Truly Known

I arrived at the grounds before the boy. He and his friends were walking together from school and I stood on the far side of the grass breathing in the crisp air of autumn, soaking in its rich hues.

A gravel path lead them to the corner – boys in uniform of similar size and looks. With the sun and the distance I wasn’t sure I’d be confident when he emerged on this common pathway.

And then I saw him… smaller than my little finger in the distance and I knew it was him. Absolutely knew it, the kind of knowing that comes from 10 years of watching in the closest spaces to the furthest distance eyes can reach.

An eye trained from years of watching rather than looking.

The stride, gesture of arm, turn of body, incline of head – so deeply rooted in my knowing that I know them without realising I do.

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In that moment I heard that whisper, so clear it could have been a shout, this is the knowing I mean when I talk about the hairs of your head.

This is the knowing that says, before a word is on your tongue I know it completely.

Not a knowing of facts for shows of intelligence or power. A knowing that comes from watching a person you love so much that you drink them in, all of them. A knowing that goes beyond a general description to a knowledge of a person you carry in your bones, in your ears, eyes, taste, nose, touch.

Knowing that begins to demonstrate a measure of how much you love a person.

Not knowledge to prove your love, like favourite flowers or songs. Knowledge that is simply there because you couldn’t not have it. Because you have noticed, you have loved, you have seen – closer than skin and across the assembly hall into a squinted distance.

Let us be reminded today that we are known.

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Truly known – not as a show of omnipotence or omniscience but knowledge that comes from being so dearly loved that we are instantly and totally recognised – every part known, every part loved, precious up close and far away.

As Paul put it, ‘dearly loved.’

I watched this boy across the field as he grew large, he unaware of my presence, my joyful, heart-swell at the all familiar shape of him. I recognised him, loved him and delighted in the thought of him looking up and seeing me watching him. I held my breath for that moment when our eyes saw each other and he knew I was there.

I would be there before he realised it, and I would continue to watch after he turned to play again.

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I would be knowing him whether he was aware of it or not.

Do you remember dear heart that you are known? Not a flashy impressive I can tell you facts and surprise you knowing, a knowing that comes from Someone who has watched, noticed, seen you… always.

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Poverty Mentality

As a child it wasn’t often we went to a house where a generous morning or afternoon tea spread was put on, but when there was we were usually told – just one thing (maybe two on an extremely special occasion). I would stand there in fits of indecisiveness wanting to make the perfect decision – desperate to have one of everything, haunted by the idea I might choose something dry and miss out on the truly gooey and delicious.

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(You can tell I am fully committed to the gooey slice and provision of baking in my adult life!)

I realise I carry this sense of only being allowed one good thing into my theology sometimes. It’s like I have a poverty mentality when it comes to all the goodness and promises of God.

I can believe that, in the death and resurrection of Jesus I have been given the most wonderful, earth-shattering, universe-changing gift. I know I am wholly redeemed, completely forgiven, totally accepted. Yet, suddenly when it comes to believing that the story will work out, the tears and disappointments will bear fruit, the missing out and longings will in some way be redeemed – I’m back to the girl at the morning tea.

I think I’m not allowed more, so I don’t ask. I stop asking, I give up seeking, I no longer lift my hand to knock.

I think that my day-to-day needs don’t matter.

I’ve finished the dialogue because, when the answer didn’t come instantly my way, I think there is no answer to be had. I have forgotten about the fruit born in patience, the character developed in persistence and the overarching deep-down-in-my-bones knowledge that the One who promised is faithful.

I read this by Nicky Gumbel the other day –

If God provided the ultimate sacrifice to meet your greatest need, will he not also provide for all your other needs?

(Jan 10th, Bible in one year app, from alpha international).

Isn’t it crazy to think of someone ready to go on a life-giving rescue mission to bring life to another would then turn around and not care how that life turned out?

That someone would put on a lavish celebration feast for someone then leave them to poverty and starvation afterwards?

plateJesus puts it this way:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12

Maybe our needs aren’t always met the way we hoped they’d be but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care or that we shouldn’t continue to believe for and ask for the ‘daily bread’ required in our lives.

We are invited to a table lavishly spread and to a generous host who can do, provide, and meet with us in ways beyond what we can imagine. We are also called to partner with that generosity as we live out our stories.

