Daily Devotions

July 6

Rainbows are one of nature’s unexpected glories.   Whether they appear arching across the sky on a grey thunder filled day, or spinning in a single water drop, they never cease to bring about a sense of wonder and delight.

Over the centuries the rainbow has become an important symbol to people of many different cultures. I don’t know about your suburb but in mine, many have pictures of rainbows on their front windows. In fact next door the whole window is covered with rainbows, a sign of better times in the future. What is so surprising about rainbows is that they are made up of millions of water droplets, each playing its part for only a short time before being replaced by another. Because their eyes occupy different places in space, no two people ever see the same rainbow.  Similarly, every person’s experiences are different when they think about God.

For Christians it has become a sign of peace and renewed hope in a troubled world. It reminds us of the Covenant God made between himself and every living creature. The most common interpretation is very much a children’s story of animals and rainbows. This is a story about God’s love for animals, about remembering God’s love each time we see a rainbow, even about the bright side of every storm.  A truer story is that God has a myriad of ways of calling us back to the harmony that God intended for us. but out of grief over the rending of right human relationship with God. In Genesis 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth…and it sorrows the Lord that he had made man on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.  God sorrows over the corruption of the beings that God made with such care and love, and God’s heart, in striking contrast to the evil inclination of the human heart, is grieved by their betrayal. God is pained by the brokenness of creation. God sends the flood, then, not as an act of revenge, but out of grief over the rending of right human relationship with God.  Therefore God promises to Noah and to his descendants, and to every creature on the earth, never again to destroy all creation with a flood. That bow in the clouds is the sign of God’s promise that whatever else God does to seek our renewal, devastation is off the table.  An implication of this promise is that God will try everything else. God will seek us and seek us, despite or perhaps because of God’s knowledge of every sin, every grief, and every shame that veils our vision of God’s reality and of our own as God’s creatures. Whatever dwells in our hearts that keeps us from hearing the harmony of all life in God’s care, God will not give up on loving us into restoration.

A prayer for you to use:

Lord Jesus Christ.

Living water. Light of the world.

Let me reflect your glory

Like a raindrop in sunlight.

Help me to become a sign of promise

In a world that seeks out clouds of storm.

Let me reveal, through you

The hidden hues that transform people

Show me how to use mine wisely

And creatively in your service. AMEN

June 23

Modern-Day Apostles

Read: Romans 1:1 – 7

The Letter to the Romans is lengthy in comparison with letters from antiquity and even with modern-day letters. Paul addresses a range of issues with the Christians in Rome. It seems he was well informed about them and their circumstances, and he expressed his wish to visit them sometime in the future. This letter is, in a sense, a preparation for that intended visit of Paul.

First, he must introduce himself. His introduction is eye-catching and compelling. Let us have a closer look at Paul’s self-introduction to the people of Rome:

                “a slave of Christ Jesus”

Although it is not an honor to be a slave, it was Paul’s choice to introduce him as such. He is upfront about his self-understanding that he belongs to Christ Jesus.

                “called to be an apostle”

In the aristocratic households of ancient Rome, slaves have different roles, positions, and duties. The slave, Paul, who belongs to Christ Jesus, was appointed as an apostle. He was chosen to be a messenger. That was his role and his place in the household of Christ Jesus.

                “set apart for the gospel of God”

He was not the ordinary, general messenger of the household. The content of the message was specific and defined as the Good News of God.

Paul’s introduction of himself to the Christians in Rome is a foreshadowing of who we are; modern-day apostles, slaves, proclaiming God’s Good News.

June 19

A Parable on Modern Life

The animals met in assembly and began to complain that humans were always taking things away from them.

“They take my milk,” said the cow.

“They take my eggs,” said the hen.

“They take my flesh for bacon,” said the pig.

“They hunt me for my oil,” said the whale.

The snail was the last to speak. “I have something they would certainly take away from me if they could. Something they want more than anything else. I have time.” (Song of the Bird)

During the Covid 19 shutdown we have all experienced much more time on our hands, Some have welcomed it, others have found it frustrating, boring and difficult. It has been a time when people have developed closer relationships with their families and others they know, albeit at a physical distance sometimes and through phone calls and Zoom. Some people have reported that they are not feeling as much pressure to travel to work.

On the downside there have been those who have lost their jobs and so money has become a huge issue. Increased time spent at home has seen a rise in domestic violence.

Yet the earth seems to be saying thank you as skies clear of pollution, birds return to the skies in cities and there has been an increase in the fish in streams and rivers. People have been able to see mountains for the first time where before they were hidden from view because of pollution. The lack of flights has seen an enormous decrease in carbon emissions.

Perhaps as we return to something like what we had before we may need to re-assess what is important in our lives and the lives of those around us. We have been given time. We need to use it wisely.

More words of wisdom:

When you pray for others, God listens to you and blesses them, and sometimes, when you are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for you.


WORRYING does not take away tomorrow’s TROUBLES, it takes away today’s PEACE.

June 18

The Contented Fisherman

The industrialist was horrified to find the fisherman lying beside his boat smoking a pipe. “Why aren’t you out fishing?” said the industrialist.

“Because I have caught enough fish for the day.”

 “Why don’t you catch some more?”

“What would I do with it?”

“Earn more money, then you could have a motor fixed to you boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. That would bring you money to buy nylon nets, so more fish, more money. Soon you would have enough money to buy two boats…..even a fleet of bats. Then you could be rich like me.”

“What would I do then?”

“Then you could really enjoy life.”

“What do you think I am doing now?”

Which would you rather have, a fortune or a capacity for enjoyment? (Song of the Bird)

I’m reminded of the story of the man who tore down his barns because they would not hold all his crops. So he built a bigger barns and then said to himself “I have plenty of good things laid up for many years. I will now take life easy, eat drink and be merry. But. God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you.”

We can get caught up in the material desires that the world presents. And often it seems the more we have, the more we need and the more we want. Our relationship to God is far more important that all the thing we have. We all need to examine our lives and get our priorities right

More words of wisdom:
When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.
A blind person asked St. Anthony: “Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?” He replied: “Yes, losing your vision!”

June 17

Stand up and be counted

When Krushchev pronounced his famous denunciation of Stalin, someone in the Congress Hall is reported to have said, “Where were you Comrade Krushchev , when all those innocent people were being slaughtered?”

Krushchev paused, looked round the Hall, and said, “Will the person who said that kindly stand up!”

Tension mounted in the Hall. No one moved.

Said Krushchev, “Well whoever you are, you have your answer now. I was in exactly the same position then as you find yourself in now.” (from Song of the Bird)

It is often very hard to stand up for the faith we have, particularly when others in the group are ridiculing or even denouncing Christianity with comments like, “It is only a crutch” or “People who need religion cannot cope themselves.”

You have possibly been in that position. It is easy to just remain silent. But we are called to stand up for Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 10: 32-33, “If you tell others that you belong to me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you are my followers. But if you reject me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you don’t belong to me.” (CEV Version)

We are blessed with the knowledge and experience of dwelling in God’s love and acceptance. Let us share that knowledge with others and demonstrate his love by caring for those in need around us.

More words of wisdom:

Prayer is not a “spare wheel” that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a “steering wheel” that directs the right path throughout the journey.

So why is a Car’s WINDSHIELD so large & the Rear View Mirror so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE. So, Look Ahead and Move on.

June 16

The Singer’s voice fills the hall

Overheard outside a concert hall: “ What a singer, his voice filled the hall!”

“Yes several of us had to leave the hall to make room for it”.

Heard in a spiritual counselling session, “How can I love God as the Scriptures tell us to? How can I give Him my whole heart?”

“You must first empty your heart of all created things.”

Misleading; don’t be afraid to fill your heart with the people and things you love because the love of God won’t occupy space in your heart any more than a singer’s voice occupies space in a hall.

Love is not like a loaf of bread. If I give a chunk of the loaf to you I have less to give to others. Love is like Eucharistic bread; I receive the whole Christ and so do you; and the next person; and the next.

You can love your Mother with your whole heart. And your spouse and every one of your children.

The wonder is that each stands to gain because love improves in quality each time the heart is given to another person.

If a friend loves you alone and no-one else, you would be wise to urge him to give his love to others, for unless he does this it is a feeble and ‘hungry’ heart he offers you. (Song of the Bird)

Let each of us seek to demonstrate God’s love to those around us, not just in empty words but in giving of ourselves to those in need physically, materially and spiritually. As people see and experience the love we show them so they will get a glimpse of the all-encompassing and accepting love that God gives.

John 13: 34 But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know  that you are my disciples.

More words of wisdom:

Friendship is like a BOOK. It takes a few minutes to burn, but it takes years to write.


All things in life are temporary. If they are going well, enjoy them, they will not last forever. If going wrong, don’t worry, they can’t last long either.

June 15

The Samaritan Woman

In John chapter 4 we read the well known story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well. After she had spoken with Jesus, the woman put down her water jar and went off to the town. She said to the people. ”Come and see the man who has told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

Many more became disciples because of what they heard from Jesus’ own lips. They said to the woman, ”It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we heard Him ourselves and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.”

I have been content to learn about You second hand; from Scriptures, saints, preachers and literature.

I wish I could say to them all it is no longer because of what you have said that I believe, for I have heard him myself. (From Song of the Bird)

We need to experience God and Jesus in a personal relationship. By getting to know Jesus through prayer, trusting in Him for all situations of life and learning about Him. As we develop a relationship with Him we can echo Peter’s words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

May each of us grow in our understanding and relationship with God.

Words of wisdom:

Old Friends are Gold! New Friends are Diamond! If you get a Diamond, don’t forget the Gold! Because to hold a Diamond, you always need a Base of Gold!


Often when we lose hope and think this is the end, GOD smiles from above and says, “Relax, sweetheart, it’s just a bend, not the end!

