Friday, 28 August 2015

Pausing to Ponder

Dear Friends,

It can be so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, can't it.  We rush from one task to the next, whether it's collecting our children from an after school club, running an errand for our husband, washing dirty clothes, meeting work deadlines, serving at church or going from one meeting to the next.  

Have you ever felt like the rabbit from the book "Alice in Wonderland" who is running along muttering to himself "Oh my fur and whiskers!  I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!"  I don't know about you but I can often feel that I have too much to do and no time to do it in.  And I can run around in a frenzy trying to keep on top of my tasks for the day.

This busyness can stop me from pausing to ponder and reflect on life. It can hinder my thinking process, because rushing around makes me just too busy to think.  I believe Mary, Jesus' mother developed the habit of reflection.  She would take the time to pause and ponder.  For example, in Luke 2:19 we are told "But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."  (ESV)  A similar thing is also said in 2:51.

Our family recently went away on holiday with our extended family.  Living with a long term illness means that I still need to pace myself when I'm on holiday in order to have the energy I need to function at a reasonable level.  Which means that some days I need to stay in the holiday house we have hired while my family go out for the day.

Instead of being frustrated and miserable at not being able to join in the fun, I actually found it a blessing because it gave me time to just be with God and the opportunity to pause, reflect, think and ponder.  Whereas, if I'd been at home I would have found something to do. I know I very quickly would have become busy.

During that day, in the presence of God, I rediscovered all that I had to be grateful to him for.  For example, the mealtimes we shared as a family on holiday as we all sat around a huge table, taking our time over the meal to enjoy the food and enjoy unrushed conversation.  Watching the relationship between my son and daughter, how they enjoyed playing a board game together and got on so well together.  (Don't get me wrong, they are definitely not perfect and have their moments as all siblings do!)  At the end of the day, listening to the day out they had enjoyed, and Jason bringing me a small gift he knew I would enjoy, showing me that even though I couldn't physically be with him, I was still in his thoughts.  For the blessing of a relationship with God and for his spiritual gifts. For the personal interests he'd created me with, such as the pleasure that reading gives me or creating something with wool and a crochet hook or knitting needles.

My life is not perfect, I'm not perfect.  I have my grumpy days, my impatient days, days when I'm so busy that I forget that all that I have is a gift from God.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17 (NIV) But when I take the time to stop and reflect, to ponder on all that he has given me and done for me, then I see how truly blessed I am.  When I reflect on this I realise that it's not about things, it's not about lots of possessions, it's not about prestige, it's not about moving up the corporate ladder. Instead it's about the simple things in life, it's about the things that money cannot buy.  Life is about my relationship with God and my relationship with others. When I take the time to stop and reflect, then I overflow with praise and gratitude to God who gives me so much.

I want to build these times of stopping and reflecting in to my daily life and not allow myself to get so busy that I don't leave room for this.  My daily quiet times with God are developing and changing to allow this, but I also want to make space throughout the day for moments of reflection.  To do this I need to be deliberate about it, so that it becomes a habit, so that it becomes second nature to me.  For example, instead of rushing from one task to the next, I can stop at the end of one before I go on to the next.  I can set the alarm on my phone at certain times of the day to remind myself to pause and reflect.  I can reflect at lunch time as I eat the food God has provided for me.  I can take a moment before settling down for the night to reflect over my day with God.

There are a number of things we can do if we will just set our minds to it.  So, will you take up this challenge with me?  Instead of being so caught up in the busyness of life, lets incorporate into our day these moments of reflections.  Times when we can stop, pause and ponder.

As Paul writes in Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (ESV)

To Think About:
Are you caught up in the busyness of life?  How does being so busy affect your attitude, your speech, your actions?

What practical things can you put in place to help you to pause, ponder and reflect?

Take some time during the coming week for some moments of reflection.  What does God show you during those times?  At the end of the week look back and reflect on how it has made a difference to your life, e.g., has it had any positive affect on your attitude, your thought life, your actions?


Friday, 21 August 2015

Navigating Our Journey

Dear Friends,

We have recently been on holiday and I am so glad we have a satnav.

In the past, reading a map, checking for directions, following signs, always made the journey harder for me, and not great for Jason as I am prone to fall asleep if we are in the car for any length of time.

The satnav has definitely made life easier and holidays less stressful as we rely on it to safely navigate us to our destination and as we travel around unfamiliar places during our holiday.

It works best when we trust it, listen and follow its direction.  The whole journey is stored in its system and then a voice tells us every so often the next direction to take, such as "Take the second exit on the roundabout" or "At the next junction, turn left".  It tells us just enough that we can keep in mind what we need to do, rather than giving too many instructions in one go.

However, sometimes Jason (who is driving) will choose not to listen and follow the instruction.  He decides he's going to do something other than what he is told.  He does this because he thinks he knows best, or because he doesn't like the route its taking us on, or because he'd rather go a way that is more familiar to him.

But how often are we like this on our journey called Life?

We have God and his word as our trustworthy guide.  "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."  Psalm 119:105 (NLT)  God knows our destination and the route set out for me and you.  He gives us direction if we will just take the time to listen and obey.  "Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left."  Isaiah 30:21 (NLT)

The psalmist prays to God "Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil."  Psalm 119:133 (NLT) and I also like how the Message paraphrases Psalm 119:33-37 "God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me— my whole life one long, obedient response.  Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway! Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way."  I think this is a great prayer to pray on our journey of life.

The story of Abraham found in Genesis tells us that although he did not know the direction of his journey, he knew that God did and he trusted God to show him the direction to take so that he would reach his destination.  He followed each instruction as God gave it, taking one step of faith at a time.  "The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you."  Genesis 12:1 (NLT)

When Abraham chose not to listen, preferring to go his own way, he soon discovered the route that he chose was the wrong one for him and led him into trouble.  But God stayed with him so that when Abraham listened to God once more he was able to get back on track.  For an example of this read Genesis 12:10-13:4.

Sometimes we prefer not to listen to God's leading - we think we know what's best for us, we don't like to surrender our control over our destination, we don't like the way he's taking us, or we prefer to go a way that's familiar to us rather than go down the unknown route and trust God fully.

When we get it wrong, when we go in the wrong direction, opposite to the way God has mapped out for us, he is gracious, he is always there for us, waiting for us to return to him so that we can once more journey forward with him.

Whereas a satnav can make mistakes (ever found yourself at a dead end when following its instructions?!)  and needs to be continually updated, God is never wrong in the direction, guidance and instructions he gives us, and he never needs updating.  He and his word are always up to date, timely and relevant.

To Think About:
Who or what have you placed your trust in for direction and guidance on your journey of life?  How successful has it been to place your trust in these people or these things?

What stops you from trusting God's direction?  What helps you to trust him?

What difference does it make in your life when you do trust in him and his word for direction and guidance?