Investment

It’s been playing a bit on repeat in my heart of late… this idea about using what you have well. It’s that parable of the talents, the one who uses finds increase – the one who hides in fear loses them altogether.

Haven’t we all at some time sat and lived someone else’s life for them. If I had that wealth imagine what I could do with it, if I could speak, look, achieve, write, influence…. whatever… like so-and-so, what I would do with all that talent.

stained glass

Maybe we need to stand back a little and view ourselves through such critical eyes. In your bag of tricks there are so many things –

capacity

tenacity

creativity

skills

education

geography

finances

opportunity

relational support

passion

ability

attitude

….

some of those might be larger or smaller than others but essentially you have, I have, we all have, an incredible collection of these things, and others,  – and we are generously given those things through Grace and not because we ‘deserve’ them more than others.

However, when a naturally agile person lives their life without moving, stretching, pushing that ability they may find that in time they are no longer agile. They have neglected something for long enough and now, if it even exists, it is only a shadow of what it could have been.

I wonder if I spent less time wishing about the gifts I wanted, less time agonising over which thing I should do and I actually just looked at what brought me life, what fitted my bag of tricks well and got out there and did some of it – not for money, or recognition but just because it brings me life. In turn, maybe my capacity and skills would actually grow and maybe my influence in the world would ring louder, travel further and be sweeter.

If you are stuck on repeat when it comes to seeing what other people do have and you don’t have – ask someone you love, someone who knows you well what talents they see in you….. and if you are really brave and you trust them, ask them what talents you are wasting and how they’d like to see you develop them, spend them, invest them, share them.

In all the world you are the only you – don’t waste that you, it’s a good one.

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Being Fed

When my friends have a baby I make them ‘feeding biscuits’ which I take them when I go and visit them in the hospital. These feeding biscuits are my own special recipe and I give them with strict instructions,

for the feeding mama, not to be shared

thing is, this mama is working hard to feed her baby and she needs to be fed too. I was thinking about those biscuits the other day and how, like many simple things, it talks to me about something else too.

plate

It’s this thing of thinking we can feed others without being fed ourselves.

Like we have it so together, we have so much knowledge that we can give out, give out, give out and not become malnourished ourselves.

I’m asking myself this –

  • do I want to feed others? resoundingly yes.
  • do I regularly make sure I’m being fed? perhaps, sometimes.

If you’ve been doing this Christian thing long you might need more than a drive through meal on Sundays, if you know what I mean. If you’re in the business of feeding others you’ll find yourself hungry and malnourished if you don’t make sure you’re taking some extra ‘feeding biscuits’.

If you want to feed you need to be fed,

and in the same way,

if you want to lead you need to be led.

We need wisdom, we need leading, mentoring, guiding. I’ve spent a lot of life longing to be well led, to have someone or ones to mentor and challenge me.

There have been several people in my life, 3 especially, who stick out as people who have come alongside me. People who have believed in my combinations of talents without feeling the need to squash me into a round hole or bring me down the peg board all together. People who have gently challenged me, pushed me to go deeper, spoken life into my dreams.

I love those people so much for their generosity, their own security and maturity, the way they shine bright but not overwhelming.

I guess today I’m thinking about that desire in me that wants to feed and lead, and the balancing requirement for me to be intentional about feeding myself and the joy of being well led.

So if your heart is in for leading and feeding may you have resources and wisdom around you to make sure you are well equipped.

And if you are mentoring, leading or guiding others take heart you are making a real difference. (and don’t forget to feed yourself!)

Relationship

I sat next to a child on a phone in a bus shelter the other day. A beautiful child, with a gorgeous accent, who had (loudly) phoned home to talk to ‘mum’. At some point someone else was put on the phone and in the space of about 2 minutes of conversation she’d referred to the person on the other end as ‘Aunty‘ about ten times. No name with the ‘Aunty’, not Aunty Maude, or Aunty Jean, or Aunty Sue just Aunty, Aunty, Aunty.

When my youngest son was small for the longest time he didn’t call his big brother by his name he always said, ‘My brother’.

Like his life was defined by the forever relationship he shared that made them brothers.

Like his joy in the relationship was enhanced and defined by the security of being ‘his brother’.

The name of their relationship, so intimately, powerfully, important to him he repeated it over and over.

It reminds me of the way Jesus started when he taught us to pray ‘Our Dad’. Time after time Jesus talks about God in relationship to their relationship

in my Father’s house are many rooms’

‘didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house’

‘I and the Father are one’

The security, and unity, and foreverness, of the relationship summed up by the name of the relationship. And Jesus invited us to do the same.

To be so intrinsically linked with the One that we can call him Dad.

We get a little screwed up sometimes because we project our own Father’s shortcomings onto God. We get scrambled about what a Father ‘ought’ to be.

But… the bit for me that is ringing joy in my heart today is this thing of what the name of the relationship adds to the dimensions of the relationship.

I cannot cease to be my Father or Mother’s daughter.

88352-feet2bwalking

I cannot cease to be a sister.

A family relationship is not some erasable thing . We  can have: used to be friends, ex-wife/partners/husband, ex-flatmate, ex-colleague.

We can have a relationship break down with a parent or sibling or child… and doesn’t that pain reverberate like a stubbed toe hitting a door again and again?… but the relationship cannot be cancelled because of it. We may not like our brother, mother, aunty but it doesn’t cease to make them that.

A Father/Mother (usually) delights in their child. They are tangled up and intrinsically, eternally linked together for all time.