Live bold and prayerful dear ones, and may we all know we are offered more than one piece of all the goodness God has to offer.

xxx

** this is not a reflection on gaining prosperity, success and wealth as we might measure it culturally – it’s a reflection about trusting God to meet our needs, to care about our needs and to continue his goodness and generosity towards us all of our lives. **

The Tedium We Have to Do

So I’m sitting here stuffing an abandoned Mother&Son holiday project. The one I was sewing and he was stuffing, until he realised how tedious the stuffing process is.

It’s 34 degrees and I’m breaking out into a sweat just trying to push stuff into the guts of a particularly ‘home-made’ looking cat. It’s strange how, in the most mundane, when things are at their least attractive and most ordinary that we can realise truth.

Because, doing the battle, being glorious and victorious and wonderful… that’s the few moments that follow the hundreds of moments of doing the small, boring, tedious things that make us ready for the big moments.

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David – king, composer, leader of armies… he did a lot of time out in a paddock with sheep who, in my limited experience, don’t give a rats about who you are. They will still be stubborn, skittish and downright stupid. He wasn’t born into favour, he wasn’t an overnight success. There was a lot of ‘being faithful in the small‘ before there was any ‘this is your life’ glamour.

Ruth, in the line of Jesus, married to the most eligible of bachelors, she did a whole lot of journey, grieving, choosing her mother-in-law over what was familiar, cultural alienation, judgement, disapproval… all of that. All of that invitation to do the boring, hard, one shuffle at a time, sleep in a field, follow around other people picking up left-overs and act grateful – ness.

Because it’s what we feed ourselves with before the red-carpet event that determines how we will look in our dress in the spotlight when our moment finally comes.

If we want to be a writer – there is much writing unseen, much editing, much drafting and re-drafting and receiving of feedback before we are even ready for the publisher to reject it. The book we read, all shiny on the bookshop shelf, is a result of hundreds of unseen, boring to the point of collapse, missing out, track-pant wearing (ugh…must there be trackies??)…The writer does the tedious work.

The artist does the tedious work

The chef does the tedious work (and then works the most anti-social hours ever, and in the heat and noise and all the cleaning up – why people why?? – chefs are amazing, good food yes please)

So if I say that my passion is the One. If I think that I want to make a life of speaking, or writing, or teaching others then I need to do the tedious work of stuffing in all that I need. I need to feed my body – the whole thing –  to make it firm, to make it ready for the journey, to make sure that when that door does open I am not found naked and unready.

Let’s say that I meet a publisher who’s prepared to look at my manuscripts (which is like gold in the field of writing)… won’t it be to my shame if I have spent years saying how I want to be a writer and when the opportunity comes I don’t have anything to show them. Or what I have to show them is scrappy hurriedly done work, without the drafting, redrafting, refining…. I will miss out.

So as I sit here – stuffing a strange-looking cat toy, sweating and bored I am reminded that the work of the brilliant also includes boring behind the scenes work. It includes heart breaks, disappointments, getting back ups, trying agains, faithfully plugging away when no-one sees except the sheep and the other field workers – both of whom probably regard you as a nuisance.

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Don’t let’s fool ourselves into believing the lie of the overnight success.

Don’t let’s excuse ourselves from the work that is before us.

Don’t let’s believe that anyone has it all easy and doesn’t have to discipline themselves for the prize they want.

In His kingdom being trustworthy with the small unseen things is seen as an insight into our character and an indication of how we will cope on the big screen. Little things reveal big things about us.

Holy Spirit would you walk with us in the tedious places where we have to choose the hard over the path of least resistance? Would you give us vision and passion that carries us through the difficult places? Would you walk with us Jesus and would we follow your example of waiting, listening, praying, and learning in order to be bearers of much fruit? Father, when we are stuck out in the fields and we are tempted to believe that it doesn’t matter and no-one will ever notice, would you remind us in love and in challenge that you notice, and that we matter to you no matter how hidden we feel?

Reminding myself today to be faithful in the small, the tedious and the necessary in order to be ready for the exceptional, the exciting and the beautiful.

