NOT NOW!

angry-men-smoke-ears

I am having a difficult time with a work colleague at the moment.  This morning, I am sad to say, things reached boiling point.

My day looked particularly busy and so, I arrived at the office extra early, I had a few “5 minute” jobs to do.  It was then that my colleague decided to play up.  It decided now was a good time to install Windows 10 update.  Not a small update but the full blown, long winded, time consuming update (yes, my colleague is my computer!).

What should have been a quick job looked as though it would now take much much longer than anticipated.

I know, it is one of the greatest mysteries of life that quick jobs always take longer than the time allocated to them.  But, I am busy, this isn’t fair, why choose this moment to really cause me problems?

I ranted and raved – thankfully nobody else was in the building at the time!

I threatened the computer “next time I will get a Mac!”

Nothing I tried seemed to make it go quicker. 

Then I hit upon my best idea yet, I prayed.  I laid hands on my computer and, in my most pious of voices, I prayed “oh Lord make this go quicker”.  Even my praying didn’t seem to achieve much!

Finally, in exasperation, I thought “oh well, if I cannot do anything useful, I may as well have my quiet time.”  It was then, that I felt God suddenly pull me up short.  As I prayed, I felt God gave me a picture of a navigational compass and these words;

Set your compass and turn to the North                                                                                   Make God your focus                                                                                                                       Your aim                                                                                                                                           Your destination                                                                                                                               Keep your eyes on Him                                                                                                                           Focus                                                                                                                                                   And He will lead you

And, as I turned to the Bible, I read some familiar words from Jesus;

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.                                                                                                              (John 15 vs. 4)

 I began to realise that, in my panic and stress about what I had to do, I had taken my focus off the one I was supposed to be doing it for! 

Yes, what I had planned for the day and the challenges ahead were good things and, I believe, they were God things but without keeping my focus on God I was in danger of drifting off in the wrong direction.

As my panic eased (okay, the computer still was not behaving itself!) I was able, in my heart, to put God in His rightful place and me in mine.  A friend then shared this tweet from Eugene Peterson;

The task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can participate in it                                                                  (Eugene Peterson)

   

 

If you can’t stand the heat

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Harry S Truman is quoted as saying;

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen

It’s a phrase that has been used by many over the years.  For some people it’s used as a put down, “if you cannot cope with the pressure you are a wimp” for others it’s used as a sort of “man up” type of phrase.  The implication of the quote is “if you cannot cope with the pressure, you should leave it to someone who can.”

I have to be honest with you.  It is not a phrase I like. 

Its implication is, if you are not coping under the stress you are living with you are, somehow, weak.  That isn’t always the case.  There are times in all of our lives when we are under stress and pressure and we wonder how we are going to get through it.

There are also times when “the heat” is something we cannot bear by ourselves, and we need the help, support and encouragement that others bring.  One of the great values of belonging to a Christian Family (we call it “Church”) is that, I have friends around who support and encourage me.

I was thinking about “the heat” this morning as I was spending some time with the Bible and praying.  I shared with God some of “the heat” that I am facing at the moment.  But, as I prayed, I felt that God was encouraging me to look at “the heat” in a different way.  Heat is not always negative.  

I am British and was, therefore, born with a right to complain about the weather.  There are times when I do not cope with the heat.  I moan about the heat in the summer (do you remember that day too?) and the cold in winter.  I began to wonder if I spend too long asking God to remove the heat and not enough time looking at what God is doing in the heat. 

Let me explain…

I read a verse in the Book of Proverbs that says;

Remove the dross from the silver,                                                                                                  and a silversmith can produce a vessel

(Proverbs 11 vs. 25)

I was faced with the question, “how do you remove dross from silver?”  So, I did what I always did with difficult questions, I Googled it! (other search engines are available).  What I found out is, the most effective way to remove the dross is to heat up the silver and the dross can then be skimmed off the surface.

It’s the application of the heat that allows the dross to be separated.  Sometimes, the heat in our lives can be used by God to separate us from the dross that has built up in us.

Why not take the opportunity to have a think about the dross that has built up in your life?  Is a little heat being applied to you at the moment so that God can deal with it?

 

The Beggars Banquet

beggar-dreams

To survive in the great city, you had to be rich and powerful.  There were many, who had done quite nicely they had the big cars, expensive luxury flats and wealth.  There was one problem in the city, the beggars.

It seemed on every street corner, in every alleyway and shopping centre there would always be a beggar crying out “give me something that you have, share with me of your wealth”.  As the city grew more rich and more powerful it seemed that the number of beggars increased.  Soon, there were more beggars than wealthy people in the city.

The king heard about this and sent messengers to the leaders of the city “help the beggars” he said “share with them something of your wealth, it is not right that you have so much and they have so little.  If you share just a bit with them, it won’t hurt you but will help them”.

The city leaders received the king’s messengers kindly but, many decided not to do anything about what they had heard.  Some heard the message, and determined to do something about it, later….

The city grew richer and more powerful and those at the bottom of the ladder lost what little they had and so, the number of beggars increased.

