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Posts Tagged ‘rest’

I called this blog ‘Learning to be still’ because Psalm 46 is one of my favourites, although it’s also quite an unusual psalm in some ways. I love the natural imagery of the storms coming and waves crashing – we often use metaphors of thunder and winds for times of trouble, and to make the contrast with the peace that follows all the clearer. I sometimes feel like I’m in the middle of some tornado, the rain in my face, blocking my eyes, flailing my arms for something to hold on to, and aware in my blindness that I’m standing on the top of a cliff, close to the edge, and that one foot wrong will send me tumbling. But this psalm says, we shall not be afraid – the environment will not scare us into submission. The rivers are not too deep, the mountains are not too high. The next part talks about the city of God, which I always understand (and am possibly wrong in this) as being like the church – God is within the church, it’s people and community. He’s there, when we rise to greet the morning and can only see clouds coming our way. He’s there, at the start of each day, each task, each chance. He’s there. He challenges the status quo and rings the changes. He shakes us up. He doesn’t let go. This is what I want to believe.

In the middle of this battlefield we call life, He stops the fighting and the bloodshed and puts himself between the opposing troops. He shuts down the chaos by holding up his hand and forcing us to disarm, to lay down our weapons so we are once again defenceless. He says:

“Be still and know that I am God”

Be still and know that I am God – it sounds easy, doesn’t it? Maybe just shut your eyes and think ‘do I know who God is? Omnipotent? Check. Omniscient? Yup. Omnipresent? Indeed. Loving? I hope so……”

Did it work? Are you just reeling off the characteristics of God you learnt as a child, or do you know them in your heart – are they written inside you, Jeremiah 31:33 style?

(NB if you’re not religious, sorry for that. But without evangelising…..maybe thinking about who God is, is something you need anyway? And if you’re not sure who He is, there’s always wikipedia, or, more prosaically, Psalms 23 and 139 are good starting points).

Maybe you find it easy, but I certainly don’t. I am well known amongst friends, peers and acquaintances as someone who lives at 100 mph – and although this is mostly just because I like being busy and getting things done, it can also be my downfall.  It’s when I start to falter that I deal with my heartaches by taking on something new to push it out of my mind, or find something to preoccupy myself with that isn’t quite as important in the long run as I convince myself it is. I am not good at being still. If you came to my church and watched me praying with my head down, you would be able to see me physically squirming to get away from the peace and the still small voice that it suddenly reveals. It’s in the silence that everything floods me out and threatens to drown me. It’s when my internal to-do list is told to shut up that all my fears and worries are given the centre stage.  I am not good at being still.

Recently, I came into a new project relating to my patient volunteering society, and I’m loving it. We’re trying to source a patient library for one of the less well equipped  hospitals.  It’s making me feel more alive than I have for a while, and I love getting stuck into something, juggling lists of tasks, networking and pulling people in to help who were on the periphery. But I also have to question, is this just something else I am doing to push my issues further out of the way? Is this just another way to put off facing up? Am I doing enough of being still and knowing? The answer to that last question for my entire life will almost probably be a resounding NO. I’ve given up a lot of things recently to take the load off, and have hated it. I (wrongly) get a lot of my self worth from the things I do and my achievements, and so at the moment, a lot of the time I feel quite surplus to requirements, quite useless. If I give up this too, I’m afraid that I’ll slip down again and lose the little self esteem I’m managing to hang on to. So, I’m trying to work out what God is telling me about this, and whether I should keep it up. I’m trying to listen (for once) and to learn to just be, still, with God. To pray, with my heart open and my weaknesses and fears exposed and know that God is there, that He could see them before I learned to show them to Him, and that He will guide me. I try to keep knowing and not forgetting  that it’s in the quiet that Jesus will show put a hand on my shoulder and show me the safest path, the way to healing.

There are plenty of stories and verses in the Bible about people being given pretty clear directions from God and going galavanting off on their own regardless like an average Duke of Edinburgh expedition (though the extent to which the Israelites galavanted should probably be questioned…). I’m praying at the moment that if I just leave myself open, God will guide me, and I will follow, that He will help me decide what to carry forward and what to leave behind. That He will put clear signposts, in languages I understand, in my way, and keep my road clear. If you are also a person who struggles with being still, I’m praying for you to find some quiet too, and not to fear it. I’m praying that you’ll have a restful week (several have prayed this for me, it is yet to happen) and that you’ll really hear God’s voice and feel his touch. xxchar48.

