Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Signs Are There.....But Are You Following Another Way?

We are surrounded by 'signs', direction signs, low battery signs, your teenager is on the edge and about to blow signs, I've got a headache get the idea.  The world around us is giving us indicators all the time, but are we taking notice?

The other day my husband and I were out on a day trip in a different town, and although very quaint I was getting a bit bored of just wandering round the shops looking at stuff I couldn't afford and didn't need and suggested we should head to the outskirts to see if there was anything more interesting. I was pretty sure there was a park or a riverside we could go for a nice walk through; soon enough we came to the edge of town and we could see a huge wall with 'private' 'no entry' signs at various points, but just around a corner I spotted a sign that said 'park entrance this way'. 

That looked promising and I was keen to find this entrance and have a wander through the park, so immediately my husband led the opposite direction. "I'm pretty sure we can go this way and find the entrance" he said.  I was confused but couldn't be bothered to argue so just followed, until after finding no such entrance I insisted we u-turned and went the way the sign had pointed!

On questioning his stupidity decision to go in the opposite direction of the sign, he had no explanation other than he just 'thought there was another way'.  Must be a man thing because I pointed out that clearly he had ignored the sign completely and thought he knew better when he obviously didn't - I took no joy in that, well, not a lot of joy anyway.

Thing is, even though on this occasion the blame is landing firmly on my husband, I know I too in the past have looked directly at a sign and ignored it, I had thought there was another way.

So if we can miss these signs that are staring us in the face, how much harder we have to look to notice the signs from God, to follow the 'directions' he has given us, to see the sign from God and not say I think there's another way.

Some Christians are doing this at the moment whenever the subject of Gay marriage arises, they are seeing clearly what is written in the Bible, that marriage is between one man and one woman, but they are saying "I think there's another way". Perhaps we all do that sometimes when we see the sign from God but it doesn't sit well with what is culturally acceptable around us, it becomes easier for us to follow the 'other way'.

High profile Christian Vicky Beeching says "We owe the verses about women as well as the relevant verses in Leviticus [18:22 and 20:13] and Romans [1:26-27], and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19] a deeper look…" (full article here) Has Vicky found another way?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

I'm Good For What???

We need to think very carefully how we do this, a badly chosen 'encouragement' can be very damaging, and on those occasions it would have been better to have said nothing at all.

Some of us find it very difficult to say what we are good at, where our talents lie, what gives us worth.  I have been in that place along with many others, who have gone through periods of feeling like the most worthless, useless, waste of a human being on the planet.  Thankfully I am over that now and can confess - I am awesome, humble too!

But on more than one occasion I have been on the receiving end of well meant, but badly thought out encouragement; it can be destructive and leave you having to build yourself up and encourage yourself, which we all know is one of the hardest things to do, which is precisely why Paul tells us to encourage and build each other up because we just can't do it for ourselves.

So how do we best encourage one another? Don't rush to speak because you feel the need to encourage is urgent, saying nothing will be less harmful than rushing to speak and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind e.g you know the person always has a clean house so you tell them how great they are at vacuuming and what an amazing skill that is. No, look at who they really are, not what they can achieve at a surface level (even if that surface is a dust free carpet) they may well have an immaculate house but suggesting vacuuming is their talent is going to leave them wondering if that's all they're good for, is that really how people see them?

Also this week I saw a quote from Tim Keller, mega church Pastor on Facebook "When work is your identity, success goes to your head, and failure goes to your heart"

This struck a chord with me, as so often the cop out way to encourage someone is to tell them how good they are at their job.  But we need to look past the 9-5 to really find who that person is and to build them up.  Of course there are some jobs that are only suited to people with certain skills and talents; but when you are encouraging, don't default to what their job is or you are in danger of reinforcing their job as being their identity.

If you want to encourage someone, think about where you have seen that person shine and really show their true selves, where are they happiest? Who do they spend time with? What do they do, that others would struggle to do?

And if you can't do that, please, please, just stop and think, is what I'm about to say actually going to help that person or harm them? Are they going to have to undo the words I speak and find a new truth to speak to themselves?

Remember, we are more than what is seen on the outside, our worth comes from more than our occupation, our worth comes from within, from our hearts inside our dreams. We have been created with purpose not for purpose, our talents are what drive us, they make us who we are. And that is something to be encouraged by.