Saturday, 27 December 2014

Basking in the afterglow

I wasn't ready for Christmas, despite every good intention, a beautiful book list, devotions to dive into and expectations high during Advent.

Presents were wrapped, all was ready on the surface, family had arrived and my husband had the catering in hand.

I was as rested as I could be and not as flat out with fatigue as I often am as Christmas arrives.

Plenty of reasons for rejoicing yet my heart felt strangely weighed down.

All I seemed to be left with after a period of extra busyness was anxiety and stress. Maybe you can relate?

My Advent preparations had been good, though somehow I had lost sight of their purpose as I lost myself instead in worry and weariness.

I also wasn't ready for Christ to speak to me on Christmas Eve in the sadness of feeling unprepared for Him. To offer solace and reassurance that it's not about my/our efforts at all but about His.

As the great I AM, Jesus is always with us, always present, always close to hurting hearts.

He sees the way we wrangle to squeeze Just One More Thing in until we nearly squeeze Him out, and how we are desperate to make something big out of our smallness.

He witnesses our struggles for perfectionism and answers with His grace.

Jesus whispered words of comfort as I sat on the bed with tears in my eyes, sorrowing once again over how flawed I am, how impossible it is to feel my way into worship (or worth-ship) most of the time.

He met me in my weariness. He strengthened me in my weakness. 

He spoke in the silent places and gifted me with the glowing fire of His love.

Reminded me how He came for those who were needy. How His gift to us is Presence and our gift back to Him is simply sharing all of our lives, hearts and minds with Him.

Yes, especially the messiness, the muddles, the sadness, confusion and pain.

And now? We sit between Nativity and New Year, pause in the gap to catch our breath.

Depleted, satiated and weary, we wait in the interim to rouse ourselves for another celebration to begin.

It's a time to reflect and wonder anew about opportunities ahead. But, instead of seeing it as Christmas being all over for another year, how about considering: Isn't this the best bit as we bask in the afterglow of God's great Love come down?

Truly believe we already are pre-approved and loved beyond measure.

Rest grateful in those arms which threw stars into space, brought life to everything and sustain us in their safe embrace.

Be comforted by the voice of One who soothes fretful hearts, brings the joy and peace of His Presence back to lives made dull by distance.

Relax to know Jesus can be celebrated all year round in our hearts and lives. He isn't just for Christmas.

Because He is right here, right now ~ omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Incarnate God.

His Light shines in every dark circumstance and place.

His grace is new every morning.

He is always ready to receive us even when we feel ill-prepared to receive Him. 

To pour His Love-light upon souls longing for a touch from His hands. All we need to do is ask, and Jesus will respond.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Between Narnia and Nativity

Winter isn't for wimps. It's prime time for hibernation.

It's weighty heaviness can steal joy right out of weary hearts.

Fog-leaden and snow-laden lands lead to low moods for many.

Misted breath and frosty fingers steal in, seep through the window pane and wrap themselves around my brain.

I succumb to the numbing, become muffled and mournful.

Such tenacious chill of mind and will could take some shifting. Just like my duvet, I sink into its sonorous depths.

Even creativity is being capricious, wearing a sly smile as she slides away evasive.

Poetry usually flows like a babbling brook before singing itself onto the page.

But now? It lies turgid, a murky pond of indifference where I dredge hopeful for silver in the silt.

Words have become as weeds clinging to the reeds, refusing to rise obligingly to the surface.

Here we are:caught between Narnia and Nativity, aching for Light to come.

Can it really be winter all the time and never Christmas? Surely not. Our souls crave celebration.

And won't Light and Joy seep their way through the grey-gloom, soften cold hearts, draw back the dark?

Oh yes, they will. 

We may be overshadowed by our circumstances but we're covered by grace, nevertheless. 

Because the One who came into Mary's womb is the same One who comes into our deep and silent places.

She pondered how that could happen, much as we wonder when.. this pain will ease, this burden will be lifted, this sickness will leave, this problem will be shifted.

I read:"'How will this be,' Mary asks the Angel, 'Since I am a virgin?' The Angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you'" ~ Luke 1:34-35

And these words hover in my head, shape themselves into a poem:

Heavy cloak of holiness
wrapped with softness
Burning light of purity
lies sealed within
Revelation promises
fulfilled in Him
Developing Christ-child
swims in the womb
Stretching over time
to give Him room
Waiting for the right moment
in which He'll come
Angelic hosts sing
a welcome song
Mantle of mercy and grace
drapes lightly on
all who receive and embrace"

As words flow once more so does insight, inspiration and gratitude.

For we also are overshadowed; we have Holy Spirit, The Comforter Himself, wrapping arms of Love around us all the time.

We have His continual, Light-filled presence, His fire, His infilling.

As gentle dove, He speaks soothing balm to winter-weary hearts and whispers, 'Soon'

"Soon, My child, your waiting will be over.

Soon, those inner longings will be met.

Sooner than you know I will reveal His Light in your darkness, His Peace in your perplexity.

Hold on for a little bit longer.

Keep the flame burning in your heart; keep Hope alive.

A faltering wick He will not quench or snuff out.

