Friday, 25 July 2014

Finding the Shade

We love to moan about our weather.  It's too cold, too wet or too hot.  Our country isn't geared up for the heat, the snow or the heavy rain.  We don't cope too well.

Of course this week has been full of waterfights (always ends in tears), ice creams (not from the van that plays music - when the music is playing it means they've run out, doesn't it?) and trying to find the relief of the shade.

Our lives get hot sometimes too.  The pressure is too much.  Work is relentless.  The demands of our children are exhausting.  We carry financial burdens of debt.  Our relationships are difficult.  We worry, constantly, about our children.  It's just too much.

And then we watch the news and see the heat in other nations too.  The horrors of Gaza.  The ethnic cleansing in Iraq and Syria.  Plane crashes that seem to happen every week at the moment.  The fear of nuclear weapons.  Politicians that are increasingly lacking in integrity.  

And we feel like there is no relief from the tormenting downward pull on our emotions.  We are surrounded. The heat seeps through our skin, burning us from the inside out.  This is no comfortable sunny day.  This is the heat of a ferocious fire, pressing down on us and bringing us to a place of surrender, until we shout 'no more'.

But there is some shade.

The Lord watches over you - The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.               Psalm 121

When the heat of the day is too much, find the shade.  He is our shade.  He brings sweet and refreshing relief from the devastating burning that threatens to wreck us.  

We don't have to sit in the midday sun, sweating and wilting.  We are watched over by a God who promises to breathe coolness over us.

So, find the shade.  It's good.

And pray for those imprisoned in the fire - those in Gaza, Iraq and other nations, that they will know this shade too.  May this fire of destruction that is ravaging it's way across the world be stopped in it's tracks so that these people with such soul-destroyed sadness in their eyes can know the freedom that comes from sitting in the coolness and peace of the shade.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

When dreams are just dreams.

'You're going to be a mum!' 
'Me?' Laughs Sarah, 'I'm far too old now!'

'You need to build a boat.  It's going to rain.  A lot.'
'In this dry land?' Quizzes Noah.

'You're going to free my precious people from slavery.'
'But I'm a murderer and I can't even speak properly.' Protests Moses.

'You're going to be King.'
'I'm the youngest and I'm only a shepherd boy.' Wonders David.

Dreams and promises.  

We've all got them.  They might be squashed down, hidden beneath layers of a busy life, but they are there and every now and again they pop their heads up again to remind us of their presence.  

When we look at ourselves and our circumstances they seem impossible.  That's what makes them dreams.  If they were realistic, we'd have done them by now.  It's so easy to whitewash over them with our realism and sometimes cynicism but however many coats we paint, the rainbow coloured dream-paint always manages to show through.  Those dreams never completely vanish and our naked hearts ask the 'what ifs' and the 'hows'.

How do we live with the rawness of the promises and the unfulfilled reality?  How did Sarah live with the promise of a baby without any glimmer of hope?  How did Moses untangle the mess of his utter pain of watching his people live through such injustices whilst not being able to act until the right time? How did Noah survive the presumed misunderstanding of his friends and family while building a boat for a supposed flood?  There was no sign of these dreams being fulfilled.  Not even a droplet.

I find myself looking for a droplet.  I want to know that the heart-wrenching, stomach-squeezing pain I feel is going to result in a fulfillment of the dreams and promises I hold in my heart.  But there is no sign.  

And so I take one step after another, completely blind to what is ahead, but holding on to the One who already knows and I put my hope in Him.  I walk through each door He opens, sometimes completely confused.  I try to keep the tears and the ache of injustice from spilling over and I take my cries to the One who will wipe away every tear.

I stop whitewashing over my dreams.

And I keep my eyes fixed on Him.

I don't know how to live a different life. 

Post script...
As I finish writing this, I look out of my window to this...


He keeps his promises.  Every single time.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Smashed Windows and Angels: Parenting In The Extremes

If, like me, you are blessed (I convince myself of it daily) to have a child with an extreme temperament then you will be familiar with the following description.

Passionate, emotional and often loud, the child with an extreme temperament will throw themselves, heart and soul into the things that are important to them.  Emotional reactions will often be violent and physical, and they will sometimes be confused and even frightened by the strength of their own emotions.  Happiness can easily and swiftly transform into rage.  Utterly convinced and un-persuadable, they will immerse themselves in their beliefs (even if they are incorrect).  Yet at the same time they have a soft heart towards others and take a passionate stand against injustices.  

