Tag Archives: Identity

1 Comment

David is one of my fave members of the Bible crew. Because let’s face it, if even after he arranges to have his mistress’s husband killed in war he can still be in that Hebrews 11 Great Hall of Faith, then there’s definitely hope for the rest of us.

Ever wondered what kinda person David would be if he were a 2014 twenty-something?

The whole writing psalms thing instantly conjures up images of an anaemic looking hipster drinking flat whites in Peckham and typing his poetic laments into a macBook typewriter. But then writing songs and playing the harp for the king was more singer-songwriter right?

But let’s go back to the start, when we first hear of him David is a shepherd for the family business. He would have spent most of his time caring for and defending the sheep. Shepherds had to be tough, ever had face off a bear or lion? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure it requires guts that I don’t have. And let’s not forget that whole incident where he defeats a giant that had everyone else running scared. David was courageous.

He also spent a great deal of time on the run from King Saul hiding out in caves. Kinda like Edward Snowden but more rural.

David was a mighty warrior – decorated war vet?

In his moments most far from God he had a weakness for beautiful women and found abusing his power as an easy way to deal with any consequences.

Here was a man who understood music, battle, betrayal and life on the run. And then he was a king.

So if you put them all together you get a more poetic, slightly grungy, strong, fearless and Godly Marcus Mumford type Prince William?

But my favourite all time thing about David was that he was a man after God’s own heart. As demonstrated by his ability to throw kingly dignity out window and dance for joy before God. I mean, I love to dance. But it's usually up in da club when I no longer know if I'm Rachel or Beyonce.

There he is, leading the Arc of God back to Jerusalem with the people of Israel celebrating all around and he simply can’t contain it any longer. David is filled with the joy of bringing the Arc back and with the presence of God. Forget dignity; forget honour of the House of David, he starts to bust a move. Think Pharell’s Happy/Tom Cruise jumping over the sofa on Oprah/your dad and uncles at a family wedding after a few too many drinks mash up - but with more Holy Spirit. Could you ever imagine the Queen busting a move for sheer joy at the opening of parliament or whatever important national thing it is that she does?

When I was a teenager I refused to run for the bus. I decided that hitching up my school skirt to run up a hill whist juggling a PE kit, five text books and a clarinet was just too undignified. I preferred to watch the bus sail pass and wait 20 minutes for the next one – yeh, ridiculous I know; thankfully my teenage years are far behind me (despite the cashier in Sainsberry asking me for ID because he thought I was 16! Sixteen! He clearly shoulda gone to specsavers).

Rarely now in my adult life do I choose to be undignified (karaoke night in Nashville not withstanding - don't ask). But David embraced indignity. David’s joy was so much that he didn’t care what people thought about him – to the scorning sarcasm of one of his wives, “How glorious the king of Israel looked today! He exposed himself to the servant girls like any indecent person might do.” To which David replies “So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this...”

I don't like looking foolish. Do you?

That’s it. No more school. No more spending most of my day surrounded by 30 kids, no more pretending to know something about science/Victorians/what an adjective is/what a verb is/what 7x8 is, no more suffering through 30 kids playing the Ukulele for an hour every week, no more yelling at kids to line up and stop crying over Yu Gi Oh cards or Moshi Monsters, no more killing time in assembly by imagining what life is like as a tree, no more despairing over why they've forgotten to use capital letters and full stops, no more having to call parents to tell them that their child just threw up (or worse - don't ask) all over the classroom, no more school.  No more school holidays either. Sad times – I will miss my life of organised chaos.

The last couple of weeks have been filled with lots of goodbyes - some easy, some hard, some accompanied with lots of of cake, some accompanied with lots of alcohol, some tear-filled and some just painfully awkward.

When you leave a job/church/place with a view to not return people will generally mention something about you that they like/have appreciated/won’t forget. You know “Thank you for always helping with...” or maybe “You’re not actually that quiet are you?” Sometimes it's something really nice. Other times you don't know which side of the compliment-insult line it sits on.

Apparently a killer death stare and my earring collection are my most noteworthy characteristics. Talk about a lasting legacy. Or maybe my well dressed evil genius alter-ego is harder to hide than I thought.

What I have realised is that how you act and treat people now is what they will remember- we're all known for something right?

