Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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

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.

Undiluted breathing

28 Mar

I went to set up coffee at work today and it was quiet – no stretching out to meet and greet and welcome a new person.

But I offered to clean up the coffee afterwards. This morning there was some confusion and no one knew who was setting up, so instead everyone from our section of the college turned up to set it up. Or so it seemed.

It is a beautiful summer’s day today – despite it being spring – as if Summer couldn’t wait and asked for a house swap with Spring for half a week. So while Summer’s in residence, the British become colourful and ridiculously happy. They forget about these days of sunshine for the rest of the year. Sun?! Really?

But when she’s here, suddenly there is free time in the middle of a work day. Suddenly they want to smile at you even through your sunglasses. Suddenly it’s like someone took a sharp, serrated meat knife and scored through a cloud sheet in front of you and of them. And the awkward discovery of life just in front of you that you hadn’t noticed happens. Awkward but happy. You smile.

But inside the Wycliffe College staff room, there wasn’t a terrible hurry to rip any sheets apart.

And as I cleared away the dishes, an older gentleman – I’d met him before and recognised his friendly, unashamed Northern brogue – put his hand on my back while the last people left. Unusual in an Oxford college at a staff rendez-vous, but er I am not immune to charm…

He thanked me for helping clear up. Everyone seemed quite surprised and amusingly thankful at someone doing it off the rota – but the only other place I’ve ‘done’ coffee or tea for a group is at church. And there I’m not thinking about a rota… usually only about how to hide my face from socialising when I need to. *Confession alert. Memo for later*

QED Once I’m there, I love ‘doing’ coffee or tea. It hides your face almost as much as leading worship or standing up front does. *Definitely memo for later*

“And if you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today,” he said…

I hadn’t been wondering. I’d noticed, that’s all. But I straightened up from the coffee pots.

“If you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today, it’s because an ex-student is having a still-born this morning.”  

And there was community and love. Ripped open cloud sheets by the sun, with healing in his wings.

She had been a student and had worked there. Her mother had flown from the US to be with her when she’d heard what was happening.

There were a few things that crossed my mind. That I wanted the ‘still-born’ to be called a child or a little girl or boy. That I wanted to tell him to go and visit if he needed to – the coffee pots and work would survive. But he told me people had gone, and more people would go. And I asked for her name and I wanted to pray for her.

I cannot imagine the years of pain, of unfinished story that an unborn or a still-born child must bring. About as many years of joy as he or she does, I suspect, knowing if you do that they live in the arms of a bigger, greater Parent than we will ever be.

I’ve admired mothers and fathers who have loved their children through life and death. I am in awe of them when they see that joy – I don’t know if I would be able to.

In my mind, I have this picture. The babe in the womb takes oxygen from the bloodstream. She’s not ready yet for O2 straight. We’re not ready yet for the physical presence and glory of God straight. Not all the time anyway. But then those babies are, those people are. They’re breathing it in already and to us, it must bring joy in the rain.

 

Easter is not far.

Still crazy

20 Mar

Sometimes I leave home and there is this funny feeling that I’ve forgotten something.

And it’s really hard to put my finger on what. So I walk through the hallway a couple of times, trying different doors, looking busy. When I’m struggling to remember, I can’t really do much else.

I forgot something today.


I forgot about being in love. Like – if someone asked you – you couldn’t really find a moment in your day when you haven’t been thinking about him. Checking your phone, checking your latest letter. I forget how perfectly he understands and I know it when we’re together. How my heart slumps down in relief like a body after a marathon because I know he’s got me covered.

You know when people are in love. Right? And I flatter myself I can tell when it’s real.

And I wonder if they hear it – this sigh of relief when I’m home not because I have a comfy, worn down, old armchair, or because I have my mug and coffee, or even murukku in it. But because I can hear his voice over my shoulder, by my side, and it doesn’t startle me. It’s old, familiar, loved.

It’s gentle.

A while ago, I wrote this and it turned out to be my most popular post. I called it crazy that I forget about this man who would and did give his life for me, this God who gave me life. I forget.

What makes me cry?

Looking at love.

Becoming Like

20 Mar

According to this thing, I’m kinda like Belle, Jasmine and/or Quasimodo. Hmmm, I can see some of that.

But who wouldn’t see themselves in Disney heroes and heroines? Plus it’s funny categorising people. I am a weird mix. I say the most boring things. Sometimes I get quite academic. Other times… well, I get involved in my students’ heated MBTI and Disney arguments. I mean this can all happen in the space of an hour. My blog, for instance, is a random collection of heart-moments.

And God keeps a track of it all. I’ve lost track.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how good God is to me in recovering the messes I make. And I make so many.

I sleep in when I should be working. I forget to say kind words. I complain about the things I ought to be grateful for.

And I don’t always stop to say thank you. I don’t always stop to ask him what he wants.

And God doesn’t complain. Not once.

I hope to be kinda like him instead.

I can’t stop!

8 Mar

I have so much.

There is quite a long list of things I want in my head. My mind is like a schoolgirl, easily distracted. Research article – reading – reading – God time – oooh, Facebook – I’d love some mango. There’s my ridiculously fragmented thinking ^.

But then I got to thinking. Actually – actually – there is more that I have than what I want. It’s not quite that I have more than I want – at least, that is not what I’m trying to say. But if I listed what I have that I am grateful for, and what I want that I would really like to have… do you know what? That first list would be longer! And not because I am gracious and content or anything like that.

