Dear Lord, I regret…nothing?

The interesting thing about coming to G&J in my 40s is the somewhat colourful history I shoved in front of the high-pressure gurney of grace. imgres-1.jpg

As I commented to the SAP, at least I am under no illusions as to what my son and daughter could get up to. His reply: “Well, perhaps. But if they grow up in a church’s youth ministry with great leaders around them, they might walk a different path.”

It was interesting observing my initial (prideful?) internal response. It was along the lines of: But all that messy and colourful history created someone I’m actually quite fond of. Taught me a lot about life, human relations and gave me the excellent fine motor skills to create a roll your own…umm..swiss cake. Cough…

I don’t intend to glamourise here. Certain sections of my teens and early 20s, but for the grace of God and my character wiring to be (relatively) responsible and in charge, could have caused me to a) screw up my exams b) get kicked out of school or c) be splattered across the road from choosing to ride pillion behind less than responsible fast motorcycle riders.

Was I hurting others? Not by chosen malice, but by sheer age and selfishness. Did I hurt myself? Yes (emotionally) and No, not much, (physically). Did I hurt God? Absolutely.

To hold him as Abba, as a Daddy who paces the floors when his daughter is out until all hours, who would seek to drag disrespectful young men away by the scruff of their neck..then yes, I hurt Him terribly. Each time I dragged on the battered motorcycle jacket to drink Red Stripe with Rastafarians, or used His gifts of caustic dry wit and irreverent humour to test out my attractiveness to the opposite gender, walking a dangerous, sexualised line between flirtation and verbal insult… then yes.

I would have seared Him. My name that He had written on His palm would have itched and burnt. Yet I didn’t comprehend why. It wasn’t because of thundering anger, fire and brimstone, ‘Thou Shalt NOT go out wearing THAT, Young Lady!’ retribution. But because of love.  “She knows not what she does, Dad,” is a line I imagine Jesus whispering regularly on my behalf.

So do I regret? Today I do make an excellent swiss roulade sponge, so perhaps not all. But do I repent? Yes. I reflect back with contrition. God whispered more for for me in my heart, singing a watermark onto my soul. So I regret every day I didn’t return home. Just like Prodigal, I am overjoyed that, despite my flaws – in fact, because of them – He continues to open His arms wide and welcome me in.

 

Hello, Bunny-Boiler Christian

I think if God and Jesus had a ‘restraining order, dodgy stalker’ list, I’d be on it.

No, I’ve not uncovered some seductive ancestor of mine who snuck around Nazareth with her bunny stew-pot as a result of being jilted for Mary Magdalene (if that well-known theologian Dan Brown is to be believed) – no. It’s just that the shift in my behaviour over the past 12-18 months could be classed as somewhat Glenn Close, ‘Fatal Attraction’esque if you look at it through a secular, modern-day (tongue firmly-in-cheek) lens: imgres

Girl meets new boy. Catches her eye. Suddenly she wants to know all about him, so reads every book she can find written about him and his Dad. Just to understand his family history and have something in common.

She discovers there’s a certain type of music he likes. So she starts listening to it too. A lot. She even ends up dancing and clapping along in front of him (so he knows that she likes the same things he does).

She begins to follow him. Works out his routine and figures out that he regularly goes to a certain place on a Sunday morning. She casually turns up there too, “Oh, fancy seeing you here!”

Gets to know a LOT of his friends. He can’t have a quiet bit of bread and wine with a few of his mates without her having a reason to sit down next to him.

She starts to talk about him in a really familiar way. Hangs off his every word. “Oh, Jayson said this. Jayson said that.” Takes every opportunity to be part of his family: “I’m going to have a coffee with Jayson’s Dad this afternoon.” Wrangles invites to family holidays: “Oooh, I’m so looking forward to this Christmas. Jayson and his Dad are having a special lunch and I’m going to go along.”

Plus she tries to call him virtually every spare moment she has. His phone is constantly pinging with SMS messages and gushy voicemail. “Hi, how are you? I’m just driving ten minutes in my car so thought I’d tell you that I’m thinking of you and I love what you wrote about sex and relationships in that middle book.”

Anyone else have the ‘Psycho’ theme tune in their head right now? If your son started hanging out with some girl who behaved like that, you’d be hiding the pet rabbit and changing the alarm code, right?

