Sunday, 23 October 2011

What's the plan?

Gosh - I just looked at my last post here and it was dated 29th August! So, what happened to September? And is that really November I see galloping towards me...?

Well, life has been busy....remember in the last post I mentioned pinballs ricocheting.....?

The long and short of it is, family circumstances have taken any semblance of day-to-day 'routine' and thrown it out of the window. While juggling extra housework caring for my daughter (who had emergency eye surgery) and coping with lifting the spirits of another 'fledgeling' who has had to return home to the nest due to unemployment, I find myself in 'rocking-horse syndrome' - plenty of action but no real progress!

But, re-reading though that previous post I realise it ties in with the service at church this morning (yes - church attendance has been sporadic over the last few weeks for obvious reasons but I'm glad I made the effort this morning!).

The theme was 'Knowing the will of God' - boy, that had my attention! I was familiar with the point of testing what you believe God is saying against Scripture; also the point of others confirming in agreement or sharing a matching 'revelation'. Fine and dandy - but my problem is/was wondering if God was speaking to me at all!

Since I gave up work in January I've gone through the 'holiday' stage; the 're-vamping-the-house-and-garden' stage; the 'not-feeling-guilty-about-sitting-down-with-a-good-book-for-a-large-portion-of-the-day' stage; the 'OK-so-now-you-have-no-excuse-to-not-get-on-and-finish-that-novel' stage.........

Behind all of this, I suddenly felt a wave of 'what am I supposed to do now?'. I'd raised a family, worked to help with the household finances, took on voluntary work and joined a couple of interest groups - but suddenly I was faced with a void.

So I began to earnestly seek what God had planned for this new and strange chapter of life - after all, I don't want to waste a precious minute between here and eternity!

And.......nothing. Nada. No amazing revelations. Silence.

Stoically, I had decided to just keep in step with God and wait until He was ready to let me in on the next exciting instalment.

But still, silence.

Then this morning, in the middle of the 'preach' one of the comments from the 'pulpit' (er.....we use a lectern!) suggested that not hearing from God might just be because we weren't ready to receive new things from God; our hands were already full of things that we were perhaps unwilling to let go of or not ready to do so.

Surrendering everything - EVERYTHING - means holding up all the things I like to do, that I feel I do well, and saying I'm prepared to forego that in favour of whatever HE has in mind. And there's a genuine feeling of anticipation - that the best is yet to come!

.....and maybe part of the plan is just for me to 'rest in pastures green' for a while longer! (Hey, that's fine by me, but I just need to actually confirm that's what HE has in mind!)

Last Sunday I was sent this YouTube clip - and it has been resonating with me all week:

That sparked off the idea of a story over at one of my other blogs. We live in this world but we don't have to conform to it's ways.

Putting that together with what I learned at church this morning, maybe God's plans for me aren't for anything big and exciting; maybe I'm just meant to live a simple life - and that kind of feels more like what He's saying.

Perhaps He needs me to be growing the 'kingdom' in quiet, gentle ways by facing the maelstrom of financial and commercial upheaval that seems to be coming at us from every direction and coping with them in Christ-like ways.

So, until I hear otherwise, this little cogwheel's just gonna keep on turning, one day at a time!

Monday, 29 August 2011

According to whose plan?

Some days I wonder if the things I'm passionate about are necessarily in line with God's plans for me!

Wouldn't if be great to be able to hear God's voice as clearly as if He was speaking to us on the phone?

For some people, their experience of God speaking is just like that - but for me, most of the time I'm trying to work out whether God's speaking to me or if it's just some idle fancy. This concept often seems to be in direct proportion of how much I do or don't want to comply! Like, 'I'll do anything you ask me as long as you don't want me to ....' - and then spend days fretting that that's EXACTLY what God has in mind!

What does that actually say about the concept of a loving Father? Do I expect God to plan for me to do things that I would hate? That sounds vindictive and runs counter to God's loving qualities!

Of course, it could be that He needs me to understand that HE is mighty enough to carry me through the experience; calling on HIS strength rather than my own!

But getting back to this 'hearing from God' idea - I'd love to just hear Him tell me what to do, rather than fumble around second-guessing - it would save a lot of precious time! Mostly, I feel like a pin-ball ricocheting off life's experiences with no real idea of where I'm going or what I'm supposed to be doing.

But God is NOT two-faced - in a constantly changing world, God is unchangingly constant! In the light of this we need to take Him at His word - ALL of it! No cherry-picking! What He says, sticks; he doesn't take back promises. So, in Jeremiah 29:11 we have the famous verse:"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." (The Message)

If God has made plans and they are for my good why, then, would He plan horrible things? Answer: He wouldn't, but the Devil loves to tie us up in knots and convince us that may be the case!

