Fitter at 45!

If you’d told me on this date last year that I’d start this morning off in the gym I’d probably have laughed at you.  I don’t know about you but I’ve never really been the sporty type.  Neither have I ever been particularly unfit or too much overweight.  I enjoy walking and am always active just in my day to day activities.

At school I was one of those kids that’s among the last to be chosen for games.  Looking back now I don’t think I believed in myself when it came to sports.  My parents didn’t have much time for them and I’m pretty sure my teachers didn’t know about Growth Mindsets.  It wasn’t all bad – at high school I played right wing in the hockey team ’cause I was fairly fast.  I was pretty good at some random stuff too like archery, shot put and javelin.  I never learned to do a cartwheel though and you wouldn’t have got me doing any sort of flips over a box in gymnastics – I just didn’t believe I could.

Anyway at the beginning of this year I made a decision.  It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution as such – I don’t bother with those ’cause I know that like 92% of the population I won’t keep them.  It was just a decision to make a change in my life.  I decided that by the time I reached my 45th birthday I was going to be fitter than I was at 44.

Over the years I’ve tried to make myself exercise (I’ve also tried and failed at countless diets 😝).  I’ve never been particularly successful at sticking with anything.  The closest I ever got was swimming 40 lengths once a week (‘Granny breaststroke’ – ’cause that’s all I can do 😂) which I probably kept up for about a year before quitting.  Partly I was busy and didn’t prioritise it and partly I just didn’t enjoy it enough.

So my strategy this year was different – maybe it might even help someone else struggling to start exercising?  I decided that I was going to get into the habit of exercising and I was going to start with something that was really easy for me to achieve.  I’m pretty fortunate that my son is really into his fitness so we have a couple of machines and a bunch of weights already in the house which meant I didn’t even have to go anywhere.  On the first week my plan was just to walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes and do 10 bicep curls every morning (weekdays only).  I knew I could manage that easily before work and it wouldn’t put me off.  The next week I added a second set of bicep curls and over time I built up to about a half hour routine each morning.  Each week I either added a set or a new exercise or increased the weight or difficulty.  Then I started to diversify and do different exercises on different days as I don’t have time to do more than half an hour if I’m gonna get ready and out to work in time.

Now I’m doing a couple of different routines on alternate days.  I’m a little bit limited with the weights I have available but I think I’ve still achieved my goal.  Here’s what I’m doing in case you’re interested:

Day 1
8 minutes on rowing machine
3×10 bicep curls (6kg each arm)
3×10 bent over row (10kg)
3×10 lunges (R&L)
3×15 sit ups
12 press ups

Day 2
8 minutes on rowing machine (occasionally on the treadmill)
3×10 tricep extensions (6kg each arm)
3×10 lateral raises (4kg each arm)
2×10 squats (with 40kg on bar)
3×15 sit ups
A plank (for as long as I can – usually that’s around 2.5 mins but my record is 4.5 mins)

Well today is my 45th birthday and I think I’ve achieved my goal.  Considering this time last year I didn’t do any regular exercise and couldn’t do one proper press up I think I can safely say I’m fitter at 45!  Don’t get me wrong I’m no fitness freak either – I won’t be posting any pics of my abs on Instagram 😂  (maybe I will when I’m 65 😉 if I’m still exercising) but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far.  I actually enjoy exercising now and believe I can get better.  My muscles are a bit more toned and I have less body fat.  A few weeks ago I also started trying a new diet (for health not weight loss).  If I keep it up I’ll let you know how I benefit.  So if you’re like I was give it a go – start small and build up.  It’s never too late to start exercising and you will feel better for it.

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Apparently it’s a science!

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet recently.  I actually started this post around four weeks ago now but it’s been a struggle to complete it.  It seems it’s difficult to write about something you’re not experiencing very much.  When I was on holiday in Tenerife I saw a plaque in one of those little shops that sell souvenirs.  It said:

‘If you choose to be happy no one can take it away from you.’

