Category Archives: perspective

In the Workshop

A friend once told me an illustration she’d been given about how God’s sovereignty played out in her service.  Wracked by fear of making a mess and not being good enough, she was encouraged by the following…

Its like we’re in the workshop of a master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard.  We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that the work we’re doing is very small in light of what he’s done and so it doesn’t matter if we don’t measure up – he’s done it all already.  Its like a father who has given his child a spare bit of scrap wood to mess about with, just so that they feel loved and feel part of what he’s doing.

I suppose it could be comforting when we feel our efforts for the Kingdom are pitiful or that we’ve made big mistakes in our life choices – its good to know that there’s a Master craftsman who’s really building and who’s getting it right and making it beautiful.

Others I’m guessing would feel much more like what is really in play is the following…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that what we need to do is to get out of the way and let him do it.  So we sit back and watch the Master at work, peeking over his shoulder trying not to get in the way, marveling at his skill and whilst there are things he’s doing that we don’t understand, we simply know that in the end his finished work is glorious.

I’ve been thinking about this ‘workshop of life’ 😉 about this Master craftsman and me.  Both the above scenarios mean that the work gets done – in the end there is a pure and beautiful masterpiece on the workshop table and whilst I feel a certain sense of security or comfort of life being that way, both pictures end up leaving me cold.

The second paints a picture of a God who does whatever he wills in order to get the work done, regardless of what we do to get in the way.  Our part is to watch and glory in the craftsmanship.  We have no real part, we’re just tools (or even distractions) in what he’s doing.

The first picture, then is surely better as we get in on the fun – we hammer away and design things and glue stuff…  we’re given a scrap piece of wood to muck about with while God is doing the real work.  Our part is to have a bash and keep ourselves busy, have a go at copying the glory of the craftsmanship while not actually making any impact on it.  We have a part, but it doesn’t matter about how it goes, because really its just a scrap that the Master has thrown at us to muck about with.

The cold feeling these images bring means that really I think there is a third way at work in God’s sovereignty.  Of course, no one image will fully convey it, but I’m thinking that if I’m going to think about such a workshop scenario, it would go much more like this…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – he is teaching and training and showing and hanging out and inspiring and repairing and (dare I say it…?) marveling and smiling at what we’re making together.

See, I think I really am building something here – and not just mucking around with scrap – it is of great value, it is important… essential even.  I really am making decisions, I’m designing and crafting and shaping life.  I really am doing the work, but I think I might be a master in training with THE Master.  An apprentice, if you will.

I am learning to create and craft at His side.

The bits where I have no clue how to do it, how to make it fit, he’s working on – but always in a way that teaches and trains me and my workmanship in his masterpiece.  The bits where I’ve accidentally gouged a great big chunk out of the wood, or mucked up the design, he transforms into something more beautiful than i could have imagined – showing me what it looks like to heal and refine and redefine.  I can be careless and flippant or meticulous and particular or creative and flamboyant.  Such freedom gives both weight and value to my choices and creates the beauty of true partnership.

This is a frightening concept.

It means that when I have a choice to make – about marriage or about career for example – I cannot sit back with my fingers in my ears and sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ and wait til it all works out or til Jesus comes back – whichever comes first.  Rather, I must take steps towards seeing things happen, recognizing that I have a responsibility to bear for my own life; to live life rather than to simply let life happen.  That my choices  (or lack thereof) have consequences carries weight but therefore also worth.

This is an incredible concept.

The biggest part of this freedom is that even when I’ve no effing clue what to do, or how to proceed, or things seem impossible, the Master is there.  Not to take control and do it for me, not to relegate me to the scrap woodpile, but to put his hands on mine and guide me through in a way that not only accomplishes something, but that also means together we create something beautiful.  Something beautiful in me and through me and even for me.   Something beautiful that is part and parcel of this Master’s greatest work of art.

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A Year in the Life of My Small Corner

Having been the pioneer of the 365 movement on the Emerald Isle (she declared modestly), I’ve decided to endeavour to inspire you to include something else in your small corner of the blogosphere…

New Year’s Eve – the day to pause and reflect on a year gone by.  In this, the first full year of my blog, this is an attempt to draw a blogpicture of that year.  I have selected one post from each month of the past year in My Small Corner for your reading pleasure (well, its always nice to have something mindless to read on New Year’s Day, right??)

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January: the calm before and after the storm of a few difficult months: Precious

February: this poem –  I am Right

Your arrogance makes me uncomfortable
Not just because it is wrong, but because I am right.
Your certainty that you’ve got it makes my blood boil
Like milk seething quietly then
Exploding
Bursting boils of white which rapidly run out of steam
Leaving behind the sticky, wrinkly skin of my own certitude.

