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Here and now

The popular pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell, of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, shows us how to pursue and realize our dreams, live in the moment, and joyfully do the things that make us come alive.

Each of us was created for something great—we just need to figure out what it is and find the courage to do it. Whether it’s writing the next great novel, starting a business, or joining a band, Rob Bell’s book How to Be Here encourages us us make those dreams become reality. Our path is ours and ours alone to pursue, he reminds us, and in doing so, we derive great joy because we are living our passions in the present.

 

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“Are you breathing? Are you here? Did you just take a breath? Are you about to take another? Do you have a habit of regularly doing this? Gift. Gift. Gift. Whatever else has happened in your life—failure, pain, heartache, abuse, loss—the first thing that can be said about you is that you have received a gift. Often” – Rob Bell

How to Be Here lays out concrete steps we can use to define and follow our dreams, interweaving engaging stories, lessons from biblical figures, insights gleaned from Rob’s personal experience, and practical advice. Rob gives you the support and insight you need to silence your critics, move from idea to action, take the first step, find joy in the work, persevere through hard times, and surrender to the outcome.

Being here is really the only place we can be.  May you this week remind yourself how to be present if only for 10 minutes, and notice the lack of striving.  May the present gift you back your life in all its fullness.

Grace and Peace

 

Here and now

When the weight of all my thoughts
Rests heavy in on soul
They multiply my doubts
And leave me far from whole

As moments from my past replay
Frame by frame behind my eyes
I’m distracted by this story
That has replaced my daily life

As the worries of the past defend
The future outposts of my mind
All the time I’m blinded
To the present gift of time

For right here is where I Am
His arms reach out for me
His eyes are deep with love
As he daily sets me free

For where I stand today
Is the sum of all my past
But my best days are ahead
As forever they will last

Lord help me fix my eyes on you
When distractions clamber near
For you have freed my mind
From the sum of all my fears

The Perfect Gift

It was a pretty simple scene that first Christmas – a rough room, a young couple and nothing but a feeding trough to put the child in. It was probably quite cold and with family far away there was little help. Not exactly the Christmas Card  moment we like to show in Christmas pageants. This humble and rustic scene marked the greatest event in the history of mankind.

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Jesus became human and came to earth to save us. God had promised to send a Messiah, one who would save His people. He could have easily burst on the scene as a full-grown man, a seven-foot warrior with fiery eyes and arms of steel. This was what many people were looking for, but it wasn’t how God did it. He arrived in the arms of a young girl. He was, as someone once said, “a very small package, wrapped in rags, given from the heart of God. The perfect gift.”

God gave His only Son to die in our place so that we, in all our brokenness, could know forgiveness. He came so that we could know what love feels like, real love – love that never leaves, love that never disappoints, love that is never betrayed. He sent His Son into a corrupted world to bring us hope.

So my friend, how are you doing this Christmas? Are you having a hard time finding hope in the world? Are you having a hard time finding peace? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have peace and find hope and know forgiveness through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

May you my friend and the ones you love find peace, joy and hope this Christmas.

Here’s some real poetry in motion from the Piano Guys

On Being Human

You can’t reduce stress in your life unless you change how you think. Our stress doesn’t come from the outside but from the inside.

Our mind is a special gift. It’s capable of storing more than 100 trillion thoughts. It can handle enormous amounts of information. We have the freedom to choose what we think about, from among all of that information.

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A long time ago an old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

We can choose what we think about and we also feed our own thoughts. What we put into our minds impacts how we live.

It’s really no wonder we’re stressed when we consider what most of us think about on a regular basis. Many people, allow anything and everything into their minds. Reading depressing books and watching depressing movies will lead to only one outcome.

What we think affects the way we feel; the way we feel affects the way we act.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to fix our minds on good things. Paul means that we need to make a deliberate choice. Change the channel on our minds. Only allow in things that fit into the characteristics described in that verse.

Sounds easy right? We are what we think. We don’t get it right all the time. We are also human.

On Being Human

When my mind is full
Of too many yesterdays
Spent in retrospective angst
Let it stay in the past

When my rushing
Through the day
Was in hindsight too quick
Slow my presence

When regrets abound
Like a crowd of paupers
Remind me of all the riches of
Being Human

If you haven’t noticed that Rob Gray and I have just published a new book – Coming Home then my social marketing skills are not as good as I think.

Here’s a bit of an introduction about what we’ve been up to.  To the right of this post you should be able to see a link to our book which you can preview and then purchase if it grabs you.

This book has come from meditating on one of Jesus’ parable – the tale of two sons. As a pastor my friend Rob has preached from this parable many times. Rob and I shared from it at an Easter Camp for youth a few years ago. We are forming a retreat based on it. More than that though, it has become a story that we can’t shake. It has grabbed us, captured and captivated us and speaking for myself, transformed my spirituality, my faith and my life.

It is the story commonly, but incompletely, known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32.

Here’s a link to a video FB version of the story:

The premise of our book – Coming Home is that there is a gift that all our hearts need and that gift is freely available. It is the gift of unconditional love from our Father to us, his sons and daughters. This is not a gift from our earthly fathers. That would be something that even the best dads simply can’t deliver often enough, consistently enough or freely enough despite the best of intentions. Of course, many dads fall short of even that standard. No, this gift can come from only one source.

Jesus called this source, Father, and, at times, Abba, meaning ‘daddy’ or ‘papa’. It’s a strikingly intimate term. We also note that Jesus, by and large, didn’t engage in heavy theological or philosophical argument. Instead he told stories which we call parables. These stories had a certain flavour. I’ve done a bit of travelling and when you’re a stranger in a strange land you find yourself telling stories of home. Jesus was no different. He told us what his home, the kingdom of God, was like. He told us about his Father and the special relationship he had with him.  There was one difference with Jesus’ stories though. He was telling us that his home was our true home and his Father was our true Father. He was inviting us to come home and that home was coming.

Enjoy the book!  If you like it leave a review.

Grace and Peace

 

I Wonder

My friend and mentor Andrew Norton passed away last week aged 61 years.

Andrew was a preacher, priest, prophet, photographer and poet, who embraced life, faith, family, friends and work with keen perception and vigorous passion.

He leaves us all with an amazing legacy. No word, not even poetry can describe how thankful I was to have him in my life and how much I will miss him.

I had one last coffee with him in Auckland in April this year.  We had been meaning to catch up for sometime, and I am so glad we met this one last time.  I remember my conversation with Andrew – his intense listening, his comfort with long silences, and how he always answered my questions with more questions.  He thanked me for making the effort to catch up and how my perseverance had meant we were able to meet one last time.  He told me how he had paused recently to take a photo of a magnolia flower and then just spent some time noticing the design of the magnolia.

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Last Friday I attended the celebration of his life. His family described his passing in a way that was so unique to his life and calling:

Our mighty Totara has today fallen into the arms of the Great I Am

The Totara is a native NZ tree, and my friend Andrew was as mighty and present as a great tree.

While Andrew was suffering with cancer he wrote a short book on his reflection on the grace and gift of dying. His family gave us each a copy of the book – Turn to Wonder, as his final gift to us. 

Arohanui and farewell, for now, Andrew – my friend and mentor.

In response to his well lived life I wrote this poem for him:

I Wonder

When the weight
Of the world
Fills too much of my head
I turn to Wonder

When my head is
Too full of worries
Doubled by fear
I turn to Wonder

When my friend I
Had our last coffee with
Is no longer with us
I turn to Wonder

For in Wonder I see
A new Heaven and Earth
That empties my worries
And fears of the future

For in Wonder I will
See my friend again
And we will trade answers
To his great questions

Of life and death
Of loss and gain
Of solemnity and grace
Of Awe and Wonder

Like probably many of you I have met people who are fascinated, compelled, or drawn to Jesus, but some question or obstacle keeps them away. They may have heard from a Christian, “This is how it is – end of discussion. The Bible says it, so that settles it.”

Or they might have been taught that to follow Jesus, they had to go down a certain road and believe certain things, some of which they found problematic. What interests me is the power of questioning and the experience of solidarity in finding you’re not alone—of always wondering, “But what about that?” and then finding out, “Oh, other people feel the same way.”

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Rob Bell wrote a book back in March 2011 called Love Wins.  You may have heard of it.  The subtitle – A Book about  Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. If you haven’t read or heard of this book – its not a book about hell, fire and brimstone.  It’s a provocative book that upset lots of fundamentalist Christians.  For me, that was a compelling reason to get myself a copy.

The first chapter of Love Wins poses this interesting question:

If a missionary got a flat tire, and missed meeting with a nearby village, would this really mean that the villagers missed the only opportunity to hear about God, and would not be saved? Would a flat tire mean that they are all destined for hell?

This of course raises a couple of far more disturbing questions like:

Is your future in someone else’ s hands?

And then the next question:

Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands?

Perhaps Rob’s purpose here is that we get loosened up with the questions – that the questions pull out us out of ourselves and wake us up, like a triple shot flat white coffee. It’s okay. There should be no fear in the questioning and no hesitation in the asking. We can go there. The biblical tradition, particularly the Hebrew tradition, is actually filled with questions, all the way to Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Many people are afraid to question their faith, having been taught that this is tantamount to either rejecting or losing one’s faith. The best evidence against this line of thought is the Bible itself, in which both God and all the main characters ask many, many troubling questions.

Asking questions is, in fact, a means God often uses to help us rid ourselves of limited and wrongheaded notions about God, so that we catch a larger and expanded vision of who we worship. The bible is full of questions, and full of people who have many doubts and need answers.

By the way – if you’re still stuck or maybe uncomfortable about the two questions following the flat tyre question above then the answers are “most likely no – God has a Plan B.”

Perhaps questions are actually one of the ways we meet the Divine. Somewhere in here we find our own questions and we learn that we are never alone.
And the quest – behind the question is even more interesting and compelling than the questions.

May you, my brothers and sisters remember this week that the questions of life may be more important than the answers. May you recognize your quest behind the questions and may this take you to a place where you can sit in wonder and awe at what the Divine is doing in your life and how much he loves you.

Grace and Peace.

The Quest Behind the Questions

The questions that we ask
Follow the answers the we seek
They riddle the hours of our lives
As our days become our weeks

As we strive to understand
The complexities of life
We miss the here and now
As our worries lead to strife

As we wonder how the past
It teaching us the way
We miss the burning bush
As we rush past it every day

It is not the ‘why’ the matters
As we seek to know the reason
Don’t we just accept the sun
As it moves through every season?

Perhaps the ‘what’
Is the one compelling question
As it grounds us in the present
With it’s beckoning suggestion

That perhaps these questions comfort us
As we seek what keeps us safe
As our present hope is anchored
On our the object of our faith

Greetings

How often do we stop and take time to examine our soul?  I heard a description of the the soul this week as a old church stained glass window.  God’s Spirit shines through the window and the colours reflect the many diverse elements of our soul.

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The heart-cry of every soul is for intimacy with God. For this we were created and for this we were rescued from sin and death. In Ephesians, Paul lets us in on a little secret: We’ve been more than noticed. God has pursued us from farther than space and longer ago than time. Our romance is far more ancient than the story of Helen of Troy. God has had us in mind since before the Foundations of the World. He loved us before the beginning of time, has come for us, and now calls us to journey toward him, with him, for the consummation of our love.

Who am I, really? The answer to that question is found in the answer to another: What is God’s heart toward me, or, how do I affect him? If God is the Pursuer, the Ageless Romancer, the Lover, then there has to be a Beloved, one who is the Pursued. This is our role in the story.

In the end, all we’ve ever really wanted is to be loved. “Love comes from God,” writes St. John. We don’t have to get God to love us by doing something right-even loving him. “This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Someone has noticed, someone has taken the initiative. There is nothing we need to do to keep it up, because his love for us is not based on what we’ve done, but who we are: His beloved. “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me” (Song 7:10).

May you this week take time to consider how ‘in shape’ your soul is.  Know that in this broken world our soul takes many arrows and is need of restoration.  May you know that God is interested in restoring your soul now. Will you invite him?

Grace and peace

Restore My Soul

Spirit shine through my soul
Like the sun through an
Old stained glass window

Where the colours highlight
The elements of a soul
Barely used

For the part I have used so far
I have only defined by
Making you in my image

As many colours of the rainbow
Are multiplied by the kaleidoscope
Of your Spirit

They colours show each element
As their number are counted
By the stars in the sky

No wonder my soul feels
So large that only large deserts
And oceans can contain it

After all your Spirit and my soul
Reflect the kaleidoscope
Of you who define all that I Am

So restore and renew my soul now
So that I may be prepared
For the expanse of Heaven

As nothing is worth more
Than a soul fulfilled

Great wide open

Into the Great Wide Open was the eighth studio album by American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, first released in 1991. The album was the band’s last with MCA Records. The album was the second Petty produced with Jeff Lynne after the success of Full Moon Fever.

Interestingly the music video for the song starred Johnny Depp, who had moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to seek rock stardom, along with Gabrielle Anwar, Faye Dunaway, Matt LeBlanc, Terence Trent D’Arby and Chynna Phillips.  I wonder how this opportunity shaped the careers of these actors and where there desire took them?

God knows the danger of ignoring our hearts, and so he reawakens desire. You see a photo in a magazine, and pause, and sigh. You see someone with a life that reminds you of the life you once thought you would live. You’re channel surfing one night and see someone doing the very thing you always dreamed you would do—the runner breaking the tape, the woman enjoying herself immensely as she teaches her cooking class. Sometimes all it takes is seeing someone enjoying themselves doing anything, and your heart says, I want that too.

 

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God does this for our own good. He does it to reawaken desire, to stir our hearts up from the depths we sent them to. He does it so that we don’t continue to kill our hearts and so that we don’t fall prey to some substitute that looks like life but will become an addiction in short order.

He sometimes does it so that we will seek the life we were meant to seek. Isn’t this just what happens to the prodigal? He wakes one day to say, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” (Luke 15:17). “Look at their lives,” he says. And he is stirred to head for home.

May you this week notice what awakens your desire that God has placed in your heart and follow its lead.  In the process may you be restored, renewed, revived, and redeemed.  Grace and peace.


Great wide open

Restore to me
All that was lost
In between our last conversation
And our encounter this morning

Renew my mind
With those thoughts
That left me after we last talked
And our chance meeting today

Revive my soul
With your Spirit
Like how it used to be
When we talked every day

Redeem my life
As I set my eyes on you
From this day and always
Into the great wide open

The sleepy seaside town of Bluff, 20 minutes drive from Invercargill, New Zealand, is the oldest European town in New Zealand. Bluff is renowned for the world-famous Bluff oysters, a much sought after delicacy, which were first commercially caught in the late 1870s.  Bluff has long summer days with friendly locals and a warm atmosphere.

Bluff is set at the base of Bluff Hill, with an excellent harbour and a rich history of whaling, sealing and shipping. Captain William Stirling purchased and cultivated the land around Stirling Point (where it got its name) to service whaling bases.

I visited Bluff a couple of weeks ago and found this memorial to William Stirling:

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I had probably read this Psalm before, however it seemed to hold a special place in the context of the wild oceans of Bluff.

May you this week remember that Jesus rides in the boat with you through the storms of life. May you find grace and peace in these words today.

Thunder of the ocean

As waves break over my head
Where the storm breaks my will
There remains an enduring hope
The anchor to my soul

Storms will come and go
I wonder how many more
Will it take to know that you
Are always in the boat with me

Mightier than the
Thunder of the great ocean
Mightier than the
Breakers of the sea
The Lord on high is mighty

How to Be Here

The popular pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell, of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, shows us how to pursue and realize our dreams, live in the moment, and joyfully do the things that make us come alive.

Each of us was created for something great—we just need to figure out what it is and find the courage to do it. Whether it’s writing the next great novel, starting a business, or joining a band, Rob Bell’s book How to Be Here encourages us us make those dreams become reality. Our path is ours and ours alone to pursue, he reminds us, and in doing so, we derive great joy because we are living our passions.

 

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“Are you breathing? Are you here? Did you just take a breath? Are you about to take another? Do you have a habit of regularly doing this? Gift. Gift. Gift. Whatever else has happened in your life—failure, pain, heartache, abuse, loss—the first thing that can be said about you is that you have received a gift. Often” – Rob Bell

How to Be Here lays out concrete steps we can use to define and follow our dreams, interweaving engaging stories, lessons from biblical figures, insights gleaned from Rob’s personal experience, and practical advice. Rob gives you the support and insight you need to silence your critics, move from idea to action, take the first step, find joy in the work, persevere through hard times, and surrender to the outcome.

Being here is really the only place we can be.  May you this week remind yourself how to be present if only for 10 minutes, and notice the lack of striving.  May the present gift you back your life in all its fullness.

 

Grace and Peace

 

Being Here

Have you walked to the edge of today
Only to find that tomorrow
Is still a unformed dream
Of history about
To repeat?

At the edge of today did you
Achieve all that you had hoped
While regret held you back
From your dream of the
Future

If tomorrow’s friend never called
Would the end of today
Be any different than
The past failed
Friendships

It seems always the same
Forever unchanging regret
Betrayed by hope
Abandoned through
Rejection

Perhaps then the present
Is the only gift of today
Worth opening now
And spending time
With

For the one friend today
Yesterday and forever
Is here now with
His arms wide
Open

Introductory content adapted from GoodReads.com 

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.

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

A Plan for You

It is far too very easy when thinking about God’s plan for our lives to have the attitude: “it’s all about me.”  Yes, it’s true that God cares about every intricate detail in our lives.  In fact, Jesus said that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. We can also mistakenly think that God’s plan is always going to be a “feel good” plan with the intent to make us happy. 

Sunset, Trees, Landscape, Mountains, Nature, Sun

Jeremiah’s message in this verse is radically different.  He’s writing to a group of people who are being held captive, and are in exile from their homeland.  He’s writing to let them know that although they’re not where they would have expected, nor where they would have asked God to place them, God has not forgotten them and He still has a plan for their lives. Even in the midst of a difficult situation, God wants them to know His plans.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

In the preceding verses we see that a big part of God’s plan is for them to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7).  In other words, God wants them to know that His plans are not just to benefit them personally. God is also telling them that He is not removing them from the situation immediately.  He does promise to eventually restore them, but it’s not coming quickly (70 years out when many of them will be dead).  God is letting them know they can move forward, because in the eternal picture, God’s justice will prevail and everything will even out.

Today, in the midst of difficult situations, God wants us to know He has a plan for us all and for you.  He also wants us to know that as we submit to His plan that He desires to use us to bless the world around us.

May you this week rediscover part of the plan that God has for you, you may not know the whole plan, but parts of it will be familiar.  Be encouraged that all of your plans that have come to pass, and all the plans that haven’t are still part of His plan for you.

Grace and peace.

A Plan for You

The forgotten dreams
Lay shelved among
The chapters of my life
On the old dusty bookcase

The great plans that I had
Have been used to wrap
My ideas so they keep safe
In the boxes of my mind

In the calm still waters is where
My hope and future is kept
Like a ship that is moored
For too long in the harbour

Yet the ship
Is not made
For the harbour

Unrealised hope
Cannot be anchored
To the soul forever

Dreams and plans
Need to fight
For their freedom

Then I remember that my
Plans, hopes, and dreams
Have eternal character and
An unrelenting destiny

For you know the plans
You have for me
Plans to prosper me
And not to harm me
Plans to give me hope
And a future

It was the message that has become all too familiar as I get older.  When I was younger it was the common events of life that I celebrated with my friends – birthdays, turning 21, graduations, engagement parties and then weddings.

The common event that seems to keep reoccurring now with the stench of regularity is people I know that are taking the dangerous unexpected journey through hell – cancer.

We all take journeys, sometimes even dangerous journeys, however we usually choose these journeys and accept the risk.  Sometimes journeys choose us.

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door, he used to say. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to. – Frodo Baggins
Someone I know, my mentor, coach, and fellow poet (among many other things) is walking this road.  I know he has great support, a loving family, and many friends that are supporting him in many ways, but my heart aches for him for he is my friend.

What can I do?  I can craft words of encouragement, I can express my deepest empathy, I could even send money – however none of this can take away the burden and the road he has to walk.  To his credit he is re framing his hell – his cancer, as a journey where he is learning more about who God is and leaning more into him.

Scotland, Landscape, Scenic, Mountains, Hills, Sunset

My friend is choosing to take a journey with God, and has accepted that there will be weeping and laughing, pain, and joy, learning and unlearning.  His approach is a tribute to life, living and all that is pure, noble, true, right, admirable and excellent.  It causes me to pause and think on these things.

I’ve adapted the words of a well known song for my Brother Andrew and sent it to him as his approach reminded me of his servant heart. He has been this friend to many others. I wish that I could be this friend – I have some work to do.

I hope these words are more than just words and that they bring life, light and healing in some way.   These words are for you my Brother.

Brother Andrew

Brother Andrew, let me serve you
Let me bring His hope anew
I pray that I might have the words to
Speak Christ’s healing light in you

We are two travellers on a journey
I’m your companion on this road
I am here to love and serve you
Walk these miles and bear your load

I will hold the Christ light with you
In the night-time of your fear
I will pray with hands stretched towards you
Speak His peace you hope to hear

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your pain and heartache
Till we’ve seen this journey through

Brother Andrew, let me serve you
I pray you feel his love right here
These words are Christ’s gentle whispers
As he listens to your hopes and fears

Till Heaven

A couple of weeks ago, Craig McConnell from Ransomed Heart Ministries left this world and went home to Heaven.  I never met Craig, however he was a man who I admired and was an inspiration to many.

A couple of years ago I was in Colorado Springs and I met with the Ransomed Heart team and we had a personal tour through the ‘Outpost’ (their offices) and then went rock climbing in the Garden of the Gods.  I remember standing in Craig’s office and thinking that where we stood was a holy and sacred place.  Sure, it was just an office. It was also a place where a man who loved God did his work in humbleness and holiness.

