Resurrection Year – Sheridan & Merryn Voysey

Resurrection YearBook Review: Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey

I made a mistake. I picked up Resurrection Year at 11pm one winter’s evening to read the opening chapter so I could decide whether I would enjoy reading this book with such an enticing title. At 3am I really had to put it down knowing I had work the next morning. The story of Sheridan and Merryn Voysey’s journey towards a Resurrection Year is deeply moving, personal and full of grating anguish. While I had a hint of knowing what was in store, it can’t prepare you for the way in which Sheridan rolls out years of stumbling steps towards a broken dream.

The story connects with all of us who have suffered loss or driven down a one way street thinking it was the short-cut to the ‘highway’. I had just recently suffered my own dead end street and I was reading ‘Resurrection Year to find the answer I had missed in my own journey. I thought Sheridan might have a magic answer. I hoped he had found the 12th step in some program where I’d only found 11. The reality is that Sheridan takes us through the heart-break of a journey that doesn’t as much go around the mountain as it instead goes up and over mountain after mountain experiencing the valley floor and then the pinnacle view, only to head to the valley again.

Sheridan’s writing takes you visually through their experience in a journey that travels around the world taking in the life of this Australian writer and broadcaster in his land down under before a trip to the romance of Europe and then embracing the life that a little flat in England might offer on the edge of Oxford University. As he looks for hope, Sheridan absorbs any possible hint of beauty in nature and architecture. It’s a picture of someone hungry for their dream and yet in the hopeless void of darkness still recognising the hope and beauty that is beaming through a crack in the experience.

Sheridan and Merryn Voysey

This is a story that many husbands and wives should read. Sometimes our dreams are known and realised and sometimes they were squashed a long time ago by an experience or layers of life’s silt that gathered. I believe Resurrection Year will be a catalyst for couples and individuals to talk about a journey that may have been placed on hold and may need a new itinerary for a new journey.

Through Sheridan’s writings we hear the heartbeat of his wife Merryn as she struggles through the pressure and pain of their desire to embrace parenthood. I most of all connected with Merryn’s determination to ‘get back in touch’ with the God she loved and believed in yet felt she was on the ‘do not call’ phone list of heaven.

Here we have a story that helps us understand the faith issues as a young couple seek to honour God in their life experience, yet having to evaluate what is their own role and what is God’s. The conundrum of looking at the prayer and practice of chasing a deeply seated desire is very clearly laid out as they recall events where seeking God seemed fruitless. You will probably relate as you read of prayer meetings where friends and strangers offered heartfelt prayers and advice that don’t seem to carry you any further towards the goal.

Resurrection Year will help rebuild hope, touch-up the faded picture of God’s heart in your life and most of all give us a framework on which fresh purpose can be designed.

Listen to Sheridan’s Interview on OpenHouse with Leigh Hatcher: Podcast Link

Sheridan’s Blog can be found here: SheridanVoysey.com

Buy the Book:
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Koorong Australia
WORD Australia
Manna New Zealand

Getting Married – Flying on the Trapeze

Pitchford Wedding

Today many couples say that they want to ‘try out’ the relationship first before getting married. Their rationale is that by living together they want to ‘try before they buy’ so they don’t make the mistake of marrying the wrong person. On the surface it seems logical. After all, why not measure twice and cut once? But what is lost in the equation is that they’re losing sight of the difference between flying on the trapeze with a safety net and flying without. It’s a unique aspect of life that kicks us into a higher gear where we perform with greater commitment and our brain, stamina and heart lift to a higher level. I don’t know if you’ve seen the cartoon with the pig and the hen. The hen is telling of its wonderful eggs made available to breakfast plates of bacon and eggs everywhere when the pig jumps in. He cuts to the chase saying, “Huh! For you it’s a contribution but for me its total commitment!”

In my work in the media we can now pre-record audio and video before we broadcast the production. Somehow in the brain that lets us off the hook as a presenter to make a few mistakes, delete the recording and do it again. I know from personal experience, whether on stage or behind the microphone that I’m actually better when its live. You know its got to work and you draw on all your training and creativity to make it a success. The one thing I’ve learned in our marriage is that it’s not a dress rehearsal, its a live performance.

These days it seems we’ve scared a lot of people out of the joy of marriage by the horror stories of divorces gone wrong and mismatched personalities. Sadly they’ve had more publicity through TV soaps, movies and the 6 o’clock news than the successful stories of loving marriages. Why do we only hear about marriage success if a couple makes it to 50 or 60 years? One thing I love about our church is that every Sunday you can go up the front for a free Crunchie chocolate bar if you have something to celebrate from getting your driver’s licence to the arrival of your first grand-child. Every week married couples go up celebrating their wedding anniversary. I love hearing that a couple are in their 14th, 29th or 40th year of marriage and then to see them go up and walk back hand in hand. We seem to have a generation that thinks they will last longer in marriage if they wait till they’re older and yet I would say I’ve seen a majority of young love marriages be the ones that last to say they started strong and finished stronger.

