The Table of Hope

This past week been I was asked to lead communion. During the week I decided I would write a poem… As I wrote I looked at this moving piece of art by Joey Velasco.

Writing is a re-emerging creative place for me, something that is shifting in its style and subject matter and I am trying to let it shift me, not to over-analyse or hold too tight a reign on it.

I share it here.

rose stained glass

Table of Hope

We come sometimes to the communion table, head bowed.

Ashamed.

 

Certain that every other saint in the room has lived a good life this week,

has spent time in prayer,

has behaved in holy ways.

 

We creep to the table like a starving, homeless child

Certain that we could not be welcomed

 

We come to the table aware of our own shortcomings,

Entirely unsure that we could have the courage to look Jesus in the eye as he says,

This is my body broken for you

This is my blood poured out for you

 

We are quite aware that our sin is vast

That we require rescuing

 

What we forget, is that the communion table beckons us to a wider table

A longer table

A table lavishly set for feasting.

 

This communion table is a table of Hope

An invitation

A portal into a life lived in lavish communion,

In wild feasting

With the one who made the table

 

Our saviour is a carpenter too –

Sometimes I think of him making chairs of every shape and size

And engraving our names,

my name

your name

on the back of one

 

The table we come to this morning is vast

It stretches out through space and time

Across geography

This eternal table

Invites us to a love that is impossibly wide

As is the love of God

 

A love we cannot measure

A love we cannot fathom

 

A love that directs us to a table of feasting

Where there is a chair with our name on it.

 

Let us come to this table reminded of the invitation extended to us all

To be loved with the

Vast

Wide

Never-ending

Love of Jesus.

 

Be blessed dear friends xxx

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Justifying Ourselves

Today I’ve been listening to the song of Valjean from the musical Les Miserables. I’ve felt incredibly challenged by the lyrics and how easily they challenge self-justification.

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You can listen to it here.

Here are the lyrics:

He thinks that man is me
He knew him at a glance!
That stranger he has found
This man could be my chance!
 
Why should I save his hide?
Why should I right this wrong
When I have come so far
And struggled for so long?
 
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!
 
I am the master of hundreds of workers.
They all look to me.
Can I abandon them?
How would they live
If I am not free?
 
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!
 
Who am I?
Can I condemn this man to slavery
Pretend I do not see his agony
This innocent who bears my face
Who goes to judgement in my place
Who am I?
Can I conceal myself forevermore?
Pretend I’m not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?
Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on
 
[He appears in front of the court]
 
Who am I? Who am I?
I am Jean Valjean!
 
[He unbuttons his shirt to reveal the number tattooed to his chest]
 
And so Javert, you see it’s true
That man bears no more guilt than you!
Who am I?
24601!
Valjean is suddenly presented with this wonderful opportunity to be truly free. A life no longer pursued by Javert. How easy it would be for him to think, ‘oh great. God has seen my hard work and he’s freeing me.’
But the one who knows God, who knows redemption and forgiveness must deeply know that our freedom is never at the expense of another.
Paul and Silas knew this in the dark of a prison cell, beaten and put in stocks – that earthquake that loosen their shackles seemed like a freedom gift from heaven.
But their freedom in this instance would have cost the jailer his life.
We want to think we are more important, the rules don’t really apply to us the way they apply to everyone else, our rights are worth defending at all costs. It is so easy to justify ourselves, to think about what we are doing and why it is so good/right/justified.
Slavery, racism, division, oppression…. these things cannot belong to the person who truly knows that every life is of equal value.
It’s easy for Valjean to justify this circumstance – he is a factory owner, the mayor, people rely on him – he has campaigned to be a light in his community. He is making a difference. This other person is probably poor and has no power or title.
Justice comes at a price.
We can live free but it will cost us – it might cost us financially missing out because we’re not prepared to compromise on things that come at the expense of others or dishonest business practice, it might cost us friendships, it might mean we are marginalised with the marginalised…
Yet in this story we also see the bright light of redemption. Because we have an