So, in the sea of unknowing, when the way forward seems about as clear as pea-soup, that's the time to remember God's constancy. The promises He has made for us still stand. He does not lead us along a path and then abandon us - He walks with us through the lonely valleys and dry deserts and while we may not see or hear Him, still He is there.

After all, Jesus has walked the darkest valleys we will ever have to face and the great thing is that HE knows the way out; He's not just a companion in difficult journeys, He's our guide. All we need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that HE will make sense of it all.

So, when my plans go awry, or I seem to keep hitting brick walls, getting back to basics seems to be the best way forward.

Jeremiah goes on, in verses 12-14 to say: "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me."

So when the way forward seems unclear, where my plans seem to be thwarted, it's best to go back to basics - honouring God in simple ways, just putting one foot in front of the other, giving myself space and time to focus on HIM until He is ready to tell me the next part of the plan.

Sounds great in theory - but it really is a 'one day at a time' experience in practice! (and yes - I'm still practicing!)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Who Are You?

You're at a party or some other gathering (even having coffee after the morning church service!) and you get introduced to someone new. After the initial pleasantries and exchanging names, the conversation almost inevitably gets down to the nitty-gritty - ", Tom (Jane/Barbara/etc.) what do you do?"

The response will often define a perception of that person's character - be it refuse collector or brain surgeon - and it's all too easy to make assumptions about their status.

We all do it, be honest!

But why should what someone does be any reflection, positive or negative, on who they are?

God created each of us with particular giftings and skills for the purpose of equipping us to fulfil His plans for us and creation as a whole. For example, to some He endowed manual dexterity; to others He gifted organisational skills.

We each have a God-designed 'shape' that fits us into the massive jigsaw-puzzle of life - one place, the perfect place, designed to fit perfectly. Each ability was/is perfectly and equally crafted and tailored to that particular person - it is only mankind who ranks their importance as greater or lesser.

Last night, I was discussing this with friends at church, as we were exploring what we believed were our God-given goals in life. And what a varied bunch we were/are! To put it in a nutshell, our goal, clearly, seems to be to live the lives God planned for us, not kicking against the rails and wanting what we cannot have and becoming depressed when our plans are thwarted.

But let's get this straight - we were not created to give rein to our own selfish passions - we were created to give pleasure and delight to the Creator. When you put your circumstances in that perspective it's a whole different ball-game!

So, you find yourself in a lowly position, perhaps doing menial tasks, and you feel somehow less worthy than the brain surgeons or professors or the big 'movers & shakers'. But wait a minute - who told you that you were not as 'worthy' or important as them? The 'World' - that's who!

The World has this 'pecking order' of propriety. It defines you by what you 'do' and ranks you on it's scale of worth and importance: fine if you're at the top end of the scale, but the 'also-rans' at the bottom are kept very firmly in their place. The World promotes success, wealth, beauty and power and to be in the 'game' you have to climb 'their' ladder.

But, what if we weren't designed for that? What if we were created to fulfil God's plans for His creation? If he designed you to know the intricacies of the delicate workings of the brain and endowed you with the skills to perform surgery in that area then you will be fulfilling His plan. It's unlikely your skills will be of much use in a steel factory. Equally, though my plumber knows the intricacies (and eccentricities!) of my heating system, I might not necessarily allow him to give me sound financial advice!

Determining what you feel you are good at, where you feel able to achieve the end result without too much stress or beating yourself up about your failures is, I believe, a pretty good indicator that you are in the right place. Whether you are happy about that will depend on whether you are listening to God or the World!

So, are ALL occupations good? Certainly all the legal ones may be - less so the habitual burglar!

My husband has a job related to the Brewing industry. He loves it (and it's NOT all about drinking beer, before you ask!) but a few years ago he was thinking about how worthwhile it was. Talking with our (then) pastor he posed the idea of moving his administrative skills towards one of the many charitable organisations, secular or Christian. Wisely, our pastor friend asked him to consider one question – of the people he currently worked with, how many were Christians? Hubby answered that he believed that although some of his colleagues might be sympathetic to the faith, none had ever confessed as much. So then, he was counselled, by leaving he would be taking away an opportunity to demonstrate God’s values in that place!

Likewise, we had a friend who at one time was involved in designing aerial weaponry. I often wondered how he could equate his strong Christian beliefs with such seemingly un-Godly activity. His response was that if he wasn’t involved then how much more terrifying might be the prospect; by his presence he might be able to effect a restricting attitude to the more aggressive ideas for weapons technology. It wouldn’t stop people making bombs, but it might curb the more vicious tendencies and who knows, it might lead some of his colleagues to Christ. Perhaps some of them might. in turn, use their technical skills in a more benign way. (The words ‘swords’ and ‘ploughshares’ come to mind!)

So then, it seems to me to be more important that we are concerned with ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’; being what God created us to be, not trying to do what we weren’t designed to do and the acceptance of that fact can only bring a peace and contentment that the World promises in it’s ‘adverts’ but can’t deliver when push comes to shove!

