What are you living for?

Everything has changed…at least that’s what it feels like.  In the last two months I’ve moved house, changed jobs, and had my first child.  And the crazy thing is, I never planned any of it…

Since I can remember I felt a sense of call to church ministry that was gradually combined with a passion for theological education.  Three times I applied for a PhD, three times I asked God to close the door if it wasn’t right, and three times the door slammed shut.  Then, just over a year ago, when I’d parked that idea for twenty years from now, God brought it up again.  This time the door flew open with an offer of housing and income for a full year.

Then the fun started.

We knew that come June 2015 my income would stop, housing would stop, and, as we found out in comical timing, we’d also be expecting our first child.  What do you do in those moments?  It’s not easy.  We had no way to work it out on our own: no savings for a house deposit, no clear way to find income without leaving the very place and work we felt called to be in.  What do you do?

Be faithful.  Falteringly, with a great deal of trepidation, and in need of a great deal of encouragement from trusted friends, we decided to keep going in the direction we felt God leading, not knowing the whole path but taking the next step we did know.

He is so faithful.  To cut a long story short, over the last year we had a house deposit provided from totally unexpected quarters, a job offer come in that covered exactly the shortfall in our income after mortgage payments and fitted perfectly with all God had been speaking for this next season.  We had unexpected extensions of payment, anonymous gifts, and a small army of people coming to make our new house a home just in time for our first baby to arrive.

He is so kind, so creative, so beautiful in the way He works.  Woven into the mix of answers to the headline prayers are the intricate connections that have His fingerprints all over.  Like the person we bought our house from just happened to be a member of a mother and toddlers group run by a local church.  The first prayer she allowed someone to pray for her was for her house to be sold…and that week we put our offer in.  God answered our prayer by using us to answer someone else’s…how good is that?

Why I am telling you this?  He’s the same God for you as for me.

I’m not the only one with stories like these – they’re everywhere!  I didn’t do everything right – far from it!  I’m not yet at the end – there’s so much more to go!  You don’t have to be perfect, just open.  You don’t have to know the whole story, just the next step.  It won’t always be easy, but He is always good.

You’re made for a purpose.  Maybe you know what it is but you’re standing back, perhaps just on the brink, not yet taking that step.  Maybe you’ve stepped off and you’re wondering where you’re going to end up.  Maybe you’ve never stopped to ask if you’re where God wants you to be.  This story is for you.  My prayer is that it can be the nudge to get you moving, the encouragement to keep you going, and the pause to get you listening.

If you’ve got a similar story of God’s faithfulness when you stepped out…share the love in the comments below!

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From Conflict to Celebration – What a Difference God Makes

If you are a member of the human race then you will experience difficulty.  You will experience suffering, sickness, loss and heart ache.  There will be nights so dark that even the stars seem to stop shining.  And these difficulties will include conflict with other people: neighbours, colleagues, friends, family, strangers – whoever it is, conflict will come.

How do we respond?

In the last couple of posts I’ve talked about dealing with anxiety and finding contentment, about finding peace in our personal life.  How do we find this peace when other people are involved?  How do we respond when the issue isn’t impersonal circumstances but aggressive persons?

Kathryn Kuhlman, in a television address in the ’70s, turns to 2 Kings 6 and the story of Elisha.  The Syrian King, an enemy of Elisha and his nation of Israel, sends an entire army to capture Elisha.  This army surround the town Elisha and his servant are in with horses and chariots – the heavy artillery of the day.  There is no way out.  Many of us will know situations that feel like this.  Unfairly, perhaps even due to our obedience of God, we find ourselves confronted by adversaries who have overwhelming force.  Maybe at work, in the community, in school or at home, there are people coming against us who have power we cannot tackle – they are simply stronger than us.  How do we respond?

Elisha’s servant responds with fear.  It’s natural.  We can see only two ways to get out of a mess like this.  Either we escape or we win.  Our fear can lead to withdrawal (I have to get away!), aggression (You’re going down!) or despair (There’s no way out!).  However our fear expresses itself each of these responses leads to a breakdown of relationship.  We’ve been there, done that, or at least seen it before at different degrees of severity.  Even winning the contest leaves a hollow feel, especially when the one we beat is a loved one or friend.

Yet Elisha finds a different way to respond.  If you skip to the end of the story we find the Syrian army celebrating a feast with their enemies the Israelites and we read that there was a lasting reconciliation – “the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.”