This innocent who bears my face
Who goes to judgement in my place
The truth is that we are condemned, we are broken, we have damaged others, we have been complicit in silence or in action and we deserve the sentence.
But Jesus.
The innocent who bears our face – whose full humanity allowed him to go to judgement in our place.
And so we are faced with the great irony
But the one who knows God, who knows redemption and forgiveness must deeply know that our freedom is never at the expense of another.
because
our redemption and forgiveness has come at the expense of another
May we all have courage to confront our own desires to justify the behaviours in us that come at the expense of others. Maybe it’s the way we purchase (ouch), the way we make friends with some people and leave others out (ouch) maybe it’s the protective boundaries we put around ourselves, our families, our communities to keep ourselves in and ‘others’ out (ouch).
As I say, these are things that challenge me deeply. As a dear friend puts it, ‘I am a hypocrite in transition.’
Do we have the courage to not allow our freedoms, our comfort to be at the expense of others?
May we know what it is to have been loved so deeply that an innocent went to judgement in our place, and may we see that value in every other.
May we be brave and may we be agents of justice and freedom.
x

Being undone

It feels like it’s been forever, but that’s okay the journey is not measured in how often we spill our beans it’s measured in the daily living – sometimes a triumph and other times a disaster.

Today this quote undid me:
“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” ― Gregory J. Boyle
 
It’s so easy to be a judger, to find that unintentionally even, we see an issue and not an individual, we look through lenses of fear and make distance our safety net.
 
Gardeners have to get close enough to the dirt to plant seeds that will spring into life.
 
Maybe if we’d look to see individuals and draw closer rather than back away we might be over-awed by the courage, grace, tenacity and grit that is required every.single.day just to live in their shoes.
 
It’s easy to forget those sobering words
‘with the measure you judge, you will be judged’ – Matt 7v2
May we all tread lightly in judgement and extravagantly in loving kindness.
Be loved and be loving, wherever you are today xxx

Truly Known

I arrived at the grounds before the boy. He and his friends were walking together from school and I stood on the far side of the grass breathing in the crisp air of autumn, soaking in its rich hues.

A gravel path lead them to the corner – boys in uniform of similar size and looks. With the sun and the distance I wasn’t sure I’d be confident when he emerged on this common pathway.

And then I saw him… smaller than my little finger in the distance and I knew it was him. Absolutely knew it, the kind of knowing that comes from 10 years of watching in the closest spaces to the furthest distance eyes can reach.

An eye trained from years of watching rather than looking.

The stride, gesture of arm, turn of body, incline of head – so deeply rooted in my knowing that I know them without realising I do.

beachboys4

In that moment I heard that whisper, so clear it could have been a shout, this is the knowing I mean when I talk about the hairs of your head.

This is the knowing that says, before a word is on your tongue I know it completely.

Not a knowing of facts for shows of intelligence or power. A knowing that comes from watching a person you love so much that you drink them in, all of them. A knowing that goes beyond a general description to a knowledge of a person you carry in your bones, in your ears, eyes, taste, nose, touch.

Knowing that begins to demonstrate a measure of how much you love a person.

Not knowledge to prove your love, like favourite flowers or songs. Knowledge that is simply there because you couldn’t not have it. Because you have noticed, you have loved, you have seen – closer than skin and across the assembly hall into a squinted distance.

Let us be reminded today that we are known.

sambeach

Truly known – not as a show of omnipotence or omniscience but knowledge that comes from being so dearly loved that we are instantly and totally recognised – every part known, every part loved, precious up close and far away.

As Paul put it, ‘dearly loved.’

I watched this boy across the field as he grew large, he unaware of my presence, my joyful, heart-swell at the all familiar shape of him. I recognised him, loved him and delighted in the thought of him looking up and seeing me watching him. I held my breath for that moment when our eyes saw each other and he knew I was there.

I would be there before he realised it, and I would continue to watch after he turned to play again.

vignette

I would be knowing him whether he was aware of it or not.

Do you remember dear heart that you are known? Not a flashy impressive I can tell you facts and surprise you knowing, a knowing that comes from Someone who has watched, noticed, seen you… always.

The Tiring Work of Restoration

Over five years ago the city where we live was taken beyond broken with earthquakes, one especially.

Recently I was driving down a road that is still in need of repair and I felt myself sighing inwardly, anticipating the months of cones and detours and single lanes and 30km p/hr signage. In that moment I said to myself, ‘I wish they’d just leave off the repairs and let us drive on it bumpy.’ Despite the innate joy I get driving down a perfectly smooth and sealed road (and there are some) I just couldn’t hold onto the vision for that end.