Galatians 6v9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I Want Bikkies

She said it loud enough for me to hear, this little treasure of 2 and a bit, tousled hair and perfect little face.

I sat near her and as the meeting went on she had a moment,
one of those moments where all of a sudden you know exactly what you want.
and she said it out,

I want bikkies

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And it echoed through me like a shimmer of joy – this uncensored, un-demanding, un-manipulative, statement.

This simple connection between what she wanted right in this moment – and saying it aloud without the need to demand or pretend it was something else.

And it whispered in my heart how I don’t say what I want.

Sometimes I imply, or suggest, or even demand.
Or I close my mouth tight and squash it down because I feel embarrassed by my desire, I feel like no-one else is saying or wanting it so why should I.

and let’s be honest – sometimes it is bikkies I want.

but other times it’s more

it’s
I want you to wait for me to finish speaking and hear my heart as well as my words
I want to be honest without being fearful or harsh
I want to be given an opportunity
I want you to take a chance on me

it’s
I want to please Jesus, even if embarrasses you
I want to live careless, instead of trying not to be too much
I want to be funny and serious, irreverent and awestruck all at the same time

I want to be Miriam 
and not the Miriam you’d like me to be.

It’s strange how I’ve become less skilful at saying what I want. Being able to state what I want or need with authenticity, and honesty, without fear and without manipulation, has gotten lost.

If I even own and understand what I want, I dither on the edges – trying to work out how to say it, if I should say it, what angle to come from. Like it’s more important how you hear it. I’ve complicated myself, I’ve censored myself, I’ve feared your reaction, and in reality I’ve tried to control you.

So today I heard truth from the sweet little mouth that sat next to me. Who realised what she wanted and stated it. I wonder if we could all do with a little more of this honesty, this simplicity, this authentic ability to state what we want come what may.

Because saying what I want, or need, doesn’t guarantee I’ll get it. But it does keep me free and honest.
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I think sometimes we hide behind words to protect ourselves from the disappointment of not getting what we really do want. Sometimes we get so good at feeding ourselves a story we start to believe it

like all the excuses we make aloud to stop ourselves from connecting with what our heart really wants, because it’s easier to act like we don’t really care than embrace the difficultly of longings unfulfilled

like the woman who says I want to be relevant to everyone, and not offend anyone so I need to temper my faith, when all she’s ever wanted is to recklessly pursue the One whose captivated her heart…

and I realise this thing…. that I’ve been so busy wanting it all, and wanting none of it that I have missed the glimpses of this thing I really want.

I want Him.

I undoes me when Jesus says to the disciples, ‘do you guys want to leave too?’
and Peter replies, ‘where else can we go? You alone have the words of life.’

and that is my thing… where else can my heart go?
because I want to be in His house
with his beautiful, messed-up, infuriating, slightly weird people

and I’m tired of pretending, and trying to convince myself that’s not for me
and I don’t know how it will look for a girl like me who loves The Church so hard;

because it beats in me for all of it
the high, the low, the community church with one musician in a musty hall, the slick huge congregation…. like it’s all a family to me. A family that confuses me and messes me up and makes me cry with anger when it starts shooting arrows at itself, and makes me cry with joy when it responds in love.

This is what I want – here in this sacred moment
I want to serve The Church, and a local church too to be certain, but The Church universal, with all my heart

to whisper to her when she is worn down and weary – nothing can snatch you out of his hand
to proclaim loud to her – your God reigns
to challenge her – this is how the world will know you are His, by your love for each other
to call with her – rend the heavens and come down
to see the creative unleashed – to give a platform for us to all share our gifting
to pray for her – may the people praise you, Oh God may all the people praise you
to stand unified – loving each other, other denominations, despite our differences
to teach her well – with integrity and sound theology
to prophesy faithfully – because God is speaking
to see her experience – Holy Spirit at work
to stand with her – and see the miracles we have heard of renewed in our day

to be clothed with strength and dignity together, 
to laugh with joy together, 
to work it out messy, humble, imperfectly 
together

and how does that happen?
and how do I get there?

I don’t know. That’s God’s job.

What I do know is I want bikkies.

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I want to serve, strengthen, encourage, bring joy, spend my life on The Church. Because I love it.

and today that is enough. To be able to say what I want and leave the rest.