Foghorn

It would have been early, 5 am or thereabouts, when our sleep was interrupted by a long, loud blast on a ship’s horn. My other half was not impressed, saying it was a bit antisocial. It blasted again a few times more and then stopped. Later when we got up we couldn’t see the water or the bank opposite. It looked as though a cloud had parked in front of us. The blast was probably a cruise liner or cargo ship moving out along a stretch of river also used by small boats and rowers. So the foghorn may have woken the folks along the shore, but those on the water needed it.

One of the more ridiculous lies I have wrapped my scaredy-cat self in over the years goes like this: offence is worse than warning. So the best thing to do is to say nothing and hope that by being a really super-nice person others might be intrigued enough to give me opportunities to share the hope I have in Jesus. If I was really serious about that I should have got myself one of those badges pyramid sellers used to wear. ‘I’m a Christian. Ask me how.’

But I didn’t. Because for one thing, I was not nice enough consistently enough to arouse much curiosity. Truth. For another, I didn’t really have much to tell people in response to any question they might ask me. Thinking about talking to anyone about my faith made my palms sweaty. Still does at times. But I saw a cartoon that gave me pause. It showed the devil leading a man off to hell and an angel leading another off to heaven. The condemned man is looking at the other with disbelief. The caption reads: Bob! You never told me you were a Christian!

If you’re in the dark and you’re in danger you need someone to warn you. If you choose not to believe them that’s your choice. If I see the danger but am too shy/scared to tell you, that makes me not at all nice. That makes me something else entirely. As Penn Jillette, not shy about his atheism, puts it so well here.

New day. Yay!

Lamentations 3: 22 – 23

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

It’s about 5 am. I’m sitting at the kitchen table wrapped in three blankets, the third one over my head. Yes, it’s cold in here. No heating in a house on stilts halfway up a hill. My children, husband and dog are all asleep. Just me and the fridge buzzing away in this chilly room, keeping each other company. Well, me the fridge and God. And the distractions from things popping up on my screen every few seconds to remind me that I’m connected to the world outside.

Ahead of me today the normal weekday routine, marshalling the kids from sleep to school with the right lunches/uniform/money/permission slips, organising dinner, and helping in the school canteen. Sigh. Would have loved a day to get myself together, but I’ve committed. I haven’t been using my time very efficiently for a good few weeks now. It’s taken me a while to identify the problem, and it’s really very simple. I have no plan. And it’s time to get one.

From the kitchen window I can see the lights on the other side of the river and a thin sliver of the underside of the moon. It still feels like night. It still feels like night inside me too. I can’t yet see the way through this, but I now know that there is one. Can’t live by feelings. Too unreliable. I need to live by what I know.

I know what I want to do – mostly. Blog, write and possibly podcast towards the end of the year. There is no set path, which is fine, as I’m not too good at sticking to those anyway, but what plans I had at the end of last year were derailed and since then, with each house move, my vision has blurred a little more. The simple everyday stuff that was so hard immediately after the fire, and took a lot of energy, has been quickly settling into routine for months now, but my mind has not kept pace. I have noticed that I have been going the long way around everything, taking longer, making less sense to myself and others. I’ll be honest, it’s been getting me down.

I also know that this is a new day. This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Whatever yesterday was like, today is full of possibility. Including the possibility of snatching another hour’s sleep before sunrise.

Goodnight.

Nearly morning

Romans 13: 10 – 14

Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Sleep. What a wonderful, beautiful thing we get to do every night. While our bodies recharge, it takes us to warm happy oblivion, or a field of flowers, or a flight over our favourite city, or whatever you dream about, until the alarm punctures its membrane and pulls us awake. It can take a while for us to get our bearings, and reluctantly give up the dream we were just in.

Who wants to get up? Who would? Especially at this time of year, if like me you live in the southern hemisphere. The icy dark winter mornings are not exactly inviting. And the dream can be so lush, and the bed so warm, that getting up is the last thing you want to do. It’s cosy and comforting here. It’s cold outside. We’ll have to do stuff once we get up. Let’s just stay here as long as we can.

The funny thing about staying in bed longer than you need to, in my experience, is that it seems to get less comfortable as time passes. I find myself wriggling round to find a good spot. When I try to lie-in, I rarely get back to sleep unless I’m ill.

For a while I’ve been in a state not unlike sleep. I know this because I am starting to wake up. In the same way that we don’t realise we’re dreaming until morning comes and we have to face the fact that we don’t actually have the power of flight. Only I’m having the reverse experience.

Let me explain.

Years ago I was much less reserved in my Christian expression. I didn’t preach on street corners or anything like that, but I probably came across as a bit, er, eccentric. References to God seasoned a lot of my conversations. I hung out with other slightly eccentric believers. I spent a lot of time praying and reading Scripture. Cool things happened. People got emotional and sometimes physical healing. We listened carefully for God and He let us see him work in spectacular ways.

We moved house. And then we moved again. And I fell asleep. Not immediately, not completely. But something took my focus off Jesus and put it onto making things comfortable for the people around me. I allowed the structures and traditions of the worship and churches we became part of to shape my expression and my expectation. Both became restrained and restricted. And swaddled by the comforting structures of codified worship, I drifted off to sleep.

Since the fire, and perhaps for some time before then, God has been sounding the alarm in his gently insistent way. He’s showing me what to repair and what to throw out. Priorities to re-set. Idols to destroy, like pain, fear and pride. I want to protect myself from being hurt. I have anxieties about what people can accept, about getting things wrong. I don’t want to look foolish. But I know that in God my life finds full expression, and that in God its fullest expression is more than I have allowed myself to experience. In the last few weeks, I have been seeking out opportunities to rebuild the lost connection and I have found him waiting to receive me and satisfy my thirst.

So I’m awake and I’m getting up.

You?