Bless your Boundaries

King David writes, in Psalm 16, ‘The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.’

And suddenly I hear the Lord say, ‘You need to bless your boundaries.’

My mind goes first, as you might imagine, to all the incredible parents in the world who have been busy setting boundaries for years—lots of easily made but hard-to-enforce rules to keep our kids on the straight and narrow, or at least, you know, safe, healthy, alive . . .

The problem is, those boundaries more often than not have resulted in their own set of problems - angst, frustration, conflict, defiance, guilt, outright rebellion . . . and we’re left wondering, how on earth did something we intended for good end up working so badly against us?

To parents everywhere, the Lord is saying, ‘You need to bless your boundaries. ‘

Bless the boundaries you have set. Declare that your boundary lines will not divide you, but unite you. It’s okay to have boundaries, but you need to bless them.

Your boundaries need to fall in pleasant places.

And to the rest of us, the ones who have set limits on what we’ll believe, who restrict our experience of God to everything that’s safe and familiar, to those who have ended up hemmed in or defined by your own understanding, or even by your hurts, your pain, your disappointment—you need to know that there is a better place for your boundary lines to fall. Your boundary lines need to fall in pleasant places. Not in a place of despair or arrogance or harm or fear.

So look around. Check your boundary lines. Wherever there is a boundary, whether it’s around your business, your church or community, your circle of friends, your emotional capacity, your worship (and what that looks like), the extent of your obedience or faith, and particularly, the boundaries of your love - wherever your boundary lines fall, it’s time to BLESS YOUR BOUNDARIES!

And then, watch as things shift. You’ll be amazed. You’ll stretch and grow and find yourself venturing a little further into the wilds of His grace and glory. You’ll breathe deeper, that’s for sure, and then, I imagine, the Father in heaven will have the joy of looking down on all his strangely happy children as they raise the united refrain: ‘Our boundary lines have fallen to us in pleasant places!’

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I am who you say I am

We sat there, mesmerized by the three actors on stage—Peter, John and Mary—so in character, so caught up in the reality of the drama, so in the spirit on the Lord’s day, that they managed to transport a whole audience back in time, back through the centuries, in fact, until there we were, standing in Pilate’s courtyard hearing a rooster let loose in the early hours of the morning . . . and then back a little more, right into the temple precinct. . .

Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

It’s the only moment in the whole play when all three actors stand full-face to the stage and cry out in unison, a powerful depiction of the evil that gets set in motion when human voices unite not only with each other but with the entire cohort of fallen angels, and now there’s no stopping what is about to be unleashed.

If Lucifer had known that Jesus’ death would culminate with a torn curtain and heaven thrown open to one and all, I’m not so sure he would have been as intent on seeing Jesus die. I love how God kept that trump card hidden for so long. He must have been hankering to tell someone, don’t you think? But no, the winner takes it all, and Satan needed to believe he would triumph. Needed to be convinced that the cross was the end for Jesus and His Glorious Kingdom. I can’t help but smile broadly at the masterful hand God was playing all along.

But I digress.

Let’s hone in on Jesus, standing silent before his accusers.

There’s only one word He speaks, and it’s in answer to this question ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

‘It is as you say,’ says Jesus, and somehow I think he wasn’t just finding a convoluted way of answering ‘Yes,’ because there’s more to the answer, isn’t there?

The truth is, He’s always been whoever people say He is.

If you say He’s the Healer, He’ll heal you.

If you say Jesus is Lord, He’ll be your Lord.

I am who you say I am.

It is as you say.

If you call me Saviour, I will save you.

If you say I am your Provider, I will provide.

If you say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ I will lead you.

And so today I want to reach out for more of Him than I have yet known. I don’t want to speak of Him only in terms of what I already know of Him. I want to speak of all I long for Him to be to me. You see, He’s asking more than, ‘Who do you say I am?’ In effect, He’s calling us out. Drawing us out. Drawing us closer and deeper and higher and more intimately. He’s essentially standing before us and the real question of the moment is:  ‘Who do you need to say I am?

The real question of the moment is, ‘Who do you need to say that I am?

