Changing Key: On choosing the uncomfortable

Turns out I spend a lot of my life avoiding being uncomfortable. You?

This week, Jesus has called me on that with a picture of piano keys…

I’m learning to play the piano… Not real piano, but just enough to be able to accompany songs I like, using the chords written for guitar. I’ve got really good at songs written in the keys of C and D. I know the chords that usually pop up in those keys (the easy ones), and they’re mostly in what I suppose is my muscle memory… I’m practiced enough that when I see those chords, my hands can find them without me really having to think about it. The upshot is: I mostly play songs in those keys. If I’m just messing around for my own pleasure I’ll pick C or D and if there’s any danger that someone might hear me, I definitely stick to where I know I’m safe!

And this morning, as I was singing to Him, God said to me, “you try to live your life in C and D”

Ouch

He’s saying that I tend to live my life inside the boundaries of what I find comfortable. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one. So this week’s postcard is piano keys, and it’s an invitation to walk differently.

I don’t much like learning to play in a new key… There are new chords which are awkward, stretching my fingers and requiring counting and working out. It’s slow and frustrating; it makes my hands ache and I have to keep thinking about what I’m trying to do. The draw to go back to where I’m comfortable is so strong.

“What does it matter” I ask myself, “if I only ever learn to play in D?” And the answer is:

“Not much, but there’ll just be a whole load of great music that you’re never going to get to play”

Read that last line again. I wonder if it does to your heart what it does to mine… Our Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to live in limited places, within narrow boundaries. He wants us to be willing to persevere with the uncomfortable until it becomes natural. And then… well, He’ll probably challenge us to get uncomfortable again. Why? … Because all the time we are stretching out; covering more ground; becoming more available; we are pushing deeper into faith and the adventure with Him.

There is a beautiful piece of music that God wants to play with your life. It’s a duet – written by the great Creator of all things to play alongside you, His precious child. He will adapt it to what you’re prepared to learn to play, and it will still be beautiful. But there is some awe-inspiring, extraordinary music which he would love to play with you, and that duet will only work if you’re prepared to follow the key changes. You might have to trust and follow him into stretching, uncomfortable places. You might have to work hard to keep up with Him and you might long for your comfortable easy place. But then I didn’t ever hear Jesus say,

“Come, follow me, and I will give you an easy, comfortable and unchallenging life”

Please know how hard it is for me to write this down, to confirm that I hear Jesus saying this to me today. I’m not a risk-taker. My husband describes me as ‘risk-averse’ and I tend to take it as a compliment. I like predictable, and have been known to view ‘adventure’ as a word for a badly-planned expedition.

But I want to be on this adventure with Jesus and to move out into the spacious places that he’s promised me, not limited by my fear or my need to be comfortable. So I’m going to follow the call and to let him stretch me: in ministry, in faith and in what I believe about Him and about myself. I’m going to choose to be uncomfortable until it gets comfortable, and then I’m going to choose to be uncomfortable again.

How about you?

Jesus

You are the one who goes ahead of me

And calls me out into new places

give me the courage to say

“today,

Yes. I will follow you”

piano

reflect white

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Not Alone – the art of firewalking

Sooner or later, we all come to a part of our life that feels like walking through a fire: bereavement, losing a job, miscarriage, illness, or  many other painful, difficult and stressful circumstances. Probably you’ve done some firewalking in your time. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a fire season right now.

It’s not so long since I came through a furnace of my own:  Moving from a secure life in England to a new, much less predictable one overseas, dealing with my kids’ reactions to leaving and losing friends, coping with their angry heartache as well as my own. It’s been a fire-walk: intense, painful, and sometimes terrifying.  But, (and it amazes me that I can write this) like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thrown into a furnace because of their faithfulness to God, I have looked for, and found, the presence of God in it all.  I’ve been able to stand and walk around, even when I feared that I’d be consumed by the intensity of the flames. I have been ‘Not alone’.

And it is not that I’ve discovered that the fire was not so hot after all.

In the story we’re told that this furnace was seven times hotter than usual.    The miracle was not that the fire turned out not to be so hot after all. And moving country didn’t turn out to be easier than I expected… if anything it’s been much harder…

And it’s not that I was instantly rescued out of it.

These guys spent a while in the fire, and so did I, and so, probably, will you.  But, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I did walk out the other side eventually and when I did I discovered that I wasn’t singed. Changed by the experience certainly, but not scarred… not defeated…not destroyed.

And, like them, I now notice that the only things that have actually been burned away and destroyed are ties that had bound me up: false beliefs and ways of living that had limited me – constraints that had stopped me from being all that God wanted me to be.  Now that’s a miracle!

Not that I believe that my heavenly Father caused that fire in my life, or intended it for me, I don’t.  But instead, I’ve learned that there are fire times in life, and that the enemy will use them to try to destroy, but that when we choose to trust God and look for Him among the flames,  our wonderful, redemptive, creative Father can use them to bring us into new places of freedom.

