More than enough

Read: Psalm 23, The Passion Translation

We’re all sitting here at the end of Easter Sunday somewhat stunned.
That was weird wasn’t it?
Whatever our traditions at Easter would usually entail, today wasn’t it.
And we tried hard to keep some semblance of normality, despite that we wouldn’t be gathering for lunch with our people, or doing egg hunts with cousins, or gathering to worship in our church buildings. We hid chocolate eggs and put on our new pyjamas and smiled and said happy Easter, and curled up to watch sermons online.

But if you’re anything like me, you refreshed Instagram 643,768 times, switched to Facebook twice that many, and scrolled, not really seeing anything, not really engaging, but hiding there in a social media stupor.
I couldn’t put my phone down today.

I already knew this weekend would look different—months ago, we knew that Daniel would be working, so we planned our Easter celebrations for Good Friday, and we egg-hunted and ate hot cross buns and gorged on too much chocolate already—but no one predicted just how different today would look.

This Easter we’re choosing to celebrate the joy of answered prayers—that we’re not where we were this time last year.
We’re celebrating the new spaces we’ve walked into, and the redemption of old hopes and dormant dreams. There is so much good, and I choose often to keep my eyes on that.

But even though I had hot cross buns rising ready for the oven, and even though I was busy shaping sourdough early, and even though I got to see some of my favourite neighbour-bestie-family faces while I pinched rosemary from their front garden… it was an uncomfortable Easter. It was the first in our entire marriage that we hadn’t spent together as a family. It was knowing I couldn’t visit my parents, because of travel restrictions. It was not being able to gather, either in worship or in friendship.
I was distracted, and unfocused and scattered.
I tried reading, picking up and put down my current novel. I picked up and put down my phone a bazillion times, wandered aimlessly starting things and then walked away forgetting what I was doing, and starting something else.

And all day I kept going back to the day’s Psalm.
I hadn’t realised that after the tumultuous prophecy of the cross in Psalm 22, that it was this one we’d be lead to; one of the most famous and well-known Psalms.
The Lord is my shepherd.
My Passion Translation Bible tells me that the translated word here for ‘shepherd’ is ra’ah which is also the Hebrew word for best friend.
The Lord is my best friend,
I always have more than enough.

I needed this Psalm today.
I needed it like I needed a quiet walk to gather my thoughts.
I needed it like I needed a tight squeeze from a close friend.
I needed it like I needed a hot cross bun straight from the oven, lathered in butter.


He knows what we need.
He knew today would be lonely the Lord is my best friend (vs 1), I’ll never be lonely, for you are near (vs 4).
He knew my mind couldn’t settle, He offers a resting place for me (vs 2).
He knew what the world would look like today, why would I fear the future? Your goodness and love pursue me (vs 6).

So on this strange Easter Sunday I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for the Word that became flesh, so that I could find the aliveness of God.
I’m grateful for the expression of Him across the earth, for creativity and beauty, and friendship and grace.
And for a God who does not remain silent, and for a cross that has the last word.

xx


It’s crazy but I’m convinced

Read: Psalm 22, The Passion Translation

Yesterday I stood at the coffee machine. I ground the beans for our double shots, let the machine groan as it poured them into our favourite cups as I thought absentmindedly about the Psalm I’d read and write through; I wonder how God is going to speak to me today.
It struck me suddenly and with full force. I know God. And He is waiting to speak.
I realised that this daily communion with God is no small thing, yet its a thing that is so accessible to us, so readily available. I imagined Him, leaning forward, his elbows resting on His knees, waiting for me to pick up my Bible—the inspired Word—and meet Him.

And then there’s the coincidence of today’s Psalm, Psalm 22. I hadn’t planned in advance to read particular Psalms on particular days. But of course, God knew… another divine ‘coincidence’ that makes me laugh and gives me goosebumps all at once.
This chapter’s opening refrain are the words Jesus echoed on the cross, “God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?” The cross that we celebrate this weekend.
The cross that hasn’t changed, even though the world has changed too much, too fast.

