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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.

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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