FMF: Guess

Please forgive me for a not-so-edifying ramble.

When I first read Kate’s post for this week’s prompt, ‘Guess’, I fully identified with her reflection on asking the Lord for direction and not being able to see His answers. Her comparison with that discerning to feel a bit like guess-work. I thought that her blog was enough said on the matter, because personally I was right in that ‘no-man’s land’ of not seeing the direction at all, for certain issues.

And I am still there, still feeling like I am having to guess what God’s will for me is.

People say that I must listen for His still, small voice;

that I will find answers in the Scriptures;

that God’s perfect peace will be my guide;

that if I fast and pray…

And I have probably said the same thing!

But, if I am stuck now, do I conclude that I am doing it wrong? That my heart is wrong? That this sheep does not know her Shepherd’s voice? That sin has blocked me from hearing His voice?

Does God want me to ‘follow the mind of my heart’? Or to take advice from Christian people? Does He want me to be patient and spend more time seeking the answer?

I know that he who seeks finds.

Or has He told me clearly already and I don’t like the answer?

Does God’s answer take me where I have no intention of going, nor desire to go?

I do not trust my own heart, it is deceitful above all things.

And I have asked advice from spirit-filled friends and their opinions and advice has been varied and contradictory, though I now have even more options in what feels like a multiple choice exam! And I have never been good at multiple-choice. I have painful memories of French and German listening comprehension exams, where in each choice of four options I consistently guessed wrong. The odds of that were even remarkable!

Maybe I am impatient to know the answers, when it is not time for me to know.

Maybe I am trying so hard to listen, that I have become blind and deaf.

Does the Lord really want me to guess His will?

Does He trust me to guess?

Does He know that I already know His Will and know that in time I will say ‘yes’ to Him and do that ridiculous sounding thing!

I am sharing this only because some of you may relate to these feelings. It does not feel like an encouraging or edifying post, but it is an expression of the mess some of us might sometimes grapple with. This someone does, anyway.

I imagine in a few months, or days, or years (God only knows), I will look back on this and see God’s path and wisdom as clear as the moon on a cloudless night, as so often happens.

There is always such profound insight in hindsight.

Meanwhile we grapple.

Oh me of little faith!

FMF: writing prompt: Stir

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt for today is “stir.”

Go.

stirring a Béchamel sauce

Thinking of ‘stir’, all I could think of was making my thick soups (sloups), custard and Béchamel sauce – stuff that if you stir it well, becomes smooth and creamy, but if you don’t, it becomes lumpy, stuck, burnt and in some way spoiled.

This showed me something, because it always seems such an effort, such a faff to stand stirring ALL the time. I am often tempted to just stir every now and then, when I think it necessary, or to wait until it is thoroughly hot before stirring, convinced that, because I want it to work out well, it will.

But, you know, it doesn’t!

I am lazy making soups and sauces and I am lazy in many other areas of my life.

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

It takes effort to stir myself up and more so to stir up one another.

It takes sacrifice to encourage and to turn up and be willing to listen generously in order to build others up.

But if I don’t stir myself to love and good works, I become lumpy, burnt, stuck and less than my best.

If I am too lazy to make an effort to love other sinners like myself, the church becomes lumpy, sick and spoiled in some way.

If I focus on what I feel like doing, rather than on what love calls my renewed mind to do, then God’s will is not done through me today.

If I do not stir and build, eventually those around me, and myself, begin to starve.

Let us commit to focusing not on just being fed and stirred by others, but to be grown up, mature followers of Christ, who are willing to work together to prepare for the banquet of the Lord.

end

D is for anger

FMF writing Challenge. Prompt word – Danger

D is for Anger

Arriving home from a wonderfully blessed and inspiring ACW conference, I saw the Five-Minute-Friday writing prompt word – Danger.

The word felt uninviting, until ‘D is for anger’ fell into my brain.

I will explore that.

20:52 – Go!

“There is absolutely no point in reacting. It never works! I always end up losing. It’s not fair!

“He can get angry, he can do what he likes, but if I get mad or get him back, I end up hurt and in tears.

“It’s not fair. He’s big and I’m little…

“I’m never going to get angry again! He will never see me mad. It will never happen again. I will not react!..

“How do I not react? I will build a wall. I shall not join in. I won’t want anything; won’t play the game; won’t feel anything and then it won’t bother me!”

I did not realise then, or for most of my life since, how dangerous that strategy was. It was a completely understandable form of self-protection, but it became a stronghold that grew with me and bound me to fear and anger in a painfully impotent way.

It was to intensify its consequences and to thwart me over and over until finally I learned and brought my own self-centred promises and judgments to the cross of Jesus.

