Lessons from Nashville

Nashville returns to our UK screens this week – YAY!

scarlett and gunnar

 

It’s cheesy.. and predictable… and…..clichéd … and I LOVE IT. Amidst the cheese there’s some, as Rich would say, “pure gold”.

So, I for one am excited for the return of the new season.

Obviously, in preparation for the new season, I’ve been reflecting on the last one. (Yes, I’ve got to have something interesting to think about when packing boxes.) At the end of the last season, the incredibly talented singer, Scarlett, who has struggled with the effects of stardom, is about to give it all up, leave town and return back to school.

Her on/off boyfriend, Gunnar, ends up playing a song to her, in a plea to make her stay, and to persuade her not give up on her talent.

She ends up singing the song with him.

It’s a beautiful moment. Really it is. In fact here it is:

 

I love those words he sings to her:

What if you’re just a vessel

And God gave you something special

Every time you open up your mouth

Diamonds come rolling out

It ain’t yours to throw away…

You know, as followers of Jesus we’re His vessel. A vessel is a container, and as vessels of God, we simply contain Him: we carry Him.

And He’s put in each one of us beautiful talents, gifts and abilities. They’re not for our own glory, but for His. And they’re given to bless those around us.

Those gifts are not to be taken lightly. They are to be used to bless, encourage, equip, and extend the body of Christ, and the Kingdom of God.

I don’t know about you but I am quick to dismiss the gifts and talents that God has given me, assuming they are not useful enough, important enough, or significant enough. Inadvertently, I can throw them away, tossing them aside in the insignificant-pile.

But you know what – those gifts placed inside of me… they ain’t mine to throw away.

They’re not mine to bury in the ground, or throw aside, afraid that they’re not good enough.

Those gifts are to steward wisely, to invest in others. They have value. They have value because they are God-given, and they have value because when invested wisely they can reap a kingdom return.

They’re not mine to throw away.

How about you – what’s God put in you?

Are you throwing it away or investing it for God?

Is your life successful?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if we had a new definition of success?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if our definition of success was not determined by what others thought of us, by what we owned, produced or amassed,  by our popularity, or any other external factor?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if our view of success was in line with our Father’s view of success.

Wouldn’t that be liberating?

I wonder what the Father really thinks is successful.

I look at the topsy-turvy nature of the Kingdom and I wonder.

I look at the life and journey of Jesus as he headed towards the cross. I look at the punctuated moments of “success”  – the popularity, the crowds, the healings. And then I look at the many other moments of apparent “failure”. Born in a stable amongst cows and sheep and mess, Jesus was despised, mocked, whipped and suffered death on the cross.  Betrayal, rejection, humiliation – He experienced them all.

I wonder what success looks like through the eyes of the cross. I wonder how the Father views success in the light of what we see lived by his very own Son, Jesus.

Maybe He doesn’t define success in quite the same way that we do. 

Of course, we know the other side of the cross – Easter Sunday  – with death defeated and sin overcome.  But without the obedience of Jesus there would be no death on the cross. And then there would be no resurrection, no death defeated, no sin forgiven and no freedom purchased.

I wonder how Jesus could keep going on that path towards the cross when the path of obedience was SO costly to Him. I think some of the answer lies in the fact that He knew His Father, and He knew who He was. He knew He was the son – the one whom the Father loved.  And so obedience to the Him, though it came at immense personal cost, was a love response, as He trusted in the Father.

Obedience through gritted teeth only gets us so far. But when obedience is an expression of who we are –  kids of  the most trust-worthy heavenly Dad  –  well, then we’re prepared to lose our lives for the one we love. And in doing that we’ll actually find our lives. This kind of love-response is what we see in the life of Jesus.

obedience pic

 

Maybe success doesn’t necessarily look like a well-paid influential job, academically-flourishing-children or a large congregation. Maybe success isn’t actually about results.

Maybe success is actually quite simple.

What if we took the Jesus-view of success?

What if success was merely about obedience to what the Father asks?

Then success would actually be about obedience to what He’s asked me to do. The end result would then be in His hands – not mine.

Wouldn’t it be liberating to live in that way?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if I lived the life the Father had asked me to live, rather than feeling inadequate because my life doesn’t look like yours. Or yours.

What if we stopped caring about what made us look successful? What if success wasn’t based on our exterior?  What if we didn’t allow success to be measured by other people? What if we turned down those voices a little, and turned up His a little bit more?

what if...

 

What if money, clothes, appearance, jobs, houses, congregations, family, marriage – none of those things were the hallmarks of success?

What if we bought into something bigger than we can see in our lifetime? What if we chose to sow into the next generation, and the one after that and the one after that?

Maybe like those heroes in Hebrews we won’t even see what’s been promised.

