Source: You Can Shed Tears…but
Source: You Can Shed Tears…but
Source: Finally, I post…
At the moment my holiday reading is The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, which I thoroughly recommend! It’s a seriously powerful read which challenges us to dream huge dreams, audacious, crazily impossible dreams…unless God were to get involved!
This book has provoked me to reflect on my own circles of prayer…
Prayer for a place to live… if I’m perfectly honest, at this stage of my walk with God, in 2002 ago, it wasn’t so much a prayer as a cry of my heart, as back then I had no idea of praying for my everyday needs.
This prayer was answered by the owners of the bed and breakfast where I stayed as part of my relocation for my first post-uni job, who suggested a flat just a few doors down from them which was available to rent. Consequence? I was ideally positioned to see for myself how vibrant a church Trinity was (although I still wasn’t in the parish, even though I could see it from my front gate – it’s a truly tiny parish!); then I realised I’d really found myself in the perfect place when I discovered that a couple of my age leading a home group lived nearby…in fact in the flat above! Coincidence or God-incidence??!
Prayer for my now husband, then boyfriend, to ask me to marry me…I had asked him many, many times. I look back now and wonder whether it was simply justice that, having started out quite brutally in our relationship at university saying to him that I couldn’t guarantee this going any further than the remaining two terms of uni (bad history with ex’s), once he’d been away with Tearfund on one of their Transform teams over the whole summer, I then realised that this was the man I wanted to marry (after six months together)!
Unfortunately for me, The Lord clearly decided to teach me a lesson in patience and perseverance, as well as simply waiting for His timing, as we were together for two years and three months (not that I was counting!) before he popped the question. (He had had to tell me to stop asking him, else he would never ask me!!). The Lord was so gracious in that time, and during one of the many times I went forward for prayer at church, and prayed with my prayer partners, I was given, by a complete stranger, the picture of a ring – I could have wept with relief!
Consequence? I’ve learned a lesson in persistence, and in not forcing God’s plans. Our wedding wasn’t the timing I would have planned, but I look back and am glad that God made me wait and really press in for this marriage so that later on I would know how much I wanted to fight for it when things got tough.
Prayers for our wedding venue…we desperately wanted a particular venue, and for it to be on the first May bank holiday weekend, at the same time as the Cheltenham Jazz Festival which was where we’d been the evening of our engagement. It didn’t look like we were going to get it, but after much prayer it came through. Consequence? I learned that our God is the God of the details, and when we care about things, so does He. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to get exactly what you pray for, after all He may have a much better plan for you, but it does mean He sees, he hears and He cares.
Prayer for my wedding dress…Our wedding was planned on a tight budget; we had a spreadsheet and everything (designed by my beloved), and moreover I actually used it! I had an amount set aside for my wedding dress, which in reality, I had no idea how it was going to buy me one of the beautiful dresses I’d clipped for my scrapbook from one of the many magazines I’d had. On my very first outing dress shopping with one of my bridesmaids, when I was really only expecting to browse and try a few things on, I found it! My perfect dress, in my size, as an end of season sample, and the only one of that kind left – I loved it! It came in exactly on budget, much to my fiancé’s amazement and delight, and at a fraction of the made to measure cost. Wow!
Prayer for a new job…after I was made redundant from my graduate job, I had some time out of work, which although tough mentally and financially proved to be a blessing in some respects, as I could take time to plan our wedding and I could offer some support to my Mum caring for my Nana during end stage cancer. It also meant that I got some ‘outplacement’ support as part of the redundancy package and therefore the opportunity to really think about what it was that I wanted to do with my career.
Just before our wedding, I received an offer to become an Employment Advisor with a company up in Birmingham, which had a contract from the JobCentre to help people on benefits back to work, and was able to start immediately on our return from honeymoon. It was tough commuting on the train for over two years, but I loved my job and the people I met, and it was the perfect place to gain the skills I would need for my next role: communicating with people from all cultures, walks of life, nationalities, languages and class; learning how to run training programmes, learning about recruitment and induction, becoming a coach.
Prayer for a way out from a job(!)…I loved my job in Birmingham, but as it was target driven, and I was doing more and more training over fellow advisors, of clients, coming up with new programmes, working with the ‘hardest to help’, it became impossible to keep hitting my targets (doing the training was in theory an optional extra). I got quite ill with stress and ended up in hospital with chest pain, which culminated in the third person (two of whom didn’t know God) using the exact same phrase, word for word, to me, “no job is worth your health”. I finally got the message from The Lord! I was dedicated to my colleagues and my clients and really didn’t want to leave, but being performance managed was no fun and I had to accept that looking after myself was as important as looking after others.