Cheryl and I have known each other for 24 years and we will soon be celebrating our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. This year we are heading away for a weekend at a beach. We probably can only afford to do this kind of thing every 4-5 years but it’s always worth it. I know that through those years we’ve had moments where we wondered how we could keep going. Sometimes it was a big problem but more often than not our pride stumbled on a small stone in the road. I’ve often found we can resolve the issues pretty quick its the part where we have to humble ourselves that actually is the hardest piece of the puzzle.

The best advertisement for marriage is marriage. The photo above shows my stunning babe on our Wedding Day when she was 19 years-old. We still speak of her as my ‘China Doll’, she looked so stunning. We’re a happily married couple with four beautiful kids who we love dearly. As our children are in the 13 to 20 age-group we are starting to enter a new phase of life as we have more adult life experience conversation with them. This is adding to our marriage and giving us a great privilege as Mum and Dad to be involved in our kids life decisions. This is also a pivotal year as our eldest daughter is engaged and preparing for getting married later in the year. What an incredible opportunity for us as parents. We can be inspired by their young warm smitten love and at the same time be able to grab the moment to model a marriage worth pursuing.

We are so proud to have brought them into this world and as I look at the photos around our house of our lives together I can see what value there is in a marriage built without a safety net. We haven’t relied on divorce as an out, or a prenuptial agreement as an exit clause but instead we’ve flown high on the trapeze. We’ve enjoyed the view and the thrills knowing that we need to keep our eyes on God as our ‘catcher’ for this amazing experience. I know we have friends and family who have had to walk through the pain of divorce and we know it isn’t a path they wanted to choose. The life lesson that has kept me honest to the man in the mirror is that I can’t let myself have an out if I’m going to be the best husband, lover, Dad and friend to my wife and family.

Tell your family and friends about what has inspired, taught and challenged you as your marriage has grown. You never know who is looking on and thinking of getting married. And guys, lets not leave it to the ladies to tell the romantic stories to the next generation. A happy bloke is a husband who feels secure with his wife and isn’t afraid to sneak a kiss in front of the kids.

Poem: God’s Own Country

God's Own Country

Thomas Bracken (1843-1898)
Thomas Bracken (1843-1898) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1869 a young 25 year-old Irish man from County Monaghan by the name of Thomas Bracken moved to New Zealand where he took up residence in Dunedin. Bracken had been sent to Australia at the age of 10 after his mother died and spent much of his time around the Geelong area. It was his time in New Zealand that inspired a skill in writing and he went from pharmacist apprentice and drover come shop keeper to a winner of literary awards and poet. He went on to acquire himself a position at the Otago Guardian and a career in journalism was born. Most famously it was Thomas Bracken who penned the New Zealand National Anthem called God Defend New Zealand.

If you enjoy the poem below then please accept this special invitation to visit God’s Own Country.

 

God’s Own Country

 

Give me, give me God’s own country! there to live and there to die,
God’s own country! fairest region resting ‘neath the southern sky,
God’s own country! framed by Nature in her grandest, noblest mould;
Land of peace and land of plenty, land of wool and corn and gold!
Where the forests are the greenest and the rugged mountains rear
Noble turrets, towers, and spires, piercing through the ambient air;
Rising to the gates supernal, pointing Godwards through the blue,
When the summer’s sunny splendours tip them with a nameless hue,
And the gusts of winter gather snow and sleet and mist and cloud,
Weaving many a curious mantle, many a quaint fantastic shroud.
Oh! the mountains of New Zealand! wild and rugged though they be,
They are types of highest manhood, landmarks of a nation free.
Pleasure-ground of the Pacific! brightest region on the main!
Land of many a rushing river, verdant valley, fertile plain!

I revisit thee in fancy, all thy wonders rise once more,
Once again, enthrall’d, I listen to old Tongariro’s roar;
Tarawera roused to fury, belches forth his molten wrath,
And a host of fiery demons dance along his flaming path,
Boiling cauldrons, foaming geysers, lakes whose bosoms leap with fear;
Well and truly it is written – “wonderland is really here!”
Shift the scene! Night grows to morning, morn soon ripens into day.
Lovely islands crowd and cluster in a bright and placid bay,
Silver ripples shimmer softly on the bosom of the deep;
And the mountains see their faces, for the wind is fast asleep.
Bay of Island! bay of beauty! who would dream that such a place
Should have been a scene of slaughter, man ‘gainst man, and race ‘gainst race;

Yonder, in the little churchyard, mouldering tombstones sadly tell
Tales of valour and of honour, records of how brave men fell
In the sacred cause of duty; thanks to God, those days are o’er,
And the old race and the new race now are enemies no more.
Sweep we round by Rangitoto, with his rough and rocky crest,
Grim old guardian of the gateway leading out to ocean’s breast;
Takapuna slumbers, deeply Waitemata opens its arms,
All its loveliness unfolding, circled by a hundred charms;
Fly we on to Taranaki, and ‘neath Taranaki’s shade we stand—
Taranaki, monarch of the mountains! bold, majestic, solemn, grand;
Rising from the pleasant pastures, climbing to the clouds alone
Peerless, and without a rival, proudly sits he on his throne.

