Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Work in progress

I am a work in progress.
I am not finished yet.
I am, so far, incomplete.
There are still bits missing.

Problems persist.
The manufacturer is aware 
and has promised to fix them
but it might take time.

Thorough testing is taking place
but some bugs remain.
Certain functions are not yet available
but the upgrade is coming soon.

Some parts are already worn out
and a few have never worked well
but the chief engineer has promised
that all will soon run smoothly.

It is suspected that the manufacturer's instructions 
have not been followed to the letter.
But this does not seem 
to have invalidated the guarantee.

I am better than I was
and not as good as I will be.
Many more tweaks are planned
and it isn't always easy.

But the creator has infinite patience.
It's a good job.
Because sometimes I choose to malfunction
and sabotage the repairs.

But I am a top quality piece of equipment
and at full capacity no other model
can perform as well as I.
He keeps on making improvements.

I need to keep coming for a service
and listening carefully.
Actually being open to modification
and not thinking I know better.

Despite my faults and breakdowns
my creator loves me.
He knows me inside and out.
He knows what will go wrong next.

He knows when I'm coming back
and he welcomes me.
Even when I don't want to be worked on
he handles me with care.

He sees that I am broken
but still finds me beautiful.
He loves me as I am
but wants the best that I can be.

There will come a day 
when he doesn't send me out again
but polishes me for the last time.
 I'll shine like never before.

That will be my last visit to the workshop.
I will be fixed.
No more repairs.
All will be as it should be.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A shower of blessings

Evening, Father God.

I need an early night.  I know this because my eyes feel like I'm squinting, I keep yawning, and most compellingly because I am grumpy.  So here I am sitting up in bed with three pillows, a warm wheaty, (I know, thankyou Lord for a few beautiful days of sunny weather; but when it gets to teatime it's still a bit parky round here, it's only March remember), a decaf coffee (with a generous snifter of amaretto added for medicinal reasons), preparing to snuggle down and get a few hours in before midnight.

My Grandma always used to say that an hour's sleep before midnight is worth two after. 

But I couldn't resist bringing my little computer and before I log off for the day I want to tell you how great you are.

What a day it's been. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.  

Today my best friend and I sneaked off for a guilty morning away from all the things we should be doing and just enjoyed ourselves.  I know that there's no reason that we should have felt guilty, but we did.  Or I did, anyway.  It felt as if we were getting away with something. I think both of us are so used to days crammed with commitments, or small children to consider all the time that time actually free, to be grown ups, to choose what to do... we were quite breathless at the prospect.

And a bit bewildered. As you are aware, we nearly blew it. 'Shall we do this?' 'Shall we go there?'  'What about this?' 'No, you decide...' so we went where we first thought of quite quickly lest the morning disappear before we'd made our mind up where our coffee was coming from.

So we went to the first place we'd thought of. So beautiful there. I feel very fortunate to live ten minutes' drive away from a place so lovely. There was nobody there when we got there just after the school run and when we got to the highest point we stood and looked out at the hazy view and breathed you in. 

There's so much I love about you, Lord.  We talked about you, and I had tears in my eyes as I said that one of a dizzying number of things that I love about you is that you made our world so beautiful just because you could

I know you are a God who is mighty, majestic, powerful, awesome... maybe I need to get my head around all those aspects of you, but I love the side of you that scoops me up in your arms and gestures around us, delighting in your creation.  

You are excited, enthusiastic, saying, 'Look what I've done! Isn't it great? Share it with me. Let it lift your spirits. Stop a while and be part of it because I made it for you to enjoy!'

I hope it made you happy that two tired, hassled Mums struggled to get out from under for a few hours today and then spent it gazing at the scenery that you made with your hands. I could hear birds singing, I could see the sun burning away the mist, I could smell fresh air, I could feel the coolness of a Spring morning. 

I stood there with a friend that I love and talked about our wonderful God and how we were learning, moving on in our lives, looking to the future, and it was lovely. 

