Saturday, 29 December 2012

A different route...?

Bonnie from Faith Barista is blogging at incourage about a different route. Just as the wise men, still journeying on, had to go a different way, so we are called to go on a different route sometimes.
So, what is the different route God is calling me to take? Well, it's NOT a DIFFERENT route. It is just a route I don't take very often or journey down very well.  I crawl laboriously forward, often slipping off the side of the road into the mud of resentment or the ditch of bitterness.
It is the route of FORGIVENESS.
I know I need to forgive the person who has hurt me who is ALWAYS right, never wrong. The person who wounded me out of mental illness, demanding actions and attitudes which could not be met.
I know Jesus whispers to me of how he had to do this, too. To forgive, when no wrong has been acknowledged let alone forgiveness asked. To forgive, not expecting any reward or return. To forgive unconditionally.
The route of forgiveness is one I need to walk over and and over again. I need to pick up my pace, walking more surefootedly than I have done before. I need to keep on going, keeping in mind my destination of holiness rather than looking at the uneven ground of snide remarks, unkind comments or downright rudeness. I need to gaze towards my goal and not look at the barriers of rejection or hurt or anger.
I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, THE author and perfecter of MY faith.

And I need to listen to and hear God encouraging me — in that quiet voice — to take the next step to my heart’s homecoming.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Blogging about Christmas - Christ mas - Christ celebration. Here, and at mamampira, see-sawing between the two.
The Voice features this retelling of the story: I love the newspaper collage.

David Capes blogs on The Voice site. He has a thoughtful reflection on the genealogy of Jesus: he points out that Matthew "wanted to emphasize an important truth; even within Jesus’ family there were scoundrels, adulterers, murderers, prostitutes, and other unsavory characters. Why did Matthew want to do that? To signal to his readers that Jesus would be a friend of sinners. That he would welcome sinners—not just little “s” sinners, but big “S” Sinners—into the kingdom when they turned to him to mend their broken lives. Jesus’ family tree reminds us that though our sin may be great, grace is greater. So we included bits of Tamar’s and Rahab’s stories. You can read more about them in the Old Testament, of course, but most people won’t. We also included a commentary reminding you what it means that David fathered Solomon through the wife of another man, Uriah. Matthew could have whitewashed the whole affair by saying David fathered Solomon through Bathsheba. Instead he wanted to make sure that no one missed the irony, namely, the Messiah, the Son of David, came through a line where adultery, murder, and national shame enveloped the king in one of his most tragic moments. Still God was at work. Again, though, not everyone knows that story.

Rather than seeing these generations as just a list of names, consider seeing them as an index to a great story where human triumph and tragedy are participating in a great drama of redemption. God’s plan was not stopped in its tracks when people started acting badly. God did not need his people to live perfect lives in order to make sure the Perfect One arrived one day. The Father was able to redeem even the most sordid actions taken by Jesus’ ancestors, and deliver to the world at just the right time, a Savior born in Bethlehem.

He also talks about not becoming overwhelmed by the trappings of Christmas and recommends looking at The Advent Conspiracy, which has a neat little Advent calendar to help us do just that...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Joy in the darkness

The Advent study, after taking off with love, then climbing through hope, has reached the dizzy altitude of JOY.

1 John 1:4-7, in The Message:
"Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Walk in the Light
This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.
If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim."

The NIV says "If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth." 

That theme has been a recurrent one for me recently, as I have been thinking about 'stumbling around in the dark'. Of how easy it is to slip into sinful, selfish habits. Of the 'dark thoughts' which are so comfortable to entertain: those thoughts which flit across my mind unnoticed, especially when I'm tired and, may I say it, grumpy at the end of a difficult and tiring term. Thoughts such as 'It's not fair.' (Certainly true, often.) 'She didn't consider anyone else when she made that decision.' (Definitely true.) 'He lied.' (Yes, he did.)

I'm not saying I should deny the truth of what happens. But I AM saying that entertaining, even for a second, accusatory thoughts like these does not bring me JOY.

Joy comes
through accepting truth and loving others.
through giving the 'benefit of the doubt'.
through choosing to try to see life through God's eyes.

So, this week especially, I'm going to try to focus on Jesus, as the wise men did. Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signalled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”

I want to be a wise woman. As John the Baptist said: He must become greater; I must become less." 
John also reminds us that "It’s not possible for a person to succeed - I’m talking about eternal success - without heaven’s help....The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice."
FULL of joy.

Advent thoughts: Love...

While reading about how much God loves us, I've also been reading about communities who know how to love God so much that worship and thankfulness permeates every aspect of their daily lives. There is no distinction between 'human' and 'religious' activity. ‎There are 3 things for disciple makers to focus on. Knowing (head), Being (heart), and Doing (hands).
Praying that I will live more and more in the presence of God's love. 'This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...'. Let this be more than just words this Advent!
Studying 'love' in Advent with Good Morning Girls, one of the reflections reminded me that:
‎"God's love is unearned.
God's love is gracious.
God's love is unchanging."

