Sunday, 21 April 2019

Alive!



Streaks of pink and mauve in the sky slowly fading ... the sound of birdsong and a donkey braying in the distance ... the air fresh and clean. They'd been waiting for the dawn for ages, their grief preventing restful sleep. Now, as the women made their way to the tomb, there was no need for words. Their grief bound them together. They'd already talked over the events - again and again over previous days - and still no comfort. All they could do was this last act of love for their beloved Teacher and Friend - anoint His body which had been hastily buried before the Sabbath.

They had seen where they had laid His body. They knew about the stone. They hadn't thought through how they would remove the stone, driven as they were by their grief and desire to do one last service to Him Whom they loved.


And then the confusion. The stone had already been rolled away. Who had been here before them? What had happened to His body? Why would someone steal His body?

The revelation. The wonderful, incredible, mind-boggling revelation. Their eyes opened to the truth. Their minds opened.

He is alive! He is risen! Just as He had said would happen.

It all makes sense now. The rush to tell others: to share the Good News and to turn their tears to joy.

Jesus lives! Oh happy Resurrection Sunday.


On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the eath, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ 

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Luke 24:1-9, NKJV

He is not here, but is risen! Hallelujah!

(All images from Free Bible Images contributed by LUMO Project.)

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Not Here


Friday afternoon as I was puttering around doing a few things at home I happened to catch a snatch of news from the builder's radio. When the newsreader said that police had warned people to avoid the central city I had no idea what city she was referring to. A few more comments and I decided to pull out my device and search online.

The headlines were unbelievable and incomprehensible. I read them, and the accompanying article, in a state of numbness.

Christchurch. Terrorist attack. Schools and businesses in lockdown. Unknown how many injured. 

It didn't make any sense. And at that point, and even later into the night, there was little available information. In fact, one DIL, arriving later that night, had more accurate information due to her job than we had garnered from online sources.

Still, we couldn't comprehend it. 

It felt surreal.

Could such an event really occur in New Zealand and in Christchurch of all places? That beautiful city of arts and culture? That city that has already suffered so much due to the devastating earthquake eight years ago? That city that bears our Saviour's name?

Could it have really happened?

And in a place of worship? A place where anyone, regardless of religion, should feel safe.

Two days later, and I'm still trying to untangle my mixed thoughts. Still trying to understand how I should pray. Still trying to come to terms with evil that now has a face. A name. An evil that has existed for thousands of years and in countless forms but which we - perhaps naively - didn't expect to see on this scale in New Zealand.


One verse of our National Anthem says,

Men of ev'ry creed and race
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our Free Land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

The perpetrator and many of those who died, had not been born in this country. They were women, children and "[m]en of ev'ry creed and race" and yet one of them brought "dissension, envy, hate" deliberately, willingly, to these shores and changed the face of New Zealand.

We will never be the same after this. The everyday things - going to church, to school, to work, to the park, to the supermarket - will hold a fear that has never been there before. 

I felt it yesterday when I went shopping with Son#5: What if … ?

I felt it this morning in church: Would I be willing to die for my beliefs?

I will feel it, no doubt, in coming days: It happened in Christchurch: could it happen here?

Fifty people have lost their lives. As many injured.

Many thought it could never happen on New Zealand soil. None of us expected it on this scale.

How then, should we respond?

Romans 12:21 says:

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (KJV)

The CEV puts it this way:

Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

And TLB:

Don't let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.

I think that's our answer.

(Photos courtesy of pixabay.com).

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Mess of Christmas



I've hung our Christmas quilt and it partly covers some of the ongoing mess from our renovations (which are due to recommence January 7). Christmas this year will be celebrated amongst the mess that is our home right now.

I will try and rearrange boxes so that Son#5 can sleep in his room despite it having no power or lights and no hanging space. In truth, I don't even know where he'll plonk his bag. At the moment there is only a narrow gap between the bed and mountain of stored boxes.

In anticipation of the renewed renovations I cleared one shelf on our mantlepiece and decorated it with our Nativity Scene and other treasures. Usually I'm reluctant to take down family photos and bits and bobs but this year, since they need to be packed away soon anyway, it gave me an opportunity to try my hand at decorating.

These aren't the only messes. There's the mess of our busy working lives as we stress about trying to get everything done. And the mess of cleaning the house from top to bottom (and DH has reminded me that there's not much point cleaning something that is going to be removed or destroyed in a few short weeks anyway - I'll try to remember that but the windows will be an exception). There's the mess of baking and preparing favourite foods for the family. And the mess of gifts: both wrapping and unwrapping. For some, there's the mess of broken relationships or loneliness. And perhaps the mess of over-extended credit cards or real poverty.

