Forget Give and Take!

I was recently reflecting on the relationships I have experienced throughout the journey of my life. Those kind of musings take me through painful territory that remind me why trust is such a complex, powerful, tough and beautiful thing for so many of us. On this occasion, however, Holy Spirit was on a mission to reveal to me the heart of God and his intentions for each one of his beloved children. I am grateful!

Most of us will have experienced close relationships in which we have had things taken from us, at times we have been the ones doing the taking. All of us are familiar with having someone come and take what they wanted from us. This is the trading system that much of life is based on. I want something from you so I give you something in return for the thing I want. Theft is when I take what I want from you without giving what was due. This system is so deeply embedded in society’s culture that it pervades all aspects of life, even our relationships. Relationships are all about give and take, we are told. In our relationships we tend to trade with affection, loyalty, honour, power, fear, life, freedom, connection, status, belonging, pleasure and many other things that we prize. We believe it’s OK to take from those around us, so long as we have given something in return. (and sometimes we simply take what we want with no return.) All this has been my experience.

Then I look at God and I see that it’s not how he relates to us, it’s not how he relates within the Trinity and I get the feeling it’s not how he intended us to relate to one another. When I look at how God relates, I see him operate through giving and receiving; taking doesn’t not seem to be a feature, ever. In his relating to us he gives everything of himself and takes nothing from us. He waits for our response and if we choose to give him he delights to receive it. Whether it’s our attention, our gratitude, our allegiance or even, more appropriately our lives in loving worship… he lovingly receives. But he never seems to demand or take these things from us. If we were to use our trading system, he would be well within his rights to do so, but that’s not the system he is operating by.

What if we operated that way in our relationships? Life would be very different indeed. The movie Pay it Forward was a merciful expression of something like this that tried to break the trading dynamic in our relationships. What if we lived by the rule of giving freely, receiving freely and never taking? What would it take? I think what we would see is the redemption of our relationships, the redemption of our families and neighbourhoods, the redemption of society.

Come Holy Spirit, heal us, free us and fill us to live and relate in ways that make for our peace, in the ways that you designed for us… and in so doing may your Kingdom be expressed and your glory seen and experienced in our world.

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not yet good….

We are currently in the midst of a mission/training/pilgrimage program called the Fusion UK Summer Experience. As part of this we are following a daily journal that myself and my colleague, Anika put together. The psalm on Friday was the 84th psalm – a classic pilgrim song. I was struck as I read it on Friday night by one of the last verses:

‘No good thing does the Lord withhold from those whose walk is blameless’

I have struggled over the last months, coming to terms with the feeling that God has withheld some pretty important, good, things from me throughout my life and also in recent times. Some of them things which I have felt he had promised. Does this mean that his word and even his promises cannot be trusted? Does it mean that God is not kind and good? These are just a couple of questions I have been living with.

As I read that verse, something stirred within me, the part of me that knows that God is good, he is kind and above all he is God ….. absolutely trustworthy. It occurred to me that things can be blocked and withheld from us in many ways, and for many reasons. But if it is God who is withholding something from us, we can be certain of one thing – the thing withheld is not good, or not YET good. Moreover, its not even a matter of doing and saying the magic, right things, our blamelessness has been taken care of in Jesus – if we trust and receive his gift of redemption.

So as I consider my wrestling and making sense of life’s happenings and non-happenings, I can be sure that in the fullness of God’s purposes, no good thing will he withhold from my life. If I feel something is being withheld by God himself, I can be certain that it wouldn’t be good if it were released in this moment as I would wish. When it’s not God who is withholding and in fact he has given us the promised land, there is often a very real sense of us needing to step in and lay hold of it.

What things has God freely given to you that you need to access and lay hold of? Are there things that he is withholding from you? … perhaps they are not yet good….

