Friday, May 30, 2008

Nothing Left in Reserve

Without really intending to, I got hooked on “Britain’s Got Talent”. That’s not actually true – I got just hooked on George Sampson, the last act to perform in one of semi-finals this week. I have recorded his street-dance routine and have watched it over and over again. I have no intentions of becoming a groupy, but had I been one of the panel of judges, or the presenters or the producers of the show, I would have called it a day. As George himself said, in his interview afterwards, “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

So for those of you who missed it, what did he do? Well, he left the belly dancing and the magic tricks to others. He danced! The track was a really up-beat version of “Singing in the Rain.” He did it better than Gene Kelly! Mid-way through the routine, there was a flash of lightning, and a rumble of thunder – and then it rained! (Some credit has got to go to the TV programme providing the setting to his diamond of a dance. The shower of water, the lightning flash and thunder that they supplied all added to what he did. The effect would not have been as spectacular without those things.) For a few moves, he played with an umbrella, then he just tossed it aside and danced!

It was amazing! There was so much energy and passion and complete commitment to every move. Obviously there had been a whole lot of choreography and rehearsal, but that can only take you so far. Knowing the right moves and being able to do them in the right order is just the framework. George poured his life and soul into the performance. This was his one chance, an opportunity never to be repeated, perhaps, and he threw everything that he had into the dance.

I was thinking about the energy, passion and complete commitment of George and he made me want to get up and dance! I wanted to be with him on stage, in that shower of water, twisting and turning, flinging my arms around and just being entirely lost in the moment.

I am challenged that in so much of what I do – whether in my relationships, or in the various environments that I inhabit or the things that consume my time, I am, in comparison, luke-warm.

At the end of George’s dance he had nothing left to give. There had been no holding back. If his performance didn’t earn him a place in the final – well, there was nothing else he could do. He left nothing in reserve. There was no Plan B. That was absolutely everything.

I don’t operate like that. I know there is always more to give. I know that there is always something kept in reserve. There is always a Plan B lurking in the shadows.

Is it an age thing? Is George so passionate because he still young? I was going to write that George doesn’t know about knock-backs and bruises – but he does. He was not a new face to the competition, having entered last year. He never made it through the various rounds. He didn’t give up then. He worked hard to improve his act and came back the following year with something better! He must have been convinced it was there and was prepared to put himself through the auditions a second time to show people. Had he got turned away a second time, I believe that her would have turned up the following year – better.

I want to pour that much more of me into everything that I do. I want to have nothing left over, nothing held in reserve. It’s a tall order, for a naturally slothful personality like mine – but knowing that I did everything I could have done, I want to be able to say “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Pen in Your Hand

I caught the tale end of the news on Thursday evening after I had come home from a meeting.

It was an update of the situation in China. Days after the earthquake, rescue personnel had made it to the epicentre of the quake. There was lots of footage of the rescue operation. Planes flying overhead were discharging parachutes – some with men strapped into the harnesses, other with boxes of food and water. On the ground, men were shifting piles of rubble trying to reach those that had been buried. Watching as one school was being excavated, were parents looking for their children. I had forgotten the Chinese government had restricted each family to one child – and that one child was now buried under a pile of concrete! It doesn’t matter, I suppose, whether there is one child or a dozen in a family, the loss is still there and the parents are just as inconsolable.

There is one image that has caught my eye and stayed with me, and I have searched the net to find it, without success. It is of a school, or the remains of one. All you see is a single hand, uncovered in the rubbish. A child’s hand clutches a pen. I wasn’t listening to the narrator, just looking at the hand clutching a pen. I am sorry that I wasn’t listening properly. Something else came to mind, that at the time seemed to matter more.

As I said, I had been at a meeting. Some friends in another church had been over to Florida to be a part of whatever it is that Tod Bently has become involved in. I have perhaps muddies the waters of my mind by reading a selection of reports of what is happening over there – some enthusiastically rubber stamping it, and others calling it a false revival. I don’t know.

The couple reporting back were very enthusiastic and many people in the meeting caught their enthusiasm. We went into a time of worship and waiting on the Lord – as you do at some of these kinds of meetings.

The worship was excellent. The worship leader was really gifted and his song selection was just what I wanted to sing. I was in the zone. My heart was absorbed, but my mind was also at work. I have been to many meetings where the emotions run high, and people are whipped up into a response that isn’t always helpful. I wanted to be built up and not hyped up.

People shared pictures of what they thought God was saying or doing. I experience these things too, but I am never sure that it is not just my imagination! The picture that I had I didn’t feel was a shared picture.

I had the sense of being in a room with a whole load of presents. They were all shapes and sizes, colourful wrappings and ribbons, and very clearly labelled. I was walking around picking them up and not finding one that had my name on it.

To some extent I think the impression or picture was in response to how I was feeling. I didn’t feel qualified to be there. Many of the people there were involved in lots of “missional” things like healing on the streets and street pastors. They were buzzing with enthusiasm. I was feeling out of place – hence the idea of no present for me. You can see where I am coming from, perhaps.

I was getting rather dispirited about not finding my present when I had the impression of God speaking.

“There isn’t one.” My heart took a deep dive – It was like confirming that I really was in the wrong place. Then He went on to say, “I have already given you yours.”