The odd car came around the bends in the roads down in the valley and I wondered who those people were in those cars.  Whether they were seeing; whether they were seeing us at the top of the rocks, or whether they were seeing the beauty around them.  Maybe they had their troubles, maybe they were thinking about their worries, their plans, their busy days. Maybe the radio was playing. Maybe a baby was crying in the back seat. They were going somewhere and we'd stopped for a little while. It was great.  

My little world stopped for a time and I climbed off and I can't say that I was that bothered about getting on again.

What did it was the thought of coffee and perhaps a little something or other in a lovely cafe not a million miles away.  Speaking of which...

(My coffee is going cold faster than usual.  I suppose that must be because the amaretto was in the fridge. That's just by the way).

So a hot latte and a slice of apple pie and a morning spent talking with someone on my wavelength from whom I learn so much. It was very happy - a real treat.  After that we picked up our youngest little ones and they played together while we talked some more (yes, we are very good at talking.  Words never seem to dry up). 

Sunday night in church the worship was Spirit filled and the atmosphere full of you. Once again you gently spoke to me in the songs that were sung, the words spoken and the people I met. You are the Everlasting God who won't grow weary; you are the Lord, the lifter of my head. The sermon had the power of your Spirit and people shared thoughts and readings and messages.  For me, I sang and I praised and I marvelled at your love, and a calm, gentle voice in my head said to me, 'You don't have to do this alone' and straight away after that, 'You don't have to fight on your own'

My life feels a bit like a fight at the moment.  So much is happening and the pattern of events seems to be:

1.  Good Thing happens. Conversation, experience, thoughts, ideas, prayers, encouragement, step forward... and then
2.  Bad Things happen. Illness, injury, argument, anxiety, disappointment, fear, loss, confusion, weariness. 

...and over again. I've been increasingly aware of the non-random nature of these little dances; I've spoken to wise people and I've read my Bible and I'm onto it, and I will not take a step back. I'm often tired, occasionally exhausted, often confused, sometimes daunted, occasionally choked and frequently frustrated but I am having the time of my life walking with you and I won't give up.  

I won't be defeated despite the battles because you have won the war. And on Sunday you told me that I don't have to do it alone, and I don't have to fight on my own. 

I have you.  And I have friends. 

Today I looked at all you have given me, and I opened my eyes and saw it properly. I stood side by side with a special companion alongside whom I can walk in my journey with you. I inhaled the fragrance of you on the breeze as we cleared our heads of the everyday fumes of busy lives. It was only a morning but it's going to stay with me for a while. 

Blessings indeed.  Friendship, beauty, exercise, fresh air, wildlife, coffee, apple pie, freedom, choice, company, silence, discussion, laughter, belonging, love.  

One morning in Derbyshire and you showered us with blessings. 


Monday, 28 March 2011

Thankyou for the Cross

You sent your Son to die.  For me

The Living God, the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth who put the stars in the sky and created the mountains and the seas and keeps the world turning and the sun shining; you loved me enough to send your Son to die, so that I might live.

It blows my mind. It's that glimpse thing again.  Only this time, I can open that door a bit wider if I concentrate - I got a glimpse of the enormity of what you did for me, and suddenly I find that the insight is staying with me.

You died for me.

You loved your Son infinitely  - a perfect love, and yet your Son was the sacrifice that you made.  The rubbish in my life was so awful, and there was so much of it, that the only thing that was enough to pay for it; to put right the deficit, was a sacrifice that was perfect.  Something unblemished, sinless, perfect.

Jesus, you came from that wonderful place at your Father's side, a place of beauty and glory and you were all powerful, all holy, and yet you chose to die for me. 

You could have said no, you could have said that I wasn't worth it.  You could have saved yourself so much.  Those soldiers mocked you and spat at you and humiliated you and tortured you and you put up with it because you loved me.  

You could have struck them down, taken a horrible revenge, left them in no doubt about who you were. You could have proved them all wrong and climbed down from the cross.  You could have proved that you were God, but you didn't.  

