Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Masks (an extra little bit!)

After this week's posting about masks I was reminded of a Youtube clip shown at church a while ago.  It talks about the masks we put on and ... well ... why don't I just let you see for yourself?

The question left on my mind after watching this again, is not so much about what masks I put on, but whether my actions and attitudes encourage other people to discard their masks?

Do I cultivate a safe environment for them to do so?  

Do I give people time to say how they really are?  

Do I listen attentively and respond accordingly? 

Am I modelling a mask free life wherever possible?

Am I quick to judge?  

Do I try to understand?     

Do I care enough to enter into the hidden lives of people knowing it may be messy, difficult, painful?

Am I willing to let go of my own thoughts and agendas and ask Jesus what he would want me to do?

Am I prepared to show the love of Christ in all circumstances?

Successful and long-lasting discarding of masks involves more than the mask wearer - it requires the time, love, support, encouragement, effort etc of those around them.  Let's not expect action from others without being willing to give ourselves.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The one with the Mask

This week, just for a little while, I took off my mask (see previous post).  I displayed a little more of my true self than I am comfortable with.  It left me feeling as if I were walking around in an open field, undressed, with nowhere to hide or shade to seek refuge in.  I felt vulnerable and exposed.

Was I right to take off the mask?

(Insert good Christian answer here ... 'yes, of course, God wants us to be open and honest at all times')

Over the last few months, a lot has been said at church about taking off our masks.  It is obvious really isn't it?  As Christians we are to live our lives with integrity.  We are to be open and honest in all we say and do.   We should therefore make every effort to peel off our masks, and live and love as our real selves.   Anything short of this 'realness' would be deceptive and dishonest, and not congruent with our faith and relationship with Jesus.

If this is true, then we should immediately take off and discard our masks.  Right?

I think there are a couple of questions that need to be asked before we go rushing about in a self-awareness frenzy, identifying and throwing away our masks.

Firstly, and most importantly, we should ask ourselves - 'Who is it we are hiding our true self from?'

If we are trying to hide from God, then we have a problem.  You see, we will never be able to do this.  We need only to read Psalm 139 to know this.  God knows our innermost being.  He knows our thoughts.  He has examined our hearts and knows everything about us.  We try to hide in vain.  Our masks don't fool God.  Take them off, and come before God as you really are and accept the love he has for you - the real you.

How about if we are wearing our masks before other people?  Isn't this wrong too?

If our masks are concealing our true thoughts and feelings from other people, dare I suggest that it isn't always completely wrong to do so?

Does that shock you?  I have thought quite a lot about this lately, and whilst I agree that we should live our lives with complete honesty as much as possible, I can't help but acknowledge that some masks are valuable.

There are some masks that are worn for self-protection.  It would be crazy to suggest a fencer participate in a fight without wearing a mask.  The mask is there to protect and enable a fair and safe fight.  Without it a quick thrust of the opponent's epee could cause great harm and end the fight prematurely.

There are times when we need to wear a protective mask to keep us safe whilst in battle.  Perhaps a mask is needed to conceal our weakness and vulnerability from the enemy. Or maybe the mask is needed just long enough for us to prepare and build up our strength before we attack.

There are also masks that are worn for the protection of others.  Surgeons wear masks whilst operating for a number of reasons, one of which is to protect the patient from infectious droplets carrying bacteria or viruses that become airborne through a cough or sneeze.  Similarly, there are times when we may need to wear a mask to protect those around us.  Sometimes a mask of strength may be worn to risk hurting others.

That said, these protective masks are worn for a period of time for a specific purpose.  The fencer does not continue to wear the mask once the fight has finished.  The surgeon does not leave the theatre and go home to sleep still wearing the mask.  They are taken off when they are no longer necessary.

We too should take off our masks when they are no longer needed.  The danger is that we get comfortable and continue to wear them.  They begin to form our identity.  Masks that are worn out of season stop protecting and start to form barriers.  They hinder the real you from fully participating in all that God has in store for you and they keep others at a restrictive distance.

I took my mask off this week, it wasn't easy, but I knew it was time.  It had been worn when it was needed, but it was beginning to restrict my own journey, and that I hope to walk with others. 

What about you?

What masks are you currently wearing?

Who are you wearing them in front of?

Are you hiding your true self unnecessarily?

Is it time to begin to take them off?

I am thankful that God knows and loves the real me - of course he does - he created me!  I am also thankful that he will help us to take our masks off at the right time.  He wont force it, but will gently encourage and support us as we do.  Phew!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Out of Sorts

Image courtesy of Heart and Soul
Today, I post out of sorts; it doesn't follow suit.  Its irregularity protrudes when laid aside the norm.

