Sunday, 28 July 2013

He sees me: encouragement for the end of the week.

I found this lovely piece of encouragement over at the (in)courage site:
"For the hard week, the long week, the backed up, broken down week.
He sees you.

For the good week, the full week, the love lived in the floorboards and round the kitchen table and back out again week.
He sees you.

For the smudged eyes and runny mascara week. For the shouted prayers and broken promises week.He sees you.

For the aching heart, hurts-to-breathe week. For the lonely week. For the lost week.
He sees you.

For the empty tank and forgotten errands. For the dirty dishes and loads of laundry week.
He sees you.

For the wrinkled week, the long week, the rundown week.
He sees you.

For the laughter shouted week, the friends around the exciting news week, the beloved week.
He sees you.

However your week ended. However your week began. You are as beloved today as you were at the start of it.
He sees you, friends. He sees each individual unique week you’ve lived.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8

He’s got you and this week and the next one.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

I finally relax - and start to think, again, about The Meaning of (My) Life...

At (ladies) breakfast last Saturday, as we relaxed over coffee, fruit and pastries outside in the morning sunshine, someone asked me what I would do if I didn't teach.

Now, I think they meant if I wasn't working at a job as a teacher. Because as far as TEACHING goes, I can't help myself.  Even when I visited my lovely 9 year old nephew a while back, I found myself showing him all sorts of maths short cuts and sharing explanations of tricky spellings: before I knew it, the poor child had endured an hour's tutoring. (My lovely sister-in-law was pleased and, I think, quite grateful!).
So, if I wasn't teaching or tutoring or... I said I'd like to go into offices as a logistics troubleshooter, flying in like Superman to solve their organisational issues.  I've had various friends bemoan the cumbersome systems which they have to try to work with and I have been amazed that many organisations seem less organised than the worst class room. So I'd quite like to have a go at that.

However, I realised afterward that I'd quite like to write Bible studies - ha ha, I'd need to do a lot more studying first of course. Or Christian articles - 'How to' pieces on inviting ladies round for a prayer breakfast, or making Christian themed cards, or sharing Jesus in the workplace, for example. Or just perhaps a simple reflection as a guide to prayer. And if I got paid for doing that - well, even better.

But then I read a post on facebook by Anne Lamott, and I thought, yes, that's me as well, that's what I would do - with a little bit of tweaking...

"During the chat at, someone asked what job I would like if I wasn't a writer...

I'd like to sit out in the very quiet courtyard at St. Andrew Presbyterian, with a bowl of cherries, and a bowl of M&M's as communion elements, and talk to people one at a time.

I'd teach people what we tell our Sunday School kids, that they are loved and chosen, AS IS. My grandson says things like, "There's another boy in with class with beautiful brown skin, like me." And he's four. If women confided that they don't swim even when it's very hot because they have tummy roll or jiggly thighs, I would show them mine, and we'd go off to swim together in our terrible underwear together, even if it was just in a little kid's inflatable pool in the projects across the street.

If people were grieving, I would sit with them while they cried, and I would not say a single word, like "Time heals all," or "This too shall pass." I would practice having the elegance of spirit to let them cry, and feel like shit, for as long a they need to, because tears are the way home--baptism, hydration--and I would let our shoulders touch, and every so often I'd point out something beautiful in the sky--a bird, clouds, the hint of a moon. Then we'd share some cherries and/or M&M's, and go find a little kid who would let us swim in his or her inflatable pool. I'd tell the sad person, "Come back next week, I'll be here--and you don't have to feel ONE speck better. It's a come-as-you-are meeting, like with God, who says, "You just show up, my honey."

If people want to know the secret of writing and art, I would say, "Write badly. That's what we all do. Just do it. No one cares if you write or paint or dance, so YOU'd better. Nevr give up. read more poetry. Then find someone who will edit your work for you, like a friend or associate who needs someone to edit his or her work; or a teacher; or someone you pay, if you can. Without this, you are doomed. No one can help you if you don't have a tough and respectful reader. Not even Jesus can help you. But you are still loved and chosen. Here, have some cherries."

I would also be available in the courtyard to register voters. This is what we re going to do when we're very old and the ice caps are like Slurpees: we are going to stick together, huddle together for warmth, register voters, and share our cherries and chocolate. I promise, this will be enough--always has been, always will be.

Also, I would subtly be trying to suck people into coming to St. Andrew on Sunday to worship with us. (services at 11:00.). You will end up feeling TOO loved, and maybe a little overly chosen. It's incredibly sweet.

