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.

New Day’s Resolution

Juggling is easy. This is how you start. Throw the ball. Catch the ball.

That’s my plan. Throw the ball, catch the ball. Then add another. What I’ve done so far is throw the ball, become distracted and let it drop. Some time later, when I’ve got confident again, I’ve thrown another ball, remembered what happened last time, and dropped it. I am easily diverted. When I find a good use for that trait, It’ll be a good day.

I was looking for a verse to help me describe the kind of patience God has shown me over the years, and the closest I got was this one, in Acts 13, where Paul, preaching in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (present-day Turkey), is describing God’s dealings with Israel. In verse 18 he says ‘He endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert’.

He’s been enduring mine for a good while now, too.

I have struggled for years with that tension between trying to be really good, whatever I think that means, and trusting that I can believe God when I read that he loves me and I don’t have to try to make myself deserving of it. It is perhaps the greatest distraction of all. It stops me from enjoying my life too much for fear that this is somehow not Godly Behaviour and keeps my inner puritan fat on a diet of self-righteous self-denial. When I’ve had enough or my long suffering family gently sets me straight (or just laughs at me) it takes me a while to pick up the ball again and start playing.

But his mercies are new every morning. So off I go again.

Throw, catch, enjoy.

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