The Tiring Work of Restoration

Over five years ago the city where we live was taken beyond broken with earthquakes, one especially.

Recently I was driving down a road that is still in need of repair and I felt myself sighing inwardly, anticipating the months of cones and detours and single lanes and 30km p/hr signage. In that moment I said to myself, ‘I wish they’d just leave off the repairs and let us drive on it bumpy.’ Despite the innate joy I get driving down a perfectly smooth and sealed road (and there are some) I just couldn’t hold onto the vision for that end.

All I could see were the difficulties in the process of getting there.

cones1

At that moment I knew this was such a picture of God’s restoration work in my life too. Restoration work isn’t pretty. It’s time consuming, it derails and detours pathways you driven on for a long time. It forces you to negotiate new ways of getting to familiar places.

Restoration involves acknowledging the fact that small surface issues actually point to much deeper problems underneath. The odd pothole that sends me careening off into an angry outburst is evidence of something weak and failing beneath the surface.

Maybe I can drive carefully and avoid exposing the bumps on the road but is that really what I want to be long term? A busted up just functioning, ‘drive carefully around’ person? Even though I long for a perfect road I don’t long for the work to get it done.

I think this work needs time, it needs openness, it needs acknowledging that I might need to rethink how I’m travelling. It will need grace from the people who love me and I will need to trust a great deal in the Master of restoration.

There’s a beautiful quote I often come back to that says, ‘Grace loves us as it finds us, but it doesn’t leave us there.’

2 Corinthians 3 describes it this way,

They suddenly recognise that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognised as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Maybe there are back roads, or main roads, or even highways in your life today that need the tiring work of restoration begun on them.

Perhaps there are roads that have been cleared and closed ready for work to begin, but it’s been easier to turn away and drive on different places than deal with the tough and painful process of the work.

Maybe it feels like you’ve been on road cones and detours for ever and you just need to hear the words – not long now, nearly there.

Wherever you are right now may you have courage to bear the pain, strength to persevere, Hope and Trust that the future will be worth the current delays.

May you have all the grace you need today.

 

On Getting Up After the First Hurdle

So… I love this idea of Advent so much I wrote a book. I thought about Advent so much, the season of it, the stepping outside the race. Determining to dwell in the season.

Then suddenly it was Advent – 3 days in and I realise I’m a hot mess.

My heart is resentful not rested.

My mind is scattered not settled.

I am tangled up in a sea of lights with a to-do list that is growing by the minute.

It’s like I’ve stood at the start line, in all the right gear, all trained, all shiny, all good to go and then as the starting gun has gone off I’ve run straight into the first hurdle and landed all skinned up and shamed while the others have sped on.

So I’ve stopped and been furious with myself. I’ve felt cross at others, I’ve entertained resentment. I’ve even made it a cup of tea and really got comfortable with it. I have tumbled down and stayed there.

Then, I’ve really stopped and waited and listened with more than my ears. I’ve been reminded that Advent isn’t about me creating something perfect – it’s about me receiving something perfect.

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That first arrival is not some grand display of power and might. It is a cosmic display of humility, of emptying, of being small – so small that God, the Word can fit inside skin.

Today I’m holding tight to the fact that Adventing well is not about what I can achieve in 24 days, doing it well is about letting Hope grow in my heart. Letting the inner part of me expand to prepare to host the Word.

I’m closing my eyes to the lists.

I’m quieting the resentments that try to tell a tale that I am put upon, that I am put out, that others are getting in the way of me doing well.

I am taking myself to the unholy smell and mess of the manger to realise what Hope was laid to rest there. To receive Hope.

To realise that the answer lies not in the doing but the dwelling.

Sometimes the best of all achievements is the letting go. The laying down the burden of perfection and the disappointment that minimises the everyday joys.

My word for today is receive.

Today I’m letting go of every expectation of me. I am turning my face to the Light. I am saying – here is an open door. I need you. I needed you to come. I need you to come again.

Right now I need you in this messy sacred moment.

I am taking seriously the invitation to receive Him.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 1

I come to receive. I want the best gift of all. I want you Jesus.

 

 

Praying for the One I Wish I Was

Somewhere along the way from childhood to adult it comes, this realisation that every one of you doesn’t get to grow up and marry a prince, or win x-factor, get the olympic gold, or win next top model… or whatever childish dream was ‘the’ thing we all wanted to be.

… and so when it dropped like a pebble into a pond that we all couldn’t be ‘that thing’ we all wanted the ripples didn’t just lead me to grow up and put off childish dreams

because dreams, hopes, visions – those things are the stuff of humankind from ghetto to castle – we all dream, desire, hope

… the ripples whispered it across my subconscious and suddenly the others became ‘competition‘ and there was only one pie and we were all wanting a slice, the biggest slice. And there were only so many slices.

