Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The “soul” of a renovation

We are currently doing some renovations on our house. As I was sharing with a dear friend about some personal challenges I am having, she responded with “with all that going on, the renovations on the house must be adding to your burdens". I responded back "Oh no, not at all, actually they are exciting, I love seeing the change and progress, it is exciting." I love seeing what they have done each day, we have no roof at the moment on the garage and a great big hole in our front yard, mess everywhere. I like it.

She was surprised and said that would be the final straw for her. It made me think. I really do love seeing new things and change, I especially love being the one who brings new things and change to whatever system I am involved in. In fact, when things are the same for a long time and even when there is an element of necessary maintenance, I lose interest.    But then God steps in with a big Reality check for me.

If I like change so much, why is it that when it comes to changing and improving me personally (Internal renovations of the soul type stuff), that I suddenly don't like change and new things. I remember someone saying, "We all love a drama, until it happens to us.” So true. So while I really want to go into a “pity party dance” to God about why things have to change, why this process has to be so painful, I feel like I am in one big visual teaching - as the renovations are happening all around me.  I feel fine when the perfectly good functioning things are ripped down in my house to build something bigger and better, but I don't want God to rip down anything in me, even if it means something will be built in its place that will be better. What happen to, “…unless the Lord builds this house?"  Oh yeah, I can sing about it, but live it. Yuk!  So, challenge number one; renovations of the soul can be painful, but I need to trust the builder at this point of the process. So, I am living daily with this at the moment.

While the pain hits as God is stripping me back to the foundations, it prompts me to ask, “God, why do I this need change? I really love what I do? It is not like I am totally broken. I may have a few cracks, but no one sees them and you still love me.” He reminds me of the reason we started the house renovation in the first place. Sure, the house was fine. We could have left it, and no one but us saw the cracks in the retaining wall. Everything was still functioning.  We could have tried to sell the house and let it be someone else's problem. But as we thought about it, this little problem allowed us to do some new things to the house which would give us a more usable and functional space, so we decided it was worth the cost. Challenge number two; do I really want to be all that God wants me to be? I know the refining process is painful, but I don't want to live with cracks that might become someone else’s problem. "If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it." (R. Rohr). I need to trust the builder at this point of the process. So, I am living daily with this at the moment.

So today, in walk the builders, who start ripping off the western red cedar in our hall. I am in a bit of shock. I didn’t realise that it meant losing that part of the house. I get it that we are building something new. But why are they pulling down something so beautiful? Can't this be saved? Do we have to lose something that I know won't be replaced? I leave the house knowing that I will come home at the end of the day and it will all be gone. I lament the loss, but am quickly brought back to myself and the fact that the sadness I feel is really about me. Has it ever happened to you, that unexpected shock you weren’t quite ready for? You are in the process and then something unexpected “pops” up and takes you by surprise.  So much for me sprouting to my friend that I like change, I find it exciting.  I find myself lamenting lost dreams, things that may never be again, even those things that only in my dreams were real and it is time to give them up. Challenge number three; part of rebuilding means that sometimes we need to learn to "let it go" (I can feel another song coming on). I need to trust the builder at this point of the process. So, I am living daily with this at the moment.

I can't see now, what this renovation will look like when it is finished and clearly the idea in my head may be very different from the final product. I need to trust the builder at this point of the process. So, I am living daily with this at the moment. Today, I land in a conference where the speaker reminds me of David when he was writing Psalm 63. At the time David is writing this Psalm, his son and best friend are trying to kill him. He has been betrayed. Everything has been stripped from him. In one day he has gone from being king to someone on the run. In the midst of this David says...

"God––you're my God! I can't get enough of you!
I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God, travelling across dry and weary deserts.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath; my arms wave like banners of praise to you."   (Psalms 63:1-4)
 In the midst of massive change and the stripping down of his life David says … “Earnestly I seek you, I thirst for you … I  praise you”.