‘If you’re all bound up and addicted and fearful and floundering, you need to call me your Deliverer. If you’ve got all used to me, if I’ve begun to seem commonplace to you, you need to say it out: ‘You are my Glorious Lord.’ To those who are scared, say this: ‘You are my refuge'.’ If you need care and protection and love and somewhere to belong, you’re invited to call me your Father. Say it. I am who you say I am.’

If you’re fighting a losing battle, your answer needs to be: ‘You are my mighty Warrior.’ If you’re all confused and you don’t know which way’s up or what’s true and what’s not, at least say this with confidence: ‘He is my teacher!’ And if you’re drowning in grief, say it in faith: ‘You are my Comforter.’

Today He stands before us with the same answer He gave Pilate.

‘It is as you say.’

‘I am who you say I am.’ 

It's your Blessing Day

In honour of all the fathers and grandfathers out there . . .  on Father's Day 2018. You are more of a blessing than you know . . .

 

You are asleep. The blinds are drawn and the room is dark in spite of the arrival of dawn outside. Suddenly, you are shaken awake . . . not roughly, but with some urgency. There is excitement in the Holy Spirit’s voice,

“Come quickly! It’s your blessing day”

“What’s going on?”

“Your father has chosen today. He is going to bless one of his children today and that child will be you!”

“But . . .”

“But nothing. Get dressed quickly. We need to work fast!”

In minutes, you are through the shower and dressed and you find the Holy Spirit in the kitchen. The shower has left your hair wet and your mind clear.

“I’m not sure what you are thinking. Father loves Jesus. He’s the eldest and he gets all the blessings.”

“Not today. Jesus left early this morning. He won’t be back for ages. He went hunting so he could prepare a meal for your father. We just need to be quick . . .”

“This doesn’t sound like a good idea . . .”

“Listen. We don’t have time for this. Go quickly and find the best goat you have in your flock. Skin it and bring me the meat as fast as you can. Hurry!”

You run down the path to the barn, worrying where this will all lead.

“Curly or Puddles? Which would taste better? Oh, of course. It has to be Bessy. She is a little younger and so her meat will be tenderer.”

You snatch Bessy from the flock and return back towards the house in urgent haste. You find the Holy Spirit in the kitchen and he has made it a hive of activity. There are chopped vegetables on the bench and a sauce simmering on the gas cooktop. Spice bottles and boxes of herbs are scattered all around. He is hard at work blending them in a mortar and pestle.

“Ahh. You’re back. Good! Do you have the goat meat?”

“Yes. I kept it on the bone.”

“Good. Now listen.”

You look up in apprehension and he takes you by the shoulders.

“Trust me, child. I know what I’m doing and believe me, this is the only way for you to be blessed. It has been in my heart for years but now we have the opportunity. Now we have to get you in costume.”

“Costume?”

“Yes, the Father has to believe you are Jesus . . .”

“But I can’t. That is impossible. There is no possible way the Father would think I am Jesus.”

“Difficult but not impossible, child. And we are well on our way.”

“Child, it doesn’t matter how you look but it matters a great deal how you feel and smell. Your father does not look on the outward appearance. He is blind to that. So tie that goatskin on your arms and legs and go run into the forest and roll around in the muck and foliage until you smell like Jesus.”

Twenty minutes you are back in the kitchen, panting and sweating. Your mind is a mess of fear and confusion.

“Just wonderful. Let me feel your arms.”

The Holy Spirit reaches out and sighs with satisfaction. He bends down and inhales deeply through his nose. Another sign and a cheeky grin, that is frightening under the circumstances.

The oven dings loudly and the Holy Spirit turns and pulls a dish from within it with an oven mitt on his right hand. He lays it on a board on the bench continuing to speak as he prepares the plate of food.

“This is your destiny, my child. It is how it’s meant to be. The only thing between your future and you is a simple act of courage. You are in costume, just stay in character. You have put on Christ but you need to take on his identity entirely if this is going to work! I know your father’s tastes like no other. He will enjoy this dish. This is going to be great. What’s more, look at you! You are ready. Everything is ready. Go take this dish to your father.”

