Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quick Word: Christmas Reflection 3

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema
What good wishes, Christmas reflections or printed verse do you expect to find on the Christmas cards you get this year?  Perhaps they will be sentimental, like 'May the beauty of Christmas be yours throughout the year.'  Maybe they will sound vaguely biblical, like ‘May the joy and peace of Christmas be with you today and always.'  There is bound to be one that features a snowy, winter landscape (even though we don’t get that here!), making mention of candle light, snowmen and mistletoe.  What there probably won’t be is a card saying ‘May Christmas remind you of what it is to be obedient to God.’

Obedience isn’t what I normally think of at Christmas!  Usually it’s joy and hope and peace. This is because, rightly, I focus on Jesus and all he means and brings at Christmas.  But as I look at the biblical accounts I’m reminded of how God asked two ordinary people, Mary and Joseph, to be part of some extraordinary events.  To love, care for and raise God’s only son.  And how did they respond? 

When Joseph was told by an angel to marry a pregnant Mary he “…did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.” (Matthew 1 v 24).  When Mary was visited by an angel and told about Jesus she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1 v 38).

The birth of Christ happened as it did because two ordinary people chose to be obedient to God.  Obedience isn’t a fashionable idea.  It certainly doesn’t have the cheerful ring of joy, hope or peace.  But I’m really thankful and inspired by the choices of Mary and Joseph.  We might think it was Christmas-card perfect and easy for them; but I doubt it was.  We might think that it brought only good things to their lives; but I doubt that it did.  But it brought the world a perfect Jesus, the maker of all good things.

Christmas is a joyful time of year, a time to remember the hope Jesus restored to us.  But maybe this year it can also be a time to reflect on what it means to be obedient to God.  To ‘do as the Lord commands’.  To be His servants.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quick Word: Christmas Reflection 2

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I love to sing out loud and it’s not that rare to find me bobbing down the supermarket aisle singing along to whatever 80’s classic is being piped through the store sound system.  I also love Christmas carols, so I don’t mind the way malls start playing them from October – I just sing along festively for a few months!   Most of my favourite carols are the ones I grew up with so I’m strangely fond of that odd, slightly regga, Boney M version of ‘Mary’s Boy Child.’

Their version includes the words;
“Oh my Lord...
You sent your son to save us
Oh my Lord...
Your very self you gave us
Oh my Lord...
That sin may not enslave us and love may reign once more.”

I like this song because it reminds me that when Jesus was conceived it began the fulfilment of God’s big plan to save me from sin – to put the world to rights again.  A plan which I am, as a Christian, now a part of.  We hear this same message in Matthew when he tells us about Jesus’ birth.  He writes;

“As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
 Matthew 1 v 20 – 21

I am one of God’s people.  And Jesus saves me from my sins.  This is eternally true but also somehow true today, right now – through knowing God and aiming to be more like Jesus through the Holy Spirit I am able to be less sinful today then I would be otherwise.  Jesus saves me from having to live with the consequences of many sins – eternally, yes! – but also right here today.  I am in no way sin-less but I am less sinful then I would be without Jesus in my life.  He saves me from being the nasty, judgemental, vindictive and mean person I would be otherwise.

Jesus’ birth is not just a story for a book.  It’s not just something to remember once a year.  It is the start of a whole new me.  And, if you want, a whole new you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quick Word: Christmas Reflection 1

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema
I was trying to organise dinner with a friend this week and I think we’ve found a day we are both free - in March 2013!  What is it about this time of year that makes us all so busy?  I know it’s mostly end of year functions and work Christmas parties and holidays and gift shopping, but don’t you think it is funny that at the time of year when we should be reflecting on the incarnation of God - peace, joy and goodwill to all - we hardly have a moment free?!

Every Christmas I tell myself I’m going to think about the ‘reason behind the season’ more.  That I’m not going to let gift lists and social events crowd out time to pray in wonder at the fact that God came to earth, entrusted himself to us and started the path of our redemption.  But, as often as not, all that other stuff - Christmas cards and summer holiday preparations - seem to consume my time.  So this year I realised – it’s not enough to just say that I want to have Christ at the centre of my Christmas, I have to do something to enable that.  So, between now and Christmas day, I’m going to slowly work my way through the Christmas story as told in Matthew, taking time to reflect on a verse or two a day, slowly proceeding towards the birth of Christ himself just in time for the day on which we celebrate it.

If you struggle too to remember God’s greatest miracle, coming here to dwell as one of us, maybe you could use this month to do something intentional about it. It could be something as simple as putting your bible in a special place for the month, allowing it to get as much attention in the room as your Christmas tree.

As for me, I’ve started my month of reflection with these words from Matthew 1;

“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”
-       Matthew 1 v 18 – 19

Who would have guessed where that story would lead – to the salvation of you and me. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Word: Praying with Persistent Enthusiasm

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

As this year wraps up I’ve been looking back at the wonderful prayers God has answered.  There have been many!  Things which I couldn’t see a way out of which now I can hardly remember. 