I would tell people that no matter how awful their thoughts and behavior, God HAS to love them--that's His job. And I am Exhibit A--God has to love me, and this is not my fault. I didn't trick Him or Her, or hide the grossest stuff. God just loves; period. Go figure. It's a great system. My pastor Veronica says that when you want God to enter your life, you don't invite Her to have tea in your living room, which you've completely cleaned for the occasion. You have to invite her all the way in, and let her see the closets, as is, AND--this is the bad news--you have to show her the Bad Drawer. The one in the kitchen, or in your bedside table--you know the one I mean, the one filled with thumbtacks and patches for inner tubes, and the broken dog collar, litter and stuff you couldn't give away--the dump would barely take it--that proves how insane. You have to pull it all the way open, and say, "This is part of the package..." There won't be anything there god doesn't see every day. God, will say, "Dude. Thanks for showing me. Let's get to work. Hey--are the any of those cherries left?"

This to me would be a perfect job, sitting with God and you, at the safest place on the earth for me, being real, together, shoulders touching, looking up at the sky from time to time."

Me too, Anne. Me too.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Man Of Sorrows - Hillsong Live (New 2013 Album Glorious Ruins) Worship S...

I have just discovered this song in the new Hillsong album Glorious Ruins - love the Celtic folky feel...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

More humility

After yesterday's post on pride, I laughed - in a painful way - when I turned to the latest reading in the Good Morning Girls summer study: 2 Chronicles 7:11 - 22, with the memory verse:
2 Chronicles 7:14 "...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
(I gasped an hour later when, catching up on a missed sermon, the speaker began with...yes, 2 Chronicles 7:14!)

Whoops. DEFINITELY something I need to learn. God said this to the nation of Israel but the call to humility, to prayer, to turn to God, to change, starts with each one of us. And that promise of forgiveness and healing is for each one of us as well.

Then I looked at the context, in verse 13: ' “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,..." '
Hmmm. My struggles with friends, acquaintances, neighbours, colleagues...all small stuff compared to famine and deadly disease.

Yet, in my life, this feels like famine and disease.

When a friend withdraws friendship, I begin to starve. Friends feed and nourish my spirit and emotions, help me in my walk with God, encourage my heart.

An attack on my personality and integrity brings dis-ease to my heart. It becomes unhealthy, damaged, prone to more attack. I need to recognize that "...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

That helps.

This helps, too: again, quoted by Lisa Notes
“I was neither as good as I hoped I might be nor as bad as I feared. I was simply another of God’s beggars, grateful to have found my way into the pool.” (From Leaving Church: A memoir of Faith by Barbara Taylor Bradford)

I love that. As I recognize that I am not 'as good as I hoped I might be' (aka Perfect), I also recognize that, because God loves me just as I am, then I am not 'as bad as I feared'. It's not about what I think of myself - particularly in relation to others - but about what God thinks of me. It's about putting myself in my rightful place: at the feet of Jesus, simply delighted to be in his presence, where nothing else matters.

Not famine, nor disease;
Not unfriendliness, nor criticism.
Not accusation, nor aggression.

For "...With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:...None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:31 - 39. The Message)
Absolutely NOTHING can get between me and God's love.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


I always enjoy reading Lisa Burgess' blog, Lisa Notes - not least, because we are at a similar stage of life, with grown children. Some of the other blogs I read are heavy on young children and homeschooling mothers - they offer nuggets of wisdom, but I'm not always entirely comfortable with the context. But that's another story...

Today, Lisa blogs about, basically, living without pride. Without putting on a (brave or covering-up) face. She begins with:
"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. "  2 Corinthians 12:9
Lisa suggests that "If I can’t do it well (whatever it is), I’d rather you not watch.
But if I wait until I get it perfect, you may never see it at all.
When Barbara Brown Taylor was stepping into a more public preaching role in her church, she recalled this advice below. I say let’s take it for ourselves in our everyday lives.
'As my beloved rector had told me in seminary, being ordained is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly, allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall.
“You probably won’t be much worse than other people,” he said, ”and you certainly won’t be any better, but you will have to let people look at you. You will have to let them see you as you are.” '
– Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church
Lisa says:
"That’s not to say let’s be hypocrites and do our works just to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1-2).
But let’s also not keep God our private little secret, hidden away until we canfor unveil him with the perfect ta-da ! moment.
Be a light for other people in your humanity to point them to God in his divinity (Matthew 5:14-16).
Be imperfect. Take the insult. Rest in your weakness.
Sometimes the bravest thing you can do—the strongest, the most loving—is just be who you are.
Honor your Creator.
Be visible.
Be you.
Let him be God."

