Wholeness

Wholeness2

When you look around the world you can’t help but realise the finite nature of things. The way that things decay and rust. The way we all get older, and at every new birthday it brings the realisation that we need to do more with our lives. ‘Things will be different this year,’ we tell ourselves. It also gets more difficult after a particularly tough year, or when we reach a milestone and then wonder, ‘what’s next?’. How is it that the world around us seems to degenerate so fast? Yet again our stuff, our cars, our laptops, our mobile phones have broken.

There is a longing for the new. For things to be in a ‘perfect moment’. So many people spend their lives in search of perfection. They think that if only they had enough money, or stuff they would be happy. If only the family could be as it was in that ‘perfect moment’, then it would all be fine. It would be complete. If only I were on holiday, away from the daily grind and stay there forever in that perfection.

Of course it is all a lie. If we were to stay in that perfect moment, it would not be perfect. The world would step in. It would rain on the beautiful beach and we’d want to come home. People would be people at the perfect family gathering and say the one thing that ruined it all. We’d run out of stuff to buy, or just not use the stuff we had. If you ever play the Sims3 and use the money cheat, you suddenly realise that there is no point to the game. We realise that all these versions of ‘perfection’ don’t in fact satisfy, and don’t complete us.

Sometimes people feel that if they just fit into a box created for them that they will become complete. They even create new boxes to put themselves into and invite others to join these new ways of forming identity. All the while they forget that a box is still a box whether you make it or someone else does. A box can constrict the person inside, stifle and suffocate. It doesn’t make you whole just because you exist with certain parameters. Each of these boxes contain a flaw, or many flaws, not just the problem of stagnation. They are our boxes and we are flawed. We are human, if we try to make it by ourselves we will fail to become all that we can be, we will never be whole. If we try to force ourselves, to contort ourselves to fit into a box, then life will become very uncomfortable, and we run the risk that the box will just collapse around us.

In order for something, or someone to grow, or even to stand, there needs to be the correct support. We cannot think that we can plant something and just hope it will grow because we labelled it correctly. Just because we call a plant something and tell it to do something will not make it become productive. It needs the correct conditions to grow and become what it should be. There also needs to be a correct foundation for any kind of work, for any kind of person. It is great when people have the perfect family (which doesn’t exist), all the cash they could ask for and a dream to go and do. Yet, somehow, they still are not whole. To be whole, we need to stand on, or rely on something greater than ourselves. Drawing strength from those in the same, or a weaker position can help in the short term, but there is a finite amount that you can gain from them, and in the long run, you can end up hurting yourself and them in the process. People all have a breaking point. There is a point when we have to decide for ourselves where do we put our feet? Do we rely on others and continue the same pattern stumbling through the same difficulties, or do we find strength from something greater than ourselves in order to grow?

God made us, He has a plan for every life (whether we choose to follow it or not), He has unending strength. He is always watching, and will never get tired of us, no matter what. He fills in the gaps in our reserves and gives us a firm foundation to stand upon. Most of all He makes us whole. He made us for a purpose, and there is no upper limit on that. There is no box, just an eternity where everything gets better and never degrades. If we let Him into our lives, there will always be more exciting things to do, and it won’t ever be dull. He doesn’t leave us to it, He meets the impossible and goes above and beyond it. He knows what is good for us, and His plans are for us personally. It is so difficult to stress this without resorting to cliché, and I will try my level best not to.

That moment Jesus died for the world everything changed. He defeated death, and sin and rose again to life. He made it possible for us to become whole, made it possible to laugh at death and say that we are set for eternity. When we say we want Him in our lives we can achieve more than we could ask or imagine. I know that when I stand by myself I fall flat on my face again and wonder what happened. When I stand in God’s will and His purpose for my life, then nothing can move me from where I stand. I am whole.

What’s in a Name?

Last Monday morning was dull.  It was my own fault really.  I had to go and have a meeting with a solicitor, never an awe-inspiring, excitement generating highlight of the week at the best of times, and in this case it was worse.  However as mentioned it was my own fault.  For years now I’ve had the (possibly bad) habit of making sure that whatever meeting I’m in, I’m the most prepared person in the room.  It doesn’t mean I know exactly what will be said, or what will be done, but whatever happens, I have the body of work prepared to act and react to what happens.  So as this, very pleasant I might add, solicitor rambled through the law as pertained to the discussion I was having, I was struggling to keep my mind from drifting, because I had read up on what he was talking about before the meeting.