I’ve also reflected on the prayers I am still praying, the ones I’ve been praying all year.  Many of these are prayers for my friends; my family.  Each day I keep praying them, each day wishing I could stop.

I’ve had different emotions to go with these enduring prayers as the year has rolled on.  In summer I was enthusiast, in autumn persistent.  Winter brought boredom, a regret that I ever started.  ‘What if I’m praying for this forever?’ I think.  Or ‘I can’t think of one more original way to ask the same thing, again.’ But it is spring and I’ve found myself reading John 17 – Jesus’ great prayer for his disciples. 

I’ve always taken the prayer to be for all of us – all Christians – but it is also a very personal prayer for the fate of his friends, his best buddies.  Look at verses 12 and 13 for example –

“During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.”
- John 17 v 12-13

Jesus, about to die, thinks of his friends and wants them to be safe, to know the truth and to be the best they can be.  He wants them to have joy. 

I need to learn from this!  I want to have Jesus’ passion when I pray for those I love.  I think summer is around the corner – and so is a return to enthusiastic prayer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick Word: Bringing Ordinary Glory

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

When you think about people who bring God glory, who do you think of?  Mother Teresa, glorifying God on her knees with the poor and dying?  Billy Graham, glorifying God in a voice loud and clear and proclaiming?  Maybe you think of Michael Jones, glorifying God in church on Sunday as his teammates took to the field instead. All of these people are good examples, but do you ever think of yourself?  Your neighbour in the pew on Sunday?  Your husband and friends? 

Sometimes I think that it’s the job of the extraordinary people to bring glory to God – the ones who already have the world’s attention, the positions of influence, the role of missionary or preacher.  But I started thinking about it the other day and realised that if there are 2 billion Christians in the world there are probably only a thousand at a time who have extraordinary positions of influence.  Maybe another million serve him in full time ministry, but what of the rest of us; what of me?  We live ordinary lives – with our families and friends, in ordinary suburbs in our ordinary countries.  Do we have to do something amazing to be able to turn to God and say ‘that’s for your glory God!’?

In John chapter 17 Jesus says “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17 v 4).  The work you gave me to do.  Of course, Jesus was the most extraordinary man of us all, but he didn’t bring God glory by being extraordinary as such.  He brought God glory by being exactly who he was, where he was. The work he gave him to do.

I live a pretty ordinary life, maybe you do too, but it counts.  We bring glory to God by completing the work he gives us each day – raising our children well, loving faithfulness to our partners, caring and compassion towards our friends, honesty in our workplaces, praising worship to God.  He doesn’t want or even need me to be a Mother Teresa, a Billy Graham or a Michael Jones.  He wants me to do my work.  Maybe one day that will be something out of the ordinary, but what I do today counts just as much.  What I do today can bring glory to God.  And so can what you do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick Word: Patience

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

When I was in school I took part in an impromptu speech competition.  What happens is that you get a speech topic and five minutes or so to write a speech on that topic.  It’s high pressure stuff!  I was doing well in our regional competition when I was given the envelope with my new topic in it – ‘patience’.  I remember just staring at it thinking ‘it can’t be ‘patience’, that’s too simple, what is this word?!’  I even had to ask for a dictionary to look it up before I would allow myself to be convinced it was, indeed, the word ‘patience’.

As I’ve grown up I’ve realise that patience is actually not simple at all.  You see, I can patiently wait for Christmas to roll around, patiently wait in line at the supermarket and patiently wait for the slow, old lady to cross the road in front of me.  But I’ve come to think that patience is not just about waiting for things to happen, it’s also about waiting before making things happen – and that is hard for me!

When I get an email that makes me angry I want to thump out a reply on the keyboard then and there; instead I need to be patient, reflect on the best way to respond.  When I feel upset I want to speak out my feelings then and there; instead I often need to be patient, allow myself time to fully understand what I am feeling and why.  When I think I have a great idea I want to act on it in an instant; instead I need to patiently look at the different ways my actions could be interpreted, who my ideas affect.

I remember in my impromptu speech pulling out the line ‘patience is a virtue.’  And it is.  Paul talks in Corinthians about how we prove ourselves faithful to God through our patience (2 Corinthians 6:6).  And in Galatians he lists it as a fruit in our lives of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us (Galatians 5:22).   I don’t know about you but I don’t feel patience is something people value much.  But God seems to value it – being patient seems to reflect him in some way.  So I’m going to value it a bit more too – or at least I’m going to patiently learn to!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quick Word: Real People

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

During the Rugby World Cup I was a bit horrified at the way Quade Cooper, from the Wallabies, was treated.  Quade grew up in Tokoroa, my husband's hometown (the two of them went to the same high school) so I guess the way he was treated by kiwis - booed at every turn, vilified, abused - got a bit personal for me.  But not as personal as it got for his mother.