Well that got me thinking (as these things do) is that true?  I mean what is happiness anyway?  Happiness seems to have been just outside of my reach for a while.  Sometimes I feel at ease but there seems to be an underlying sadness pretty much all of the time.

I know I’m sad (pun intended) but I looked it up 😝  and the dictionary says that happiness is a state of pleasure or contentment.  I guess if you can choose to be content in every situation (that’s biblical right? – Phil 4:11) maybe no one can take happiness from you?  But pleasure??  Nope, I reckon that would be difficult (if not impossible) to maintain constantly, especially if you ever have anything to do with any other human beings.  People have a way of stealing your happiness at times.  I guess maybe we’re (or at least I’m) also good at throwing it away ourselves for some strange reason?

I recently discovered that you can actually do an online course called ‘The Science of Happiness’.  I was even considering signing up as I’m really interested to know what they have to say.  So if that’s true and happiness is a science that would be different from a choice and it would mean all the correct conditions have to be in place – I’m no scientist but I think that’s right.  One article I looked at talks about the 7 habits of happy people.  It says that you need:

  • someone you can share your heart with
  • to care for others in some way
  • to exercise and eat well
  • to find your flow (that’s a whole other post – if you want to know about flow look up Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
  • to engage with spirituality (faith?)
  • to find and use your strengths
  • to keep a positive mindset and show gratitude.

Well I reckon I’ve made a good start on a few of those but definitely have work to do on others.  So maybe that’s somewhere to begin – although I think some of them are harder than they sound.  Sharing your heart, for example, requires complete trust in another person, it means being sure that they see and know who you really are and love you with all your faults and failings.  That person can be hard to find and even when you find them it can be difficult to get enough of their time.

Back at the beginning of this summer we were working through a devotional as a family about choosing joy.  Honestly, some parts of it were better than others but while we were doing it we googled joy and found this definition on Theopedia which I really liked:

‘Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.’  Theopedia.com

Some definitions pretty much put joy down as great happiness but others (especially in Christian terms) highlight some differences between joy and happiness.  Some would argue that you can have joy even in really tough, painful times when you’re definitely not happy.  I guess for me having joy is about choosing to trust God, trusting that He is good all the time and has good plans for you – even when life is pretty crappy.  It’s about turning your heart towards Him and looking to Him for fulfilment rather than looking to people for that.  It’s about being content in the moment knowing that He is in control and will provide all that you need.  It’s about being confident that He has your best interests at heart and is able to accomplish everything that He has planned for you.  It’s about having hope in Him, not an airy-fairy wishful hope but a hope grounded in faith that He will come through on His promises to you.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Ps 16:11

I’m not suggesting it’s easy to stay in that mindset but in recent months I’ve definitely found my joy has come from spending time in His presence.  I honestly don’t know where else to go sometimes – when it feels like life is falling apart or just too much and you can’t go on in your own strength He is there waiting to pick you up and carry you through.  So in that sense I guess joy is a choice, a choice to turn towards God, and contentment will come from that choice too, if not pleasure.  Strength also comes from choosing joy (Neh 8:10). I suppose happiness may well be a science – maybe one day I’ll get all those conditions lined up and I can let you know.

In the meantime I guess I’ll keep on trying to choose joy and hope in Papa that happiness will follow.  It’s so difficult at times to trust completely – especially when I want His plans to line up with mine but I know He knows me and loves me better than anyone so I’ll keep trying to surrender to His plans and have confidence that He knows best.

