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The other half

A selection of Sue Whitehead’s The Other Half columns from previous issues of GoodNews magazine.

February-April 2015

I decided that I really must tidy my bedroom. I confess I am naturally a ‘I’ll clear up later’ sort of person. So I opened a few drawers and discovered that there was very little room in any of them - clearing up was going to be a bit of a challenge, not a two-minute exercise.

It reminded me of that lovely story about a family who decided to do something to help those less fortunate than themselves one Christmas.

The parents were going to make up a food parcel and they asked their young son if he would like to give some of his toys to other children.

His immediate response was “I can’t do that. I play with them all at different times”. His father said, “What about those you had when you were very small? You’re too big for those now.”

“No,” replied his son. “I might want to play with those sometimes too.”

Wisely the parents said nothing but waited a few days. The little boy who was getting very excited about Christmas and all the presents that he was sure he would be getting.

His father went into his bedroom one afternoon and opened the cupboard packed tight with toys and boxes of games.

“Well” he said. “I think we have a problem. There really is no room for any more toys in here.”

And left his son alone to think. Within a short time the child had collected a large number of toys and presented them to his parents as ‘gifts for those other children,’ and at bedtime he insisted on showing his father the half empty cupboard with lots of space for anything that might come.

I realise this is not a perfect analogy for what I want to say but it should remind us that however much God wants to bless us and give us gifts, we really have to have space within for Him to fill.

So many things we cannot surrender are taking up valuable space in ourselves. Maybe big addictions, but more probably small habits and prejudices that block our receptivity to our Lord. A spiritual clean-up is what is needed!

So while I sort out my cupboards and wardrobe I can ask the Lord to help me make decisions about my cluttered nature and lifestyle.

Hopefully this joint exercise will mean that some people benefit materially from what I give away, and I will certainly improve by surrendering some of my clutter!

November 2014-January 2015

The other day I saw a little girl on her new tricycle – the sort that has a guiding handle held by her mother. She was very young, about three years old, and as she went along she was talking into her “mobile phone”!

I laughed out loud at the sight of a three-year-old imitating life and yes, I know using a mobile is illegal while in charge of a vehicle.

But how toys have changed over the years. So often technology makes every-day adult life available in a fantasy world for our youngsters. And not just toys.

My thoughts went to all the video games that are very violent and often include death and destruction and are played out in a fantasy environment which, I understand, mimics life.

How is it possible for young minds fascinated by such activities to be capable of recognising the fantasy from reality?

Is it any wonder that our society is becoming more destructive and frightening? The borders between reality and fantasy seem to be easily blurred these days.

And some non-believers accuse us of living in a fantasy world.

I know because there was a moment when I didn’t believe God existed and two seconds after asking Him if He was real, I KNEW He was!

It was a very physical experience that changed my life and I can never deny that. It is why I’m sometimes over-enthusiastic when talking about my faith. The Lord is SO real to me.

And yes, I know that that is not true for all of us. Many people cannot pinpoint a moment of “knowing.”

For them Jesus has always been there – a part of their lives since birth.

However we came to know Him, we must be sure of the reality of Him, of our Father in heaven and of the Holy Spirit who enables us to be active, witnessing Christians.

Reading recently in the media of Christians being martyred for their faith made me think of the reality of our faith. How sure am I? How strong would I be? And the answer is, I honestly don’t know. I like to THINK that I would be able to die for Him but, please God, may I never be tested.

And our prayers go to those who at the moment are living in circumstances too ghastly to comprehend. May the reality of their faith strengthen them and take them home to be with Him for whom they were created.

September-October 2014

I decided to change our bedding and had stripped the bed before realising that the other sheets and duvet cover had been washed but had not yet left the ironing basket.

I pulled them out and put the sheet on the bed. It looked okay, but it wasn’t “right”.

Charles thought it would do – after all we were only going to sleep on it – but it was very crumpled and I couldn’t smooth it out to satisfy myself.

I love ironing so half an hour later the job was done and the bed was once more ready for purpose.

And then I started thinking – the sheet had been clean and okay – but not perfect. It could be used – but it wasn’t right.

The parallel thought for me was about myself. I know that I am clean in God’s sight – washed in the blood of the Lamb – but I’m sure I’m still very crumpled. I’m okay, but not perfect – I need ironing. And because my heavenly father loves me so, He wants me to “be right”.

I’m sure He needs to iron me to enhance my presentation. As I have said, I love ironing. There is such huge job satisfaction at the end. But it takes a lot of effort, pressure and determination to remove all the creases and achieve a smooth finish.