I repent for my sinful vows and judgments, which are now broken at the cross and the burden for my sin is all taken by Jesus.

He is my refuge and protection.

In His incredible love, He takes my sin and He sets me free.

Anger is not the sin. My judgments and my ‘never-again’ promises were the sin. I set myself up to rely on myself, not God. I separated myself from Him. That was the danger.

Now I am free to learn to feel anger, along with other emotions, and to bring my feelings and responses to Jesus. This is not comfortable, not easy; and I’m a bit clumsy in recognising and wearing these emotions and learning to express them appropriately. I can learn to identify the emotions, understand the cause and learn how to pray, be kind and bless.

But I do not need to judge the one who acts or speaks against me.

I am not the judge. I am free.

How wonderful it is to learn and to grow closer to the one who loves us beyond what we can ever fathom.

End

FMF Prompt word: Heal

FMF Prompt word: Heal

17:05

A scooter for a 3 year old, not for a Nana-D!!!!!!

I want to tell you a short story.

Yesterday I was out playing with my son and my two young grandchildren. The children (five and three years old) each took their scooters and we went to a nearby city-farm to see the animals and play in the park there.

As we left the farm, I decided to encourage the three-year-old on her scooter, by playing on it myself and promptly went scooting down the concrete ramp.

I was aware in a split second that the wheel caught and I was flying over the knee-high handle bars towards the ground. I knew I had fallen, but then suddenly felt a huge force throwing my face towards the concrete with back-lash type impact.

I knew then that I was properly hurt and my son came rushing over to get me to sit up. Waiting a while, I processed what had happened, feeling very queezy and dizzy, when a worker from the farm came out and asked if I was okay. She knew I wasn’t, so between them they got us all indoors and somebody else took care of the children whilst they tried to sort me out.

Suddenly I was aware of a voice calling me to ‘come back’ and I felt afraid, because I didn’t seem able to get back, like I was deep under-water and drifting far away. I fought and came back to see a face I didn’t recognise and a situation I didn’t understand, but in a second or two everything registered in recognition, but I felt terribly dizzy and emotional. I clambered down onto the floor into a recovery position, as my body began violently shaking.

I was aware of ‘them’ on the phone to an ambulance, asking me many questions and trying not to drift off. I was very concerned about the grandchildren and about the trouble I was causing these kind people, who should have been able to get off to their homes.

The ambulance took me to hospital and 2 lovely paramedics handed me over to an over-worked team at A&E, who did tests to check I was not seriously damaged.

Dozing on a trolley, with a curtain between me and a man I could hear, but notHeal see, I knew in my heart that I was there to pray for that man. God showed me what to pray for and what to say to him, so over the next few hours we spoke together and God was able to minister to his heart.

Finally they cleaned me up and sent me home again, with warnings of how I would feel over the next few days, warning signs to watch out for and an admission that my face was too swollen to do a scan to see if the nose or bones were broken.

I trust that the bones are not broken and that my swollen, battered looking face will heal perfectly well. I felt so privileged to be there to pray for and encourage my hidden neighbour and will continue to pray for him for as long as the Holy Spirit brings him to my mind.

I am very grateful that my own injuries are superficial and should heal very soon, though I imagine the nose and face will turn a variety of shades in the meantime and will attract a few questions. I shall answer folk that the other fella came off far worse!

Hopefully, I will also think twice before showing my granddaughter what not to do on her scooter?

I also want to say a huge shout out of thanks and respect for the kind workers of the farm, who took their time and effort to see that we were all looked after. For the paramedics, who with grace and humour brought me to the hospital, and for the staff in A&E who work tirelessly to serve the needs of us mere mortals who occasionally desperately need their expertise and attention. Thank you all.

FMF – What do I know?

Five-Minute-Friday writing prompt: Know

3d human with a red question mark

go 21:16

What do I know?

When I was very young I learned that “I don’t know” was an effective skill to not get into too much trouble.

When one has learned that answering a question wrongly can lead to punishment or humiliation, one learns to not take the risk of answering.

It was somewhat useful, but like most man-made coping mechanisms, it had a down-side. It had unrequited side-effects, if you like.

One was that answering “I don’t know” let me off the hook of bothering to express myself, of actually finding out what I thought, felt or wanted for myself.

Answering text-book questions was a matter of memory, but for opinions, it was best to not know.

But I want to know, so I have had to learn these things as an adult.

There are some things that I would have said that I did know – or that I believed to be true for me, or believed to be objectively true. I would have said that God is Love. That God is good.

Some people say they ‘know it in their knower’, but this never rang true for me.

Recently I am rediscovering how, after nearly 45 years as a Christian, many of those things that I believed that I knew, I now realise that not every part of me does know!

