May Peace Be Yours.

Dear friend,

I know the path you’re walking now is hard.  So very hard.

I’d love to take the pain away from you, I’d love to take the pain away for you.

Those parts of you that are now forever broken…I know time will help, but those scars will remain and eventually they will tell a story……His story, becoming Your story.  As grace dosed over time does the healing.

While my arms long to hold you near, to be a shoulder for your despair….I pray you know Abba Father’s presence is there.

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

As days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months…..your confusion will clear.  Your mind will once again focus.  The ability to prioritize and create order, will return.

When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

Ohhh friend, He is near.  He is always near. Right there.

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

In our weakness, He is made strong.  Dear friend, it is ok to feel weak.  To be weak.  That’s the beauty of grace – it is the very glue that closes the gap, between us and His supernatural strength.  His power.  Allow Him to carry you through.

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

One day, your smile will return.  One day, your soul will erupt with giggles.  That’s mercy.  You will never forget, you will hold memories dear, but joy will return.

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true

Experience has seen me walk hard, rough roads, sometimes in the company of others, and at other times, the journey has been bereft of others.  I know which option I’d prefer, I know which option was made easier…..the roads with companionship have seen me become more vulnerable but the presence of others has made what was raw and harsh, just so much more bearable.

Friend, respond to those who reach out, even if you have to do it time and time again. Choose your ‘safe’ people wisely and then speak honestly time and time again with them.  Even if and when you feel stuck, like a broken record, don’t ever hesitate from telling them how you truly feel.  Their shoulders, along with His presence, will get you through.  This I know is true.

Your rest, your rescue, it can come from Him.

My friend, may peace be Yours.

(words in italics – lyrics to the song, ‘Shoulders’ by For King and Country).

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Once upon a time.

Once upon a time there was a handsome young man who was about to marry the love of his life. Throughout the land there was a call brought forth. A certain broadcasting company was seeking participants in a show, people who were willing to share their big day with the nation. The handsome man thought ‘aha, why not?’  For his classmates were already recording the wedding with many cameras, and the love of his life thought ‘t’will be a little risky, but why not?’ for she knew there was a certain cuteness factor to the wedding, with a whole class of children participating by singing in the ceremony.

And thus they filled out some forms and sent them away, to then be chosen to appear on that particular show. The company saw the appeal of the many cameras already, and the cuteness of the children. But, within a short amount of time it appeared that what the company really began to focus on, what they wanted to shine a bright spotlight on, was the fact that the wedding night would prove to be the handsome young man and the love of his life’s first joining of the hearts. Forsooth!

Yep. That there story is true. Many, many years ago my Spunky Hunk of a husband and I, were the couple above. We had tv cameras follow us around in the build up to our wedding…..dress fitting, pre-marital counselling, hen’s party, the works. And then the actual wedding. It was a fascinating experience……for one it helped me understand the work my husband does. He does tv stuff for a living, so this was one way of me getting a quick education on certain things. It was fun getting to know the crew, they were great people.

But it was risky. Hugely risky in a lot of ways. We very quickly realized that the production company was focusing on our christian character. That was the thing that we knew could come across on the actual tv show as either God honouring and could give us a bit of depth and stability, or we could have come across as freaks and we could have been ridiculed across our entire nation.  In the end the shows were put together really well and our story came across with minimal freak factor represented…..probably helped by the fact that other participants in the show were people such as a nudist couple and some other rather colourful characters…

As time went on we learnt that the episodes featuring little old us, were the highest rating shows of the whole series. And here’s the point of this whole post……story. Our story had appeal. People; complete strangers, were interested in what we had to say about love and sex and marriage. It was more than nosey parker people, wanting a peek at a pretty dress and wanting a laugh at these people who were sharing way too much information. People talked about us at their workplaces, giving christian friends opportunities to join in the discussion too. People recognized us, in the most random places, and not once were we made fun of. Our story was respected I think because we had given people food for thought. Not because ‘we’re all that’. Not at all. Not because we’re amazing at all, no, we’re not, but our God is. God used our story for good. God shone through as the hero. We only had to take the risk we did, in sharing our story.

Your story matters too. Whatever it is that God has brought you through, whatever He is teaching you, that matters. Let’s not hesitate in sharing our stories because you never know what someone needs to hear. You never know what struggles those around you are facing. Our job is to plant the seeds, to be available, to be the ones who say ‘yes’ to whatever crazy God idea that comes before us. Then it is up to God to water that seed, to grow that seed. And He has a track record for doing that. Every. Single. Time.

Part of our story did involve lights, cameras and a bit of action. It goes to show that God uses many ways in reaching people. In sharing stories. And the exciting thing is….there are always more stories……we are all works in progress….

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Fourteen. 

Judi went to the preschool where she’d enrolled her son, with the intention of withdrawing his enrolment because of his recent autism diagnosis. She promptly changed her mind about the withdrawing part when the head teacher kindly responded to her with the words, ‘we are here for all children’.

Rowena was struggling in all sorts of ways at her old school and at an interview for a new school the Principal looked her squarely in the eyes and said ‘you have potential and I see it in you’.

Patti, as a young Mama and new believer was facing quite the lifestyle change. She recalls with amazing fondness being told ‘you are good enough, just as you are’.

Julie lost her Mum very unexpectedly, in extremely hard circumstances. To this day, she claims that the kindest words ever spoken to her have been the words, ‘it will get worse before it gets better’.