The next verse, “Why do you remain distant, refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day and my desperate cries for your help in the night?
I can’t stop sobbing.
Where are you my God?”

The entire Psalm prophecies Jesus’ death on the cross, and the victory after. The last line holds more words echoed by Jesus, his very last, as He hung there, waiting to die: It is finished.

This is why the Word became flesh, why Jesus became this living expression of the Word.
He was the Word of God, but with legs to walk towards humanity, with arms to reach out to draw us in.
When we feel like God is far from us, we can reach for our Bibles and find that He hasn’t gone anywhere.
Because we know what it is to sob and ask, ‘God, why aren’t you listening? God, where are you?’ when our lives are messy, and our prayers don’t ‘work’ and we could die of loneliness and old wounds don’t heal.
But the Word became flesh and reached out although we’re the poor and the broken, we’re invited to eat until we’re satisfied. (Psalm 22:26)
The Word became flesh and drew us to the Father, and He ascended but left us His Spirit— and it all sounds crazy but I’m convinced.
I’m convinced because He shows up in burning bush moments of white linen sheets hanging on the line, and a moon hanging large in a dark morning sky.
I’m convinced because when I pray coincidences happen, and when I seek Him in the ancient text He invades my modern life.

And in this waiting space, this thin space where all of us hold our breath, I know that joy comes in the morning, and that He was here all along.

xx

Sun-dried sheets, and the foot of the cross

Read: Psalm 21 The Passion Translation

I hadn’t ever used fabric softener until about a year ago. I discovered it was the reason behind a friend’s clothes, that always smelled so good. And I love smells.
I light double wick candles that crackle and send the warm aroma of patchouli and sandalwood into the room. I drip peppermint and bergamot essential oil into diffusers.
I spray little concoctions of witch hazel and lavender over our pillows before bed.
The smell of fresh baked sourdough makes me giddy, and the scent of a new book, or the Eucalyptus on a dewy morning. Scent makes the world come alive.

So, I splurged on that 900ml bottle of sweet-smelling fabric softener, and each time I carry a basket of wet laundry to the washing line I breathe in deep at it’s goodness.

Sometimes when I walk outside and the breeze is blowing the drying laundry, I catch it’s scent for a moment and it makes me smile.

Today I washed our sheets.
I walked through the tunnel made by them hanging in the morning sunshine, and breathed in deeply, enveloped in the white linen, smiling like a madwoman who hasn’t left the house much lately. And you know, God has burning bushes anywhere we’re curious enough to look at a more closely, and today that bush was my white sheets drying in the sunshine.

And maybe it was because it’s Good Friday, and the thoughts of the day were lingering in my mind, but the words to that old hymn came to mind as I moved my way through the sheets, and pegged down their corners; what can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus… oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow…
And I stopped, smelling the vanilla and coconut, reminded that even my best efforts of goodness will never be good enough, but Jesus will always be, and the white of the sheets was stark.

And today of course I’m reading Psalm 21 and while it is maybe about an earthly king, I look past that and see the King that went willingly to the cross.
I see the One who laid down the royal crown of gold (Psalm 21:3) and let his glory garments be stripped from Him, baring it all for all of us, and all of our imperfections.

And this, from Sacred Rhythms by Christine Sine, on suffering; “… God uses it to bring us to a recognition of our own brokenness. We can’t find true health and wholeness unless we suffer pain and admit we need the healing and redemption Christ offers…”

So tonight, after a day of sunshine, and a wash in the ocean, I’m climbing into white sun-dried sheets that smell like vanilla, and I’m letting the suffering of this Friday sink in. I’m letting the weight of an upside down world feel heavy without trying to move on too quickly. I’m remembering that it’s okay to cry out, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ and sit here in darkness and loneliness for a moment.
Because if the Psalms are teaching me anything these days, it’s that it’s okay to sit with emotion, and to not rush to quickly from it’s grasp.
We can sit at the foot of the cross, and cry for the people we miss, for the lack, for the missing, for the broken and for the unanswered in our lives. We can let the melancholy settle in our bones, as people of the Cross.
And as those people, in the shroud of darkness of Good Friday, we can still carry embers of hope.
Hope that the partial will be complete.
Hope that the lack will be fulfilled.
Hope that the broken will be redeemed.
Hope that Sunday will come.

