Resting in God

By Elaine Vitikainen

On the midnight of the 15th of June, the Government of Finland lifted the state of emergency in Finland and further eased the coronavirus restrictions. It made me reflect, ‘What did I learn during the last few months of isolation?´ Here are some of the things that I wrote down for myself:

  • Make the most of every opportunity – there may be no next time. The training we decided to postpone until after the crisis, now may never happen. We can’t retrieve time.
  • There is an opportunity to start again. During the lockdown, many of my colleagues felt that we were all at the same stage. We were all starting from scratch, navigating the new ways of working. This led to abundant sharing of knowledge and resources to help one another out.
  • The future is indeed unpredictable. We have to plan, but hold our plans very lightly. We cannot be sure that things will happen as we imagine.
  • God’s thoughts are not mine. God’s ways are not my ways. (Isaiah 55: 8-9). I do not know God’s plan for my life. But as I choose to trust God to do what is best for me, my soul rests in God.

As Space for Grace takes its own annual break over the next couple of months, why not take some time to reflect on how God has spoken to you during this crisis? How did the crisis affected your relationship with God? How can you rest more fully in God?

Pressing Return

By Nick Wright

As we wait for life to return to normal or even a ‘new normal’, I’ve been wondering what ‘return’ really means. This word keeps coming back to me: Return. Last week I was struck by the concept of ‘return on humanity’, in stark contrast to ‘return on investment’ (Clare Norman, 2020). 

In deep thought, I half-glance down at my keyboard and tap the ‘return’ key. The cursor leaps back to where it started in the left-hand margin (or the right-hand margin if you use a different script) – except that it doesn’t. It’s actually one line, one step, further ahead on the page than it was before. Now I’m thinking – a return that means a revisiting, yet also a step forward. Where do we need to go back to in order to advance forward? What will best yield a ‘return on humanity?’ 

And this came to mind. In 18th century Europe, the Enlightenment must have felt like a bright liberation from the feudal dark ages. Yet, ‘the (apparent) death of God didn’t strike (even) Nietzsche as an entirely good thing’ (Scotty Hendricks, 2016). In losing sight of God, we somehow lost sight of each other too. 

I’m convinced it’s time for a new Enlightenment: a radical return, not to religion but to the Spirit of Jesus and to step forward with renewed humanity – together. 

  • What might this look like in your work and leadership?

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.”  TS Eliot from the Four Quartets

Nick Wright is a psychological coach and organisation development (OD) consultant who is based in the UK and works internationally (www.nick-wright.com). 

Well-fed deciding for the starving

By Steven Wetton

I was in a recent meeting about food provision when somebody said: “The well fed should never be deciding for the starving.” It made me stop. I asked myself: “Do we the ‘well fed’ decide for the ‘starving’? Do we even have the right to make decisions for programme beneficiaries?” I felt really uncomfortable. For I am one of the well-fed. I realised taking such decisions pre-supposes huge arrogance on my part.

Whenever I feel uneasy, I turn to scripture. Proverbs 15 vs 22 says ” Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”. And James 3 vs 17 says” But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.”

I realised if we take the guidelines in James 3 seriously, then we will not be arrogantly deciding for the ‘starving’ but rather that we are engaging them as advisers to help us shape our interventions so that we produce a harvest of good deeds that are free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And going even further, perhaps they should be the ones deciding and we become just the advisers.

In such turbulent times, I am reminded the value of keeping God’s word as a lamp to guide us and be a light for our paths (Psalm 119:105).

This week consider:
What issues are you facing, what is making you uneasy?
Where in the Bible could you turn for guidance?

Candles in a dark world

By Nick Wright

Last night I was speaking with Jasmin in the Philippines. She told me about an incident that really moved me. That day Jasmin saw old woman, who lived on the pavement, trying to eek out an existence by selling candles on the street. As Jasmin approached, this stooped woman beckoned to her with a smile.

‘Would you like to buy a candle?’ she asked. The tone in her voice suggested that she was bracing herself for disappointment, that same disappointment she had felt day after day, year after year, on so many occasions. After all, there were other people selling candles too, so what hope did she have? ‘How much for a candle?’, Jasmin asked. ‘2 pesos’, she replied. Jasmin said, ‘I will take 10 candles’, then, as if secretly, slipped a 500 pesos note into the woman’s hand.

‘But I don’t have any change for such a large amount’, the woman said. ‘How about you keep the candles and pay me next time you pass by, when you have some smaller change?’ Jasmin replied softly, ‘This is a gift to you from Jesus. Please accept it as a gift from Him.’ At that, the woman threw her arms around Jasmin’s neck, burst into tears, and cried, ‘Maam, thank you for helping me!!’ Jasmin hugged her back and whispered gently, ‘Pray and say thank you to Jesus.’

