Posts Tagged 'direction'

The Question Is Complete.

“Your lack of faith is useless…”

From “The Question Is Complete” by Aereogramme.

It’s that time of year again…the papers and television shows chronicle the highlights and lowlights of the year fading out.  We look back before looking forward.

How would you sum up 2009?  What words or pictures would you use?  What were the defining moments?  Could you make sense of them at the time?

Mine is here.  It’s a post I wrote on this blog back in April.  It all seems so much clearer now as another year ends.  The third interpretation in the blog post seems to ring true.  As 2009 ebbs away I have laid down worship leading and small group leading.  Family life will change in 2010 as we eagerly await a new arrival in May.  Work brings new responsibilities and new contacts – even with surveyors who share my love of surfing!

The lure of the sea with all its symbolism pans large on my horizon and I’ve been spending much less time on my blog and much more getting this off the ground.

Here’s to the New Year!

This Is Your Life

“Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead.
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken.
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes.
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now.
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have.
Don’t close your eyes.
Don’t close your eyes.

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?”

From “This Is Your Life” by Switchfoot.

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So, this week was my birthday.  Another year and how much has life changed?  I think it’s helpful every so often to look back, not to to dwell there in rose tinted memories, but just to get some bearings.

Sometimes I smile to myself as I think about the dreams I once had.  The way I thought the future might look…

I can distinctly remember sitting in bible class aged 14 or 15 and a leader saying “the biggest decisions you’ll make in life will all take place in the next 5-10 years:  what job you’ll do, who you might marry…”  In truth it put the fear of God into me and froze me in place.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  What if I got it wrong?  Life seemed too big – too much pressure.

I’m not that age anymore and life hasn’t always been plain sailing, but there is so much to be thankful for.

Psalm 111:10  says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.  I don’t think that means to be frozen in fear before a God who is unapproachable because of our mistakes, regrets, falling short and screwing up.  But I read that as meaning that having an awe for God and His vastness is the starting point for making wise decisions.  To paraphrase the cover of a book my wife bought me for my birthday, “Maybe we need to spend less time trying to convince God to do what we want and to spend more time convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do?”

So, back to now. 

Who am I becoming? 

How am I growing? 

How am I being changed? 

What is God doing in my life?

I don’t feel that I’m living in the past.  Most of the time, I feel pretty comfortable with who I am. 

In a rare heatwave this week, I stripped down to my boardshorts and ran through the cold water spurting from a hose in our back garden with my four year old daughter.  In an instant I was transported back to a shared sense of childhood and, hopefully, it will be one of those happy, sun-filled, snapshots she will carry into her future.  As we sat on the garden furniture letting the evening sun dry us off, eating fajitas and nachos I couldn’t help but feel all was right in the world.  We are called to be childlike and that is very different from being called to be childish…

So how will it look a year from now?  I don’t have a clue and I’m fine with that.  I’m more convinced than ever that Jesus came to give us life and life to the full.  That is the polar opposite of paralysis or being drained of life through fear.  It’s the opposite of taking stances on the minutiae of theology.  As for me and our house, we will serve the Lord.

The Ocean.

“A picture in grey.
Dorian Gray.
Just me
By the sea.
And I felt like a star.
I felt the world could go far,
If they listened
To what I said.
By the sea.

Washes my feet.
Washed my feet.
Splashes my soul”.

From “The Ocean” by U2.

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One of my favourite views is when I first see the sea off the coast of Stonehaven on the drive to Aberdeen.  It’s a dull stretch of road which is suddenly transformed by the vastness of the sea. 

Something within me draws me to water.  Living as I do now by the Firth of Forth, I like to know that I can see water from many vantage points in the city I call home.  That said, I miss living within easy walking distance of it like when we stayed in Cramond.

There’s something about staring at the sea.  It helps me put things in perspective.  The decision to ask someone out, who later became my wife, was arrived at after a lunch hour spent with a notepad and bible looking at the water.  At the time we almost split up, my natural inclination took me to the beach, were I contemplated alone and kicked the sand and wondered what would happen before finding peace simply sat on the beach surrendering as I stared at the sea once more.

