Hope can be an odd thing. It comes and goes with the wind and can be so transient as to be unbearable. A great example of this (for sports fans) is the current English Premiership campaign – last week, Liverpool were the favourites and there was a huge amount of hope that a 24 year barren spell was at an end. One bad result and another team could now take the title on goal difference……for many hope evaporated. However, there is still a great chance that Liverpool could win – still games to be played and results required for all teams. However, the news and reporters have transferred all their hope to another. Fickle, transient and denying what is possible.
It is the same with life. The smallest of margins can evaporate or sustain hope and we can be like the wind blowing in different directions with all the challenges and changes that come our way. How much easier life would be if our hope could be certain, if it was guaranteed.
In truth, it comes down to what we have faith in, to those things that will sustain us – we discover very quickly in life who and what can be trusted. Trust in those things that will bring hope, peace and happiness. Then and only then will the flickers of hope become a flood.
Some wisdom works in every scenario – for parents, youth leaders, managers, bosses, vicars, in fact, for anyone! One of those pieces of wisdom is from Ken Blanchard;
“Catch people doing things right“
Just a simple thing but so important. We live in a society were we love to find the mistakes, pinpoint failure and highlight error, yet one of the most important things we can do for another individual is to catch them doing something right. This is more than faint praise or general thank yous’ but a specific ‘well done’.
Can you think of a time when you were thanked, encouraged or praised for doing something right? How did it make you feel? Imagine if we escalated this and used our time to do the positive work before the negative, what a difference it may make in the lives of others.
Let’s start catching people out by catching them doing things right and see what transpires.
We spend much of our time wanting to fit in, we want that perfect niche where we know ‘we belong’ and where we can be comfortable and settle. That’s not saying that we necessarily want a life free of adventure, challenge and excitement but rather that ‘God shaped hole’ type thinking where we convince ourselves of the utopian ideal for us as individuals.
Life is not always like that, in fact, it is never like that. It’s messy, complicated and we do not always find that place where we belong, because people and relationships are messy. Some of us have the ministry of not belonging, never quite fitting in, never quite part of the group, never quite settled, being misunderstood, now that is a tough ministry!
This sounds quite depressing, it needn’t be. We can be ‘in the world but not of it’ in a whole manner of ways – the real issue in life is not, do I fit? Rather, it is ‘do I have life?’ Now that is far more important.
12 months ago today (to the date it would be tomorrow), I had a major health scare that was eventually decided was stress related. It was a significant moment of my life and one that will forever shape the remaining time allotted to me.
What has changed? Just one thing; a deeper reliance on God with a greater understanding of the following verses;
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The online life is one that I regularly engage in and see a great value in. However, it must never demote real life meetings, interactions and conversations. It has a purpose but there are also some significant limitations.
Today I was invited to an online community system that offered to;
“helps the people of (name removed) build community, strengthen relationships, and much more.”
The dream is one that must be applauded in its aspiration and the lure of the online world is strong, yet these claims seem a little exaggerated. We need to be careful that we do not replace the meal table, the face-to-face, the gatherings etc. – real community is sharing life….in all it’s forms
As a Christian, I seek to listen to and understand what the Bible is teaching and make attempts, though not always successful, at putting its truth into practice. There are some verses that trouble me because they challenge me. Two such verses are;
“if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
Those verses hit me right between the eyes! Imagine that, sharing my possessions with people in need. Using the things I possess to help and support others. How willing am I to do this type of thing? It is not something that is easy, in fact it is probably something that I should be more willing to do, but my selfish nature does not allow it.
There have been some occasions in my life where I have been good, on one occasion insuring my car for a time so that a neighbour had transport when her car was unusable. It was right to do but the surprise for me was that it was members of the church who had the greatest objection. They were horrified that, as the Youth Minister, I would be so free with my possessions and not more protective. We obviously had not shared enough from 1John in our church!
What about our money? What about our homes? Our computers? Our mobile phones? Our treasures are in heaven, not on earth, where moth, rust and decay settle in, yet we can be so hesitant. God’s gifts are given to be used in His service, not for us to hoard and control for our own ends only. A truth that is far easier to hold in theory than in practice. I have all the excuses, all the reasons why I should keep hold of things for myself but justifying them is more difficult.
I long to live out these things in a better way, thankfully it is a journey and Gods grace is sufficient to help me through my failings, meanwhile, these verses continue to challenge me to the core.
Watching the GB selection races at Lee Valley is a visible and physical demonstration of life….the currents twist and turn and attempt to push you off track but with skill and determination, it is possible to direct a pathway through these things and come out the end rejoicing.
I am full of admiration for these competitors and in watching them, learned a valuable lesson in life.
Have you ever experienced one of those moments when everything changes? There is no going back, things will never be the same, life will be different now.
Life is full of moments like this but some of them are easier to take in our stride than others. Do not mourn the past, enjoy it and build upon it. The past is the foundation for today whilst today is the building blocks for tomorrow.
There are times in life when things can seem like quite a balancing act. For some people, faith can be like that too!
In truth, the fruit of our faith is not about being a balancing act, rather, it is an extension of who we are. Take the pressure off yourself, be you! After all, you are the only one who can.
How easy is it to serve with no agenda? Is it possible?
Service is regularly bound by preset agendas, it is unavoidable. The question is whether we are serving on behalf of others best interests or whether we are seeking to serve our own.