March: a lighter interlude as Kicked by an Elephant decided to get Vomited over by a dead cow

April: I realised

Life is big,
And I don’t get it.
And I’m kind of tired of not getting it.
That’s a little sentence, but really its big.
Very big.
A bit like life

May: an entry flowing out of an April visit to France where I left another little piece of my heart

June: the nature of joy and sin

July: A conversation to remind me to keep praying:

242 Days

“Its been eight months,” he said.
“Eight months?” she replied. “Gosh, time flies.”
“Its 242 days, actually.”
242 days of life without his wife.

I wonder how long it takes before you stop counting.

August: An interesting take on leading worship – sock-spinning…

September: The Credit Crunch – I wonder now that this economic downturn is continuing if these people realise flying cheaply to their second home is the least of their worries?!?

October: The monumental end of a Gilmore Girls era

November: Inspired by friends describing their lessons from living abroad: Thirst

When I listen to you live my throat feels dry

My lips crack and dry up,

Thirsty for water that breathes deeply

Into my longing.

Lifting the cup to my mouth I hesitate,

Pursed lips tentatively gasping,

Drawing you in like hot tea that might blister my tongue

Rendering all else tasteless.

But I’d rather drink you down

(with

–     no fear of getting burnt     –

reckless

gulping

drafts)

Drink you down to the depths

Of sweet Spirit, and of Truth

And of grace.

December: A flashback which comes to more sense in retrospect.

What about you…?

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Second Rate: A year on

Its been a little over a year since I first blogged about my fear of being Second Rate and about 18 months since my heart first broke about the issues surrounding the role of women in the church.

Its been a long, slow journey which is far from being over, but one that I feel strangely content to be on.

The initial fear of not being what I should be and a resulting wavering in my confidence about the character of God still visit me from time to time.  The pain I feel over generations of gifted women being judged, excluded and made to doubt their worth continues to throb deep within me  and I’ve realised that that is regardless of which side of ‘the debate’ (or kerfuffle!) they reflect.

The pain, the tears, the conversations… I have been pushed to think through something which is a crucial issue to my life journey in more ways than I ever would have imagined.  The battle to walk alongside the high horse as opposed to climbing up on it or lying down under it is never far below the surface.  When I meet certain people, hear certain jokes, encounter certain issues, there is a struggle not to judge, exclude or hurt; a struggle to take each person as an individual whose ideas about one thing does not automatically mean they think the other, a person to know rather than a debate to avoid; a struggle to root myself in what God says rather than what others think of me.  I need constant reminders that the goal is to love, not to prove that I am right.  To love and serve Jesus, to glorify him – make the character of Yahweh known – in everything I am, just as He did.

As the journey goes on, I am more convinced that my footprints are not alone on this path.  I am more confident in the harmonies I’m singing in the great choir.  I am more concreted in the love my Father has for me…

But there’s still a long way to go.

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Flashback

“God’s got all the time in eternity.”

I’d forgotten you’d said that.  I wonder do you remember?  Its strange how these things take on new significance as God’s time goes on.  How many people have said “First time I saw her/him, I knew we’d get married” only once the ring is on the finger?  Its easy to be confident when looking back with new perspective.

This is similar, but not the same.  No rings are being exchanged here.  No definite, once-for-all ceremonies nor promise-giving and keeping.  No immediate change from one state to another.  No romance, no whirlwind.  Simply one more step along a path that I’m discovering began much longer ago than I ever knew.  I only see it now because time has passed over the shadows of before.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

1. Your ship is sinking… Do you…?

a) Jump ship, you have no obligation to stay.  Go to #7

b) Stick around, but deny the fact that you’re all sinking.  Do your drills, make the calls, carry on regardless.  Go to #2

c) Do everything you can to make things better for those on board.  Go to #4

2. Water is starting to seep through the cracks.  Do you…?

a) Start carrying a mop around to tidy away the mess before anyone sees.  Be sure to smile and nod a lot. Go to #3

b) Start screaming “We’re sinking!!!” at the top of your voice.  The sooner everyone knows they’re in trouble the better.  In fact, the more drama you make, the more sympathy you’ll get.  Go to #4

3. The mop isn’t working anymore and your feet are getting wet.  Do you…?

a) Pretend that everything’s normal – this is actually what sailing is meant to be like. Go to #6

b) Start blaming other people for the situation and make sure everyone knows its not your fault. Go to #4

c) Face up to the fact that things might be changing and start taking realistic stock of the situation.  Go to #5

4.  People are starting to see that this ship won’t make its destination.  Do you…?

a) Ignore their questions about the escape plan and say ‘I told you so’ until the bitter end. Go to #6

b) Stay out of trouble, find a lifeboat and get outta there while you still can.  Go to #7

c) Quietly make preparations for evacuation.  Buckle up your lifebelt, talk people through the procedures and show them the lifeboats.  Go to #8.

5. Start showing people the lifeboats and do what you can to make to make the transition to the evacuation procedure easier.  Go to #8

6. Salute and go down with the ship.  A slow and painful ‘Game Over’.

7. Game over.  Your heart is still beating, though others weren’t so lucky.  Find another ship, you’ve still got places to go.