You obey; shaking a little, you make your way down the hallway and knock on the door. The knock seems louder than usual. After all, what would Jesus do, right?

“Come in, child. I am ready for that meal.”

You step forward with the bowl outstretched as though something between you and your Dad might be a good idea.

“My Father.”

“Here I am. Who are you, my son?”

“I am Jesus your firstborn."

You really said that. You never thought that invoking the name of Jesus would come to this. You have come so far with the charade that who you are seems uncertain even to yourself.

“I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat my game, and bless me.”

“Ahh. That smells good, but you sure were quick. I would have thought you would take a few more hours.”

“Sure, but God helped me. He made it much easier.”

“Really?”

He turns his head to the side as if perplexed by something confusing and you begin thinking that the open door looks very inviting now.

“Come close; let me feel your arms. I want to make sure you are really Jesus.”

He reaches out and his fingers stroke the goatskin.

“It’s really quite strange. You have the arms of Jesus but your voice is that of another. Are you really Jesus?”

“I am!”

You father sighs contentedly, his apprehension gone. He places his hand on your shoulder and begins to bless you . . .

“See, the smell of my child is as the smell of a fertile and blessed field! May you have the dew of heaven and of the fullness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let others serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers and sisters. May they bow down to you as well. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

As he speaks, you look up into his wrinkled face and there is so much affection written there. His love reaches out to you, as it never has before. This is how Jesus must feel all the time, you think to yourself. All the kindness in his unseeing eyes and the words declared over you have gotten under your skin. You feel your emotions rising . . .

He pauses.

“That is all I have to give. You have it all, beloved child. Now, how about some of that stew?”

The bowl has grown heavy during the long wait and you gladly hand it over, your pulse racing as you watch him eat.

It’s done! The Holy Spirit was right. It was not impossible. Wow!

However, elation shatters as a realisation of the consequences of your actions sweeps over your mind.

“What about Jesus? This is some kind of terminal blasphemy! I’m as good as dead.”

You thank your father and leave hurriedly, and you run, fast and hard. Your legs burn and your lungs cry out in pain - terror drives you on, until the darkness of the night swallows the path until you can go no further.

Emotionally and physically exhausted you fall to the ground. You could sleep anywhere tonight and that is helpful because where you lie is the only choice you have. Even a rock for a pillow seems strangely inviting. Sleep takes you quickly and for hours are deeply in its embrace, and then . . .

You awake with a start. It is the middle of the night but things are bright and you seem surrounded by unfamiliar noises. Looking around, you gasp aloud!

Angels – a lot of angels, in fact. They are walking up and down a translucent staircase just meters away from where you have been sleeping. It winds up and up as if it goes all the way to heaven.

It does not occur to you that this is about you and what you have done this very day. You think that you have stumbled on an especially sacred place, but they are not here because of a place. They are here for you. They have come with the blessings that your father just hours before has spoken over you and released into your life.

The angels are ascending and descending on a person and that person is you! It’s your blessing day and they are delivering a whole different kind of life to you!. Favour will follow you now. There will be no lack. No one will be able to stand against you anymore. The angels are setting all of that in place around you.

Slowly it dawns on you. The kingdom of God has come and his will is being released all around you. You have become an epicentre of that kingdom on earth. You carry a mantle of blessing and all those close to you, and those who come and go in your life, will feel its touch.

It has been a great day. Congratulations, it is your blessing day today.


This story is one of my favourites, a wonderful instruction manual on how to receive from the Father. One thing it portrays so well is the level of hesitation that can be present in our minds as we come to Him - apprehension and fear that we are undeserving. We are well aware that it is Jesus and not ourselves that deserves all the blessings the Father has to offer. Yet we feel the Holy Spirit’s prompting to enter in and take what rightfully belongs his the only beloved son. We feel unworthy. We feel like we don’t deserve anything at all.

Ephesians chapter one sees us seated with Christ in heavenly places so we can be blessed. We are actually in the beloved – Clothed with Christ himself. The mystical reality of us being in Christ perfects the picture of Jacob with his makeshift Esau costume. The feel and savour of Christ all around us overwhelms the senses of the Father. He loves Christ so much and has so much blessing for him that he instinctively and eagerly showers it all on us.