xx

Stories in the sky: how He speaks

Read: Psalm 19, The Passion Translation

It’s dark, because summer has slipped away. Even the birds are quiet still. Daniel is up first with his alarm, but I don’t hear him until I’m jolted from a dream by my body clock, and hear the clink of his spoon and bowl in the kitchen. Already I know that he’s dressed, and eating porridge. The next sound I’ll hear is the coffee machine growl to life.

I squint at the time. 5:44. I can’t keep my eyes open yet so I close them and roll over to a cool part of my pillow. He grinds and pours one shot, then the second, and I know he’s using our favourite mugs. He’ll put a lid on his to take with him when he leaves. I think vaguely that I hope the coffee machine doesn’t wake the kids, but there’s no noise from the bedrooms.

I pull myself up to sitting, and flick on the bedside lamp. I lean over to pull open the blinds too, even though it’s too dark to see anything outside. My Bible is open on my knees when he brings in the coffee to set on the bedside table, but I’m scrolling Facebook now.
A goodbye kiss, the click of the front door, his car starting and the garage door lifting.
I’m reading a New York Times article about Wuhan on my phone, Psalm 19 is waiting.

Then a text from Daniel, “Go look at the moon.” I hesitate, the bed is warm and maybe I can see it from the window? “It’s at the end of the street” comes another text.
I tiptoe past the cat flayed in the kitchen doorway and out onto dewy lawn.
There’s the moon, setting at the end of the street, and ginormous. Beautiful.
There’s me in my undies in the darkness, staring at the lightening sky and luminescent moon.

Then, back to the still-warm spot in my sheets, and the still-open Bible I begin to read my next Psalm. Nineteen.
God’s Story in the Skies
God’s splendor is a tale that is told;
his testament is written in the stars.

Space itself speaks his story every day
through the marvels of the heavens.
His truth is on tour in the starry vault of the sky,
showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship.
Each day gushes out its message to the next,
night with night whispering its knowledge to all.

Suddenly I’m overwhelmed by the knowledge of this God who sees me.
He’d painted that giant moon there just for me, because He knew I’d stand there in awe, and minutes later I’d read about Him speaking through the skies.
He spoke through the moon, through the cold dew on the grass, through the streaks of pink in the cloud, straight to my heart; a reminder of his sheer magnitude, yet this personal painting of the skies, just for me.

I felt it in my chest, this inexplicable knowledge that God orchestrates my days, my hours and minutes. That nothing is a surprise to Him, nothing is missed by Him—and that He’s there, painting the skies just waiting for me to tiptoe out, lift my eyes and read His story.

“The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.”

I’m so grateful for this rare treasure today.

xx

Soul-glow: plodding through the Psalms

April is here. It’s cooler, and the afternoon sun is milder. I’m making breads and soups and I’ve pulled out the wooly throws for the couch to tuck my feet under.
The suddenly crisp mornings have me reaching for knits and socks that have been tucked away since last year.
The sun takes longer to rise, and my first sip of coffee is had in the grey dark, with my bedside lamp as the only illumination.
That, and the Word of God.
The Psalms have been lighting my path these days.
I’m suddenly carrying a lot of emotion. We all are.
We’ve found ourselves in the middle of a continuing outward crisis. Our lives have changed—our kids are home, we’ve lost jobs and holidays and the ability to visit family and friends. Our communities of faith are online, and our worship is hands outstretched awkwardly in our living rooms, a chorus of voices missing.
And it’s a lot. It’s a lot to carry, and we’re carrying it and moving forward and teaching our kids, and cleaning our homes and working remotely, and amen-ing to sermons from our laptops.
I’m here knuckles-deep in bread dough and unrolling a yoga mat and finding ways to ground my heels into a ground that’s shifting.

