Four candles…

If you’re familiar with The Two Ronnies (a UK comedy) you’ll know the humour contained in the words ‘four candles’.
In the sketch, a hardware shop keeper and customer become increasingly frustrated by misunderstandings. Word play and homophones result a series of wrong items being proffered, including ‘four candles’ rather than the required ‘fork handles’.

Something similar has happened to me. Last year we had exterior work undertaken to improve access to our home. Late one morning, one of the team tapped on the door and asked if he could borrow a fork.

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Handing him a garden fork, he broke into laughter and said “I meant a fork to eat my pasta lunch with!”
The incident caused a lot of hilarity that day, and I still laugh when I think about it.

We all misunderstand things at some point. Sometimes it can inject humour into a situation, but other times it can send us round in circles.
I believe that our inner compass directs us to look for God, know God, love God and be at peace. But how often do our misunderstandings of the nature of God lead us to avoid God, reject God, fear God and be discontent?

The Jesuit priest, Gerry Hughes, defined sin along the lines of

‘not letting God be the God of tenderness, love and compassion that God is’

My life was profoundly changed by these words. As a vulnerable 7-year-old in an austere convent boarding school, I had been led to believe that God was an angry wrathful character who tolerated no mistakes. It was a massive misunderstanding, and thank goodness, I later encountered a completely different image of God. A God who delights in each one of us, and who longs for us to become our personal best through God’s fresh starts, encouragement, nudges, and affirmation.

So I’m reminded to keep checking that I’m on the right track, and when I’m not, to realign myself.
Maybe I’ll light four candles, remembering that we are each loved by God – Father, Son and Spirit…

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Truth is… Neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.
(Romans 8: 38-39)

 

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?

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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?

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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.

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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

It’s all in a name!

I’ve just had a bad dream in which I was the mother of not 3 children, but 8…
‘What’s so bad about that?’ you may ask. Nothing – apart from the fact that I didn’t know the names of my 5 ‘new’ children, and no one would tell me!
In the clear light of day, the dream has been a source of humour – jokingly I asked offspring ‘X’ what the name of ‘Y’ is, and the answer came “Well I could tell you, but that would be telling! I can however, name some of their qualities. They’re kind, caring, loving, generous, gentle, good humoured, witty, intelligent, wise, keen to help others…”

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Parents-to-be talk at length about what their baby is to be called.
There are books of names outlining their meanings, so that one can be chosen to hopefully fit the new arrival.
Or maybe the chosen name is that of a much-loved relative, with the hope that the new family member might reflect similar personality traits.

Our name is so important. It gives us identity, and yet we are far more than a name.
Nature and nurture shape us into who we are, and I believe, the nudges of God too.
One of the ways I feel that God nudges me, is to be an encourager.
The other day I made a posy for someone, and their response was to exclaim my name – “That’s so J…, thank you!”

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Being true to our name is about being true to our call.
When God nudges, we are called from the crowd to do something that’s got our name on it. A meaningful and fulfilled life is about being ‘in the right place at the right time’ – not a place of our own making, but a place where we are aligned with God’s deepest hopes for us.

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With the ups and downs of life though, do we sometimes forget who we really are, and what we’re called to be?
Truth is, in times of waiting, I sometimes wonder if God has forgotten me. Do you too, wonder if God has forgotten you?
The good news is that this is not the case. We are known deeply to God – our very name is etched into God’s being. So no more bad dreams!

Truth is… “I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands” Isaiah 49:16