A New Year’s prayer to welcome 2011

i am sitting at home on a beautiful frosty winter’s morning looking out at the snow covered, sun drenched mountains.  it is already New year’s day in Australia and my thoughts and prayers are still with my family in Sydney.  However I am also ready to welcome in this new year with a sense of God’s eternal presence and thought that I would share yet another prayer with you that came to me while we were travelling

God is the eternal rock

From year’s beginning to its end

God is faithful

In each day God is present

In each action God comes close

Through all eternity

God is trustworthy

Yesterday, today and forever

Sustaining, enlivening, making all things new

God is the eternal rock

 

 

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New Year’s Eve Prayer for 2011

I am sitting in the airport in San Francisco waiting for our flight to Seattle.  The new year is almost here and I have been reflecting on my hopes and expectations for the time that lies ahead.  I find that his prayer, adapted from one I wrote last year, has really helped me to focus.

A new year coming and God is with us

In loving, in caring, in hoping and expecting,

God is with us and never lets us go

God live in us, God live with us, God live through us

God keep us faithful through the days that lie ahead

God keep us caring as we see the pain that fills your world

God keep us serving as we seek to do your will

God live in us, God live with us, God live through us

God keep us loving toward neighbours near and far

God keep us trusting through the uncertainties of life

God keep us sharing from your generous abundance

God live in us, God live with us, God live through us

Amen.

Christmas is Over Did You get What You Expected?

Tom & I are sitting at Sydney Airport waiting to board our plane to the way back to Seattle.  We have had a wonderful Christmas season with my family here in Australia but are now looking forward to being back ho,e.  This is a good time to reflect on the Christmas season and all that has happened since we left home.  So I thought that I would share some of my thoughts with you .

Christmas Day has come and gone, even the after Christmas sales far more exciting for some than the birth of Christ, are now well behind us.  But did any of us really get what we expected?  This season, long anticipated by many of us as the celebration of the birth of Christ our Saviour, often comes with unexpected consequences.  The gifts never quite meet everyone’s expectations and leave behind mountains of wrapping paper and ribbon that will add yet more indestructible rubbish to the landfills.

The birth of Christ wasn’t quite what was expected either.  Two thousand years ago he appeared in an unexpected place and in an unexpected way. His birth was ignored by the religious leaders who were looking for a king to increase their privilege and power. It threatened the political leaders who retaliated by vengefully killing all infants around Bethlehem.  I am not sure that those who encountered the baby Jesus found what they expected either.  The Magi after their long and arduous journey must have expected far more than an ordinary looking infant born to a young inexperienced mother.  And the shepherds who experienced the incredible spectacle of angels singing in the heavens must have come looking for someone quite extraordinary.

Today too we often find in Jesus what we least expect.  Maybe we have come looking for a child born in a stable, an unassuming infant whose advent makes us feel good but does not impose difficult demands.  Instead we have found a revolutionary leader whose words and actions turned the world upside down.

Babies born in the backwater of civilization are easy to ignore.  Yet even a child disrupts the world of its parents and makes demands that turn their world upside down.  So it is with Jesus.  We welcome him as a cute little baby but if we continue to journey with him, we soon realize that he wants to turn our world upside down.  That cute little baby in the manger scene has indeed become a revolutionary leader who is slowly transforming everything we are  and do.

 

Christmas Greetings from Australia

May the joy of the angels, the excitement of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph, the faithfulness of Mary, and the peace of the Christ Child be yours this Christmas. Adapted from Christmas eve service at St Johns Gordon.)

It is Christmas day in Australia, a beautiful day here in Sydney with sunshine and temps in the 80s.  Last night we attended the Christmas Eve service at the local Anglican church and I wanted to share this delightful Australian Christmas carol that we sang.

Boomerang of flowers

A child is lying cradled here beneath the slender gum

The God of might has left his home and to Australia come

The Kookaburra laughs with glee

The shy koala peeps

The magpie carols blissfully as little Jesus sleeps

What shall we give our infant King?