What makes the difference?  Here are a few thoughts…

Elisha sees differently

If you hear only one thing from this message, hear this: The presence of God is not a theory, it is a fact.

These are the words of Kathryn Kuhlman.  These words are true.  These words change everything.

Elisha prays for God to open his servant’s eyes.  When he does the servant sees that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” When we know that God is present we become free to act differently.  Often we feel in conflict situations like we are forced to react defensively or aggressively by the circumstances or people – ‘they made me do it’.  Yet the reality is that when our Father God is present we are ‘more than conquerors’ through his love – we are safe and secure enough to choose for ourselves how we want to react.

How do we choose how to react?  We either let the circumstances shape us or we let God do it.  Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  What is the will of the Father?  It is to see peace, reconciliation, unity come.  The picture of heaven is the picture of a feast as every people from every tribe and tongue celebrate together.  A picture not dissimilar to the end of this story…so what does Elisha’s reactions look like?

Elisha first reacts with prayer

As with choosing not to be anxious, choosing not to be the victim does not come from a denial of the challenge or conflict.  Rather it comes from giving the conflict to God.  Elisha prays that God would make the enemy army blind.  In other words, he prays that God would step in so they could not do what they are planning to do.  Rather than taking the matter into his own hands, Elisha places it in God’s.

Elisha walks with his enemies

As God begins to move, Elisha has an opportunity to escape.  He could run from the conflict.  There is a way out.  Yet he decides to walk with his enemies, leading them to the very place where reconciliation needs to happen – to the capital of Israel.  Now, please note that God has already moved to remove the immediate danger from Elisha.  I’m not saying here that we should remain in a situation where we are actively being hurt – like an abusive relationship.  If God provides a way out then step out of the abuse, out of the place or hurt.  The question is: what is our heart when our enemies have been weakened?  Elisha doesn’t leave them in weakness, but walks them to a place of greater reconciliation.  Are we willing to  maintain relationship in whatever way God guides as he leads us to?

Elisha chooses to bless not beat

Elisha finds himself with this captured enemy army under his power.  He is now in the place of influence and here we see his heart shine through.  Rather than beating them, he chooses to bless.  Not only that, but he draws others to join that blessing.  Elisha calls the King of Israel to feast their one time enemies.   In this place of blessing rather than beating, Elisha now draws others into reconciliation.  Having chosen to walk the way of peace rather than fear, he finds himself with an opportunity to bring peace in the wider community.

When we recognise the presence of God in conflicts we recognise an opportunity to respond differently.  Rather than defending ourselves we can live for Him.  Our actions can be shaped not by fear, but by love.  First we hand over the problem to God in prayer.  When he moves we have a choice to cut contact, maintain relationship – to reconcile in our own part to our enemies and continue to walk with them.  As we walk with them an opportunity may come to draw others into reconciliation depending on whether we are willing to choose to bless rather than beat.

How will we respond?

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 4

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegWhat happens when Jesus comes back?

First, there will be a judgement. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 or Revelation 20:11-15.

The Revelation passage gives an image I find incredibly valuable.  Here John speaks of Jesus on his throne with many books that record the entirety of our lives.  We will be judged on what is in our book – every thought, action and word.  Yet he has another book: the Book of Life.  Anyone who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour has their name written in this book.  Anyone with their name in this book will pass through into life with God, anyone without will go into ‘the second death, the lake of fire’ (v14).

Jesus used similar images of separating sheep and goats or wheat and weeds.  There will be a judgement and those who know Jesus will be with Him forever in life, those who do not will pass into Hell.

Now, a brief word is needed here.  In our modern enlightened age we hate talking about judgement, heaven and hell. It makes us uncomfortable.  Firstly, it should.  Even God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell.  If we share even an iota of His compassion then we shouldn’t find it an easy concept!

But we often wonder whether a loving and just God is compatible with the notion of hell.  Here’s the thing.  Sin is not a problem that can be controlled, it has to be removed permanently – destroyed.  Just look at how peacekeeping missions exacerbate terrorism or corporeal punishment accentuates criminality and you get a sense of how sin cannot be controlled.  More than that, justice requires that misdeeds are punished – our own consciences reflect that truth.

