it’s not about me … (part 2)

The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness – not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. (The Meaning of Marriage p.66)

I’ve been thinking about these words a lot in the last few weeks. How do I think of myself less?

In a recent sermon at church, I was challenged by the passionate words of David in the first verse of Psalm 18. David declares, “I love you LORD.” It is something I have wrestled with for many years – in my mind I think, well of course I love God! But when I examine my heart and I look at the rest of my thoughts, actions and the way I spend my time, I wonder…do I really love God? Heart, soul, mind, all?

Every day I let the small things weasel their way in. Through the Spirit, there needs to be a “find and replace” edit of my thoughts and attitudes. From the concerns and obsessions fueled by fears and wounds from the past (Keller says it’s primarily our wounds which make us self-centred), to the foot of the cross. To Christ. To the fear of the Lord. To loving God.

Five years ago as I went to Uganda on short-term mission, my prayer and heart’s desire was that my love for God would grow. In the space of a few weeks I witnessed God powerfully at work in the lives of my African brothers and sisters, despite the poverty and hardship they faced. They taught us a simple African chorus called “My God is Able,” and we sang this many times over. Oh how my passion for God grew. He is so big and yet he loves, knows, cares forgives me! My prayer was answered.

gorgeous girls at church in Uganda

My mission trip to Africa was wonderfully life-changing but I can’t take a trip to Africa every few years to get a boost of excitement for God. I struggle day to day to feel excited about God, but I want to have an enduring, passionate love for my creator, Lord, redeemer, saviour, friend, Father, comforter, refuge.

But how?

Two small steps for now…

1 – God above all

I’m convinced that the only way to truly fill my heart with God above all, is to spend more quality time with him – whether the desire is there or not. Last year I borrowed Shopping for time, by Carolyn Mahaney et al., from a friend. It’s a little book with big challenges and comes highly recommended! Through it I was challenged to prioritise spending time with God by doing it first each day – no matter how early that meant getting up. (I know, yikes, right?!) It was great when I did it, but unfortunately it didn’t last. I’ve decided to order my own copy, with the hope of getting (back) into the habit of regular quiet times.

2 – Devoting less brain space to consumer decisions…

Another friend’s decision to spend less money on herself, by not buying anything except essential items (so no clothes, shoes, homewares, jewellery etc) has inspired me to do the same thing for two months, til my birthday. So I am trying to think about myself less by pre-making the potentially daily consumer decisions I am blasted with every day as I work in the CBD. It’s been 12 days so far!

As I close, it would be crazy of me to think that in the doing or not doing of things that I would be come instantly less self-centred. But I pray that these little steps and challenges help my heart to change in a lasting way and that my love for God deepens, as I look away from me and look up.

on seasons and surfing

Having just finished reading My Seventh Monsoon, by Naomi Reed, I’ve been thinking lately about the seasons of life. The seasons changed quickly for me recently. As I left International Teams, one season ended, and then another began when I started at CMS a couple of days later.

One of the main conclusions Naomi draws in the book (yeah I know it’s weird for this Naomi to write about another Naomi’s book, but bear with me!) is that God provides for our needs differently, but always for His purposes in the different seasons of life. This rings true and is deeply comforting as I am in the beginnings of a new season.

At four weeks in to the new job at CMS, I think I’m just starting to get used to it. There was a moment in my third week there, when I found myself staring at the two blank computer screens, interview notes and emails all in front of me. All I needed to do was write the article. If only it was that simple. Don’t get me wrong, I feel hugely privileged to be in a role where I am getting paid to write about things of eternal value. Then and perhaps most days in this season I’m going to be up against the age-old enemy of writing and all creative pursuits: resistance.

But enough about work, this week we’ve been away with friends staying in a lovely house in Green Point, NSW with an amazing view of Wallis Lake. After the big, quick change, this week has offered much-needed soul refreshment. Up until this week, amidst the busyness of Christmas and learning all the new people and operations in the new role, I was functioning in survival mode. Now after waking up to the sounds of birds tweeting and insects screeching, and watching the sunset over the lake in the evening, I think my head and heart may have almost caught up to my body.

Reading My Seventh Monsoon has also challenged me anew about focusing on being not doing. I find this hard, because I really like to achieve. Hence feeling rather frustrated with the writer’s bloc and wondering what exactly I had produced that day!

This in-built desire to achieve is something I have struggled with in learning to surf. Surfing is hard and achieving is close to impossible. Today, out of the many waves I bumbled onto, full of hope, there were many rides which could be considered failures, and maybe only one or two where I felt like I was really riding the wave in any sense of the word.

Given that I emerged from the surf today with a twisted ankle and some cuts on my toe and the usual knee grazes…was the half second ride worthwhile? I have to say, it’s a resounding yes. The beauty of surfing is in the journey of just being there in the waves, under the bright blue sky, with the sunny glare reflecting hard into my eyes and the headlands rising up on either side of the coast.

in it for the fun!

