Bringer of Peace

Peace. Be. Still

As I reflect on the events going on around the world today I can be almost overwhelmed.

Millions of people becoming refugees seeking a place of safety, millions of people homeless and hungry, millions of people living in fear of war and disaster, millions of people left heartbroken, alone, and afraid, with no where to go, and seemingly the rest of the world uncaring.

How we long for peace…

And it is in the midst of this we celebrate Christmas… the birth of  a baby to an unwed mother, in a foreign land, where there is no family or support, no welcome, or no shelter.

In the midst of this chaos Peace comes to earth.

This is a short reflection I wrote a few years ago about Peace and Christmas.

Inside each of us is a deep rooted desire for peace…

Peace… in among the images of war and destruction we see each day it can seem impossible.

Peace… the glib answer given by beauty queens as their one wish they have for the world.

Peace… only possible when we retreat from the world and everyone around us.

Peace…when anxiety and the blackness of depression overwhelm .

But what is peace? Peace is not the absence of noise, it is not just the absence of war or violence or anxiety, it’s not just joy or happiness, or a beauty queens wish. Yes, some of these things bring a sense of peace, but we long for more.

Jesus came to earth to bring PEACE. The Hebrew word is ‘shalom’ and it is the idea of everything being in its rightful place, everything doing what it should, everything as God created it to be. Jesus came, God in flesh, to bring this peace. He came so that all of creation could be reconciled to God, so that in Him all of humanity could find their place and their purpose. He came as a bringer of peace – not just between black and white, Arab and Palestinian, or persecutor and persecuted, but he came as the bringer of peace between us and God.

So as we sing ‘peace on earth’ this Christmas, as we send cards wishing ‘peace and joy’ this season lets remember its not just a glib saying, its not just a Christmas wish, peace is found in a manger, it is the flesh and blood of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Jesus was not just a man of peace, but the embodiment of peace, not just a wish, but a certain hope.  May your advent be one of PEACE.

Advent 2 – Preparing

preparehimroom

I’m not sure how you prepare for Christmas, but if it is anything like the majority of people it includes:

        • Present buying
        • Food shopping
        • Christmas tree decorating
        • Work/school/social club parties
        • House cleaning
        • Gift wrapping
        • Card writing
        • Carol singing
        • Christmas concert/advent pageant attending
        • etc, etc……

Christmas-candle-banner

It’s hard not to get caught up in the physical preparation for Christmas, but how do we go at the spiritual preparation? How are we are preparing our hearts and minds?

This advent I long to be able to prepare the room for Emmanuel to once again enter in and reveal the magnitude of the promise and revelation of ‘God with us’.

Advent 1… Waiting

Advent – a time of waiting, a time of preparation, a time of reflection.

Waiting with expectation.

Waiting with a longing for something greater.

Waiting for an event that will have eternal implications.

How much time do we spend waiting during Advent? ‘Who has time to wait during December?!’ I hear you say. Our modern day Advent may go something like this:

Advent – a time of wrapping, a time of parties and presents, a time of recklessness, relatives and roast dinners.

But let’s take time this Advent, to wait.

With expectation.

With a longing for something greater.

Waiting to celebrate again the event that transformed history

EMMANUEL: God With Us

Seek first the Kingdom…

I remember when I was young people telling me that as you get older the years go faster. Somewhere, somehow I turned 40, it is 2015 and statistically I have entered the second half of my life. Though reluctant to use the term ‘middle age’ (as that is only for old, grown up people), I can no longer deny the fact that I am not of the younger generation…!

Last December I was able to go back to Australia to visit family and friends, and it just so happened that the 2 Sunday’s I was there two amazing women shared from God’s word. I have known both of these women since they were young, in fact I was their youth pastor during their teenage years. Seeing both of them preach with authority and sensitivity, with humility and personal insight was beautiful and so encouraging. Somehow, in some small way, I have been a part of both of their journeys when I was their youth pastor – I was in my 20’s, full of energy and enthusiasm, but definitely lacking in experience and wisdom! But as part of a loving community we raised up some pretty awesome teenagers who have become amazing women and men of faith and courage. I did that in my 20’s…. Imagine what God can do with me in my 40’s?!!

