Stirring up the heart
One summer I worked with Mission Ablaze in Durban in South Africa. We spent a lot of time with one orphanage in one of the black townships. One rather unpleasant job was clearing out the cistern and replacing the toilets in the block. The council were quite happy to bring a tanker and suck out all the contents but we had to be sure that the sewage would flow easily. There is always a reason why certain things don’t get tossed down the toilet bowl. Someone had to “go down there” and pull out things that shouldn’t have gone down there in the first place, and stir up the rest with a stick so it moved easily. I didn’t volunteer for the job. God must have a very special crown for the people who did!
I had that memory in mind when I drew the picture. I thought about the need to stir the heart. Perhaps there is too much junk deposited there that the spiritual heart beat slows and the oxygen of God’s power in our lives doesn’t flow so easily through our lives. We have become a little sluggish in our faith walk. Perhaps too little excites us or we've lost the ability to embrace new challenges and all the resources that come with it.
We need to stir our hearts by overhauling our quiet times.
Growing out of our skin
Our church has recently moved venues. We don’t own our own building and hire rooms in other buildings. When I first joined the Journey we met in music venue in the city. There was plenty of space, but the rent was more than we could easily afford. Big bands played on the Saturday night and very little was done to make the venue suitable for a church meeting on a Sunday morning. Too much time was spent clearing up and setting up afterwards, and paying through the nose to do so.
We accepted the invitation to use another church's building in the afternoon. There were time constraints. We never had enough time to hang around and drink coffee and chat afterwards. There was no time for individual ministry time. We are an outreaching church inviting new and soon-to-be believers and the time to be really welcoming was not there.
So we have moved again. Closer to the town centre, with none of the time or rent constraints. We saw the need to grow and not just number-wise.
Snakes outgrow their skins and shed them. The snake is still the same snake. It hasn’t become something other than a snake. The old skin is just too small for it.
We wanted to outgrow the old ways of being and doing church – not becoming something that isn’t. Without the time constraints we can embrace more freedom, take time for fellowship before and after the meeting. We have the opportunity to try new things and breathe a little.
Not about to crack
This was a word of encouragement for a friend at the meeting. We all have our own pressures to deal with and our own reservoir of resources to meet the need. There are times when the pressures accumulate. It is one thing piled upon another, piled upon of pile of other things. There is no time to right the boat before the next wave hits. Under the heat of the hard times, the river seems to have dried up and we are struggling with life.
Am I one of the lucky ones? A friend and I on a car journey yesterday were exchanging life stories. It seemed as if we began the race at very different positions along the track. Even before birth we are saddled with a genetic code that writes a narrative before our story begins.
People crack. We can only put up with so much pressure before fractures appear.
I have heard about birds banging snails against a stone. Perhaps it’s sea birds banging mussels to get to the flesh inside. It can’t be a very secure time for anyone feeling knocked about by life, feeling the fractures and fearing the cave-in. It is perhaps more so when you area a person of faith. You think you should be able to endure it all, smiling, praising God and sharing powerful testimonies. It doesn’t work out that way in real like.
I had the picture of the shell of the snail being so hard that it would not break. When God is our refuge and our strong tower there is little harm the enemy can do to us.
When I'm at cracking point – and I do – I run, or crawl into God’s presence. He can hold all the broken bits in His palm without losing any of them. Who better than the One who created me in the first place to know how the things in me best fit together?