I prayed, and asked my husband if we could survive for a little while on just his salary, and he tentatively said yes. When I prayed some more, Jesus very clearly told me to leave my job at the end of August; it was mid-July. So I gave seven weeks’ notice – a bit longer than usual, and I hoped my continued job hunting would finally pay off – after all it was I was employed to do for others, so I should be able to sort myself out!!
In the meantime, my bosses did everything they could to try and persuade me to stay, including asking me to come back as a consultant on a day rate – a very attractive proposition!
However, God had made his will clear and I had to step out in faith, job or no job. I left, secure in the knowledge that I was being obedient, even if my long-suffering hubby was now none too sure about the route we were taking, despite having hated taking me to and from the rail station all that time!
Praying for a new job… I found a couple of temp jobs, my parents gave us a financial gift and then all of a sudden I found a job, through an agency, which had the briefest of descriptions – in some ways I didn’t really know what I was applying for in terms of the organisation, simply that it was a Training and Development Manager post.
What you should also know, is that I had applied, during my notice period, for a similar role at a Christian charity which supported ex-offenders to resettle after their release, and a I felt a very clear prompting to go for this job from the Holy Spirit. “Woohoo, this is it, this job is earmarked for me!”, I thought to myself. I was utterly convinced.
I was terrified about giving 5 minute presentation on how I would approach training, to the Chief Executive and one of the Directors, but it went really well. Everyone around me was really excited for me. Except one friend, who was enthusiastic and supportive, but at the same time, felt that The Lord had laid it on her heart to pray for a job for me that was within 10 miles, and the head office for this place was about 25 miles away, with a tiny office more locally where I hoped I could potentially be based…but she was cautious about this being the one. Of course, she turned out to the correct and I didn’t get the job as another candidate had more experience in a particular area of training qualifications. They did however give me some very positive feedback on the creativity and content of my presentation. I was completely gutted at the time and convinced I must have heard wrongly from The Lord.
I look back and realise that something can be right and wrong at the same time. When I got an interview for the job that I had applied for through the agency, I was quickly called back to a second interview that same week (which I couldn’t have done had I still been employed up in Birmingham), and I had to deliver a 15 minute training session to…the Chief Executive and all the Directors, as well as the Head of Human Resources! Well, I was scared, but not half as terrified as I would have been had I not had that positive experience of the ‘practice run’ with the other charity!! Wow, God really does provide; I was humbled. I started within the week, and my new company was delighted that they didn’t have to wait for me to work out a notice period as unbeknownst to me, they’d already tried to recruit a couple of times previously, without success!
And the consequence of not knowing too much about the organisation from the agency’s write-up?? Well, had I known that it was a quasi-public sector organisation working with lots of academics, I might well have run a mile – I don’t think I would have thought I was good enough for the academics, merely having a degree and no post-graduate qualifications! And having had such dire experiences of dealing with the benefits offices, tax credits office and the JobCentre, I had pretty much sworn to avoid all the bureaucracy and committee structures of the public sector! The Lord knew exactly what he was doing when he aligned all those things for me! And after my initial misgivings, here I am over eight years later still here!
Prayer for next steps… Over the last 6 months I’ve been really quite ill with severe anxiety and depression, and now diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD :-/. (I expect at some point I will start to write about that to untangle what has been happening and why, and how the Spirit has been with me in this time.) For now I’m waiting on my heavenly Dad to show me how I should go forward. After all, whilst the pause button might have been pressed on my work life – in my workplace, life continues apace with the only modern constant: change.
For some around me not knowing what I’m doing next is intensely frustrating and even frightening for them – will I be well enough to go back to my job, will I be able to handle the changes? For others in my life they are focussed on helping me simply to get well, my job is less relevant to them; others still are concentrating on holding me step by step as I move forwards whatever that means.
And for me? It’s scary, it’s exhausting, it’s a sad time where I’m struggling, it’s a time where I’m trying to appreciate the opportunity to be still, and to press into going deeper with God, and it’s a huge exercise in trust. I’m asking/crying out/sighing to God daily, “what do I do?? what am I doing – I’m so confused and lost? what will I do? and how will I do it?? I just want to be well, and I want to use my gifts and experiences and talents to serve you and others, to fulfil my purpose in this life!!
“Do you trust me?”
“Take each day as it comes, one step at a time. Wait on me.”
“My plan is perfect. My timing is perfect. I am equipping you.”
My deeply held secret?? I’m not so good at waiting! Or being. Or especially being patient with myself. I’m good at doing! At being busy!
I sense a lesson at work here. The penny drops, I suspect God is using this difficult time – not that he has caused it, but now that it has occurred, to deepen my reliance on him, and trust him and his plan for me. To learn patience. To learn that in my (very great) imperfection that in His eyes I am already perfect, that I don’t need to relentlessly strive, and try to make it on my own.