As she finished relating this story, I asked Jasmin why she did what she did. She welled up and said: ‘I remember selling candles as a child, how hard it was. I wasn’t good with maths and so, if I made a mistake when giving people change, I had to pay it back out of my own tiny earnings. I know what it is to be poor.’ So, I asked specifically about this woman, this one person, this stranger. Jasmin replied, ‘At least, for one day in her life, she knows how it feels to be loved, to be blessed by God.’

I fell silent. All I could see were images of Jesus, touching the lives of the poor and most vulnerable in the world. ‘I come to bring good news to the poor!’ He’s still doing it now. It challenges me:

  • How can I bring good news to the poor this week?

No longer boasting about tomorrow

By Elaine Vitikainen

We are all faced by the great uncertainty of the future. A colleague told me that planning has now been reduced to what can be done in the next three days, instead of planning for the months to come. In the past, a fully booked schedule was something to be proud of. Now, it felt like we are all starting from scratch.

The verses from James 4: 13 – 15 have spoken clearly to me in this present situation: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

These verses reminded me that everything is in God’s hand. My life and my future can never be separated from God. Yes, I can plan but surely, it is God who directs my steps. It is God’s will that prevails in the end. Therefore, I cannot boast about tomorrow for I do not know what a day may bring. (Proverbs 27:1)

This week:

  • Spend some time reflecting on how God has directed your steps in your life? How was God present at some of the big turning points?
  • As you look ahead, how can you make yourself more aware of God’s presence on your journey? 

Look around your room

By Rick James

A psychologist friend of mine set us an exercise yesterday. He said, “Look around the room you are in and notice five objects”. As I let my eyes wander, I saw a family photo on my daughter’s 18th birthday; a picture of a beautiful malachite kingfisher from Malawi; clothing we’d bought at a World Music festival we’d been to with friends; a lampshade from a trip to Marrakesh… As I noticed these objects, I was filled with gratitude for so many wonderful experiences.

I heard on a Bridgetown Church podcast this morning that “anxiety is a kind of grasping of control of what we do not have in the future, gratitude is giving thanks for what we do have in the present” – and I would add ‘giving thanks for what we have enjoyed in the past’.

Gratitude is an antidote to anxiety. Colossians 3:15-17 talks about letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts… singing songs with gratitude in our hearts…

How do we do this? I found the simple exercise of looking around my room a useful way to fight anxiety with gratitude.

Rejoice always – even now?

By Elaine Vitikainen

Everyone is talking about COVID-19. The disruption to charities and churches may be huge. Some people are understandably concerned about elderly or vulnerable relatives. Many of my freelance friends are worried about the financial consequences. Multiple work contracts are being cancelled at an alarming rate. The security of being fully booked over the next months has suddenly been replaced by great uncertainty about the future.

Some are looking on the positive side. They hope it might be a time of healing for the earth as there are less flight emissions and less air pollution from factories. Some even see it as an additional occasion to spend with the family, a moment for self-learning, for re-evaluation and even, an opportunity for the elusive, but much needed rest.

I see this time as a time to encourage each other to choose joy and to speak life. As Philippians 4:4-8 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

With the rising fears surrounding us globally, let us remember that God’s perfect love casts out fear.

This week:

  • How can I receive God’s peace that transcends understanding – every day?
  • How can I let this deep peace and gentleness be evident to all around me?

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Ecological grief

By John Evans

Climate chaos is causing profound distress. We see more and more people suffering from ecological grief. You may even know someone in your family with ‘solastalgia’ (the emotional and existential distress caused by climate and ecological change).

It is hard to talk about grief. When we do it’s generally about the loss of a loved one. When we lose someone, we may go through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We anticipate understanding and compassion – partly because this human experience of deep loss is universal. But what happens when someone continues to deny the passing of someone you love? In their presence you may not feel able to grieve.

The grief associated with climate change can be like this. Not everyone yet accepts the reality of global warming. Some simply don’t see climate change as a threat and may dismiss those who do. Others know it’s happening, but haven’t come to terms with its implications. Dismissing grief or the right to grieve creates “disenfranchised grief” – when society says you shouldn’t be grieving, so you feel like you can’t talk about it. You can’t find support. You feel alone. You may even think your feelings are wrong.

This week, think about what it means to grieve for the environment. Have you become too comfortable, unable to think about the implications? Do you need to grieve more? Are there others you know suffering? What can you do about it?