I looked down at my hand and I was holding a pen.

“The pen in your hand is my gift to you. There is nothing better than that!”

I am not sure if can I convey the sense of profound privilege I felt. I am never more at home than when I am writing! To my mind there is something incredibly powerful about the written word and the written word read out loud.

I suppose that I might have dismissed the whole thing as just my imagination except for that one image of the child with the pen in their hand.

I can be Jonathan in this one thing! This I can do!

Being Jonathan

Earlier this week I was reading a story from 1 Samuel. It contrasted the actions of Jonathan and Saul.

Jonathan, along with his armour bearer, was clambering among the rocks and “ambushing” the Philistine outposts, killing a dozen or so man. He hadn’t been told what to do. He didn’t have a “word” from God to act and everyone apart from the armour bearer was unaware of his actions. The words that he used when he addressed the Philistines reminded me of the words that David used about Goliath – uncircumcised dogs that had not right to be there. He was not hiding or afraid, or unsure of his action. He saw something that offended him and made plans to dispose of it.

The way the story reads, Jonathan’s actions released God to move. He sends confusion into the main camp and the Philistines start killing each other. Jonathan had been like a catalyst – a flame to dry wood – and God has seen His heart reflected in Jonathan and responded. There are some people, and some things that people do that make them entirely irresistible to God and He just can’t help himself from joining in.

Saul and the rest of the Israelite army, however, were miles away sitting under trees, dithering and inactive. Saul had a priest in his camp but didn’t use him to seek a word from God what to do next. Once Jonathan had picked the fight, he eventually joined the battle – but he wasn’t the initiator. He didn’t “act”, he just “reacted”.

There were a few other groups of people who get a mention in the story – the ones that had swapped sides and joined the Philistines did a “U” turn when the Israelites were winning. They wanted to be on the winning side. They had joined the Philistines because they were winning at the time, and now they weren’t winning they moved camps. There was also a bunch of other people who were hiding in the hills. It wasn’t until they could smell victory that they came out of their hiding places to join the battle.

I was challenged to think about where I would be – would I be like Jonathan, filled with a sense of “this is so wrong that I must put it right”? Would I be the armour bearer – stirred to follow “heart and soul” a person like that? Would I be like Saul, having access to the word of God, but passive and accepting and waiting for a better time to act? Have I somehow joined the other side, the people who are “winning” at the moment? Or perhaps I am hiding in a hole somewhere in the hills above the battle!

I was also challenged about how easily I could justify the actions of each person or group. I could see where they were coming from and feel a kind of sympathy for them. I have never been in a war zone the way they have. My life isn’t under threat. I have access to food and water and comfort and security and if I didn’t who is to say that I would act any differently.

However, that said, I am in a spiritual war zone and if my life is not under threat then I must be so harmless to the enemy that I am not worth the effort to eliminate!

Does anyone who reads the story think “I am Jonathan!”? Do we even want to be Jonathan? Personally, I think I am quite comfortable to be the armour bearer where there is someone else who is calling the shots, making the hard decisions, and I am following! I can do that. I am ashamed if I am Saul here – with access to God’s word, but not expressing his heart in my actions.

I want to be Jonathan. I want my actions to be so irresistible to God, that the things I do mirror His heart and He can’t help but join in. I want to live a life that allows God to do the things He wants to do and doesn’t limit Him in any way.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, dear Church
Happy Birthday to you!

It's Pentecost - the birthday of the church!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Praying in Your Comfort Zone

Last night I had intended to go to pray with the Street/Prayer pastors, but I got to a page turning moment in the book I was reading and talked myself out of going – I had had a hard week at work, the last time I went they all prayed so quietly that I couldn’t hear them anyway, I could just as easily pray at home…you’ve heard them all before! God didn’t press me on it, just reminded me that I had got off to a good start with the ten day global prayer event and it was a shame that I was falling at the second fence. I turned another page in my book and vaguely promised I would make up the time!

Much later that night – it could have been early hours in the morning I finally finished the last page of the book, dropped it on the floor, switched off the light and snuggled into my snoring husband.

Then God said, “I let you finish your book – now get up and pray!”

I wouldn’t say that I was averse to the idea but I pointed out that there were so many other people I knew that prayed much better than I did and I rattled off a few names.

God didn’t say, “I know that!” I don’t think He even entertained saying it, though I might have if I had been Him.

“I like to hear you pray,” was His answer.

How irresistible is that? So I disentangled myself from the duvet, kicked about under the bed to find my slippers and picked up my dressing gown and glasses and headed down stairs. He told me to leave the watch on the bed-side table – I didn’t need to keep looking at the minutes ticking by and wonder when I could go back to bed.

We worked our way through the list of prayer suggestions. It seemed quite surreal praying for Christians to join together to pray – when I was sat all alone in the early hours of the morning! There were a couple of other things not related to the global prayer list that God put on my heart to pray about – personal things for friends and family. We just got talking about a wide range of things.

I returned to bed glad that I had got up and joined God in prayer. I thought I had done a good job. I didn’t get all emotional, or loud, or declarational, or even noticeably passionate. I just sat on the sofa, curled up, talking – and yet, I felt that God and I had connected. There are times when I suppose we pray outside of our comfort zones – this wasn’t one of them, but it was no less effective.