Its difference scares, but is comforted by the recollection of where it began ... nearly a year ago. 

In November last year, after a very difficult month, I began to blog.  The full reason for the venture into blogging can be read in The one at the Beginning, but the significance of today's post - I have copied and pasted below...

'Thirdly ... writing somehow allows me to express myself in a way that makes sense - to me at least!  As someone who finds expression difficult in spoken word - I seem to be able to put my true thoughts and feelings down through pen and paper (keyboard and screen!).  Which - I guess - is ultimately the whole point of attempting this blog.  I hope writing this will allow me to explore and express!  That is for me.'  

So, today, I need to 'explore and express'.  Life is tough.  It has been battle after battle.  I feel like I am losing, and yet, I can't let go.  Sometimes I want to, it would be easier that way.  But it isn't right - I must find the strength and determination and keep going.  I know God has called me to hack away at the overgrown grassland and clear a path for myself (and others) to walk, but the grass cuts the skin, and the work is difficult.  Can I take a rest?  Just a little breather?  Will the grass grow back that quickly if I do?

In all this confusion I am thankful that GOD IS.

That GOD IS my Strength.   

That GOD IS my Guide.

That GOD IS my Comfort.

That GOD IS my Peace.

That GOD IS my Refuge.

And that GOD IS Sovereign and Lord over ALL!

Remembering that GOD IS will keep me going.  Knowing that GOD IS encourages joy amidst the trials.

It is tough, yes, but it never promised to be easy.  BUT ...

GOD IS who I am living for and deep down I am thankful for the privilege and opportunity to do so.

I'm tired but I will push on, run the race, and leave a trail.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The one with the Teabag

I am very blessed.  Yes, I know it.  You see, most mornings one of my sons will bring a cup of tea up to me in bed.  Some mornings I might even get two!  Life is good.

The other morning however, it was not so good.  My alarm had gone off, and been put on snooze, and there I lay, drifting in and out of sleep, waiting to hear the familiar 'chink' as a cup is placed on my bedside table.  It seemed a long time coming this particular morning, but it did arrive.  I slowly sat up, picked up the new Starbucks mug that had appeared, and with a content sigh, I took the first sip.  MMmmmmm ......

BUT - the MMmmmm soon turned into Ewwwwwww.  Something was wrong.

It was still hot.  It looked the right colour.  It was in the right mug (yes, that does make a difference!) - So - what was the problem?

It just didn't hit the spot!  Something was different.  Somehow, something seemed missing.  And then it dawned on me ....

Caffeine!  Or rather, the lack of it!

Somehow, the teabags must have been mixed up in the cupboard and the teabag my son had used was void of caffeine.

Not so good first thing in the morning! Thankfully, I still had time to have a 'proper' tea before leaving the house.

Later on that morning, I met with a friend (yes, you guessed it, for tea!), and I shared my early morning experience with her.  After laughing at how I can make such a big thing out of tea, she explained that she wouldn't have known the difference.  This got me thinking ...

How did I know with such assurance?  After all, it was early in the morning and I was still very sleepy and decaf tea doesn't really taste that different to regular tea.

But ... I knew.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The one with the Sat-Nav

I finished my Tall Vanilla Latte (skinny, sugar free and extra hot) and made my way to the car. Today I would be catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I was looking forward to it. It had been too long! All the details had been arranged via Twitter, and the postcode of her new address had been put into the Sat-Nav in advance. Music - check. Glasses - check. Engine running - check. Sat-Nav on - check. Ready! I was on my way!

However, as I left the carpark, and entered the roundabout, it became obvious that the journey would be a little more challenging than I had anticipated. I looked at the Sat-Nav to see where I should be exiting, only to see a blank screen! Panic! As I drove around the roundabout for a second time, the screen came back on - but with no directions. Not much help! What was a girl to do? No option but to drive round again and hope that the satellites were found and the directions given! This I did, but to no avail. Three times around a the roundabout, and the Sat-Nav had still not told me which exit to take. Getting dizzy!

I had to make a quick decision: drive around again and again in hope that it would work, or, try and make it on my own. Whilst the first option sounded tempting (and fun!) I was already on a pretty tight schedule if I was to arrive when expected. So ...

I did what I should have done right at the beginning of the journey - engage my brain! I knew this roundabout well, and surely should be able to work out which exit to take. The problem was, I wasn't entirely sure of the direction of the destination.  I began to eliminate the exits I knew wouldn't take me to my destination.  This helped. 

