Sunday, 31 January 2016

Purpose and encouragement

Recently, I have the lost the discipline of writing. Life has overwhelmed me, somewhat: enough to distract me. I've found myself wandering in circles: occasionally, actually physically doing so.

Overwhelmingness came from inside. Facing a major life decision: where to live, what to could have been coming to an end (it's not, as far as I know), we could have been moving (we are, but not far...)....

It was hard. But now, as I drift towards an outcome - I can't say I have MADE a decision, but feel as if the way is beginning to come clearer - I seem to be finding new purpose. And I now realise that, in some ways, I had become lacklustre about the most important purpose of all.

Seeking the most precious Pearl.

Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of immense worth: so valuable that a merchant gave up everything he had to buy it. (Matthew 13:45 - 46) We read a devotional by Chris Tiegreen every day, where he talks about this and Paul's assertion that Christ is everything and anything else we might gain which benefits us is just rubbish. Paul says (Philippians 3:8 - 9) "Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him."

I hadn't lost my focus on God - indeed, I sought God and His wisdom earnestly in prayer. But I had let the concern, even worry at times, about our decisions dominate my thinking and emotions. I had stopped searching for the most valuable thing, which was Jesus himself.

Being faithful to worship Jesus, to know him better, was the most important thing. More important than where I should live or what I should do.

I was helped to remember this in tiny, imperceptible ways. Ways in which there was such a subtle shift in my spiritual life that I could barely identify it. For a few months, beginning just after I had made a momentous decision about where I would live, I became part of a group which met to explore spirituality. We thoughts about how we could love God more and be better disciples, we practised different forms of evangelism and serving, but most of all we learned to worship in new and different ways. And as I worshipped, I found myself changing.

The decision I had made - to move - had not left me with peace. After making it, I wanted it to work, although I realised that I was always LOOKING for things which would confirm the decision. The new path promised adventure and excitement, uncertainty and the prospect of having to rely completely on God - but was it really where God wanted me to go? Were some of my motives selfish?

As Marilyn Gardner says in her blog Communicating Across Boundaries   "I think I may have been looking for the wrong things –my purpose, my calling, my sense of significance and belonging–surely Jesus’ tiny story taught me to search out the most important thing. I’m joining the jewel merchant.I’m looking for the Excellent Pearl, the Flawless One, the Pearl of Great Price. He is here and I know the hunt for Him will never disappoint."

I eventually realised that I needed to stay put. I had  become distracted from The Main Thing - knowing and worshipping Jesus. As Marilyn says: "I’ve felt my sense of self being swallowed again by the mundane, by the endless question of who I am and what am I doing here. I’ve wondered again at my purpose.

I know my life has meaning here. I firmly believe we are here on purpose. I just need to find it again.…I need to uncover it. Sometimes it seems to be more hidden for me than for others. And often it seems illusive. Just when I stop looking and settle into my routines I find it in between spiritual direction clients or under a pile of clean clothes. The moment, however, I go to grab it always seems to disappear."

 I needed to stay in my job, stay in the town I am living in, just stay. There was no clear call either way: sensing no sense of purpose in leaving, with no clear idea of what I would do if I moved...

...but then little joys started to come my way.

Relationships that had been a little difficult and tense were restored: difficulty and tension vanished overnight and they became a complete joy.

My job became more rewarding. I saw changes in the children I teach as they became more mature but also in the learning and knowledge they began to develop. I became ridiculously thrilled when I asked them to highlight boring connectives in their writing and an apprehensive little voice said: "I can't FIND any..."  I was delighted to deliver an almost perfect lesson for my yearly appraisal: something that had never happened before. I felt encouraged.

I began to appreciate my life here more. I realised that in my focus on moving, I had stopped opening my arms wide. I had pulled back on giving of myself.

My word(s) for this year to encourage myself are 'Be generous'. I am not a naturally generous person, except perhaps in befriending others, which I had neglected. I needed to learn more and more to open myself up and be generous with my life - with what God had so generously given me.

So, near the end of the first month of the year, I look back and am thankful for renewed energy, renewed direction, a renewed sense of I keep my eyes on Jesus: "...who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:2, The Message

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

New Year, New Year's Resolution

Well, I'm not too sure of the provenance of this, but I quite liked the advice....

"Short and Simple
To make a New Year's resolution I'll remember, it has to be short and simple. It has to be something meaningful that motivates me, while instantly reminding me of things I need to do to become a better Christian.
If you're like me, we need a resolution that's more like a concept, rather than resolving to change specific behaviors.
A Broad Motivational Concept
Love is a broad motivational concept that involves every aspect of life.
Jesus tells us that the great commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second command is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:30-31).
Paul tells us, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10). "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
If we love God more, we'll become a better Christian. As a better Christian, we'll improve in every relationship -- we'll become better people, in every way.
Every Christian Can Love God More
Have you thought about the fact that you can love God more today than yesterday?
In Paul's prayer for the Philippians, he revealed that they could love God more. He prayed that their love would "abound still more" (Phil. 1:9). Their love was abounding, but it could abound more and more and more. . . .
There is never a time we can't love God more. Therefore, there is never a time we can't become a better Christian.
Love God More: Increase in Knowledge and Discernment
In Paul's prayer for the Philippians, he reveals how we love God more. He prayed that their love would "abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9).
Our love for God grows when we increase in true knowledge. "True knowledge" in this verse isepignosis, which results in spiritual maturity as we grow through God's word.
Peter tells us to "long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2). Growing in the word of God, he says "in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:5-8).
To love God more, we must grow through His word. The more we grow through God's word, the more we love God as we're "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17).
Love God More: Obedience with a Positive Attitude
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn. 5:3).
If we love God more this year, we'll make fewer mistakes while also becoming a better Christian. And, we'll have a better attitude toward obeying God.
A Simple New Year's Resolution: Love God More
Have you thought about loving God more?
  • What can you do to improve your knowledge of God's word, and love Him more?
  • What would change, if you loved God more?
  • Is there anyone who doesn't need to love God more this year?
Whether you're thinking about making a New Year's resolution or setting a goal, think about loving God more through better knowledge of His word. You'll become a better Christian, if you do."

So, simples. Love God more by studying His word. The Bible. Read it. More. And more.


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

One word....

Last year, 2015, my one word for the year was JOY.  I needed to learn joy, to live and breathe and eat joy, to CHOOSE joy over and above all else, even when joy was not the first or second or last word in my mind.

And as I chose joy, joy came.

Joy came in many small ways, a heart attitude of gratefulness and more optimism than I should have felt.  Joy came in big things: from desperate prayers for an unmarried daughter in January through to her engagement in July and wedding in December. More joy than I dreamed of.

And joy is my word for this year, again.

But to that one word I need to add two more.  BE GENEROUS.  I need to learn and practise and live generosity in a new and extravagant way.

Because being generous is something I'm really, really bad at.

I'm poor at being generous with money as I fear being poor. (Is that not a great contradiction?)
I'm poor at being generous with my attitudes as I prefer to be judgemental.
I'm poor at being generous with myself as I am afraid of things not turning out the way I've planned.
Oh, I have a lot of 'being generous' to explore this year....

And, already, I'm being challenged to give more of myself, when I feel as if I am pouring myself out into nothingness.
I'm being challenged to be more generous with my attitudes, giving the benefit of the doubt even when I am sure it is not deserved.
I'm being challenged to be more generous financially, in spite of a more constrained and reduced income.

This will be an interesting year. OneWordCoffee Linkup
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