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Posts Tagged ‘strangers in this world’

Jo 17I think I can understand shopaholics just that little bit more these days, after my recent forays into finding furniture and other items for our new unit. It has been quite exhilarating to catch sight of something I like in a shop window, walk in, check it out—and buy it. Now I have always been a cautious shopper. Just ask my friend who has accompanied me on these recent expeditions and who also knows me well from past times! Yet, after experiencing that thrill of purchasing something I love at first sight, I can well appreciate how addictive it could become.

Alongside this, I have also learnt a little more about interior decorating. As my friend and I explored the different stores, she pointed out things I would never have thought of—what would go with our current decor, how I could position things well and what colours would look right. All very helpful—and my own likes and dislikes soon became much clearer.

I discovered as well what styles are currently ‘in’ or ‘out’—and what has come back in again too! Everywhere, there was a retro this or that, taking me straight back to the fifties and sixties. If only we had kept some of those things, we might be so trendy—or not!  However, with apologies to my daughter who loves that era, I admit I am not a great fan of retro home decor—or of furniture that seems to be made out of old fence palings or wooden pallets. I like things that look elegant and original, even a little quirky, yet still blend in well with those old pieces of furniture we are never likely to change, like my grandparents’ old, walnut piano!

After each of these shopping expeditions, I have sensed God’s delight in the beautiful things I found to buy—things that truly reflect God’s own creativity, in my opinion. Yet my mind has also been filled for hours with even more ideas of what would suit our lovely unit and what wouldn’t. I have felt energised by it all and am eager to hit those shops again—and buy. I want everything to look good. I want … I want more stuff!

Then this week, I read 1 Peter 1:17-18:

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Wow—‘live your lives as strangers’! Yet how easily I have found I can be sucked into putting so much more store on owning just that right material possession here and now and of spending too much time dreaming about it all. Yes, I will enjoy the lovely things God has enabled us to buy right now and is delighted to give us, I believe. But it’s good to remember too, don’t you think, as Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:2, to set our minds on things above rather than on earthly things?

I hope I have the balance right. And I hope you do too.

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I wonder if you can think of a time when you almost held your breath because God seemed so close to you, perhaps even almost tangible. Back in the seventh century or thereabouts, the Celtic Christians in Britain and Ireland had a phrase for such a moment. They termed it the ‘thin place’ – a place or instance when that separation between heaven and earth or God and human beings seemed almost to disappear and the two blended together in perfect harmony.

Does your heart long for such places and experiences? I know mine does. They can happen in all sorts of ways, I’ve discovered – sometimes when we least expect them. Just yesterday, when I had the house to myself, I decided to sit down at our piano and play some of the old, classical pieces I used to enjoy many years ago. I am very much out of practice, but now I was just playing, letting the music flow as best I could and enjoying the beautiful melodies and harmonies of Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart. Memories came flooding back, but along with them was a distinct sense of the presence of God. It was as if God’s heart was reaching out to me through those notes and speaking straight into my spirit. It was as if God’s own immeasurable creativity was inspiring me through the creative works of others, as I cooperated by bringing my own creative ability to the moment through my playing.

Perhaps you have experienced such moments of closeness with God as you have gazed in awe at a beautiful coastline scene or mountain vista or observed God’s creativity at work in the exquisite, intricate design of a tiny flower. Or maybe it has happened in the midst of a time of worship or prayer, as you have gathered together with other believers, or alone as you have put time aside to read Scripture and reflect. Perhaps you have even sensed God close by right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a busy street or a noisy crowd. And maybe you who are authors out there will be familiar with God’s comforting, encouraging presence as you attempt to write words that will minister to others in some way. But in all these situations, we need to have our ears attuned to that still, small voice of the Spirit and our eyes focused not only on what we see before us but beyond that on our ever-present God.

You know, it seems such a shame that we so often miss out on these wonderful, life-giving encounters with the reality of God that go far beyond anything this world can provide. Of course God has called us to make a difference for the Kingdom right here and now, but that’s not all there is. Because God’s Spirit lives in those of us who believe, we will never be fully at home here—along with those great men and women of faith listed in Hebrews 11, we will always be ‘aliens and strangers on earth’ (11:13). So we need to find those thin places for our own wellbeing and spiritual survival. And God is there, ever willing to meet with us, when we take the time to look.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)

This week, may you all experience God in your own thin place and be truly nourished and refreshed in the process.

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