Suddenly a person succeeding at what I want desperately with my own heart isn’t a cheerful reminder that it can happen… that person becomes a sign that I’ve missed my slice, that they got there first

and that wicked whisper points out their shortcomings
and it points out my shortcomings

and it tells me that they aren’t my sister or brother, they are my competition

since when did a person become our competition?

and when the whispers of judgement are finished
and the whispers of condemnation are finished

I’m left with a stomach full of dissatisfaction and hopelessness

So I am changing the channel.
I’m hearing the words of Jesus that says, It is to my father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples

Because we serve a God who wants us all to be fruitful, to be bearers of his glory, to use our gifts at the extreme ends of our ability – extended by His anointing.

So this is how it works – everyone I look at who seems to be doing what I wish I was I’m praying for them. I’m not entertaining a searchlight of judgement on them. I’m praying all God’s best for them, for them to be more successful, for them to be more influential, for them to get more opportunities, commissions, invitations, for them to reach further, shoot higher, be blessed.

And when I start to worry that I’ve missed out on a serve of that pie I so desperately wanted I’m pulling up my seat at the table and I’m realising I was never competing with anyone. I look down and see the pie in front of me it’s all for me.

Because dear one, you have been served up your own pie.
This journey, there is room for you, there is room for me and we aren’t competing for a serving of the same pie.

Let’s all of us stop thinking of others as our competition and start championing the cause of everyone.

I’m singing loud these words over you today dear heart:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;

    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary

    and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices

    and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart

    and make all your plans succeed.

 May we shout for joy over your victory  

and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.
Psalm 20v 1-5

Today I’m praying for champions, for the ones who appear not to need any help because they already have it all. I’m praying for every one of them like my dreams depend on it.

I’m praying success, peace, provision, influence, joy, opportunity, invitation.

I’m finding my peace in seeking God and trusting that other people doing well is absolutely as it should be.

Because even Moses needed people to hold up his arms and maybe your faithful blessing of another person might be an arm-supporting breakthrough in the battle for many.

Maybe letting go of covetousness is a commandment for our freedom. Maybe we are lessened by jealousy and comparison in a way that limits us.

God let me be one who truly champions the giants. Give me the heart of Jonathan to stand alongside David and pray his success even though that feels like my diminishing. Strengthen the heart that feels scared of missing out. Let me love with an expansive heart that sees no-one as competition. 

on the surface cleaning

I’m not a great cleaner

the tedium of tidying and scrubbing surfaces to find them immediately defaced by the progress of family life that marches with steadiness straight after them… it breaks my will to start

but when we have people coming over suddenly I am motivated – heaven forbid they would see me for what I really am

when it comes to the possibility of judgement, I suddenly care

when someone else is looking, it suddenly matters to me what they might see

having a tidy clean house all the time – I’m just not bothered enough to do the work of it
so what matters to me is not the truth of who I am, just the perception of who I am

Jesus had some run-ins with a group of people we love to judge on, The Pharisees

he described them like a cup that was shiny on the outside but filthy on the inside

and I am just the same – 
I want the perception of perfection over the reality of depth of character and substance

the inside of the cup is disease ridden, there’s so much brokenness in there its enough to be a lifetime of redemption work

but redemption work requires some partnership from me, not for salvation – that came free, but to allow the habits to die – the feet and voice that rushes to sin, the eyes that provide sweeping judgements, the selfishness that locks others out… the list of work goes on and on

but I have to allow myself to be stripped down, when we are asked to confess ourselves to each other did we really think that would be easy? how much do we want the promised healing that comes with it?

because it is much easier to turn up and appear shiny on the surface when it counts – to say the words and do the deeds that reassure others we have it together. We run a tidy house here.

Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart – if the prophet Samuel, one of our giants needed reminding of this perhaps we do too.

Today instead of tidying up for the visitors let’s be vulnerable. Let’s humbly arrive with breakfast spilled on our shirts, the confession that we left our bible at home because we haven’t read it for so long we couldn’t find it, let’s tell each other that we need a safe platform to confess our sinfulness

and let’s find one another faithful to journey with us, again, to the hope found at the bottom of our darkest moment – the foot of the cross.

Because, He who began a good work in us will be faithful to bring it to completion.

Let’s open the lid, unlock the door, let the light in so that the real work of tidying up can be done for good.

God, it breaks my heart how well the label hypocrite fits me. 
I need you to do the real work in me, the work that no-one might notice or applaud, the work only you can do and the work that matters more than any set of good works I might achieve. I need your forgiveness and mercy – in greater measure than anyone will ever know. 
You are my only hope.