Letting Go

I remember someone once describing the Christian life as offering God a blank piece of paper. This has seemed extremely negative to me – this offering of blankness, as though I’m offering nothing, and yet God made me the person I am, I argue inwardly; gave me abilities, emotions and desires. People write about the dream God’s placed within us, but what if it’s our dream? Of our flesh? And what God really wants from us is nothing?

What if it’s only in letting go of our dreams that we make space for Him to fill us with His dreams? “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11); my favourite verse, but to get to that means giving God everything we are and everything we hope to be. This would be fine if we all knew we’d have an Isaac-moment: That moment where Abraham put his son Isaac on the altar to be sacrificed, as instructed, and God’s angel basically said ‘It’s ok, you don’t have to anymore. I just wanted to see if you were willing’ … but will we do as Abraham did? Will we trust God with our lives? Will we do the things He asks us to? Hand over the things He asks us to give Him? Maybe it’s only in letting go of old aspirations that we can grasp true life.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Linking up with Tuesday at Ten

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5-Minute Friday: Reach

Kate Motaung has got me writing again with her Five Minute Friday prompt, and my 5 minutes for this week starts with an unusual question:
* * *
Who remembers S Club 7? When I was in my early 20s, they released the song “Reach”. It wasn’t a Christian song, but its message is optimistic:
“Reach for the stars;
“Follow that rainbow,
“And your dreams will all come true”.

For some strange reason, that song was the first thing to come into my head when I saw this week’s prompt, maybe because I’m in a good mood (Friday’s a favourite day of the week for me), so why don’t we ... reach for the stars?

What’s the big dream in your life – the thing you would reach for, if only ... I have lots of them. I’d love to go up Table Mountain in a cable car with my South African friend; to take my Filipino boy to a theme park in Manila called Enchanted Kingdom; to record more of my songs professionally; to have a paid job; to ...

But it’s good to have those dreams. When you want to do something, it’s good to be able to ask yourself: "Why not?" Sometimes answers to that question aren’t slow in coming, but when we still dream, when we still ask, it means there’s a part of us that’s alive – that’s reaching – that’s trusting for better things around the corner.

“With every step you take, think about what He wants, and He will help you go the right way” (Proverbs 3:6).

Cheer on the Dreamers

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

 

Has anyone in your circle of friends had a dream fulfilled?  An engagement?  A new baby?  Their ideal job?  This verse got me thinking about someone who has.

 

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I love Holley’s writing.  She and her husband Mark had struggled for over 10 years with infertility.  All those shared hopes on their wedding day, only to realise later that she couldn’t pour herself into the next generation.  Motherhood was her dream that seemed impossible, but just recently, God gave her the word ‘Love’ for 2014, and started prompting her heart about older girls – too adult for the fostering system, but still in need of parental support.  Through a ministry called Saving Grace, God put a 20-year-old (now their daughter, Lovelle) into their lives.  It was International Mothers’ Day on Sunday, and they celebrated Mothers’ Day for the first time.

 

I’ve never met Holley in person, but that story makes me smile so much!  Let’s be happy for the ones whose dreams have been realised – yes, but let’s keep them in prayer too.  It can be easy to support people until they’ve had their answer and then forget them.  I remember this post from Jarrod’s blog a couple of years ago because, unusually, he didn’t forget.  He talked about some recent miracles – deaf ears opened, years of pain disappearing … and he asked us to pray for those people afterwards as they gave back their mobility cars or looked for work.

 

The thing is, once your dream’s come true, there’s sure to be a point when reality hits:  When those rose-tinted glasses become … just plain glasses.  I don’t know how much Holley and Lovelle will write about their ups and downs – the other’s habits they find irritating, yesterday’s baggage that comes to the surface when they least expect it … and I don’t know your situation as you read this.  If you’re parenting a new-born, perhaps they’ve been cranky all day, and your biggest accomplishment was to get dressed and put a meal on the table.

 

“A dream fulfilled is a tree of life”, but even healthy trees need maintenance.  I want to encourage you to support the dreamers – beforehand, and when the rubber hits the road.

Never Too Late

I’ve just been reading about Anna – someone who saw Jesus when He was a baby.  There are just three verses in the Bible devoted to her, and here’s what I saw in them.

Let’s think about the Jews for a minute.  They’re waiting for their Messiah (literally God’s anointed One) to be a Deliverer for them.  So, if you’d been waiting all your life for this Messiah, praying to God and going without food sometimes – if waiting for Him was the purpose of your life, when you actually got to see Him, wouldn’t that just be the pinnacle of everything you’d hoped for and dreamed of – the very best moment of your life, the one all those other moments had been leading to?  Not surprising that Anna thanked God and spoke about Jesus (Luke 2:38).

But here’s the thing about Anna:  She was very old.  I’m not really sure how old she was.  The translation I read says she had been married for seven years and then was a widow for eighty-four (Luke 2:36-37).  People married young in those days, so if she married at fourteen, that would put her at a hundred and five.  Another translation says she was a widow until she was eighty-four (Luke 2:37).

Whether she was eighty-four or a hundred and five doesn’t really matter.  The point is, she saw the baby Jesus when she was very old.  The pinnacle of her ministry, the very best part, came when she was over eighty – perhaps over a hundred!  Wow!  It’s never too late to serve God, and don’t be surprised if the best part is yet to come.

My friend Becky has also written a post about Anna this month, if you’d like to read it.

31 Days of Song: “Show the Way”

I don’t know whether Kim Hill will ever read this, but I must apologise to her if she does because when I first heard her voice, I didn’t know whether she was a man or a woman!  And the name Kim wasn’t much of a giveaway either.  Again with her it was difficult to choose a song, but this one was in my head this morning – one I’ve always liked.