The king decided that he would visit the great city and bring his message personally to the people.  He told the officials that he wanted to provide the biggest banquet that the city had ever seen and, in order to communicate his message to the greatest number of people possible, he wanted to invite the largest part of the population.

The officials took the king at his word.  When the king visited the biggest costliest banquet the city had ever held took place and the guests that were invited were the largest part of the population; the beggars.

When the beggars entered the dining hall they could not believe their eyes.  They just stood and stared.  Nobody moved until the king stepped forward “welcome friends” he declared “come and eat as much as you want, there is plenty for all”.

One by one the beggars stepped forward and tried the food.  Some were very nervous being in the presence of the king.  Some felt they were not worthy of this kindness but, gradually, they began to eat and feast and celebrate.  They had never experienced anything like this before.

As the banquet moved on, one beggar approached the king “your majesty, this has been a wonderful experience, the food is amazing, I am so grateful for your kindness how can ever thank you enough?”

The king smiled at the beggar and said “that is easy, if you want to thank me all I want you to do is go out into the alley ways, shopping centres, streets and find as many other beggars as you can and invite them to come to my banquet”

DT Niles

 

The Diamond

diamond-dark-mobile

It may come as a relief for you to read that, I believe in prayer.  For me, prayer is part and parcel of my daily disciplines.  But, just because I believe in it, doesn’t necessarily mean I always understand it!

The way that I have come to think about prayer is that it like a diamond; multi-faceted.  Whichever way you look at it, displays its beauty.

One facet is the emergency, the “arrow” prayer.

Another facet is the prayer of lament

Another facet is the seeking of direction and God’s will

Another facet is the asking, or even pleading, for the things that we need.

The wonder of this diamond of prayer is that each of these facets are perfectly valid. Steven Croft wrote;

It is in the place of prayer that we find wisdom in complexity, peace in turmoil, guidance when we are lost and strength when we are empty                                                              (Steven Croft – The Gift of Leadership)

Some years ago, I came across this story about Mother Theresa.  Mother Theresa was once asked about her prayer life.  The interviewer asked, “When you pray, what do you say to God?”

Mother Theresa replied, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”

Believing he understood what she had just said, the interviewer next asked, “Ah, then what is it that God says to you when you pray?”

Mother Theresa replied, “He also doesn’t talk. He also simply listens.”

There was a long silence, with the interviewer seeming a bit confused and not knowing what to ask next.  Finally, Mother Theresa broke the silence by saying, “If you can’t understand the meaning of what I’ve just said, I’m sorry but there’s no way I can explain it any better.”

When I first heard that story, I nodded sagely pretending that I understood what was meant by it.  In truth I didn’t, but I wanted to.

This began, for me, a journey of discovery as I explore a new facet (to me anyway) of prayer.  I am learning to sit in silence in the presence of God.  I say nothing.  He says nothing.  Through this, I am beginning to understand what the Psalmist meant when he said;

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls                                                                   (Psalm 42 vs. 7)

This, sitting in silence, doesn’t take away any of the other facets of prayer.  I still fire the odd “arrow” prayer.  I still pray for others.  I still rage at God.  But, I am also learning to be silent in His presence and just “be”.

 

 

That’s disgusting!

Mug

I have a confession to make.  The above picture is of the inside of the mug I drink from when I am in the office!

Disgusting isn’t it?

I really enjoy a good cup of tea.

Not for me the foul dishwater taste of Earl Grey or anemic fruit tea.  I like proper tea, builder’s tea, without milk.  The problem with my beverage of choice is that it tends to stain the inside of the mug.

Sometimes, when I remember, (or somebody less than gently suggests that I am posing a health hazard) I take my mug home with me and put it through the dishwasher to clean it up. 

When I return it to the office, it’s ends up in exactly the same state in a matter of days!

The other morning, I had a bit of a nasty shock. 

I went to my mug and was about to make my early morning office brew.  The mug looked fine on the outside but, as I looked into the murky depth I discovered, in the warm weather, I had invented a “make your own penicillin” kit.  I am allergic to penicillin, and so the mug had to have a deep clean.

In the book of 1 Samuel is the story of the people of Israel needing a new king.  The prophet Samuel is sent to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem.  Jesse parades his sons before Samuel, and Samuel hears these words from God;

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”                                                                               (1 Samuel 16 vs. 7)

The outside of the mug looked fine but, inside, was a different story.

Outside I may look fine but, inside, it is often a different story.  Sometimes, what is on the inside, is not something I like very much and, like the mug, I need a deep clean.  The writer of Psalm 51 echoed that thought when he says;

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.                      (Psalm 51 vs. 10)

 That is what Jesus came to do.  Through His life, death and resurrection we can know God’s forgiveness and cleansing.  The Apostle John explains this in his first letter when he says ;

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.                                                                                                                             (1 John 1 vs. 9)

Also, like the mug, this is something that I need to do on a regular basis.  I come to God, I need to be honest with Him and, as I do, I experience His deep cleaning within.