The team at Ransomed Heart described Craig’s passing in a way that was full of grief and joy – in a way that would seem strange to some, but familiar to others. The paradox of death is that it is also the beginning of life and it is not the final word.

This morning, Craig was completely healed. He is in the Presence of God and seeing Jesus face to face. He has moved from glory to glory. He was at peace, surrounded by his beloved family. – John Eldredge

In a note to his daughter Craig say goodbye to his friends and allies.  He signed off ‘Till Heaven’.

I will miss Craig’s humor and humbleness, his words of wisdom, and his way of connecting with people in a genuine and gentle manner.  I never knew Craig, but I knew the impact of his life.

My friends, may you reflect on those that you know that have left this world and now live in paradise. May you grieve their loss, remember their legacy, and know that you will meet them again one day soon.  Grace and peace.

Till Heaven

 

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Craig McConnell

Till Heaven
Where we’ll met those
Who have come before us
At the great banquet table

Till heaven
Where those we know and loved
Departed and left us longing
We will feast with you once more

Till heaven
Where we will see Jesus
The author of our story
And the finisher of our lived faith

Till heaven
Where out goodbyes
Regenerate into joyous greetings
We will drink to our full health

Till heaven
We wait expectantly
For our redemption
The final restoration of all things

(photo by Ransomed Heart Ministries)

 

Everyone trusts in something. We even make good things — like our jobs, our families, or even our passions, hobbies and ministries — into idols.

Trusting in things other than God can have devastating effects upon our lives. If we think what we do will make us totally fulfilled, we’re setting ourselves up for deep disappointment. The Bible reminds us of this in Jeremiah: Those who make idols are disillusioned” (Jeremiah 10:14)

Sadly, idols don’t just stop after they’ve disappointed us though. Eventually, they enslave us, too.

treasure-chest-full-of-gold-coins-Gainesville-Coins

Whatever you value the most in life, you’re going to become like. If you value money, you’ll eventually become a materialist. If you value pleasure, you’ll become a hedonist. If you value works, you’ll become a pragmatist. If you value above all else Jesus Christ, you’ll become a Christian. It all about the becoming.

So if putting something else first in our lives bends us out of shape, why do we do it?

We want a god we can control. We want to be able to manage him. If we make money our god, we feel as if we can control it. If we make other people our gods, we set out to control them. It makes us feel better.

When we are content that we have God worked out and that his values match ours, and that his morality is our morality, we are no longer dealing with God – we are dealing with an idol. – Peter Rollins

We can’t control God. He says, “Don’t reduce me. Don’t try to fit me into your lifestyle. Don’t try to control me.”

May you this week notice and identify the idols that you may have. May you come to know that these – even what seems good – may be coming between you and the Divine.  Talk about these with God and may you reorient yourself to the one whom you trust above all else. Perhaps then everything else may just fall into place. Grace and peace.

The things between us

These things between us
Admiration disguised as envy
Respect dressed up as jealously
Love where special conditions apply

These things between us
Living vicarious lives
Coveting others success
Expose the naked truth

These many things between us
Dripping with platitudes and cliches
Are like a Trojan horse
Of well presented polished idols

Take these things between us
And scatter them as
Far as the east is from the west
For they are just the dust of our inequity

Will you open your arms
Freely once more
I only want and need you
Other things can wait

 

We all experience valleys at one time or another during our lives.  In fact, usually several times.  Life is a series of mountain tops and valleys. While we know God cares about our suffering, many of us wonder at times why he allows it.  No one likes the valleys of suffering. Most of us would rather spend our time on the mountain top.

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Time in the valley can be a place of rest and solitude.  It may not be what type of valley we find ourselves in, but rather, what we do when we’re in the valley.  Do we complain, groan, and allow bitterness to enter our hearts – if we are honest then probably yes!  There is one unique thing however that we can only find in the valley – rivers.  Perhaps time in the valley is time to rest, drink and be refilled.

You restore my soul. You guide me in the path of righteousness for your name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:3-4

In the valleys of life, we learn that we need help, restoration and guidance.  Other people may be able to help, but they may also offer too much advice – remember Job’s friends? There is only one God who can provide full and complete restoration. It’s an issue of trust and of waiting.

If you find yourself in the valley, take heart. God is up to something, because you’re worth it. If you feel like you are in an endless, uphill battle and can’t do anything right to get to the top of the mountain. Stop climbing. Breathe, and take in the fresh air from below and drink from the river. He has so much for you.

Grace and peace.

Mountains and Valleys

The mountain holds
The mystery of where
I long to stay and learn
About how to be here

In the anticipation of
The climb to the summit
In the place where we gathered
And experienced the present

The knowledge of the ending
And the sad leaving of
What was never known
Back to the future

The mountain holds
The mystery that can never
Be unseen or unheard
Where disappointment forms

The valley is where I live and work
Where my life is refined
Through hope doubled by wonder
Yet the mountain still beckons

So for now I will learn what
I can from even from this
In the valley, while longing
For the restoration
Of all things

Here and Now

The first time God was asked to name Himself, He said, “I am” (Ex. 3:14). He is simply—and infinitely—Himself. And in the person of Jesus, He invited people to get to know Him in the context of a face-to-face relationship. This realisation led author John Eldredge to write in one of his books, Beautiful Outlaw, about the singular unchanging beauty of Christ’s often overlooked personality and how it can transform us.

Scripture shows that Jesus continuously astonished the people who knew Him. What are some of His personality traits that would change our relationship with Him and how we understand His work in our lives, if were we to recognize and embrace them?

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His disruptiveness. For far too long we have portrayed Jesus as kindly and loving in a soft way. Think “elevator music.” It’s music . . . kind of. Well, we’ve done the same sort of thing with the word love. We’ve made it a very sweet, sappy, two-dimensional kind-of love. We’ve made elevator music with the personality of Jesus.

But Jesus was radically disruptive. Not obnoxious, but unnerving and massively unsettling. He had the courage to say things we would never say. Love is not always a get-well card; sometimes it’s an intervention.

His trueness. Jesus is so true to Himself. How much of what we do is motivated by fear of man? To be entirely free of false guilt, pressure, and false allegiances would be absolutely extraordinary. This is what gives Jesus the ability to say such startlingly honest things to people. It is what enables Him to be so scandalous. This is the secret of His ability to navigate praise and contempt. Neither success nor opposition has power over Him. One day, the crowds love Him; the next, they’re shouting for His crucifixion. Jesus is the same man—the same personality—through the swirling tempest. Jesus is free from the fear of man.

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (NIV). That’s why Jesus came—to be incarnate, to live before us. He said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). And “I and the Father are one” (10:30). If He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), then His personality hasn’t changed.

May you this week know that Jesus hasn’t changed and will always be the anchor to your soul.  May you experience this constant in all the changes of life and may this give you hope.  May this hope bring you wonder and contentment.

Grace and peace.

 

Here and Now

Have you walked to the edge of today
Only to find that tomorrow
Is still an unformed dream
Of history about
To repeat?

At the edge of today did you
Achieve all that you had hoped
While regret held you back
From your dream of
The future?

If tomorrow‘s friend never called
Would the end of today
Be any different from
The past failed
Friendships?

It seems always the same
Forever unchanging regret
Betrayed by hope
Abandoned through
Rejection

Perhaps then the present
Is the only gift of today
Worth opening now
And spending time
With

For the one friend today
Yesterday and forever
Is here now with
His arms wide
Open

In the book, Velvet Elvis, Repainting the Christian Faith, the author, Rob Bell has this to say about light – “Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”

Darkness only occurs in a shadow, shadows are caused by light. Light therefore must be the absence of darkness. Pure and simple logic really.

The concept of “light” appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. God created light (Genesis 1:3 ). However, a careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the physical entity that we call “light” is actually only the second form of light in the universe, since everywhere the Bible declares that God Himself is light.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light.” In Psalm 104:2 , the psalmist testified of the Lord who “covered himself” in light.

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In John 8:12 Jesus, said, “I am the light of the world.” Such expressions make at least two things abundantly clear. First, the origin of light rests with God. Second, in some sense God Himself is the very essence of light.

We need to let the light into our lives. Light is life and healing. Everything has cracks, Everything is made to let the light in.

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen

There is an old Maori proverb that says if you turn your face towards the sun your shadows will fall far behind you. One of the meanings of this proverb is you always have a choice to focus on the light or on your own shadows. Light is life. Choose it.

This week, may you let the light come in and begin healing in your heart. May you recognize that the cracks don’t need papering over. May your words be words of light. The cracks exist to let light in and then let light out. What will you do with this light?

 

Words of Light

I write words
To create a spacious place
Where the gift of rest
Becomes the presence
Where words begin to dance

Some write words
Of light to drive out dark
Of love to drive out hate
Yet these words do not dance
For there is no music

Your words are
A lamp to our feet
A light to our path
Music for the dance

You write the words
In your book of life
Our names of light and love
Hold sway eternally
Waiting patiently for us

There is no place that you can go where God’s love isn’t. You’ll never be separated from God’s love. God will never stop loving you. You will always be loved. Nothing can destroy your relationship with God. If you grasp this fact, it will change your life.

Nothing — no circumstance, no situation — can separate you because God’s love is everywhere: “. . . neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord . . .” (Romans 8:39 NIV).

12140791_10209002163079635_1402020909583778497_nWhen you put your hand in God’s, he grasps it, and he’s never letting go. There may be times you might like to let go. But he never will. You are eternally secure. Once your name is written in the eternal book of life, it can’t be erased. It’s indelible ink. It doesn’t matter how many doubts or fears you have or how many sins you commit. If you put your trust in Christ, he says nothing — nothing! — will separate you from his love. No matter what you face in life, you will never face it alone.

“Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139:7-12 TEV).

This is the Good News: You are forgiven, and you are free. God is for you, and he’s never going to stop loving you.

What should be your response? “Live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessings as these” (Ephesians 4:1).

Live in a way that’s worthy. Live with hope, and share that hope with others.

May you this week experience the eternal reality that nothing can or ever will separate you from God’s love.  His love for you in relentless and will continue to purse you all the days of your life. May this give you new hope.

Grace and peace.

Neither Height nor Depth

Through you I live and have my being
To the end of my days
There is nothing
That can separate me from you
Neither death nor life

The world is at war
In the greater story of life
There is nothing
That can separate me from you
Neither angels nor demons

In the learning of how to be here
Where time won’t wait for me
There is nothing
That can separate me from you
Neither the present nor the future, nor any powers

Across canyons grand where
Wonder and awe stand together
There still is nothing
That can separate me for you
Neither height nor depth.

Through faith I remain certain
That there is nothing
Not anything else in all creation, that
Will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in
Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Ask me

 

Hi Friends.

Over the next few months I’ll be showcasing some fine New Zealand poetry and photography from Andrew Norton.

Andrew is a poet and photographer and works as the denominational leader (moderator) for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Andrew also is an executive coach and Wilderness Retreats facilitator.
See www.executivewildernessretreats.com

Andrew is married to Sue with four adult children.

His publications include:

Finding Cadence 2010  @blurb.com – Collected poems (it’s a great coffee table book – you can view it at and purchase a copy from the link above).

Co Author Elizabeth Smythe and Andrew Norton Thinking as Leadership / Leadership as thinking, Leadership Journal  Sage Publications February 2007 Co Author Elizabeth Smythe and Andrew Norton Leadership: Wisdom in Action, Indo – Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, May 2011

Here’s another great poem from the pen of Andrew Norton. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Hill road

Ask me,
one day in the available light,
“What lies ahead?”

We’ll go for a walk.
We’ll follow the ridge line track
there and back.
We’ll drink with our eyes.
We’ll speak with our hearts.
We’ll delight in the clouds.

And I’ll ask you,
“What lies within?

We’ll listen in silence
for the echoes return.

That is what lies ahead.

~  Andrew Norton 2016

In three of the four Gospels, the writers record an incident that caused Jesus’ 12 disciples to be astonished and afraid. While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a turbulent storm put them in real peril. Jesus, strangely, was sound asleep. When the disciples awakened Him, He told the storm to stop, and it did.

In the Matthew 8:23-27 account, Jesus and His disciples got into a boat. Being fatigued, Jesus was asleep. It is written that “suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.” His disciples wakened Him and said, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” His words to them were, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” He then got up and “rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” The disciples were in awe, and said to each other,“Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Jesus asked His men why they were fearful. The word translated fearful means cowardly or intimidated. They were losing their nerve, panicking, or coming unglued, so to speak. Jesus questioned their faith, and then rebuked the winds. The wind and waves immediately became tranquil.

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Jesus spoke to a raging windstorm, and it immediately stopped. He wasn’t afraid or worried about His safety. He knew God’s Word and knew what He was destined to do, how He would ultimately die, and that His life and the lives of His men were not in jeopardy that day on the water. Jesus knew the source of the storm and the adversary’s intent to startle and paralyze with fear. Jesus knew the authority and the power He had and He used it responsibly and with wisdom.

May you this week know that you have the authority to calm the storm in whatever shape or form it comes to you.  Jesus is always in the same boat. While storms may test you faith, may you remember that this testing is for a purpose.  The purpose is to refine you and mould you for the coming Kingdom where boats lie on the tranquil shores, and storms are no more.

You Calm the Storm

You broke the weather
The clouds split forlorn
As you ceased the wind
For you calmed my storm

You stilled the sea
Where all was ripped and torn
As you stopped the rain
You calmed my storm

You went before me
Before I was born
You always planned
To calm the storm

Over three long days
Freedom came at Calvary
You calmed my storm
And ransomed me

Saving Grace

The 2012 cinematic adaptation of the musical based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables, was tremendous. But my favorite adaptation of the novel was the 1998 film starring Liam Neeson. There’s a reason.

Even though the acting is superb, and the costumes, music, and scenes look first-rate, there is another element that outshines them all.  The Grace of God

Before I show you the clip of my favorite scene, here’s a brief set-up: Jean Valjean is a ex-convict living in pre-revolutionary France. Just released from prison, he wanders the streets because no one will take him in. Finally, a kindly old bishop feeds him and lets him sleep overnight.

Let’s watch the scene in the movie to see what happens.

 

Behold the transforming power of the grace of God. This must be one of the best illustrations of the grace that God has given to us.

The bishop had the right to have to Valjean imprisoned. Justice demanded it. But when the Bishop went against every human instinct for revenge, it transformed Jean Valjean’s life forever.

Being offered such grace—when he had never even sought it—tore down all his defenses. He dedicated his life from that point to helping others. Valjean kept the candlesticks always as a reminder of grace.

The Transforming Power of the Grace of God

We could summarize most messages we hear at church with two words: “Be good.”

But we need to hear more than that. Why be good? Here’s one answer:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”—Titus 2:11–12

The grace of God is a constant theme in the Bible, and it culminates in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus (John 1:17). The word translated “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word charis, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness.” We can all extend grace to others; but when the word grace is used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

Planting

This grace is unique and is God’s gift to us.  This week, how will you reflect on this grace? What does this actually mean to you?  May you, my brothers and sisters again remember that it is by this grace that our place in heaven is assured. It was freely given to you and nothing can separate us from this.

Grace and peace my friends.

The Candlestick

Did you notice the candlestick
That I gave to you today
You forget to take the best
When you had it all your way

Do you notice how I reacted
When you said all you had to say
The nonchalant casual reply
Before you went about your way

For you your words are not compelling
And your story is so small
You wonder why I don’t respond
Or say very little at all

But I forgive and pray for you
That one day you will grow
Into the story that you live in
For it’s greater than you know

The crisis of hope that afflicts the church today is a crisis of imagination. Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft writes: Medieval imagery (which is almost totally biblical imagery) of light, jewels, stars, candles, trumpets, and angels no longer fits our ranch-style, supermarket world. Pathetic modern substitutes of fluffy clouds, sexless cherubs, harps and metal halos (not halos of light) presided over by a stuffy divine Chairman of the Bored are a joke, not a glory. Even more modern, more up-to-date substitutes—Heaven as a comfortable feeling of peace and kindness, sweetness and light, and God as a vague grandfatherly benevolence, a senile philanthropist—are even more insipid. Our pictures of Heaven simply do not move us; they are not moving pictures. It is this aesthetic failure rather than intellectual or moral failures in our pictures of Heaven and of God that threatens faith most potently today. Our pictures of Heaven are dull, platitudinous and syrupy; therefore, so is our faith, our hope, and our love of Heaven.

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If our pictures of heaven are to move us, they must be moving pictures. So go ahead—dream a little. Use your imagination. Picture the best possible ending to your story you can. If that isn’t heaven, something better is. When Paul says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9), he simply means we cannot out-dream God. What is at the end of our personal journeys? Something beyond our wildest imagination. But if we explore the secrets of our heart in the light of the promises of Scripture, we can discover clues. As we have said, there is in the heart of every man, woman, and child an inconsolable longing for intimacy, for beauty, and for adventure. What will heaven offer to our heart of hearts?

The love I know is a love so few discover
They need to know Jesus’ love is like no other

They save love won’t last I say love is never ending
‘Cause in You I have a love of another kind
They would change their tune they would add another measure
If they only knew this love of another kind

~ Amy Grant, Love of Another Kind.

We are in a story or war and also in a story of love. God is love, the apostle John tells us, and then he says it again so that we don’t forget, “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God” (1 John 4:16). Love is the single most defining quality of his character and his life. God is a passionate, and jealous, lover. (Is there really any other kind?) Out of his love he creates us for love. “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The Scriptures tell us we are made in God’s image. You’ll notice that we human beings are, above all else, deeply and profoundly relational. Because he is. God is Trinity, a fellowship of love. Love and intimacy are the core of his being, and so he gives to each of us a heart like his. When God does this, he reveals our deepest purpose—to love and to be loved

So friends, how have you experienced this love of another kind?  What will you do with this experience, how will is shape you, or how has it shaped you?  May you this week learn, relearn and unlearn that love can be unconditional.

Love of Another Kind

Love wells up
Like a golden fountain
Flowing from the creative heart
And is suspended in time and space

Frozen in fear the shell of love
Hardens and sets
Like a chocolate dipped ice cream
Soft on the inside yet rock hard on the outside

From inside the shell looks magnificent
With the lines of love flowing
Perfectly formed
Creating a canopy of protection

The shell of love while strong is hollow
The sun shines cracks appear
The light floods in and melts the heart
And returns outside to the creator

Love is patient and kind
Like the sun it warms the cold heart
And melts the places where light
Needs to shine once more

Some blog content adapted from John Eldregde

Arriving

Hi everyone

Over the next little while I’ll be showcasing some fine New Zealand poetry and photography from Andrew Norton.

Andrew is a poet and photographer and works as the denominational leader (moderator) for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Andrew also is an executive coach and Wilderness Retreats facilitator.
See www.executivewildernessretreats.com

Andrew is married to Sue with four adult children.

His publications include:

Finding Cadence 2010  @blurb.com – Collected poems (it’s a great coffee table book – you can view it at and purchase a copy from the link above).

Co Author Elizabeth Smythe and Andrew Norton Thinking as Leadership / Leadership as thinking, Leadership Journal  Sage Publications February 2007 Co Author Elizabeth Smythe and Andrew Norton Leadership: Wisdom in Action, Indo – Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, May 2011

Here’s the first poem from the pen of Andrew Norton. I hope you enjoy it!

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Arriving

 

At the end of the road
a dirt track zig zags up the mountain
into the clouds of unknowing.
To be here you must leave there
(wherever “there” is),
defying the gravity of you own importance,
the unfaithful way this busy world offers itself to you
and the blindness of a life without a horizon.

As reception fades to one intermittent bar,
contact with the outside world is all but
lost
leaving you
alone
in this wide sky
to a wider conversation
worthy of the landscape of your soul.

Shy shadows come out from their corners,
ears hear a silence splinter granite rocks;
the lies and excuses you’ve told yourself,
and eyes are renewed by a soft gaze
as outlines become clear.
In this place,
words are surrendered to the wind,
redundant
to the arriving of your breath.

 

Copyright: Andrew Norton 2016

Rest Assured

The concept of entering into God’s rest comes from Hebrews 3—4. What is this “rest” the Hebrew writer is talking about? How do we enter it? And how do we fail to enter it? The writer to the Hebrews begins his discussion of God’s rest in chapter 3, where he references the Israelites wandering in the desert. In giving them the land of Canaan, God had promised them that He would go before them and defeat all their enemies in order that they could live securely (Deuteronomy 12:9–10). All that was required of them was to fully trust in Him and His promises. However, they refused to obey Him. Instead, they murmured against Him, even yearning to go back to their bondage under the Egyptians (Exodus 16:3; 17:1–7; Numbers 20:3–13).

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The kind of faith that enables us to enter into God’s rest is a faith that first demands that we rest from relying on our own works. Then the writer seemingly contradicts himself by telling us to make every effort:

For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:10–11).

What this apparent paradox means is that this faith involves humbleness. By grace we don’t need to  earn salvation and the promised eternal rest, we also “make every effort to enter that rest” by choosing to depend solely on God, to trust Him implicitly, to yield totally to the promises of God through the free grace of His salvation.

So how do we stop trusting ourselves? How do we place our full trust in God and His promises? We enter into God’s rest by first understanding our total inability to enter God’s rest on our own. Next, we enter God’s rest by our total faith in the sacrifice of Christ and complete obedience to God and His will.

Unlike the Israelites whose unbelief prevented them from entering the Promised Land, we are to enter God’s rest by faith in Him, faith which is a gift from Him by grace (Ephesians 2:8–9).

So may you, my brothers and sisters, know that Jesus invites you into this rest.  Know that you can go there anytime and in any place.   May this rest and the unforced rhythm of grace transform you.

