Archives for posts with tag: freedom

I like to write.  An article I read today challenged me to write for 15 minutes rather than complain about not having the time.  So I’m doing it now.

I have been thinking about limits.  In limits there is freedom.  Endless possibility can mean paralysis.  Chaos alone does not lead to beauty or truth.  It is creativity working within boundaries that really makes something special.  And it’s only once you know the rules that you really know how to break them, as I think the Dalai Lama said.

I love Jazz, partly because improvisation is one of the best examples of all this.  Only by first learning the rules of scales, chords, rhythm and song structure can a musician be free to soar to the heights of his creativity and self expression, and to do so in harmony with others.

Perhaps one of the reasons we wrongly believe we will find freedom unshackled by any limits is because limits/rules/boundaries – whatever you want to call them – hold the possibility of transgression or failure.  And we fear this.  Yet without the possibility of failure there is no meaningful achievement or purpose.

I write this the day after a crushing failure for the English Rugby team.  First ever host nation to be knocked out at the group stages.  Huge knock on effects to national morale, plus economic effects.  And yet it’s only a game.

And isn’t it interesting to think that any game is nothing but a collection of arbitrary rules, made significant only by collective agreement and historical familiarity?  And isn’t this how so much of life is really structured?  We all agree to some common ways because without them we are adrift in meaningless, at odds with each other or with nothing to hold onto.

The rules themselves, often are less important than what they represent, or the good effects they seek to produce.  Was the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden itself in anyway harmful?  Or was the rule about it simply a representation of the need to submit faithfully to something – someone – so much better, wiser and more beautiful than anything our own willfulness could lead to?

15 minutes is up, clicking publish.

I used to think my faith would protect me from pain and trials.  I thought this was what the Bible was saying.  Now I see faith as the greater hope beyond the pain, and a transcendent peace in the midst of the trials.   And suddenly it’s right there in the Bible, in the lives of all who followed Him – the suffering, the pain; but the greater hope: ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world.’

I used to think faith meant God would provide whatever I trust Him for.  I have known such direct provision, yet often faith has meant sticking with Him over the long haul, through the disappointments and failures, trusting that these are the very things that will shape me and my life in the way He knows best.

I used to think faith only went one way.  But now I marvel to discover that He has faith in me too, that I am His co-worker in the mission of my life, and that if I cower away in fear or false humility due to a lack of faith in myself, I might not fulfil the potential He calls me to, with only myself to blame.

I used to think the walk of faith was a safe path, but now I know it is a risk with high stakes and the possibility of failure.  And I thank God that he never designed us for boredom.

I used to think failure was something to be feared, and incompatible with faith.   But now I know it is a familiar obstacle on the route to success but His grace is my ticket to re-enter the race.

I used to think faith meant a fixed path for me to walk, a predefined route that I secretly feared missing.  But now I know my God is living, active and creative and so am I, and we are laying the path together.

There is much to learn in life and I want my learning to create in me the expertise of a jazz musician, using the resources gained through discipline to create the freedom and beauty of a continuously improvised life – rather than the learning of a single song, safe and predictable, read from a sheet, and slowly dying the more it is repeated.

 

 

A jungle of weeds closes in on me.

I press on, but am I going in the right direction?

I feel water at my feet. There is hope. I long to swim in the open water; to see the full arc of the sky.

How much further?

I feel weak. But fighting the weeds is making me stronger.

One day I will reach the open water, where the weeds cannot grow.

Will I have the courage to swim? Or, like them, will I hold to the shore?

Have I, in fact, been skirting the shore all this time? Knowing the way out but too afraid to give up my fight?

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Butterfly wall stickers

I have just been putting butterfly stickers on my daughter’s bedroom wall.  She has been in America with her Mum for almost 2 months, and I am feeling the ache of separation very strongly now.  I fly out in a week and can’t wait to be with them again.

Letting them go for this limited period was hard but also rewarding.  I appreciate them both more now.  I want to make every moment together count in future.

I’ve been writing a lot about ‘letting go’ on this blog.  Of course I would never really let go of my family, I always want to be there for them, provide for them, love them.  And yet to truly love them, I will have to let go, in many different ways –  more and more as my daughter gets older.

The business I have written lots about letting go of has flourished in it’s final 2 months, and I have had 2 other job offers as a result of laying it down.  So I am taking a break to be with my family and clear my head, knowing that when we return I can choose any one of 3 viable options.  I wrote something in a previous post, that my experience now shows to be true:

“Perhaps, when you have laid everything down, you will be able to pick it up again with a looser grip that sets it free in ways you can’t imagine.  Or perhaps your open hands will grasp new things that clenched fists couldn’t hold.”