 

Do you sometimes think it’s silly to follow your dreams because something’s bound to happen to derail them?  Well, this is an invitation to ignore those fears and just live the best you can.  There’s a quote one of my friends has on her Facebook profile.  I don’t know where it came from, but we both love it.  “Be realistic … demand the impossible.”

31 Days of Song: “Endless Hallelujah”

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know about Matt Redman – an author as well as a songwriter.  I enjoyed his book “The Unquenchable Worshipper”, and there’s another by his wife Beth that I’d like to read too.

 

Matt’s most famous song is probably “Heart of Worship”, which is about offering Jesus not just our songs but our hearts.  I haven’t chosen that one though; I’ve chosen one of his newer ones for you to listen to.  I heard it first when we sang it at church, and when I looked at the words beforehand, they really touched me.  My favourite lines are:

“No more tears or broken dreams,

“Forgotten is the minor key –

“Everything as it was meant to be.”

 

Enjoy this beautiful song about heaven, and I like the piano in it too.

Living the Dream

Ten years ago I had a dream.  I was in my 20s then.  Maybe you’ll think it was a stupid dream; so yes, you can laugh and yes, you can tell me I should have known better, but here goes:  My dream was to be a chaplain to the Formula One drivers – to travel with them, and organise a short worship-service they could come to really early on Sunday mornings before all the busyness of race-day started.

 

I didn’t talk about it to family or friends.  I guess I knew they wouldn’t take me seriously, but I did write it in a letter once.  I’d just got in-touch with an organisation called Christians in Motorsport, and I’d had a couple of phone-conversations with the guy behind it, so I wrote and told him what I wanted to do with my life.  Predictably, he replied that a woman being chaplain to male F1 drivers was out of the question, but we kept in-touch.  Eventually the organisation voted in someone else as chairman, and I decided to step back from it.  So, end of story?

 

Let me tell you what happened today.  A certain driver didn’t have a great qualifying.  People have said in race-commentaries that he’s had problems in his personal life, and he sounded very dejected after the session today.  I felt I really wanted to send him my favourite Bible-verse (Jeremiah 29:11) about the plans God has to give us hope and a future.  Lots of celebrities are on Twitter now, so I was able to write just a couple of sentences, telling him God had good plans for his life.

 

Then it dawned on me that I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing ten years ago.  I wasn’t getting paid for it; I wasn’t travelling the world or talking with drivers face-to-face as I’d imagined, but I was encouraging one of them to think about God in his situation.

 

So, it wasn’t a stupid dream:  The way I wanted to live it out might have been stupid and totally impractical, but God had it all in-hand.  How was I to know that in 2013, social media would make it so easy to interact with people who before would have been out of my reach?

 

Are there any dreams you’ve had that you thought would never happen?  What if you’re wrong?

A-Z: Philippines

P in the A-Z challenge is the last in my “Compassion Goals” series, and do you remember last week I was telling you about the Brazilian equivalent of Alex and Jonathan?  Well, I don’t know whether Jonathan’s sponsor is reading this blog, but if they are, I want to thank them for choosing him.  Alessandra is still waiting …

This week I want to focus on a place that’s home to a few of my Compassion goals:  The Philippines.  I’ve got kids there already, so I’d love to go and meet my girls, and the boy who wants to be a seaman when he’s older.  I’ve heard that sometimes you have to climb a ladder to reach homes in the Philippines (houses are built on-top of each other), then manoeuvre yourself through a hole to get inside.  I’m not sure how I’d cope with that, but if it was my child’s home, it would disgust me to stand at the bottom of that ladder.  I’d want to follow in their footsteps – to climb up the pile of shacks they’d been climbing for years, get into their space and meet their family and know how they live.  If I’ve sponsored a child and tried to get close to them, how can I not put myself out to identify with them?

I also have a special goal for my girl Cindy.  She’s not a teenager yet, but has always been very bright.  After child-sponsorship, Compassion choose a select group to progress onto their Leadership Development Programme.  There is one in the Philippines, and I’m hoping Cindy might be chosen.  LDP students sometimes go to the US or the UK to speak about Compassion and how being a sponsored child changed their life.  Perhaps if I don’t meet Cindy in the Philippines, I’ll get to meet her that way.

The Philippines is very special to me.  I’ve seen video footage of children over there, so I can imagine my kids in their projects with their friends and what a group of them would sound like.  I want to keep that connection and continually be sponsoring there.  I think when it comes to choosing another Filipino child, I’d like to sponsor in the same project as one of my girls.  Twice now, when there have been typhoons, I’ve heard that Jennylyn’s centre has provided for her family, and both girls’ centres are great at photographing them if I’m able to send any extra gifts.

What about you?  Have you ever visited a country like the Philippines, and would you like to sponsor there?  Well, how about Princess (that’s what my name means, and I love the name of her project), Sofia (from a family of 7 children), or Allan?  Allan is my dad’s name, and this Allan (like my dad) was born in December and likes swimming.  Again, I’ll leave the choice to you.

Thank you for reading about my Compassion goals these last few weeks, and for looking at the children I’ve selected.  Please keep the ones who’ve yet to find a sponsor in your prayers.  We were asked as Compassion Bloggers to ‘Change the story’ for children in poverty in the run-up to Compassion Sunday, which is this Sunday (21 April) in the US, so a very happy Compassion Sunday to you, and to all my fellow-bloggers who’ve been writing along-with me.