And in this rocking, surging uncertainty, the Psalms are steadying and sure.
Their writers show us how to ride the highs and lows of tides of emotions, and reveal a God that is constant in the midst.
You will answer me God, I know you always will. (Psalm 17:6)
You’ll answer me when I’m overwhelmed by a uni assignment.
You’ll answer me when I’m missing my friend.
You’ll answer me when I brace myself to glance at our bank account.
Protect me from harm; keep an eye on me like you would a child reflected in the twinkling of your eye. Yes, hide me within the shelter of your embrace, under your outstretched wings. (Psalm 17:8)
This comfort, to know as we carry weight, and carry on that His eye is on us.
You will answer me God, I know you always will. Maybe not in this moment when I ask, maybe not tomorrow. But we’re held in the twinkle of His eye; He sees and hears and knows and there’s the embrace to wrap us in when it’s all too much, and we can hide right there for as long as we need.
So we plod towards Good Friday, our Lenten journeys near the end and the palms of Sunday trampled and losing their green. The mild April sun casting its glow, and our glowing souls in the knowing that the King still comes in the midst of uncertainty: you will answer me God, I know you always will.

xx

* Committing to sharing my journaled thoughts here each day this week, and writing that here for accountability.

threads of jesus

I had the sudden urge last week to clean out a cluttered shelf right at the back of my robe. 
It contained a whole array of things I was keeping ‘just in case’ which were ruthlessly thrown from my perch on a stool down into a big cardboard box headed for the thrift store. 
At the back of this robe though, I discovered a box of old journals dating back to 2004. 
Pulling this hefty weight down from the shelf and onto my bed I intended to flick through quickly, stack them again neatly and return them to their place. 
Instead, I found myself transported back fourteen years, where old seasons of my life replayed before my eyes and became real again. 
My accounts of friendships, of my every day, of work and life as a single young woman who’d just moved in to her very own apartment.
I was cringing awkwardly reading the words of my 19 year old self, as well as feeling again all the emotions that went with the territory of discovering God, and myself, and caring deeply what other people thought, and crushing hard on a boy who was just as clueless as I was, and who played with my heart a little too frivolously. 

I sat for what felt like hours, and still days later it was playing on my mind.  
I was remembering what it felt like to fight with that boy, to feel lost and unsure, and reliving afresh falling pregnant at 20, unmarried, and feeling like my whole world capsized. 

The journals are full of prayers, written to a God I barely knew and my scribbled imaginings of the future that I’m living now
And in this now, on the other side of all those things that didn’t make sense at the time, I see them so differently. 
I see the boy who became my husband and laugh at how little we knew each other then, and how deep a love can go. 
I see the threads of Jesus woven through years of a young girl’s life, all of it leading me to this place here and now. 
I see that the prayers I prayed then, however awkward and cringeworthy were not in vain – that He saw, He heard, He was there, even when I didn’t feel Him.

And it reminds me that in my now when I am unsure of what’s to come, when I try to control flimsy moments in my days, or feel like my prayers are silent in heaven – that He is in control. That one day this will be the past I look back on and I’ll see clearly the threads of Jesus woven through my life as a beautiful tapestry. That He takes my awkwardness, my doubt, my heart after Him, and weaves it together like a beautiful love story. 

You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
You read my heart like an open book
and you know all the words I’m about to speak
before I even start a sentence!

You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,

and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past
Psalm 139:3-5

Jesus’ disciples were trying to understand what He was telling them, in the lead up to the cross. They didn’t get what God was doing, couldn’t see His grand plan in the midst of confusion… but in this lead up to Easter, in this Lent season, I want to encourage us that He’s gone into our future to prepare a way! We can’t always see it, but we can trust that He is ever holding, ever loving, ever weaving His love story through our lives. 

