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Living Colour

In Joni Mitchell’s 1969 hit song Both Sides Now, she describes how there is never really only one thing going on in the story of life, what we see, and what others see. She describes one way of looking at clouds:

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way.

Clouds can look this way, however at sunset they look quite different as the sun reflects light off them. The transformation while short lived, is nothing short of miraculous. Then the clouds go back to be grey. I often wonder during the magnificent process of a sunset if there is something else going on that is unseen, yet experienced. I think I’ve looked at clouds this way, however there are other clues that we see every day.

Sunset

Reminders of the greater story are everywhere—in film and novels, in children’s fairy tales, in the natural world around us, and in the stories of our own lives. In fact, every story or movie or song or poem that has ever stirred your soul is telling you something you need to know about the world that God created. Even nature is crying out to us of God’s great heart and the drama that is unfolding. Sunrise and sunset tell the tale every day, remembering the Garden of Eden’s glory, and predicting Eden’s return.

Perhaps sunsets are the trumpet calls from the “hid battlements of eternity.” Our response is to notice and capture them like precious treasures, and hold them close to our hearts and perhaps even been transformed if only for the length on a sunset.

Living Colour

I bask in the warmth
Of the sunset at the end of the day
As you transform the clouds
Yellow to gold, and red to crimson

The colours deepen
While gaining significance
That attract the attention
Of us heaven gazers

We feel the work of sunset
On our faces yet never realise
Your mastery as you colour us
With the same brush strokes

The sunset works on us and paints
Our hearts with deep colours
That are yet to be named
As they settle within our soul

Help us to gaze into
The mirror of the sunset
As we fix our eyes on you
So we can become living colour

May you notice the sunset, and experience all it has to offer. May you feel the warmth as you face the sun, and may you shadows fall far behind you.

Grace and peace.

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Watch this Space

Last Christmas reminded me of the importance of purposefully making room for Jesus at the Inn – and not just at Christmas.

The coming of the eternal God and promised Messiah had been anticipated for thousands of years. Prophecies had foretold the truth that the Savior of the world would be coming. His birth would be so important that it would split history into B.C. and A.D.

Yet when the Jesus, the Son of God came into the world, there was no room for him. The innkeeper missed a prime opportunity. If Jesus had been born in one of his rooms, the innkeeper could have built one of those big Las Vegas signs that points down and reads, “Son of God Born Here!” He could have charged a fortune for rooms! Instead he missed the biggest blessing of his life because he didn’t have room for Jesus.

We can’t be too harsh on the innkeeper for not having room for Jesus. We do it all the time.

We all resist giving him the significance in our lives that Jesus deserves. We fill up our schedule with events that pale in significance compared to Jesus. We spend our money on the newest gadget and have nothing to give to God’s work around the world. We spend all our time advancing our careers and yet say we have no time to help others.

The question I recently asked myself was this: Have I left room in ‘the inn’ for Jesus, and not just at Christmas? Making room can be the first step, but what happens next is perhaps even more challenging.

Decluttering and making room in our lives can sometimes send us into a place that is neither full nor empty, an uncomfatble in-between place.  It’s in this space where Jesus calls us to follow Him again, but maybe in a different way.

Liminal space, the place of waiting, is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the Biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer – Richard Rohr

The word liminal comes from the Latin word limens, which means, “threshold.” It is the space when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else.

May you reflect on these liminal spaces in your life and how they were filled and with what.  May your future opportunities enable you to pause and consider what and how you will give space to the one who created time and space.  Will you watch this space?

Grace and peace.

 

The Liminal Space

The clutter of life
Leaves no room
For our soul
To live

The lack of wind
Leaves cobwebs
Between us and the One
Who gives us Breath

The liminal spaces
Within us are at once
So far and yet so close
To our Creator

Stay for a while
Forever is good
No booking required
There is room at the Inn

 

Over the next few months I’m collaborating with a great friends of mine – Jon Mills, from the USA. Jon is a Jesus follower, a philosopher, and a deep thinker. Recently I had the privilege of reading some of his writing and we have decided to work together and see what we can do with his prose and some of my poetry.

In the book, The Power of 2 by Rodd Wagner and Dr Gale Muller they describe five years of research on collaboration and partnerships. Essentially the book describes that when you partner with someone else on an idea that you both contribute to, it results in greater impact for your readers, than if you both worked on the idea separately. So we thought we’d give this a go.

So let’s begin with Jon’s words . . .

Near my house there is a hill, atop of which is a wonderful cross, worthy of hiking to in the early morning hours. As I was standing there alone early one morning God and I were having a wonderful time watching the sun rise and worshiping together.

