When we think about changes in our personal or professional futures, it is easy to be tempted to try and make it happen. To push, encourage, or otherwise seek to influence the situation. One of the lessons I learnt very early in my Christianity and ministry is that it is good not to seek to always micro or macro manage all the outcomes. We are on holiday this week, amongst other things, playing golf in
Cornwall. This lesson is a bit like playing golf. The way to play one’s best
golf, is like the lesson in many sports, to stay in the moment. Not to think or plan ahead too much. Most good golf is played by concentrating on the next shot, not getting ahead of ourselves. To say to myself, I am going to play this hole really well, is not about having confidence, it is getting ahead of myself. I played well today, for those who understand golf, I had 3 birdies today on a very hard golf course. I am not good enough to plan to do this I have found all I can do is to do the basics well, to focus on putting a good swing on the next shot and living with whatever happens.
During lent, I am seeking to be faithful to the next small step. To do the right thing in the right way and not try to manage what the outcome might be.
I was reading someone’s testimony this afternoon and it really moved me. In my twenties testimony was pretty much an every week experience at church. People’s faith was encouraged by sharing what God had been doing in their own lives – sometimes it is only when you look back and speak something out that you really see what has been happening. Faith was also encouraged in hearing what God was doing.
Quite often I start a day’s teaching by asking does anyone have anything to share with us which has happened since last we were together – some of the responses are inspiring and encouraging. This doesn’t mean that testimony has to be full of positive statements, sharing the faithfulness of God through difficult times or the faithfulness of friends at those times you don’t feel close to God still builds faith.
I was once asked to review a book which talked about testimony in one of the chapters – I like this quotation:
Testimony is an approach to storytelling with a long history and tradition and can be seen as a liberating and community building practice which helps [young] people “not to be ashamed of their experiences, but to share their experiences in the hope and knowledge that their stories will be received by an encouraging community, and will also serve as encouragement for others” (Wright 2008:195).
I like being part of such encouraging communities.
Wright, A. W. (2008). The Power of Testimonies. In M. E. Moore & A. W. Wright (eds.), Children, Youth and Spirituality in a Troubling World. St Louis: Chalice Press, 182-195.
This was the view around 7am one morning this week, dawn breaking over the rooftops and the River Tamar. I look forward to the lengthening days when I am no longer driving to work in darkness and I see the sun rising and the hope of a new day before me. Lamentations 3 22-23 reads:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
This is an encouraging thought to begin any day with…
I have always loved looking at lights in the darkness, Christmas lights, pier lights, stars… sitting eating afternoon tea and looking out at this beautifully lit pavilion made my mind wander and wonder. I am drawn to light metaphors and stories and have a beautiful pair of menorah earrings, bought in Israel over twenty years ago that I am wearing today to remind me that it is Hannukah, a festival of lights, and the bit of the story that I resonate with is how the pot of oil that should have kept the light burning for one night, lasted for eights. To me it speaks of God’s faithfulness and how God takes the little we have to offer and blesses it in ways we might never have imagined.
There was also the tiny bit of me that looked out and thought what a lovely place to conduct a wedding!
There have been several things that have struck me this Easter. One has been hearing about the culinary delight of a deep fried cream egg, not yet tried. Another was a home-made hot cross bun so good we shouldn’t call it by the same name as what we buy in the shops. Another was reading the research commissioned by the Bible Society:
• One in three children have no idea why Christians mark Good Friday
• One in four of them do not know why Easter Sunday is celebrated
• More than a quarter of British children think the Hare and the Tortoise may feature in the Easter story.
• A council bans Good Friday Passion of the Christ play fearing it was a live sex show!
Seems we don’t communicate the Easter message very effectively!
This morning I preached at our hospital service on Matthew’s resurrection story and encouraged particularly the women, the mothers to continue to have faith in the quality of their witness even within the midst of their earthquakes. This is what continues to impress me, the faithfulness of their vigil, in the uncertain waiting, but holding onto resurrection hope. This is what I encouraged them in, to live in resurrection hope, in the midst of the cross,
I love the commonality between the Christmas and Easter angels. They both encourage “Do not be afraid”, at the beginning and end of the Jesus story, perhaps the same angel has the same line… This seems to be what we need to hear in the light of the revelation of the incarnation and resurrection. Do not be afraid but have resurrection hope. This seems to be an honest Christian message, taking seriously our fears and our faith. Both are true.
It is the human situation to meet the present with interpretations of the past.
Today I did something lovely, I booked to go to a very special event in the autumn. However, there was a problem with the credit card – whatever I did I couldn’t get past the verifying security page! Technological malfunction is one of the things that frustrate me most! I finally got it to work by changing the credit card I was using! Knowing myself well I very consciously began to fight the feelings of annoyance and frustration at how difficult it was to do something simple, and the error I had made in choosing the credit card that wants me to verify purchases and tried to enter the joy of the moment – we were going, with the awesome, adorable nephew and my brother, somewhere very special! It will be a new experience for me.
I am sometimes a half empty glass type of person rather than a half full one, my interpretations of the past with which I meet the present can sometimes be the more negative lens or the less charitable thought. This is the biggest problem when I am tired and getting into a woe is me spiral over something fairly trivial is something I try to avoid but don’t always manage. I am always challenged by the story of manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16.11-21), how God provided the children of Israel with just enough for the day but only on the day – it couldn’t be stored up except for the sabbath! If I had been one of them perhaps I would be better able to draw on the resources in God that are there for me and my interpretation of the present would be based on God’s faithfulness in the past. However, baggage gets in the way and my emotions take over sometimes but in the way that Isaiah 61 talks about beauty for ashes, for example, so I am trying, though not always succeeding, to remember God’s faithfulness realising that God’s way and God’s response might be the better way!
Virgina Satir Meditations and Inspirations John Banmen and Jan Gerber (eds) Berkley Celestial Arts 1985 p55
This morning I was facilitating a session on theological reflection. I never expected God to speak through the earrings I had put on earlier! We played with jigsaws, pictures, dice as well as lots of different theological resources. Just as I was leaving the person who invited me came up and shared that he thought God wanted to say something to me through my seahorse earrings. Apparently seahorses mate for life, and do a dance type thing where they wrap their tails round each other and. The word was about my faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to me. Earlier in the week I had shared something which I felt God had said to me which felt a little risky to do and sitting reflecting on the word shared with me brought me reassurance. I have always found 2 Timothy 1.6 significant which is often rendered fan into flame the gift that is within you. I am grateful for the person who shared what they thought God was saying to me – a simple word which had deep significance – and grateful to God that I was given something to share that blessed others. I wonder what would have happened if I had put on a different pair of earrings!