All I could see were the difficulties in the process of getting there.

cones1

At that moment I knew this was such a picture of God’s restoration work in my life too. Restoration work isn’t pretty. It’s time consuming, it derails and detours pathways you driven on for a long time. It forces you to negotiate new ways of getting to familiar places.

Restoration involves acknowledging the fact that small surface issues actually point to much deeper problems underneath. The odd pothole that sends me careening off into an angry outburst is evidence of something weak and failing beneath the surface.

Maybe I can drive carefully and avoid exposing the bumps on the road but is that really what I want to be long term? A busted up just functioning, ‘drive carefully around’ person? Even though I long for a perfect road I don’t long for the work to get it done.

I think this work needs time, it needs openness, it needs acknowledging that I might need to rethink how I’m travelling. It will need grace from the people who love me and I will need to trust a great deal in the Master of restoration.

There’s a beautiful quote I often come back to that says, ‘Grace loves us as it finds us, but it doesn’t leave us there.’

2 Corinthians 3 describes it this way,

They suddenly recognise that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognised as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Maybe there are back roads, or main roads, or even highways in your life today that need the tiring work of restoration begun on them.

Perhaps there are roads that have been cleared and closed ready for work to begin, but it’s been easier to turn away and drive on different places than deal with the tough and painful process of the work.

Maybe it feels like you’ve been on road cones and detours for ever and you just need to hear the words – not long now, nearly there.

Wherever you are right now may you have courage to bear the pain, strength to persevere, Hope and Trust that the future will be worth the current delays.

May you have all the grace you need today.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Darling mamas today I am sending you love and thanks for the role you have in the lives of children.

Sam & Wil 3

For the unseen longings,

for the silent tears,

for the midnight wakings,

for the joys and wonders of motherhood.

May we each of us receive grace for the journey – a deep reassurance that there are many types of wonderful mothers.

This is my prayer for you today.

For more of my mother’s day musings this is something I wrote for Esther & Friends recently. (This is for all women, not just mamas x).

All the love

xxx

 

You Can Buy a Hard Copy of My Book

Holla,

Recently I decided to take the plunge and get an ISBN and do a physical print run of my book. Because the book is for children and families it just makes so much more sense for it to be a proper physical book (in my mind).

**For those bookish types, in NZ you can get an ISBN number without cost but you have to provide the national library with 2 copies of your book – one for the archives and one for loaning. Which I love the idea of.

This is of course a bit of a risk – when you decide to publish a book yourself you pay all the cost of the book at the front end with no guarantees that you will break even at the other end. Writing this book was never a money-making venture of me (tbh, most authors, whatever route they are published don’t make a lot from it), but I would love to break even.

example of a page – there are 24 like this

I decided to get my book published locally – about 5 minutes down the road. I know it would have been much cheaper for me to get it done off shore but, as much as I can, its nice to support local people in local jobs and also the thought of trying to do this kind of thing by distance does not excite me.

I also decided to get my book published on the very best paper I could get – 100% recycled, at the highest of international standards and bleach and chlorine free. This felt like the right thing to do too – even though it made it a little bit more expensive for me.

So now 100 copies of my little Advent book are printed! Which feels like a big number to sell but hopefully kind of realistic.

Of course I’m aware we’re not even at June yet, but if you like to get things like this sorted early (or you need a whole year to get through the activities – which I completely understand!) you can get yours now.

You can read more about my book here
and you can also read reviews of the book here

Because I want to live hands open I would like to give away the first copy of this book (I can sign it if you like). I am happy to post this anywhere in the world. If you’d like to win a copy just comment here, on my other blog http://createhopeinspire.blogspot.com or on my facebook writer’s(!) page.

If you would like to buy a copy of my book, (yay!), it is $25 plus p+p. If you live in Christchurch I may well be able to drop you off your copy – or we could have a coffee??!

In NZ I can post this out in an A4 prepaid envelope so the total cost will be $27.90. At this stage copies can only be purchased from me. Because the mark up is so low it is unlikely at the moment that it will be sold through shops but I’ll let you know if that changes at all.

If you live somewhere else and want to purchase a copy/copies please let me know and I will calculate postage and let you know.

You can still buy the kindle copy via amazon which will only set you back about the cost of a coffee if you still want one but your budget won’t stretch to a hard copy.

I think that’s all for now. So….um…. you want to buy a copy of my book?