Immeasurably More

Please, may I have some more?

There’s something quite awkward about asking for more…   And that awkwardness often stops me from asking.  Somehow the vision of a grubby little boy with an empty bowl swims into my mind.  But before I find myself humming songs from Oliver…

To be clear, I’m not talking about material wealth here,  although it may for many be quite reasonable to ask for more of that..  Today though, I’m thinking about other things I’d like more of:  faith, wisdom, passion, courage, forgiveness, healing, ability to receive God’s love, love for others, a sense of the presence of God…

But for some reason I find coming to God and saying “please, I want more” really difficult.   I feel I should stand back and let others go ahead of me.  Asking for more when I have already received so much from God feels greedy.  Worse than that it makes me feel as though I’m somehow not grateful enough for what I’ve already been given.

(Also, written on the wallpaper inside my head is a little sign that says “It’s not OK to ask for stuff” which applies in a million other situations, not just this one. – God and I are in the process of rubbing this -and some others-out, but that’s probably another postcard)

But for each of us, it is without question true that God has more for us in our relationship with Him.  More understanding, more faith, more peace, more presence, more.  And his pockets don’t hold a limited amount:  If he gives to me it doesn’t mean that someone else will miss out, if he’s already given me some faith I don’t have to say “OK thank you that will do”.   This isn’t a tea party at a little friend’s house my friends,  you don’t have to smile a polite smile and say “thank you, that was lovely, I’m full up now”.

I wonder what you hear from God when you look at this postcard of the ocean.  Every time I stand by the sea I think about this…  I scoop up as much water as I can hold in my hands and I think “this is how much of God’s presence, power and peace I have experienced so far’… and then I look up at the sea.

The difference between the water I can hold in my hands and the contents of the mediterranean… and then the atlantic is beyond my ability to comprehend.  It’s extraordinary to even to try to think about it.

That’s how much more there is to explore of God my friends, that’s how much more he has for you.

Immeasurably more.

You just need to ask.

MorePC

 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

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For your journal:  What do you want to ask God for ‘more’ of?   What stops you from asking?

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Spacewalking: life in the wilderness.

I watched the movie ‘Gravity’ last night, have you
seen it? I rather enjoyed it in a heart-in-my-mouth sort of
way. There’s a scene in it where a space-suited hero is drifting,
cut loose in the vast emptiness of space, alone and helpless.
And I suddenly thought, “I know what that feels like”.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t have a secret previous life as an astronaut (!) but I have had a ‘spaceman’ time in my life,
a time when all the things I did, all the things I knew, all the
things that made me feel ‘me’ were emptied out and I felt as
adrift and powerless as the untethered spacewalker in my
picture.

I often think and write about the seasons of life. Seasons of light
and darkness, seasons of
celebration and of grieving, seasons of
work and seasons of rest. I love this from Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
(NIV)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them

It tells me that this change from one season to another is a normal part of life.

My spaceman season was one of the hardest I’ve walked (or floated!)
through. In fact, it was less of a season and more of a space
between seasons – a wilderness.

I live in Nicosia, Cyprus, a city that has been divided for more than 40 years. The South is part of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus and the Northern half is in the area occupied by Turkey since 1974. The city’s two halves now have very different peoples, cultures
and languages. It is possible to walk through from one
side to another (with your passport), but to do so you have to
leave one ‘side’ and walk through the ‘buffer zone’- a gap of
about a hundred metres of emptiness between the two sides:
abandoned streets and buildings, layered with 40 years of
dust. No one lives there and no one goes there. Nothing happens
there.

My ‘walk’ from being a ‘normal’ person living in the UK
to being an expat person living in Cyprus felt very much like
a walk from one half of this city into the other. Eventually
I ended up in another place, with new friends and a new
understanding of what God is calling me to do. But for a while
there I was trapped in the emptiness of the buffer zone; in a
nowhere-space between places.

If you’ve been there, you’ll know how hard it is. There are lots of things that can happen to cause an emptying, a time where God strips away roles, tasks or relationships that have filled your time and given you a sense of purpose. There is a sense of grieving for the ‘place’ you
have left behind and uncertainty about what the place that lies
ahead will look like, and about how long it might take to get
there!

I’d like to tell you about how marvellously I pressed into God when I was floating in space… but honestly?

I spent most of my first year in the wilderness confused,
frightened and very, very angry. It took me a long time to
turn and lean on Jesus.   When (about 14 months in) I eventually
calmed down enough and was able to ask God about the blank
sheet of emptiness, he showed me something very beautiful.
wildernessRight down in the corner of the blank sheet, I saw a tiny seedling. Something growing, something completely new. And I realised that the clearing, the emptying of my life had made space for new things
that there would never have been room for before.