If you want people to remember you as generous and compassionate then you have to actually be generous and compassionate.

If you want people to remember you as understanding and encouraging then you actually have to be understanding and encouraging.

If you want people to remember you as sarcastic and bitter then all you have to do is be sarcastic and bitter.

If you want people to remember you as angry and hostile then all you have to do is be angry and hostile.

It’s not rocket science people. Be kind.

People often ask me how I'm doing now that I'm exiled in Zone 6.

I tell them "it’s ok, I’m ok." And I am.

But I am also scared.

I am scared that before I know it I will slip into a living coma of a comfortable & complacent suburban life.

I am scared that I’ll begin to confuse the lines between want and need.

I am scared that I won't even notice when I begin to think that neighbours parking outside the wrong house is a crime punishable by getting lost in IKEA for an eternity.

I am scared that I’ll have a 9-5 office job that I don’t really like but am too afraid to leave – because without that I wouldn't know who I was?

I am scared that living in anything but a house with a garden will become unimaginable.

I am scared that I'll start reading the Daily Mail.

I am scared that as I get lulled into a false sense of security my dreams will start to shrink, as will my reliance on the God I love and try to serve.

I am scared that Waitrose will become the norm not a luxury.

I am scared of a life of  No Adventure

I am scared I will get Stuck.

I am scared that one day Jesus will put me in a group with my fellow goats – Matthew 25 y’all, I don’t actually think I’ll turn into a goat, bah!

I am scared that I’ll become a goat and not even care.

I am scared that one day I will realise how comfortable I have become and be too afraid to change it.

I am scared that I will no longer believe that Jesus is enough.

I am scared that I will trivialise the concerns and worries of my fellow suburbanites.

I am scared that I will blame the suburbs for my own laziness.

I am scared that I don't really understand the meaning of perfect love casting out fear (1 John 4 v18).

I am scared that I over dramatise everything.

BUT I do know that God is with me always, even until the end of the age (not infact a LOTR quote but Matthew 28 v 20). So really what is there to be scared of?

What about you, are you scared of anything?

Ever fallen short of the person you wanted to be? Ever been hit in the face with the reality of exactly who you are and who you aren’t? Ever made an eight year sob almost hysterically because of something you said? Been there, done it, got the t-shirt and cashing in the cheque at the bank of Should-Have-Known-Better-Ville.

I’m a pretty patient person (family pick yourself up off the floor and stop laughing – I am patient, just stop talking to me before I’ve had food. Why haven’t you learnt that yet?) so when I started working in a school I was never too worried about not having enough patience with the kids - and most if the time it's not a problem. But I did want to be one of those super freaking nice people who always spoke kindly and listened to the kids. Well this week I fell far short of that person.

Yeh, you guessed it, I fell one completely justified comment but delivered in a harsh tone reducing a child to a snivelling wreck kinda short. I didn't take the time to speak kindly. I didn’t take the time to stop and listen to them tell me what the problem was because I already knew.  I was not that kind loving person that I wanted to be. I fell far short of it, and the consequence was an overly sensitive child crying in the corner.

Ever found that you’re not the perfect friend/daughter/son/girlfriend/boyfriend/sister/brother/wife/husband/employee/baker/artist/disciple/ the-list-goes-on-so-please-delete-as-appropriate-and-enter-your-own?

You know it’s ok right? It’s ok to not be as organised or patient or kind or funny or enthusiastic or encouraging or understanding or compassionate or the-list-goes-on-so-please-delete-as-appropriate-and-enter-your-own. As long as we don’t live there, as long as we pick ourselves up off the ground, dust off our hi-tops/other comfortable shoe, hold to Jesus and resolve to do better tomorrow.

There is much grace and much forgiveness.

But whenever anyone turns to the lord, then the veil is taken away. Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is he gives freedom. And all of us have had veils removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. 2 Corinthians 3 v 16-18

Sensible people, I salute you (or something a little less...military. Rephrase: Sensible people, I raise a slice of cake to you) because it’s not always easy, being sensible. 

A lot of people would disagree, confusing the sensible with the safe, easy or boring option. But there is a big difference between safe, easy, boring and sensible:

Not jumping off a cliff if all your friends were doing the same, just like your mother questioned you about – safe.

Getting a takeaway instead of cooking actual food – easy/lazy.