June 12

Psalm 8 concludes as it started:  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

In this verse, the repetition of words is used for emphasis, to stress the importance of the idea. Repetition is often needed to help people remember things. That is why advertising slogans are used frequently and successfully to encourage people to use or buy certain products. But repetition can also devalue the meaning of words. For example, “awesome” once meant “creating awe”. With overuse, it is coming to simply mean “very good”. We must be careful that our familiarity with passages the describe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit doesn’t diminish their importance and significance.

The word majesty evokes someone regal and lofty; an imposing character with stately dignity and supreme authority. Psalm 8 sees the Lord as ruler of the universe and was used in worship to help a largely illiterate people to remember religious truths. Today, singing helps us worship and to remember. As you read (or maybe sing) the words of the following song, savour each word for the depth of its meaning.

Majesty, worship His Majesty, unto Jesus be glory, honour and praise,

Majesty, kingdom, authority flows from his throne unto his own, his anthem raise.

So exalt, lift up on high, the name of Jesus; magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus the King.

Majesty, worship his majesty, Jesus who died, now glorified, King of all kings.

Words by Jack W. Hayford © 1981

June 11

You made him ruler of the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

When God created the earth, he gave Adam and Eve the authority to rule over the earth and use its bounty for food. For a long time, people and the rest of creation were able to co-exist without upsetting the balance of nature. However, today we have gone overboard with the “fill the earth and subdue it” instruction from Genesis 1:28. Population growth across the globe has seen habitats and ecosystems destroyed through ignorance, carelessness, greed and the need for food. God did not give us permission to destroy creation – surely His intention was for us to use what we need to survive and to nurture the rest.

Yet we ignore the long-term effects of our activities to our peril. One warning came in 1962 in the book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. It highlighted the impact of our use of pesticides by imagining a future Spring where the food chain has been disrupted to the point where there are no more insects, so no food for many birds and therefore no bird songs in Spring. The book led to significant changes to legislation and to studies in environmental impact. Of course, companies who stood to lose income over policy changes were strident in their criticism.

Despite some positive changes, our negative impact on the environment continues. Although not necessarily caused by humans, Varroa mites are killing off populations of bees around the world to the point where, in California, they were importing healthy bees from Tasmania so that they can pollinate the fruit trees. Without their regular importation, a whole industry and source of fruit would be destroyed. A silent Spring is still possible.

More recently, pictures comparing large cities before and during the Covid-19 lockdown show how significant their pollution is and how easy it is to overlook a problem that grows gradually until it is irreparable. Let us pray that people and governments will act on this wake-up call to use the world’s finite resources more responsibly.  

June 10

Psalm 8 continues: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.

Our world is an incredibly beautiful place. A number of years ago, I went on a camping tour of Kakadu National Park. One night, we set up our tents in the camping area next to Gunlom Falls with just a mosquito net covering us because of the hot weather. Before settling down, we climbed to the top of the nearby cliff. Up there, the river forms a series of rock pools, before it reaches a ledge and falls almost 90 meters into a popular, crocodile-free swimming spot made famous in Crocodile Dundee. Tour members were able to sit in the water to cool off while admiring a spectacular panorama.

Apart from the disconcerting feeling of something in the water nibbling at my toes, looking out over the plains as the sun set was an incredibly powerful experience. Before it got too dark, we climbed back down, had dinner, then settled down in our tents. It was truly awe-inspiring to look through the mosquito net into the heavens. Being away from the light pollution of the city enabled us to see millions of tiny dots sparkling in the sky. It was overwhelming to think how vast is our universe and how tiny we are in comparison.

Not only is the extent of this universe mind-blowing but so is the reminder that God thinks of us as significantly important, acknowledging us as beautiful and worthy. Thanks be to God!

June 9

Psalm 8 continues:

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

Having taught for many years, I am well aware of what can come from the lips of children! In reading this verse, I am struck by a couple of thoughts. The first one is how young children copy the sayings and ideas of those close to them. Therefore, it is so important to take care what we say in front of them.  A parent who frequently tells a child, perhaps jokingly, that they are dumb or ugly, can set them up for a life-time of insecurity and underachievement. Yet praise can help them blossom into the person God wants them to become. As children get older, they change under other influences, but God’s plan is for them to learn to appreciate what He has created and to praise Him for it. They will only do that if adults in their lives set the example. So, we need to get into the habit of being grateful for every possible aspect of our lives and thanking God for it. Recent psychological studies have backed up the importance of this habit by showning that expressing gratitude results in significantly better mental health, reducing depression and anxiety.

The second thought is the effect of what we say on others. Criticism, aggression, bullying and intimidation only serve to aggravate the situation, as we are currently seeing overseas. Speaking calmly and focusing on the positives is sure to silence the critics and lead to a more peaceful world – a lesson that certain world leaders would do well to learn, yet it is often hard to do!

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God (Mathew 5:9, expressed inclusively)

What are you grateful for today? In which situation can you be a peacemaker?

June 8

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday and one of the Lectionary Readings was Psalm 8. It begins by proclaiming:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

What creates awe and wonder in your world? For me, it is the diversity within nature. From things we can only see under significant magnification to amazing pictures of the Milky Way and beyond provided through space telescopes; from the symmetry of tiny cacti plants to the stinky titan arum of the rainforest; from the cutest puppy to animals that win “the ugliest in the world” competitions, God’s creation inspires awe. Sometimes things can be really repulsive, but we can still find something to love if we look hard enough. Maybe it is someone’s character rather than their appearance that makes them beautiful. When we look beyond the surface, we see things from God’s perspective. No matter what we look like, no matter what we’ve done, God still loves us. Even more amazing than creation is the creator.

Our response to that needs to be praise and honour as we give distinction to someone beautiful and deserving of our great admiration and respect.

It is simply breathtaking to think that God is even more beautiful and powerful than our whole universe!

June 5

Rainbows are one of nature’s unexpected glories.   Whether they appear arching across the sky on a grey thunder filled day, or spinning in a single water drop, they never cease to bring about a sense of wonder and delight.

Over the centuries the rainbow has become an important symbol to people of many different cultures. I don’t know about your suburb but in mine, many have pictures of rainbows on their front windows. In fact next door the whole window is covered with rainbows, a sign of better times in the future. What is so surprising about rainbows is that they are made up of millions of water droplets, each playing its part for only a short time before being replaced by another. Because their eyes occupy different places in space, no two people ever see the same rainbow.  Similarly, every person’s experiences are different when they think about God.

 For Christians it has become a sign of peace and renewed hope in a troubled world. It reminds us of the Covenant God made between himself and every living creature. The most common interpretation is very much a children’s story of animals and rainbows. This is a story about God’s love for animals, about remembering God’s love each time we see a rainbow, even about the bright side of every storm.  A truer story is that God has a myriad of ways of calling us back to the harmony that God intended for us. but out of grief over the rending of right human relationship with God. In Genesis 6;5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth…and it sorrows the Lord that he had made man on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.  God sorrows over the corruption of the beings that God made with such care and love, and God’s heart, in striking contrast to the evil inclination of the human heart, is grieved by their betrayal. God is pained by the brokenness of creation. God sends the flood, then, not as an act of revenge, but out of grief over the rending of right human relationship with God.  Therefore God promises to Noah and to his descendants, and to every creature on the earth, never again to destroy all creation with a flood. That bow in the clouds is the sign of God’s promise that whatever else God does to seek our renewal, devastation is off the table.  An implication of this promise is that God will try everything else. God will seek us and seek us, despite or perhaps because of God’s knowledge of every sin, every grief, and every shame that veils our vision of God’s reality and of our own as God’s creatures. Whatever dwells in our hearts that keeps us from hearing the harmony of all life in God’s care, God will not give up on loving us into restoration.

A prayer for you to use

Lord Jesus Christ.

Living water. Light of the world.

Let me reflect your glory

Like a raindrop in sunlight.

Help me to become a sign of promise

In a world that seeks out clouds of storm.

Let me reveal, through you

The hidden hues that transform people

Show me how to use mine wisely

And creatively in your service. Amen

June 4

Royal Blue is the colour of royalty to welcome the coming of a King.  It can also symbolize the night sky in which the star appeared to announce the birth of Jesus. While purple has traditionally been the liturgical colour for Advent, Royal Blue is increasingly used for Advent, especially in Protestant churches, to distinguish it from Lent Some traditions still use Purple or Blue Violet for Advent

 ‘There’s a friend for little children above the bright blue sky….’

Those of us who have followed the exploits of real life space adventurers do not find this old Sunday School hymn very helpful.  Pictures taken from outer space show that there is no celestial city above the clouds where a white bearded gentleman sits on a golden throne.   This discovery has not stopped Christians from believing in God. On the contrary it has encouraged them to embark on their own voyages of discovery as they search for God in the world around them. The evidence of his creative power is everywhere. Those who seek him are surprised and delighted by the treasures that they find close at hand.

Have you every gazed across water or desert on a shimmering hot day when the sun seems to melt into a smoky blue smudge of horizon?  Have you lain on your stomach and watched the electric dart of tiny fish in a rock pool, or glimpsed the azure flash of a kingfisher’s wings as it dives for food? Have you ever looked up at the sky on a navy blue night when the air is crisp and the stars hang like enormous lamps from a lofty ceiling. If you have, then you will understand the thought and feelings that are represented in Psalm.

Becoming aware of our surroundings, feeling at one with creation, wondering at the grandeur of God helps us to discover the place deep within where we can meet with God.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?[c]

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
    and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their[g] feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

June 3

The sea offers up many treasures along its shores. There are pieces of driftwood, salt bleached and encrusted with barnacles, dark strands of seaweed, sea urchins, white skeletons of cuttlefish, there are branches of broken coral and shells of many shapes, colours and sizes.