Those people, were glad just to see these things from far away.. they agreed they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth..they were looking forward to a better home in heaven….

(Hebrews 11)

If we know who we belong to, and if we know what He’s asking us to do then whether or not we get the credit, whether or not we get to see the end results, doesn’t really matter.

The thing that matters is whether or not we’ve done what He’s asked us to do.

Sometimes you’ll look at my life, and  it might seem hugely successful. Sometimes I might look at yours and think the same. Sometimes I’ll be understood and sometimes I won’t. The same is true for you. Sometimes in the seemingly successful moments we’re not actually doing the thing that the Father has asked us to do. And the same is true in reverse. In the hidden moments, the seemingly insignificant moments, the moments of despair – sometimes in those moments we’re doing exactly the thing that the Father has asked of us. It just won’t always appear successful.

I want my life to be defined by living two sides of the same coin – continuously asking the Father “What have you said to me?” and “Am I living that out?”

 

That’s the kind of successful life I want to live. 

Checking the shore

(This fab post is written by Rich)

We can get so busy. Caught up in all the things that “are so important” or the things that might, and probably will, “fall apart” if we don’t do them. The events that will “not be as good when we’re not there” and the people “that will struggle if we’re not around”. Sometimes we share these opinions out loud, but usually they are a hidden, personal dialogue. This hidden dialogue so often drives us. We build our world, where all these things depend on us. Or so we think.

We so often, and I am guilty as charged, construct a world with us at the centre. We are the doorway, the celebrity, the saviour, the ‘one’. And we are really busy doing it all.

I once heard someone say we can substitute the word “busy” for the word “important”. Saying “I’m really busy” is actually saying to your listener or audience “I’m really important”. We fall into that trap.

I’ve recently been on retreat and have been reflecting on the hidden life of a leader (as well as a follower of Jesus, husband, father and friend). If we do not have the right assessment of our self and what we’re doing it does two things.  Firstly, we get very busy & stressed and secondly, we miss the point!

We get busy.

The change of scenery, of pace and surroundings of the retreat was so good. I was jolted and encouraged out of current patterns & mindsets. The change helped me to see a little more clearly. I realised that so much is done on auto-pilot; that I step in, fix, manage, hold tightly and try to keep all the moving parts juggled and perfectly balanced together. I sometimes do this intentionally but more often that not I drift into these patterns. Like the effect of the tide, I am taken subtly further and further away from the point & patterns I want. I don’t realise it until there is jolt – a conversation, a disappointment, a challenge. The retreat was the opportunity to see where the drift had taken me.

What would it look like if I regularly checked the shore? Where am I and where should I be? Am I drifting? How do I keep my course? 

If we don’t stop, look & listen we miss the point. It’s  like crossing a road. If we put our head down and run hard we may make it across the road – or we may hit something on the road or something on the road may hit us! We need to stop, look and listen.

We are designed to be heroic as we take on the adventure of life. We are called to be ‘running a race’ and heading ‘towards a prize’. To be running alongside others. To be sacrificing & battling for good. We’re on an adventure with a quest to be contended for. There is so much God has, by His grace, placed in us. So much He has in His heart for us.

In story the hero always wins – but he does it through battle & sacrifice and on behalf of others. There is a cost. A cost.  I wish there wasn’t, but there is.

We live in an era of comfort & celebrity – not heroes. Many of the messages we hear overtly & covertly from the media are about keeping or improving what we have and creating an environment of comfort. Many of the popular figures we read about, hear and watch are celebrity figures. They are exalted as celebrities – they are prospering but not for the good of others. A celebrity usually wins and has an adventure but it’s disconnected from normality and generally comes with little personal cost and primarily for personal gain.

And the biggest danger? That we watch the celebrities adventure rather than living our own. Reality TV is a counterfeit that we watch and are held captive by. We sit watching it rather than living it out. And then, in the middle of the reality TV show we watch the advert breaks and are bombarded with all that we ‘need’ or ‘should have’ – gathering possessions rather than experiences & memories.

I want to be jolted again. And then again. Not to drift with the tide.

where I realise that reputation is rather like soap

Trying to hold onto reputation is like holding a bar of soap.

It’s impossible.

I’ve been considering reputation a lot recently. Because how I’m perceived is important to me. Too important. I want to be someone, and to be regarded as someone, with integrity, as someone who is passionate about Jesus and tries to love others as best I can.

But trying to hold onto reputation is like holding a bar of soap.

There’s a tricky balance in this because there’s lot in the bible about being faithful representatives of Jesus (Like this for example). And trying to be faithful representatives, by God’s grace, is exactly what we should aim to be. But even with the best intentions and motives in the world – even if we did happen to be perfect – we can’t Continue reading