Tag Archives: Christianity

Fare ye well, September and early-October

17 Oct

These past four and a half weeks have been pretty vulnerable. Just a bit over a month.

Someone I cared about died, at the start of it. Her being sick for a while was a little ease-in. I cared about her, but she wasn’t immediate family. She was a missionary in India, had led an amazing life and told me she could be my grandma. I told her I’d like one – we visited every week. She was Welsh and 92. Then I left the country. And came back, very far from her. And I had refused offers from this wonderful lady to buy tickets for me to visit. I couldn’t – I would visit when I had the time and money. It was £200 and so I had to think about it, as a student.

Well, I did – in her last week, after several reports of her failing, I managed to visit her.

And came home. A few days later, she’d gone.

Then a couple days later, boy and I went to boy’s trial session for a job that I thought would answer a few questions. And despite incredible confidence, it suddenly felt like God didn’t want it. I cried.

Sure enough, a week later – no.

Then my top candidate for ‘people-who-might-like-to-employ-Writeroo’ called me for an interview. And rejected my application.

Then I went to this place that really doesn’t work for me, but to help a friend and old employer. I generally cry there. I did. The usual 14-hour working day doesn’t help either. Then I lost my railway card and tickets. I cried some more. On my way home, I fell sick predictably. Stayed sick for the whole week, still sick and have a few worrying things I ought to go to the doctor about but have NO time to. (Try teaching to earn a living, and making intensive job applications and struggling with stuff at home and living at a distance?)

I have to say at this point – I am SO grateful for God keeping me in amazing ways in this limbo place!

Dropped my laptop, and fell with it again. Major repairs – major money.

God was so good though – he provided just in time, and then I got some more teaching. This story is a testimony on my Facebook. So I don’t simply rant.

That week, someone fairly close to me simply cut me off. We had had a conversation which I thought was challenging to both of us on many levels, and would induce us to re-evaluate our decisions about how to live a Christian life. My friend, though, felt severely criticised.

I still pray for grace in my talk. I need it because I struggle so hard with this. Few people get you so that you don’t have to filter when you talk – that is, if you’re a Writeroo. Some of my best friends will say I already have that grace – when clearly I don’t. But what is it they say? Love is blind.

But I ended up hurting them incredibly. And I worry about healing it. God is absolutely redemptive, so he will heal this. But I struggle. Because I’m just not that lovable any more, am I? 😉 We are so silly in our fallenness – us. People. Human beings. I more than most! Hearts of flesh, all of us. We choose hearts of stone sometimes. Even when they lie heavy (and interfere with our digestion, in some cases!!!). We distance ourselves from the places we are most vulnerable in. I do it, to God’s presence, sometimes. It just hurts too much to be that challenged, to be seen honestly and to be treated as an ‘equal’ and a friend by God. And when he tells me what I am doing, reveals myself, convicts me – I run. I hide. And we do that in our relationships, too. I do.

Clumsy, silly me. So clumsy I hurt them more than I imagined.

Anyway, long story short… After ‘week of hard things’, another week of hard things followed.

This time – friend-related. Because being completely alienated from a friend, who then is depressed for various reasons including your ‘honesty’, and knowing that none of the others in the circle of friends has any access either – this is difficult. And he is such a dear friend and pretty much spot on, in so many ways!

And me being me, I prodded and prodded. My friend. My other friends. My friend’s friends.

And cried every night, because I didn’t know what was happening to this person.

And so clumsy, that we allow ourselves to be hurt and live in a sorry state for self – like me. Right now. This blog post.

It is my confessional, as all of these virtual presences seem to be becoming.

Housemate upset with something I said. Little thing, right? Still hurt a bit. Then I didn’t even get called to the interview of another job I had on my list of ‘most likely’ and this one was also on ‘most wanted’. This, despite speaking to people on the board, and being guaranteed an interview. Sounds like God. Yes. But at the time, I almost wished he wouldn’t. Funnily, he told me the afternoon of the evening I heard that… he would.