God is fully just and has acted to fully deal with sin.  Yet because he is also fully loving He came as Jesus, took all our sin on Himself, and died in our place.  Jesus took our punishment so that we don’t have to.  Moreover, because God made us for genuine love, He gave us free will – forced love is not love.  We have a choice: we can accept the free gift of what Jesus has done for us and so live in relationship with Him, or we can not.  Hell is God’s honouring the choice we make in this life in the next.  As is heaven.  And here it gets good….

http://secondcomingherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/rapture.jpgSecond, when Jesus comes there will be a new heaven and a new earthRevelation 21.

People often talk about ‘going to heaven’.  It is far more like heaven comes to us.  ‘Heaven’, as understood in the Bible, is the spiritual realm where God lives.  It interacts with the natural world even though we can’t see it.  It’s like there is a veil between us and heaven.

Yet John describes in Revelation how the New Jerusalem (an image of heaven) will come down and be on the earth.  There will be no need for Sun or stars because God himself will be our light.  In other words, when Jesus returns, all creation – heaven and earth – will be made new.  All the mess, rubbish, decay and sin will be removed and there will  be a new unity between spiritual and natural – between heaven and earth.  We will live with God face to face.

This is no airy fairy playing harps on clouds.  This will be a creation like the original but perfect, not marred.  We’ll continue with creativity, exploration, discovery, relationship and above all worship and unity with God.  This will be life in all it’s fullness, this will be the ultimate kairos moment. 

This is the hope that stirred the early Church even in the midst of persecution.  It is the hope Jesus proclaimed and called us to stand on.  It is the hope we need to keep our eyes fixed on every moment.

Just as we get the odd day of sunshine before the summer really kicks in, the kairos moments we experience now are like foreshadows of that great day that is to come.  We don’t know when, but we know it will.  We work and wait, paddling to where the wave should break, ready for when it comes.

But how do we get ready?  That is the question for next time, but for now go and read Revelation 21.  Remind yourself of the hope we have.  Check out what I’ve been saying.  Ask me questions and study for yourself.  There is nothing more important to understand.

Advice to New Christians from Frank Viola

Advice to New Christians from Frank Viola

This is a really helpful post for anyone who has recently become a Christian.  Frank Viola is a wise and mature Christian leader with a gift for getting straight to the point.  Reading this made me think of every person I’ve seen come to faith during the last few years at my church – I would love them all to read it!  

Colours on the Horizon – viewing the future from the Father’s table

There is a new season coming for the church.  A season characterised by creativity and community.  As a friend and I were praying and talking yesterday we were struck afresh by how true this is, how we can see signs of it already bubbling up, but how we have no idea what it will look like.  Like colours on the horizon we can see signs of it, but can only walk to it step by step, doing what God says each moment.  This isn’t a set model that we can develop a tried and tested strategy to reach. We feel like we have been given an opportunity to explore what it might look like in one particular church gathering that we’re part of.  Exploring by simply doing what God says to do each step.  First we began eating together, now we want to encourage, demonstrate and release creativity and expression towards God.  That is what has inspired this poem.  It’s not meant to be polished or amazing, it is the beginning of an expression of praise through creativity, of me finding a voice I didn’t think I had, in the hope that others might find theirs.  (Click on the image below to read the poem.)

Background Image from http://lloydbleekcollection.cs.uct.ac.za/images/bleek_nb_lowres/BC_151_A1_4_015/A1_4_15_01494.JPG

Truth is told through stories – so here’s mine…

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/true-storyHow do you tell the truth? By telling a story.

This may sound odd.  We often contrast facts and stories; facts are about truth, and stories are about opinions or perspective.  Inspired by Stanley Hauerwas, amongst others, I want to suggest that truth is conveyed by stories that connect the facts.  Facts alone tell us little; stories that contradict facts are false; but truth is found when facts are connected and given meaning by a story that makes sense.

Think about it.  To describe who you are, the truth about yourself, to a stranger, you may tell them facts about yourself, but these make sense because they are connected to form a story about you.  In science, the most persuasive theories are not just lists of results from experiments, but descriptions of the world that link these results together and give them meaning.  Evolution is a prime example of a theory that gains it’s persuasive power not least because it is a compelling story of the way things are.

No wonder God revealed Himself through story.  The Bible is essentially a narrative of God’s creation and relation with humanity.  And still today, as individuals  we get to know God through our own stories with Him.  These aren’t just ‘opinions’ or metaphors with a ‘deeper meaning’ underneath.  These stories are descriptions of reality and the way things are.  They don’t allow us to ignore factual evidence, but they recognise that facts alone can’t convey the whole truth.