Hide yourself in the shelter of the Father's wings for He is your refuge and shelter against every storm.

Allow Me to pour the oil of Joy on your troubled soul.

At just the right time the Christ-child will be birthed anew in hearts ready to receive Him.

New life will spring from the old."

And as we listen to His voice, as we breathe the Peace of His Presence, as we respond to what we are hearing we are slowly filled with life again. 

Chilled hearts thaw. Minds become enlightened, grasping Truth. 

Our world becomes brighter with expectation. Hope of renewal and change.

Jesus is coming. God is with us. Emmanuel is here. 

We can breathe easy. Our dark winter of discontent is coming to an end.

I'm joining here with Janis and other like-minded friends for #sundaystillness as we press pause in the midst of the busyness.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Awakening to purpose

Mary heavy with child and the strain of labour.

Feeling it in every fibre of her being.

Preparing herself to birth our Saviour.

Carrying a weight of wonder in mind and body.

Caught up in a purpose beyond herself, stretching into the reaches of heaven and eternity.

Pregnant with possibility. Potential. Plans beyond her knowing.

Given tiny glimpses into this infant's future.

Quietly relying on God's light revealing The Way.

Aware of her frail humanity. A woman's body tearing with the heat of it.

Labouring in a fallen world's curse of pain, of blood, sweat and tears.

Her body writhing as each spasm shoots flames of fire. Every sense heightened, more alive than ever before.

This baby, born to live unlike any other, being birthed in hardship and distress, struggle and duress much as any other.

No fancy room. No royal crib fit for this King of kings. Only a humble manger to lay Him in.

Just a bare stable. Hay to catch the blood and mucus. Snuffle and odour of animals close by.

Here she labours on in the messy marvel of impending motherhood.

Awed by the dawning realisation of responsibility.

Deeply humbled. Deeply grateful to be part of God's unfolding plans.

Leaning heavy on her husband, tightly gripping his reassuringly strong carpenter's fingers.

Gasping for breath as Holy Spirit breaths life for the Christ-child to come.

Nearly here...

The pain and strain would soon be over.

This child was due. He would come soon.

No more pointing fingers. No more accusations for Joseph to bear. No more life as they know it now.

All things would change.

Mary sighed. She was embracing the new while feeling uncertain about the future.

Who knew what might lay ahead?

What depths her soul might dip to, what heights her emotions would scale.

But one thing she knew...God brought her to this point and He would see her through.

She rested as the contractions eased, stroked her tightly swollen abdomen and smiled.

Maybe you and I have something big to birth ~ big dreams and schemes ready to take wings, hope rising in our souls.

Maybe God is singling you out for a future that looks fearsome from where you're standing.

Maybe you yearn to be delivered of a God-given dream, but the timing isn't right yet.

Each day we can awaken anew to God's purpose for our lives.

Each moment is an opportunity for His grace, for new life to be birthed from the old.

And if you don't yet know what the purpose might be?

Well, rest easy, my friend. It will come.

We cannot see what lies ahead but we can trust an unknown future to a known God.

Be reassured by His word.

Be guided, led and comforted by His continual Presence.

And know that God-given dreams don't die on The Vine.

No, they await their God-given timing. He hasn't given up on you and He never will.

God has great things He intends to do in and through you now and in the days to come.

Our task is to be aware, be ready, be willing, be faithful. Keep listening and praying.

The One who leads us to will also bring us through as circumstances shape themselves to His will and ways.

Let's begin awakening to purpose, knowing that the time of waiting may soon be over for us too.

Joining Holley and Jennifer and other like- minded friends as we seek to bring coffee for your heart in the telling of His story. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Out of darkness

A child develops in darkness. Entombed in the womb. 

Cushioned and cradled within its comfortable confines.

They grow toward the day when they will emerge, blinking, into the light.

Stretch tenuous fingers toward all that awaits to embrace them.

At a point in time they will draw in air, breathe independently and become a living, wriggling, blood-stained crying reality to those who have anticipated their arrival.

Each new birth holds a degree of mystery and wonder, unfolding of a life that is as yet unknown, unfamiliar, no matter how well prepared the parents may feel beforehand.

Scripture speaks of the anticipated arrival of Messiah, Servant-King, God Incarnate.

Years of waiting culminating in "to us a child is born, to us a son is given", a child like any other in appearance yet with a huge weight on his tiny shoulders.

This Christ-child is to be called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 42:6) and One who will "reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever" (Isaiah 42:7).

He developed and grew in the secret place, in the deep dark space, in the area where only God sees and meets with us.

He came to be the Light-bringer, Light-bearer and Light-giver to all who walk in darkness.

His time encapsulated in the womb echoed His desire to fully enter into all our frail humanity, to lay aside His majesty, come into our darkness.

It is said of Jesus' coming, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned" (Isaiah 9:2).

I wrote this little poem recently about being in a time of darkness:

In coming to earth as a tiny, defenceless, dependent baby, Jesus identifies with our weakness and fragility.

In coming to earth as a bringer of holy Light, He reveals God's desire to overcome the darkness that exists both within and without us. 

