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




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


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.


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 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.



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.


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).


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.



Evening Prayers for the Christmas season

For those who love to both begin and end the day with prayer particularly during this season here are the prayers that we will be using over the next few weeks

Evening Christmas liturgy

Let we join in the dance of God this night,

And sing our praises to Christ our Saviour.

Let us celebrate the joy of Christ’s birth,

And shout aloud: Emmanuel, God is with us!

Pause to light the Christ candle and remind yourself of the many names by which Christ is known in the Bible.  Allow time for each person to call out the names that are most meaningful to them)

Lord Jesus Christ,

A thousand names cannot confine you

You are King of Kings and Lord of Lord

Wonderful counselor, Prince of Peace,

Saviour, Restorer and Redeemer

You are the Lamb who was slain,

Lord Jesus Christ,

A thousand names cannot confine you

God of justice and truth how can we know you?

You are majestic and holy, abounding in love and faithfulness

You are the source of life, our provider

You walk beside us as companion and friend

Lord Jesus Christ,

A thousand names cannot confine you

God of glory, God of power you care for the vulnerable

Protector of widows and orphans,

Compassionate to the poor, comforter of the downcast

You heal all our diseases and bring us wholeness

Lord Jesus Christ,

A thousand names cannot confine you

God in whom we trust, you are always with usl

You are all things good, known yet unknowable

You are the way, the truth and the life,

We worship you

Lord Jesus Christ,

A thousand names cannot confine you

Read the evening psalms from the daily lectionary


Lord Jesus Christ, your name is proclaimed in all the earth.

You were God almighty yet you made yourself nothing

You came as a vulnerable child to live amongst us.

You were God all powerful

Yet you came as a humble servant

You were faithful as a son,

You went through death so that we might find life

Your blood was shed so that we could be redeemed

Your body was broken so that we might be made whole

Therefore God has exalted you and given you the name above all names

So that one day all peoples will proclaim you

As Jesus Christ the Lord

God who calls us all by name

Have mercy upon us

Christ who invites us to share life as one family

Have mercy on us

Spirit who welcomes us home together into God’s eternal world

Grant us peace

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Jesus, as members of your family, help us to proclaim your names in all the earth

Make us instruments of your life today

Through our words and actions help us to proclaim you as saviour and redeemer to all peoples

Lord make us instruments of your love today

Where there is war may we proclaim you as the Prince of Peace

Lord make us instruments of your peace today

Where there is despair may we proclaim you as the God of all comfort

Lord make us instruments of your comfort today

Where there is sickness may we proclaim you as the great physician

Lord make us instruments of your healing today

Where there is oppression may we proclaim you as the God who brings freedom

Lord make us instruments of your freedom today

Where there is hunger may we proclaim you as the God of abundant provision

Lord make us instruments of your generosity today

Jesus may we be proclaimers of your names through all the earth

Lord make us instruments of your kingdom today

The Wonderful Counsellor guide you,

The Mighty God protect you,

The Everlasting Father be with you.
The Prince of Peace inspire you,

And the blessings of God be upon you, now and evermore.




Ryan Harrison – God Is Near Draw Close

Today’s post comes from Ryan Harrison.  Ryan lives in Denver, Colorado. Her days are filled with teaching, writing, and hopefully, especially in this season, spending time in God’s presence.


Everything I’ve done as this year draws to an end, I’ve done in preparation for a slow, peaceful advent season. It hasn’t worked. I am distracted. My distractions are the brick and mortar kind— the kind that often have human faces (and so, human needs) attached to them. It is an avalanche of to-do lists, holiday parties, meetings, last-minute errands and urgent-need-your-attention-immediately situations that hasn’t stopped. And so, neither have I.


In past years, I would have been disappointed that my distractions kept me from experiencing this season—a time when I’m usually intentional about slowing down and experiencing God. This year, it’s a different story. This year, I am decidedly attached to my distractions; they are safe and familiar. They dull the lacking, the missing, the emptiness that has rooted itself deep into my heart. They mask my world-weariness and my short-comings, my inability to love well.

They keep me far from God.

Accepting that God is near today, in this season of expectant waiting, would demand something of me that I lack the capacity to give.

It would demand that I put away the distractions, that I step into God’s presence and that I begin to hope. To hope that a different world is possible, that my work isn’t in vain, that I won’t always feel the lacking, the missing, the emptiness. To hope above all else that God’s promise of redemption and restoration will continue to trickle down to me, until I see its fullness.

So, today, I’ll lay down my distractions and I’ll refocus on the One whose name is hope. I’ll bundle up and walk in the quiet dawn, too early for distractions, while the cold chaps my face and reminds me of my pain. But the light will come, it will warm my face, and it will remind me to stop, to breathe, to pray.





Morning Prayers for the Christmas Season

With Christmas just a few days away I thought that some of you might be interested in morning and evening prayers for the Christmas season.  I thought that I would post these in separate posts so here are the morning prayers

God of joy and celebration

God of love and mercy

God of peace and righteousness

We sing aloud and dance with the angels.

The ruler of all worlds, the shepherd of creation

Jesus Christ has entered our world

Our Saviour Christ has come into the world,

Not in power, not in might, but in the tenderness of love,

He comes as the promise of life hidden in a mother’s womb.

In this season of God with us we celebrate with the angels

We are graced by the wonder of God’s presence

We are filled with the tenderness of Christ’s love,

(Pause to light Advent and Christ candles)

Love and faithfulness meet together,

Righteousness and peace kiss each other,

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

In this season of God with us we rejoice for God’s salvation has come

The redeemer of all creation has come to earth

And we catch glimpses of God’s Messiah healed world

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

This is the time we believe once more that perfect love casts out fear

That generosity transforms scarcity into abundance

That righteousness overcomes oppression with justice

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

We are graced by Christ’s presence and filled with his love

May we become bearers of God’s light,

And go out to transform our troubled world.

Shout aloud Hallelujah! God’s faithfulness comes down from heaven

God has kept his promise, the Saviour has been born and a new world begun .

Scriptures of the day from the daily lectionary

The whole earth shouts with joy to God

The world declares God’s praise.

Praise to the compassionate and gracious One,

Who sent the son to dwell among us.

Praise to the incarnate One, Jesus Christ our Redeemer

Who fulfills God’s covenant of love and compassion to all humankind

Praise to the indwelling one, the Holy Spirit the giver of life

Who proclaims God’s mercy and justice throughout the earth

Praise to the three in One

Praise to the One in Three

Praise to God on high

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jesus you come

In the voice of the poor

In the hurting of the sick

In the anguish of the oppressed

Open our eyes that we may see you

Jesus you come

In the weakness of the vulnerable

In the questions of the doubting

In the fears of the dying

Open our ears that we might hear you

Jesus you come

In the celebration of the saints

In the generosity of the faithful

In the compassion of the caring

Open our hearts that we might embrace you

Almighty God whose great love and compassion came into our world in the person of your incarnate son, Jesus Christ, plant in every heart your concern and care for all humankind.  May the light of Christ ignite our hearts and shine out brightly from our lives, proclaiming your salvation to all the earth.

May the light of God shine on us,

May the love of Christ shine in us,

May the life of the Spirit shine through us.

This day and evermore