Duty or desire…

My Assistance Dog Marshall has been with me for six months, and we now know one another well! He and I have a strong bond, rooted in mutual trust. I trust him to be my Hearing Dog; he trusts me to care for him and keep him safe.
The key to our strong relationship is that it’s reciprocal. I love Marshall for simply ‘being’ himself, and this love precedes anything he ‘does’ for me. Meanwhile Marshall flourishes in my affection and is eager to please.

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I think all this has parallels with our relationship with God. There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we do that makes God love us less. God simply loves us for who we are. We are after all, called human ‘beings’ rather than human ‘doings’. God must long for us to know ourselves loved, as this frees us to love in response, with any sense of duty being replaced by desire. Genuine love makes life better all round.

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At the beginning of our partnership, Marshall was dutiful. He was simply acting out his training, alerting me to sounds, or waiting beside me for my next command. But now he has got to know me and realises I have his best interests at heart, he’s no longer acting out of duty, he’s responding out of a desire to do his best.

Duty or desire…

Truth is, I’ve known what it is to be dutiful. As a convent schoolgirl, I was taught to be ‘good for God’ otherwise vengeance would follow. Fast forward a few decades, and I now believe in a God who builds us up, not one who beats us down. I only have to look at Marshall to see that it’s no good controlling him through fear. A threat might work in the short-term, but long term our relationship would be damaged. He would mistrust me and be fearful.
So we needn’t be slaves to fear and duty, we are called instead to receive God’s love and desire will follow.

Truth is… ‘So then, you are no longer a slave’ Galatians 4:7

Ready, steady, go…

Sports Day, and children lined up waiting for the teacher to start the race with the words “Ready, steady, go”. Sometimes there are ‘false starts’ with someone overstepping the mark, and they have to be called back into line.

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– I remember that scene from my own school-days, and truth is, as an adult I sometimes find myself running ahead in life.
Fear is like a starting pistol. Something fires off, and I find myself propelled into the future with thoughts like ‘What if…?’ ‘Then what…?’ ‘How will I… ?’ ‘How will they…?’ And running ahead in my mind, I stumble.

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I haven’t got the answers, because the answers aren’t yet in sight – they are round the next bend on the track, and clearly in God’s sight. I believe that God has the answers, but we won’t see them until the time is right – simply because we wouldn’t understand. This is a thread that runs through the Bible:

God – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”
(Isaiah 55:8)

St Paul – “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror…what I know now is only partial”
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

So where are we on the track of life?
Are we in the right lane, or do we need to realign ourselves? Are we ready and steady, with God as a firm foundation?  Are we set to go, trusting God to enable us?

At times when I find myself making a false start (fuelled by fear) or overstepping the mark (propelled by panic), I find it helpful to remember that at school I was a competent cross-country runner. I had stamina. It came from commitment, perseverance, and wanting to do my best. All these qualities are transferable to daily life and faith in God.

It requires trust though. Trust that God knows what’s going on in our lives, and can weave our circumstances into a bigger picture, where different strands of different stories come together in ways we cannot imagine.
I’m grateful to a friend who reminded me of this recently:

Truth is…. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life. (Philippians 4:7)

Pay attention!

This week I nearly killed a Red Kite.

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(Overseas readers – this is a large bird of prey and a protected species.)
But before you report me for coming close to breaking the law, I should add that this definitely wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list on Tuesday!
I was in fact, driving along a main road when a Red Kite swooped down immediately ahead of me.

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With nothing behind, my instant reaction was to brake hard, and the slowing of the car gave the Kite a split-second opportunity to change direction and soar up and over.
Fast response prevented a collision, but there were other factors too that contributed to relief all round.
I was driving in a speed restricted area so I was travelling at 40 rather than 60 mph; my deafness makes me visually highly aware; I have quick reactions.