And as I reflect on these select circles of prayer, I see that I have come full circle (no pun intended!) – as when I was desperate to marry my now-husband, I realised God was teaching me patience, and perseverance, and it looks as though now I’ve moved onto the next level of learning these things and going deeper with God.
My prayer? That God will indeed ‘take all these things and use them for good, for those who love him’ – for me and my family, but for many others too. That this painful time will be transformed into something beautiful which blesses others in a way I could never have imagined.
From my list of posts on here I can see two things: that a year ago I had a number of pieces in draft, and that my last published post was in September. It’s been a tough time since then for lots of reasons and in some ways is at its worst just now, but I figure rather than ‘waiting for the storm to pass’, I must get back out and ‘dance in the rain’.
I didn’t consciously take a break from blogging, but having done so, I have decided to start back with some shorter blogs, pictures which occur to me when I’m praying or worshipping, or simply walking, doing every day things like washing up, tidying, driving, shopping, or playing the piano!
The picture I’d like to share was one that came to mind when I was praying for a friend who has a very close family member in a hospice just now.
I’d love to say I was being super holy or spiritual, on my knees whilst fasting and praying…I was in fact standing in the queue for the checkout at a local supermarket, oh so glamorous I know! I started thinking that I’d like to pray for her – I didn’t know what the current situation was, but I knew the prognosis hadn’t been good the last time we spoke. So I wanted to be able to give her an encouragement of some kind, and to let her know she was in my thoughts and prayers.
I’m looking around, awaiting my turn at the checkout, and inviting God to give me some inspiration, and I see some holly on an overhead sign, and a picture of Christmas pudding forms in my mind’s eye. Great. That seems (a) quite likely just to be my brain telling me that Christmas is coming as it’s not an entirely unsurprising image to jump into my head at this time of year, in a supermarket! And (b) it doesn’t exactly seem too spiritual.
However, God does speak in mysterious ways, so I’m gonna go with it, so then I see the flaming bandy being poured over the pudding, and I can hear the oohs and aahs of the diners, as they watch the dancing blue flame transfixed in awe and amazement. Then swiftly followed by the ohhhh, when it peters out and is no more. A sense of disappointment and a wish that we could do it all over again, we don’t want it to be over.
I felt that this flame was like our life on this world. So captivating and sparkly, we get so engrossed in it, and yet…It is just the fanfare to the main event. The pudding is what it’s all about! It’s rich and delicious, multifaceted and complex, satisfying and substantial. The flame is ephemeral, magical even, but temporary and lasts no time at all.
My understanding of all this is that life on this earth is far shorter than we imagine, it seems like a ‘lifetime’ – that phrase we use to mean an unimaginably long time – but that this is just a foretaste of something far more significant still to come, that we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘this is it’. Both God and eternity are so much bigger than our human lives here and now, that it just blows our mind.
The best news is that eternity doesn’t simply start as the ‘afterlife’ when we pass from this mortal coil. But when we invite Jesus into our hearts, we invite the Kingdom, eternity itself, into our hearts too! We become citizens of heaven from that time on and we carry the Holy Spirit within us, as we are a new creation in Christ.
Isn’t it amazing what can happen when you take just a few seconds to choose to focus on, or tune into, God? He’s all around us, in us, speaking to us, will I make a little time again to listen today? Could you too?
I’ll be reminding myself to listen often, even when I’m busy, distracted, preoccupied, self-involved, or perhaps especially in these difficult times.
I love how in the kingdom of God, nothing goes to waste, not even the mundane household chores…like today’s special: defrosting the freezer.
One day I’m going to have one of those fancy freezers that just doesn’t frost up at all, but in the meantime, I found myself laughing out loud as God revealed his truths in this most dreaded of tasks!
It had got to that point where it was a pain to open and close the drawers as there was so much ice that it kept catching, and today I’d done an internet food shopping order and I realised it just wasn’t going to fit unless I dealt with it!
So…out came a spoon, a bowl, a hairdrier (to be used with extreme caution, since water and electricity don’t mix well!), and cloths and sponges – the tools of today’s trade.
The top layer was worst, so I started by applying the stream of hot air there first. I sat on the floor, hairdrier in my left hand, and spoon scraping off frost in the other, and the bowl sitting in the bottom ready to catch at least some of the drips.
By the way, for those of you who might have wondered why I don’t just empty the freezer, open the door and let it defrost into the reservoir at the bottom…? Well I did this once and the discovered, to the detriment of the laminate flooring, that the reservoir is no way big enough to cope with the melt water from that amount of ice (about 5-6 litres by my reckoning!).
