A new sport?

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We found a new sport on the weekend – to play it you need good planning, a team strategy and determination – sharp elbows also help. The sport is called ‘House Clearance Sales’. You arrive 15 minutes before the sale starts, having briefed your team as to what to go for. The more on your team the better it seems. Each person is given a number and then we wait as random numbers are drawn – once your number is called you have to elbow your way into the house through the crowd. This is why the more on your team the better – you need to appoint a chief buyer. By being a big team you get more numbers and the more chances your number will be called early on – pass the first matching number to chief buyer and the second number to the second in command etc. Once you squeeze into the house run in circles like a mad person trying to locate the pre-selected items so that you can have a quick once over and then rip the purchase tag off before a competitor does – you have to decide quickly.

Needless to say at our first attempt we were unsuccessful. We thought we had come to shop, not realising that this is a competitive sport. We also discovered the need of focus and planning – at one point having failed on our mission I found Ramos eyeing up an old Dictaphone, turning it over lovingly in his hands thinking it might be fun for the kids in the village at home. The problem was the Dictaphone came in a random box of electrical junk and also the Dictaphone was not on our ‘list’. Common sense won the day (without my interference it must be said) and we left the sale empty handed but wiser.

Watching the people at the sale reminded me of the need for dedication and devotion in our walk with God also. We often walk without purpose and lose out on great things God wanted to do through us. We get easily distracted by stuff along the way. Paul tells us to keep our focus and keep our eye on the goal:

Philippians 3:15-16  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision–you’ll see it yet!  16  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (The Message)

What do you have your eye on today?

I’m linking up this post today with the One Word Blog Carnival – to read other post on Goals click here.

The shocking wonder of Christmas

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When I think about Jesus at Christmas I am in awe and wonder that the Son of God voluntarily became a vulnerable baby, that he voluntarily gave up his majesty and power so that he could live amongst us and then die a horrible death to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. Martin Luther said it so much better than I can:

The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.

This is the wonder of Christmas – that Jesus loved us enough to make himself vulnerable. He did have to – it was a choice he made because without him doing so we would have no way of restoring out relationship with God. How amazing for Mary and Joseph to hold the Saviour of the world in their arms, to protect him from Herod’s wrath and to nurture him so that he could grow up to die of us. I wonder did they understand what lay ahead for this wee baby held in Joseph’s calloused carpenter’s hands.

I’m not a big risk taker and I certainly don’t like to make myself uncomfortable. Actually I’m such a wimp I had to pop a balloon! So to voluntarily give up the grandeur and majesty of heaven’s throne room to live as a carpenter’s son, to be rejected by religious leaders, to surrender to whippings and crucifixion is unthinkable and shocking to me. But that is what Jesus did. We get sidetracked at Christmas time with the traditional Nativity plays about the cute wee baby Jesus surrounded by barn animals and wee lambs, when in fact the reality and the full story is shocking. Perhaps that’s why John skips over the Nativity story just summing it up:

John 1:14  The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message)

Paul also writes a sort of Nativity to the Philippian Church:

Philippians 2:5-11  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  7  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!  9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father 

So as we approach Christmas Day may we not be distracted by the apparent cuteness of the Nativity scene, but may be shocked and awed by the love of a Saviour who would give up so much and put himself through so much so that we could be rescued from the consequences of sin.

Happy Christmas – what an awesome Saviour!

(If you want to read some more posts on how awesome Jesus is please jump over to Rachel Olsen’s Devotion Carnival)

Songs in the night

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Do you remember this song?

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things….

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

If you were to write a list of things that cheers you up when it is a difficult day who or what would appear on it? My list would mostly be people and a list of gratitude that they are in my life, even if it was only briefly.

I’m grateful for the person who was my toffee twin on a church camp who left me the tract that led me to Christ even though I didn’t know who you are.

I’m grateful to my mum, who passed away too young, who taught me to love feeding people, to love difference and to never feel like being different is bad.

I’m grateful to a Dad who loves others going through tough times because he knows how it feels.

I’m grateful to family who don’t complain too much that I’m at the other end of the world & enjoy having an Aunty Tracey in Africa.

I’m grateful to church family home and away who have been mothers and sisters to me when I have needed them.

