word in MDF from the man who makes things out of MDF but it hasn't come yet. I've been hoping peace will arrive very soon for quite a while, now. I am waiting for my Peace.

That's another post, I think.  

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The road less travelled

Lost again. Where am I?

Father God, I am always asking you for directions.

I keep asking you where I'm going and when will I get there? 

I'm asking you to show me the next step, which path to take, to show me which door should I push.

Which way should I go? What route would you like me to take?

Where will you lead me if only I am willing to be led?

I should stop asking, and just wait for you to show me. Maybe in the waiting there's more to see than there is in this chase,  where I am concentrating only on the road in front of me, pounding footsteps, breath coming in gasps.

Maybe I could sit here for a while, by this crossroads, and feel the sun on my back, and the breeze in my hair, listening to the birds and noticing the small things. The ladybird that lands on my arm, the wild flowers that grow at the roadside. The way the leaves on the trees look so breathtakingly beautiful against the bluest of skies.

Stop. Is that alright?

Maybe that's better than tearing down the road without glancing left and right, backtracking when I realise I'm lost, only to set off at a gallop in another direction. Running, running, not stopping to drink in the view or notice that you're there, waiting for me to sit down next to you. Waiting to show me something.

Enough.

I want to take the road less travelled. 

The road that is hardly noticed because the entrance is narrow; the one that's just for me, not for anyone else; the one that you're waiting patiently to take me down. My path.

You know this road so well - you know every bump and camber, every hill and valley. You know that there are place where the road leads perilously close to a sheer drop, where I'll need your arm to steady me, and you know secret places where there are still waters and lush meadows to rest in. You know when to stop to admire the view from the best angle and you know when how to guide me through the steep and treacherous parts where I'm scared to go alone and it's easy to lose my footing.

You want to walk this road with me, not just wave me off on my own. You want to point out the spectacular sights and you want to be there when I stumble.

You just want me to put down my maps and SatNav gadgetry and stop trying to do it myself.

To stop peering off down roads I'm not supposed to investigate. Those roads might lead someone else exactly where they're supposed to be going, but they're not for me. Those other roads often look easier than mine - prettier, more exciting; but you're waiting for me to stop looking longingly at the signposts or at other people's receding backs and look into your eyes. 

I'm going to sit here for a bit because I'm tired. Lord, I'm so, so tired.

I'm going to lean against this tree and watch the insects on the flowers and the sunlight filtering through green leaves and dappling the ground. I'm going to feel how soft the grass and the moss and I'm going to breathe in and breathe out slowly and deeply. Clean, cool, unpolluted air. I'm going to wait until the muscles of my shoulders relax and stop aching with tension and the noise in my head grows quieter and quieter. Until the peace that emanates from you washes over me, calming, soothing, comforting.

And I'll rest, leaning on you. I'll wait. 

And, Lord, when you're ready; when you think I'm ready, and not before, I'm going to take the hand that you offer me and let you pull me to my feet. And then you'll show me where to go, and I'll match my stride with yours.

We'll go somewhere, me and you.



Thursday, 23 April 2015

A whisper from the enemy

I'm over at The Association of Christian Writers (ACW) site today with a post about confidence and hard work and investing in the unknown and just generally listening to the voices in my head that tell me, 'You can't do this.' 

You know what happened?  

Some really lovely people took the trouble to comment on the post, or on the Facebook page, or to send me messages to reassure and encourage me. 

They said, 'Me too,' which is a wonderful thing when it feels as if you're the only one who's struggling with something.

It means a lot. I am feeling more positive than I have in ages as a result. 

Aren't people kind?  The folks at the ACW seem to me to be kinder and more generous than most. 


Have a look at today's post here:  More than writers: A whisper from the enemy


If you want to find out more about the ACW, check out the website: 


or say hello on Facebook: ACW Facebook group


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