My head knows many things – about God, the world, the Bible, about myself and other people – but many of those ‘truths’ are not believed by my heart, only my head; and are not known in deep recesses of my psyche.

One by one, as I continue to pursue God and His ways and continue to open myself up to know His unfathomable love; little by little the path gets a little lighter and clearer…

One of my beliefs is that one day, I shall see and know Jesus, even as I am fully seen and fully known by Him.

How amazing will that be?

stop

FMF – VISION

Today I write again for the Five-Minute-Friday writing challenge.

One thing I am growing to love about this challenge is the fresh spontaneity of association and all that flows.

This week’s prompt is VISION

Go –

Confession time.

One of the games I have played as long as I remember is eye-games. I like to stare at images and shift the gaze or close my eyes to transfer the image as a negative into a different space… Have you done this? It is especially good with light and dark shapes and images that somehow fix themselves onto the retina or whatever it is?

The other game is closing one eye and scanning the positions of all within my field of vision, then swapping eyes and looking how the view has changed. I used to try measuring the difference of shift too and seeing if it always matched the distance between my eyes.

Silly games, but they fascinated me. (they still do!)

photography view camera photographer lens hand blurred focus sun sunset sunrise lake concept

What we see depends so much on what we are looking for and what we have already been looking at. If I have been sketching, I see perspective, light and shadows; if cleaning photos with ‘photo-shop’ software, I would find my mind’s-eye cleaning up the blemishes as I walk along the streets…

When I spend time consciously in the presence of God, I tend to see my world from a heavenly perspective and approach it with hope and compassion.

When I read the Word of God, I see its application in the conversations and events of my everyday…

When my focus is on myself, my troubles and concerns, the weight drags me down.

When my focus is on the burdens and injustices in the world, these are the only things I see.

It is imperative that I bring my own concerns, the burdens of others and the injustices in the world to the throne-room of God. When I see the enormity of the power and love God, I see everything back in its true perspective.

In today’s world there is potential for information and sensory overload and overwhelm.

So choose what to focus on, choose what to switch off and keep your eyes on Jesus.

Stop.

There’s a great song there, and it is swirling my brain as my next ear-worm, I hope it keeps me focussed today –

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His Glory and Grace.

Tortoise or Hare?

Five minute Friday writing prompt – FAST

I am slow coming to this prompt, as I had a very busy last week.

Go

This is a word that describes what I am not! In the tale of the hare and the tortoise, I am the tortoise. That said, I don’t mean that I win, or run a better race, but that I simply do not do anything very quickly at all. Fastidious could be a better word to describe my processing; I am usually thorough, persistent and concerned with getting it right.

I know it is not good to compare oneself, but we often do and I particularly notice when I am around people who do work fast and think and act quickly. My best friend was one of these – I would find she had finished a job before I had understood what the job was. And she always did a very good job! It used to bother me, but I accept it now.

On Saturday I had another example of a comparison with a person that could be described as ‘fast’. She described herself as ‘new to writing’, but had started ‘having a go’ with writing at the start of lock-down, two years ago. She amazed me by not only having written and published a novel already, but also having written and published not one, but 30, novellas!!! How is that even possible? But it is, it was and I hope she continues to get joy and success out of her writing.

I take my hat off to such people. My first book took me eight years to write and publish, and this second one has taken six years to date (and still counting, as it is still in its editing/re-writing stage).

But we are, thank God, all uniquely blessed with very different talents. Speed is not one of mine.

Another meaning of ‘fast’ came to mind this morning, as I thought about this prompt, as today is a ‘fast-day’ for me. It is also not something I am good at, or something I look forward to or enjoy; but it is something I have been doing in obedience for the last 18 months or so – it is another one of those disciplines that I do in faith and at the end of it, I am always so happy to have done it.

That’s all I can write, because my 5 minutes are up, and, as I say, because I do not do anything very quickly.

Tortoise or hare, do not compare,

just keep on keeping on,

plodding or flying,

until you get there.

Five-minute-Friday: Writing prompt: Run.

Five-minute-Friday: Writing prompt: Run.

Go –

I would like to have written about how I love to go running – but I don’t! It hurts my knees, so I don’t do it any more.

But running away is something I have done plenty of in my life.

When things were a bit too much for me, I would run. I would escape. I would be an ostrich and run and hide.

The amygdala is a part of the brain that is thought to control or deal with the strong emotions – fear, anger and pleasure – and it is that which is said to be responsible for the basic responses to big fear – the fight, flight and freeze responses.

I am not a fighter.

In the throes of actual confrontation of fear, I would freeze, but then, on surviving that, I would plot my way to run.