It’s like today my eyes have glimpsed a whole other level of beauty in the invitation to start a prayer with ‘our dad’. This belonging and sureity and forever-togetherness that is promised by the definition of referring to the One as ‘my dad’.

The adopted-forever promise I have been given beats in my heart, like the little boy whose proudest and best way of referring to someone was not by their name by but by the relationship they share – ‘my brother’.

May it be for you today that the creases and crinkles in your own understandings of a family and a father do not cheapen or dull the beauty of being able to know you can refer to the One as ‘my dad’.

Intimate, certain, accepted, secure.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

(romans 8 – msg version)

**Please be assured I also include adopted and birth parents when I talk about the permanency of those ‘family relationships’. In God we are all adopted, all equal, all accepted.

Rewarding Courage with Kindness

I think perhaps it’s lucky for Thomas, the disciple, that he didn’t live in the era of social media. Imagine if he as a “top Christian man/leader/inner circle bloke” had admitted today that he really struggled to believe in the  resurrection without evidence….

can you imagine the backlash?

the calls for his resignation?

the fury unleashed on him by Christians?

(who must have never struggled with any doubt, or felt conflicted about some interpretation of scripture…)

Do you hear what I am saying?

It’s not that I want leaders who deny the fundamental tenants of my faith but I cringe and mourn being part of a larger movement, or at least a vocal group of that movement, that seems to crucify anyone who has courage enough to admit that they struggle or disagree on some small or large point.

and if I’m really honest it makes me angry… it makes me cry hot tears… like I feel all that judgement and hurtfulness personally…

Is it our preferred way of dealing with a ‘family member’ who differs in approach to call them names and publicly try to shame and discredit them?

Is that what we are?

Is it arrogance? Is it fear? Is it good intentions perhaps without humility?

Wasn’t Christ already crucified for us? Do we need to crucify each other socially/emotionally/relationally?

Didn’t Jesus say ‘This is how the world will know you are my disciples – by your love for one another‘?

Doesn’t the Bible challenge us to be ‘Quick to listen, Slow to speak and Slow to become angry‘?

I just can’t remember a place in God’s word where we are called to attack one another in public forums…..

Doesn’t it take courage to admit with a tremor in your voice that you are afloat on an issue?

Shouldn’t courage be received with kindness?

Remember those Christians who stood in the face of a tide of opposition and said slavery was not of God? Remember them? They didn’t get popular support on the social media of the day.

Remember that bit where God says he looks at the heart and not the outward appearance? Remember those times when you have vehemently supported something or expressed an opinion only later to realise you were wrong?

Hear me, I’m not saying we embrace an ‘any way to God‘ kind of approach. I’m not saying we deny the very things that must be held at the centre of Christian belief.

…. but I am thinking that maybe when someone has the courage to admit they struggle

…. when someone thoughtfully studies God’s word and comes up with a different interpretation than us (just as Peter and Paul did when they argued about the behaviours required of the Gentiles)

maybe we could be quick to listen

maybe we could take time to understand

and maybe we could love people in our ‘family’ with whom we don’t see eye to eye.

If we are really brave we could even remember we have sometimes been wrong in our understanding and remind ourselves that maybe, even now, we don’t have the full picture and 100% perfect understanding.

This statement stands out for me as a way I would like to approach not just my faith but all of my life

In essentials unity
In non-essentials liberty
In all things charity

And beautiful, wonderful, faithful Jesus, slow to anger and rich in love…. he doesn’t issue a public statement side lining Thomas and denouncing him. Jesus invites the trembling Thomas over and says come and get all the evidence you need. 

Oh that I would receive such grace in my struggles and fears. 
Oh that I would have the humility and wisdom to lavish kindness and listening to those with whom I do not see eye to eye.

I have much to learn and I am doing my best to follow after Jesus who called up the judgemental and lavished grace on the strugglers.

May I be, in all things, like Him.

Story Telling Matters

You would think the One who invented speech would know how to use it best.

When the Word who gave life to the stars, the heavens, the dragonflies and the birds of paradise dwelt with us we might see a little of how to really communicate,

… and he told stories.

Does it surprise you? Sometimes it confuses me that Jesus used stories that not everyone (hardly anyone it seems sometimes) even understood. Those beautiful, messy, crazy disciples must have spent many a paper, scissors, rock competition arguing over who would ask what he meant this time.

One version describes the purpose of these stories as – But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.  (Mark 4 – The Message)

free stock photo from here

A story has power.

A story meets us wherever we are and relates to our current understanding.

We don’t always need to be hit repeatedly in the face with the ‘did you get it, shall I explain it to you?’ when we are learning. (If you have ever had a young child tell you a joke this experience will be common for you.)

It is in the leaning in, the revisiting, the ruminating that we unfold the layers of the story.

If you have ever read a beautifully written book you will know this thing about layers of understanding, layers of meaning, layers of engagement. What is so beautiful about this experience is that it engages you where you are at right now…. and then, when the time is right, it engages you again in a new way.

Just like the parables of Jesus – layer upon layer upon layer (just like a good flaky puff pastry).

We know stories – not because we have to learn them – we have to learn how to spell Mississippi and how to work out the circumference of a circle and the weight bearing capabilities of a beam. Stories though we know because we engage with them – we roll them around in the movie of our minds, we feel the emotions of the characters, we imagine ourselves in their shoes.

It is stories not encyclopaedias that people reach for again and again and the one who really wants to communicate well will do well to tell a story and a story needn’t be words.

May our stories be like rivers that run new courses across parched fields – bringing life.
May we know the Great Story whose current pain and disappointments will give way to a victory and celebration beyond what we can ever know.

May we be storytellers. 
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