Monday, May 31, 2010

The God-with-us world

We live in a world where 12 year old sons attack step-fathers. They do it to protect their mums who have been beaten and broken again.

We live in a world where alcoholic, self-loathing fathers reject sons who have disappointed them. Or is it disappointment with their own inability to be the dad that they longed for themselves.

We live in a world where a shiny young man smokes pot to forget the loss of a mate or the fear of being someone he's afraid of. Someone he'd rather die than be.

A world where we are defined by our diagnoses, our inability to be responsible for our own lost behaviour.

So much fear, driving us to run, to fight for our lives or to just freeze in the headlights of the oncoming truck. Paralysed again.

We are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt 9:36)

It's our confession Lord, that we are weak, so very weak.
But You are strong.
And though we've nothing Lord to lay at your feet, we come to your feet and say
"Help us along." (David Ruis)

What answer do we have for the world we live in?

I was reminded today, that our answer is, God is with us. We live in a world where no matter what story we live, Jesus accompanies us in it.

As we live through the tragedy of failure in our parents. As we realise we are alone in the midst of the people closest to us. As we force ourselves to get up and carry on with a heartsinking day. As we see our greatest fear rising before our eyes. As we struggle to breathe with the weight in our chests. As we mourn the us we wish we could be.

Suddenly the pain, the loss, the fear, the mundane-ness of this world is redeemed by the presence of the God of love. The present, perfect love that drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

The God-with-us world.*

*Skye Jethani preached about the God-with-us world in his sermon 'Eye for an Eye' at Mars Hill Bible Church in November, 2009.

I praise and thank you, Lord, for

673.  children's laughter
674.  spaghetti bolognaise
675.  listening to Jack Johnson and feeling summer (thanks Jenny)
676.  Eurovision song contest (seriously - that German song made me dance)
677.  sour dough bread
678.  the farmers' market
679.  Lizzie loving fresh flowers
680.  homemade chicken stock
681.  finally taking the hems up
682.  pulling up weeds
683.  an early night
684.  spontaneous caresses
685.  living in a God-with-us world

holy experience

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yesterday's Big Question

After recent conversations about babies and how they work...

S: Mum, how did you get milk in you?

Me: (pause)...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The To Be List

I am an occasional list-maker. Being a reasonably spontaneous person, I'm ready to be blown along by the idea of the moment. This also means I am often at the mercy of the urgent rather than the important. (If you've read Stephen Covey, I struggle to be in the important/non-urgent quadrant.)

Sometimes I reach the point where I despair, feeling that I never get anything done. Then I make a list of all the plans, ideas, wishes, must-dos and inspirations whirling around in my brain. It actually helps me sort my thinking. Then I can leave the list and came back to it after a couple of weeks and I usually see some progress.

I do make mental lists when I prepare for my day, but going back to them becomes a reminder of either my unrealistic thinking or my failure to complete. Sometimes I find that the list makes me neglect the really important things. I do my chores, but miss out on listening to stories and playing games. "I'll be there when I finish this..."

I so easily get caught in the trap of seeing value in what I can do rather than who I am.

Lately, I am trying to use a different list. I have started a 'To Be' list. What sort of person do I want to be today... It is time to focus on the how rather than the what, the process rather than the content.

It is crystal clear what goes on my list. And they are on my list every day so I get longer to work on them.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12

Now, whatever I do, it is significant because it is a way to reflect God's nature and show his love. My failure is no longer that I don't do enough. Instead I am on a journey with a bigger goal in mind - the spirit of God shaping me, directing me, allowing me to participate in God's nature.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4

How am I going to be divine today?*

*The question, phrased this way, comes from a talk by Di Warren at EQUIP 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010


He spits at her. Gathers himself and projects his disgust at the woman who carried his child. Once within her, now on her hip. Screams foul accusations, words that his son, her son should never witness.

They become attacking, circling beasts. Even she forgets to nurture. to protect. We drag her inside, pulling the child, the woman, trying to stop the searing frenzy. Something human, empathic, compassionate is lost in the wounded desire to break each other.

