Category: Spiritual


10,000 Reasons

A major curveball hit some dear friends of mine recently, when the husband/father had a stroke.

As I heard his wife share about the difficult changes she and the children must learn to accept and adapt to, I could not help admiring and being encouraged by her outlook amidst the exhaustion and devastation they must be facing.

She spoke of gratitude for things they still have and cherish; of trusting in God amidst the pain; of hope for the future, and of 10,000 Reasons to sing…

It brought me back to the first time many years ago when I too found myself in a bleak valley where I had lost complete sight of a hopeful future. It reminded me of how the reality and presence of God at that time gave me enormous strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to forge a way out of despair.

Not long after my friend shared,  I heard the song again — this time at a wedding. It was a beautiful reprise to hear the melody carry through dark desperate days to joyous celebrations, from the peaks to the troughs to everything in between…

The song had a way of pointing to something beyond, and reminded me of all the people I know and stories I’ve read of people coming to the end of their ropes, and finding new strength and hope to sing and choose life.

 

A Christmas Eve story: Annie

There is something magical about Christmas time and marketers know it. John Lewis and Sainsbury captured the magic brilliantly and leveraged on it so well in their brand storytelling effort this year. 🙂

There are some good stories we hear and truly revel in for a moment. Perhaps we go out and buy a Monty the Penguin.

There are other stories which are worth more than a moment’s tug of the heartstrings. These stories need to be preserved, kept, and passed down the generations.

One such story, special to me, is of a girl born on Christmas Eve nearly 150 years ago in the little town of Vineland, New Jersey.

Annie Johnson Flint was born in 1866. She lost her parents at an early age. She and her sister were later adopted by the Flints, a kind and loving couple who brought Annie up in the Baptist faith.

Annie went through long times of trial and testing. In her second year as a teacher, arthritis began to show itself, growing steadily worse. She ended up crippled for more than 40 years (see here).

But Annie did not consider herself helpless. She believed that God had laid her aside for a purpose, even though that purpose was obscure to her at times. She put her very best into the writing of her poems, rendering this ministry unto God.

Her verses have an unusually deep appeal to human hearts. The simple reason is that she felt what she wrote.

One of her most popular songs which has endured till today is He Giveth More Grace:

Out of the crucible of suffering she was able to speak comfort to others, with the comfort she received from God.

Her life sings a beautiful song: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Merry Christmas.

Can you believe it’s already November? It’s now two months since I’ve left FamilyVoice.

Life has been completely different since then. The rhythm and focus of my life is now different, my pursuits are different, my community is different. I’ve had many new experiences as well as joyful surprises of rediscovering the familiar.

I was pleasantly surprised when various people wrote to me from Australia last week. Some friends said they had finally gotten our book, Courage in a Hostile World, and couldn’t put it down…others informed me of new developments…someone sent this picture saying “thought of you”!

jasmine

Thinking of the book brought back remembrances of stories told to me as I worked on the project.

About life journeys and encounters with the living God. I thought of Jim from Tasmania and the dramatic turns in his life, Peter from Victoria and his strong sense of vision, David from WA about how God directed his paths…

What a privilege to share in their interesting lives. They were all unique.

The overwhelming memory I have is that I was valued at FamilyVoice. People saw me and affirmed me and really valued me. They saw right relationing at the heart of human existence – and they believed and lived it.

A relationship with the relational and triune God and the understanding that humans are made in His image undergirded their worldview. That understanding I gained transformed me. I thought it was such a sound basis for living and it unleashed a powerful motivation within my heart.

I was really valued at FamilyVoice. As a unique individual created in God’s image.

Courage

Life there was not without many challenges & difficulties – and at times, I do wonder if I’m being too generous or saccharine here. I mean, how could a place, or a group of people, be so special? It raises suspicions of a skewed perspective.

But late last night, I realised with a jolt: it was so special Jasmine, and you were so valued, because you brought sincere appreciation with you. That is the value you bring by being and sharing you. You appreciated, affirmed and valued people. You delighted in them and they delighted in you.

It’s a beautiful thing to pause on. One that stirs up a worshipful response. Awe and wonder at the goodness of God’s creation: me. Flawed and fallen, as is our groaning world. Yet reflecting redemptive Narnian hints of eternity.

Made the wilderness bloom

Look at this watermelon from my farmer friends!
Watermelon

 I used to walk past the Greek Orthodox church in Norwood every Sunday last year, and the Papadopoulos father and son would always have a cauliflower or a bag of tomatoes to give me after asking, “How are you, love?”

I bought some okra from them today and popped into the church out of intrigue (piqued by a growing number of friends who are Orthodox).

Truly, there is a richness in the liturgy.

How beautiful is this, for the fourth Sunday of Lent?

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

The Apolytikion of the Feast

Tone Eight

Your abundant tears made the wilderness bloom and
your deep sighs of the heart, made your labors a hundredfold.
O John, our holy father, you have become a light to the world
by the glory of your miracles. Pray to Christ, our God
for the salvation of our souls.

The hymn of the church and the Kondakion

I also enjoyed the Voice of Orthodoxy magazine (latest edition not online), which had a reflection by Dr Philip Kariatlis on the Trinity (read it here). He says:

The great mystery of God as Trinity can only be approached after an encounter with the person of Jesus for the simple reason that this is precisely how God chose to reveal himself to the world.

His reflection on the mystery of the Trinity is worth reading in its entirety here.

And what a nourishing encouragement for the fourth Sunday of Lent from Hebrews 6:13-20, on the hope we have in Christ, an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast:

What is hope? Hope is an awesome power, it is a gift from God placed into the hearts of every person. Therefore we all live with hope, and without it we could not even take a single step. When a person extinguishes all hope they commit suicide, if a person loses hope they do not have the slightest thing to support themselves with.

Worldly hopes are built on shifting sands. But the rock on which to base our hopes: the foundation of Christ, we can build our house of eternal happiness.

The hope that the Christian can steady himself on, is like a boat can be secured on its anchor so that it is not smashed on the rocks.

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