A gentle invitation

In my lifetime I’ve reached soaring heights and crushing lows. I’ve swum the bluest oceans under the clearest skies. I’ve savoured conversations, food, moments. I’ve loved and lost. I’ve been hurt by friends and hurt in return. I’m unavoidably flawed; born broken and wired for sin despite efforts to convince myself otherwise. But… I am none other than a child of God, delighted in – and scandalously entitled to all the spiritual wealth possible due to simple belief in a God who changes things and people.

Even my ability to believe comes from him. I am unutterably needy. Hands outstretched, arms wide open. The gospel is simple. Come to God as you are. Exactly as you are, where you are, no matter how far you’ve wandered and how many meals you’ve eaten with other gods. Our father asks us simply to come, taste his food, dine with him, and know the difference – feel it in our bones.

arms wide

His is a gentle invitation, unforced, kind… Knowing our hearts, he beckons, whispers… but doesn’t always chase. He waits but is completely satisfied in himself. He waits for us to partake of him, knowing that all hunger to worship something. Partner. Travel. Family. Some will long for him deep down, slowly shifting in his direction but not knowing it. Others will fall before him , face down, desperate, desolate, sure of nothing else but their need for his filling. All long to worship something. All will.

But he forgives.

May my eternal dining companion be always and only him. Lover of my soul. My heart’s deepest desire. My everything, unashamedly so. He, from whom all else flows. He, the first to meet me in my broken places, biggest successes, nobility and shame.

He sees my trophies and celebrates them – but I know the source, deep down.

He is worthy of all my worship, my love, my very life. This life I cling to yet must choose to release. He orders my days according to his perfect will, plan, purpose… I’m an important part of his jigsaw puzzle, indispensable yet with an aching, childlike awareness that he has the final word. Just as he did on the day of my creation. And yours. He weaves our lives into a tapestry with results yet to be revealed in their fullness. We trust the weaver’s gentle hand simply because we know he’s completely, utterly trustworthy…

Revelation 19:6-10:

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him.”

Living, he loved me…

Happy Easter! May we each take some time today to reflect on all that Jesus has done for us in dying for our sins and rising again so that we might have life now – and into eternity…

“Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day…”

Completely, utterly found

My faith began when I lost my doll as a young girl – and God helped me find it.

Since that first day I cried out to the only ‘genie’ I knew of, God has helped me find many, many things – from that missing letter I needed to post to the 10-year anniversary necklace in the forest… through to the assignments that seemed to vanish into the vortex of my computer… to myself.

God has been ever-present, every day, within the mundane and the significant.

And he hasn’t only helped me find myself – but find myself in him, caught up in his glorious love story.

This Easter weekend, may you seek him – the one who died for you – and rose again so that we might have life. True life. Life to the full. Life forever.

loat

If you have the time to read it, I’ve posted a paraphrased version of a favourite story about being lost – then found in the Father’s arms…

The Story of the Lost Son

Jesus said: “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

“So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

“All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

“The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

“His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

Let the river run…

Times of transition call for reflection.

Change can cause us to doubt, question, and grieve the season before…

As we turn a corner – as the river of our life swishes round another bend – we look up, and wonder why.

Then we brace ourselves, and roll with it – ready or not…

What rivers are you winding into at the moment? How are you feeling about the changes afoot?

Take time now to stop and remember that God is steering the boat. Lean on him. You are not alone…

*

I’ve been enjoying the music of Australian artist Mark Wilkinson lately. I really appreciate his lyrical depth and impassioned delivery.

Here are some of the lines of a favourite song:

Take all my memories down to the riverside
Wash them all clean, wash them dry
Rinse out my eyes till I’m colour blind
And let this heart begin.

Let the river run and the weight fall on my shoulder
Let the river run and the waves crash over and over
Let the river run, cause my journey’s begun
I’m on a new road, never to return…

As we wash our memories clean, and our hearts prepare for the next journey, may we surrender to the river bends planned for us – be they still and gentle, or wild rapids…

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” (Psalm 46:4)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Hey baby, what’s your name?

How do you feel when someone calls you by your name?

It depends how they use your name, doesn’t it? And what they call you…

My name is Alison, but I love when people call me Ali. I consider it a name only friends call me. There’s nothing formal or stiff about it… it feels warm and relaxed.

