Take a seat

Today I’m tired.  It’s mainly physical tiredness, but mental tiredness too.  I’ve discovered over the years that it doesn’t take much to tire me.  I know many people who seem to get by perfectly well with a far busier, more hectic life than I – but as for me, if I’m not well rested then I feel like I’m carrying a ton weight around with me.  It’s been one of those weeks with a lot going on – and the need for me to keep going.  And so maybe it’s at this point all my lent readings of the week start to add up and find their context.  I need to be deliberate in finding wonder at the small things around me – otherwise I’ll start to switch off to everything.  I need to start listening to the real me who says it’s okay to sit and not be “productive” – rather than the imposter me who needs to keep up appearances.  I  Love a tweet I saw this morning about “telling my inner critic to sit down and shut up” – yes please!  I need to remember I come from dust and I will return to dust.  I need to simply shut the door to all that’s pressing in and like Mary choose to sit at the feet of Jesus.   Not to talk, not to pray it all out, not to make an action plan but just to take a seat.

Inside Out

“Bunch of hypocrites” – an accusation often levelled at the church.  Jesus had absolutely no time either for those who claimed to be religious but were far from it  – he reserved his harshest words for them.  It’s been something that’s been on my heart and mind recently – making sure that the inside matches the outside.  I’ve become very aware of each time my mouth and my mind don’t match up.  It’s not always, but increasingly I find might say “of course I can help” – when I don’t want to help at all.  Or smile warmly whilst muttering at someone inwardly for their inconsideration towards me.  It doesn’t wash and it’s not okay.  I don’t think the answer is to make the outside match the inside – scowl and tell people I can’t deal with their problem just now, that wouldn’t be very Christ-like either.  No, the challenge is to keep placing myself before Jesus and seeking the power of his spirit to change me inwardly so my actions are an overflow of my heart.  It’s not about what we’re seen to be doing, it’s what we’re really doing on the inside, what happens when we “shut the door” and no-one else is around.  Continue to mould me and shape me Lord Jesus, I’m not where I once was but there’s still a long way to go!

Dust & Glory – Longing

What do I desire?  That was the question asked  in today’s Lent reading, and again it was the early morning dog walk that gave me the opportunity to reflect on that.  The devotional part of the reading had already implied that it was asking us to look beyond the surface stuff (a laundry maid, calorie free cake, the occasional lie in) – nor was it speaking of selfish desires (phew, no need to list those); but instead it was prompting me to consider the authentic me, the me who God created me to be.  (I may have used too many me’s in that sentence…)  What does the real deep down me long for?  Well that takes a bit of wading through, you see the imposter me is pretty vocal when it comes to making her desires known.  She means no harm and is usually doing her best to help me get ahead in life.  She desires to be recognised, to be praised. She longs to be considered wise and thought well of, straight A’s in every area of life. But she gets tired of it – that kind of longing is pretty exhausting.  The authentic me – she longs to be free of her own expectations; free simply to rest in her Father’s arms.  Free to be accepted for who I am rather than who others might want me to be.  Free to fail – because it’s okay to.  The real me longs to be known inside out and loved all the same – and to return the favour to others.  What do you long for?

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  Psalm 42:1

Ash Wednesday – Dust & Glory

This Lent I’m using daily reflections from the book “Dust & Glory” by David Runcorn.  Each day offers a Bible verse, a short narrative and then a prayer/reflection to consider for the day.  What particularly appealed about this book was its contemplative, soul-searching approach.  I want to be really challenged this Lent with heart rather than just head knowledge.

Today’s reading focussed on a sense of wonder, taking time to notice the un-noticed. It raises the question about how many of us are simply sleep-walking through life, drifting day to day, one life event to the next without ever really considering the awe and wonder of the sheer magnitude yet intricate marvels of all that surrounds us.

The challenge it posed was to choose something, anything – and for a few minutes simply give your undivided attention to it.  Early morning dog walks have been a feature of my week and this morning’s walk gave plenty opportunity to take notice and marvel.  The deep, dark blue of the 7am morning sky; the solitary star billions of light years away shining so brightly in the west.  Birds singing – do they always sing that loud – or was it just that I was awakened to it this morning?  And as I turned back the dark blue sky had given way to morning’s light and the revealed snow-capped hills in the distance – and it felt good, really good to be in the present moment and appreciating all that was around.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them…?  Psalm 8:3-4

 

 

Lent Reflections

Interestingly it was my agnostic friend who first introduced me to Lent.  Growing up in a Baptist tradition, it was never something our church observed and to be honest I simply thought of it as some peculiar outdated form of penance that had nothing to do with modern evangelical Christianity.  I often regret the amount of babies I have thrown out with the bath water over the years in what I think was a well intentioned but misdirected quest to be amongst the most conservative of Christians.  Thankfully there are plenty others who have held onto those cherished ancient traditions and therefore allowing me  to explore and learn from these well-trodden paths, albeit a bit later in the day.

