The mysterious direction of first love

There’s a part of me I almost always hold back. Not consciously but by default.

It’s the bit that says absolute conviction, no holds barred, be a true believer.

Cause that bit of me is already given and you can’t give it again.

I’ll be on the outer when it comes to humanity’s great plans, and I know I’m not the only one.

But I will follow the mysterious direction of first love, even if it seem like the wind in the trees.

And if that calls for greatness or lowliness or never ending service I will die in my attempt to give it, but only because my eyes are on something over the horizon.

I’m not yours, I’m not even mine.

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Oh and love yourself

‘I love you and you and you and you and me and you and you and me and you and you!’

Pointing at four of my grandchildren in turn and occasionally at myself for comic relief – it was a fun game with a happy message.

‘Funny Pa Pa, you love yourself?!’ said the oldest who at nearly 4 has a remarkable grasp on the subtleties of life.

‘It’s good to love yourself,’ I said, ‘Because God has made us amazing and loving ourselves helps us to love others.’

The moment moved on quickly but it stuck in my mind which means it stuck in her eminently more absorbant mind.

Loving self is the third of three loves forming part of Jesus’ Great Commandment. It is as hard to get right as the other two and in fact all three are contingent on the reason for it all – God so loves us.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30‭-‬31 NIV

Excuses, forgiveness and salt on my tongue

CS Lewis writes of our generous ability to find excuses for our own bad behaviour but our stubborn inability to accept those excuses in another.

(Presupposing you accept the existence  of something so old fashioned as the idea of bad behaviour…)

He continues that even if there is reasonable excuse for a harmful or hurtful action or attitude, even if 99 per cent of the situation might be excused, it is the forgiving of what remains that counts.

If we only seek to excuse what we or another has done wrong (another old-fashioned idea) then nothing changes in us or them. But we become better at excuses – and entire industries are spawned.

God is willing to forgive the inexcusable in us which is why he makes this conditional on us forgiving the inexcusable in others. Even the niggling one per cent. Even after ’70 times 7′ occasions.

I find reading of these ideas helps build an accountability in my spirit which I need to rise even slightly above the dust of a groaning creation.

The moving of the Spirit on chaos, a cool breeze on an anguished face, salt on my wayward tongue.

 

 

Don’t lose heart

Don’t lose heart and don’t lose vision! Run your race with perseverance and keep your eyes on the most important things, that are already yours, that money can’t buy:

Serving God, strengthening your family, building character, being honourable and generous, finding wisdom, rejecting despair and self-pity, enjoying the little things of life, working hard, always learning, always growing but not comparing or envying.

Everything flows from decision, so whatever course you choose (that builds for the future) rest in it, pray, make room for God, stick to your plans, be alert and one day you will look back, like we do now, and see God is faithful to provide all our needs.

Only remember the poor, value people, forgive and make peace, trust in Jesus.

The deepest parts

Baby_in_womb

Consider how much human energy is expended in discovering what’s inside us.

Entire industries, advancing technologies and schools of learning exist to help us peer into our physical beings.

A billion words have been written in developing insight of our emotional and psychological beings.

If our skin and organs were transparent and our thoughts and feelings were unflinchingly displayed in speech bubbles above our head, many people would be out of a job and the world far less mysterious.

Read More »

Spiritual is more than meets the eye: fine moments from a free breakfast #3

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A young professional joined in our breakfast and told of some recent spiritual seeking.

Eve: ‘I spent the week at a temple learning some Buddhist meditation.’

Me: ‘Are you Buddhist?’

Eve: ‘No!’ She seems incredulous I would draw that conclusion.

Eve: ‘As someone has said, being spiritual is a good start.’ I busily serve food and try to understand this comment, wondering if it’s a polite put down for people who have faith but don’t act.

Me: ‘So what about this, what we are doing here. Is it spiritual?’ It’s her turn to look incredulous.

Me: ‘Yes. It’s spiritual, because there is more happening here than meets the eye.’ And I think of the exchanges of hope and grace that have occurred all morning.

Eve: After reflecting for a while. ‘I think what happens here is communion.’ I’m stunned by this insight.

Me: ‘You are right. The Last Supper was communion, where this began, the coming together of people, of speaking of important things, of a price paid for others. You should read an account from the gospels.’ It’s an incomplete description but a snatched beginning.

Eve: ‘I will. I’ll think about this all week.’

* Our month of breakfasts has finished but we’ll be at a community festival in Camperdown on September 21 as we consider our next step and keep looking for God’s open door.

* Names and details changed in this story to protect privacy. The people involved in the conversation are not in the photo.

Good Anzac

While leaders erred their courage held
Bloodied birth waters for a young nation
Anzac Day.
Not so far from there a crowd yelled
Bloody minded in their mob betrayal
Good Friday.

