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.

 

Family Eastering – Stone

Simply making more of DIY resurrection eggs.

Day 11: Stone – nothing can stop Him

stone

Verse: John 20 v 1

On Sunday morning while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

Activity:

Look for really heavy things around the house – couch, table, tree… try to move these. Use different strategies. Now use the largest family member to guard these whilst the smallest family member tries to get to them and move them.

Reflection:

There were people worried that Jesus’ disciples would try to steal his dead body so they placed not just an enormous rock that would be impossible to move, but they also placed 2 very big scary guards outside the tomb/cave entrance as well. But! When Jesus rose from the dead there was nothing that could stop him – not a huge rock, not 2 big scary guards. It is just the same for us – sometimes we can think that God is far away or what we have done is too terrible to be forgiven or to tell someone. But nothing can get in the way of God’s love for us – no terrible sin, no scary thoughts, no faraway place. Jesus defeated death – there is nothing too big for him to deal with.

Today you could also do the Easter Meringues recipe in preparation for tomorrow. If you would like to do something extra. (You will need a hollow chocolate egg or blown usual egg for tomorrow).

Prayer:

Thank you for your power Jesus, power that raised you from the dead, power that defeated death, power that sets me free from sin. Help me to believe and call on you when I need your help.

May we all come with fresh eyes to the story we know so well, may we let the truths soak deep down and take root, and may these truths breathe life into our daily comings and goings.

These reflections are not exhaustive they are simply a way to add extra thoughtfulness to your Easter celebrations. I hope they bless you dear families. x

Family Eastering – the Cross

Simply making more of DIY resurrection eggs.

Six: The Cross – The Exchange

cross

Verse: John 19v17

And he carried his cross to a place known as “The Skull.” In Aramaic this place is called “Golgotha.”

Activity:

Make a simple cross using strips of paper or harakeke (flax) or bendable card. There are some good instructions for a simple one here. Talk about what the cross was and answer any questions that your children want to ask about the cross.

Reflection:

A cross is made from wood and comes of course from a tree. The tree is a very important symbol or picture in the Bible. It stands for life as well as death. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve decided to take something from a tree that wasn’t theirs. The power of sin ended when Jesus took something that wasn’t his, our sins, and put them back on a tree by dying on a cross. Adam and Eve chose to be disobedient and do something bad, Jesus chose to be obedient for us.

Prayer:

Thank you Jesus that you took the blame and punishment for my sin even though it wasn’t yours. Help me to bring you all my problems because I know you care about everything.

Friday two: For letting go

Continuing my Friday blessing series. (2 counts as a series doesn’t it?)

A prayer/blessing for letting go

May you have the courage to recognise the patterns that limit you

May you have bravery to name the fears that keep you being less than you are called to be

May you have friends who love you as you lay down your burdens

May you know what it is to be loved regardless of your unloveliness

and may you know the joy of finding new and open spaces where old habits and fears once lived.

friday 2 letting go

In order to make room in our loves for new things – new challenges, new life, new creativity – we must find the courage to let go of the walls and ways of being that hold us captive in living our old life.

May we all walk bravely toward the One who calls us to be new creations. May we find new growth where once we saw barrenness.

Isaiah 54

“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
    I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
    your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
 All your children will be taught by the Lord,
    and great will be their peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
    you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
    it will not come near you.

Adrian Plass – I am a fangirl

If I had a list of the people I’d like to be Adrian Plass would be one of them. So, I know he’s a guy, that’s quite a bit older than me, and has a beard!, but stick with me here.

The thing I love about Adrian Plass is that he manages to treat himself with such humility, the church with reverence, irreverence and total hilarity all in one sentence, but in all he writes there are these bold and gentle echoes of grace. That is a skill I so admire.

adrian plass

His book ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 and 3/4’ (which is my current age, weird!) is the first book I ever read that made me really laugh out loud. So much laughing that I actually couldn’t recount it to others without laugh-crying. It’s the book I buy every time I find it in an op-shop just so I can ‘lend’ it to people without having to worry I might not get it back.