Hundreds of years before Abraham was born, someone discovered a useful shell-fish on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

As it slid along the ocean floor, its body was colourless but when it was exposed to sunlight, it produced a brilliant coloured liquid which became known as Tyrian Purple. The dye became very popular and people travelled long distances to Canaan to buy it. It became very valuable and it was not long before Purple robes became a sign of great wealth or Royalty.   When Jesus was crucified, the soldiers dressed him in a purple robe and laughed at his claim to be King of the Jews. (see John 19). The colour purple is now used as a sign of sorrow and regret. It reminds us of God’s great gift of Jesus and the suffering he went through. The time of Lent is a time of purple in the Church.

In Acts 16 we hear about a woman who dealt in purple cloth.

Paul was on his second missionary journey when he had a vision of a man who pleaded with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The apostle responded to the vision by gathering his team and quickly setting off across the Aegean Sea for Macedonia, the northern region of modern-day Greece. When they arrived, Paul and his fellow missionaries passed through the port of Neapolis and headed straight for Philippi, “a city of Macedonia’s first district and a Roman colony” (Acts 16:14). Luke, the author of Acts, records that Paul’s first ministry encounter in Philippi was not with a Macedonian man but with a group of women. The group included Lydia, woman originally from Thyatira. When I first decided a Lay Preacher I found this group of women a great encouragement to me as I began to learn, because I realised women could preach too. It seems that Philippi did not have a recognised synagogue—perhaps they did not have enough Jewish men to form a quorum necessary for a synagogue. Like many Jewish places of worship, this located by a water source. Many synagogues and prayer-houses were built near water sources, such as rivers, to facilitate ritual washings
 

Paul and his companions may have been surprised to see a group made up of only, or mainly, women at the prayer-house. Instead, the story continues with the statement, “We sat down and began to talk with the women who had gathered.’

After she believed, Lydia was baptized, along with the rest of her household. After Lydia’s conversion and baptism, she insisted that Paul and his friends come to stay at her home, if they judged her to “a believer in the Lord” (verse 15). Luke says that “she prevailed upon us,” which indicates the fervency of her desire to be hospitable. The missionaries did indeed judge Lydia to be a true believer, and they stayed at her home while in Philippi.

In Acts 16:14a, we are given several pieces of information about Lydia. We are told her name, that she was a dealer in purple cloth, that she was originally from the city of Thyatira, and that she was a “God-worshipper.” Considering Luke’s descriptions of other people who Paul meets on his missions, an appreciable amount of information is given about Lydia.
 
Lydia was a seller of purple, that is, she was a business woman who sold luxury textiles dyed purple. It was only the wealthy elite who wore garments dyed purple or trimmed with purple, or had soft furnishings in their homes, such as couch covers, dyed purple. There were other kinds of purple die, Tyrian purple, a dye derived from marine molluscs, was especially costly However, since she is described literally in Acts 16:14 as a “purple-seller” (porphyropōlis), Lydia probably dealt with Tyrian purple. The expenses involved in her occupation as a merchant of luxury textiles indicates she was a woman of some wealth. Women such as Lydia were not at the margins in the first decades of the Jesus’ movement. They were not silent in the churches or ineffective in evangelism. They cared for local congregations and were vital and strategic players at the forefront of the expanding Christian mission. A church was established in Philippi because of Lydia’s open heart and her open home, and it grew because of her patronage, her initiative, her courage, her ministry.

June 2

“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

According to Genesis eight, God sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark.  It was wonderful to see our dove tree with all its beautiful doves outside the Greenwood church. It is a beautiful picture here of Noah reaching out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. When I was on a trip between China and Alaska, we found a small bird on our balcony. We were miles away from land but after a sleep and a rest, he continued his journey. It was an honour to provide this bird with the things she needed before she was off again.  I think it is good to remember that the Holy Spirit is alive in our hearts where ever we are, and we do not always have to move it on to do its work.10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

When the dove returned with an olive leaf, it signified to Noah not only that land had once again appeared, but that the order of creation had been restored and the chaos created by the flood had come to an end.

In that sense, the dove with the olive leaf in its beak represents order, calm and peace in the midst of chaos and disorder. We are not ready for our dove to move out, we are still living in a time of chaos and disorder. but there will be a time when our dove will move out into the community and we will follow.

Thus, in the Uniting Church logo, the Holy Spirit is represented as a dove. Notably, the colour of its wings is red, a colour normally linked with the Holy Spirit; the shape of the wings is representative of the flames of fire (as in Acts 2:1-11 where the Holy Spirit descends as flames of fire upon the apostles).

Red is a colour of life and this is why the Church uses it on anniversaries and festivals even though it also reminds us about the blood that Jesus lovingly shed for us. It is especially used at Pentecost.  Pentecost is a Jewish festival celebrating the grain harvest. The apostles were celebrating the festival Shavuot which also marks the time that the Jews received Torah on Mount Sinai. Of course now in the Christian Church it is the church’s birthday, as well as the day the spirit came to the apostles.

Representing God’s first breath of love into all creation, a driving wind surrounded the apostles to strengthen them in their faith, then tongues of flames stood above their heads. Everyone who was gathered heard and understood what was happening.

The Holy Spirit in his gifts and graces, is compared to fire because of its purity, light and heat as well as consuming nature.  In Matt 3:11, John says, I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

June 1

Green is the colour that the church uses for ordinary days, those occasions when there is no particular feast or anniversary. Green days are growing days. They are special because they celebrate life in all its variety.  It’s not only the church that has green days. There are many times in our own lives when nothing in particular seems to be happening. Even so, each day that God gives us is different.

Some days drift along like a small boat on aquamarine waters, others are as bright and bouncy as a young pea popping out of its pod.  There are prickle grey days that hardly seem green at all and emerald chatter days as noisy as a flock of cockatoos.  Sad olive days hang like wet washing on the line while others glow like jade.

Green days remind us of the garden or the bush of jungles and paddocks and forests full of evergreens. Green is a colour that stands for hope and freedom and renewal. All three of these are something that Jesus gives to us in the church.

While we have been at home we have found many things that we have not had time for before. One of the things is spending more time in the garden and the nurseries have prospered as we have bought young plants to nurture. Our gardens are a living reminder of God’s presence in our lives.  Planting a garden, watering it and watching the new shoots pushing through the soil, can help you grow towards a greater understanding of God the Creator.

In the book of Genesis, chapter two, verse 8 it says God planted a garden. “Out of the ground the Lord God gave growth to every tree that is pleasing to the eye and good for food”. And in the middle of the garden was the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And the Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.  He did not put him in a palace, he put him in a garden and told him to watch over it.   Are we cultivating the area that we have been put in charge with or are we imagining it will just grow without any help.

 Chapter 3:8 tells us how God walked about the garden he planted, spending time with Adam and Eve when the cool evening breezes were blowing. What a beautiful image, I wonder if you feel him in your garden when the cool evening breezes are blowing. That promise continues throughout the Bible and in Matthew 28:20 we hear Jesus saying, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age”

May 29

Exile People

The exile is in sight, or rather is visualised based on their faith that God’s faithfulness and love will continue. The prophet Jeremiah acknowledge that the people of the wilderness and the people of the exile are one-and-the-same.

Jeremiah 31:2 – 4

The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness;

when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

The restoration of the people and renewal of viable community life is promised. The words, “You shall be my people, and I will be your God,” echoed in both the prophesies’ of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The promise is expressed in different imagery, including the language of resurrected life:

Ezekiel 37:12 – 14

“Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

We are the people of God, and people of the wilderness, exile and resurrection. We live in the hope of new life and new possibilities.

May 28

Exile People

The exile of Israel, the historical experience of destruction and displacement, brought despair in the hearts of the people. The experience of hopelessness and misery was expressed in the words of the prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. No-one will judge them for that. Their city and temple were destroyed, and their leaders and most talented men and women were deported.

However, there is another side of the exile experience. The most remarkable feature of the exile is that it produced hope as well. Both the prophets expressed declarations of new possibilities. They did not minimise the devastating effects of the exile. But, at the same time, they refused to accept the disruption and destruction of the exile as the final outcome.

Exile people are people of hope.

Jeremiah 1:9 & 10

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.

10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms

to uproot and tear down,

to destroy and overthrow,

to build and to plant.”

May 27

Exile People

The Book of Psalms is rich in song, poetry, wisdom, history, and prophesy. Some of the Psalms originated in exile and expressed the different stages of the people in exile’s emotions and mental conditions. These found their way into the liturgies of the Temple, Synagogue, and Church.

Psalm 44 originates in exile and displays a unique expression of faith. Verses 1 – 8 express the people’s faith in Yahweh, and then the tone changes suddenly from verse 9, accusing Yahweh. It is all His doing for the destruction and damage to the people. The Psalm includes very strong words to express the accusations (verses 9 – 16) with the claim that the people are innocent (verses 17 – 19). In conclusion, the Psalmist demands Yahweh to acts in favour of the people.

Indeed, an extraordinary expression of faith. The People of God have found their voice in exile. Exile People express their faith in new and unique ways.

Psalm 44

But now you have rejected and humbled us;
    you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
    and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
    and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your people for a pittance,
    gaining nothing from their sale.

17 All this came upon us,
    though we had not forgotten you;
    we had not been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
    our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
    you covered us over with deep darkness.

23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?

25 We are brought down to the dust;
    our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
    rescue us because of your unfailing love.

May 26

Exile People

Exile was for the People of Yahweh a disruption of their routines, customs, and culture. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel describe the exile as a time of displacement. It was a catastrophe for both the individual and the community. The people expressed their sadness, grief, and sense of loss through rhetoric and liturgy. These we find primarily in the book of Lamentations. Several Psalms are expressions of protest and complaints, and sometimes strong words of resentment against the Babylonian overlords. Who can remember “By the Rivers of Babylon”, sang by Boney-M during the 70s?

Psalm 137

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

The prophet Jeremiah offered words of calmness, encouraging the people to settle down, accepting exile as the place where they live their faith.

