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

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)

 

How’s it going?

There’s something special about new beginnings.
I remember how I enjoyed starting a new notebook in school – all those empty lines waiting to be filled with carefully penned words!
Or newly fallen snow like a blank canvas – lots of opportunity to be creative!
Or making New Year resolutions…

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…an appealing idea, but truth is, I never had much success in keeping these!
My solution was to use my January birthday as an opportunity for another fresh start, but this too was short lived.  ‘How’s it going?’ wasn’t a thought that had a pleasing answer – unrealistic goals coupled with a perfectionist streak equalled disappointment…

With age, and finding faith, I take a different approach. Rather than making New Year resolutions, I choose a ‘word for the year’ and look for daily opportunities to put it into practice. Last year’s word was ‘trust’ (there were plenty of opportunities!) and this year’s word is ‘grow’. It’s about aligning myself with God’s hopes for me, so that I become ever more fully the person I’ve been made to be.

Like a plant that grows in the direction of the light, our growth is dependent on being out of the shadows.

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But I sometimes choose to remain in the dark. Self-doubt shrivels me; wrong priorities misshape me; fear of failure stunts me.

Thank heavens then, for a God with endless fresh starts for each of us.
We cannot live in the past, nor in the future. We can only live in the present moment, and like a present, it needs unwrapping. What have we been handed?  A little blessing to appreciate; a chance to make a small difference to someone’s day; an opportunity to face the fear and just do it!
Some days we will do better than others, but the call is to

keep on keeping on

As a believer, I trust in a God who doesn’t give up on us, and so a sense of God asking ‘How’s it going?’ is an invitation to be truly honest. It’s an invitation to let go and let God; to do our best and let God do the rest…

Truth is… ‘I make all things new, beginning with you, and starting from today’ (Song: WGRG, Iona Community)