You knew what it would take and you went through with it, horrible and agonising and desperate as it was.

I cannot begin to imagine what pain you were in.  I know that the Romans were pretty good at torture and had made execution into an art form.  I understand that no-one before or since has devised a method of killing someone that is more agonising than crucifixion.  So you were wholly human and felt pain as we do; yet you went through with that, for me.

It's more than that, though.  I know how lonely I have felt at times in my life, when it seems that nobody is on my side; but however sad I've been, that has never truly been the case.  You've always been there, even though I haven't taken any notice of you.  I have never been abandoned. Never have you turned away from me; all my life I have never had to feel what true separation from you feels like, yet that is what you went through on the cross, for me.  The Father had to turn his face away from his Son so that the deal could be done.

How much worse could that have been for you? For you, Jesus, the Son who had only ever experienced complete oneness with the Father went through complete separation as you hung there dying. You, the Father, you knew what your beloved Son was going through; you must have longed to take him in your arms, and yet you knew that it had to be done. To watch your only Son suffer; that sort of emotional pain is out of my imagination.

Last night at church we sang this song:

'Jesus Christ, I think upon Your sacrifice 
You became nothing 
Poured out to death 
Many times, I've wondered at your gift of life 
I'm in that place once again 
I'm in that place once again 

And once again I look upon the cross where You died 
I'm humbled by Your mercy and I'm broken inside 
Once again I thank You, 
Once again I pour out my life.' 

It came to me, perhaps for the first time, that what I can do is lay down my life in front of you just as it is; it's far from a perfect offering, in fact there's a lot wrong with it, but it's all I have. I want to give you something that reflects what you've done for me, so I can lay down my troubled, broken, imperfect life and you accept it and cherish it, because I am a work in progress and you love me. 

I can't, needn't, shouldn't wait until my life is something worthy of giving you, as that day will never come. There will never be a day that I am able to make myself acceptable to you, and so all I can do is lay down what I have.

'Now You are exhalted to the highest place 
King of the Heavens, where one day I'll bow 
But for now, I'll marvel at Your saving grace 
I'm full of praise once again 
Oh I'm full of praise once again' 

One day, hey. One day I'll be there and I'll be transformed. I can't wait for that day.

'And once again I look upon the cross where You died 
I'm humbled by Your mercy and I'm broken inside 
Once again I thank You 
Once again I pour out my life 

Thank you for the cross 
Thank you for the cross 
Thank you for the cross, my friend' 

That's the bit that brought tears to my eyes last night in church.  

How come I get to call you, 'My friend'

You're the Lord, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Messiah.  And yet you are my friend.  Me.  I cannot get my head round it.  That's why I want to give you everything.  

I know that what I can give doesn't amount to much. I know that there's much work to be done. I know that some of my life is offensive to you and so part of my gift is pretty useless, but it's all I can I have.  It's no good to give you some bits but try to hide others. 

So I place it in front of you. Take it and change it and use it. 

Thank you for the cross, my friend. 

Words and music Matt Redman 1995
Kingsway/Thankyou Music

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Halfway there but a long way to go

Well, Lord, any time now I think Lent is about halfway through.  Is that right?  

Are we half way to Easter?  It seems like ages since I last looked at Facebook. I've channelled all Facebook related email into one email account and although I haven't checked the messages the little icon on the screen told me how many there were and when the messages were arriving; but after a few days they seemed to dry up completely, so I suspect that my little corner of FB world is quiet and desolate.  

If you don't talk to people, they don't talk to you.  I guess that's fair. It was quite sobering to note how quickly the gap I left healed up, mind you.

I never had any idea that giving up Facebook for Lent was going to be so controversial, Lord.  When I said I was going to do it a few people said that I'd never manage it, others objected because they didn't want to have fewer people to talk to, and I do believe a few people really thought they'd miss me. While being reluctant to give up my online support network and major daily source of entertainment, it didn't really cross my mind that I might not be doing the right thing.