If it was me I would probably be saying, "Where are you God? Why has this happened? Please, God, I long for my kingdom back, for things to be like yesterday. I don't want to be homeless and all alone. I thought things were going well. I thought your plan for me was to be king. How could I have got it so wrong? Where have I failed you so much that you would allow this to happen to me?"  Oops ... I now know why I need such a major “soul” renovation right now.

When you have been stripped of everything can you say your soul longs for God?

I need to trust the builder at this point of the process. So, I am living daily with this at the moment. How I long to say to God, in the midst of the renovation, when you can't see ahead, but just feel the void I want to be like David and say " I seek you, I thirst for you, I praise you, because unless the Lord builds this house, I don't want any part of it. How is your “Soul” today? Does it need renovating?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Full bins and empty tanks

We all have things that we don't like to do, things that bother us more than normal. You might call them your "pet peeves". For me, I don't like styling my hair in the mornings, I don't like teabags being left in the sink and when people say "whatever" as an answer for everything.  They are often not big things and basically we often just need to get over them and move on.  But two of "peeves" that really affect me are filling up my car with petrol and the fact that the bins in our house are always constantly full and overflowing.

When it comes to filling the petrol tank I avoid it as much as I can, even to the point of planning it that so when the levels get low, I plan it so someone else drives the car, so they have to fill it up for me.  Also, I ever go to drive my husband’s car, and it needs petrol, I will change plans or drive another car just to avoid the process.  I actually find that holding the pump in his big car hurts my hand, how pathetic am I? Pretty sad right!

As for the bins in our house, it seems that no matter how hard I try to keep the bin empty, it is always full. This is not about avoiding the process of emptying the bin, but quite the opposite, we empty it every day, it is not a hassle, it just seems like it never really makes a difference.

I was reminded just recently that God doesn't waste anything. When our eyes are open He can teach us something even through "full bins and empty tanks". This was certainly the case recently. The light was on, the fuel gage was flashing empty and I knew that I HAD to fill the car with petrol. But, I also had to be somewhere and so I thought I would be smart and just stop and put $10 in the car. This way I wouldn't be late for the meeting and I wouldn’t have to spend as much time holding the pump. I was thinking I was being clever. Yes, I got to my meeting on time, but of course the next day the tank was heading toward empty again. I thought to myself "I was just here yesterday, do I really have to do this again?”  I got home to start some work only to find the bin was full again. As I was out at the bin, mumbling under my breath about the wasted morning of filling tanks and emptying bins.... I hear His voice, that still quiet voice. The one that says, "Hmmm...something to think about Tammy, why is it so hard for you to fill your tank?  The car will not run well unless it is full. Why is it so hard for you to take the time to do what is best for the car and ultimately for you? Then, why do you need so much junk? Is it all necessary? What really is necessary?

Ok, ok, ok I got it. Lord, help me change my attitude. I should be happy to fill the tank. Why do I have so much junk and waste piling up so often? Help me switch my perspective, help me see what is really necessary, help me to refocus.

 Of course there is a spiritual process here. The filling process is not a waste of time, it is vital. I know how much I love to spend time with my Father In heaven, but I have to admit, if the bin is full and I am sitting down to have time with God, I am tempted to empty the bin first, or empty my email box of junk mail, or tidy my desk, or tick something off my “to do list”, or just look at that Facebook notification of someone posting a picture of a random meal they ate. How easily we are distracted with the unnecessary instead of focusing on the necessary. I can actually justify the importance of crossing things off my daily list as more important than spending time filling my tank from the one who gives me life and purpose.

I am reminded of when Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha and way Martha fussed and Mary sat at His feet amidst all that was going on. Jesus says to Martha "you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing, One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it- it's the main course and it will not be taken from her" (Luke 10:42, The Message). Mary chose to fill her tank and disregard the many other things that could clutter that moment.   

We seriously have way too much rubbish and clutter in our lives.  Often the things we need most, that would give us the energy to continue on in life we are constantly running low on. What's in your rubbish bin? Is it always full? How is your spiritual tank? Does it need refilling today?