Thursday, June 23, 2016

An Evening of Encouragement

I confess that I’m not a person who easily joins in things. I put it down to a childhood of never being picked for teams. I figured then that if they don’t want me, well, I don’t want them either.  I can manage all by myself.

Last night I went to “An Evening of Encouragement” at one of the local churches. It was a inter-church event tapping into the not-so-traditional gifts of the Spirit. I was in need of encouragement. It had been a rough previous week and there were one or two spiritual bruises I was nursing. One or two grudges too it turned out!

I was offered a list of options to make appointments for, steered towards selecting a couple to start with.  I could add to the list if I wanted to later.

I hadn’t had any interesting dreams so I didn’t feel the need to opt for dream interpretation. I have a young friend who has very vivid dreams that involve ghosts and zombies but didn’t really know enough detail to ask on his behalf.  Anything involving nails, nail art and hand massages were also out because at this time of the year, under stress, I don’t have nails, just chewed stubs of nails.  A week or two into the summer hols and I will I have a decent set of nails to decorate and massage.  I was left with a word of encouragement and responsive art.

I should just lay it down on the table from the outset – I’m a little bit cynical. I know it isn’t like horoscopes which can be vague enough to fit the circumstances of lots of people, or people can snip at their circumstances to make them fit the word given so I go into these things hesitantly.  There is an element of thinking that God could just tell me without resorting to a third party. Throughout scripture God uses third party messengers all the time. It was kind of arrogant of me to think that I has a special inside track and didn’t need anyone else to speak into my life.

The people giving the word of encouragement were people I knew.  I hate that initial silence at the beginning. Perhaps they had nothing to say.

The word given was Ephesians 5:1-2- “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” There was an almost apologetic shrug and a run-with-it-if-you-want-to body language thing going on. I am a person that likes to be told. “God says” has me jumping to attention.  Take it or leave it doesn’t. God did say, despite the shrug. I struggle to be like Jesus.  Don’t we all? I’m surrounded so often by people who don’t walk in the way of love and I allow myself to be dragged along. I don’t always stand my ground. The “giving myself up” part is really hard as I can be very assertive at times.  God doesn’t ask us to do the impossible without first equipping us and pouring into our lives all the resources we need. Following God, walking in the way of love, giving myself up – all possible.

The second word was in picture form.  Avril saw a candle burning strongly in the dark. The strong wind blows and it feels as if the candle will be extinguished. There’s always oxygen, always the Holy Spirit enabling the candle to burn brightly. She talked about direction and light, and making a difference, and lighting up a room.

I knew all about strong winds and candles almost going out. Hadn’t I lived through the strong winds of someone’s hot anger the previous week? I would like to say that it was uncalled for – the intensity certainly was – but I hadn’t acted wisely. I hadn’t been given any benefit of the doubt. The anvil of anger fell and I was underneath and felt crushed.

I talked a little about the incident. God and I had raked over the embers for most of the weekend. He called me to forgive myself for being so unwise in the first place. I kind of felt I deserved the woman’s anger.  However, she knew a just single moment of my work life and had painted the rest of it in a matching colour. She didn’t know me at all. Forgiving her hadn’t really occurred to me. I was beating myself up with her words. It was nice to put down the stick.

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry but I did. That’s another reason I try to avoid these things. I am sometimes so tightly strung up that I can’t afford to fall apart – but I can’t really afford not to. I’m not designed to live as wound up as I get.

They prayed with me and I was collected and moved on to my next appointment – responsive art. I could have gone home at this point. I was feeling fragile. I didn’t need another spiritual poke in the ribs.

The lady on one side of me got a wonderful picture of a blazing fire in a forest. The lady on the other side of me got a glorious overflowing well. I liked those pictures. I wasn’t close enough to eavesdrop on the words that were spoken about the pictures. My artist drew a picture of an open door. An open door didn’t feel very creative or interesting. But not more than a month ago I had drawn the very same picture at a prayer meeting. I had a man dancing before my door, but it was the same kind of thing. An open door and a hesitation to step through. Another poke it the ribs? Another kick up the backside to shift me?

Not at all. Her door was one I wanted to step through. She talked about God taking me further in my creative journey with Him and a sense of fulfilment and joy. I love writing. Poetry is the one thing that really floats my boat. It’s my sweet spot. God, not just giving me permission to do it, or approval, but saying He is with me in my writing journey is very encouraging. To glorify Him through my poetry makes me want to write better poetry!

There are poetry adventures where I have not been able to whip out the swash and buckle and gut the enemy.  It was encouraging that God was not looking for another poet to do the work instead. He knows what is inside of me and is determined that I should know too. I like that.

The evening did what it said on the tin. I was encouraged.

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