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Life Update

So I haven’t updated you on life since getting back from Tenerife.  We were very quickly back into the routine as I had work the day after we got home.  As soon as I’m back at work it pretty much feels like I was never away – I imagine most jobs are the same?  As well as work and running three classes last week I also did some babysitting for a couple of different friends.  I met up with my previous pastor’s wife and with a woman who wanted to find out more about the business I run.  We went to a worship night at a friend’s house, I got my hair done and I went to see my counsellor.  I had a new experience last Saturday too.  I joined a march organised by the teachers’ unions in Scotland.  I’m not particularly political and I’ve never done any sort of demonstrations before but it seemed right to take a stand on this and of course we arranged to go for a few gins after the event 😉.  It was a great atmosphere as there were somewhere between twenty and thirty thousand people there (depending which report you read).  We went to see a couple of friends in their AmDram production of The Sound of Music – there were some pretty talented people in the cast and we reckon that one of our friends really suits being a nun! 😂  I also finally got round to picking up our finished pots from the Craft Pottery – here are some pics for those of you who are following that experience.  Now we just have to decide what to do with the finished products.  Our options so far are: have some fun smashing them up, stick them directly in the bin or give them to some of our poor unsuspecting friends and family for Christmas 😂 – they might never forgive us!  Cast your votes or make a suggestion in the comments 😝.

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This past week was much the same as the last with work, classes, counsellor and babysitting.  We also went to visit a friend in hospital and went to the cinema to see A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.  I really enjoyed the movie and the music was great although my hubby thought the storyline was a bit slow moving.  Last night I had a work night out for my boss leaving – it was a bit of a strange one as most people are not that upset that she’s gone.  There was a good turn out though so there were plenty of people to talk to.  I had planned to leave early and go on to another friend’s house for drinks but I ended up spending half the night waiting for friends who said they were just leaving and didn’t even order another drink because of that!! What a disaster! 😆

In between all the ‘calendar events’ and the more mundane aspects of living (like housework) I’ve watched some TV shows, read some books, listened to some music and played some guitar.  Here are some of the details of what I’ve watched, read and listened to recently if you’re interested:

TV Shows I’ve Enjoyed
Killing Eve
The Cry
The Great British Bake Off
The Good Place (new episodes still to come)
Suits (went back to this after a break to finish it off – still got a few to watch)

Books I’ve Read
I already told you about Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning
When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson (still working through the devotional at the back of this one – it’s really challenging)
Anatomy of an Affair by Dave Carder (if you’re married or thinking about getting married this is an interesting read)
Life with No Breaks by Nick Spalding (this one’s just for a laugh and I’m not finished it yet – don’t read it if you’re easily offended though)

Some of the Songs I Like Right Now
Overcomer by Mandisa
Write your Story by Francesca Battistelli
Bulletproof by Citizen Way
Prodical by Sidewalk Prophets
Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (from the movie)
Lost Without You by Freya Ridings (love her voice)
Promises by Calvin Harris & Sam Smith
All I Am by Jess Glynne

Songs I’m Learning to Play
Do It Again by Elevation Worship
Abba (Arms of a Father) by Jonathan David Helser
Thy Will by Hilary Scott and the Scott Family
Who Can Compare to You by Matt Stinton (Bethel)
Your Love Defends Me by Matt Maher

So that’s about it for now.  Have a great weekend and I’ll write again soon. x

Patterns and Shapes

When I was walking on holiday last week I became very aware of all the patterns and shapes in the plants around me.  There is so much variety when it comes to shapes – shapes of flowers and plants, shapes of birds and animals and people, shapes of coastlines and mountain ranges.  And there are so many patterns on trees, plants, shells, rocks, animal skins…  I’m sure there are many more things that haven’t crossed my mind too.  It got me thinking that God must be really into shapes and patterns.  Maybe I’m over-stretching this thought but it really stuck out to me at the time.

You know those shape sorter toys that kids have?  Well (like many people I guess) I’ve always felt a bit like a square peg in a round hole.  Or maybe I’m a round peg in a square hole?  Somehow I feel like the shape I’m supposed to fit in is more square 😝  and I’m probably not round but more of an irregular shape😂..  Anyway you get my drift.  Why is it that when God made such a huge variety of shapes and patterns that we limit each other so much?  Our tiny minds can only handle so many shapes and patterns so we try to make everyone fit into a few categories or types.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this.  I guess what I’m saying is it’s important to find out who you really are and what really matters to you and be yourself.  It’s also important to allow others to do the same.  We need to stop trying to make people into clones of the ideal people we think they should be – the ideal parents, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, colleagues or whatever and allow for the variety that God has created.

