Day Thirty: Mindful

Psalm 8
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
Revelation 21:1-6a
Matthew 25:31-46

I write this for these words are trustworthy and true:
God makes all things new! (Revelation 21:5)

A new day,
a new year;
handcrafted by He-who-makes-all-things-beautiful
in itself
and in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

A new heaven,
a new earth;
tears gone,
crying gone,
pain gone,
death gone,
as God makes God’s dwelling among us.
(Revelation 21:1-4)

Imagine for a moment the Sovereign Lord who placed each star in its shining setting hands-on in your life, making all things new for you.

Sit for a while with the Psalmist’s question (Psalm 8:4), “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” 

The sense of past and future
is God’s gracious gift to us:
a profound glimpse into the infinite mystery of the Alpha and Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
the-One-who-holds-it-all-together.

And, as each new season unfolds
and finds its place within the context of the first things passing away
for the long-awaited,
the new-created;
we discover not only how mindful God is of each one of our life circumstances,
but also how heedful,
how aware of,
how alive to
God’s presence and power we must be
that this new time
may, indeed, be the right time –

be it for birth, or death;
holding on, or letting go;
killing, or healing;
shutting up, or speaking out;
crying, or laughing ….

Read again the passage from Ecclesiastes, focusing on the different seasons of life.

What season(s) are you longing for in this new year?
Which make you anxious or fearful?  

 Mindfulness –
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

… of God handcrafting the heavens,
and hands-on in our lives …

… of God in the seasons we long for,
and those we long to avoid …

… of God in the hungry,
the thirsty,
the homeless,
the naked,
the prisoner,
the sick …

… of God needing a meal,
a bed,
a visit,
a drink …

… of God in the old
and in the new,
in things long passed away
and those unfolding too ….

On this new day
in this new year,
may we be mindful
of what God is making
and fearlessly seek out
the people and places
where new things are happening.

Day Twenty Eight: A Word to The Wise

Psalm 148
Proverbs 9:1-12
2 Peter 3:8-13

We are just two days away from 2018 and social media is full of (and has been for a while) sponsored ads for:
~ the diary/day planner/goal visualiser that will help you achieve all of your targets and desires;
~ the not-a-diet-but-a-step-to-better-health program that will enable you to wow your
co-workers and friends with a slimmer, better you;
~ early-bird discounts on motivational seminars and quasi-professional courses to help you get ahead of your peers – and stay there!
~ the best apps on the market for those lacking in willpower and accountability, featuring personal trainers and life coaches who will be with you every step of the way (virtual steps, of course) in helping you realise the change you’re after ….

more money,
a clear head,
better sleep,
a smaller waistline,
a graduation,
zen-like peace,
more patience,
a complete makeover,
a relationship do-over –

the prospect of a blank slate unleashes within many of us a frenzy of unfulfilled desires and hopeful expectations that the new year will be our best one yet –

that this time round our resolutions will be ticked off as realised;
and failures or mistakes or crises or general unpleasantries will just not feature – at all!

Deep down we know it’s folly;
that those “with our best interests” at heart are simply calculating the interest that they will earn as we buy the book, the app, the sweat gear that will lead to “our best self” or “our best year.”

In today’s readings, Wisdom warns us to leave the company of the simple and walk in the way of insight –
which begins with the Fear of the Lord
and leads into a life of (and from) knowing a Holy God (Proverbs 9:10).

Over the entirety of the Advent and Christmas season, we have received the invitation to base our lives on a different Message to those that the world constantly inundates us with:
a Message of sufficiency and abundance,
of affirmation and belonging,
of expansion and opening up,
of grace and salvation,
of forgiveness and compassion,
of hope, joy, and peace.

As we look forward, it’s not just to a new year;
but to the new heaven,
the new earth,
the home of righteousness which we have been promised (2 Peter 3:13).

It’s to a new self:
a God-imagined, God-made, God-breathed, God-given self;
rather than a better self, or
a self-made man- or woman-self.

Read again the beautiful words from Proverbs and receive God’s freely-given promise of provision for the year ahead (verses 4-6, The Message):

 Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place, and invites everyone within the sound of her voice:
“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?
Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me! I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,  roast lamb, carefully selected wines.
Leave your impoverished confusion and live! Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”

As you reflect on plans or resolutions that you have been making for the year ahead, ~ is there any particular area of your life in which you are experiencing a sense of scarcity or confusion?
~ how do your goals/dreams contribute to a life with meaning?
~ what is the grace that God is offering you?

Day Twenty Seven: Extending Family

Psalm 148
Isaiah 49:5-15
Matthew 12:46-50

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy
in each other’s life.
Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
Richard Bach

Maybe it was simply because it was our first Christmas away from home, but this year I found myself particularly aware of distance (both geographical and emotional) in relationships.

As I was talking on the phone to my youngest brother in the United Kingdom, even he remarked, “Well, now you know how it felt for me – that first Christmas in a strange country. Except, you cheated – your whole family moved with you.” 

As I ponder those words “your whole family” in light of today’s texts, I am amazed at how God has enlarged my capacity for love and my experience of joy through the blessing of an extended family accumulated over the years:
a family born not of blood;
but of shared belief and service,
of stories offered and received – some light with laughter,
some heavy yet somehow lightened by the telling;
of conflicts worked through and forgiveness offered;
of – as Richard Bach puts it – respect and joy in each other’s life,
no matter how far away we may be or when last we talked.

What were your thoughts, your feelings about “family” over this sacred season?

Who did you reach out to?
Who reached out to you?
Who did you long to hear from, but didn’t?
Who are you missing?
Who do you feel physically or emotionally distant from at the moment? 

At the height of Jesus‘ ministry, his mother and brothers try to visit him, but the room in which he is teaching is packed with people and there is no easy way for them to gain access to him.

So they send in a messenger with the news that they are waiting to see him; confident that when he hears about their arrival, he will wrap things up quickly to spend time with them.

Instead, what follows is a radical act of inclusion as Jesus stretches his hand out towards his disciples and commands,
“Look closely. These are my mother and brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother”
Matthew 12:49-50 (The Message).

His declaration may well have hurt or offended the members of his “blood” family as they waited outside for him, yet it is a truly authentic statement for the Son of God-who-nurses-Her-people (Isaiah 49:15).

As we enter into a shared life with God, we enter also into a life shared with people who we may not know very well or (as sometimes sadly happens) who we may not even like very much but to whom we are bound by obedience to the God who has formed us and who uses us to “tell the prisoners, ‘Come out of your prison’” and  “tell those in darkness, ‘Come into the light’” (Isaiah 49:9) …

… and those newly liberated,
new to life in the light,
in turn, become brothers and sisters along life’s journey
for the extension of Christ’s kingdom is not a campaign aimed at conquest
but a grace-filled invitation into an ever extending family
formed by the Father’s own hand,
liberated by the love of the Son,
and held together by the Spirit of Truth who testifies to our belonging.

In looking towards the new year, who are the people that God is calling you …
… to love?
… to forgive?
… to journey more closely alongside?
… to invite into the family?