Could do better…

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Ironically, and somewhat comically, I wrote this blog post last week but didn’t upload it because I didn’t think it was good enough. God certainly has a sense of humour! I laughed, and now I post…

I’ve realised that I’ve been living under an umbrella. The thing is though, the sun is shining, and I’m not the type to hold an umbrella for the purpose of shade. This said umbrella is the proverbial barrier I’ve created to stop myself from basking in the wonderful warm sunshine of my heavenly Father and his love for me.

Now, let me elaborate slightly, as I’m sure my weather analogies will only take us so far. You see, I’m a ‘could do better’ person. Excluding, probably, the first few months of my life, I’ve lived a life that has not been enough. I’m not clever enough, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not slim enough, fit enough, rich enough, witty enough, confident enough, quick enough, brave enough, tough enough, strong enough, perfect, err, enough. It’s such a tiring life. Living a life of striving for better can benefit us indeed, but when you reach what you thought would be the end of the ‘not enough’, there reappears the exasperated gap of ‘could do better’. The not enoughs demand attention, and when ignored, they grow bigger and stronger, sometimes overwhelmingly so. It’s the life of a perfectionist, the life of an ambitious individual on the path of discovery, yet I’ve realised of late that God doesn’t wake me every morning by slapping me around the face with my not enoughs. No, he gently sings in my ear that I am everything he wants, just as I am.

Hosea 2v14-15 says: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt”

The book of Hosea is marvelous. It speaks of a God who is faithful when we are unfaithful. It speaks of a God who chooses the unworthy, those scorned by society, those who mess up, those who really just aren’t what we would call ‘good enough’. It screams of a God desperate for his people to come as they are, desperate for his people to accept his kindness, to turn from their old ways of living and to enter into his covenant of light and life. It sings of a God who is willing to “Go again” (2v1) to bring back the lost sheep. It speaks of a God who “continues loving” (3v1) despite rejection and dismissal. Hosea loved Gomer when she despised him. God loved Israel in their rebellion. It speaks of the cross, it speaks of Jesus’ loving sacrifice for our sins, and his pursuit of our hearts.

Now, I am learning that our God pours out blessing and hope when we have done nothing to deserve it, so why, in my tiny microcosm of life, do I feel the need to do it all myself, to make it an achievement rather than to rest on his grace? I think my proud little heart wants to impress God. I want to be at optimum performance levels for his Kingdom exercise plan, and I want to do well. I also want to impress others with my prowess; I seek the approval of those around me, who are often far less forgiving.

But, God is pleased with me regardless.

In Matthew 3v17, God declares his love for his son, and says he is pleased with Jesus, BEFORE he starts his ministry. Jesus hadn’t done any miracles up to this point, but God was pleased with him nonetheless.

Now, God sees me reflecting upon my weeks, looking at all the ways I could have been kinder, softer, more friendly, more Godly, more confident, the list goes on. I sigh at my failures and the mountains grow taller. But God speaks to me, and he says: “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46v10.

What can I do? I need to listen. I need to lift my eyes to him and stop being introspective. When I look at myself I am but a breath, I am a dusty street ready to be trampled. But, when I look to him I am a conqueror, a mighty woman of God, and wrapped in his strength, I am enough.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12v9-11

So I can take down my umbrella, and bask in the Lord’s love for me. I don’t disqualify myself when I say the wrong thing, I don’t need to cower for cover until I’m good enough to step into his presence. He says: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

The truth is, we have none of our own money to spend in the kingdom. But, the reality is, we have unending access to our King’s bank account. Jesus has bought it all for us, it is his free gift.

Oh the wonders of our Heavenly Father! He clothes us with the garments of salvation, he covers us with the robe of righteousness and speaks peace to our souls. We are enough in his eyes, we are his prized possession, bought with a price. All glory to God!

An hilarious near death experience

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Death by horses. Wouldn’t that be a fabulous way to go? It would certainly provide a few laughs at the funeral, but thankfully that day, for me and my friend Tarryn, didn’t come to pass. Still, it was ‘on the cards’ for rather too many frightening minutes during what was meant to be a relaxing holiday!

Picture it. You’ve awoken after a deep and satisfying sleep and decided today is the day to get out and climb a mountain of some sort. You’ve dressed, gulped down an athletes breakfast, made a carb-heavy lunch and sourced a map from your hosts.

Hiking boots on, you embark with the usual expectations – uphill climbs, beautiful views, a nice picturesque spot for lunch, a leisurely descent and celebratory cider.
Perfection in a day. Right? Wrong!

Laughing, exhaling great cackles we recalled our story to our hosts a few days afterwards. “We were surrounded! Our lives flashed before our eyes!!” Others in the vicinity laughed too.

We were surprised to hear that the lady who had directed us into the Horses Den had known about the dangers all along. “Cheers!” We thought, and laughed some more, in astonishment.

So, what happened? Well, everything from the deep, satisfying sleep to the embark was as normal. Omlettes in our bellies, sandwiches prepared, map in hand we set off. Beginning the ascent we took a wrong turn and came to a dead end. There was nothing unusual about that, so we retraced our steps to find the right path. We were fifteen minutes or so in, enjoying the surrounding stillness and emerging views, when we noticed a pack of horses cantering up a path to our right. They reached our level, blocking the gate of our exit, and stared. Less than 50 metres away, we too stood still, and stared back.

Stalemate.

Now, neither Tarryn nor I are horsey people. We’ve never felt at home in a stable and have never shovelled poo to earn favour and a free gallop. Our lives have been spent firmly on the outside of the paddock, yet somehow we found ourselves in the centre of one, without a stone or a sling.

A minute of well managed panic later, the situation intensified. The horses had friends. Another 5 or 6 horses thundered up the hill to join the already 6 strong gang. We were outnumbered, with only a few cheese and ham cobs for pacifying leverage.
“Let’s go back.” I suggested. I was not up for a duel.
“Ok.” Tarryn replied. We hoped they’d forget about us, move on.

As we turned and walked slowly back the way we came, the horses followed, and at increasing pace. We walked some more then panicked and walked off the path in a faint hope that we were really just blocking their morning running route. “Maybe they just want to get past.” I said bleakly. “Let’s just wait.”

As they approached the part of the path that we had sidestepped, they stopped, turned, looked us straight in the eyes, then advanced. Tarryn and I grabbed each other. My knees began to shake. I prayed!

Six or seven large horses snuffled our coats and nibbled our rucksacks. The others formed a barbed wire fence behind, munching the grass and exhaling violently. Tails flapped, hooves padded the ground.

“God!! Help!! Help!! I’m completely unqualified for this situation!! Help!!”
Tarryn and I must have looked a picture! Clinging to each other as if our lives depended on it (quite literally) praying whatever we could muster!

Suddenly, a small gap opened up between the heavy set horses. A pure white stallion, their leader, had either stumbled, or deliberately fallen into our nibbling friends and scattered them. Our escape route! Hearts beating and legs a-wobbling we slowly took steps past our unwanted friends.

“Left or right?” I said under my breath. Do we retreat and just get back home safely, or do we continue the walk regardless, oblivious to how many horses could be lurking in the unfamiliar Welsh hills.
“Left.” said Tarryn defiantly.
“Ok.” I said, surprised at her courage. We race-walked to the next style.

Once home and dry, with the horses safely behind the last fence, we let go of each other and bent over in relief! We laughed, but mostly were just glad to be alive!

As we sat atop the mountain, looking down to the sea, Tarryn made a suggestion. “Different route back?”