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The end of the week’s been busy – but it’s been much nicer than the grim start to the month! My lectures have been interesting and I know I’ll enjoy the specialities I’ll be doing in the next few months. There’s something incredible about watching a baby being born, or seeing a tumour shrinking thanks to chemotherapy. Being a medical student really is an enormous privalege.

Tonight also marked a first for me; I preached for the first time. True, it wasn’t a big preach, to a lot of people, and it wasn’t very eloquent, but it was still the first time I’ve ever been trusted to give my take on God to someone else. I volunteer with a community group for adult Christians with learning disabilities, and over the last year it’s really opened my eyes to what the Bible means when it talks about having the faith of a child, as many of them have quite a high level of disability so I think there is a parallel there to some extent.  The people who come are so easy to love, and have such a trust in God that I often feel they have a much better grasp of faith than I do with all my questions and doubts. I was teaching on prayer this evening, and a lot of what I was saying that was relevant to them, came from my own feelings of inadequacy with my prayer life – in the company of others, I stumble and stutter, and mix up words and tail off. I’m most comfortable talking to God on my own, without the external pressures of people listening and wondering what angle I’m coming from. I’m not a big fan of admitting when I’ve messed up and done wrong – I always try and convince myself that I can hide from God and conceal my mistakes. During my depression, I’ve had long periods of avoiding God all together, but, like the sun resolutely shining in your eyes when you’re driving, there He always is. I’m too afraid to come and say, ‘I’m hurting so much I have no words to describe it. I’m so afraid I have no reference for it. I’m so tired of all this that I feel blanker by the hour’. I’m too afraid sometimes to just sit and let God sit with me, to be quiet. But, God doesn’t care if we use big words or small words, long phrases or short ones. He doesn’t mind when we don’t say much, for want of words, or need of healing. As long as the line of communication is open, He’s happy. Sometimes I forget that.

I need so much to grow in faith, but part of that is growing down in a sense, abandoning my pride and my independence and committing just to follow on, to let God lead me. It’s not just about reading the works of early Christian writers, or sitting down for a few hours with some John Stott. It’s not just about understanding all the things the cross is thought to have achieved, or the political set up of Jerusalem in the time of the gospels. It’s about going back to a child’s faith, the blind, loving faith that does not question, but merely looks for comfort. It isn’t easy. It took about six months of going to church, an alpha course, going to a prayer room four times a week at the crack of dawn, and some heavy mentoring to get me to learn to lean on God and commit myself to Jesus. I didn’t want to accept that, in this world, this wilderness, I need help, just as we all do. It took a long time to break and say, ‘OK, here I am, please help me’. The people in my group don’t have this problem, or at least, not in the same measure that I do.

Just as I love the way the leaders love the people who come, and cherish them as equal members of a community, I love how the participants teach me how to follow. It’s awesome. In deconstructing the Bible to a level they can get involved with and understand, it helps me to get to the bottom of it as well. It’s all very well reading the Pentateuch and learning all about sin offerings and burnt offerings and what to do if you’re an Israelite and your house has mould on the wall – but really, the Lord’s prayer says it all with a simple  message of ‘Please God, make this world as good as the next will be, give me what I need to survive and forgive me when I do wrong. Help me learn to forgive others and keep my on the right path, away from evil’. That pretty much sums up everything we need to pray for ourselves. There’s a reason Jesus was so in favour of that passage and why it is beloved of so many denominations.

This week has been a challenge, but one that I have managed to overcome. And I’m learning, all the time, to trust that God has me, by his right hand. There’s a line in Psalm 139 that I love –

‘you hem me in, behind and before….you have laid your hand on me’

as it always makes me think of God putting a safety net below me to catch me when I fall, but also setting limits on the heights I reach when I’m running at a hundred miles an hour and at threat of burning out. I’m well known as someone who packs in a lot and is always on the go – slowing down is something I find difficult and sometimes refuse to acknowledge a need for. He keeps me in that safe, balanced middle ground and does not let me, or anyone, go. He tells me to slow down and check my bearings, and reminds me to breathe easy every once in a while. He softens my falls.

God, please don’t let go.

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