Jeremiah 29:4 – 7

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

May 25

Exile People

The history of Israel after the journey in the Wilderness is characterised by division, violence, and invasion. It was the policy of the Babylonian Empire (605 – 540 BCE) to deport leading people from their homeland to a foreign territory, preventing rebellion in conquered territories. The Babylonian Empire invaded Judah and Jerusalem three times and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 581 BCE. The deportation of the leadership of Jerusalem is what is known today as “The Exile” of Judah.

The Exile made a massive impact on Israel’s self-understanding as the People of God. While these events exposed the vulnerability of God’s people to the brutality of world powers, they produced hope and new possibilities for the people in exile.

Although, the followers of Jesus always see themselves as vulnerable people in a ‘foreign land,’ they always live in hope and search for new possibilities to proclaim the Good News. During the ‘Exile,’ caused by COVID-19, Christians around the world, using modern technologies to proclaim God’s Kingdom.

We are Exile People, and we are People of Hope.

Psalm 91:1 – 6

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

May 22

In The Wilderness

To be continued …

Some of the present-day dramas end with the words, “to be continued …” It happens after an hour of high drama and viewers wait for a climactic end. Then those words appear, I really do not like it. At that moment you have no choice but to wait until the next week. Sometimes I ask Google what’s going to happen.

It’s the same with the Exodus story. The end of the journey isn’t at the end of the book, Exodus. There are two books you need to work through to get to the end: Leviticus and Numbers. I can’t think of anyone who will read both those books, so I skipped both and went straight to the end of Numbers. There it is again: “To be continued ….”

This is our story: “To be continued …”

Come, let us sing Psalm 23.

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

May 21

In The Wilderness

The People of Israel received their constitution, laws, and regulations.

The wilderness is a time of transition and it does not mean it is a time without laws and regulations. Early in the journey the People of Israel received their constitution (Ten Commandments) and laws (Exodus 20-23), and regulations for worship (Exodus 25 – 30). And then there is an interesting twist in the story. The People got tired, waiting for Moses preparing the laws and regulations on Mount Sinai. After they have asked Moses’ brother Aaron to give them something else to worship, they worshiped the golden calf. Therefore, they were described as “a stiff-necked people.”

Reading Exodus this week I got stuck on the words “stiff-necked people,” and in reflection, I thought: It is me; after 7 – 8 weeks of all the social-distancing and uncertainty, I must be a pain in the neck for somebody. Although I do not worship a golden calf, the moans and groans getting loader, as I am drifting further away into my little corner.

Then, the surprise!

Exodus 33:7 – 10

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent.

One thing I learn from the Exodus journey is that the wilderness is full of surprises.

May 20

In The Wilderness

Shared-Leadership

God called Moses to negotiate with Pharaoh to let the People of Israel go. With God’s help, he succeeded. However, as we know, the journey didn’t go smoothly. Even at the start the Egyptians had second thoughts and wanted to stop the People. They escaped with God’s help. That was only the beginning of their problems, as it could be expected of a journey of that nature. There were food and water problems, and the sporadic wars.

As the journey continued, tension became more of an issue and Moses must deal with it. His Father-in-law, Jethro suggested another way to deal with the day-to-day issues of the People (Exodus 18:13-27). Let the people take care of each other.

It was the same model Jesus had in mind when he called his disciples to share the leadership responsibilities and the church has adopted this form from the beginning – the so-called shared-leadership. As the Pastoral leaders at TNUCA work among our people we recognise the same model here as well. Then there are many others reaching out to the younger generations in our congregation, reaching out to our community and their neighbours. This is how our congregation shares the load. All of these are different forms of the embodiment of God with us.

Let us acknowledge all the hard work our people put in, taking care of each other and our community (stretching far beyond our borders), under very difficult circumstances.

Let us sing Psalm 46:1 – 7, while we thank God for the shared leadership in our congregation.

God is with Us.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

May 19

In the Wilderness

We are Exodus People

The journey of Israel through the wilderness provides an unusual roadmap for us, and there is much we can take from their journey as we travel.

The People of God are people on the road (Exodus People), and Israel learned new ways as they travel through the wilderness. Early on their journey, they learned that the shortest way is not necessarily the best way (Exodus 13:17 & 18). Water and food came from unexpected places (water from a rock and, mana and quail). They travelled without a roadmap (or GPS). Therefore they needed to look out for different kinds of signs and signals (clouds and fire – Exodus 13:21 & 22).

Interesting, while they were on this unusual journey, there was time for celebration and songwriting (Exodus 15).

We are people on the road, and we do not have all the answers. Let us look with eyes wide open for the unexpected opportunity, and there is always time for celebrations. Let us sing Psalm 100:

A psalm for giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

May 18

In the Wilderness

We are the people of God, and our history is characterised by change, movement, and the unknown. Abraham was called to leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s home to go to an unknown land. Moses was called to lead God’s people out of Egypt, through the wilderness to the promised land. Jesus’ ministry was a journey through Galilee to Jerusalem, with numerous unknowns on the way. The people of God follow the voice of Jesus, and they know they never travel alone.

Now with COVID 19, we are in the wilderness again, and our assumptions and practices are challenged. Let us remind ourselves that it is not the first time the people of God are confronted with change. Like the people of Israel, we need to search for new ways to go forward to serve God and our communities. We are the people of God, always on the move, always ready to take down our tents and pitch them where we are called to go.

As we travel through uncertain times, let us keep singing Psalm 121:

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

May 15

The Lord be with you.

In this time, draw aside as Jesus urged (Matthew 6:5-6) and become a thin place.

Become conscious of your breath: slow your breathing down, as you deeply inhale and exhale and appreciate the stillness.

As you do this you become more open, become thin. Invite God into the disruption your ‘normal’ life in these days. Expect the unexpected.

To whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life,

and we have believed and have come to know

that You are the One

who reveals to us,

the heart of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ

Reading: John 4:1-15  The woman at the well.

Meditation:

Here we have another example from everyday life Jesus used to give new and deeper meaning – water.

Coming from another summer what does water mean to you as maybe you enjoyed cool water to quench your thirst on a hot day, or watered your garden to keep it alive? Can this give us insight into the dry and dusty world Jesus knew?

What do you understand by ‘living water’? What does it mean for you as you walk in the Way of Jesus?

During the week we’ve reflected on some of images in John’s gospel (good news). Each of these images or metaphors point to the life Jesus called ‘eternal’.

I suspect most people think of eternal life as the hope of life the other side of our grave; perhaps with the many rooms in the Father’s house Jesus spoke of in John 14 uppermost in their minds.

Late in the first century of our era John wrote to a broken, disaffected, excluded and alienated community; the community was told they couldn’t share in life in the light of God.

John wrote to the community with words of assurance, hope, and encouragement saying life in the divine light of God was for them, and for all people. To communicate the fullness of this life he called it eternal.

What John meant by eternal life is life lived in the presence and reality of the eternal, the divine, in the here and now.

John’s words speak today of life lived in the presence and reality of the eternal, the divine, doing so with words of encouragement and reassurance, of life to where there is brokenness, disaffection and alienation.

Take some time to reflect on what this means for you, particularly in these days of isolation, and when the future is so uncertain. Then spend some time in prayer.

Prayer:

Go peaceful

in gentleness

through the violence of these days.

Give freely.

Show tenderness

in all your ways.

Through darkness,

In troubled times

let holiness be your aim.

Seek wisdom.

Let faithfulness

burn like a flame.

God speed you!

God lead you,

and keep you wrapped around His heart!

May you be known by love.

Be righteous.

Speak truthfully

in a world of greed and lies.

Show kindness.

See everyone through heaven’s eyes.

God hold you.

enfold you,

and keep you wrapped around His heart.

May you be known by love.

Commitment:

Christ, as light

Illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and right.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks to me.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light;

Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

Blessing:

May the peace of Christ go with you,

wherever He may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness,

protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing

at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing

once again into your doors.

Amen

May 14

The Lord be with you.

In this time, draw aside as Jesus urged (Matthew 6:5-6) and become a thin place.

Become conscious of your breath: slow your breathing down, as you deeply inhale and exhale and appreciate the stillness.

As you do this you become more open, become thin. Invite God into the disruption your ‘normal’ life in these days. Expect the unexpected.

To whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life,

and we have believed and have come to know

that You are the One

who reveals to us,

the heart of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ

Reading: John 8:12-20 – Jesus light of the world.

Another controversy as Jesus upset the Pharisees with the words “I am the light of the world”.

The reason being that in their tradition light was a powerful metaphor for God, who as Moses learnt on Mount Sinai was the great I Am.

Meditation:

Maybe we don’t realise today just how much light shines in cities and towns across the planet every night as darkness falls. You might want to look at some satellite photos to see what I mean.

It wasn’t always like that. Where I lived the streetlights didn’t work all that well. There was a weak pool of light at the lamp post base and not much else until the next streetlight two posts away. When the streetlights went out at 1.00am the neighbourhood was very dark and gloomy. It was really eerie on dark winter nights. Somehow the darkness seemed suffocating.

I ask myself if that was my experience, what was it like in times past as I watch movies or TV programmes about those times? Is it surprising then that white, blinding light was such a powerful metaphor for God in our faith tradition?

Our physical world is nowhere near as dark as the ancient world was; yet darkness is with us in many ways.

How do you experience this light today as it shines with a brilliance into regrets, burdens feelings of inadequacy? Then how do you experience this brilliant light in the face of darkness such as greed, racism, injustice and in this time of pandemic, uncertainty, and social isolation where the church engages in bigotry, exclusion and spiritual violence?

Let’s not forget what John said long ago in the opening of his gospel (good news): the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. This is a reality today.

As you enter into the prayer remember, you are not doing this alone – you are in the company of others from the Trinity North Uniting Church community and beyond.

Prayer:

Kindle, O God, in our hearts, we pray, the flame of love which never ceases,

that it may burn in us, and give light to others

in these uncertain days.