Rest Assured

Enter the rest
So you will have more
Than you ever dreamed
Ever possible before

Enter the rest
Where suffering ends
The pain and the toil
Are forgotten friends

Enter my rest
Where the pasture is green
The quiet stream flows
Where peace is serene

Today enter my rest
Deep in you soul
Feel me beat your heart
So you become whole

For heaven is here
If you have eyes to see
Fix them on me
If you truly believe

 

 

Go West

Of all the prayers that rise from human lips on this troubled planet, the vast majority must be some version of, “Help!”. But second place of “most often prayed” has to be, “God—what am I supposed to do?” Guidance, clarity, direction—doesn’t that seem to be one of the main reasons we pray at all?  Should I take this job?  What am I supposed to do with my life?
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When seeking clarity we will almost always ask for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Both are needed. Sometimes, wisdom holds the answer. Other times, we need a revelation from God (as did Ananias, when the situation seemed to shout, “Don’t go near Saul!”).

The key to receiving answers to prayers for guidance is to let go our constant attempt to “figure things out.”

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6 NLT)

God says, “I’ve got this great life planned for you, and surely goodness and mercy will follow you through it. But that’s not all of it. I’ve got something planned at the end!”

David explains how God connects yesterday and today with tomorrow, when he says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). In effect, David ends his psalm by saying, “We’re going to Heaven!” With God, it just keeps getting better and better; the best is yet to come.

Paul says it like this: “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down — when we die and leave these bodies — we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT).

How long is forever going to last? Forever! Someday your body is going to die, but you aren’t. Your body is going to end, but that’s not going to be the end of you. You’re going to live forever. We were made to last forever, and we will spend eternity in Heaven.

Why are Christians confident about the future? “We are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8 NLT).

 

So, my brothers and sisters, may you this week, recall what is yet to come, and in that space between the now and the not yet, go West when the evil go East.  God wants us to relax into the journey. We need to trust that he will guide us when we have lost our way.  May God remind you that every road you travel leads you back to him. Grace and peace.

Go West

To the true North
I will order your steps
But go West good man
When the evil go East

To the deep South
Delight in my way
But go West good man
When the evil go East

Though you may fall
You will not be cast down
For I will uphold you
With my hand

Set your moral compass
Fix your eyes on me
For your steps are good
And ordered by me

The Inside Story

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies and stories.

Since publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged a debt to Campbell regarding the stories of the Star Wars films.

Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens

Campbell explores the theory that important stories from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth (see this TED talk for more on this). In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized the monomyth:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

It is challenging to write a story, a good story that holds together and speaks to the human heart in any deep way, unless you borrow from God’s story. The nature of humanity and the things that we long for such as love, heroism and sacrifice, were put on our heart by God (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). You really can’t write a good story without borrowing from God’s story.

So if you pay attention to any of the powerful, contemporary films such as Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings series, you realise that you can’t create a gripping story without, consciously or unconsciously, telling God’s story. I would imagine that a lot of these screenwriters are aware of what they’re doing, but I think the success of “Titanic” is based entirely on the fact that it parallels the gospel. The love story, the ship going down in tragedy, he dies so that she might live…we want to be loved like that, we want to be rescued like that and we want to live in a story like that. It resonates with us.

Why is it that we just love stories with a hero and the villain? Because these stories mirror our own story. We all either want to be a hero, or have a hero rescue us. The villain is the evil one and is always present. We feel both of these characters every day as we all live in a broken world.

In the cave you fear to enter lies the treasure that you seek
– Joseph Campbell

The quest we face on this earth is all about the story. Will your story be great or small, will it impact or will be impacted, will it live or just exist. Your story is also a developing story – it is about learning and unlearning, doing and undoing, the advance and the retreat. Your story is set in a galactic battlefield.

So may you, my brothers and sisters, rediscover that your story is part of a much bigger and greater story. May your realise that your role in the great story is unique and is so important and vital to telling the greater story. You are the vulnerable courageous hero. It is your time to get in the arena of life and dare greatly. May this Force awaken within you.

The Story

Deep in the valley dark and cold
The Mystery greets the young and old
To lean and unlearn lessons past
For the restoration of your heart

Upon the hill so bleak and bare
When wild winds fight in deep despair
Threatens the holy and the whole
For the reformation of your soul

In the desert arid and dry
The sands of time stand idly by
The minutes from their hours unwind
For the refinement of your mind

Fear not – the Mystery still unknown,
Nor its ways of kind critique.
For in the cave –  you fear to enter,
Lies the treasure that you seek.

The Ancient Path

We are always looking for the latest new thing.  We have a creative streak in us that longs, searches for, and appreciates the new. We are convinced that old things can be done in a better way. As Henry Ford once said, “There is always a better way, your job is to find it”.

Horses and wagons have been upgraded to cars, we have email and Facebook Instant Messenger now, instead of letters. The world we find ourselves in is shaped and formed by new ideas, new inventions and new people. The pace of innovation can be exhausting and can leave us feeling that something important and elusive is missing. We sense that there is something or someone leading us down a path that we really never knew were we walking on.

Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
– Jeremiah 6:16

The ancient path has been known from the beginning of time, and it hasn’t changed. God’s fathering of men and women has not changed – from the Old Testament Law to New Testament Grace to the future time when He will reign on earth. God’s plan for us has never changed, and neither has the way in which we should walk.

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Too often we find ourselves looking for ‘new ideas’ or ‘fresh ideas’ in Christianity, to boost our appeal, or to make it more interesting, or just to satisfy our own thirst for change. But God isn’t interested in what’s ‘interesting’, ‘cool’, ‘exciting’, ‘politically correct’ or ‘modern’. He is interested in what is right and good. So, rather than following new and interesting ways, let us ‘ask for the old paths, where the good way is’.

May you, my brothers and sisters, stand still. Notice the winds around you, the paths set ahead of you.  Will you ask directions?  Will you listen to the voice you know and walk the ancient path?  The path will hold the answers to your deep questions.  Our invitation is to walk in this way.  Peace and grace to you.

The Ancient Path

Stand at the crossroads
Notice how the four winds blow
Brace yourself for what lies ahead
Feel the storm within your soul

Ask for the ancient path ahead
Where wise men before you go
Hear their whispers on the wind
Yet listen only to the voice you know

Choose the good yet narrow way
May the journey make you whole
You will find the answers that you seek
In the rest within your soul

The Bridge

The iconic song Bridge over Troubled Water was the fifth and final studio album by American folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, released in January 1970 on Columbia Records. The song was released on January 26, 1970 and several re-releases followed.

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When Simon showed the song to his partner, he informed him that he felt he should sing it by himself, the “white choirboy way.” Garfunkel declined, feeling it was not right for him and believing that Simon should sing it. Garfunkel reportedly liked Simon’s falsetto on the demo and suggested that Simon sing. He and producer Roy Halee also thought the song needed three verses and a ‘bigger’ sound towards the end. Simon agreed and penned the final verse, though he felt it was less than fully cohesive with the earlier verses. The final verse was written about Simon’s then-wife Peggy Harper, who had noticed her first gray hairs (“Sail on, silvergirl”).

Despite numerous accolades, the duo decided to split up, and parted company later in 1970; Garfunkel continued his film career, while Simon worked intensely with music. Both released solo albums in the following years. Bridge includes two of the duo’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful songs, “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “The Boxer”, which were listed on Rolling Stone‍ ’​s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Both critically and commercially successful, the album topped the charts in over ten countries and received two Grammy Awards, plus four more for the title song. It sold around 25 million records and was ranked on several lists, including at number 51 on Rolling Stone‍ ’​s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The song is nothing short of inspirational and is real poetry in motion. May you find the bridge that will take you from where you are to where you need to be.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

When you’re weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I’m on your side

When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud is a poem focusing on the poet’s response to the beauty of nature.  The final version of the poem was first published in Collected Poems in 1815. An earlier version was published in Poems in Two Volumes in 1807 as a three-stanza poem. The final version has four stanzas. Wordsworth wrote the earlier version in 1804, two years after seeing the lakeside daffodils that inspired the poem.

The poem recaptures a moment on April 15, 1802, when Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, were walking near a lake at Grasmere, Cumbria County, England, and came upon a shore lined with daffodils. Grasmere is in northwestern England’s Lake District, between Morecambe Bay on the south and Solway Firth on the north. The Lake District extends twenty-five miles east to west and thirty miles north to south. Among its attractions are England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike (3,210 feet), and Esthwaite Lake and other picturesque meres radiating outward, like the points of a star, from the town of Grasmere. Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, moved to a cottage at Grasmere in 1799. After Wordsworth married in 1802, his wife resided there also. The family continued to live there until 1813. The Lake District was the haunt of not only Wordsworth but also poets Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas De Quincey. Dorothy, who kept a diary, described what she and her brother saw on that April day in 1802.

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This poem speaks to me of many things but mostly of the beauty and greatness of nature.  It reminds me of why I enjoy the solitude of nature and how the memories of being in wide open spaces create place for my mind to travel to when the small story of life becomes the only story.  We all live in great story – our role is to remind ourselves that there is something much greater and much grander happening and that we all having a leading role.

May you, my brothers and sisters, find your place this week where you can wander and marvel at creation.  May it fill your soul and create a place and a greater story where you can go to when you feel the smallness of life overwhelming you. Grace and peace be yours.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

– William Wordsworth

Derek Lind is recognised as a mainstay within NZ gospel music. Following his earliest performances in the late 1970’s he has gone on to write and record six albums. He currently resides in the bush-clad hills of Titirangi, West-Auckland, New Zealand. Derek Lind has twice won prestigious NZ Music Awards and has been a nominee for an APRA Silver Scroll.

One of the most consistently literate yet most affecting lyricists, Lind owes much to the school of Texas storytellers but also brings his own astute local observations. There’s humanity and compassion in these songs which are often deeply personal but embrace universal truths
– Graham Reid, NZ Herald
When I was a student I listened to a lot of Derek’s songs and even performed a few of them on the streets of Hamilton with my trusty Yamaha Acoustic Guitar. Many of his songs asked the questions that many of ask but never speak.  The unplugged sound and raw lyrics was the combination that many found appealing in his songs.
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One of my favourite songs, A Man Like Me, asks the musical question, ‘who will come to the aid of a man like me”?  While the answer is obvious (God), the reality is that the search absolute certainty of rescue and forgiveness from the one who matters most remains a mystery to most of us.

A Man Like Me

Who Will come to the aid of a man like me?
Who will come to the aid of man of poverty?
Who will rescue this ship
from the wayward sea
who will come to the aid of a man like me?

I’ve been over drawn
I’ve been under fed
I’ve been walking this fine line
for much too long
I’ve been looking for You
in all the wrong places
I’ve been out on a limb
I’ve been over my head
I’ve been sleeping too long
in the wrong bed
I’ve been looking for You
in all the wrong faces.

So who will come to the aid of a man like me?
Who will come to the aid of a man of poverty?
Who will rescue this ship
from the wayward sea
who will come to the aid of a man like me?

– Words and Music by Derek Lind

 

John Eldredge’s books have become wildly popular among Christians. The Sacred Romance and Wild at Heart have sold millions of copies and have firmly established Eldredge as one of the most-read Christian authors. Wild at Heart has been studied in men’s groups across the world, giving Eldredge a wide reach and his teachings great acceptance. In his book about the greatest story ever told – Epic he changes his emphasis and focuses on the great story – our common story.

Epic tells us that life is a story which unfolds like a grand drama. It seems that humans have an obsession with stories. From the time we are tiny children we love to hear stories about heroes and villains, good guys and bad. The reason we love story so much, Eldredge writes, is that there is something in the human heart that tells us there is an epic story going around us, where God is the central character, but where we also play an important role. We love stories about the conquering hero who arrives at the last possible moment to save his lover, because that is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  Which story we choose to focus on is a bit like looking at a landscape – do we focus on the detail of the ground or do we lift our eyes to the sky to watch the drama unfold.

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The book, then, revolves around stories. The author supports his claims with example after example from popular movies. A few of the movies he references are Apollo 13, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Saving Private Ryan, Pinocchio, Finding Nemo, Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator (no surprise if you have read Wild at Heart) and Star Wars. He relies heavily on quotes from other writers such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Yancey, Gerald May, Soren Kierkegaard, George MacDonald and William Shakespeare. The book also contains plenty of Bible verses.

The true story of every person in this world is not the story you see, the external story. The true story of each person is the journey of his or her heart. – John Eldredge

Eldredge reminds us that there are two stories we are always living  – the small story and the epic story.  Both are lived at the same time, in the same place, however they have wildly different endings.  Our task is to remember that the great and epic story is the one God invites us to.  He invites us to belive that every moment, every action, every thought and word matters, and that everything is spiritual – because it is all about the epic story that God is telling.

This week, may you be reminded about your role and character in this story, you may not know the detail yet, but God does.  It is no small part, the question is always – do you have eyes to see, and ears to hear?  May God help you this week to choose which story you will live in, and maybe, just maybe – as others see you living your epic story, they will be inspired to do the same.

Golden Days

In all my loss
You are my gain
Through all my days
You are the same

In all my hopes
Not realised still
You lead me on
Despite my will

When dreams awake
Too good, too true
My best days ahead
You always knew

Through this small story
Of groundhog days
You pull me on
To golden days

To golden days
Not one the same
No longer lost
Where the streets have no name

 

 

Road to Zion

U.S. Route 66 (US 66 or Route 66), also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km).  It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s.

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Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.

My good friend Rob and I travelled part of Route 66 last year, from Los Angeles to the corner in Winslow Arizona (made famous by the Eagles).  The trip was amazing and took us through the iconic American country side, desert, and towns. Travelling down Route 66 you cant help but get caught up in the history and heritage of the journey.

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The 2,400-mile-highway took us to places that we needed to be, not in a literal sense, but a more philosophical sense.  ~ Roger White (Curator of the Smithsonian Institute).

Every road that we journey down is a symbol of movement, ether physical or spiritual.  Every road we travel teaches us something new about life. When we go on a great journey there is sense of someone who has gone ahead of us and is calling or pulling us forward to reach the destination.

May you my brothers and sisters reflect on the journey of your life, where it has taken you, where it is leading you.  The journey is as close to you as breathing. May you come to know who is waiting at the end of the road.

Road To Zion
 

There is a way that leads to life
The few that find it never die
Past mountain peaks graced white with snow
The way grows brighter as it goes

There is a road inside of you
Inside of me there is one too
No stumbling pilgrim in the dark
The road to Zion’s in your heart
The road to Zion’s in your heart

The river runs beside the road
Its waters living as they flow
In liquid voice the water calls
On thirsty knees the pilgrim falls

Sometimes a shadow dark and cold
Lays like a mist across the road
But be encouraged by the sight
Where there’s a shadow, there’s a light

Sometimes it’s good to look back down
We’ve come so far – we’ve gained such ground
But joy is not in where we’ve been
Joy is who’s waiting at the end

– Road to Zion by Petra

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Although most of us would be challenged to spell their names, they just seem to roll off the tongue. Their names were imbedded in our minds as children and their story was the basis for gospel songs; and, even Louie Armstrong sang about the unwavering faith these three men had in God in the 1951 movie called The Strip.  Even now it is so easy to close your eyes and conjure up images of their confrontation with King Nebuchadnezzar, his utter rage at their refusal to bow down to him, being cast into the white-hot furnace and then standing in the flames with God at their side.

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But when we think about our own lives can we conjure up images and memories of when we acted like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? When we demonstrated our undying faith in Jesus and stood firm when challenged to do what is right and just in the eyes of God? For most of us I am sure we might be able to think of one or two such events; although probably not as dramatic. But why not more? Are we not as willing to put our faith in God first as these three servants were willing to do? Do we question whether or not Jesus is always there with us and at our side in good times and in bad ready to come to our aid?

Let us strive to create more personal memories as vivid and as lasting as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing in the white-hot furnace. But let’s not forget that these vivid memories of us standing firm when challenged to do what is right and just in the eyes of God can just as easily be memories of us living our faith. Do you recall the last time that you gave aid and comfort to those less fortunate; that you helped the homeless and poor; or, that you visited the infirmed or the lonely? To God these actions are just as important as the refusal by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar.

The next time you put your faith in action take a picture in your mind’s eye of the good you provided by living your faith in service to others.

May you, my brothers and sisters, hold on to these vivid and lasting memories and may they become as memorable as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing in the white-hot furnace and serve as a constant reminder that by living our faith daily we too, when challenged to take the easy way out, can stand firm in our beliefs and demonstrate our faith and love of Jesus through our service to others.

The Furnace
In between the words
Not spoken of blame
Walk with me
Through this fire of flame
As one by one they all leave
Left burdened by shame
Walk with me
Through this fire of flame
When all hope seems lost
And what’s found is drained
Walk with me
Through this fire of flame
As this season expires
Through this fire of flame
Walk with me
May I never be the same
Just like those who walked
Through the furnace untrained
Let me unlearn the ways
Of my life you claimed

Instead of worrying, the Bible tells us to spend our time praying. If we prayed as much as we worried, each one of us would have a whole lot less to worry about. Most times we confuse planning for tomorrow to worrying about tomorrow. Planning for tomorrow is time well spent however worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Careful planning is thinking ahead about our goals, steps and schedules trusting in God’s guidance. This gives us confidence in God and in the process helps alleviate worry. Whereas when we worry, it is consumed by fear making it difficult for us to trust God wholeheartedly.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.
~ Matthew 6:34

Is God interested in all our daily problems and things that concerns us? Yes. He’s interested in every detail of our lives. That means we can take any problem we have to Him without hesitation!

whitefieldWhenever we pray, we should always pray with thanksgiving. The healthiest human emotion is not love but gratitude, it actually increases our immunities. It makes us more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness. People who are grateful are happy people. But people who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. They’re never satisfied. It’s never good enough. So if we cultivate the attitude of gratitude of being thankful in everything, it will reduce stress in our lives.

What is the result of not worrying, praying about everything, giving thanks, and focusing on the right things? Paul says in Philippians 4:7 we will then “experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.”

May you, my brothers and sisters, pray more and worry less.  May you consider the lilies of the field and the creatures of the air and notice how they have no worries, and that their every need is taken care of.  May you remember that God cares for you so much more than these.

Jehovah

Consider the lilies of the field
Solomon dressed in royal robes has not the worth of them
Consider the lilies of the field
He takes after each and every need
Leave all your cares behind
Seek him and you will find
Your father loves you so

Consider the lilies of the air
For all of the diamonds in all the earth have not the wealth of them
Consider the creatures of the air
Jehovah loves them with tender hands
He knows your every care
His touch is always there
To see you through the night

Consider the lilies of the field
For how much more does he love his own if Yaweh cares for them
Consider the creatures of the air
He takes after each and every need
If we ask Him for bread
Will He give us a stone
Jehovah loves His own

~ Amy Grant

East from West

Let me see if I can clear a few things up about sin. First, if I were to ask you to define the word sin, how would you answer? My guess is you’d probably say something like Sin is when you break God’s laws or Sin is disobeying God or Sin is whatever you do that makes God angry.

While those may sound accurate, they don’t tell the whole story. Which is why many don’t know what to do with the word other than cringe when people use it with a straight face.

Now, for a definition. The great theologian Cornelius Plantinga in his book Engaging God’s World  puts it like this:

Sin is culpable disturbance of shalom.

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Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace, wholeness, health, and blessing. Shalom is the harmony God intends for the world. Shalom is how God wants things to be. Shalom is peace with yourself, with your neighbor, with the earth, with God. 

Disturbance – things aren’t how they’re supposed to be, are they? From environmental degradation to domestic violence to Wall Street corruption to the petty little ways we disrespect each other, this world isn’t everything it could be. 

Culpable –  guilt, responsibility, ownership-culpable is any way you have contributed to the disturbance of shalom we see all around us.

So one definition of sin is anything we do to disrupt the peace and harmony God desires for the world.

Jesus came to deal with our sin once and for all and he died for all our sin, but also for our freedom – that we might become free.  Jesus promises to continue to place our sin as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12).  If Jesus can do this for us – why do we hold on to it?

May you this week, my brothers and sisters, know that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us, not only for our sins, but so that we might be free.  May you confess your sin, let it go and know that Jesus will take it and place it as far as the East is from the West.

East by West

In the fallen world
Where my worst
Just became my best
You place it
As far as the East is from the West

Again I stumble down
Half human and divine
You take my less
You place it
As far as the East is from the West

Repeating predictability
Of the darkened night
Just like an unwelcomed guest
You place it
As far as the East is from the West

So help me live not in this
For you took it all that day
I am a new creation, blessed
You placed it
As far as the East is from the West

 

Some content adapted from Rob Bell

Renewal

What would happen if you believed it, if you came to the place where you knew it was true? Your life would never be the same. ‘If we believed that we could do anything. We would follow him anywhere!”

You probably can’t imagine there being a glory in your life, let alone one that the Enemy fears. But remember things are not what they seem. We are not what we seem. You probably believed that your heart was bad too. There is more. Not only does Christ say to you that your heart is good, he invites you now out of the shadows to unveil your glory. You have a role you never dreamed of having.Planting

We are in the process of being shaped, renewed, restored and unveiled. We were created to reflect God’s glory, born to bear his image, and he ransomed us to reflect that glory again. Every heart was given a mythic glory, and that glory is being restored.

Does the Bible teach that Christians are nothing but sinners -that there is nothing good in us? The answer is no! You have a new heart. Your heart is good. That sinful nature you battle is not who you are.

We have no idea who we really are. Whatever glory bestowed, whatever glory is being restored, we thought the whole Christian thing was about… something else. Trying not to sin. Going to church. Being nice. Jesus says it is about healing your heart, setting it free, restoring your glory. A religious fog has tried to veil all that, put us under some sort of spell or amnesia, to keep us from coming alive.