The top layer was about 5 cm deep in places and it just seemed as though nothing was happening up top at all, so I ploughed on with the other layers. Who knew there could be such satisfaction when a huge chunk would suddenly come away?! My strategy was definitely to try and get big chunks off so that they didn’t all just melt and overflow (as per previous experiences). As I did so, it struck me how like evangelism and our own relationship with God this whole thing was (bear with me!).
You talk a little to your friends, neighbours, colleagues, about church, your faith, maybe even your testimony and if feeling really brave, actually mention Jesus himself! And you’ve taken the big step, a leap of faith…and then the result…? Nothing. Or apparently nothing at least. There’s no obvious evidence that anything has changed for that person as a result of opening the metaphorical freezer door and attempting to invite them in from the cold.
You try and drop some more hints. Maybe you go out of your way to serve and meet the needs of those around you in order to be Jesus’s hands and feet. Perhaps you even offer to pray for them. Still it appears nothing is happening!
Then one day, you pluck up the courage to ask them to an Alpha Course launch event – and to your astonishment, they say, ‘yeah, why not?’.
The iceberg has calved! See here for some amazing footage of what I’m alluding too!
Did you notice how in the video, there is little warning of the magnitude of what is about to happen? A little creaking, some groaning and small shudders, then suddenly there it is!
What I’m saying is that for whatever reason, we all build up these defences, barriers, logical and emotional arguments for not letting God into our lives, for not acknowledging him and for not listening. And I hate to say this, but this doesn’t end when we DO accept Him into our lives!
These barriers are like the ice that had built up in my freezer. In some cases I wonder if it is in fact permafrost – built up over years and years, even through the generations – through the lies of the enemy that we’ve inadvertently accepted; the beliefs we’ve built up about ourselves, about church, faith and God; the experiences that have shaped our values and then our beliefs.
The thing is, we know from climate change that permafrost isn’t so permanent afterall. And so it is with us. Even in those most inaccessible places in our hearts and minds, the warmth of the Holy Spirit can still reach. Just as He was hovering over creation as it was formed, so he dwells with us and around each one of us every day, whether we know it or not. God promised He would never leave us alone, and by the Spirit he makes good in that promise today. Once we have made our own commitment to God, not only is He with us, but in us and we are in Him – how incredible is that!
As I sat on the floor of our kitchen (getting a numb behind, and a tired arm holding the hairdrier up at that top level) I had plenty of time to observe the melting process. We tend to think that things melt from the inside out, and from that perspective it’s an awful long way to reach the heart when it’s buried deep below – how can we ever get through?
However, I discovered a few different things as things proceeded. Firstly, when you apply heat in one direction, crazily it affects other parts too! So today what I saw was that although I was pointing the drier upwards the parts below were benefitting from the heat too and were dripping away furiously.
For us what that means is, when we have a heart turned outwards, looking for ways to bless and serve others, seeking to witness to the good and glorious in our own lives, then although our attentions may be focused on one individual, it rarely goes unnoticed by others. How we ARE, is our best witness and is far more telling to those around us than the words we say.
I also realised today that when I put my frozen shopping in an insulated coolbag along with the contents of the freezer (as I wasn’t quite quick enough with my defrosting!), when you put cold things with other cold things, they stay cold for a pretty long time (there’s a whole other analogy right there). When there’s one thing set apart it in it’s own it will defrost relatively quickly at room temperature. When I thought about the Holy Spirit as heat, it brought home to me that God is at work all around us, all of the time, with or without us. The hairdrier is like our focussed and persistent prayers, bringing the focus of God’s warmth and love to bear in one particular place. God had already ordained that the heat would melt the ice – that’s physics, I just hastened the process in this case.
All in all, it took me a little over an hour to get the whole thing defrosted, but I think that that top part really only started to give way about 15 minutes before I finished – it really was stubborn! So much so that I did risk one of my posh sharp knives to cut into the ice in a couple of places. It was still too solid to lever any ice off, so I kept going, carefully, with the hairdrier! A few minutes in and I noticed that where the notches had been cut, deep Vs were forming where the heat had been able to penetrate much more deeply. I asked Jesus what he might be saying here, and what I heard was that those times when we really actively love someone, to the point of self-sacrifice, it goes deep to that person’s core in a way that nothing else does. It’s the ultimate in walking the walk; in picking up your own cross so that someone else may be blessed.
Lastly, in the process of defrosting, I noticed that having got much more to the heart of the matter with these notches, what then happened was that the metal that ran underneath was getting really quite hot itself – indeed much hotter than the air in the freezer was. It made me think that when we get ‘plugged in’ to God – when we dwell in His presence, we pursue Him by worshipping (upwards), by serving (outwards), by reading His truths in his Word and through prayer (inwards), we become ‘hot’ ourselves and not so reliant on heat applied externally.