Then, to add a twist, she’s just as head over heels with his Dad as she is with him….and to really make it a bit odd, he chooses to be falsely imprisoned on her behalf, takes the blame for the mess she’s been making and accepts a death penalty because he loves her so much – all with his Dad’s blessing.

Weird right? I mean, you really couldn’t make it up. Yet, in this Days Of Our Lives story of passion, love, lies, lust and betrayal…

…They all lived happily ever after.

Disclaimer: Anyone who sends comments saying this is eerily reminiscent of some full-on, evangelistic, bible-thumpers may I say: cool your jets. You have probably met a religious nutter, rather than someone who’s head over heels with the Jesus fella. 

Maranatha in the mirror. Hosanna

Is regards to worldly horror, is Paris any different to drowned refugee toddlers? To the bombings in Beirut? No. Only a few short months ago, I struggled with the horned mother trucker after a small boy washed up on the beach. Paris, however, has delivered me a new clarity. That light will overcome.

What changed? Well, I had a decidedly trippy God encounter in church (good place to have it) on the Sunday morning after the news of Paris.

There I was, singing away to Hosanna. Dancing a little, which is my thing. My palms may even have been tempted up past my elbows thanks to some excellent drumming and vocals from the musicians at the front. images-1

Recall my journey to G&J: UK-born, Church of England schooled, Christian hangover via new age agnosticism into Sydney Anglican.

It’s an odd mongrel path of faith, not least because I combine British stiff-upper lip with a willingness to pay attention to the songs, signs and symbols that God shoves at me.

As I sang the Hosanna lyrics it all got terribly ‘new age’ in my brain, but really was what the SAP would call holy spirit action. I describe it as God getting cellular because, with a type of bone marrow certainty, He suggested the following as I sang each line:

I see a near revival, Stirring as we pray and seek….. “

God: Phil, the bombings in Paris, Beirut and beyond, the sight of persecuted refugees, of drowned toddlers, they are the pivotal moment. Stirring you and others as you pray and seek.

“Break my heart for what breaks yours..”

God: Phil, this can be the moment that every heart gets broken by what breaks Mine.

“Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause..”

God: The moment that every Christian begs to be filled with My spirit and turns themselves fully over to My Kingdom’s cause. Phil, what would that look like?

Me: Well, frankly God, as You can see, it literally looks a bit messy (as by this point, my stiff-upper lip has given way to a sort of smiling, sobbing, saline but still joyful singing). But I know what You mean.

It would look like Jesus had come. To all of us. Through all of us. Pretty powerful, don’t you think?

“I see the king of glory, Coming on the clouds with fire.”

Since Paris, you may have seen the phrase ‘Come Lord Jesus Come’ a lot on social media. For those not in the know, this is from Maranatha, an Aramaic word that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.”

Christians use it as a reminder of the hope of the coming of the Lord. In the days of the early church, “Maranatha!” became the common greeting of the oppressed believers. Now it reminds us to keep our eyes on the eternal things of the Spirit.

Early followers of Jesus knew there would be no peace because Jesus had told them so (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51). But they also knew the Lord would be returning to set up His kingdom, and from that truth they drew great comfort. They were constantly reminding and being reminded that the Lord is coming (Luke 21:28; Revelation 22:12). Jesus taught several parables on this same theme of watching and waiting and being prepared for His return (Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-40).

So my blogging and asking God for one more day after Paris had a few UHT Christians giving me gentle guidance. Who was I to ask God to delay the second coming?

Respectfully,  I am on the same page as God on this one. It’s His will not mine, His timing not mine. Yet I figure he knew what he was doing when he called a feisty, questioning, direct-marketing, try to sell ice-to-Eskimos, PR personality to Christianity in her forties.

I’m fairly sure He knows I’m always going to push for a few response rate campaign extensions on the Great Commission. Every teenager daughter pushes her Father for just a little extra; I am open and honest with my Abba the same way.

Maranatha may remind me to keep my Christian heart and eyes on the eternal things of spirit and not be soul-swiped by the atrocities of drowned toddlers, bombs and cowardly terrorism. Do I long for him to come on clouds of fire to fulfil my heart ? Yes. But I am human. I have friends who are oh so close to getting to know G&J better than they ever have so I’ve got to be selfishly frank: I’d hate for them to miss out.

So I prayed for one more day after Paris. To keep treading the path and let Jesus spirit fill me so I can try, in my human stumbling way, to do what he would.