I have often ran away from intimate relationships, but really I was always running away from my own thoughts and true feelings.

My feelings were what I felt most compelled to run and hide from. They were what had me most in fear of falling apart.

I am so grateful to say that I am no longer like this. By the grace of God and a long process, I no longer need to run or hide.

I don’t hide from my own truth now. I have faced those Bogeymen! I still have fear sometimes, but I face it, knowing I am safe in the here-and-now presence of God.

And I am so thankful that I cannot hide from God. It says somewhere in the Psalms – where can I run to and hide? If I go to the edges of the world or the bottom of the sea, You Lord are right there.

I am so happy that I cannot hide from my loving Father and I am so grateful that He also pursued me when I tried to hide. I praise God for His never-ending patience, mercy and active loving of all of His creation. I thank Him for His promise to never, ever leave me, no matter where I go!

Stop.

Aren’t you grateful that you cannot hide from Him?

Five-minute Friday – Deny: Foot washing?

I sort of want to cheat today, because I have been burning to share a thought with you that has been floating around my heart for a few weeks, but was right back with me in the beautiful Maundy Thursday liturgy last night.

Having just seen today’s writing prompt, I will attempt to put the ideas into words and make the reflection fit the title –

Deny

Having loved his own who were in the world, he [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love.  John 13:1 (NIV ‘84)

Go –

Jesus had spent 3 years of His life with this band of individuals, who had witnessed many miracles, hugely radical teaching and had seen and experienced His compassion, forgiveness and love for them, but also for complete strangers. They had seen Him show equal love to male and female, healthy and sick, lepers, cripples, beggars, the immoral, the swindlers and hypocrites.

But He had loved them, forgiven them, healed them, taught them patiently and constantly denied Himself in order to fulfil His mission.

He had shown them such radical, unconditional love.

But there He was, in the room in Jerusalem, knowing He was about to suffer and lay down His life… He prays for His disciples present and all of us; He shares the passover meal and settles the promise of the New Covenant in His blood and continues to teach them, but the it says:

he [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love.  

He then took off His outer garment and wrapped a towel around His waste, got down on the floor and one by one He washed their feet, telling them to do likewise.

What blows me away is how big a deal this one act was.

He even washed the feet of Judas!

But it was not about washing feet!

And I asked myself: What is this act of complete humility to me? What would be my unthinkable act of service?

I remember years ago, when I became a carer for my mother, saying “I’ll do it until I have to start wiping her bum!” Of course, as that time came I shifted the boundaries as my love grew.

What act of denial, forgiveness, generosity, sacrifice or service would be beyond me?

What are my limits of love? Of course my love is limited, but the more time I spend with Him, the more it grows.

What would I refuse my Lord, who denied Himself and gave up everything for me?

Stop.

What about you? Is there something you would deny to Him? He loves you none-the-less!

Five-minute-Friday: Explore

20:13 Go

I love to explore!

I was in a fascinating webinar last night, looking at the disease that has taken education over the last 30+ years and exploring solutions. One of the attendees suggested that schools allow 20% of curriculum time for children to ‘explore’ themes and questions that interest them – with guidance and facilitation by the teacher, of course.

My own response was – 20%?? Is that all?

I remember a good friend from back in my teaching days in London, who used to regularly ask me at a weekend

“What did the children bring you this week?”

This was because it delighted him that I built almost all of my curriculum around what the children brought to me in the week. If a child has experienced something, it is something that can be discussed, researched, creatively expressed, counted, measured, looked at in every ‘curriculum-discipline’ way. And these things the child never forgets.

But I don’t want to just talk about how children learn through exploration.

I myself love to explore.

My learning style is mostly kinaesthetic, which means that rather than hearing about something, or seeing it, I learn best if I experience it. For me, this is what exploration is – it is the way I learn.

This morning I completed a small example of such learning.

About 18 months ago, A friend bought me a gift of some air-drying clay.

The instructions were not in English, so I kept meaning to look up on the internet ‘how to use air-drying clay.’ I don’t follow internet and YouTube instructions well, so I didn’t do it.

I looked around a few months ago for a ceramics class, but could find nothing in my budget or location.

Finally last week I opened the packet, took out a chunk and began to make something – allowing it to suggest a shape and I made a little pot.

This morning, I took out a range of gouache and acrylic paints to see what would work and I painted it. Trial and error. I explored it and it was such fun!

Here it is.

My finished little pot.

PS: I’ve run over time now, but just to say that I had such fun squidging the clay, that I took the clay to use with the children at Sunday School last week. They concentrated so well on the story I told them and asked amazing questions, whilst their hands were busy exploring the clay. Soon I’ll tell more stories whilst they paint their creations.