Redeeming the promise

Its been coming to me recently how hard it is to actually ‘promise’ something.  I guess its because in the past I have not been all that good at following through on the commitment behind the promise.

Somehow the words “I promise” have ended up having a somewhat sinister meaning, but I am a bit unsure why. Its that feeling of accountability, no space to move, no wriggle room. A commitment is a commitment. A promise is a promise. Final.

So to say instead “I will try” instead of “I promise” gives a little of the above-mentioned wriggle room, a bit of space for leniency, if required. However, to the reader, or the hearer of those words, the message received is quite different. They hear that I am not willing to even bother to commit. That in my heart the decision has been made already. “I will try” becomes “I have an out”.

Thats tough. Thats not what was meant at all. Or is it?

Let’s unpack some reasons… for me anyway. Sometimes I find unpacking something like this will reveal the root, or somewhere close to the root of where the problem may have began.

My children when young would often pull me up on a commitment they felt I had made by saying (more of a wail, admittedly)  “but you promised …” To which I would reply, “No, I said we might.” I felt this was a fair call, as it gave me an out, just in case things didn’t work out, and we weren’t able to go to the place I had originally thought about (be it McDonalds, the park, or whatever).

Even they knew – even when young, that if a person said they would do something, then they would do it … not a might, not a maybe, but a WILL.

Perhaps I didn’t have the actual will to see it through.

Perhaps it depended on the circumstances at the time?

Either way, I needed that space, that wriggle-room – just in case.

Just the other day, it was suggested to me that it is time to redeem the words, I promise. To recognise the power in those words. The intent given. The life. The statement of intention. A vow.

But to ‘redeem’ suggests that at some point I had tossed them out altogether. Mmm perhaps I had, unwittingly, or maybe, on purpose.

Was it ever my intention to marry – then to divorce those years ago? Is it ever anyone’s intention to do that? After all, the very words, “I promise to marry you…. for better or worse … till death do us part” are said out loud, they have powerful meaning and usually have a number of witnesses to bear down on you if you are looking to be on shaky ground in the marriage.

Perhaps it is the fear of the words and what they mean that is more of the issue.

‘This is it. Decision made. This is my life now. Linked to another person, taking on their name and identity and somehow, over time, to lose one’s own.

Is that the root of the issue? Or is it deeper?

When I think of the word redeem, I think of Jesus redeeming us from the power of sin. His very death and resurrection showed the power he had over the enemy, Satan. Because Jesus went through on his commitment to us – we can live our lives in the safe assurance of knowing that we have a future with him.

I am comfortable with that. I know that the Word of God is accurate, true and reliable. The promises Jesus made in his Word are positive and true. We even sing the old song, ‘I’m standing on the promises of God.”

So why is it so hard for us as humans, to say the words, I promise? I think I am still working that out. Watch this space.

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Back one hour

Today marked the end of ‘daylight saving’ here in NZ. Overnight our clocks went back one hour. It always marks the end of the summer time, and generally heralds evenings that suddenly get darker more quickly. It seems too, that winter is just around the corner.

For whatever reason, daylight saving is the time when we are reminded to check the smoke alarms, to take stock of things around us, to de-clutter, to look at where we are heading.

It seems that its also the time when we want to read … to gather books for the quiet, longer winter nights. Visits to the library (or friends with good books) happen more often.

The other day even my wee grandson wanted me to take him to the library – “turn around, Grandma, we have to go to the library – to get the pirate book!”  He had realised we had gone past, headed home … and at not quite four years old, he had noticed.

I looked at my watch and realised that yes, we did have time to go there. To take an hour and choose some books for his bedtime read – (and even sometimes – through the day).

Turning the clock back one hour – means we supposedly get an hour extra sleep. Yet, we often feel more tired. Whether it is the darker evenings, or the coolness, something tells us that bedtime should be sooner.

I think its part of Gods plan.

Whatever it takes, it is important for us to rest, to sleep. To work while it is light, and to get out the books and curl up by the fire when the nights draw in and it is dark!

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Where the work of the cross began

The night before he was crucified, and after sharing the passover meal with his disciples, Jesus took his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane where he spent hours in prayer to his father. “Please take this cup from me – not my will, but yours be done.”

He agonized over the decision to go through with the plan.

He agonized – to the point of sweating it out – we are told he sweat ‘great drops of blood’.

During this time in the garden of Gethsemane, he had withdrawn from his disciples to pray, but asked that they wait for him so that they wouldn’t be tempted. Yet … each time he went to check on them, they were asleep.

How often do we fall asleep while praying? I know for me, it is easy to ‘drop off’ – even in the middle of a sentence sometimes. If I leave praying till night time, then it becomes so easy to lie my head down … and sleep.

Yet we blame the three disciples for not holding on, during this important evening. They knew it was somewhat special, but didn’t know how special. They didn’t have the gift of hindsight that we have. Even Jesus asked them ‘Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour?”

The garden was where Jesus fought it out emotionally. He was drained. He let go of self, to do what his Father wanted him to do. He needed to withdraw for a time – yet he wanted the familiar company of those who had been closest to him in ministry. Close beside him, but not so close that he couldn’t have the private time to speak with his father.

All of his 30 years of life were to lead him to this place, he knew that. But like all of us, when we know something difficult is coming up, it doesn’t make it any easier to go through with it. For some its a sleepless night, others talk incessantly, others wring their hands with worry. Each of us have our own way of dealing with the inevitable.

For Jesus, his way of coping was through prayer. Not the usual meek and mild prayers, but prayers from the heart, from deep within his spirit.