Quiet days that soar still on our modern calendars
Far places weighing on our clever consciences
Calvary and Anzac Cove say, ‘Not my will, lest we forget’.
Great defeats born with blood, borne by love
Teaching us still decades, centuries, eternally
That winning is not always won in victory
But sometimes by the brave, in loss.

The good die young, die in sand and mud, die in their thousands
And we remember them, more than ever, more than mostMoved and strangely weeping.
But listen, echoing along with shuffling feet on dawn’s street
The sound of metal striking metal
Wood giving way, and flesh
And the cry of an only Son
Who dies on a tree, dies with scorn, dies alone
Not my will, lest we forget.

Peter Hallett
Rev Bob Hammond,

Lord’s Prayer reveals divine priorities

Searching for ‘tweets’ in the writings of iconic Australian social reformer and evangelist Rev Robert Hammond, this comment stuck in my thinking:

‘The Lord’s Prayer does say: “And forgive us our debts,” but first it says “Give us this day our daily bread.”‘

In context, Hammond was suggesting before we worry about someone’s sin (wrongdoing), we should see to their daily needs of survival, in keeping with his commitment to practical Christianity.

This morning I woke early, and was thinking, among other things, of what other divine prioritisation we might see in a form of praying that came directly from Jesus. Whatever you think of Jesus, you would have to agree, understanding how he ordered his view of the world is worth considering.

Here’s a few early morning thoughts.

Our Father in Heaven: Not just God first, but relating to God so intimately that it transcends all of life and reaches to where God exists.

Hallowed (praised) be your name: Our choice to honour God’s identity, character, presence.

Your kingdom come, your will be done: His explanation of how to live purposely and perfectly now.

On earth as in heaven: Completing the circle – intimate relationship that honours the character and ways of God leads to a heaven on earth potential.

Give us this day: Not just ‘forever’ but living for today.

Our daily bread: Be practical about our (individual and communal) whole and healthy life

And forgive our sins: Be accountable for your own choices before God.

As we forgive others: Having the humility to acknowledge our own shortcomings means we might be able to release others from theirs.

Lead us not into temptation: Prepare for what choices we will face today by relying on God’s goodness.

Deliver us from evil: Prepare for the choices of others and the randomness of a broken world by relying on God’s goodness.

Your’s is the kingdom, power and glory forever: Come what may, be wrapped up in God’s completeness.

Amen: So be it.

The Lord’s Prayer, as it is commonly known to Protestant Christians, or the Pater Noster (Our Father) to many Catholics, is not so much a prayer, but a way of praying.

And as we have seen, it is also a way of living and seeing, today and forever.

PH

PS You can follow RBS Hammond on Twitter here.

Return to me on the mountain and don’t smash your future

“Prepare two stone tablets like the first ones, and make a sacred chest out of acacia wood to keep them in. Return to me on the mountain, and I will write on the tablets the same words that were on the ones you smashed.” Deuteronomy 10:1-2

Bible, future, recovery, God, MosesMoses had spent 40 days removed from the normal rhythms of life in the presence of God receiving a blueprint for the future, an agreement for living, a look at how things could be, all written in stone by the finger of God.

Then God gives Moses those tablets, bearing the words of the 10 Commandments,  even though he knew it was going wildly skewiff on the ground. No doubt God was peeved too but it was Moses, tired and hungry after a 40 day fast and difficult climb, who took the ‘future’ and smashed it in the midst of his community’s messy ‘present’.

Things don’t always work out the way we expect. Our most holy moments can end up trampled on by golden calves. Outraged, brutalised, despairing, we smash the future in our all or nothing reaction just as Moses smashed the tablets God had given him.Read More »

Filipino wins 99designs contest for Purpose Driven Life cover

There are a couple of interesting sidelights to the redesign of Rick Warren’s best-selling The Purpose Driven Life.

This year Rick Warren and his publisher decided to relaunch the book with a fresh design for younger readers to mark the 32 million-seller’s 10th anniversary.

They used the online marketplace for graphic design, 99designs, to launch a contest for the cover design with a prize of US$3,500.

One designer to enter was Filipino Brian Montes who said,  “The book inspired me to strengthen my principles in life, so designing a cover for the new edition was personally a very meaningful opportunity for me.”

Brian’s clean and simple design features a tree with 40 leaves.

Read Brian’s story here.

Meanwhile 99designs is the number one crowdsourcing online marketplace for graphic design and as of today boasts 145,513 contests hosted to date; 166,281 designers and US$36,127,663 designer prize money awarded.

And to check out the new edition of Rick Warren’s book now titled What on Earth am I Here For? The Purpose Drive Life, you’ll have to wait a few more months but there will be four new chapters from Warren.