May we shine for ever, set on fire with that eternal light of Yours which puts to flight the darkness of this world. Amen.

Commitment:

Christ, as light

Illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and right.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks to me.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light;

Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

Blessing:

May the peace of Christ go with you,

wherever He may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness,

protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing

at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing once again into your doors. Amen

May 13

The Lord be with you.

In this time, draw aside as Jesus urged (Matthew 6:5-6) and become a thin place.

Become conscious of your breath: slow your breathing down, as you deeply inhale and exhale and appreciate the stillness.

As you do this you become more open, become thin. Invite God into the disruption your ‘normal’ life in these days. Expect the unexpected.

To whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life,

and we have believed and have come to know

that You are the One

who reveals to us,

the heart of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ

Reading:  John 6:35-40

This reading is part of the longer ‘bread of life’ passage in John.

Take time to read it.

How does it speak to you?

Meditation:

I’m constantly amazed how in the ‘Jesus stories’ we read how Jesus took examples from everyday life familiar to his listeners, gave them new meaning so as to explain and point to deep truth: such was the case in John 6.

Bread was an important part of everyday life in Jesus’ world, more so than it is today perhaps.

Consequently, Jesus’ listeners in their physical hunger would have been able to relate to the ‘bread’ which he spoke of to feed their deep inner hunger.

Are there examples from your everyday life which speak to you of the ‘bread of life’ Jesus offers?

Once when baking bread I forgot to add the yeast. The result? A lifeless lump of hot dough.

I will not die an unlived life,

I will not live in fear

of falling or catching fire.

I can choose to inhabit my days

to allow my living to open me,

to make me less afraid,

more accessible,

to loosen my heart

until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise ……..

As you enter into the prayer remember, you are not doing this alone – you are in the company of others from the Trinity North Uniting Church community and beyond.

Commitment:

Christ, as light

Illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and right.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks to me.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light;

Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

Blessing:

May the peace of Christ go with you,

wherever He may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness,

protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing

at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing

once again into your doors. Amen

May 12

The Lord be with you.

In this time, draw aside as Jesus urged (Matthew 6:5-6) and become a thin place.

Become conscious of your breath: slow your breathing down, as you deeply inhale and exhale and appreciate the stillness.

As you do this you become more open, become thin. Invite God into the disruption your ‘normal’ life in these days. Expect the unexpected.

To whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life,

and we have believed and have come to know

that You are the One

who reveals to us,

the heart of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ

Reading: John 15:1-4

Graft yourself into the vine which is divine love.

Take a few moments ……….. does a word or phrase speak to you?

Sit with that word or phrase – and then give thanks.

Meditation:

How do you feel about your life’s story?

In the grand scheme of things in your life’s story important?

Listen to your life.

See it for the fathomless mystery it is.

In the boredom and pain of it

no less than in the excitement and gladness:

touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it

because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,

and life, your life itself is grace.

Commitment:

Christ, as light

Illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and right.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks to me.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light;

Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

Blessing:

May the peace of Christ go with you,

wherever He may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness,

protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing

at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing

once again into your doors. Amen

May 11

This week’s devotions will be loosely based on a service of morning prayer in the Celtic tradition with readings from John’s gospel

As such the opening words and closing commitment prayer and blessing are the same for each day.

There will be a new reading and reflection for each day of this week.

Introduction:

Last Monday, May 4th, there was a flurry of excitement with Star Wars fans and in some media as the greeting “may the fourth be with you” was being expressed.

I want to begin with a greeting that is not limited to just one day of the year:

“The Lord be with you”

When you think of something being thin what comes to mind? Is it a garment that has worn through and now is worn out? Now that winter has hit with a vengeance will a thin soup be as satisfying and comforting as a good thick soup with fresh crusty bread?

In the days of sailing ships sails that had become thin were a danger to the ship as there was the risk of them being torn and blown out in stormy weather.

Beyond the negativity so often associated with ‘thinness’ Celtic thinking and spirituality has a very different connotation as the term ‘thin places’ is widely used.

For the Celts a thin place is where the spiritual world and the physical world meet: where literally the veil between the worlds was so thin that a person could sense the spiritual or God in a powerful way. I find mountains, whether Himalayan trekking some (well more than some) years ago and the Scottish Highlands in more recent times as thin places. Then there is the timeless grandeur of the great Australian Outback.

It is in thin places we are jolted out of old ways of seeing things, and find new ones in the transforming, renewing Spirit and presence of God.

You have the potential to become a thin place, so may you be blessed as we share this week together.

The Lord be with you.

In this time, draw aside as Jesus urged (Matthew 6:5-6) and become a thin place.

Become conscious of your breath: slow your breathing down, as you deeply inhale and exhale and appreciate the stillness.

As you do this you become more open, become thin. Invite God into the disruption your ‘normal’ life in these days. Expect the unexpected.

To whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life,

and we have believed and have come to know

that You are the One

who reveals to us,

the heart of God.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ

Reading:          Read the story of Wedding at Cana in John 2:1-11.

This ‘sign’ told of the abundance of divine love which is for all.

How does this story speak to you at this point in your life’s journey?

Meditation:

Be generous with yourself so you can receive the love that surrounds you.

You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved.

You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself.

Yet the whole time, this love is but a few centimetres away from you.

It is as the edge of your being:

remain attentive so as to receive.

When a great moment knocks on the door of your life,

it is often no louder that the beating of your heart,

and is very easy to miss it.

Commitment:

Christ, as light

Illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and right.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks to me.

This day be within me and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light;

Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

Blessing:

May the peace of Christ go with you,

wherever He may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness,

protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing

at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing

once again into your doors. Amen

May 8

The Season of Crisis

Isaiah 42:14 – 15

For a long time I have held my peace,

I have kept still and restrained myself;

now I will cry out like a woman in labor,

I will gasp and pant.

I will lay waste mountains and hills,

and dry up all their herbage.

New enterprise, new skill, new country; newness is not a romantic, fairy tale experience. When we reach the end result there could be a sense of fussiness and cosiness. Newness arrives through pain and struggle. Sometimes we are brutally forced out of our old habits and ways to search for newness. The pain is as such that it cannot be endured quietly. The groans could be heard through protest and hoarding. To make the pain of newness bearable we need each other, and we need the God of new creations.

The pain on the cross opens the way for new life on Easter!

A Thou Who Hears!

We prefer our worship of you should be upbeat.

We like it that the church is “the happiest place in town.”

We take our glimpse or your promised kingdom as a venue,

where never is heard a discouraging word!

But then . . . reality!!

like suffering and death,

like pandemic and virus,

like loss unimaginable!

That reality breaks our happy illusion of a fairy-tale life in the first world,

and we are left with stone-cold fear and bottomless need.

So we cry out with urgent imperative:  

Hear, help, save!!

We cry out along with the whole company of people of faith who have cried out.

We cry out, because our cry, since the lips of the slaves in Egypt,

is our most elemental word back to you, our creator.

We cry out, not in despair, but in confidence that you hear.

You are the one, the only one, who can turn sorrow to joy,

mourning to dancing,

weeping to laughter.

So now, God who hears, helps, and saves,

hear, act, and make new!

Give us courage and patience;

end the virus;

let us be rich in soul and poor in things,

ordered for neighborliness, generous with goods,

free of fear,

but mostly: end the virus!

We pray this in the name of Jesus who defeated the powers of death

overcame the forces of evil,

ended the unbearable vexation of leprosy for some, and

became the Lord of the Dance.

the dance of wellbeing, gladness, and peace.

So we pray,

so we trust,

so we hope . . . in you! Amen.

Brueggemann, Walter. Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty . Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May 7

The Season of Crises

Isaiah 43:18 – 19

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Storms, tornados, or nuclear threats force us into bunkers. Not this time. It is something that we cannot even see that forces us into lockdown. Forces us to stay at home and to find a new daily routine. In this way the season of crises, becomes the season of new things.

For many of us we do not have much of a choice to do things differently. Shopping routines, sport and social lives all have changed, and we do not know if they will ever be the same again. Let us use this time as a time of new possibilities. Let us use our imagination how we can serve God in new ways and be neighbours in new ways. “We can embrace a new normal that is God’s gift to us.” (Brueggemann)

At the Edge of a New Normal

Our “normal ways” are reassuring to us:

It is our normal way to slot people for wealth or poverty;

It is our normal way to classify people as “us” and “other”;

It is our normal way to prefer males to the other gender;

It is our normal way to distinguish heteros and the “other.”

Our usual normals make us safe,

make us happy,

leave us certain.

Only now our normal ways are exposed as constructs of privilege that cover over the reality of our neighborly situation.

In the midst of the virus we notice that the others are very much with us,

and we are all vulnerable together.

We sense the disruption, the loss, the deep dis-ease among us,

and we want our old normals to be “great again.”

Except that we cannot!

Except that you summon us to new futures made sober by the pandemic;

You require us now to imagine, to risk, and be vulnerable

as we watch the new normals emerge among us:

the blind see, lepers are cleansed, the poor have good news; students have debts canceled, the poor have health care, workers have a living wage, the atmosphere breathes fresh air.

We want to return to the old normals that yield (for some) safety and happiness.

but you dispatch us otherwise.

Your new normal for us requires some adjustment by us.

And adjust we will. We will live and trust and share differently.

“All things new” is a huge stretch for us.

But we know it is your good gift to us; with wistfulness, we receive it

we embrace it,

and we give thanks to you. Amen.

Brueggemann, Walter. Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty . Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May 6

The Season of Crises

Please read Psalm 77 and see the difference between verses 1 – 6 and 11 – 15.

It will one day disappear.

This statement about Covid-19 is a footprint of the primitive, pre-scientific thinking of our ancestors. Most of us have this tendency to fall back on our primitive ways when we experience helplessness and desperation. For many people around the world this is such a time of desperation and helplessness. Look at the long queues at food banks and unemployment agencies. People are hoping for the miracle, so it all can be over.

