Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What better place to sleep?

I've been very introspective of late.  At times, it's reached unhealthy levels, where anxiety overrides reason or peace.  It's a situation I'm quite familiar with, which means it can be an easy road to follow when certain circumstances seem to align.

Today's been one of those more extreme days, where the worry baseline started fairly low and then continued to grow as I became more anxious about the workload and challenges ahead of me - both inside of work and out.  By the time I was travelling home, I was employing as many distraction techniques as I could muster, trying to maintain a veil of calm and hoping it would all just go away.  It's daft really, because I know that's the worst thing to do... but I'm human, a creature of habit, and sometimes following old behaviours and mindsets seems 'easier' than challenging them.

I finally stopped for a moment and had a chat with God tonight.  I asked Him what He wanted me to do with this.  I asked Jesus about how he managed to cope when he was on the Earth - I mean, it's not like he didn't have some very stressful things to cope with.  And then I thought of the boat.  The story is told in Mark 4.  Jesus and the disciples were crossing the water, and in the NIV (v37-38) it says that 'A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.'  Try to imagine it - the waves were so high, so frequent, that the boat was nearly so inundated with water that it could have sunk.  How is it possible that Jesus remained asleep at this time?  And as I thought of this image, I realised that the disciples had a couple of choices available to them at that moment.  Their decision was to wake Jesus, to beg him for help.  Alternatively, they could have equally chosen to huddle together in their fear, whimpering and crying as the waves got higher and the boat got lower in the water, wishing that someone would help them but believing they were utterly doomed.  But there was also a third choice, the one which I love the most and which I'm choosing to do tonight.  They could have joined Jesus in the stern of the boat, lain down next to him and gone to sleep.  They could have rested, staying close to him and relying on the peace that he carried to also settle them.

This all links back to something I've been considering a lot recently.  Whether you look at secular or Christian teaching, the need for rest in order to function well is being made very clear.  If you want your mind and your body to work at their best, sleep and times of peaceful restoration (meditation, stillness, however you view it) need to be a central element of your life.  They're not things that come easy to me - the habits I've built up till now have kept both sleep and 'me-time' to a minimum.  I don't think that's been healthy or wise.  But there's also a Godly perspective to consider.  As His child, I am told that perfect peace is mine to have: 'You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!' (Isaiah 26:3, NLT).  It makes you think about where Jesus' mind was whilst he was sleeping.  Can you imagine that - he must have been so practiced in it, to have his mind in heavenly places even as he slept, not just when he was awake.  I really want that.  I really want that level of peace.  And it's a choice I'm prepared to keep on making, to keep working away at, whilst it becomes my new habit.  It's a decision to sleep well (surely more sleep must mean more time for my mind to be in heavenly places?!) and to keep metaphorically slapping my thoughts on the wrists every time they take a wee daunder away from heaven and into the anxiety pit.

Feel free to challenge me - if you see me on Facebook after 11pm, or just when you see me in the week, ask me how it's going.  And encourage me - habits are tough enough to change on your own, it's good to have the wise counsel and positive encouragement of friends!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Return of the Mac...

I'm back, with renewed vision, vim and vigour for writing.  It's been two years since I was actively posting on this blog, and whilst this may restart as a trickle of musings, it's going to be a great way to get my brain cells going again.  Happy times!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Living as a champion

I have a choice.  I've known about its existence for a long time.  And I've been avoiding it a lot recently.  But it's that moments when you realise the truth that sitting on the fence is really, really painful.  It's not just because, according to the jokes, of the splinters I supposedly acquire there.  It's because of the view afforded to me from the additional height.  I can see what lies ahead.  And right now I feel so annoyed with myself.  Because I've been spending so much time looking at the distance, presuming that I could never be good enough, never be strong enough, never determined enough, to reach the finish line that's been set out for me.  Instead I should have been looking at the grass in the field right in front of me, the only thing that I really need to concern myself with right now.  Not the finish line.  I'll reach it - but only if I start by walking into the field right ahead.  My choice is whether I let things continue as they are, or whether I choose my destiny.  To be a champion. That's what I'm called to be.  Chosen to be.  Willing to be.