As I read vitriol on social media, of trending hate towards Muslims, I believe now more than ever it is Christians especially who need to shine a light in what could become a terrifying darkness. To look in the mirror and pray maranatha:

Come Lord Jesus, Come – fill me. Give me the strength to do what might be tough and hard. To stand up and defend others and not join in the call for eye for an eye. To gently challenge those who may confuse religion with Jesus, who say we shouldn’t even #prayforParis – pray for anything -because prayer is connected to religion and religion causes war.

To be the difference: between man’s twisted religion of rules and Jesus’ actions, teachings and love. To stick to the ultimate two: To love the Lord with all my heart and my neighbour as myself. To not keep quiet when people try to tar that with religious fervour.

To let me pray to You first, then act. To pray for wisdom for leaders, healing for the broken-hearted, and understanding for all. That the love and compassion of your son may be seen in the darkness, and that we remember that his light always overcomes.

I ask this in Your son, Jesus’ name.

Amen.

 

The Prodigal Hangover

One of my most favourite lines in the Bible is Luke 15:20: ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ images

Jesus’ Parable of The Prodigal Son is designed to illustrate the generosity of God towards us. Most theological explanations focus on the forgiveness God offers to those who truly repent. Yet what resonates with me most in the parable is how the son ‘was still a long way off’ and yet the father does not hesitate to run (run! so unseemly in those days) and sweep him up.

All before the son utters a word of apology over how foolishly, awfully, terribly he has behaved towards his father.

There is the brilliance of grace. Yet I’ve often wondered what happened the next day, after the party with the fatted calf and barrels of wine.

Given in the parable that the father Jesus refers to is God, I’d say He was still in a fine mood at the post-party breakfast table. His joyous delight would be on display. All back-slapping ‘my son is home’ bonhomie. No tit-for-tat point scoring going on. Simple unadorned joy. The father doesn’t care what the son had been up to in the years that passed. He wants to get on with their relationship afresh.

Son number one is probably still pissed off. Grumbling into his bacon and eggs about his wastrel younger brother. “So typical of him,” he fumes. “I stay at home, hold the fort, comfort dad when he left without a backward glance. I saw what he got up to and with whom (he needs to be more careful with his Facebook security settings). I can’t believe dad just let him waltz back in here. I didn’t get that sort of party when I turned 21 – and he gets it all laid on just because he bothered to come home!”

But son number two is the one that interests me the most in that family. Prodigal. How did he wake up the next day? With a hangover, I’m fairly certain. In the parable he is everyman – or woman – who has received God’s grace and forgiveness, no questions asked. It’s a brand new day. I dare say he awoke feeling thankful. Relieved. Perhaps overwhelmed by the depth of unconditional love displayed by his father the day before:

“I can’t believe how he just ran up and hugged me. He pulled me close and cried. Me too. Then he threw a party. Unbelievable. After all I’d said and done, he just let it go. I thought he might turn me away – and I could understand it if he had. I begged for a job to try and pay off the debt, but he didn’t want to hear a word of it. He said to me: “What’s done is done. I love you. I’m so glad you’re home.””

the-best-moments-from-the-hangover-movies-1070292-TwoByOneA week later would Prodigal have felt the same? Perhaps some doubts and worries have crept in: “It’s been a week. We’re getting on so well. But what about next time? I’m such a mess. It’s taking all my strength to not go into town and get a couple of hours with a hooker. Or burn some cash through the pokies. I’m jonesing to snort a line. Or download some hardcore porn. Big bro is just waiting for me to f*&k it up, I know it.”

You don’t need to have experienced Prodigal’s loose-living to recognise what he battled with. Shame. Of stuffing it up again. Not living up to the gift of grace. Falling off the wagon. Fearful of not being enough.

Yet it’s not about works. We don’t have to do enough to earn God’s love and grace. But I wonder, just quietly, how many – like Prodigal – doubt we can be enough.

That’s because we measure in human terms. Our very means of self-judgement is flawed by it having come from flawed humanity. We know shame because we have been taught it as an emotional response to something. Most likely by another flawed human being, who cannot – by the very nature of being human – love unconditionally and forgive like God can.

I hope in the weeks and months that followed, Prodigal realised he could never be enough. Never. For every hooker he lusted after, God wouldn’t have been surprised by him lusting after 100 more. For every time he put $50 through the pokies, God could easily expect $5000. For every line of coke on the mirror, God was poised to observe him chop another 50.

