I will never do it all

I love travel. It was seeded when I used to farewell my grandparents year after year at the airport as they departed for yet another exotic location. It began when I first set foot in Amsterdam at 19 years of age and realized that my dream of seeing Europe was becoming a reality.

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Over the years, I have chipped away at my travel ‘to do list,’ and slowly built my collection of Lonely Planet guides.

A couple of months ago I found and bought the holy grail of travel guides. Lonely Planet: The World.

221 countries, 228 maps, and 700 full colour photos. When it arrived, I cracked it open in excitement… and drowned. I knew I wanted to see Morocco, but what about Monaco, Montenegro, Mongolia? What about Bhutan, Belize, Andorra, Afghanistan?

As I flicked through the book I was struck with an unsettling thought: I would never.

Just as I will never read all the books I want to read, I will never see all the places I would like to see. My life, which has seemed to stretch out so far in front of me, will not be enough.

There is one beautiful redeeming grace in the daunting finiteness of my life.

My life’s meaning and purpose was never grounded in reading all the things or seeing all the places. My core purpose is something far greater. And for that, I will have exactly the right amount of time.

 

 

 

 

 

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What is the key to a successful ministry?

walk-of-fame-star_23-2147513560When we ask ourselves this question, we often ask it in the context of a success and fame driven world. While as Christians, we may not be wondering ‘how can I be great,’ but we often as not are wondering ‘how can my ministry be successful?’ or ‘How can I do great things for God?’

I’m not sure these are bad questions to ask, but as I was praying through this recently for my own life, I sensed God give me clarity on how to achieve success: I need to redefine the goal.

In my life, God must be the prize, not ministry success. The goal is to seek Him more; love Him more; find more joy in Him.

As I pursue God, I may find that he uses me for some great, joyous purpose. He may give me what the world defines as ‘success,’ but if He doesn’t? Who cares? I’ve already attained the greatest treasure.

Run the race so as to attain the prize, but don’t forget that He is the prize.

Stephen Hawking: The tragedy of a wasted life

240px-Stephen_Hawking.StarChildA while back I went to see the movie ‘The Theory of Everything.’

A brilliant physicist, Oxford University and a love story: It was a recipe guaranteed to hook me, and it did.

I am far from the first to be captivated by the genius. To think that such extraordinary intellect can be trapped within such a broken body is both tragic and inspiring.

I am awed by men like Hawking, both past and present, who have walked and conquered the halls of the greatest universities on earth. I wish that ‘A brief history of time’ wasn’t something that would go entirely over my head. I admire Hawking for more than his intellect; for his perseverance, his fighting spirit and his sense of humour.

He is truly a man who will go down in history.

But that is all.

And I found myself wondering if that is enough.

If all we can hope for in this life is to do enough to be remembered, then Hawking represents the epitome of success. But what if it’s true that there is more?

What if it’s true that Hawking spent much of his life arguing against the existence of a God that he will one day face?

Then his brilliance was all for nothing, and his life was a tragic waste.

And suddenly the greatest minds of the halls of Oxford pale in comparison to the common man who sits with his Bible and knows the creator.

The Pain of an Unfulfiled Life

624265_93192944No matter how awesome your life is, you know the pain of unfulfilment. You know what it’s like to be sitting in that dark, lonely place, with the aching knowledge that something is missing from your life.

It hurts.

Most of the time you get over it. You move on and focus on other things. But it will be back.

Is that a bad thing?

What if this life wasn’t meant to fulfil you? What if the depths of your soul and your personality couldn’t be fulfilled by material things, or even by people? What if your dreams were never going to be in reach?

Could you be ok with that?

I think I could. But only if one thing is true: Only if this is not all there is.

Because if this is not all there is, then my temporal fulfilment no longer matters.

If this is not all there is, then this is not my only chance at happiness, and maybe I can be willing to give up that which I cannot keep, to gain that which I cannot lose.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

sleep_2480539When I first got sick, I received a lot of really unhelpful advice. One thing that I heard a couple of times, when I was leaving a function early to go home and go to bed, was that I should ‘toughen up, ‘cos I could sleep when I’m dead.’
(Surely the insensitivity of this is obvious since I actually felt like I was dying and was trying hard to avoid it??)

 Anyway, much as Bon Jovi’s song is very poor advice to give to a sick person, and much as we totally have a responsibility to take care of our bodies, I’m actually starting to think that maybe he’s got a point.

 Last night one of our pastors spoke on Hebrews 4. He began by acknowledging that this life is tough. So many of us are tired, so much of the time, and life can get overwhelming. Monday mornings seem to come around so much quicker than Friday afternoons, and so often our weakness and humanity overshadows the greatness of our calling. But therein lies the point. We have an amazing calling on earth, and an even more amazing future awaiting us in heaven.

This life is tough, but there remains for us a Sabbath rest.

I’m going to spend my eternity resting and rejoicing in the presence of Jesus, but while I’m here, there’s work to do.

 We may be exhausted, but God provides the strength for us to do His will and the promise that we can rest in Him.

Who’s Building Your Life?

This is one of the big questions that I wrestle with often in my life.