"Your baby's crying," as the door locks behind us. The phrase is echoed three, four times before the hackles can rest and she can clasp her roaring child.

This will be seared in his memory, burnt in by the terror, the animal smell of attack. Perhaps it will join a litany of similar images, stomach-souring dreads. Protect him lord, heal him.

Men and women can love each other with such pure, sacrificial, protecting love. But before me I see the wreckage of passion, of joining together. The child from their love sees the curse on it.

I think of the man who loves me. What if we lived out this drama? Even without an audience it would strip my soul bare, stir despair within me.

How easy it is to take for granted, to not be thankful. But today my relief, my loved-ness is palpable. The light on the hill I can see is the nurture and care I receive in my own home. Not perfect, but moulded by grace. Forgiving, thoughtful, one who enjoys me and welcomes me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

God is enough

Do you wish you had known? That the you of today could whisper in the ear of yesterday's you. A warning? Some preparing or wisdom for what is to come?

Or does God just deliver the grace that we need on the day it's required?

Somehow he gently delivers patience and goodness ready-to-use if we would just open the parcel. Let down again, we face the choice to hurt back, or to plead with our maker for more of his enabling forgiveness. The narrow way is to turn from revenge, to decide not to injure when we feel broken and raw.

"Father, I did not know it would be like this." He hears our anguish, he weeps our tears, his heart knows the piercing wounds in your spirit. He is beside us when we have been abandoned. He dresses and tends the burns, the grazes, the deep gashing wounds with the salve of his presence, his empowering and his complete enoughness.

Truly, he has given us everything we need for the life reflecting him.

Today I am thankful for,

606.  friends sustained by Jesus
607.  heartfelt, fervent prayers
608.  autumn in the Blue Mountains
609.  peaceful sleep
610.  generous laughter
611.  browsing, unhurried
612.  friends with gifts, using them
613.  refining through suffering
614.  impossible refreshing from God
615.  coming home - walking in the door to hugs all round
616.  an unexpectedly good day at work
617.  walking at dusk
618.  the house in quietness

holy experience

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grace - joining in a blog carnival

Grace... how can I resist?

Grace is a day full of struggle, meanness and arguing which ends with a pink-purple-orange streaked sky, lifting my spirit.

Grace is the bursting dawn of the fresh, unblemished next morning.

Grace is allowing the giggles to invade and conquer my ranting, to stop in mid-accusation and see with a child's view.

Grace is a meal arriving on the doorstep when the thought of scraping together dinner is like the weight of a boulder.

Grace is the smile on my dear friend's face as the tumour in her mother's liver swells daily.

Grace is the heart of a woman, bruised by infertility, loving and rejoicing in another's children. Sharing them as her own.

Grace is accepting love and favour from others, however clumsily offered.

Grace is the cuddle at the end of a tantrum.

Grace is the love that greets me, unchanged by my failure. The love that draws me to follow it.

Undeserved, unmerited, not contingent on me.

Abundant, unending, waiting for finding.

Threads and seams more precious than gold.

Teach us to see it, to give and receive it, heavenly father of grace.

This post is a response to the blog carnival at One Word at a Time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pentecost coming

Friends gather. One flies, some drive, one trundles on the train. Together we laugh, we listen, stories draw us together. Sometimes we weep, as we share the rawness, the people-pain, barefoot walk on gravel. We plead with the one who binds us together. Bring healing, breathe your spirit on us and imprint your glorious image on our forgetful souls.

Blessed again by time, by familiarity of the ones who know us well. A yearly glimpse of the me who was young, fervent, often lost but searching. The me who looks forward to the drink that will forever quench my thirst in the golden city. The me who wants to linger in awareness of now and this precious time of preparation and waiting. The me who sits up too late not wanting today to unfold into tomorrow...just yet.

Another gathering of friends, brothers and sisters bound in adversity, all bearing the imprint of a divine teacher among them. How they miss him. They wait, aware a gift is coming, curious to see. Perhaps impatient to begin, probably nervously-edged eagerness. What is the secret?

