Saturday, April 19, 2014

Egypt, the land of tight places

I thought in the middle of this Passover / Easter week, I thought I'd share an interesting short thought. I was googling Passover dates and came across this article by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield. In it, he mentions that the Hebrew word for Egypt in the Torah and the Bible is 'Mitzrayim' which means 'tight places' or 'narrow places'.

Passover celebrates God's release of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Easter and the Cross celebrate our redemption from sin. In both we were in tight places and God delivered us.  Rabbi Hirschfield comments that we celebrate Passoever today because God is still delivering us from tight places.

I found that particularly interesting and powerful. What have you been thinking about this Easter?

Friday, April 18, 2014

The hands and feet of Jesus


I bumped into two friends unexpectedly on Wednesday, a day when I wasn't feeling crash hot. The hubster was away, the oven was broken and not going to be fixed til after Easter, I had plenty to do and had three kids in tow because of the school holidays.  On the way home one of them rang me to say she had made us dinner. I was so touched and the words that popped to my mind were 

she is being the hands and feet of Jesus to me.

The next morning, the other friend (who doesn't know the first) rang me to say that she was making me dinner that night so not to cook.

I was so overwhelmed by God's kindness, I cried.

As I cuddled Little Bun and Lillipilli on the sofa, I was aware of my own hands, of the sensation of touch, of being the hands and feel of Jesus to my children, to my husband, to those around me. Lillipilli's scarred arm caught my eye and I rubbed the train tracks where her plate was put in two years ago and then taken out again and I thought of that whole shared hospital experience.

I thought about how Jesus's hands are scarred for my sake, how when I see him face to face, I will see those scars, I'll touch them and I'll know exactly what he went through for me.  I thought about how we are scarred by our life experiences, our hurts, our tragedies, our hardships, our griefs, our broken relationships and yet our scarred hands and feet are meant to carry Jesus's love to other people.  His scars and our scars have symmetry and connection.

Our hands carry dinners to people struggling, they touch an arm in comfort, they give hugs, they tap words of encouragement, they enjoy tactile sensations and give thanks, they clap in appreciation, they fist pump with joy, they hold lovingly. Our feet carry good news, they go the extra mile, they run errands, they take us to visit people, they run to help. They bring light to the dark places.

My beautiful friend Rosy preached an amazing sermon on light last Sunday that you can listen to here.  She started off by pointing out scientists have discovered that our human eyes can only see about 1/1000th of 1% of light that exists and that in Genesis it's recorded that God made light and plants before he made the sun, moon and stars, the places we think of as our only source of lights.  She followed up by saying she had been chatting to God about this and here is the word that she felt God had said to her:

I am the light of life. There is no such thing as darkness when I am with you. It may appear dark but that's only because your vision is limited - my light is not. You see through a glass darkly; seem my face and you will glimpse the unseen. When you shine Me, people will see things in you that you don't see but they are there.  You are the torch bearer; you are complete when you carry the light.

Matt 5:14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

The interesting thing is that we can be light, be the hands and feet of Jesus to people who don't yet know him and people who are estranged from him can be the hands and feet of Jesus to us. I've been meditating on how messy life is recently and how we might have the way we think things should be done but God loves to do things backwards, upside down and topsy turvy and he still somehow manages to bring things right in the end.

Have a wonderful Good Friday celebration and a celebratory Easter Sunday!



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The week in -ing

Waiting
Trusting
Searching
Hosting
Tidying
Believing
Gardening
Working
Washing
Swallowing
Hoping
Resting
Drinking
Sorting
Arranging
Decluttering
Praying
Strengthening
Applying

What are you doing?

Monday, April 14, 2014

5 principles of decluttering


If you've ever organized a High Tea outside of a venue that does everything for you, you'll know that the event I helped out with on Saturday got to be bigger than Ben Hur. More than fifty five lovely ladies gathered for two hours of delicious goodies and candle lit advice from Helen Maguire of decluttering business Clarity Matters.

I did wonder what words of wisdom Helen was going to share as pretty much I thought doesn't it come down to 1) less stuff and 2) good organisational systems? But hey, my house is by no means neat and tidy so I was up for getting any tips I could get.