Not because God is there, cheering us on and urging us to sin more. No. If sin is our distance from God, there’s no-way He wants us to move further away. Yet God knows how flawed we are. We gloss over our faults, whilst He sees them all in the harsh brightness of a hungover morning… and still loves us. The worst we expect from ourselves can never compare to the worst God knows we are capable of.

The SAP kindly shared a new theological term with me in regards to this: prevenient grace. The more we surrender, acknowledge all our faults and step out in our willingness to grow in relationship with God, prevenient grace makes our struggles easier. Prevenient grace means that while Prodigal would have lusted, gambled and snorted at an Olympic-level standard, he is prevented from doing his worst. Blessed with prevenient grace (sort of like divine willpower, a handbrake on the worst of his excesses), the struggles and shame fall away. He may have aimed for Olympic-level debauchery, may even have craved to lose himself in its numbing haze, but by prevenient grace he can’t even stumble to the starting blocks.

Following his return, each time Prodigal hit overwhelm and sobbed out his shame, I hope he realised God was nodding in agreement. “You don’t know the half of it, Prodigal. But you know what, I love you anyway. On a scale that your human heart can barely imagine. But keep drawing closer. My grace will hold you. You’ve a new race to run.”

Why my testimony was wrong and God (of course) was right

It’s coming up to a year since I stood on stage in church and gave testimony. I’m sorry to say I got it totally, utterly wrong. are_you_fracking_kidding_me_womens_light_t_tshirt-r4c6d415942264f528b99590b00d604ba_8nhmp_324

The SAP may well be reaching for his holy intervention kit right now. After all, being chased by the hound of heaven, bibles falling off shelves, songs shoving you awake at 3am, rounded off by a hilarious phone call to a smart-alec pastor are quite the testimony.

Don’t get me wrong. Every word I spoke on the stage was the truth. Now, a year on, I’m recognising I wasn’t truthful enough.

You see, the holy spirit download that accompanies embracing G&J is something I equate to the equivalent of soul fracking. It’s possibly a lot more gentle than its geological equivalent, however I have been known to mutter “fracking hell” as certain soul seams are tapped.

What I didn’t utter on stage during testimony was how Jesus had made me look at my shame around being unloveable. There are some life chapters you don’t read aloud. And, really? Soooo boring. Built a bridge and got over it in my 20s. So God stopped me in my tracks when the excavating holy spirit pressed gently on that carefully hidden soul seam a few weeks back.

“Oh c’mon, really?” I blustered. “That was one threrapied a while back. You’re surely not trying to tell me I’m still missing the point on that one are You, God?”

God smiled. “I know you’re capable. I know you’re confident. I know you’ve done the therapy sessions, and I also know you’re yawning at Me right now in some strange protectionist denial because you did it your way so fiercely and so well. But just stop. Because until you really look and accept that scar – and I know it it is there, dear heart, despite how much you yawn, roll your eyes, and bluster about therapy and moving on – but until you accept and sit with it, there’s always going to be the tiniest bit of you that you try to hide from Me.”

And then do you know what He said?

“Don’t you know, Phil, how much it hurts Me when even the tiniest, faintest scarred part of you refuses to accept just how much I love you?”

Which is what stopped me in my tracks. I forget I have the ability to wound God. He’s God, after all. How can a mere mortal like me wound Him? Yet he hurts like a parent over us. He bears our wounds and feels our pain. He wants all of us, even the scar-tissued, unloveable bits we paper over. It’s a demanding, honest, confronting all or nothing kind of love. Which I thought I grasped 12 months ago as I gave testimony. And yet, day after day, He reveals there is never any way I can rely on my own, limited, human understanding of it.

Fracking amazing.

Climbing into the lap of God

It was my son who taught me about prayer.  Almost 11, all angles and crane-like in his growth, he is still a hugger. In an echo of the time when he used to clamber onto my lap as a toddler, his hugs consist of a karate-inspired body pin and, after an appropriate amount of wrestling and removing elbows from soft body tissue, we settle into a curl of limbs and he will tell me about his day. He is a rambler and, like most boys, he fidgets to an internal beat I cannot hear. His eyes dart, his limbs twitch and his fingers tap or stroke against my own.imgres

But he is there. In my arms, turning up with the news of his day. I don’t especially care that he rambles, or fidgets, or his tales become long-winded and weave off point. I get to wrap my arms around this boy and just be. Count the freckles on his face, stare into deep blue eyes, scrub my fingers over his mop of hessian hair and just be. Listening and loving.

