Tag Archives: christian living

Which way now?

On Tuesday I went to Belper.

I moved country in July, so I’m still living in mostly unfamiliar territory and finding my way to new places can be interesting.  My mental map of Derbyshire is a bit dodgy – just little patches of knowledge connected by long spindly lines, with acres of uncertainty on either side.

But Belper is easy.  Straight up a charming road called the A6, through a couple of small towns with rather lovely countryside, always heading straight on, and then when you get to a roundabout – you’re there.

On the way back I didn’t even switch the SatNav on.

So it was a bit of a shock when the road ahead was closed. A burst water main had flooded the unfortunate village of Milford and the one road home I knew was completely blocked.

I did the only thing I could – turned round and drove back the way I’d come, looking for somewhere to pull in and turn on the SatNav.

But, as it turns out, I didn’t need to.  There was a signpost to a village that sounded familiar – I’d been there once before and I was fairly sure it was close to a route back to the city – And indeed, after driving miles in the ‘wrong’ direction, following signs to Kilburn, I found a different (faster) road home.

Another ordinary tale of my life.  But the reason it caught my attention was that I’d spent the morning talking with a new friend about kids and books and church and Jesus, but also about how we deal with ‘roadblocks’ in our lives.  You know-  when you’ve got a plan, and it all seems obvious how things are going to work out, and then something entirely unexpected blocks the road ahead.  When you knew exactly what you were going to do; what was going to happen and how everything was going to pan out, but then you hit a ‘Road Ahead Closed’.

When this kind of thing happens, I almost always sit there thinking a number of unhelpful things:  “this isn’t fair”… “I don’t know what to do next”…”I must have heard God wrong”… “this doesn’t happen to other people”… and feeling confused, panicky, and maybe a little bit cross with God for not following the plan.

Sometimes it is the right thing to just wait until God unblocks the road.

But often, there’s a different route to our destination. One that for some reason which may never be clear, he wants us to take.   So it may be that a better response to being in this situation is to say, “I still believe in what you said; which way do you want to take me instead?”

Yesterday I could have switched on the SatNav and trustingly followed her instructions –  “At the roundabout, take the third left”.  Sometimes that’s how God leads us – step by step, us trusting him to reveal his plan as we travel together.

And sometimes that still small voice reminds us that he has already given us an answer, that somehow he has already prepared us to face this situation and with a little help from a few signs, we’re already equipped to find our way.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year – Hill walking

I’m quite partial to a long slow walk in the countryside, especially if it’s between tearooms. And I particularly love walking (very slowly) up hills.  My favourite bit though, is that part where you find somewhere sheltered-ish to sit in,  get out a flask of tea and a sandwich and just rest for a while and look.

Looking should be savoured. In my opinion it’s better than the actual walking… I like to look back and congratulate myself, remember the pain and the exhilaration;  look at where I am now, enjoy the view;  and look ahead to where I’d like to get to, when I feel like I’ve got the energy to get up and move again.

The first few days of a new year are an excellent time for looking.

It’s good to look back at where you’ve been.  To remember that flower-scented stretch where every step was a joy; to see the slope that seemed a particularly hard climb; even to remember with a wince the part where you slipped and fell into the thorns and yet somehow got up and carried on.  To see how faith, hope, grace and prayer have carried you through the good and the bad.

I’m sure that, like me, if you look back at the journey of 2018 there will have been a mixture of terrain: joy, challenges, pain, change, surprises, hope, disappointment and people who came and walked beside you in it all,

It’s worth taking some time to reflect, to look.

As you look, invite Jesus to sit next to you. Ask him to show you where he was, how he helped, how he felt as he walked beside you on that climb. Joys and struggles, triumph and disaster.  Ask him to show you what you did well, what you learned, how you’ve grown.

And while you’re resting with Jesus at the beginning of 2019, take a quick look through your backpack for any rocks you might have managed to pick up and carry with you this year. Lumps of unforgiveness especially have the ability to slow you down. It will really help to get rid of them now and not carry them through into the next year!

Then you’re ready to look forward. The view back is always clearer than the one in front, and although we make plans, it’s much harder to see the road ahead.  There are things we expect, hope for, plan for, are anxious about, are resolved to do differently next year,  but it’s not always easy to plot the route between them.