Beyond the Ache

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Ahhh my head is full! Four weeks ago I was checking into a flight at Heathrow airport. From there myself and two others, Anika and Leah, were headed to Cape Town South Africa. I have already shared the story of ‘Sallie’ in a previous post but those two weeks were crammed full with connections, meals, […]

Gifted Citroen

It is such a relief to recognise God’s favour and his hand at work in your life! I don’t doubt that he is always at work and showing us his favour – actually if I am honest I do go through times when I doubt, but usually the difficulty is that I just haven’t seen or recognised it. Anyway, two things have happened recently that I want to celebrate.

The first was a couple of months ago now, I was needing to replace my car. It had been given to me, and I had been very grateful for it, but it had come to the end of its life, certainly for what I needed of it. I had decided to put the remainder of a small bit of inheritance money towards getting a replacement.  I put the word out that I was looking and within a short space of time friends of a friend got in touch. They had been missionaries in Tanzania until about 5 years ago, on their return from the mission field, they had been given a car by an old missionary friend of theirs who was unable to drive any more. With three strapping teenage boys, they were now in need of a larger car. Since their citroen had been gifted to them, they wanted to pass it on to someone else who was in full time ministry. A few weeks later I went and picked it up! It passed its MOT with flying colours and hasn’t missed a beat since, even at 12 years of age it is a joy to drive. The funny thing is that this is the third car I have been gifted since being in full time ministry – it seems to be something that God likes arranging for me.

All this happened at the time when I was about to leave my home and didn’t have anywhere to go, I still do not have a permanent solution for a place to live, but I recall thinking at the time that the car was a bit of a squeeze of the hand reassuring me that God has everything in hand and can be trusted to care for me. I come and go from trusting still, but there is a quiet confidence growing back and each day as I get into my car I am reminded that God is able and willing to provide all that is needed.

Capital ‘H’

I recently visited a friend’s church and heard a sermon about hope. It was helpful, not because I agreed with everything I heard but it put me to work to better understand and articulate for myself what Hope is about. I realise that once again our English language and western idiom may have cast shadows on a beautiful jewel of our faith. For us the words ‘hope’ and ‘dream’ can be interchangeable, they carry profound, positive, emotive meaning. They are what can lift us up and get us through dark or simply, dull moments in life. They can motivate us to action, for the simple reason that they depend on us in order to become reality; this is where some of their potency lies. We need hopes and dreams to work towards, to aspire to, to rally around. They can be good, healthy things to have but their very nature is that they are never guaranteed.

In the scriptures however we hear of another Hope, I now refer to it with a capital ‘H’. This Hope, in complete contrast to ‘hope’, is a certainty, guaranteed and totally independent of us or any action we would take or not take. It is like the hope that tomorrow follows today (until Christ returns that is!); and there is nothing I can do to change that. As we explore further we see that this Hope is in fact God himself, Christ, our Saviour, our absolute certainty. This is Christian Hope. Not that everything will happen tomorrow the way we ‘hope’, but that regardless of what happens He is there to meet us tomorrow – that, HE is our Hope. So this Hope is the Hope that brings life and meaning on the mountain top as well as in the valley.

So when we ask each other what we have put our hope in, the meaning we carry is often not of Hope but that of comfortable, purposeful, positive, dare I say  happy ‘hopes and dreams’. Even when I have put my hope in God’s action I get into trouble, I seek after his work in my life and put my hope in that. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but what if he chooses to use this difficult suffering to bring me closer to him rather than take it away as he is perfectly able to do? Is God not to be relied on? No, that’s not it at all. But that is why he calls me to put my Hope in him and I can then trust his action, his purposes, his will – even if (especially when) I do not understand them.

So, when I speak of ‘hope’ but give it the weight of ‘Hope’. I do you, my brothers and sisters a disservice, because the only thing we were made to rightly Hope for is God himself. He is the Hope that will never disappoint.

As we head into 2013, let us fix our eyes on Jesus our living Hope, walking out to meet him knowing he will never leave us, fail us or forsake us, whether we have to walk the mountain tops or the darkest valleys.

