In the dark if need be

One of my favourite characters in the Old Testament is Gideon. He lived during a time when Israel was ruled by judges rather than kings. Gideon’s natural caution – some might call it cowardice – is seen in the way we meet him, threshing grain in a winepress to hide it from the marauding Midianites, a vicious tribe which has been terrorising Israel for some time. An angel, or perhaps God himself (the text is unclear at this point) appears and addresses him as ‘mighty warrior’, giving him a mission to deal with this enemy. First, Gideon makes excuses ‘…but I’m the youngest member of the weakest tribe…’ and then he checks the credentials of his visitor with a test. (Really. Look it up. Judges 6.)

Clearly, Gideon is not your pick-me type. But once convinced, Gideon accepts his mission, to pull down the Baal altar which Israel has been worshipping, replace it with an altar to God and sacrifice a bull there. Bold action for a man like Gideon. Convinced now that God is doing the asking, Gideon obeys the instructions to the letter. But under cover of darkness. I love seeing his human frailty in this, as he does the scary thing in a slightly less scary way. He is quickly identified as the culprit the following day, but Gideon’s confidence from this point on simply grows and grows. He goes on to greater, bolder things from this scaredy-cat start.

I know I’m not alone in coming up with excuses for why I can’t or won’t act. But, as Jesus himself said a few thousand years later, with God all things are possible. There is nothing He cannot do. And if we are supported and loved by this God of the impossible, then what are our limitations? What stops us from being confident people, untroubled by the opinions or the gaze of others? Gideon had a confidence issue, but God showed him what he was capable of, even accommodating Gideon’s weird requests for reassurance.

We won’t get reassurance if we don’t ask. And once we get it, we can get on with whatever we have to do. Even if we have to start out in the dark.

 

 

 

Switching off the MeCam

I needed to take a new picture the other day using my webcam. It took me a while to figure out why my face was always in shadow. I must have taken about eight photos before I realised I was looking at myself, not at the tiny lens in the top of the screen. Not at the camera.

And I thought, oh. Is that what I’ve been doing all this time.

It’s very hard to do anything much if you’re constantly observing yourself. Checking your own progress. Re-playing conversations, assessing your performance. Looking in the mirror of other people’s responses. It’s also exhausting. No wonder I’m tired all the time. And so self-conscious. Why sometimes I talk as if speech was about to be banned, and at other times I can find nothing to say. My harshest critic has always been me. My biggest bully (and I’ve had a few) has been my own dear self, reminding me always of my failures and never of my successes.

So at the beginning of my 4Xth year I’ve decided to switch off the me-cam. I don’t need constant reassurance that I’m on the right track. I can trust God’s word and God’s methods to set me straight when I need it. I’ve decided to actually trust myself and my gifts this year. Possibly for whole days at a time. I aim to resist refuelling at the pit stops of self-pity, fear and sadness. I am going to check my progress, if I must, against what God says about me. I am going to surround myself with people who encourage, words that inspire and images that delight me. (No cat pictures though).

Jesus got a little exasperated with his disciples from time to time. On one such occasion, he had healed a boy his followers had not been able to cure. They asked him why they couldn’t do it. He said

Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17 v 20

I have no idea what this will look like, and that’s the point. I have speculated far too much about how things will look, or how I will look, and what others will think about it. Time to stop. So I’m switching that off. Now.

Well, here we are

At the start of another year. Frankly, for my part, grateful and relieved to have got through the last one. It was very tough in parts. For some I know, their difficult times are just beginning.

I woke up this morning full of first-day-of-the-year enthusiasm, with loads of ideas falling over each other as I contemplated the year ahead.  I should add that I had most of these fine thoughts in the shower so they were largely gone before I could write them down. I’ll have more tomorrow. We all do. Some more worthy of note than others.

A few years ago, when I was more willing to listen to God’s still small voice (he’s having to shout a bit lately) I was prompted to ask a few women in the school playground if they were Christians. We decided to form a weekly prayer group in the local park. Well, they did.( I remember looking at the ground and studying my feet when that suggestion came up, but I was in too deep by then). I will never forget the first time we met. I’m quite shy about these things so praying out loud in a park was a LONG way outside my comfort zone. I realised these mums were serious prayer warriors who didn’t care who heard them praising God at 9am on a weekday morning. I confess I did start with one eye open. I so was distracted by my own nonsense it wasn’t even funny.

Then one of them started to pray. It went something like this:

‘Dear Lord, thank you for opening my eyes this morning. Thank you that I could see my children, hear their voices, see their smiles. Thank you for the health and strength to get up and dress myself. Thank you that I can look after them. Thank you for providing me with another day of life. Thank you for giving us food to eat, a home to live in, clothes to wear. Thank you for every blessing of our lives until now. Thank you for all the things you have protected me and my family from that we know about and don’t even know about. Thank you for letting us know you even exist. Thank you for sending Jesus to tell me that you love me unconditionally. Thank you Jesus…’

.. and so it went on. I can’t convey the passion in her voice, but I was almost in tears by the time she finished, aware, as she prayed, of quite how much grace is lavished on me on a daily basis without me even noticing it, let alone stopping to say thanks. I have tried since then to shape my prayers around the simple discipline of gratitude but in that shockingly easy way of us human beings, I forget. I’m glad of the reminder today, which has helped to melt away my usual silly resolutions. I really don’t think God cares if I lose weight or exercise more. It would be good to say thanks more, though. Not just to God directly but also to the people God uses to bless me, to teach me and to help me move forward.

So I’ll start with you. Thanks for reading this blog.

May your 2015 be amazing.

Happy New Year