You see, I saw it as the temporary removal of an obstacle; something that got in the way of the me-and-you-ness that should occupy the number one spot in my life.  Sometimes, though I'm embarrassed to admit it, Facebook was the first thing I checked in the morning before I read my Bible, and the last thing I checked at night before I put the light out (or indeed just after that, sometimes). 

Since it was available on my phone as well it was easy to have a quick look when waiting for an appointment, or at the school gates, or even a bit of a browse while watching TV.  A beep alerted me to a new post, and so I was always only a couple of clicks away from my Facebook buddies.  That's how committed I was; or obsessed, or addicted...whichever way you want to look at it. 

I wanted to put you back in your rightful place at the beginning and end of the day, and if I wanted to fill my head with something, I wanted it to be you.  

Also, as I found Facebook to be such a wonderful support network I'd become accustomed to posting something if I'd had a bad day, or was worried about something - and my first call should have been to you.  I know that the support offered by friends on FB has been great; I don't for one moment think that it is wrong, or bad, and that's why giving it up for Lent isn't something that I think everyone should be doing.  I don't believe that for a minute.  

But for me, it's about getting things in proportion.  Re-ordering. Remembering life before Facebook and making sure that my emotional crutches are the right ones.  I do need something to lean on, and that someone should first and foremost be you.

I'll be back on Facebook after Easter, and I hope I won't immediately go back to my old ways.  I don't think I will as I've noticed the time I have gained by keeping away and I've been spending more of that time with you.  I've spent more time reading the Bible, reading things that wise and devout men and women of God have said about the Christian life and thinking about you, and about me, and about you-and-me.  

I've spent more time in prayer (perhaps not as much as I should - am still working on this) and more time writing here.  I feel as if this time is some use to me.  

It's like a mini-retreat; retreating from Facebook.

I was concerned lest I became a news addict instead of the FB addiction but I have to say that I've found it too depressing and so it's been easy not to click the news icons when I'm surfing the net or fiddling with my phone.  

I've run out of 'coins' to play my favourite online game and since you can only get more by logging on to Facebook that's been packed away for the duration too.  

I find that a Bible verse or a thought from one of the devotion apps might stick in my mind all day and in those moments waiting for the children outside school or lying in bed I'm mulling it over.  Facebook never quite gave such food for thought. Pondering my next status update never fed my soul in the same way.  Funny, that. 

So I'm glad that I'm doing this, and at the same time looking forward to coming online again and sending out a few virtual hugs, should anyone still want to talk to me.  I'm missing the ease with which you can catch up with someone; with a few words you can offer support, love, sympathy - share joy or humour or sadness with someone.  That's harder to do without this medium.  Indeed, I know that there are some people who've been wanting support that hasn't been forthcoming because of this.  I don't know what to think.  Can it be the case that in doing something that's good for me, I'm hurting someone else?  Surely not.  It isn't the only way someone might ask for help, is it? There's still email, the phone, the mobile, a postcard, the doorbell?  

But these last few weeks I have felt moderately guilty on several occasions.  I've had criticism for this thing that I'm doing. I'm perhaps not picking up the slack as I should; maybe I've whipped away another person's emotional crutch, albeit temporarily, and I haven't replaced it with something else.  Should I have?  Could I have known? 

In church I've been finding that I've wanted to stay longer; to linger after services to chat to people, whereas I've always thought, 'Ah well, I can catch up online later'. Maybe the replacement of virtual chats with real ones is something special!  But if someone isn't at church, it was so easy to send a quick message to say, 'hello, are you alright?' but to make a phone call seems that bit more trouble and is easy to find that you've timed out and it's no longer appropriate.  

Some people have argued that Christians should not be giving up Facebook at all as their voice should be heard, and especially heard in this run up to the most important Christian festival of the year.  We should be proclaiming our faith, broadcasting what we believe, instead of retreating from the scene to look inwards.  What do you think, God?  