Not skydiving from a plane into the ocean – boring to the max.

Choosing not to be one of those crazy people that runs 12 marathons in a day - sensible

You see, there's a difference. Make the wrong decision and you could end up being scraped off the side of a road three quarters of the way into your sixth marathon of the day (5 points for making it that far though).

I am sensible (most of the time - ignore anything my family might like to tell you)*. I can’t help it. It’s part of who I am. When it comes to those pivotal moments in life I seem to always take the sensible option, quite often without even realising it was one. 


But sometimes being sensible requires you to look at the choices at hand, weigh the possible consequences and then make a decision. 

Sometimes being sensible requires you to look temptation in the face and walk away. 

It's not always easy being sensible.  

And we are an unsatisfied people. Choosing to look at life through the rosy glasses of hindsight and sigh over 'If only I hadn't...' or 'What if I had...'


I think C.S.Lewis (what a ledge) got it spot on:

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all...you find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

On the days in which sensible prevails, I thank the God who makes us stronger than we think we are. 

On the days in which temptation wins, I am thankful for a God who understands temptation and accepts pleas for forgiveness.

*Sensible is right up there next to 'nice' in my list of least favourite character descriptions. nice is so bland - its like frozen yoghurt without the fun toppings or flavours. 

 

Small Child 1: Rachel?
Me: Yes?
Small Child: What are those dots on your face?
Me: Dots? What dots?
Small Child 2: He means your freckles. You’ve got millions!
I honestly had a few seconds when I didn’t know what they were talking about. What dots on my face? What freckles? Do I have random dots on my face?! Where is a mirror when I need one?! And then once the initial I-must-look-like-a-crazy-with-dots-on-my-face panic subsided I realised – thosedots, those ‘freckles.’ Something so obvious to the kids, but so normal to me that I’m almost blind to them. There’s nothing like the honesty of small children (and the very elderly) to remind you of things you don’t see.
 
I also had a similar conversation a couple of months ago -  note to guys, when talking to a girl you’ve only just met while at a mutual friends’ wedding don’t tell her she has freckles. She won’t take well to it. Especially if she doesn’t even notice them 98% of the time. You will not get extra points for this, no matter how well cut your suit is.
 
Anyways, all this talk about things you don’t see that are obvious to others got me athinking – what aspects of personality are glaringly obvious to other people but not to me?
 
One thing I do know, apparently I need to work on being less sarcastic. The following conversation happened last friday:
 
Small Child: Rachel?
Me: Yes?
Small Child: I’ve finished my writing.
Me: Excellent! Well done!
Small Child: Why are you always so sarcastic?!
 
A couple of years ago this would have been true, but sarcasm is so 2010. But maybe sarcasm is a freckle of my personality - obvious even to seven year olds. Don't you just hate it when people misjudge or misunderstand you? Isn't that the root of most communication problems?
 
And for that matter, how have I misjudged people for things that I think are glaringly obvious but they just don’t see. 
What are the freckles of your personality? Have you misjudged someone for something that was obvious to you but not to them?

So you’re wondering what’s next, what do to with your life. Join the club. This has been my most FAQ for the past couple of years. When I was in New Zealand we had many many conversations about calling and identity. We had one speaker tell us that we should pray like crazy and not do anything unless God tells us to do it. Another said that we’re not idiots and God knows this so we should figure it out ourselves. I was totally (to use an old skool phrase) confused-dot-com.


And since then it hasn’t gotten that much better. Over the past couple of years I have received a lot of advice on future plans and what I should be focusing on. Some of it has been really helpful and some of it not so much – one friend told me that I should “do something irrational. Have a family.” Thanks. Good Plan. That would solve all my problems right now. And I've even had that awkward conversation of “God told me you should train to be a missionary and then come and join me on the mission field in Asia. Just kidding. But not really. Just kidding. Hahahaha.” Excellent. Ha. Ha. Ha. I just threw up from laughing so much at the hilariousness of that comment, you should really consider becoming a stand up comedian.

Talk about first world problem – too many options and don’t know what to do.

Here is a collection of advice and thoughts and bits of conversations I've has over the past couple of years on how to figure out what's next:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind...Love your neighbour as yourself. Matthew 22 v 37-39

0 to 25 - Try everything but sin (rock climb, play sport, study arts, study science, write a book).
25 to 30 - Focus on ten things.
30 to 40 - Do two things really well.
40 onwards - Mentor and invest.