Remember as you’re looking at the road ahead to invite Jesus to sit beside you again.  His perspective is invaluable.  While you’re there, ask God for a word or picture that says something about what he wants you to learn or be in 2019.

So if you can, take some time in the next few days to look:

Look back,

look in your backpack,

look ahead.

and then, if you’re brave enough, look up…

… look into Jesus’ eyes and say “I’m actually not very sure where I’m going, or how I’ll get there, but I trust you to lead the way”.

 

A lolly stick, three felt tip pens and a bouncy santa…

This is the pot of pens in my kitchen.  I expect you have one too.  About twice a year I go through it, make sure all the pencils are sharpened, throw away dried up felt tips and remove all the random objects that have collected at the bottom.  After about a week, it looks like this again.

The idea of the pen pot is that whenever someone sits down to do their homework, everything they need is already at their fingertips, and we don’t need to waste precious time searching for a pencil sharpener or a purple pencil or a protractor.

Of course, this is an impossible ideal, and often the pen pot contains everything except the item that someone absolutely can’t do without to finish their homework.  But I persevere, because I believe that while I never do achieve the organisational perfection I strain for, it’s better to have a few felt tips, some biros and a pencil with a bouncy santa on the end than nothing at all…

A while ago I asked my group of girl guides to bring in a quotation that they believed in.  It could be from anywhere and we had some wonderful contributions from a variety of authors from Maya Angelou to Winnie the Pooh.  Possibly my favourite though, was this:

“Not everything has to be perfect”

Pause with that for a while…

 

Not everything has to be perfect

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to do things well.  It just means sometimes it’s better to do something badly than not to do it at all.

Sometimes it’s great to give yourself the freedom to have a go at something and not be brilliant at it.  After all, most artists started with stick men, most concert pianists once struggled to make their left hand do as it was told and I imagine even the best poets have occasionally written something dreadful.  Creativity always carries the risk that whatever you’re making might turn out badly, that’s part of its joy.

Is God calling you to do something you’re worried aren’t all that brilliant at?

Is he asking you to take a risk and do something that it might take a lot of practice to do well?

Are you discounting yourself and your gifts and wondering why God doesn’t find someone ‘better’ to do the job?

Not everything has to be perfect.

pensIt turns out that it’s good to have an imperfect and slightly random collection of pens.  It’s not perfect, but it’s still good.

Just like you.

 

 

Happy New Year – Hill walking

I’m quite partial to a long slow walk in the countryside, especially if it’s between tearooms. And I particularly love walking (very slowly) up hills.   I often come to a point in the walk or climb where I’m ready to have a little sit down.  I’m very British, so it’s a joy to me to sit down somewhere sheltered-ish on a fold out mat, get out a flask of tea and a sandwich and just sit for a while and look.  And I think the first couple of weeks of a new year might be the perfect time to do a good bit of looking.

Looking should be savoured. In my opinion it’s better than the actual walking… I like to look back and congratulate myself, remember the pain and the exhilaration;  look at where I am now, enjoy the view;  and look ahead to where I’d like to get to, when I feel like I’ve got the energy to get up and move again.

It’s good to look back at where you’ve been.  To remember that stretch where the walking was a joy and the scent of the flowers around you almost carried you along; the slope that seemed a particularly hard climb; the part where you slipped and fell into the thorns and came out limping and bleeding and yet somehow got up and carried on.  If you look back at the journey of 2014 there will have been different kinds of terrain, injuries, happy times, and people who came and walked beside you in it all, it’s worth taking some time to reflect.

It’s even better to sit next to Jesus and ask him to show you where he was, how he helped you, how he felt as he walked beside you on that climb. Joys and struggles, triumph and disaster.  Don’t judge for yourself, ask him to show you what you did well, what you learned, how you’ve grown.

And while you’re resting with Jesus at the very beginning of 2015, you might choose to have a quick look through your back pack for any rocks you might have accidentally picked up and carried with you this year. Lumps of unforgiveness especially have the ability to slow you down.  It might really help to get rid of them now and not carry them through into the next year!

Looking ahead is harder.  The view back is always clearer than the one in front.  It’s probably better not to second guess it,  and if you’re like me you’ll be in the thick of January before you have time to ask too many questions.  You might just ask for one word or picture that says something about what God wants you to learn or be in the next year and then, if you’re brave enough, look up into Jesus’ eyes and say “I’m not sure where I’m going, but I trust you to lead the way”.