I feel mildly convicted that I don't very often make reference to my faith in my status reports on Facebook.  I do honestly try never to say anything that I feel is incompatible with my faith, but having the Vicar and several other clergy-people as Facebook Friends tends to help with that.  I never get involved in the odd online bickering session I've come across and have been known to decline an offer of friendship with someone that I know would be a negative presence. I hope that I have an integrity which is in keeping with what I know you would want. No reason to behave online any differently from the way you would face to face.  

I'm learning. I'm learning lots about communication, about hurt feelings, and support networks, and how one person's actions affect other people like ripples on a pond.  

I'm learning that you can do something with the best of intentions, and yet still find that other well intentioned people oppose you.  

I'm learning that technology can indeed facilitate relationships, and not impede them. 

I'm learning that some people find online relationships much easier to manage than real ones, and can be far more open and honest when not face to face.  

I'm learning about my own somewhat addictive personality and my tendency not to do things in moderation. 

I'm learning that people care and are missing me. 

A learning curve indeed. I found the first few days hard; my fingers were itching to check Facebook. I missed the humour and wit that often made me smile on a grim day. I missed having my four penneth on many and varied subjects that I knew something or nothing about. I'll be glad to be back. 

But you can see in my heart, Father God, and you know that this little exercise is all for you. 

I'm learning that you honour any effort made to spend more time with you. If I don't waste time, you don't waste time. I'm learning more and more about how you love me, how you want me to learn, how you want me to experience you for Real, and not in a virtual way. 

I'm halfway there. Still seems a long way to go.

Tough as a pansy

Good morning, God!

The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the daffodils are flowering, there are little bits of green on all the bare twiggy bushes and it's mild enough for me to take my coffee down the garden to drink while I survey what's left of the plants after the cold, cold winter has taken it's toll.  

I love Spring. It's such a hopeful time of year. All the newness and freshness.  You know what struck me the other day, Lord? I drove the car onto our drive and there's a little flower border down one side.  Last summer I planted some pansies, yellow and red ones. When it came to the end of Autumn and I was pulling out the spent bedding plants, I hesitated with the pansies as the garden centres at that time of year are full of 'winter flowering pansies' and I didn't actually know if a pansy was a pansy, or if there were hardy pansies and pansy pansies, if you see what I mean, and since mine had been planted in May, whether they would do their thing all winter or if I needed the Grr version of the pansy to do that job.

Well, I pulled onto the drive and glanced at the bedraggled looking border, and there are my pansies, particularly the yellow ones, with a profusion of flowers and buds, looking bushier and more cheerful than ever.  They'd survived all winter, with all that snow; we had more than two feet of it at one point - and temperatures as low as minus 14 degrees.  
And those determined little pansies flowered all the time, and now that Spring is here they're turning their beautiful little faces to the sun and flowering all the more.

How lovely is that?  

I know there are so many life applications I could take away from this little observation, Lord; I know that you looked after the tiny flowers through all that harsh weather and how much more will you look after me with all the rubbish that life throws at me.  I know that there's a lesson to be learned about being hardy and determined enough to carry on flowering despite hardship and ice and enormous fuel bills and deep snow.  

The thing I like most is your attention to detail.  Tiny pansies. A low-growing, small, clumpy little plant, but they lived through the winter when so many of my other shrubs didn't - bigger and showier plants that you'd think were stronger have turned up their toes and died.  

My little pansies are happy in the Spring sun and I love them for it.  

And I love you for it too. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Infinite love

God, I've found something.

Charles Spurgeon said this:

'Did you ever think of the love which Christ will manifest to you when he shall present you without spot or blemish, or any such thing, before his Father's throne?  Well, pause and remember, that he loves you at this hour as much as he will love you then; for he will be the same forever as he is today and he is the same today as he will be forever.  'As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you;' and a higher degree of love we cannot imagine.  The Father loves his Son infinitely, and even so today, believer, doth the Son of God love thee."
CW Spurgeon, Daily Help, iPhone application

Lord, this has amazed me.  