One important limitation of this picture is our relationship with Jesus. Unlike Esau, he is totally for us and not affronted at all by us taking the blessings that rightfully belong to him. He has always been on board with the plan. We cannot do it without his cooperation. In fact, no one comes to the Father except through him!

When we are in Christ, the Father sees no difference between Christ and us. He is not blind in a physically limiting way but we should not underestimate the power of our union with our Saviour. What would it mean if we identified with Christ as much as Jacob identified as Esau? What would it mean for our relationship with the Father if we could meet him on these terms and forget about our identity, history and inadequacies, full embracing our character and role. . . 


This is an excerpt from a book we plan to release in early 2019.

- PICTURES OF MY FATHER -

What happens when we chase through scripture in an attempt to uncover every glimpse of Father God to be found there? Sign up to stay in touch and be the first to know when it will be available. In the meantime, look out for a few more tastes of what's inside as it gets closer to publication.

Pictures of my Father Cover.jpg

Switching Sides

A small boy heads out in the boat with his father. As he joins him in his work for the first time the anticipation of many weeks pours out of his mouth, peppering the capable angler with a barrage of questions. Before the sun goes down a thousand why’s have been asked and answered, and the process of passing a trade from one generation to the next has begun.

Now, the boy has grown; his skill with boat and tackle is as good as any in the region. But tonight, his nets are empty, and as Peter and his friends near the shore, he is especially downcast. There's not a fish to show for the long night’s work.

And then, an apparently random guy appears on the beach and shouts advice. 

Amazing how even though his trade was carpentry, Jesus has the audacity to tell these seasoned fishermen how to do their job.

Even more amazing is that Peter does not bristle; in fact, though many would have taken offense, Peter's humble response when things were not going well does him credit. Here is how the Bible tells the story:


Simon Peter said, 'I’m going fishing.'

'We’ll come too,' they all said.

So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.

He called out, 'Fellows, have you caught any fish?' 

'No,' they replied.

Then he said, 'Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!'

So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It’s the Lord!'

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

'Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,' Jesus said.

So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.  (John 21:3-11 NLT)

 

'Daddy, why do we always cast the net over the left side of the boat?' 

It was his forty-third question sitting comfortably between an inquiry about why the sails flutter whenever the boat turns and another concerning the squawking of the circling gulls. 

His father responded with a smile.

'You see me sitting here facing forward. I am near to the rope that controls the sail and I can reach the arm of the rudder. I cannot move too far from here without losing control of the boat. But see, that means my right arm is free. My right arm is strong – much stronger than the other is. As I face forward, I can throw much easier from right to left. It is awkward to cast the other way. Then, it is even more important to be using that side when you have a haul of fish. Look Peter; try to pull the net in a little across your body. Yes. Now turn around and try pulling the net in now. Use your right hand . . . your stronger arm. See what I mean.' 

It made perfect sense, and he never asked that question again. In fact, Peter had never seen a net on the right side of the boat. That was not how a man went about fishing.

On a whim and with little to lose they cast the net over the right side as directed by the stranger, and the water beside the boat immediately erupted with flicking tails and glistening fish leaping upward to escape the crush of those beneath. 

 

For Peter and the others to obtain their miracle that morning they needed to change hands; needed to move out of step with their usual ways of getting the job done.

 

That morning, Peter did something he'd never done before. He cast the net with his left arm. 

It was not the sheer volume of fish alone that made it difficult to haul in the catch. Everything was backwards for these fishermen. There they were in the midst of a miracle, trying to deal with the enormous catch, operating out of a position of weakness rather than strength.

It reminds me of the architecture of medieval castles. Medieval castle staircase were often built in a clockwise spiral, because if an intruder entered the castle and ascended the tower, their sword would have to be wielded with their left arm; while the occupants fending them off from above had the advantage of a greater range of movement and the ability to fend off attack by wielding their swords with their right hands. The very structure of the stairwells diminished the ability of attackers to swing their swords - a right-handed fighter would have to contend with the walls while making their striking motions, cutting down on their ability to manoeuvre and giving the castle’s defenders a much-needed advantage. If an attacker were to neutralize the defenders advantage, he must be able to change hands.