We find ourselves parenting one of these almost indescribable creatures who swings from the rafters in joyous celebration and sobs from the depths of his soul. 

One minute he is smashing windows (double glazed - how?) with a football and screaming because he thinks his younger brother is laughing at him.

The next he is serene, face shining, telling us about the angels he has seen and how much he loves to be in the presence of his friend Jesus.

There's no doubt about it, he is an odd boy who makes us laugh and cry in equal measure.

We love a challenge, but how, oh how, do we parent a child like this?

Hope. 

I refuse to be discouraged by the negativity surrounding anger.  I refuse to allow his anger to be his identity.  I refuse to let this anger define the rest of his life. 

I choose to believe that my boy, passionate as he is, will use his anger for injustice to make a difference in this world full of evil.  I choose to believe that his Jesus, who he adores, will use him in ways I can't even imagine.

Dependence.

I refuse to pretend we can do it all ourselves.  I refuse to play the 'I'm a great mum' game.  I refuse to become all-knowing in my self-sufficiency.

I choose to depend on our God who promises to be enough.  I choose to let Him take the credit.  I choose to ask Him to be generous with wisdom.  I choose to let Him father me as I mother this boy of extremes.

Acceptance

I refuse to squeeze my boy into a box of 'being normal'.  I refuse to try and make him into someone he is not, and can never be.  I refuse to be embarrassed about his eccentricities.

I choose to embrace the boy he has been created to be.  I choose to love him, including all his quirky and odd ways which make me feel uncomfortable sometimes.  I choose to love despite the pain.  I choose to accept him and present him to the world around us as an accepted boy.


And so, as our boy decides to do body-building poses in front of the mirror instead of getting dressed, or forgets to wear his underpants to school again, or comes home full of his news about how he has saved yet another boy from 'the bullies' at school, I am overwhelmingly grateful for all he brings to our lives. 

There is no doubt in my mind that the world would be an infinitely more boring place without him in it.




Friday, 13 June 2014

Time with the Father

Oh how my boys love to copy what their Dad is doing.  Whether they like it or not, they try everything in their power to be miniature (or not so miniature anymore) versions of him.  Exasperatingly, they copy the way he burps; the way he keeps a tea towel over his shoulder and of course, they take on his love for the outdoors and adventures.

They love him, so they do what he does.

But if they never spent any time with him, they wouldn't know what to copy.  They wouldn't know that every now and then he loves to get on the floor and wrestle until it hurts.  They wouldn't know that he likes to iron or that he enjoys serving other people.  They wouldn't know that he can't resist trying new foods, even if he has no idea what he is eating (And they wouldn't know that I have no sympathy for him in the aftermath).

In the Bible, Jesus says he only does what he sees his father doing.  How would he know what his father is doing unless he spends time with him?  The very reason he spoke to the people he spoke to, healed the people he healed, rescued the victims of injustices and called to follow him the people he called was because he spent time with his father, searching to see what he was doing.

Likewise, in order to live our Jesus-following lives to the full, we need to spend time with our father seeking out his heart.  A legalistic, clock-watched half hour of reading the bible and praying through a dry prayer list doesn't quite fit the description.  Father God is calling us to actually be with him.  He wants us to know his heart.  He wants to talk with us and love us.  He wants us to pray for his kingdom to come on earth like in heaven. He wants to lead us and show us the next steps.  

He wants us to do what we see him doing.  

And then, we do it too!  

No complicated formulas for success, just spending time with our father in heaven and saying yes when he calls us.  There's never been a more exciting adventure!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Mealtime Diamonds

Our mealtime conversations are becoming renowned for their randomness.  One day this week we were discussing liquidising goats testicles.  The next day we worked out an emergency plan for if someone chopped off your (obviously, not in my case) penis - including detailed descriptions of blood loss and jokes about barbecued sausages (whilst I was eating a sausage).  The following evening, we created new words to Frozen's 'Let It Go' song.  And you do not want to hear them, I promise.

Today, we discussed 'what would you do?' scenarios.  And here's the one that took me aback.

What would you do if you were one of Jesus's disciples when there were 5,000 people to feed and then a boy came forward with just five loaves and two fish?  

Laugh?  Cry?  Feel angry at the boy?  Invent McDonalds sharpish before a riot breaks out?

