Blog

And Breathe….

I said it before, my life is busy, and I love it. But sometimes it’s good to stop and Pause. Now if you went to Northern Easter Camp this year you know exactly what I mean. So this is directed at everyone else!!

Where is your happy place? Just stop for 20 seconds, close your eyes, and what is the first thing that pops into your head that you’d rather be doing instead of work, school, exams, whatever you’re doing now you wish you didn’t have to do? (If you’re still in bed be thankful!)

Myself, I’m imagining a bath full of steaming water and a Lush bath bomb! But that has to wait.

Here’s an interesting question, when you’re in that happy place, enjoying the break from the busyness of life, where is God? Is He in that space with you?

It may seem odd, after all most of us understand God is everywhere, but do we acknowledge that or are we in the “and then the Holy Spirit showed up” category? I’m only going to say this once, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, they don’t show up! They are always there! We just don’t give them the attention they deserve, and we are at our worst when we are “relaxing.”

We call for help, we cry for support, when stressed we pray, when hurting we look heavenward, but when life is happy, we are at peace or doing something we enjoy, we ignore God.

I’d like to encourage you today to think seriously about how you include God in your day, that He not only be part of your prayer time, or called on when you need a parking place, or when you stub your toe! Let Him be the one you enjoy that walk on the beach with, or talk to while at the gym.
In those moments when you are at peace, when you get to pause, remember He is still, and always has been, with you.

It takes a Village

I've been thinking a lot about the person I am today, and I came to realise something; I am the product of the time and effort that people have put into me. I am that result of the values that my parents instilled in me. I am only as far in life as I am because of the people who have journeyed alongside and ahead of me.

There's an African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child.". I want you to, think about those people who are a part of that village that helped raise you to be who you are today, and pray for them. Even find them and thank them, buy them a coffee or something. Show gratitude to them, thank God for them. Share how their presence in your life has shaped you into who you are now.

Then think of the people in your circle now, and think about how you can contribute to their village. It could be as simple as just hanging out after school, or even inviting them to youth group or something. Think about how you can bless people, and do it. You never know the effect you might have on someone's life. Let the light of Jesus shine through how you interact with people. Love people the way God loves you.

It's funny, at my most recent block course for study, someone explained a meaning for the Maori word "Aroha". Aroha means love in English, but the meaning that was shared was this: "Aro" means to make someone turn around in response. "Ha" means the breath of life, but in this case refers to the one who gives the breath of life, so God.

So to give people "aro+ha" or love, is to turn them towards the one who gives the breath of life, which is God. The more you love people the way God does, the more they will turn to God in reply.

It says in 1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us." So, I encourage you, get out there and love people the way Christ loved us, enough to give up his life for us.

Be part of the problem.

Ali (my wife) and I have 3 kids who range from 16 to 22. We still do this now but when they were young we would actively speak into their character with a building up culture. Kids can still make ‘unwise choices’ and do dumb stuff but that doesn’t make them stupid, a pain in the neck or a loser. In fact it really gets to me when I hear that going off from anyone to a younger person. This isn’t about keeping kids in a safe bubble from all criticism as some quite fairly need a swift kick up the jacksie as well.

On a flight a few weeks ago there were a couple of young unaccompanied kids in the row in front of me, a boy and a girl of about 8 or 9 years old. The boy did most of the talking and it was generally put downs and criticism of anything she was doing. During the flight he dropped a wrist band that was out of reach but it was nearer to me and I picked it up and offered it forward and ‘leaned in.’ I asked if he knew the girl to which he said he did not. I then said how uncool his approach to her was and asked him to stop speaking to her that way, end of. The rest of the flight was quiet until near the end when some interactions happened again but with much more thought.

There are some things in life that are part of the problem, like poor speech to others to assume power and control and these are generally negative, as in the use of the word ‘problem’. There are such things though as good problems to have. Some funding streams in The Salvation Army don’t grant all that they have available due to insufficient applications so the good problem is that there is still kick-starter and initiative funding that you could access. Some faith communities in The Salvation Army initiate new ministries where the outcomes for connecting with people are greater than anticipated causing the problem of more new people being around for the next steps of connection and faith journey to engage earlier but that’s actually a good problem to have.

Many of our faith communities are heavily programmed and business focussed just to stay afloat or to meet perceived or real expectations of them as The Salvation Army. Wouldn’t it be a great problem to have faith communities that were struggling to keep up administratively and even compliance wise because the Kingdom of God was going off? Lives transformed, the actual presence of God in gatherings and ministries as a normal occurrence and disciples being made and released all over the place? I’m not advocating a slackness to admin but so often it’s the other way around. Returns are prompt but the faith community is struggling.

So here’s my challenge to us as a Salvation Army. I know that there are heaps of young people in that 18 to 25 range who don’t really know what to do but they love to serve. They love God passionately, love His presence and being about the Kingdom of God business. Instead of feeling like you need to know the door God is leading you through, try knocking on some first. Put your hand up and start the process of exploring officership. Yup I said that. The opportunity to serve may come from initiating that and you may not end up in college but to not do it could also keep God’s direction hidden. I want to see sessions of 30 18-25 year olds becoming officers all at the same time because this would cause the Territory to have its own problem of where to put everyone! This would be a great problem to have. It would be messy, it would be challenging for such a young influx but man it would give us a future!

Is this you? Do you want to be part of the problem? Because that’s the sort of problem we need.

Battles

Someone very close to me is battling cancer. It’s an ugly disease that sneaks into your family and picks on someone at random. You know when you sleep on an air mattress that has a slow leak? You don’t even realise there’s a tiny hole until you wake up sometime in the wee small hours and your mattress is sagging and you’re on the floor. Cancer’s a bit like that tiny hole. It slowly drains a person, until its presence is unmistakable and unless you can locate it and find a way to fix it up, it threatens the survival of the one affected.

Cancer has a way of making pretty much everything else seem insignificant. It’s hard to be scared of public speaking or of heights or of spiders, when cancer is in the room.
Nothing brings out the soldier in me like watching someone facing an unfair fight. Suddenly I’m charging into battle alongside them. I refuse to be weighed down by feelings of helplessness. I have armour and weapons and a God on my side who is the Name above all names – even cancer.

And a miracle happens. We’re all still here, and cancer is still in the room with us, but it doesn’t have our full attention anymore. We’re focused on things that will outlast even us. We’re loving each other and laughing together. We’re having hard conversations and celebrating every good thing. The miracle is this: Life, and growth, not only in the one with cancer but for all those around her too.

And cancer has failed. It lacks the greatness required to win the real fight. It can only drain physical strength and health but it can never be eternal.

Scripture of the Week

1 John 4:4  2:9-10 "You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."