Equally, when everything was finally ice-free and dry, I switched the freezer back on, and it was astonishing how quickly the elements frosted up as the water from the air surrounding them crystallised. What does that tell us (apart from the fact my freezer was still working!) – if you don’t switch the function of those internal elements from freeze to heat (which can only happen when we make that personal connection to God) then as soon as that heat is taken away, and the icy blast returns, that frost will come and in no time at all that ice will have returned with a vengeance, whether to our hearts, our minds or indeed both.
In my mind, it was no accident that the uppermost part was the bit that took the longest to thaw. My sense is that particularly here in the Northern hemisphere of our world, we seem so easily tied up in, and indeed blocked by, logic, reason, rationale and evidence – our minds get frozen in one particular mindset! Yet what about intuition, gut instinct, love, being moved emotionally, reacting to art, music, awe-inspiring nature – none of that is very logical, and at the same time we’d be lost, and undoubtedly less, without them. If we believe that God created us to be able to reason, then it stands to reason, that he would be able to address our altogether reasonable concerns if only we would just let him. Then He can share with us something of God’s utterly unreasonable and irrational love and passion for each one of us!
Where do all of these musings leave me? Well, I was laughing out loud at God’s sense of humour at using the defrosting of the freezer to teach me, but ultimately what I’ve taken away from it all is that God is all around us and at work already, that it’s my part in this collaboration to tune into what he’s already doing and pray it into being, call it down from Heaven, and focus my attention in the direction where God is leading me. Prayer does work, with persistence and patience, and pursuing God in the waiting (more on that another day!); and mostly when it’s working, it’s working on me! I came away deeply encouraged to continue pressing in personally, and keeping on keeping on with friends and family, even when it looks as though nothing is happening – perhaps especially when it looks as though nothing is happening.
By the way, did you notice how I only dealt with the iced up freezer once it became a pain? Funny how that is echoed in our lives…that it’s so often only when we are, or someone we love is, going though pain, whether emotional, physical, even financial, that we start to address what’s really going on beneath the surface. In fact it’s often then that we cry out to something outside ourselves; something bigger, greater, and more powerful. Something which can melt the ice which we ourselves have built up or allowed to build up, so often unwittingly, and which becomes our very own icy prison. At which point I can only thank God that he sent His Son to bring us true freedom.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 NIV)
When I think about it, this has really all come out of my heart and mind as I’ve been chewing over the teaching we’re so blessed to have had at Trinity on ‘Pressing in and pressing on’. So if you want to get plugged into the Lord, you might fancy popping over to the Trinity site and lapping up some of this great teaching! Enjoy!
When you start tending and paying attention to your own garden, you notice what’s going on with others’ – what plants are thriving, what the snails are nibbling, where a shrub needs pruning or shaping, where a spot of weeding would be handy to prevent them running amok. How much easier is it to see these things clearly from the outside looking in?!
Having been stung quite badly by some rogue nettles in our garden (a childhood flashback of falling into a huge mound of nettles by a stream springs to mind !), I suddenly became aware of a substantial patch of nettles creeping through the rails of the local school, and then further down there was a bramble entwined with a bush. On another corner was a broken beer bottle with a lethal shard of glass, still attached to the circular base, pointing upwards and almost inviting someone to trip and fall onto it! And yet when you looked within the school grounds, they were well tended and neat.
I wasn’t sure whose responsibility these areas were where they spilled out onto the pavement, so I asked the school, who were rather incredulous at first as the council-sent gardening team had been only that morning, so surely it couldn’t be all that bad. The property manager said that nonetheless she would take a look, and that there was no issue with responsibility and the gardeners would do whatever the school asked them to do.
I was amazed and delighted that by the next day all the edges and the growth under the fences had been cut right back and tidied up, including the brambles and nettles (I’d dealt with bottle straight away rather than risk leaving it).
So what is the point of me telling you all this, is it simply a feel good story about if you don’t ask, you don’t get?? Well, not really. It made me think about how amazed the lady was who I had spoken to. Since her experience was that the gardeners always did what they were asked to do, they were clearly obedient and conscientious, so how could what I was saying be true? She could not be convinced without going to see for herself.
I reflected that it’s so much easier to look outwards than looking inwards, and even when I do that, I see what needs to be done *from my point of view*!
There’s a nifty model called the Johari window, which I make use of from time to time in coaching. Like many a management model, it is a four-box grid, looking at what is ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ about us, by self and others.