When will it be over? The scientific answer apparently is, when we find a vaccine. The second question then is, what are we supposed to do while the scientists are working on a vaccine? I do not think there is a cut and dry answer. However, Psalm 77 gives us at least something to think about as it calls us to transform from ‘I’ to ‘you’, from despair to wonder, from my issues, to your opportunities.

From Self to Thou

You, holy, faithful, merciful God,

have called us into being,

given us names, faces, and vocations, and

we live them out in freedom.

In our freedom, we notice only sometimes, that

we cannot cope with all that comes at us,

we cannot finally outflank the forces that address us, and

we cannot by ourselves deal with the grief, trouble, and anger

that well up in us.

After our imagined autonomy,

we gladly turn back to you.

After we have said “I” for a very long time,

we fall back to “Thou”;

we utter the “Thou” who inhabits our memories,

memories of rescue, healing, and forgiveness;

we utter the “thou” who occupies our best hopes,

as we hope for peace, wellbeing, and justice in the world.

We move back into faithful dialogue with you:

we say “thou” as we thank and praise you;

we say “I” as we act out our freedom and accept our responsibility.

Just now, in the face of the virus, we find our best “I” without force,

and so we say “thou,”

“thou” in power,

“thou” in mercy,

“thou” in faithfulness,

finally “Thou”!

We remember all your wonders and then, in gladness

we remember who we are as yours;

we recover our gratitude, our hope, our resolve, and our confidence. Amen.

Brueggemann, Walter. Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty . Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Psalm 77

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,
    the waters saw you and writhed;
    the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
    the heavens resounded with thunder;
    your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

May 5

The Season of Crisis

For today’s Daily Devotion, I jump to chapter 3 of Brueggemann’s book, “Virus as a summons to Faith.” Here he brilliantly describes how the prophet Jeremiah addresses the disaster in ancient Jerusalem, and how social life is disrupted. He uses images, such as that weddings are cancelled, it is not time to celebrate, and as the corpses pile up, there are no funerals. For the people in places like  New York and Bergamo (Italy), these are familiar images.

Then in Jeremiah 33:10 & 11, the prophet utters words of hope and restoration.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank you offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,

“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,
    for the Lord is good;
    his love endures forever.”

Amid the pandemic, there is hope, hope that we probably cannot recognise yet, but it is already present in the new ways of doing. We are invited by the prophet to get ready for the upcoming celebrations.

Let the Dance Begin . . . Soon

We now miss out on so much

the graduation of a granddaughter,

the wedding of a niece,

the Final Four,

the beginning of Baseball,

the great Easter liturgy,

the day by day interaction on the street.

The virus has imposed a huge silence among us.

It is a silence that evokes loneliness,

and domestic violence,

and job loss,

and the end of life in the bars,

and on the beach,

and in the street.

We wait; we may wait in despair, or at least in deep disappointment.

But we may also wait differently:

we wait in confident faith;

we wait in eager longing.

we wait on the Lord.

We wait for the future and against despair,

because we know that you, the God of life, will defeat the force of death.

We know that the Friday execution could not defeat the life lived by Jesus

nor the life lived by his faithful people.

As we wait, we practice our next moves for the coming dance;

it is only a little while . . . “yet a little while”;

we will walk the long march of obedience;

we will run the race of discipleship;

we will soar like eagles into God’s good future of neighborliness.

We know that you will overcome the silence

because the silence . . . no more than the darkness. . .

can overcome the Lord of Life. Amen.

Brueggemann, Walter. Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty . Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May 4

The Season of Crisis

Walter Brueggemann, a renowned Old Testament scholar, published a book that responds to the Covid-19 crisis and will be the basis for this week’s Daily Devotions. The book is described as “a profound, insightful, and actionable book, bringing forth deep biblical wisdom to provide real support and guidance to face the current crisis.” (Rabbi Bahum Ward-Lev, Preface to Walter Brueggemann’s book “Virus as a Summons to Faith”)

“The Season of Crisis” or “The Season of interruption” are adequate descriptions of Covid-19. It is the first time in my lifetime that the culture of consumerism and globalisation is brutally interrupted and brought to a standstill. There are more planes in the parking lots of airports than there are in the air – the arrival and departure times notice boards are turned off. The mighty cruise ships are anchored and quiet. The powerful, America First economy is unable to provide proper protective clothing for its health workers. No one knows how the world will be after this crisis is over.

While scientists and researchers are searching for a vaccine, it is an opportunity for us to look beyond the immediate and transform the Season of Crisis into the Season of Wonderment. Brueggemann provides this prayer as support and guidance.

Peeking into Mystery

Creator God, you have entrusted to us knowledge of good and evil.

You have permitted us knowledge of the world in which we live,

and that knowledge has yielded immense gains for us,

gains of control, of productivity, of explanation, of connections of causes and effects.

Only rarely—like now!—do we collide with

your hiddenness that summons us and embarrasses us.

We peek into your awesome hidden presence;

we find our certitudes quite disrupted.

Thus we pause at the edge of your holiness,

finding that your unfathomable presence is an odd mix

of mercy and judgment,

of generosity and accountability,

of forgiveness and starchy realism.

We dwell at the edge of your mystery for an instant . . . not longer.

Then we return to our proper work of knowledge, research, explanation, and management.

By that instant, however, we are changed . . . sobered, summoned, emancipated, filled with wonder before your holiness.

It is for that holiness that outflanks us that we give you thanks.

Amen.

Brueggemann, Walter. Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty. Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May 1

Lesson Five:  Keep your gifts alive

Philippians 2:14 – 16a

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Much of research is done to explain the so-called kindness effect. AAMI the insurance company in New Zealand made an advertisement where it all started with a smile and it demonstrated the contagious effect of a smile. They did their research before they made the advertisement and they discovered how powerful an act of kindness is.

If you feel a bit down then it is better to go out and be kind to somebody, even to a total stranger. That will have a positive effect on your wellbeing, more than anything you can drink or eat. An act of kindness is better than chocolate. Kindness is an energiser and a painkiller in one. On top of that it will lower your stress levels. There are more, apparently you burn more calories by smiling.

These are the effects on you as the initiator of kindness. What about the other person? There are always two parties involved in acts of kindness. It is contagious and it can spread over the phone and digital technology. The positive effects of kindness are unstoppable. Kindness is a superpower and we are born with that superpower. The effects on the person on the receiving end of kindness accelerating more than 10-fold.

That is the way to keep our gifts alive. Keep smiling, or as Paul put it: “shine like stars in the universe.” Be kind, that is how we keep our gifts energised. Do not be afraid of the kindness virus.

April 30

Lesson Four: Do not compare gifts

Galatians 6:1 – 5

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

We live in a competitive world with the result that we have winners and losers. I am not talking only about sport; it is everywhere. I think it is obvious when we look at sport, because there is only one gold medal and only one person lifts the winner’s trophy at the end of a tennis match. In our social and cultural life, it is more subtle, however it is there. We can make of anything a competition. I do not think competition per se is wrong. The problems start when winning become the only thing.

Competition is not a modern-day phenomenon. It is part of our DNA because we live in a world of scarcity. Therefore, we find ourselves in a situation to compete for the available resources. The question is what we do in the situation where there are limited resources? This is not a modern-day problem, and this will be with us in the future, just in different forms. Look what happened in the last 6 weeks regarding toilet paper.

Paul has an answer for us. He encourages the people from the churches in Galatia to be there for each other, to carry each other’s burdens. While they take care of their own needs, they must look out for each other. It is not a situation where the winner takes all. It is a situation where the people are encouraged to take care of each other, without comparing your actions and behaviour to somebody else.

Transform what you have into gifts without comparing them with somebody’s else gifts. We are encouraged to do what we must do without asking what others are doing. Just do it.

April 29

Lesson Three: Your life should be a gift – this is the true worship

Romans 12:1 – 2 & 6 – 8

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

A skill is a learned ability to doing something well, and it is a learned power to do something competently. This is my definition of a “skill” after consulting a few dictionaries. The difference between a talent and skill is that you are born with a talent, it is a natural ability, and skill is an ability you have learned to perform or trained to perform well. Just as a talent, a skill can be transformed as well. When exercising your skill for the benefit of other people, then you are offering it as a gift for other people.

In Romans 12, Paul elaborates on the concept of gifts. Here he appeals to the Christians in Rome to offer their lives to serve God, and that includes all their talents and skills. He substantiates his call to them, saying to offer your life, you are a living sacrifice and, this is actually “true worship” (translation from the Revised Good News) or “your spiritual act of worship” (translation from New International Version). If you want to serve and worship God, then your whole life must be a gift.

Just for a moment, sit back and use your imagination. We all have talents and skills. Now, think what the result could be if our talents and skills are transformed into gifts. How different could the world be? Let us worship God with our whole lives, by renewing our minds and offering our talents and skills as gifts to the world. We need to think differently about the world and our place in the world. Each of us can make a positive impact by offering our lives as gifts. That is the essence of true worship.

April 28

Lesson Two: Love – The difference between talents and gifts

1 Corinthians 13:1 – 13

1. If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

11. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Dictionaries become essential tools and resources when English is not your first language, and you live in an English-speaking country. However, dictionaries are not always helpful, and they can cause confusion and frustration. That happened with me when I wanted to figure out the difference between a talent and a gift. The gift I am talking about is not the stuff you get on your birthday. According to a dictionary I found via Google, a talent is a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught. That makes sense. But then the same dictionary says a gift is a special ability or capacity to do something. I could not figure out what is the difference.

In 1 Corinthians 13, I found the difference between a talent and a gift. Here Paul says that if you are good at speaking and speaking in different languages (definitely not me), and you are good to inspire and motivate people so they can move mountains. Still, you do not use it for the benefit of other people, and all that will be is only noise. It is meaningless. But the moment you use it for the benefit of other people, then that talent of yours becomes a gift to the other person.