Anna grew up as a bit of an underachiever, in an underachieving family, and when she came to have her own family, some of her very real fears were around the thought that her own children wouldn’t ever find their passions and would settle for less than mediocre. She doesn’t fear that anymore after having her two children singled out in their school assembly and having some of their amazing achievements highlighted and brought attention to. That was the kindest and most meaningful thing that could ever happen to her.

Shelley was about to get engaged to someone who was not going to be God’s best for her, when her roommate pulled her aside and really questioned her and put words to her concerns about that relationship. Shelley will forever be grateful for those words, hard words but spoken in kindness, with kindness.

Shelley, Anna, Julie, Patti, Rowena and Judi. These are not random, far off people, in situations remote from us. Rather, these are all friends of mine, known and loved by me, who shared with me the times in their lives where kind words have impacted them the very most. And the thing that stands out to me, is that could well have been me, and maybe you, in many of those situations.

I counted up the number of verbal interactions that I had in just one average, nothing out of the ordinary day. I got to fourteen blocks of conversations. Fourteen different times of engaging with people in conversation on some level.

My friend Jenna, thoughtful Jenna, reckons she receives and remembers kindness when she’s at her weakest. That the kindest of words are those beautiful words given generously in the midst of a dark or difficult moment.

How many of these fourteen blocks of interactions of mine on that day, or on any given day, could have been kinder? How open were my ears and eyes to the signs that those I was engaged in conversation with, may have needed a spot of encouragement, a reassurance or a shoulder to lean on?  There are hurting people everywhere. We’re all walking wounded in some way.

We always, always, always remember the best, the most honouring and encouraging words spoken to us. We also remember the very worst of conversations. The condescending. The hurtful and disparaging.

An average of fourteen blocks of conversation a day. That’s a lot of opportunity for hope-filled, life-giving, ‘seeing the best in you’ words. Spoken by me. Given as a gift that is easily given, if I just remember and hold dear the reality of the impact these words could have. Just like the kind, kind words spoken to my friends, that are forever branded in their hearts, secured in their souls.

Collossians 4:6  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. 

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Offence – The Felled Trees

I kinda think that the only way to go through life without ever taking offence at anything, would be if you lived a very isolated, hidden away in a cabin of the woods, self-reliant existence. The truth is, as much as people are kind, generous, encouraging and delightful, sometimes people ain’t all that…..

Sometimes patience is lost, messages are misconstrued, tones are misread……you know..the whole shebang.

We; me, you, everyone, take offence from time to time. Things happen. We feel hurt. And the thing I’ve been challenged by lately is…..what am I gonna do with that offence?

Let’s imagine for a moment that our offence is like a felled log. One of those humongous Redwoods, that once reached long and tall up to the heavens. But now that tree is just a long and lifeless log.

The way I see it is we have two options with that felled tree. We could start up a chainsaw and carve that log up for firewood. Or we could send that log off to a wood processing plant, and that timber could then be used for something practical and helpful, maybe even something beautiful, something that will live on through the decades.

And so it is with offence. Let’s take option one, the firewood. That old felled tree would make quite a bonfire. Quite a gathering could meet around it, they could stay warm and maybe even sing a few rounds of kumbaya. Later on as the embers die down a tad, out could come the marshmallows. But the froth and bubble, the sparks and the pops don’t last forever, and the firestarters are left with a pile of smouldering ashes.

Sometimes we do this with our offence. We make a big song and dance over it. We feed off it, and maybe encourage others to think the same negative thoughts. We want to feel validated, so we don’t hold back on the froth and bubble, the sparks and pops. Go on admit it, it kinda feels good at the time. Like the warmth and glow of a fire is good. But that good feeling doesn’t last. Those flames die down. Unless we pile more felled trees onto our fires. Offence on top of offence. But sooner or later those flames do die down, and we’re left with that pile of dirty ash.

Now let’s look at our other option. Let’s collect all of those felled logs in our lives. You know when you’re hiking a trail and the paths haven’t been cleared after a big storm…and the scrambling it takes to get over and around some of those logs….let’s make life a little easier for those that want to hike the path closer to our hearts. Let’s collect up those trees, all that offence that is such a hindrance, let’s haul them together, load em up on a big old truck, and send them away. Why don’t we exchange those logs for something beautiful? Something that will withstand the tests of time. Something that won’t be a dirty pile of ashes once the spark and pops have died down.

Practically speaking how does this play out? To avoid becoming firestarters with our logs of offence I reckon we need to choose very carefully who we discuss our business with. If we’re picking people to share our inner hurts with, because we know they will be loud and vocal in their support of us….then I reckon that’s maybe not the best way to get some support. That only adds ignition to the flames. The wisest people to share our hurts with are those who seek wisdom from on high, not platitudes from the masses.

If we’re hauling that timber away, then it is out of sight and out of mind for a bit. The temptation to dwell on our issues is not the same. And sometimes the end result of what we get with that treated and crafted timber can be a beautiful reminder of progress, of God’s handiwork if we’re humble enough to say ‘this hurts. I can’t handle it myself. Give me beauty from these ashes Lord. Teach from this dark and vulnerable place I’m in’.

Good things happen when we cry out to God with our hurts.  Transformation happens when we haul our offence away and we let the Master Carpenter shape it into stunning pieces.

We all have felled trees in our lives at different times.  Should we use these for firewood or craftsmanship? That’s our choice.

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