‘Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.’
Romans 12:2 TPT

It’s very easy to rhyme off this well known verse about not ‘conforming to the pattern of this world,’ (NIV) but I think that what I’m realising more and more is that it’s just as dangerous in some ways to conform to the religious ‘patterns’ we see in churches – even the ones that don’t seem to be traditional.  There is a danger of producing a string of lukewarm clones who smile and sing and warm the pews (or chairs) on a Sunday morning and don’t make any real impact on the world.  I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like I’ve made enough of an impact.

I’m looking for that total transformation, to become a reformer.  In Philippians 3:17 Paul says we should imitate his example.  I think we need to be looking for more in our lives and in our churches.  We need to be looking for better examples to imitate – be it your favourite Bible heroes or Jesus himself.  For the majority of us (I appreciate that there are exceptions) no matter how nice or how good your pastors or church leaders are they probably ain’t no Paul.  I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t living out Jesus words about doing even greater works than He did (John 14:12) or our world and our churches would look quite different.  This is in no way at meant to be having a go at leaders – I’m not into ‘bashing’ anyone.  I just think we need to raise our expectations if we’re really going to stop conforming and make a real impact in the world.

A couple of months ago I heard a sermon illustration that got me thinking.  The speaker was saying if you found yourself in a boat and someone fell overboard you would do everything in your power to try and save that person.  Yet we are surrounded by people who are drowning because they don’t know Jesus and we are sailing along happily in our little boat that is church – feeling quite comfortable and enjoying the worship, the fellowship and some ‘feel-good’ sermons and ignoring the people in the water all around us.  We need to have the same urgency to do something about that as we would if we were trying to save that person who had fallen overboard.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not there yet.  I’m talking to myself here (yes, it’s possible that I’m slightly mad 😜).  I’m not the most confident person in the world but I’m praying for boldness and change in that area.  I want to make an impact.

So whatever your true shape is I would encourage you not to conform – either to the world’s pattern or to the pattern of lukewarm Christianity but find someone worth imitating, step out of your comfort zone and make a difference.  Be the person God designed you to be and not the person that fits into a mould designed by other people.  And be bold!  I truly believe that if we allow ourselves to do that we can change the world.

Abba’s Child

Earlier this year I started reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning.  I finally managed to finish it on holiday last week.  Don’t assume that the length of time I spent reading it means that it wasn’t good – it really was.  There have been so many other things going on this year that I’ve had a lot less time to read than I normally would and I ended up putting it down for weeks at a time without touching it.  Anyway, I digress.

This was one of those books you can really get your teeth into.  I have parts underlined on almost every page.  There is loads of food for thought and it’s not just jelly and ice cream food it’s a whopping great steak that you really have to chew over.  It’s well worth the chewing though ’cause it’s so refreshing and satisfying.

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What I’ll do is give you some of the little nuggets that I took out of each chapter.  I reckon you could read it and get something different though.  It has so much to say.

Come out of hiding
The first chapter talks about our view of ourselves and our assumptions about how God views us.  It talks about our tendency to hide our true selves from others and from God (there’s that mask again!) and even to begin to accept our portrayed self as reality.  God desires that we come out of hiding and realise that we are safe with him.

Christians who remain in hiding continue to live the lie… We cling to our bad feelings and beat ourselves with the past when what we should do is let go… But when we dare to live as forgiven men and women, we join the wounded healers and draw closer to Jesus. (p29)

The Imposter
In this chapter Manning talks about the image that we portray in order to be accepted and approved of by others.  This false self has a ‘perfect’ image and is driven to perform rather than to live by grace.  The imposter is a liar.

This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him.  And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.  (Quoting Thomas Merton, p37)

The Beloved
In contrast to the imposter, the beloved, is our true self.  Our real and only true identity as one loved by God, ‘not (loved because of our) works, so that no one can boast’ (Eph 2:9).  The beloved lives in the present presence of God and only in grasping this identity is able to touch others.