It is morning in the summer, and the monarch is arrayed
In his pure white cap and mantle, which were never known to fade.
All the blue above is speckless, only one small cloud is seen
Sleeping on the mountain’s bosom, nestling ‘twixt the gold and green;
Now it seems as if awakening, slowly it begins to creep
Upwards in a spiral column, making for the summit steep,
But it fails to reach the apex, so it curls itself away
Round about the monarch’s shoulders, like a silken scarf of grey;
And the East flings out its glories on the monarch as he stands,
Crowning him with sparkling jewels, richly set in golden bands,

On we go by happy homesteads, on to Wanganui’s flood–
Oft where Wanganui’s waters, in the old time, stained with blood;
Now along the stately river flocks and herds o’er uplands graze,
Peace has swept away for ever traces of the warlike days.
Leap we o’er the hills and valleys to Poneke’s noble tide,
On whose swelling breast the navies of the Universe might ride,
Safely ride beneath the shadows of the mighty hills that keep
Watchful and ward against the tempests, born upon the outer deep.
Soar from island unto island, for were we to tarry here,
Tracing all the North-land’s beauties, we might linger for a year.
Fancy’s wings are swift and silent, o’er the sea and o’er the Strait–
Canterbury smiles before us, Ah! we have not time to wait;
Fly we o’er green pictures shining in their frames of spring’s new gold,
Fly we past the smiling homesteads, fly we over the field and fold–

Onward o’er the pass of Arthur! Magicland is drawing near–
Halt! the Gorge of wildest grandeur opens up its wonders here;
Look below; and gaze above us! was there ever grander sight?
Here is every shade of darkness; here is every tint of light;
Listen to the torrent roaring in the deep ravine below,
See the cataracts descending from their home among the snow,
See the pine and larch and rata climbing up the mountain walls,
Hearken to the tumbling torrents answering the distant falls.
Weird Otira! grand Otira; is there any other clime
That can show us such a picture, so entrancing so sublime?
Down the Gorge and through the valley, over floods that fret and foam,
As the rush among the boulders, hast’ning to their Ocean home;

Now the matchless forests open all their brightness on the scene,
And the gladdened eye is feasting on a hundred tints of green.
We must leave the lordly forest– “Stay, oh, stay,” the wood-nymphs sing;
“Stay, oh, stay,” the fairies whisper; “Stay, oh, stay,” the bell-birds ring.
Fancy will not fold her pinions; onward, onward we must go
Where Mount Cook in icy armour guards his pyramids of snow.
Fancy can outwing the lightning, fancy can outwing the wind–
Hill and plain and glen and valley soon are left far, far behind.
We are resting on the high land over New Edina’s town,
Wrapt in perfect admiration, looking up, and looking down—
Upwards at the wooded mountains, tinted now by opening day,

Downwards at the noble city, stretching round the lovely bay.
One short flight and we are sailing over Taieri’s plains of corn,
Now we cross the lonely ranges, painted by the brush of morn;
Wanaka and Manapouri pass before our wondering sight;
Hawea, in sylvan softness, fills us with a calm delight;
Wakatipu’s deep dark waters, walled by mighty mountains, raise
All our highest aspirations, till the soul is filled with praise.
Here the poet soon might gather subject for a thousand lays,
Here the artist might discover rich employment all his days.

God’s own country! God’s own country! we must hasten o’er the sea,
Filled with sweetest recollections of thy beauty; blessing thee,
Wishing thee all future greatness, bidding thee “Advance! advance!”
Fruitful land, and land of wonder, richest region of romance!
Mitre Peak, erect, majestic, slowly vanishes from view,
And the distant waves are moaning, as we cry “Adieu! adieu!”

 – by Thomas Bracken

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God’s Own Country – 100% New Zealand

God's Own Country

God’s Own Country

Leave aside the fight for who invented the Pavlova. If that’s what the Aussies want then let them have the meringue. It doesn’t taste the same without some fresh Kiwi dairy cream whipped into a frenzy like Martin Crowe at the wicket in an 80’s one-dayer and layered over the top like Ian Jones reaching over those short French rugby players in an All Black line-out. And you can be sure that an Aussie pav won’t have that pièce de résistance of a few slices of kiwifruit to give the sweet some bite. You know some dessert eaters are a bunch of namby pamby wannabes. The real discussion is about where is God’s Own Country.

