Monday, 31 January 2011

A Year of Yielding (Part 2)

There is something about her screaming that sets us all off.

It had started so well - his first day back at work after paternity leave. We had managed to get all 3 up, downstairs, eating breakfast by the time we had planned, just as we had been practising in the last week or so. Noone had been grumpy getting up and they were all chatting nicely round the table. He had left on time with clean, ironed trousers, a shirt and the tie our eldest had bought him for Christmas. She had finished her breakfast without delay, gone upstairs and dressed herself happily whilst I cleared up. It was all going swimmingly.

Why do I find it so hard not to lose my temper? Why do we all find it so hard to only speak kind words? Why are we so quick to descend into shouting, slamming doors, harsh words and feelings hurt? It was a matter of seconds that it took to escalate...

"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." That's what Jesus said.

...Somewhere between me trying to brush her hair and the knots pulling, coupled with the scream of the youngest who did not want to be wearing her winter coat because it restricts her movement - somewhere in those few seconds our hearts began to spill over.

It wasn't nice.

Again I am confronted with my utter need for help. I need saving from myself, let alone anything else. I am just like the prophet when he said even his best attempts at being good were like filthy rags. And so I yield to this truth. After all, it's nothing I don't know already - the Bible speaks quite clearly about the state of all our hearts.

I don't need new year's resolutions - I need rebirth, to be made new from the inside out - every day.

I don't need self help regimes, I need a Saviour - someone to rescue me from the old habits and ways of living that are destructive to others and myself, not to mention the havoc they wreak on the image of Him who made me.

I yield to the truth that I need the one who is called The Truth. The one whose words were never harsh, whose heart overflowed with perfect unadulterated goodness every time he spoke. The one who went "like a lamb to the slaughter and did not open his mouth" - all so that we could be set free from ourselves and the wrong we do and say every day. Only by following and waiting on Him each day and with the change brought about by His indwelling Spirit will I, we, find the strength, help and forgiveness we need to live in peace in this family, in this world.

An ancient prayer for the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (church calendar), paraphrased:

"God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many great dangers, which, because of our weakness we cannot overcome - grant us health in body and soul so that the difficulties we suffer as a result of evil and sin in our world and in us, we will, with your help, overcome in Jesus."
"Facing the facts - our "beset"-ness, then asking for help - "grant us", produce the first fruits of overcoming. The root is aid requested; the fruit, success in reaching the port."
(From a meditation on the ancient prayer in this book.)

2011 - A Year of Yielding.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Year of Yielding (Part 1)

I have never named a year before.

It seemed a strange thing to do to me - to name it before it's happened. Looking back on all that has been and then naming it, well that made sense. But how could I name an event before it happens? How would I know how it would turn out?

But then it struck me. Maybe it's not so much about what will happen, but how I will respond to it that matters. It's not about controlling but choosing. As my Father, He controls the circumstances, but as his child, I can choose (with his help) the character I will put on to face each day - like a new season's wardrobe. There is an intentionality about this which could be a way of being watchful and alert, prepared.

Mary learnt this lesson. She must have, or else she would not have responded the way that she did when Gabriel brings the news that she was to bear a child, out of wedlock, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would be God himself, the Messiah and who would one day die a brutal death to save others.

Could there be anything more overwhelming? More frightening? More unpredictable? More inconvenient? Potentially painful?

And yet...

her heart was ready.

Her orientation was right:

"I am the LORD's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

I don't know what this year holds. I don't know which path it will take.

But I do know this: if I don't set my face in the right direction (like Jesus on the way to Jerusalem and the cross), if I don't set my heart in the right orientation - not just now in January but every day - I may be caught unawares or unprepared to do His will.

So before I do anything this year, first I must surrender, as Mary did, to all that His sovreignty will bring in 2011 and I pray for the Spirit's help to pray with her, I am the LORD's servant. may it be to me as you have said, as you will say.

