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