A boomerang of flowers

To say come back and stay with us and be forever ours.

 

Christmas Eve morning, the last day of Advent – Peace and Silent by Lewis Pearson

This is the last day of Advent and our post this morning is a beautiful couple of poems by Lewis Pearson, the Parish Community Worker for St James’ Church in Dorset near the South Coast of England. He lives with my wife Jo and son Matthew. They have just moved here and are seeking to explore new forms of church within the village of Alderholt.

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During the advent period we often think about, sing about or receive cards with platitudes about Peace, about Silent Nights. I recently was thinking about this and how actually at this time of year these are often the things furthest from our thinking. I then wrote a couple of poems around these themes.

Peace

Peace gives that sense of release,

From all those I’m trying to appease.

Too often so long to Shalom,

But found again in the words of a song.

 

Searching for wholeness in the wilderness,

Can sometimes feel pointless.

But the whole point, is the less of me point,

The more of you point,

Flowing from the tip of my ball point.

 

So I’ll meet you again in that place I can be,

The who that you made me,

Not the person I try to be,

Or the one that others see.

 

So help others to see and for me to be,

The same as you see,

So I can truly be me.

 

Silent

A not so silent night is usual for me,

Books and podcast drown out the noise,

That internal noise, the things on my mind,

The things in my soul.

 

Approaching silence, scary, intimidating,

Seemingly boring, unproductive, the last thing

I want to do.

 

Yet once there, I find peace, the solitude speaks,

Yes the mind wanders but the God that I seek

Keeps drawing me back as I wait for Him to speak.

 

J.R. Woodward – Welcoming the Other In Light of Our Hope

Today’s post comes from JR Woodward,  the co-founder of  Kairos Los Angeles, a network of churches in the LA area.  He also co-founded the Ecclesia Network – a relational network of missional churches – and the Solis Foundation – which gives grants to help start small businesses among the poorest of the poor in Lodwar, Kenya.  He’s finishing his Masters of Art in Global Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary this year.  He compiled and contributed to the book ViralHope and is in process of finishing his next book on the five equippers, title forthcoming.  He loves to surf, watch films, engage in the art of photography, and have a glass of wine with old and new friends.  You can learn more about him here. You will find him blogging here and tweeting here.

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Welcoming the Other in Light of Our Hope
One of the practices that I am engaging in to draw near to God in the season of advent is being a person who welcomes the other into my life, in light of our ultimate hope. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

When you think of the God of Hope, what would you say is our ultimate hope as the people of God?

The ultimate hope that is described by Paul earlier in Romans and that he alludes here is the hope in the triune’s God’s ability to bring about the new creation – the redemption of our bodies and the redemption of the world. Instead of a world where creation is being polluted and destroyed because we act as though the resources we consume are infinite and the wastes we deposit are invisible, the creation, which is groaning to be release from the curse, will be released and brought back to its original beauty. Instead of a world where over 30,000 die daily of starvation or preventable diseases it would be a place of abundance for all, because there would be a new relational economy that measures success in terms of gross national affection and global community.  Instead of a place where countries send the young men and women to war, to fight others made in the image of God, and spend billions a day to secure resources so that some can live extravagantly while others go without, it will be a world where nations “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” it will be a place, as the prophet Isaiah says, where “nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  No more fighting, no more hatred.

Being People of Welcome
One picture of the future we have is that people from every tongue, tribe and nation will be living together with God at the center.  In anticipation of that hope, I seek to welcome people into my life that are different than me.  I often bring one of my international friends with me when I go back home and visit my family, so that I might grow closer to them and they might get a taste of how a typical American family celebrates Christmas.  It is sad to me how many people visiting the states don’t ever get invited into our lives.  Paul encourages us to be welcomers when he says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.”

We see this whole idea of welcoming in the Godhead, the very first community, where the spirit gives light to all people and where Christ gives his life for a world which is living in contradiction to the Father, and this giving of his life draws all those who believe in him, into the eternal kind of life.