—————-

My occasional mentor Terry Eckersley said to me recently it is ungodly to want to provide for my family.  This sounded like the destructive talk of religious extremism, attacking what I saw as one of my most good and godly desires.  But he meant I need to understand that God is ultimately our provider.

It offended me slightly because it shone a light on a longstanding dissonance in my thinking: If God is provider etc, then what exactly is my role in all this?  I know it is not just to sit around and wait for God to do everything (I’ve tried that and it is destructive and depressing).

But here’s the truth as I now see it:

I have worked hard on my business, and that’s a good thing, yet when I think of what I have achieved, none of it could have happened at all without God.  He led us to a house with an adjoining workshop that I wouldn’t have believed we could get a mortgage for.   There are countless ways He helped me acquire tools and machinery through gifts, great deals, and being in the right pace at the right time.  My laptop was a gift from a friend.  My parents funded most of it directly or indirectly.  And even the things that I could argue are down to me could not exist without His provision.  If I have abilities it is because He has blessed me with them.  If I have experience it’s because He has provided the opportunities.  Not to mention my wife’s support and book-keeping.  And my apprentice, always faithful and true.

If you don’t believe in God, you want be convinced by God’s hand in all of the above.  But I do believe in God, and I do see His hand in it all.

The way I view this walk with God at the moment is as a partnership: we are ‘co-workers with Christ‘. But it is an unequal partnership – him having the controlling stake.  And to grow in spiritual maturity requires me to keep saying to Him ‘You must become greater and I become less‘.  My dilemma about my role – between working or waiting for Him to work for me – is resolved in this way: I work, but for God’s approval not man’s.  And while working I keep dying to my flesh (ambition, pride, self sufficiency) until I have been ‘crucified with Christ’; and it is no longer I who works but Christ who works in me. (Galatians 2:20).   Then He is working both inside and out, and I am His servant – the most freeing role I can have, to serve goodness itself instead of serving my own deceptive ambitions and desires.

A blog post I have found helpful is this one from 3D Ministries:
http://weare3dm.com/mikebreen/we-are-3dm/the-cost-of-non-discipleship/

To my own surprise, I have established a habit of not eating every Friday.  No food until 5pm, the end of the working day, when I allow myself a snack.  It’s not a full day, but that’s just the way I do it.

If it comes up in a conversation with someone who I think might benefit from hearing it, I prefer to say I am not eating, instead of ‘I’m fasting’.  If I’m fasting, it’s probably for religious reasons which may seem boring or irrelevant.  But if I’m not eating that needs some explanation.  And the explanation is largely practical, and understandable.  Which are key attributes of true spirituality (in my opinion), as opposed to dead religion.

It started a few years back as a reminder to pray, then I quit a couple of times.  Each time I was drawn back to it by the gentle nudgings of God.  I kept asking myself, why am I doing this?

I have a high metabolism.  I need to eat a lot but I stay thin.  (To me this is annoying as I’d like to bulk up a bit, but some people including my wife seem to think it’s a blessing!)  So when I first started fasting, it had an immediate effect on my mood.   My hungry-self was grumpy, irritable, and impatient.  Yet these attributes were not absent in my well-fed self, it was just easier to keep a lid on them.  Removing food was like removing a veil, I could see more clearly the parts of me that needed work.

It made me want to rise to the challenge, to be a better man, and to carry on with the day using reserves of strength, that didn’t rely on a full stomach.  The physical weakness not eating creates is humbling, and demands that I think about where I derive my strength from:  ‘Man cannot live on bread alone.’

The extra time in the day when I would have been eating provides a great opportunity to pray, and for whatever reason, a deeper connection with God.  And when the hunger is hard, it makes the suffering and discomfort of others more real to me, which increases my compassion.

I also discovered that when I deny myself I regain control.  My appetite for food is no longer my master, but something to be enjoyed when I choose.  I appreciate food more as a result.  And it has helped me understand better one of the benefits in laying down my business for a time.  Each time I turn away work, I am weaning myself off the buzz of approval that new jobs have always given me.  That good feeling is not a bad thing – unless it becomes a hunger that demands to be satisfied, and takes precedence over the really important things.  By stepping back, I regain control, putting myself in a better position to run a business – or not – but most importantly not to be run by it.

Fasting, like all proper disciplines, is about freedom.

I just drew this to explain my need to write. Do you ever feel the same?

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