This is Max's answer:

I'd ask Jesus 'What are you going to do with that?'

You know, for all the funny talk about farts and pee, our kids sometimes come out with bombs of wisdom and this is one of them.

When we are overwhelmed with finance difficulties, busy-ness, parenting exhaustion and demands of life all we need to do is offer ourselves to Jesus and leave the rest to him.  

That little boy gave all he had.  Did he know Jesus was going to turn it into enough food for thousands?  I doubt it.  Did he have faith that Jesus was going to use it in the best way?  Yep.

So, we give all we have into the hands of the One who can multiply beyond our wildest imagination and we ask Jesus 'What are you going to do with that?'  

Our role is faith and obedience.  

His role is multiplying to meet not only our needs but the needs of people we don't even know about yet.

Can we offer ourselves and wait for Jesus to show us what he's going to do with us?  


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Shouting

Sometimes when you are a passionate person (me?  never....) you forget that there are other issues in the world that need attention.  For example, the fact that the dinner needs cooking or the toilet needs cleaning (again) but you are busy sobbing over a video about a child trapped in slavery.  Dinner and toilets can wait at that moment.

I know how these things work and I know that when I've spoken too much about something, people's eyes start to glaze over as they realise I'm going on about it yet again.  In fact, I feel the same when Toby witters about the camera he's saving up for or the latest tune he can play on his ukulele.  He never shuts up about it.  I 'umm' and 'ahh' in the right places and let him say his piece.

Last week, someone spoke these words to me: "There is more to God's kingdom than human trafficking." 

I know that. 

I know that there are many injustices in our world.  I know that war, genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, poverty, bullying and other evil things happen.   They make me weep too.  Sometimes I can't get through a news programme dry-eyed.  I know that God's kingdom needs to come in every area of our lives.

But try saying those words to the father whose precious daughter has been taken and sold into prostitution twenty or more times each night so that she can pay back an imaginary debt which will never ever be paid. 

Would that father not go to every single possible length to free his daughter?  Would his life carry on as normal or would it be totally and utterly wrecked?  Would he feel as though his very heart had been ripped to shreds every night as he wonders just who is raping his beautiful daughter at that precise moment?

And although I am not that father, I feel the same.  I am ruined for anything other than making whatever difference I can to free these captives.  My whole body shakes with the injustice of it. 

And so, I'm sorry if I'm a bore, but this isn't a camera or a ukulele.  I can't be quiet and whilst I know there are other horrific, life-wrecking things out there too, this is the one which has gripped onto my heart and squeezed it until there are no tears left to cry.

And so I won't shut up.  Because this is the kingdom of God, and I'm allowed to shout about it:


"Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet....
 
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?

 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.
 
‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
 and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.

 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
 
Isaiah 58
 
 
 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Purposeful Pain

Someone recently asked me why I'd had children in the first place.  It made me realise that whilst I enjoy the cuddles and the explosion of so many different feelings, I actually view my mother's role as one of preparation and launch.  We try to be intentional in the way we bring up our boys so that when the right time comes they are prepared and ready to enter the big wide world with plenty to offer.

I see our boys as arrows.  At the moment, they are blunt and misshapen.  It's our job to sharpen them.

And sometimes that's painful.  

Painful for the boys because discipline is tough.  When was the last time anyone actually enjoyed being  faced with the consequences of a wrong choice?  Sharpening the arrow hurts as you scrape away the dull parts which cling on but are of no use.  

It's painful for us too.  Our bare hands and hearts are covered in blisters as we repeat the same action, over and over again, until it is finally understood.  Repetitive strain injury sets in as we keep on reminding our boys of the same words, same consequences, same actions, same outcomes.  Exhaustion, sorrow, confusion and sometimes disappointment all add to the hurt.

Why put ourselves through so much pain?  Why bother?  Why not just enjoy and relax?

I don't want to produce blunt arrows which won't hit the target.  Our role as parents is to equip our boys for what is ahead and to shape them for the challenges and delights they will face.  Despite the blistered hearts, we are determined to keep sharpening our little arrows so that when we place them in our bow and fire them out they whoosh through the air like the nerf bullets they so often play with.  Our world needs disciplined, determined, loving, faithful, strong, courageous arrows to land all over it's needy and desperate shores.

I want to be a part of sharpening those arrows.

And that's why I had children.