And this is just on the outside. Inside there is the mess of our selfishness, our resentment, our envy, our disappointed expectations, our unforgiving spirit, our pride, and even our gluttony. In short, the mess of our sin.


Yes, Christmas is messy. But this isn't new to our Saviour who was born into a mess. A mother who was unmarried at the time when she learnt about her impending pregnancy. A long and dusty journey. A city in religious and political upheaval. A lack of accommodation. A stable for shelter and a bed for a manger. And animals and shepherds for onlookers.

Definitely messy. But within that mess - at the very centre of that God-ordained mess - was our Messiah.


This Christmas, when we look around at our own mess let's not forget that God understands our mess. The mess of our lives and the mess of our sin.

This Christmas, look for Him in the mess.




Sunday, 11 November 2018

A Blank Page

I love books. Which shouldn't be that surprising since I'm a writer after all. I will re-read a favourite book over and over again. For that reason, I do not give books away (lend yes, give away permanently, no). If I've lent a book out and it fails to come back, I will remember it for years afterwards and will feel as if I've lost a friend.

I'm not an e-book fan, although I have been known to purchase an e-book or two when the book I'm wanting is out of print. And I would resort to e-books if I were to go away for any length of time where one or even two books in my suitcase would not suffice.

But there's another kind of book I really love.

Journals.

Notebooks.

Softcover. Hardcover. Spiral bound. It doesn't matter. I love them all.

(For the record I hate diaries and even though I buy one every year for work I rarely write in it and never check to see if I have an appointment etc. I think next year I'll just get myself a pretty notebook and use that.)


All those blank pages just waiting to be filled. Storylines ... Characters ... Notes ...  Ideas ... Patterns ... Recipes ... To Do Lists ... Planning For Special Events ... Birthdates And Anniversaries ... Anything My Heart Desires.


Yesterday I was given the gift of a very pretty and special book. With lots of blank pages. It even has my name in gold on the cover. I plan to put it aside for my next Prayer Journal. I have a number of these books - often gifted - that I have used for just that purpose over the years. Some time in the early years of marriage I decided to keep a Prayer Journal. Not because I'm a particularly good pray-er. Quite the opposite really. But I love to write and somehow it seems easier to pray if I've written something first. So into this Prayer Journal I write prayer requests, notes of praise, sermon notes, verses or passages that I've read during my quiet time that speak to me, and, occasionally, some thoughts or quotes on the Christian walk.

I often find it interesting to go back and read through these Prayer Journals at a later stage and to see how God answered prayer - and not always as we expected. Or to go over sermon notes at a later date and see how they are so applicable for where I'm at now. Or to reread verses that spoke to me and be blown away yet again by God's goodness and faithfulness.

I've only recently started a new Prayer Journal after having it sit on my dressing table for a number of years. It was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. It will likely be a year or more yet before I get to start this new journal but I can still enjoy it - and remember the giver - in the meantime.


Can you think of any better purpose for a special book?

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Disappointment

The night of January 31 was anticipated by novice and professional sky-watchers alike. The moon was about to put on a display that had not been witnessed in New Zealand for over 150 years. A rare event where a blue moon had synced up with a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse.

Determined not to miss out on seeing such a rare phenomenon DH and I set our alarm to get up to view the moon at the optimal times: 2:00 through to 2:30 am Despite the early hour, we were undeterred. This was a once in a lifetime event and not to be missed (even if some of us did grumble a little about the unsocial hour).

The alarm went all too soon. Still half asleep I wandered outside to be greeted by less than one eighth of moon that boasted a slightly pinkish glow. Disappointed - but knowing we still had until 2:30 am for the ultimate reveal - I went inside for a few minutes. On my return, the moon had totally disappeared and all we saw for the next half hour was cloud.

Cloud.

How could there be cloud on such an important night? And why here, of all places, when we had been experiencing summer heat formerly unknown in this part of the world? Why would it choose this night of all nights to be cloudy?

Resigned, we returned to bed. Next morning there was a brilliant new moon hanging over the neighbour's garage. Small compensation for a broken night's sleep and disappointment.

I felt somewhat cheated. Not only were we not granted a reasonable time of night at which to see the sight at its best but it didn't even make a decent show!

Apparently those in such exotic places as Beijing, Australia, Canada, and even America, had a wonderful view of the super blue blood moon. But for us, the mysteries of the heavens remained just that - a mystery.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4, NIV



Friday, 19 January 2018

Encouragement

It's still summer holidays (for students and teachers) and church looks a little different on Sundays. The regular musicians are off-duty and there are no children's programmes or lengthy sermons. A few weeks ago our pastors asked for anyone willing to share a testimony from 2017.