Managed to have another friend erupt on me. She then apologised and I smiled. But guess who doesn’t erupt, smiles, keeps it all in and comes home and wants to major-erupt?!

Had the Director in the school I’m temping in tell me I wasn’t as qualified as other schools thought I was, payment-wise – this after um 6 years of teaching AND and AND BEING director, before starting graduate work!

Two close friends (I will just call them friends) in the past two weeks have told me of having nearly suicidal thoughts, because they were depressed, and acting on it. Both after years of being friends – and I am shocked, and scared… and mad.

They went through more – I know this.

I don’t think one of them sees how much it has scared me and continues to scare me. It is something I must take on – not just put up with the knowledge of. Other friend, who is lovely, told of her friend who trusted her support when she felt like that in faraway China! Relationships matter.

Aunt got super-sick like she did a couple of years ago, and they predicted dire predictions. And God basically made her live. Like he does all of us.

Boy and I have argued over nothings – I LOVE discussion, and I love it when two people can challenge each other, and question each other and be a strong man and woman who forge and carve their ideas with faith and strength and confidence in each other. No, no – THAT I totally love. But little arguments that leave you feeling unlikeable or unresolved – Gah.

And finally, I am home alone. It is raining.

On the other hand, I love the rain. And maybe I’ll take a long bath, with entertainment in tow (iPlayer and book!). And forget about all this, and all I haven’t said.

Yes, maybe that’s what I’ll do. And if you’ve read this far, pray for me. Pray for the friends, boy, the family, the lovely, loving, wonderful aunt and a job. Yeah – actually, unashamedly – here it is: please pray for me ;). And I promise to return the favour ;).

Love.

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Complacence

20 Jun

If you want something enough, you fight for it. I wonder if it’s a complacence we’ve come by because most of us have never had to struggle for the rent, or our family’s food, in childhood. If it’s the complacence of the developed world.

Que sera sera and if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be. Who said that? What about that persistent widow? This idea of looking on and complaining unproductively or politely standing by while someone squanders your inheritance…

It exists in the public sphere. Christians forget to be vocal, to be politically active, in addition to being prayer warriors, to be socially conscious, to be economically wise. It exists in our relationships – a miserable and rather invisible blight. You pursue your relationships, you prioritise, you know that those are the only things you call permanent in your life. You don’t let it slide, expect it to be God’s work. It is God’s work, but he might not be so willing to give you a precious son or daughter of his, if you’re not willing to be careful with them. You too – you’re precious, you’re not to be treated with that complacence. Your community, your church, your family, your wife or husband – they are called to that position by God. As you are called to that position by him. Your government is called to be the support it is. Society is called to operate by laws of love, mercy and justice – Christian norms. And if any of these institutions and relationships goes against them, you are called to be not-complacent. To speak, preach, teach and write of the right. In love. To also always consciously correct yourself, test yourself. In love (yes, even to yourself). In humility. In the knowledge that one might be wrong, always. But to always try and try again.

Not a culturally biased idea of the right thing – God’s idea.

Sigh. Rant over!

Wilderness woes and wistfulness

11 Jun

In the coach station at Birmingham. I’ve decided to give my very forgiving blog some context and character. It’s a grey, windy day in Birmingham this morning, as I head home. I’m sitting in a cafe across from Starbucks (because they have better armchairs) with coffee from Starbucks and considering a refill.

I’ve had a bit of heart-wringing from Him for a few weeks. The way that I’ve been seeing the next couple of years has fallen through. I always knew it could – but you always know things can change with that superiority of a Christian who’s been there, done that, learned her lesson…

I think to myself: I got this faith thing down pat. I have waited and trusted so often, over so many, closely intervalled seasons, that I don’t need any more testing. 10 stars for me. 