Who is God and how do I know Him? I can only answer that with story.  So I’ve tried writing mine short enough to print, put in my wallet, and share with people.  Here it is…

If God is real, not made up, then we don’t decide what he is like, we discover. 

Life is not always easy.  When I was 6 years old my Dad, a solicitor, had a nervous breakdown and stopped working.  That left a family of five (including Mum and 2 older sisters) with no income for 3 months before health insurance and benefits kicked in.  When I was 15 years old a close school friend of mine died suddenly – he was there on Monday and dead by Tuesday.  For a while after this I took anti-depressants to help me sleep.  To date my Mum has had cancer 5 times and numerous operations, not to mention recently being seriously weak for months following complications from so much surgery. 

Who have I discovered God to be?  He is a provider.  During those 3 months after Dad’s breakdown we had no income and no food.  We prayed for God’s help.  Boxes of food were left on our doorstep and money was posted under our door. 

He is faithful.  After my friend died I was deeply sad and angry with God.  But even in that time, when I was at my lowest, it was in God I found peace and comfort.  He draws close in the hard times, even if we don’t understand them.

He is a healer.  Every time my Mum has had cancer it has either disappeared or been easily removed when we have prayed.  When my Mum was seriously weak she spent most of her day in bed, couldn’t lift even a saucepan, couldn’t wear make-up as it brought a terrible infection.  After a month of this I was praying and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit – God with me.  I began to cry as I thought about Mum and I was asking in my heart for her to be healed.  After a time I felt a sense of peace and that it was done.  I called Mum the next morning and she was out of bed, had been for a bike ride, was wearing make-up, and was back to health.

God is provider, faithful and able to heal.

He is our good Father. I don’t know why He doesn’t always do what I want Him to, but I have a choice to trust God as He is, or reject Him because He isn’t exactly like I think He should be.  I choose to trust Him and have found He is better than I could ever make up.  God doesn’t sit at a distance, but lived as one of us in Jesus.  He knows what it is to suffer, to be rejected and even to die. In fact, He died for us, to pay the price so that we can be forgiven from everything we have ever done wrong that keeps us from coming close to Him.  Because of Jesus we can know God as our Father if we come to Him.  I’ve discovered a Father who loves me, has a plan for me, is with me in every situation, who does incredible things I could never make up, and who strengthens me and gives peace when things are hard.

This idea came from an amazing church I was privileged to be a part of at University – Grace Church Nottingham – and it certainly is something you can try at home!

Who do you think God is and how have you come to know Him? What is your story? Why not share some of it by leaving a comment?

Love Requires Leftovers

http://www.artbible.info/art/large/594.htmlThe parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is one of the most well known of Jesus’ parables.  A man travels a dangerous road and is attacked by robbers and left for dead.  A Priest and a Levite, two religious and respected people, walk by on the other side of the road.  A Samaritan, ostricised and hated by Jesus’ listeners, walks over to the man, patches him up, takes him to an inn and pays for his care promising to return.  The moral of the story?  Everyone is our neighbour and love looks like something.  Essentially Jesus is challenging the lawyer’s question.  Rather than asking ‘who is my neighbour?’, he should have been querying ‘how can I be a better neighbour?’

Simple.  And challenging.  I’m preaching on this text on Sunday night so am running a certain risk in posting these thoughts now, but they’re buzzing round my brain.

Here’s the thing.  It is often simple and evident what God wants us to do, but very challenging.  I’m challenged by this parable because, although I’d hope I would have the desire to help the hurting man, it just seems to take so much time and effort.  Don’t get me wrong, in an emergency I would like to think I’d drop everything and help.  But what about in normal life?  The thought of taking time to practically love every person I encounter seems difficult.  I have many things to do during the day, not a whole lot of money to spare, and I get tired.  I can relate to the lawyer in wanting to respond to the simple command of God to love everyone with the question: ‘who do you mean by everyone?’  I want to know who qualifies for my love, my time, my money, my effort, mainly because there simply doesn’t seem to be enough to go around.

That’s where I’ve been struck by the context of this parable in Luke’s gospel.  It comes just after Jesus has prayed about his disciples, thanking God the Father that he has revealed the secret of the kingdom to children but hidden it from the wise.  What does this mean?  It takes children to understand how to live in the kingdom of God.  This doesn’t just mean it is a ‘simple’ thing, it means that only those who know that the God of the universe is their Father will be able to respond to the clear yet challenging commands of God without qualifying them away.  It’s not surprising that straight after this parable Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “Our Father…” and explains that, as human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, so Father God is even more faithful.