A pastor at my church once asked me something that I never forgot, and that has come back to mind many times since: “Sarah, whose kingdom are you building?”

engineer-plans-913660-mSo often, in fact I’d even say on a daily basis, I am consumed with building my own kingdom. I find myself orchestrating things to make my life better, to achieve some kind of greatness of my own.

But you know what? That’s not what I was saved for. I was saved to be a living sacrifice, to be a faithful worker in the building of His kingdom. I was saved to lay down my life and let Him build it as He desires.

I was convicted this morning about laying down my own plans for my life. It is so easy to become reliant on self and to become proud of what we achieve ‘on our own.’ (As if we could do anything on our own!) It’s so difficult to humble ourselves before God, but, as one of my pastor’s said yesterday, when we give everything up for the sake of His kingdom over our own, we discover that He knows how to bless us far beyond anything we ever could have constructed for ourselves.

Let God build your life, He’s guaranteed to do a better job.

Life Begins at … Singleness

1079363_26838634Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty: Life is pretty tough until you grow up and meet your prince charming and live happily ever after.

With a steady diet of classic fantasies, is it any wonder that countless girls grow up believing that life begins with the meeting of that perfect man?

While the Disney princesses may not have been forefront in my mind, it’s certainly the attitude I tended to have during my teen years. Romance, love and marriage were going to be a given for me. If I’d known I was going to be 28 and still single, I’d have died (in a teenage drama type way.)

I lead a fabulously rich single life, and I wouldn’t take any of it back, but isn’t it a shame that it took me until my mid 20s to decide (and yes, it largely had to be a decision) that life didn’t start at marriage?

Before that, my mind was far too consumed with how and where and when I was going to meet that perfect person. I felt like I couldn’t possibly know where my life was headed until I met them. I felt a bit like I was in a holding pattern.

Eventually I woke up to the reality that life begins at singleness. I wasn’t supposed to be hanging around waiting; God had a plan for me.

His plan means my life is going somewhere whether there’s a man involved or not. And it’s a great life.

Jesus was never all about you.

proud_21072161Today I’m pondering the humanistic nature of… well… humans. We seem to believe that the whole universe revolves around us, which is, of course forgivable if you take God out of the equation. What bothers me though, is how much we still seem to believe it, even with God in the equation.

 As we approach Christmas, we do take the time to focus on the birth of Jesus, but I’ve been wondering – why do we think that Jesus came?

He came to redeem us (of course); because he loves us (He does)… but was it really all about us?

I think too often we think it was and we reflect that in the way that we attempt to emulate Him. Our mission on earth, in an attempt to reflect His, often becomes very human focused.

I’m convinced that Jesus was never all about us. He was all about His Father. His entire purpose on earth was to do the will of His Father; to serve and glorify Him, even to the point of death. The amazing thing about this was that it was the will of the Father that we should be saved; that Jesus should serve us and suffer and die for us.

As we aim to follow Christ, I think it is important that we follow him in this; that we realize that Jesus was all about glorifying the Father, and that his focus on humanity was a glorious byproduct of that.

You might be sick, but you’re not useless.

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A friend of mine recently sent me a link to the Wikipedia page of Laura Hillenbrand. The name, at first, meant nothing to me, and I wasn’t sure why she’d sent it, but as I read, something jumped out at me, and I knew it was what she wanted me to see:

“Hillenbrand’s first book was the acclaimed Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001), a nonfiction account of the career of the great racehorse Seabiscuit, for which she won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2001…Hillenbrand suffers from severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and remains largely confined to her home.”

I am not confined to my home, but I do know the debilitating weight of this illness; the way in which it seems to strangle your talents and potential. And yet, I find in Hillenbrand’s life the inspiration that sick people don’t have to feel useless.

To recount all the blessings I have encountered not despite, but because of my illness would take thousands of words, but I too have discovered that even sick people have a purpose and calling from God. We may not all be great writers, but God does not leave his Children without gifts to use for the building up of the church.

So if you’re sick, or tired or you find yourself in circumstances that you never would have chosen, do not, on top of all that, despair that you have no earthly use or purpose.

Truth that Surpasses a Bed of Flowers

Kamille und Mohn am Wegrand im Sommer

Scarcely have I read a passage that resonated so deeply both with the objections of my own heart and my desire to hear truth, as this one from Stepping Heavenward:

‘Having been pardoned by your God and Saviour, the next thing you have to do is show your gratitude for this infinite favour by consecrating yourself entirely to Him, body, soul and spirit. This is the least you can do. He has bought you with a price, and you are no longer your own.

“But,” you may reply, “This is contrary to my nature. I love my own way. I desire ease and pleasure; I desire to go to heaven, but I want to be carried thither on a bed of flowers. Can I not give myself so far to God as to feel a sweet sense of peace with Him, and be sure of final salvation, and yet, to a certain extent, indulge and gratify myself? If I give myself entirely away to Him and lose all ownership of myself, He may deny me many things I greatly desire. He may make my life hard and wearisome, depriving me of all that now makes it agreeable.”

But, I reply, this is no matter of parley and discussion; it is not optional with God’s children whether they will pay Him with a part of the price they owe Him and keep back the rest. He asks, and He has a right to ask, for all you have and all you are.’

Stepping Heavenward. Elizabeth Prentiss. P86-86