Musings

Dec 172017
 

I had a couple of weeks holiday last month and drove up the coast with a good friend. Though I’ve been in WA for almost 7 years, I’d never been north of Kalbarri before. And even my few trips north of Perth had been very brief and often for my previous work. The Pinnacles, Kalbarri, Monkey Mia, Ningaloo. . . what an amazing State we live in and those are just a few of the fantastic things we get to enjoy!

While I was away I reflected on the choices that we have to make in life. We all know and experience living in a culture that has choice overload – the aisles of our supermarket is just one example of that! (And how much choice we face at this time of year!) Even on holiday there were dozens of choices to make – including which of the many things we could stop and look at, where we would eat, what we would listen to. As we made choices, particularly about what we would do and wouldn’t do (we were covering a fair bit of ground over a week), I reflected on how that is like our lives – so many options and so often feeling that there is so little time. (Really helpful research and written material has been produced on how we can help our choice and decision overload. Engaging with some of that can be extremely beneficial. It certainly has been for me.)

This led me to reflect on how Jesus lived and His relationship with His Father. Certainly, the way His culture operated was different from ours but there is so much He could have done. He had plenty of choices to make: where to go, who to spend time with, where to speak, who to heal. He knew what His priority was: to spend time with His Father, to listen to Him. He chose what He would do coming from that place.

And so I was challenged to continue to do likewise. How might our lives be different if we made choices based on spending time with God and being led more strongly by the Spirit as we live our lives? Might we feel less stressed by the choice overload, more content with our decisions and have more impact on the world?

As we celebrate the miracle of Jesus entering into our world, let’s follow His example of abiding in the Father, doing what we see the Father doing and seeing the fruit that will come as a result, in our lives and the lives of those around us.

 

Blessings,

Barb

 

Dec 102017
 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens as he begun to pen his famous novel The Tale of Two Cities. You may be able to describe your 2017 in a similar way. My 2017 has had both “best” and “worst” times. Planning and beginning to be part of a team who are planting a church has counted in the “best”. Hurting my back and still slowly recovering has to be counted as “bad”.
Life in all its beauty and fullness can have both best and worst times. These times can sometimes persist for long periods and sometimes they can change rapidly from one state to the other. Some people take a more optimistic view of life and delight in it, while others view it differently and can roll off clichés such as “Life is unfair, get used to it.” How are Christians supposed to view life? Should we take an optimistic or a more pessimistic view of life? (I assume people holding either view would call their view “realistic”.)
The Bible is not afraid of trying to make sense of a life that seems to be bereft of joy. The Psalms are littered with sorrow and lament and there is even a book of lament, called Lamentations. Psalm 88 is a unique song in that it doesn’t follow other lament psalms that rejoice in the character of God at some point. Psalm 88 records a period in the life of a very melancholy character who finishes the psalm on this note:
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
Fair to say that this person had a more pessimistic view of life.

I am most grateful for this psalm for in times of sorrow it gives the reader comfort. The psalmist here is not attempting to sugar-coat life, giving a “band-aid” answer or the Aussie macho response of “Just get on with it!.” Instead, it is an honest reflection on a time when life seemed to contain little joy or hope. Sometimes just hearing that life is difficult and lamenting is the healthiest thing we can do. I turn to Psalm 88 when others have come to me in states of depression and sorrow and it is amazing how much people relate and gain strength from it. Isn’t God wonderful! This would be the last type of psalm I would ever think of including in a book I wrote. But God in his wisdom and sovereignty knows what is best for us.
As I walked, quite bent over, through the worst of my back injury this year, there were times of sorrow, but the turning point was when I was prayed for at the front of church during Communion. Miles spoke some of God’s deep truth into my heart. He paraphrased part of 2 Corinthians 12, saying, “God’s grace is sufficient for you, for His power is made perfect in weakness. . . for whenever you are weak, then you are strong.” This has been my self-talk for much of this “worst” time journey. I was transformed by the renewing of my mind and have been able to praise and delight in God for all my times, both best and worst.
(There are countless sections of the scriptures that speak of the joy of being alive but I’ll leave that for another musing.)
As I have reflected on this year, it is abundantly clear to me that God’s grace has been sufficient. So, with this in mind, I am very conscious of finishing this year strongly. Moving on to planting The Common, while welcoming the Carrs as they begin their time at St Philips is my focus. My beginning at St Philips 5 years ago was the “best” of times. I look back with much thankfulness, joy and fondness at my time here.

Blessings,

James

Dec 032017
 

A couple of weeks ago there was a terrible accident where a distracted driver ploughed her car into a school building. Two 8-year-old boys were killed and others injured. As one little boy lay dying he said, “I want my Mum.”

