Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A letter to fill you in. Or not.

I'd like to fill you in, but I can't. I don't know what's going on myself. 

I haven't been able to write for ages, and in normal circumstances not feeding the BlogMonster regularly isn't a great idea.  I've long since let go of the blog stats - sort of given 'em up as a bad job. That in itself is something, I think, as a year ago I used to check several times each day, hungrily waiting to see the spikes get higher per day, week, month. These days I rarely bother checking, and the spam robot things keep the numbers ticking over. 

It's been a combination of busyness, other unwelcome things occupying head space and eating away at the opportunity to write, and then an overwhelming absence of inspiration when I do have time. The lack of inspiration thing is generally new to me as I have gone for almost three years now constantly on the lookout for things to write about and usually find that ideas queue up to be explored. 

It's not as if I'm in a dark place, spiritually. 

I went to a conference a week or two ago and it was amazing; a mountain top experience, I think you call it. God showed up and made His presence felt. It was awe-inspiring, beautiful, challenging, reassuring, moving, wonderful - and yet I haven't a clue how to write about it. 

It's too big. 

So I'm letting the words fall out in any old order and not worrying too much about how elegant it is or how much sense I make. I hope that by trying to explain, I might start to understand a bit more.

I've taken a song away from the conference as my song for now. It's by Hillsong, and it's called 'Oceans (Where feet may fail)'.*

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

And somewhere in there is my current confusion and why I'm struggling to write anything at the moment. 

At the beginning of the conference, I asked God in the pages of my journal to show me something new about Him, and something new about me. He answered my prayer. 

We sang.

'Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders - 
let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me...' 

Tears streamed down my face. He gave me a glimpse of how much my soul longs for Him; I could barely sing the words, so full was I of yearning, reaching to go further, deeper after Him. I tend to tie myself in knots about my motivations, my commitment, whether my heart is in the right place. The strength of my own longing overwhelmed me.

Lead me where my trust is without borders...

My trust definitely has borders. It has a clearly defined perimeter, I think. I think God showed me that my trust in Him is not complete. At the same conference, Danielle Strickland spoke to us powerfully about living outside our comfort zone, about waking up and choosing a boundless life, and there it is again. Boundless. Unconstrained. Unlimited. 

I've been reading a book with a friend for a while now; we read a chapter and meet each week to discuss it. We're reading Lysa Ter Keurst's book, 'What Happens When Women Say Yes to God?' It's been an uncomfortable read, and we're only on chapter three. Over and over again I've said 'Yes' to God, but I wonder if my yeses have been measured, limited. 'Lord, show me where you're proposing to take me, and I'll tell you if I'm following.'

Another wise lady whose words I usually devour as food for the soul wrote the other week about Heidi Baker, and called her 'possibly the most surrendered woman in the world.'  I mentioned this to someone and they said they saw Heidi speak recently. She related an anecdote about the time she asked God why so often when she tried to speak to Western audiences she found herself so overcome by the Holy Spirit that she fell down, unable to say anything, and yet at home in her ministry in Mozambique, it rarely happens?  She said:

'And God answered me. He said, 'In Mozambique they don't have a problem with pride.'


My trust has borders. I sometimes come crashing into the edge of my trust in God. And then what? I panic. I stand still. I pull up the duvet. I turn to my own plans and efforts, to a friend, to food.  

I want to walk upon the waters, but do I? 

I'm comfortable, and I don't really want to be uncomfortable. I like my life, in the main, apart from the usual everyday sort of niggles, and I know that I should complain a lot less and be thankful a lot more. I want more of God - I know I do - but I think maybe I'm counting the cost and backing away in case it turns out to be expensive.

I think my boat is pulled up high on the beach.

I ask Him to lead me wherever He wants me to go, but I am reluctant to set off unless I have a map and a guide book and an assurance that it won't get too choppy out there. I have my own ideas of where I want God to lead me and I fear that I interpret everything through the lens of my hopes and my dreams. I try to manipulate Him into my plan as if faith were a charm to be invoked.

Lord, lead me wherever you want me to go - as long as it's where I want to go. 

In the West, we have a problem with pride. 

I want to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus' outstretched hand. I want to be whole, full, overflowing. I know that the trivia that I cling to is nothing in comparison with the riches that God would like to give me. I know that my own plans are dwarfed by what He would have me do with my life.

And yet... 

I'm afraid. My trust is not without borders. I wonder how much it might hurt; what I might have to let go of, to lose. And I'm comfortable. 

And this is where a blog post like this ought to end with an inspiring conclusion. A breakthrough to share and encourage. Some wisdom along the lines of: '...and that's when I realised that... and now it's all brilliant! My confusion is a thing of the past!'


You know what I'm hanging on to? At the conference I went to a workshop about prayer and prophecy. We got into small groups and prayed for each other, asking God to give us a word or a picture to encourage each other. The room was full of the Holy Spirit. 