When it came to the point of confirming our names, and signing the piece of paper necessary to the meeting, he paused and looked at me, then looked at my mum (who was also present), and asked “Why Kieran?”  Now for a moment I was wondering if he was asking a metaphysical question, a philosophical wondering on the why of my existence, but then quickly realised he was asking about my name.  My mother’s wonderfully crafted, exquisitely mature response was to say, “It was my husband’s choice.  By that time I thought I better let him have a say in the name of at least one of our sons.” and there I was thinking it was only rock musicians that blamed everything on the father.

Now as my Father died a few years ago, I cannot ask him why he named me as he did.  While he was alive, I never thought to ask, and to be honest bearing in mind his penchant for Johnny Cash, I should probably be grateful I didn’t end up as a Sue.  As I cannot ask him, I am perfectly entitled to believe what I wish to believe about why he named me as he did. So my choice is to believe he was so sick and tired of my mother choosing really dull boring names for their sons (I mean Darren and Richard? Really?) that he decided it was time to inject some awesome into his offspring.

Despite all other emotional, and self-esteem issues I may have suffered in my life, as far as I’m aware, I’ve never disliked my name.  Back in the good old days, everyone in my school was named Ian, or Sarah, or Louise (literally I believe in my class at primary school there were 4 Sarah’s and at least 2 Louise’s), Kieran was a name that stood out, not just because it was different, but because no-one could spell it.  Despite this, and despite the anger I feel to this day, when people can’t be bothered to take five seconds to spell my name correctly (really I think my favourite misspelling I’ve seen is probably “Ceiron”) I like my name, and it’s important to me, desperately important to me.

I firmly believe that when you name something you have to be incredibly careful.  Names are vitally important, and in many ways aren’t treated as seriously as they should be.  When you name something you shape it, there is power in the names that you are given.  The story of Jabaz in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NLT isn’t important because it’s a way to gain stuff, or to increase your “territory”, but instead because his story is about the breaking of the power of his name over his life.  Seriously, if you call your wonderful new daughter Krystal you are just asking for her to grow up to become a stripper.  I did a lesson in a school once and a little girl was called Tequila, I don’t want to know why.  I know someone that once had decided on a name for their new daughter, and because the modern world is what it is, wisely decided to Google it before making the final decision.  The first couple of hundred entries came up with an attractive young lady that obviously didn’t feel that wearing clothes was all that necessary when people were taking photos of her, and the couple decided that they would choose a different name.

Names are vitally important, and we see in Scripture that God changes them to suit His will.  Abram to Abraham, Saul to Paul, and many others.  When God changed a name it was not just because He decided that the old one was dull, it was a mark of the change in a person’s life, and not only that but most importantly it was a signal of intent for what was to happen.  An inescapable stamp of the purposes of God on someone’s life.  While I was at a placement church during my degree, there was a dear old man called Ken.  Ken was a WWII veteran and was, at that time, probably in his eighties.  Most of the time he was one of those dear sweet little old men, that while physically still healthy, was ever so slightly confused.  Almost every Sunday evening (he only came to evening services), he would approach me as if we’d never met, and after introducing himself would say, “So you’re at Moorlands are you?”  Go back and read that sentence again, this time in the stereotypical voice of a British WWII RAF officer, and you’ll hear exactly what I did…every…single…Sunday. Like most men of that demeanour, there was the occasional moment of incredible sharp clarity, and wisdom.  The eyes suddenly lost their daze and focused sharply.  The soft grip became firm.  The low tone became urgent, and these moments of clarity turned a sweet old man, into a passionate, God-fearing, prophetic voice in the church.  In one such moment he approached me one Sunday, and gripping my arm said, “Your name is Kieran?”, I remember that I nodded, merely happy that we weren’t going to have the same conversation we always did. Then he shook his head vehemently.  At this point I was wondering how to diplomatically correct the crazy old man that didn’t think I knew my own name, but then he spoke again, “God wants me to say that your name is now Joshua.”  He let go of my arm, and walked away.

