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.

 

Permission

Have you ever been caught jumping in before you had permission to do something? Like that time you assumed the baking was for the family and cut a slice of too-good-to-be-true cake and then found out it was for someone else?

Like the 2-year-old boy who discovered all the wrapped Christmas presents hiding in bags ready for unwrapping – every single one?

We get taught it early to wait for permission. Ask before we take, to make sure it’s our turn before we get on the trampoline, to wait for the all-clear.

I feel like this is a thing I’ve taken and made my own as an adult. Like it’s not okay to launch into the great adventure before being told I’m allowed to.

rose stained glass

I’ve waited and waited for someone else to believe in my competence.

I’ve hoped to hear someone say – we’ve made a space for you, we’ve created a platform, we want you, we need you, it’s your turn. I’ve watched people get promoted, I’ve watched people be ‘discovered’, I’ve wondered and wondered when it will be my turn.

I’ve realised I’m living loud and bold in some things but in others I’m fluttering, unsure on the periphery waiting for permission I don’t actually need.

When I think about Jesus and his dealings with people they seem to be initiated with a ‘come’ or a ‘go’.

come to me you who are burdened and I will give you rest,

let the little children come to me

come and follow me

then there are the go’s

go and tell the world

go back to your servant and it will be as you have asked

go and live free from sin

Jesus didn’t say

wait until you have completed my special checklist

wait until you have a following

wait until someone else decides you are ready, competent, qualified.

The only wait the disciples were given was to wait for the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit who is all the power, peace, grace, strength and permission we need. This week I’m challenged to stop wasting time looking for permission to do something and start investing my effort and thought  and prayers into how I can get on with doing the things that make my heart beat fast.

As I go towards these things I remind myself that the One is with me and that His permission, approval are all I need and that He is more than capable of making a way for each of us.

Be brave today dear heart and live free to be all you have been called to be.

xxx

Masterpiece

I like to have a word for the year. Some sweet thing dropped into my heart that ripples through the year and holds me like an anchor when the tide comes in and the waves begin to crash around my little boat.

The word, my word, for this year is masterpiece.

masterpiece

I’m not much one for making masterpieces – my hems are seldom straight when I sew, and I never quite measure properly when I bake, and for the love of literacy I ought to conquer the common comma… but I don’t.

Masterpiece seems a little pretentious; self-absorbed, prideful even. It’s not that I think I am capable of creating masterpieces… far from that.

This word has grown in me though, swelled and enlarged, since I read this sentence:

Creation then, is not the aftermath of a battle but the plan of a craftsman. God made the world not as a warrior digs a trench but as an artist makes a masterpiece.

Timothy Keller – Every Good Endeavour.

Too often my world, my ‘work’, my doing and being is treated like a warrior digging a trench.

I feed myself a narrative that is filled with the sighing of the small niggles, the mundane requirements, the hard, the tiring, the small. Yet, here I am encountered by a different invitation.

The invitation to work, live, endeavour, strive as an artist who is working on a masterpiece.

I have but one opportunity to pass through this year. One chance at today – at its mundane and its extraordinary – and I can treat them as a trench to dig or a masterpiece to create.

This is my word.

This is my invitation – to partner with the one who makes a masterpiece from dust and words. Who gives honour and beauty to the small and to the great.

This is my challenge – to shift the way I think about the everyday, the painful, the boring.

When I look at the masterpiece makers of the world I am sure that the creation of those masterpieces required a great deal of boring, a great deal of perseverance, a great deal of belief that the masterpiece would come from the application, discipline and doing of the daily work.

Masterpiece is my word for the year. May it skip like a skimmed rock across the waters of my life and ripple out and out and out until I see, and realise, and commit, to being an artist not a trench digger.

Do you have a word for this year? Do you see yourself as an artist in the day-to-day? Do you glory in your ‘work’ as an opportunity to make beauty?

May we all be artists, and may the work and living of 2016 be truly a masterpiece in your life and the life of others. xxx

Adventing – Anticipation

It happened a lot during my childhood, the slowing of time in relation to the height of my eagerness for an event.

A party invitation that didn’t start until 2pm made a day drag on and on, the ticking clock interminable. Lying in bed for the prescribed one hour Sunday afternoon rest, seemingly an hour without ending.

As an adult, in the rush to December 25th it can feel impossible to carve out even a minute to catch breath, to think of anything other than the onslaught of end-of-school requirements, present organisation, family commitments, friendship commitments.

Suddenly the season of Christmas has disappeared into a dark tunnel with a fast oncoming train labelled ‘Christmas Day’.

I love the word season – the implication of the gentle breaking through; of changes that herald a shift. The first green shoots of Spring, the daffodils, the build up… that results in full glory, or depth, or fullness of a particular season.

A season wraps its tendrils around us… lures us into a different place. It doesn’t smack us directly in the face like a hurricane. So I desire a season to advent in.

BTL - John 14:15-21

My plan this Advent, as well as doing my book with my children, is to capture a sense of growing anticipation. As Christians the season of Advent is actually about, looking forward to the second arrival of Jesus. The time when all will be put to rights.

The time when we will finally see face to face what our hearts have so longed for.

So I will be taking some of the words from my children’s book and weaving them into my own reflections. I will be looking backwards, as the Trinity was wrenched and the world received the word made flesh, and I will be looking forward anticipating the Great Arrival that is still to come.

In the forward and backwards I will be looking to pause, to wait, to be awed by the Presence that dwells with us, in us, through us.

I hope you will journey with me and with my family as well tip toe along the edges of

Hope come

and Hope still to come.

May we all know a season of Advent, a season of Hope and a true season of Joy.

xxx

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. 

When You Don’t Have Any Left


Today I read this

not because you must, but because you are willing,


Peter wrote this when he was talking to people in leadership about watching over those entrusted to them.(1 Peter 5v2)

How much of our lives are ruled by ‘musts‘?

How many sighs come from us because we must do – dishes, feeding, working, responding to emails, calling that less-than favourite person, reaching deadlines, listening to our children, ….

Is your diary filled with musts?

Is your heart filled with musts?

Does your life feel like one great ‘must‘?

Perhaps followed closely by it’s horrible twin ‘if only‘??

And isn’t the most important thing of all the state of our heart? 

Because we might do it all – serve, be an example, achieve, attend, be all things to all people – but without love I am a resounding gong. (1 Corn 1v13)

I think perhaps if those ‘good works’ come from a resentful, restless, self-ambitious heart then they are a bit like wood, hay and stubble. 

Maybe today we need an invitation to let go of the grip that must driven resentment has on our hearts. To leave it, and to look to the one who gives us the strength to look at the true depths our heart has sunk to… and who tells us that the purifying work is his.

sometimes the work is hard

sometimes there is no recognition and praise

sometimes we are call to the cross

but…..

we can be willing

willing

vulnerable, empty of cup, worn and broken but willing.

This is where I want to be. I don’t want to be a mighty mountain of musts, noticeable, grand but hard and immovable. I want to be a feather – picked up by the breath of his whisper and moved, because I am willing.

It seams to me there is no ‘because you must‘ there is an invitation to life ‘because you are willing

I want no love from someone who must love me. I want to be loved by someone willing to love me.

I want to be embraced by someone willing to see beyond my imperfections – and I want to serve, live and give my life to relationships, work, the journey because I am willing.

How about you?

not because you must,
 but because you are willing,