If the sheet could feel, I think it would experience quite a lot of discomfort as the hot iron presses down, smoothing out the ridges, sorting out the imperfections.

Yes, that is how it feels when we ask the Lord to sort us out – to “iron” us!

He does need to put pressure on us - by circumstances we find ourselves in or by confronting us with our imperfections. When that happens we should try to remember that we really do want to be the best that we can be for Him, and sometimes discomfort, even pain, is necessary.

Fortunately I have progressed from the old heavy flat irons that my grandmother used. I have a wonderful steam iron which facilitates ironing by a hundredfold. And our loving Father has the “steam” of the Holy Spirit to enable our smoothing to be easier.

How wonderful is that? The question is, when I am ironing tomorrow will I be able to relate to what the Lord is doing for me?

As I squeeze the trigger to release the steam, will I remember that the Holy Spirit is there to help straighten me out? I think ironing is going to become a whole new spiritual experience – I’d LOVE to be crumple free!

July-August 2014

A friend was talking about his favourite film – Les Miserables.

He had seen the stage show quite a few times and he wasn’t sure that the film would be as exciting (for him), so he hesitated before going to the cinema but he wasn’t disappointed.

He saw it with all the latest cinema assets – wonderful sound and a huge screen. Recently it was released on DVD and he didn’t hesitate to buy it as he could enjoy watching it while ironing – his words not mine.

He was very disappointed as watching the story unfold on a small screen made him think he was missing out on the details – they could easily be overlooked.

He knew the story so well that details missed were quite irritating.

Big contrast for me – I love watching films on the TV (when I’m ironing!) and really enjoy the compactness of the picture. I find the huge cinema screens overpowering and as I need to move my head from side to side to see everything, I usually come out exhausted.

Maybe I should sit further back - in the back row. Possibly I just like to see the general story unfold and, as long as I get the gist of it I’m not too worried about the smaller contributions.

This is certainly in contrast to the way I live my life.

Whenever we are organising something (preparing the story) every detail is important. So many things contribute to getting things right. So many other people are involved in decisions and actions.

It is really important to have a plan, to avoid mistakes and provide the final result for other people’s benefit. Even day-to-day living has to have a planned scenario which is, sometimes, necessary for sanity!

I’m happy that God is watching everything “on the big screen”. I am so pleased that I can trust him to have attended to all the details.

I am so glad that He has already prepared what I should do – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

I will continue to try and listen to His promptings and I know that they will facilitate my own plans.

He is so good – He even has a plan when we get it wrong and He needs to do some damage limitation. How great is our God!

I’ll continue to enjoy my small screen watching – and also my occasional big screen viewings. God bless you as you too absorb the story we are living – walking in God’s plan.

May-June 2014

Many of you have heard me speaking and will know that whatever subject is the title of the talk, I invariably find I need to mention my illustration of 2 Corinthians 4:6,7 – “we have this treasure in jars of clay”.

Sometimes I have given out small pictures of my visual aid – a small jar with holes in, with a bright light shining against a dark background – a reminder that we are created by God and, as Christians, carry the light of Christ within us.

Recently I was speaking and had this picture of the small jar projected on an overhead as I spoke.

When I finished I was surprised when someone said that they had found the picture disturbing as the background looked so threatening.

They did not think I should use it. I have been thinking about that and praying. It disturbed me that what I see as such a helpful visual aid may have been causing distress to someone.

As I prayed I realised that I had never really looked closely at the background – my eyes were always drawn to the light. I had taken the photograph a few years ago – draping a piece of grey muslin over a board to form the background to the jar.

The reason and focus of my thoughts was to capture an illustration of what I felt God had said to me.

In a way I feel that the message of the jar is now, for me, even stronger. It emphasises that however dark and threatening the world may be, the light of Christ overcomes and draws us to Himself.

The picture is of a night-light in a jar and, of course, that light will eventually go out. But the light of Christ within us is everlasting – never fading nor failing.

Our responsibility is only to let Him be seen - to let His personality grow within us and to act in us to meet the needs of those we meet.

At the top of the picture I have written the words from a song I heard which put my thoughts into words.

You are the light,

the light of the world.

We shine you, Lord.

Maybe the world is getting darker, more disturbing and threatening. Maybe we are finding life especially difficult at the moment. Do not fear. Our Lord is always with us. He will never desert us and He will always overcome.


The Other Half appears in every issue of GoodNews Magazine. To read the latest column and discover other great features like this, please click here to subscribe.


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