Keeping it for best

I like charity shops – there’s something satisfying about giving items a new lease of life.
But something that always catches my eye are items still in their original packaging – maybe someone saved them for ‘best’, and sadly that time never came.

1a216b3c563b3630e510df0ce312a8d6.rev-d0175f3.0322401-350x350 (2)

Going to charity shops therefore reminds me of the importance of making good use of what we’ve got, not only in terms of our possessions, but also of our attributes and abilities.

It’s been said that ‘life isn’t a dress rehearsal’ – we only get one life, and it’s for living!
Truth is, sometimes a fear of failure keeps me in the wings and prevents me from taking my place in life. However, if we wait until we’re completely sure that we’ll succeed in whatever it is we want or need to do, then probably we’ll miss our cue.
So I’m learning that rather than waiting for self-doubt to diminish, it’s better to ‘just do it’.
We don’t have to be perfect. Actually, some of our best moments are probably ‘unscripted’, when we step out into new scenes and discover new roles.

As well as noticing unused items in charity shops, under-used items also catch my eye.
In the theatre an understudy is seldom used, but none of us are understudies in the theatre of life. As Judy Garland said:

“Always be a first rate version of yourself,
not a second rate version of someone else.”

We therefore need to take on our true character, and live it out fully.
I believe that God has made each one of us, and that if we realise God’s hopes for us, life will be more fulfilling.
Seeing a lovely, but barely used, mug on a charity shop shelf when it might have brought much everyday pleasure, is a reminder to make the most of each day by being more fully our true selves.

081006cr_cornish_red_6oz_mug_ls

Let’s not be mugs!

Truth is… God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings 1 Peter 4:10

What on earth…

In the last few weeks several people have shared with me, their uncertainty as to what on earth they should be doing. Life seems to be raising lots of ‘what/where/when’ questions.

faq-2027970_960_720 (1)

Truth is, I ask myself the same questions. I don’t have a recognised job, but I am occupied from dawn to dusk; I don’t receive much in the way of recognition, but deep down I think I am doing the right thing; I don’t have promotions to secure, but does this really matter?
Years ago, I worked for the Iona Community, and a line from one of the liturgies imprinted itself on my mind:

You [God] promised us nothing by way of success, possessions, recognition, or reward.
‘These things will come at the right time when you walk with me’ you said.

‘God’s timing’ isn’t about some puppeteer pulling strings, but about us being receptive and responsive, no strings attached. It’s not about bargaining, but believing.

So, what are some answers to ‘what on earth’ questions?

First, I believe that God’s approach to our road trip through life, is often different to ours. I’m the kind of person that likes to know where I’m going and how, but God seems to favour last-minute arrangements.

2000px-Doomsday_clock_(2_minutes).svg

And for good reason. It gives God positive opportunities to provide for us. It’s not for nothing, we are urged to pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ Matthew 6:11
‘What on earth’ is about putting our gifts, abilities, and resources to best use. It’s not about recognition or reward, but filling the gaps we see and finding fulfilment in this.

Next, I believe that we hold within us, the answers to our ‘What on earth’ questions. Other people can listen, reflect back, and encourage, but we have to recognise God’s day by day itinerary for ourselves.
A piece of advice that I follow, is that when unsure of what you’re meant to be doing, go back to God’s last clear signpost, and take it from there.

Third, I believe that when we feel we’ve hit ‘the wall’, it’s not the end of the road.

dead-end-95476_960_720

Maybe something was right for us when we first set out, but now the landscape has changed.  Or maybe we made a misguided choice to begin with. Whatever, I believe that nothing is beyond the touch of God.
But it’s not a magical touch, it’s an enabling nudge – urging us to become more fully our true selves.

Truth is…  Send your light and your truth, may they lead me. (Psalm 43:3)

 

It’s a personal matter!

‘Tis the season for personalisation. My inbox and letterbox are full of offers to print the name of my partner / children / cat / dog on a potential Christmas gift, or even on something for self. Take this morning – I opened my emails to be faced with this question: Do you want your own personalised mug, for free – YES or NO?