We're so wanting to live like this we've painted it on our living room wall

We’re so wanting to live like this we’ve painted it on our living room wall!

You might remember a post some time back about Pete Grieg’s idea of ‘living beautifully’.  It strikes me that the love God calls us to in this parable requires a beautiful life.  It requires more than pre-meditated actions, but a lifestyle where there is enough time, money, and effort left over for us to respond to those who are unexpectedly in need.  Grieg talked about ‘leaving gleanings’ in life; not scheduling all our time or allocating all our money, but having ‘left overs’ with no particular specified purpose.  He was saying that these are the places of creativity and imagination.  I suggest they are also the places of love.

Love happens in the leftovers.  It is difficult to have left overs if we live from the assumption that we don’t have enough, that our resources are limited.  We cannot make time we can only use it, few of us would think we have money to spare, and it can be hard to shift our focus from our own needs and plans.  Yet those who know God – the maker of the universe, the one who holds the world in his hands, the one who promises to give good gifts to his children – as their Father, are not those who assume they don’t have enough.  They are those who can live with leftovers.

Love requires leftovers.

This is a really interesting post from a new friend I made over the weekend. The value of listening is something I’ve come to recognise increasingly in a church context, and it is really encouraging to see the same values playing out positively in a completely different sphere of society.

Silent Marketing

Introduction

You can change the world by thinking of others before you think of yourself.

I’m sure you’re familiar with traditional sales and marketing.  They’re based on the premise of the ‘gift of the gab,’ coercion, interruption, shouting, and broadcasting.  There’s lack of trust.  This is, in my opinion, passé.  Silent marketing (listening) is the wave of the future.

How did we get to the mistrust?

In the business world, sales and marketing is justifiably perceived by many as sleazy.  As a result, by the time a prospect gets to your website or starts to interact with you they’re already very weary and sceptical.  Well, can you blame them?  It’s no wonder that prospects believe no one.  They’ve experienced being conned, yelled at, interrupted, bullied, tricked, deceived, manipulated, and sold many times.  And they’re tired.

What is (and why) Silent Marketing?

Silence is golden.  Saying nothing is preferable when you’re…

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A Humble NHS?

NHSLast post I reflected on humility as defined by James Ryle:

God given self-assurance that eliminates the need to prove to others the worth of who you are and the rightness of what you do.

Ryle suggests, from 1 Peter 5:5-7, that central to humbling ourselves is throwing our cares on to God.  Every concern, care and fear being hurled on to God who is faithful and powerful enough to handle them.  When we know that we are loved by Him no matter what and that He is in control no matter what, then we remove the need to prove ourselves or protect ourselves.  We become humble – secure enough to allow God to be in control and to serve others.  Once our eyes are lifted from ourselves we are able to see others to love and serve them.

Just before writing the last post I was reading an article about the report by Robert Francis QC on the appalling treatment of patients at Stafford Hospital.  One of the recurring comments made by many different people is that the pressure of targets and incentives increasingly displaces focus on compassion and patient care.  When doctors, nurses and managers alike are bombarded with ever increasing and regularly changes hoops to jump through and targets to meet, no wonder their attention and efforts are dragged from patient care.

I’ve seen something of the effects of this in a family member who for many years worked as a Health Visitor.  In their decades of service they saw an ever increasing and ever changing string of targets and goals alongside cost cutting moves that stripped resources and personnel.  Their desire to be compassionate and offer the best care possible became more and more stressful until it finally proved too much.  She recently changed jobs.

Now I’m not trying to attack the NHS and I am well aware that so many people receive great care.  But this is not a new concern that is being bandied around with fresh vigour in the light of Stafford Hospital. What struck me is that it demonstrates on an institutional level what also seems true at a personal level. Namely, that when we are forced to operate from a place of insecurity we begin to miss the most important things.  NHS services have to meet targets to receive funding to simply keep operating – there will be no patient care if there is no hospital.  Oftentimes, especially as a leader, we can live with a sense that, unless we meet expectations or make people like us or recognise our worth, then we’ll have no influence to do any of the things we know we are called to do.

