Is this Christmas struggle real?

 

It’s a subtle pressure, isn’t it?  

We value so greatly our time with family and hearth and home at Christmas time, but the slow heating up, ‘frog in the kettle’ style, is an annual and familiar struggle.  God – help me not to fall into it this year…help me not to quote #thestruggleisreal again this season – even if it is! God, please please help me to hear you through the marketing roar at the mall this week!  Help me to get all the decorating done, the Christmas cooking planned, the presents selected, bought and wrapped….But God, let me not be swayed away from the REAL meaning of Christmas…

I’m home.  And it’s a delight to be.  My life and work takes me many places during my year, and this year has been no different.  But when I finally land back here in Sydney, in the midst of my beloved gum tree studded suburban lot, inside my wooden river house, I’m still affected. Even here it reaches me.

Perhaps it’s a struggle for you, too, to keep focused on the joy and the belief in Christmas that brings the purpose and plan of Heaven into your world, all because of the pressure that is  upon us at this time. And I think it’s a particular pressure reserved for us women. Ha!

But this Christmas season I am making a plan.  I am determined to see through those ploys and plots that would bring down faith and hope at Christmas.  No matter what state this world is currently in, and I must say it is in a state…I have decided not to bow to its familiar Christmas chorus that drowns out the words of favourite carols and mixes my Christianity with its manufactured blessing.  No, I am a daughter of  a King who blesses me no matter which way I turn, no matter what is raging all around me, no matter where I am in this world.  And my soul knows that very well. And therein lies the peace of this season; a soul that knows it well.

We all love Christmas time, I think.  But our souls can get so very distracted from its meaning and its prominence of Truth, can’t they? I mean, when did you last sit and enjoy Christmas Eve with all its activity, with your family? Sing the carols, enjoy the ambience… I remember countless Eves of panic and paper wrapping, items yet to be disguised in multi coloured Christmas wrap and then strewn across my room, while I counted gifts and ribbons and made sure I was being ‘equal’ with all the children in my generosity….and the number of parcels to be opened the next day! I remember Christmas Day celebrations where I flopped dead tired into a chair at the end, and couldn’t really remember the happenings of the day because my mind had been so full of making it special for the family and guests – in my own way, of course…Sound familiar?
But wait! What is actually in store for me this coming Christmas?

As I am writing this blog I have been privileged to hold my eleven week old grandson. The wonder of life is so worth celebrating, isn’t it? And as I move gently in rhythm to United’s musical words “If you sought perfection I’d die trying to reach it…” I realise that, once in a while, God loves that I stop, take stock and realise that there is literally nothing that I can do to make Christmas better – more real – more exciting – than it already is….He listens to my cry to try to ‘make’ Christmas and to be the perfect, when there’s only One who is. 

What, in Heaven’s name, is more exciting than the celebration of a baby born to set our world free? What, in the name of goodness itself, can be more satisfying than looking around us and understanding that every one of us is pure miracle…and our Creator senses pure joy when we turn to Him?

This Christmas, I am reminding myself to  turn from the roundabout of busyness, the non-stop turntable of extravagant bowing to the pressure from all sides… and – breathe!

Breathe in His love, His heart, His forgiveness, His heart. Breathe out His Spirit from my life and touch those around me. Breathe again and again the love that the season is renowned for – and take it into our new year as a daily occurrence.

How?  Well, right now – stop! Listen to His heartbeat, and begin again to sense the childlike flavour of Christmastime. Zone in to the Words from His Word. Can you hear Him whisper?

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son;  And they shall call His name Immanuel”  (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23) 

God – you have my heart. This Christmas.  And always. 

Immanuel. God with us. wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas
Immanuel. God with us.
wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

Here’s a link to the Christian Women’s Blogsite where you can read about the Christmas Blog Tour.  Enjoy!

http://blogsbychristianwomen.com/

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Thankfulness, Joy and Family

There are times when a blog just overtakes your day.  And this is one of those.

In the midst of favoured strains from my Bose speaker and on the subject of family…I must, nay, really must…. say my piece!

