Shall I compare thee to a …

Cool Kids

How often do you compare things? Whether it’s people, places or possessions, we all do it and there are times when it’s ok but I believe there are also times when it’s not!

What are some of the ways you compare?

Comparing products to buy

I want to start by saying that, while I will go on to say how comparisons can be unhelpful, I know there will be situations where it can be helpful. I’ve noticed that lots of shopping website now have functionality to allow you to compare one product with another. Doing this can be wise; it is after all important to be good stewards with our money. This is something I think we all become experts in when we are trying to pick our next vacation or buying insurance. So this comparing can help us and hopefully stop us from being wasteful with the resources God has given us.

Comparing your stuff to their’s

I love a gadget and well, I have been on the Apple wagon for sometime. I am however usually at least one generation, if not two, behind when it comes to the iPhone. I’m sure like me you have a friend or two who always seems to get the newest one on the day it comes out. I find myself looking at the new shiny object and I begin to long for one of my own. I can find myself searching the web for offers and information on the new gadget, looking up when I am due my next upgrade.

How does this help me? Well it doesn’t! The day before the new version comes out I’m happy in the knowledge that my phone works. The day after the new one comes out my phone still works the same but it feels different. So what is it about ‘needing’ the new thing? Well, I think we are worried about being left behind and when we start to worry this, however fleetingly, the enemy sneaks in to try and amplify those feelings. The challenge is to be happy with what we have, to be brutally honest with ourselves about what we actually need and what we really can live with out.

Comparing you to them

This is the big one. In fact there are websites that help, and some might even say encourage, us to do this. According to one website Facebook has 1.44 billion active users with a whopping 300 Petabytes of user data stored, which is 300,000,000 gigabytes for those of you like me who didn’t know what a Petabyte was before today. The UK is the country that has the largest percent of its population on Facebook and 24 million people in the UK are active every day!

There are three possible outcomes to comparing yourself to someone; you are going to be better, the same or worse than the other person. I’m still to find a single occasion where anyone has ever decided they are the same and I’m beginning to think it’s impossible. We are, in my experience, always either better or worse. Neither of these outcomes are good; whether you are left with pride or jealously you still won’t be happy about it.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

So hopefully by this point in the blog you are seeing the dangers of comparisons but I want to quickly look at the logistics of comparisons. We don’t live in lab conditions and we don’t approach our comparisons from an unbiased stand point. In fact we often end up selling ourselves short – we are usually our own worst critic. An American pastor, whom I have heard preach a couple of times, puts it really well:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” – Steven Furtick

So why do we do it?

We were created by a God who, as Trinity, is the model of perfect relationship. When I hear the passage in Genesis that tells us we are made in his image I am reminded that, like the Trinity, we are made to be relational. That inbuilt nature in all of us makes us long for relationship but our insecurities let us worry about being left behind so we constantly review our progress against others to make sure we are still in the gang.

The thing is, while we are so busy worrying about our worldly relationship and spending all this time comparing and judging each other, we are forgetting the true measure of what is important. If you ask my wife for some of the phrases I say, she would be bound to tell you this one:

“I’m God’s favourite” – me

Which, let’s face it, is true – but I happily share that title with all of you. He sees us all equally and had you been the only who needed saving, Jesus would have still come and died the most horrific death upon the cross for YOU!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

Double awesome

So PRAY & ACT! Pray, spend time with the one true judge and feel the loving embrace of a Father who is full of joy that you chose to have a relationship with him. Act; be vigilant of your mind wandering; break the habit of comparison; repent of it when it happens and strive to do it less and less each day.

It’s not easy and you won’t manage it everyday. In fact the inspiration for this post was when I caught myself comparing my daughter, who is 17 months old and is just such a calm, relaxed and easy child, to our daughter who is due in November.  I heard myself say to my wife that there is no way her little sister will be was easy as she is.  As I said it, it struck me that I was judging my child before she was even out of the womb!

So please take up my challenge of looking at the world with God’s eyes. Ask yourself ‘how will you spread the joy that we are all equal today?’

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog!

Lessons learnt from being a Stay at Home Dad

After a clear prompting from God, I left my role on the staff of a church in August 2014. I was in the process for applying to be ordained in the Church of England but I had not yet attended a BAP (Bishop’s Advisory Panel). I promise to tell you more about that later.

My wife and I prayed about what I should do for the year before I started college, assuming I got accepted. I began applying for temporary roles but nothing materialised.  To cut the long story short, my wife went back to work. So since November last year I have been a Stay at Home Dad.

