Tag Archives: surrender

Willow

I’m a bit willow-ish – not willowy, that’s for sure – but willow-ish.

It’s about nine years since God told me I’m like a pile of sticks.  Words from God aren’t always easy, but sometimes the most difficult ones have the most value.  I was (and still am a bit) like a pile of dry willow sticks: brittle, stubborn, prickly, awkward, broken in places and very much in need of being bent into shape.

But God, because he is gracious, also gave me a picture of how I could be…

This is a basket made out of willow.  It can both hold a harvest and carry a feast. It is strong.  It is still what it once was, but also completely transformed.

God and I have talked many times about the process of transformation that makes useless sticks into a beautiful basket. And I always end up with these two ‘keys’ to becoming:

Soaking and Surrender

Willow must be soaked, preferably overnight, to make it flexible.  Otherwise when the weaver attempts to bend it or twist and wind it between the uprights it will simply snap.

Dry willow is brittle and inflexible: soaked willow is soft and pliable.

I need soaking.

I need to immerse myself in God’s presence and in his word.  I read once that we are like pendulums, we need to swing between abiding in God and working; worship and ministry; backwards and forwards.  Not spending enough time in God’s presence will make my heart brittle again, but time soaking him in will quickly soften it up.

And as he softens my heart I become more and more ready to be transformed into the shape he wants for me. But even then I need to be willing to let him.

In my willow-ness, most of my task is to surrender. Some of my stubbornness has been soaked out, but most of my determination remains.  I have to choose to allow the weaver to create whatever shape he has in mind for me and not to insist on becoming something else.  It’s so easy to try to second-guess God, to demand to know exactly what he’s doing, or even to come up with a ‘better’ idea.   It’s a challenge to trust him, to rest in the truth that he knows what he’s doing, but it’s necessary.

Soaking and surrender.

It’s great when God gives you a picture of how you could be, especially if he then reveals the keys to becoming.  It may take a long time to get there, but we have do some ability to speed up the process.

For me, and I suspect for many of you, a continual process of soaking and surrender is the way forward.

basket

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time for a cup of something?

Yesterday morning, at about 11:30, I got a text message from my 12 year old:

Exam finished, pick me up, Got time for a cup of something?

As ever, my first thought was “no time”.

But then I thought, “how often does my little girl ask me out for a coffee?  Wouldn’t it be lovely to say yes and to do this thing which will make her feel loved and special?”

So we stopped by at coffee shop on the way home and drank iced coffee in the sunshine while we talked about the test she’d taken.  I’m so glad I took that time. It was great coffee, great rest and great to be together. As I was enjoying that moment of togetherness and sharing with her I remembered this picture that I painted during worship on Sunday…

It’s a tray of plastic cups from the ubiquitous Swedish furniture store. We must have at least a hundred of these at our church for the kids to have water in, and it feels like nearly that many at home!  Anyone else out there prepared to admit to having bought three sets in order to avoid the argument about who gets the pink one?

I’ve only painted a few, but in the picture God showed me, there were many, many different coloured cups, all with something slightly different in them. And one of those cups is for you.

I don’t know what is in the cup God has for you today

It’s a cup of blessing, and sometimes blessing comes with laughter, sometimes with tears.  It might be comfort for your pain, it might be a lesson learned, it might be uncontrollable joy bubbling up from underneath the stone floor you’ve carefully laid in place. It might be any number of awesome, beautiful, wonderful, precious things.  I don’t know.  But I do know that it will be good.

I don’t know whether you will choose to drink the cup God is offering you today

It might not be the same as yesterday’s; it might not be what he has promised for tomorrow. It might not be what you think you need right now; it might not look like an easy cup to drink.  It might look so good that you think it can’t be for you, that he can’t possibly want to pour out blessing for you after everything you’ve done.

I don’t know whether, like me, you will just think “No time”, and never make it to take the cup he is offering.

