Monthly Archives: March 2016

Busyness

Eyes on you

I don’t know about you but when it comes to looking after number one, I’m pretty good at it, ashamedly so. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess to how much of my day I spend looking after my own priorities – by that I mean thinking about my own needs instead of those around me.

Some would argue that this is no such thing as a selfless act, that even when doing things for others the giver is still benefiting for the warm glow of satisfaction. I think that this is going too far. There are certainly many acts of sacrifice that people make everyday that they neither enjoy or get satisfaction from. Anyone who is a parent knows this. Disciplining our children is always difficult for a parent but it’s a very necessary and vital part of the child’s development.

Looking after number one can take a lot of time. There is a lot to sort out! By the time I’ve written my many lists of all the things  I have to do there is little time left for anyone else. Of course, many of the things on my list are necessary and are often for the direct benefit of others, so what’s the problem?

Well, it’s not the list of tasks or the actual acts that are the problem. It’s the focus. Even in the planning list of priorities, whether for myself or others, there is the potential to focus on the wrong things. I therefore start rushing about doing things that are sometimes unnecessary and occasionally completely unhelpful. This isn’t just about whether I’m being selfish, thinking of only of myself. No. It’s about first and foremost having my focus on the only one that can help give me a clear perspective on life.

By focusing my attention on God I stop looking at my own needs, stop looking at the list of everything that needs doing, even stop looking at the needs of everyone else. And as I gaze at my father I find total acceptance, complete forgiveness, wholeness and peace. He then helps me to order my thoughts, shows me things I hadn’t noticed and then I can begin to get my priorities straight.

My outlook for the coming day has fundamentally changed. Now, as I go about my tasks, I am mindful of the people I meet. I am sensitive to what is going on in their lives. I am relaxed when trouble comes my way. And at the end of the day, I find that everything that needed to be done has been achieved. Why not start today by getting your focus onto the one who can help determine the right steps for the coming day?

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
A greater source of strength

The New Starter Test

Don’t you find that life is full of patterns. As if there are a set of laws that have to be followed. For example, the moment you make a decision to change or to start something anew there comes an immediate challenging test to try and wreck our plans. It’s not even been five minutes since we decided to turn over a new leaf, or to try extra hard from now on. We’ve made what seems like a tough and real decision to do something good. Then BANG! Not so quick, now you’ve got your special powers you can fight this monster problem.

This happened to me only yesterday. I’d been thinking and praying about whether to take on a new role within a charity I am involved in. It’s a position with a lot of responsibility and I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job. After spending time talking to various people and listening to God everything seemed to stack up. I decided that it was the right thing to do and knew that the time was right. Before I’d even informed anyone about my decision, out of the blue came a major issue that had the potential to change my mind straight away.

This is where the rubber hits the road. God’s wants to know how serious I am, and whether I and going to trust in his ability or my own. This is one of those patterns that we see all the time and are never seemingly prepared for no matter how obvious it is to others.

My first instinct is to draw up a plan of action and to start firing off emails. My mind is spinning, desperately trying to conjure up ideas that will fix the situation. I’m in serious danger of falling at the very first hurdle. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m not up for the job. I can’t do this.” I’m already not relying on God.

It’s then as I sit down for morning quiet time and begin to read his word and clear my mind of the troubles that he softly begins to speak to me. He tells me that I am to struggle and strive for his purposes but not to use my strength and energy. I’m to use his! How on earth is that possible I ask myself. Can someone strive and wrestle a problem with another person’s power. Wouldn’t that be great if it were true. I could dream up the best person to handle this situation and use all of their gifts and abilities instead of my own.

Well, apparently it is possible. Colossians 1v28 says ‘I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” So how do I use God’s power instead of my own? Firstly I need to talk to him about my challenges and allow him in to my situation. Secondly, I need to start trusting in his ability and believe he’s going to help me. Lastly, I need to revise my plan and expect him to do all that I cannot.

So it’s time to start trusting this morning in the one who is our inexhaustible source of strength, who is for us and with us in every situation.

