Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christ in us; the HOPE of glory

I’ve been reflecting, as so many have, throughout Advent on what I hope for. REALLY hope for. And though I can list many ‘hopes’, I know that there is really only ONE hope and that is Jesus.
Christ in us the hope of glory.”
The hope of glory. The hope of living in a beautiful, perfect world of ‘no more suffering, no more tears’. The hope of being with Jesus, the most perfect and beautiful man who ever lived. A man who has brought hope and healing to all, whoever and wherever they are.
I’m constantly challenged by a wish, a stirring, a hope of doing more. A deep need within me to grab hold of a life of sacrifice for others because of Jesus. A holy unrest.
But what can I do? I think of a time in my life when I lived more simply and humbly, serving in a rural community in Kenya. I look at my daughter and son-in-law, among others, serving refugees in dark places. I consider my life now – my easy, comfortable, every-day-without-danger-or-inconvenience life – and recognize how my selfishness get in the way of my serving. For who REALLY wants to put themselves out for others?
My ponderings are brought short by a blog from 24-7, where there is a quote from a refugee on Samoa: ‘This complaining will only bring you deeper darkness”.
I ‘complain’ to myself that I’m not sure of my calling. Or I don’t know how to practise it. Excuses and complaints.
I am not in a position to do the ‘big’ things any more (read: at the moment; who knows what the future may bring?) but I can do the ‘little’ things.
Simple hospitality – inviting colleagues to my home; befriending whoever crosses my path; mentoring, sharing what God has given me with others; welcoming the stranger. Taking time.
And as Linda Sourris says in this blog, as she talks about inviting refugees into her home: “So when we open our home, we try most of all to bring them Jesus.
THAT is a calling. To bring Jesus. Whenever, wherever, to whomever.
Jesus. The hope of glory.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Stewardship  - a charity which encourages generosity - reflects on the wonder of the incarnation and Mary's response in the wonderful hymn of praise she sings.

The reflection at the end caught my eye: 
"Do we sing songs of gratitude when we give? Here is Mary, a young teen, receiving the gift of a son, but with serious strings attached. This was not a child that she would be able to keep to herself; he was to be shared with the world as a saviour, a living sacrifice to reunite us with our God. And Mary sings in praise and thanksgiving."

Not a child she would be able to keep to herself. I have been reflecting on a Christmas without any of our children at home, which is the first time ever. Son at in-laws, daughter also at in-laws on the other side of the world. And, quite frankly, have been feeling sorry for myself, battling sadness in what is supposed to be a joyful season.

But none of us can keep our children to ourselves. They are God's gift to us, gifts to be shared. We rejoice when our children share their lives with a soul-mate in marriage. We are pleased and proud when they make choices to serve others in their work and in their play, giving generously of their free time. We admire our son and daughter-in-law who pour themselves out in teaching children who have had a much poorer start in life. We watch in wonder as our daughter and son-in-law choose to work among the neediest of this world, refugees in a war-torn area.

We have been privileged - for which we praise and thank God - to have had these amazing people living with us for much of their lives. Of course, we are still in close relationship - just not physically present. We do well to remember that we should not expect to keep God's gifts to ourselves, nor is it good for us.

And so we can join in as the Stewardship reflection finishes with a prayer:
"Today, we pray that Advent may be a time for us each to kindle, or rekindle, a spirit of gratitude and praise to God to be evident as we give to and receive from one another."

Gratitude and praise. Simple.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Advent. Fifth Day.

"Broken for me, broken for you..." so the communion song goes as we remember a soon-to-be-broken-on-the-cross Jesus.

This Advent I find myself, also, breaking. But Ann Voskamp has encouragement for the broken us:
"“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Devotion Graphic
When I feel like we’re drowning in all of life, our daughter Hope and I will go up to the lake and feel the waves pound, sense the serene fury of water.
As the waves break against the earth it quakes the inner cochlear, and there’s nothing else to hear but the breaking. Hope stands there with windblown strands of hair across her face, the electrical energy of each breath of wet, briny air sparking something in her.
“Is there anything lovelier, really, than the way waves keep touching the shore no matter what tries to keep pulling them away?” I lean into her and say it over the sound of the wind, of the crashing surf.
Hope tucks her hair behind her ear, “Love’s like waves — it keeps reaching out, no matter what tries to keep pulling it away.”
She and I stand there in the battering of the elements, watching waves, eyeing how the light catches in water, how the waves move like the earth’s own pulse, like our own heartbeat.
“You know — a pool isn’t like this.” I say it slowly, watching the waves, seeing it for the first time: “It has no power, no life — because it has no breaking of waves … Strange how that is: It’s in the breaking, there is life.”
What did my husband say again and again? “Never be afraid of being a broken thing … Unless a seed breaks, there is no life.”
All down the shoreline, the waves keep crashing and breaking … and living.
Hope slips her arm through mine.
All of life’s losses break us, break through us, scar us. I want them not to. Frankly, there are days I’d like to hide my scars and the jagged edges of my brokenness, days when I wish there were no marks to bear. But if losses don’t leave their mark — how can we say we were ever marked or shaped by love? Scars are signs that show the way we loved.
Hope’s hand rests on mine.
You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break.” (Psalm 79:9, MSG)
Give us a break, God, in the midst of overwhelming stress and the pounding of waves, the storms of life.
And I don’t even realize I’m saying it out loud: “When you’re hit by the breaking waves, break deep.”
You’ve got three options when breaking waves hit, when you feel like you’re drowning.
Either let fear make you run hard — but fear never makes you safe, fear just makes you fall — and fall hard.
Or, fall back on your pride and try to stand against that wave breaking over you — and it will break you.
Or lastly, when you’re hit with a breaking wave — you can break deep. You can break deep into that breaking wave and let yourself be moved by Living Water and transformed and formed by Christ and remade by the rising current of His Love.
The only way through a breaking wave — is to break deep into the wave.
The only way through the overwhelming waves is to break deep into the roiling water and dive into the depths and stretch out both arms through the fathoms and let yourself be made into the shape of a cross.
That’s all there is: You can either be broken by fear or broken by pride — or you can break into the surrendered, cruciform shape of Christ.
Break deep. Break deep, and break free.
I turn to Hope — I kind of feel baptized. She and I — we can face stress, the waves coming from every side, because we can break deep into the wave of whatever comes at us, arms opened wide and choose to live shaped like a cross, cruciform. It feels like surrender. When you choose to break deep into the breaking waves — when you break the surface of the water again — you can feel born again. Remade into the image of Christ.
When you’re in over your head, you can touch the depths of God.
Hope turns to me. “Hear it, Mama? It’s like every crash of the waves is echoing it.”
Break deep — break free.
Lord, when waves of stress rise and threaten to overwhelm, cause me not to be broken by fear of being overwhelmed or by the pride of standing in my own strength. When I feel stress, cause me to break deep — break deep into whatever is coming at me, shaped like Christ, acting like Christ, formed like Christ, broken and given and surrendered like Christ, cruciform like Christ. Cause me to break deep today — and break free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Ephesians 4:24, “And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (MSG)
Longing to live a life that’s fearless of brokenness? Ann Voskamp takes those who carry their own unspoken broken on a journey into The Broken Way — a fresh, authentic way into more time, more meaning, more abundant wholeness — a literal way to shape your days into the abundant life.
Enter to WIN a copy of The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp. In celebration of this book, Christian Book Distributors is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, December 5.}
Think of one stress today you are facing. What’s one way you can break deep into that wave, surrendered and living Christlike?
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