Like the lyrics above suggest, maybe there is something strangely powerful in the simple meeting of ocean and beach.  The washing of feet, the splashing of soul, the realisation of the love of a Father whose thoughts for me outnumber the grains of sand.

The song that has inspired these thoughts remains one of my favourite U2 moments.  A short interlude on the “Boy” album, a gathering of thoughts before a song about suicide.  With hindsight it is interesting to see the lyrics, thoughts and themes that inspired a young Dubliner as he expressed his adolescence in music with no idea where that would take his three friends and himself in the future.  Amongst these, being by the sea seemed to provide a sacred space to gain perspective – to dream, to be refreshed and restored.

Must I Paint You A Picture? (Part 2)

“Must I paint you a picture

About the way that I feel?

You know my love for you is stronger.

You know my love for you is real.”

From “Must I Paint You A Picture?” by Billy Bragg.

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This forms the second part of  two halves.  The previous post can be linked here.  It explains an exercise we did when half of those gathered at a meeting a few weeks ago were asked to face a wall, unaware of who would then stand behind them and to ask God to reveal a picture, verse or impression that they should share with the person behind them.

I was stood behind someone I’ve never met before, but whom I know is held in high regard by many in our congregation.  He said that he felt he had seen a picture of a fruit tree –  a peach tree –  and that the fruit was really ripe.  What does it mean?  I think I know what it relates to, but I’m not sure what the interpretation is.

I guess I’d been thinking ahead of the meeting about how my life looks in terms of how I spend my time.  It is largely taken up by work, family and church commitments.  Despite the pressure of work deadlines, I am trying to find time for the things of God in all of that – whether it’s to work with all my best efforts, to influence the office culture or environment or to catch up socially with people I ought to.  I sometimes I wonder how much of a witness I am at work as I often just have my head down trying to maintain focus and get things done…Right now things are very demanding and many evenings are spent back in the office (after I’ve made it home to have meal with my family and be their for my daughter’s bath time) with me eventually making it home only to collapse into bed.  It’s not always like that, but right now is one of those periods.

Family life is great and there’s loads to be thankful for, but, it still demands (rightly) a huge amount of my time and energy.

Church life is also busy with organising, preparing for and facilitating a weekly small group, preparing and leading the music parts of our evening services once a month, helping drum at a friend’s church service once a month and assisting us find a property solution to our growing congregation.

Maybe the picture means that as I grow older, I am growing into the person I am meant to be?  Maybe the fruits of the spirit are more evident in my life than they once were? (that sounds pious and unlikely as I know I still have a long way to go)  Maybe, as I use these different skills I have been gifted with, it is pleasing to God?

Maybe the picture means that the fruit is ripe and is to be enjoyed by others – the benefactors of my efforts?

Maybe the fruit is ripe and ready to fall?  Maybe I have grown to fullness in some of these areas of life and it is time to hand those things over before the fruit gets over-ripe and rots?  Maybe the tree was overladen?  My gut instinct is that it is this latter interpretation that is more accurate of how life actually is right now.

We then went to pray in groups of three.  As we shared something for prayer, we were encouraged to wait in silence for a minute or two – again asking God to reveal whether there was anything He wanted us to share – a picture, a scripture, an impression, etc and then to share that with the person being prayed for, to see if it resonated and then to pray into that. 

When asked what people could pray for for me, I shared something of the above (not the picture – just the question about whether I am doing all that I ought to be or whether I should do less and do it better?).  One of the guys praying said that after the moment or two of silence he just sensed the word “blessing” and that is what I was to others.  He talked particularly of my role in leading music at church (which was an encouragement as I’d been a bit frustrated and discouraged by the previous Sunday night’s service). 