As what has been quite an extraordinary adventure comes to an end, I wanted to share with you a few things that I learnt along the way:

1. Job titles don’t make a man

I’ve had some great job titles in my time and they have opened doors for me but I didn’t stop existing when I no longer had one. In fact it made me stop and examine who I am and I am very grateful for that. But for those of you who really want a job title, try this one: ‘Beloved Child of God’. I think it’s got such a lovely ring to it, and the best thing is, it’s one that has no hierarchy and we all get to share it.

2. Salary doesn’t define your worth

It can be a hard thing to accept, in a world that has taught us that a husband must provide for his family, to stay at home while your wife becomes the bread winner. While it was a challenge I became more grateful for the provision of money and soon realised what an amazing opportunity I had been given. I got to stay at home and cherish my daughter and she paid me in laughs, smiles and cuddles and they are truly priceless.

3. The world isn’t designed for stay at home dads

I’ve stopped being grumpy every time I find out the only baby change facilities are in the ladies’ or when I see adverts for mother and toddler groups with phrases like ‘new mums welcome’. There are things that I wasn’t invited to or couldn’t go to because of gender but I did find some great groups and activities that were very parent friendly. So the world has some changing to do, but it will only change if we choose to live differently. The world will get dad friendly changing facilities if dads live differently and the world will only get peace if we choose love above all things and actually live differently.

4. You can choose not to be lonely

My social network was not set up to support my new role so I went to a few play groups but my average day was still spent with just me and my daughter. On a good day I said hello to another parent at the park or spoke to a shop assistant but on a bad day I didn’t speak to an adult until my wife came home. Then, in a moment of self pity, I stopped and realised that I was the only one who could change this. So I sent a few texts, messaged a few people on Facebook and with very little effort I wasn’t so lonely any more. What was the key to make this possible? The answer: Church. It was my faith that linked me with people both in and out of my normal social circle – a community that I am so very grateful for. Some of the best advice I can give you is to join a church and learn about how Jesus teaches us to do fellowship.

5. If you want to get to know someone you have to fully commit

When my wife was preparing me for becoming a stay at home dad, she would tell me her routine and point out how she knew what our daughter wanted. She would say things like ‘that’s her tired cry’ or ‘that’s her hungry cry’.  I would just think to myself, ‘Are you sure? They all sound the same to me!’  Now I can hear the differences between her cries; in fact I can usually tell what she’s thinking before she cries. This only happened because I spent time with her.  I jumped in feet first and invested in our relationship in a way that only time can give you. The deeper lesson here is it’s not rocket science and if you want a relationship with someone you need to actually spend time with them and that goes for God too! Read the Bible, go to church and hear his word expanded, sing songs of worship and pray, invest time into him and I promise you will soon begin to feel your relationship growing.

Thank for reading and sharing my blog!

In the beginning…

blogging-image

Well here I go… I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter and now I’m blogging!

So what’s in a name?  ‘Pray and Act’ is something I say to myself every morning and try to say to myself every time I face a challenging situation. I say ‘try’ because I don’t always remember to, instead I often charge at the situation full of confidence that I can fix it in my own power only to stumble and realise that ‘apart from him I can do nothing’. It’s only then that I finally remember to stop and pray.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NIV

I don’t remember the last time, in fact any time, when I thought to myself that prayer was a waste of time so I will keep telling myself to Pray and Act in the hope that prayer will become so natural that I stop acting without prayer only to fall back on prayer as tool used for emergencies.

Prayer is easy and it should be as natural as breathing but somehow it doesn’t feel that way. I like to remind myself that even the apostles, the disciples that were closest to Jesus, wanted help with praying.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 NIV

We know that prayer is important and therefore we have a tendency to over-complicate it, it also takes time and, well, that is a precious commodity. Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer; a prayer that can teach us so much about how to pray. But as important as it is to study it and learn from it, we must remember it is also important to actually say it!

It has been a prayer that I have said when I do not have the words to pray, trusting that the spirit knows the groans of my heart.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  Romans 8:26 NIV

Stop reading this for a moment, grab a watch and time yourself saying the Lord’s prayer, or just trust me that even when I said it fairly slowly it only took 30 seconds. So if you’re struggling to pray and don’t think you have time, ask yourself ‘do I really not have 30 seconds for God?’

As this is the prayer that Jesus taught us we should at least say it once a day. So why not try saying it everyday, try saying it at the same time. It’s part of my morning routine, I find it helpful to link it with a daily activity, brushing your teeth, waiting for the kettle to boil for your morning coffee or as you get dressed. I hope that it will soon be a natural part of your morning not just a routine said by rote but a conscious decision to start your day knowing that God is your focus!

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog!