The Right Undercoat.

One of my bosses is building himself an arcade machine from scratch.  He’s built the box for the game, found a monitor for it, has speakers at the ready, and has sourced all the different computer parts for it.  There’s even going to be a slot for putting in coins to play the games (and a way to retrieve them!).  It’s a fun project and he likes telling me how his progress is going.  I can follow the project, but only to a point.  Once he starts talking about different computer components and the way it all communicates and the various cards that hold the hundreds of games he’ll be able to play on this machine, I get a little lost.  I nod and ahh and smile as best I can.  But.  I am pretty clueless.

What’s the last thing you googled?  The last thing I googled was ‘what is the multi-universe theory?’.  One of my kids has done a research project on it and me, being clueless, wanted to learn a little something something, so I could ask my kid a few semi-intelligent questions on the subject.

I (mostly) have a pretty good handle on the things that I know that I know.  And I (mostly) have a pretty good handle on the things that I know I don’t know, although sometimes I get both these things wrong.  But I was thinking the other day that one thing I do know, with all my heart and mind and soul, is that I’m so very grateful that I know the love of God to be true, and I feel that it surrounds me and sets me up for whatever life may chuck at me, as it is the ‘undercoat of paint’ in my very being.

I’m no picasso, and I’ve never painted a wall in my life – you kinda need to own a home to do that – BUT – I got this interesting picture in my head the other day so run with me?

Undercoats of paint serve as a foundation upon which to layer more paint, on your canvas.  Imagine for a moment that you can cover yourself in a layer of love, of dependable, constant love, of agape love (God’s faithful love for us) and on that foundation, other things are attached. On that foundation, the way you think, the way you act is attached.

Undercoats of paint also put a pop of base colour into your work, that allow your final work to be impacted in some way.  Now here’s the thing about painting and layers:  sometimes the top coats of paint don’t end up the way we’re completely happy with. Sometimes the paint is tinted slightly wrong or different to what we may have ordered.  Or the shades are slightly different to how we envisioned they would be when we looked at the paint chip cards.  Or we do big oopsies with our brush strokes and make a mess of things.  And sometimes little finger prints leave marks or bugs fly in and get stuck.  All kinds of things happen to make our end result with the top layers, just not all we want them to be. Life is full of those curveballs that make our lives not what we want or plan for or desire.  But if we’ve got that base layer down as best we can – at least we’ve got a chance of success. At least we’ve got a good foundation for further layers to go on.  At least our base is steadfast and smooth.

If you get your undercoat of paint right, if you can fully accept God’s unending love for you, and kinda ‘cover’ yourself in that, then your final layers of how you see the world, how you respond to situations, how you deal with life, those things are more likely to be positive and helpful.  And it doesn’t actually matter if your top layers of paint are sometimes not quite right, because the good thing about paint is it can be painted over with another layer. Got a sticking point that you’re struggling with?  Try another layer, with a different perspective.

So how am I so assured of God’s love for me?  How can this be one of the things that I know that I know that I know? I choose to believe what I read of God’s love for me in the bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.  Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost:  Not a man, not mouse.

I choose to believe these words and countless others, that talk of God’s love for me.  But these are not just for little ‘ole me – they are for you too.

And I’ve seen His goodness – the signs of His love and care for me.  Time and time again. The gifts that are my children – after I went through seasons of infertility and was told I wouldn’t be able to conceive again.  The gift of a diagnosis, after three years of horrendous pain and ongoing tests.  The provision of material goods after we gave away/ sold nearly everything we owned and moved to another country to follow God’s nudgings for us.  The fact our children don’t hate us and are socially and academically just fine after being moved to two different countries in the space of thirteen months.  These are just a few of the ways I can look at my life and remember just how much my Father God loves me and cares for me.

I look back and I see His goodness and I know His love, and I look forward, and I know there are so many things I still don’t know, and I still may have trouble making the top coat of paint in my thinking all smooth and uniform and just ‘right’, but the undercoat of God’s love is the perfect place to build a good foundation on. God’s love, care and kindness, form brushstroke after brushstroke after brushstroke, on this masterpiece in the making.  And in yours too.

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When English doesn’t cut it.

I think we need more of the imperfect in our lives. All sorts of imperfect.

