Living in a fallen world can be a lonely experience. I have come to see this isolation, this separation is in opposition to the connectedness that Creator God intended for us all. I can only imagine that somehow in heaven we will enjoy a unity and intimacy with God and each other that we only experience as tiny fragments in our lives here on earth. So what is unity? A friend of mine who is not a Christian once described a “moment” he experienced at the end of a folk festival. “We all joined hands and agreed in that moment that love would overcome” Yes!! says the Spirit of God. In that moment his isolation was surpassed by connection. How much more connection is there for those who follow in the footsteps of Christ? When we as the family of God physically join hands and respond in our hearts in unison to our sovereign Lord, the Holy Spirit has a perfect landing space! Suddenly the skies clear, there is a runway for the grace of God and truth is in our midst.
Let’s not allow anything to prevent this space from happening in our families, in our churches, or in our wider world. Christ’s prayer for us is that we might be one. May we not be frightened of rejection, but rather be open to connection, confident in the redeeming power of the resurrected Christ!
The words in the video below cry “Disturb Us Lord!”. Come disturb us – when we are too safe, too distracted, too caught-up in the now to “dream of eternity”. Yet unlike some of those early Celtic pilgrims we are unlikely to literally sail out in a coracle into the vast unknown! However, at every stage, circumstance or challenge in our lives we can choose the great adventure. We can choose to trust in God, to give him everything, and allow the Kingdom of Heaven to be poured into us.
Recently a very special man who was part of our home church, an artist and sculptor, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. He truly encompassed the meaning behind this poem. He and his wonderful family faced “the unknown” and choose to sail with immense courage. He lost so many things in life but never lost his faith, which continued to shine brightly, even in his final days. The strength, love and compassion of his family are a living testimony to the redeeming power of Christ.
Take heart as you sail into the sea of parenting, negotiate the waves of ill health, or navigate the demands of a stressful career. Take courage as you voyage through clouds of depression, tack the shifting waves of anxiety, or confront the darkness of grief. At times such as this we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus, stay soft in heart, and carry the promise of eternity in our hearts.
“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 2: 1b-2, NIV)
It’s possible to download and keep this film for a small sum by following this link.
Disturb Us Lord
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
(attributed to Sir Francis Drake -1577)
God’s love is a like a treasure chest in the centre of our lives. It is at the very core of our families, and is the powerhouse of our callings in the world. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians there lies an explanation of love that explores the nature of this treasure trove. We can draw from this “love stash” at any time and it never fails to deliver. Why? Because God is love! As followers of Christ we don’t have a monopoly on it. God has poured love into his creation. It seeps out of every pore! This heavenly love has touched us, no matter who we are, what our background is or what world view we happen to hold. Most of us would site loving and being loved as the most important thing in life.
So I wonder why I have not cracked it? Why do I fail so many times to get this right in my own life? I just forget the treasure that is already there. Sometimes I am too tired to open the lid and take a look, or too hurt to receive forgiveness, too rushed to be kind, too needy to be giving, or too insecure to roll out humility. Yet! If I take a moment to dust it off, and open the lid again on the treasure trove of love I have been given, something remarkable begins to happen. Grace begins to flow again in my friendships! Differences fade away under the weight of God’s acceptance, and my heart is free to give and to live.
Note to self: visit the treasure chest! x
At the beginning of a new year, many of us relish the possibility of change. For some it is the thrill of setting a new course, for others that of developing relationships in family life, for still others it is the hope for new patterns to emerge in work life. I imagine that our Heavenly Father, the one who is bursting with love and forgiveness, longs to help us to embrace all these things.
I have so many things on my New Year list! Sometimes it feels as though even making a small change can take months of pondering and planning. Sometimes changing direction is like turning a really heavy boat around against the flow of the tide! All too often in early January I see some of these hopes fizzle out, drop off my agenda or become crushed by insecurity or doubt. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. When I lift my eyes to the skies I see the birds fly where they choose on the winds of the moment! This is a beautiful metaphor for the freedom intended for us all. Why is it that so often we feel like we are moving in slow motion or dragging ourselves through treacle? Sometimes it is the well trodden paths of history which pull heavily on our decisions. At times it is the internal doubts and insecurities that confine us. At other times it is the ties in life, the responsibilities we carry, that hold us back. Or perhaps it is the way we look at these things? Could they be transformed into possibilities, joys and adventures? So let us stand, hand in hand with each other, and explore without fear! Share and laugh together. Take mini steps, moment by moment, day by day. Here we can hold steady to a loving God, and stand on the bed of grace given to us by Jesus. He is alive! And we can be alive too. So hope and breathe anew!
I like to reframe things. As an artist I have always been fascinated at looking at things from a different angle, daring to change something in a picture. Equally in real life it fascinates me how retakes can transform our thinking, unlock our heart or heal our experiences. As followers of Christ we are urged to have open eyes, to be guided by love and acceptance and to be willing to forgive. And it truly works! I have had a tendency in the past to look down upon myself, to reject who I am. These days I take each thought captive! What if my shyness was reframed as gentleness, my self-doubt recognised as humility? Gradually I am released to be all that I can be! And at times in my blindness I have needed others to reframe my circumstances for me. Like how I see my children. A friend helpfully reframing my very intense son as a gifted perfectionist, or my emotional son reframed as empathetic.
As Christians we are given the tools for harmony. We reframe with love, we reframe with acceptance, we reframe with hope, we reframe with forgiveness. Not only does this transform our lives, it sends shoots of renewal into our families as we fan into flame the Godly qualities in our characters and allow the negative ones to slowly fall away.