All this got me thinking – how do I ‘travel though life’?
At a ‘speed appropriate to current conditions’, with ‘due care and attention’, and responding in a ‘timely manner’?
Truth is, not always.
Sometimes my ‘to do’ list drives me forward without stopping to check out priorities. I’ve therefore had some timely reminders this week:

Just as a speed limit increases the chance of drivers responding in time to pedestrians (and Red Kites!) so too are there benefits from slowing down as we travel through life.
It gives us the chance to notice what’s going on around us, and become aware of who we need to ‘look out for’ – in all senses.

Just as an accident was averted because I was travelling with my eyes on the road, so too is it good to keep focused on what really matters in life.
It can be easy to lose sight of our core values and true goals. Fear, anxiety, impatience, doubt, and superficial desires can blinker our vision. But if we pause, and like a hovering bird get an overview, we can realign and respond to the currents around us.

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So this week, I’m very relieved not to be a killer!
May I remember to pay attention…

Truth is… ‘Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts’ Proverbs 3:24

 

 

 

Leaps of Faith

The August Bank Holiday weekend always brings back memories – something along the lines of ‘all’s well that ends well’!
On the holiday Monday a few years ago, our daughter’s 21st birthday request was to get the family together at Go Ape (a high wire tree top ‘adventure’). At this point I should mention that although I am brave in many ways, my courage doesn’t lend itself to heights so I was definitely going the extra mile!

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It was one It was one of those crisp early mornings, cold but bright. We gathered for the obligatory safety briefing and were warned of all the dangers (as well as how to avoid them). At that point my knees started to shake, I think more from fear than cold!
But you know what, it turned out to be one of the most exhilarating times of my life. I was on an adrenaline high for days afterwards, and it was because I’d faced my fears (as well as having a fab time with the offspring!)

Fear has two possible responses: Forget Everything And Run… or Face Everything And Rise.

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At Go Ape I learnt so much from rising above the fear and venturing into the tree tops. I discovered that inwardly naming my fears put them into perspective; I discovered the power of ‘just do it’; I discovered the enabling that comes from group encouragement. I climbed heights and crossed breadths in many different ways!

Truth is though, my fear at Go Ape was unfounded. Yes, I could have fallen, but if I had, the safety line that is clipped on at the beginning of each challenge, would have prevented serious injury.

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‘Always stay attached’ was the mantra given in the high wire adventure briefing, and as a believer, I find this useful when facing everyday fears.

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I remind myself:
Always stay attached to God.
Deliberately ‘clip on’ at the start of the day, and reconnect as necessary.
Notice the footholds, and use them.
Feel for the grasping points, and hang on.
– And every so often there’ll be a zip wire that will be so exhilarating, you’ll shout yessssssss!

Truth is… Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ 1 Peter 5:7

The tide has turned…

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Do I hold the record for procrastination?
For years – 35 to be precise – I’ve felt a niggle to write.
I’ve even had titles: ‘Images & Reflections’ dates back to 1982 when I was working at the Abbey on the Isle of Iona, but guess what, I’ve just discovered that 10 years ago someone else produced ‘Iona: Images and Reflections’, so I’ve long missed the boat!

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Thank goodness then, for a very patient God, for the tide has turned within me.
I’m now charting new waters and have decided to venture beyond my ongoing journals.
There’s been a shift and I’ve decided to blog.

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Writing for me, is a way of making sense of life from a faith perspective.

God, our creator, has high hopes for us, urging us to discover our true selves,
but so much can get in the way.
Truth is, self-doubt and fear of failure are just some of the seas I’ve been sailing.
These fears have left me wrecked at times, but I’ve never been beyond God’s rescue.
Time and time again God has helped me to my feet,
yet rather than letting go of my fears, I’ve often let them hold me in their grip.
At worst I’ve not let God take my hand, I’ve been afraid of the unknown.

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Now though, it’s time to change in a deeper way.
It’s time to ‘put my hand into the dark and find it held.’
How about you? Do fears sometimes knock you off course?

The good news for all of us, is that it’s always ‘better late than never’
and it’s definitely ‘never too late’ – whatever form our particular procrastination takes.
So let’s not look back with regret, but forward with hope.

Truth is… I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me’ Philippians 3:13