I include an excerpt here:

Friday 27th December

Went to Unity Hall tonight to hear ‘Bad News for the Devil’ practising. [His son’s ‘band]. When I got there, stood outside for a moment listening to a noise that sounded like a piano falling down a lift-shaft with someone trapped under the lid.

Turned out to be a number called ‘Peace Will Come’.

Anyone else have ‘youth band’ flashbacks??.

If your heart is weary for a good, deep belly laugh then I can so recommend this book or any of his sacred diary series.

I think it’s important, amongst the taking serious of our journey, that we can laugh at ourselves. So much science supports the benefits of laughter but I still go back time and again to those ancient words:

‘a merry heart doeth good like a medicine’

Today maybe you need a reminder that laughter is also a gift from God. That laughter is good for you.

That bubbling up and over laughter might just be a kiss from heaven to you today.

If your heart is heavy or if it all just feels too much to carry today I’d love to lend you my copy of this wonderful book – not that I can clearly – but if you need a laugh and some good doses of gentle grace get your hands on a copy.

*on the subject of wanting to be compared to a man…. I’ve spent my whole life being told by anyone who met my dad that I ‘look exactly like him’. Literally, he will walk into a place I work, where no one has met him, and someone will say, ‘Hey Miriam your Dad is here. You two look exactly the same’. What’s a girl to do with that???

Which is not exactly a compliment no matter how attractive my gay drama teacher told me he was. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, looking exactly like a man 20+ years older than me whose been rocking a beard since way before the hipsters made them cool again isn’t exactly the look I’m going for… I digress.

Be blessed today and feel free to not take yourself (or me) too seriously. And, if at all possible get into the company of a person, book, show… whatever that will make you laugh until your sides ache – that is a gift from God for your heart. xxx

 

 

Living in Tension – Satisfied/Dissatisfied

Sometimes it can be difficult living in the centre of what appears to be a contradiction or at least a very tight tension.

But I feel like as Christians we cannot avoid that tension. We have to make peace with it – in more than one way.

Today I’m ruminating about what it is to feel fully satisfied and filled with longing at the same time.

Because there is a rumbling discontent within in me – the discontent of not being there yet, of observing the depths of my brokenness and feeling overcome by the broken falleness of the world and its inhabitants. I long for more – to reach further, jump higher (metaphorically speaking obviously!), go deeper, be more. I live with this dissatisfaction like a scratchy jumper that feels too tight at the collar and too short in the arms. Ever present.

Biblical writers use terms like – the whole of creation is groaning and subject to frustration, knowing I have not yet fully attained I press on, what a wretched man am I…perplexed, hard-pressed…

But deeper than that I am satisfied, so satisfied. There is a vein of contentment that runs like gold deep through the bedrock of my life. That vein that holds peace when the jumper itches. Because the One is enough and in Him I am enough. What I have or do not have, in the midst of the storm, as I pass through the fire. All of it is surface, because at the deepest level I am found in Him.

phil 4

Even typing the words I understand how they don’t make sense that I can be so filled with longing while at the same time deeply contented – but that is the centre of the tension that holds me.

We use this term in churches sometimes about the ‘now but not yet‘ kingdom. Like a black sheet stretched out in front of a powerful light. There are pinpricks and sometimes even tears in the sheet that let in the light. We know the light is there, we know there is more to it than we experience now, we have these glimpses and experiences of that light that change everything, and we know that one day we will experience all of it.

Now we see in a mirror dimly but then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.

 

1tim6

It’s okay to live with tension. It’s okay to wonder and question and not understand and grasp but then lose we are no worse than those who have gone before and when all else fails I fall to the profound but confusing words of  the father who says to Jesus – I do believe, help me with my unbelief.

