Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday

So today is Good Friday, and today really has been good. It has had surprises and challenges and joys.

I started the day by asking friends on Facebook what Good Friday meant to them and had a mixture of interesting responses, so maybe here I can repay the favour and share what it means to me. Prepare for a mish mash of different, probably disconnected, thoughts and anecdotes.

I've been reading the Gospel of John in the lead up to Easter and have been really struck by the closeness and incredible love shared between Jesus and the Father. Jesus talks about his dad, like aaaalllll the time; how alike they are, how he listens to his Father, how good his Dad is, how he does the will of the Father, what it means to know God the Father, how they are literally found in one another, I could go on and on. Therefore, how much more heartbreaking is the cross, where they are totally separated as Jesus is foresaken by the Father. It's not like God isn't that fussed on his son so he just ditches him or forgets about him or leaves him to get on with the work on his own. No, the Father loves Jesus deeper than even the most amazing earthly parent and they are closer than even the 'twinniest' of twins. Yet, and here's the astounding bit, they are both willing to undergo this incredible heartache in order to make many sons. No man or woman would ever be perfect enough to have the kind of relationship with God that Jesus enjoyed, so Jesus willingly took on all our imperfections and all their painful consequences on the cross, and gives us instead his beauty and perfection and love, so that the Father can look upon us with the kind of love He has shown to Jesus since the dawn of time. One Son given, to make many sons.

Ok, next thought! This morning I went to church for the Good Friday service, and there was some great music and reading and preaching. I really loved one particular illustration the speaker used. He talked about a friend of his who was in a long queue at B&Q on a hot day, buying some bright green paint. The heat caused his hands to get clammy and slippery until he dropped the tin of paint. The lid burst off, the luminous paint went all over the floor, over other customers, over himself and over the displays next to the till!. The friend was in a right pickle with little idea of how to fix the mess, so he leant down, took a small tissue out of his pocket and started to attempt to wipe the mess away, but of course it couldn't even make a dent. Just then, the manager comes over and taps him on the shoulder, filling this friend with anxiety about what he might say. But then the manager surprises him and says, 'Leave it, we'll clean it up and you don't need to pay for the paint'. The friend is dumbstruck at the mercy shown by the manager and filled with gratitude and relief. This is exactly like us, we have a made a mess with our wrong thoughts words and acts, both for ourselves and for those around us, bigger than we could ever dream to clean up with our tiny 'tissues' of good deeds. But God, the one who we owe our debt and our penance to, shows mercy in not making us pay the price, and grace in fixing the problem for us.

Next! At the end of the service, we were all hanging round chatting and somebody mentioned that a bunch of people were going for lunch/ice cream and I was so tempted to go, even though I didn't really want to eat and knew I'd planned on a day at home, but the idea of being with people rather than on my own sounded lovely. I'm really not very good at spending time alone and pack out my diary most of the time to avoid this, but something told me today I should hang out just me and Jesus. It was really sunny, so I decided to go for a walk up Kilvey Hill which is just behind my house. When I got to the top, I read out loud John's gospel from the point where I'd got to, up to the point of Jesus' death. It was definitely the right thing to do as it gave my head the space to reflect on stuff that's been going on recently, but more importantly on what Jesus did on Good Friday. I couldn't stop thinking about the emotional side of the events for him; deserted by his friends, mocked by people who didn't even know him, accused of things he was totally innocent of, separated from the one he was closest to. He must have felt scared, lonely, victimised, let down, humiliated, hated, misunderstood and a whole cocktail of other emotional pain. I know a lot of people struggle to see how there can be a good God when there is so much pain in the world, but I find it incredible and comforting that the God I believe in stepped right into the pain and knows every hurt we feel and more.

At the top!