Talking about it to the Brisbane Sunday Mail, Quade’s mother explained what happened when she went to one of the World Cup games.  She said,

"I was sitting there listening to people all around me saying horrible, awful things about my son. I was really, really upset. I was thinking 'Is this what he has been going through for five weeks?'. I was really hurt that my own people were doing that to him. It was unbelievable how deep the abuse went. And when you are a mum, you want to take all that hurt away.”

I wonder if, while the young couple booed Quade when he got the ball, they thought of their own son, home asleep?  I wonder if, while the middle aged man threw beer bottles in Quade’s direction, he thought of his daughter just about the finish high school?  I wonder if while the crowd said horrible, awful things, they thought about what Quade’s mother might feel as she sat amongst them?  I doubt it.  But all this made my mind go to another mother who watched her son abused.  Who watched her son killed.

In the gospel of John we read;

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them… Standing near the cross [was] Jesus’ mother…”

- John 19, beginning of verses 23 and 25

I wonder if when the soldiers debated what to do with his robe they thought of the clothes that swaddled their own young babies?  I wonder if while people shouted at Jesus to save himself they thought of the feelings of his mother, standing by?  I doubt it.  But I can’t judge them, because sometimes the story of Jesus can become so familiar I lose its heart, its reality.  I forget that people like me walked with him and loved him and thought they lost him to the booing crowd.  I forget that God sent his son to become human, like me.  To a woman who was a mother, as I am a mother.  But, when I forget, something happens to remind me that the story of Jesus is full of real people, just as the game of rugby is played by real men; all someone’s son. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quick Word: Tell Me How, God

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

As I tried to sit down to pray today my daughter began howling in the background, letting me know she wasn’t interested in having a sleep.  The bread machine also started up – loud beeps reminding me I have things to do, do, do.  In that moment I was overwhelming with the sudden knowledge that I have to share God so much of the time now – there are no empty hours.  Even at church I have one eye on Elliot as she empties out my bag and another on the worship lyrics, their emotional call to give myself singularly to God go ignored.

After this realisation I had a choice – I could resent the demands on my time and attention, but how could I feel resentment?  I love my daughter, I’m very aware that she is not mine by right but a gift from God.  And though more full, I love the life I now led, being her mother, her carer 24 hours a day. 

But I didn’t have to feel resentment. I realised I could feel peace and joy - I’m in a busy season of life, but I’m grateful for it, even if aware of some of the costs.  The changes remind me of what I have gained.

Of course I can choose to love the season I’m in, but I still have the problem of trying to find a quiet moment, something I’m sure many parents can relate too!  So I’m praying that God will help me find new ways and times that I can set my heart on him alone in this season of motherhood.  David in the Bible had seasons of war and seasons of peace; times when he was a confidant of kings and times when they wanted to kill him.  Yet in the beautiful Psalm 27 we find him saying;

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27 v 8).

It might have to be in a different way than before but each day God invites me to come and talk with him.  And I’m going to reply, Lord, I am coming.  You show me how.  Each day he says to you, ‘come and talk with me.’  How are you going to respond today?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quick Word: Angels

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

The other night some friends and I got talking about angels and demons – not the Dan Brown book but the real deal.  Although, that depends which friend was doing the talking!  One guy didn’t believe in any of it, especially Satan, yet another shuddered at the mention of that name which in her opinion is better off not said out loud.  Some friends were right into the idea of some other world of spiritual beings fighting it out or hovering around us like so often seen in Hollywood movies.  Maybe you can identify with some of these reactions as I bring up this topic this morning.

Hearing everyone talk reminded me of how often we think of a spiritual world, full of spiritual things, spiritual concerns and spiritual beings, and then our world – physical, full of physical concerns and physical beings. The spiritual world might come into our world, but in the form of guardian angels outside our door or spirits whispering sinful ideas into our ears.  I’m not discounting these things at all, but what if the spiritual world comes into our world through a much more basic level – through us, through me?

All this makes me think of a story my grandmother would tell.  About to head out as a young woman, alone, on a German boat just before the war she clung to this promise in Exodus chapter 23 verse 20 –

“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.”

She couldn’t have needed that angel more than when she left the boat in Cartagena, suddenly surrounded by shouting, pushing taxi men, speaking in a language she couldn’t understand, attempting to get her into their taxis.  During all of this a couple, passengers on the boat who she hadn’t met before, approached her and the wife asked if she would like to spend the day with them.  She agreed, thankfully, and as she hopped into their taxis the women turned to her husband, saying ‘This is my husband.  Jimmy Angel.”

