Sitting in a nice warm bed with a hot water bottle heating it up, a cup of peppermint tea at my side, a tummy full of an Indian curry, socks on my feet, clothes in the wash and a bed that is not only comfortable but smells amazing due to the lavender oil that I just sprayed all over it.
Yes I am back in England and yes I’m loving it. I’m spending the next week with some of the most incredible people that I know. I’m here checking out possible church placements for the start of the new year. This has been so exciting but God has been starting a new season in my walk with Him. Asking me to enter into new levels of trust that are so far beyond me, so far beyond my strength and my perspective. I wake up every morning and understand how Big my need for God is and attempt to live moment to moment with that heart posture. He has been stirring in me this attitude of praise, thankfulness and gratitude. And not just for what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago as a single act putting us in right standings with God but how that act of love extends to the daily mapping out my life. Every day I am in need of grace and every day He extends it. Not because I earn it or deserve but because He freely gives it.
It’s interesting though because in life we go through some major transitions and I know for me, when things get difficult my heart is often not one of gratitude and thanks but one if selfishness and what about me questions. As if the world revolved around me or something. Rude awakening……it doesn’t. I can only recognize what I don’t have rather than what I do. I can only see what God isn’t doing rather than what He is. I’m afraid this perspective is crippling to faith because I think it can turn God into some sort of slot machine, only interested in what we can get out of Him or only connecting with Him if things will work in our favor.
I was reading about this whole gratitude thing this morning, had an amazing lunch with Alysen and then we were off to check out a potential church placement. I attempted to prepare my heart on the way.
As we pulled up my heart was heavy and broken. It’s a rundown estate that is in desperate need of hope. There is a lot of alcohol and drug addictions in the community among both the adult and teenagers. They say its one of the most deprived areas in all of the UK. This little church offers a drop in and recovery program for both weekly. They take people off the streets in the evening and give meals, a warm place to come, and an atmosphere of love. Literally being the hands and feet of Jesus. I know a lot of churches and places do this so I don’t want to de-value anyone here, but this way was so profound to me. Nothing like coming face to face with utter brokenness, pain, and relational breakdown. This church had such a spirit of genuineness and compassion that was so real. It plunges beyond the surface level interaction into a deep place of understanding the needs of so many around them. I wonder if coming face to face with someone else’s pain naturally develops a softer and more gracious heart. I’m convinced it does. The next thing I heard from them, my mind this evening can’t move past. This church rent out the building during the week to a preschool. The children come in and often lay in the middle of the floor. The building has underground heating and a lot of these tiny tots go because it’s the only place they can stay warm. So when they arrive they go to lay on the floor to thaw out. They also come in hungry. Now my own conclusions are this, if the toddlers of the community can’t get food then how do the teenagers eat? If they can’t get food what measure will they go to just to survive? Perhaps they will break the law and steal. I don’t know but it certainly raises a lot of questions.
Young people in this nation often get labeled as anti-social, angry individuals that people usually steer clear from. Local youth workers in this particular area are no longer employed there because the government needed to make cuts in the budget. It makes me sad to see that it’s the young people that suffer the most in the end.
I am well impressed with this little church in the middle of this estate that was way out there on the map. They meet every day to pray for the community. They are so committed. In the midst of all this madness, there is Hope. A small group of individuals are establishing God’s kingdom in a dark and scary place.
After we left and after digesting this, I wept. I couldn’t help it. But I also was convicted and challenged. Again God was highlighting this posture of gratitude and thankfulness. Do we see the glass half empty or half full? Are we content with everything that we have or are we still wanting more? Are we wasting time wishing we had someone else gifts and talents rather than embracing our own uniqueness? Are we angry with God because He hasn’t given us what we wanted or what we thought we needed? Are we bitter about our pasts and allowing that to define who we are but also who we are becoming? The problem with all of this is that we never get passed ourselves. If this is the case then I will conclude its warped theology.
Henri Nouwen writes,
“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives- the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections- that requires spiritual hard work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to this present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift from God to be grateful for. Lets not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”
I am so thankful we have a Hope. A Hope that starts beyond us.