When the crunch comes, we just want Mum – one who genuinely and deeply cares. For an 8-year-old, that’s often Mum. This sad story didn’t cause me to reflect on motherhood, as much as it triggered a pondering on how I pray, “I want you, Jesus.”

Do I? Do I want Jesus as desperately as that little boy wanted his Mum at that moment?

Honestly, often, no.

This is despite that I have clearly shown myself that doing life on my own doesn’t work well. Despite the reality that I too, like you,  am ‘dying’, and rational thought sees eternity is the main game and this earthly life is only a shadow, a sigh in time. Despite the overwhelming evidence that Jesus is who he said he is – the one holy God.

A couple of weeks ago I was caught up in the wave of hopelessness and grief which sometimes washes over me when I visit my dear close family member and notice her ongoing deterioration from dementia, and remember the vital, curious, engaging and engaged person she used to be.

At the beach soon after I cried out to God as I looked across the ocean. Other areas of grief flooded in as if to a spontaneous ‘grief party’ – a beautiful friend’s broken marriage, a teenager’s chronic pain, the suffering people of Yemen, Syria, etc. The wave was building into a tsunami! How do I hold all that pain, grief, disappointment? Help!! “I just want someone to partner with me in all this,” I pleaded to God, “someone to share this deep sadness, for whom it isn’t unknown or overwhelming.” His response came to me instantly:  “I will partner you.”

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you [Isaiah 41:13].

In a few seconds everything looked different. Feelings of thankfulness and joy rose in me. Brighter, lighter, I jumped into the car. This is what repenting looked like for me that morning. Not a brow-beating self-loathing. I have done that too. It is obvious to me that I am sin-full. This was my response to a real call of God to turn back to him and to remember He is the one who saves. “I want you, Jesus.”

What does it look like when you repent? I’d love to have that chat with you. Language around repenting often pushes me into a defensiveness. Yes, I know; that too is my sin. But what does a winsome invitation to repent look like for you?

I suspect Jesus (on earth) invited those to repent who knew their brokenness well, with a softeness in his voice and compassion in his eyes. Deadly serious AND full of mercy.

Happy repenting to the one to whom we can safely say “I so need you.”

 

Blessings,

 

Sally

 

Nov 262017
 

I said last week, “There is no doubt, [we are seeing] a significant societal shift.”  One person said, “Well, that would be an understatement.” Understatement or hysteria?  We try and get the balance right.  Then this week, despite grave concerns of the health industry, Victoria has passed assisted suicide legislation [though they don’t call it that]. I suggested we have some work to do in considering the place and role of the local church in these days. The writer of [continue reading…]

Nov 192017
 

Well, we now know the result of our national marriage survey!  I’m so pleased it has been decisive and not 51%. Now the legislative games will begin. Thanks for those who have shared their thoughts, convictions and learning in these interesting times.  There is no doubt, this is a significant societal shift. The challenge into the future will be to find room for respectful discussion or debate on all manner of social issues that have caught the imagination of public [continue reading…]

Nov 122017
 

Well it’s over!  Australia’s very expensive and, many would say, pointless but profoundly divisive survey on who can marry whom is over.  Do not send your survey now, they will not count it. The result of the survey will be announced at 7am Perth time on 15th November. It will be apparent that I have chosen to not make this issue the do-or-die conversation in the church.  If people have asked me I was happy to discuss it.  It is [continue reading…]

Nov 052017
 

I am thinking hard about giving up on listening to the news.  It does my head in.  It’s more often than not conflictual, adversarial and often just opinions, barely even news. I cannot believe how fast this culture of so-called ‘fake news’, ‘gotcha’ journalism and outrageous accusations and statements just get plonked out there and, because there is no time for analysis or reflection, the next load of outrageousness follows up and is dumped on us. I feel like I [continue reading…]

Oct 292017
 

I wonder what you think it means to be a good guest? What kind of guests do you like having in your home? I’ve just got home from hearing a few great talks at an evening run by the Centre for Public Christianity. One of those talks was on what it means to be good guests in this world that we live in. One of the key principles in the talk was that to be good guests we need to [continue reading…]

Oct 222017
 

I’m sitting in a big auditorium at an event called The Global Leadership Summit. Barb has organised it for us as a professional development experience AND it is all about leadership and it is excellent. It has prompted me to be intentionally communicative since, as Cheryl reminds me, what we don’t know we tend to make up.  That was certainly how Jesus’ disciples behaved again and again [I say with a smile]. There is a lot going on behind the [continue reading…]

Oct 152017
 

Musings are whatever is on the mind of one of the staff team here at St Philips.  We write one every week. As I write this,  I am sitting outside in the sun in amongst the playgroup mums and kids. I am also thinking about all the visitors to our church today! I wonder how many of you have been to a church recently?  I wonder what you find yourself thinking as you come here this morning supporting Charlie, Venetia [continue reading…]