8. You’ve done all you can to execute a successful escape plan, now its time to go.  Don’t worry about going down with the ship – its nothing but an empty shell of wood and stuff – the most important thing is the Destination.

 

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What is Truth?

Now, I know I can be a drama queen… But, seriously – I just heard one of the best talks I have possibly ever heard.  The following is my attempt to share a little of the awe and worship inspired in me…

Beginning as what appeared to be a history lesson in the modulation of the definition of truth over time, I just knew it would be worth the work to stay focussed and follow his lead.

It was all really well presented and explained (if a little boring for your average student): the state (ie the church) used to define the Truth – “We say it, its true”; then science became dictator of what was true by declaring that if it could present proof of something, it must be true (and by implication, things like faith and religion which could not be proved must not exist…); then it gradually became the more recent “there is no absolute truth” (which of course in itself is ridiculous as – in its very stating – it claims absolute truth.  Duh.).

So, then he talked about the Bible and self-referential, propostional truth (All males are men, Jesus was male so Jesus must be a man).  I got a little lost at this point, but it was all vaguely familiar from stuff I did at Bible College and in my final year French degree philosophy module – maybe someone else can fill in this gap, cos I haven’t grasped it well enough to re-explain it here… 

Cue a tiny bit of zoning out as I try to write something down in my notes that will help me later on…

Suddenly, he begins to talk about the invitation the Bible offers to discover relational truth.  Truth that is shown to be true by the experience of it and the effect that it has and a little flicker of light begins to dance in the peripheral of my mind…

He begins to talk about looking at the moon from a hill, and how one might call to mind numerous scientific facts about the nature of – truth about – the moon: its so many miles away from earth, its made of such-and-such, reflects so much of the sun’s light etc etc etc…  But, then he talks about sitting on the same hill, looking at the same moon, but in this scenario you’re falling in love with the person you are with and suddenly the moon has altogether much more significance than a bunch of scientific trivia.  It no longer signifies the amount of sunlight it reflects back to earth- it casts a romantic glow over your encounter with love.  It no longer signifies the amount of miles it is away from earth – it serves to remind you how big the world is and how glad you are to have someone to share it with…

My heart starts to beat faster as the flicker of light grows and glows to an incredible illumination of the genius of God (my puny attempt to name the glorious sovereignty and omniscience etc of my God…).

You see, God began to tell his people what he was like, how he intended his creation to be.  He chose Israel to display his character to the nations with laws that cared for the poor and needy, secured rest for the busy, gave shelter for fugitives, brought forgiveness to screw-ups…  But he didn’t stop there. 

He became flesh and dwelt among us.

Creator God engaging with and participating in a world of broken humanity.

He took those laws and lived out what they really meant, his whole life demonstrates how the law works out in practice – ie relationally!  Things like “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man”.  (Man was not made for grace, but grace was made for Man?  Can that be right?  I don’t know if that’s right.  But I’m gonna write it…test it, try it, eat it, drink it, breathe it… and see what happens).  By His life, he invites us to experience his truth, invites us to even enter the relational nature of his being: Father, Son and Spirit in perfect relationship with each other.

“I am the way, the truth and the life”. Yes, we need creeds and study and books and practice, but it is in incarnating the gospel – the good news of Jesus – that we see and know God’s truth at work in us and through us!  Theology without faith is dead – dry bones in a desert valley.

In engaging with the world around us – the undesirables, the suffering, the enemy – we truly begin to understand the absolutely true-ness of God’s love, justice and mercy… and the Truth sets us free.  I KNOW this!  I’ve seen it before, but I’d forgotten.  How could I have forgottten?

Why did I get so excited?  Not just because I’m a drama queen – but because its just what I need.  My God teaches me in just the way I need.  So often I feel inadequate in discussing theology, incapable of understanding and articulating the truth, incapacitated in dealing and engaging with hurt and guilt and conflict… But to hear again that God came down to show me how?  That he will show me more of that truth as I follow and obey his call?  That he IS proving his truth in and through me in a way that even I can totally understand?

.

Praise God.

Beauty.

The difference between space rock reflecting sunlight and moonlit romance.

Incarnation.

The difference between a DIY manual and a constant workmate.

Faith.

The difference between systems of theology and a relationship with the Living God.

The difference between death and LIFE.

That makes all the difference in the world.

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Perspective

Lost in many thoughts about the world around me;

My life, my day, my job, my friends…

When really these things aren’t mine

But play a part on a much bigger stage

Than the boards of my heart.

Blinded by tunnel vision that tells me everything takes place in relation to me;

That the way I see it is the way it really is…

When really these things aren’t mine

But are living details on a much bigger scale

Than the canvas of my mind.

Wrapped up in minor details of day-to-day life;

Critically analysing my storylines, or lack thereof…

When really these things aren’t mine

But my ‘once’ is upon a more infinitesimal time

Than that of the greatest story ever told.

It is not that I am unimportant,

But rather that I am not The Importance.

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