My strength

Every day I am tempted to do things in my own strength. I don’t think I am exactly strong, but I still try to be a godly wife, employee, friend, church member, daughter and sister, on my own. Without God, I am weak and I constantly fail. Last night at Colour Conference I was struck by these words:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84:5

I realised afresh that not only do I have the strength of my Heavenly Father because of what Jesus has done on the cross, but I am also blessed as I set my heart on pilgrimage towards eternity with him. Why rely on my human strength when the Almighty God of the whole universe wants to bless me when my strength is in him?

The purpose of Colour Conference is to gather Christian women each year, to encourage and strengthen them, and then scatter to the places where they are planted – empowered and strengthened to be the change.

This is my third Colour – one of the reasons I love going is because I know I will leave uplifted, strengthened and empowered to continue serving God faithfully in the church where God has planted me. And as I scatter (only a couple of suburbs away to Redfern), I must remember that God alone is my strength, and blessing is possible when he is in control. I can do nothing without him.

Snapshots from Colour Conference 2013
Snapshots from Colour Conference 2013
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Advent Blog Day 23 – Why remember Advent anyway?

Today in church, our student minister asked us to reflect on what we’re hoping for this Christmas. A certain present? Quality time with friends and family?

Advent calendar

I have always loved counting down to Christmas Day on advent calendars. Last year I enjoyed having one of the cheap chocolate advent calendars from Aldi. Keeping a blog has been far healthier…except perhaps when it comes to sleep. I remember fondly some of the advent calendars we had when we were kids, and in particular, a felt one that I made myself. For each day there was a Christmas stocking with a unique decoration on it, and each one had a lolly inside and a little slip of paper with a Bible verse on it. I do remember wondering though why there were only 24 days on my calendar. Why wasn’t the most important day included? Perhaps because the wait is over come Christmas Day.

I learned today that the traditional season of advent doesn’t necessarily start on 1 December. It actually starts on the fourth Sunday before 25 December (anywhere between 27 Nov and 3 Dec).

Even if we have simplified the start-dates, there remains significant purpose in advent. According to trusty Wikipedia, for Christians:

The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

Advent is all about Jesus. It’s about sharing in and remembering his coming to earth as a man, the first Christmas – God with us, as well as looking forward with true hope, to his return.

Bible Society #25days Advent Calendar
Bible Society #25days Advent Calendar

I’ve enjoyed receiving the #25words thoughts and videos as part of remembering Advent this year. Today’s email said:

Christmas is one of the world’s great stories. But it’s only the beginning. There’s the life Jesus lived, the teaching he brought, and the benefits of his death and resurrection. Still, there’s better yet to come. Especially to those who are broken, who suffer, as you’ll see:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

As we eat our final chocolate(s) or write our final Advent Blogs, we can remember that Christmas is worth hoping for, but the best is still to come. What are you hoping for this Christmas?

 

 

Advent Blog Day 11 – ready in Redfern

beautiful Christmas dinner table
beautiful Christmas dinner table

There’s something truly delightful about a set dinner table, and especially one set for a Christmas meal. The readiness brings with it a great sense of anticipation. Just waiting for the food and the people to bring it all to life.

The one above is the handiwork of my friend Naomi Johnson, set tonight for our church leadership and staff end-of-year dinner. It was such a joy to be gathered around one table, sharing delicious food and funny stories with the people I have served alongside and sat under the leadership of this year.

And there were no useless plastic toys, paper hats or bad jokes to be found on this table. Lindt chocolate crackers…genius!

Naomi's pretty table centrepiece
Naomi’s pretty table centrepiece

Adam is working in Perth for a few days so sadly he missed out, but I’m feeling thankful for a relaxed evening of fellowship and food. I also have a new-found appreciation for Christmas pudding. Tonight’s was ice-cream based – think I might have to get that recipe Hayley!

I don’t tend to host big dinner parties, but I still like to set the table even if it’s just the two of us. I like the table to be ready. But as I reflect on the value of being ready, I’ve been thinking not about pretty tables or completed Christmas shopping, not even about Jesus coming as a baby as he did the first Christmas, but coming again.

I saw this Christmas card yesterday, just in a regular shop:

Jesus is coming
Jesus is coming

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Revelation 21:2

Will I be ready when he comes again? Will you?

Getting poured out in Sydney

The four of us sit at a plain round table. Inside the room is a there is a stillness but it is not quiet. Other tables and chairs surround us but they are empty for now. Peak hour continues on the busy city street visible through the window. A taxi toots its horn, a bus slams on its brakes, the pedestrian crossing makes its’ ‘green man’ noise.

I am one of the women in the room and I’m there to join in prayer for Sydney, for the people in my city who are lost and broken, poor and oppressed, in desperate need of hope. And for God to use His people here in this city to help love people – that they might see Him, know Him, follow Him.

Hope for Sydney is the name of this network and tonight was their third monthly prayer meeting. It was my first meeting with them. I’m told that different people come each time and there’s usually a few more than tonight, but we know it doesn’t matter – God will hear our prayers!

The Hope for Sydney mission:

Connecting volunteers with Sydney’s poor and marginalised in the name of Jesus Christ.

We shared little snippets about our own churches, read from Isaiah 58 and reflected on the picture therein of God’s heart for the restoration of the oppressed.

We prayed for God’s people here in Sydney to be convicted by the Spirit of God’s love and that we would generously pour ourselves out for those in need. And we prayed for Partners like Anglicare, the Salvos, Mission Australia, International Teams and others, who are already engaged in helping the poor and marginalised – from the homeless, to the disabled to the refugee. God loves them all, and as His people we need to share His love with them.

I am excited about this movement of people uniting in prayer, and mobilising toward action. Ever since reading Generous Justice by Timothy Keller, I have been praying and dreaming about how I could be more deeply engaged with reaching out in Sydney, and how I might help others get involved too.

This is just the beginning, but I have a sense of being part of something bigger than my little world, that God is on the move and that change – both within our churches and our communities – is possible – only by His grace and guidance.

A deep social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of service to others, and especially the poor, is the inevitable sign of real faith and a real connection with God. ~ Timothy Keller