Becalmed

It has been a while. I know.

Sorry.

The reality is – and I promised a while ago that I was going to risk being honest here – that sometimes life isn’t easy.  Sometimes it can all feel a bit much.

The past month has been a little bit like that.

I’ve gone weeks without my daily quiet time, sitting here on the sea front, and I became increasingly aware how vital it had become, as the days got busier, the challenges bigger, and my strength diminished.

Last week I got just one brief moment and snatched half an hour in my usual spot.  Ironically – and not coincidentally – that day was one in the middle of several days of thick, 24 hour fog so my beautiful, soothing view was obscured.  In addition, I didn’t have internet access to write (yet another temporary hitch that made writing this blog impossible in the usual way) so I recorded a voice memo on my phone instead.

This is the transcription:

“It might seem obvious sitting here with the mist around to talk about believing in things that you can’t see, but just because it is obvious it doesn’t mean it isn’t something we need to think about.  The last few weeks I’ve struggled to see the beauty in the situation around me; I’ve struggled to see where I’m heading and like a ship when the mist comes down, that left me with a couple of options.

I could chose can rely on the navigation aid that I have and fix my path according to the things that I know are true, the things that others have told me are true.  As a Christian that “navigation aid” is the Word of God.

However the truth is sometimes you can become fearful, or lose your way, become insecure or just plain tired and at those moments, the safest thing to do is just to drop anchor and stay where you are.  You know that the mist will past, and you know that when it does, when the fog lifts, you know that you will be able to see clearly.

I think at first, as things began to build up around me and “the way” became obscured, I was relying on the Scriptures and things I knew, standing on the Word and knowing that whatever happened those things were true.  Knowing that just because I didn’t feel them, just because I couldn’t see them, didn’t mean that they weren’t true.  I just kept confessing to myself,  and over myself, the promises that God had previously given me, the promises that His Word show me, and relying on those as my “navigation aids”.

Last week however, when my husband was away in Denmark on mission, I got to the point where even that was too much.  All I felt I could do was drop anchor and just stand firm where I was –  rooted still in the Scriptures but just standing still, not trying to seek Him particularly, not trying to learn, not trying to look around just really head down, rooted to the spot (securely rooted and knowing I was secure) but just staying still, waiting for it to pass.

Through God’s Grace there was no storm during that time.  Everything was just flat, like today.  The sea in front of me now is an absolute mill pond.  There are no ripples, the tide is coming in and yet you can’t see any evidence of the waves at all, not because of the mist but because the surface of the sea is still. There is no wind today and it is just a smooth expanse of water broken occasionally by the rocks which are disappearing  as the tide is coming in.

All is still.  There are ships out here at anchor and they are just waiting.

Even as we wait, even in the short time I’ve been here, the sun is burning strongly and the mist is clearing over the land.  I can see the blue sky from where I am, right above me, and out towards the sea I can start to make out some of the ships as their light is reflecting the sunlight.

Like those ships, I hope that this week and over the past few weeks, even once I’d dropped anchor, I was still able to be reflecting God’s light.  I hope that as I served through the week I was still in the right place, reflecting His Glory to those that I was working with, and those that I was serving.

I know that there is going to come a day when this mist is going to clear for me, that I’m going to see the path that God has laid out for me, and in the meantime I’m just sitting here, waiting.  I’m going to wait upon the Lord and I’m going to continue to seek Him. His word promises that if I seek Him with all my heart, I will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

So that is where I am this week, anchored down, becalmed, waiting for the mist to clear.

Crossroads

This is not an easy post to write.  In fact I have spent the last week struggling more and more over the subject of this post.  I find myself at a crossroads with regards to having started this blog, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, praying, crying, wondering, arguing and generally getting quite worked up!  I’m still not 100% sure I want to share this but… here goes.

One night at the start of the week a number of circumstances combined in such a way that I found myself very vulnerable – mentally, emotionally and therefore spiritually.  I have hinted in my “About” page of the dramatic change that recently came about in myself and, well, suffice to say there was a bit of a battle going on over some old thoughts and attitudes.  In the midst of this angst I wrote the following note on my iPad which I share here, edited only to remove the anger/tear driven typos….

“A late night post. Not such a good idea.  Many reasons why it isn’t a good idea but I can’t share them with you.

You see, that’s the point. I can’t share.

I am at the moment totally captivated by Beauty beyond Bones.  My spirit – in tune with His Spirit – is completely overwhelmed with her beauty.  Her courage.  Her strength. The things that she shares are life giving to so many. Those lost in the mire of an eating disorder, as well as others caught in depression or addiction. Such a powerful ministry.

But you know what? She has chosen to remain anonymous for now and I don’t blame her. The sad, sad, SAD truth is that we judge.  Us humans.  Even us Christians. Maybe especially us Christians.

We who have been forgiven so much.  Who have “got it”.  Who have come to understand what we have been redeemed from.  We who have met our Saviour.  Fallen at His feet. Received forgiveness.

Still we judge.

Many years ago, decades ago, at another church, we met a man out on life parole. Saved whilst in jail.  He who had taken a life had received eternal life and forgiveness for ALL his sin.  Do you know something? We were one of the few in that church who truly welcomed him. Yes most said the right things.  Chatted to him.  Prayed with him. But not many offered him unconditional friendship as we did.  He house sat for us when we went on holiday. He even babysat for us. Others were shocked! How could we trust him?!  Didn’t we know what he’d done?!  Although he had become a Christian, didn’t we think it was a little naive to be so trusting?

Er. Hello? Saved? Forgiven? Redeemed? Justified? Sound familiar?