So this week’s postcard is a fire.   And the message on the back is simple:

notalone

 

fire 1

As I write this, I am painfully aware of friends who live their lives in a fire from which they expect no release until they stand in heaven itself, held in the arms of their Saviour. I think especially of those I know who have experienced, and are experiencing every day, the death of a loved one, particularly of a child.  Friends, I cannot begin to understand your fire. I could only say that for you, every day that you stand and walk around in that fire is a victory, and I honour you for it. And whether or not you are able to stand, I am confident of this, Jesus will stand, sit, kneel, weep, be alongside you every day, every minute that you are there. You are not alone.

Lord, be close,

when I walk into the fire

hold me

when all I see is flames

let me turn and see your face.

and on days when I cannot cry out to you.

call out to me,

shout loud, whisper quietly,

and I will try to lean into you.

Until the day that you lead me out into open space again

Let me know

that I am not alone.

 If you want to travel with this a little more, read Isaiah 43: 1-2

Harvest in Unexpected Places

I watched a documentary this week about life in Britain during the first world war.  So when I prayed for a postcard this week and saw a picture of a gardening fork in a vegetable patch, a story came straight to my mind:

It was 1917 and blockaded Britain was slowly running out of food.  So  the government announced that everyone needed to start growing their own food and that they should use whatever land was available.  Suddenly, in cities all over the country people began digging up lawns, roadside verges, parks and other bits of unused land and turning them into allotments.   What had been ornamental or neglected or not-thought-of became places of harvest that produced food for a hungry nation.

What does God have to say to us through  this story?   Perhaps most of us have areas of our lives where we might expect to be fruitful.  But even (maybe especially) when we feel like we are all out of resources God often produces a harvest in unexpected places – places we wouldn’t even have considered looking for it.

Continue reading Harvest in Unexpected Places

Fast cars and a plastic ballerina

What do an Aston Martin and a plastic ballerina have in common?  Well…

This week I was reading again that one of the keys to experiencing the presence of God in our lives is to be hungry for him.  And a big part of me said. “Yes, yes, yes” but a small but significant part of me said “But, I’m soooo tired, I just don’t have the energy to get more hungry.”

And then God reminded me about the plastic ballerina and the Aston Martin…

Continue reading Fast cars and a plastic ballerina

Rooted – on surviving the dry season

I really like to read the Bible aloud, and last week I was reading from Ephesians when this phrase caught in my mind.  And it’s been sitting there ever since…

roots

I keep coming back to wondering what it must be like, and how(!)  to send roots down deep into God’s love.   I really want to be like the tree described in Jeremiah 17 that’s fruitful in all circumstances.  Its root system goes deep into the water table, so even when there’s no water to be seen on the surface, it’s able to draw refreshment and life up from deep places.

Spiritual life seems to run in seasons. One day I’m flying, Jesus has never seemed so close, miracles are happening around me, I’m undone in the presence of God and every page of the Bible comes alive.  A few months later everything can suddenly seem much more difficult.  Faith might not waver, but enthusiasm and energy certainly do.

For a long while I thought this was a kind of malfunction.  That I should be able to maintain a level of passion and fervency and intimacy with God all the time.  Truthfully – I can’t.  But I’m starting to believe that it might not be so abnormal.  All around us seasons come and go, plants grow vigorously and are then pruned back, people are active and then sleep.  It seems to be the way of the world our Father has created that things have a rhythm to them.

The picture of being rooted says to me that perhaps it’s OK for spiritual life to be seasonal-  That an ebb and flow of feelings and experiences is natural – but that it is possible to be rooted in God’s love in such a way that no matter what season you are in, living water can always be drawn up from the deep.

Are you in an easy season or a dry one?  Are storm winds catching your branches or are you resting in a time of peace?  Either way the advice is the same – send your roots down deeper into the river of life.  Joseph advised Pharaoh to store up food during the times of plenty in order to be able to survive times of famine.   If you’re in a plenty time – enjoy it – store up food for the future,  practice trust.  And if you’re in a drought – look deep, the water of life is still present, seek and you will find.

Plant me Lord

on the bank of a river

Show me how to send roots deep into you.

So that in good years

in bad years

in wet times and in dry

There will be fruit to feed the hungry

There will be leaves to give shelter to the weary

There will be the promise of water nearby for the thirsty

And when the storm comes

Though I bend in the force of the wind

My heart will remain – anchored to yours.

like a tree planted by the water

rivertree

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I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you can do to drive roots down deep into the love of God. Please leave a comment -either here or on Facebook- Ellie

On Resting…

This week’s postcard is this violin.

This instrument is completely beautiful, a piece of art in its own right.

Craftsman made; carefully designed and created with a specific task in mind.  A piece of art and a piece of engineering. Each part is doing a job and the whole is tuned and ready.

And yet, until it is resting on the shoulder of the master musician, and surrendering to the tune that he chooses to play, it cannot achieve its full potential.

So often we fight back, unable to trust and rest, unwilling to surrender to the tune the master wants to play with our lives.  While we are wrestling we are still beautiful, still the work of a master craftsman, still treasured by him; but when we rest on his shoulder, and he turns his face to us and lifts his bow- then we become what we were always intended to be.

 
I rest here
on your shoulder
confident in you
my maker, my friend
 
I rest here
on your shoulder
laying down my right
to wield the bow
or write the tune
 
I rest here
confident, assured
knowing that the song
you have in mind for me
will be the one my heart
was made to sing

On Resting...

Words and Pictures to help you hear from God

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