I always found it somewhat bewildering that my friend who had no “religious” reasons for doing so, observed Lent and did so with great gusto.  While I perhaps couldn’t see how giving up alcohol and chocolate had anything to do with fullness of life in Christ, I could  nevertheless see how it had a positive and slightly spiritual influence on her as she took time to check out from the normal habits of life.  And so a couple of years ago, I decided that I too might dip my toe in this seemingly strange but possibly worthwhile spiritual discipline, and I’m glad I did.  The more familiar I have become with Lent the more I appreciate it and the space it offers to reflect and grow spiritually.  I believe that’s a really important part of it though, whatever you might be giving up or taking up for Lent, it would be a shame to overlook the spiritual significance of the observance and miss the opportunity to delve a little deeper.  I feel full of anticipation this Lent – I’m joining my friend in giving up alcohol, I’ve realised I’ve become too dependent on it for winding down and I need to rediscover how to easily access a place of deep rest that’s way beyond a large glass of merlot!  But what’s really special this Lent is that my friend is open to sharing the spiritual side of the journey with me and I do pray that both of us will grow in our awareness of the Godly blessings to be found on this ancient path as we consider the claims of scripture through daily reading and contemplation.  I can’t promise a post every day but I definitely hope to be using the blog more frequently to share with you some of my own daily reflections this Lent.

Jesus, temptation and me

This morning as I read through Luke 4:1-13 The temptation of Jesus I was struck by the tactics and means the devil uses to try and bring us down.

His first point of attack was physical temptation.  Jesus was hungry, he had been without food for 40 days and was weak because of it and the Devil tempts him with the suggestion of bread.  I like to think physical temptation doesn’t hold much for me in this world, I’m not fussed about most material trappings – she says sitting in her warmly furnished home with full cupboards and the lack of little.  Would I still be so sure if it was all taken away from me.

Not getting very far as Jesus stands firm, the devil brings out his next offering.  Prestige and honour – offering him “authority and splendour” .  This is more my language, keep your bread but a tidbit of praise and a quick massage of my ego – yep you’ve got my attention.  But I’ve done this circuit before, and actually I’ve learnt it’s pretty empty and brings no satisfaction beyond a second or two.  Yes, I’m tempted but you can keep that one too Satan – I’ve tasted better things and by the grace of God I’ll forgo this round.

Then comes the powerful blow.  Physical temptation and the offer of prestige and honour getting nowhere, the devil starts fighting dirty and questions our identity.  “If you are the son of God”  “Surely God will protect you”  – Oh this one hurts.  The doubt, the questions.  Why didn’t God stop that?  Why did that happen?  If I was God’s child surely I wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t.  What if I’m not…..  I’ve taken a few blows from this one and so like a hound with the scent of blood it’s where the devil will home in on when I’m feeling frail.  And so I stand and I declare “ABBA, I BELONG TO YOU.”  You see Satan, My Father loves me and is awful fond of me – and along with your bread, and your prestige, you can keep your doubting questions because my identity is secure, I’m Abba’s child.

Into Ninevah

Ninevah, the infamous, barbaric city where Jonah was commanded by God to go and preach God’s wrath and the need for a city to change its ways.  Except Jonah didn’t want to go.  Ninevah was a place of fear, a hotbed of conflict and strife and as far as Jonah was concerned, best left to its own devices.  So “Jonah ran away” – and you know how the story goes; Quick Sunday School recap, he boards a ship, God sends a storm, the sailors panic, Jonah gets thrown overboard, he’s swallowed by a fish and on the third day is promptly vomited back on shore – to be told once again to go to Ninevah.

Not exactly your every day experience – yet one that reminded me this week of how my INFJ wiring sometimes needs to be held by the hand and coerced into a place it would rather not go.  Conflict  – is there anything more draining, all-consuming and terrifying for someone of an INFJ personality? (I’m sure we’re not the only personality types who hate conflict but it’s a biggy for us).  I avoid conflict at all costs; whenever I run into it, I feel physically sick and my head starts to thump and I will always, always try and keep the peace where possible.  And that’s why I’ve felt pretty churned up and drained over the last few weeks.  There hasn’t been any major conflict but it’s there lurking in the background between a friend and I.  I know she feels I’ve wronged her, I feel she’s wronged someone else and it’s created a tension, a tension I can’t bear – and I want to run.  It’s my Ninevah, I just don’t want to go there, leave it well alone.  Bury my head, smile, keep it cool and distant.  Put up those walls.  But – and it’s a big but – my walk with Jesus calls me beyond that.  Jesus says don’t be afraid, drop your guard – be truthful, be gentle, be vulnerable but do not be afraid.  To do life and to do it well I can’t keep running from conflict, for in doing so I give it a power that it ought not to have, I create a falseness and kill any opportunity for grace, forgiveness and growth.  So it’s time to get that coffee with my friend and to clear the air despite what I fear it might cost me.  I’m going into Ninevah.

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