Thursday, 4 September 2014 love

Today my girls have started school. There has been a lot of chat over the last few weeks about what school will be like- what they will do, what they are looking forward to most,what is the most important thing they will learn.

I'm sure you can remember some important things you learnt at school. It might be how to drink milk noisily through a straw, or how to pull someone's hair without them noticing, or how being a certain way can make you 'cool' (or whatever word is now used today!). My girls consider tree climbing and dressing up to be some of the most important things they will learn at school (and I haven't the heart to tell them that I fear that there will  - at least for the first example - be no teaching in this area - and very little in the second!). As a teacher I immediately leap to reading, writing, number......but with some consideration I have told my girls that the most important thing they will learn at school is how to love other people.

Unfortunately I fear that there will not be too much of this on the syllabus! As Christians we would nod to this and agree - but in reality, do our lives really reflect that this is what we believe? We value success -academic or personal; we value money; we value a wide Bible knowledge......the list goes on. Do we really believe that loving God and therefore loving other people are the most important things that we learn in life? Do I show my children this?

I know that learning to love other people has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Loving people who I don't get on with. Loving people who I feel don't appreciate me. Loving my children when I've been up all night and they are screaming at 5pm. Loving my husband when I'm getting annoyed by little things. And I don't mean a 'feeling'  - when your children are screaming that tea is 'yuckky' at 5pm and you're tired there is very little loving feeling. But I mean learning to see people as God sees them, understanding that everyone is made in His image - understanding that because He has loved and has forgiven me much, that I must bear with, look over, sacrifice and forgive others much also. I mean deciding I'm going to act in a loving way because grace has been shown to me.

I constantly fail at this - I often lose my rag, gossip, say and do things that are not loving. But if loving God and loving other people is the most important thing - then my life should look like a journey - moving from being less loving - to more loving- as the Holy Spirit transforms me. I want to pray that I make this a priority and I want to pray that I show my children this. That I commend them for seeking and talking to God. That I encourage and praise them for loving each other, their family, friends and people at school. I want my most important question at the end of school to be: 'What did you do to show you loved someone today?' 'And why did you do it?'

'Jesus loved Zacchaeus when nobody else did. He was Zacchaeus' friend, even when no-one else was. Because Jesus was showing people what God's love was like - his wonderful, Never Stopping, Never giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love'
Jesus Story Book Bible.

I'm like Zacchaeus - Jesus has loved me and rescued me and with His transforming grace I can love others. It's only as I know Jesus better that I will love others more.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Screaming in Aldi

I know Aldi divides opinion. Some people (like me) love it. Others (like Ben) hate it. I appreciate his comments on the disorganisation of the store and the random way price tags are displayed, but my love of a bargain overcomes this!

However, the screaming in Meanwood Aldi, Leeds today was not connected to either of these. My nearly 2 year old son screamed for around 45 minutes as I did my shopping and queued to pay. "Let me go!" and "Get off me!" rang around the store after he refused to sit in the trolley and I held him to prevent him from removing items from the shelves and getting squashed under other trolleys - (because who knew, but Monday morning is the busiest time in Aldi?!). There was not much I could do. I had already completed at least half of the shop by the time this started and I needed the food for that day. The twins sat with their hands over their ears while he screamed and I'm suprised the rest of the shop didn't!

I would like to thank the many Aldi shoppers who commented to encourage me and to sharewith me that they had also experienced moments like these.'One of those days', 'You must be exhausted' (I was - I had wrestled with a 22 month old for 30 minutes while pushing a full trolley and twins around!), 'Do you need a hand?'  - I have not had a child melt down experience in a shop before (and I have had many!) where I felt so positive reinforced!

So why did I still feel embarrassed? Feel like how my child behaves is what other people judge me on? I'm sure that this is true - that other people do judge me on how my children behave. But whether people encourage me positively when my children misbehave, or behave with disapproval, or even just when they do neither but just have no idea what to do - I still end up feeling embarrassed and like I'd like to disappear into a hole in the ground! I can only conclude that it is myself that proclaims judgement on myself when I fail to have my children behave 'correctly'.

David in Psalm 3 manages to sleep despite his enemies (including his son) coming to hunt and kill him. He isn't anxious, even this doesn't keep him awake because 'the Lord sustains' him (v5). God is his 'shield, glory, and the lifter of his head'. And because of this he can leave anxiety behind.

I don't want to find glory in how my children behave, I don't want to pat myself on the back if they are perfect specimens of Aldi shoppers - and I don't want to break down in despair, embarrassment and guilt if my boy screams for 45 minutes in the aisles- or if my girls won't eat their tea, or if they frequently fight each other at nursery! I want to show grace and consistency to them because God has showed that to me - knowing that 'salvation belongs to the Lord' - not to people whose children don't scream in Aldi. In fact Jesus came to rescue both those who scream in Aldi and those who seek to keep them from screaming - we both need Him desperately.

'You don't have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because its not about trying, it's about trusting. It's not about rules, it's about Grace: God's free gift -that cost him everything' (Jesus Storybook Bible).

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Time spent on Facebook could be.....

- A cup of coffee and a read.
- A twenty minute run.
- Praying.
- Bringing the washing in from the line  - smelling of spring.
- Reading a story to my kids.
- Making a cake.
- Reading a Psalm.
- Writing a note to a friend to send snail mail.
- A phone call.
- Making something for my girls.
- Building a train set for my boy.
- Making at least 2 meals.
- Knitting.
- Reflecting on and praising God for the good things He has given me.