And this is the secret:
Christ lives in you. (Col 1:27)

The pentecost secret.

holy experience

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This week's interesting verse

Not one person whose life is twisted by sin will ever recover.
Ezekiel 7:13c

Sin twists the life of the sinner and the sinned against. We cannot recover. Our only hope is the love and redemption of Jesus.

That woman wrote my textbook!

I went out to a talk last Friday night, by Nancy McWilliams. She had been in NZ for the College of Psychiatrists annual conference and came to Sydney for a few days either side of the main event.

The chance to see her was something I couldn't pass up. And it was worth going. She was interesting, thoughtful and I could understand most of what she was talking about.

In general, she talked about Affect (emotion) Theory and psychotherapy.

A couple of interesting ideas she talked about...

She divided people with depression into 2 subsets, those whose primary need is for healthy attachment and those who focus on negative self-evaluation (I am bad/not-good-enough). The 2 groups respond differently to particular treatments. The first group are responsive to, (and vulnerable to), the therapeutic relationship. The second group are often perfectionistic in their expectations of themselves, and are less responsive to the relationship with the therapist. Instead they may respond to challenge to their ideas of being bad, expressed at the right time.

She told a funny story of a perfectionistic, depressed man she was treating, who started improving after she said to him " I'm not disputing that you're and a**hole, I'm just pointing out you're no worse than the rest of us miserable suckers."

It made me think of how easily we sink into this type of thinking - that we are no good, and that we are worse than other people. We forget one of the freeing things about our human sinfulness... that all humans share in it. Not that being sinful frees us, rather that sinfulness and failure being universal means we are freed from self-absorption. Focus on ourselves as uniquely sinful is just as self-obsessed as thinking we are special because we don't sin.

Secondly, she talked about some research she had done into altruistic people. She studied people who were involved in altruistic, serving endeavours and discovered among them a high degree of perfectionism, too. Most of them did not, however, get depressed and she theorised that by living out their principles of serving others, these people were satisfying their own high self-expectations to the point where they did not become discouraged or feel like a failure.

Two of them did get depressed, however, both when they had young children and were not able to continue their 'serving' to the degree to which they had become accustomed. Suddenly I thought of all the mums I know, or whose blogs I read who struggle with just these feelings. What a twisted place the world is to have tricked us into thinking that raising children is not serving enough, not doing enough, not significant enough. Perfectionism is such an enemy of grace and it is definitely not the same as being made perfect.

May God help us to know who we are and where we stand, because we know him. May he rescue us from self-evaluation based in perfectionism which perpetuates the lie that we can be perfect in our own strength.

Monday, May 17, 2010

holy experience

I am thankful, today, for God's work in our church. Yesterday we had the induction service for our new children's pastor. God has brought a really gifted, encouraging, like-minded friend into our midst to share in our ministry to the people around us. We live in a suburb with lots of kids and families, and have been looking for someone to lead us in the ministries we have and dream of having to kids around here.
My list is continuing but I am just going to share,

551.  Jen, and all that she and James bring to our church family. Thanks Father!

Find out more about the thankfulness list and the Gratitude Community

That's My King

S.M. Lockridge preached a description of Jesus the King in 1976. This is part of his 6 minute powerful, worship poem (if I can call it that). I've heard it before in Mars Hill Bible Church podcast, but here its been set to great graphics and pictures from 'The Passion Of The Christ', and its been posted around a few places lately.

It is amazing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Experimental Theology: George MacDonald: The Real Emerald City

Take a look at this...

Experimental Theology: George MacDonald: The Real Emerald City

Sometimes metaphors to describe our experience of God and our relationship with God fall short. At some point they will break down. They are a pale reflection of knowing the true and living God, author of the universe.

The idea of God seeing us 'through rose-coloured glasses' does not stand up to scrutiny from the perspective of inner transformation rather than a cosmetic cover-up of sin.

This made me think (plus I do love a good 'Wizard of Oz" illustration).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jesus Ascended

When Jesus' disciples had spent time with him, experiencing him risen anew, I wonder if they expected him to stay with them and to continue his ministry. I'm not sure that they had any idea what was planned for them. Where the gift of the Holy Spirit would take them.