The Angel’s were to go on to discover the Angel Falls on the Vezuelan border and my grandmother went on to be a missionary in South America, telling this story.  And so I go on with my morning wondering how God might use me, spirit and body, in this world today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick Word: Reaching Out

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I once had a silly argument with a friend and I decided it was her turn to sort it out.  I wasn’t going to call or text or make contact until she did.  I like talking to my friends though so I wasn’t very good at it.  After a day or so I gave in and rang up and do you know the first thing she said?  Aha, I win!

The Barenaked Ladies sing a song called ‘One Week’, it starts like this -

“It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said "I'm angry"
Five days since you laughed at me saying
"Get that together come back and see me"
Three days since the living room
I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you
Yesterday you'd forgiven me
but it'll still be two days till I say I'm sorry.”

I don’t know about you but this is often my default position when I have a problem with someone – I wait for them to sort it out.  But when I was reading Romans 5 I was reminded that God’s example is the opposite – he reached out to me, he didn’t sit back and wait for me to ‘come to my senses’ or ‘grow up’ or ‘stop being so stupid’.  Romans tells us that –

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5 v 6 – 8).

I often wonder what it is to be like Christ.  Here’s a place for me to start.  I can be like him and reach out to people in my life, even when they don’t like me, even when they are wrong or mad or unwilling to change.   I can do it, because God did it first for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quick Word: A Year of Baby

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

The story goes that in 1976, musician Cat Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of California.  In that moment he turned to God and shouted: “Oh God! If you save me I will work for you.”

Steven’s says that right after this cry a wave appeared and carried him back to shore. So he looked for God - he looked for him in Buddhism, Zen, I Ching, Numerology, tarot cards and Astrology and finally landed on the Islamic faith.  Of course, as a Christian I doubt whether that is what God intended when he saved him.  But the story reminds me of how people turn to God in the big moments of life, near death or other tragic circumstances.  How often in the movies do we see someone pray ‘God, if you save her I’ll be better, I promise’?

How different this has been from my own experience this year!  This month my daughter turned one, my precious baby who has, in this year, changed my life and who God has used each day, in the mundane enduring moments to shape me into a more Christ-like Christian.  It hasn’t been the major event of her birth which has changed me so much as the daily act of loving, caring and responding to her.  God has shown me that there is a reason patience, gentleness and self-control are Fruit of the Spirit.  I have discovered I need God every hour to be a decent mother and this has then turned outward as I see what has been true all along – to be in any real, lasting, loving relationship with anyone I need God.

God has shown me this year that I can be better than I imagine.  I have a choice.  Every interaction with my daughter I have a choice.  To ask God to help me; to choose to be the parent he wants.  Or to go on instinct, tradition, feeling. And I have discovered what has been true all along – that I have a choice in all interactions, actions, speech and thought.  I can choose God or my selfish will. 

This year I have cared for another person, another child of God, in a more intimate, exhausting and time-consuming way then I ever have before.  And God has used each day of it, often mundane, often grinding, to lead me to a greater knowledge of him; a greater love for him.

You don’t need a near death experience to be changed by God.  You don’t need some tragedy to turn to him.  Look for God today in whatever circumstance you find yourself in and he will be there.  He will always be there, right by your side, guiding you back to him.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Word: Learning Love

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I’m usually quite happy to do a little baking, for this and that, so it wasn’t really surprising when my mum asked me to bring a chocolate cake to a family lunch a few weeks ago.  I said yes readily enough, but by that particular weekend I couldn’t see myself making anything but takeaways for dinner, let alone baking a cake.  I started making some mutterings to my husband about buying a cake instead when he surprised me by saying he would make one.

Now, it’s not surprising for A to offer to help me, but in nine years of marriage I had never seen him bake and I’d just assumed he couldn’t.  In fact I probably assumed he would rather do anything but baking because, though he cooks, I’ve never seen him particularly enjoy it.  But no.  He’d done plenty of baking as a kid he informed me and he threw himself into it with enthusiasm making a really silky, beautiful cake.

It was all I could talk about for the next few days.  Of course I talked about how good the cake was but also how – even after a while of being together – he can still surprise me.  There can still be things that I don’t know about him, mostly because they have never come up or because I’ve never bothered to ask.

How true is this in our relationship with God?  I personally don’t think, even after a lifetime of relationship with God, that we could get even close to fully knowing him – which means we should always be learning, always discovering and even from time to time being really surprised.  Afterall, the disciples lived with God here on earth in the person of Jesus, and still constantly were astonished by him and what he did.

“Who is this man?” they ask in Mark 4 v 41 when Jesus controls the elements in a storm.  Later, just after watching him feed five thousand people in Mark 7 they are still totally amazed to see him walking on water.

My challenge however is to want to be surprised by God – to want to know him more then I do now.  Sometimes it seems easier to live with God in the box we have made him then to live with the dynamic creator and giver of all that he truly is.   It is awesome to have strong theology and to know what you believe, but we need to make sure that even then we are searching to know God the creator and not being content to live with a God we have created.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quick Word: Love and Its Failure

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

(Note: Some of my regular readers may recognise some of this quick word for a post earlier this year 'Child of Mine: Bye Bye Baby').