I haven’t seen Ken for over 10 years, and I believe he’s with the Lord now.  And I won’t sit here and say that I totally understand that thirty second conversation, but it’s stayed with me.  I couldn’t name 5 people from that church now, but I remember Ken.  I like my name, it’s a good name, and as further evidence of name’s defining shape it suits me down to the ground.  Kieran means black. Now I may well be the whitest person you could possibly meet.  Factor 50 sunscreen means that I merely suffer 2nd degree burns on a sunny day. My middle name is Peter, which as all good Christians know, means Rock.  Some people may try to convince you that Peter is actually more effectively translated as stone, but they’re just flat out wrong.  My name means Black Rock, and what better a name for someone who has an ironclad certainty of who he is, and what he is, someone who actively works against anything pink and fluffy, and who firmly believes that Christianity that doesn’t menace with spikes is Christianity that has no impact.  Plus my musical taste runs to heavy technical metal music, so there’s that as well.  While I don’t believe that God is changing any aspect of my personality, and how my name interacts with that (He created me like this, and I truly believe that He selected my name too, my Dad was just an accomplice), I do believe that there is a calling on my life, a responsibility based upon a prophetic word that God has delivered to me.  It may take the rest of my life to truly understand that word, but I need to allow God to use it in my life.

Most of all, however, our name is important, not just because it contains our personality, our shape, not just because it contains our destiny, or our purpose, but it records us as being present.  It’s Easter Sunday as I write this, and I’m reminded of the famous words, “If your name is not on the list, you’re not coming in.”  As a Christian, my security, my basis for existence, my basis for my very presence is outlined in Revelation 3:5, NLT

“All who are victorious will be clothed in white.  I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and His angels that they are mine.”

I am victorious, for Christ died to set me free from sin and death,  I ended a blog last week with the words that Christ stepped into Hell, ready to break the chains, and Satan’s power forever.  His death and resurrection results in victory.  Romans 8 says that we have “Absolute Victory” through Christ.  Some would translate it as “More than Conquerors”, which is good, but “Absolute Victory” gives no wiggle room whatsoever.  Through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection we share in that victory.  As I share in that victory I can have ultimate faith and hope for the future, not because of any ephemeral belief, but with the knowledge that Christ my Saviour God has written my name in a book, that promises life, and that name can NEVER be erased.

And that’s not even the best bit.  Imagine the scene, the Throne Room of God.  The elders and angels around the throne, God sat, in all His glory and majesty upon the throne.  Read Isaiah 6, NLT to get a feel for the scene if your imagination is suffering.  And before the Throne, the Lamb of God, risen saving sacrifice Christ stands, and with a loud voice declares.  “Kieran is mine!”  Every second of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every year, from now until eternity, my saviour God, declares to His Father, the Just Creator, that I, Kieran Peter Woodward am His.  That I am held in His hand, that my name is written in His Book of Life.  That I am sealed by His blood, and I live the promise of His love.

I challenge you the next time you feel far from God, the next time you’re scared for the future, the next time you don’t know what will happen next, the next time you don’t want to get out of bed, for fear of what the day will bring, remember this:  If you have asked Christ to be your Lord and Saviour, if you have asked Him to come into your life, to wash away your sins, to fix your brokenness, to make you new, then remember this:  He stands before God, and declares, not in a whisper, but in a shout, that You are His.  Forever and Always.

I realise I’m preaching now, so I’ll end here, and you know what they say, finish on a song:

What’s in a name that the demons flee,
What’s in a name that the captives go free,
What’s in a name that every knee should bow,
In the name of Jesus, name above all names.

Have a Good Easter!

Three Random Words

Photo taken by Lizzy Biggs
Photo taken by Lizzy Biggs

 

I guess this has been at the back of my mind for a little while now, but I had not really worked out what form it would take. It started when (being slightly cringe-worthy) I saw a post on Facebook. It was one of these ‘respond to this or you don’t like me’ type posts, and please re-post things. I happened to think it was vaguely funny to actually participate (as I usually skip over) with it. I think the post was along the lines of ‘put one word down to show where you met me, or how you know me’, something like that anyway. Now this was quite a while ago now, but my brain has been ticking it over and eventually come to the conclusion: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could post 3 random words to friends/people I know or follow. Words that are uplifting and helpful/cool. Things that will make people smile and speak into their lives?’

