When Lucy and I decided to tour the charity shops on Saturday morning I was not especially looking for boots. So when I found a pair of near perfect condition cowboy boots, in my size, for under £10, it seemed as if they had been put there just for me. We went for a coffee and I put them on, right there in the shop, and I’ve been wearing them most of the time since. Perfect.
I started watching boots on Ebay in the Autumn. Cowboy boots mainly. But, because Andy was made redundant in November and the weather stayed mild, I never did get as far as making a bid. However, I did keep the boots in my mental list of wishes, right there with a Neom candle (rose and neroli), a mechanical pencil sharpener and a copy of the new Tom Wright.
On a rainy wind swept morning in Southport, a little tired from a long week and with a list of chores to complete before the parking ran out, I was taken by surprise by a gift that seemed to be more that just a lucky find. And I asked myself some questions about blessings, grace and favour. Especially, questions about blessings grace and favour towards those of us who already live in relative plenty.
Does God really answer little prayers to aid my convenience or to brighten a dull-ish day?
When I pray from the comfort of my relative plenty will He indulge my request or will He remind me to be satisfied with what I already have?
In a world of starving children, displaced people, gross human injustice accompanied by violence and shame, is God interested in the prayers I make for more comfort in my home or in my heart or for my well fed kids and friends?
Are my answered prayers to be attributed to God or are they nothing more than a series of happy coincidences in a western world constructed for my comfort and provision?
Any hint of prayer entitlement, any ‘name it or claim it’ theology of a divine Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, surely misses the point. There is a fullness of life waiting to be lived beyond the shopping list mentality of shallow and exclusive ‘me’ prayers. There is an engagement with this God-filled life that convincingly demonstrates the sufficiency of what God has already done and transforms our prayers from ‘give me’ and ‘bless me’ pleas to a settled ‘thank you’, because we have seen the bigger picture of what God is about in this frantic world.
Since Andy was made redundant we are learning to live in a new place of trust in God, like nothing we’ve ever done before. The ground here is much firmer than you may think. One day at a time we have had enough and sometimes more. Beyond food on the table and bills paid there is a quality to what we have been given that can not be measured in the balancing of the books or in any unit of market currency. I don’t know if it was there before or if we are noticing it for the first time but we are living like princes and kings and our abundance is about the material provision and more. The more is very important but difficult to describe. There is friendship and kindness and peace in our home. There is a beauty in creation right where we live, enough now to last us into old age. We are learning to receive aright. We talk aloud about God and give thanks much more. We are closer to each other and closer to our friends. We are counting all these things as if they really mattered because they really do.
The central heating is humming quietly to itself and the sky is true blue. There’s a pigeon perched on the pointed roof end of the red brick house across the road. All of this from the warm comfort of my bed on the kind of morning where I should be swelling with thankfulness. When Andy brings me my cup of tea I mention the money, the bills and the days ahead. He tells me he has been considering the lilies. These would be the lilies of the field that do not toil or spin or rush around frantically trying to make something of their short short life. These would be the lilies of the field that have discovered this life is not a do-it-yourself project in personal advancement but a fullness of life with a God who is more than enough.
I am firmly convinced that thankful people will experience more of this type of blessing than anyone else on the face of the earth, that answered prayers come more often to those who are watching for the gifts and chasing after good. In such a world God may well provide little things for our own comfort and open up a place for us where we can see more of the answers to our prayers and questions about sufferings and pain. For there is a life where our unspoken hopes and dreams meet with the glorious realities of God-in-our-world and we begin to see that coincidences happen more often when we pray and the world is blessed when we live it beyond the mundane needs of the material me. So, as I pray for provision for today I pray with hope and joy into a world already populated with the blessings of God and to a heavenly Father who is totally for me and committed to my care. Amen.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.