Life brings tears and joy, sadness and pain but also, yes, those moments when a person just collapses at the computer, thanking God over and over for the family and the love that exists in this world. But it’s a rare time, so often going unchronicled and unnoticed in my world when really…it demands a monument and a landmark!

These experiences are heightened and exaggerated in my soul, but so often can be ignored. The choice between the two is mine.

11986943_10156043860100319_8921564548783225490_n
The miracle birth of our first grand child, captured as it happens, ready for me to see into their world and their joy.

So easily and simply can I let this undeniable ‘sweet candy for my heart’ slip unnoticed through the cracks in my busy day, there being destined to become one of the ‘cutting floor scraps’ that drop below my desk.  So habitually can I be gainfully occupied with so many of those ‘more important’ bits and papers crowding out this food for my heart and soul.

 

Amidst the crying and the suffering of nations, the degeneration of values and society in our time, can we just pull up at least once every day and be grateful, be thankful, be at peace with what God has graciously given to us in His unfailing and unfathomable generosity? Can we put the guilt that crowds us because of a world gone wrong aside, and highlight this good, this memorable, this brilliance that floods into our personal world? Life is to be enjoyed.

Family.

10987636_10156047954040319_5880835137285561254_o (1)
‘The sisterhood of the travelling trousers’! And instantly, my two beautiful daughters gather in a reunion in the city of London and I can see into their world from my desk in a country 12,000 miles away!

It is a joy and a gift unspeakable.

When I look at the speed and the depth of the communication worldwide that is social media, I can either despair at the lack of personal and ‘real’ time with those I love, or I can choose to be grateful.

I am eternally grateful that within a moment of time, from across our expansive globe, can come the pictures of a gathering of siblings in one of the world’s great cities, the birth of the newest member of our family in a hospital in the Southern Hemisphere, and even the ‘real time’ of a Periscope movie that’s happening…right here, right now – or right there, right now! All at once…maybe this is how God is viewing my world….

 

MRM Enjoy Church Leadership focus
My husband, preaching, thoughtful and ever building the Kingdom with his words and thoughts in far off lands…..

Who could ever begrudge me the intrusion into my day of the musings and the fun photos and ‘selfies’ that interrupt my accounts and my bills due, my travel itinerary building, my email replying…. and thoroughly disrupt me and send me in floods of joy-tears to write down how grateful I am?

Who would dare to tell me to ‘prioritize’ my day when these beautiful intrusions bring such joy to my heart?

And like a climactic surge,building and releasing more adrenalin than a run through a forest, I sit, composed now but coming down from the wonderful window into the lives of the ones I love. These ones who make me live their lives with them, though in different countries and varied time zones. They rattle at my organization and they push their way through cyber-space to my desk in my antipodean closet here and demand my attention!

And I am grateful to God.

I will pay attention to the world later….but these few moments of reflection, gratitude and joy are mine.  Thank you Jesus.

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UGANDA

Kampala Kapers!

We’ve come to an area somewhere in a village, on the outskirts of Kampala.  It’s a part of our Leaderscape ‘developing world’ work, with Leaderscape.  www.theleaderscape.com

A dirt floor and a marquee splattered with the typical red dust and mud of the area, holy in places as you look up towards its roof and see spindles of sunlight breaking through the canvas.  But the ‘holy – ness’ isn’t just physical.

Tent church Uganda

I find myself now sitting listening to Michael preach with a Ugandan interpreter. MRM at CthKThe young man doing this job is brilliant – a fresh faced kid with a dream to study theology in Australia one day – headed for the big city of Nairobi in the near future to start his studies. He has a future assured as a speaker and a preacher.  No one could doubt his commitment and verve.  He imitates Michael’s every move, nuance and tone.  We have joined a bunch of enthusiastic young Ugandans, most of whom have ‘graduated’ from the Good Samaritan orphanage and schools which are just up the road – using the term loosely, because ‘dirt track’ probably describes it better.

As we’d walked in, past young people of around 18-25, lost in worship and the music, we’d noticed some 20 or so little kids in a corner, emanating the ‘stage’ young people and their every move.  Dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ these little ones were not going to be outdone in this intense atmosphere of dance and song!  Wide eyed and fresh faced, they imitate, spin and dance with all the passion of their elder ‘brothers and sisters’.  It’s a festive and spiritually invigorating place. The African beat and moves are mingled with Western praise music and modern instruments.