New Zealand has always been 100% God’s Own Country as even the researchers have proven and its a title many would fear to compete for. While Aussie has a reef and the Yanks some hole in the ground they call a canyon, the Poms may have a Lake District and the Europeans rave about their mountains but which of them can say they’ve been able to bring all that natural majesty into a country the size of George Bush’s backyard? This is more than a Shire in Middle Earth or a playground for the extreme adventurer. New Zealand is a paradise that angels won’t leave and demons won’t visit.The green undulating hills mesh with crystal clear waters while man and beast walk amongst the creation that God is still rolling out years after the first seven day first edition. Some joker called Thomas Bracken back in the 1800s wrote a stanza or two on the subject and he really caught what God’s Own Country is all about. He must of known what he was talking about because he came from Ireland, checked out Australia and then decided New Zealand was the place to be. Now some of those young whipper snappers who do the marketing have tended to shorten God’s Own Country to save on thumb rsi on their mobiles but whether you’re shouting Godzone or Godsown it really is just a country that’s a sparkle in His eye.

Coming to the 100% New Zealand experience will always be hard on the senses so preparation is important. If you’ve coming from somewhere droll like an inner city apartment block or the terrace housing of Coronation Street then you should take the time to prepare. Acclimatizing prior to your trip is important. We recommend two ways to adjust to your holiday in God’s Own Country.The preferable way would be by visualisation as you watch several All Black matches to pick up on the warrior culture of the nation. Follow this up with a twelve hour marathon of Lord of the Rings to ensure the scenery won’t overwhelm you on your first introduction. To encompass the full sensory experience you should visit your local florist once a day for a month prior to travelling to New Zealand. Shoving your head into a floral bouquet should prepare both eyes for the visual assault of colour as well as your nasal cavities for the fragrance of the New Zealand bush. Language may be an issue in travelling to a foreign land for some travellers so to pick up on the Kiwi accent we would advise that you start to watch less of Neighbours and more of Flight of the Conchords.

So visiting New Zealand might be a wee trip for you but I can tell you its the shortest distance to Heaven theologically known. The folk at Air New Zealand will get you here and their safety is world renowned so you’ll be in good hands. Now if you think we’re concerned about this rugged wilderness and whether we have internetness or the electricity thingamajig then do not fear. We all visit the local McDonald’s carpark to use their free Wifi but its a good place to catchup with the whanau (family) over a New Zealand lamb burger. The pristine waters of our rivers drive our national hydro-electricity so the only Nuclear power plant you’ll see is on the hotel television with Homer kicking back a donut on the Simpsons.

Truth be told when God created this place he kicked the snake out of Eden and they’ve been populating Australia ever since. That’s the reason we love to sing our National Anthem. It was that same young Irishman, Thomas Bracken, who wrote the poem ‘God’s Own Country’, who then caught the heart of our nation when he wrote our national anthem. Its the deep lyrics that resonate when we sing and they put awe in the heart of the admirer and fear in the eyes of our adversaries. It stirs the heart, reminds you why you’re thankful to live in God’s Own Country and then gives you a sense you’re in a good place where God is looking after the place. Why don’t you come on down. I’ll tell St. Peter to meet you at the airport’s pearly gates.

Solid Resolutions like a Log Cabin

Abraham Lincoln

You’ve probably stepped into the New Year with a fresh determination to do things differently. You may have made resolutions or just a mental list of the things you want to see differently. Similar to a wife giving her husband the house repair list, you’re hopeful that some of it will be done by the end of the year. Good on you for recognising that today is a great day to change.

Sometimes we wander from day to day accepting that this is our ‘norm’. As I asked friends for input on what they want to see affected by change, some looked at the physical transformations, while others were dealing with learning aspirations or simply reading to accumulate more wisdom. A few were concentrating on the spiritual and wanting to see their relationship with God enhanced by either drawing close to Him or learning more of Him . In this quick post I want to give you five tips for keeping determined on those key areas you want to be a focus this year. I was reading Michael Hyatt’s blog a couple of days ago when he gave this illustration.

A young man once asked a wise old woman, “When is the best time to plant an oak tree?” She answered: “Twenty years ago.” He then asked, “When is the second best time?” She answered, Today.

One of my favourite leaders has always been Abraham Lincoln. His determination through both personal, external and national adversity are a tribute to the strength and persistence he endeared. His wife Mary was also a lady who showed great character as together they lost children at an early age yet when on to lead a nation while espousing great love for family. Not only is Lincoln famous for how he led the nation of America through the Civil War and also effect a change to the American Constitution in order to abolish slavery, but on a personal front he faced rejection from his political party on many occasions as he sought office a long time before becoming President. Even his start in life wasn’t born without hardship as His inheritance was bought out of adversity as his father and grandfather fought and sacrificed for the family’s future.