God, help me to always remember that You are in control. When life doesn’t make sense, YOU still do. When what happens around us is far from good, you are still Good. Thank you for paving the way to our future for us, and waiting for us there with grace, and for weaving through our lives your never-giving-up love. Amen x

arise, shine

There’s a stillness in the morning that I can’t find anywhere else. 
Daniel is up early for work, and I hear his morning routine played out over our wood floors, and the grind of his coffee. I pull my eye mask down over my eyes and roll over, finding a new cool space in our sheets, while I wait for the sound of the front door to signal that he’s leaving. 
I could go back to sleep now; that restless, dreaming sleep that knows the morning bustle is not far away.
But the early stillness beckons, and my thoughts turn to God. 

My socked feet play out their own morning routine as the kettle is boiled, and a tea bag dropped in a mug, all as quietly as I can muster. The kids will have drifted to a lighter sleep now that daylight has almost come, and I need them to stay sleeping for a while longer yet. 

The birds start early, even before I can see any hint of sunlight – how do they know?

My hot tea sits on my lap as I open the pages of my Bible.

Open up before God, keep nothing back;
he’ll do whatever needs to be done:
He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day
and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Quiet down before God, 
be prayerful before him. 
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.

Psalm 37:5-7

Sometimes, this is my only slow until the evening tea that bookends my day.  My only quiet. 
And it’s not because I love the hustle, but its because there is always so much to be done. 
I can be mindful of my thoughts throughout the day, and stay in that posture of faith but some days it’s impossible to slow my feet. 
Three kids means I’m the one remembering music lessons, basketball training, birthday parties and home reading folders. That I need to get groceries, plan meals, scrub bathrooms and iron school uniforms. 
In busy seasons of women’s ministry my phone never stops ringing or beeping or tweeting, and I don’t find much space to breathe in between meetings and deadlines. 
In the middle of a uni semester I am literally the girl who runs between classes (why must they put them at opposite ends of campus?!) and juggles family with study, assignments and exams. 
I have all the reasons in the day not to slow down, not to stop, to just keep going and getting everything done. 

But mornings, with their fresh clean air, and the sky that slowly lights up the day – that’s when I can be slow. I can linger over the words of Jesus who tells me His burden is easy, and that rhythms of grace are unforced*. I can ask for strength and peace and know that ‘He’ll do what needs to be done’ as I do what I can in this new day I’ve been given. 

Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
    Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
    God’s bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
    all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
    his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Isaiah 60 (MSG)

The momentary discomfort of not giving in to sleep is worth it for the peace that follows, the stillness that’s found, the invited quiet – all found before the daily hustle. 

xx

* Matthew 11 (MSG)

thoughts on new growth and heart-soil

Yesterday afternoon the girls and I spent gardening in the front yard, re-potting succulent babies, and topping concrete containers with rich black soil. I had afternoon sun on my back, and dirt under my fingernails as I scooped the damp soil up with my hands, and patted it down around green and growing things. 

I have a little succulent collection that sits by my front door, reminding me to tend them, water them and sprouting wiry stalks and thick spindly leaves. One of these leaves dropped off, unnoticed, until discovered, probably a couple of months later by my eldest daughter. 
The fallen leaf had begun to sprout and create it’s very own plant, and as it’s roots went deeper, the leaf itself had begun to wither. 
Fascinated when I told her the clever ways of these succulents, Eden watched YouTube videos on propagation and began her own little collection. She gently pulled leaves from a variety of plants, laid them out on top of some soil, and has faithfully watered her babies every day. 
The picked-off fronds are beginning to grow new tiny leaves, and send down thread-thin roots all the while beginning to wither themselves. New life, “touched by a tiny bit of death”*

It reminds me of my own growth; that internal change. If I slow down enough, and get close enough, I can see the tiny tiny shoots of newness. But what must die alongside the growth?
What must be done under the cover of rich, dark soil in the depths of my soul?