And, specifically, I think we need more of the Latin imperfect tense in our lives.

Random, I know.

But relevant.

Just lately I’ve been forced to think about where my family is at in life with certain things. Don’t worry, this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ post, but rather a very real acknowledgement of the choices we’ve made; the things we’ve said ‘yes’ to.

You see sometimes we think that saying ‘yes’ to something is a once-off event.  And sometimes it really is.  But where I’m at in life tells me that saying ‘yes’ to something is more often than not, a continual action. An ongoing action. And it helps to recognize this.

Years ago, when our oldest boy was a chubby five month old we said ‘yes’ to an ask for my husband to leave his job in mainstream media and move into Christian media.  We said yes then, and then we said ‘yes’ again to another job offer in America, and then Australia, and then another one back in NZ.  Yes, yes and yes. But even before that initial yes when we were in the throes of power chucks and power poos (our firstborn – not us), we’d been saying ‘yes’ to opportunities to serve the youth and young adults in our church, yes to stuffing envelopes and whatever little tasks needed doing.  Yes.  Just yes. Yes that stemmed from a desire to see us just be used by God.  Has it been hard?  Yes.  Has it been amazing?  Yes. Are we a little crazy?  I think it has helped!  Would we change anything if we could?  Not a chance.  But that’s all a very big tangent that I won’t take right now.

This continual action business – I think it could do with a bit more of a spotlight shining on it, because it is important in shaping the trajectory of our lives.

I think we could all do with remembering that many things require this continual action.

Saying ‘yes’ to a loving someone is not a one-time event, is it?  You don’t go to all the trouble of a fancy pants wedding to love and to hold your spouse for just that week.  No, you choose to love to them, again and again and again.  You see beyond the niggly and the hard and you love, and you love and you love.  Again and again.  Continually.

I love words.  I love interesting words.  But sometimes I find that the English language can be somewhat lacking in accurately describing things.  My high school offered Latin as a subject, and I loved it.  Dead language?  I think not.  A language that makes complete sense?  Absolutely.  In Latin (and all the romance languages) there’s a tense for this whole ‘more than once’ in the past business.  The imperfect tense is used to indicate an action that took place in the past but was an ongoing action rather than something that happened just once.  It’s actually a very handy tool to have.

To put it into context:  do you know that old hymn ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’?  “I have decided to follow Jesus. (3 times)No turning back, no turning back.”  There’s a story around this hymn that talks of an Indian convert (thanks to some Welsh Missionaries) coming up with the lines of this hymn when he was facing his imminent death. His martyrdom. The Village chief hadn’t approved of his conversion to Christianity.  Now this wasn’t a ‘brand new, knee-jerk reaction, just made the commitment to be a Christ follower on the spot, right there and then’ statement, no it was a ‘I have decided, I have decided over and over again, to follow Jesus’.  If the song had been written in Roman times it would have surely been in the imperfect tense:  ‘I have decided over and over again, to follow Jesus’.

And I think that its worth focusing on these imperfect tenses a little bit more and a little bit more often, because it reaffirms who we are and what we’re about.  Works in progress that we are. People who have to make the choices again and again and again to say Yes to loving God and to say yes to loving others.

I hope at the end of my life there are certain things that can be said about me, making excellent use of the imperfect tense.

I hope that it can be said of me that I chose to love my husband, my kids, my friends. my extended family, and my co-workers and neighbours, over and over again.

I hope it is mentioned that I continually said yes to God – however that looked (knowing that it always looks different for everyone).

I hope that someone acknowledges that I did decide to follow Jesus, over and over again.

And have you been wondering why this whole imperfect tense business is called ‘imperfect’?  Simply, it’s because something that is imperfect is something that is not yet finished.

I have chosen to say yes to following God, but there will be more opportunities for more of those ‘yes’ agreements to come.

These continuous actions are not yet completed.

I have decided to follow Jesus, and there’s more following to come.

The verbs, these doing words that give us the greatest amount of joy, and teach us the most important things, they are actions that are not yet completed.  And this for me as a Christ-follower gives me such breadth and scope for growth and development and potential.  The actions are not yet completed, not over and done with yet, therefore not perfect.

Perfectly imperfect.  That’s me.  And that’s you. Bring on more of it!

