Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Adventures

I have been thinking about the challenges ahead in this New Year. I would very much like to play the ostrich with them and stick my head firmly in the sand and hope they just go away. That’s not likely to happen though.

I occasionally do some of the Facebook quizzes but rarely post the result unless it really impresses me. A recent one was about abstract paintings and you were to indicate the colours which most attracted your attention, an emotion you sensed or some such thing. It was supposed to explore your subconscious mind.  Apparently my character trait turned out to be “courage”.  Quite how they come to these conclusions I don’t know and for the most part I take them with a pinch of salt. I could run a hundred scenarios through my mind that would demonstrate the lack of courage – but deep down there was a resounding “Yes, I am courageous!”

I thought back to my move up to Inverness.  It was more than 25 years ago. I had taught abroad for a number of years, returned home to discover the education system had gone through too many changes for me to feel I could catch up. I wasn’t a happy beanie.  I was in a church where the women were all mothers and met in the afternoons for Bible studies and prayer meetings.  Their lives revolved around homes and husbands and babies and – nothing whatsoever I could relate to. I though the solution was to find a husband and have lots of babies and become a proper woman! Sadly that is how some churches deal with women.  Find them husbands. That wasn’t God’s plan.  A year spent on a gospel outreach team was His plan – not mine at all.  Door knocking, street drama, days of intense prayer, fasting – not my cup of tea I thought but it turned out to be totally me for that one year. The rest of the team might have been full of angst and soul searching and deep repentance or whatever, but I was having a ball.

The outreach year began at the end of September with a team-bonding week in a stately home mid-way between Newcastle and Jedborough. Our team was one of a half dozen or so. After that we all piled into minibuses and headed off to various towns and cities around the UK. My pastor at the time, Steve Petra, had recommended I be placed in Inverness – the furthest north he could place me. He wanted me to be as far away from Rugby as I could go, so I wouldn’t keep coming home when things got tough. He severed the spiritual apron strings and kicked me north.

I thought I was making a big mistake. I wasn’t a sociable being – still aren’t. I wasn’t particularly vocal about my faith. I had heaps of baggage from the Plymouth Brethren Church I had been attending for years and had issues about the role of women. It just seemed such a bad idea but I’d handed in my notice at work, raised the relevant funds to get on the team and I was carrying the best wishes of a church I had been a part of for barely two years.

We stopped somewhere along the A9 – possibly to let me out of the van to be sick.  I have never been a great traveller by bus. It was night time and the middle of nowhere.  It’s quite possible we did the holy thing – praying before arriving in Inverness and giving the year over to God – like you do on gospel outreach teams.

There was no light pollution.  The sky was cram-packed with stars. I remember looking up at them and being able to identify the few constellations I knew. They were like familiar friends.

“Just as the stars in the sky never change, I never change either,” said God. “I am the same God, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

My life was changing.  My place of residence was changing. The things I would be doing each day were going to be different from anything I had ever done before but God was still the same. I felt courage seep into every bit of me. I squared my shoulders and stood up tall – as tall as someone who was four foot eleven inches could be – and I climbed back into the minibus with something approaching joy.

Years later I wrote a poem. I find the words are speaking to me again, reminding me that whatever the challenges ahead I am fixed to the truth of an unchanging God.

New Adventures 

Broad sky above her
Peppered with stars.
A road winding northwards
Empty of cars.

Uprooted and moving
To pastures unknown.
Friends left behind her
Feeling alone.

She traces the patterns
Of stars in the sky,
Fixed in their places
Shining so high.

Some things are certain
They always will be;
Like sunrise and sunset
And tides of the sea.

God never changes,
This much she knows.
Fixed to this truth
Onward she goes.

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