Eventually I learned to look at the emptiness of
my wilderness and see it differently.

Instead of endless, terrifying nothingness (like my spaceman picture above), I began to see it as a blank sheet of artist’s paper on which God could ‘start again’ and paint something entirely new. The
emptying, painful though it is, makes room for a re-filling.
As my perspective changed I saw that emptiness is full of
potential, of endless possibilities. When you start to see it
that way, it’s just about possible to surrender to it, and maybe
even to embrace it.

 

This is something I wrote which sums up some of the things I learned in my wilderness. I wonder what you’ve learned in yours?

wildernesspoem small
wilderness
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For your journal: If you’re in a wilderness of some kind or another, write God a letter… tell him what it feels like to be in your wilderness. When we’re angry we often’punish’ God by not speaking to him. Break the silence!

Song of songs 8:5 asks “Who is this coming up from the
wilderness leaning on her beloved
?”

What can you do in your wilderness to lean more on Jesus, so that when you come up out of it you will still be leaning?

More than you can Handle?

“God will never give you more than you can handle”

This well-meant little piece of not-actually-scripture is, I’ll admit, one of my ‘pet peeves’.  It annoys me because it seems to be saying that whatever difficult or awful circumstance you might be walking through you ought to be able to stoically bear it alone.  It also suggests that strength is to be rewarded with pain, more strength with more pain – Rubbish!

Pain and suffering is a part of life.  Jesus never said that it wouldn’t be (rather the opposite).  But I know many people who, even as I’m writing this are in the middle of circumstances: financial, physical, emotional that no-one should be expected to be able to ‘handle’.   I know that some of them desperately need to have permission to ‘not handle it’ alone so that they can be free to cry, shout, rest, lean on others and above all lean on the God who loves them.

 

Here’s what I think is true:

Sometimes it’s OK to say to God your Father “I can’t handle this – I need you to step in with a miracle here”   And this picture of a falling doll being caught is meant to show something of what I think our Father replies to us…

handlewords

I pray that today you will receive permission from God to lean into him.  To fall, and be caught.

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For your journal:

What things are there in your life that are hard to handle?  What keeps you from letting go of your need to handle them alone?

 


 

 

Little Flowers : : my messy beautiful : : Postcards from Heaven

A while ago Glennon Melton of Momastery.com posted a challenge.  -If we believe that sometimes what’s messy about us is also what’s beautiful about us, then we should write about it… Here’s mine:

I went for a walk this morning to have some time to ask God about what I should paint and write. The one thing I noticed was that the orange trees in my neighbourhood are just bursting with hundreds of insignificant little white flowers.  Now, when God draws my attention to something like that it’s usually because He has something to say to me through it.  And today He said: “that’s your messy-beautiful:  You’re an orange blossom… but on the inside you really want to be a rose:  a huge, red, eye-catching rose, that is perfect and unblemished and beautiful and that everyone notices.

Hmmmm.

OK, I admit it.   I’m an orange blossom: small, a bit damaged, no shelf-life unless stuck to the tree and in the middle of a wonderful community of a million other flowers just like me.  And God is OK with that… but I struggle with it!

The bit of me that wants to be a rose is called something like, “I need to be significant”.  It’s not small.  It’s like a deep, deep hole that’s been there forever and grows every time someone forgets to copy me on an email, or ask my opinion about something.  A huge gaping unfillable bucket of a hole in the middle of my heart.  Now that’s messy.

I’ve been walking with Jesus for a while now, so I know that I’m very important and significant to Him.  I also know that only He is able to fill my need-to-be-important bucket.

But here’s the thing- every time something comes along that I could use to measure my ‘significance’, I look away from Jesus and I try to fill the bucket again myself.  And IT NEVER, EVER WORKS…

bucketI can confirm that it is impossible to fill up that bucket with nice facebook comments or website hit stats or well-behaved children or good grades or a shiny car (that was a while ago) or a trim waistline (that might have been a previous life ) or ANYTHING other than Jesus.

I’m a slow learner.

So I often ask myself why Jesus would ask me, with my gaping wound of an importance-hole, to put myself out there on a website or in a book or anywhere where I could so easily fall into the trap of trying to fill my own bucket with reviews or stats or happy comments…  Or where I could be destroyed by bad ones!  Why would He ask me to follow Him into a place where I know I’m always going to be limping?

… It’s a good question.  But I think I got a hint of an answer the other day when someone sent me this verse:

Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved? 

Songs 8:5 NIV 

Do you see it?

God chooses wounded people because those who limp, lean.

Don’t discount yourself because you’re wounded and limping.  Do lean on Jesus.  And in the words of Glennon:  Do show up anyway.