You know when you think about something for the first time - I mean that it's something that you know, that you've accepted, but then something happens that makes you think about it properly for the first time, to concentrate on it and appreciate it fully, dwell on it?  No I suppose you don't.  You're all knowing.  There are no new ideas for you, are there?  

Well, you know how that happens to me? It did this morning when I read this bit from Mr Spurgeon.

As you love Jesus, you love me.  

That Father/Son thing, the way you, the Creator of the universe love your only Son, that's how you love us.  

That's how you love me.  That perfect love, that all encompassing, unconditional, infinite love. 

How can that be?  I've known that you love me, and I've sung all the songs, 'How deep the Father's love for me...da di da di da'  etc, but today I read this little passage from Charles Spurgeon and it jumped out at me that you love me as you love your Son

My God.

Why?  Loving your Holy Son is one thing.  Loving Jesus, who never sinned, who did this breathtakingly amazing thing, who lived a perfect human life, who understands you completely, who is one with you, that's one thing.  But I'm a creature that you made, who does her own thing and barely acknowledges you, and yet you love me like that.  I suppose that's unconditional love.

Infinite love.  Love that never ends.  

There's nothing I can do to make you love me more, and there's nothing I can do to make you love me less.  

It's true.  Your love goes on and on and keeps steady even when I pick it up and crumple it and throw it away. I have no idea how that's possible.

Unchanging love. From age to age the same. You are the same God that spoke to Adam and Noah and Moses and David and Job and Isaiah and Mary Magdalene and Paul and Charles Spurgeon and you speak to me. Me

You're the same yesterday, today and forever.  And what's more, you loved me before I was born, all those years where I didn't give you a thought, now, when I'm trying, failing, trying, failing - and you'll love me when I arrive in front of you with nothing but my little paltry bit of love to offer you like a child with a little treasure in their pocket wrapped in a hanky and covered with pocket fluff.  

Some days I can't see past my life, Lord.  I can't imagine that one day it will end; what then?  I can only concentrate on now, or worry about the future, or rehash the past.  

Other days, like right now, I get a glimpse of the day when it will all be over and I can see you and I'll be enveloped in that profound love and I'll never have to leave and there'll be no more struggling, no more frustration, no more failure. 

It sounds great. Infinite love. 

I praise you, Lord. 

Thankyou for loving me. 

Monday, 21 March 2011

Follow me

Well. You've made me think this morning, God.

Got back from church and ate my dinner today thinking about people who answer a call from you, to leave their families and go and live on the other side of the world in an alien culture, learn to speak a language that's strange to them, bring up their children there, live their lives there.  


It's bravery that I can't get my head round. It's hard enough bringing up two children here in the UK when I'm cushioned by all the bits and pieces around me; nice house, enough to eat, mastery of the language, good friends, loving church family.  How do they do all the things I do but in a foreign place?  

How do they lay their lives down in front of you so completely on a daily basis?  

My life seems so small and safe in comparison with theirs.  I have so much admiration.

I suppose that if you feel called, compelled to go, then you give them a different set of longings, Lord, is that it?  People you call to do something so dramatic, so consuming; you must wire them differently from the way you've wired me. 

The other day I was doing the Spiritual MOT and one of the questions was, 'What is the most frightening thing that God could ask you to do?' and I was dithering about an answer and being facetious about it.  I eventually came down on the side of 'street evangelism' as someone suggested to me, but I think going to a far away land to live, not on holiday, not coming back after a couple of weeks with dirty washing and a bag of souvenirs - actually going to live, to become part of the culture, to embrace a different way of living while living a godly life under scrutiny, bringing up my children and sharing my faith with people perhaps reluctant to hear it, perhaps even living in danger - that's truly frightening.

But the people in church this morning do it.  They did it, and they keep on doing it.  And now and again they come back to the UK to tell everyone about what they do and to fill people like me with admiration and awe.