Visit the current Purpose Driven Life site.

Related: Purpose Driven meets Starbucks

You Won’t Let Me lyrics tell an eternal story…

Written by Rachael Yamagata and Mike Viola, sung by The Voice Australia winner, Karise Eden, the new single You Won’t Let Me sounds strangely reminiscent of a song drifting down through time from Eden onwards,  from the Creator to the Created…

If you’d only let me
I could show you how to love
Take our time
Let it all go

If you’d only let me
I could show you how to cry
In your darkest hour
I would lead you through the fire

But you won’t let me
You won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

And I’d do anything
Yes, I’d do anything
If you’d only let me

With your hand in mine
I would show you how to laugh
Nothing heavy, nothing serious
Just forget about all that

You’ve been stepping back
I wanna be your friend
Tear down the walls that surround you
And build you back up again

But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

And I’d do anything
Yes, I’d do anything

So tonight stay with me
I know I can change your mind

But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me
I don’t wanna say goodbye
I just wanna give it one more try

I’d do anything for you
I’d do anything for you
But you won’t let me
No you won’t let me

You won’t let me.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

Caravaggio’s Resurrection of Lazarus restored

“Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend
And then he raised him up again.”

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (September 29, 1571 – July 18, 1610) painted Resurrection of Lazarus in 1609, not long before his death, and while on the run for various crimes committed in his often wild and tumultuous life. He was on his way to Rome hopeful of pardon when it appears he died on fever.

His painting has received the restoration he longed for and has also found its way to Rome where it is currently on display. Read the BBC’s report.

Lazarus, we can presume, lived to die and live again and is now with his great Friend forever… perhaps Caravaggio is with them, pardoned at last. Read the Bible’s report

Alan Miller aka ‘Jesus Christ’ living in the Qld scrub?

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Image via Wikipedia

Alan John Miller, 47, met Mary Luck, 32, in the lounge room of her parent’s home. The only thing unusual is that Alan makes straight-faced claims to be Jesus Christ and says Mary Luck is really Mary Magdalene who just happened to be living nearby. The Apostle John, a first century disciple of the historical Christ, is also living in Australia, according to Alan Miller.

Miller says that there are probably a million people who say they are Jesus Christ and ‘most of them are in asylums. But one of us has to be. How do I know I am? Because I remember everything about my life.’

Interviewed tonight (May 16, 2011) on A Current Affair, Miller came across as reasonable, calm and gentle (oh, there was that small thing about meeting Elvis) and several of his followers were interviewed and clearly have a strong belief in his messianic claims.

Up to 40 people have moved to the tiny town of Wilkesdale near Bundaberg and hold meetings on a 16 ha property, where they plan to build an international visitors centre. This is despite claiming Alan does not desire a following.

Of course where there is a Jesus claim, there are also miracle claims as well. News outlets are reporting that a giant cross has been inadvertently created by land clearing near the cult’s property.

‘In a bizarre coincidence, land clearing has created a giant cross on neighbouring properties that can be seen from space using Google Maps. Local residents insisted it was not carved deliberately,’ News Ltd reports.

And while Miller says that all he wants to do is communicate Divine Truth that people can choose to accept if they want, he seems to be ignoring the truth of the first century Jesus who warned his followers about false Christs.

‘At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. See, I have told
you ahead of time.

‘So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.’ Matthew 24:23-27Read More »

Be who God meant you to be… Royal Wedding sermon

The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Richard Chartres gave a stirring Address at the wedding of  Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton.

Billions around the world heard Rev Chartres urge William and Catherine and all listening to set the world on fire by being who God meant us to be.

He also highlighted that every wedding is a royal wedding in the sense that every bride and groom are kings and queens of creating new life.

Rev Chartres said that in marriage we are to make our spouse our ‘work of art’ while at the same time not placing on them a burden of expectation that only relationship with God can carry.

Interestingly, the sermon included a prayer composed by William and Catherine which asks God’s help in keeping their eyes fixed on what is real and important and to help them to be generous with their lives, ‘to serve and comfort those who suffer’.

Read the full sermon:

‘“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

‘Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.  

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.Read More »

How full is full?