When I allow God to liberate me from unhealthy dependence on people, I listen more attentively, love more unselfishly, am more compassionate and playful.  I take myself less seriously, become aware that the breath of the Father is on my face and that my countenance is bright with laughter in the midst of an adventure I thoroughly enjoy. (p58)

Just that one quote inspires me.  I want to be that person.  To be completely free to be the person God made me to be and to rest assured that even in my imperfection Abba loves me and will use me to show His love to others – not in a way that burdens but out of the overflow of His heart for me.

Abba’s Child
Have you ever noticed how annoying predictive text can be?  Every time I want to type ‘Abba’s’ it wants to correct it to ‘ABBA’s’ or ‘Anna’s’ 😝.  It’s driving me nuts!!

Anyway back to the book.  This chapter focuses on God’s indiscriminate love for His kids and Jesus example of growing intimacy with the Father and compassion for humanity.  It develops the idea of how we live out the gospel and build His kingdom as a result of living out our true identity.  There are several parts of this chapter that I’d love to quote but this one about the unknown struggles that even those we disagree with or even disapprove of is a little gem.

The heartfelt compassion that hastens forgiveness matures when we discover where our enemy cries. (p69)

Just chew over that for a minute.  I feel like we would all be less judgmental if we could only let that concept take root in our hearts.

The Pharisee and the Child

Jesus did not die at the hands of muggers, rapists or thugs.  He fell into the well-scrubbed hands of deeply religious people, society’s most respected members. (p80)

Not too surprisingly, the chapter about the Pharisee focuses on our tendency towards hypocrisy.  None of us wants to think of ourselves as a Pharisee but if we are brutally honest about it I doubt anyone can say that they have never been judgemental or refused to show mercy.  We feel justified when we look at someone else’s actions and decide based on our own experiences and backgrounds or legalism that they are at fault.  Yet Jesus (the only man who was truly perfect) brought a message of mercy and grace.

In contrast the child in this chapter ‘delights in the relentless tenderness of God.’  The child falls down over and over but then picks herself up, dusts herself down and tries again; knowing that her Abba still loves her and delights in her efforts to keep running towards Him.  The child is aware of her own failings and reaches out to help others who have fallen along the way.  Jesus is pretty clear that it is this child-like relationship with our Abba that he desires in us.

‘Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.’  Matt 18:3 TPT

Unless we reclaim our child we will have no inner sense of self and gradually the imposter becomes who we really think we are. (p94)

Present Risenness

An awareness of the resurrected Christ banishes meaninglessness … helps us to see our lives as all of one piece, and reveals a design never perceived before. (p99)

This chapter spoke to me about the reality of Jesus presence in our lives as He walks with us through the valleys and on the mountain tops.  He is living and active in our day to day and we need to be aware of Him.  Our hope and our ability to stand during difficult times and our ability to endure sadness and suffering are all connected to our consciousness of Christ’s present risenness in our lives and it is this that shapes us and transforms us into His image.

Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain, receive it, take it on board, however acute it may be.  And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, deeper, richer disciples.  We know ourselves to be more than we previously imagined.  In the process we not only endure but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we think we really are. (p105)

The Recovery of Passion
I love the title of this chapter.  I feel like passion is so important and life giving and too many of us lose it or have it knocked out of us for one reason or another.  The story of the man who found treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field and get it is an illustration of the treasure that Jesus is and how desperately we should run after Him and His Kingdom.

The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved.  If I find Christ I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.  This is the goal and purpose of our lives.  John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing. (p123)

The pursuit of an intimate relationship with our Saviour and Lover which throws aside self-consciousness and is all about our present response to Him is what our lives should be consumed with.

Fortitude and Fantasy
As you know I’ve been inclined to people pleasing in the past – trying to keep the peace and make everyone happy; to do what was expected of me.  Manning encourages us to ‘accept our core identity as Abba’s child’ and to be true to who we are whatever others think.  He also talks about the balance between being and doing and not raising the importance of one over the other as we can see what someone truly believes by the way they behave.