Because He gives.

Because He gives, I have…

a relationship with Him, His love.

a course I am enjoying

the ability to read and study

a job I love and a possible extension of it for next year

Marmite, and peanut butter, and golden syrup, and definitely more chocolate than I ought to have

people who give me all of those things too

and then those people for themselves

a mother for a best friend

more best friends in my life in far away places, which means I get to dream about visiting!

resources to read my Bible and study it

the Holy Spirit to convict me of what it means to me

a bike to get home and save time!

several different kinds of perfume

and the smell of vanilla!

the cushions I wished for

a week in Paris 😉

love

TWO pairs of boots (two!)

THREE if you count the ankle ones

Skype dates for the weekend

dinner and photography date for tomorrow

FaceTime date tonight maybe? (no, they’re not all boys :P)

three friends getting married

more shoes and one red pair (I am so lucky :D)

someone who sends me flowers 🙂

parents who brag about me rather erroneously 🙂

two yummy, cuddly dogs

flu-lessness!

an apartment to myself

in a beautiful house

a camera I enjoy

friends who care to protect me, make sure I’m okay

friends who’ll rescue my hard drive for me when I’ve been an idiot about saving my data

someone who’ll meet me in another city when I announce I’m going to be there in one hour to run an errand

friends who’ll offer to pay for my hard drive if other friends can’t rescue it

a conversation in which I was literally asked to share the gospel

redemption for even such as I

everyone who preaches and teaches in this wonderful city

the debates, the freedom to question, to seek the truth

the freedom to know that God is above our seeking and we see darkly

longer hair 😉

salvation

gifts of the Spirit

slowly the fruit, in spite of me

forgiveness for failure

forgiveness for failure from my family

patience from God

patience from people, despite my lack

a toaster and kettle of my own

tea and toast.

I could go on but I think I’ll go get some of that last, because it has become so obvious my nose is in it tonight 🙂 – His love keeps on giving.

No conditions

22 Sep

Today was a pretty ‘ouch!’ day.

Our hearts are so vulnerable that it makes it an even greater wonder how God loves us. Even when he tells me what I do not want to hear at the time, I trust him. Because my heart has known no firmer centre, and never will. This covenant is mine.

We are so clumsy with each other and in our interactions. And yet, God meets each of us in our most vulnerable, off-guard moments and still holds our hearts, emotions and his relationship with us as infinitely precious as an old, pressed leaf that would crumble if the faintest vein does not rest on firm fingers. He never lets go.

Unconditional love. It’s the most beautiful assurance in the world, and we’re called to give it.

Ecce, Dominus.

I don’t want to go outside

23 Jun

My shoulders tensed slightly in anticipation of the coming drama. It had been played out enough times before for me to know the script… *Johnny would fist his hands, and tauten his muscles… a plump, little slouched figure standing in what my bodybuilding friend would call the crab pose! I loved working with these kids. It was a special class in vacation Bible school. Special because its number was fewer, and the challenge different. And somehow, year after year I got slotted with these kids.

I had little or no training. I was an undergrad, or starting, or finishing. So I don’t know why except that I did.

I knew the routine too. We would tell them once, twice… usually a couple more times. It seemed like the same tone would work, because it was familiar.

Johnny, go outside and play. It’s recess!

NO. Johnny was NOT going anywhere. Uh uh. He stubbornly refused to go get the snacks and drink the church provided for every child, he refused to play running-and-catching or any other game. He refused to play with me either. He sat on the black and white triangle-squares of marble that tiled the floor of the side altar. It wasn’t the aisle – it was a little chapel to the side with an enclosed seating area that made it easy for us to keep the church’s very youngest members.

I took in a deep breath and said it again:

Johnny, go outside and play. I nudged him this time.

And I went over the routine, familiar, slow and dreading a tantrum.

It didn’t come. Instead, Johnny, still with his chubby arms flexed and taut, lifted his head a little and asked:

Why?

Stumbling a little, I explained: It’s recess. Go outside – as if the higher my voice, the more sense it made – and play with your friends.

I stressed the friends; I hoped it would be incentive.

Don’t you want to play with your friends?

He shook his head and I was giving up because it appeared that he understood and he had made his choice. Anyway, the food was on a little paper plate and one of the older kids had brought it to us, at my request.

But Johnny wasn’t finished with me. He had an answer to my most recent question.

But – but Jesus is my friend.

My tears were quick. It was what we had been learning after all – that He is our friend. Not a stranger, not just a distant God but – and I had told them – that He was really everything our hearts could desire, the bestest friend, and He didn’t need telling twice about anything we wanted or that hurt us or excited us. And He absolutely LOVED spending time with us – wouldn’t you? If you loved someone? And they’d all nodded their heads – wisely, dutifully.

Afterwards, I did cry. With my friends, in the cathedral’s garden after the children left. Johnny was minimally verbal but very aware of the most important lesson. And he seemed to talk quite well with the holy Spirit.

Sometimes I forget.

I want to go outside.

I want to leave the altar, shut the door on it, put my shoes back on and play the games.

I don’t remember my best friend – and he really is my best friend. And father, and lover and everything. And I am ridiculously lame about it showing it.

I want to fellowship with the church, and forget about the one we worship, and why we’re one.

I want to pursue his ministry – and I forget to pursue Him.

Or let Him pursue me.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  
I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.
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