How complete their dependence on you. Someone leaves behind all that's safe and familiar and comfortable and they go somewhere unfamiliar and scary and perhaps not so safe - they must see very clearly that you're close by. 

They must have such faith.

You said to the fishermen 'Follow me' and they followed you.  They followed you through good times and bad, and many of them followed you even though it meant suffering and death. 

They left everything that they had and didn't look back.  Well, maybe they did look back, I don't know, but what I'm saying is just look what can be achieved when someone gives you their heart. 

I know that you call us to different things.  I know that we can't all be missionaries in far flung lands, and to be honest, I'm glad.  I don't want to be one, and I'd rather you didn't ask me to, if it's all the same to you.  I know that you have a plan for me, and as I sit here and chat with you and squirm a little as I realise my own half heartedness I thank you that you love me, not-a-missionary (not in quite the same way, anyway - maybe we're all called to be missionaries, but you know what I mean) and you have a plan for me. A plan for my life that's just as meaningful, if not quite so dramatic.

Maybe some people do big things for you, Lord, and some do little things.  Maybe some people's calling is visible and in others it's more subtle.  Maybe some people spend a lifetime wondering what it is they're meant to do, and others see it straight away.  

There are the street evangelists, and those for whom the streets that they evangelise are in a different continent.  Some people make speeches, write books, get themselves on the telly, and others are behind the scenes, alongside; the listeners, the encouragers, the builders, the planners.  I am so thankful that whatever the plan you have for me, it's a plan that fits the way I'm made. 

I thank you that the lovely family I met this morning have such wonderful gifts and an open willingness to do your work. People that give you their lives like this inspire me.  Keep them safe, Lord, and give them everything they need to do this wonderful thing for your kingdom. 

I want to do the same thing, something, in my little corner of the world.  I don't know what you're asking yet, but I trust you.   

If we're all part of the Body of Christ, then we each have a different function in your family.  They might be the eyes, seeing those who need to hear about you.  Or the mouth, to tell people the Good News. Or the feet, to take your Word to the back of beyond.  As you know, I can carry a metaphor quite a long way when I try.  What am I?  I'd like to know how I fit in, but I trust you that you'll let me know in your good time.  

You know where I am.  

Meanwhile, I'm loving seeing how other people fit in your amazing three dimensional, eternal, endlessly complex and beautiful jigsaw. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The view looking backwards

Oh, Lord.

I keep coming back to the question of not knowing where I'm going.  

It makes me a bit anxious as I like to plan.  I've done my Spiritual MOT and am looking forward to talking it over with a wise and patient friend later this week.  Some answers were easy, instinctive; others were thought provoking or challenging, and a few were difficult; difficult to face up to or simply find an answer because I don't know.

I know you are doing something with me.  There are too many new things in my life, too many reminders, too many little prods and impressions for it not to be the case. I know you have something up your sleeve but I don't know what.  

It's that question, 'How do I know when I get there if I don't know where I'm going?'  I still have the sense of anticipation that I had in January (it is only March, I suppose) but I also know that the last months have brought me closer to you in many ways.  So is that it?  You just had it in mind that 2011 would be the year that I tuck myself a bit closer under your wing?

If so, that's alright.  I don't mind that.  That's enough.  It's a life's work, I think, to get close, stay close.  And the closeness;  that's a prerequisite for actually accomplishing something on your behalf.  I need to be close enough, in tune enough, to hear what you're telling me to do.

I'm sure that you're moulding me into something new.  New and improved.

I've missed three consecutive weeks at the acapella group now.  The first we were away in London, the second I had dodgy tonsils and the third I was generally unwell and tucked up in bed.  This week I find that I don't very much want to go. And I was so enthusiastic!  I was so wrapped up in it, and so looked forward to it from one week to the next.  The thing is, the last time I was there I sort of lost track of what was going on - I'm not musical and it takes me much longer than other people to catch on to a harmony. I'm an alto, and since altos rarely have the melody line it takes a lot of concentration for me and lots of practice.  The thing is, you know me well, Lord, and you'll know how much it meant that I went to the group in the first place.  I've never had much confidence, and to try something so far outside my comfort zone was quite an achievement!  So the last time I went it wasn't easy and I lost my confidence, and now after three weeks things will have moved on loads and people will know it all and I won't, and so it seems much easier to abandon ship than to try again.