It makes me wonder about God and my prayers. The name “Abba” is one of the most significant names of God in the Bible. The word Abba is an Aramaic word that most closely translates as “Daddy.” It signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.” We forget that sort of childlike trust as get older.  But a strong memory of my own Father brings the Abba context home to me as an adult.

I was in my mid-twenties and, late at night, Dad and I sat discussing the world over scottish whisky. Due to the circumstances of my parents’ messy divorce, he and I had taken more than ten years to work out our relationship. He once said, due to the fractures, he would never presume to give me the Fatherly advice he would offer my half-siblings. That night, scars and guilt softened by the taste of peat and tarred string, he mentioned what he missed, what he really missed, was the time as a young child I would clamber on his knee and talk to him. So, with tears in my eyes, and a whisky tumbler in my hand, I walked across the room and curled into his lap.

Remembering God as Abba helps me curl into His lap. Remembering Him as Abba means my prayers may be free-form, may hop across many subjects like my son, but that’s OK. Because I’m there, shrugging off adult-things, and enjoying the time.

If God was Bono…

I doubt God has bad days, given He’s who He is and can see that His plan is unfolding, even when I can’t. But let’s imagine, just for a moment, He does. When suddenly his patience snaps, He turns to Jesus and says, “I’ve had enough.” images-1

I can imagine Jesus looking somewhat taken aback. “You have? Are we going to have to talk to someone about an ark again? Or, do you mean Me? Countdown to Revelation?”

“No, not Revelation yet,” answers God. “But I’m getting a little impatient with how The Great Commission numbers are stacking up. So I’m borrowing an idea from that Bono fellow. Well, actually he got it from Me. I’m just taking it up a notch.”

Jesus by now is cottoning on. “Dad! Brilliant. So generous.”

God: “Well, if U2 can give away over 500 million copies of Songs Of Innocence in one day, just by dropping it into people’s iTunes accounts, I’m going to do the same with the Holy Spirit (HS) straight into people’s hearts. Got to move with the times. Will download HS from the cloud tomorrow.”

Jesus: “There’s going to be a lot of really surprised people. So You’re not going to worry about everyone having to say ‘the prayer’, ‘accepting me as Lord’ ‘letting Me into their life’ being ‘born again’ etc?

God shakes His head. He and Jesus understand that many are put off by the ‘shiny Christian language’ too often employed by church-goers.

“No need. You know what HS is like once He’s in there. It’s a complete system override. I know We told Matthew, Mark, Luke and John it was about one soul at a time, through You to Me, but I’ve a hankering to perform a serious miracle.”

Can you imagine?

Now some readers, like a few iTunes account holders when they got their new, free U2 album, may be imagining how horrified they’d feel over the invasion of privacy: “It’s MY heart!”

But, if for one day, God put aside His gift of free-will to us, and instead went into global HS download? The self-led, selfish aspects of our world would grind to a joyful halt. Dancing in the streets. Peace on earth. Goodwill to all humanity. We’d not be worried about it being our heart anymore. Hell, I doubt we’d be worrying about anything.

C’mon, is being saved from sin and getting glorious eternal life so bad?

A few short months after my Liptoning, a UHT Christian (someone who has been a Christian for a long, longer life than I) warned me that the honeymoon period would wear off.

If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you’ll know how taken aback I was by all the joy that kept bubbling up as I cautiously got to know God and Jesus. The feeling of anticipation I would awake with daily in my stomach. It was like a split personality disorder. My before Christ (BC) secular self would lie there wondering, “ooh, what’s planned today that I’m so excited about?” Then my AC side would go, “Yay, I get to spend more time getting to know G&J.” images At which point my BC split personality would roll her eyes at such happy clappiness and attempt to batten all this joyful oddness down. Which was like shoving Disney’s Genie back in the lamp. No way G&J were getting crammed back into a small lamp. Let your light shine and all that…

So I was surprised to be warned that this feeling of delight would fade. Was that the reason why I wasn’t meeting more Christians with the same joy bubbling over? Did it wear off? Would this astounding ‘zing’ feeling disappear overnight and leave me acting like Marvin from The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy?