Today you may have a personal goal, a dream to be realised or simply like one of my friends, you may want to kick an addiction like energy drinks. The key to the goal is focus and determination but how can you keep the main thing the main thing?

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.
– Abraham Lincoln

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Five Steps for Keeping Resolutions

Also useful for Building Log Cabins

1. Keep It Simple

Often we don’t achieve a plan because it is too complicated. What began as a simple idea like ‘lose weight’, became a scientific expedition through Calorie City to Exercise Eden. Like a Log Cabin keep it to a kitchen, bedroom, loft and dining family area. Don’t design the mansion when your simple outcome has a simple solution. If it takes you more than an hour to sit down and write out what you want to achieve and three ways you could make that happen then you’re investing your time in a management plan not a solution.

2. Stick to the Plan

The biggest fault with any goal is straying from the plan. In project planning it is called ‘creep’ because you don’t realise it has snuck up behind you and grabbed the reins of your project. So if you’re building a log cabin, don’t let the idea of planting a vege patch or a barn take you off your focus. Keep your simple plan in front of you as a reminder of what is the main thing. If its not in front of you on your bathroom mirror or the ceiling of your bedroom then other projects will compete for attention. Don’t let them justify their position. Shout them down with a poster of your ‘Log Cabin’ everywhere you look. Make your plan desirable to you. Make it bold, visual and real.

3. Connect with other Builders

One of the strengths of a log cabin is how the tree trunks interlink at the corners providing a solid framework for the rest of the house. Be willing to share your building plans with other ‘builders’. Your connections will build solidity. As you connect with other people who have the same goals as yourself, you will gain three strengths that won’t happen if you build alone. First you will find Wisdom from those who have been down the track before. Second, there will be the Strength of numbers as you lean on each other. Life is about seasons which bring growth and cleansing, death and healing. As you are there for other builders in their season, they will be there in your time of need. Finally the Momentum of friends is a powerful ally that will roll you to your goal faster than a lone walk down destiny lane.

4. SMART

One of the greatest compliments given to Abraham Lincoln was that he was an ‘intelligent’, ‘astute’ politician. He was SMART and this is a great place to introduce this acronym for your resolution plan.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

The idea of the SMART plan is to keep your steps and plan in a format where it will work. There’s no point putting a jet engine in a Mini Cooper in order to get to work quicker and save on fuel.

The whole plan needs to be cohesive. As you look at the goal and steps you have in place, ask yourself if they match these criteria. Is the goal specific so that rather than say ‘Get Fit’, you want to be able to walk 5kms a day, four days a week without falling over in a heap. Like the idea of walking, a goal to lose weight should be measurable and achievable. Don’t say that you want to lose 20kgs in two months before school starts when losing a kilogram a week would be an admirable and achievable goal. Making your steps relevant is also poignant. For someone wanting to improve their relationship with God they may feel reading more Christian books will do the trick when simple prayerful time out of the rat-race in prayer would be more relevant.

5. Dream Bigger

In our second point we encouraged you to think carefully about sticking to the plan. Distractions are the curse of every goal. Its not that these distractions are inherently bad but as they are ‘tangents’ they take us off course, we lose momentum and so the thing we hope to achieve is further away from our original goal.

While we need to be careful of putting distractions in front of us, incentives are another area altogether. I think that when Abraham Lincoln moved into his first log cabin, he was already dreaming about a bigger one. When he went into his first mansion he may have even be thinking of redecorating the White House. Keep dreams and incentives that are in line with your original goal and resolution as these are the right reward for fulfilment of a goal and the completion of a project.

For God and Country

Pro Aris et Focis is a latin phrase (meaning For God and Country) that is used by the American Legion and many family’s and nations before. I think that a higher calling than personal satisfaction under girded Abraham Lincoln’s success. Maybe one aspect of evaluating your next resolution is to ask ‘Who am I doing this for?’

The famous preacher Jonathan Edwards can have the last word on the issue of resolutions. Many of us are familiar with the sarcastic set of rules found in businesses and homes. They often go “Rule 1: The Boss is always right, Rule 2: if the Boss is wrong, refer to Rule 1”. As Edwards was looking at his life, its endeavours and all he had to live for he took a more resolute position. He determined that if he was to succeed in life he needed the sustenance and direction of the creator.

A number of years ago a friend gave me this verse, Ephesians 1:11 scrawled on a napkin at a conference we were both attending. I’ve held on to that napkin for over a decade as the enormity of the verse is still a challenge and a hope.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)

Lets see how Jonathan Edwards was able to encapsulate those thoughts in his resolution. As you do, consider that both the greatest and smallest of endeavours are best resolved in partnership with our God and Creator.

