Always there

The fire destroyed little of our house, but it caused a huge rupture in the life of our family since we had to move out last December. Once the family were safely out of the house that day, the whole thing could have burned to the ground as far as I was concerned.

So much of our existence is spent papering over the flimsyness of our lives. As if our buildings and our soft furnishings and our decorations and stuff really matter. As if it isn’t all  just going to end up on someone’s bonfire someday. It’s hardly worth chasing, but a lot of energy goes into getting it or envying those who have it.

Five months on, the builders have started repairs ( the wheels turn slowly in this part of the world) and the end of the road is in sight.

I’m thankful.  Genuinely thankful.

That probably sounds pious. I don’t really care. It’s the truth. I’m grateful that I know who God is. That I know I am loved and cared for and provided for and that this is not all there is. I am thankful that I have family and friends through whom God has shown me what love looks like in practical and impractical ways.

I’m grateful for God’s word which tells me I can talk to God and through which, when I slow down and get quiet enough to listen, He actually talks to me. To me!

I’m delighted that I can share my victories, the days I get it all together, and my failures, when I fail altogether, with someone who knows me intimately and loves me the same always.

I am staggered that the same God who I read about in my Bible is  present in this little life of mine, my Source and my companion.

No matter what’s going on.




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

Day 10. Pretty quiet.

Yep. It’s been pretty quiet round here since I started my Lent discipline of not complaining. Following that principle of ‘if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing’, I have been a whole lot quieter of late. I have also noticed how much I usually find to complain about. I won’t pretend I haven’t slipped up – sometimes very badly – but on the whole, I think I am managing to keep a fairly firm grip on my tongue.

And there’s the rub. What comes out is purely an expression of what’s inside. And for this attempt to stop complaining to be sustainable, it’s the inside that needs to change. I realise I need Jesus to help me with this. As with every significant behavioural change I have successfully made in my life, I can’t really take credit for anything other than a sometimes grudging willingness to become a different version of myself. To be upgraded, so to speak. It’s God who does the work. And He does it at my pace, not His. He doesn’t force things on me but as I mature, I find Him showing me areas that need work. My old ways, my childish ways, are no longer sufficient. Just as growing children find each birthday brings not only presents and celebrations but new responsibilities and expectations. And just as parents try to show how to meet these, God also steps in to help me with the changes I need to make.

Like when I gave up smoking. Not that I was a heavy smoker. I rarely smoked more than 2 cigarettes a day in the last year of my habit. But I needed them both. Daily. I had eventually to admit to myself that each failure to crack the habit was a sign that I needed help. But I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I really had a problem. I had also made a pact with myself not to smoke beyond the age of 30. But the night before that birthday, I had to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to simply stop the next day. Not without either divine assistance or hypnosis. (I will always choose divine assistance over hypnosis. Just so you know). So I essentially handed my cigarettes over to Jesus and asked him to look after them for me. And guess what. He hasn’t given them back. The physical addiction was relatively quickly dealt with, though the psychological one took a while longer.  And yes of course I had my moments of failure. But Jesus helped me get back on track.

So fast forward now, to no complaining. To the new, quieter me.

At this point in writing this post, my computer switched itself off without warning to install some updates. The whole screen went blank. I couldn’t believe it. Then I thought, this is like a metaphor for what God’s Holy Spirit is doing in me a bit at the moment. I am shut down. In my attempts to do or be better I am silenced by the stuff inside me that needs sorting out. The one who put me together is giving me an update. There is, apparently, teaching in every moment. When my laptop eventually switched itself on again, I was relieved to see it had autosaved the first part of this post, which I had already mentally waved goodbye.

Like the computer, I’m sure I will be switched on again with some new language to replace the old, just as my laptop is greatly enhanced in ways I cannot yet see but know I will notice in due course. I’m looking forward to it.