After the prayer, he rejoined his disciples, and this was also the time of betrayal – when Judas Iscariot brought his army of officials and handed Jesus over to them.

The garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus took the stand against evil – and won in prayer.

The cross was where the ultimate victory was accomplished.

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Giving – forgiving

Christmas – a time of celebration, a time when gifts flow in abundance. A time we remember the greatest gift of all – Jesus.

Easter is when we celebrate the gift, the sacrifice of Jesus -given so that we could have the gift of being reconciled to God.

As we near the Easter season, can we consider what gift we can offer? We cannot out give God, but we can offer others the gift of our forgiveness.

Sometimes it is so hard to do that. We hang on tight believing that it is our right to hold tight to that grudge, that hurt, that offense.

God had every right to hang on to Jesus – he could have sent a myriad of angels to protect him from the cross, from the suffering. Yet – he knew it was the only way of real relationship with us. Relationship with us was always his plan, and reconciliation through Jesus was the only way to achieve that goal.

What right do we have to hang on? We don’t feel better for it, and the perpetrator has no idea that we are even carrying the heavy ‘fence’ we have been lugging around.

This easter season, seek opportunities to give the gift of forgiveness. It will not only release the other person from being captive in your mind, but more – it will release you from the cage of bitterness and fear.

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Thoughts become action

Today I enjoyed my fourth “Stadium to Surf” 10km fun run. Starting at our near new stadium, it meanders through the city and around the harbour edge, along both roads and grassy sports grounds until reaching the St Clair beach. The scenery all the way is beautiful – always something to see.

Dunedin once again turned on a beautiful clear day for the event, and about 2000 of us lined up – all ages, all stages. Many walking or running with baby strollers. It always does my heart good to see families out doing these events.

I enjoyed the run so much, I decided to carry on after the end, and retrace some of my steps – then I veered the paths leading up the hill to Anderson’s Bay. This added another 6km to the above run, but I felt just so good. I felt like I had really achieved and kicked that ‘motivation bug’ back out the door.

So yes, I sit here ‘like a log’ (as mentioned in yesterday’s ‘Thoughts’ blog), but this time the log feels content, and satisfied with having achieved a good hard run for the day.

To top it all off, I even made a personal best for the 10km run. I am looking forward to my next  event … whenever that may be.

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Lately I have found myself musing a lot. Thinking all sorts of thoughts. Wondering when I will ever get back out tramping, or even walking in the NZ bush. More than that – just doing stuff that “I” want to do! Selfish? I guess so. But I’d also like to spend more time with those who are close to me, and it seems that they get the left-overs at times.

It seems that work is filling my life – and using up every ounce of energy I have. It is frustrating me, yet I need to work. For work gives me not only financial security – but it also gives purpose to my being here on this earth.

At work I am ‘someone’, even if it is only a menial job, that of filling shelves with fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet, work is also the place where I can encourage others, bring hope, listen and share with those who pass by during their time in our supermarket. They say ‘a smile is worth a thousand words’ – and I smile a lot during my day, and yes, people smile back at me. It’s good.

It is said that “exercise breeds energy” and I fully agree with that. Running is important to me as it gives me added incentive and energy. Perhaps my blog today is a result of not getting out there as much lately. I’m feeling a bit frustrated over that, even though sometimes I am my own worst enemy … like I could have gone out this evening – I had every intention. But I didn’t. Instead I sat. Like a log.

Yet my runs, or walks are also the time I take to nurture my walk with God. I talk, but also listen, and its a nice time of peace and togetherness. Sometimes I just enjoy the scenery as I jog along.

But for now, I have a full day of work ahead, and it is time for sleep.

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Squashed breasts

“Didn’t you take some pain killers before you came?” The radiographer asked me smugly as I winced for the second time in as many minutes. Pain killers? No one had mentioned that to me …

“Please don’t tense up – now I am going to have to do that right side again.”  I could feel her soft yet firm hands move my breast to where she wanted it – then she wrenched my shoulder back, told me to face ‘over there’ and “stay put”.  “Drop that shoulder, relax it. There. Stay like that …”

“Ouch” The words came out involuntarily …

“Just breathe normally please” this said, as she pressed on the pedal to make the two sheets of hard plastic come together further.  It was so hard not to wriggle, or to wince when every fibre of my being was screaming in agony at the pain being inflicted on such a tender part of my body.

“Now, we need to take the pictures from another angle.” She smiled, I could tell she was enjoying every minute of my discomfort. What was she, I wondered? A masochist?

Knowing that it would be over quickly if I was compliant, I told myself that this time it wouldn’t hurt so much, cos I knew what I was in for … but, my mind forgot to tell the pain receptors, or something. It still hurt, only this time I didn’t mention it – for fear of retaliation that maybe, just maybe she would want to do it another time, just for good measure.

(Sort of like that teacher years ago who continued to threaten another strapping if I cried ..)

So those of you reading this, who are over 45, will understand and know that I had my two yearly mammogram. Its not something we talk about a lot – aside from when its Breast Cancer awareness week. But we are privileged to have a health care system which provides these checks for every woman over 50, every two years. Yes, I see it as something to be endured as a sort of form of health insurance. No, they don’t catch every problem, but sure do go a long way towards it.

I guess it could be a bit like childbirth – you forget the pain inflicted until you arrive for the next one … and suddenly remember .. “oh no, I had forgotten how much this will hurt!”

It was back to work for me, but beforehand, I took a sneak peek to see if I really was as black and blue as I felt after all, I had been pummelled and prodded! I was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t look any different. I just felt it, and knew that I now had a couple of years to wait for that particular sort of pain to come my way again.

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