People have said they've missed me, and I find that hard to believe.  I know they're being nice, and I appreciate it, but I still find it hard to believe that it's true.  It's only in the last few years/months that it has occasionally occurred to me that I might have something to offer in terms of who I am, not what I can do; not just being on a rota, or helping with such and such a committee, but by being me, because only I can be me, and you told us that we all have a vital role to play in your family.  

I've always hung back because there seems to be so many other people more qualified than me.  I've found it hard to welcome or reach out to new people because a voice in my head says, 'Why would they want to know you?  They have their own friends, and can make new ones and they wouldn't choose you, so why be so presumptuous as to imagine that you turning up on their doorstep would be a good thing?'

So I've left it to others.  I am starting to see that it's not the case. People have been so kind, so encouraging.  I look around and everyone else seems so confident, secure, comfy being them.  Then again, I suspect that no-one looking at me would see through to the flimsy and ailing self esteem that has dogged me since junior school.  Or before that, maybe.  Even asserting that I've started to feel less like this makes me cringe because it seems to invite contradiction; someone might confirm that yes, it is the case that I don't count for very much. 

I see it in Elizabeth, and it worries me that it's my fault that she's so diffident about some things.  This very morning it was her class assembly and it was just wonderful.  She was one of two children in her class who had been chosen to read a poem that they'd written out to the whole school, and parents of her class.  She did so well, and I'm so proud of her.  She's five, and she's written a beautiful little poem:

'At night owls fly and look for food
The food is mice.
At night the moon and stars shine and twinkle brightly.
At night we see shooting stars
The shooting stars shoot super fast.'

How lovely is that?

After the assembly the headteacher came over and congratulated the other child, saying, 'My goodness, here's the little poet!'   To Elizabeth, three feet away, nothing.  

My little girl just tucked herself in beside me, head down.  She didn't seem to expect anything.  Last night at bedtime she was crying in case people laughed at her as she read out her poem.  She doesn't want to get involved in the Comic Relief Talent Show at school because she says she can't do anything that anyone would want to see.  She's five, and the self consciousness that has crippled me for all my adolescence and adult life so far has set in already.  Am I to blame for this?  It terrifies me.  Don't let it happen to my girls, Father God, please.  

But back to the MOT. I know I've started a journey, and I know that you won't leave me stranded. 

'...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus'.   Philippians 1:6

So if you've started, you'll finish.  I don't know if that means you'll finish this side of Heaven, but I know that I'm a work in progress, not something abandoned under a dust sheet in the back room that the craftsman has given up on. 

So maybe it's about moving past this self esteem thing. You know, I think I can imagine life the other side of it.  It's like a mountain range ahead of me; the things I need to unlearn; ways of thinking, assumptions I make, my reaction to people, what's in my head as I walk into a room. An apologetic approach to life - feeling inadequate and assuming that people can see that I'm a fraud, slightly less worthwhile than the person next to me. 

It's a big thing, as it's formed the basis for how I see myself for thirty-odd years.  How I can get across these mountains is beyond me, but I'm in the foothills, with your help. I've struck out; left base camp.
I've only just left the foothills.

So this mountain range.  I know that there must be another side to it.  A place where the mountains are behind me. 

Another country.  I reckon that there might even be a viewing platform over there, where I can turn around and look back at the mountains I've crossed over and left behind.  I can imagine, perhaps, what that view might be like - I just can't see it yet.  

But you've brought me so far and there've been a few peaks and troughs before, so if you will lead me, I'll follow. Even if the air gets a bit thin and it's high and scary and a bit rocky in places.  

But please don't let my daughters follow me. Save them the journey; please let them get off a plane already at the other side and meet me there. 

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