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)

Nudges…

I haven’t been writing recently as I’ve been busy bonding with a new partner.
Just over a month ago I had the news that a possible ‘match’ had been found for me, and the invitation to meet him…

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Yes, ‘him’ is a dog.
I’m deaf, and I’ve been waiting for an Assistance Dog for over two years, so imagine my delight at the prospect of a first meeting to see if there was a spark between us!
There was, and with the basics in place, ‘Marshall’ moved in and a trusting relationship is resulting.
Truth is, I’m learning a lot from him…

A successful partnership has trust at its core. A Hearing Dog trusts a deaf person to notice and respond to what it is communicating through its nudges, and the person trusts the dog to be with them 24/7. Like any meaningful relationship, it’s rooted in trust.
Isn’t this what God longs for us? That we trust God to be with us, and respond knowing that our best interests are at heart.

For Marshall and me, the nudges are all important. Marshall has been trained to nudge my leg with his nose and lead me to what needs my attention.

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His nudges are gentle yet firm, and always for a reason. He urges me to follow him, and in doing so, I find out what I need to know.
Isn’t this the way of God? That if we respond to the nudges we sense, we will discover more of what life is about.
For in doing what we have been gifted to do, and in being who we are blessed to be, we will find connection and fulfilment.

It is true that:

in giving we receive

Giving is about filling the space that has our name on it.
Marshall does this – and without looking for the approval of others. My affirmation of him is sufficient. But he only receives this because he keeps close to me, and senses my affection.
Isn’t this the same for us? If we are to sense deep affirmation and love, we need to keep close to God.

Truth is…. There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. (Acts 20:35)

 

White out!

My room has been transformed overnight!
No, it hasn’t had a surprise makeover, it’s been changed by the quality of light coming in through the window. Heavy snow has fallen here in Wales and I woke to a thick white blanket covering everything in sight.

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Outside everything looks different, and the light coming in, gives the room a different feel.

It reminds me of a television programme of a few years back. Called ‘The Home Show’, the architect George Clarke transformed houses into homes fit for purpose. ‘What’s the big deal in that’, you may be wondering…
Well, for starters it required the owners to put their complete trust in GC as a skilled designer. Secondly, he began every project by spraying the interior white, to enable a fresh perspective. It really was a white out!

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I get the feeling that in a similar way, God is asking me if I’m up for change. As a believer, I’ve definitely applied for an inner makeover, but how ready am I to consistently put my life in God’s hands?
Making positive changes is an ongoing process. I’ve been a follower of God for nearly 50 years, but truth is, there’s plenty of potential for further development!
We are called to trust God as our creator, designer, and project manager. God has a plan for each of us, but we need to follow it through by aligning ourselves.

As well as being called to trust in God, I’m also being called to let God do a ‘white out’!
GC white-washed the interior of every house so that all the irritating features were obliterated. The old had gone, the new had come. Only then, was new colour given to each room.
In the same way, the fresh start that God offers us is liberating. No longer do we need to be darkened by our shortcomings. If we are willing to put them behind us, we will be enabled to move on. God offers to white out our darkness, so that a fresh perspective leads to change, just like the interior of those houses undergoing a makeover.

The saying goes ‘Home is where the heart is’. We will feel increasingly at home in our hearts, when we take up the master plan – just like ‘my’ blackbird knows the best place to be!

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Truth is… ‘Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snowPsalm 51:7

Woe or Wow

There’s a roundabout in a nearby town that for a few months each year is breath taking – wild flower seeds have been scattered, and during the summer months it’s a mass of colour as different flowers bloom alongside each other.

I happened to drive round it earlier this week and my response was ‘wow’, but I also felt a tinge of sadness as autumn is setting in and blooms will soon be fading.

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Truth is, I’m not a winter person. I don’t look forward to the dark and the cold, but of course seasons are necessary for life to flourish.
I’ve just planted a mass of bulbs in the garden. You wouldn’t know it, as there’s nothing to show for my efforts, but I’m confident that next spring they will emerge from their deep dark setting. And that’s the point – it’s having hope in the waiting.

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This week a number of people have talked with me about the waiting time they are in:
Waiting to find work that matches their abilities and qualities; waiting for true friendships; waiting to feel more settled in a new role; waiting for an assurance to materialise; waiting for the baby to sleep through!
Many of these situations are waiting for sown seeds to take root and shoot.

As I think about these people, and my own ‘waits’, I am mindfully letting go of ‘woe’ and holding on to hope that there will be a ‘wow’ in due course:
No longer will that person be a square peg in a round hole; connections will be made; there will be a settling down; it will happen; and yes, broken nights will end!

So the roundabout flowers remind me that there are cycles in life. We have times when we visibly blossom and flourish, and other times when development is less obvious as it’s under the surface.

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And maybe these times aren’t all dark, for under the surface, seeds and bulbs are protected from harsh winds, driving rain and freezing cold. So much is happening even though on the surface it appears not, so I for one, am going to trust in what I cannot see!

Truth is… But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience’ Romans 8:25