So I take a deep breath and gulp, then spend several days trying to convince myself one way or another whether it is worth it. Will people just think that I’m weird? Most people probably do already, so no change there really. It is difficult when you are trying to be creative to take that step sometimes and actually make the idea happen. Then there is also the creative control thing. With my art work, or my photos I have at the back of my mind that I can tear up or delete it. I even once horrified my mother by destroying some portraits of family members I had done because I didn’t like them (I was a teenager at the time). With blogging to some extent I have the same control. With social media, once it has been posted people have read it before I have the chance to change my mind. Spelling errors then make me feel sick inside that I can’t just go and correct them. There is not this exactness that I expect.

With #ThreeRandomWords I want it to feel heart-felt. I don’t want it to be polished. I hope though that it will be appreciated, even as I realise that I can’t control people’s reactions in any way, shape or form either. Well, some friends could get cake I suppose. I hope that those people/organisations who do not know me that well, will read this to understand a bit more what I am trying to do, and take it as it is meant. Something to make you feel better about your day, and perhaps even insightful if I get it right. There is a voice screaming at the back of my head not to be stupid, and hey I might even get comments along those lines. If it is beneficial to the majority however, then why am I thinking about just chucking the idea in the recycling bin for later destruction?

Time to take a running jump and decide who’s first.

Last Minute

So we all know that Magical Countdowns are a thing (warning TV Tropes link, prepare for procrastination).  This is where the tension is mounting as the bomb is ticking down to zero, there’s only a few seconds left, yet the hero and villain still have time to monologue at each other (lets face it, we’re talking Hollywood here, there’s no such thing as dialogue, merely synchronised monologuing.) before the bomb explodes.  It’s such an established fact that the hero always has just enough time to finish whatever he’s doing.  Lack of time is used to increase tension, even though we all know that even though there are only seventeen seconds left, and the hero has only just entered the bunker, we now he’ll make it!  Sometimes even the characters in a movie will call out this fact, breaking the fourth wall well and truly, which segues me nicely into my favourite ever movie quote.  Dale Arden, in Flash Gordon, hugs close to Flash and declares: “Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!”.  It also amuses me that Flash Gordon was QB for the Jets, but that’s a whole digression we won’t go down.

Rowena wrote something about Trust and Faith a little while ago, and in it, she mentioned that:

 “For some people, God seems to be a God of the last minute (and with God there is always another last minute as Kieran says)”

 Now quite apart from the fact that I’m obviously getting predictable in what I say, if I can be quoted at will now, she’s right.  God works on a different time frame than us humans do.  We are not in a position to understand that time-frame, as our lives are temporal, our whole existence is stratified, and codified by the nature of time.  We are beings of time, beings that are dictated to, and controlled, by a greater or lesser extent by time.  Time, for us, is immutable.  God however is a being, for whom time, is mutable, it’s changeable, He can effect it, and use it for His purposes.  In Joshua 5 scripture details that the sun itself, representing time here, stood still for the people of God.  Joshua prayed, and God, by His power answered, stopping time.

Waiting for something, especially something you have little to no control over is incredibly tough.  Whether it’s waiting for test results to come back, or a diagnosis.  Waiting to find out if a decision has been made about your future.  Waiting that fraction of a second before the young lady you’ve just asked to marry you answers.  Seriously ladies, if your young man has just proposed a pause is not appropriate, even if it’s for a fraction of a second, a pause is not appropriate!  Waiting is difficult, when you cannot influence the wait in any way.  You feel helpless, powerless, incapable to changing what is happening.  And in many ways, it’s worse when we are waiting for God to do something.  Often if we’re waiting for God to do something, it’s either something we’ve realised we cannot do, or affect in our own strength, or it’s something miraculous, that only God can do.  So not only do we feel the usual sense of powerlessness, and helplessness, we are waiting upon an entity, for whom time happens to other people.  I’ve heard people pray, and I’ve prayed myself, “God I need you to move NOW!”…ummmmm….Nope!

