Standing tall…

As a child, I was the smallest in the class. I felt swamped by people in other ways too, as I was also bottom of the class. It took me a while to reach my full height in more ways than one, and truth is, I’ve got more ‘growing’ to do!
Haven’t we all…?

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Growing more fully into our true selves is a life-long process. It’s about standing tall, not being a shrinking violet; it’s about taking our place in the sun, not lurking in the shadows. But this doesn’t mean standing on others, or trampling them underfoot.

I’m inspired by Nikesh Mehta, a deputy director of GCHQ (the UK Intelligence Agency) who in a short BBC video speaks about daring to be different. He packs wise words into just a few minutes, and one of the things he suggests is finding a ‘champion’. He says:

It’s really important when you’re breaking new ground to find somebody who will encourage you to be yourself.

I guess we all benefit from having a champion in our life.
I believe that God, as our creator, is our ultimate champion. Having created each one of us with a unique combination of traits and gifts, God is clear about our potential and where our true fulfilment lies.
But God is not a remote controller. Rather, I believe that God can champion us through the words and actions of others. Champions come in many different shapes and sizes, so it can take an open mind and open mind to spot them.

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Champions sometimes confirm and affirm, other times they question and challenge, but always with our best interests at heart. It may be that they have the perspective to point out something that’s right under our nose, or maybe we are helped by them ‘being in our boat’ as we ride out a storm, or perhaps we gain courage from their belief in us.

As well as benefitting from champions, we can be champions ourselves. The world is a better place when we stand up for others and stand alongside them.
Life’s too short not to stand tall!

Truth is…  Listen, stay alert, stand tall in the faith, be courageous, and be strong.
(I Corinthians 16:13)

Behind the times…

My impression is that with the millennium, style and makeover programmes were all the rage. Maybe it was something to do with leaving the past behind and putting on the new. I’m not a follower of fashion, but such was their impact, that even I was aware of Trinny & Susannah and Gok Wan being fashionistas!
Stylists advise regularly taking a fresh look at one’s wardrobe to keep it up to date, and it strikes me that an analogy is to be had with our inner lives – what do we cling onto when it really doesn’t fit? What is outdated and needs replacing? What doesn’t really reflect our personality?

Out with the old, in with the new

Past experiences, including childhood circumstances, teenage tribulations and adult adversities, all have the potential to keep us behind the times. Truth is, I can sometimes slip into old thought patterns. Recently a friend commented that I don’t recognise my own value. Bang on, and it reminds me I have a choice. To continue to clothe myself in self doubt and dismiss the affirmation of others, or to step into the present and see myself as my friend sees me, as someone who quietly uses their God-given gifts, often in the back room.

Isn’t this true for all of us, that sometimes the past pulls us back? Echoes from the playground, the classroom, the office, or the clique in the corner, can catapult us back into previous life.  But we needn’t slip back into old thoughts and positions, like donning old, outgrown clothes.
As a child I loved the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker and the picture of the Shoemaker making perfectly fitting new outfits for the Elves.

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In a sense this is what God does for us today. Renewed and resourced, we can put on our true colours and be even more our true selves. Maybe for some it’s having the courage to try the ‘next size up’ in an area of life to see how it feels, while for others it may be to try something different.
As Gok says:

It’s all about the confidence

No more being behind the times then, in our inner lives!

Truth is… Baptised… you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. (Galations 3:27)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

 

 Lost and found!

Sometimes I forget the crucial thing!
Recently I went to buy a gift for someone – and forgot my purse.  However, going home to retrieve it, I found something of far greater value. On the tarmac in a car park, lay a Pandora gift bag, tied up with its distinctive silk ribbon.

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Inside was a smart box, and inside that, a sparkling ring. It was clearly ‘a gift for giving’ and had no doubt, fallen from someone’s shopping bag.
I scanned the area hoping to see someone searching up and down the rows, but there was no one fitting a ‘distressed shopper’ profile, so I took my find to the local Police Station.

Over the next few days, I wondered whether there had been a happy ending, and happened to tell the story to my daughter. “Oh goodness” she exclaimed, “someone’s just posted on Facebook ‘help, I’ve lost a Pandora ring…’”.
An exchange of messages resulted, and the owner and ring were reunited!

All this got me thinking about the ‘gifts’ we have, and whether we’ve lost any of them, momentarily or for longer?
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. They may be skill based – rooted in what we ‘do’, or personality based – arising from ‘who’ we are. In a competitive, performance driven society ‘do’ can flatten ‘who’, yet as human beings, it’s our humanity that can make the biggest difference to others.
So are any of our gifts like a like a ring that no one gets to see, because it’s in hidden in a box? Or maybe we haven’t even recognised some of them?

Truth is, I’ve sometimes compared myself with others and found myself wanting. I’ve found myself ‘wanting’, as in lacking their abilities, and wanting, as in yearning to be like them.

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But as a believer, I know that this is contrary to what God wants. God has made each of us to be unlike any other, and we will find true fulfilment when we are fully ourselves – precious, gifted and enabled by God.

So, the ring that was lost and found, is a reminder to come out of the box and sparkle…

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Truth is… You are precious in my eyes (Isaiah 43:4)

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.

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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’

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– 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