There’s a world out there that needs changing… and it’s only going to be changed if limping, messy people with mixed motives and scared hearts lean on Jesus and show up and start changing things.

 

blossom detailAnyway, back to the orange blossom…

I picked one off the tree and brought it home to paint and to ponder on.  On the kitchen table when I got in, abandoned by my five year old chaos-generator, was a beautiful red rose.

“That’s really not fair” I said to God.

But I walked over and picked it up anyway.  It was a fake! – made of plastic and silk.  It looked great from a distance, but close to it felt rough to touch, and it smelled of… nothing.  In that moment I looked down at the little orange blossom flower in my hand – soft, small and already wilting from being taken out of the tree, and it smelled AMAZING.

So that’s it.  I’m not going to pretend to be a rose and smell of nothing.  I’m going to be an orange blossom, working together with lots of others like me to fill the streets with the sweet fragrance of Jesus.  Who is with me?

 

 

orangeblossomfeature

 

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For your journal:  Ask God about the messiness and beauty inside of you and see what He shows you.  You might ask Him whether you have a ‘bucket’ of your own, and what you do to try and fill it.  What would it take for you to hand it over to Jesus and let Him fill it?

 

This ‘bonus’ postcard is a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the amazing, beautiful, grace filled book that is Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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“Have you seen my phone?”… A lesson in listening

This is my phone…    It’s set to silent…    I’ve lost it.

This happens to me way too often.  I’m actually pretty good at remembering to set my phone to silent for church meetings, school music recitals etc. But I never remember to turn it back onto loud again afterwards.  If I want to be able to hear it above the background music of my world (guitars, computer games, disney channel, noisy five-year old) then I have to leave it set to what the kids call ‘old lady loud’.  But once again, I’ve forgotten and I’ve put it down ‘somewhere’.  Argh.

In a moment, when I’ve finished writing this, I’m going to go on a hunt for it.  But first I’ll go round and turn off everything that makes a noise:  Youtube, the water cooler, the extractor hood, the tinkerbell movie that Katie is watching and anything else I can think of.  Then I’ll confiscate my son’s guitar and beg everyone to be quiet, just for five minutes, so that I can HEAR.

And then I’ll call my phone from the landline and walk slowly around the house straining to hear any slight sound of my phone vibrating in it’s hiding place.  And if I begin to hear it I’ll hone in my search to one room until I eventually find it.. down the side of the sofa or in a  pocket or on a shelf (or in the toybox.)

So for five or ten minutes of my day because I really want to hear something I will listen for it – really listen.

I’m really hoping that some of you who read this will be thinking “yes, I’ve done that” because it will really help you to get what I think God has to say to us today..

When I lose my silent phone I make space to listen for a barely audible whisper.  I consciously turn off the noise that would interfere with my ability to hear and I listen hard.  And the last time this happened, I heard God say,

“I want you to listen for my voice like that”

So I’m thinking about blocking off some time in my diary, just for listening to God.  For me, turning off noise has to mean not being in the house (where there are a million jobs shouting at me that they need to be done).  So I’ll go for a walk somewhere quiet.  For you it might mean the last ten minutes of the day, or sneaking somewhere at lunchtime, or locking yourself in the bathroom…

But will you find a way to make some space,  take some time, turn off some noise so that you can hear the still small voice of God this week? Who knows what things He has to say to you?  Who knows what revelation He is longing to share with you; who knows what part of His word He wants to bring to life for you; who knows what comfort or encouragement He wants to bring to your heart?

I don’t… but I bet it’s worth you finding out.

 

listeningfeature

Still small voice
On the edge of my hearing
help me to still my noisy soul

Still small voice
constantly calling
spill your milk and honey out
over my heart

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The challenge for this week is to spend some time listening to God’s voice and write down what you hear him say…  for those new to listening for the voice of God there are some starting guidelines here.

 

 

The Way God Moves…

OK, I’ll admit it…  God doesn’t always act the way I expect Him to.  His timing can be wonderful and it can be extremely frustrating!

It seems to me that in the kingdom of God there’s a lot of waiting and a fair amount of suddenly. And the suddenly-stuff would often fit in neatly under the heading of not-quite-what-I-expected.

We often expect our progress towards the things God has promised us to be step by step in a straightforward direction, like the pawn on a chessboard.  But perhaps it’s more normal to be a bishop!

The pieces on a chess board each have their own unique way of moving.  The pawns mostly move one step at a time, forwards.  The bishops on the other hand can move right across the board (diagonally) in one move.   They often spend most of the early part of the game not moving, but can go from hiding at the back to the thick of the battle in an instant – suddenly.