Now,  I tend to think that, generally, I AM real. Perhaps, at times, being too hard on myself. Whatever, folk usually see me 'warts and all'.

Except, I realised, in my relationships.   (That 'except' is only for now: I am sure God will show me other aspects of my life which need a lot of sorting out. And I mean A LOT.)
When I read "Take the insult."  I realised I have a huge amount of PRIDE in having good relationships. In having good relationships with all my friends, colleagues, acquaintances. In being able to 'fix' be PERFECTLY honest, I demand - of myself - perfection in relationships.

This attitude has caused me a lot of grief. Of course, I've tried to blame it on everyone else: on the friend who, because of her own insecurities, became uneasy in my presence and cut the relationhip off; on the young woman who, because of her own mental issues, demanded I behave in a certain way towards her and then threw criticism and accusation at me; on the aggressive neighbour; the selfish colleague....
That grief should not be mine. Pride means that I demand they behave in a certain way - sounds familiar? Self-centredness takes other people's issues onto me, instead of my leaving those problems firmly outside the door of my heart.

I needed to repent of my pride. It doesn't matter (well, it does, but I'm dealing with it) what others have done: what matters primarily is my attitude.

So here I go: eating humble pie. Admitting that I've failed at fixing relationships. Agreeing with Jesus that I'm not as perfect with people as I think I am.

And I love this comparison of pride with grilled cheese, thanks to Kate at teachingwhatisgood:

" Grilled Cheese versus Pride

Cheese hidden sandwiched between 2 slices of bread; pride hidden sandwiched between our human frailty and our longing to be considered more than we are
An ancient food and popular across most cultures: an ancient struggle, beginning in The Garden and common to all cultures of man

A simple food; as simple as desiring to place yourself above God

Takes on many forms; shows itself in many forms

Called by different names in different cultures; the secular world calls it by many different names, most of which reject the sin aspect

Can be disguised by various additions or specialty items; can be hidden in our hearts and disguised as something good for our self worth

Must be swallowed to have nutritional benefit; must be swallowed to have character growth and personal maturity

Heat melts the cheese; heat brings out the full blown character flaws" 

I'm usually quick to spot perfectionism in others and am blind to it in myself, but this post has shown me an area in which I have a BIG problem with trying (and failing!) to be perfect.

Lisa asks if there are areas in which I've succeeded against perfectionism... well, I would have said being houseproud, but I've just spent a quite a bit of time spring cleaning. I would have said I didn't have too much of a problem, but Jesus is showing me all kinds of areas in which, when I lose control of a situation I find myself demanding quite a work in progress. "The heart is deceitful above all things' - Jeremiah 17:9

Monday, 22 July 2013

A Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
Thy stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty
Thy glory in my valley.

from The Valley of Vision

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Godly advice

I love godly advice. I soak up the wisdom and experience of others, longing to hug it so closely that it becomes part of my DNA.

Yet more inspiration today from a woman who has been married nearly 50 years. It is wonderful advice on how to live...I'm not as far on in life stages as she is - empty nesting, but no grandkids yet - yet I found myself nodding in recognition at ". . Practicing simple things, like grace before meals, gathering with community, worshiping each Sunday and saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ — to God, to one another, to anyone who offers help or kindness throughout our days. And learning to say ‘help me, help me, help me’ with less embarrassment, more humility and a surer sense of our own need.

. . . Knowing, deep down, that the biggest and best moments are not at all what we thought they would be when we were in our 20′s and 30′s. No. More often than not, it is the smallest, most common and least sensational moments that bring the heart-sighs, the teary-eyed smiles, the down-to-your-toes sense of satisfaction and delight. ...the angle of the light as it hits the window pane in the kitchen; the sound of the fountain burbling in the night air; the knowing look across a crowded room when it’s time to turn for home and bed.

. . . And of course, realizing in new ways that there will be an end to this life we share. 2015 will be our 50th. How is that even possible, we say. It was only yesterday, we remark. We’re still so young, surely we are, we insist!

The mirror, the creaky joints, the nightly handful of pills tell us otherwise, of course. Yet in the center of ourselves, we are still every age we’ve ever been, aren’t we? Our over-confident 20-something selves, our over-tired 30-something selves, our over-drawn 40-something selves, our over-joyed 50-something selves and our over-done 60 and 70-something selves – we’re all here. And even though the years ahead of us are fewer than the years behind us, we’re looking forward to every single one."