"Spiritual experience, if it is of God, will indeed lead to a life of activity. But the nature of true activity is surrender and obedience. The most striking revelation of this is found in the conception and birth of Jesus." (Philip Britts, "Yielding to God")
So I surrender, I yield to a Father's sovreign plan that is bigger than I can understand and to his provision that is bigger than I can ask for, to the Spirit's power that is greater than I can anticipate and to a Saviour's grace, which is greater than I can imagine.

And in so doing, I yield also to an acnowledgment of a family's need (not to mention a community's, a world's) that is greater than I can meet. I have nothing of my own to bring to the table - only what He gives me first will truly be of worth, will truly yield any fruit - in me or in others. So I pray that as I yield to a God who is all sufficient to meet my every need, as I abide in His Son, that we might then yield a harvest of lasting fruit, in all of us.

"This pattern of complete abandonment of human strength in total surrender to God's will is of vital importance for us, both in our lives' activity and spiritual experience...In our own daily lives, in our efforts to do right, what is decisive is that we accept and live by and surrender ourselves to a strength which is not our own, to the piercing white light of God's love.
When we experience this love we turn away from the notion that we initiate and God responds; that we, by our religious efforts, can set something in motion that God must obey in response. To believe that by an effort of will we can mount nearer to God or add one cubit to our stature is as unchirstian as the belief that we have no task as Christians for the mundane affairs of this world. Both beliefs have the same root - the pride that seeks to climb it's way to God - and produces the same kind of confusions as the ancient attempt to build the Tower of babel.
The direction to which our wills must be put is in obedience to God's will in response to the breaking in of the Spirit. Then something decisive happens for this earth... And in obediently following this path we are released from the servitude of our own desires, our selfish hopes and fears - we are redeemed, we become free."
(Philip Britts, "Yielding to God")

I am the LORD's servant. May it be to me as you have said and will say this year.

2011 - A Year of Yielding.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

"Obedience to God, compassion toward one’s fellows, consistency in the leadership, covenantal faithfulness that extends to one’s pocketbook, repentance and restoration where there has been either corruption or rapacity—these were values more important than the building of the wall. If the wall had been rebuilt without rebuilding the people, the triumph would have been small."

Don Carson, "For the Love of God" on Nehemiah 5

Thursday, 2 December 2010

"... you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, Just as ours vanishes from us. You held onto it carefully, so that not a single drop of it's torments would be spilled. You hoarded it's every fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end.
... You were supposed to come to redeem us from ourselves, and yet you, who alone are absolutely free and unbounded, were "made" even as we are. Of course I know that you remained what you always were, but still, didn't our mortality make you shudder, you the immortal God Didn't you, the broad and limitless Being, shrink back in horror from our narrowness? Weren't you, absolute Truth, revolted at our pretense?
Didn't you nail yourself to the cross of creation, when you took as your own life something which you had drawn out of nothing, when you assumed as your very own the darkness that you had previously spread out in the eternal distance as the background to your own inaccessible light? Isn't the cross of Golgotha only the visible form of the cross you have prepared for yourself, which towers throughout the spaces of eternity? my surrender to the crushing narrowness of earthly existence the beginning of my liberation from it, precisely because this surrender is my "Amen" to your human life, my way of saying yes to your human coming, which happens in a manner so contrary to my expectations?
...Slowly a light is beginning to dawn. I've begun to understand something I have known for a long time: You are still in the process of your coming. Your appearance in the form of a slave was only the beginning of your coming, a beginning in which you chose to redeem men by embracing the very slavery from which you were freeing them. And you can really acchieve your purpose in this paradoxical way, becasue the paths that you tread have a real ending, the narrow passes which you enter soon open out into broad liberty, the cross that you carry ineveitable becomes a brilliant banner of triumph."
(Karl Rahner)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I Knew You’d Come: A Remembrance Day Recollection (found here)

~Author Unknown

He was very old now, but could still hold himself stiffly at attention before the monument. His war, the one to end all wars, now just a fading part of history. Very few could remember, first-hand, the savageness of the ordeal that had sent millions of young men to their deaths. Cannon fodder, they’d called them, sent before the guns to be mown down — blown apart by chunks of metal which had decimated their frail bodies. The cream of a generation; almost wiped out. He was haunted by the faces of the boys he’d had to order into battle, the ones who’d never come back. Yet one nameless ghost was able to bring a measure of comfort to his tormented mind. At the sound of the gun signaling the eleventh hour he was mentally transported back to the fields of Flanders.