As introduced by Alan Chapman on the BusinessBalls website, ‘The Johari Window model was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles.’ (For such a long time I thought that Johari was an exotic name, to be pronounced like that femme fatale, Mata Hari…it turned out that the name had a much more amusing and in some ways mundane source: simply Jo from Joseph and Hari from Harry!)
Alan Chapman explains that there are four segments of the johari window:
1 – what is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others – open area, open self, free area, free self, or ‘the arena’
2 – what is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know – blind area, blind self, or ‘blindspot’
3 – what the person knows about him/herself that others do not know – hidden area, hidden self, avoided area, avoided self or ‘facade’
4 – what is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others – unknown area or unknown self
If we live in isolation, always viewing the world only from our own standpoint, how will we ever find out what is in our own blindspot? Secretly of course we want to be right, or at least believe that we’re right, all the time! To that end we’re not generally too inclined to seek out opposing opinions or even simply different perspectives – instead, like tends to attract like, and so we reinforce each other’s viewpoints. Then we take offence when our worldview is shown to be skewed, through our experiences, our upbringing, our families, our schooling, our nation, our language, our culture!
The thing is though, we are made to live in relationship with each other, in diverse communities and our lives are richer for the complexity that that often brings. We need those alternative perspectives!
To take a completely different example of what is unknown to us, perhaps you use Microsoft Office software like Word, Outlook, or Excel, or other bits of technology? The phrase I often hear from my colleagues when I ask what they want to learn is ‘I don’t know what I don’t know!’. Sometimes there’s a sense of, ‘There must be a better way of doing this, surely? Please, can someone help me?!’ Or perhaps, ‘I’m so frustrated! This thing is so RUBBISH! Why won’t it just do what I want it to do??’.
I wonder how many of us feel like that about life in general? We get to the end of our tether, thinking to ourselves, the way that I’m doing life, it’s just not working, it’s too hard, too unsatisfying, too soulless. I just don’t know how to get myself out of this hole, because I know I need to find a different answer, but I don’t know what that is, and sometimes I don’t even really know what the question is! Surely someone out there must know a better way!
When things are really, truly awful, even for those of us who aren’t quite sure about God – who he is, what he stands for, what he expects from us, what those followers of his are about – the bit that seems to resonate within us is that when we reach the end of ourselves, we can turn to the one who must know more than us. The almighty, all-knowing, omnipresent One.
In that moment of no longer having the answers, of having lost control, it is then that we finally admit – there are things that you know, that I don’t know; things about me…who I am, who I could be, what I could accomplish, what my purpose is…but above all you know the me that is loved so recklessly, so insistently, so sacrificially by You. For to be truly known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.
I wonder if you feel known? Or truly loved? Or both?
Can you identify with that sense of getting stuck in your own perspective? How do you stay open to other’s views? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Something I’ve done a lot of recently is gardening. Now, I’m not a natural gardener, let’s just get that clear from the start! My Mum is great in the garden and I do my best to absorb as much as I can from her. And in keeping with my adventure in imperfection, after about 4 years of working away at our garden, I have very much accepted that sometimes plants fail. Even when they’re the right kinds for the soil, even when you water them regularly…but not too much! Even when you wrap them up against the frost, feeling like a fool with the fleece and the string, manhandling the fronds of a phormium! Sometimes, they just don’t make it.
How is it that other people can grow beautiful delphiniums and lupins in their garden, meanwhile in ours within days everything, including the flowers had been ravaged by slugs and snails?!
It really brings home that parable about the kingdom being like a seed…we can plant it, water it, tend it, but only God can make it grow and thrive!
All this, would you believe, is by way of introduction (the Lord hasn’t yet seen fit to teach me to write concisely just yet, and I’m acutely conscious of this!), to say that whilst in the garden, God has been whispering his words of truth and revelation in a way that makes me almost glad of my dirt-encrusted nails and aching body at the end of the day! I’d like to share these with you in a series of bite-sized posts, so here goes:
Garden gem number 1: A wolf in sheep’s clothing
All is not what it seems. My son has been with me much of the time in the garden, and he loves to bring me little things. Yesterday’s offering was a note, ‘For Mummy’ with a small pink flower in the note, he was quite egalitarian ..there was one for Daddy too. It was one of the flowers from a small pink bindweed creeping along the edge of the lawn in our neighbour’s front garden.
What could I say, but thank you! I resisted the temptation of telling him that although it was pretty, it was from an insidious and pervasive weed!
How many things are there that come into our lives like that bindweed? So sweet, pretty and innocent-looking. Who would think it could choke the life out of other plants?? Who would think that that tiny plant with the tiny, delicate flowers could get…everywhere.