There were four in my group, so we each ended up with a card with three things from the Lord. I was moved to tears (again) by people's words for me. How could strangers have known those things that spoke to very specific circumstances in my life?  God is so gracious. 

But there was one word spoken to me by a lovely gentle lady that made no sense to me at all just then. She said that there was conflict in my life. She didn't know how or if it would be resolved, she said, but there would be peace. Shalom-peace, she called it. 

There would be peace, and victory. 

So I'm laying all this before God, and asking Him for the Shalom. 

The walking on water, the following, perhaps opening my hands and laying down the dreams that I am oh, so invested in and believing that He knows best. He knows me. He sees me. He loves me anyway. 

He knows what I will do already. He knows the beginning and the end. He will never give up on me and He won't let me sink; He'll keep my eyes above the waves. 

At the moment I just see a tangle of conflicting ideas, a mess of confusion and fear and the seemingly impenetrable borders of my trust. 

He sees a daughter who loves Him, who overthinks and worries, who lifted her hands with longing in her heart and tears on her face at the thought of walking across the waters to take His hand. 


*Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) 2013 Hillsong Music Australia

Linking with Ruth and Sabrina in the return of 'Letters To...' 

Monday, 11 November 2013

No understudy

'Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.' 
1 Corinthians 12:12

I'm familiar with this passage in the Bible.  When I was much younger we had all the jokes about who was the armpit and who was the spleen and so on, and now I'm older I'm still not too sure how far the analogy can be taken, but I take the point.

We all have different spiritual gifts. We are all unique, no-one less valuable than any other. A huge diversity of skills, personalities, abilities and talents. Together we make up the Body of Christ, with Jesus at the Head. Together, Paul says, we make up the whole. We are one through the Holy Spirit. If someone is missing, nobody else can do his job, because it is a job made for him alone. Each part needs the others to function and when we are all in concert we make a beautiful sound.

It's the 'all-working-together' thing that's the problem. We all interlock and if one cog gets jammed then sometimes the machine comes shuddering to a halt. I know well that if I have a sore thumb then I can't use the hand properly. If my knee hurts and I limp for too long, my hip starts to hurt too. If I put my back out, there's very little I can do with my day.

Quite often we bicker and squabble and and think we are more important than we are. We think we deserve more than our allocated part and try to be something else. We get resentful or critical and think that we could do a better job than someone else. Why are we never satisfied? 

I find it quite reassuring that the disciples had the same problem. They wanted to know who was the best and brightest. They wanted to know who would be sitting to the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. 

John 21:21
'Peter asked...'Lord, what about him?'Jesus answered, '...what is that to you? You must follow me.' (my emphasis)
What is it to me what someone else does? Why do I jostle for position and wonder if somehow I'm short changed? Why do I worry about what people think of me, of what I do, when I know that I am occupying the place that only I can occupy? Lord, I so want to do with my life what you would have me do. Sometimes I am full of purpose and sometimes I feel as if I'm treading water. Marking time. Vacillating.

Fibrillating. Like the heart does when it gets out of rhythm. Paramedics come crashing in and slap on two paddles and shout 'Charging!' and 'Clear!' and then whoof! the heart gets shocked back into a sinus rhythm (whatever one of those is, but I watched ER for a while). And then all is well again, but it was a close call.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm fibrillating. Immobile. Rabbit in the headlights.

But I have an important job to do because there isn't a redundant bit of the Body of Christ.
(I don't know about the appendix.  But that's probably being facetious.)

Charles Spurgeon took this idea of a collective whole to another level for me the other day. A beautiful level. An eye-opener:
'Each of God's saints is sent into the world to prove some part of the divine character.'
(Charles Spurgeon, The Daily Help devotional for iPhone, 43rd

Somehow, just by being me, here, in my little corner of the earth, day by day, I reflect something of your character. Some little tiny aspect of your personality is me. Not somebody else. How amazing is that? 

He goes on:
'In heaven we shall read the great book of the experience of all the saints, and gather from that book the whole manifestation and display of some position or other of God; a different part may belong to each of us, but when the whole shall be combined, when all the rays of evidence shall be brought, as it were, into one great sun, and shine forth with meridian splendour, we shall see in Christian experience a beautiful revelation of our God.'
Can that be possible?  That one day I might have a contribution to make in this awe-inspiring spectacle?  This is going to be an enormous canvas. I can't wait to see it. 

The other day I got a glimpse of the sheer scale of you, God; the vastness and the majesty and glory of you who holds the universe in your hand. Creator of billions of stars in billions of galaxies. If I think of all the people who have known you from the very beginning to the end of time - from Adam and Eve through to all the people who are alive today and love you the world over, beyond and into the future, all those not yet born, until the end of time  - that's a lot of people. 

And we are all unique. If Spurgeon is right (and I so hope that he is) each one of all these children of yours reflects a unique part of you. We each have a little facet completely our own. It needs a glimpse of the enormity of you in order to understand how such a thing might be true. How complex you are. How many different aspects there are to you. 