A friend told me that he read when we reach a certain age we have 2 options, we can become stuck in a rut and just go through the motions for the rest of our lives or we can reinvigorate, reenergise ourselves for what lays ahead.

It’s not age that will weary us of adventure, or that will have us in a mid life ‘rut’, it’s believing we have no other option. But come on people – we’re not dead yet, there is no rule book telling us this is all life has to be! Yes we all have responsibilities, these come when we grow up, but we also have choices to make around which ones are going to be important to us, which ones will shape us and our families, will determine how we spend our time and money. Which ones will you model to your children or friends? 

Jesus says, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God…’ 

Seek first the King. What does he say? How would he do things? What are his priorities? What does he value? 

Seeking is active, we actively find out what our King says and thinks, which means we have to listen, which means we really need to be in a relationship with the King. Our only option for not getting into a rut, for not letting life pass us by, or just happen, is to be seeking Gods Kingdom, seeking his heart, and finding all we need for living right there.

I may not have the boundless excitement and energy that I had in my 20’s, but I know my King so much more. And it’s from this place of knowing, really knowing who He is, that when I honestly seek him and his kingdom there will always be an adventure! And with experience and wisdom I now know that the adventure may not be the one I had in mind, and it may not be glamorous, or overseas, or ‘pack up the car, sell all our possessions lets hit the road’ kinda life changing. No, it may look no different to life now, or it may be a period of intense change that is hard, or it may be a call to pack up and go… All I know is that as long as I stay in touch with the King life will be an adventure – not decided by my ‘responsibilities’, but rather being invited into life, real life, real living with my King.

Love is in the air….

  • Roses are red, violets are blue…
  • He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…
  • And I will always love you, Can you feel the love tonight (schmultzy love songs…)
  • Overload of pink and red…
  • Men queuing in unlikely numbers clutching overpriced, badly presented flowers…
  • The ‘meal for 2 plus a bottle of wine and chocolates’ selling in record numbers…

Yep…it must be valentines day.

I’m not an ‘anti romantic’, but I am a little sick of valentines day. On the one hand it can be a pretty tough day for the singletons out there. What is the message? If you’re in a relationship it’s time to celebrate, go out, buy a gift, feel the love! If you’re single – well….too bad. It is a day for only those in relationships to celebrate, to feel special, to feel loved.

Yes, St Valentine was all for relationships, in fact it was because of his belief in marriage that he was killed. So what should we be celebrating on February 14th? I think we should be celebrating those who make a stand for their faith, those who are willing to lay down their life. St Valentine died as a martyr because he believed so strongly in the goodness and Godliness of marriage – even though he was a celibate Priest. He wanted to celebrate what God had deemed as good, as do I. So I will celebrate with my friends on this day all that God has made as good, but I will also be remembering those who are single but are making a stand for the things of God.

St Valentine (an article from Huffington Post)

The real history of Valentine’s Day is not comprised of roses, chocolates and pretty cards. Instead, crime, imprisonment and execution are at the genesis of our modern day love fest, dating back to the man whose martyrdom may have inspired the holiday. There were reportedly three early Christian saints named Valentine, but the one the holiday likely comes from was a Roman priest during the 3rd century A.D. under Emperor Claudius II.

The Roman Empire was experiencing massive turmoil at the time. Dubbed the ‘Crisis of the Third Century’ by scholars, this period saw the empire divide into three competing states, with the threat of invasion all around.

Claudius made the unpopular decision to ban marriage among young people, believing that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers. With the Roman Empire hanging by a thread, Claudius needed all the brazen war power he could get.

This is where Valentine comes in; the pesky priest who believed marriage to be a God-given sacrament. Valentine began officiating marriages in secret but was eventually found out and imprisoned. Author Greg Tobin noted that the advent of the Valentine’s Day love note may have come about from young children passing Valentine notes through the prison bars, but this may be embellishment to an otherwise tragic story.

Tobin describes Valentine’s fate:

The priest was eventually beheaded and then named a martyr by the Church because he gave up his life to perform the sacrament of marriage: for love of love and love of God.

