Figuring out my midlife crisis

3707187124_546942ec87_zI turned 45 this year, so I guess it’s about time I had a midlife crisis. Mine has been partly self-inflicted and partly forced upon me. I suppose that’s they way they happen though. No one really chooses to go through a crisis of identity.

And identity is what crises of these types are all about. Having a couple of major traumas in my life in the last 12 months has led me to look at just where my identity has lain. It turns out that, to a large extent, I have been building my house on sand as well as on the rock of the love and security of God.

That is not to criticise where my heart has been (for the most part) in the years leading up to these traumas. It’s more that God has been calling me to a deeper level of commitment. As they say, be careful what you pray for, because there’s a good chance it will be answered! And, thankfully, God is not “nice” as we Western Christians often are when we try to deal with things. This is no Sunday School “gentle Jesus, meek and mild, tiptoeing through the meadows.” This is a God who takes the bull by its horns.

If you surrender yourself to this God, you can guarantee that surgery will be performed on your soul. And there are no anaesthetics when God is at the operating table. That doesn’t mean that God is mean; quite the contrary. This is surgery that gets to the root causes and cuts out the cancer for it never to return. This is love at its best, polishing the rough edges of the diamond so it resembles the exquisite beauty that the Master Surgeon originally intended for it. Continue reading

What does maturity look like?

Understanding peopleI’ve just been reading a bit of Larry Crabb’s book, Understanding People, again. It’s a book I got in 1987 and it has made a huge impact on me.

The sections I read today discussed maturity and what that looks like. The fact is that much of what looks like maturity in people is actually a commitment to self-protection.

Here are some quotes from the book that have really struck and challenged me. The fact that I find a lot of these quotes so uncomfortable is a sure sign that they apply to me.

  • “Maturity is less related to perfection than to a growing awareness of imperfection, an awareness that…drives us toward dependency on Christ for anything good to come out of our lives.”
  • “A mature pattern of relating involves whatever actions represent the abandonment of self-protection. The defensively pushy person will become more gentle as he matures, while the self-protectively gracious person will assert himself more.”
  • “Mature people relate to others without self-protection as their controlling motive. They love. Their actions may be gentle or brusque, silly or serious, traditional or progressive, quiet or noisy, gracious or severe, tolerant or confrontative, but they will be patient, kind, not envious, humble, sensitive, other-centred, slow to anger, quickly forgiving, haters of wrong, lovers of right, protective, trusting, hoping, persevering.”
  • “[Mature people] relate to others on the basis of a trust in God to look after their deepest welfare that frees them to direct their energies toward helping others.”
  • “In [the presence of mature people], our growth seems more appealing to us than required of us.”
  • “As people learn to love, the internal structures that sustain their emotional and psychological ills are eroded.”
  • “When the Scriptures give no clear instruction to govern specific choices, then the principle is always to do what is loving.”
  • “The effect of dependence on God is freedom to take hold of our worlds and to deal responsibly with them without being controlled by a fear of the pain to which our obedience may lead. The effect of clinging to God is the freedom to love.”

Instead of mega-church, micro-church!

What a wonderful example of what biblical church is all about!

The longest day

Deployed service members reflect on  D-DayToday the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches at Normandy in France. For Hitler’s army it signalled the beginning of the end. Many battles would still be fought and many lives lost. But, for all intents and purposes, the war was over.

The D-Day landings provide a wonderful analogy of the assurance and hope that the resurrection of Jesus provides. NT Wright, who provides this analogy, says that, just as D-Day was the beginning of the end of the war, so the resurrection was the same. Because of the resurrection, the new age of the reign of God had begun. Many battles and persecutions were still to take place, but the result was decided.

Injustice, war and corruption still mark the lives of millions of people the world over. The kingdom of God has not yet fully arrived. The warfare remains, but the war does not. The hope of the world is that love and justice wins in the end. In fact they have already won. And this hope is not a confident optimism. It is a hope based on fact – the fact of the resurrection.

The Letter to the Hebrews also highlights this “now and not yet” situation. The heroes of the faith persevered, even losing their lives, because they knew that better days were ahead.

For all the controversy a few years ago about Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, he is right about at least one thing: love does win; indeed it already has. The result is finalised and no correspondence will be entered into.

Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community in the US tells the wonderful story of a time during the South African apartheid years when Desmond Tutu was speaking at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, and heavily armed security forces were sent to intimidate Tutu and others. As the men with their weapons lined the inside walls of the church, Tutu, in his unique way, welcomed them and urged them to join the winning side. “How do I know we will win?” he asked. “Because I have read to the end of the book (the Bible), and we win.” A little man with huge courage, he knew what it was to have the sure hope of Christ in him.