May you, my brothers and sisters, come to know about how Jesus has given you a new heart, and how he continue to chisel and shape your life. May you recall how you have been renewed and restored, and look for ways this week where Jesus continues to mould you like clay.

Renewal

I hear your words
They reach me here
Your pain, your cry
Your deep despair

I feel your heart
That breaks today
I hold the pieces
And mould the clay

I sense you near
As you fall to kneel
I place your life
On the Potters wheel

You prayed to break
Your heart of stone
Your cried to me
To bring you home

So my peace is yours
As I spin the wheel
Your heart is safe
In the place your kneel

Sometimes you need
To be undone
And unlearn the fight
Of battles won

Will you trust me today
With all of you
As I recreate
Restore, renew

Some content adapted form John Eldredge’s book, Waking the Dead.

A few years back I entered the world of Twitter. As I’m sure you all know it is a world where you ‘follow’ other people and are yourself ‘followed’. Twitter was launched in July 2006. It now has over 500 million active users. I’m not an avid follower but I do use it as a push marketing tool.

Justin Bieber now has over 36 million followers worldwide. Many other celebrities also have huge followings. People follow their lives, words, and lifestyle. They want to know all about them, they want to interact with them and they want to be like them. They imitate them. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is natural to want to follow those we admire. Following celebrities on Twitter can be fun or even enlightening.

However, following people on Twitter is one thing; being a true follower of someone is quite another. It means imitating their lives and doing what they do. We need to choose the right people to follow. Unlike with Twitter, it really does matter whom we follow. Millions, for example, followed Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Still today, millions follow evil dictators, terrorists and gang leaders.

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Jesus said many times, ‘Follow me’. Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus has the largest number of followers. Over 2,300 million people in the world today profess to follow Jesus. Jesus’ followers want to know him and to be like him.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
~ Luke 9:23

May you, my brothers and sisters, know the one who calls you to follow. May you walk in His steps, as He leads you into all your tomorrows. May you drop your baggage and whatever causes you to stumble, and follow Jesus.

Follow Me

Carrying too many burdens?
Feeling far from free?
Leave it all behind
Come and follow me

Loaded up with baggage?
Bearing loads too heavy?
Leave it all behind
Come and follow me

Lost and yet to be found?
Too blind to really see?
Leave it all behind
Come and follow me

Crippled with the past?
I can set you free
Leave it all behind
Come and follow me

Let it go then hold on
To the things that set you free
Come alive and come home
Come and follow me

Still Waters

Blue Lake (Rotomairewhenua in Māori) is a small lake in Nelson Lakes National Park, in the northern reaches of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Sacred to local Māori, it has the clearest natural fresh water in the world. Blue Lake is drained by the west branch of the Sabine River, which is part of the Buller River system. Blue Lake is roughly boomerang shaped, running north then northwest, with each arm of the lake stretching some 200 metres (700 ft). Its waters are cold, ranging from 5 to 8 °C (41 to 46 °F).

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The lake has extremely still and clear water, and is the clearest natural body of fresh water in the world yet reported. A 2011 study found its visibility ranged from 70 to 80 metres (230 to 260 ft), clearer than the 63 metres (207 ft) measured for Te Waikoropupu Springs, a previous record holder. Scientists attribute the lake water’s clarity to its passage underground from Lake Constance, which filters out nearly all the particles suspended in the water. Its clarity reveals water’s natural blue-violet colour.

This lake reminds me of stillness and it’s an easy place to be still and know God. It is a place where my soul feels still and deep. A place of great reflection. Spending time on the stillness, clarity and depth of God is a great place to be and worth the time.

May you this week my brothers and sisters, spend some time in the stillness of God, if only for ten minutes. May this time renew and refresh you. May these still waters run deep within your soul.

 Still Waters

Behind the smile
Of yesterday’s laughter
Through the inaccessible
Brave new heart
Still waters run deep

In between the words
Not spoken
In the space between the lines
Of ink still drying
Still waters run deep

Of words and actions
Never heard or seen
Of opportunities lost
At others expense
Still waters run deep

In the hope that anchors
The depth of the soul
In the love that relentlessly
Pursues us eternally
Still waters run deep

If you want to finish the race of life, if you want to make it to the finish line and finish well, you’re going to have to let go of some things that may be holding you back in the race. Call it de-cluttering; call it simplifying. There are some things that need to be laid aside in order to finish well.

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress (Hebrews 12:1b NLT)

What kind of things? The things that cause you to get discouraged. Think of it this way: If you attach one light bulb to a battery, the battery will run for a long time. If you attach 100 light bulbs to a battery, it will go dim and dark really quick. When you keep adding things to your schedule and your life, you will quickly become discouraged and tired.

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In Hebrews 12:1, it’s talks about how things that weigh you down slow you down and hold you back in the race of life. A weight is anything that slows you down. It could be a relationship, a job, an activity, or a sport. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A weight can be a good thing, but if you get too many good things in your life, you’re going to collapse because you don’t have time for all of them. You need to learn to say “no” to grow. God doesn’t expect you to do everything. I believe God wants us to hold all things loosely so they come and go.

It’s a dance, it’s a balance, holding on and letting go – Amy Grant

A weight can also be an unrealistic expectation that comes from peer pressure or the need to please someone, or it can be a memory. You might be stuck in the past, holding on to a happiness or hurt. The problem is that you can’t live in the past or even in the future; you can only live in the now. Trying to do anything else will weigh you down. Whatever the weight is, if it isn’t working in your life, if it’s dragging you down, you need to let it go.

May you my brothers and sisters learn the dance and balance of life, what we need to let go of and hold on to. May you be reminded to hold all things loosely, as these are all Gods things, and he may need to move things on.

In the Balance

The dance of life
A beautiful balance
Holding on and
Letting Go

Clenched fists or
The way of the open hand
Holding on and
Letting Go

Opportunity knocks
But at the cost of what
Holding on and
Letting Go

Trust and courage
In the vulnerable
Holding on and
Letting Go

Life as it never dies
Invites us to the dance
Hold on and let go

 

In the same boat

In three of the four Gospels, the writers record an incident that caused Jesus’ 12 disciples to be astonished and afraid. While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a turbulent storm put them in real peril. Jesus, strangely, was sound asleep. When the disciples awakened Him, He told the storm to stop, and it did.

In the Matthew 8:23-27 account, Jesus and His disciples got into a boat. Being fatigued, Jesus was asleep. It is written that “suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.” His disciples wakened Him and said, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” His words to them were, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” He then got up and “rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” The disciples were in awe, and said to each other, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Jesus asked His men why they were fearful. The word translated fearful means cowardly or intimidated. They were losing their nerve, panicking, or coming unglued, so to speak. Jesus questioned their faith, and then rebuked the winds. The wind and waves immediately became tranquil.

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Jesus spoke to a raging windstorm, and it immediately stopped. He wasn’t afraid or worried about His safety. He knew God’s Word and knew what He was destined to do, how He would ultimately die, and that His life and the lives of His men were not in jeopardy that day on the water. Jesus knew the source of the storm and the adversary’s intent to startle and paralyze with fear. Jesus knew the authority and the power He had and He used it responsibly and with wisdom.

May you this week know that you have the authority to calm the storm in whatever shape or form it comes to you.  Jesus is always in the same boat. While storms may test you faith, may you remember that this testing is for a purpose.  The purpose is to refine you and mould you for the coming Kingdom where boats lie on the tranquil shores, and storms are no more.

In the same boat

White boat I see you
High on the shore
Where waves don’t
Rock you any more

The dash of blue
Upon your side
That mirrors now
The faithful tide

Out in the lake
The storm blows in
Faith and doubt
To sink or swim

You wake and calm
The wildest waves
Our little faith
Has made us brave

Our faith doesn’t
Limit us anymore
Just as the boat wasn’t
Made for shore

The Inside Story

Life, for most of us, feels like a movie we’ve arrived to twenty minutes late.

Sure, good things happen, sometimes beautiful things. But tragic things happen too. What does it mean? Here we are in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, and usually a confusing mixture of both. We really have no clue and about how to make sense of it all. We get despondent and start to lose heart.

We need to know the rest of the story – the larger story.

Travers-Cascade Track in Nelson Lakes National Park
               Travers-Cascade Track in Nelson Lakes National Park

We were all born into the midst of a great story begun before the dawn of time. A story of adventure, of risk and loss, heroism and betrayal. A story where good is warring against evil, danger lurks around every corner, and glorious deeds wait to be done. Think of all those stories you’ve ever loved—there’s a reason they stirred your heart. They’ve been trying to tell you about the true Epic ever since you were young.

There is a larger story And you have a crucial role to play.

So what is our response. Which story do we choose to live in? Mark Twain, the great writer reflected on the stories we live in.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

May you this week remember some of the fleeting images and memories that lead you to the larger story. May you remember that the mundane, the routine, and the usual all exist to lift our eyes and remind us that we are all caught up in something epic and exciting – the greatest story of all time. You are invited to this story and write your chapter. What will your story be?

The Inside Story

Explore the valleys
I have made
And you will find me
Deep within the forest glade

Dream your future
I planned for you
And you will find me
In your heart that’s true

Discover the frontier
Beyond boundaries you know
And I will find you
In the places you’ll go

Words to Live By

It’s a brand new year full of possibility, hope, and opportunity. I was listening to a podcast from John Eldredge earlier in the week on an alternate to making New Year’s resolutions. Let’s face it these resolutions never really last as either they are too ambitious or not ambitious enough. John’s approach is to ask God for the theme of the year. Here’s the link (click on the image below) to the podcast if you’re curious to find out some more:

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Asking God for a theme or some words for the year doesn’t need to be a super spiritual exercise, it’s simply a question, the answer may be immediate or come later, but when it does come it helps to write in somewhere and then reflect during the year how these words have shaped your year.

It’s a dance, it’s a balance, holding on and letting go
– Every Road by Amy Grant

In addition to asking for your theme how about asking yourself some intentional questions about what you want to grab hold of and maybe let go of this year. Again, writing these answers or goals down helps, if fact it’s essential.

  • What is a destination I would like to visit?
  • What is something new I would like to try?
  • What do I want to spend more time doing?
  • What is a habit I am going to break?
  • What do I want to do/be better at?
  • What would I like to work harder at?
  • What is a skill I’d like to learn or improve upon?

A New Year affords the potential for us to grow and become more our true selves. May the beginning of this year fill you with possibility, hope, and opportunity. May you return to the theme or words that God gives you during the year and use these as markers along the road you travel. May you remember that every road you travel leads you to and back to the one who directs your path. Here’s my words for 2015:

Words to Live By

Space surrounds
As light includes
Not darkness nor
Warm decrepitude

Peace expands
When stillness comes
War surrenders
As the day is undone

Sacred space
Fills the heart
Where light and peace
Each have their part

Sacred time
Breathes the soul
Where peace and space
Are holy whole

 

 

Walk of Life

There is a story in the Bible in Luke about two men who were traveling down a road toward a village called Emmaus. This was just after Jesus had risen from his grave. The two men were walking and talking about the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. They were very sad and depressed. Another man walked up beside them and asked them what they were talking about and why they were so upset. The two men explained they were talking about their friend Jesus and how he was such a wonderful preacher and prophet. The man who had just joined the other two listened and walked with them for a while. After a while he said goodbye and left them. Later on the two men turned to each other and each suddenly realized who this man was, it was Jesus.

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
~ Luke 24:31-32

Why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t he just jump out in front of them and exclaim, “Behold it is me Jesus, risen from the dead!”  Perhaps because the two men  just wouldn’t have believed him. Jesus was looking for a relationship, he was looking to impart something of himself to the two men. He wanted to walk with them, support them, comfort them, and then, when the time was right,  move on. Perhaps this is what he calls us to do for other travelers also.

walk-down-road

Sometimes, when there is no answer to our question the best answer is to go for a walk.  It may be that when we no longer know the answer then the journey is just about to begin.  Sometimes we never know who will appear on our journey.Here’s how the poet Wendell Berry described this journey:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

We all walk down the same road. Sometimes it seems the road less travelled, devoid of people, life, and encouragement. Whether we realise it or not Jesus is always there walking beside us, not ahead of us, and not behind us, just right beside us, quietly prompting us, guiding us, and loving us.  Is there something that Jesus wants to whisper to you today? What does he need to give you? What guidance do you need? Do you need to take a walk?

Walk of Life

Of the answers to their questions
I’m less than sure about
The clarity I long to find
Is shrouded by all doubt

Of all the years of learning
Have not evolved nor proved
The theories of this world
Remain betrayed by truth

Of my impact on this place
I know my footprints well
The good, the bad, the ugly
Moments of heaven and those of hell

Yet in heaven’s game of chess
The Master is far from done
For He has promised me
That my best days are to come

So I will run this race out
As these questions define my life
I will do what I can find
As my faith parades as doubt

So as the ways of wonder
Slows eternity too fast
Of how the outside in
Overtakes our future’s past

The Perfect Gift

It was a pretty simple scene that first Christmas – a rough room, a young couple and nothing but a feeding trough to put the child in. It was probably quite cold and with family far away there was little help. Not exactly the Christmas Card  moment we like to show in Christmas pageants. This humble and rustic scene marked the greatest event in the history of mankind.

Jesus became human and came to earth to save us. God had promised to send a Messiah, one who would save His people. He could have easily burst on the scene as a full-grown man, a seven-foot warrior with fiery eyes and arms of steel. This was what many people were looking for, but it wasn’t how God did it. He arrived in the arms of a young girl. He was, as someone once said, “a very small package, wrapped in rags, given from the heart of God. The perfect gift.”

God gave His only Son to die in our place so that we, in all our brokenness, could know forgiveness. He came so that we could know what love feels like, real love – love that never leaves, love that never disappoints, love that is never betrayed. He sent His Son into a corrupted world to bring us hope.

So my friend, how are you doing this Christmas? Are you having a hard time finding hope in the world? Are you having a hard time finding peace? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have peace and find hope and know forgiveness through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

May you my friend and the ones you love find peace, joy and hope this Christmas.

Here’s some real poetry in motion from the Piano Guys

God With Us

Remember, the force will be with you, always – Obi Wan Kenobi. This classic quote from Star Wars stirs something in us and answers the question we have been asking for some time. Many people take comfort in this quote and many people have different ideas about what the ‘force’ actually is. While we debate these issues,  God is with us, always. Whether we believe this or not, matters not, as God has, is and always will be with us.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7–10).

God is always with us. Because He is an infinite Spirit, He is not restricted to being in one location at a time. He fills every inch of space throughout the universe with all His wonderful personal attributes. Although God is distinct from His creation, all His creation exists within Him. In Acts 17:28 we are told, “In Him we live and move and exist.”

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We live in His glorious presence every moment of every day. When we are alone, God watches what we do. When we do something good that nobody else knows about, God sees it and will reward us accordingly. We actually have the presence of almighty God living inside us. The apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV).

God wants us to “consciously” live in His presence each day. His ever-presence makes it possible for us to be in constant communication with Him and to depend on Him in every situation. But often we ignore His presence because we are so preoccupied with our lives. Sometimes we even forget He is with us while we are busy serving Him.

Yet God’s magnificent presence is all we need for any challenge that may come our way. No person or circumstance can ever remove us from the presence of our loving God. He is always with us, hearing our cries for help. He is always with us, protecting us from danger. He is always with us, watching what we do. He is our ever-present God, Savior, Lord, and Master-our dearest friend.

I am with you always ~ Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 28:20)

To find God, we must look with all our heart. To remain present to God, we must remain present to our heart. To hear his voice, we must listen with all our heart. To love him, we must love with all our heart. We cannot be the person God meant us to be, and we cannot live the life he meant us to live, unless we live from the heart.

The enemy’s plan from the beginning was to assault the heart – make them so busy, they ignore the heart. Wound them so deeply, they don’t want a heart. Twist their theology, so they despise the heart. Take away their courage. Destroy their creativity. Make intimacy with God impossible for them. The enemy may have won some of the battles, but the war is far from over, there is a bigger story going on here.

May you this week be present and look for God in the here and now. Notice where and how God shows up when we take the time to be present.

 

Presence

Live

Like heaven has come to earth

Love

Like you never been hurt

Laugh

Like the whole world laughs with you

Sing

As if no one can hear you

Dance

As if no one is watching

Play

Like there are no winners

Give

As you have plenty

 Smile

Until your face hurts

Experience

All of this each day

Sticks and Stones

They had prepared their slings and arrows fashioned from their outrageous fortune and had used them with intentional force.  It was premeditated.  It was a set move.  It was nasty. Sometimes in life we feel like we are set up to fail, that no matter how much we stand up for what we believe, we end up sitting right back down.  There is a paradox in fighting for justice, what is right and true, and then, turning the other cheek, as Jesus did.

stickstone

Persecution takes many forms, usually its the subtle acts orchestrated by the enemy, often through people, places and events that are designed to throw you off track, get under your skin, and make you feel angry and then revengeful.  How we deal with these irritations is important.  Sometimes we need to speak up and sometimes silence is the best offensive weapon. How often though do we race ahead without acknowledging that the battle belongs to the Lord.

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. ~Exodus 14:14

I have often been persecuted and insulted for my faith.  Mainly the subtle stuff – the blank looks, the whispers, people apologizing for swearing in front of me (what’s with that?) and the scattering of people when I walk in the room.  All this is good.  Really.  It means that people maybe just recognize something in me that looks a bit like Jesus.  This is what I’m aiming for and it helps me to know that I’m on the right track.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. ~ Matthew 5:11

What I do know is this.  We are blessed when we are persecuted – it means that we are on the right track.  We are blessed because we serve a very big God.  We are loved by God and that is all that matters.  Persecution does not define us – it just points to the road we are walking, the narrow road. Other people’s harsh words are really just sticks and stones. God’s word on us is final and defines us.

So what about you my friend?  Have you been persecuted lately?  Here’s a harder question. Are you someone who is persecuting someone else, but you would never admit to it? If you are, what will you do? Maybe sometime this week, here or somewhere share your story, it may just help someone recognize that they are blessed and that they are on the right road.  Perhaps you could pray for those who you know that are on this journey.

Definition

I am not defined
By what you think of me
My reputation matters not
As it flows out with the sea

The content of my character
Is chiselled by the sea
As the Master works his plan
And his purpose just for me

I am not defined
By what emotions capture me
This is just the way I feel
And not my reality

Your words hold no power
No judgement over me
I break the chains of bondage
As Jesus set me free

So say and think what you like
Your storm in your cup of tea
Your hollow judgement
Holds no verdict over me

If I told you 100 years ago that I could write the entire Bible on something as small as my fingernail and then read it; you would’ve said that I was crazy, because no one could ever write that small. If I told people in the 1900s that I could go from New Zealand to New York in 24 hours, I would’ve been branded a lunatic, for no ship could ever sail that swiftly nor could a horse ever run that fast. The problem of course, is that we would be viewing these future exploits through the lens of our current technological understanding. We lack a 100-200 years of revelation, which reduces us to inferior solutions that simply won’t solve these superior challenges.

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We face the same challenges in the scripture every day. For example, God says He loves us more than we could ever understand or imagine. But in the same breath He teaches us that there is a Hell and that some people will go there for eternal punishment. We can’t reconcile how a loving God could possibly allow people to go to a place of eternal destruction because we lack a billion years revelation. We often feel pressure to reconcile these mysteries. This often leads us to change the outcomes to explain the challenge. Metaphorically speaking, we say things like, “no one could get to New York in 24 hours, therefore the statement is a misunderstanding.

We reason; a God who loves unconditionally could logically never send someone to Hell and therefore it cannot be true. So we create solutions that satisfy our minds and put our souls to rest. The outcome is that we stop searching for revelation for these divine paradoxes because we’ve created answers to satisfy our minds. And as result, what we think we know keeps us from what we need to know. The truth if we have a God that we completely understand, then we have created a God in our own image. For an infinite God, by definition, must remain somewhat of a mystery to finite man.

May you this week, seek not understanding of the why, but focus on the now and the what. May the mystery of God, whether he seems far or near embrace you and may you for a moment be still and bask in the mystery the one who knows and loves you so much.

The mystery of the moment

In the mystery of the moment
All is quiet in this place
Logic and the rationale mind
Hide behind the weathered face

In the mystery of the moment
Time has no measure here
Eternity began some time ago
When Love cast out all fear

In the mystery of the moment
Understanding is not needed now
The ways of God break through
The why, the where, and how

God’s ways call us from ahead
They lead us on in timeless intent
I let go of many questions
In the mystery of the moment

Between the lakes of Rotoiti and Rotoroa in New Zealand’s South Island, is the high alpine tarn of Lake Angelus with the nearby Angelus Hut. Only another 400 metres higher is the fine peak of Mt. Angelus (2075m). The most spectacular hiking access to the lake, hut and mountain is along the Robert Ridge – a consistently high, sometimes narrow and beautiful route. There are great views into the basins above the Travers Valley and alpine herbfields for budding botanists. The high altitude (up to 1600 metres) means that this area is subject to ice and snow at any time of the year. The steep slopes to either side are prone to avalanches in winter. This is a popular area even in winter with beautiful frozen lakes and climbers tackling snow and ice on Mt. Angelus.

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It is a place like no other. There is something wild, beautiful, majestic and unpredictable about hiking in the wide open alpine environment. Everytime I’m in this type of place I’m reminded of God’s creation and the nature of God. God is all over, in and around all of His creation. For me this is Heaven on Earth. It lifts my soul, it restores my heart and mind and helps me regain perspective. There is a great verse in the book of Micah that describes how God dwells in His creation:

The Lord is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. (Micah 1:3-4)

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Standing on the top of Mt Angelus (Mountain of the Angels) was a magnificent experience. When I got to the summit the clouds were rolling in and it was quite misty. Then for 10 glorious minutes the clouds parted and the sun lit up a nearby lake like it was on fire. The cloud turned red and the wind intensified.  God did that just for me. I felt a bit like Moses. It was stunning. The Celtics call these places and experiences thin places – where heaven just seems a bit closer to earth. The truth is these thin places are not just geographical, these places are in our hearts if we have eyes to see what landscapes God is creating in our hearts.