My wife was also in the group and she thought she saw a picture of a jigsaw which had a picture of the sea on it.  The corner piece was missing to complete the picture and there were a few final pieces piled on top of the bigger picture, so she couldn’t see exactly what the picture was…

One of the most helpful things I have done in my Christian life of late was a thing called the Network Course.  It helps explore, establish and affirm natural abilities and spiritual gifts,  From it I learned that my gifts are creative communication, faith and encouragement.  At the time I was leading worship once a month and that seemed like a natural outlet for these things.  I used to try and tell stories or set the scene or use DVD clips to help communicate and encourage us all into God’s presence.  As church has grown, I seem to spend less time doing those things as others try to cram loads of announcements, testimonies, DVD clips, etc into the space we have.  I spend more time just getting lost in my drumming and I concentrate on doing that as well as I can.  I found myself leading worship when our church was a very different place to what it is now.  We were really short of gifted musicians back then and short of folks who wanted to see something more contemporary happen musically.  I stepped into  a gap, explored it, felt anointed and forgiven when I made mistakes.  I wonder if that was a role for a season and whether there are others who could more naturally organise and lead that whilst I revert to just getting stuck back into my drumming?  Is that what this is all about? 

Maybe my blog is a good means of communicating creatively for someone as softly spoken as me?  Maybe hosting our small group and helping facilitate something like the art project linked here is more fitting just now?

Would that give me more time to feed my soul in other ways?  As an individual and as a family we love being near water.  Would that give me the time to spend with my family on the beach or by the sea?  To enjoy the view?  To walk and shoot the breeze?  The sea is a powerful image for me due to my love of padlling about and falling off my surfboard and also because of a recurring dream I had when I was going through a particularly difficult period about 10 years ago.  There is something about the vastness of the sea that enables me to see how big and awesome God is and how small I am.  Why is that picture incomplete?

What does it all mean???

New Year

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“So this is the new year.
And I don’t feel any different.
The clanking of crystal
Explosions off in the distance (in the distance).

So this is the new year
And I have no resolutions
For self assigned penance
For problems with easy solutions”

From “New Year” by Death Cab For Cutie

New Year is a funny time of year.  A time for new starts or false dawns, happy memories or painful regrets.  Time to be with the ones we love or to feel alone in a crowd… Edinburgh holds a huge street party were a majority celebrate by getting drunk – possibly to forget the disappointment of the year gone by and to escape the fears of the year ahead or, possibly,  just because it is the expected norm.

So here we are, the 5th of January 2009 – the first day back to work.  The sense of childhood memories of the end of the long school holidays.  Maybe there’s something still wrapped up in the season of goodwill, but there is something nice about most of the country taking a holiday at the same time.  You come back to work without the dread of hundreds of unopened emails and phone messages. 

It’s a time of year when we look back.  We look forward and wonder.  Often we make lame promises to ourselves to do things differently – but for how long?

I love the time just to regain perspective.  Holidays usually do that for me.  But what will I/we commit to do differently in 2009?  Who will I/we determine to be?

Karl shared some thoughts at our little community gathering yesterday that really challenged and struck home.  He talked about the story of Caleb from Joshua ch 14.  He challenged us that the Bible doesn’t often tell the stories of half-way dwellers – the Bible tends to focus on folks who are on top of the mountain or down in the valley. 

The temptation with being neither up nor down, is that it somehow feels safer or less risky.  Maybe it’s like at the time of the transfiguration.  We are tempted to pitch a tent and enjoy the view rather than returning to the world into which we were sent (to paraphrase the excellent “White Light Unkown” by Calamateur)…

I can look back to New Year’s Day 1992 and know that I was in a place where I wanted to journey forward – not to set up camp or become spiritually stunted.  My whole life lay before me – I didn’t have a clue what I’d do career wise, all my friends had paired off and I felt like a gooseberry or left on the shelf.  I spent time in solitude putting it all before God.  I believe to this day that as I prayed about relationships and girlfriends, He showed me the person I would next go out with and gave me such a peace about it.  Nine months later we did start going out.  16 years later we have been married for over 11 years and have a beautiful daughter.

The challenge for me now, just as it was then, is not to get too comfortable and to settle for anything less than all He has for me.  That is a daily choice and the outworkings will have ramifications not just for me, but for those around me.  I need to live by my convictions and to know my intrinsic value to God.  That is not something pious, but something very humbling.  As the old hymnal goes, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”

In a life full of busyness and noise, do I order my day in a way that looks like someone wanting to hear from God?


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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