When I used to introduce my school friends to my dad he would always ask their name, then proceed to enquire about – or explain – the origin of their name. It was rather embarrassing at the time, but I think some of my friends kind of liked the interest he showed.

Because our names – in a way – reflect us – our origins and our background. And if someone remembers our name, it shows they care.

I have a frame on the wall with my name across the top in big letters, and underneath, all the things I know to be true about me. Why are they true? Because the Bible tells me they are.

My friend gave me the frame a few years back. She’d used her time and energy to write down a range of statements she knew would encourage me in my walk with God. Here it is:

name

I look at it each time I need reminding that I’m a “saint in Christ”, “a new creation”, “a child of God”, and so on.

It reminds me of my identity… Who Christ proclaims me to be, simply because I’m his.

When Jesus calls us by name, our lives change. We see this in the Bible story about Zacchaeus, who was so eager to get a glimpse of Jesus that he climbed up a tree when he was passing through the crowds. Jesus doesn’t just say “hey – you in the tree!”. He looks up at him and says “Zacchaeus! Come down from there…”, and promptly arranges a meeting at his house. Nothing is the same for this tax collector from now on.

Before time began, my life was in God’s hands. God knows my name, and my every thought. He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call. I have a Father who calls me his own…

These are some words from a beautiful song by Geoff Moore. If you have a couple of minutes, listen to this proclamation that even if no one knows your name, God does. He values you as his child, created for a purpose that is all your own… Allow him to gently name you his child, his son or daughter, his heir, his beloved…

Wings like eagles

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

eagle

Have you heard the good news? Our God is the everlasting God. The one who lives forever and offers us eternal life with him. His knowledge in unmatched, and his power great. When we have his strength working in us, we are carried above the stresses and trials of this world. If we try and run forward in our own strength we will eventually stumble and fall, no matter how strong we might appear to be. But when we call upon him to lift us up on eagle’s wings, we will soar.

Lord, I proclaim that you are the only one who gives me the strength and power to rise above the troubles of this world. Not that I won’t feel defeated sometimes, but you are always there, ready to take me in your arms and give me a fresh injection of hope and life. Jesus – one day I’ll see you face-to-face – but until then, keep carrying me. Amen.

Stop the Face-boasting!

My niece and I were having a chat recently about why people upload photos to social media. Here are some of the possibilities we came up with:

1) Insecurity. We might not have a very satisfying life, so we create an ideal ‘story’ on Facebook and Instagram to make others envious and give ourselves a boost.
2. Evidence. If our holiday doesn’t make it to our news feed, did it really happen?…
3. Validation. Photos of ourselves doing good things for others, having fun with friends, or going on a date with a gorgeous guy need to be recorded because they make us look impressive – even though we did only one kind deed, had one fun night out, and went on one hot date in all of 2014…

I love social media and am an avid Facebook user, but I do have a problem with ‘Face-boasting’. My particular peeves are photos of flowers from “my fabulous hubby” on Valentine’s Day, announcements that your one-month-old baby has slept through the night – “what a trooper!” – and records of elaborate purchases many people can’t afford. Starts with Thermo. Ends with Mix.

Hmmm… What else does that leave?

At the risk of sounding like a bitter Facebook addict who refuses to post most of her own lies photos but will happily trawl through others’ feeds, let me explain.

facebook

These bite-sized updates keep us from getting a real, gritty, accurate picture of people’s lives.

When a photo is taken, a moment is captured. Literally… Just one moment. And that moment is usually based around the fact that a camera or phone is pointed in our face. As much as I love photography, front-on pictures capture very little of who we are, what we believe, and how we’re feeling.

As do status updates.

The flowers, the sleeping baby, the latest iPad you bought… Good for you. But it doesn’t tell us anything about you. What makes you tick? What do you love (other than kitchen appliances)? In fact, much of it simply leads to Facebook-envy because others are only seeing your highlight reel – not the real thing.

Social media has its purposes, but I’d rather see you in person than a photographed version of you.

Because if we lose the art of real-life, real-time, face-to-face conversation, all we’re left with is a bunch of images, snapshots – versions of the truth. And that feels kind of wrong.

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