Whatever tension you find yourself in today may you discover beneath the surface a deeper contentment that cannot be snatched away. xx

Changing my Metaphor

fire

The blare of sirens broke the lunchtime crowds and noise of the city streets as two engines flew full force to a building whose alarm echoed back a similar refrain. I thought of those firefighters inside the vehicle, uniforms on, skills honed, attention sharpened, ready.

Standing on the ground of a country and state prone to devastating, unforgiving, literally all-consuming fires, these firefighters are truly courageous.

It seems the fantasy of the firefighter as a child is more about the truck, the power, the idea of being a hero but it contrasts with the reality.

The firefighter is a self-sacrificer. In a culture that feeds self-addiction and preaches a me-first mentality the firefighter offers us a picture we don’t often see. The idea of entering a building with the express purpose of saving a life at the risk of your own.

How often do we wish ill on a person who cuts us off in traffic? How often to we blame and shame and mutter judgements about strangers under our breath? In the firefighter we see a person going into an inferno for the sake of a stranger. They do not stop to question if that person is a good person, if they’ve paid their taxes, sponsored children in third world countries, whether they are kind to their spouse, what their driving record is like… they enter an intensely uncomfortable situation in order to save.

Then they stay around to ensure no-one else is damaged in the aftermath. They contain the destruction and devastation. They redeem what can be redeemed.

So often our concept of God is the law enforcer – the one who is watching to see if we get it wrong, the one who is ready to judge us – fine us, berate us, imprison us. We’ve got so obsessed with the idea of being indignant about, condemned by, and defensive of judgement that we’ve missed the point.

Jesus says – I didn’t come to judge the world but to save it.

john 3

Jesus enters an intensely uncomfortable situation in order to save us.

Yes, there is judgement and justice but

we have made God the law enforcer hiding in the shadows of the street ready to jump out and write us a ticket like he has some cosmic ‘ticket target’ to reach.

In Jesus we see a firefighter.

One who entered the inferno, whose flesh was seared, whose body still carries the scars of self-sacrifice.

We see the One who raced into the building to rescue us when we were helpless to rescue ourselves.

Like a child who played with matches in an oily garage we are consumed by a blaze of our own making that will destroy us…. yet, at extreme cost to himself, Jesus entered.

The redeemer came in.

He bore the brunt.

He retrieved us, by his own selfless love.

In Jesus we see the ultimate, comprehensible (in human terms), picture of the character of God…

And what do we see?

The law enforcer or the firefighter?

Jesus holds out the scars of redemption to Thomas and invites him to touch.

The rescue mission cost God. It is writ large on The resurrected body.

As Timothy Keller puts it, Jesus lost his friendship with the Father in order for us to have that friendship.

The heart of the trinity torn to invite us in.

So next time you feel condemned and your heart sings that awful childhood Sunday school song ‘be careful little eyes what you see’, (Which always felt like some kind of passive aggressive warning to me, be good or you’ll get fried – it probably wasn’t meant that way, but such is the interpretation of this child!) stop and change your metaphor from law-enforcer to firefighter.

And when your heart no longer carries the awe and wonder of the cost of your redemption stop again to survey the scars that tell the picture of something that cost everything and more.

cost

We are rescued by love, Love which became fully torn apart in order for us to be fully restored and included.

We are bought at a price.

** as an aside

It’s tempting to always be talking about God using the masculine pronoun, it’s not always helpful for us to stick too long in one semantic pattern when it’s not actually an accurate reflection of the character and nature of the One we speak of.

Our language and understanding is limited.

It’s the same with metaphor. Ultimately metaphor should help us to grasp an aspect, it should add nuance and layers to reveal more and different characteristics. No metaphor is a complete description or a total depiction but they are helpful for us as we seek to extend our understanding.

Our language and understanding is limited.

Our limits do not lessen the Love that is lavished on us, that we should be called the friends of God.