It's incredible - to be honoured with the title of champion before I've even run the race.   That's my title.  I am a champion.  Because of Him.  He did it all, then gave the medal and crown to me.  So it's really dishonouring, knowing the finery with which He has clothed me, to think how I have been stooping and begging like a pauper.

Time to act.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

There may be fifty shades of grey....

... but some things are black and white.

I'm surprised by how quiet things have been from Christians when it has come to the book that has apparently sold out Harry Potter.  I've not read Fifty Shades of Grey, nor do I intend to.  If there was ever still a question over pornography being a male-dominated issue, that has been answered.  This book has simply highlighted that, whilst men generally prefer visual stimulation, for women it is visceral.  We want to be wooed, we want fantasy, ideals; and so our imagination is our greatest tool to help us on that journey.  Magazines have been playing up to men's needs for imagery for years and, whilst Mills & Boon and the like have been trying to tap into the female market, somehow this book has gained a heightened degree of notoriety and acceptability that they perhaps did not.  So why now?  I suspect that it is the product of a multitude of changes; I watch TV or music videos, and I see images that would have been considered pornographic ten or twenty years ago.  Now they are part of the 'norm', and lyrics by Rihanna and others are sung across playgrounds by girls to young to have a clue what they really mean.  Everyday clothing sold in everyday stores is designed to be increasingly provocative, show more cleavage without crossing the boundary into something more.  Women's magazines have become a farce, with the same publication using one page to berate certain celebrities for putting on a few pounds/being too skinny, and another to scream about how we should all learnt to accept our bodies.

I could go on, but I won't.  I'm already in danger of taking on the mantle of Mary Whitehouse, and I certainly don't want to give the impression that I believe myself to be whiter than white when it comes to the issues of popular culture and its impact on female sexuality, whether through music, magazines, clothing or other influences.  Nor do I want to vilify one particular group of people for being the downfall of us all.  It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario of which came first, the businesses who promote sexualisation in so many forms, or the people who demonstrated an interest for it?  However it started, it's now a vicious circle, that apparently wants to spiral downwards into itself.  Brilliant.  That should help Western society no end.

Where are the Christians in all this?  I have been really surprised by the lack of discussion by Christians about what is a significant marker point in our society's acceptance of pornography into every day life.  I suspect the answer is that we have become more de-sensitised to popular culture than we have realised.  Of course, the question really is, why does it matter?  The simple answer is this - the more time people spend in fantasy, the more difficult it is for them to engage in reality and gain satisfaction there.  It affects people's abilities to have whole and honouring relationships with others.  And all of that is without even considering what it does to a person's relationship with God.  In other words - it doesn't matter who you are or what you believe in, devoting time to pornography will have a less-than-positive impact on your life.  So this is why Christians should care.  This is why they should be talking about this subject.  This is why Christian women should be paying attention - because pornography cannot be put aside as a men-only subject now.  But we will only be able to take this issue on if we are clear in both who were are in Christ - new creations, powerful beings who can choose to have the mind of Christ - and what He wants for us - freedom.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Back to doors...

After two weeks of sharing a fairly small room with two other girls, the space is eerily quiet and empty tonight now that they've both gone home.  It's not a great feeling, and it reminds me of how much I thrive on social contact, and how good this time away has been for me.

I came here hoping that I would get some concrete answers from God on what I saw as key questions for my life.  I guess they weren't as key as some other things He wanted to talk to me about, as I'm coming back with the same questions unanswered, but with plenty more other things to consider as well.  The only thing I do feel confident about is the need to pursue prophetic art - understanding it, using it, blessing others with it.  It's a place for me to begin from.

The thing I'm looking forward to most is seeing friends and family again - and hugs.  Lots of hugs.  Yup, hugs it is :)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Running out of space and running back home!