Giotto The Marriage at Cana 1303
Image via Wikipedia

In John 2 Jesus attends a wedding in a Galilean town called Cana.
Like many people at wedding receptions, it seems he took a low profile, perhaps feeling like he was on the edge of the relationships at the heart of the wedding.
Besides, celebrations can be hard when a difficult reality is always on the edge of consciousness. Jesus somehow carried the emotional burden of his impending sacrifice through all he is recorded doing in the gospels. This is how I know he understands that many of us can standing smiling at a party or shaking a hand warmly and at the same time be holding off sadness or fear or grief or anger or doom. Apparently there is a freedom for miracles even in the midst of this paradox, judging by Jesus’ example in John 2.
When the wine run dries Jesus is called on to intervene and he uses what is at hand: servants, clay jars, water, his own sense of what is good and right, and perhaps just a little passion for the surprising.
John records that there were six jars of 20 to 30 gallons capacity. We each have a certain capacity, some days it’s 20, some days it’s 30. Either way Jesus’ command was to fill them and they were filled to the brim. He is less concerned with our actual capacity – which will vary from person to person, day-to-day, season to season – as to whether we will receive his command to be filled.
The result was breathtakingly good and everyone benefitted. If you are like me you may also appreciate some breathtaking good right now… ‘Fill us full Lord!’
And then there’s the secret art of servanthood. While everyone enjoyed the ‘best for last’ wine, John says only the servants knew where it came from. Being a servant will mean you are not usually the one at the head table tasting the wine, but it may mean you get to share in a miracle, a touch of heaven, a piece of grace, that you will treasure forever. This is the unspoken reward of serving and it is sometimes little appreciated. Never mind, there will always be those who are still and obedient enough to hear the words – ‘fill them up’ – and go into the world and do just that. Let’s be among them today – only be sure to serve ‘full’!

Hope against all hope in the midst of change

It has been a year of unprecedented change for our family, some if it chosen, some of it not – and it’s not over yet.

Change, whether initiated or imposed, is often challenging – especially when it affects the deep things of your heart and your future.

In the midst of some difficult moments this month, I had a speaking engagement where my theme was to be hope. Having been planned long before, it almost seemed laughable that I would contemplate hope when I was more prone to panic.

Of course, God has a sense of humour and that is good reason to be hopeful – it helps not to take yourself too seriously.

There is something unique about the Bible that when you turn to it to prepare some thoughts for others, it has an amazing power to instead prepare you.

And so, for all those pondering their future, wondering their past and wandering right now, let there be hope:Read More »

To find God and yet pursue

Love Liberty Disco
Image via Wikipedia

There are some days in which Love Liberty Disco is just the thing. Not quite sure why, certainly not the white suits on the cover. Perhaps it’s Peter Furler’s falsetto.

Helpful also to find a reference to AW Tozer’s The Pursuit of God in track one, Beautiful Sound: ‘To have found You and still be looking for You, it’s the “soul’s paradox of love”‘.

The original quote reads: ‘To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.’

Just let our hearts burn God, we are nothing but children.

To be beheaded, and satisfied…

Back in the early 1990s when I started out in pastoral ministry and church leadership there was a popular teaching used to inspire Christians to greater heights of service and vision.

‘There came a man sent by God, and his name was John’ reads John 1:6, speaking of John the Baptist.

We were asked to replace the name ‘John’ with our own to encourage us to believe we too had been called by God to do great things. Just as John the Baptist strode out into the Jordan and Judea in response to the call of God, so to we would make our mark on the world.

Of course there is a fine line between an ultruistic desire to change the world and egotistical need for recognition and I’m not entirely sure which was more developed by this reference.

That is not to say that God does not call people and that we should not have an unaffected, humble and life-changing sense of the purpose of God in our lives. Each one of us is significant beyond our comprehension, in terms of our seen and unseen influence on others but mostly because we matter to God.

But I don’t recall us, as we discussed this verse, following on from this starting point with John the Baptist through to the outcome of his call. John lived in the desert, wore animal skins, ate locusts, languished in prison, watched his finest disciples leave to follow another and was beheaded.

While Jesus called him greater than any Old Testament prophet, his entire ministry was designed to make way for another. One of John’s best known statements was that Jesus should become more, and himself less.

Serving God is ever the selfless act and if we substitute our own ambition for his glory we cross over into something different.

None of us carry off selflessness to perfection – even John the Baptist acknowledged a gradual retreat of his own name and a rising up of Christ’s. And many of us forget selflessness altogether and pursue ministry for selfish gain, cloaked in a spiritual mantle.

The telling will be in our ability to lay it down and celebrate its picking up by another. To be beheaded and satisfied that we have done well is the mark of Christian greatness. Now there’s a line we don’t see too often in leadership classes… PH

PS There might be something in this post for Kevin Rudd??!!

Love enemies or become one…

I think I’ve worked out why (apart from the obvious world peace and so on) Jesus told us not to hate our enemies, but to love them and pray for them.

If you hate your enemies, you will become like them. And then one day you’ll realise you hate yourself.

If your love your enemies, and pray for them, they might just become like your friends and love you back. Or if not, your still in front because you will still find it possible to love yourself and hopefully you will have spent a fair bit of time talking to God. Simple, isn’t it.