I was reading an essay recently called ‘Bye Bye Baby, on Mother Guilt and Poverty’ by Abigail Stone.  In it she opened up a world to me of complex love and failure.  She loves her daughter; but failed her too.  She failed her child because as a mother she was young and poor and stupid and selfish.  But not because she didn’t love her.  Not because she didn’t have dreams for her.  In the essay she reflects on her daughter, an adult now but with so many problems – a daughter who can’t stand being with her mother, can’t stand her own body.  And she looks back, feeling so guilty for her mistakes, so overwhelmed by her love. 

It is a powerful essay. It reminds me that failure in relationships doesn’t mean there is no love.  Because you could reverse this story – make it about the love of a daughter, me, for a parent, God, and I would be the one who is too stupid and selfish, the one whose love is mixed with failure. 

The Bible records a story much like this one – the story of Peter.  He loved Jesus - passionately, wildly - but he fails him, abandons and denies him.  And what does Jesus do?  In John we see Jesus meeting Peter and asking him ‘Do you love me?” 

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

And Peter, we are told in Matthew, this man who loved but failed, is the rock upon which the church is built.

What a story, what a hope!  I bring a complex mix of love and failure to my relationship with God but he cares only for the love, and has provided a solution for the failure.  Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quick Word: Crawling Christians

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

My daughter is ten months old and is discovering how to move.  She shuffles along on her bottom really well but I’ve read one too many parenting books which have scared me into insisting she crawl.  After all, how else will the left side of her brain know about the right side?!  Most people laugh at me about this, others are appalled, but I continue preserving with it encouraged by one thing – I think she really wants to crawl.  Sometimes she’ll just throw her face and arms to the ground and then let out a cry of frustration that her legs haven’t miraculously made their way behind her.  On her tummy she’s pull her legs inward with palms punching the ground, willing the middle of her body to rise up, letting out a screech when she slides backward instead of forward.

And I guess that’s what’s surprised me – how frustrating it is for her.  She somehow knows what she should be doing, but knows she isn’t doing it.  She tries and tries and I have faith one day it will happen, but it hasn’t happened today.

Watching her brings to mind a less physical, but still very real, struggle which I face – the struggle to be who God wants me to be.  Like Paul I “want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7 v 18b and 19).

I frustrate myself when I know I should be kind but can’t bring myself too.  When I set everything up to have a positive day but fall into moaning and gossiping.  I must look to God like my daughter looks to me.

But here’s the thing – I have faith in my daughter.  I believe she will crawl, and then walk and then run. We talk about faith sometimes as if it is a one way thing – we have faith in God, yes, but God also has faith in us.  Faith that we can become more like him.  That we might choose that.  And just as my daughter has everything she needs to learn how to crawl I have everything I need to become like Christ – I have his very Spirit.  And so do you. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick Word: 'Team Paul' Anyone? Anyone...? v 2

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

In the tv comedy drama, Gilmore Girls, the small town of Stars Hollow wasn’t celebrating when the local inn keeper, Lorelai, and the diner owner, Luke, started dating.   They were worried about a future break-up so when it came they were ready with a plan – coloured ribbons.  You wore a pink one if you supported Lorelai, a blue one if you sided with Luke.  The main street shops were even decorated with large ribbons showing their allegiance. 

It may be fictional but it’s not far off reality – remember the ‘Team Jen’ and the ‘Team Ange’ shirts which shot to fame after the break-up of picture-perfect celebrity couple Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt? 

At least Lorelai and Luke, Jen and Ange, had people on their side.  People to care for them through the pain and support them.  We need that, don’t we?  That’s probably why my heart breaks to read about Paul in Second Timothy – facing death and imprisoned, someone who cared for so many seems so alone.  He tells Timothy that “everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes” (- 2 Timothy 1 v 15).  It seems only one person has been willing to face the shame of being associated with him – but thank God for that man! 

“May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family,” Paul tells Timothy, “because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.”

- 2 Timothy 1 v 16-17

Onesiphorus it seems was the only person wearing a ribbon for Paul, the only person willing to buy a ‘Team Paul’ shirt. 

Relationship breakdowns are messy and they affect many more then the two or more people involved.  It’s easy to see this with romantic relationships but it’s just as true with friendships, families or churches.  If you know someone who is suffering through something like that today – maybe a pastor who is no longer welcome at his congregation, a friend split from her husband, a son no longer talked to by his parents – think how you might be able to reach out to them.  Visit and encourage them, without judging how they’ve ended up in their current situation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quick Word: Change and New Things

You can catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I read somewhere that the average family has a revolving repertoire of around eleven main meals.  If you try a new recipe (and the family likes it!), it goes on the list but something will generally fall off so that the meals you cook change but the variety of meals stays around the same.  Is this true for you?  I think it’s totally true for me.   Caesar Salad drops off the once-a-week menu when the weather turns cold and stew makes a come back.  If I find a new soup recipe the old soup favourite drifts away.  (There are of course favourites which never change – I don’t think I could make it through life without spaghetti bolognese for example!)