…..but by all means, we should live the life God has planned and equipped us for, joyfully, contentedly – and if possible with a song in our hearts!

Perhaps Sinatra had it right after all! ;-p

Monday, 4 July 2011

Fighting Against Giants

Sometimes the 'world' overwhelms us - maybe because we trust too much in our own strength!

This track sums up where (and upon whom) our reliance should rest - plus, it's a fun 'take' on a rock'n'roll standard!


(excellent material by students of Valley High School using the re-worded soundtrack by Apologetix)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

His eye is on the sparrow.........and me!!

In all the world, God has His eye on each one of us. Although each relationship is different, to Him each one of is unique - it's as if we are His only focus. That blows me away - that the Lord of all creation is 'obsessed' with ME (and you, and YOU!!!)

Recalling a song by Casting Crowns reminded me of this fact - listen to the words and you'll see why!

(and try this excellent portrayal - it's amazing!)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Even in the midst of the mundane....

I have a poem hanging up in my kitchen that speaks of 'service' in the most mundane tasks. I came across the first verse many years ago and then discovered a second verse some time later. Thinking to include it on my blog today, rather than have to type it all in I thought I'd search online - and there's a third verse! :-)

So, here it is in its entirety, attributed to various authors (including a 19 year old servant girl in 1920's England!)

Lord of pots and pans and things
Since I’ve no time to be
A saint by doing lovely things
Or watching late with Thee
Or dreaming in the sweet dawn light
Or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals
And washing up the plates.

Although I must have Martha’s hands,
I have a Mary mind,
And when I black the boots and shoes,
Thy sandals, Lord, I find.
I think of how they trod the earth,
What time I scrub the floor:
Accept this meditation, Lord.
I haven’t time for more.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy love
And light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
And make all grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
In room or by the sea,
Accept this service that I do–
I do it unto Thee

......strangely enough, I do find myself having conversations with God as I tackle the ironing!

Another thing I'd like to share, as this is Father's Day - my daughter posted this clip on her blog - clickHERE - and it's very moving! It serves to remind us just how much more our heavenly Father carries us and journeys with us through this life!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Impact and Influence

It is amazing what impact and influence we can have (intentionally or otherwise) on the people and circumstances around us.

The daily news brings us stories about wars, famines and droughts, injustice and persecution, natural and man-made disasters; it can feel overwhelming. It makes me think about how on earth 'You in your small corner, and I in mine' can possibly make ANY difference.

As a Christian, I wonder how God could use me - I read and hear of Christian 'saints' going off and doing amazing, life-changing things and then look at my own circumstances and get quickly defeated.

Well, I challenged God this morning. I thought about the gifts and talents I think He has equipped me with and asked how I was supposed to change the world with a ball of wool and some knitting needles, or running a couple of blogs, or the other mundane but practical skills that keep our household ticking over. Needless to say, God's answer wasn't to stump up the price of a ticket to Africa to go and dig wells!

Sitting quietly thinking through all the vague options open to me I suddenly realised I can't stop famine, or do any of the amazing things that I associate with Christian 'service' - because God didn't create me to do any of that in the first place.

I'm here for a reason - and maybe that's just to be the smallest cog on the smallest cogwheel of the machinery of Life. And that's true of the vast majority of us. But, you know, if those small cogs get damaged or don't do what they were designed for, the machinery won't work right, or even breakdown altogether.

Who knows if my 'purpose' is to facilitate someone else doing 'mighty works' just by keeping the 'machinery' going? I once 'complained' to my pastor that sewing banners wasn't on the same level as digging wells in Africa and he replied "Maybe you weren't designed to dig wells, but your banner might make someone else think about doing it!"

Well, I can knit blankets and items for charities; or I could organise a knitting group to encourage others to get together and knit projects - and who knows where the conversations we might have will lead to....

I have another blog I Refuse To Go Quietly, where I do a fair bit of fiction writing and through that I've got to know some amazing people. Trying to occasionally weave Christian principles into crime fiction is an interesting challenge! I have this passion about writing fiction that doesn't necessarily deliver the Gospel - but if it at least has elements of the story that impact Joe (or Jane) Public, make him/her at least shrug off the stereotype of God and Christians they have in mind.....

Like George Bailey, in the film 'It's a Wonderful Life' we certainly have influence and impact on so many people around us!

I was reading something this morning concerning someone called Mordecai Ham. Now, he was an evangelist who reached many people with the gospel. One day, a young 16 year old boy heard him talk and as a result hundreds of thousands (the number is still on the increase!) of people have since become Christians.

That young 16 year old's name was Billy Graham.

I wonder what would have happened if he'd been 'too busy' or otherwise occupied to go to that evangelist meeting.......