So I am intensely significant. Not only do I have a role to fulfil down here, now, in my life, but I have a part in this extravagant art project in Heaven too. I have a ray of light to add to the 'great sun' which will shine for eternity and make you smile.

So why do I wish I were someone else? I am made to be me. 
Why do I think that other people matter more than me?  You made me to be me
There's no understudy.

What is it to me what they do?  I must follow you.
'Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.'
1 Corinthians 12:27

Lord, help me to believe not in myself, but in the wisdom of you, who made me. Help me to see the honour that it is to do the job in this life that you have made me to do and not gaze about me wishing that I were an elbow instead of an ankle. Show me what to do. Give me enough light for the step I'm on and the courage to stride into the darkness, knowing that you won't let me fall. 

Give me a glimpse of that spectacular revelation that one day I'll be part of. It's going to be beautiful because it's You.

I'm working on my contribution right now.

Reposted from 2012 because I needed reminding. 

Image credit:  ashton_cogs3.JPG by doctor_bob from Used with permission.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Feeling sort of gorgeous

I did Katy's hair differently this morning. 

She wants to grow out her fringe. I said yes, because when her hair is wet and away from her face after a shower she looks even more beautiful than she does with those big eyes peeping out from under. 

She has short, dark, naturally glossy hair in a vaguely bob-like shape but she hates me brushing it. She loathes having it messed with and yet she was blessed with a double crown which means that her natural parting is like a donkey's hind leg. Her resistance to brushing and styling mean that quite often she goes to school with her hair pretty much as it got out of bed.

Wow. This is a profound post, isn't it? 

Anyway. The fringe. I said yes, because the more of her lovely face that I can see, the better. Today we crossed a bit of a Rubicon in that it became clear that it's now long enough to need the heavy fringe kept out of the way if she is to continue to see out. Let's see whether she's going to grow it out or have it trimmed back in again, then. Time will tell. 

I carefully separated out the fringe, brushed it together, put a twist in it and clipped it on top of her head with no less than three hairclips. Two blue and a pink. Some wispy bits came down immediately and I'm quite sure that the whole lot will be out on the playground by lunchtime, but she looked just lovely. 

I said so, Daddy said so, Grandma said so. Big sister sort of grunted, which Katy took for agreement as well. On the way to school, a neighbour complimented Katy on her hair and another Mum commented, 'Great hair, Kate,' as we passed by. Katy stood tall and flipped her hair about a bit, looking pleased. I checked her clips. 

Leaning down close, I whispered to her, 'You are gorgeous. Are you feeling gorgeous?'

Pink cheeked, she whispered back, 'Sort of.

We squeezed hands and walked in the school doors. 

A tiny moment. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing important in the eternal scheme of things. But I thought my heart would burst and I wanted to say thank you. 

I look at my daughters, both of them, and I am amazed at how beautiful they are. I suppose that I have to take into account that I am their mother, and so I would see their gorgeousness whether it was really there or not, and so I count myself lucky that they are actually gorgeous, and so I do not have to delude myself. But my point is, I love them with a ferocity that I didn't think was possible before I had babies of my own. 

I look at my children and I see their beauty.

I am your child, Lord God. I know that you look at me and think that I'm beautiful. You know how hard that is even for me to type, because for all I know about your endless love, and your inability to make mistakes, I think that you're wrong.

I'm not touting for compliments or asking for reassurance. I know what there is to know from a head-perspective. I tell my girls that the world's definition of beauty is not real and they should never measure themselves against it. I tell them that they shouldn't compare themselves to anyone else because everyone is unique and special and no two people are alike. I tell them that beauty is far more than good skin and good hair and slim thighs and a narrow waist. I tell them that they are beautiful just how they are and they should stand tall as princesses, for you are their Daddy.

This applies to me, too. I know it does, I know. I just can't seem to move the knowledge from my head to my heart. I look in the mirror and I don't like what I see. I compare myself with others and find myself wanting. I see the airbrushing and elongating of models on the magazines, the billboards, the television and still, I wish...

There's just a huge hole in me that needs filling. A deep, old wound that needs healing.

You are the Healer. In your time, Lord. 

I wonder if you ever try to whisper to me, 'You are gorgeous. Are you feeling gorgeous?' and I plug my ears, shake my head and turn away. For I am your little girl just as Katy is mine. And strange as I might find it, I know that you love me with a ferocity that makes mine for her look half-hearted. 

I'm glad that Katy started today feeling sort of gorgeous. Long, long, long may it last. I suspect she'll come out of school with her hair in her eyes and two out of three clips (if I'm lucky - we get through hairclips faster than biscuits round here) and we'll have to start again tomorrow, but I like that she went into school this morning feeling special. 

I bet you want that for me. I know that you love me, and you approve of me, and you look at me and see beauty. 

Abba, Daddy?

I would like to feel sort of gorgeous.

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