Frustration

frustratedThis Advent at our church we are looking at different ‘tions’. We have looked at Advent preparation and anticipation so far, and this Sunday we’ll be looking at Advent frustration. In order to help prepare for this I posted a Facebook status inviting friends to comment on the things they find most frustrating about modern life. The comments so far are very interesting. I am not going to offer any hints here, but if you are a Facebook friend of mine and would like to add your thoughts please go to Facebook

[not now! Too late… let’s hope they come back]

and add your thoughts or ‘like’ someone else’s to give a sense of how widely shared that frustration is.

What has interested me particularly is the range of frustrations, and the causes of the frustrations. Some are caused by technology and equipment, some are caused by people. Some relate to attitudes and some relate to actions. Some relate to change and some relate to culture. It’s fascinating.

There’s a lot out there that’s frustrating us. And if we allowed it to this could result in a lot of stress, which in turn can have serious symptoms and health implications. Perhaps we should adopt the Jesus-attitude to life: “Don’t worry about life… look first for what God is doing and his righteousness and you’ll gain a better perspective on things.”(Matthew 6:25, 33, Niv*)

I have a sense that Jesus was quite chilled and laid back. Not much seems to have caused him to get stressed. In fact as I read the gospels it seems that the biggest frustration was the inability of his friends to ‘get’ him and to understand what he was trying to show them about God’s love, forgiveness, blessing and grace.

I wonder what is causing him most frustration today. Is it churches? Is it me?

Thankfully he is loving, forgiving, blesses and shows grace when we fail to be good free samples of him (as churches and as individuals). He not only gives us fresh starts and clean slates but he also promises to help us if we allow his Spirit to work within us.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Niv = Nick’s iffy version: my own loose paraphrase.

the sequel

I had an interesting and helpful conversation with someone this morning following yesterday’s bloggage. They helped me realise that I needed to expand a bit more on what I had written, so consider this the sequel.

I finished yesterday by saying that Jesus offers us life in all its fullness as the Creator’s intended answer to our search for happiness. I realised after this morning’s conversation that it looks like I meant that God was offering us happiness after all. I am sorry if that is the impression I left you with (all I can say in my defence is that it was blogged on a phone on a train).

I am sorry too if you have ever got the impression from me that if you become a Christian your life will be sorted and there will never be any problems. That’s not the message of Jesus. He told us that his followers can expect opposition, even persecution. He told us that we should pick up our cross daily and follow him. He told people not to worry about tomorrow … “each day has enough trouble of its own.” He taught us to pray “deliver us from evil” and “don’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.”

There is much more to life than this
There is much more to life than this

‘Life in all its fullness’ is a life lived in God’s presence, filled with God’s Spirit, seeking to live in a way that honours him as a follower of Jesus. As wonderful as that is, and as amazing and positive as that is, fullness of life also includes the pain, grief, difficulties, frustrations, confusion and anxieties that life can throw in our direction. It includes all of life, knowing that God is with us in it. It includes those moments when we can look back and see that God really was in it with us when we wondered if we were alone. It includes those times when we were clinging on to our faith by our fingernails. It is life lived in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Following Jesus is no guarantee of an easy life (perhaps it’s a guarantee that life will not be easy) but it is life as it was created to be. It’s not all doom and gloom, there is also brightness, joy, peace, laughter, fun and so much more – don’t read this and think that it’s all bad. God is with us by his Spirit in the light and the dark, in the laughter and the tears, in the joy and the pain.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

whinge-o-matic 6000

and… relax

Late in the afternoon I finally get around to putting fingers to keyboard to launch yet another bloggage onto the unsuspecting world.

Today has been a very mixed day. It started with a pastoral visit / breakfast on the beach at Brightlingsea. Also featuring have been a number of different emails, phone calls and taking number one offspring to have his Driving Theory Test (he passed). In the midst of it has been a very frustrating phone message cancelling an imminent hospital appointment.

I don’t know why it has been cancelled, but as it has been in my diary since February it is somewhat irritating to have got this close to the appointment only to have it cancelled. We have made plans around me having to go to London for that appointment which now need to be adjusted. It’s inconvenient and annoying because there are important things I need to discuss with the Consultant.

How do you respond in circumstances like that? Does it make your blood boil and your blood pressure rise? Do you get angry with the person who has to tell you the news? Do you tell other people in the hope that they will commiserate with you (perhaps sharing their own experiences of cancelled appointments so you can both tut, roll your eyes and complain about the NHS)? Do you wish you had a whinge-o-matic 6000 into which you could vent all your feelings and anger and they could be turned into nice fluffy kind thoughts?

Or do you accept that while it is disappointing these things happen? You may have to change your plans, but they did not cancel the appointment just for the fun of it. It may be frustrating but taking that out on the poor person who has to tell you the news achieves nothing (except making their day miserable).

To paraphrase the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you do not whinge about your life, what happens beyond your control; or about your aches and pains. Is not life more than cancelled appointments and being let down? Do not complain through gritted teeth saying, “I can’t believe they have let me down!” or “Why is this happening to me?” Your heavenly Father knows how you feel. Do not moan, there’s enough moaning in the world already. But seek first God’s kingdom and his grace, and you will see life from a different perspective.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

 

technology 1 human 0

I got annoyed this morning. I was at the church, setting up my laptop to work with our church projector – ready for a group of Year 1s from a local school to come and find out more about what our church is like. I had set everything up yesterday. It worked fine.

Of course this morning, when it was needed, it wouldn’t work properly. It would not run a video clip in our projection software (EasyWorship) even though it has done so happily before and did so yesterday.

Grrr.

I tried reinstalling a set of codecs (they help the computer read different types of video file) but that did not work either.

Grrrrrrr.

Then EasyWorship decided to show the PowerPoints embedded in it wrongly and I had to redo them.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The children were almost at the church and it was not working.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

In the end I gave up and used a less elegant process where I used Windows Media Player. It worked.

Hooray.

I have tried to be self-aware and ask myself why I got annoyed. It was a combination of the time pressure, the frustration, the technical failure after previous technical competence, and… a lack of grace, patience, self-control, kindness… Sorry to Susan and Michael who saw and heard my frustration. Sorry to God for losing it. Sorry to the programmers at EasyWorship for the ungracious thoughts I had about them. Sorry all around.

I am reminded (and those present were reminded) that I am a work in progress. I do need a big sign around my neck – ‘please be patient, God is still working on me.’

But the joy is that he does not give up on me. He may feel frustrated when I act differently to the way that he wants. He may be sad when I don’t live in the way he wants and in the way I preach. He may be disappointed when I bear less fruit than he had hoped.

But he doesn’t go grrrrrrrrr at me. Instead when I come to him and ask for forgiveness and a fresh start he patiently says, “Okay. Let’s try again.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. [sigh of relief]

God the parent…

Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence did not extend to God’s kids. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing He said to them was: “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” Adam asked.

“Don’t eat the Forbidden Fruit.” God replied.

“Forbidden fruit? We’ve got Forbidden Fruit? Hey, Eve… we’ve got Forbidden Fruit!”

“No way!”

“Where?”

“Don’t eat that fruit!” said God.

“Why?”

“Because I am your Creator and I said so!” said God, wondering why he hadn’t stopped after making the elephants. A few minutes later God saw the kids having an apple break and was angry.

“Didn’t I tell you not to eat that fruit?” the ‘First Parent’ asked.

“Uh huh,” Adam replied.

“Then why did you?”

“I dunno,” Eve answered.

“She started it!” Adam said.

“Did not!”

“DID so!”

“DID NOT!”

Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own…thus the pattern was set, and it has never changed.