I might not have killed someone directly by my actions, but I’ve wished someone dead. My actions have actually been part of someone “dying” emotionally too. Jesus said that if I think it, it is the same as doing it in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:27-28). So who am I to judge?

Really, truthfully, we humans just can’t get our heads around the fact that all have fallen short (Romans 3:23). That it doesn’t matter how,  just the fact that we are unrighteous. We have no right to stand before God on our own merit.

Even the most “goodly” among us. The “saints”. The ones documentaries are made of. The ones whose stories we share on social media.

Not even them. They are hell bent without God. Unrighteous.

Only by God’s grace and accepting our redemption through Christ can we stand before Him (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  Any of us.  All of us.

Why am I writing this?  Because it occurs to me tonight that I could write of struggles and battles that I have had, and am having, that could help others.  In fact, I know that part of God working all things together for my good is to allow Him to use those experiences to feed my mercy heart, to allow me to stand in empathy, to bring encouragement and direction to others walking a similar road.

But I’m not.  Because I’m scared. Because I have linked this blog to who I am in the “real” world.  Because people who know me, whom I see every Sunday, may read it. And they may judge. They may never look at me the same if I share. If they know. If I am that open.

How sad is that? Scared how my fellow Christians may react to me if they “only knew”?

I need to think and pray over this more. I need to decide who I am wanting to please and what my purpose is in writing this blog.”

You see the dilemma?  This morning in my quiet time I argued again with God about putting this up.  I really wanted to know if this is what He wants me to do.  For Him, I am willing to sacrifice and to bare all (how could I not?) but for no other reason because, frankly, I know it could hurt and none of us intentionally cause ourselves pain.

An analogy came to me that has led me to to the decision to put this post up after all.

An amputee goes for physio to learn how to function with a prosthesis, or maybe how to function without one.  The physio is always “able bodied”.  We accept that.  There is a place for that (in this comparison, this is the Bible teacher we may follow who has a strength we don’t have, a position we can’t share, but one that can nevertheless bless us and bring us somewhere new).

However, if that amputee needs support, encouragement, understanding, inspiration, the programme or help group that will probably be the most beneficial is one made up of other amputees.  Yes they may sit there and think “huh, what do YOU know, you only lost ONE arm I lost TWO” but generally speaking, in their heart, they know and acknowledge the right of the person to speak into their life and say “it isn’t over, you CAN do this” because they are on the same journey – just a little further down the road.

A support group for people who have suffer a miscarriage is no use if run by someone who hasn’t been there.  Unless you have known the battle with an ED then you could never even come close to understanding and supporting someone else who is.  A cancer survivor offers more hope and inspiration to the newly diagnosed that any doctor, friend or family member can who hasn’t faced it.

So, basically, here it is.  I have decided to be as open and as honest as God calls me to be about my past, and about any present struggles, in order to encourage and support any out there facing the same.  I love to write.  I have been writing fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose since I was first able to write.  Writing for me comes straight from my heart so if I am to write, I need to be free to do just that.

I hope that my readers are ok with that..

Honest Measures

“You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:36Modern English Version (MEV)

I must be honest and say that, whilst I am used to taking New Testament Scriptural truths and applying them to “modern” life, and whilst I will take Old Testament truths and look for the New Testament (post-resurrection) application and meaning, there are still large parts of the Old Testament that I gloss over, failing to remember that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 MEV).

Leviticus is definitely a book that I struggle to draw great meaning out of, but thank God for Holy Spirit inspired teachers of the Word who help to open my eyes to the hidden depths!

C H Spurgeon is one of teachers from the past that I have most respect for and many, many times I have been taken aback, overwhelmed afresh or found a new revelation from reading his teachings.  The verse above is one such example.

He pondered on this verse and saw that at face value the only current application was that of a Christian in business, checking to make sure that their dealings were fair and honest.  However he took me deeper into God’s Heart by meditating further that “There are, however, other balances which weigh moral and spiritual things, and these often need examining.”

What of the “measure” that we use to measure others by?  Who do we compare them to? Do we use one rule for them and one for ourselves?  Of course Jesus raised this very point:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged. And with the measure you use, it will be measured again for you.
“And why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank that is in your own eye?  Or how will you say to your brother, ‘Let me pull the speck out of your eye,’ when a log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “(Matthew 7:1-5 MEV)

We may not realise we are judging others but, as Spurgeon wrote, “Do we not turn our own ounces of goodness into pounds, and other persons’ bushels of excellence into pecks?”

What about the scales on which we measure our trials and tribulations?  How accurate are they?  Shouldn’t we use the Apostle Paul as our guide to what is an honest measure? He weighed his afflictions as “light” but when you recall just what it was that he was weighing….

“Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers;  in weariness and painfulness, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness.

(2 Corinthians 11: 24-27 MEV)

I don’t know about you, but using those weights to measure my own troubles… they barely register on the scales!

With the current political and social storm surrounding the migrant/refugee (depending on which side of the argument you stand) crisis, we should also be careful to make sure the measure with which we weigh our obligations and responsibilities are just.  Any glance at a newspaper (real or virtual) will show a very unjust balance between how society values the poor versus the adoration they give the rich and famous. More column inches given to pop stars, soap stars and footballers than to community, social action and responsibility.  I must examine my heart and ensure that I am not ever guilty of such an unrighteous measure.

Spurgeon encouraged his readers to consider what else we might add to the list of areas where our “weights and measures” may be dishonest.  This has really taken hold of me and it is something I shall be doing over the coming days and weeks, asking the Holy Spirit to make me painfully aware of any such unrighteousness in my thoughts, words or actions.  I encourage you to do the same.