Resolution 1: I will live for God
Resolution 2: If no one else does, I still will.
– Jonathan Edwards

Thank you for reading this post. I love hearing about the blog posts being shared so please post it on Facebook and Twitter. If you have the time to write a short comment on how you have dealt with resolutions and what worked or didn’t work for you I’d be grateful.

Little Signs with Big Meaning

Seeing Signs in Life

God shows us signs all around but if we are too busy looking for what we have predetermined is ‘the sign’ do we miss every other signpost on the road? Sometimes we’re so focussed on the huge that we miss the little signs with big meaning. Men are notorious for driving ahead almost blindly looking for something they remember. They are living in hope they won’t have to humble themselves and ask their wife or a stranger for help. Hopefully they can rely on their own resource and recognise something from a previous experience to point the way and then “we’ll be right”.

Signs don’t have to be about just direction. They can be reminders of God’s presence or the past seasons of faithfulness, fruitfulness and joyous memories. One thing I’m trying to train myself to do is look for the beauty and the positives in every situation. A friend of mine gave me an interesting illustration a few weeks ago. He pointed out that some of us spend our time expecting or wishing to move from a ‘valley’ to a ‘mountain top’ and in doing so we miss the beauty around us. Our life may be living with family, friends and those who live with us in a desert of plains that have seasons of beauty.

Does the person who lives in the cold and ruggedness of Scandinavia or the deserts and mountainous regions of North Africa pine for the beaches of Tahiti? It seems we could erode a life of potential by spending its precious minutes looking over a fence to a grass that is only greener for one month in the year. Does the villager on the idyllic beaches of a Pacific island cry out for the inland plains of the Australian wheat fields while in the midst of a cyclone that dumps months of rain in a day destroying crops, homes and memories? There is no doubt that a season in life can destroy and lay waste the work of a generation. That event doesn’t predetermine our future. It was an event. It is past and the future is in how we see with our eyes the signs of a new season dawning.

Even in the jungle the light penetrates the darkness to deliver small message beams of hope that tell us we are heard.
A Pitchford Passing Thought

Sometimes a simple lesson happens in your own backyard. Yesterday I was tired after we’d had a few guests over and the heat of the day had caused the afternoon siesta to kick in. A few of us retired to have a rest but I felt the inside of the house was too stuffy so I grabbed my headphones, iPhone, pillow and a blanket and headed to the back lawn under our beautiful backyard tree. The heat was still there but a breeze created the right ‘heat to cool’ ratio that made the atmosphere relaxing and refreshing.

Signs in Backyard Sun Beams

While listening to my Sanctus Real Pandora station I started to appreciate the peace I had in my own backyard. Looking up into a tree is always a great revelation of life, growth, stature and seasons. I loved seeing the light beaming through the green dancing leaves. There were times that the light could hardly be seen and then a breeze would blow the branches in such a way that a bough would bend in just the right way to let the light bounce through. It was a reminder that God is always there its just sometimes life, our judgement or the cloud of one day can block our connection. Thankfully we can train ourselves to see the signs so that we recall that as surely as day follows night He is there and his faithfulness will continue to lead, sustain and protect us.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations
Deuteronomy 7:9

Every time I’m taking an evening drive with the family I love to point out God’s gallery in the evening sunset sky. If an unusual cloud formation paints a picture I like to sit back and see the design and texture. Life offers more beauty than the best galleries of the world and more drama, romance and comedy than the Oscars of Hollywood could produce.

Walk through life with your eyes open to see Little Signs with Big Meaning.

I’d love it if you shared this on Facebook or Twitter and left a comment below. Many thanks for reading this post.

Waiting for the Curtain

Queen of Hearts

Many of us have sat in the audience waiting for the curtain to open. What we may not realise is that behind the hanging tapestry or velvet barrier a hive of activity is taking place. Its the preparation for the performance to begin that sees make-up artists applying the final powder and eye lines, orchestra pits full of musicians are checking they have the score in the right order and the stage manager is knocking on the door of the lead actors yelling “Five minutes to curtain”.

Right now I’m having to remind myself which side of the curtain my life is on. I’m not in the audience balancing a popcorn and coke, I’m backstage waiting in the wings for the curtain to open. I know that years have been put into the rehearsal and that the writer of this script has seen it from beginning to end but when will this chapter begin.

So this is a cathartic journey asking God what he wants from me and trying to still put my little hairy hobbit feet one in front of the other. I know that I’m in God’s ‘company’ and that provides the fellowship and encouragement one needs. A hobbit should never travel alone whether it be with a company of dwarves or a fellowship of hobbits, elves and men.