I wrote the following poem that you can see in the video below for a church nativity service. I love these moments in our lives, the ones that distill everything that we hold dear! Lights shining in the darkness, heaven filled with music, cherished moments watching our little ones and the feeling of unity and love. Somehow I wanted to speak something of clarity, something that caught the story of the birth of Jesus and made it more than a story, more than history! The transformational event we remember at Christmas time is alive with promise, pulsating with dramatic intention and overflowing with gentleness, grace and truth. Every aspect connects with the true nature of our Creator, the elements weaving and combining together with the unspoken yearnings that run deep within us, the fears and hopes we all hold and the counter-culture nature of Christ and His Kingdom. Here is Jesus, a King, born into the world as a poor and threatened refugee. Here is the author of time and space vulnerable, dependent and fragile.
And what of the ones who came to see this precious newborn? A doorkeeper with a soft heart, those that pastor and faithfully watch over their sheep, the wise-ones who dwell upon scripture, await the call of God and follow the signs. Like Mary, some who come will carry the gift of God deep within them. Like Joseph, others will faithfully obey the calling of God for their lives. And the miracle of Christmas is that love came! The true nature of love has been revealed, and we live in this amazing revelation:-
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Sometimes I feel it is pointless praying. At times, when faced with the terrible suffering of others or in desperate circumstances I struggle to string any words together to God. Yet it is in these times that prayer is the only place we can go, it is often all that we have. “All” – thank goodness we are told that we only need a mustard seed sized faith. Because often this is the size of my faith in these situations. Yet the Holy Spirit can be, and can do far more than we could imagine! The truth is that God really does “step it up” when his beloved children need him the most. I have seen it, felt it and in my heart I truly do know it. We are told “do not worry about tomorrow“, that God’s grace is sufficient for each moment. So – although I can not conceive of how God can meet the heartache of a grieving widow, strengthen the mind of a mother caring for a seriously sick child, or reach into someone who has suffered traumatic rejection, I know he can! And he does, and he will. If we pray – the mustard seed – can become a tree!
“This I Know” is a song that came to me in a moment of confusion. I had made mistakes that had badly hurt others, and I felt very shaken. The song takes the form of a gentle lullaby, reminding us that whatever befalls us, we have a refuge, a safe place, a sanctuary we can abide in.
What I most love about the Gospel is that it is a simple “come to me” message, that we don’t need to learn, earn or win our inheritance, we simply need to receive it! For many years I have had the privilege of working closely with adults who have learning disabilities. I have received so much in this time. I have found joy and freedom in their friendship and enlightenment as I have felt Christ at work in their lives. The transformational birth, death and resurrection of Jesus doesn’t need to be studied like a scholar or dissected like a surgeon. It is like a beautiful pattern, like a glorious jigsaw puzzle. It fits all hearts, all peoples and surpasses all things generational, physical or mental. Wow!! How remarkable is the power of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? The three-in-one is like a dance we are caught up in, receiving the love and forgiveness of the Father, following the call and example of Jesus, and then allowing the Spirit of God to transform us and live deeply within us. It is my prayer that “This I Know” will lead you into that place of deep security and transformation:-
“Even when the earth is breaking, You abide.
Even if I fail, I’m shaken, there is life, life in You, hope in You”.
It’s possible to download and keep this film in HD for $2.50 by clicking on this link.
Where does my gifting begin and the anointing of God end? When people encounter me, do they clock how much of who I am is actually God working through me? When I speak out encouragement, give of myself or take time to pray, I am sometimes concerned that others may perceive me as something I am not! At times the timid, frightened me stands up to speak out on behalf of the marginalized. At other times the stuttering, confused me finds words full of love and eloquence. And at times the hesitant, doubting me finds faith to share, and bring hope and reassurance to the lost and the broken.
Yet I am a blend, a mix of human and heavenly. I’m stirred by kingdom promises, to create new flavours. I truly am a fusion of redemptive love and vulnerable humanity. Believe me, this is not an equation complete. I am work in progress! When I walk daily upon the love, truth and grace laid out in the word of God, I find kingdom life awakens. Now, in the darkness and dirt of a fallen world, truly amazing life moments happen. May I always give this life out to others. This is not the “old” me, but the “new” me. The restored me! Forgiven me! Free me! Hopeful me! God through me!
Often during prayer times I have found myself taking to the piano and playing some chords gently in the background as others pray and intercede. Music seems to have an extraordinary effect on us. It lifts our hearts, it inspires our minds, and it can also help connect us with our maker, our Father in Heaven.
I wrote “Quietude” this summer in one of those moments.
I hope that this track will create a “space” for you to pray, find inspiration, and soak in the peace of God. It’s deliberately long (at over thirty minutes) and musically stays in a “tranquil” zone. In the times when I’ve needed to contribute to a meeting (and not been free to play!) I’ve found it hard to find a piece of music that does this, and often instrumental albums may have a really useful track but then follow with a track that doesn’t work that well for prayer or ministry.
You may find that there are other uses for “Quietude”. Perhaps you know a friend who finds it difficult to settle for sleep, and some calming music is needed. Or you are leading communion and would like to bring something creative in. Or perhaps you are writing or preparing for something and just need some gentle ambience in the background.
You’ll know the track is near finishing when you hear a high falling piano theme, that repeats itself. I put this in as a cue – if you are using the music to lead a prayer or meditation time you’ll know that you have about a minute before it runs out!
Here’s the video version of the track:-
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