The secret of personal humility is to recognise that we are already loved by our Father before we even move our finger; to recognise that He is control and we can throw every care on Him.  A person who can live from that place of security finds, free from the need to prove themselves or their actions, can begin to simply do what they are made and called to do.  They are no longer pulled in different directions by a multiplicity of cares.  What about an institution?

It strikes me that a similar solution is needed for the NHS.  Is there a way to give security for doctors, nurses and caring professionals so that they are able to do what they are called to do without constantly watching their back?  Obviously there is a need for accountability for the safety of patients and to ensure a good standard of care, but the constant need to prove worth and achievement cannot be helpful for those who are called to compassionate care.

I’m not a healthcare professional.  I don’t know exactly what this would look like.  But I recognise in the diagnosis of struggles in the NHS, God’s diagnosis of struggles in many people’s lives.  The way He designed us to live with Him is often a good basis to begin to imagine a new way for every level of society to function.

So, my question is this: what would a humble NHS look like?  To whom could a National Health Service throw it’s concerns and cares?

Throwing our cares away – the secret of humility

No FishingIn my line of work I lead a lot of public events.  A few days ago I was trying to lead an event I was not meant to be leading, although I saw myself at the time as offering helpful suggestions to the leader.  Thankfully this was a friend of mine and a couple of lovingly frank conversations have taken our friendship deeper.  They have also helped me recognise something that I doubt is unique to me: some of the most stressful times I have are when I want to be in control but am not.  That desire for control itself often stems from insecurity.

Now, as you may have noticed from previous posts, I have been reading through some old journals.  In the midst of thinking about my reactions the other night, I read some notes I made 6 years ago about humility.  They’re from a talk by James Ryle, who I’ve mentioned before, reflecting on 1 Peter 5:5-7 in the Bible:

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him.

Ryle’s main points:

  1. God calls us to be humble.  The dictionary defines humble as ‘pitiable, subdued, disgraced, shamed’.  Yet the Bible defines humility by pointing to Jesus.  Just read Philipians 2:5-11 or John 13:1-11.  So what is humility?
  2. Humility is: “God given self-assurance that eliminates the need to prove to others the worth of who you are and the rightness of what you do.”
  3. Do read Philipians 2 and John 13.  Jesus demonstrates humility in coming to earth as a man and in washing the disciples’ feet.  What lay behind his humility?  Not being ‘shamed’ but rather the opposite – he knew beyond doubt his value and worth.  “Being in very nature God” and knowing that “the Father had put all things under his feet” he simply did what he was called to do, no need to prove himself or gain approval.
  4. Humility, then, comes when we are secure in the Father’s love – when we know we are loved and valued so have no need to prove it by what we do.

Amazing as this truth is, you may well have heard it before, but Ryle went on to say something that hit me afresh:

How do we humble ourselves?  1 Peter 5:7 gives the answer – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”.  The word we translate ‘cast’ is not a gentle word like a free flowing fishing line, rather it has a sense of violence and urgency – ‘hurl’ your anxieties away – just get rid of them!  Throw them away and don’t fish them back up. Get rid of every ‘care’ – every concern that pulls us in different directions, taking our eyes off the constant, faithful Father who walks into each situation with us.

Back to the event I mentioned trying to lead.  I got stressed.  I tried to take control.  I did so because I was worried.  I had a number of different concerns on my mind: timings for the new way we were doing things, people’s opinions about how it all went, a number of particular concerns brought to my attention before the evening began.  I can strongly relate to that sense of being pulled in different directions and then, when the leader didn’t seem to do exactly what I would have, I tried to step in.  Behind all this essentially lay a fear about what people would think if it all went wrong, but I don’t think I ever really considered what ‘going wrong’ meant.

How different would it have been if my eyes stayed on God?  Recognising His presence and His character – that He is in control.  If I had ‘hurled’ each concern to God as soon as it came to me?  I’m not talking about irresponsibility or not caring about things that come up.  I’m talking about pausing, reminding myself that God is in control, and asking what He wants me to do.

It’s not a new thought that this might be a less stressful way to live, but I have never made the link to humility before.  Anxiety, cares, fear are so often behind our pride and control.  Humility, the conviction of God’s love and confidence in His faithfulness that removes any need to prove ourselves, comes from throwing every concern to Him.

So here’s what I’m trying out: giving up control for Lent.  Not ignoring cares or concerns, but bringing everything to God before I try to run off and sort it myself.  Guess what – this is something you can try too!