I'm not a Facebook hater. In fact I do use it a lot to communicate with people - I'm sure it enhances my life. But the majority of my time on it is not in direct conversation with others, or even posting about myself - but purely in reading statuses and articles that others have placed up there. Some of these are great  - others less so (I mean, cats are cute, but when you watch several videos a week of cute pets....something is wrong!) 2.5 hours a week is a conservative estimate of how long I spend on this website every week. I want my life to be lived in relationship with others - not just observing them and reading stuff they read! God doesn't just observe us - He wants to know us and love us and transform us. I want my relationships with others to mirror this. So I'm going to pray that I can reduce my time reading articles and increase my time actually talking to other people and appreciating them and therefore life more!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

As it is in Heaven

We've been talking about prayer a lot at Redeemer Leeds these last few weeks. A few things have really stood out for me  - I imagine because of what is going on in life at the moment.
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"
I think I have struggled with the 'your will be done' bit a lot. As in all the normal ones  - like, if God's will is going to be done - why should I be praying? But also a few rather weirder ones. As in 'what if God's will is to have me suffer? Or bad stuff happens?' That has even made me feel scared to pray for God's will. But a few things have become clearer:

1. Bad things happen in the world, to everyone, not because of God's will, but because the world is fallen and sinful. God can and shows, numerous times in the Bible that He will use messed up people and situations to bring about incredible good - even rescuing people through the death of Jesus.

2. God is my loving heavenly father. If I love to give good things to my kids, even though I lose my temper with them every day - how much more will God love to give me good things?

3. I need to be clear what those good things are. They may be physical blessings - but I should desire those that will last  - spiritual ones that moths and rust can't get to. If I am at rest in Jesus, then I will want his will more - by reading the Bible more I will know and pray for those good things He promises me there.

4. Praying that situations and people will be redeemed - that they will reflect and be now like they will be in heaven has become a powerful vision for me. Knowing that a close friend who died recently is there and is experiencing 'no more mourning or crying or pain anymore' seems to have spoken to my heart that although these things are for the new heaven and the new earth - Jesus tells us to pray for those things NOW.

So I want to pray for situations where people are angry, sad and damaged by sin - that God will restore peace and send forgiveness and reconciliation.

I want to pray for where people are struggling under the weight of guilt and shame, that God will free them through Jesus' death and resurrection and that they would be free to enjoy his grace.

I want to pray for lives touched by pain and suffering that God will send comfort and healing.

I want to pray for those struggling with the burden of everyday life that God will give renew their strength - that they would be able to run and not be weary.

God's kingdom starts now.

'Make everything in the world right again.
And in our hearts too. 
Do what is best  - just like you do in heaven, 
And please do it down here, too'.
(Jesus Storybook Bible)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

When life disappoints....

One of my three year old twins spent yesterday afternoon at home whilst the other was at nursery as she was ill. We had a delightful time (after her initial horrified reaction that she was going to miss nursery!). We read books snuggled in bed and then spent an hour or so creating bean bag monsters (which she called owls) from a craft pack she'd been given for Christmas. Her delight in her owls was wholehearted - 'They're just what I wanted!' 'Small enough to fit in my hand' 'Don't they look cute Mummy!'. She spent the rest of the time playing with them before we woke up A and headed out to pick up her sister from nursery. She brought two owls with her - one to show her teacher, and another to give to her twin.

Disaster struck as we headed up the road in the car as parts began falling off them - and she couldn't find the wing or the beak or the foot that had fallen off. Despite searching for the parts when we arrived  - I couldn't find them either  - the things she had made were now, in her mind, ruined. And I had to drag a screaming child into nursery to pick the other up and then carry her back to the car over my shoulder with her kicking and screaming for her 'owls', but not being able to hold them or play with them when the pieces were missing.

We never found the pieces - she then ripped all the others off! But it did teach me several things....

1. That crafts with adhesive sticky backs do not stick well......I will avoid them in future!
2. More importantly, that my kids are learning that life sometimes disappoints. Things we are so proud and excited about break. That this makes us angry, sad and unhappy.

After she'd calmed down (and I'd made a bean bag owl on my sewing machine that will NOT come apart!) we had a chat about it all. She's learning that things break, that I can't always fix it, that being angry isn't a sensible response - about how to deal with those things. But it is a life lesson. Life is full of things and people that disappoint us.

When we don't get the job/career we so wanted and planned for.
When relationships don't fulfil our dreams of what they might be.
When the 'perfect children' we imagined paddy and scream and fight.
When we make a great project - toy, cake, meal and spend time and money on it and it doesn't go right.

What I shared with my little girl is that actually these things can never make us happy - the way the world is means that these things won't be enough - that stuff will break and people (including ourselves) are broken. That's not to say that we don't enjoy these wonderful gifts  - people are made in God's image and are full of pictures of the love and joy he has lavished on them - God has given us great things in the world with the desire that we will enjoy them. BUT if we make these gifts the things that will make us happy - we will always be disappointed. The real treasure is God - He should be what we strive for, long after and pursue. We will still experience pain and disappointment in life, but where our hearts are  - He will never disappoint.

'Jesus said, 'Coming home to God is as wonderful as finding a treasure! You might have to dig before you find it. You might have to look before you see it. You might even have to give up everything you have to get it. But being where God is - being in his kingdom - that's more important than anything else in all the world. It's worth anything you have to give up!' Jesus told them. 'Because God is the real treasure'. 

- Jesus Storybook Bible - Matthew 13.

Friday, 10 January 2014

C S Lewis - The Last Battle

I love C S Lewis' books - and I absolutely love his Narnia series the best. To be honest, The Last Battle isn't my favourite - but there are some great parts in it - and this bit has been particularly pertinent over the last few days and weeks:

And as he spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was on the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.

When we face death around us - when we lose people we love dearly, when we face death ourselves - when we ask Why? The hope that there is more than this, that actually The Last Battle has been already fought for us in Jesus - and that with Him we will live out that better story - that allows me to carry on.