May you this week take some time to dwell in the thin places, find a hill or a mountain if you need to, or just be still and know that he is God

Sacred Air

In the ice and through the snow
He rides on Angels wings below
Along the mighty mountain peaks
He turns his face to the one who seeks

Frozen mountains beneath him now
Valleys split away somehow
The only thing that now remains
Is the subject who still seeks his reign

Like wax before a mighty flame
The ice and snow they melt the same
All remains is the rock so high
And there he stands higher than I

In this place my soul is stirred
My heart’s renewed and restored
I feel his mighty presence near
As I breathe the pure sacred air

 

Colour your Heaven

What Dreams May Come, directed by Vincent Ward, won an Oscar in 1998 for its expansive and impressive visual vistas depicting heaven.  I’ve watched this movie many times and saw it again last night.  It’s a compelling movie and asks all the hard questions and Heaven and Hell.  It leaves a lot of questions unanswered which is intentional.

Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams), a doctor, with his artist wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) suffered through the loss of their children, who were killed in a car accident. Although Annie’s all-consuming depression nearly destroyed their marriage, the couple rebuilt their relationship and are now living out a comfortable middle age.

Stopping one night to help a motorist in a wreck, Chris is hit by a car and killed. At first confused about where he is, Chris meets Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an Angel guide who helps him to realise he’s passed away and that he must move on to Heaven. After trying with  limited success to communicate with the devastated Annie, Chris moves on and discovers Heaven can become whatever he visualises.

Chris’s creates his paradise as the paintings of his wife, and he awaits the day when Annie will eventually join him. Tragedy strikes again when Annie commits suicide and goes to Hell. Although it is rarely done, Chris insists on traveling there, risking his eternal soul to save the woman he loves. Accompanied part of the way by Albert and another guide called The Tracker (Max von Sydow), Chris finally reaches Annie in Hell, and must convince her of the truth in order to release her from her dark prison, before he himself is also trapped with no way out.

This movie is one of my all time favourites.  I like the idea of Heaven being a colourful landscape , that’s my kind of paradise. I also believe that hell is a place without God.  Again the movie is pretty accurate to my idea of hell.  It also reminds me of how we can paint our own heaven or hell on earth.  It’s our choice which world we live in.

May you this week reflect on where you are living, Heaven may just be a place on Earth.  It may not be a destination as many would believe.  If the Kingdom of God is within you, and God has written eternity on your heart, what does this tell us about Heaven?

 

Colour your Heaven

If you asked me to paint my heaven,
I’d choose colours of red, yellow and blue,
And create a vast vivid landscape,
Of a place I somehow knew.

If you asked me to play my heaven,
I’d use the key of G.
With a minor fall, and a major lift,
To sustain life in harmony.

If you asked my to write my heaven,
I’d use words of depth and rhyme,
To draw you in to my Maker’s world,
Where space departs from time.

If you asked me to share my heaven,
I’d speak the greatest story ever told,
Of Jesus who died for me and you,
So we could walk the streets of gold.

So what colour is your heaven?
What is the best musical key?
To write and paint your heaven,
For those who need to see?

God lives above and beyond the realms of new and old. He created us from nothing, wove us together in our mother’s wombs. As we become aware and responsive to His love, He calls us His own, giving us a new name, rewriting our lineage and future. And what has been used, abused, worn out and lived long, He can, and will, cause them to be not repaired or fixed, but made new. Clean. Whole. Innocent but wise. Fresh but grounded.

But now, this is what the Lord says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. ~ Isaiah 43:1

He doesn’t do this with a secret catch, He’s not manipulating us for His own selfish gain, or buying our loyalty to fund His ventures… He does this, makes us new now and in the age to come, because of His great love that drives everything He is and does. God knows what’s going on in this world, He can see it and feel it within our own lives. He understands the afflictions we face. He gets it. He’s not offended, or disgusted by us, but He longs to work His love in our used up lives to bring refreshing and renewal to our souls and those around us – a miracle – today, tomorrow, and in eternity.

His redeeming love doesn’t just patch us up, or rinse us off, but miraculously brings ‘new’ to our worn-out hearts and lives. May you this week let go of your fears and inhibitions and allow this love, this Redeeming Saviour to work His newness in you.

Redeeming Love

Remind that I am free
Through the chains that bindnew_clear_vision_15
Your perfect love cast out my fear
Today your redemption is mine

Let me not forget the cost
Your paid in full on time
The perfect gift that gives on
Today your redemption is mine

Create new memories for me
As you let eternity unwind
For in you I live, move and become
Your redemption for all time

 

 

 

For over a cen­tu­ry, the bells of the church at All Saints in Low­er Brix­ham, De­von­shire, have rung out “Abide with Me” daily. The hymn was sung at the wed­ding of King George VI, at the wed­ding of his daugh­ter, the fu­ture Queen Eliz­a­beth II, and at the funeral of Nobel peace prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1997. More recently it was sung by Emeli Sandé at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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The hymn is popular across many denominations, and was said to be a favourite of King George V and Mahatma Gandhi. It is also often sung at Christian funerals. In the aftermath of the sinking of RMS Titanic, survivors reported that the Titanic’s band played the hymn as the ship was sinking, although detailed studies have identified other songs played by the band.

What always strikes me about this hymn is its stark simplicity, and the way it just centres everything back to God. It’s also speaks of the challenge to above all else, remain attached to God.

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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
~ John 15: 5- 7

If we remain in Him and keep plugged in, our world changes, God becomes not only the Author of our faith, but the Completer of wholeness and holiness. God is always the missing piece of our plot, the beginning, middle, and end of our story.

What are your thoughts on this? What does it mean to ‘abide in Him’? Where does this get you? What will you do next?

You are

The wake to my sleep
The flip to my flop
The shrug to my shoulder
The corner to my smile
And the spring to my step

You are

The break to my bread
The press to my wine
The full to my empty
The vine to my branch
And the quench to my thirst

You are

The wind to my sail
The blue to my sky
The light to my path
The map of my road
And the north to my compass

You are

The beat to my heart
The depth to my soul
The sound to my mind
The source to my strength
And the best to my friend

You are

Wild at Heart

There are core desires planted deep in the heart of every man. From the Amazon to Parliament, from the academy to the factory, these desires are universal, true for every man. And they are essential in order to live life as a man; they provide the power for his life. Misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, they do not go away; they go underground and surface later in anger, addiction, compulsion. You pay a high price when you neglect these desires.

A Battle to Fight

Every boy knows he is made for battle, and he longs to be the mighty hero. Give him a cape, a sword, a light saber and he comes alive in a world of Jedi knights, superheroes, snowball fights, and “what can we blow up next?” But of course—man is made in the image of a Warrior God: “The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name” (Exodus 15:3). God himself is a warrior. And we are made to be like him. Thus every man needs a battle to fight. But in order to fight for his life, his dreams, his integrity, a man must get his heart back as a warrior.

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An Adventure to Live

Ask men about the greatest moments in their lives—moments they felt truly alive. They will always tell stories of adventure. That motorcycle trip to Burma, rafting the Colorado, a night on the open sea. That’s why the heart of a man slowly dies when chained to a desk, an assembly line, or a cell phone. And that’s also why every time God gets hold of a man in the biblical record, he takes him into high stakes adventure. Abraham, Moses, David; Peter, Matthew, Paul—all swept up into great adventures by the wild design of God. Christianity is not an invitation to be a really nice guy; it is an invitation into a Larger Story in which you play a decisive role.

A Beauty to Rescue

Part of the adventure and battle that men have is to search for the beautiful. In the wild this means the beauty of the wide open spaces, the high majestic mountains, the frosty valley floor with the raging river bringing life, or the grandest canyon. These are beautiful places, but they point to something even more beautiful, even more open, majestic, life giving and grand. They point to the Creator – God. The ultimate and eternal beautiful. One of the things that has been stolen from us is the beautiful and what it represents. Learning to fight for beauty and what it represents is not only one of man’s core passions, it is one of life’s greatest purposes.

May you this week realise that your heart is good and that God has placed eternity it for a reason. Your job is to find out the desires God has also placed there and, with God’s help, activate them. This is true for men and women.

Wild at Heart

Wild the adventure
True to the man
Large is the story
Of oceans and lands

Battle to fight
True to the man
The war is not his
God holds the plan

Beauty to rescue
In nature behold
The tapestry of life
As it slowly unfolds

The heart of man
Good the design
Eternal the hope
In the fullness of time

Content adapted from John Eldredge

Climb Every Mountain

Climb Every Mountain is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. It is sung at the close of the first act by the Mother Abbess. It is themed as an inspirational piece, to encourage people to take every step towards attaining their dreams.

This song shares inspirational overtones with the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel. They are both sung by the female mentor characters in the shows, and are used to give strength to the protagonists in the story, and both are given powerful reprises at the end of their respective shows. However, as Oscar Hammerstein II was writing the lyrics, it developed its own inspirational overtones along the lines of an earlier Hammerstein song, “There’s a Hill Beyond a Hill”. He felt that the metaphors of climbing mountains and fording streams better fitted Maria’s quest for her spiritual compass.
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Recently I went rock climbing in Colorado Springs in the Garden of the Gods. I’ve been climbing before, however the beauty of this place was overwhelming as was the vertical rock that we climbed.

The Garden of the Gods red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC Native American people camped in the park. They are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. There are many native peoples who have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Ute, Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Pawnee and Lakota people

Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive goal for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permit obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. The requirements are following the “Technical Climbing Regulations and Guidelines,” using proper equipment, climbing with a “buddy”, and staying on established climbing routes. Precipitation makes rocks unstable and therefore climbing is not allowed when the rocks are wet or icy. There are fines for unregistered climbers, and possibly rescue costs. Several fatalities have occurred over the years, generally because the climber was not wearing safety equipment or the equipment failed.

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Climbing mountains whether the are physical, mental or spiritual all require persistence and strength. The question is where you get strength from and how long you persist for. Both are required to get to the top. There are many valleys and mountains in our lives, we need to walk through and climb over. In Psalm 23 there is a map of how to walk through valleys, rest, and where to gain strength. Jesus teaches us much here about what we need through the valley to then climb the mountain.

May you this week take comfort that you are not alone in this quest. We can gain strength, courage, and fortitude to climb every mountain we face. May you value the journey for what it is, and know that you are still becoming.

Climb

When molehills feel impassable
Too tall and wide and high
Let me climb the mountain
That is higher than I

When life becomes too old
And the bigger story sighs
Let me climb that mountain
That is higher than I

When sadness eclipses hope
And joy is lost to lies
Let me climb your mountain
That is higher than I

When gardens start to crumble
And gods refuse to die
I’ll meet you on the mountain
As we climb so high

Whispers on the Wind

“Teach us to pray!” The disciples had been watching Jesus for some time when they asked him this. They must have noticed his prayers had power; they worked.

Most folks don’t actually see a lot of results when they pray; they get discouraged and come to some terrible conclusions about their spiritual life or God’s heart towards them. Honestly —some prayers work, others don’t, and there is a reason why.

imageSome prayers just happen, they are “the cry of the heart.” No training needed when it comes to this kind of prayer. We’ve uttered it thousands of times. Like when the phone rings and the bad news starts to spill and all you can do is say, Father…Father…Father, your heart crying out to God. It’s a good kind of prayer, rising from the deep places in us, often unbidden, always welcome to his loving ears.

But most people get stuck there, which is kind of like ending your education somewhere around the end of primary school. There is more.

The other kind of prayer is far more intentional, where we take up sword and shield and start making an impact through strong, determined prayer. We call this kind “the prayer of intervention.” Meaning we are intervening. Men and women were meant to rule the earth, and though we royally screwed up our first pass at that, God didn’t switch to Plan B. He intervened in and through Jesus of Nazareth to restore us as sons and daughters and put us back in the action. “Rule and subdue” is still the mandate. When we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth,” we are acting as agents with God to bring about change, to enforce his Kingdom.

There is an element of prayer that requires us however to just stop talking, put away the lists, drop the fancy language, and listen. God has so much to tell us and share with us if we would just be still.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

Fr. Richard Rohr’s prayer comes from Psalm 46:10 of the Hebrew Scriptures: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Perhaps this is what prayer is all about – listening, being still, and less talk.

May you this week be still and listen, maybe you’ll hear what you need, maybe in the quietness you’ll gain the perspective you want, and maybe you will find yourself in prayer.

Whispers on the Wind

I’ve heard the devout prayers
Of the people
In the church
As they seek to impress

I’ve heard the lists of wants
Written in haste
Because I gave them
Everything they ever needed

I have heard the cries
And the voices that speak
Without ceasing and the
Ears that never listen

I’ve heard the anger and rage
The fists that shake
Their questions
That have no answers

When will I hear the quietness
The stillness and open heart
The waits and knows
That I am God

Trust that listens for my voice
On the whispers on the wind
Presence with an open heart
That only I can fill wholly

Each day I am crafting your purpose
And presenting you opportunities
Will you be still, have eyes to see
And step into life eternal

Solid as a Rock

The name Peter means “rock” or “rock-man.” In the next phrase Christ used petra (upon this rock), a feminine form for “rock,” not a name. Christ used a play on words. He does not say “upon you, Peter” or “upon your successors,” but “upon this rock”—upon this divine revelation and profession of faith in Christ.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. – Matthew 16:8

The following comment on this verse from The Bible Knowledge Commentary sums up the issue:

Peter’s words brought a word of commendation from the Lord. Peter was blessed because he had come to a correct conclusion about the person of Christ and because great blessing would be brought into his life. The Lord added, however, this was not a conclusion Peter had determined by his own or others’ ability. God, the Father in heaven, had revealed it to him. Peter was living up to his name (it means “rock”) for he was demonstrating himself to be a rock. When the Lord and Peter first met, Jesus had said Simon would be named Cephas (Aram. for “rock”) or Peter (Gr. for “rock”; John 1:41-42).

rocks

But his declaration about Messiah’s person led to a declaration of Messiah’s program. Peter (Petros, masc.) was strong like a rock, but Jesus added that on this rock (petra, fem.) He would build His church. Because of this change in Greek words, many conservative scholars believe that Jesus is now building His church on Himself. Others hold that the church is built on Peter and the other apostles as the building’s foundation stones (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). Still other scholars say that the church is built on Peter’s testimony. It seems best to understand that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him, and was introducing His work of building the church on Himself (1 Cor. 3:11).

I was talking to a friend the other day about church and what it’s built on. He explained to me that he doesn’t go to church and finds organised religion a bit of a waste of time. His church is a group of 5 – 10 friends that he does life life each week. While I was talking to him he got a phone call from one of his friends that needed some advice on a tricky issue, this is real, this is life, and I’m pretty sure this is what church is – accessible, available, and 24/7. The rock my friend had built his church on was Jesus and his example. A simple, humble and rock solid church if ever I saw one.

So here are some questions that this brings up for me – maybe for you too:

1. What rock do you stand on? What is the foundation of your faith?
2. What is your church? Do you do church or go to church?
3. What are the immovable rocks of your faith?
4. What are you building? What do others see? What does God see?

This week may you consider how you do church. What this looks like to others and God. May Jesus continue to build on what you believe and act this week.  I was quite inspired by my friends concept of church. Here’s a reflection on the rock, the foundation, and platform of our faith.

Rock Solid

This rock has its genesis
In the mountain where it formed
Through the wild prevailing winter
By the thunder in the storm

The rock washed down the river
To the valley far below
Where golden sunbeams frolicked
As the loving waters flowed

The golden seams that sparkle
Reflect the depths of green
Where brand new life was fashioned
By the gentle flowing stream

The blood that wept with tears
Is etched upon the face
Of the rock that stands today
When time eluded space

You are the rock the stands
Where the living waters flows
Some golden moments etched in time
As summer melts the snow

So grasp the rock in your hand
And feel the weight extend
Another day, another way
We’ll meet again my friend

18 Miles Wide

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet or 1,800 meters). Depending on which version of events you subscribe to this massive chasm took around nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history to form.

The Grand Canyon formed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists,recent evidence suggests that the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration.

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Two days ago I visited the Grand Canyon. It was an awe-inspiring experience and something that I can’t really put into words. Many people who visit struggle to comprehend the vastness, the depths, and the lengths of this canyon. There is nothing to compare this to here on earth.

In the bigness of the Grand Canyon some things become lost, and some things become clear. I sometimes struggle with Gods love and the bigness of this and find it difficult

. . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
– Ephesians 3:18

After visiting the Grand Canyon, my perspective on this has changed possibly forever. I think I now have a new appreciation of this love, this big, wide, deep love that God has for us. The challenge for me and us though is what will we do with this. Will we let it transform us, redeem us, restore us, or will we just let it flow around and over us. All of this is good, but what will move us from good to grand?

18 Miles Wide

Behind the mists of time
We walk through canyons unseen
Betrayed by beauty
Eclipsed by history

Do we get wet or
Do we feel the rain?
Does disappointment
Cast its veil one more time?

Do we walk or
Do we feel the red earth?
Giving off heat as it
Beats the forgotten clouds

Then the Ancient of Days
Moves the clouds and
Once more breaks through
Illuminating the canvass

The restoration of all things
The grand redemption of the land
Set free, set apart, and we respond
With awe and wonder

Mork to Orson

This week America and the world is mourning the death of actor and comedic genius Robin Williams. The Hollywood icon died on Monday at his California home at the age of 63.

Williams burst onto the scene in the late 1970s, playing an alien on the sitcom “Mork and Mindy.” He would go on to become an Oscar-winning actor that could make us all smile – and cry. President Barack Obama described Williams as “one of a kind” and someone who “ended up touching every element in the human spirit.”

In his personal life, Williams struggled with depression and substance abuse addiction and talked openly about it over the years. Just last month, he announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment program.

“When a person stops an addictive behavior and there are symptoms of traumatic stress, the risk of suicide increases significantly,” Regent University counseling professor Sherry Todd told CBN News

During Robin Williams’ 2001 appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton closed the questionnaire portion of the program — as he does with every guest — with the following: “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say at the pearly gates?”

Robin Williams delivered an answer that was Robin Williams in a nutshell: quick, funny, and razor-sharp on the surface, with plenty of complexity layered below. He reeled off three punchlines in a matter of seconds, and buried an easy-to-overlook nugget of poignancy right in the middle: “It would be nice to know that there’s laughter”. I think we can be certain of this.

Williams leaves behind his wife and three children – and something for the fans: four upcoming movies.

Of course, like many, I never knew Robin Williams. I knew of him, and the impact of his life and work. He brought life and laughter to millions. A true inspiration. Here’s my small tribute to a great man.

Eternal Hope

Behind the iron maskimage
Of laughter etched in sorrow
Success betrayed by hurt
For today but not tomorrow

Behind the pose of laughter
Defending wounds that bind
Generous beyond belief
A loving spirit in kind

Behind the spotlight
Shadows with their silent wings
Beat their drums
Yet death has lost its sting

For hope is all eternal
The chains that bound your life
In this place of comic rest
A beautiful mind freed from strife

Your presence graced our world
You finished the race you set
Rest in peace and freedom
Of you we won’t forget

A couple of weekends ago I went off mountain biking with my brother. He brought his lean mean mountain biking machine, and I brought my man of war steel clunker bike. We had just started off on our epic 30km ride over the hills and peaks high above Wellington when my front wheel stuck in a mud hole and I went a flying over the handle bars. Nothing unusual about that – just the laws of physics really.

You bike, you crash, you get up and bike some more. This time though my ribs hit a large rock and I heard a snapping sound. I had definitely broken or cracked at least one rib, and maybe two. I didn’t feel too much pain so on we went. We keep going and I sensed God was trying to tell me something – something like, “Slow down, or you’ll break something else”. Of course I didn’t (slow down), but I was mindful of staying on my bike and heading in the same direction it was going.

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Later on towards the top of Makara Peak, I broke my flywheel (a bike part, not a body part). I walked the rest of the way to the top and then coasted down hill, slowly. It was very peaceful and quite frustrating. God reminded me how good I was as not listening.

The next day my ribs were hurting something bad, and it was painful to breath. I needed some supernatural help. I had been reading a book on prophecy by Kris Vallatton, who runs the Bethel Supernatural School at Redding, California. He talks about two kinds of prophecy – foretelling or seeing future events, and forthtelling which he defines as seeing a future event, bringing it to the present and activating it. This was a time to practice the prophetic and forth-tell.

I knew my ribs would heal eventually, but it wasn’t soon enough. I placed my hand on my ribs and said a silent prayer. What I experienced next was nothing short of miraculous. If you know me, you’ll know that while I believe in miracles, I have trouble believing in my miracles, even though there are many.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh, my shame, you know I believe it
– U2

So as I prayed I felt my hand weld to my side, and then a feeling of what I can only describe as concrete being poured through my ribs, and then a fusing and knitting feeling. My ribs were healed, they no longer creaked. I still had quite a bit of muscular pain, but that’s disappearing too. So to top it off, I shared my story and had some prayer at church which was really just the icing on the cake.

Mr Google tells me that it takes anywhere from 3 – 10 weeks for ribs to heal normally. God took 5 minutes, shifted my perspective, and healed that which guards my heart.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
– Psalm 147:3

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised, I’ve always served a huge and mighty God and it was the most natural thing that his supernatural healing happening to me. I haven’t really told anyone, because I haven’t really felt the need. God is able, God can heal and He does. All of this points to God’s glory to do abundantly more than we ever ask for or imagine. It is all about God, and not about me or my ribs.