Just lately I have been noticing a dourness on the edge of my faith. The technicolour was greying. Was this the macular degeneration of joy I’d been warned about? I tried to pinpoint why and realised I had spent an unusual amount of time with some seriously serious Christians. On missions. Saving souls. Which is indeed serious stuff. But each ‘Thank God’, each faithful gratitude expressed for a miracle, didn’t rumble with the joy. It rumbled with important seriousness. And so I, almost unconsciously, packed away my joy in order to be more grave and ‘Godly’.

I ended the honeymoon. Not God. He was still waiting for me to come back to the beach, drink Pina Coladas and walk in the rain. Return to the crazy teenage ‘somersaulting stomach’ love that marked the start of all this, no matter how embarrassing I found it at the time.  I missed it. Missed Him.

A few months back I read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love.  As Chan puts it: ‘The God of the universe — the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor — loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.’

Chan writes the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts — it’s falling in love with God. ‘Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.’

It’s true. I fell head over heels, I wanted to hang out with the object of my affection all the time. I was Madonna ‘True Blue’ giggly and ‘Crazy For You’ all at the same time. And while plenty of people talk about the honeymoon part of a marriage ending as you grow as a couple, I really don’t think God and Jesus want us to grow with them into joyless matrimony.

Look at what He did. Everlasting, eternal love. Radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love.

And there it is. I think the joy gets lost because too often Christians get caught up in the self-sacrificial nature of what God did for us in Jesus. I mean, that’s a serious gift, right? So, mistakenly, we confuse sacrifice that is the willing, loving, giving of our hearts to God with the sacrifice that is serious, enduring loss. But Jesus died so we may have life. It’s not loss, it’s gain.

It’s a gift to be taken seriously, yes, but no need to be all serious about it. I don’t think God measures the level of our love for Him by how seriously we behave in regards to what He gifted us. Whenever a Christian nods seriously and says, “You know, Jesus died for you,” I think the response ought to be a grinning “I know! How amazing and astounding is that? AND he resurrected. Fantastic!” Stop getting stuck and serious around the death bit, and focus on the three days after.

God’s crazy love can make us all amazing and astounding too, remember, because He gifted a bit of Him into us when He did it. You simply have to accept the amount of love poured out on you, the gift of heaven promised you, and, oh my God, please enjoy it. Smile with it, shine with it, dance in the rain with it and drink Pina Coladas.

It’s a great thing, falling in love every day.

Footnote: a big thank you to Tim MacBride over at Coffee With The King who has just started a great series about Luke 7 34-50 on precisely this. There are no Godincidences that his blog appeared in my feed just as I was pondering faith, joy and honeymoons.

Jesus forgives once every 25 years?

Over 20 years ago I walked into an anonymous-looking building in Sydney. A few people jostled outside with placards. I held tight to the hand of the girlfriend I had come with and kept my head turned away from the right to life slogans. images-1

The receptionist took names quietly, handed over sheets of instructions as to what to expect next. It was silent as a tomb, the air fecund with unspoken pathways. As I sat with the consequence of unprotected sex with a married man, it struck me that no one had offered anything other than this option.

In this clinic, patients were beckoned forward discreetly. By avoiding names, by depersonalising, we could ignore what would happen beyond those frosted doors. We could all pretend that life was fine, that life would go on.

Except it wouldn’t. One life would not go on, and the lives of those entwined would never forget. No matter how much future destructive behaviour blocked out the pain, no matter how much alcohol was consumed, how many daring raids on the married man’s marital bed took place while his wife was away, all in the vain hope that seductiveness, power, danger and sexual prowess would transplant vows and gold rings. Seeking reasons: if he left her, it would somehow be ‘better’. The scraping across a womb, across a soul, would be validated.

As the nurse beckoned, I looked at my friend. I hadn’t the wisdom, age or words. So I stood up, gave her a hug, took a deep breath – and let her step forward, alone, into cold sterility.

Today, in my journey with God and Jesus, I wonder could I have offered her something different? Yet if you don’t grow up in a faith-based household, the choice to keep an unplanned pregnancy rarely crops up. If you’re a female of a certain age, in a certain demographic, with a career path ahead of you, then the outcome of unprotected sex is most often a clinic appointment. I’m not saying it is the only choice, but it is certainly the choice our society pushes as ‘easiest’.

