Nestle or wrestle…

I became a mother in the 1980s when ‘skin to skin’ contact (where a newborn is immediately placed on their parent’s chest) wasn’t the norm.
Nowadays, it is widely recognised as a beneficial practice as it promotes a baby’s development and wellbeing.
Evidence backs up what’s right under our nose – that a deep bonding results when a baby has skin to skin contact by lying on its mother’s breast or father’s chest.

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As a believer, I find myself reflecting on my feelings about God.
In Christianity, God may be known as ‘Abba’, the Aramaic word for a father with whom there is a close relationship.
Truth is, I never had a close relationship with my father, but I see some wonderful fathers around.
The dad patiently teaching his son to ride a bike, demonstrating, encouraging, and steering him in the right direction.
The daddy attentively listening to his daughter upset by a nasty experience, and helping her find courage for tomorrow.
The dad inviting his offspring to share their worries, and helping them to work out what’s theirs to sort, and what isn’t their responsibility.

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Necessity meant that I had to be a very responsible child, and although this developed strengths, my default position can trip me up. I can find myself sorting out problems that aren’t mine to solve, or worrying about situations beyond my control.
However, if I pause in the midst of my striving and anxieties, I sense that God, Abba, is longing for me to experience an intimacy in my soul.
We are not designed to be fiercely independent. Instead, we are called to experience the liberation of interdependence and dependence. It’s about recognising where our responsibilities begin – and end. It’s about doing our best, and letting God do the rest.

Just as a baby is soothed by resting on the breast or chest, so God calls us to nestle, not wrestle.
If we can let ourselves be found by God and sense the warmth of true acceptance, if we can be still and become attuned to the Father’s heartbeat, then we will be touched by Abba love.

Truth is…  As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me (Psalm 131:2)

Enough is enough

With autumn approaching, it’s the time of year when people often say, ‘Where did the summer go!’
I know I feel a mix of fulfilment and frustration – I’ve enjoyed those moments when I’ve picked flowers from the garden, but many things I’d hoped to do, haven’t got done.

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I’m left with a ‘to do’ list that’s as long as ever, and truth is, rather than feeling refreshed and restored by the so-called summer break, I’m feeling weary and wonder if I’ll have the reserves to see me through the winter.
But enough is enough!

As a believer, in my right mind, I trust that God is enough. With God’s nudges, and God’s enabling, we are all able to do what truly needs doing. But sometimes our thinking gets clogged up.
Some people are susceptible to hardening of the arteries, but many more live with a condition of the mind that’s been dubbed ‘hardening of the oughteries’!
– Perfectionism or feeling a need for acceptance or approval or admiration, can make us feel we ought to do this or that or the other, and the opportunity for God’s grace to flow freely is restricted.

So when we feel overwhelmed by the apparent demands of life, it’s worth being honest and declaring to God “enough is enough”. For if we then loosen our resentments, disappointments and frustrations, we may well sense God responding: ‘enough is enough – I am more than enough!’

Jesus says he is the ‘bread of life’, and urges his followers to pray for daily bread.

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Bread gives us strength, and Jesus wants us to discover this in more ways than one!
Jesus also shows us what can happen when we give thanks, and look to God rather than ourselves, for sustenance in life. He took five meagre loaves, gave thanks, and then was able to feed a multitude of hungry people.

Maybe if we recognise what we have available to us, and hold an attitude of gratitude, we will discover that in God’s hands, we have more than enough!

Truth is… “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Freedom…

There’s been a fly buzzing around a windowpane in my room.

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It expended much energy and effort in relentlessly flying in circles, until my guiding hand re-routed it to the adjacent open window – and freedom.

Truth is, I’m sometimes a bit like that fly. Aren’t we all in one way or another?
When we feel trapped by circumstances or become entrenched by negative thought patterns, we can end up in ever decreasing circles. But if we took a moment to pause and consider possibilities, we might discover alternatives or recognise the need for radical acceptance.

Mindfulness and radical acceptance are concepts I learnt from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. Although Reinhold Niebuhr penned these words before the inception of DBT, they epitomise ‘radical acceptance’:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

We all have a choice as to how we respond to life’s ups and downs.
The ‘trapped’ fly reminds me to use my energy wisely, and focus on the possible rather than the impossible. If we are to ‘know the difference’, we need to be mindful and notice what is really going on. It means being honest with ourselves, and spotting all the hidden agendas we carry. Yet how often are we ‘mind-full’ and distracted by our own self-centred priorities, assumptions, fears and anxieties.

I believe that God offers us all freedom in Christ. Like my hand gently guided the fly towards the open window and freedom, so too does God encourage us to move from darkness to light.

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We are easily deceived by what promises to fill our emptiness. We can be addicted to so many things – obvious vices like food, alcohol, drugs, selfies or pornography, but there are less obvious addictions too, like an unquenchable thirst for acceptance, approval, affirmation and affection. At one level, many of these urges are basic human needs, but they need to be met in a balanced way.
For over three decades, a prayer from the Iona Community has been shaping my faith:

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

Truth is… The truth shall set you free. John 8:28