In the midst of my worship time I noticed the fresh crop of weeds coming up all around the hillsides. These weeds reminded me of the curse. The curse of sin. Didn’t it say something in Genesis about the earth bringing forth weeds? Sin . . . . curses . . . weeds.

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Weeds are very symbolic of sins if you think about it. They are always cropping up around us requiring that we pull them out. The more we allow sins, the more they multiply . . . like weeds. I will always be weeding my life of the sins that crop up.

Yet, as I viewed the cross among the weeds on this morning, I began to realize that Christ had broken the curse through the power of the cross. Even if sin continues to pop up in my life until the day I die, I know the curse is broken, once and for all.

My heart fills with joy and love for my wonderful Saviour every time I am reminded of this wonderful story. The curse is broken. Sin is powerless. Christ won the final victory. I am His, He is mine. Though the seeds of sin will always be around me, though my flesh enjoys sin and I must weed it out, I have no fear.

There is a cross among the weeds.

May you my friends this week know that the cross is so much more than a symbol, and experience the redeeming and restorative power how the cross and the resurrection brings freedom from sin and guilt. May you experience this freedom and decide today what you will do with it.

Grace and peace.

 

Lift High The Cross

At the cross I bear my soul
The emblem to which I cling
Your life, my hope, my legacy
My all, your everything

At the cross I bear my heart
The symbol to which I sing
O Jesus you have saved my soul
To you my life I bring

At the cross I leave my sin
The sign to which I kneel
At your feet I fall down
I am covered by your seal

On that cross you paid it all
The hope for all to see
That empty cross, the sign of life
For you, for us, for me.

To wait is to learn the spiritual grace of detachment, the freedom of desire. Not the absence of desire, but desire at rest. St. John of the Cross lamented that “the desires weary and fatigue the soul; for they are like restless and discontented children, who are ever demanding this or that from their mother, and are never contented.” Detachment is coming to the place where those demanding children are at peace. As King David said, “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Ps. 131:2). Such a compelling picture.

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Today the word detachment creates unhelpful impressions.

It is not a cold and indifferent attitude; not at all. May writes, “An authentic spiritual understanding of detachment devalues neither desire nor the objects of desire.” Instead, it “aims at correcting one’s own anxious grasping in order to free oneself for committed relationship to God.”

As Thomas à Kempis declared, “Wait a little while, O my soul, wait for the divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance of all good things in heaven.” In this posture we discover that, indeed, we are expanded by longing. Something grows in us, a capacity if you will, for life and love and God. I think of Romans 8:24–25: “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” (The Message). There is actually a sweet pain in longing, if we will let it draw our hearts homeward.

This week may you come to know that waiting is an intentional activity.  May you find in that waiting place the rest you need to hear the ‘what next’.  Only in the presence can we see the future. Grace and Peace. Here’s my take on the waiting place.

The Rest Between Two Notes

So I prayed for the next thing
Of where we might go
Our next song to sing

Then I prayed some more
For the harvest we’d reap
Of what was in store

Then it dawned on me
As I noticed the sunrise
That perhaps waiting
Was what you had in mind

The waiting space
The extra line in the poem
That creates the rest
Before you get going

The waiting space
The rest between notes
In the score of the song
That pauses for hope

So I’ll wait for you
And be right here
I’ll notice your presence
As we draw near

 

Narrative adapted from The Journey of Desire by John Eldregde.

 

Finding Joy

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.

joy

The Book of Joy, which I’m currently reading, offers a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecedented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye.

Joy is the net of love by which you can catch souls. I love this quote by Mother Teresa. It describes exactly what I believe joy is and should be. In the pursuit of happiness we seem to have lost the idea of joy. If we don’t have joy what are we using for a net?

Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.
~ Melba Colgrove

In the bible in Isaiah 55:12 it tells us to go out with joy and that the mountains and the hills will break forth before us in song and clapping. This is the joy of the Lord – pure joy. Often we don’t feel joyful, particularly when we are going through hard times – it is the last thing we feel like doing or being – joyful.

I haven’t always been joyful, just ask those close to me. I’ve been negative, grumpy, irritating and generally morose for long periods of time. I’m trying to change – it’s fun, and I like it. In the process I have found peace – just like it says in Isaiah 55:12. Having joy is not dependent on things or situations. In fact the bible says that we are to consider it pure joy in our sufferings. I have finally found this joy, it is what I have been looking for.

So what about you my friend? Are you missing out on joy and peace? Do you know what the joy of the Lord feels like? Perhaps you could share your story here or somewhere this week. Why don’t you take a chance and be real? You may just help someone to find a seed of joy in their garden of suffering. Grace and Peace.