My gaze swaps to the stage boys and girls, all late teens and ‘twenty somethings’.  They worship like so many Michael Jacksons, with so much passion and heart, stopping to drop to their knees often, so that many of the boys have red mud colouring the knees of their trousers. The girls are often lost in the worship of their King, and demonstrate a purity of praise I’ve rarely seen. 

Earlier today we visited the Good Samaritan project, a school for over 2,500 orphans from all over Uganda. Most of them have lost both parents, killed by the last war or by aids. The young people who have planted this church, Christ the King Church, were rescued from the streets of Uganda and its countryside, brought to an institution whose heart is to restore and release these kids.  And there’s plenty of need for that.

kids praying GS child with Bible

A couple of hours prior to our visit to the fledgling church, I’d been so unprepared for our entrance to the hall where we spoke to over 1,000 little primary kids, aged 13 down.  We had navigated our way in the four wheel drive over terrain rivalling an outback adventure. We’d walked up the steep, uneven pathways towards the sound of  the singing and joyous atmosphere from the main hall of the school.

And as we’d turned the corner into the building, we were completely taken aback.  Walking in to a space which was dimly lit but overflowing with beautiful Ugandan children, the crowd all stood and cheered and stamped their little feet to welcome us for a few minutes!! We are the only white people, and a curiosity! Now I couldn’t walk anywhere as I’d misted up my glasses by this time, and found a couple of stray tears invading and tracking down my face.

Not. Prepared. At. All. 

Our host, Apostle Alex Mitala, has brought us to speak to leaders, pastors and now to kids and a thriving young adult church. A varied trip for us at Leaderscape!

The congregation here is a new church plant made up of ex Good Samaritan orphans, and is their own project. There’s a half finished church building started on the land adjoining this marquee. The ‘roads’ to get here cut through villages of mud houses and slum and squalor that, even after years of working in Asia, sets me back….good job we had 4wheel drives to get here. This is no Fraser Island sand!!

Michael and I are welcomed with much enthusiastic hand clapping and cheering.  And I wonder – how much are we bringing them, in contrast to how much they are teaching us?

My husband steps up to the front to bring a message to the little church, and its congregation leans forward as one, eager to hear, eager to move on what they hear.  He’s ministering now to those plagued by fear. Imagine. Many of these young adults have seen the horrors of African war and present day terrorism, child soldiers and the destruction of a life of abject poverty and misery. There are thousands upon thousands of them, yet still wandering out there in Kampala and other cities and the countryside. This church is just one that needs to influence this next committed and enthusiastic young generation of Christians!

Meanwhile tonight Michael will be speaking to pastors. The leadership of this movement (it’s totally indigenous- little overseas money or influence here) is growing older. The baton needs to be passed. And soon. Unfortunately some of the well-meaning influences from by-gone times have left traits and habits of ‘religion’ and the revering of ‘authority’ and ‘position’. And it shows. The need for a freedom of worship and the disciples of the future to be released to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to this generation is paramount.

Uganda.  just one of the many places where God is doing His thing among a people who are willing to welcome Him into their lives.  Leaderscape hopes to partner with many more of the organisations such as I’ve described today.

Good Samaritan schoolwww.theleaderscape.com

Perhaps we can help them.

I know they can help us.

 

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ANZAC – A BEACH FAR AWAY

MEMORIAL ST VALERY

On the beach at St Valery en Caux, France.
On the beach at St Valery en Caux, France.

ANZAC DAY 2015

A BEACH FAR AWAY

The 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipolli – a national remembrance day for us in Australia.  Though born in England, today I also remember the sacrifice of my own Father in the world war ‘to end all wars’.

In January I visited Saint Valery en Caux in Normandy; a quaint but small provincial French town on the English Channel, beach pebbled and stretching far below ancient chalk and whitened cliffs, whose presence silently dominates a view across calm waters.

“This place bears witness to the history that I have come here to feel, to connect with, to try to understand a little more than I ever have.