We hear many times that God’s timing is perfect, but what we hear when some tells us that is “Keep waiting”.  To which our natural response is “How long?” to which there is no answer.  As someone who has worked with many people that have been taken to the very brink with their waiting, those people that can read the seconds click down on the bomb.  As someone who is currently waiting for God to move, here is my wisdom on the matter.

 repeat until SituationResolves==True
 {
    if (Time==TimeHasRunOut)
    {
        TimeHasRunOut+=1;
    }
    if (Time==GodsTime)
    {
        GodMoves();
        SituationResolves=True;
    }
    Time++;
 }

Apologies, but my brain tends to work best in maths and computer code.  The above is a pseudocode representation of the way God works with us, through time.  This process continues until the situation has resolved itself, and at every second this check is made.  If it’s the last minute, if time has run out, if the bomb countdown is down to 00:01.  Then God adds another second.  The God I serve is a God of the last minute, and with God there is always another last minute.  If it’s not God’s time, then we repeat the process, time moves on, and we check again, if time has run out, and if so, then we add another second, God is a God of the last minute, and there is always another last minute.  If it is God’s time, then He moves, and the situation is resolved.

We may not understand how God moves, we may not even like how God moves, but God moves.  He has promised in his word that “He will never leave nor forsake us”  He has promised time and time again, that once we are His, He is never letting go.  While we are God’s the countdown never reaches zero.  it may frustrate us that God does things in his own time, that God is a God of the last minute, but guess what, there’s always another last minute.

It’s coming up to Easter, Jesus hung on that cross for around 6 hours.  His family, disciples and friends watching, quite apart from thieves, Romans, and the mob.  Many, certainly those that followed him, were desperate to see God move, to see God bring Christ back down from the cross to make a difference to act.  But then Jesus died. It was over, the countdown was at zero.  “God we need you to move NOW!” the disciples exclaimed….Ummmm…Nope!  The whole world can believe that it’s the last minute, you can despair, “Time has run out!”  That’s not the way God sees things.  Just as Satan rejoiced that his mortal enemy had been killed, He had won the victory.  God put forth his power, there was another last minute, and Christ stepped into hell, ready to break the chains, and Satan’s power forever.

I don’t know how long you’ve been waiting, or even what you’re waiting for, but trust me when I say this.  God is a God of the last minute.  And there’s always another last minute.

Trust and Faith

Trustandfaith

How do we know if our trust in someone is well placed? How do we know that we ourselves have any kind of strength of character? Until you go through the hard times you don’t ever really know what you are made of. Until the trust you have placed in someone is put to the test you won’t know if it will stand up to the flame, or simply melt away. When you put your trust in someone who is human, then hopefully most of the time they will live up to that trust. You simply have to trust that person with whatever it is. Although sometimes circumstances will mean that it is not possible to live up to such expectations, that even a promise will be broken due to the nature of life.

That’s the thing with faith too. When you say you are going to put your faith in God, there are going to be times when it is easy. Things are great with the world, and it is all going my way. ‘Yeah, I totally trust you God.’ However there will be times when your faith will be put to the test. Let me be clear that it is the faith that is being tested here. God has never let me down. That doesn’t mean that my faith isn’t tested, or that I have never let Him down. For some people, God seems to be a God of the last minute (and with God there is always another last minute as Kieran says). For most of my life, my faith has not been tested in this way. Generally I know what’s next, and how it will happen. Sometimes I just get a picture, or a glimpse of what is to come, and that is more than enough to satisfy my human need to know. God has walked me through each difficult or challenging part of my life.

I love that God is not predictable, I love that He wants His children to grow and change. What I don’t love is the not knowing part, the grappling with what’s next. I do understand however that this is where my faith is tested, where it grows stronger as I trust in God to (as always) bring me through to the next part, the next adventure of my life. Currently my faith is being stretched and poked and prodded as I try my best to get my head around the next part of my life and how to get there. Kieran and I want to move, we know where we are going. We are sure it is the right place and have had many things happen to confirm this. It is just the getting there part. I love my current job, and it would be great to find something similar. It is just the feeling of hitting a brick wall trying to get a job out of area. Plus all the other nuances that have taken over the job market and the seemingly complete lack of etiquette as you guess that you’ve not got anywhere with a job. I know that God has His perfect timing – my entire past is a testament to that. It is trying to get my human brain around something that I can in no way understand. I can’t see all the factors, but God can. I know that we will move, I know that we will both have the right jobs and it is all a question of timing. So, it can’t be my timing. It has to be God’s perfect timing. So trust and wait, whilst holding on to faith in a God who will never let me down.