Monday, 29 September 2014

Doing it afraid

Fear is not my friend. I don't normally go seeking out trouble or looking to be brave.

As one who spent far too many years afraid of my own shadow and afraid of the grown-up world impinging itself too soon on body and mind, life is not an adrenaline-fuelled ride of adventure.

Courage has many faces and not all of them are obvious. They don't all shout their name.

Sometimes its the quiet ones going about their daily challenges and struggles with quavering hearts and wavering faith who are the brave people in God's eyes.

He sees into hearts and minds and knows how many are living lives of such quiet desperation where getting out of bed in the morning requires enormous effort of will, (and/or reserves from Him) before they dare place foot to floor and face another day.

Life is a battlefield and we overcome it first in our minds.

I'm not a natural risk taker. There have been enough battles in my life without looking for them.

But sometimes a clarion call sounds and we know that God is trying to urge us out of our comfort zones.

This is time to take action. The rewards will outweigh the demands being made on us.

No more cringing in corners. Suit up and get ready.

One person's challenge may be another's walk in the park but it loses none of its edginess for the one overcoming obstacles to achieve it.

I sense a call to surrender my pen, lay down my own writing goals and allow God to speak to me on a daily basis.. then write what I hear.

This is something I'm fairly familiar with on a regular basis. It's part and parcel of being a Christian poet and writer.

Only... daily, did you say? Gulp!! Yes... 31 days of listening and writing brave and free.

Relying totally on Holy Spirit inspiration, anointing and equipping for 31 days, though not necessarily consecutively.

The original yearly #31days writing challenge began over at the Nester's place. You can read the details here. 

To make matters manageable there are daily 5 minute writing prompts being offered over at Kate Montaung's place, rather like a continual Five Minute Friday exercise.

And Twitter already has daily poetic prompts to help stir the creative juices.

So far, so well and good. I love word prompt challenges and I love writing.

If my health was equally reliable then we'd be laughing, wouldn't we?

But that is far from the truth. I have had to cut back, withdraw and recover energy recently when life's busyness leached all my available strength. 

And that happens on a regular basis. More often than I like it to.

As an M.E and chronic illness sufferer I know that no two days are exactly the same yet all have their pitfalls of pain, profound fatigue and weakness to one degree or another.

How do I commit to this task without compromising my already weakened health?

By faith. By trust. By believing that all things are possible in Christ because who He appoints He anoints and who He calls He qualifies.

Am I sure? Well, I didn't lay down a fleece, but it took 4 separate times of checking in with the Lord before I was totally convinced this was a call from Him rather than a work and desire of the flesh. 

So here I am, doing it afraid and doing it with faith, for the two co-exist sometimes.

And there is a catch to this..  after checking in with God this morning, He confirmed I need to spend 31 days listening intently to Him but only write and share as He dictates.

God also reminded me of words I'd penned over at 'Poetry Joy' a few days ago:

"I don't want to write
just because
it is what 
I usually do
or because
I want to have a say
These words should come
because You
have thoughts You desire
me to convey"

My reasons for taking part need to be in line with His will for me. In a sense, I need to eat my own words above.

There's to be no noisy fanfare, no lovely linking up, no seeking of people-approval, no beautiful button to flaunt, no anxiety over daily sharing, just opening my heart when He makes it clear it's right to do so.

Because this isn't really about me at all; it's all about the work God needs to do in and through me.

Some posts will appear here and others over at my sister site, Do take a look there too because small snippets more often come to me in poetry and 'Prayer Whispers' rather than prose.

I'd love you to join me for the journey as I take part informally (on an ad hoc basis) in my own slow way and timing. There is grace to participate and grace to 'fail' in others' eyes.

My fear stems from wondering if I can be fully attentive and listen well over this period of time, and if I can faithfully record the words I hear.

My failure would be to depend more on myself than I do on Holy Spirit's equipping.

And for those of you who pray, please send a prayer or two up for me, would you? Thank you!

I think this weary woman needs help to stay faithful and attentive in prayer, to listen, lean and learn all the lessons God wants to teach her.

Then I can share them over time and (hopefully) bless and encourage others in the process. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Now we are six(ty)

When I was six years old, I had a brush with death. It began with a clumsy careering into sharp wooden armchair corners that split my head open.

There was a rush, hurry and flurry to get this child to hospital and stem the flow.

The chair came off better than me. I still have the scars to prove it.

Then, in the somnolent heat of summer, I blithely stepped out from the side of an ice-cream van parked just across the road from my home, my mouth watering in anticipation of the cool treat now starting to melt slow in my hot little hand, and I paused..

I'd been schooled in the Green Cross Code of 'Look left, look right, look left again' and if all was clear it was safe to cross the road. This time, with other things on my mind, I neglected the final glance left.

A speeding car caught me on its bumper and tossed me into the gutter like a discarded rag doll. 

My father heard a squeal of brakes and crunch of tires that sang out louder than the motor-racing he was viewing on the TV. He had some premonition of danger, so he hurtled from his armchair and out of the house.

He found me scrunched and curled like a foetal-curved comma, motionless, lips blue, body still and bloodied. Feared I was dead.

With his heart in his mouth and tears in his eyes, he gently scooped me up and held me close. Someone else must have rung for an ambulance, because he held fast as its siren rent the air, while the silent passers-by watched the scene unfold.

Thankfully, the outcome was much better than anticipated. My ability to flop sack-heavy onto a lap with limbs loose may have caused a parent to grumble, but it was what saved me from greater injury.