My immediate reaction was that nothing 'big' had happened unlike in 2016 when a trip down south resulted in a detached retina and surgery for DH. Then, and later, we were really able to see how God had protected us and had been in and through it all.

I know that the same is true for this past year. God has been there through it all. It's just at times it's been a little hard for these eyes to see.

Because 2017 has been a hard year. Work has been difficult at the best of times. There have not been the breakthroughs in prayer I had hoped for. A lot of soul searching has gone on: am I the problem? What do I need to change? Do I need to get out of the picture?

It's been tough.

Just yesterday I had an appointment in town - an appointment that year after year I put off because I dread it. I always come away feeling inadequate and incompetent (not new feelings for me) and more socially awkward than usual.

I was praying about this appointment yesterday morning and I asked if a thing or two could be switched up. I knew I would survive the way the meeting had already been arranged but if it could be changed slightly it would be less intimidating for me.

I had little hope of things changing at this late stage so (I guess because of lack of faith) I also asked that I would have the strength to survive this 'challenge'.

As I was getting ready the phone rang: Would I mind if there was a change? Would I mind? It was all I could do not to jump for joy while on the phone. The meeting went better than expected and I didn't feel socially awkward, inferior or too inadequate.

In the larger scheme of things, this was nothing big. It wouldn't have destroyed me if nothing had changed. But the fact that this prayer was answered was such an encouragement to me. I was reminded again - even though I already knew it - that God is here - in the big things and the small - and He is at work.

I don't know if things will have changed when I go back to work next week ... Some of my prayers have not been answered yet or the way I had hoped ... but God hasn't left me. He is still there and He is still working ... I've known it all along but I am so thankful that in such a little thing that He showed me He cares for me and I am not forgotten.

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed (Deuteronomy 31:8, NKJV).


Saturday, 23 December 2017

A Christmas Prayer

As the first of my chicks prepares to hit the road today (it's the 'outlaws' turn to enjoy them at Christmas this year) my heart feels a little anxious and downcast. The latter, I think, because in previous years we've all gotten together after Christmas for The Most Adorable Granddaughter#1's birthday so it's never really felt as if we've 'missed out' on a family Christmas, but this year that won't be the case.

Even being super organised and wrapping presents pre-Christmas-Eve hasn't won me any merit points as Son#2 decided not to take the [large] box in the car with them. This means that we'll get to enjoy The Most Adorable Granddaughters#4-#7 opening their presents with us when they return home. I just hope they don't think Nana and Grandpa have forgotten them! (As if we could.)

This talk of presents has made me think of what I'd most love to give my children and their spouses and children ... and the idea of a Christmas prayer was born.

This is my prayer for them (for all of us) ...

I pray that this Christmas season they will take time to see not just a babe in a manger but all that God has done. That their hearts will be filled with awe and wonder, just like the shepherds, as they gaze at the Son of God, in humble circumstances, and marvel at His birth.

I pray that their hearts will be filled with joy as they consider His plan of salvation for all mankind. That they see not just the baby but also the Man on the cross, dying for their sins, reconciling them to God. That their whole being will be flooded with joy at the knowledge of God's salvation, and they will experience forgiveness of their sins.

I pray that the Light of the World will shine in their hearts, illuminating the areas that need to be handed over to Him, lighting the dark corners where they may be holding onto unconfessed sin, and bringing them into a deeper knowledge and experience of Him.

I pray they will know true peace. Not peace as the world knows it, but the peace that only God can give, that brings freedom from sin, and is unfathomable.

I pray they will experience God's overwhelming love. Love as they have never know before. Love beyond a parent's love. That the love of Christ will flood their souls, deepening their relationship with Him, filling them with love for others, filling their hearts with praise for their Christ and King.

I pray they will truly know Christ as their Saviour. That He who came as a babe, who came to save His people from their sins, will be their Saviour and they will acknowledge Jesus as Christ the Lord.

I pray that the Bread of Life will satisfy all longings in their heart. He will bring healing and fullness to those who are hurting. He will open their eyes to their hunger for Him. That nothing else will take His rightful place in their lives.

I pray that He who began a good work in them will see it through to completion. That He who has written their names on His Hand will keep them and use them for His glory.

I pray this Christmas may they know Him and love Him as never before. That as they celebrate, open presents, share food and family times, that they will remember the One who came and the true reason for the season.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.