I diverted from my usual prayer path on Monday. A narrower track took me to a tree I had not seen before. Part way up, a platform perched precariously. Who built it? For what purpose? Alack, there were no clues.
I tried to imagine what I might use it for. Sitting up there would give a different view. A shift of perspective might be refreshing. Is this the reason God took people out of their normal positions?
Jonah re-thought his life from inside a fish; Zacchaeus came to repentance up a tree; Joseph had his dreams refined from inside a cistern and a prison. We all need perspective from time to time. Sometimes God creates this directly, but I hope I don’t have to be thrown in prison to get it! We have capacity to create our own opportunities for seeing things more clearly. Here are a three suggestions:
- Go somewhere alone. Life is noisy. Silence, or at least relative quiet, helps us hear a different voice – sometimes our own, and sometimes that of the Spirit. Jesus went up mountains alone, “knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15 NIV11) on more than one occasion, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12 NIV11). If Jesus needed solitude, so do we.
- Go somewhere different. Same old sights, same old thoughts. I vary my prayer walks in length, direction and location. One time it’s clockwise, another anti-clockwise. One day a park, another the woods, a third the railway line (disused!). Elijah needed a different location to understand God’s message to him (1 Kings 19.4 & verses 8-9 – a bush, a cave and a mountain). Even sitting in a different chair might make all the difference. When I am at home I move my thinking or praying-chair to different parts of the garden or room.
- Go somewhere empty. Leave the laptop, tablet and phone at home (or at least in the bag – turned off). Was this part of the reason Jesus told his disciples to, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” (Mark 6:8 NIV11)? The less we carry the less we worry. When distractions are diminished, the brain has space to imagine.
Is it time to build a ‘platform’ and find a different perspective on your life and faith? Try these three tips and I believe you will find yourself refreshed, deepened and energised.
Dinner was delicious. But desert looked disturbing. My wife, Penny, is an excellent cook, so I and our dinner guests looked forward to the final dish of our home-cooked three-course meal.
She approached the table holding what you see in the photograph. We did a double-take. Was this food, or constructing material? She said, “Trust me – it will turn out fine.” A short while later the oven opened and the ‘aroma of life’ filled the room. Picture number two reveals the masterpiece that was luxury chocolate pudding.
Spoons dug in, stomach were filled, trust was vindicated. So often what appears unpromising turns out to hold hidden treasure. God works this way. He allows or causes ‘problems’ in our lives. Then we struggle to trust Him. We forget that the famine was the reason Israel survived and became a nation (Gen 42.5). We fail to remember that Nineveh was spared judgment because Jonah was thrown overboard (Jonah 1.15). I’m not one to deliberately chose starvation or drowning, and I’m guessing most of us feel the same way, but a question remains…..
If God has put or allowed such things in our lives, what is the outcome He desires from us? We are not in control of so many things – our health, our boss, our children, … the list goes on. But we can choose our reaction. Will it be one of trust? If God is the recipe-maker, He is cooking up something good.
Is something troubling you beyond what you feel is ‘fair’? Perhaps it’s part of the recipe. Let God do his cooking, and see what comes out of the oven.
PS – here’s the recipe ….
My wife is an excellent artist. This weekend’s visit to her Dad’s garden brought out the drawing pencils.
Most drawing in the Bible is connected with water, swords and bows – not pencils and paper. But there is one place where God is revealed as an artist.
Isaiah 49 is the chapter. God is keen that His people be not dispirited. They are going through tough times (largely of their own making) and reaping some of God’s (loving) discipline. When we suffer a common question is, “Has God forgotten me? Can’t He see my pain?”
But God reassures them. He is the God of comfort and compassion (v13). He cannot forget the Israelites any more than a mother can, “forget the baby at her breast”, v15 (even if the mother does forget, the pain of the milk coming in will remind her soon enough!). And to what extent will God go? He declares,
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” (Isaiah 49:16 NIV11-GK)
Effectively they are tattooed on God’s ‘flesh’. Strictly speaking this was not allowed (Lev 19.28), but perhaps we should not press the anthropomorphisms too far. The Creator is at pains to convince His creation that we are loved, valued and remembered. What do we see years later? The enfleshed creator (Jesus) offering his hands for crucifixion. The marks on his hands remained after resurrection, and remain even now in heaven. What function do they perform?
I reckon they are for us, not for God. Jesus does not have to look at the wounds to remind him of us, his children. But they are there to remind us he always pays attention, always hears our prayers, and always intercedes for us (Heb 7.25).
Jesus the artist ‘drew’ the nail marks on his hands, and we celebrate that art.