Listening to Helen though I thought some profound truths came out from her session that made me think of it in a different light so I thought I'd share them here and see what you thought.
  1. You are precious and worth nurturing. A decluttered house and life makes us feel relaxed, at peace and promotes a sense of well-being. Each one of us is precious and worthy of feeling like that so we need to take time to declutter. Helen put it like this God made you because he needed one of you and he couldn't do without you. I thought that this was absolutely beautiful. Each one of us is unique and precious, vital to God. He treasures us and we also need to value and treasure ourselves.
  2. Ask yourself what the story is behind the things you keep, what is it speaking to you about. When we look at the things around us, they speak to us of stories of our past. Some things speak to us of good memories, others of painful memories and often we have clutter in our lives that we can't seem to get rid of, there's a story behind it that can make us feel good or bad about ourselves. Ask yourself, why am I keeping this item? Is it just perceived social mores or fear of hurting people that make us keep gifts we don't like, don't want, don't need or remind us of something painful?
  3. Don't be afraid of regifting.  When we give gifts we need to give them with no strings attached allowing the person to pass them on if they are not being used or are not wanted. In the same way, we need to allow ourselves to regift things that people have given us that that are not being used. The things we don't need can be a blessing for other people that need, want and like them.
  4. Do we really need it? Helen shared her experience of taking people to Africa on trips. She has just come back from one and said that she was reminded of just how many material things we have here in Australia. Having things isn't inherently bad, but do we need all that we think we do or are we just keeping up with the Joneses and then feeling cluttered and unhappy because we have too much.
  5. Choose to forgive. By keeping things that remind us of painful things or conflict and not forgiving, we stay stuck in the past and unable to move on. This refers back to #2. When we realize that there is a painful story behind something we are keeping, we need to check whether we need to forgive those people it reminds us of and either get rid of the item so it is no longer speaking to us or if we have to keep it, move it off site so that it is not in our face all the time. Forgiveness together with decluttering means that we can move from the past into the present and make room in our lives for new things, new relationships and new adventures.
I got some other really useful tips on decluttering but I don't want to steal Helen's thunder so if you'd like to check out more of her decluttering tips, hop on over to Clarity Matters and say hi. Are you a good declutterer? Are you a hoarder? Are there things that you are keeping because you feel you have to but they make you feel bad because of the story behind them? What area of your house needs the most decluttering?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Crusty corners of my soul

Sometimes there are moments when a phrase pops into your mind and it just sticks.

I was in a conversation with someone and while on the surface I felt like I wasn't keeping anything against them, there was a little thing that hurt and bothered me.

It's nothing, I thought and mentally shrugged. It's no big deal.

And yet, the picture of a corner of my heart, difficult to reach and with something encrusted in it, came to mind. Somehow, without any particular words being attached to it, I knew that God was soaking it off me but I had to be willing to allow him to do it.

Much like a dirty encrusted dish that needs to be left soaking in the washing up overnight before it can be cleaned properly, God invites us to allow him to pour his oil on the crusty corners of our souls. Even when we're 'mostly' clean, when we've been walking God's for a while, crusty corners build up in the most unexpected places and we need to come back every single day to be soaked, softened, cleansed, refreshed.

I was thinking about this picture today and thinking how scraping the dirt off ourselves is painful, harsh, not always effective but when we come to Jesus and allow him to anoint us with his oil, to soak us in his presence, when we make ourselves vulnerable to the way that he wants to deal with whatever has hardened in our hearts, he softens it until what was once hard to remove floats away almost by itself.

The hard part is rebelling against our desire to stay crusty. Crust and scabs protect us. The hard part is being willing to do things in God's topsy turvey way - hugging when we feel like slapping, being kind when we want to lash out, being generous when we want to keep, keeping silent when we want to retort, inviting when we want to run away.

Someone once prayed for me that I there would be oil in the desert of my life. Oil I thought was such a strange thing to pray for in a desert. Why not water? Surely you'd be thirsty in a desert and you can't drink oil.  I realize now I was thinking of cooking oil but there's also crude oil, representing rich abundance in a land of nothingness, and then there's oil that moisturizes and softens harshness and oil that anoints and brings joy.

This is the idea that won't leave me alone today, this coming before God daily, asking him to anoint us with his oil of joy to replace our mourning, to soften our hearts and heal our hurts, makes us supple and gentle again, takes away our harshness, our dryness and allows us to react not according to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

What have you been thinking about today?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chocolate, Jesus and the bee in my bonnet


The kids' school are doing things differently for Easter this year. Easter Hats for the Easter Hat Parade will be made in class and instead of at home and among other things the older kids are being invited to create a photoart for an Eggshibition to raise money for the school.

Great, I thought, they could do something more meaningful.

Here's a summary of how the conversation went.