Brain ache...... I have definitely reached the point of overflow when it comes to new information to process and the capacity to do it.  Every morning we have extended worship time and then a teaching session (total 2.5 hours), the afternoon has three sessions (total 3 hours) and then the evening has another two sessions - all together 7.5 hours of 'stuff' for my brain to wade through.  Five days a week.  For two weeks.  Enough now please!

I am pretty much ready to come home now.  This has been - and continues to be - a great experience, for so many reasons.  I have met such fabulous people, learnt incredible truths that I am still trying to digest, and been challenged to deal with some of the gnarly parts of my life that I really wish didn't exist.  But now my heart is beginning to yearn for home.  I want to be in Glasgow, in my gorgeous flat, with my amazing housemate and my stooopid cat, and at Hope Church on a Sunday morning - Bethel church is great, but I know where I feel most settled and it's with my church family.

Of course I'm going to feel differently when my host family are driving me to the airport on Monday and I have to say goodbye.  That's not going to be fun at all.  They are so, so precious to me, and have made me feel that I am precious to them.  They have cemented in my mind the sort of home I want to have - laughter, noise, acceptance, spontaneity, more laughter, people, crazy chats over the dinner table.  They have cultivated this in their home, and their kids' friends know that this is a safe place to be - it's evident from how they behave here, how they interact with everyone.

One full day of classes left and then Friday morning as usual - we finish early afternoon after a prayer tunnel with the leadership team at Bethel.... good times!  Then a last weekend with the family before my journey home begins on Monday.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Born to do more - and it's good!

I'm really enjoying the mini-revolution I'm going on during my time here.  Two things have really stood out as areas I want to explore further when I get back to Glasgow.

The easier one to talk about is art.  Whilst I would have previously discounted myself from being an 'artist', I do enjoy doing some forms of art and design.  I chose to do a couple of classes on prophetic art whilst I was here, and have since changed my options so I can do more.  I am loving how God can speak so clearly through it, and am definitely going to spend time with some prophetic artists I know when I get back, because I really want to learn more.  I have picked up a couple of books by Teresa Dedmon as well, that should help me get started.  Expect to see me with paper and pencils on some Sundays in future, because I want to practice listening to God and trying to express it in new ways.  I've seen the profound effect it has had on me and on others when they have done it - there is something in this prohetic art stuff, and I want more!  In a class by Trisha Wheeler today, she said that 'art ministers God's truth sensitively', that 'art is a tool to connect you to God and to the world', and that we can 'create to release the presence of God'.  Probably most of us have been moved at one time or another by a piece of artwork - it can be so much more powerful when you understand God's intention behind it.  So art, here I come!

The only one that feels a little less comfortable to talk about is dance!  I may not (currently) have the physique for it, but oh my, staying still in worship is NOT an option!  In fact, there are moments that it feels dis-honouring to God not to give Him absolutely everything that I have, include all my energy and determination, when I worship.  Don't hear what I'm not saying - I am still very clear on how much I need and want to have times of quiet.  But then there's the rest of the time.... when movement feels like an absolute essential, because I don't have enough air or strength in my lungs to do all the praising that's needed.  Admittedly, I'm a bit of am arm-waver and a swayer in my 'dancing' right now, and maybe it won't ever progress beyond that.  But I feel so much more free in worship.  I don't care what others think, I do care that I am giving Him the best of me.

I feel like I need to write about three blogs today - Christa Gifford (nee Black) did an awesome session on living from fullness (how can we ever be empty if the God of the Universe lives in us?), Ray Hughes shared more wisdom and passion on the atmosphere of worship and nearness to God that David cultivated, and Jenn Johnson shared all sorts of wisdom (that girl's got a fire for Jesus that I want to see in my own life, and more).  Oh, and then there was the impromptu meeting with a girl in the cafe at the church, the great chat with Lydie from France, the chill-out in the prayer chapel, the kindness, love and wisdom poured out over me by my host family..... I'll stop there.  That's only one day.  There's a whole host of these already gone, and another week to go before I return.  I'm running out of pages in my notebook.  This is a good thing :)