I am grateful for all the people God has put in my life, including a husband who knows when I say ‘I want to go home’ to ask ‘Which home?’

Most of all I’m grateful to God that He is in control of all things. Without knowing that all things are in His hands then the pain and the sorrow of this world would be too much to bear. But I know for sure that in Him the things that don’t make sense now have reason.

Psalms 63:3-8  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  4  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  5  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  6  On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  7  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  8  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

What song do you sing in the night?

(This post was part of Rachel Olsen’s Devotional Carnival on Gratitude – check out the other posts if you want a treat!)

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family!

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Today my thoughts have been sent in two directions. I wanted to take part in Bridget Chumley’s one word devotional carnival on ‘Condemnation’ but at the same time Rachel Olsen is having here carnival on ‘sisters in Christ’ so today I’m combining both!

Friendship is great but can be fickle. If I remember back to school I can hear phrases like: ‘Will you be my friend?’, ‘I’m not your friend anymore!’ I went to an all-girls school and remember some epic battles between girls who fell out and divided classes into sides. ‘I’m not speaking to you’ was commonly heard in the hallways. Now I’m older I realise how cruel women can be to one another – we can be quick to condemn and judge each other and ourselves. The term ‘frenemy’ is fitting to describe many relationships as it is unclear if that person is a friend or an enemy! Friendships can end if we are not clicking or someone gets offended or disapproves of the other.

It is with good reason that the bible uses the term brothers and sisters to describe fellow believers. The idiom, ‘You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family’ isn’t found in the bible but it is apt to describe the kind of relationships we find in the church. The church is not meant to be a social hang out where we choose whom we love and want to be with. But in Christ we are brothers and sisters, not of the same blood biologically but of the same blood spiritually – all sinner bought back by the blood of Jesus. No one is better than the other:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

We are all in the same boat – no one is perfect and the great news is that in Christ we are not written off:

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

The problem is that we tend to judge each other more harshly than God does! I have a friend who says she was very judgemental when she was younger, until one day some said to her she was glad God would be judging her at the end and not her – Ouch!

The truth is that all who are in Christ are family – just like biological families we don’t get to pick and choose. Some people we may never have chosen to associate with if it were up to us – but God says we are family.

1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

The family is the aspect of the church I treasure most. When I came to faith my family were not in the church but the church welcomed me. When I went away as a missionary the church supported me like family. When my mum passed away and I was far from home, my home church looked after my Dad like family and my church here became the same for me. In families people bump heads and have good & bad times, but in the end family sticks together. I have sisters in Christ across the world, young and old who I can trust to be the mother-voice and sister-voice when I need it – to speak truth into my life without condemnation – women who I may never have chosen to be friends with, but who have become family.

Lord, help me to be a good sister, aunt, mother in Christ to my church family. Help me to speak truth with love and not condemnation and to receive the truth in the same way.

Simply Extra Ordinary

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A contribution to Rachel Olsen’s Devotion Carnival: Simple pleasures.

This morning I am grateful for the breath in my lungs and the beat of my heart. Over the weekend my husband drove a friend over 600kms to identify the body of his wife and baby – 2 of 22 who died in a horrible road accident in the early hours of Saturday morning. Life is so wonderful, but so fragile. Death is unnatural and so unpredictable. So this morning I am grateful for life and for a new day.

The simple pleasures in life are the ordinary everyday things: the ability to enjoy a cup of tea in the morning with a spouse, gratitude for food in the fridge, electricity in the metre and a TV that works (even if it occasionally explodes – but that’s for another post). How often do I miss out on the pleasure of ordinary life because I am seeking the spectacular and exciting? I live in one of the beautiful places in the world but often I rush out to work and forget to look around me. I purposely took photos yesterday so I can post them today to testify to God’s wonderful creation.

Too often we seek the extraordinary things in life whilst failing to see and enjoy God’s hand in the extra ordinary. God is not just in the miracles and healings; his sustaining hand is in the breath in our lungs, the fact that gravity is working today and that the sun rose:

Colossians 1:16-17 For by him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Not only is God the creator but He is the one who holds everything together and keeps it going.

Psalms 74:16-17 The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon.  17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.

Today I am taking pleasure in the mundane ordinariness of this extra ordinary day and choosing to notice the finger prints of my Heavenly Father throughout the whole day.