And then halfway through one of those sentences, God pulls the rug out from under your feet. And you’re in a test again. At first, you don’t even realise. In my little boxed-in, ‘churched’ worldview, change means doubting my calling. But God said I would live here, do this, give my tuppence to this part of the world. God talked to me about this relationship. God talked to me about planning my finances. So how can this happen?

See, in my head I have a plan. I know what God wants (at least some of it) and I know how to get there. And I am incredibly stubborn about the way that it’s going to work. The problem is if it doesn’t work that way – if he asks me to leave, if he brings me back to Canaan after a 40-year detour in the wilderness but he’s only ever told me the Canaan part of his will and not the wilderness part… I’m a screaming, kicking mess. Because I *never* get that the wildernesses are not detours. It took me 15 years of my life to work out that although God promised the promised land, he actually first moved Abraham FROM the promised land. And then brought him back.

Nuts.

I’m writing this. But I STILL don’t get it. I don’t get the sovereignty, I don’t get the need to relinquish control, I don’t get the concept of doing all I can see and all that will keep me sane and giving the rest to God in confidence that he’ll work it.

Because seriously – who does that?! Who drags you miraculously into the place you think you’re going to be for the rest of your life, hints to you that that is a place that’s a pretty major part of your life. Ok, tells you this is what he wants for you. And then drags you out of it?!

And yet – he does. And it’s not simply a lesson in the wilderness. It’s God in the wilderness. Just like God in Canaan. And you shake your head and shake your head and say ‘No, no, no – this is where I’m meant to be for life. You told me. You told me.’

But all he really said was to obey.

I feel like I’ve been in the wilderness for a little while – and usually, when I expect it… you know, that’s okay! I’ve got my little survival bag and contingency plans. But I’ve been in this weird place for a few days now (yes, nothing dramatic) and I should expect that God never gives me expected things! And every time I have time to myself, my thoughts and my God – I remember all the promises, all the hurts, the little things, the big things, the distance, the slight distance from God – everything that the wilderness, if not the cause, is a reminder of. A big hulking symbol, unmissable because I’m in it dead centre.

And this is why this lesson is so hard. I can only obey. I cannot predict the obedience of others or the obedience of time and circumstance and the weather, for goodness’ sake. I cannot predict that the picture will come true. I can only simply fit my piece into that puzzle clumsily.

Clumsily is really all I can do. You might be able to do perfection. Today is one of those days I can’t even try.

And this is why I’m sitting here crying in a coach station, having cried through church, having cried through conversations, having cried through being told off, having cried through defending myself, having cried through being a pain in other peoples’ sides, because I have NO way to explain why I’m crying. So I have a Mac, a coffee, a tissue held to my face like I have a nosebleed, gratitude for the rain because it covers up crying people, and the funny urge to write a song and these two quotes from two favourite books, one of the books life-giving, one of the quotes rather like a hug and the other rather like a pat on the back and a reminder to get on with it. Because the wilderness is a blessing. Canaan is a blessing. Both are – in the strictest sense – merely wanderings until we see Him face to face. I would say “The show must go on” but this is much too life-like and God-like for that to be fitting.

This:

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your records?

Psalm 56: 8

And then this reminder from Anne Shirley that puts a smile on my wet face.

“Gilbert darling, don’t let’s ever be afraid of things. It’s such dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!” – LM Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars

God’s got it covered

17 Apr

Rejection, betrayal are the two greatest fears women have. And you have had to deal with both. So many women can identify with you, including me (Let’s have coffee one day and I’ll spill the beans) But this didn’t sneak up on God; He has a plan for your future – I am living proof.

That’s a comment I read on a blog post over at (in)Courage. And it fell into place for me today.

At the moment, what’s on is probably what most other people might not recognise as major in my life. But everyone near me and/or who hear my daily outpourings are generally bringing me flowers and chocolate and little notes. My colleagues too – and one of them has had to go be with her family in London. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. But we get chocolates and visits and all that.