When we stand on our own two feet and claim responsibility for our unique self, we are growing in personal autonomy, fortitude, and freedom from the bondage of human approval. (p137)

The Rabbi’s Heartbeat
In the final chapter the greatness and unconditional nature of God’s love is unfolded.  Allowing our minds to be engaged and our hearts affected by this great love, confessing our sins and humbling ourselves and allowing Abba to love us where we are brings freedom.  Aligning ourselves with His heart and living out love and compassion and forgiveness for others is what should drive us.

Wise men and women have long held that happiness lies in being yourself without inhibitions.  Let the Great Rabbi hold you silently against His heart.  In learning who He is, you will find out who you are:  Abba’s child in Christ our Lord. (p166)

I hope this encourages you, maybe to read the book but if not at least to drop the mask and pursue Abba knowing that He loves you just as you are.

‘But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!’  Rom 5:8 TPT

 

Happy days and holidays

It’s been a while since I updated you on life in general. I guess that’s partly ’cause there hasn’t been that much to say. Last week was mostly just work of one sort or the other. Not completely uneventful though as one person resigned as she felt badly treated (I’m sad about that. Seems like just the latest in a string of staff issues). My boss also finished up as she’s moving on. Haven’t met the new boss yet. She looks young and people have already started making judgements based on her social media. I’m gonna wait and see – seems unfair to decide what she’s like when we’ve not even met her.

On Saturday we went to a friend’s daughter’s wedding. It was a strange day in a way. The bride and groom looked so happy and the ceremony was lovely. It’s weird though how happy events can bring up sad memories and thoughts. At dinner the hotel was playing music quietly in the background. It was almost unnoticeable but weirdly at one point I heard it loud and clear. I didn’t think much of their choice of song for a wedding dinner. It was the line from Adele’s song Someone Like You – ‘Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead’ that seemed to cut through the over dinner chatter. The bride’s step dad also pointed out that almost everyone at the top table was divorced and remarried – including the minister. Does that make the happy couple statistically more or less likely to succeed in their marriage? I don’t know. Maybe it makes no difference. Maybe it will make them determined. Maybe they’ll have their eyes open going in to their relationship and know from the start that it will take work. I’m praying that they’ll break the pattern that’s emerged in their families and will remain happy and in love. I’m praying that people will support them and be honest with them and help them through the tough times and that God will bless them and make them a blessing to others.

On Sunday we had baby B and his mum and dad over for dinner and on Monday another couple who we’ve been friends with for years. It was good to catch up with all of them.

So I’m off work for a week which really calls for a holiday and when you live in Scotland that means you need to get yourself somewhere warm and sunny and absorb enough Vitamin D to get you through the winter (at least it does in my book – I think my hubby is less convinced 😉). On Saturday morning we booked a short break to Tenerife. We left home on Tuesday morning and took a train to Manchester Airport. It was so much cheaper to fly from there because the school holidays in England are different to ours. We’ve been here a couple of days now and head home on Saturday. Mostly I’m catching up with reading. I’ve had a couple of books that I’ve been reading for a while and just not getting round to finishing. We’ve gone on a couple of walks and even visited the hotel gym – check us (who abducted the real me? 😂). Hopefully the gym makes up a tiny bit for the amount of all inclusive yummy food consumed and the fact that my blood alcohol level is considerably higher than normal 😝.

I’m going to leave this here for now but I’m hoping to post a review of one of the books I’ve been reading soon. Hope you’ll come back and check that out. Take care and God Bless.

A sunny Tenerife evening

Known

Known

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is what it means to be loved by God.
Timothy Keller

Isn’t this what everyone wants? To be fully known and loved in spite of your faults and failures. To be known and valued and loved for who you are.  It’s definitely what I want. That’s why the title attracted me to this devotional by Tauren Wells and that in turn lead me to this song.