Don’t be too tired or too busy.  Don’t be so caught up in the urgent that you miss the important.  Whatever reason you have for not taking the cup God has for you today, don’t let it be “I just didn’t get around to it”.

But what I do know, beyond doubt, is that he has a cup for you.

Whether or not you call yourself a Christian: a son or daughter of the king; there is a cup of blessing from the Father with your name on it.  You can’t put in an order for the particular kind of blessing you want, and you can’t exchange it for another one.  But if you want it, it’s there. Waiting.

As I write these sentences, I’m listening to an instrumental version of the hymn ‘I surrender all’.  Sometimes… often… accepting my cup for today is an act of surrender.  I’d rather have someone else’s… A little girl inside me is still yelling “I want the pink one!” 🙂  And often I get the pink one, and sometimes I look back and realise I got something better.

If you can make time today, even a few minutes, ask the Father what cup he has for you today.  Then take time to recieve whatever he has to give you.

Make time, come, surrender, and drink… it will be good.

ikeacups feat

 

For your journal/ To think about:

How about if this week, every time you see a coloured plastic IKEA cup, you asked God “What cup do you have for me today” and then took a moment to listen to and respond to his answer?

 

 

 

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

Perfume poured out

I love the story from John’s gospel of Mary of Bethany.  Especially the moment where, perhaps overwhelmed with gratitude for the raising from the dead of her brother Lazarus, she comes to Jesus, pours oil over his feet then wipes them with her hair.

Today there are two things that strike me about this public display of adoration…

One is that it is an act of incredibly expensive worship.  It makes me wonder what a family in a little hill village above Jerusalem were doing with a pint of perfume that was worth a year’s wages?  One commentator I read suggested that it might have been a way of saving money, an investment for the future, perhaps for a dowry when Mary or Martha wanted to marry.  In any case it was a hugely expensive offering.

It may be that Mary was literally pouring out her financial security, her plans for the future, her hopes and her dreams over the feet of Jesus.  An act of pure worship.  It was extravagant, costly, over the top,  and it caused others to question whether she was getting too ‘carried away’, but in this moment it was undoubtedly entirely the right response to Jesus.

Sometimes singing a song of worship is a costly act for us, but there are many other things which we are called to do which require much greater obedience, trust, surrender and sacrifice.   These choices, to do what Jesus asks of you even when it might cost you your dignity, your good name, your financial security, your  dream of how life would be, are extraordinary acts of silent worship.

 

The second thing I notice today is that in John’s account ‘the house was filled with the fragrance’ of the spilled perfume.  I have a tiny, tiny bottle of spikenard oil from Israel that a friend gave me.  Just the tiniest dot of it has a heady perfume that I can smell on my skin for hours.  I can’t quite imagine what the fragrance of a whole pint spilled on Jesus’ feet and the floor would have been like.  The scent of it would’ve been totally overpowering and would have not only filled the whole house but would have lingered in that place and on Mary’s hair and on the feet of Jesus for days if not weeks.

When I painted this postcard, I wanted to show that in our moments of love, surrender and giving,  in singing worship and in the rest of life, Jesus does not remain impassive.  He responds. He smells the fragrance and he leans towards us to receive the gift. He honours us and our costly gifts to him as He honoured Mary and He wears the fragrance of our worship with pride.

When we not only declare our love publicly and with extravagance, but anoint Him with our trust, our hopes and our dreams, the perfume is spilled out over both Him and us.  We share in the lingering scent of it and the fragrance spreads out to fill the room.

I wave the white flag

and I pour out,

my heart,  my life,  my hopes,  my dreams,  my security,

over your feet.

Already washed in your blood

made clean by your sacrifice

restored by resurrection

alive in your life…    I choose

to trust

and place my all

into your hands

may the house be filled with its fragrance

Perfume poured out

If you want to read it for yourself, this story is in John ch 12 v 3-8.

reflect white

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...