it starts with desire

None of us is perfect. Nobody, no matter how great they are or what they have achieved, is the finished article. I am being inspired at the moment by reading about Group Captain Lord Cheshire of Woodhall, VC, OM, DSO, DFC. By any measure he was an astonishing man as all of his titles and letters after his name suggest.

I recently acquired a second hand copy of ‘Crossing the Finishing Line’ – his last thoughts as he struggled with the debilitating effects of Motor Neurone Disease. A number of the thoughts have provoked thoughts and prayerfulness in me, but there was one comment that resonated particularly.

Last week in our church I spoke of how for the most part God brings about change in us and transforms us through one degree shifts. Gradual, almost imperceptible changes that over time add up to making a significant difference. One of Leonard Cheshire’s ‘last thoughts’ was:

“I need to try to turn my life and the physical difficulties I have into a prayer. I think that means starting with what St Augustine defines as the prayer of desire. Thus your whole being, heart and mind, needs to be orientated towards God. If you start that way, then throughout the day you can bring in different people, different Homes*, different problems into your thoughts while you are, so to speak, in a prayerful state of mind.”

(‘Crossing the Finishing Line’, Leonard Cheshire p.76)

Being transformed by God’s Spirit starts with us. We can’t bring about the change any more than a Rubik’s cube can solve itself. But we have to want God’s Spirit to change us. And that starts with us going deeper in our understanding and experience of Jesus Christ. Our aim should not be to be better people but to want to know Jesus better – because as we get to know him better we find that his character, love, grace and so on start to rub off on us. The one degree shifts happen naturally not because we are striving for them but because we are striving for Christ.

Part of the problem with one degree shifts is their imperceptibility. We might not notice them ourselves, so become frustrated that we are not the people we know God wants us to be. In those circumstances I don’t think it is wrong to be checking our spiritual compass so we can see how we are orientated.

If we want to be a prayerful person we could start with devoting three hours to prayer every day. Some may achieve that easily but most of us will get distracted and discouraged and give up. But what if a one degree shift was to start with a regular daily prayer of two minutes? And then when that is a part of our routine we go for three minutes, then four and so on?

It’s the same with reading the Bible – don’t try to read it all in a day! But start with bite-sized chunks and gradually add to them.

Or it could be that we struggle with a persistent sin. You could try to stop ‘cold turkey’. But that’s not always easy, especially if it is ingrained in our life. So take it one day at a time. Ask for God’s help not to fall into temptation and see how long you can go – each time you are tempted is a good time to pray the Lord’s Prayer. If you fail then ask God to help you again – turn back to him, ask for his forgiveness, a fresh start and his help again. And try to go for longer – one day at a time. Count your progress and celebrate it. One of my friends had a real problem with alcohol and regularly tells me how long it was since they last had a drink (over a year now!).

If those sound suspiciously like spiritual self-help they are not meant to. We can’t do it ourselves. But if we are seeking Jesus, desiring Jesus, yearning for more of him in our lives and asking him to help us to become all that we can be, he will help us. But we can’t sit back and wait for him to do it all, and these may be ways in which he helps us to do that, with the strength, perseverance and grace that he gives us. Look for and celebrate those one degree shifts when you perceive them.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*Among his many achievements Leonard Cheshire founded homes for disabled people around the world – find out more here.

one degree shifts

one degree shiftsLittle things can make a big difference. A freshly made cup of coffee has refreshed me just now, ready to write this bloggage. A kiss goodbye with Sally (Mrs Nukelearfishing) before she went out shopping was a reminder of our love. Words of gratitude and encouragement can bless someone after they have worked hard. A hug from a friend can speak louder than words… You know the sort of thing.

I have been thinking recently about 1 degree shifts. This was inspired by the wonderful people at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. They point out that if you are facing in a particular direction and rotate 1 degree and then walk in that direction the change that you have made is small but the difference after a while becomes significant the further you travel. LICC apply that concept to change in a church, particularly looking at how you change the culture of a church.

But I think it also applies to our lives as individuals in a church, bearing in mind that churches are communities of individual believers. God’s Spirit is constantly at work in us: nudging, prompting, suggesting, encouraging, inspiring, and so on… And even if we only respond to him by making one degree shifts then over time he will have brought about significant change. And if we respond to more and more one degree shifts, then the change will be more significant.

I am in the process of preparing for Sunday morning’s service at our church and this is something of a sneak preview – a bit like the way that politicians trail what they are going to say in a speech so that it is reported that they will say ‘such and such’ later in the day; they say ‘such and such’; and then the fact that they said ‘such and such’ is reported afterwards. The impact of their speech could be tripled by this repetition!

So perhaps if you are coming to our church on Sunday you could prepare yourself for it by asking God’s Spirit what one degree shifts he might be asking you to make. Or ask him to make you ready to make a one degree shift. Or ask him to show you the one degree shifts you have already made and be encouraged…

Be blessed, be a blessing.