But for me, it doesn’t just happen with what I cook, but also with other areas of life.  I only have a certain amount of time, energy or attention to go around so if I decide I’m into knitting, the photo album I was working on begins to languish, stuck in 2009 when I last updated it.  Realising all this – about my cooking and about myself – has got me thinking about how this affects my spiritual life. For example, I’m big into spiritual journaling, but I’ve started to do some private worship at home and I’ve realised I haven’t picked up my journal for ages. 

There are so many things we can do to enrich and deepen our relationship with God, but we, well most of us anyway, probably can’t do it all at once.  I think it’s natural that at times the Holy Spirit might lead us into something new; but hopefully there will be a few favourites – prayer, scripture reading - which always stay on our repertoire.

So don’t despair if you find change in your life means that some things aren’t getting done anymore.  Remember the often quoted words of Ecclesiastes 3 -

1 For everything there is a season,
      a time for every activity under heaven.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Word: Stop Stealing

Wophs, didn't get around to recording for this week so Rhema will play a repeat.  The following then, though old, is a newbie to you!

(You can normally catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema).

I imagine that you don’t think of yourself as a thief.  I can’t envisage that my average reader robs houses on the weekend or shoplifts a chocolate bar every time they go into a dairy.  Maybe you do, but more likely you are a bit like me – you feel so guilty when you realise you never paid for that stamp you put on the letter you posted at work, that you’d never make it as a career criminal.

In Ephesians, Paul talks about stealing.  He says: “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”

If we don’t all go around stealing, then at first this verse seems to have nothing to say to us. But there is more then one way to be a thief.  And I think many of us, including me, can take from people everyday.

We take their self-esteem.  We tell them they are useless or stupid or are never going to make it.  We take their future.  We tell them God can’t use people like them, that we’ve seen their kind and never seen anything good come from them.  We take their integrity.  We ask them to gossip with us, to cheat with us, to lie a little, moan a lot.

In New Zealand, especially, we can rob people of their achievements.  We talk them down, pull them down, use a sarcastic voice to say our congratulations.

Why do we do it?  Because it’s our human nature I guess.  And Paul knew this.  So – instead of stealing, he asks us to give generously.  You see, we have an awesome opportunity every time we talk to someone to leave a little bit of Christ with them.  Instead of taking people’s self-esteem we can lift it – be the one in the room that says ‘good job!’ or ‘I really like what you’ve done.’  Instead of taking their future we can offer the future God has already given us – we can say you are forgiven, you are free to be different then everything that has gone before you and to live a full life here and forever.  Instead of taking people’s integrity we can protect it. 

You can be a thief of people or a giver.  Which do you want to be today?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Word: Grace for Me Only, Thanks

It's Rhemathon time so no Quick Word on-air this week.  Instead I've dug this oldie out for you, enjoy!

You can normally catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

I was in church a few Sunday’s ago when our paster, Jonathan Dove, preached on the parable of the workers, a reference to the Kingdom of God.  In this story, found in Matthew 20, a bunch of different workers are employed in a vineyard, all starting at different times.  Some start at 6am and work a long hard day, others start at 9am, noon, 3pm and 5pm.  This might seem weird enough in itself, I mean, why hire someone just before knocking off time right?  But it’s the end of the story which really gets people going.  Here’s the parable from verse 8:

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’”

-Matthew 20 v 8 - 15

As Jonathan mentioned in his sermon, this would be the same today as telling all NCEA level 3 students that everyone got 100%, no matter how much effort or merit they put in.  It seems, well wrong.

Does this story make you think, “ that’s unfair!”  Or make you wonder what all the effort in your Christian walk is for if you can just sign up at the end and get in?  It used to for me.  I mean, I knew it was about God’s grace, and I like God’s grace for ME, I just don’t know if it’s so fair for all those other people.

But it was around this time that Jonathan stopped my thinking in its tracks.  Because, he reminded us, this story only seems unfair if we see ourselves as a 6am worker – someone who somehow did more to deserve God’s grace then anyone else.  If we changed our mindset, thought of ourselves as the last workers to arrive, who probably had no time at all to, well, actually work!, we’d think this story was awesome.

And of course we ARE all 5pm workers.  It doesn’t matter if you have been a Christian for 3 minutes or 30 years, living well for God is a wonderful, worthy thing, but it doesn’t earn you a place in God’s Kingdom.  None of us, no matter how long our service for God, or how devout our practice, deserve to live with God forever.  So when bitterness starts to sink in or grace seems unfair, remind yourself that you are a 5 o’clock worker.  From there everything looks different.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quick Word: Revelation..Oh Dear

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I want to tell you about this strange dream I had – I was in Wellington when suddenly this giant came down, with a double rainbow above its head.  It put one foot on the North Island, one on the South and then pulled out an ipad – though of course being a giant it looked more like an iphone.  I saw the giant send off an email and get a thousand replies and I was going to tell you what those replies were…but the giant told me not too.  