And then, well, I just went for it.  I exited the roundabout and headed for the motorway.  I figured I could always stop at the services and have a look at google maps if I still had no idea where to go.  Or, I could even swallow my pride and give my friend a call, admit I was lost without my Sat-Nav and ask her for directions.  It wouldn't be the end of the world.

Guess what?  Just as I entered the motorway, the Sat-Nav kicked in!  Yes, it had finally found the required satellites, and had the directions at the ready.  Phew!

I was pleased that I could now relax a little and let the Sat-Nav guide me, although I did give myself a little pack on the back for being prepared to try it on my own.  I had somewhere to get to, and I hadn't let unreliable technology stop me.

As I continued my journey, I reflected on this experience, and wondered how often we do something similar in our relationship with God.  Let's take worship as a destination for example.  We key in a heavenly destination on our internal Sat-Nav, and get ready to set off.  We head to the roundabout, and as we do, we focus our heart and mind on the things of God: how awesome he is and worthy of our worship. And then, as we enter the roundabout - nothing.  No emotional satellites are found.  We are not 'feeling' the warm and fuzzies we expect as we worship.  So, we go round again.  And again.  And again.  Nothing.  And yet, our destination hasn't changed.  God is still there and worthy of all our praise and worship.  So, what do we do?  Do we continue going round, in the hope that we will suddenly 'feel' right?  Or do we focus on the destination, trust in the Truth, exit and go for it?

We cannot rely purely on our feelings.  Just like technology, they can fail us.  They can be unreliable.  They can let us down.

We can, however, rely on the Truth.  Always.

Are you currently going round the roundabout, waiting for your internal Sat-Nav to work?  Are you focusing on the screen, instead of your destination?

Can I encourage you to take your eyes off of the screen and fix them firmly on where you need to go.  Trust in the Truth and pull off the roundabout.  You may find that unless you do, you will be going round that roundabout forever!

What if we take the wrong exit?  Well, is this really such a problem?  Isn't it better to set off, discover a wrong turning, and put it right, than to keep going round and round and never getting anywhere at all?

I once heard a great analogy that I have often considered in these situations -

It is much easier to change the direction of a car once it is moving, than to try to position it perfectly whilst it is stationary.  I would rather set off and allow God to alter the direction, than to try to lift the car into place myself!

How about you? 

Sometimes when we do put our trust in the Truth, rather than our feelings, we find that somewhere, further along the road they kick in - just like the Sat-Nav on my journey.

I had a great afternoon catching up with my friend.  Would I have ever got there if I had waited for the sat-nav to work on that roundabout?  I doubt it.  What a shame that would have been.

Don't put all your trust in your 'feeling' sat-nav, you never know what it is you will miss out on!  Instead -

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Focus on the destination, and make it happen!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The one with the Duck Song

WARNING: Interacting with this post will get into your head and stay there - for a very long time!
Waddle Waddle!!

Last year one of my boys introduced me to Bryant Oden's genius Duck Song.  I say genius because for a short and simple song (with video) first uploaded in 2009 - it has already had a whopping 59,924,170 hits!!  That is some achievement.

What is the appeal?  Well, watch the link below and you will see for yourself .....

Cute and catchy eh?  Now, I challenge you to watch it again without singing along - it just can't be done!!

So - that is it, there is no going back!  The Duck Song is well and truly inside your head - and for that I do apologise a little.  However, my hope is, that in sharing this song with you, it will find its way not only into your head, but also you thoughts, your mind and your heart.  You see, I believe this simple (if not annoying!) song has a lot to teach us.  Really?  I invite you to read on ...

The story begins with the duck walking up to a lemonade stand and asking ... got any grapes?

However, to his dismay, he soon discovers there are no grapes on offer .... and he waddles away ... till the very next day ...

Our duck friend doesn't seem to learn from this, as the following day, he walks back up to lemonade stand, and again asks ... got any grapes?

Once again, the duck is to learn that the lemonade stand has no grapes to offer, and he waddles away ... till the very next day ...

Despite being very bright in colour, it would seem that Mr Duck lacks a certain amount of intelligence, and visits the same lemonade stand a total of five times, each time asking for grapes.  Why would he do this?

My guess is that such was his desire for grapes that he would do whatever was needed in order to get some.  He had his heart and mind fixed on grapes and nothing else seemed to matter, including continued knock-backs. 

Silly duck.  We wouldn't have been so daft right?
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