Pure Joy

In you joy
I am set me free
From the chains
That surrounded me

In you love
I am made whole
My heart fills
As you stir my soul

No longer black
Or white I see
For glorious colour
Has surrounded me

A couple of weeks ago, New Zealand was full of media hype and hyperbole about Cyclone Cook heading straight towards from New Zealand.  Sure, there were high winds, rain and flooding, but nothing more than usual.  I do feel for the people of Edgecombe though, who for two weeks now have been away from their homes due to flooding.

Perhaps it’s because I live in Wellington that I consider winds above 140 km/h and driving rain, that sometimes doesn’t even hit the ground, as a fairly normal occurrence.  I live in the windiest city in the world – we always have our outdoor furniture anchored down. We had a trampoline once and we had it secured to about half a dozen railway sleepers – it wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon!

Sunset

So Cyclone Cook, was officially downgraded to a storm before it hit. It made its presence felt in a few places, but soon ran out of steam.  It was hailed as the biggest weather event since Cyclone Giselle in 1968 that was, in part, responsible for the Interisland ferry Wahine to meet its watery grave on Barrett’s Reef in Wellington.

The media coverage of Cyclone Cook was in my opinion over the top, perhaps even bordering on ‘fake news’.  One media report I read did mention in passing that the cyclone had been downgraded however they were sticking with the ‘term ‘cyclone’, as they believed some people weren’t taking the storm seriously. So now the media are meteorologists?

This tidal wave of public opinion got me thinking about when Job gave God a piece of his mind for all the trouble he experienced – he was probably justified, however God did eventually reply to Job’s tirade of complaints and asked Job early on to brace himself, for he was about to unleash a storm of questions himself for Job.

We often talk about the weather in our conversation, it’s the small talk that fills the small story in our lives, but what of the one who created the weather and the big story – isn’t this more interesting and worthy of reflection?

Storms will come and storms will go,
I wonder just how many storms it takes,
Until we finally know,
You’re here always.
– Amy Grant

I wonder how many storms it will take us to realise that the real message of the storm is who we focus on and hold on to.  It’s an opportunity to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author of our faith and see if we will sink or swim. May you my brothers and sisters, recognise the one who makes the storms and then causes them to cease.

Grace and Peace

 

Weather the Storm

So the wind came
And blew over the
Outdoor furniture of
The ill prepared

Then the sun came
And burnt those who
Forgot the hole in
The sky overhead

The rain that followed
Surprised some
And caught them off guard
From protecting their own interests

So were you there when the wind
Blew in  for the first time?

Did you experience the warmth
When light forced the shadows to flee?

Where you there when the clouds
Opened and the heavens rained?

Have you forgotten how the earth was created
In the most mighty poetic act of all time?

So that we may marvel
At how God breathed the land
Into existence

 

Technology has some wonderful benefits. I use it almost every day. It has become our way of life and how we connect with the world. We are wired for connection, but this is not the only way to connect.

We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all. —Steve Jobs

However, that being said, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our world is developing an unhealthy attachment to technology. A recent study showed that:

  • 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device.
  • 67% of cell phone owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
  • Some mobile device owners check their devices every 6.5 minutes.
  • 88% of U.S. consumers use mobile devices as a second screen even while watching television.
  • Almost half of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls.
  • Traditional TV viewing eats up over six days (144 hours, 54 minutes) worth of time per month.
  • Some researchers have begun labelling “cell phone checking” as the new yawn because of its contagious nature.

How then, in our ever-connected world, might we take appropriate steps to find balance and intentionality in our approach to technology? If you need help getting started, try one or more of these:

  • Choose to start your day elsewhere.
  • Power-down for one period of time each day.
  • Better manage the time-wasters.
  • Take one extended break on a regular basis.

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Of course there is a deeper issue here than just disconnecting.  Technology affords us so many options not to take the gaps we need in the day to just pause, reflect, and re frame our thinking.  If we miss too many of these gaps then we miss something important.  Rob Bell, on his podcast calls this, ‘The Importance of Boredom’.  It’s worth a listen.

 

I’m aware of the irony of writing this on a computer, to post on a website, so that you can read this on a screen somewhere.  My sign off and prayer below is for me as much as it is for anyone.

May you my brothers and sisters, find a way this week, to unplug, be present in the gaps between life, and use these times wisely.  May you be still and know that there is more, so much more, that waits for you if you take the time to listen to the music that you may not have heard before, and begin the dance.

Grace and peace.

The Eucharist of Life

I will be still
And not fill the gap
For I choose not
This dance of despair

I will be calm
And celebrate the pause
For I choose not
To fill my mind with emptiness

I will go off the grid
And find the spacious place
For I choose to listen
And not hear or speak

For the Eucharist of Life requires
The empty to become full
The calm before the storm
The rest between two notes

Then and only then
Can the music begin
For the dance of freedom