Busy Bees

I’ll take care of it

Just when I begin to get everything sorted out, with all things in their right place, someone messes up what I’ve spent so long putting straight. Do you ever feel like that? The days are not long enough and all the time seems to disappear. I’m a list writer and without my lists I don’t get very much done. They are a necessity that keeps me from procrastinating or being drawn off at a tangent. They help me focus on what I need to do and remind me where I was if I get pulled into something else.

The problem with lists is that they can become rather long, especially as I being to plan out all the various things I have to take care of. There’s stuff to do round the house, there’s my work, there’s church, places I need to go, people I need to see. Something is always being forgotten.

Then there are the things that I didn’t even think about; thoughts that didn’t even enter my head. How on earth did I forget to get a mother’s day card for my wife from the dog? Why didn’t I think about what we would have for dinner this evening? Why didn’t I see that big problem looming up and do something about it sooner? There is just so many things to consider; sometimes it seems as if the world is just too big.

And, of course it is. The world, even my little part of it, is far to big for me to manage all of the details and it’s kind of inevitable that I’m going to fail to look after it all. It’s a pretty good job that, first and foremost, none of my failings are held against me. God’s word says that he keeps no record of wrongs, that I’m forgiven and nothing is held against me. Secondly, he says that he will take care of everything that I forget or neglect to do. Everything!

This means that after I’ve finished doing my work for the day, I do not need to worry or even think about the things I’ve not done. All I need to do is focus on the here and now, just today. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan for tomorrow, it means that I don’t need to worry about it. If those plans get blown off course or never come to pass then that’s alright. I can only do what I can do. Just when I need it I can rest without any guilt or condemnation. I am accepted and loved for who I am and not what I achieve.

Psalm 130:3,4 NIV If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
Philippians 4:19 MSG You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.
Try Praying

Have you ever tried praying?

Life can be tough, but is it tough enough to seek help?

I think each one of us has a certain level of determination to be self-sufficient, a need not to rely on others. Some have tremendous levels of drive and are fiercely independent, seemingly able to operate in total isolation without any support. Some appear weak and feel the need to tell everyone their troubles as they desperately look for someone to share their burdens, secretly wishing they were stronger and more readily able to withstand the pressures of life.

For us Brits it’s often a sense that we don’t want to be a burden on others; that somehow we will be inconveniencing people if we ask for their help and if we are too much of a burden they will no longer offer their friendship. Or we think they will see us as pretty pathetic and we’ll feel even worse about ourselves. So we continue to aspire to be like the many people around us, that are doing the exact same as us – being independent and standing on their own two feet.

So here’s the thing. Most, if not all, are not doing very well at this self-sufficiency thing. It might appear as if they have it all together by themselves but it’s all a front. Unseen by others they are in one of two camps or somewhere in-between.

Camp one: not doing very well. In camp one people spend a lot of time and energy planning, covering up, distracting themselves, being busy and avoid problem. People here are either tremendously busy doing seemingly nothing of real value (by that I mean stuff that needs doing but that virtually no-one will remember) or they are trying to cheers themselves up. They are always talking about the next thing they are going to do or buy, and tend to focus on themselves more than most.

Camp two: they have a secret supply of help. In this camp people have friends that they talk to and share their problems with. They are actually sharing their weakness and failings with others and are getting help. These people have a sense of security and confidence that is not found in camp one. They are not as independent and strong as they appear. Their secret power supply is coming from others.

So where are you? Are you in camp one desperately trying to get to camp two? Or spending some time in camp two but more often than not you’re visiting camp one?

It’s typically only when things get so bad that we can no longer cope that we reach out for help. And what do we find? We find that people do not judge, they don’t drop us and run, they are pleased to have been asked.

The good news is that there is hope. Sometimes finding friends to confide in can be a tricky business. There is, however, another option – Prayer. There is one who already knows all of our weaknesses and failures but loves us despite them. A person that is ready to listen night or day will never by shocked when they hear what we’ve got to say. God really is good.

So why not try praying today. If you’re not sure where to start then take a look at this great booklet called ‘Try Praying’. You can download a free copy here: http://www.trypraying.co.uk