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In the resting.

If you’ve read any of my stuff, at any time, you’ll know I write for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes I write to process feelings and thoughts.  Sometimes what comes from my computer are words specifically for someone(s) – I may not have my brave pants on to say the words in person, so I send the words out there into cyberspace, wishing and praying for that one specific person/ people to read what I write and be encouraged.  At other times I write because I just have to share whatever it is I’ve just discovered, or been taught. And there are times where I write to remind myself to do x,y, or z and to be x, y,z.

The following blog post is a bit of a mixture of all of the above.  As always – I’m the first to say I don’t have ‘it altogether’, I’m a massive work in progress, but I’m privy to enough good wisdom around me to know what I should be/ could be/am trying to be doing, and would be doing it all the more, were it not for some of the realities of my life. And so. Here ’tis.  Another of my crazy analogies.  From the Queen of weird analogies. To you.

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One of my jobs is in the field of hospitality/ customer service.  We have on the menu, ‘Yorkshire Puddings’.  Yorkshires, or ‘yorkies’ as we call them, are very similar to the American ‘Popover’, or ‘Dutch Baby’.  Basically they are a batter that has been cooked in muffin trays for individual servings or a larger dish for one big serving, resulting in a puffed up pancake type thing.  People eat them as a savoury side dish, with gravy and roast meat and vegetables, and some eat them as a sweet dish with jam or custard.

I can’t eat the yorkies we serve at my work, being the glutard (coeliac) that I am. When they are fresh out of the oven, they always smell really amazing and most nights they fly out of the door.  Yorkies have only a few simple ingredients – eggs, flour and milk, and some recipes call for water. These are whisked together, the mixture then rests for a while, before going into a hot oven, in pre-heated oiled muffin trays.  They puff up as they cook and when they come out, each yorkie is an individual.  No two yorkies look the same.

I was thinking about how fun these little things are.  Ridiculously simple too.  And I was thinking about every step in the process of making them, and I got stuck on the whole ‘resting’ the batter business.

Resting.

Rest.

Apparently it is a big deal with cooking some things.  We’re always resting big bits of meat after cooking them.  That’s important.  And with all batters, resting is also recommended.  So I looked into the science behind it.  Turns out that during the resting of batters the starch molecules in the flour are absorbing the liquid in the batter.  This causes them to swell, giving  the batter a more viscous consistency.  Air bubbles are also slowly working their way out.  The resting step also ensures a thin and uniform structure to the finished good.  And, because the gluten in it has had time to relax, the texture is more delicate instead of chewy.

When batter is resting, to the naked eye, nothing is happening.

But important things, good things, are happening to the basic structure, the cell structure of the mix when it is resting.

Because of what happens in the resting phase, the end result after the cooking, is improved.

We all know that rest for US is important. I know it.  You know it.  But why?

I would say it is because of what is going on, when it looks like nothing is going on.

I think people tend to think of rest for themselves as a lack of activity.  Watching tv is resting.  Playing on the computer is resting.  Flicking through your facebook feed is resting. Napping, sleeping and just sitting. Resting, resting and resting.

Yes. Well maybe.

But there’s more to rest than that I reckon.

To me, resting is the opposite of striving. It is not putting in any effort – a batter doesn’t have to do anything to rest, it just is.  The science behind it, does the work.  And I think God can do some of His best work in us when we’re resting.  When we’re not striving.  But we’re simply being. Encouraging soul ties can happen.  Strengthening happens.  Reassurances.  Realignments occur.  Necessary corrections are made.  These things can happen when we’re at our most relaxed – when we’re not striving. When we’re socializing, but it is with people we can just be ourselves with.  When we’re reading and it is simply for enjoyment.  We’re studying His word because that feeds us truth and hope.  We’re worshiping, and we’re engaging grateful hearts.  We’re enjoying His creation.  We’re out and about just appreciating the wonderful world we live in. What is restful for you, may not be restful for me – because we’re all uniquely made and we get depleted in different ways and then refreshed in different ways. The ‘how’ isn’t as important as the actual doing.

We need to fill our emotional tanks and our spiritual tanks, in whatever ways work for us, because we’re leaky people and we’re going to come into situations of extreme heat -at some point – but we can come out of those situations better formed.  Better transformed.  We can have solid cores.  We can be a bit more useful, when we’ve had some rest.