Today may you know what it is to be loved – wide, deep, high, limitless – because you are, because I am, because we are.

 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus, John 15

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5

The Tedium We Have to Do

So I’m sitting here stuffing an abandoned Mother&Son holiday project. The one I was sewing and he was stuffing, until he realised how tedious the stuffing process is.

It’s 34 degrees and I’m breaking out into a sweat just trying to push stuff into the guts of a particularly ‘home-made’ looking cat. It’s strange how, in the most mundane, when things are at their least attractive and most ordinary that we can realise truth.

Because, doing the battle, being glorious and victorious and wonderful… that’s the few moments that follow the hundreds of moments of doing the small, boring, tedious things that make us ready for the big moments.

cat

David – king, composer, leader of armies… he did a lot of time out in a paddock with sheep who, in my limited experience, don’t give a rats about who you are. They will still be stubborn, skittish and downright stupid. He wasn’t born into favour, he wasn’t an overnight success. There was a lot of ‘being faithful in the small‘ before there was any ‘this is your life’ glamour.

Ruth, in the line of Jesus, married to the most eligible of bachelors, she did a whole lot of journey, grieving, choosing her mother-in-law over what was familiar, cultural alienation, judgement, disapproval… all of that. All of that invitation to do the boring, hard, one shuffle at a time, sleep in a field, follow around other people picking up left-overs and act grateful – ness.

Because it’s what we feed ourselves with before the red-carpet event that determines how we will look in our dress in the spotlight when our moment finally comes.

If we want to be a writer – there is much writing unseen, much editing, much drafting and re-drafting and receiving of feedback before we are even ready for the publisher to reject it. The book we read, all shiny on the bookshop shelf, is a result of hundreds of unseen, boring to the point of collapse, missing out, track-pant wearing (ugh…must there be trackies??)…The writer does the tedious work.

The artist does the tedious work

The chef does the tedious work (and then works the most anti-social hours ever, and in the heat and noise and all the cleaning up – why people why?? – chefs are amazing, good food yes please)

So if I say that my passion is the One. If I think that I want to make a life of speaking, or writing, or teaching others then I need to do the tedious work of stuffing in all that I need. I need to feed my body – the whole thing –  to make it firm, to make it ready for the journey, to make sure that when that door does open I am not found naked and unready.

Let’s say that I meet a publisher who’s prepared to look at my manuscripts (which is like gold in the field of writing)… won’t it be to my shame if I have spent years saying how I want to be a writer and when the opportunity comes I don’t have anything to show them. Or what I have to show them is scrappy hurriedly done work, without the drafting, redrafting, refining…. I will miss out.

So as I sit here – stuffing a strange-looking cat toy, sweating and bored I am reminded that the work of the brilliant also includes boring behind the scenes work. It includes heart breaks, disappointments, getting back ups, trying agains, faithfully plugging away when no-one sees except the sheep and the other field workers – both of whom probably regard you as a nuisance.

character

Don’t let’s fool ourselves into believing the lie of the overnight success.

Don’t let’s excuse ourselves from the work that is before us.

Don’t let’s believe that anyone has it all easy and doesn’t have to discipline themselves for the prize they want.

In His kingdom being trustworthy with the small unseen things is seen as an insight into our character and an indication of how we will cope on the big screen. Little things reveal big things about us.

Holy Spirit would you walk with us in the tedious places where we have to choose the hard over the path of least resistance? Would you give us vision and passion that carries us through the difficult places? Would you walk with us Jesus and would we follow your example of waiting, listening, praying, and learning in order to be bearers of much fruit? Father, when we are stuck out in the fields and we are tempted to believe that it doesn’t matter and no-one will ever notice, would you remind us in love and in challenge that you notice, and that we matter to you no matter how hidden we feel?

Reminding myself today to be faithful in the small, the tedious and the necessary in order to be ready for the exceptional, the exciting and the beautiful.

Galatians 6v9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.