We become welcomer’s when we remember the actions of the Father, Son and Spirit.  The open arms of the Father receiving the prodigal, the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross dying for the godless, and the spirit working in the hearts of God’s people, to accept those that at one time they had a hard time accepting.

This idea of having an inclusive community where anybody could be involved was a tough thing for the disciples to get.  In fact, it took some of them quite a long time before they ever really got it.

An old Jewish joke tells the story of Judgment Day at the end of history.  God summons all the people who have ever lived.  “Here’s what we are going to do,” he explains.  “Gabriel will read out the Ten Commandments, one by one.  As he does, those who have broken them will have to depart into everlasting darkness.”  Commandment number one is read out and a number of people are led off.  The same thing happens with each of the commandments until, having read eight of the ten, only a small crowd remains.  God looks up to see this handful of stern, smug, grim-faced, self-righteous, joyless miseries staring back at him.  He pauses and contemplates the prospect of spending eternity with this lot.  “All right!” he shouts, “Everybody can come back; I’ve changed my mind.”

During the season of Advent, I love to practice hospitality by welcoming the other in light of our hope.

Tom Smith – An Advent Reflection – God is a Jumping God

Today’s post comes from Tom Smith.  Tom loves life and enjoys exploring as much of it as he can. He is sharing life with Lollie, Tayla and Liam as well as friends and family. He is passionate about the kingdom and how it takes expression in South Africa. He works with Oasis in South Africa (www.oasisza.org).

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Every morning I have the sacred privilege of taking my children to preschool.  The conversations in the car are varied – depending on our collective mood.  A few days ago we drove to school and Tayla said, “Dad today my heart is full of joy”.  I asked her why and she replied, “Because it is going to be a good day.”

One of their favourite activities in the car is to have the windows down so that the wind can blow through their hair.  They also love it when our two dogs join us for the ride.  Mocha usually sits in the front with me.  She sits upright and looks like a human in the passenger’s seat.  Lillo, like Liam and Tala, loves to position her head for optimal wind absorption.  Her ears flap next to her head as if they are clapping hands.

When the kids and the dogs are in the car we are quite the spectacle and it is fun to see the reaction of fellow motorists, they usually smile. On the way to school we usually pray and the kids have developed a prayer that goes like this (in Afrikaans it rhymes),

God thanks for this great day, wherein we can play and laugh”.

“Here, dankie vir hierdie dag waarin ons kan speel en lag”.

Because of the immense crime problem in South Africa the preschool they attend has a camera at the gate so that the teachers can monitor who is seeking access. This camera has a dual purpose. Not only does it serve as a security measure, it also brings the kids lots of fun.

Over the years the camera has been used as a tool for saying goodbye. The children ask their parents to wave at them. Not so for Liam and Tayla. A wave is not good enough. Over the last few months their instructions on how the wave should be performed have become more ostentatious.

This morning I had to jump from a squatting position and spin in the air as well as use my arms in a chopping motion (per Liam’s request, he calls it “the shark”). The kids show me what to do and then I open and close the gate and stand in the road facing the camera. Then I will do the “moves”, that is what the kids call it.

Last week a pedestrian walked by and watched me do the moves.  She burst out in laughter. To her I was just a weirdo doing “moves” to no one in particular. Over the last few weeks this routine has become very special to me.  Every morning this liturgy reminds me of the love of Our Father.

The Bible gives us multiple pictures of the Father. The one I am reminded of every morning is painted by Zephaniah 3:17,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. ” (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

When I am done with the “moves” in front of the camera I hear a gentle whisper from the Father saying, “Tom I also do moves for you”.

These moves are filled with the soothing (quieting) rhythms of rejoicing, gladness and love.  It is also full of energetic moves of exultation and loud singing and also contains the saving moves of might and salvation.

During this Advent I am thinking about the jumping God in front of the camera.

I am reminded that the One whose “coming(s)” we celebrate is above all a jumping God, full of love and ready to make moves. Soothing, energetic and saving moves.