One of my earliest memories of my husband from when we were students is seeing him on the stage at Warwick University delivering an impassioned talk on the Upsidedown Kingdom. I was so proud, so inspired – and so unaware of where living with him in that “upside down” kingdom would take me!
We have lived as fools for Christ.
As a young couple with a new baby, we set up and ran a fair trade shop – in our spare time. My husband gave up a well paid job as a computer journalist in London to move to the North East to work for Traidcraft. I gave up work so we could foster – and then go on to adopt three extra children on top of the two birth children we already had. We moved from an up and coming area to be in the parish and community of the church we were attending. After leaving that church in painful circumstances, we returned to it three years ago to rebuild bridges and experience reconciliation. I have never returned to work outside the home to give me more time for my family, my friends and my writing.
We spend more on fair trade and organic products because we believe in ethical issues.
We fiddled on with recycling and composting long before it became trendy.
We take risks and get our fingers burnt.
We ask difficult questions of ourselves and others.
We are honest about our struggles and failures.
We value friendship over a perfect home.
Fools for Christ most of the time anyway, I hope. Sometimes maybe merely fools.
I use to think that getting older meant by default, getting wiser, but like so many others, the older I get, the more I realise how little I actually know. Maybe that’s what true wisdom is though – being realistic about what we do not know and seeking God’s wisdom instead.
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1Corinthians 1:25) – which is a relief because to be honest, the wisdom of this world sucks and simply does not work
And a bit further on, Paul writes –
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
– which takes us full circle, all the way back to the upsidedown kingdom.
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Hence fools4christ. Let us know about your “foolishness” for God too.
“I really love the name of your boat,” he was saying “Querencia, right?”
“Yes,” she said. “You speak Spanish?”
“No, but I read a book about bullfighting once. Isn’t that the spot in the ring when the bull feels protected and secure?”
“Exactly,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a place in the sun. Other times it’s in the shade. It’s where the bull goes between charges. It’s like an invisible fortress, the only safe place.”iphone 5/5s/5c refurbished
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“Just like your boat.”
The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud
And that’s another thing I turn to in the school holidays – losing myself in absorbing “light” fiction. Then sometimes I find a truth right there in the escapism. True rest is there to be found in the wildest storm, when attacks are coming from all sides. True rest requires protection and security, strength and safety. It’s where I need to go between battles.
My thirteen year old adopted daughter can whip up a storm in seconds. The anger is raging, the hurtful words are hitting the target over and over again. Feelings of helplessness, hurt and failure threaten to overwhelm me. Even when she has long forgotten what she was angry about and has fallen asleep, I lie awake into the night, trying to find some peace, some rest, some restoration.
Where is my Querencia?
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
God is my Querencia.
God is my invisible fortress.
In him, I can feel protected and secure.
God is my only safe place.
In him, I can find the rest to let love win again.
So the school holidays are a notoriously difficult time to experience rest. The waters are not so quiet when filled with the shrieks of children splashing in the freezing cold stream. The pastures are not so restful with games of football and Frisbee going on all around. If God is only there in the quiet times, then I‘ve had it.
I therefore turn my thoughts to mindfulness – practising the presence of God in everyday life. Maybe hope is to be found here.
My friend has determined to practise mindfulness on her daily morning walk with the dog. Rather than obsessing about all that she has to do that day, she concentrates on her surroundings, tries to feel positive about being out in the fresh air rather than in bed and notices something new every day.
“I never realised nature was so noisy,” is her conclusion. “The running water, the birds in the trees, the breeze in the leaves – when you listen, it’s all there.”
Creation crying out in praise to the Creator. Cool.
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So when I am out with the kids, I try to be really out with the kids (rather than at home in my head, composing lists and worrying about unfinished tasks.) I enjoy the sunshine and the blossom. I concentrate on what the children are wanting to tell me. I draw their attention to the wonderful world that we live in. I celebrate the moments of laughter and love. I draw on my reserves of patience and love when things start going pear-shaped. (most – some – of the time).
And I wouldn’t say I feel rested, but I am getting through this Easter break so far without resorting to mindless colouring in (not with the kids, but in the evening when the kids have gone to bed!), a sure indicator in my experience of a fried brain. I don’t feel like packing my bag and running away. God is there in the midst of it all, waiting to be noticed, wanting to be found. The housework can wait.
PS: I’m obviously not doing as well at the whole holidays experience as I thought I was. When one of my husband’s colleagues asked him how I was, he replied “she’s wearing that slightly haunted look she always has in the school holidays.”
Some way to go yet then.
As someone who is perpetually exhausted, my bed is one of my favourite places. Surprisingly, that is not the rest I am talking of today.
Let’s consider some of the best known words in the Bible
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3)
“Really? As if? When would I have time for that? Five children and husband to keep house for, lots of friends to support and spend time with, writing projects on the go, church activities to fit in….when have I got time to lie down in green pastures and be led beside quiet waters? You’ve got to be joking. Anyway, keeping busy is what matters in life, doing good things for God, using my time and resources wisely and effectively. How guilty would I feel if I took time to sit down, to be quiet? And what would everyone else think of me? I’d soon be labelled as the lazy one around here.”
What can you hear? Bitterness and resentment? Fear and paranoia? Duty and responsibility?
But when I read the words of Psalm 23, I actually want to cry. When I sing “Rest, my soul, in Christ alone”, a yearning wells up inside me – to rest, to let out a big sigh, to relax in the presence of God. When I hear Jesus say “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), I desire to do just that.
I’ve just been to my weekly Pilates class, which is my opportunity to focus for one hour a week on getting my body back into alignment after a week of misuse, overuse and bad posture. One session a week is not enough of course, but it does just enough to leave me physically restored and refreshed and to remind me of the importance of looking after my body.
So wouldn’t it be good to set aside an hour a week to sit in the garden contemplating the breeze in the trees or to go for a walk by the stream in the nearby woods (WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY)? This could be my opportunity to focus for an hour a week on getting my soul back into alignment with my Creator after a week of emotional struggles and spiritual exhaustion. One session a week would not be enough, of course, but maybe it would do just enough to leave me spiritually restored and refreshed and to remind me of the importance of looking after my soul.
So make me lie down in green pastures.
Please lead me beside quiet waters.
Restore my soul.
And then my yearning will be satisfied.
Tears will no longer sting my eyes.
Then the Lord will be my shepherd and I shall not be in want.