Sounds, well, a bit fruity right?  But those of you who have a good Bible knowledge might be saying, ‘hey, I’ve heard something like this before,’ because I’ve painted a scene much like the one you’ll find in Revelation 10.  Go have a look at it, you’ll see it’s actually even more intense then my version!

I’m currently reading Revelation and I have to say, it’s a struggle.  At the risk of sounding heretical I think the book is just bizarre, John sounds completely loopy!  He sees giant angels and mass destruction and creatures with more eyes than a fly.  But I believe it’s in the Bible because God wants it to be.  So where does that leave me as I read this book?

What do we do when the Bible doesn’t make sense?  Is it ok to say the Bible can sometimes seem weird, irrelevant, even boring? My first instinct is to grab a commentary – or three – to read along with it.  I believe that the Holy Spirit can speak God’s truth to us through hearing the truth he has spoken to others.  But sometimes I think I’m also over reliant on what has been revealed to others instead of grappling with the word of God and asking his Holy Spirit what he might want to say to me directly. 

Of course, there are people who go the other way too – they are so sure that God has spoken to them they don’t see what other Christians are saying, thinking or learning.  These people can often end up with ideas far outside the fellowship of believers.

I think the answer to all this lies in the Bible itself.  Psalm 119 is famous for being the longest chapter in the Bible and I love it because it someone grabbling with the word of God.  Seeking God, even when the text seems strange.  Here’s a part of the Psalm -

 “I have tried hard to find you—
      don’t let me wander from your commands.
  I have hidden your word in my heart,
      that I might not sin against you.
 I praise you, O Lord;
      teach me your decrees.”

-Psalm 119 v 10 - 12

When what you read in the Bible gets a bit rough going, seek the wisdom of other Christians, the Holy Spirit and trust the Lord to teach you his decrees.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quick Word: Being an Easy-Come Easy-Go ‘God is good’ Kind of Girl

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

There was a beautiful morning last week – the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the air was fresh and crisp and everything and everyone, even the birds, seemed to be out enjoying it after so many days of rain.  So, early in the morning I went out too – I rugged up with my baby daughter in the front pack and headed out for a takeaway coffee and an amble around the neighbourhood.

It was awesome, in the way doing something very simple can sometimes be and I was struck by how many blest moments I have in my life.  And I was also suddenly aware that if Elliot had a grumpy afternoon or I didn’t eat a good lunch I could, only hours later, be feeling sorry for myself and my lot!  I realised – I’m an easy-come easy-go ‘God is good’ kind of girl. My life is full - full! – of blessings but I don’t always see them, and when I see them I am quick to forget them.  It reminds me of Mark chapter 8 when Jesus, who performed lots of miracles and had just feed four thousand people, is told to prove himself by a sign from heaven.  We read –

“When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.”

-Mark 8 v 11 - 13

I don’t want Jesus to sigh deeply at me.  I see God’s presence in my life, his perfection and grace and love and goodness and joy in a million little ways if only I’d notice, appreciate and remember them.  I want a life here without struggle or bad times but that is promised for the new earth, not this one.  Yet I do have this promise – that God will never fail me, will never abandon me.  I want to develop eyes to see God’s presence, not focus on when I feel he is absent.  How about you?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quick Word: A Good Life By Comparison is Crap

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

I’ve had two conversations this last week which have reminded me of one of the least remembered of the 10 commandments – the command to not look over our shoulders and want what other people have (see post 'But I'm No Natasha Utting...' for more on my weakness in this area!).

The first was with a friend about the fact that she did more work than the mothers in her workplace. The job comes with overtime and weekend on-call work by its nature and if it wasn’t for seeing the way other people approach the extra work she wouldn’t be upset about it.  It reminded me how I can feel pretty and cool in the morning only to have that feeling shattered by encountering a prettier, cooler mother at the library.

Similarly, another friend was unhappy that her husband didn’t seem interesting in some of the family traditions she saw in her friend’s families.  Again I think the anxiety wasn’t coming from the activity but from the comparison.  It reminded me how I can feel like I’m blessed to live in a wonderful home, only to feel like it is small and old after visiting a friend in a fancier house in a fancier suburb.  I let myself live or die by comparing, and then coveting or feeling prideful, about what I see in others.

When giving us the ten commandments God told us:

“You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”  

And, as always, God told us this because God knows what he is doing!