           June 1940 and a battle raged here, on the edges of the French coast and between the self-appointed aggressor and the threatened, but I’m here in order to remember, perhaps in some way to shatter the numbness that history hands us as the years are worn through and rubbed out. Those years which often pass into our forgetfulness and become the memories of long ago.

            Young Harry Stokes was aged 27 that mid summer day in June, a rear guard gunner at Dunkirk, now moved with his regiment down the coast to St Valery en Caux and there to be a part of the eventual laying down of arms and total surrender of the 51st Highland Division of Britain’s proud army. As the troops ran low on food and supplies, and ammunition, to fight their foe, defeat swiftly overtook their journey.

            Now, so many decades later and with only some memorial stones and white crossed graves in military columns, bodies lying close and far down in the earth, many remain. Those heroes, those mighty men who, in defending their country, in defenselessness then fell to their enemy. Their hearts and minds stopped then and there on French soil, like a clock resonating its final stroke at midnight. The tick-tocking echoes forth its timeless message to all around in a keeping of the minutes, in a recording of time’s lessons.

            And what are the lessons that we have learned? That ‘the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history” (Dr Desmond Tutu).

            Now the fallen remain, lying in eternal memories. Beautiful, commemorative words and stones on a hill. Looking and presiding far beyond what they ever could in life, immortalized on cliffs overlooking this part of the world, freedom their legacy now. And we remember.

Lest we forget.

WAR GRAVE, St Valery en CauxSo I have come to see and to experience. To hear a heartbeat of one who had an intricacy to him that was mostly not even understandable. Misinterpreted, that heart beat to a different rhythm.

            Who could hear his music? Who could live through the times and be where he was in his mind? Could I now feel his heartbeat? Those feelings of being abandoned and rejected here at a forum created in the wildness of high and impenetrable chalk cliffs, deep blue water and an endless vista of beauty?

            No rescue came as expected. No sense of peace.

What overtook was the most unexplainable cruelty of twisted fate. No hope on this endless blue horizon as he had hoped. No remnant of the kindness of man. Only the years now in which to reflect, solitary and in sadness, captured not only physically but also in his mind.”

A choice now to make the future what it could be, or to settle into a lost or dying hope in justice, that was never to be. Amongst the many millions of the captured, dead and dying, the soldier lost at sea and on land…I come to remember one.

Our world has changed. We have this immediacy of communication on mobile phones and instant video calls to the other side of the world, whenever our hearts desire. There’s an instant gaining of knowledge, information and sharing which overcomes the lack of communication and locking out of exchange. We have an interaction of humans with one another on a scale and with ease never before seen.

There is such a turnaround in the rebuilding of this little town now. In 1940 St Valery was bombed for a solid three days, destroying seventy percent of the place. But rebuild they did. Though we remember and though we revisit, rekindling the thoughts of sadness, abandonment and lack of hope, we cannot stay.

Our journey is our journey, and not that of another. Rebuild we must.

For we must take the abandonment, the anger and the rejection of lives, born in a time of deep world conflict, and bring out of it the lessons of reconciliation.

Jesus came to reconcile. And in that I put my faith.

The world itself has changed little, creating in many parts so much more conflict and the modern stark reality that we, as mankind, do not learn from our history of war. And yet, in order to progress I must learn.

I did not understand him in many ways, this man I call my father, and yet I have now seen the backdrop of disappointment and betrayal that was his lot. I must learn that conflict and error inhibit freedom. I feel closer now that I’m here.

Anger and disturbance can form a decision to change, but if it is allowed reign and dominate the heart it will fester and mould into the ugliness of war. War of the spirit and in the heart, against, if no one else, then at the least myself.

Today, Anzac Day 2015, as I play my music on my headphones and type words on a small but incredibly useful laptop computer which puts me in touch with anyone, anywhere in the world, at almost any time I choose, I muse and write in a freedom which they could never have seen, a world that has changed and grown so very much.

But they fought for this, and gave their own selves and their own future.

The same problem of the human heart remains. Its base will never change. Jesus said once that the “heart of man is wicked”. I believe that His message is all Truth, and is the only thing that can change that troubled, destructive heart.