I’m currently ‘between performances’. Doesn’t that sound cute when I could simply say “I’m Waiting”. What I’m saying is that one door of my life seems to be closing but the next door hasn’t opened yet. I’m asking ‘what next’ and also trying to improve my strength, skills and stamina so that when the curtain does open I’m ready. After all who wants to be caught on stage with a forgotten line or worse with their ‘fly’ down. I sense that God is firmly at work making sure that the stage is set and that all is in working order before the curtain rises.

I’m encouraged that along any journey two rewards seem close to the journeyman. The first is the sense of a new dawn. As you imagine a young traveller waking from a tired slumber it happens as the dawn rays glisten through deep dew ridden grass to gently rouse the sleeper. As the cool of the ground gives way to the warmth of the radiant beams a sense of expectation soaks into the heart. A desire awakens to see new lands, fresh relationships and to embrace what was once foreign as family. It refreshes the eyes, increases the heartbeat and becomes a diet of excitement devoured over breakfast.

The second reward for our traveller is their growth in stature. Many a young tourist has started out with trepid feet and lowered gaze. The eighteen year old on the gap year excursion very quickly realises that Mum won’t be in their suitcase to be the alarm for a train schedule or the washing machine for a clean pair of underwear. We quickly move through levels of independence lifting our gaze and increasing our gate as we walk forward more confidently. As the muscles are stretched we grow upwards and inwards. Our mind finds solutions, our body conquers crags and crevices and our heart learns to stay the charted course when fatigue and passions both seek to sway our resolve with distractions.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Its in these moments when we rest at a pinnacle’s view that we realise we are more than we once were. The journey our creator has taken us on has taken a cutting of possibility and produced a life of productivity. I have always enjoyed the sense that God hasn’t finished with me yet. Like the tourist who becomes an adventurer we leave much behind on the path of destiny. There will always be the superfluous dross of fat removed through hard work and toil but there is also the cutting away of things we once thought as wisdom now seen as arrogance. The traveller who is ten days into a mission or is now packing for the umpteenth departure will pack more tightly, stringently and with rigorous intent. Why carry the consumer’s weights of a selfish past? Why move the problems of arguments forgotten to the residence of a future peace?

So I’m waiting, not with fear and foreboding but instead with hope and a sense of anticipation. The senses of my heart are open to hear, feel and see the signs that the stage managers hands are on the curtain rope. A gentle tug, a changing of the lights and a quiet comes over the audience. The best curtain opening of all is at the break of dawn when a new day opens on fresh mercy and grand potential.

Like this song Before the Morning from Josh Wilson; I DARE TO BELIEVE!

Can you leave me a comment below and tell me about the times in your journey where you learned through waiting.

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time is measured by the once
but pleasure by the pound
We forsake the hour's warning tide
Sit back with men feeling warm inside

Did Christ enjoy social expense
Or sit in critique at a neighbour's fence 
His time was ours he spent it well
Used healing hands to salvation tell

Why do you slumber instead of march
Is this gratitude, limbs stiff as starch
Accept what yours, forgiveness free of charge
Heaven's transport flown, not a deathly barge

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Is Grace Amazing to You?

Receiving Grace

I’m a big fan on grace. I can tell you that while I’ve needed a lot of it and learned that I can’t be too proud in accepting it I still struggle to give it. Why is it so crazy that our human condition falls to the level of greed even when we’re talking about the last bottle of water for the heart in a desert of anguish. We would rather keep or receive grace and forgiveness than dispense it to the sick or needy.

My own life has pivotal revelations of grace as well as soft misty fingerprints across the window of my daily life. I remember the impact moments as times when I'm self absorbed. Sometimes for purely selfish indulgulent reasons when I've pursured my own interests and isolated myself from those who care and those I love. They're times when I forgot about the big picture and was only interested in the icing on the cake. Those moments, that are more than a few, are painful not for the aching stomach full of icing from supping on lifes pleaures, but more for the accidents that ensue. The icing gets in your eyes and you end up driving at life's high speed off the road only to make an impression on the bark of the neighbour's tree. These are the times when grace drives up in a white ambulance, wraps itself around the wounds and consoles the heart through the recovery.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 6:2 ESV

So what about those fingerprints? You leave them everywhere and don't realise it unless you have paws covered in chocolate sauce like your 3 year-old niece. Unlike a toddler God tends to walk through the universe with fingers cleaner than freshly fallen snow. So how can you see the grace around you? Like a good detective it comes down to dusting for prints. Thats where that dusty old Bible might just come in handy. The more I look for prints the more I find. As I read the Bible I move through thoughts of self-aware concern based on my own failings. My sin, my life in a cracked pot is like driving over a series of potholes. The difference when driving with grace is that the potholes are filled in. You don't see them but a smooth road allows you to lift your head and take in the view. 