Things are not as they seem. The world is still a mess; people still die, corruption still gets its way. But it will not stay this way. The wonderful words of Revelation 21:1-5 ring true throughout the universe, the universe whose moral arc bends towards justice, as that great man of peace, Martin Luther King, eloquently stated:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home[a] of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

On this commemoration of what was called the longest day, the day of the new world of transformation of everything is coming, and that will be the longest day of all.

Meditation on the mind

candle-335965_640For those of you who bought today’s Sunday Age, the article below appeared in the Faith column.

Something I should have said in the article was that meditation is not something I have done much of at all in the last couple of months. I let the busyness of life take over and then get out of the habit. What I need to do is take my own advice from this article!

Meditation and mindfulness have enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years. In January, Time Magazine ran a cover story on the benefits of being still in our constantly wired culture. Soon afterwards, The Huffington Post said that 2014 would be the “year of mindful living.”

More and more people are tuning in to the benefits of taking time to be still in a world that is always on the go.

As a writer I find that creativity and inspiration come a lot easier when my mind is not racing. I need to make time for stillness and to block out the distractions of the day.
The Psalms in the Old Testament talk a lot about meditation. These were people who knew what it was to see themselves and their lives in perspective. Check out this from Psalm 8:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you set in place, what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

This Psalm goes on to say that despite this, God has made us with the utmost dignity and respect. That’s another benefit of meditation. It helps us see ourselves rightly – made by a God who is infinitely greater than we are, but loved in equally infinite measure by that same God.

The Scriptures are full of examples of meditation. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, talks about being still; Jesus spent whole nights in prayer; and St Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing” (prayer can also be a form of meditation).

Meditation can take many other forms too. Personally, I like to focus on my breathing; it helps me to block out the distractions in my mind and in the space around me. As a believer, I also like to repeat a favourite Scripture verse to myself. Alternatively, a meditation practitioner I know likes to say that meditation can be nothing more than sitting there doing nothing!

Research shows conclusively that people who meditate are more relaxed and energised in their relationships with the people around them. The latest scientific research affirms this, showing that the brain actually rewires itself the more we meditate.

Meditation never promises to make our lives better, but I have found that it does help me to deal better with life on life’s terms. Starting with just five minutes per day was all I needed.

More and more people are realising that a life of constant materialistic pursuit leaves us empty. I am slowly learning that meditating on a loving Power greater than me is the key to a life of contentment.

Bill Shorten’s Workchoices moment

I agree with the sentiments in this article, especially the disappointment about Shorten’s invisibility since becoming Opposition Leader.What I found disappointing about his Budget reply speech though was that, as Joe Hockey said, it was very short on detail.Hockey though has a short memory. Tony Abbott’s Budget reply speech last year was exactly the same, although it went further in being an arrogant “we’re ready to govern” speech. It seems the lack of policy detail in Australian politics has not changed in the last 12 months.

What losing my job taught me about grace

losing my job graceA couple of months ago I lost the job I love, at the organisation I have loved and worked at for 14 years. Needless to say, I was devastated.

Time Magazine ran an article earlier this year showing that losing your job can have worse effects on your mental health than divorce or the death of a spouse. That’s pretty big. The disruption to your inner life, not to mention your external life, can probably best be described as something of an earthquake.

My first reaction to being told was shock. A feeling of hot anxiety worked its way from my abdomen up to my face as I was confronted with the reality of my life being turned upside down.

I’d known of this happening before of course, both in the organisation I worked for and in others. We all know it happens all the time. I was determined to stay rational, and not let my emotions get the better of me.  Continue reading

A prayer for all who aren’t mothers

2484011508_ba8b22965a_zOn this day, as we celebrate the wonderfully selfless contributions of mothers the world over, this is a prayer for those for whom this day is racked with unbearable pain.

By Cheryl Lawrie

A prayer of love for those who aren’t mothers. Today may you know all you are.

A prayer of love for those who decided they wouldn’t be a mother because they dared not for fear they would replicate a world that tried to destroy them.

A prayer of love for those who did but not by choice, who had decision thrust upon them and now live searching for a love that will catch up to their truth.

A prayer of love for those who couldn’t, who tried but it never worked, and for those who did, but lost.

A prayer of love for those who never got the chance to even try and who with all the other pain that lives inside, today bear the fear of being someone else’s pity.

A prayer of love today for those who hear the word ‘mother’ with resentment, disappointment, guilt, fear, rage, horror, sadness, ambivalence, grief.

A prayer for those who cannot love their mother or their child and who no longer have the strength to try.

A prayer of love for those who have no day that speaks their worth, that tells their story, that reminds them they are also gift to the world.

A prayer of love for those who aren’t.

Today may you know all you are.