So do not worry about having enough food or drink or clothing...Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. Matthew 6 v 31-33

God’s will is all over scripture, we know what He wants so why do we keep asking what His will is? Why don’t we instead try and figure out how we, in the fullness of how we've been made, play a part in it? 

How do you want to be living? What are the values and rhythms you want to be living out?

I think we assume that everyone knows what they want to do. It’s much closer to the truth to say that most of us somehow fall into the jobs we have. And only half of those people end up doing something that they like, and only half of those people do something that they love.

We’re not really given space to wander. Some people try out a number of different career paths before they find one they’re comfortable with. But we frown on this and say that they’re flaky. When maybe they’re the ones brave enough to try new things in search of what they enjoy. 

We’ll probs be working till we drop dead on the job, so do something you enjoy. If it takes ten years of wandering to get there then don’t sweat it, you still have another million years until retirement/dropping dead. So don’t be afraid of wandering, but do be intentional. 


Who do you know? Who do you enjoy working with? Who inspires you? What work environment suits you best?

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

Maybe there’s not one perfect career for you. There could be several different things that you could really enjoy doing and that you could thrive in. So there’s not necessarily one right option. So don’t worry about making the wrong wrong choice.

Go to New Zealand.


Don’t forget to b r e a t h e.

 

 

I have been all over the place with this. I’ve had days when I’ve been super excited about the future, days when I’ve been so stressed I couldn’t do anything but try to run from my own thoughts (well, more kind of like baking than actually running) and then there’s been the days when I’ve not thought about it so it’s been fine.

The most important thing I have learned about this is that God is there no matter what. Whether I come up with a five year plan in the next week, or whether it takes one/two/five/ten years, God will be there no matter what I end up doing. He does not change. I can count on His character and His promises no matter where I am or what I am doing. And at the end of the day, I’m only visiting this planet.


"And be sure of this: I am with you always, even until the end of the age" 
Matthew 28 v 20

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit a friend in Hove and as we wandered into Brighton we happened up a few stalls taking part in the Food Festival. For some reason unknown/bad planning, all the stalls were selling food and 8 out the 10 stalls were selling cake, of which there were many free samples! So I put aside all my concerns of people touching what I was about to eat with their filthy filthy hands and embraced the free samples. Of which there were many brownies. 

And so in typical browser style we tried all the samples, didn’t buy anything and went about our business. But on the way back I couldn't resist the temptation to get something. I could hear the brownies calling my name, and it would have been rude to ignore them.


But then I faced the ultimate question – which brownie was best?!

We decided (obviously this was too important a decision to make by myself) that rather than re-try all the brownies we would just go with whatever one we remembered as being the best. Fortunately we both decided that the first stall we had gone to was the proud owner of the Rachel & Fabienne 2012 Best Brownie Award (I don’t know what we would have done if we had disagreed, probs hold a street bake-off or something – highly illegal I know but do you have a better idea?!).


So we wondered over to the first stall where all the brownies were neatly packaged in cute little cardboard boxes. To be honest the quest almost failed at this point – “brownies packaged in boxes?!” I thought, “they must be made in a factory and pumped full of more preservatives than the Duke of Edinburgh.” But I was wrong (for a change), the stall proudly held a sign proclaiming that all the ingredients were kitchen cupboard ingredients (you never know what people keep in their kitchen cupboards though).




“Prosperity Brownies”. Bit of an odd name I thought, must be some kind of play on prosperity gospel. It wasn’t until later when about to partake of said brownie that I read the cute little box and the explanation on it:


“Whilst prosperity brownies is about baking beautiful brownies, our chocolate heart is committed to the prosperity of underprivileged kids. 10% of all our peofits are donated to children’s charities, Viva and global compassion. These two wonderful organisations are dedicated to helping children at risk around the world.”

A quick read of the website reveals that Prosperity Brownies was started by a woman who had a great recipe for brownies and a desire to make a difference to others. Prosperity Brownies was born. 


Not only a great brownie but also committed to helping others! Cake with a conscience. LOVE IT!

Check www.propseritybrownies.com for more info.