new use

2015-02-06 17.55.43What are you supposed to do with your son’s bedroom while he is away at University? Do you leave it just as it was when he left, like some sort of shrine – unwilling to change anything so it is just as he left it when he returns; or afraid to change things in case that discourages him from returning? To do so honours his memory and that he is part of the family.

But it also means that there is wasted space in the house.

I know of one family where the moment the older sibling went away to University the younger sibling slept in his room on the first night to preserve his memory and liked the room so much that the next day they moved into his room and ‘evicted’ him. Good use of space, but how did the older sibling feel about ‘his space’ having been invaded by his sister? Did he feel unwanted?

I think I have come up with a compromise. This photo is of our son’s bedroom. He does not normally have a golf putting mat in his bedroom but while he is away I feel it is making good use of the space to turn his bedroom into a putting room. It means that I don’t have to keep getting the putting mat out and putting (that’s ‘put’ as in ‘foot’ not as in ‘but’) it away each time. It means that I can have a quick putt ‘en passant’ on the basis that little and often is better than long and infrequent. And it can be put away for his return or if we have guests who need to be accommodated.

It’s temporary.

I wonder if that’s how many Christians treat church on Sunday? On Sunday we change our behaviour, we do things differently, we allow God to fill us and make resolutions about how we will be different this week. But it’s temporary. It’s not long before we make way for old habits* to return, or indeed invite new ones in. And then next time we go to church we start all over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not seek to change and to get rid of old habits and I am not saying that resolve on Sunday does not make a difference. But going to church is not meant to be the equivalent of a weekly detox that allows us to indulge for the rest of the week.

Christians are under new management. Compromise is not a part of the new arrangement. Someone has moved in and ‘evicted’ the old occupant. Sunday is when we reaffirm our commitment to these new occupancy arrangements, when we may need to do a bit of tidying up, when we hear about his plans for the use of the room, and when we express how we feel about this.

The dissonance within us occurs when we fail completely to evict the old tenant – the two are not good roommates. It occurs when we forget the new occupant is there. It happens when we go back to the old habits.It is the result of compromise.

I heard recently that research has shown that the way to overcome old habits* and establish new patterns of behaviour is to have a conscious plan, to focus daily on the new ambition and targets, to put obstacles in the way of the old habits you want to break, and reward yourself when you are doing well rather than beating yourself up if you fail.

Hmmm, sounds familiar: daily prayer and bible reading has been a pattern for Christians throughout history. And now we know why it works!

Be blessed, be a blessing

*if you prefer ‘biblical’ language, call it ‘sin’

the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Today I say goodbye to an old friend. They have been a part of my life since my childhood and for the most part they have been a blessing. They have shared mealtimes with me, they have even been there when I have needed to grit my teeth. But recently I have been fed up to the back teeth with them. Or, more precisely, with it.

Today I will have a troublesome back tooth extracted. It was damaged years ago by an impacted wisdom tooth and has been persevering since then, aided by dentists, until it has reached a point where it is no longer viable. In fact it is a liability. Cold food in particular sends an electric shock of pain shooting out of the tooth. It needs to come out.

As I wait for to go to the dentist it strikes me that all of us have habits, behaviour and (to use the Biblical word) sins that need to be extracted. We can leave them there but they will simply cause us problems and pain – and perhaps cause others around us pain too. Thankfully God’s Spirit is gentler than a dentist and doesn’t use sedatives. But we have to want him to help us, and we have to help him to help us.

If our problem is anger we can help by trying to take a long cleansing breath before responding to someone or something.

If our problem is gossip we can help by resolving to pause before we speak and ask whether what we are about to share really is ‘for prayer’.

If our problem is lust we can use the ‘off’ button on remote controls.

And so on. You know your own weaknesses. How can you help God to help you?dentist

As I say goodbye to this old friend that has become painful, I pray that God’s Spirit will also help me with extractions so I might become a better free sample of Jesus.

Be blessed, be a blessing