I may revisit and remember, love, regret and sing and complain against it, but the heart of man still to this day is set against the Truth. It is a rebellion that never is set free, without the changing power of a changed heart.

But a changed heart is possible, achievable, forseeable…..

John 8:12 [Full Chapter] Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
John 8:12 
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.

 

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Midnight in Paris

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

THE BELLS CALL US TO MOURN BUT TO PRAY
THE BELLS CALL US TO MOURN BUT TO PRAY

Paris, January 8th, 2015:

So how does it feel to be on the streets of Paris today with the aftermath of the terrorist attack yesterday in this great and beautiful world city?

We are currently in our hotel room, venturing out for a little food and coffee, wandering a while in the shops, and braving the rain that appears to be soothing the hearts and minds of the everyday Parisienne as they try to resume their daily business.

The incident that has blasted into our otherwise organized and quiet lives in this celebrated and normally bustling city, has resulted in a shock and pall that hangs over us. Ghost-like in its invasion into lives, its fingers chill the heart as we hear the latest news from every TV station.

We came here to celebrate. We were in St Valery en Caux for a couple of days, following in the footsteps of my own father, Harry Stokes, who, along with 10,000 other soldiers, was surrendered and ordered to lay down his arms after a horrific battle in trying to hold off the Nazi army, forever advancing on the land of France with Britain in its sights, following its occupation of Paris.

Again, the French people arose and rebuilt. Decades later the little town of St Valery en Caux is now quaint and appealing. Its Atlantic seagulls wheeled above us there, crying in their traditional style as if to say that life continues after such monstrous fighting and death. It’s the incident that forms the opening of my book, “Dancing With My Daddy”, and it was a life journey for me.

And then we drove into Paris at the height of the drama, watching and wondering as we heard sirens and saw a police presence that we assumed must be normal here.

 But Paris has become anything but normal in the last 24 hours.

Today, the average French citizen deserves our prayers and our thoughts, as we together continue to battle on many fronts the attack of an enemy that often strikes the innocent and the outspoken from the rank and file of our society. They grab this notoriety and ‘fame’ in a mindless bid to bring down others who may not agree with their ideals and the way they think, seemingly curbing the freedom of those whom they view as different, as infidels. But they are the tools of an even greater threat.

My heart today goes out to the average Mama and Papa out on the streets of this city, walking through the drizzling rain and, in this area particularly, being affected emotionally by the tolling bells of Notre Dame Cathedral. They are calling a city to mourning for the lost. We can see the cathedral from our hotel room, opening the windows often to let in fresh air and the sound of the bells. It refreshes, but its stirs the heart.

Not just the loss of life. The loss of freedom, equality, and all things that have been declared for hundreds of years in this great and embracive nation that stands for freedom of speech and thought. France.

We from Sydney are still raw from our own experience of the violence that curbs freedom and brings death and destruction to families, real people in a real and reeling world.

Can we no longer be allowed to speak out in the name of freedom?  Must we now pull in our words and nervously guard our opinions, rather than, like Voltaire, declaring that:

“I may not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it?”

It’s a wake up call for us all. Times have changed. The enemy of love is gaining attention and that headline that we all dread in our own cities is being broadcast. Emblazoned and immortalized in moments with technicolour-beamings which instantly are available to anyone who cares to watch, we hunger for the latest input from those who want to force-feed us on the very latest, and then we watch it all again on repeat.

And CNN says to us:

“So…what is the future?” – talking about satire, journalism, freedom of writing for us all.

But surely the question is not one of uncertainty, but an investment of our future as individuals in the Truth. Its not writings, cartoons or journalism that is being threatened. It’s perhaps not in the attack, but in the defence of our own souls from degenerating and playing into the enemy’s hands….in fact, this attack on humanity itself has not differed except in its presentation.

What ever is the answer, we ask ourselves?

There is only One. It is Love itself.

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The magic of Christmas

 

Does anyone do a Christmas Parade better than Disney?

Though we were standing in a ‘desert’ land, Los Angeles, and even if it was a little chilly, we weren’t quite ready for what we were to experience.