I love these verses from Psalm 119:105 - 106:
By your words I can see where I’m going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back
...from living by your righteous order.

But then it carries on: "Everything’s falling apart on me, God;
put me together again with your Word."

We certainly need God's light when it all falls apart!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Whatever you do...

A few weeks ago, Colossians 3:22 - 25 had been on my mind, as I  neared the end of the Good Morning Girls study on Colossians:  "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism."
The Message puts it like this:  "Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work."

Ultimately, whatever we do is for and in obedience to is about how we work this out!And this was my 'verse for the day', following on from Colossians 3:23: Romans 13:1 [Submission to Governing Authorities] "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." 

Ultimately, whatever we do is for and in obedience to is about how we work this out! 

I do try to do this. I do try to be 'the best I can be'.  Yet, at the end of a busy day, a busy week, I find myself wondering where God was during the day as I scurried around, trying to work cheerfully and without complaining, 'doing' and 'being' but, seldom 'praying'. And I find myself wondering how I can bring my prayer life into my working life, to find connection with Jesus in all the humdrum and crises and joyous moments....

A wedding dress tells her story...

When I was married, I wore my mother's wedding dress. I wonder, sometimes, if my daughter will wear it; or how many other brides wore THEIR mother's dresses. I wonder where the dresses which hang in charity shops have come from and what their stories are. I wonder whether the promise - and promises - of the day were fulfilled in the marriage; I wonder if any of those dresses were never worn;  I wonder who will buy them and what will happen to them then. I wonder.
So I was intrigued to see a book entitled The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck. When the central character, Charlotte, finds a wedding dress a hundred years old in a trunk she buys at auction, she doesn’t know that her life is about to change. Owner of a bridal boutique, she herself is engaged to be married after a whirlwind courtship. Discovering the dress makes her resolve to search for the bride – or brides – who had worn the dress, while also wondering who would be the next wearer.
The story weaves skilfully between Charlotte’s life and that of the previous owners’.  Rachel Hauck draws the reader into discovering Charlotte’s character and background while introducing us into very different lives.  The story is gently romantic, yet the heroines are real women struggling with issues which many today would identify with. Joy and sadness, life and death, are depicted in the way they impact on the characters’ lives and personalities.
Switching between the different eras was no problem, but towards the end of the book I found myself becoming slightly confused by the number of characters – I almost needed a family tree – before all the threads were drawn together by the end, where everything was explained neatly.
The Wedding Dress is a light-hearted read with a satisfying ending; a romance with an element of mystery.  It is most definitely a Christian book, yet manages to avoid becoming sanctimonious or ‘picture perfect’.  The author treats faith with a light, yet sensible touch: we see how Charlotte’s  faith affects her without feeling ‘preached’ at. I got this book through Booksneeze to review: having read quite a few Christian romances, this is by far the best-written and I look forward to reading more by this author. A good find.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent thoughts - HOPE

This first week of the Good Morning Girls Advent study is full of HOPE. Stories of people looking to the future, living in hope and expectation, living by faith.

Yet Mary SEES: Luke 1:26 – 38 is the story of how Mary conceives.
“And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.”

Would I?

The Word is LIGHT; LIGHT TO LIVE BY: John 1-1-4
“The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.
The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.
Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”

Yet some were BLINDED: John 1:9 – 12 "but his own did not receive him" caught my eye - having conversations with people who just don't 'get' Jesus. They are HIS but do not RECEIVE him - The Message "He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him". Praying that this Advent will be different!

Amazing to think that Jesus can be our ETERNAL LIGHT. I woke up at 1am a couple of nights ago and was astonished to see the garden looking so clear in the moonlight - such a contrast to the pitchblack darkness we often see. Imagine being able to see clearly all the time, with no darkness at all: a faint image of what it is like with Jesus, both now in our lives and then when he returns. Praying we will see things that happen clearly in HIS light, not stumbling around in the darkness by ourselves.
Isaiah 60:18-20 says: “God will be your eternal light, your God will bathe you in splendour. Your sun will never go down, your moon will never fade. I will be your eternal light. Your days of grieving are over.”

Jeremiah HOPES (33:14 - 15 “The time is coming...” true for the here and now, the before and then, the soon and later... for the God Who Is, The God Who Was, and The God About to Arrive...

Romans 15: 12-13 in the Message ' And Isaiah's word*: there's the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope! Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with HOPE!' (*Isaiah 11:10)

The readings for the four weeks are here. The study guide that goes with it finishes the first week with:
Hope came into our world!
that God can still use this broken life and make something beautiful.
that we don't have to be perfect to be loved by Him.
that the best is yet to come.