I think some coping mechanisms are a bit like that. That thing we do to make ourselves feel a bit better when we’re tired/angry/frustrated/disappointed/bored/ashamed/sad/lonely. ‘It’s harmless surely. I’m not hurting anyone when I…have that drink, eat that chocolate bar, smoke that cigarette, swear out loud, flirt at the bar’, or whatever your outlet might be. (And I’m speaking to myself here!)
‘What’s so wrong about that anyway, everyone’s got to have a vice or two, and no one’s perfect!’
And there’s the rub. The best lies are twisted up with the truth. We might not (immediately) be harming anyone else, but we’re more than likely hurting ourselves. We’re seeking comfort, security, escape in something other than the one place we can truly have our needs met … In our heavenly Father. And when we expect those things to fix the way we feel, ultimately we’re doomed to disappointment. Eventually, as so many of us know, our release becomes our snare. Instead of the promise of freedom from that bad feeling we were hoping to escape, we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of bad feelings, short term distraction or numbing, and then the bad feelings return, now accompanied by their brothers in arms: shame, despair, failure, and they call for more escapism once again – and there’s the loop we don’t know how to get out of.
There’s only one way to deal satisfactorily with a weed. That is to pull it out it the root, and to get all of it out.
As I’ve said to my boy, there’s just no point pulling off only the flowers or the leaves, we have to dig down. Hold it at the base, use just the right amount of strength and wisdom to work it free. Then we bin it all carefully, we don’t just chuck it in the grass ready to put down roots elsewhere!
The good news for us, and for dealing with those pretty little weeds with the oh-so deep roots in our lives…? It’s Jesus of course. He is the author of our salvation, the bringer of peace. And he left us the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth in our lives. When we ask him to ‘search us and know us’, he will show us the roots deep down, and it is he who empowers us to expunge that weed once and for all. We are made new in Christ Jesus, and when the Son sets us free, we are free indeed!
Did you know you can ask the Lord to reveal the roots of that pain in your life? He is the great gardener and he doesn’t just yank those lies, vices and deceptions out. His grace is sufficient for us in every circumstance – praise the Lord! The only way we can know whether we’re deceived or not is by holding up every belief against the benchmark of truth that is the Word of God. That is Jesus. When he brings into the light those lies we’ve believed, and of course we have all believed and still believe different lies (don’t kid yourself that you’re not deceived, after all how would you know – surely that’s the point of being deceived??), then He will empower us to repent of those lies believed and to break the power of them in our lives. Instead then we can receive the glorious truth of God’s love and his truth that shines a light in all those dark places.
So how has all this healing – of my ankle and my back – been a couple of weeks on? You might be wondering if I’m still walking in that same healing and wholeness that I’d experienced so powerfully, with four lots of healing in six days flat…
Signs of healing
Now, as I’ve said before, retaining a certain logical and healthy scepticism, I wanted to keep an eye out for things that would tell me that I really had been well and truly healed, and that God really was moving beyond simply with me, and this is what I noticed:
1. As said before (in Part 2) going down the stairs no longer causing my knees pain.
2. When I went to pick my son up from his after school child care that Thursday, getting out of the car I instinctively was expecting to be stiff from sitting back in the seat from the drive, and almost braced myself as I went to get out, and then was shocked to discover that I could get out quite easily!
3. I measured myself against my son’s height chart, and having been 156cm, or 5ft 1.5″…in a very non scientific study, with a book and a wall chart, I now appear to be between 158 and 159cm…measured at the end of the day, when you’re supposed to be shorter – wahey!
4. As I got into the car the next day, I realised I could actually feel the lumbar support of the seat for first time, as previously it hadn’t reached sufficiently far into my back to make any difference, that was an odd sensation first thing In the morning!
5. Going to the cinema on the Friday night, at the end of the evening, I went to descend the steps sideways, as that is what I had taken to doing, even though they are only shallow steps, just to avoid the pain, and again, I realised I didn’t need to and just trotted down the, quickly and lightly!
6. On the Saturday, I did 8 hours of gardening almost straight through, with my Mum, and normally I’d have been almost crippled with the pain, but beyond the achiness you might expect, particularly when you’re not used to it, I was absolutely fine, so much so that…
7. …on the Saturday night, we went to an evening wedding reception, and I decided to wear my high heels I hadn’t worn for the best part of a year (see Part 1!) and people around me cautioned me to be careful and not to over do it – well, I took it easy, but I wore my 3″ heels, with no pain, dancing ceroc with my gorgeous husband on the dance floor, and I loved it!
8. That night I told my Mum about the healing I’d experienced, and offered to pray for her very painful arthritic toe, which was so bad that she had a burning sensation at night from the duvet on it…and the next day she said she’d had no pain, and had slept brilliantly which she hadn’t expected!