The ‘heavens’ opened and we starting to be showered with tiny white snowflakes that fluttered gently down over the whole of Main Street, Disneyland….and, you won’t believe it, the flakes filled the air with the familiar, memory-evoking fragrance of spiced cookies!

And then came the fireworks, flashing over Snow White’s Castle, the occasional shooting star coming out of nowhere and streaming across the night canvas, making us wish we could just stay here forever. Genius!  (Here I would insert the words :Ohhh Emmm Geee, but I would receive an outcry from certain relatives and descendants were I to do that, so I won’t.) 

DISNEY Christmas Fireworks

Had I EVER seen such a magnificent display of light and music and beauty all in one? Rare, I tell you!  Even the legendary show of Sydney Harbour on a New Year’s Eve was not a match for this,(argh! Sacrilege!) I think it was the skilled and experienced marriage of music and memory in a masterful stroke which now brought corporate reflection, its inspiration literally thrilling the crowd.  We stood, transfixed.  And we reminded ourselves to remember this Disney miracle!

I sat down to spend some time with the Saviour this morning, in a quiet house of Sleeping Beauties (I’m staying at my daughter’s LA apartment and of course this is an hour on a Saturday when no man or woman should be up and roaming the streets, after all it’s only 9am). Not even a mouse was stirring.  (Sorry, a Christmas metaphor. We don’t have mice.)

And there….Lo and Behold (to use some fine Christmas language…)  There, in my trusty devotional from the legendary Billy Graham, was written the reason for my focus and subsequent elated response to the Presence of Jesus, which was now so, well… palpable. Yep, could actually feel it…

His presence.  With me.  On a quiet Saturday morning. No fireworks. No pretty, smelly snowflakes.  Just me.  And Him.

“God – you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, travelling across dry and weary deserts. So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last!”

(Ps 63:1-4)

And I thought….although I was moved to my bootstraps (sorry, my sandal straps) last night at Disneyland, and though I felt like I could fly like a Tinkerbell given a couple of lessons, or soar like Peter (Pan, not Cephas) because I felt so high and free….it was a release of emotion and memory and all the things that Disney is so very clever at bringing out in me.  It wasn’t until this morning when I sat and read Truth in the Bible that I realised something.

Emotion, feeling, happiness and great memory can all give me a lovely feeling that washes over me in touchy-feely loveliness, and that’s just great…..But it really is Truth that brings my spirit into play with my soul. That’s the eternal part of me. 

Lovely and inspirational as it is, it is simply not the Eternal Message of Christmas itself …  

Imagine, if you will, poorly clothed and under-educated men called shepherds, diligently minding a ragtag bunch of animals on the side of a Judean Hill in the First Century….The sky fills with supernatural beings who chorus in songs that have such a Heavenly lilt and pitch to them that it is clearly out of this world. And lights – more stars and light than they have ever ever seen, bringing to the unpretentious hearts of down-to-earth men the most brilliant Hope. Their hearts sink and soar at once, and they feel the whole ball and dice of emotion in a second. And Heaven’s glow washes them, inspires them and scares them out of their wits…all at the same time, as it comes to earth in a blaze of Glory.

Now that’s something, don’t you think?

Not that Disney is not. Something, I mean.  And I sincerely thank you, Walt, for inspiring and leading a movement (struggled with that word, but surely Disney is not just a ‘company’) that encourages people to ‘believe again’.  We honour you and thank you. Don’t want to denigrate what you’re doing to inspire yet again a generation.  You’re brilliant!

But let’s not think it’s a match for what has already visited our planet.  It’s not to be compared with what continues to be celebrated across the nations and peoples of our world every year at this time.  It’s not to be substituted for the Christmas Story that comes to us from long ago, remaining as an inspiration for all who will turn and take a look…

It won’t smell of spiced cookies, but it will change you. The lights won’t be manufactured, but will be a reflection of the Heavenly Host that was created so long ago. The sound will be from the heart of One who cares for you alone, even on a quiet Saturday morning in your lonely house. Because, He cares.  Deeply.

Love the Disney experience!   But, if you will, embrace the Jesus story. Find out about His heart for you that is Forever. Remember, there is a Story that is everlasting, ‘magical’ and amazing…we hear about it each Christmas, but it’s real and it’s ready to bring Heaven to us on Earth. Can you hear it?