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day, and centuries later romantic authors like Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare helped seal the deal with references to the day in their works.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/13/valentines-day-bloody-history_n_4768652.html

I am only human…

Over the last few months I have again been reminded of my humanity; the fragility of life , the unknown of tomorrow, world events so unimaginable that I cannot even begin to imagine the possibility of peace, sickness both long term and terminal, peoples lives shattered by the actions of others, or ruined by life consuming addictions, even just the daily living within my own body and the limitations it places on me. I am only human…

I often wonder how many people can rise day after day, knowing the hardship that lies ahead, the possibility of death, or the certainty of war or hunger? How do fellow Christians face each day knowing it may be their last? How do people, confronted with their ‘humanity’ day after day continue to live?

My heart breaks at the thought of people being persecuted and martyred for their faith. My heart also breaks for people being marginalized and stigmatized because of a minority who profess ‘faith’ in ways unthinkable and incompatible to the faith the majority know and live by. How do we stand strong and unwavering in what we know to be true and just, while at the same time loving our neighbour?

We do it just like that. We stand in the TRUTH, we hold firm to what we know, we speak truth into all situations, the truth of justice for the oppressed and the marginalized, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the asylum seeker,  the truth of forgiveness for all people, not just those who profess the same faith, are the same ethnicity, speak the same language, but for everyone, the truth of reconciliation which is often messy and painful, but can bring life and freedom.

But we also need to LOVE. We’re told to speak the truth IN LOVE! If we speak the truth without love we can be seen as ‘bible bashers’ or the ‘know it all’ who has no concern other than making sure everyone knows they are right! But love will mean we consider others, we put them first, we love like we have seen in Jesus; the son of God who gave up all his rights and privileges to become ‘merely human’, the man who washed the feet of his followers, who reached out and touched the unlovable, who ate with the marginalized and angered the elite, who wept at the brokenness of humanity, was overwhelmed by the task he saw before him, but in the end was willing to give his life as an offering of love.

Speaking the truth may bring some light to a situation, but when it is done in love it will hopefully bring a little bit of the kingdom with it as well.

I am only human, this is the time God has placed me here for, I chose to weep at the brokenness of the world, and I am overwhelmed by what I see, both where I live and across the world. But my prayer is this:

Lord

Help me to never fear those who are different, but rather to love the stranger with a different story

Help me to never divert the truth to suit my path, but rather walk the road that will bring freedom to many

Help me to never be so overwhelmed that I’m useless, but rather that my heart would break, the tears would come and lead me into action

Help me to never lose my first love, to never forget I am loved, to never forget you are love.

Amen

Hope Resurrected

I am so thankful for Easter Sunday.

I am so thankful that God didn’t finish with death, that Jesus’ final breath on the cross, was not final.

I am so thankful that HOPE was resurrected on that Easter Sunday.

Today has not been as wildly joyous for me as previous Easters. As I’ve said before the last few years have been tough and it’s taken its toll on me in many ways. To see me at Church this morning you may have wondered why I was there. In amongst the praising, clapping, hand raising and general cheering I stood, hand in pocket, sometimes singing, other times just watching. In my head I knew what I should be doing, how I should be feeling, but the reality was very different. I didn’t feel anything – nothing. As I thought about it, as I looked around me at the celebration I started to feel something – it was sadness tinged with loneliness.

I can’t begin to describe how I long to feel true happiness and celebration again! That lightness of heart and deep seated joy, when you can laugh until you cry and cry knowing the laughter will come again. And so in the midst of the celebration at church I stood, with my hand in my pocket, unbeknownst to most that I was holding on tight to a small cross I carry with me everywhere. This is why it matters.

HOPE RESURRECTED

I am so thankful death was not the end. But I’m also thankful that Jesus understands true suffering and pain – physical, emotional and spiritual.

As I consider again the death and resurrection of Jesus I am so thankful for the hope it has given me. As I consider the last few years, as everything was stripped away, all I had was hope. I may not feel like celebrating, in fact quite the opposite, but in no way does it diminish the significance of today, in fact it probably means more to me than ever before.

I have made it through the past few years because of resurrected hope – without the reality of Easter, of God sending his Son, of Jesus dying and rising to new life – without that I am nothing. God understands the depth of pain and anguish, he understands the sadness and loneliness, but he’s also the bringer of hope. In fact, he is hope.

And so I will continue to stand in church each Sunday, with my hand in my pocket, possibly looking a little disengaged, but the reality is I’m clinging to the cross as tightly as I can, because it is the only thing that gives me hope – for today and eternity.