Oxford exams are really that big. Exams generally are a pretty big deal, being Asian and all…

Digression: In some parts of Asia, the suicide rates spike up in April and I have research to prove it. Still, taking as I do, my identity in Christ rather than cultural boundaries, I’m very grateful for my relationship with him and with the family I do have!

In addition though, I’ve had a student affairs spike. I’ve also had to negotiate a petty crime, and its fallout in the community. Plus a couple of personal hiccups as you’ve probably figured from that last post of mine 😉 For the record though, I haven’t had personal betrayal – no, not that.

And yesterday, God gave me a much-needed ‘moment’. I called a friend and prayed with her. And she kinda demurred at the prayer… This is a friend with whom I went to church, and we’ve been to a fairly charismatic (you know, pentecostal but not Pentecostal and a fairly traditional Anglican/Presbyterian church together. We’ve been in small group together. We’ve known each other for nearly seven years now. We’ve travelled together, visited each other’s homes. Um, you would assume that we’d be free to pray with each other. But I knew that she wouldn’t actually be so free to pray out loud, even with her family. She told me yesterday that I was important to her and the least she could do is take a day off and buy me lunch – in another city! I’d depend on her to listen in my horrible moments too. But all of this friendship-boasting to show that – no, it wasn’t the easiest thing to pray together.

But hey, I was feeling pretty selfish. So I got online, grabbed a hold of her and said she had to pray with me. That she had to try, and that doing it out loud was a token to ME not even to God, and that He knew her silent prayer but I didn’t. I was at a point of need. So could we please do that? You know – you get the point. I repeat myself generally, but I think this time you got it.

I wanted her to be there and.to.pray.with.me. It wasn’t a major thing. But it was something I didn’t want to do without – the beauty of communion and shared love for Jesus, the vocalising of trust in His provision.

Still I didn’t think it was such a big deal. I thought she’d stumble and pray but she’d pray and I’d have my… silly little token.

Actually, she didn’t stumble. I prayed. She prayed.

Then she said this:

I think you’ll appreciate a random of sequence of events without which this might not have happened.

And the story was this. Over the weekend, her boyfriend had told her she needed to practice to pray out loud. I mean – we all know she doesn’t. We all know she loves God. So then she was amused and didn’t understand and she probably rolled her eyes at the boy. But he made her practice AND pray about it and then said ‘You never know when you might need it.’

And there I was the next day – I wouldn’t have really grabbed a hold of anyone else, and said friend might well have said no, if she hadn’t been made to think about it and consider it necessary. And God showed her how he’d got me covered. And he showed me how he’d got her covered.

And that brings me back to that comment. While facing rejection, fearing it, or uncertainty or betrayal or hurt or simply even just the unknown – I’ve got to know this…

It didn’t sneak up on God.

And now, I’m sitting here thinking how un-random life is in some ways. How very God-like life plays itself out. And how, in a time I needed Him, He put a hand on my shoulder and said ‘I’m watching. I’ve got you covered.’

Shoqed.

All other ground…

14 Apr

Muddy Waters are Distracting

In everything that flows,

melts, melds into liquid

cocktail mockers, I am

that stone

the river flows over

around,

touching, flirting

with what is left

above ground.

I forget

the ground

immovable holds me still.

April, foolishness and Spring

7 Apr

TS Eliot – April is the cruellest month.


I’ve been thinking about this line over and over. When I was little (er, yes, vague literary references floated through my head when I was little and it probably made me a strange kid…) – anyway, when I was little, I used to think that meant that is was because of Good Friday.

And I struggled with that interpretation because was it a cruel thing to put him on the cross? The pain was cruel, but God was just. Is. Right?

But I’ve decided that April is the cruellest month because it reminds us of that sacrifice that, in so many hearts, goes unheeded. It is one thing to preach hellfire and damnation. But it is another to recognise rejected Father love. One screeches ‘Save yourself!’ The other whispers ‘Take My love’.

In Eliot’s time, it painted a picture of Modernism’s rather wholesale herdish rejection of Love.