We rest, before the pressure is applied.

We rest, because our DNA structure requires it.

We rest, because it is more than just a good idea.

We rest, because of what is happening when it looks like nothing is happening.

We’re now fully in the holy days of Advent.  As we go about our days and we’re choosing to buy presents, and be present, and we’re wrapping gifts or wrapping people in hugs, as we send gifts and send love, as we shop for and donate food, as we make cookies and memories side by side, let’s remember to rest before the heat is applied.

Let’s prepare our hearts and minds for the pressures that come with this busy season, by resting – however that looks for you.  Whenever, it happens for you.  Let’s rest.

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Down the rabbit hole.

I started the New Year pretty much wordless. 

Then. 

Whammo.

Inspiration. Motivation. New thoughts and ideas just flew at me, when I wasn’t expecting them.

Come down the wriggly, twisting rabbit hole with me….come join me on this adventure….

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Our first church service for the year ‘went off the hook’ to speak like a young trendy thing that I’m not. But it did. It was a great service, with a visiting guest speaker who was articulate, passionate and infectious and spoke a God breathed and inspired message. 

The speaker, Kindra, looked at Lamentations and of how ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases’. She mentioned that the Hebrew work for ‘steadfast love’ is ‘hesed’, and ‘hesed’ has unfortunately not always, in every instance been translated correctly in different parts of holy scriptures. For as much as it refers to the steadfast love of God in its original usage, it also referred to the steadfast love that we as people in general should have for each other. 

Steadfast love.

Yep I thought. 

I want that for others. That’s a thing to aim for.

Then I got to thinking that steadfast love is going to be lived out differently in and through different people. We all have different roles to play and what I’m called to do is always going to be different to what you’re called to do. 

But it has occurred to me that it all, ‘all’ being this steadfast, unwavering, unshakeable love, starts at the same point, for each and every one of us. 

And that point I believe is to see people as Jesus would see them. All people.

To see all people as beloved.

Cherished.

Worthy.

Unique.

Valuable.

Equal.

This is quite the rabbit hole. I’m only just getting started.

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My teenage son is quite the avid photographer. He’s saving his pennies for a new and better camera and has been quizzing his Grandad over brands and recommendations and specs and suchlike. Among Grandad’s selection of hats he’s worn so far, he’s had camera shop owner added to the bunch, so he’s a good person for our kid to get free advice from. 

From all this talk Ive learnt that the bodies of cameras are pretty standard and many brands are on an even playing field. What sets a great camera apart from a good camera is the lens put on it. And the lens brand doesn’t have to be the same as the body of the camera, as long as the body of the camera was designed to accept other brands.

Down this rabbit hole I’m in, I’ve discovered that we are like the body of a camera. We can function just ok by ourselves, but when you stick a good lens on us, we can zero in on things that really matter. We can capture precious moments in time and make good memories. With a good lens on us we really can make a difference. We can see things for what they really are. And that lens is Jesus’ eyes. 

We’re pretty limited in our functionality as just a basic body. We’re sometimes frail. We second guess ourselves. We get hung up on looks and appearances. But there’s huge freedom when we let that all go, and can just rest in who we truly are and then when we partner that with contentment with knowing WHOSE we are, and then allow God to work in and through us and over time our Jesus eyes become sharper and things come in focus better….

When things go wrong with cameras it’s usually one of two things. Sometimes it can be that the power source isn’t good enough. The batteries aren’t charged properly. Hello? Nuff said, right? And another comon problem is dirt on the lens. A speck of dirt, seemingly naked to the eye…isn’t naked to the eye when it is somewhere in or on a camera lens. It can ruin every image taken. That’s kinda why my own eyes aren’t the best lenses for my life. I screw up. My perspectives are often way off what they could and should be. I’m tainted by own sense of justice. My lens is not reliable. God’s one is so much better in every way.

The thing with cameras and lenses is we can all start off with basic camera bodies. But we get to choose which lens to put on.  

We get to choose how to see the world around us.

We get to choose how to see people. All people.

And that’s a blessed privilege and amazing challenge and crazy honour all rolled up into one. 

Quite the rabbit hole.