Paul provides us with a unique algorithm: Talent + Love = Gift. Talent without love is only noise and has limited benefits. But talent combined with love will change the world. When you use your natural ability to be good at something for the benefit of somebody else, your talent transforms into a gift that will enable the person to move mountains.

April 27

In the next five days I am going to share with you five lessons from the Apostle Paul regarding gifts. The first lesson is from all 7 of Paul’s authentic letters and the next four lessons from four different letters.

Lesson One: Peace a gift for everybody, as air is free for everybody.

“Grace to you and peace”

Nowadays, we communicate electronically and most of the time we use a casual ‘hi’ to greet the other person, or we sometimes use the more formal ‘dear’ as a beginning phrase. The end phrase can be very casual, as well. Some will end with ‘cheers’ or ‘keep well.’ Sometimes we use the more formal, ‘yours sincerely’ or ‘kind regards.’

Paul starts all his letters with a variation of “grace to you and peace.” This formula sums up Paul’s core message to the churches and individuals he corresponded with. Both these terms are oftheological significance, for Paul’s readers, for the church in the 21st century, and for every individual Christian today.

A literal translation of grace is “free gift.” It refers to a gift that is free, like the air we breathe. You cannot buy it, and you cannot keep it for yourself. It is available, all you must do is to breathe, and even that takes no effort from you. However, you must keep breathing to enjoy the full benefit of the air.

The gift that is freely available for everybody is God’s peace, a peace that is beyond our understanding. We cannot buy it, and we cannot keep it to ourselves. It is available for everybody everywhere. The way we breathe it is through the radical Justice of Christ and equality. We receive God’s peace through faith in Christ, and we keep it alive through the breathing of radical justice and equality.

“The God of peace will be with you” (Philemon 4:9)

April 24

Today please find a quiet spot, perhaps with a cup of tea or coffee, sit, pray, talk to God, read the bible and ask God to give you and your family peace so you can share His love with those around you.

April 23

John 21: 1-14

Australians love to barbecue, in the park, in the back yard and on holidays when fish is on the menu. We are missing our barbecues at the present, usually we have lots to tell about this Easter past, the wonderful fish we caught and how the family sat around sharing tales and eating fresh fish. And if you didn’t go away, Easter Day we would have got together in the back yard with sausages and steak followed by some family or friends special dessert. And because this year we did not do these things, we can all think of some time in the past when we had a feast like this.

Then, as soon as they had come to land,

They saw a fire of coals there

And fish laid on it, and bread

Jesus said to them.

“Bring some of the fish which you have just caught”

Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty three, and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

And Jesus prepared a meal, bread and fish.

Jesus said, “Come and eat breakfast”.

This story shows the great love and the tender way, Jesus taught his disciples. First he showed them where the fish was, on the other side of the boat. The disciples had not caught one fish all night. Jesus said, try the other side of the boat and the net became full of fish.   One of the disciples said “It is the Lord”. Peter leapt into the water, they were not to far from land, and he was there on land before you knew it. Peter knew that Jesus would meet him unconditionally.   Then he took some of the fish to Jesus who fed them breakfast. Then around the meal Jesus taught a powerful message and drew a fresh commitment from Peter.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Open wide the window of our spirits,

God, and fill us with your light

Open wide the door of our hearts

That we may receive and entertain you

With all our powers of adoration and love.

April 22

Psalm 139

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

What do you think he means by the If I rise on the wings of the dawn. This is a beautifully poetic psalm. When our kids were at school, we used to go to a family camp up near Bakers Hill every Easter. On Easter Day we would get up early before sun rise and go to a place where three crosses had been placed on a hill. They were in a position that the sun, when it rose, would be just behind the crosses. It was an amazing sight.  If you have stood and watched the sun come up you will have noticed how the rays of the rising sun shoot across the heavens with the speed of light and reach to the farthest bounds of the horizon. This is what he is describing. “If I could travel with the wings of the morning,” that is, with the speed of light; “if I could go with the speed of light and reach to the farthest points of earth the uttermost parts of the sea, even there,” he says, “I would find you. God can be found everywhere on the earth, even in the little boat you are out in the ocean.  The Psalm says that God can be found everywhere, not only that but he knows everything about our world. He is here in the midst of it all. He is our creator and he made us for a purpose 

You knit me together in my mother’s womb. And you embroidered my body together with such colour and dexterity and each person so different to the next.

 Find comfort in knowing God knows you. He loves you. He is always with you – not sitting on the sidelines of heaven as an uninvolved spectator, but presently, actively working in your life, guiding you , caring for you as a good Father, and loving you with an everlasting love.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

April 21

MARK 4: 35-41

So tired

My body breaks with weariness, bones aching, head revolving with exhaustion.

As loving hands lift me into the boat, I am poured onto a head of fetid nets, rough on my skin but oh so gentle to a soul in need of rest. 

 How the gentle lapping sound of water filters through the memories of the day, sifting through the desperate calls for help and sorting wants from need.

Now I can drop into a pool of quiet content, a place where I can lift those cries up into the peace that is my Father.

Oh the joy of gentle rocking waves, a softly blowing breeze and sounds of splashing water as my body slows to rest.

A moments calm, then sounds of rippling waves becomes a crashing rage of flapping sails and pelt of rain, of zinging masts and banging bail of buckets.

 The voices in my head begin again. I hear their cries of fear, high voices strained.  .

 My name…..I hear my name. No longer gentle words and loving touch but clawing, desperate clutching hands.

Arise and save us lord, we die.  How can I wake when drowsiness weighs like a ton? They know their boat, the know the waves. I need my rest.

Awake, the call for care is strong. It stirs me into wakefulness and I must reach into that rest that grew amidst of heaving nets and lift them to the peace that is my father. The boat will not sink and the storm will not last forever.

Let us remember our faith. Let us have peace in our hearts. Peace in the storm.  Peace.

In this life, there will be storms. Storms that make us feel that we are sinking. Remind us that you are always with us. AMEN

April 20

Mark 4: 35-41

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped

Have you ever been out in a boat when a storm sprung up. When I was about fourteen we and some other members of our youth group were out on a boat in the beautiful Lake District in England. We were having a wonderful time, the end of a day that had been perfect. We were enjoying each others company.   Suddenly the bright summer sun disappeared and rain began to fall. Then with a great crash of thunder and a huge flash of lightning overheard. We were suddenly in the middle of a great storm. Our bright summer dresses became limp our hair which we had carefully brushed in the morning, bedraggles. The boys were in a similar state with their shirts sopping wet and their thoughts only on emptying the boat of water. We were very afraid,

Sometimes I feel that we are out in the boat in the middle of a storm. Like that day so long ago in the Lake Districts.   We can see other boats around us. We can see the land far away but are we ever going to get there. Is life ever going to be the same? We become afraid as we hear about people losing their jobs, people getting sick even dying.  Some people have children who are used to going to school. Suddenly we are expected to study with them at home. How do we acquire teacher skills over night.  

 No wonder one of the people called out to Jesus, don’t you care if we drown. Everyone in the boat was catching the fear. But Jesus stood at the end of the boat. He said, Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He was also telling the disciples to be calm in the midst of the storm in their minds as well as the storm around them.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Faith is the answer to fear. Seeing Jesus with us in all circumstances is a great confidence builder. He will enable us to be at peace even when storms come our way.

When the waters of life appear to loom over us we can rest knowing that Jesus is with us and has the ability to pay peace and safety to our lives.

April 17

2020 has so far brought out the best and the worst in Australians. The response to the bushfires was generous and caring, yet barely two months later, people were fighting each other in the aisles over toilet paper. If the year 2000 was Y2K, will 2020 become known as Y2-PLY? Let us make it much better.

It is particularly now that Christians are called to share God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice with those in need, and we must lead by example. We have seen medical and mortuary staff throughout the world ready to serve in the face of danger and many have sacrificed their lives because of this service. We need to play a role, not just this week or next, but in the months and years to come as society regroups and recovers from the fear, pain and grief caused by Covid-19. As John 15: 12 – 13 expresses it, “My command is this: Love each other as I have l loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he/she lay down his/her life for his/her friends.” Prayer is only the first step towards meeting the daily needs of the disadvantaged and others whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. What else can you do?
Maybe, at this time, the world is ready to listen to His message.

April 16

Once upon a time, beauty, wealth and celebrity status were promoted as life’s goals. Selfishness reigned and young sponges soaked in the message. But then along came great social upheaval due to the spread of a virus. Thousands died and suddenly people realised that health, love and family were much more important.

How this story continues is up to each one of us as we deal with the stages of grief and loss caused by Covid 19. Firstly, Shock, denial and isolation: Shock that it is so deadly and easily spread. Shock that science didn’t know how to treat it. Denying it was a problem has led to greater loss of life, but isolation has protected many more. Anger is beginning, with people, especially conspiracists, trying to lay blame for where and how it started and how authorities have responded. Still not helpful.

Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are still to come. Let us follow guidance in Proverbs 19: 20 : Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise.

True acceptance will come to those who put their trust in God. No wonder Psalm 23 is such comfort. The Lord’s my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters; he restores my soul.

April 15

Laughter is the best medicine!

Humour that does not mock or devalue has proved a winning formula in both fiction and reality. People and characters regularly exposed to trauma and death, particularly in war, Law enforcement and medicine use humour to release their stress.

Science has proved that a good laugh enhances your oxygen intake, releases endorphins and relieves stress. Long-term, it can improve your immune system, relieve pain, make it easier to deal with difficult situations and lessen depression and anxiety. So it should be no surprise that creative people with more time to think, produce a regular stream of Covid-19 – themed humour, such as “If the schools are closed for too long, the parents are gonna find a vaccine before the scientists!”. Or “To those who are complaining about the quarantine period and curfews, just remember that your grandparents were called to war; you are being called to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. You can do this!”

Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4 reminds us:

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. So whilst we wage war on the virus, keep your sense of humour and share its benefits with those with whom you connect.

April 14

“What I miss most during lockdown is being able to hug my grandchildren” was a line in an email that really resonated. People have such a basic need for human contact and belonging and this is especially true in times of isolation and crisis.

Studies have shown that babies who are cuddled and sung to have much better outcomes than those left for long periods alone in their cots. So, at this time of social distancing, it is important to find creative ways of socialising. In Europe, spontaneous singing from balconies has strengthened the sense of community and their creativity in the face of adversity is heart-warming. Whilst most Australian neighbourhoods don’t facilitate singing from our balconies, we can still find creative ways to care for our family, neighbourhood, friends and acquaintances.

Technology has enabled constant contact through phone-calls, video calls, emails and all sorts of apps. Whilst technology can’t replace human touch, it can convey love and concern for others. We have an opportunity now to banish nastiness from the Internet and social media and make use of technology in a more positive way to support and affirm each other.

As Galatians 5: 13 – 15 expresses it, “You are called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”  So let’s get creatively encouraging in our family, neighbourhood, friendships and other contacts!

13th April

Fear has spread across the planet as we face a deadly threat. Yet fear can be as dangerous as the virus. It has triggered a wide range of understandable emotions and responses: paralysis, denial, panic, flight, fight. Covid-19 is an enemy to be understood and fought, but so is fear..

Our understanding of how the virus spreads, who is vulnerable and how it attacks the body is growing daily. Treating its symptoms is at best trial and error. Prevention is currently isolation, as a vaccine could be over a year away. The media is bombarding us with information. No wonder we are afraid!

Yet Psalm 91: 5 – 6 assures us “you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

Seeking refuge and guidance from the Divine will help calm the fear and panic, enabling us to fight this crisis. Seek shelter and rest in God, a place of peace, comfort and discernment. It will give you consolation, direction and the strength to move on.

Our challenge and reassurance come in Isaiah 35 : 3

Strengthen the feeble hands

Steady the knees that give way

Say to those with fearful hearts

“Be strong, do not fear

Your God will come.”

10 April

It’s Good Friday. Let’s allow the Bible focus us today. Read the Easter story from your favourite Bible.  You can read it from Matthew Chapter 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 or John 18 to the end of each gospel.

(If you don’t have a Bible, go online to Bible Gateway and choose a translation such as the GNT, NIV or TLB.)

Of course, the story of Easter began way before these chapters, because Jesus’ life was leading to this point. But as you read, ask God to give you a new insight into some aspect of the story.  

When you’ve read it, you might like to hear a song from Hillsong, called I will never be the same again. Because that is the message of Easter.

(Click the link or paste it into your browser.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yptnKmsVmgo   )

9 April

In the 1960s, the Fireballs sang “I’ve been daisy petal pickin’ to see if she loves me. I’ve been daisy petal pickin’ to see what our future’s gonna be.”

You may be old enough to remember the song. You may also have done the petal picking thing yourself. (I recall doing it mostly with yellow dandelions, even though other kids said it would make us wet the bed!)

Thousands of years before us, David expressed the same idea in his many psalms. In some psalms, he is effusive in his gratitude and praise of God’s goodness and care; in others, he complains bitterly that God has turned his back and doesn’t care two hoots about him. In some, he begins in dismay, but ends in gratitude; in others, he begins with praise and ends by telling God what to do. He even makes hopeful bargains with God.

David told the world about his on-again off-again love for God. But he realised that his uncertainty was his uncertainty. God’s love didn’t change, just David’s perception of it.

I love the psalms because they are so raw, so real, so relatable. It’s how we feel. One day, we are full of praise. Life is good and our faith is strong. Then our world crashes down and we wonder whether God cares at all about us.

I like that we can be honest with God, that we can tell him when we feel deserted or uncared-for. But remember that our feelings reflect what is going on in our lives and bodies. We judge God’s performance by how we feel and how we interpret the things that our happening in our world.

God doesn’t attend performance reviews. He doesn’t answer to us; we answer to him. And he loves us, always.

Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvellous display of his craftsmanship. 2 Day and night they keep on telling about God. 3-4 Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it 5 and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding, or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race! 6 The sun crosses the heavens from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat.

7-8 God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. 9 God’s laws are pure, eternal, just. 10 They are more desirable than gold. They are sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb. 11 For they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them.

12 But how can I ever know what sins are lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 And keep me from deliberate wrongs; help me to stop doing them. Only then can I be free of guilt and innocent of some great crime.

14 May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.

An activity for kids:

You can’t hear the Easter story without emotion. There’s fear, distress, worry, sadness, uncertainty, confusion, despair … and later, surprise, disbelief, excitement, joy …

How good are you at knowing how people are feeling?  Ask your parents to show you the emojis on their phone or computer.  Can you tell what emotions these emojis are expressing?

😀 😢 🤪 😘 🙄 😖 😂

Try creating your own.  Then see how good you are at understanding how other people in the house are feeling from time to time.

8 April

John 5: 2–9

2 Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was Bethesda Pool, with five covered platforms or porches surrounding it. 3 Crowds of sick folks—lame, blind, or with paralysed limbs—lay on the platforms waiting for a certain movement of the water, 4 for an angel of the Lord came from time to time and disturbed the water, and the first person to step down into it afterwards was healed.)

5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

7 “I can’t,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to help me into the pool at the movement of the water. While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.”

8 Jesus told him, “Stand up, roll up your sleeping mat and go on home!”

9 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking!

Moments of crisis often bring us face to face with God.  This was certainly so in Jesus’ day: the Roman Centurion and Jairus, whose daughters were dying; the woman in the crowd who touched Jesus’ coat; Bartimaeus, the blind man; the ten lepers … the list goes on.

People in desperate circumstances turned to Jesus for help. And as they found themselves face to face with Jesus, they got more than they bargained for.

The lame man hoped that Jesus might help him to the pool when the ‘magic’ next happened.  Instead, Jesus healed him.  He got far more than he had ever been bold enough to wish for.

Such moments still happen: when those we love are in pain or suffering; when we are made redundant; when we are unexpectedly widowed; when our investments collapse; when we are injured in an accident; when life deals us a blow which sends us reeling …

When we pray earnestly, when we plead for God’s help and grace, we may find ourselves face to face with God.  And we may get more than we wished for.

An activity for kids:

Try having a day of doubles.  Have double breakfast.  Wear double undies, double pants, double shirt.  If you make your parents a coffee, put in double coffee!  If Mum asks you to get something for her, get double. When it’s bath time, get out of the bath and then get in again.  You get the idea.

But a warning:  If the people around you start getting double cranky or double upset, STOP!  Or you might be in double trouble.  

7 April

These are isolating times, Father.

‘Stay inside your homes.’

‘Don’t go out unless you must.’

‘Don’t visit family.’

‘Don’t gather.’

‘Don’t meet.’

‘Just don’t.’

We are separated from people we know and love—

unable to hold grandchildren,

unable to share coffee with friends,

unable to greet church family with a hug,

unable even to gather to worship you.

I understand it, Father.

I understand the need to prevent this virus spreading.

But I am separated from those I love.

But not from you, Father.

Paul said it so well:

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love.

Death can’t, and life can’t.

The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away.

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are

—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—

nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. (Romans 8: 38–39).

I may feel alone,

but you are here;

I may be anxious for the future,

but you are already there;

And nothing can separate us from you.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

A game for kids:

We are joined to our family with love.  It’s tricky if we’re joined with string!  Choose someone else in the family.  Tie yourself to them (carefully) with a piece of string or wool or light rope 7 to 10 metres long.  Now, if you want to do things which you can’t get to because of the role, you will have to work together.  You might have to take turns being where each of you wants to be; or one of you might move to another room; or one of you might change your plans; or …  Dragging the other person along is not permitted!

6 April

We can’t go to church. It’s nearly Easter, and I always go to church at Easter. 

I understand. But we can still be the church.

What do you mean? How can we be the church if we can’t go to church?

Do you cease to be a man if you don’t get together with other blokes?

Well of course not.

Do you cease to be part of your extended family if you don’t attend a family dinner?

I wish. Sorry, did I say that aloud? Er, what was the question?

Moving on. Do you cease to be part of the church because you don’t meet with other Christians?

I guess not.

The church is all of Christ’s followers throughout the world. You don’t stop being part of that tribe just because you miss a gathering.

So how do we do ‘church things?’       

The church worships. You can still do that.

How? I thought we had to get with our mob and sing.

You can worship alone. Watch the sun rise, lie in your garden, contemplate a candle, sit in your favourite chair and listen to beautiful music. And think about God’s goodness or meditate on a passage from the Bible.

I can do that.

And the church prays. So you can talk with God about your joys and concerns, listen for his response.

I can do that, too.

And the church serves, helps people, shows God’s love to others and tells them the story of Jesus. And we serve God by doing what we believe God is telling us to do. 

But I can’t do that. We’re in lockdown — or almost. We have to keep our social distance.

We can leave groceries at the door of someone who needs help. Make regular phone calls to keep in touch with people and make sure they’re all right — like you do with your family. Post or email short messages to people. Send a short story or a puzzle to kids.

Hang on. I should be writing these down.

Don’t bother. Get creative. If you can work from home, you can serve from home. 

So we still have a church? Trinity North hasn’t shut down forever? David’s still on the end of the phone? 

Of course. We don’t just go to church. We are the church. No matter how locked down we may be.

2 Corinthians 4: 8–18

8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits arebeing renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

An activity for kids:

Are you missing your friends from church?  Some people are meeting regularly online or by phone or text.  Talk to your folks about how you could do that.

And here’s a game to play.  With a partner or around your family, tell a story, with each person in turn adding just one word to the story.  For example, When … we … went … to … the … Try to make the story interesting.

Then ask your folks if you can play this game on the phone with a friend. (Warning: It might send you loopy!)