‘April is the cruellest month’ because it brings the promise of Spring but there is NO resurrection within the world of the poem. It’s a disconnected, broken poem in form and content… The pictures are dry, dead summer and winter that hints at life. It teases about life but finds no fruition…
Our existence is fragmented without our knowledge of the reality of the cross and that is what the world has turned away from.
Palm Sunday fell on April Fools day this year. God chose a donkey to ride in on when Israel finally hailed him as king – the foolish things of the world and the weak to put to shame the mighty.
The foolishness of the cross is crazy, public love. He was looking at you on that cross. You.
When he said it was finished, when he said ‘Father, forgive’. His eyes never left your face.
Are you looking at Him? The crazy, foolhardiness of that radical act of love, of winning his bride – the foolishness of the cross – is its wisdom. What do we count foolish and what do we count wise?
It’s not quite a joke though – the cross. This – okay, this religion if you will, that people mock. Are we falling for the wrong joke?
Happy Good Friday and Holy Saturday, you.

Failings

25 Mar

I’ve realised that I freely point out what’s going wrong when I am good friends with someone or comfortable with them. I have spent the evening being convicted of this – I work on the assumption that I ask and find my comfort, just as my friends ask and find their comfort. And I love that.

 

But perhaps I am not big enough or gracious enough to let go of my comfort for any long period of time! And if I do that, if I fail to accommodate the people who sometimes need me, and only keep needing things for myself instead – I fail at being the ambassador for the post. The love I represent looks a whole lot different in its service than that, and I fail.

 

But redemption comes.

You

16 Jun

Father, all of my dreams have been, from their inception, out of Your imagination. They have been yours, never mine. This path that I want to take – I want to take it because slowly, when I was ready to hear, you whispered it to me. This path, before me, that is even now so unattainable, so far from the tips of my fingers.

I relinquish control back to you – this desire to photograph the vision you stole into my head, and to force an unwieldy brush in my fingers to repaint it. I’m letting go. You tell me what to speak, and what to do, and what to pray, and how to cry. It’s You I long for, after all. It’s You I long to find along and at the end of every road. And it’s You that hold my hand anyway in this hoping and waiting.

Because when I am holding on to all of these things, I struggle not to let go of You.

Father, I want you to carve out my destiny. Because my destiny is You, Your glory and Your purposes. Carve out my destiny as you see fit. The visa questions, the travel questions, the course questions, the place questions… I am sorry that it seemed to take the ripping away of something close to perfection for me to see that the perfect job was not the answer, nor the perfect sponsor, nor the perfect finances, nor the perfect people.

You.

You alone deserved my trust, and maybe for that one moment when the perfect everything-else shone bright, I nearly forgot. One evening perhaps – or longer. In seeking any of those things, I have been seeking You. In the changes I have made, I have been following You. And then I forgot whom they came from. And I am grateful that even though your purposes are being fulfilled, because You are ready to perform Your word (Jer. 1:12), this moment when I could not see the things I am used to seeing has stripped away the layers before You. Because in my inadequate praying, Your Spirit can break in and redefine parakletos to my dulled sensibilities. He can take the human words and vision that I so struggle with, my humanity perhaps faultier than most – and change them for His. And I am so grateful that You can.

So take this, whatever it is. Give me Your words, Your grace, Your spirit.  Give me You. There is nothing else I have ever wanted, in all my wanting. Nothing beyond You.

What’s blind about trust?

26 May

I remember this time when God gave me a vision, a revelation of what it meant to trust…

I didn’t have to wear sackcloth or travel to Nineveh, but I did see the same picture every time I shut my eyes. The memory of the picture was strong, but sometimes it wasn’t a memory. It just swiftly slid in before my closed eyes.

There I was, standing on the edge of a cliff. With –nothing– before me. Nothing. Just a very long drop. I remember checking the second or third time I kept thinking of that picture and seeing it to see what was below me. There really was nothing.