I love these words:

Known
It’s so unusual it’s frightening

You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You
I’m fully known and loved by You

It’s so like You to keep pursuing
It’s so like me to go astray
But You guard my heart with Your truth
A kind of love that’s bullet proof
And I surrender to Your kindness

How real, how wide
How rich, how high is Your heart
I cannot find the reasons why
You give me so much

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
I’m fully known and loved by You

So the devotional was meant to last 5 days but it was a particularly good one and I couldn’t put it down so I finished it off in a couple of sessions.  I could relate to so much of what was said.  I’m going to quote quite a few chunks from it in this post as he’s much better with words than I am and I couldn’t put it any better.

He starts off by talking about the fact that so many of us hide who we really are.

I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that there is a version of Christianity that many of us have bought into that has trained us to be professional pretenders.

You know it’s not even deliberate sometimes but just that culturally we don’t open up, we don’t share our hearts, we’re not honest about the parts of life that suck.  When we’re asked how we are at church we don the ‘good Christian mask’ and tell everyone we’re fine or worse quote scriptures that really mean nothing to us since it’s not really where we’re at.  If you’ve been following my blog from my first post Who Am I Really? you’ll know that I’ve been there.

It’s funny ’cause at church last Sunday a woman I’d never spoken to before made a point of coming over to tell me that I was known and loved by God.  It sounds a bit trite when I just say it like that but it felt meaningful and made me emotional at the time.  I really needed that reassurance again.  Sometimes I wonder if all our professional pretending at church actually turns real people off and means they don’t hang about.  You know if you feel like you can’t live up to the level of perfectionism that many Christians seem to have or everything in your life doesn’t feel blessed or wonderful; when life is tough and you’re struggling – why would you hang around people who don’t get what that feels like?

Another thing that lady reminded me of is that God loved me before I did anything for Him and still loves me even if I’m doing nothing.  I’ve always been pretty active at church so I think maybe subconsciously it’s like I felt I was earning God’s love or something?  I know that’s ridiculous really, no one can do enough to earn God’s love.  I guess I’ve always been a ‘people pleaser’ and I really need to make sure I’m not projecting human expectations and characteristics on to God.  In the devotional I was reminded again that God loves us simply because we’re his kids, full stop.  We don’t need to DO anything.

I’m realizing that who we are known by trumps what we are known for. With God, we are not loved based on reputation; we are loved based on relationship.

Over the last year or so I’ve realised that so many relationships I’ve had at church have been very shallow.  Those people haven’t really known me and I haven’t known them either.  Neither have we really loved each other, if we had we’d have been in contact outside of church.  We’d have taken more than a passing interest in each other’s lives.  We’d have been there when we were needed and lifted each other up when we fell down.  It’s easy to have polite conversations on a Sunday and never go any deeper, never really care who comes or goes.  I don’t think that’s what I want in a church.  I want to be treated differently to that but I know I need to treat others differently too.

Relational poverty is one of the greatest challenges our culture faces today. These days we tend to have followers but not friends, likes but not love, comments but not conversations, crowds but not companions, churches but not communities. Our society has popularized a new kind of relational experience—one that gives us a broader network of ‘contacts’ but lessens the importance of having deep, meaningful connections with others. The priority on ‘I, me, mine’ has eclipsed any sense of ‘us, we, ours,’ and the result is that people feel more alone than ever before. Our time has been dubbed the ‘age of loneliness.’ In fact, it’s been estimated that one in five Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

This is so sad but so true.  Too many of us are surrounded by people, people who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters, and yet we’re lonely.  There are too many people in our churches who have no real friends, people who are even sidelined by other Christians.  I don’t like it.  How can we change this?  I genuinely want to know.  Maybe in time I’ll get some inspiration on this but in the meantime I don’t have any answers so if you do please feel free to leave a comment.  As the song says ‘it’s so unusual it’s frightening’ but I’m so thankful that whatever I’ve done or not done I’m fully known and loved by my Papa, Abba, Father God.