No judgement. I am from that demographic. There but for the grace of latex, pill, IUD and low count swimmers. Before any right to lifers start sending me hate mail, I’d like to explain now how my perspective has changed. Yet God and Jesus had nothing to do with it.

I am married with school-age children. I have grown two babies within me, spending the first 12 weeks of pregnancy silently hoping that fertilised eggs would bed successfully into my womb. Throwing up all day and every day from week three to week 33, seeing heartbeats on an ultrasound and feeling the first fluttering of butterfly wings from the inside. Tracing the outline of my son’s foot shoved out against the drum-tightness of my stomach, and experiencing the brutiful awfulness of long labours. I loved the simplicity of life when, floating on an oxytocin hormone haze, all I needed think about was the next breastfeed, the next nap and cuddling bone-less, milk-drunk newborn babies.

After all of that, a long time before I ever got to know G&J, I made the emotional connection that life began way sooner than all the clinical language of unplanned pregnancies tried to have me think in my teens.

If, thanks to the vagaries of a peri-menopausal cycle and Big T’s sperm of steel I found myself pregnant today, I would be horrified. Yet, even before I started slanging at G&J with a “what on earth are You thinking?” style-prayer, my own emotional connection with two babies born wouldn’t allow me to do much else than welcome a third.

But I write this in a secure relationship, economically-comfortable, with all my education qualifications achieved and framed. Take me back to 16 years old and my then 21-year old boyfriend – whom I saw as troubled and Heathcliff-esque, whilst my parents saw only police record and danger – and I know I would have been marched to the clinic. No dialogue entered into. Which now makes me ponder. Why do I ‘know’ that? Because of the media message we hear continually: that an unexpected pregnancy is ‘the end’. My chances of further study would have been ‘ruined’. Which is nonsense. An unexpected pregnancy is scary, frightening, overwhelming and confronting. But it does not mean ruin or the end. Yet the extreme language used explains why abortion is so often viewed as the ‘only’ solution.

Every situation is different. I have stories from faithful Christians who were told their unborn baby would die in the womb, whose Doctor said an abortion would be ‘kinder’, yet continued with the pregnancy. They wrapped their daughter – born without heartbeat or breath at 30 weeks – in a handmade quilt, gave her a funeral with dignity, and now hold onto their memories.

Today they talk about their daughter with others and visit her gravestone. She had the briefest of lives but they were able to love her, hold her and talk to her. Her mother says they would never have been able to talk about her if they had taken the doctor’s advice. Yet in the early days of diagnosis, it was tempting. Worse, the thought of uttering the word ‘abortion’ to her pastor filled her with dread.

Which makes me weep. At a time when the need for spiritual, pastoral care was at its highest, she felt shame for even considering the notion and unable to share the burden with someone of her faith. But isn’t that the point? We need to be able to hold up our darkest choices to God and Jesus – and their proxies – and ask for help and forgiveness. Not judgement and condemnation.

Yes, there are pastors, churches and organisations who can help. The problem is, their availability is forgotten in the use of extreme language: Unplanned pregnancy? Your life is over! Plus certain church messaging about abortion – such as the upcoming Roman Catholic Jubilee Year – drowns Jesus and compassion in religiosity.

For the coming Roman Catholic Jubilee year, starting in December, Pope Francis is ‘making it easier for doctors and women to seek forgiveness for abortion’. A jubilee year is one of the Catholic Church’s most important events and normally takes place every 25 years. But why is it just a jubilee year that makes it easier to seek forgiveness? Why not every second of every day of every year?

Imagine Jesus up on the cross, dying for us and saying:

“Yes, I’m covering for you all. I’m dying so you can have a relationship with God. It is finish-

“…No, actually. Hold off on that spear in my side for a moment…

“It’s sort of finished. For you people over there. But not for you women who had an abortion. No. The good news isn’t for you. Yes, the decision may press on your heart and weigh you down that you can barely breathe, but you missed the forgiveness train and it won’t be coming to the station again for 25 years.”

Every situation is different. In regards to abortion, Roman Catholicism teaches differently to the church I am part of. Yet Jesus does not differ.

Remember the woman caught in adultery in John 8?

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Based on this passage, it is perverse that the Roman Catholic religion ends up throwing the first stone at women, and doctors, who have procured or carried out abortion.