9. I wore heels to my church service the next day, danced all the way through the worship, stood up on stage and gave testimony, again being overcome by joy and laughter, so much so that the church and pastor were breaking out in laughter too! At the end of the service, as part of the usual ministry time, I had the opportunity to pray with a friend for a lady’s ankle. I haven’t heard the latest, but he was certainly bringing her new freedoms in her ankle while we were there. Then I had the opportunity to pray for another lady’s wrist, who then had an incredibly powerful encounter with The Lord and was healed immediately! I had so many people come to me at the end and since, to say they’d been so grateful that I’d shared what God had done, and that they’d been encourage, moved, inspired – praise God!!
10. On the Sunday afternoon I went with my family for an afternoon out at some beautiful local gardens and we walked, in the heat, for 2 hours, and my back was absolutely fine, even after the previous day’s gardening!
11. My husband said to me on the Sunday evening, ‘are you limping?, and I admitted that I was, more with stiffness in my foot than anything, and I realised I was and that I was because of the orthotic I had been wearing in my left shoe for the last 6 months, which now that my foot was healed, was actually now pushing it into the wrong position! Into the bin with that then (it was getting worn, so needed replacing anyway, so perfect timing!)
12. I notice now that I can arch my back further backwards and recreate the pain and discomfort I was in all the time before, but which I just lived with and so was therefore my old normality, and I can tell you that it feels as though my vertebrae are being squeezed and pinched when I do that – ouch! I can’t believe that that was my daily reality and no wonder that previously after a 20 minute walk I would long to sit down as my back was so painful and uncomfortable, only to do so and feel everything creak back into position with a different kind of pain.
13. I remembered one time my trainer explaining that when the hip flexors were in proper balance with the hip extensors and the glutes, that there was much more freedom and rotation in the hips as you walk, and you get a more natural swing and a longer, freer gait…and that’s what I’ve noticed now as I walk – the stiffness has gone!
14. I was back at the gym this Monday and I office this time how much easier it was to do sit up crunches than ever before. I was able to go from being on a fit ball and hanging down, to sitting all the way up, which I couldn’t do before, and I was able to really able to work my core hard before my back and neck got tired first! (As a result, after just 20 reps, my abs were still killing two days later and hurt, in a good way, when I laugh!).
So, has it all been plain sailing? I want to be perfectly honest here because I think it can be so discouraging if things don’t go quite as you expected for you, and it appears that you’re the only one – not entirely. I’ve had a couple of moments where my ankle has suddenly hurt, but I’ve prayed, and kept going in faith that it has been healed, and the pain has gone – and besides no one is getting me out of my heels now!
In terms of my wrist (see Part 1), I’m now waking up much more rarely with numbness in my hand in the morning, and the clicking has gone completely, so I’m praying that The Lord continues the work that he’s doing there and brings that to completion in his perfect timing. Both of my wrists have been a bit sore with all the digging and lifting I’ve done, so I’m just trying to be a bit wise there, and keep asking The Lord to reveal his truths to me, and press in for full healing.
I also turned a bit awkwardly whilst gardening and my left knee was really uncomfortable, and in a different and much more sudden way that the previous pain, but again I’ve kept going this with listening to and observing my body, and noticing how things have been on the stairs, and God willing, that pain too seems to have gone again. My back has been brilliant. My hamstrings have been pretty tight, but I figure that getting healed doesn’t negate the need for a good bit of stretching, especially if you’re being physically active – and I think doing over 24 hours of gardening after the last 10 days, as well as going to work and looking after our boy, probably just about counts!
I’ve taken from all of this that God is very much on the move, and it’s not just about one place, but about catching the fire, and fanning the flame, sharing the light and the heat with others (note that we’ve been singing along to the Big Start 2 CD in our car, ‘this little light of mine – hide it under a bushel – NO!’, and it has stayed with me all week!). It’s not so much my testimony, as my simple witness to God’s incredible grace, power, goodness and glory, and I cannot keep that to myself. I am a broken person in a broken world, but God’s love is so deep, I know he can and has overcome all of that brokenness., so I know that this is not yet the end, by any stretch of the imagination!
So, how about you. what do you make of all this??!
Have you been able to acknowledge your need of the King of Kings to bring healing and restoration in your life? Would you dare to believe that He would have good gifts for you, even if these might not be exactly what you are looking for?
Have you stepped out as yet in the full authority of Jesus given to you as a believer? Could you seek out his presence and his face today? What burdens will you bring today to the Lord, who delights over you with singing (isn’t that a wonderful image?!)?
And lastly, what are your experiences of healing?