I am reading Anything by Jennie Allen. About how to give everything to and do anything for God. What an adventure - I don't even feel as if I've begun yet.

Lysa Terkeust has some good advice and a great prayer. Adapted from Dr. Louis H. Evans’ Marriage Prayer for Bride and Groom. - See more at:

Saturday, 13 July 2013


I started meeting with a few friends once a month, on a Saturday: there seemed to be a need for a little group of women who work full time. I wanted to call it 'Working Women' but the vicar said no... so it is officially called 'Women in the Workplace'.  Unofficially, 'Ladies Breakfast'.  (If we can't be Ladies Who Lunch, then we can be Ladies Who Breakfast.)
Fun. We talk about what it's like to be a Christian at work, and how we can better display Jesus.
I prepare a few thoughts, which I share. And we talk.
Now that I have read this blog from John Piper, though, I probably don't need to prepare anything any more, Because if we all did this.... well!

This is how we can glorify God at work:
"Dependence. Go to work utterly dependent on God (Proverbs 3:5-6John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help.
Integrity. Be absolutely and meticulously honest and trustworthy on the job. Be on time. Give a full day’s work. “Thou shalt not steal.” More people rob their employers by being slackers than by filching the petty cash.
Skill. Get good at what you do. God has given you not only the grace of integrity but the gift of skills. Treasure that gift and be a good steward of those skills. This growth in skill is built on dependence and integrity.
Corporate shaping. As you have influence and opportunity, shape the ethos of the workplace so that the structures and policies and expectations and aims move toward accordance with Christ. For example, someone is shaping the ethos ofChick-fil-A restaurants with this video.
Impact. Aim to help your company have an impact that is life-enhancing without being soul-destroying. Some industries have an impact that is destructive (e.g., porn, gambling, abortion, marketing scams, etc). But many can be helped to turn toward impact that is life-giving without being soul-ruining. As you have opportunity, work toward that.
Communication. Work places are webs of relationships. Relationships are possible through communication. Weave your Christian worldview into the normal communications of life. Don’t hide your light under a basket. Put it on the stand. Winsomely. Naturally. Joyfully. Let those who love their salvation say continually, Great is the Lord! (Psalm 40:16)
Love. Serve others. Be the one who volunteers first to go get the pizza. To drive the van. To organize the picnic. Take an interest in others at work. Be known as the one who cares not just about the light-hearted weekend tales, but the burdens of heavy and painful Monday mornings. Love your workmates, and point them to the great Burden Bearer.
Money. Work is where you make (and spend) money. It is all God’s, not yours. You are a trustee. Turn your earning into the overflow of generosity in how you steward God’s money. Don’t work to earn to have. Work to earn to have to give and to invest in Christ-exalting ventures. Make your money speak of Christ as your supreme Treasure.
Thanks. Always give thanks to God for life and health and work and Jesus. Be a thankful person at work. Don’t be among the complainers. Let your thankfulness to God overflow in a humble spirit of gratitude to others. Be known as the hope-filled, humble, thankful one at work.
There are more things to say about glorifying God in the workplace. But this is a start. Add to the list as God gives you light. The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is."  (How to Glorify God at Work by John Piper | September 6, 2011)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Marriage inspiration

It's the middle of the wedding season. Last weekend a colleague was married, this weekend friends are celebrating their ruby wedding. In another few weeks, we will have notched up 29 years - nearly 30 years since we first met.
This story is inspiration for an awesome marriage.
And a great book: This Momentary Marriage by John Piper.

Praying for our children...

My children are grown up and gone. I  miss them more than anything. Words cannot express the gaping hole left as children grow and leave, grow and leave - whether from babies to toddlers, from pre-school to big school, from.... every stage leaves a gap where Something Was.

Now the gap is physical. They are working far away. Too far.

So I felt somewhat masochistic when I read John Piper's blog on 'Seven Things to Pray for Your Children'. Now I have read it, I feel somewhat ashamed.
It was not about praying for good health, or a satisfying job, or a godly husband/wife.
All good things.
But no: praying effectively for our children includes praying for:

"1. That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)
2. That they will respond in faith to Jesus’s faithful, persistent call.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
3. That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
4. That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
5. That their thoughts will be pure.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.(Philippians 4:8)
6. That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.
All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)
7. That when the time is right, they will GO!
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)"
Wonderfully specific. And so I dare to pray these prayers also for myself, and for my 'spiritual children'. For those God has given me through friendship, through acquaintance, through colleague relationships.

God hears us when we pray.