How can this amazing revelation of grace be forgotten, hidden or ignored? Why would someone who was once sick and now healthy then forget where the medicene could be found? How could someone who had come back from the brink of despair so lose sight of of the relief that moment in history brought. So much so that they are unable to remember where to point a fellow traveller languishing with the burden of sin and life. The burden we know as sin was answered at the cross when Jesus lifted it on to his own back and carried it to the point of death. He did it for you.

There are three responses to grace that we can own. For many the administration of grace is like running from the nurse with the needle. They aren't sure if its good for them or not but they sense that submitting to the cure is an admission of the ill. For others grace is like drops of water across the gate of a sand encrusted mouth. They have thirsted after rightousness and like those mentioned in Matthew 5:6, they shall be filled. For many though there is no response to grace. Its not a matter of engaging or running from the freedom that grace affords, instead its an ignorance afforded by times of bliss that layer a cushion that can numb the senses to the genlte touch of grace.

20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 ESV

I was really grateful when a friend sent recently sent me a video of Jimmy Needham’s Grace Amazing. It was just the right tonic for the day and brought some much needed perspective into the day. That dose of ‘grace’ injected through this song was the right answer for my heart when my head was working for the opposition. As we saunter through life, we can stubb our toe and find ourselves only interested in the foot long length of of gravel before us and the ache we feel in the seeping black and blue of a pulsing toe. I think that's where the danger comes when our focus on the problem means we become blasé to the amazing nature of grace that abounds around us.

Jimmy Needham – Grace Amazing

Are you a Tattoo?

One of the modern day dilemmas involves ink, skin and Mum. Most teenagers will think about it, bikers will do it and wives may regret it. The thought of getting a tattoo has probably drifted through your mind from time to time. How have you resolved the question. Did you vote in favour of the needle or find a compelling argument to via left? Through this post I want to also ask "Are you a Tattoo?" and see what that means to you personally.

I know for myself I've often admired the artwork of a well inked tattoo and appreciated many of the personal tributes and anchor points in people's lives that led them to mark an occasion or relationship. You can't help but be touched by a photographic representation of a lost loved one or impressed by 3D art that encompasses the values of the individual. But what happens when life changes? When that living relationship has lost its savour or our values have changed. Do we try to erase the ink?

You're probably picking up that this post isn't about answers as much as the questions I've worked through asking the question 'Should I get a tattoo'? As a Christian I've been observing two lines of thought that seem to embrace the extreme positions. On one side is the confident position that we shouldn't deface our skin because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Its found in 1 Corinthians 3 v16-17 and says; "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple."  If you live your faith you probably take that verse and ask yourself if this applies to me and not only with tattoos but the way I live, the way I eat, the exercise I do or don't all come under question. There's no point applying it to only one part of our lives. Then you hit the topic right between the eyes when you read this;

Leviticus 19 v 28 challenges me with "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD."

Many Christians today are moving past these verses saying that we are under grace and not under law as they pursue ink art that declares their faith. This article at http://christianity.about.com handles it well. Firstly talking about the Leviticus verse it explains the context of the commandment dealing with pagan worship and then comes back to some wise guidelines that we can learn through reading and understanding Romans 14.

So what would you do? I've often thought about getting three tattoos possibly merged into one piece of art that speak about my heritage. I was born in England then at the age of nearly 5 came out to New Zealand where I was raised. In 1998 my job took my family and I to Australia for 13 years where we enjoyed raising our family and becoming Aussie citizens. Patriotism is one reason for a tattoo. A sense of being, connection and loving the values of a nation. For those reasons I looked at the idea of a tattoo for each place of citizenship. I could see an image with a Lion, a Kiwi and a Kangaroo engaged with the flags of each nation.

I guess a point that stays with me is that tattoos imprint us. Unless we spend some expensive money on laser removal you can bet its there for life. The thing I like about my life is that through the grace of God, patience and discipline I can change and be changed. When I receive God's forgiveness he cleanses me as white as snow. Those broken relationships that come from lust and selfishness along with the greed based mistakes can all be wiped off the slate. I like a sarcastic quote I heard in a movie trailer for the new Happy Feet 2 movie. One of the characters is told they're beautiful to which they respond, "Only on the outside". It's true we are each beautiful people, unique in so many ways but the inside isn't always so beautiful. To me thats the part of me that needs the most work and attention. I'm more interested in internal 'heart' surgery than the plastic surgery of the outside.

So where are we today? I haven't an inch of ink on my body. The closest I've come is to write down to 'Remember the Milk' on the back of my hand. I also don't feel there is enough conviction about it to make me step into any area I still feel is grey. As a Dad I don't know I'd feel comfortable about my kids getting a tattoo so I have to then turn back to the mirror and ask how that applies to my own calls.

As you think this one through for yourself, enjoy this Weird Al parody and leave me a comment. Love to hear about your journey on this one.

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