May you this week recall that all authority in heaven and on earth is at your fingertips. Jesus said to us that greater things will we do than he did. Do you believe this? May you experience God’s love and activate that which you need for yourself and for others. Know that this is about demonstrating God’s glory.

Healer of our Heart

You bind our wounds
By you love
You bind those things
Loosed in Heaven above

You heal our hearts
By your might
Your keep up safe
In the depths of night

Through signs and wonders
You showed the way
Greater miracles we’ll do
Through the words we say

All authority from Heaven
Falls in behind you
In each prayer you speak
In everything you do

Healing in of itself
Is one part of the story
What matters most?
Reflecting God’s glory

Patience can be defined as the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.

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You will all have heard that “Patience is a virtue.” We’re all familiar with that cliché, and many of us know that patience is listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 as among the fruit of the Spirit. So there’s no disputing that the Christian ought to be patient. But as with most of the virtues, the biblical writers assume that we know what patience is and don’t give an explicit definition. But do we? Could you define patience if you were asked? And, to make things more tricky, could you do so without simply citing examples of patience? Starting with the basic definition of patience as “waiting without complaint”.

Jesus is clearly the model of patience with other people. Notice that Jesus’ refusal to complain about his irritating disciples can be described as an exercise of self-control. Surely he would have been justified in blistering them with insults. It’s worth noting that his omniscience guaranteed that every possible joke and embarrassing remark was at his disposal on any particular occasion. This makes his self-control even more admirable. Also, his refusal to complain involves humility, the conscious decision to lower himself by not exercising his right, as the holy man he was, to judge and dismiss his friends because of their faults. We might even say this is a form of mercy. Finally, Jesus’ refusal to complain about his disciples is generous. In spite of their vice and thick-headedness, he remained no less committed to them and served them increasingly as their failures became more outstanding.

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land​… – Ezekiel 22:30

Sitting, walking, and standing are the three postures of the believer. As we assume those positions, we engage with heaven in the unfolding of God’s purposes on the earth. We rest in the finished work of the cross but we must also walk according to the call we’ve received and stand firm in his promises if we are to see his kingdom come. Being patient is to stand, either with someone or in their place.

May you this week stand and embrace the gift of patience, the humility of self-control, and may this fill you with hope as you stand wherever you are, in whatever situation you are in.

Stand in the Gap

These words of hope and life
Are here today for you
Be encouraged that your prayers
Were answered before your knew

You know that God goes ahead
As you make plans within your heart
Your footsteps are all crafted
Like a sculptor chisels art

So as God removes the pieces
Of the tears of patience past
Just remember that slowly
In God’s time can be so fast

So in your words remember Him
As you keep your heart so safe
And may the Author always be the
Perfector of your Faith

These words bloom like the rose
Are yours to trim and tend
May their beauty make you smile
Just like an honoured friend

Gladiator is an epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe who portrays the fictional character, loyal Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when the emperor Marcus Aurelius’s ambitious son, Commodus, murders his father and seizes the throne. Maximus flees and hides his identity by becoming a slave and a gladiator.

Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murder of his family and his emperor. Eventually, Maximus journeys back to Rome to confront his archrival.

Having arrived at the Colosseum, their team is put in a match that is meant to be a reenactment of the Battle of Carthage. Maximus and his teammates are on foot, armed with spears and shields, against a cohesive and well-equipped force of mounted fighters and archers on chariots. By means of Maximus’s leadership, however, the team is able to upset their opponents. Commodus comes down personally to congratulate Maximus on his victory. Maximus prepares to kill Commodus, but at the last moment decides against it.

At this point, Maximus removes his helmet and reveals himself to Commodus. Maximus promises to exact vengeance against Commodus, who is still in shock to learn that Maximus is still alive. While Commodus yearns to kill Maximus on the spot, he cannot; doing so would cause the watching crowd to develop distaste for his leadership, since the crowd loves Maximus.

This is a powerful moment in the movie and like all movies there is a story here that is far too familiar and meaningful. Once Maximus reveals his identity, and who and what defines him, the fear on Commodus’s face is palpable. This is exactly what happens when we know our identity, and when we let God define us – then the accuser has no more arrows, and has to flee. Here’s the moment:

 

We have a gladiator, someone who fights for us, our own Champion of Heaven. It is only when we let God define us and name us that we really find out who we are, why we are here and can begin to dare greatly in the arena. God calls us to this place, the question is though – will we follow?

May you this week come to know more clearly the Champion of Heaven. Ask God your real name, ask Him what he thinks of you and then listen for His voice, not yours, not others – just His. May this moment define you.

Champion of Heaven

I have heard you calling my nameimage
Through the rolling thunder and the rain
For you I live, to the end of my days
Champion of Heaven
You call my name

I have felt you beating my heart
You breathe my life into your art
For you I praise, day after day
Champion of Heaven
You move in me

I have seen you in my dreams
Flowing colours in braided streams
For you I pray, night after day
Champion of Heaven
You build my dreams

I have held your hand in mine
We will never run out of time
For you are here, year after year
Champion of Heaven
You walk with me

I have tasted, I have seen
Of your glory where you’ve been
For you are for me, not against me
Champion of Heaven
You make the way

The Cowardly Lion is a character in the fictional Land of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. He is an African Lion, but he speaks and interacts with humans. Since lions are supposed to be “The Kings of Beasts,” the Cowardly Lion believes that his fear makes him inadequate. He does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear, which he does frequently. Only during the aftereffects of the Wizard’s gift, when he is under the influence of an unknown liquid substance that the Wizard orders him to drink (perhaps gin) is he not filled with fear. He argues that the courage from the Wizard is only temporary, although he continues to do brave deeds while openly being afraid.

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So what does courage look like and how do we respond? Courage looks like three young men standing next to a fiery furnace knowing God is able to save, but acknowledging that God might not. Even so they refuse to worship another god. (Daniel 3) The courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego flowed from faith in a Sovereign God. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) Their faith developed a hope that God is able (Ephesians 3:20), His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), and God has good plans (Jeremiah 29:11). This hope developed a love for God so deep that they refused to bow their knees to another god. This type of courage then is founded in faith, hope, and love.

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote, “To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer.” Therefore whoever exhibits courage – the kind that comes from faith, hope, and love – will suffer. Jesus promises as much Himself, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). It takes courage to love this suffering sinful world and God calls all His children to love and suffer. In our culture, courage means in faith accepting all of life’s circumstances as part of God’s sovereign plan when we would prefer to name and claim the course of our lives. In hope courage understands that ultimate victory lies on the other side of eternity and so we can ask, “what can man do to me.” Finally courage is speaking the truth in love when our culture would rather their ears be tickled than their sinful lives exposed. This is courage.

You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
– Jesus Culture

May you this week rediscover this courage. May you choose to act with courage and bravery when you find yourself in situations that require courage. God will give you these situations. May you be reminded that courage is birthed from vulnerability – this is not weakness, it never was. May you choose courage in the places of life where it is easier to be passive. May you remember that in the cave you fear to enter lies the courage and the treasure that you seek.

You make me brave

I asked for courage
Then they came
Rolling thunder, storms
Driven by rain

Here’s the thunder
For you today
Be courageous
In all you say

Here’s the storm
Tossing you around
Be courageous
Stand your ground

Here’s the rain
With it’s angry wind
Be courageous
But don’t take it in

And here’s my heart
Mighty to save
Be courageous
I’ll make you brave

Vision

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of vision is that it changes your way of thinking, which in turn changes the way you live. An Olympic swimmer endures the long hours of staring at the bottom of a pool, day after day, because he is motivated by the vision of the gold to come.  Small children endure the struggle to be very, very good for another two weeks because they are motivated by a vision of gifts under a Christmas tree.

Vision is a power that motivates us to do great things and  give great things. Vision keeps us going when there doesn’t appear to be any other reason to keep pushing forward toward the goal.

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Oswald Chambers says the thing that keeps us going for God, even when everything or everyone around us is tumbling and stumbling, is our vision of God, not our devotion to principles or our devotion to duty.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

When we fix our eyes on Jesus He gives us eyes to see, it’s just the way it works in the kingdom. A few years ago God have me a vision for the United States. Lately God has been adding in a few more pieces. In four weeks I’ll be travelling to the US with my good friend Rob. God has some things for us to see, experience and activate. Vision is about seeing – faith is about trusting and obeying.

May you this week seek God and recall the vision He has given you. It’s written on your heart. May you activate today a part of that vision. God will give you eyes to see and ears to hear.

Here’s what I saw three years ago. Last Sunday night I heard a testimony from someone who saw something very similar, the week before I heard another testimony about the rose. God is moving and creating good things for us all.

The Rose of Redding

As I flew in on eagles wings
I saw a desolate desert land
Where trees once stood mighty
And grass moved in the gentle breeze

The beating heat betrayed by life
The land empty and laid bare
From latitudes north to south
As far as west is from the east

Then they stood up in silent reverie
And in their ashes stared at me
Tell us where shall we go
Our land is no longer brave or free

Then in the north a struggle grew
A singe red rose grew tall
Abided in and of itself
Beautiful, yet strong

Heaven came to earth that day
And new life was birthed again
The rose grew purposefully
From deep roots in good soil

The huge petals slowly lowered
Two set of five the same
The five fold ministry of God
Reflected of itself

More roots grew strong and
Multiplied, first south, then
East and north, and brought
Fertility and peace to the land

The petals covered the land that day
The land no longer dry
Heaven invaded earth
The people and cities were restored

So today I pray, bring forth and activate
In the company of the full force of heaven
Invade this brave and free land
To seek and save what was lost

Epic

John Eldredge’s books have become wildly popular among Christians. The Sacred Romance and Wild at Heart have sold millions of copies and have firmly established Eldredge as one of the most-read Christian authors. Wild at Heart has been studied in men’s groups across the world, giving Eldredge a wide reach and his teachings great acceptance. In his book about the greatest story ever told – Epic he changes his emphasis and focuses on the great story – our common story.

Epic tells us that life is a story which unfolds like a grand drama. It seems that humans have an obsession with stories. From the time we are tiny children we love to hear stories about heroes and villains, good guys and bad. The reason we love story so much, Eldredge writes, is that there is something in the human heart that tells us there is an epic story going around us, where God is the central character, but where we also play an important role. We love stories about the conquering hero who arrives at the last possible moment to save his lover, because that is exactly what Jesus has done for us.  Which story we choose to focus on is a bit like looking at a landscape – do we focus on the detail of the ground or do we lift our eyes to the sky to watch the drama unfold.

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The book, then, revolves around stories. The author supports his claims with example after example from popular movies. A few of the movies he references are Apollo 13, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Saving Private Ryan, Pinocchio, Finding Nemo, Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator (no surprise if you have read Wild at Heart) and Star Wars. He relies heavily on quotes from other writers such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Yancey, Gerald May, Soren Kierkegaard, George MacDonald and William Shakespeare. The book also contains plenty of Bible verses.

The true story of every person in this world is not the story you see, the external story. The true story of each person is the journey of his or her heart. – John Eldredge

Eldredge reminds us that there are two stories we are always living  – the small story and the epic story.  Both are lived at the same time, in the same place, however they have wildly different endings.  Our task is to remember that the great and epic story is the one God invites us to.  He invites us to belive that every moment, every action, every thought and word matters, and that everything is spiritual – because it is all about the epic story that God is telling.

This week, may you be reminded about your role and character in this story, you may not know the detail yet, but God does.  It is no small part, the question is always – do you have eyes to see, and ears to hear?  May God help you this week to choose which story you will live in, and maybe, just maybe – as others see you living your epic story, they will be inspired to do the same.

Epic

In the outpost of my mind
Confusion lingers still
It flys around the crowded space
Against and by my will

The small story of this life
Attempts to thwart my soul
It beckons as it whispers
Only we can make you whole

The greater story opens up
It throws light across the page
The words speak life and lives
From the cradle to the grave

The stories battle on
They win and lose the fight
The stories of the light and dark
But day always thwarts the night

Every word and every line
Every plot and theme
The villain and the hero
All take there turn it seems

The greater story is your life
Your props, your lines, your part
It is how God transforms you now
As your life becomes His art

We lose the Story every day. It is continually being stolen from us by the Evil one – the ultimate desconstructionist. He twists and spins and pulls apart the truth until the fragments we have left are unrecognizable. Or we lose it ourselves in the marketplace of Vanity Fair. Bombarded by thousands of messages each day, every one of them marked urgent, we leave behind the truly important things, the only refuge for our hearts.

We must be more intentional about holding on to the truth. The spiritual pilgrims who aligned themselves with St. Benedict took this task seriously—far more seriously than we do, I’m afraid. A typical day in the lives of Benedictine monks began in the middle of the night, when they arose for the Night Office. No less than twelve psalms would be said, together with three Scripture readings, several hymns, and prayers. Sunrise brought the Morning Office, followed by six other breaks during the labors of the day for remembering: Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline in the evening. Seven times a day set aside for prayer and the recitation of psalms. Together with their night vigil, more than twenty-nine psalms would be said, not to mention numerous lessons, verses, prayers, and hymns.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we all adopt the Rule of Benedict. But think about this: these men left the distractions of the world to focus entirely on God. They lived in an environment designed to keep them standing before God, and what did they discover? That they needed reminders every hour of the day and night! Do we, who live in the hostile chaos of the world, think we can do with an occasional visit?

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The greater story is epic. It is greater than us, greater than our community, and greater than our planet. In comparison to the greater story, our earth is really just a pale blue dot.

May you this week believe and choose to live in the greater story, change your perspective, and see that every encounter, every meeting, every word is spiritual and has meaning far beyond what we could imagine or hope for. May you be captivated by this great story, because it is your story.

The Pale Blue Dot

On a pale blue dot
In a sunbeam of light,
Our tiny earth
Spins day into night.

Our dot is so small
In a universe so vast,
We think we’re immortal
Forever we’ll last.

We live and we die
In peace and through war,
We all exist on this dot
But do we love any more?

So who made this dot
And moved space through time,
To make the earth spin
On no more than a dime?

It’s so easy to forget
To remember it seems,
Our mote of dust
Suspended in a sunbeam.

Some content adapted from John Eldredge

Anyone can walk in the miraculous. If you’ve ever wanted to live and walk in the supernatural power of God, you have the power to activate this and begin today. All it takes is to invite the full force and weight of heaven to fall behind your life.

It is truly possible for us to walk in the divine, and Christ came to show us the way. It is by rediscovering our true identity in Him that we can begin to move into the promises of God regarding the miraculous. The supernatural can be imparted in us by changing the way we think, live and act.

If you are not walking in the miraculous, you’re living far below your birthright. It is possible to lay a carefully constructed biblical foundation for walking in the supernatural power of God. When you invite Heaven to invade earth you experience miracles every day, as miracles  happen every day. All we need are eyes to see.

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We all recognise the heaven to earth moments, where we know that something extraordinary has just happened but we have no words to describe it. Kim Walker-Smith from Jesus Culture describes this moment:

So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
when I think about the way
He loves us
Oh how He loves us

The act of Heaven invading earth can be summed up in Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

God has sent Jesus on a mission. He has great news for us. God has sent Him to restore and release something. That something is you. He came to give us back our hearts and set us free.

When we realise this freedom the full and mighty weight of heaven is behind us. Our job is just to do, there is no try.

May you this week call out your future, do what God has given you. As you walk in this freedom, notice what you do with it. Notice what happens when The full weight and power of Heaven is behind you. May you this week carry out the will of God here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Heaven invades earth

Calling out the future
From beyond the shadowy veil
Lifting eyes to heaven
As the ship begins to sail

Speaking out the not yet
In between the past and now
Connecting people with their God
Crafting the where and how

Bringing about focus
As heaven invades our land
Abundant and in excess
Gods favour by His hand

The words I speak are life
Like seeds that fall on ground
If you listen they will grow
And weave light all around

So as these words fall on this page
And life transforms from art
May the full force and weight of heaven
Today invade your heart

Finally, here’s the song that you knew was coming

That we even need to explain how beauty is so absolutely essential to God only shows how dull we have grown to him, to the world in which we live, and to the natural beauty that God has created at every corner of the earth. Far too many years of our own lives are lived with barely a nod to beauty, to the central role that beauty plays in the life of God, and in our own lives. How could we have missed this?

Beauty is essential to God. No—that’s not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God.

The first way we know this is through nature, the world God has given us. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isa. 6:3). In what way? Primarily through its beauty.

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Have you ever noticed how each sunrise and sunset is so different to the last – it’s intentional. God is speaking and shouting to us – notice this, notice me, notice you and me. Where did we learn not to notice, not to see, and not to dwell in beauty.

I have a hazy recollection of some lines to a song that speaks of this beauty. It’s a distant memory but describes beauty for what it is.

I walked today where Jesus walked
His footsteps led me on
And it dawned on me that He still walks
To guide us wherever we are
The wonder of the world He made
The Beauty of his Love

The earth is brimming with beauty, beauty of such magnificence and variety and unembarrassed lavishness, ripe beauty, lush beauty, beauty given to us with such generosity and abundance it is almost scandalous.

Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. We’re so used to evaluating everything (and everyone) by their usefulness, this thought will take a minute or two to dawn on us.

Beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses (for our God has seen fit to arrange for this). Nature at the height of its glory shouts, Beauty is essential! revealing that Beauty is the essence of God. The whole world is full of his glory.

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Last weekend I went mountain biking around a couple of coastal lakes in Wellington. The day was overcast and there was something sacred and spiritual about how the light reflected the beauty that was all around. That day I experienced beauty and God reminded me that He created it for us, in us and through us. Something shifted in my soul that day. It was if God had given me a double dose of abundant beauty that exceeded all I hadn’t even hoped for.

May you this week glimpse beauty and may it arrest your soul. May beauty speak to you of the relentless and extravagant love of God. May you know what in means to lay down in pastures green and rest. May you rescue some of this beauty for yourself.

The Beauty of His Love

From twin mountain peaks
To the green valley below
Your beauty flows
Like the braided river

Your laughter echoes
Around the valleys and
Slowly thaws my cold heart
As the sun breaks through the clouds

Sharing this adventure with you
Reminds me that I have
Beauty and wonder to rescue
In my battle to fight

How sacred and sure
How pure and radiant
Your beauty shines
And lights the way
Softly like a lamp
And then
Gloriously as flung
From a lighthouse
Brilliant

I’ll write about it here
But these words are
Just juxtaposed
Thoughts and hopes
Dreams and reality
Faith and facts
Lost opportunities
That have cost me much

There are no words
No words to tell you these
Feelings betrayed by duty
No words to express
This unrequited love
No words to express gratitude
For being present here with you
As I build my castles in the air
With no windows
And the walls grow
Even higher

You may never know
How this moment etched in time
Left such an indelible mark
That my soul shifted
But then maybe you do know

So for today and tomorrow
I will treasure this memory
Of twin mountain peaks
Graced white with snow
And what it really means
To lay down in pastures green

So while the trees of the field
Clap their hands

All I can ever wish and hope
Is that maybe you
For even a moment
Read between these lines
And
Feel the rescue within
The beauty
You have
Always
Known

Today it’s my absolute privilege and honour to have Rob Gray – Pastor, Preacher, Prophet and Poet as my guest sharing his thoughts and poetry.

Rob is Pastor at Hillcrest Chapel in Hamilton, New Zealand. He loves lakes, oceans, rivers, waterfalls and hot showers. In his spare time Rob likes to get out on the golf course and explore as much of it as he can! Rob also loves his sport, a good spy novel, the music of Bruce Springsteen, U2 and many others. Rob is focussed on learning to live for Jesus out of his new heart.

Rob and I are co-founders of Brand New Heart Ministries where we write, run retreats, and share what it means to rediscover our heart for God.

Hi everyone, Rob here. I turned 43 last week. At the start of the day it’s fair to say that my kids were more excited about my birthday than I was. I mean we did let them have cake at breakfast time after all! Their joy and excitement at giving me cards and gifts was

rainbow-114707_640infectious and I had a growing sense of gratitude rising up in me. At work I had planned to visit a few of our older folk but lingering tummy discomfort persuaded me to take it easy and lie low in the office. As I read, planned and prayed I knew peace. I then heard from David that we had got into the Wild at Heart Boot Camp in Colorado in August. Peace became joy. I headed out for a walk and was overwhelmed at the sense of God’s favour that was upon me. He had given me so much this year. He had gone ahead of me in so many ways. He had strengthened me to deal with some tricky situations. Then it started to rain! I took shelter under a tree, looked out and saw a stunning rainbow, full and bright, and above it a second one much dimmer. Doubly blessed. That’s how I felt. Favoured, honoured, loved.

I used to be uncomfortable with that kind of talk. Didn’t the Bible say to take up our cross and follow Jesus? Isn’t it suffering that leads to perseverance? Isn’t it the persecuted who are blessed? Couple those verses with the notion that we are just worthless sinners saved by grace and it’s no wonder that many of us struggle to get our heads around any idea that we are blessed by a loving Father! But biblically speaking, suffering is contrasted with and stands in opposition to misuse of power and resources. It does not stand against joy and our identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father and intimate allies of the King. I can rejoice in the blessings poured out on me by God because I am his son, sin is no longer who I am and coming alive to God through Jesus is the point!

Blessing does not nullify suffering. We all pass through trials. We live in a fallen and broken world. Satan is angry and full of hatred for us. Selfishness is rampant. We follow a crucified Saviour. But Jesus passed through death into life. The dramatic reversal that the resurrection represents is our destiny too. What I experienced on my birthday was an echo of eternity. I caught a glimpse of the fullness of life that will be ours. Beyond feeling middle-aged, slightly unwell and it raining on my walk was a future of joy, peace, love and double blessings. Tomorrow persecution and suffering may come but I will still be a friend of Jesus and a son to the Father. I will still have the Spirit dwelling in me with the life of Christ. I will have hope. I will still be loved. I will still be Christ’s and he will still be mine. That’s the joy. That’s the fullness of life. That’s the double blessing.