Comparing what we have, how we look, our relationships or circumstances to others is either a path to feeling stink or proud, neither or which are great emotions.  How do we combat this?  Take time today to be grateful for what you have – ask God for eyes to see his fingerprints in your life and not only in the lives of others.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quick Word: Being Faithful

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

Ophs!  I didn't get myself together to record this week.  They've play a repeat though I don't now which one, so here's a random 'quick word' from early in the year (pre-blog)

I’m going to sound a bit like I live in a click, but bear with me, because I want to talk about something I heard on New Zealand’s Rhema.  It was at the end of last year when The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie was released.  Peter from One 2 One was talking to some guy about C. S Lewis and the guest described him in three words – Imaginative, Rational and Faithful.  Wow, what a way to be described!  And it got me thinking, how would people describe me?  And, more importantly, how would I want them to describe me – because there’s no guarantee it would be the same thing!  I like the idea of being thought imaginative - I mean if daydreaming was a paid career I’d be there! - rational is probably not me at all but the word which stuck with me was faithful.  Oh to be described as faithful!  I want to be faithful, faithful to God, faithful to my husband and family, faithful through hard times and faithful to what I value.

But I’m no Enoch.  Enoch is most famous for the fact that he walked faithfully with God.  In Genesis 5 we read “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”  What a way to be known and a way to go!  No, I’m more of a Peter – in the past I’ve passionately exclaimed that I’ll stick with God, or a friend, no matter what!  But if things started to not go my way, or got a bit hard, I was out of there.  I’ve had to ask God’s forgiveness for these times of unfaithfulness and I owe apologies to past friends for my unfaithfulness as well. 

I’m lucky though.  I’m young and, God willing, have time to develop a spirit of faithfulness.  And it starts with inviting God through his Spirit to make me more like him.  Is it worth the effort?  I think so.  Galatians lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the Spirit.  And I want it to be on the list of words that people use to describe me too. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blogging: A Quick Word

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning on New Zealand's Rhema.

Note: I wrote this for radio a few weeks ago - just before starting this blog!

Despite, or maybe because of the fact that I worked in online media I’ve tried to keep a small online footprint.  No facebook, no twitter, no blogs.  But people suggested a blog, and I kept imagining interesting things to post on so I started this.  If you would've asked I’d have said my hesitation was because of privacy, copyright etc etc but if I was truly honest there's really just one reason I hesitated – would anyone read it? Numbers matter to me.  Talking to myself online seems just as embarrassing to me as being caught talking to myself in person.  The thing is, everyone I’ve talked to about blogging has said the same thing – it only works if your not motivated by who’s reading and what they think! 

I guess what they are trying to tell me is that what motivates us, whether we want to admit it or not, effects the outcome.  If I am motivated by my reader when I write a blog post I’ll be less true to myself, the very thing which makes blogs so interesting.  I’ll also be more persuaded to quit if I don’t see anyone actually reading it.

 It’s also gotten me thinking about how complex our motivations are.  Do I pray because I want to talk with God, or because I am scared of what he might do if I don’t?  Did they get married because of love or because of what people might say if they didn’t?  Did we put that bumper sticker on to send a positive message or to look good to other Christians in other cars?

In Colossians Paul gives advice on motivation to people with good grounds to do the right thing for the wrong reason – slaves in Christian households.  He says –

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord.  Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”

- Colossians 3 v 22 - 24

I’m not a household slave but, like Paul says in the beginning of Romans, I am “a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God.” I need to remember that motivation is important because Christ can see it.  And as a Christian everything I do is really in service to him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Prayer: A Quick Word

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning on New Zealand's Rhema.

I saw an article in the paper a few days ago about a couple with three children, three boys.  They really wanted another child and were going through IVF to get it but there was a catch…they wanted a girl.  They wanted a girl so badly that when they fell pregnant with twin boys they aborted them. 

I felt horrible.  I couldn’t shake the sadness at what that said about how they valued life.  But I also felt helpless.  I disliked, really disliked, this situation, but what could I do about it?  I didn’t know the people.  I couldn’t speak into their lives.  It was in Australia so I couldn’t even petition my government or health system to disallow such a thing.  I could do nothing about it.  Why, I wondered, did God give me a heart to care about this situation if I was useless to do anything about it?

Of course, after thinking this way for a little bit it hit me – we are never actually useless.  There is something we can always do.  Something powerful, effective and immediate.  We can pray.  James, like many others in the Bible, tells us to pray.  He says:

 “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.  Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!  Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.”

- James 5 v 13 - 18

I think when I worry about what I can do and forget to pray I’m saying something very sad about what I believe.  For the subtlest of God’s intervention is always going to be more powerful then the greatest of my actions.  This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act if I can of course!  But in our global community there are many things that will touch our heart but which we will be too removed to do anything hands-on about.  So when you read the paper today look for one story that moves you and pray for the people involved.  Pray for God’s wisdom in their lives, for God to stir Christians in their lives to action.  To convict them.  To encourage them.  Whatever is suitable.  For through prayer we can bring God’s kingdom to earth, today.