Tag Archives: finding contentment

Hardcore simplicity? by Mina Munns

12 Apr

Children’s worker Mina writes in response to this week’s challenge by sharing the story of what happened when she tried to be a nun… and then wasn’t.

MInaI’m a bit of a zealot if I’m going to be honest.

My favourite saints are always the ones who give it all up and go to live in the desert.

I want to be hardcore. I want to do what the rich young ruler couldn’t. I want to be uncluttered by things. I want to be the one who relies on God and not on my bank balance and my possessions.  It’s just not turning out the way I’d planned…

I did try.  A few years back, I gave my stuff away and went to live as a novice in a religious order. I had no choice but to live simply.  It helps when they take your credit cards away for safekeeping. It was scary but there was also something strangely wonderful about it, something massively freeing. Everything was held in common, most things were homemade and little touches became things of beauty: a small vase of flowers in your place to mark a special anniversary, a homemade or recycled card, a single chocolate to celebrate a feast day. My eyes were opened to things I’d never noticed or valued before. People, not things mattered most. God had more room to show Himself and I was freer to be with Him.

But when I found myself returned to life outside the convent, suddenly the stuff came back to bite me.  How could I be hardcore about living simply when I needed to be accessible to people by email and phone and no longer had a habit to simplify my wardrobe choices? Plus, with the best will in the world, I’ve always been a sucker for shiny things and novelty items (I do work with children!) and now I had my credit card back. I needed things but I needed freedom too.

I’ve decided it has to be a journey. I’m not making giant strides, but little steps seem to work:  recycling Christmas cards for sending next year, regifting things I won’t use, making and baking instead of buying, scouring Pinterest to find a new purpose for the broken objects, trying to buy clothes only from charity shops (with a ‘one in, one out’ garment policy when I’m feeling most strong).

So hardcore is probably not going to happen. And while I accept that, it doesn’t mean that I have to let the things win. I had a glimpse of what it was like when God had more room and I’m not about to let that beauty pass me by.

Mina Munns is an ex-primary teacher, ex- novice nun and present day Children and Families worker from Nottingham. People tell her that if she was a dog she’d be a terrier or possibly a Jack Russell.  She prefers to think of herself as catlike.  Her Children’s work blog is http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/ ; follow her on Twitter @mina_munns 

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The opposite of peace, by Ruth Baillie

3 Mar

It’s been a vintage week for guest blogs, and we’re not finished yet. The latest comes from youth worker Ruth Baillie who, inspired by our latest challenge, reflects on how it feels to embrace the peace of God… and reject the alternative.

ruthbailliePeace.
The word conjures up an image of stillness… quietness… serenity.  It’s something that most people yearn for, and spend their whole lives searching for, but a state of being which few manage to attain, and sustain.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says simply, ‘Be reconciled to God.’  To be reconciled to someone means to restore a relationship with someone or, to put it another way, to ‘make peace’ with someone.  So, in other words, we are told to ‘make peace’ with God.

What’s the opposite of peace?

The absence of peace is discontentment. Unhappiness. Fear. Worry. I know this because I know what it is to reject God’s promised peace; to fight against Him, and like a stubborn child to want my own way.  When we refuse to submit to God’s best for our lives, we give up the precious gift of peace that He promises to us who remain steadfast in Him.  We give up the one thing that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

And what do we get in return?

In my personal experience, what we receive in place of peace are many undesirable traits… A discontented soul, always striving for bigger and better things, and never happy with what we already have.  A jealous heart, always comparing oneself to others and wanting what others have.  A heart full of fear and doubt: fear for the future, and doubt in God’s faithfulness and promises.  And all these things together lead to an anguished soul, unhappy and bitter and never succeeding in finding contentment and satisfaction in anything, no matter how much STUFF or how many friends you have around you.

There is a reason that Paul says in Romans 8:6, ‘for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’

Focusing on the world and all its pleasures, and desiring these things above all others leads to death.  Death of any form of peace, assurance, faith, and ultimately physical death.  But being focused on Jesus, and living in submission to Him leads to peace and contentment, no matter what the storms of life may throw at us.

The storms of death and grief… and yet the absolute stillness and peace that enfolded itself around me, my colleagues and friends on hearing of the death of our much loved friend and colleague in a tragic accident.  In amidst all the confusion, pain and grief was an undeniable sense of God’s presence. Peace. The peace that transcends understanding.

The storms of uncertainty… of not knowing what was coming post-graduation. Of worrying about the future.  When I submitted my life to God, he intervened. He spoke to me clearly, saying ‘you will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.’ (Isaiah 55:12)  This stilled me, and my tendency to worry was replaced with an absolute assurance of God’s hand on my life. I knew an absolute peace during a time of great change and anxiety surrounding my future. And sure enough, 3 months later, He led me in to an absolutely perfect job.

There are many other storms of life – depression, financial worries, family breakdown, illness… In amidst these storms, The Lord is stretching His hand out to you with a most precious gift. Peace.  Don’t forfeit that for anything.

Be reconciled to God.  For He is the ultimate peace-maker, peace-giver and peace-keeper.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

Ruth Baillie ia a church-based youth worker.  Also an avid tea-drinker, cake eater, reader, laugher, people watcher, and aspiring blogger. Find her blog at www.rubaillie.blogspot.co.uk, or follow her on twitter @rubaillie.