Oh, how much space it took up. Whole corridors and large sections of rooms!!
And my father died, prematurely, after a few dreadful months of sorting it out, tossing it, selling or trying to find homes for it. He didn’t even get to enjoy or use the stuff!!
* * *
Yesterday, I heard my friend, David, the son of John Bendor-Samuel, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, UK, say in his Sunday sermon that his brilliant father was a hoarder and left two rooms full of papers, magazines, sermon notes, lecture notes, and journals, which David is stolidly dealing with.
I can’t stand the thought of leaving mess and papers for someone else to sort out. It’s just plain wrong. And so, I declutter once a week.
* * *
It’s a bit of a sad exercise, really. I see projects started with enthusiasm, which proved abortive. Courses I took which were a red herringish waste of time. Diaries filled with “Lunch with X and coffee with Y,” and you know what, twenty years later, I don’t remember who on earth these people were. I look at To Do lists: “Reply to A, email B, thank C.” Who are these people? They are all out of my life.
I look at projects taken up and abandoned. I love French, but early into my French classes, I bought the complete Remembrance of Things Past in French. Oh-uh!!
How many hobbies and interests I plunged into by buying a pile of books on the subject!!
How much I tried to do with my own strength instead of relying on God!
How long it took me to focus on my writing!
* * *
And, the odd thing is, when I look at these things I poured my intensity into which were unfruitful, which failed, or disappointed me; things I wanted so badly which I did not get, or which I got, but which did not satisfy me; false starts, dead ends, I have the same overwhelming sensation.
And it is not sadness.
It is someone saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
I sense God’s overflowing love.
Well, when does a good parent love their child most? Feel most protective? When they have aced their exams, or when they have truly blown it, and are down in the dumps? When they experience rejection, failure and sadness, or when all is sunny?
And he who is melding the shards of my life—wasted time, wasted energy, wasted intensity–into a beautiful stained glass window sees me turn over these scraps of wasted things sadly, and says, “I will let nothing be wasted.”
And he says, “Yeah, I know. I know: you did all that in your silliness without enquiring of me. I love you anyway. I love you.”
And he says, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”
And he says, “Come, beloved. Want to dance?”
Do you remember Joshua’s outrageous prayer, “Sun, stand still.”
On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself onb its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! Joshua 10:12
* * *
I once asked my Bible study group if they had ever prayed a huge prayer– and what happened next. And we heard a faith-building flood of stories.
And here was one which struck me. A woman told us of the time she, aged 28, was leading a team of 18 year olds on a gap year at a mission project in at an orphanage in South America. There was a drought, so tap-water was mostly unavailable. And the water ran out in the orphanage.
The 18 year olds freaked out, “What should we do; what should we do?” My friend who had no idea herself, so said, “Let’s pray.” And they did–had a little prayer meeting asking for water.
Even as they were praying, there was a knock on the door, and an old farmer they had never seen before or since, said, in Spanish, “I’ve heard you’ve run out of water. I have a well. I have come in my pick-up truck, and can take you there.” And so they scrambled into the pick-up with every container they had, and there was water.
* * *
Even in times of drought, there is always water. There is 35 times more freshwater underground than in lakes and streams. There is fresh ground water, even in desert regions. (Seriously, perhaps development charities should prioritize digging wells in drought prone regions of the world?).
And I thought: there is always water when we are sad. We might need to quieten down and dig deep within, or deep into Scripture for the water which Jesus gives, a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14).
* * *
And as for ideas, there is no writer’s block in heaven. God is always thinking, his thoughts towards us are like the grains of sand on the seashore. Part of our job is to quieten down, get out of the way and listen.
Creative blocks are caused when we don’t tune in to God, when we don’t slow down enough to sense his smile on us and our work. (And often, when there is unforgiveness. Then we need to forgive ourselves, forgive God, and forgive all whom we perceive as contributing to the block.)
We might need to realign ourselves with Jesus for streams of creativity to flow out of us, for Jesus promised, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37).
* * *
We are never without water, spiritually; never without grace. The rain of grace is always available. When things seem dry, and wild fires rage, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to rain down on us, in mixed metaphor tongues of fire. And prayer for the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is a prayer which is always answered. (Luke 11:13)
And thanking God for what we have, for the equal opportunity blessings which persist when all seems lost, opens our eyes to the goodness of God. And restores our joy–bringing rain to our parched, ungrateful hearts!
I had a fail on holiday. For perhaps the longest period since I became a Christian, I neglected sitting down with my Bible, or having a dedicated period of prayer. I got annoyed with one, then two, then perhaps even three members of my family. The only reason I didn’t get annoyed with any more is that we left the pets at home!
And we were on holiday in a campervan (RV for American readers) which meant that I would feel odd reading my Bible or praying in semi-public if I hadn’t repented and made nice. And so….oops, I didn’t read my Bible! I didn’t set aside a time for prayer. I re-read Wuthering Heights instead!
* * *
And so I was less internally happy, less able to see the world charged with the grandeur of God, singing and bathed in his glory. Normally, on a nature holiday, I sense and worship God deeply while surrounded by beauty.
Yes, I was out of sorts, not really enjoying myself, not totally happy. I had got out of alignment with God, my friend, the ocean in whom I normally try to live.
* * *
And now, I am finding it hard to abide again in the centre of God, as a molecule in the vine. I am blogging on a Biblical passage, and realize I am approaching it with my left-brain, rather than my right; with my mind rather than my heart, spirit and soul.
That’s not a problem for God: he made both sides of the brain, and our minds, as well as our bodies, souls, and spirits. But he might like us to approach his Holy of Holies with our whole selves. (And approaching the Bible that way touches people’s spirits and hearts, as well as their minds.)
* * *
And I say, “Oh Lord, can you bless me?” And then I chide myself, “You’ve not dwelt in the heart of worship for a couple of weeks, Anita. You could have repented and surrendered and returned to live in Christ so much sooner!” And I think “I don’t really deserve God’s help and blessing….”
And then I realize, “When was it ever about my deserving?”
* * *
And I think again about the most incredible thing I know. That when I realize I have blown it, and return, you are full of compassion, you run to me, throw your arms around me, and kiss me.
You barely listen to my litany of failure. Instead you clothe me in your best robes. You put a ring on my finger, and sandals on my feet. You set out a feast and celebrate, serving the best steak. There is music and dancing.
All because I have returned?
This is incredible, Lord. I don’t deserve it.
And you say, “When was it ever about your deserving?”
And I repent again. Totally.
I will live in the heart of worship, live in you, a molecule of sap in your vine, a happy red blood cell in the beautiful Body of Christ.
And if I fall, I will not delay in fleeing to the sanctuary, to the joyous heart of worship, to the embrace of the Father.
An image which stuck out from the John Arnott conference was little Simba, trying out his lion roar, to the amusement of the hyenas. Then, suddenly, his father appears behind him and roars. The hyenas scatter.
We are princesses in God’s kingdom, crowned with glory and honour. Behind us is Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His father, the Emperor is behind him. The Holy Spirit, visible love and comfort wraps us in golden light.
The hills around us are ringed with angels in chariots of fire.
And THAT is who we are, who we truly are, as we face our days.