The path to the edge was very short. There didn’t seem to be much else before the cliff edge. Perhaps a curtain of trees. A very impenetrable curtain anyway. Because all I knew was I was desperate and terribly scared and unable to take my eyes away from that heart-plunging drop into nothingness.

And I needed to walk out from that cliff.

But God’s will for me – or my sense of it in that moment of visualisation was pretty strong. I was convinced despite my shaking fear that I needed to go forward into what was, as far as any sane man could see, empty space and the world’s biggest fall.

Later on that week, I think I was able to imagine another faintly discernible cliff edge beyond the abyss. I wouldn’t say it was beckoning me – if anything, it was worrying to think that that was what I was going towards. I had no idea what I was walking towards or what it held.

But I stepped out.

Because God in my head was so undeniable and consuming. I took a step forward and nothing happened, while I hovered precariously with one foot gingerly testing the gravitational resistance of air. But I decided this – one of two things would happen. I would fall and God would hold me. And I already knew the best place in the world was in my Father’s arms. Or I would fall and hit the bottom if there was one and I might know nothing after that. But I would rather (although minimally rather, and for this I asked for some growth in love) that fall into God knew what than live between the curtain and the edge having turned away from God. I’d rather that than live anywhere without this God. So – um – the me in the dream (I was fabulously skinny in the picture, of course) stepped down on air with my happy first foot and took the second foot off the ground.

I dropped.

For the fraction of a moment – okay, or even a whole moment – there was a fall into nothing but I wasn’t afraid. Given my choice, I had this resignation that I recognised in that moment. And then I was standing. And walking.

Ever dreamt you were falling only to wake up and find your bed solid beneath you? It was kinda like that – a vaguely familiar feeling.

So I walked on air. Or rather what looked to me like a pretty multi-coloured, white light rainbow type bridge that didn’t go any further than each last step I took.

And in the moment between the fall and the standing, I heard these words: ‘Unconditional trust’.

To me, they were new. I’ve seen them being written about since, but they were new. Unconditional love was a given in my mind – but trust? Oh, that needed data for a sceptic. And yet, and yet – that day I had my data in the force of God’s love. I can trust nothing more.

The love of God

12 May

The love of God is brutally honest in its claim of your everything. God never wanted a casual relationship – ever. He has never once, in all of history, asked for it. You will never ‘date’ the bridegroom of your soul. He knew, he purposed, he chose, he sought!

When I was a young girl – 13 or 14? – I asked his Holy Spirit to know human love from this example. I wanted purpose from the start of a relationship. I still do. I didn’t want the other way around because we only compare the two loves because God made it a metaphor… And this example was so pure and so perfect and so undeserved and yet so indispensible to me.

Indispensible for survival. I cannot imagine my world without Christ in it.

It has never been a passion of a moment. He knew before we ever remembered him that he would find us. It’s never been the fluttery, heart-warming, giggle-worthy emotion we now, sadly, often associate with love. To show you I am not on a high horse, I will say this – human love is a beautiful thing. It is a metaphor of God’s love for us. No less.

This God-variety of love is a love that courts your utter vulnerability because he has become irreparably vulnerable.

The veil was never un-torn.

The stone was never rolled back.

And in his eternal, willing vulnerability – a God that I can wound, a God that I can reject, a God that I can embrace with all that I am and in whom become fully who I am – I am now always, unchangeably, and forever, myself… slowly understanding there is no fear. Not in such perfect love.

He is strong enough in his desire to prise open my closedness. To draw out the aching, gaping shreds of flesh that I choose to hide under old gauze. There is pain in that release, but only because I hold on so hard. Until, gently as he holds me and unfurls my clenched fists, clenched in fear and unbelief, the realisation hits me that I am home and I can let go of the props of sojourn that I have foolishly turned into my weary foundations. Bag, shoes, the inertia of motion, the tokens of travel – down. I am home.

If, in this love, you will touch and taste and leave behind because you find the pain of release too hard, I have learned this – God would only have your all. It is a choice.

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