So much in our world is focused on the outward appearances. 
Our streamlined Instagram accounts, manicured nails, clickbait titles, and marketing campaigns. Everything designed to wow us into comparison, and the facade of perfection. 
In the upside down kingdom of God, what matters is not the outward appearance. 
Jesus’s focus was, and will always be, the condition of our hearts. 
He wants to know if our roots are strong, if the soil is right for the growing, and if, deep down there in the centre of it, there is a home there for Him.
None of which is visible to the human eye. 

We can chase perfection, to the detriment of our souls, or we can choose to remove ourselves from the harried and breathless pace of the world, and breathe in slow.
We can choose to stop worrying about what we look like, and start to focus on what we are like.
I can look good, or I can choose the fruit of goodness. 
I can have a ‘lovely home’ or I can truly spend my days loving others. 
I can fret about what other people think, or I can rest in the true peace that comes from placing far more weight on the opinion of the God who loves me unconditionally.  

When we stop and slow – thrust our hands into the dirt, our toes into beach sand, or our nose into a book – we can start to tend lovingly the new growth in hidden places, and place more emphasis on what is beneath the surface, rather than what is visible. Matthew 13 speaks to us about the soil of our hearts. 

Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

Jesus I pray that those reading Your Word today would have tended the soil of their hearts well. That You would help us to focus more on your invisible kingdom, on goodness and faith – and let those things in us that need to die, to wither away to make more room for Your growth. Help us to embrace slow, to breathe in time with Your heartbeat, instead of rushing along in the pace set by the world around us. Give us eyes to see the invisible. Amen.
 

 

*Henri Nouwen

  

beauty for ashes

On Wednesday I sat in the lounge room of a friend I’ve known for almost 20 years. 
She made me coffee, the same way she used to when we were teenagers and although we’ve not seen much of each other over the last handful of years, we were not strangers. 
Reflecting with her on the last two decades of our lives was the greatest gift, but I’ll be real; hindsight can be my greatest burden. Regret soaks into my skin like humid, stifling air. 
I wanted to grab my 17 year old self by the shoulders and shake her until her teeth rattled. 
I wanted to shout at her to dream bigger, and think further!
Sometimes the ache to go back and do things differently is overwhelming. 

And it’s easy to feel stuck with the choices that we made when we were younger, or be continually affected by the past. 
It reminded me of a line in the midst of the Imposition of Ashes; In the midst of life we are in death. 
Dust we are and to dust we shall return.
Life moves so quickly. It makes me dizzy and nauseous. 
It seems just yesterday this best friend and I were listening to Jewel, writing poetry and going to parties. Now, we’re child wrangling, and walking through the beautiful messes of marriage. 
The things we find the most difficult now, were once our hearts greatest desire. This kind of perspective, and wisdom comes from the relentlessness of time. 

And while I know time marches on, and doesn’t still I can be still in it’s midst. 
And when I’m still I begin to realise that the unquenching thirst for what could have been, is really a thirst to know God. 
That the insatiable hunger for the life I once pictured, is actually pointing to an empty place only He can fill. 
And while I am here, trapped in this thing called time, I can slow my soul enough to cease the hustle, forget what lies behind and keep my eyes fixed on what is ahead.

Over this Lent season I want to create in my life a rhythm of depth and slower pace. 
That my focus would be less on doing, and more on seeing, really seeing.
That I would see my shortfalls, and failures and acknowledge my need for Jesus. 
My heart would desire prayer, not platform. Spiritual disciplines would follow the natural ones. 

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3

I believe the Master Craftsman of our lives creates beauty from our grief, from our regrets, from our failure. 
Then He gives us insight to walk the next steps of our journey well, if we stop still enough to listen. 

Lord I pray for those who have lived with regret, and declare their time of mourning over. Crown them with beauty and with joy. Help us to slow our hurried souls and remove the clutter in our hearts and minds, to see clearly and to hear Your voice in the midst of our every day. Help us to embrace slow in a world that scorns it. Amen.

My friend Amanda and I are writing one piece each per week over the season of Lent, to position our hearts towards an embracing of slower living, and spiritual growth. You can read her first post here.  xx