Since Easter I have been part of an amazing Facebook group that has been reflecting on Lazarus. What would it mean for us to live as if we have been raised from the dead? In Christ, we have been! This exercise even provoked me to poetry. Below are a couple of poetic reflections that may help you as you reflect on being alive in Christ this week.

Standing up
Stepping out
Breathing
Sun on my back
Seeing the colours
Feeling the breeze
Thankful
Hopeful
I am loved
I am enough
Christ in me
I in Christ
Alive

Song in the heart
Smile on the face
Spring in the step
Strength in the Spirit
Faith fills my being
Hope invades my soul
Grace enters my mind
Life comes alive in me

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies and stories.

Since publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged a debt to Campbell regarding the stories of the Star Wars films.

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Campbell explores the theory that important stories from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized the monomyth:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

It is challenging to write a story, a good story that holds together and speaks to the human heart in any deep way, unless you borrow from God’s story. The nature of humanity and the things that we long for such as love, heroism and sacrifice, were put on our heart by God (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). You really can’t write a good story without borrowing from God’s story.

So if you pay attention to any of the powerful, contemporary films such as Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings series, you realise that you can’t create a gripping story without, consciously or unconsciously, telling God’s story. I would imagine that a lot of these screenwriters are aware of what they’re doing, but I think the success of “Titanic” is based entirely on the fact that it parallels the gospel. The love story, the ship going down in tragedy, he dies so that she might live…we want to be loved like that, we want to be rescued like that and we want to live in a story like that. It resonates with us.

Why is it that we just love stories with a hero and the villain? Because these stories mirror our own story. We all either want to be a hero, or have a hero rescue us. The villain is the evil one and is always present. We feel both of these characters every day as we all live in a broken world.

The quest we face on this earth is all about the story. Will your story be great or small, will it impact or will be impacted, will it live or just exist.

May you this week rediscover that your story is part of a much bigger and greater story. May your realise that your role in the great story is unique and is so important and vital to telling the greater story. The greatest story ever told is your story. You are the vulnerable courageous hero. It is your time to get in the arena of life and dare greatly.

Daring greatly

As silence is dropped
Like a stone in the sea
Ripples expand the
Echoes of eternity

Still freedom betrays
The brave who are free
Vulnerable courage
Echoes in eternity

If shame is the door
To the arena we see
Failure and success
Echoes through eternity

To those who dare greatly
While bending the knee
Humility faces the brave in
Echoes of eternity

Finally, here is a video clip about your part in the greater story. Be inspired.

Choose Life

A few years ago, well actually in the 1980’s, a lot of people were wearing oversized T-shirts with ‘Choose Life’ is really big letters.  I remembering wondering at the time, what is it that they are trying to communicate? Was it life, rather than death? Was is about really loving life, rather than existing? Perhaps, it was just a nice slogan that I guess most people would relate to and was a useful reminder.

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What did Jesus mean when he promised us life? Let’s go back to the source, what we find is just astounding.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and, in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).

Jesus doesn’t locate his offer to us only in some distant future, after we’ve slogged our way through our days here on earth. He talks about a life available to us in this age. So does Paul: “Godliness has value for all things, holding promise both for the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Our present life, and the next. When we hear the words “eternal life,” most of us have tended to think, “a life that waits for me in eternity.” But eternal means unending, not later. The scriptures use the term to mean you can never lose it. It’s a life that can’t be taken from you. The offer is life and that life starts now. Eternity began a long long time ago.

And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives (Romans 6:4 NLT).

The glory of God is men and women fully alive. Now. In the present. Hope unbidden rose at the thought that God’s intentions towards me might be better than I thought. That’s the offer of Christianity.

The offer is life. Make no mistake about that.

May you this week choose life in all it’s imperfections, and may you remind yourself that there is a greater story and that you have a starring role. Today may you embrace life, hold on to hope, and experience the grace of the one who is the bright morning star. The one who shines light, life and hope into each of your days.

Bright Morning Star

On the rock I sit
That is greater than I
Redeemed and restored
By the bright morning Star

As I reflect on you
In the wonder you are
My shadows fall behind
By the bright morning Star

You speak to my soul
Breathe life in my heart
You renew my mind
By the bright morning star

As you turn night into day
As come near from afar
May your love shine in me
Like the bright morning star

Finally here’s a great piece of music filled with hope and life. Soak it up.

In the Celtic tradition there is a wonderful way of describing the places between Heaven and earth. These places are described as “Thin Places.” There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller.

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These thin places, according to the Celts, is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God. A contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge puts it this way:

Thin places, the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.

It is no wonder that thin places are most often associated with wild landscapes. A thin place requires us to step from one world to another and that often means traveling to a place where we have less control and where the unpredictable becomes the means of discovery. Rugged seacoasts, windswept islands and rocky mountain peaks were traditionally thin places in ancient times and still call out to pilgrims today. These places of refuge and restoration help us as John O’donohue writes, “to anchor our longing in the ancient longing of Nature.”

These places are not only geographical. Jesus invites us to these thin places in our lives. These thin places exist within our hearts, because that’s where Jesus chooses to meet with us. If the kingdom of God is within us, then it follows that this may just be the same place where Heaven meets earth.

May you this week reflect on your near misses with God, may you recall and encounter glimpses of Heaven as you travel along your own road. May you find these thin places within you, and may you experience in your heart the one that rides the heavens.

Ride the heavens

In these thin places
Where Heaven and earth meet
I feel your presence as
You ride the heavens

In these thin places
When I close my eyes
I feel your breath as
You ride the heavens

In these thin places
I try and count the times
You shoot the stars as
You ride the heavens

In these thin places
I realise that they
Are within me as
You ride the heavens

I delight in You
You ride the heavens
You are my God
And I am yours forever

The other day, I caught myself running up the stairs in our house. Why was I running and what for? I really can’t remember. It was nothing urgent, so why the rush?

Sometimes I rush through the day and at the end compliment myself on all the busyness I rushed through. It must have been important because I was so very busy. Did I miss something? Yes. I missed the sunrise and the sunset, I missed the wind and sun on my face, I missed so much by rushing into my busyness.

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A good friend of mine who had a baby asked me my advice on parenting once. He asked me, “If you had one piece of advice to give me what would it be”. I remember my reply, “Walk and don’t run”. I heard my own advice ringing in my ears yesterday as I rushed up the stairs to do something I can’t remember. I have made a mental note to slow down. It’s easy to rush into the day and not stop, be still, be present, and appreciate life for what it is. Do I need to take my own advice, you bet!

Simon and Garfunkel put it well in their song “Feeling Groovy”

“Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the moment last”

Being fully present here and now can be challenging. It’s something that requires patience, and a whole lot of self determination. There are many excuses not to be, but there are good reasons to live mindfully and be present.

So what are you rushing into? What are you busy with? Do you have to run when you could walk? I’m going to try spending the next few days slowing down, listening more to God, and feeling groovy in the moment.

May you this week find time to be present, be still and know God.

Right Here, Right Now

In this moment
You are here
Through my breath
In the frigid air

In this place
Where frost is due
You are the sunrise
I always knew

In this winter
Of bitter cold
You are the sweet fire
That warms my soul

Your embers heat
My cold heart of stone
Transformed – brand new
I’m here – I’m home

Remembrance

We’re certainly warned about forgetfulness in Scripture, both in word and by example. In the Old Testament, the pattern is so predictable, we come to expect it. God delivers his people from the cruel whips of Egypt by a stunning display of his power and his care—the plagues, the Passover, the Red Sea.

The Israelites celebrate with singing and dancing. Three days later, they are complaining about the water supply. God provides sweet water from the bitter desert springs of Marah. They complain about the food. God drops breakfast out of the sky, every morning. Then it’s the water again. God provides it from a rock. Enemies attack; God delivers. On and on it goes, for forty years.

As they stand on the brink of the Promised Land, God issues a final warning:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  – Deut. 4:9

They do, of course, let it slip from their hearts. All of it. This becomes the pattern for the entire history of Israel. God shows up; he does amazing things; the people rejoice. Then they forget and go whoring after other gods. They fall under calamity and cry out for deliverance. God shows up; he does amazing things; the people rejoice—you get the picture.

Things aren’t changed much in the New Testament, but the contrast is greater, and the stakes are even higher. God shows up in person, and before he leaves, he gives us the sacraments along with this plea: Do this to remember me. They don’t—remember him, that is. Paul is “shocked” by the Galatians: they are “turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ” (1:6 NLT). He has to send Timothy to the Corinthians, to “remind you of what I teach about Christ Jesus in all the churches wherever I go” (1 Cor. 4:17 NLT).

I will be walking one day
Down a street far away
And see a face in the crowd and smile
Knowing how you made me laugh
Hearing sweet echoes of you from the past
I will remember you
– Amy Grant

How often we let answered prayers and Gods provisions slip from our hearts, how often we forget, and how often we claim these answers as our own. Perhaps this is because our frame of reference is usually ourselves. It’s also about living in a fallen world where there are active forces to help you forget. Forgetting what God has done for me is something I’ve forgotten recently and need to relearn and remember.

May you this week search your memories and recall the ways God has met your needs. You may have plenty of unanswered prayers, bit don’t let this stop you. Perhaps it’s more about what you need rather than what you want. Perhaps you may like to journal your prayers and see how God goes.

Remembrance 

Did you prayimage
But then forget?
When I answered
You did I bet

Did I answer
Those questions too?
Then you acted
Like you always knew

Did I breathe life
Around you this day?
Yet you noticed the wind
Felt strong today

Did my unrelenting love
Fire the sunrise at dawn?
But you slept in
And only yawned

What your eyes have seen
I have set these things apart
As you live your life
Store them deep in your heart

Some content adapted from John Eldredge

In the book, Velvet Elvis, Repainting the Christian Faith, the author, Rob Bell has this to say about light – “Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”

Darkness only occurs in a shadow, shadows are caused by light. Light therefore must be the absence of darkness. Pure and simple logic really.

The concept of “light” appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. God created light (Genesis 1:3 ). However, a careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the physical entity that we call “light” is actually only the second form of light in the universe, since everywhere the Bible declares that God Himself is light.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light.” In Psalm 104:2 , the psalmist testified of the Lord who “covered himself” in light.

Photo by Karen Jordan

Photo by Karen Jordan

In John 8:12 Jesus, said, “I am the light of the world.” Such expressions make at least two things abundantly clear. First, the origin of light rests with God. Second, in some sense God Himself is the very essence of light.

We need to let the light into our lives. Light is life and healing. Everthing has cracks, Everything is made to let the light in.

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen

There is an old Maori proverb that says if you turn your face towards the sun your shadows will fall far behind you. One of the meanings of this proverb is you always have a choice to focus on the light or on your own shadows. Light is life. Choose it.

This week, may you let the light come in and begin healing in your heart. May you recognise that the cracks don’t need papering over. The cracks exist to let light in and then let light out. What will you do with this light?

Light is Life

Sunrise proclaims light
As the shadows retreat
Quietly back into
Their original disguise

Waters reflects on
Shadows of yesterday
As today’s light heralds
Hope of a brand new day

Yesterday is no more
As the winds of change
Gently ripple the water
To magnify the light

As the sun warms your face
Of a restored hope
May your shadows always
Fall far behind you

Always remember
As day follows night
Darkness is only
The shadows from light

Poetry in Motion

Band of Brothers was a television World War II mini-series based on the book of the same name written by Stephen E. Ambrose.  The episodes first aired in 2001 and are still run frequently on various TV channels today.

The story centers on the experiences of Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. The series covers Easy’s basic training, the American airborne landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of Bastogne and on to the end of the war, including the taking of the Kehlsteinhaus (Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest).

The title for the book and the series comes from a famous St. Crispin’s Day Speech delivered by the character of Henry V of England before the Battle of Agincourt in William Shakespeare’s Henry V. A passage from the speech is quoted on the first page of the book, and is also…

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Have you ever noticed the wind blowing through the trees or the waves lapping up on a sandy shoreline? There is a rhythm about them that is natural and calming to the soul. The rhythm is something organic, not man made. It is unforced. The natural, calming, unforced rhythm of blowing wind and crashing waves reminds me of the perfect unforced rhythm of God that resonates within me, even though some times I am unaware of it.

Creation displays this rhythm after which I believe God desires us to pattern our lives.

In life, being in the groove is feeling “the unforced rhythms of grace.” Or to give a fuller context from Jesus’ offer in Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

This unforced rhythm of grace – the groove – happens when we find the right rhythm of notes and rests within our own life.

Psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikzentmihaly outlined it best in his book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”: “When consciousness is harmoniously ordered,” a flow experience is “so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous.” Finding flow, Csikzentmihaly discovered, arises when we live in that sweet spot, the “Goldilocks” point, between too much stress and too little stress or boredom. Simply put, the right rhythm is when we’re in the groove.

We start to get into this groove by stopping and listening to the ultimate space of silence.

What is also important is to find and look for opportunity to rest and experience these rhythms. I hike regularly in the hills high above Wellington. There is an old wooden seat at the top of a steep track high on a hill. I always take time to sit, rest and drink in the amazing view. It’s a special place for me and a place where I feel close to. God. A place the Celtics would describe as a thin place – where heaven seems just a bit closer to earth, and where I talk with God.

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May you this week find a place, even if only for a moment to rest and experience the unforced rhythms of grace. It’s easy not to, but it’s important to make it a priority. It may just be a place and time, a thin place, where for a moment you could lay down your burdens and troubles, and then look at them and decide whether they were really yours to carry at all.

Rhythm of Grace

At the crest of the hill
Sits a old wooden seat
Battered by time
Passed by hundreds of feet

At the seat lies the rest
That the world left behind
Carrying burdens too heavy
With weary faces resigned

For those that will come
Rest and be still
And sit with The Maker
On the seat on the hill

To drink wonder and beauty
A landscape renewed
Of burdens laid down
By the seat on the hill

Grace has its rhythm
Only when you are still
Rest for a while
On the seat on the hill

Many many years ago we used to sing a song at Youth Group and Easter Camp. We we sang it so much that none of us really paid attention to what we were singing or who we were singing it to.  The song was based on Mark 12:30-31.

Love the Lord your God with all you heart, and
All your soul and all your mind, and
Love all of mankind as you would love yourself, and
Love, the Lord your God . . .
(Repeat x 16)

You get the idea.  We thrashed the song to within about an inch of it’s life – actually we killed it.  It is easy when we read the same bible verse so often for it to become a cliche, and for us to think we get it, just because we have read it so many times before. It’s also easy to get complacent, and familiarity can breed contempt if we are not careful.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Jesus said that the most important thing we should do is love God and love other people (Mark 12:30-31). Life is not about your accomplishments or acquisitions, your popularity or prestige. It’s about how well you love.

There are three problems that keep us from loving fully as God intended:

  1. We’re all imperfect. There are no perfect relationships because there are no perfect people.
  2. Sin disconnects us. Adam and Eve had the first broken relationship and disconnected themselves from God and from each other. We’ve been excusing ourselves and accusing the people we love ever since.
  3. The more disconnected we are, the more fearful we become. We crave intimacy, but we fear vulnerability. We crave acceptance, but we fear rejection.

You may not have had a say in the hand you were dealt in life. But God sent his son as your Saviour to transform your cards into a winning hand. No matter what connections you’ve made in life, you will be held responsible for what you do with your connections today.

This week will you let God affect your connections? Will you trust him for your future in spite of a difficult past? Will you nurture, protect, and build relationships so that God is more fully glorified in your life? Resolve today to build healthy and not hurtful relationships with God’s help. May you remember that as we try and love God with all our heart, he first loved us.  Out of this overflow God also asks us to love others as ourselves – the second greatest commandment. That’s what life is all about and that’s what love is for.

That’s What Love is For

Sometimes we make it harder than it islove-god
We’ll take a perfect night
And fill it up with words we don’t mean
Dark sides best unseen
And we wonder why we’re feeling this way

Sometimes I wonder if we really feel the same
Why we can be unkind
Questioning the strongest of hearts
That’s when we must start
Believing in the one thing that has gotten us this far

Sometimes I see you and you don’t know I am there
And I’m washed away by emotions
I hold deep down inside
Getting stronger with time
It’s living through the fire and holding on we find

That’s what love is for
To help us through it
That’s what love is for
Nothing else can do it

Melt our defences
Bring us back to our senses
Give us strength to try once more
That’s what love is for

Believing in the one thing
That has gotten us this far

Round off the edges
Talk us down from the ledges
Give us strength to try once more
That’s what love is for

~ Amy Grant

Butterfly

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared.
He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole. Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shrivelled wings.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, Neither happened. In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around.

It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand: The restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us. We will not be as strong as we could have been and we would never fly.

This week, may God show you that your struggle is your path to strength. May you overcome your obstacles, beat your wings and may you learn to fly.

Nature

A butterfly went out at noonimage
And waltzed above a stream,
Then stepped straight through the firmament
And rested on a beam;

The butterfly then bore away
Upon a shining sea,—
Though never yet, in any port,
Its coming mentioned be.

If spoken by the distant bird,
If met in ether sea
By frigate or by merchantman,
Report was not to me.

– Emily Dickenson

God’s imagery of going before us lets us know that he means for us to go on a journey. This is not so frightening. Most of us are aware that the Christian life requires a pilgrimage of some sort. We know we are on a journey home. What we have sometimes not given much thought to is what kind of journey we are taking.  We often stand at the crossroads trying to figure out which way to go.

Standing at the crossroads
Trying to read the signs
To tell me which way I should go
To find the answer
And all the time I know
Plant your love and let it grow
~Eric Clapton

Not realizing it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up what we cling to, that which has become so much a part of our identity, embrace our inner soul, and trust in his goodness.

I’ll go ahead of you, clearing and paving the road. I’ll break down bronze city gates, smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances. I’ll lead you to buried treasures, secret caches of valuables – I, God, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. (Isaiah: 45:2-3)

As we stand at the crossroads of God’s calling, we look down two roads that appear to travel in very different directions. The first road quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view. We cannot see clearly where it leads, but there are ominous clouds in the near distance. Standing still long enough to look down this road makes us aware of an anxiety inside, an anxiety that threatens to crystallize into unhealed pain and forgotten disappointment.

We check our bearings and find no up-to-date road map but only the torn and smudged parchment containing the scribbled anecdotes and travelers’ warnings by a few who have traveled the way of the heart before us. They encourage us to follow them, but their rambling journals give no real answers to our queries on how to navigate the road we have decided to take.

May you this week come to know that the road you have chosen has many crossroads.  In your quest behind your question may you know that God goes with you down any road as all roads lead to God and your destination. May you let God plant his love and may it grow.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,which-direction-do-i-turn
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

(Some content adapted from the Sacred Romance by John Eldredge)

Citizens of Heaven

We have no permanent place in this world. Though I hold a passport that declares me a citizen of New Zealand, the reality is that, as a Christian, my citizenship is in heaven. As the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb. 13:14)

A letter to Diognetus written at the end of the fourth century puts it this way:

Christians are indistinguishable from others by nationality, language or customs. There is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven.

Scripture likens our earthly life to a journey, urging us to keep our eyes fixed on heaven as our final goal. As Saint Augustine wrote: 

We are but travelers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, but not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.

With no permanent citizenship in this world, we are pilgrims simply passing through en route to our true homeland. The word pilgrim comes from the Latin peregrinus, meaning stranger. This word has as its root per ager: one who goes through a field or across a frontier. In doing so, the traveler becomes a stranger, a pilgrim, leaving behind familiar territory, headed towards a new land

So this Christmas, may you remember that your home is heaven, and that the longing and ache in your soul is for a place that you belong, a new land, and a role in a much larger story.  May you remember that in this life you are a traveler. You are on a journey and just like you often faithfully sing at Christmas you really are a citizen of heaven above.

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, Christ The Lord

Travelling On

If for all practical purposes we believe that this life is our best shot at happiness, if this is as good as it gets, we will live as desperate, demanding, and eventually despairing men and women. We will place on this world a burden it was never intended to bear. We will try to find a way to sneak back into the Garden and when that fails, as it always does, our heart fails as well. If truth be told, most of us live as though this life is our only hope.

In his book The Eclipse of Heaven, A. J. Conyers put it quite simply: “We live in a world no longer under heaven.” All the crises of the human soul flow from there. All our addictions and depressions, the rage that simmers just beneath the surface of our Christian facade, and the deadness that characterizes so much of our lives has a common root: We think this is as good as it gets.

Take away the hope of arrival and our journey becomes the a death march. The best human life is unspeakably sad. Even ,if we manage to escape some of the bigger tragedies (and few of us do), life rarely matches our expectations. When we do get a taste of what we really long for, it never lasts. Every holiday eventually comes to an end. Friends move away. Our careers don’t quite pan out the way we thought.

Sadly, we feel guilty about our disappointment, as though we ought to be more grateful. Of course we’re disappointed—we’re made for so much more. “He has also set eternity in the hearts” (Eccl. 3:11). Our longing for heaven whispers to us in our disappointments and screams through our agony. “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy,” C. S. Lewis wrote, “the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

May you this week realise that you are not made for this world, and that you are made for eternity, because that is what has been placed in your heart. May you realise that the vague restlessness you feel is your heart calling you to something else, something more, something full of hope and purpose, and something not of this world. May you hold on to hope as the anchor of your soul as you walk this land. Remember you are only a traveller here in this world.  May you this week, realise that your home is Heaven.