In coming as a child, developing in the depth of a warm, watery womb, He experienced a taste of being without visible light yet still intimately and vitally connected to God the Father.

He had the light of life within Him continually, just as we can experience when we come to faith in Him and His Spirit comes to live within.

Here's the thing:Don't we get to know and experience God most in the dark side of life, in the painful circumstances, the challenges and hardships we face?

Aren't we more aware of Him when we need help rather than when we feel confident and capable?

Our heaviness of spirit tips hopeful toward the light of His presence, wanting to feel lighter, to loose the load we bear and hand it over to God, our Burden-Bearer.

"Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit us most often" ~ Frederick Buechner in 'Listening to Your Life' 

And just as we long to gather our own children to safety and shelter, to comfort, reassure and give them support, so God calls us out of the dark ways that threaten to kill and destroy our very souls.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth" ~ Isaiah 42:16

As we await the celebrations of Christmas there is much to ponder in the interval.

Advent speaks of a coming, a watching and a waiting. It also speaks of an arrival.

The curtain is lifting. The stage is set. God enters human history as one of us.

We live the other side of the blind darkness, of the deep distress, of the lost hopes and dreams.

We are chosen, redeemed, beloved and precious to God.

We are a people called out of darkness into His glorious light.

We are destined to be light-bearers and light-bringers for those still in darkness.

Once we see the great hope we have from being in Christ, there is every reason to have joy in this season and beyond.

Let us look beyond the confines of our circumstances, breathe deep of Holy Spirit power, stretch wings of faith and hands of praise toward the One who brings light, love, hope and joy into each and every day ~ if we allow Him to. 

Jesus sees and knows our every weakness. He came to save, to suffer, to die for you and me. We have the challenge of letting Him live in and through us.

You and I can be born again, brought into the light, freed from the grip of death and darkness, given a fresh start.

Thank you for joining me in my Advent reflections which began here.

I look forward to sharing with you again soon. May God bless you and keep you, and shine His light strong in the dark spaces and places of your life.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Awakening to wonder

It was 2 am according to the clock. Insomnia was stealing sleep as usual.

I lay quietly thinking, alternately restlessly wriggling and praying. 

A few words whispered their way into my head. Became embedded in the place where poetry is birthed.

And as I mulled over them I thought back (via my imagination) to another night, over 2000 years ago.

To a hillside, bleak and stark against the sky, where shepherds gathered in the dark, leaning on their crooks, stamping feet and blowing on hands to keep warm in a night devoid of heat.

No 24/7 neon-lit, constant-buzz-of-activity night for them. All was dark. All was still.

They huddled under a blanket of stars, wrapped in a cloak of inky blackness. Struggling to stay awake just as I so often struggle to sleep.

They kept watch over their sheep, a beady eye looking out for predators, routinely counting woolly heads and soothed by soft bleating sounds. Ready to rescue as necessary.

Would they have had any awareness of the greatest rescue mission of them all about to unfold that night?

I wondered if they might have an inkling etched into their consciousness.

A sense of occasion. A sea-change in history. An encounter with Mystery.

A glimmer of the blinding light about to erupt around them.

An awakening to wonder at which they would become ring-side participants.

A new birth - not of a lamb as they knew it but of the Lamb of God - our servant-King, the coming Christ-child.

As midwives themselves to the sheep in their care, did they take it all in their stride as they saw the babe in the manger? 

Or did the fear and terror of sudden Divine illumination breaking through their night vigil (and their usual nocturnal ruminations) remove all natural reactions?

We don't fully know. Fear was there but wonder sat beside it as it always does in our encounters with God.

An angel visitation shook and astonished them. They were unprepared and overawed. 

And able to marvel and rejoice as comprehension gradually came.

These are the initial poetic words that came to me in the early am:

"There's a waiting, dawning wonder
A deepening, yearning hunger
Earth is at rest
She holds her breath"

They mark the very beginning of the shepherds' story, of a demarcation in the sands of time, of God's intervention in human history, now changing with the unfolding of His Story.

Then God stirred me again and these thoughts came as He whispered close:

"I come for the humble.
I come for the lowly.
For those with an ear to the ground.
For those who search high in the heavens.
I come to every heart that will give Me room.
I come to bring Light, hope, joy and peace.
To shine in your darkness.
To fill and flood your very being.
To give you a new heart and a fresh start.
Watch and wait, and wonder.
Your King is coming again to rule and reign" 

In coming first to shepherds, not kings, God reveals His willingness to meet with us right where we are in our daily soil and toil, to offer holy moments in the mundane.

And it gives a glimpse into how Jesus, the babe in the manger, became the Chief Shepherd of our souls, the One to lead us beside quiet waters and give us rest.

God's seeking heart chases after and captures our hearts long before we run to Him. 

An expectant hopeful, faith-filled heart will have an encounter with the living God, one way or another. Of that we can be sure. He longs for us to be in relationship with Him. 

Even to the extent of whispering words to us in the midnight hours!

Thank you for joining me on my journey of Awakening to Advent. I hope and pray it will be a blessing to you.

**How are you awakening to wonder in this season? I'd love to hear your stories. Please feel free to share them in the comments below**