Excited to see how God might use me here
Also while I was up there, I had chance to look down on the area I live in and I prayed for the people in my road, for the people my church had delivered Easter Service invitations to, for the people my house group gave Easter eggs to on Wednesday (long story, maybe for another time). I prayed that God would give me a deep love for these people and opportunities to get to know them properly and that he'd be preparing and changing hearts to know and love him back. God has a funny way of reminding us when we've forgotten that he really does answer prayers, as when I got back and was baking hot cross buns for the neighbours I've invited over tomorrow, my doorbell rang. It was the lady diagonally opposite apologising that she wouldn't be able to come but she was touched by the invite and had brought me some flowers to say thank you. We talked for a while and then she invited me in for a cup of tea and to meet her family. We chatted for nearly an hour, it was so lovely and now I'm really excited and encouraged about how God could use me in this place, as I really felt led to live here but had yet to see much indication why, now a few pieces of the jigsaw seem to be coming together.

Praying for where we delivered invitations and eggs.

So that's my Good Friday. One Son given to make many sons. God lovingly fixing the mess I've made for myself. Jesus completely understanding and going through every hardship I might ever endure. And the privelege of having a God who listens to my prayers and gives me the joy of seeing and being the answers.

I see why they call it Good.

These look pretty good too?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

'Thank God for' Friday

I am so blessed to have lots of great friends and several who I would consider very close. But it is an extra special blessing to have someone who definitively holds the label, 'best friend'; someone who can have me incapacitated with laughter but will also meet me in my tears, someone who knows my many mistakes but always sees the best in me, someone who I know would get up at ridiculous o'clock in the morning and travel for hours in order to be there for me when it's important. And so today, I am publicly saying:

Thank God for...Clare Williams <3

The two of us were acquaintances for quite a while before we were friends, and friends for quite a while before we were best friends, but we have been best friends now for a long time. We met in school, but we didn't know each other that well, as we weren't in any classes together, only choir. As we progressed through school, all us music geeks became good friends, spending all our spare time singing songs from the shows and putting together arrangements, compositions and performances. Then something changed the summer we were finishing our A levels, quite suddenly and inexplicably, and my friendship with Clare intensified and took on a marvellous new dimension.

Since then, we have shared road trips, adventures, holidays, highs, lows, nights out, many phone calls, a lot of cheesecake and about a gazillion in jokes! It's tough to pick out any favourite things that we have shared but I think the top two would have to be 1 - the scrapbook, and 2 - our first holiday in Italy. The scrapbook is joint owned and contributed to, it documents many shared experiences and quirks. The idea being that one person keeps the scrapbook for a while and when inspired, adds a page then sends it to the other person, or if we do something special together, we jointly do a page with things we collected from whatever we did. It is incredible now to flick through and look back on so much we've shared and been through, both together and individually. Our holiday in Italy was while we were both students and on a very tight budget, we went to Rome, Florence, Rimini and Venice, staying in Youth Hostels and travelling on an InterRail pass. It was a massive journey of wonder and discovery that I can't even begin to describe (although fortunately we've got a scrapbook for that too!)

So what would I like to thank God for about Clare? I am so grateful that He has given me a friend who in so many ways is completely different to me and yet in many others we are totally in tune. Clare is the passion where I am the ration, she dreams big where I live here and now, she sees the beauty and poetry in things that I approach purely practically, she is the Soprano to my Alto. I think she is amazing because she feels everything 100%, she gives her heart to things, and in doing so allows herself to become vulnerable and sometimes hurt, but selflessly she would rather that than see a need go unmet. She is one of those people who not only gets big ideas, but implements them and makes things happen. She challenges me to do things I would never dare (like walk to Spain!) and to make ambitions realities. She has more perseverance than anyone I've ever met. She is my perfect Articulate partner - I know for a fact that if I said the word 'Railway', she would undoubtedly guess the correct word was 'Golf'! 

There are many things we both love - baking, swimming in the sea, singing, dancing to name but a few - but ultimately, I am most blessed that we both love Jesus. We come from very different traditions in how we relate to Him, but learning about why and how Clare approaches her faith, only makes me love and appreciate our amazing God even more. She brings out things which point me to aspects of God's character I may not have considered before, she shows me different ways and places that I can meet with God in my daily life. She encourages me to find ways to show the love of Jesus in all situations. In short, she inspires me immensely, and my life would not be the same without her. 

So, Father God, thank you so much for my wonderful best friend and sister in Christ, Clare.

Love you loads Clarebear! x x x