This World is not Conclusionmy-best-friend-on-top-of-the-mountain
A Species stands beyond
Invisible, as Music
But positive, as Sound

It beckons, and it baffles
Philosophy—don’t know
And through a Riddle, at the last
Sagacity, must go

To guess it, puzzles scholars
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown

Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies
Blushes, if any see
Plucks at a twig of Evidence
And asks a Vane, the way

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit
Strong Hallelujahs roll
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul

Emily Dickinson

As You Are

Brennan Manning, best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, passed away early this year at the age of 78 after many years of declining health.

Born and raised in Depression-era New York City, Manning finished high school, enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and fought in the Korean War. After returning to the United States, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest.

In the late 1960s, Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning transported water via donkey, worked as a mason’s assistant and a dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert. In the 1970s, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism.

Singer-songwriter Rich Mullins named his band, A Ragamuffin Band, after one of Manning’s books. Warren Barfield’s music is also often inspired by Manning, as is the work of singer-songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones.

Manning taught a message of individualism within a context of Christ. “When I accept in the depth of my being that the ultimate accomplishment of my life is me — the person I’ve become and who other persons are because of me — then living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is … a way of life.” When a person accepts himself as loved by God, he is liberated from conceptions of “the blood line, the nation, the church, money, ego, entitlement,  security, violence, and the paltry gods of modern life.” He rejects the idea of teaching the love of God with limits. “I cling to the God of my experience, whose love beggars belief.”

Manning’s approach to religion is refreshing – religion counts for nothing.  Church is important but only if it leads you closer to Jesus through grace, and not by duty. If you ever get a chance to read any of Brennen’s books you will be impressed by his straight talking and straight shooting approach to Jesus.  His work is profoundly inspiring by its stark similplicity.  Jesus taught simplicity – the average lenght of his parables was 38 seconds. 

May you this week let Jesus just do what he needs to do with you, without limt or excuse.  May you know that Jesus accepts you as you are and not as you should be because none of us are as we should be. 

As You Are

Do you believe
that the God of Jesus
loves you
beyond worthiness and unworthiness?

Beyond fidelity and infidelity
that he
loves you
in the morning sun and in the evening rain

That he loves you
When your intellect denies it,
your emotions refuse it,
your whole being rejects it.

Do you believe that God loves
without condition or reservation and
loves you
this moment

As you are
and not
as
you should be.

― Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

I’m not very good with criticism or ‘constructive feedback’. I’ve noticed that I may hear nine really good things, but it’s the one critical comment that will eat away at my soul. I usually tell myself that it’s really nothing, that “you just have to laugh about it,” and that those small paper cuts really don’t hurt. But they do.

Over time, these small afflictions or wounds build up and we experience “death by paper cuts.”

So what is the solution – not the band-aid solution, but the real solution – forgiveness.

Rob Bell, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God says that we are called to forgive by going through three steps:

1. Name it. We shouldn’t just ignore it or minimize it. By naming why we are hurt we can disarm the wound’s secret control over us.

2. Accept it. Realize that you are hurt and don’t throw the pain back or nurse it secretly on the side.

3. Absorb it. This is the most painful part – what Tim Keller equates with a form of death. It’s really awful to absorb the wrongs others have done to you, but on the other side of that death is new life; resurrection that will empower you to love more like Christ.

The cross says the pain stops here. The way of the cross is a way of absorbing pain, not passing it on, a way that transforms pain from destructive impulse into creative power. When Jesus accepted the cross, his death opened up a way for the redeeming power of love ~ Parker Palmer

May you this week, come to realise that death by paper cuts can lead to new abundant life and a new hope. When you suffer from the paper cuts of life remember that there is One who has suffered before. May you come to know that forgiveness of others brings healing to you.

Death by Paper CutsDesperation

Another GroundHog day
Undigested dreams in my gut
Will I survive another day of
Death by paper cuts

I’m careful with my words
Use Howevers, not buts
But some people breath
Death by paper cuts

They won’t stop you cold
No sledgehammer and nuts
But if they surround you’ll suffer
Death by paper cuts

Heaven would be such relief
From all earthy doors slammed shut
But look for the resurrection after
Death by paper cuts

The created cosmic pattern
When life is your rut
Seek the abundant life after
Death by paper cuts

When I think of the width, depth, length and height of God’s love for me, I can find it really hard to grasp, let alone experience.  It’s hard to comprehend that the Creator of the universe opens His arms wide to us and invites us to come to Him, just as we are.  He took you and me, full of sin and shame and reached down from the wide expanse of Heaven and grabbed hold of our hearts.  He’s never let go and we’ve been forever changed by His love – whether we are aware of this or not. It also makes no difference to God whether we agree with this or not.  Think of all of the ‘non-Christians’ you know that seem more loving than you ‘Christian’ friends – interesting isn’t it?

Whenever I visit the beach, I stand on the shore and look across the wide expanse of ocean.  It goes on, and on, and on.  This is how the love of God is.  There is no end.  It is everlasting.

There is something eternal about this kind of deep and wide and relentless love.  It is as though it has always been, is here now, and will always continue.  One day we will cross the bridge and understand how this all works – for now it is and has always been about faith.

And I hear, when you get to the river
You look back for the very last time
And when you cross, you get washed off forever
Hurry up boy, eternity’s on the other side
Deep as it is wide
~ Amy Grant

May you come to know this week how deep and wide His love is for you.  May you let this image sink into your soul, if only for a minute.  May you know that this requires little understanding, no comprehension, or any reasoning.  May you let go and experience this love, may you let it relentlessly pursue you, lose and find yourself.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

Deep as it is Wide

Step by step we journey onc6f7d5672c5ab1b2096075371210bda7
We walk to the other side
Through the valleys of this world
Deep as they are wide

We walk the pristine shores of life
Time measured by the tides
Waters ebb and flow to meet the oceans
Deep as they are wide

We climb the sunlit mountain peaks
From where darkness cannot hide
Let the light flood your empty soul
As deep as it is wide

Walk with me as life goes on
I’m here right by your side
My everlasting love for you
Deep as it is wide

When we read Genesis chapter one we usually see only one story there, but there are actually many stories. Why don’t we see these multiple stories? Is it because we don’t open our eyes? What is it that we fail to see?

The Hebrews style of writing is prolific with a style of poetry unfamiliar to most readers of the Bible. This poetry is nothing like the poetry we are used to reading today and therefore it is hard to grasp and see.

The most common form of Hebrew poetry is called parallelism. Parallelism is when the writer says one thing in two or more different ways. Genesis is full of this poetic form.

Often we overlook what the Bible is telling us because we are not recognizing what the poetry of a passage is attempting to convey.

Let’s look at Genesis.

The first creation story is found in Genesis 1.1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word “bara” is a verb and is usually translated as “create” as an intended and purposeful action.

In Genesis 1.3-13 we have the first three days of creation. These are the days of separating. On the first day God separated light and darkness. On the second day God separated the waters above from the waters below forming the sky and the seas. On the third day God separated the land from the water forming dry land.

In Genesis 1.14-31 we have the second set of three days of creation. On the fourth day God filled the light with the sun and the darkness with the moon and stars. On the fifth day God filled the sky with the birds and the sea with the fish. On the sixth day God filled the dry land with the animals and man.

Notice the correlation between the first set of three days of separation with the second set of three days of filling. The seventh day – rest.

This is pure poetry in motion. There is so much more.

Most modern western thinkers view the Genesis events in step logic. This is the idea that each event comes after the previous forming a series of events in a linear timeline. But, the Hebrews did not think in step logic but in block logic. This is the grouping together of similar ideas together and not in chronological order. Most people read Genesis chapter one from a step logic perspective or chronological, rather than from the block logic so prevalent in Hebrew poetry.

The story of creation is so much more that a sequence of events, there is so much here that is unseen, but can be seen if we have eyes to see. There is separation, filling, rest, breath, humans created as both physical and spiritual, seasons, days, years, and eternity.

May you slow down so that you don’t miss a thing, may the eyes of your heart be enlightened. May you be fully present right here right now. may you come to see the reality of God is at hand upon us, among us, near, here. May you come to see that everything is spiritual.

The First Poemitw0001s

One- light then dark
Two – sky then water
Three – land then sea

Four – sun, moon and stars
Five – birds and fish
Six – animals and humans

Seven – rest

Finally here’s an excellent about the poetry of Genesis – enjoy!

Freedom Reigns

In 1952, C S Lewis, wrote Mere Christianity, where he described what free will  is and by implication what he believed freedom is.

Lewis maintained that God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is that happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other…and for that they must be free.

600 years earlier William Wallace, made popular again in recent years by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart, made this famous speech about freedom.

I am William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen,
here in defiance of tyranny! You have come to fight as free men. And
free man you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight?”
“Two thousand against ten?” – the veteran shouted. “No! We will
run – and live!
Yes!” Wallace shouted back. “Fight and you may die. Run and you
will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now,
would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for
one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take
our freedom!

May you this week consider your freedom. May you decide afresh what you will do with this freedom. Embrace the one who set you free, because you are free indeed.

Freedom Reigns

Freedom fallsdesert-cross2
Like the rain in Spring,
The sun shines through
With life to bring

Freedom reigns
Like a long Summer’s day
With a sunset on fire
To show us the way

Freedom flows
Like the Autumn air
And speaks to us
Of a Greater care

Freedom settles
Like the Winters snow
As it blankets the land
Of the free that we know

So what will you do
With the freedom you live
Will you be brave
With the freedom you  give

Heart Light

In the book, Velvet Elvis, Repainting the Christian Faith, the author, Rob Bell has this to say about light – “Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”

Darkness only occurs in a shadow, shadows are caused by light. Light therefore must be the absence of darkness.

The concept of “light” appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. God created light (Genesis 1:3 ). However, a careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the physical entity that we call “light” is actually only the second form of light in the universe, since everywhere the Bible declares that God Himself is light.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light.” In Psalm 104:2 , the psalmist testified of the Lord who “covered himself” in light.

In John 8:12 Jesus, the God-man, said, “I am the light of the world.” Such expressions make at least two things abundantly clear. First, the origin of light rests with God. Second, in some sense God Himself is the very essence of light.

We need to let the light into our lives. Light is life and healing. Everthing has cracks, Everything is made to let the light in.

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen

This week, may you let the light come in and begin healing in your heart. May you recognise that the cracks don’t need papering over. The cracks exist to let light in and then let light out. What will you do with this light?

Light Returns

Light shinesimage
Where wounds heal
Through the cracks
Into my heart of flesh

Light floods the spaces
As my heart beats
Carrying light into
The darkened places

No more papering
Over these cracks
No more band aids
Over the wounds

Today let your light
Heal and shine into
My heart, my good heart
Illuminate my soul

Then let light return
More brilliant than before
Back out through the cracks
To light the path for others

The Prayer of Saint Francis is a Catholic Christian prayer. It is attributed to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi.

The prayer has been known in the United States since 1927 when its first known translation in English appeared in January 1927 in the Quaker magazine Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia), where it was attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Cardinal Francis Spellman and Senator Albert W. Hawkes distributed millions of copies of the prayer during and just after World War II.

The prayer of St. Francis is a petition to God that we might live up to the true way of being-in-the-world that God intends for the human family. To be most authentically human is to be an instrument of peace or, to put it in the sense of the prayer’s following lines, one who sows: love, pardon, faith, hope, light and joy in our world.

If the first part of the “Prayer of St. Francis” reminds us about whom we should strive to be in asking God to help us live out that identity, the second part of the prayer is a reminder of what not to be. In a word – selfish.

I’m not sure about you, but I have a lot to learn here – I wish I could be more like this prayer. In a word – selfless.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be understood, desiring to be loved, or seeking forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. But living after the example of St. Francis, whose whole life was modeled on the life of Jesus Christ, means putting others first and caring for the rest of creation in a way that reflects our interdependence and family relationship. It is a call to remember who we really are in the eyes of God, see who others are from that same perspective, and act in a way fitting our identity as human beings.

The “Prayer of St. Francis” offers us is a chance to pause, pray and reflect on who it is that we are and what it is that we are created to do.

May you this week choose what you will sow – love for hate, pardon for injury, faith for doubt, light for dark, and joy for sadness. May you remember this week that what you look for in this world you will find. Look for peace.

The Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,image
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

When we hear the word holiness, it probably leaves a religiously strict residue in our minds, mainly because of some idea around holiness being connected to behaviour management. We think of obeying certain rules that consist of ’Do this and don’t do this.’ And, of course, the work of the Spirit of God does bring about change in behaviour.

But this is only seen from the surface.

There is something deeper.

Holiness and wholeness are connected. To become holy is to become whole, as God intended and created us to be. And to be made whole comes through healing, healing deep within.

Think of physical healing. If you are healed of a sickness or disease, a broken or disfigured limb, what is taking place is our restoration to wholeness. The same is true within, in the heart, in the soul. Sin, theologians tell us, consists of ‘missing the mark’. So, to be made whole allows us to not miss that mark, or more importantly, to live as God intended humans to live.

I think this is a helpful approach to understanding holiness. Yes, we are broken and sinful. Yes, we need healing into wholeness that we might be holy. And as this deeper work takes place, the surface behaviour will also be transformed.

Take the things you struggle with and ask yourself, “What would life be like if I never struggled with this again?”

It would be an utter relief. An absolute, utter relief.

Exactly. Now, in order to get there, you need both wholeness and holiness.

The utter relief of holiness. Let’s be made whole so that we can walk as holy, as God intended. ~ John Eldredge

May you this week come to know how you can be holy and whole. They are both necessary and inseparable. May you know in your journey of wholeness and holiness, the One who is transforming you. Be encouraged.

My Mind is Full

My mind is fullhs2
But not of you
Take my thoughts
Into your will

My heart is weary
But not from you
Beat my heart
Into your will

My soul is lost
And far from you
Take me back
Into your will

My life is yours
My mind, my soul
Seize my heart
Make me holy whole

The parable of the prodigal son, as recorded in Luke 15, shows God’s relentless and unconditional love for us. A man’s younger son asked his father for his share of the estate, packed his belongings, and took a trip to a distant land where he wasted all of his money on parties and fast living. About the time that his money was gone, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He finally came to his senses and realized that his father’s hired men at least had food to eat. He decided, “I will go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”

While he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming and was filled with loving pity. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. Perhaps the reason he saw his son coming while he was still a long distance away was that he was praying for his son’s return and spent much time each day watching that lonely road on which his son would return.

Even as the son was making his confession, the father interrupted to instruct the servants to kill the fatted calf and prepare for a celebration – his lost son had repented; he had changed his mind and had returned to become part of the family again.

And He is jealous from me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all
~ David Crowder

God demonstrated His love for us before we were Christians, but this story makes it obvious that God continues to love his child who has strayed far from Him. He eagerly awaits for us to return to him – into His arms.

May you this week encounter the Father’s love. May you find your refuge in His arms, in His embrace, and in His shelter. May you feel his relentless pursuit of your heart.

Arms of Love

If you are a rolling oceanimage
I am the broken wave
Racing to meet
You at shore

If you are blood red sunrise
I am the thin cloud
Covered by the
Sacred light of the world

If you are the stars
Then I am Galileo
Fixed on the path
Of the Perfector of my Faith

If you are twisting hurricane
I am the tree
Bending and remaining in
The shape of your glory

If you are my Great God
Then I am your True Son
Already tightly held
In your arms of love

Three in One

The Christian idea of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons, the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit – “one God in three persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature”.

The Trinity is considered by many as a mystery of the Christian faith. According to this doctrine, there is only one God in three persons. Each person is God, whole and entire. They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin. While distinct in their relations with one another, they are one in all else. The whole work of creation and grace is a single operation common to all three divine persons, who at the same time operate according to their unique properties, so that all things are from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The three persons are co-equal, co-eternal and co-exist. Simple really?

Theology

In the Trinitarian view, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit share the one essence, substance or being. The central and crucial affirmation of Christian faith is that there is one savior, God, and one salvation, manifest in Jesus Christ, to which there is access only because of the Holy Spirit.

In Genesis, God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” ~ Genesis 1:26–7 (emphasis added)

A Matter of Faith

Like a lot of things in Christianity, believing in the trinity – the three in one is a matter of faith. It doesn’t actually require understanding. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit exist as three in one whether we understand it or not, just as the Earth spins on its axis exactly at the right speed – whether we understand it or not.

The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. ~ Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

May you this week come to know the nature of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and how you access each and all of the divine nature whenever you need it. May you be content in a God that created you, in Jesus who walks with you, and in the Holy Spirit that comforts you and is closer to you than your own breath.

Three in One

Good things come in threeimage
So some of us believe

If three is part of one
Are we more or less the sum

If water is H2O
Why does it also fall as snow

If fire burns within our soul
How can rivers make us whole

If God is Jesus in human form
Then why does my spirit feel s worn

If three can really come from one
Then I am also the Father’s Son

He is mine and I am His
In my heart He truly lives

My Father, and my Brother
My Spirit like no other

Good things come in three
Some of us believe.

In most traditions, the word Spirit means breath or wind. Our word for Spirit is derived from the Latin – Spiritus, which means breath. For the Greeks, the word Spirit is known as Pneuma, a term which also means breath. The Hebrew word Ruah is synonymous with wind. The Hebrew name for Lord is Yahweh which is derived from the root Hebrew word HWY, which also means wind or breath.

The consistency in these different terms in not coincidental. To know the Spirit is to know the breath of God. This breath of God is written about in the New Testament which describes the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
~ Acts 2:1-2

The Holy Spirit has often been described as a powerful wind. A wind that transforms us, overwhelms us, takes our breath away, yet at the same time gives us our breath.

The power touches me
The power helps us see
The power holds my hand
The power drives me crazy
And it won’t take long to understand
Just how amazed I am
~ Amy Grant

This week, may you come to know afresh the power of the Holy Spirit, the wind that fills your sails and moves you to new horizons. May you be filled with the breath of God and know that He is so close to you, closer than your own breath. May you know this power in your life today.

The Power

You caught my breathimage
My life to win
You took my breath
As I pressed in

You fanned the flame
Blew me apart
Like a hurricane
Within my heart

You overwhelm me
My Strong Tower
I am surrounded
Within your power

Breath in me
Fan the fire
Relentless love
Power of my power

Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is a bit like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two dimensional person doing strange, and random things.

Jesus has been described by John Eldredge as a Beautiful Outlaw. In his book by the same name, Eldredge removes the religious varnish to help readers discover stunning new insights into the humanity of Jesus. He was accused of breaking the law, keeping bad company, heavy drinking. Of being the devil himself. He was so compelling and dangerous they had to kill him. But others loved him passionately. He had a sense of humor. His generosity was scandalous. His anger made enemies tremble. He’d say the most outrageous things. He was definitely not the Jesus of the stained glass.

In the author’s winsome, narrative approach, he breaks Jesus out of the typical stereotypes, just as he set masculinity free in his book, Wild at Heart. By uncovering the real Jesus, readers are welcomed into the rich emotional life of Christ. All of the remarkable qualities of Jesus burst like fireworks with color and brilliance because of his humanity.

Eldredge goes on to show readers how they can experience this Jesus in their lives every day. If you get a chance read his book.

For me, Jesus is many things, if I had to describe Him in a couple of words I would probably use friend, and brother. Jesus longs to relate to us, to have a relationship with us. He waits for us.

This week may you come to know how Jesus waits for you, longs for you to come back to Him. In your waiting may you know that Jesus waits with you and for you. Will you spend sometime waiting with Jesus this week. What might you learn? What will be different? What will you be able to share?

Where I Wait20130529-200909.jpg

You asked where I went
As if you already knew
Here under the willow tree
Is where I wait for you

You felt abandoned
Like you had no clue
Here under the willow tree
Is where I wait for you

You thought I left
As fast as the morning dew
Here under the willow tree
Is where I wait for you

Come sit here beside me
I can make all things new
Here under the willow tree
Is where I wait for you

God the Father is the first person of the Trinity, which also includes his Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. You knew that right?

Christians believe there is one God who exists in three Persons. This mystery of the faith cannot be understood by the human mind but is a key doctrine of Christianity. While the word Trinity does not appear in the Bible, several episodes include the simultaneous appearance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, such as the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:16-17).

We find many names for God in the Bible. Jesus urged us to think of God as our loving father and went a step further by calling him Abba, an Aramaic word roughly translated as “Daddy,” to show us how intimate our relationship with him is.

God the Father is the perfect example for all earthly fathers. He is holy, just and fair, but his most outstanding quality is love

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8, NIV)

Do you have an intimate relationship with Father God? The Father designed us with the emotional and spiritual capacity to have a loving, personal relationship with Him.

King David knew how to have an intimate relationship with theimage God. Although he was far from perfect, David had learned that only the Father’s love could satisfy his heart’s deepest longings (Ps. 63:3). The king passionately sought God through prayer, repentance, and obedience. From his example, you and I can learn how to enjoy closeness with the Father.

May you this week relearn what it means to have a relationship with Father God. May you be still, know that He is God, and hear from Him this week. May you have a vision of How Father God sees you. Will you share your story?

My Father God

Father God
I’ve seen you before
In your heavenly armour
Standing guard in the doorway
Of my heart as I
Carelessly left it wide open

Father God
I feel your immovable presence
As you block those who would
Seek to rob, kill and destroy
They seek but will not find
As you stride forward and stand
On the bridge of certain doom
For they shall not pass

Father God
Show me your face
That I might see the One
Who protects and defends
My heart – my good heart
I long to see your glory
Like Moses did

Father God
Behind the sealed door of my heart
In your room high in the castle
While you lay down your sword and
Take off your steel plated helmet
I remove my shoes
As I am on holy ground

Father God
You replace your helmet with an old gold crown
And we sit at your table
Heart to heart, soul to soul
A banquet laid before us – just us

Father God
You my great Father, I your true Son
And in that exact moment our eyes meet
In your presence I Am
Transformed in the blink of Your eye
Through a Sacred Exchange
Into the Beautiful Mystery