In Acts, just before he 'was taken up before their very eyes', he tells them that they will recieve power to tell about him from the Holy Spirit. That spreading his story will be their purpose. (Acts 1:8)

Sometimes I wonder if I have completely lost track of my purpose. I share the heritage of the Jesus-story tellers. I carry his precious spirit in me. And yet I spend a vast proportion of my day thinking about such human things. I talk about so many inconsequentials while I could be telling Jesus-stories.

I forget the power which breathes within me. Not my own strength, but the presence and promise that allows me participation in the divine.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them
you may participate in the divine nature
and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 
2 Peter 1:3-4

My human, mundane, nit-treating, playgroup-craft-fudging, case-report-procastinating, last-minute-song-picking, too-easily-frustrated, unaware life can reflect Jesus. His spirit in me transforms my ineptitude and helps me see God. I am touched by his holiness every day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some of my favourite songs

A purely self-indulgent post. A reason to look at YouTube.

I've listened to these songs frequently in the last 12 months. The albums are in my slots of the CD stacker (it has officially got 6 sections now, which means I need to rationalise my choices!)

Matthew Barber - Settle My Accounts

M. Ward - Never Had Nobody Like You

Bob Evans - Don't You Think Its Time & Nowhere Without You

Josh Pyke - Middle Of The Hill

Monday, May 10, 2010


holy experience

464.  the smell of fresh cake
465.  arriving home to dinner on the table
466.  warm cheeks laid on mine
467.  handmade love-cards
468.  vegemite/nutella smeared faces
469.  half-emerged front teeth
470.  desperate prayers
471.  reading beautifully formed, evocative reflections
472.  mending hearts
473.  abundant grace - no scarcity here
474.  tying soccer boot laces
475.  familiar discussions
476.  letting go long held resentment... again
477.  donuts delivered to the door - another small thoughtfulness

The gratitude list continues. Not at 1000 by the 9th of May, but enjoying many good gifts from above.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Local Photos (2)

Welcome to Paradise 2564...

Here is what I see standing waiting at the station.
Refurbishment 2 years ago meant new wall panels rather than a new ramp. Going to the city means stroller portage, in a suburb with one of the highest ratios of children to adults in Sydney.

This is the view down my street during peak hour for station pick-ups. I live in that black space in the middle.

I am developing a passion in my heart to take photos. My automatic camera may not be up to the task. (I yearn for arty shots, although I fear I do not know how to take them.)
Currently working up the courage to ask for the lend of a friend's camera.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Link #2 for Today

I found this post via 168 Hours and Justin Taylor. Go here to catch Jared Wilson explaining 10 reasons to under-program your church.

My early experience of ministry involved feeling guilt about not doing enough. I was employed by a church for 2 years and ended up discovering the freedom of been involved in ministry on a voluntary basis. Now, my husband is paid to minister in a church and I can be involved as his wife. I actually do similar things now, but definitely put less pressure on myself.

That said, I do find myself thinking, "What else should we be doing as a church?" It's easy to get diary/busyness envy when other people in ministry can share the worthy and valuable programs they run. I measure myself with others and find myself wanting. It's also easy to wear your congregation out, or keep them from having any time to get to know their neighbours.

My husband is different to me. He came to our present church with a long-term view that he didn't want to burn out. Seven or eight years ago he shared his thoughts with me about how he didn't want to burden our church with programs. He made most of these 10 points to me then.

Sometimes I have doubted him (why am I so good at doing that to the person who can benefit so much from my confidence?), and felt the urge to "do more". But gradually I have come to see his wisdom and seen its fruit, too. It seems that famous US pastors are agreeing with him, too!

PS. I know a couple of you who read this blog have enjoyed preaching from my husband in the past. Stay tuned, because we will start podcasting his sermons from church soon. I'll post a link when it's set up.

Link #1 for Today

Allyson at harrysdesk makes fantastic stuff, including this bag (photo from harrysdesk). She is celebrating her Blogoversary and is giving away one of her handmade bags. I would love to win the bronze, pistachio and black evening bag. Why don't you go over and check out her creations?