Enamel_mug

Truth is, for a split second, it seemed an attractive idea. My tea mug is showing signs of age, but then priorities kicked in…
How do I like to start my day? – With a moment to align myself with God, not by getting diverted with the offer a free mug!
As I recognised this, I sensed an alternative offer from God:
Do you want your own time with me, for free – YES or NO?

question-mark-457456_960_720

God calls each one of us by name. “Come to me” God says, “and I will give you rest.”
Not an empty aimless rest, but rest from all the unimportant, unnecessary things and thoughts in our lives.
Aligning ourselves with God, allowing God into our chaotic, messy minds and lives, gives us a fresh perspective. It prioritises what really matters, and what’s got our ‘name’ on it. For we are all called to be our true selves, making our unique mark on the people and places where we live out our lives.

functional-integration-1440

This call is tailor made, unlike the offers to personalise goods which aren’t actually very personal –  I don’t have a dog or cat, so offering me food dishes with their name, misses the mark. Not only that, I don’t think it would be possible for a dog or cat to read ‘Fido’ or ‘Fluffy’ on their personalised bowl!
In contrast, God gifts us and calls us to put our particular attributes and abilities to good use. We will never be called to do the impossible. The challenging – yes, sometimes – but to learn is to become more fully ourselves.

To be called by name catches our attention, just like the attention of a young child is caught when their name is written into a story. It’s personal…

Truth is… “I have called you by name” Isaiah 43:1

Crunch time!

This year autumn has been different. Here in Wales it’s been unusually dry and I’m told the fallen leaves have been very crunchy! I’m deaf, so I don’t pick up sounds like that, but I do know how crispy it’s felt under foot.

autumn-leaves-1789665_960_720

Deciduous trees drop their leaves in response to falling light levels and colder temperatures.
If you like long words, it’s a process called abscission! This ‘natural detachment of parts of a plant, typically dead leaves and ripe fruit’ is necessary for fruitful subsequent seasons, and it’s got me thinking…

What needs detaching in my life, so that energy can then be channelled into producing new shoots and fruit?
Truth is, comparisons – I need to drop comparing myself to other people.
We are all unique, we all have different attributes and abilities, and to use the tree analogy, it’s pointless trying to produce pears, if you are in fact an apple tree!
Not only that, we all thrive when we grow in our own spot and don’t cast shadows on one another.

It’s been said:

“Be a 1st rate version of yourself,
not a 2nd rate version of anyone else”

When I came across those words of Judy Garland, it reminded me that comparisons are insidious.
They damage us by making us feel inferior or superior, and damage others by our resulting attitudes. Envy, or disdain, is life sapping.

So how do we move from the shadows cast by comparisons and other negative outlooks?
Maybe there is a further parallel to be found in the process by which trees drop their leaves:
At its base, each stalk has a row of weaker cells on top of stronger cells, and it’s the swelling of the latter that causes the leaf to fall. Likewise, if we let God’s strength swell in our lives, there will be displacement at our weak points and we will shed what we’re better without.
It’s a process, and change is gradual. But in God’s light, we will be a like a tree silhouetted against a bright sky, our true shape revealed.

images (7)

And rooted in truth and love, we will put out new shoots and bear fruit.
I think it’s crunch time for me, how about you?

Truth is… We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse… Each of us is an original’ Galatians 5:12

Blossom where you’re planted

This week I had nothing to do for 10 minutes! (I was waiting in a car while my son-in-law called into his local library.)
As I sat there wondering what this week’s blog would be about, I noticed some trees lining the pavement. At this time of year the colour of autumn foliage can be breath-taking, but it was their shape that caught my attention.

River_of_Blue

Where the trees were well spaced, each filled its place with beautiful symmetry.
In contrast, the trees that had grown in close proximity to each other had irregular branches, but viewed together as a whole there was an amazing pattern.

It got me thinking – what shapes life? Competition or cooperation?
In my school biology lessons I was taught Darwin’s theories about the ‘struggle for existence’ and ‘survival of the fittest’.
40 years later, I now found myself interested in what shapes growth – not from a scientific perspective, but from an everyday viewpoint.
What determines growth patterns, and what if we apply that question to ourselves?
– Circumstances yes, but also the level of awareness we have in our relationships with others.

Just as trees thrive best in the environment to which they are naturally suited, so too, do we. We all have different abilities (as a believer I would say God-given gifts) and we are most fulfilled when we are able to let these take root and bear fruit.
I enjoy using my practical and creative skills, and I want to be remembered as:

“a maker and a mender”

But as well as personal growth, we need to be mindful of how we fit into the bigger picture.
Just as trees grow alongside each other, and from a wider perspective can be seen to fit together, we too can flourish in relationship with one other.
Our attitudes though, aren’t always conducive to this. Truth is, I have a competitive streak, but ‘doing one’s best’ is quite different to ‘being the best’.

So this week I’m reminded to ‘blossom where I’m planted’

images (8)

– to recognise my gifts and use them for the good of others and enjoy fitting into the bigger picture – like those trees with their amazing pattern.

Truth is… ‘Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits’ 1 Corinthians 12:7