SHEPHERDS

 

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The Prize

Saturday. In my beautiful Sydney.

photo credit: Landahlauts via photopin cc
photo credit: Landahlauts via photopin cc

Walking into the New South Wales Art Gallery always makes me stand a little straighter, conjures up the feeling of being perhaps a little more intellectual, a tad more educated, cultured perhaps…than if I were walking into a department store at lunch hour.

No different today.  In fact, I’m here at the Archibald Prize Exhibition with my daughter and her husband, on their last week in Sydney before relocating to London, UK, for a while, the home of dignified culture.  (My opinion, but then, I’m English).

And as I walk in and try to decide which painting will take first dibs on my attention and admiration, I come across a dear lady shaking her head and confessing to the airspace…

“Shouldn’t be here”...Curious, I think…and, feeling a little like Alice, I quickly shoot back at her

“What?”

And I find out that she has become quite distressed over one of the paintings that doesn’t necessarily , in her mind anyway, fit the criteria of the “Archibald Prize” that we have come to peruse.  Why? Because it’s a portrait of a child, dressed, wide eyed and imaginative, in a Super Man costume. It’s creative.  It’s striking.  It’s gorgeous!

Bewildered, I find myself smiling back at her and saying,

“oh yes it does fit the criteria….” (apparently the subject of the portrait must be a politician or some kind of a famous person)

“he’s a superhero”.

Art.  It provokes all sorts of funny reactions, don’t you think? And whether my dear and critical friend understands it or not, she has just illustrated the very thing that is annoying about , I guess, the critical nature with which we often approach art.

Boundaries.

medium_10902602753

WE must put them on everything…when creativity in and of itself is boundary-less.

I’m one who enjoys a good exhibition.  But I also have to be left alone to have my own opinions.  Because it seems that art is a spiritual thing.  Creativity in motion.  A little like music in its way.  And I so admire anyone who can paint and draw and put down on paper how their spirit is feeling at a particular moment in time. Portraits painted and capturing a moment in time….flavoured somehow with the personality of their creator.  No two different artists able to create the same piece, evoke the same emotion out of the viewer. Again, my opinion.

Anyway, it’s personal.

I think that it’s similar with our relationship with Jesus.  It’s often that we don’t ‘fit’ the criteria that the opinions and boundaries of others have us live within, which brings judgement and pain upon us.  Like…being a “neat freak” about our spiritual life.  You know, “everything has a place and everything in its place..”. I don’t think that God is like that. You just can’t contain Him, put Him in a neat, tidy box, and do up the bow.  He’s going to rip out of that thing some time soon, and blow your mind.

And then the opposite.  Those who really have to proclaim that simply everything that happens has a spiritual root.  Even Jesus would have trouble with that, I think.  Because there are certain rules of the Universe that God has set in play, and they go on without any tweaking and even I cannot stop them midstream…it’s natural.

But then there’s the unpredictable.  It’s a phenomenon to us, but just another miracle, another day, another creative thing for God.  Like…when he changes me from the inside out, so that I am unrecognisable.  And it’s good.  And it’s noticeable that something’s happened that has changed my colour, the shape of my character, my outlook on life.

I don’t think there’s any place for boundaries in God. And I don’t mean to play a 60’s mantra…“let it all hang out, people”… But I do mean to encourage you and me to take a step back, survey what’s portrayed before us, and appreciate its beauty or its power for what it is.  And for what it does to us in the moment. The piece that brings peace. A solitary second or two in His Presence can change…everything.

I guess it’s a bit like “art” – the beauty of God is indisputable, and unending…but it really is ‘In the eye of the beholder”. What I love about my spiritual life is that He constantly surprises, continually stimulates my imagination, and causes me to never second-guess Him….because He has His own way of making the masterpiece.

photo credit: One Way Stock via photopin cc
photo credit: One Way Stock via photopin cc

But here’s the twist….the masterpiece is me.  

And I’m never finished. 

Psalm 8: (NIV)

“When I consider your heavens,  the work of your fingers, the moon and stars,which you have set in place,  what is man that you are mindful of him,the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. …

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

 

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