I can clearly see Jesus offering a woman who has had an abortion acceptance, love, forgiveness and hope as soon as she seeks it. Not once every 25 years.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and wish to talk to someone about your choices with compassion and without judgement, contact http://www.diamondpregnancy.com/ or call them on (02) 8003 4990.

One year old & 10,000 readers. Dear God, how did that happen?

oneweekinaugust.com is celebrating over 10,000 readers. Had you asked me 18 months ago if I could imagine myself writing this sort of blog, with a Bible app on my phone, an aural affection for the Pandora ‘Songs of Worship’ channel, that I would have been Lipton’d and be working with a global charity broadcasting the gospel to a few billion people in the hardest-to-reach parts of the world? I’d have checked if the person you knew was the same one whose mind and body I inhabit.tumblr_l2ez3gGb1O1qzoozmo1_500

Scarily reminiscent of Matthew 16:25: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…

As my recent run in with the horned mother trucker tested, this blog is not an ego-feeder of readership numbers, shares and likes. It isn’t. Honestly. And yet..

When Jesus told them the Great Commission, his first century disciples didn’t have the benefit of digital media, social sharing and blogging immediacy. When the resurrected Jesus called his followers to baptise all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there was no internet. No bible colleges and theology degrees. Simply Jesus’ disciples, blessed with the holy spirit, getting out there on foot and letting as many as possible know.

Today it’s all shifted. Ministering and disciple-making is seen as the domain of those who have studied up – with the correct certificate hanging on the wall, and the right stole and cassock hanging in the wardrobe. Which I wasn’t aware of when I started this blog. Too new, too fresh and too oblivious to ‘right’ procedure. Back then, surprised by G, J and the SAP (smart alec pastor), I simply wrote what I observed during my slightly madcap Christian journey. It kicked-off partly as a way to process, partly as a means to ‘come out’ to my atheist friends. But it has grown…into I’m not sure what.

A kind reader sent me am encouraging note after my mother trucker blog: I think anyone who sticks their head up in the trenches like you do, will get shot at by the Evil One.. no surprises. The surprise is the WAY he does it..the bullets he uses, tailored to impact just you. It’s happened to any of us who use our gifts to further the Kingdom.

Me, upon reading that comment, in no particular order:

  • I’m not sticking my head up, I’m hiding behind a keyboard here aren’t I?
  • Further the Kingdom? Dear Lord, I hope you’ve got some seriously good roadsigns up for people. I do head off-piste…sorry..

Yet, I can’t ignore the numbers. It must make enough pithy sense for people to be engaged. So, completely accidentally, this has become a ‘baptism by blogging’. Digitally dunking as many readers as possible into a river of words, thoughts and my take on modern-day discipleship.

Discipleship – Then and Now

Refer to disciples, and thoughts turn to those early followers of Christ. Praying, worshipping, loving, giving, and evangelising men and women who refused to keep the truth of the gospel to themselves. Yet, God still desires disciples today—ordinary people to give up themselves so God can use them to do extraordinary things. …whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…

Trouble is, that’s all a bit radical to many in the modern day church. But for the early believers, that was normal. It was what you did once you had hung around with a grace-filled, other-focused man who taught a radical new way to live, performed miracles, was persecuted,  crucified and CAME BACK TO LIFE.

Read those four words in capitals again. Imagine it in the modern day. Wouldn’t that sort of encounter shake you up? Rock your world? Make you want to get out there and yell, “OMG, you should meet this bloke!”

To those early believers, it was normal Christianity. And these men and women—empowered and motivated by the Holy Spirit—turned their world upside down for the sake of Christ. In short, they were true disciples. They followed. They believed.

I’m a fairly dodgy disciple. I fail daily at being Christ-like and other focused. I imagine him peeking out at me from behind his fingers, shaking his head, looking to his left and saying, “Dad, she really didn’t just say that, did she..? Oh..yes, yes she did… Hang on, I’ve got it.” And he leans forward and whispers grace in my ear.

It is those odd whispers that form these blogs. I have to write to pick over the raw gems that God shoves at me. Mostly, it’s an almost physical compulsion to have another go at explaining what too much church and too much religion has lost in translation. My way of gently unpacking the joy that I never expected, the awe that keeps me thankful, and the fun and humour I have in a relationship with G&J.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the “OMG, you should meet this bloke!” yelling type. Instead, I prefer to think of these blog posts as a modern take on 18th century calling cards. A basis of forging an introduction.

Bless you for reading and sharing.