So I’ve painted a chess-bishop this week for all those sitting on the back row wondering when God will use them and how.   And for those who have heard God’s call on their life to do something, and yearn for a step-by-step obvious route to get there, but don’t see the ‘pieces’ neatly falling into place.

I went to see a school production of the musical ‘Joseph’ last week. It was great, but a really odd piece of the music got stuck in my head (still there). Sung by the narrator to Joseph, hopeless, in prison:

‘strange as it seems there’s been a run of crazy dreams, and a man who can interpret could go far..’

I feel like God is drawing my attention to something here…

The line marks the moment when Joseph, alone in the prison, is about to be asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  It’s the big turning point in the story:  It looks as though Joseph is as far as he can be from the promises that God gave him and yet there is barely time for a shave and change of clothes before he stands before Pharaoh interpreting his dream.  In a matter of hours Joseph goes from prison to power, from hopelessness to walking out into the promise God had given him all those years before.

Joseph had years and years of waiting and then a ‘suddenly’.

I hate waiting.  Patience is a fruit I’m yet to grow much of.  But I know that I shouldn’t abandon his promises for me and my family just because His timing is not what I’d expected.  So, when I am trying to work out how God could possibly give me the things I have heard Him whisper,  I’m learning to remember that it may not be step-by-step in a straight line that I get there.

It might be suddenly.

 

waiting
impatiently
for a moment in battle
unwillingly
hidden
away
struggling
painfully
with unresolved promises
fighting to hear
what you say
desperately
hoping
I've not been forgotten
fearfully 
wondering why?

and  then  suddenly

Bishop FB

 

If you’d like to take this further, why not meditate on and pray through Psalm 40 1:3.

Or write down in your journal some of the things God has promised you, but that you’re not walking in yet and ask God to help you to wait for them with faith.

 

The Hardest Cut: on the experience of pruning

Ouch.

A while ago, not for the first time,  I went through an experience of pruning:  Of God removing from my life something I love, something I’m good at, something that I was (and am) unwilling to let go of.  Familiar story?

john 15

I can deal with God cutting away parts of my life that aren’t fruitful! But here Jesus talks about pruning the healthy branches of a vine, cutting back branches that are bearing fruit.  And that’s much harder to get my head around…

I’ve been involved one way or another with church youthwork for about twenty years, and I love it.  So it was very hard when a few months ago God asked me to lay it down.  I’m ashamed to say that he had to tell me a lot of times and in several different ways.  And I wrestled with it, I was angry with Him about it, but eventually I got the message, waved the white flag and stepped down.

And it really, really hurt… (still does a bit)

In the middle of that time I painted a picture.  I’ve never grown grapes, but I have grown and pruned roses, so I painted a rose bush… and a gardener.   The message God spoke to me through it really helped, and if a pruning-time comes, I hope it will help you too.

You prune rosebushes back for two reasons: so that they will grow into a more balanced shape, not becoming lopsided or straggly; and so that they will bear even more flowers.  So pruning, though it seems harsh, actually makes the rose bush much more beautiful.

After I’d finished the painting I noticed two things:

The first was that the branch is not being pruned away because it is not being useful or beautiful or because it is ‘bad’ at the job it was supposed to be doing.  It is not diseased, or flowerless… but its time has come.  When God takes you out of a ministry or situation, it is not necessarily an indication of His judgement on the job you were doing.  God often calls us to stop doing things that we are good at!

pruningdetailThe second was that the healed wound from a past pruning is clearly visible.  And so is all of the growth and beauty that came about because of that cut.  It stands as a testimony that pruning has brought fruitfulness in my life and is promise of more roses yet to come.


God sometimes takes away or asks us to give up things which we are good at and which we love.  And it’s not always clear why!  It may be that he needs to make space in your life in order to do something else. Perhaps  He wants you to stop putting energy into supporting an old branch and pour that energy into growing a new one.   Or it may be just that He wants you to do something where you’ll need to lean on Him more.  

What is certain is that to be pruned is part of ‘normal’ Christian life. For me the challenge is to surrender to it quickly rather than sink huge reserves of effort into resisting it;  to accept it as part of the ongoing careful work of my Father.

Looking back now, six months on, I can see the fruit of having allowed God to make some space in my life for other things.  If I’m honest I can also see how it would have been so much less painful for me if I had listened and responded the first time I heard God speak on the matter!

So now I’m asking God what else in my life has to go.  If He needs to make more space or wants me to be more focussed, I want to volunteer to make the cut!  Will you join me?   He might ask you to give something up… He might not.  Either way, surrender to the gardener is the road to more growth, more blessing and more fruitfulness.  I recommend it.


pruning

Words and Pictures to help you hear from God

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