Learning to surf has taught me a few lessons over the years…

  1. Enjoy the journey. Along the lines of the being not doing.
  2. Control is illusive. When you are surfing, you have almost none. Certainly no control over the waves, the currents, the clouds, the wind.
  3. Some risks are worth taking. I decided to start surfing because I was over sitting on the sand watching Adam and others have fun. Even if I never quite have the courage to venture “out the back” to where Adam rides, I still feel like taking the risk of trying to surf is worthwhile, compared to not trying at all – because of the sheer fun – and nothing to do with whether I’m actually any good at it.

I look forward to the surfing and the lessons learned from it in years to come. But for now, one closing excerpt from My Seventh Monsoon that resonated with me, Naomi and her husband Darren were discussing whether to go back to Nepal with their three kids…

N: “…what would it say to our kids if they knew we had taken a deliberate risk, and died?”
D: “It would say to my kids that more than anything else, I’m on this earth to follow Jesus. If following Jesus means taking the hard calls, then that’s what I want to do. I want my kids to know I took risks.”

Musings from Mexico

Sitting in a restaurant yesterday, as our meals were being served, it sunk in. I’m in Mexico! And have been since Sunday, but at that random moment in a restaurant which could just has easily have been not far from home in a town like Forster (but for all the ‘espanol) I realised that the months of dreaming and planning were now reality.

We’re in Mexico to visit and catch the vision of RenovArte Cafe, an outreach ministry to the young Creative Arts students in the uni across the road from the cafe, set up by Phil, a missionary from the organisation I work for, and his wife Sandy. We’re here to experience the Cafe ministry (from witnessing conversations over the gospel with nonbelievers to helping source the ingredients for the offerings on the menu), Mexican culture, and to learn from and listen to Phil and Sandy and hear their heart to make disciples of Jesus among the young people, and some of the challenges and uncertainties that this entails.

RenovArte Cafe

Hopefully one of the outcomes of this trip is that I will be able to share the vision of the cafe with others – inviting support and bringing blessing to Phil and Sandy and the ministry in the long term.  Oh, and Adam thought he might play his first ever live Birds in Branches gig here in the cafe tomorrow night.

Phil and Adam promoting birds in branches gig!

God is good and I am learning much. About Mexican culture, and the realities of cross-cultural ministry, but also about myself. Having little Spanish up our sleeves has felt limiting at times and so it is hard to communicate beyond the things on the surface.

Sometimes our purpose here has felt unclear, as we just sit in the cafe and enjoy delicious Mexican food, and even today as we have felt unwell (just part of the mission experience). I know God’s purposes are so often not obvious at the time. So I must cling to Him and trust that He will achieve His purposes in and through me, and us, even if we feel limited now.

As I wrestled over the first few days with feeling unprepared, quiet and unsure of what I could offer, my reading for yesterday was from 1 Corinthians about the body of Christ, and how we are all given different gifts or functions. I was deeply affirmed in my Spirit that God wanted me to be me and to offer what only I could bring.

Enjoying one of the many Plazas in Queretaro!

We would value prayer for healing and energy for the remainder of our time here in Mexico and for Adam’s gig tomorrow night.

Muchos gracias!

pretending towards reality

 

mmm...plastic icecream!

I licked an ice-cream cone today and then proceeded to place it in an oven. I was served water from a milk jug, cooked eggs on a tiny fry pan and munched a banana down in all of about 5 seconds.  

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown ups – playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown up helps them to grow up in earnest.

C S Lewis, Mere Christianity in “A Year with C S Lewis – 365 Daily Readings from Classic Works.”

There’s much to be learnt from playing pretend kitchens with my dear little 2-year-old friend from church.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been reading again these excerpts from Mere Christianity – a book that I read a couple of years ago – about the process of becoming like Christ, of putting off an old self and putting on a new self. As an aside I think it is amazing how the passage of time can lead me to read again things that I have read in the past almost anew – the words haven’t changed, I have. Or rather I am changing. Slowly.

This notion of pretending to be like Christ (even whilst still feeling pretty unlike Christ on the inside), so that eventually you do become like him in reality, resonated with what I have been learning about thinking more and more like Jesus.

So often, my thoughts don’t sound like a person who has the mind of Christ. I have always defaulted to ruminating on negative thoughts of self-pity, jealousy and fear, in the face of many decisions or responsibilities both large and small. But more and more I find myself speaking more positively (perhaps with still niggling negative thoughts on the inside). The battle still exists, but I find that the more I speak words of truth and hope, the more I believe them in my mind. I am the first to emphasise however, that this change is not my doing – it is God at work in me – Spirit, Son and Father. God the Father is answering a prayer I started praying months ago that I would desire to read the word daily. I am now reading daily and the desire is growing. By His Spirit, I have found myself ruminating less on fears and worries and more on the words “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” from 2 Corinthians 10:5. And because of what Jesus has done, I can continue to have confidence that no matter what, He works for the good of those who love him.

Yes, sometimes I surprise myself when positive words come out of my mouth – and it does feel a bit like licking plastic ice-cream, but I hope that the more I pretend to be like Him, the more I become like Him – heart, mind and soul.

And one day, my little friend from church will probably be cooking up a storm in her own real kitchen.