The battle had raged for over two hours, with neither side gaining any advantage. Wave after wave of soldiers had been dispatched from the muddy trenches and sent over the top. So many had died already that day that he decided he could not afford to lose any more men before reinforcements arrived. Perhaps they’d give the remnants a few more days of life. There came a slight lull in the battle due to the sheer exhaustion of the men on both sides.

During this interval, a young soldier came up to him requesting that he be allowed to go over the top. He looked at the boy who couldn’t have been more than nineteen. Was this extreme bravery in the face of the enemy or was the soldier so scared he just needed to get it over with?

Why would you want to throw your life away, soldier? It’s almost certain death to go out there.”

“My best friend went out over an hour ago, captain, and he hasn’t come back. I know my friend must be hurt and calling for me. I must go to him, sir, I must.” There were tears in the boy’s eyes . It was as if this were the most important thing in the world to him.

“Soldier, I’m sorry, but your friend is probably dead. What purpose would it serve to let you sacrifice your life too?

At least I’d know I’d tried, sir, he’d do the same thing in my shoes. I know he would.

He was about to order the boy back to the ranks, but the impact of his words softened his heart. He remembered the awful pain he’d felt himself when his brother had died. He’d never had the chance to say goodbye.

“All right soldier, you can go.” Despite the horror all around them, he saw a radiant smile on the boy’s face, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

“God bless you, sir,” said the soldier.

It was a long time before the guns fell silent for the last time and each side was allowed to gather their dead and wounded. The captain remembered the young soldier. He looked through the many piles of bodies. Young men. So many as to give an unreal quality to the scene before him.

When he came to the makeshift hospital, he looked carefully through the casualties. He soon found himself before the prone body of the soldier, alive, but severely wounded. He knelt down beside the young man and gently laid a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry, son. I knew I was wrong to let you go.”

“Oh no, sir. I’m glad you did and I’m glad you’re here now so I can thank you. You see sir, I found my friend. He was badly wounded, but I was able to comfort him at the end. As I held him dying in my arms, he looked me in the eyes and said: “I knew you’d come.”

The young soldier faded between consciousness and oblivion for some time before he too finally slipped away.

The captain stayed by his side until the end, tears streaming quietly down his cheeks.


As the bugle sounded “Taps”, the old captain envisioned once again the young soldier’s face. Looking up, he could almost hear the stone monument calling out to him: “I knew you’d come.”

Jesus said, "There is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for a friend."

Monday, 8 November 2010

Ten of One Thousand

Giving thanks for another ten of one thousand endless gifts:

41. a peaceful and beautiful walk by the canal on Saturday
42. seeing the children running, smiling and just being out of doors
43. healing from sickness of various kinds last week
44. for a husband's humility and service in caring for us all when we were ill
45. for a daughter making progress in riding her bike (through a father's perseverance!)
46. for forgiveness for things I said yesterday which did not build up but rather knocked down
47. for a bonfire party with no injuries!
48. Cranmer's collects
49. for mercy which does not give me what I truly do deserve
50. for grace which freely gives me gifts I truly don't

holy experience

Friday, 5 November 2010

All those prayers we never pray, but should

“Unoffered prayer, and by that I mean prayers that we do not pray that we should be praying, is a direct index to and commentary on the way in which prideful presumption and the sin of self–sufficiency governs us and directs our thinking. I fear... that there are large portions of our lives when we are so proud, so self sufficient, so presumptuous, that we go about trying to get the things we need and want in our own strength as if we had no Heavenly Father to take care of us.”