I sustained concussion, hypoxia, and a bad case of 'gravel rash' caused by being scraped along the road, with skin shredded raw as grated cheese threads. These wounds would require frequent dressings over the months ahead, but that was all.

Miraculously, there were no broken bones either. 

I was lucky.. or was it luck? With the hindsight of years and further experiences I see it differently.

My sixth year was also when my grandma died. We were considered too young to go to the funeral, but I had a savour of grown-up grief and solemnity, cushioned by plenty of tea, sandwiches and sympathy. A foretaste of funerals to come.

And as I grew older, I discovered how brief candle-like this life can be. Realised how we have a gift of time and years to use wisely.

When I was six life felt timeless, days were long and there was much still to discover.

And it does indeed stretch into an endless, eternal future with God by virtue of faith in Christ and His gift of new life.

'Now we are six' by A.A Milne
"When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new
When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more
When I was five I was barely alive
Now I am six I am clever as clever;
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever"

Now, I am no longer the little six year old girl whose body fell carelessly into sharp corners, crumpled death-like on impact, and whose favourite dress got ruined one warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

Now, I am 60. Life has unfolded slow before my eyes yet with an alarming tendency to shorten as each year follows another. Who knew?

My limbs are stiff and ungainly from years of arthritis and M.E, unable to curl swift into a ball. These days I cannot run, hop, skip, jump or dance as I once did. Though my girl-child heart still longs to do so.

But I can sit and meditate. Reflect on how goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of this challenging life, even in the dark, hidden places where I thought I was alone.

My mind aware of the gift of new life Christ gave me when I was 17, and His hands extending through many a long year since as He pours out daily manna and grace for my soul. 

I can pray; I can read God's word, absorb its truth now lived out in experience.

I can write, bless and encourage others with the gift of words He gives me.

Have I become "clever as clever"? Probably not, though some see me as wise. But I think they simply see and hear the words of Jesus Himself as He speaks through me, sharing Friend to friend. 

As One who has companioned all my dying-living moments here and who will see me through to this world's end and into the beginning of the eternally new, Jesus has become everything to me.

And I see the years ahead (however long or short they may be) as further opportunity to get to know Him better, to love Him more and speak out His worth. 

One day soon I may write about the celebrations I have had, decide on a bucket/'Wish List' for the days to come, a year of yearnings, hopes and desires and dreams still dancing in my soul.

For now, I need a bit of time to think about being 60 and all it may mean to me, to be grateful for this gift of time, even as age and infirmity kicks brutal in my body.

Because I just might not have been so 'lucky' all those years ago... and these words may never have got written, nor this life lived out with my family and friends.

Neither would I have had all the experience of God's goodness and grace as the grown-up woman I am now. And that doesn't bear thinking about, somehow.

**How do you feel as you reflect back on your life? Can you see God's hand at work in everything? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.**

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Dying to live

Sap remains in the vine. Life signs are present. Colour and vitality depleted but not gone for good.

As I muse on the waning of plants and summer flowers, the colours of russet and gold midst green-leaved trees, I see myself mirrored in them.

I'm in an autumnal season. Time to let loose, let fall all that is withered and dead within me. 

Prepare for the loosing, shedding, pruning, the dying-back of Winter and its attendant frosts and chills before Spring comes again.

Time to embrace grace, make space for new life to spring up in the place of signs of death.

I'm a walking-wounded one, with a desire to die to those things that are no longer fruitful. And to take hold of all that nurtures, enlivens, and breathes fresh hope into my soul.

So what does it look like? Something like this..

Writing brave, bold and free, but only as God suggests and directs.

Listening with greater intent to His voice, His word, His plans and purposes, my life and body ~ and heed what they're all saying to me.

Dying to selfish ambition.  

Dying to people-approval.

Dying to perfectionism.

(Yes, I know, they will take some time to fade away, never mind die! )

Living to please God first and foremost.

Living in a way that reveals Jesus in me.

Living the best I can with all my flaws, human limitations and imperfections, while God is slowly transforming me from the inside out from one degree of glory to another.

Staying connected to The Vine.

Staying receptive to God's voice.

Staying open to the possibility of change beyond anything I dare to ask, think or imagine.

Trusting that I am enough because Jesus is enough and He lives in and through me.

Trusting that words will flow as they need to from a surrendered mind and heart.

Trusting God to work in and through the works of my hands and bless others in the process.

Letting go of yesterday so that I am ready for the Now and the Still to Come.

Letting these words speak for themselves, just as they are, no overly zealous editing.

Welcoming in a new season of the soul, warming myself in His gaze, being refreshed in His Presence.

And why do all this?

To quote contemplative monk, Bob Holmes in his insightful post, 'Putting the Spirit back into Spiritual Practice':

"We die to ourselves to make it possible to put our spirit first."

For, unless this frail flesh falls to the ground and dies to itself (its own selfish ambition, ways of understanding and living), we will have no seed to sow or harvest to come. It is only as we look to the Lord to give us light, sustenance and daily watering with His word that we begin to come alive on the inside.

Then, as new plants, we can grow tall and strong by His grace. Our leaning on and learning from Him are the means to a changed soul from the inside out.

Will you join me? I hope so. Companions are essential on this journey. Together we are stronger.

Let's keep offering up our lives as a sacrifice of praise to the One who gives us daily breath and grace Here, Now, Today, Always.

Instead of living to die, we could try dying to live ~ more fully and freely than we ever imagined in this life and beyond.

Linking here with Beth and other lovely writer friends for #threewordwednesday  as we seek to encourage you in your journey of life and faith.

You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in.