HER: [panicking] Oh no, oh no, Mum we've only got one day to do our photo for the Eggshibition!
ME: That's ok, that's plenty of time.
HER: But what could I do?
ME: Well, what do you think Easter is all ab...
HER: [interupting] I know, could I use these chocolate bunnies? Could you get some chocolate eggs? Could I use Little Bun's chick?
ME: Yes, but I'm sure you can come up with something a bit more original than that. What is Easter all about?
HER: God and stuff.
ME: What do you mean God and Stuff? What about God?
HER: You know, God dying.
ME: Don't you mean Jesus dying on the cross and then being raised to life again?
HER: Yeah, but God and Jesus are same.
ME: Yes, but there's God the Father and Jesus the Son. How do you think you could tell what Easter is all about in a photograph?
HER: Oh Muuuuum! I just want to eat my hot cross bun, can't I just take a photo of the chick and the eggs?

As I bit into one of those little chocolate eggs and tasted the overly sweet yet addictive taste of chocolate, I sighed and thought

and there we have it: we humans would rather have a faith that is something indulgent and tastes good to us rather than have the raw pain, suffering and reality of the redemption of the cross and the life and the freedom from addiction it brings. 

I too would rather go and eat my hot cross buns and my chocolate eggs rather than think about his blood replacing my blood, his bruises and welts for my misdeeds, my sin, my selfishness, my sicknesses.

I've been reading little bits here and there that have spoken to me about how Jesus identifies with the very real situations we find ourselves in. Isaiah 53:3 says He was despised and rejected by mankind,   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. 

If you're suffering with a chronic physical condition or emotional pain, Jesus knows how you feel, he was familiar with pain, he was called 'a man of suffering' and you don't get called that for just one or two moments experienced. Jesus gets you.

If you've been bullied or rejected or beaten up, Jesus gets you too. He was despised and rejected. He was brutally whipped and tortured. And he could have called down all the angels of heaven to get himself out of it, but he didn't. He chose to go through it. He poured himself out as a drink offering, pure love for you.

If you've been rejected by your Dad, Jesus knows how that feels too. He was rejected by his heavenly Father, part of the very fabric of his being, so that he could carry sin and pain, sickness and death on our behalf.

Isaiah 61, a prophecy about Jesus hundreds of years before his birth says:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blindHe has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies. 

To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.

The reality of that list, the things Jesus came to do and still does for people is a doozy. Good news for the suffering and afflicted.  Comfort for the brokenhearted. Liberty for those in captivity (whatever their captivity may consist of), sight for those who are blind, be it physically or emotionally, favour for those who mourn, his vengeance on those who hurt his children. Beauty for ashes. Joy to replace mourning. Praise to replace heaviness.

I know people who are in all these situations. I've been in some of them.  I know one family who is in the midst of a hard core real life situation right now and I can see that Jesus is carrying them, quite literally holding their bodies together.

I am blown away by his love and chocolate, bunnies and eggs, lovely, sweet and popular as they are, just don't do it for me any more.

This parenting challenge of how we communicate our faith to our kids in a real way, it's hard. It's hard for me to get it, let alone my children. My prayer is Lord, how do I tell them what you did? Help me to communicate it little by little. Even if they don't get it all this Easter. How can I help them understand just one thing?

How are you communicating Easter to your kids this year? What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Waiting, resting and guilt

I am stir crazy.
Things I want to do, I can't.
Things I want to blog about, I can't.

It's a week of waiting.
Waiting for news, waiting for my body to catch up, waiting for salaries, waiting for inspiration, waiting for answers.

I don't much like waiting.
Especially when I don't know what to get on with while I wait.
And most particularly when I have things that I want to do but can't.

I realize that I don't rest well.
Switching off from busyness is exactly what I need, it's the life I crave but I find it agonizing to do too.

Then there's the guilt.

Not the good guilt, the bad guilt. The guilt that comes when we need a rest but feel guilty because we are resting when others need a rest too. The helpless guilt of not giving when we see a need because we can't give in that way at this time.  The guilt of caring for one situation because we know and love them but knowing that there are others who have needs too and who we haven't considered because we don't know them personally.

It's been a week of second guessing, of having to come back to trusting God that he makes my path straight, that despite circumstances he is faithful and good and that he will work out the impossible, he'll make the visible invisible, that he'll do what I can't do.

Without being whiney, I would like to say...

I would quite like things to move on now.
This character building stuff is getting a bit old.

Hope your week is full of joy and colour and getting things done.