Salmon Fishing and Mango Sorbet

I have just come to the end of a pleasant glass of chilled white wine. Looking back over the day – our last in the office for 2012 – the inescapable theme has been one of creativity. Planning and designing brand new training for the field, articulating the beginnings of a strategy for arts and media in our work, interviewing for the next issue of Beyond the Horizon – and that was all before midday! And finally my third Jamie meal!

Asparagus and bean lasagne, Tuscan salad and mango sorbet …. hmmm! So one of the main lesson’s I am learning is ‘trust Jamie!’. Trust is an issue for me, I am beginning to realise just how much. So far I have cooked his crispy salmon meal and the pork chops. Half way through preparing the yummy mustard potatoes that go with the chops, I decided I knew better. “Why would you boil potatoes in a microwave? we have plenty of time, I’ll do it on the stove!”. A few minutes later I read on and realised that he wanted me to bake them in the microwave, not boil them. I apologised humbly and changed my ways. The potatoes were GREAT!  I left out  the anchovies – “yuck, who would cook with them!!!”. I chopped the peppers, chillies and other yummy stuff, and threw them into the rise …. then realised I was supposed to mix the rice with them and the dressing on the board – like he said! It would have been much nicer that way too!

peaches and custard following pork chops - a hit!

peaches and custard following pork chops – a hit!

So this time I got the anchovies and the capers – neither of which I think much of. I used the fennel seeds and grated the lemon zest, rather than just squirt in some juice from the bottle. And surprisingly the flavours were fabulous! The bitter salty anchovie slap was nowhere in sight. I reckon its more like the effect of putting salt in a dish, you dont taste the salt itself but it makes a huge difference to the flavour. I didn’t have enough asparagus, I made up too much stock so had to reduce the mixture by simmering. I forgot to buy fresh lasagne, panicked because of time and tried cooking the sheets in water, they all stuck together and I ended up throwing a chunk out. Here’s another thing –  I thought  it would be light on for filler as a result, but it turned out OK… I think I am less ‘hungry’ with these meals because the richness and flavours satisfy in a different but real way. Interesting!

Thanks to my lasagne experiment and having to reduce the mixture it took over an hour rather than 30 minutes get everything ready!! I am not sure which meal I will take on next, but I know that the more I trust Jamie, the better it will be for everyone!!

fruits of the forrest presse

fruits of the forrest presse

We ate at the table with candles and nice crockery, chilled wine and gentle chatter. Skye had two friends over from London. It was a lovely, if late evening rounded off by ‘Salmon fishing in the Yemen’ we had the mango sorbet as we watched; I have to say that went down very well!

mirror mirror on the wall…

I have just completed one of those online questionnaires that generates a profile of your strengths and tendencies. In fact it was my second shot, I did it for the first time a few days ago.  Some of the results are hilarious – a delightful combination of accuracy and absurdity; for example, when communicating with me ‘ Do Not stand within three feet of me’ and whatever you do, don’t touch me! And one statement which I am tempted to milk for all its worth, has me requiring tangible rewards for ALL assignments achieved – not just verbal praise… that means gifts and NICE things!!! Yey!!! (actually I cant think of anything more patronizing…. really, after every assignment?) Some of statements are revelations – of things both true and false that I wasn’t previously aware of.  For example despite being driven to distraction by repetitive, detailed work on the few occasions I have drawn that particular short straw, I apparently harbor a secret passion and flare for such activity!  On the other hand it has been really useful to name that despite living in transition for most of my adult life, I actually find change challenging and need a fair bit of space to prepare and adjust.

It’s been a really important week, thinking about next steps ( I am preparing myself for the next big transition!) reflecting on where my skills and strengths might lie and what contribution I can best bring to make a real difference in the lives of those around me. One of the things the online questionnaire has highlighted for me though is that I need others to be an undistorted mirror for me, to tell me what they see of me. On my own I find it difficult to differentiate between my internal world and how I actually come across and behave; I need others to tell me that. .. then ultimately I need to trust God, to follow his lead, not be limited by my experience, my fears or my self assurance, but hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride! Next year is going to be a blast!!!