The wisdom of God is foolishness to men. The enemy knows that we are prone to think we are have it all figured out. All he has to do to set us up for a fruitless night of fishing is draw all the fish to the right hand side of the boat. 'They will never try that side,' he thinks with satisfaction.

Then God speaks: 'My strength is made perfect in weakness. I can do more with you when you favor your weaker arm, when you are a little off balance and more focused on obedience than adequacy.'


You see, we exist in two worlds. Our connection to the natural, physical world is the one we favor, much like the way we favor our right hand. Many of us barely think of operating spiritually, much as we would hardly consider using our left hand. The physical seems more reliable and comfortable. We default to our strength. Using natural means to do our work has become nearly involuntary.

He’s asking us to use a side of us we may be weaker in . . . to operate spiritually rather than physically.

But there are times when God's people face a challenge, and though we have defaulted to natural means, approaches and resources, it has yielded no results. But then we hear the voice of Jesus, declaring that our miracle is within easy reach - but to receive it we need to use what does not seem natural. He's asking us to use a side of us we may be weaker in, less confident, perhaps, to operate spiritually rather than physically. He's asking us to pray rather than perform, contend rather than control, worship rather than worry.

The lifestyle of miracles that we long for requires the kind of spiritual confidence that comes out of switching hands so frequently that we can operate effortless with either – learning to live as a native of both the natural and heavenly realms.

Over the years

It was in Canberra, far from family and with just a few newly-formed friendships, that I found myself pressing in for more of Jesus. Jeff walked with God. Literally. He’d leave the house each morning, dressed in his shirt and tie, as most Canberrans do, and he’d walk the tree-lined streets, around the periphery of the architecturally-stunning Parliament house, through the park with the autumn leaves crunching beneath his feet, and in to his office, and by the time he arrived, he and the Lord had shared their hearts, heard what was on each other’s minds, drawn closer in the way only two who walk together as a habit can.

I stayed at home most days, keeping house, raising two young sons, nurturing inquisitivity, instilling character and as best I could, imparting values and truth and knowledge and love into their young lives.

And I communed with Jesus too. Only it wasn’t on long morning walks. It was in the midst of baking cookies and cleaning muddy footprints off floors, and delivering binoculars to little boys playing on the roof of the shed. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. I found myself speaking his name more often during those days.

As a child, I’d been taught to use the name of Jesus. I ended every prayer as my mother had. ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus, Amen.’  You don’t just ask of your own accord. Why should the Father answer my request? Because I asked in the name of His beloved Son, that’s why, and I understood that, I used his name, and I prayed like a woman who knew, if nothing else, she had not a leg to stand on in the presence of God if not for the precious love of Jesus.

But across the simplicity of those Canberra days, something stirred in my spirit. The Holy Spirit is indeed a Wonderful Counsellor, and somehow He bypassed my mind but formed on my lips an old phrase we’d sung over and over as children.  '. . . Life, and Health, and Peace.'

My lips were forming an old phrase we’d sung over and over as children: ‘Life, and health, and peace.’

We’d stood, our hymn books open in the quiet of the Sunday morning service, and without an instrument in sight, all those heartfelt voices rose in love to Him who had redeemed us and paid the price for our sin, because we knew what Charles Wesley knew, and we sang it like there was nothing dearer in the world.

 

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

 

I wrote those three words in thick black ink and placed them above the kitchen bench.

 

JESUS

LIFE.  HEALTH.  PEACE. 

 

Soon, I wasn’t just breathing ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.’ I was reciting the words like sacred synonyms of the Beautiful Name: ‘Life, health, peaceLife, health, peace.’

I’d kneel beside little boys as I stroked their heads before sleep settled on them, and quietly sang,

 

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, In a believer's ear;
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away all fear.

 

I’ve moved on a bit, I guess. Perhaps there was something primitive about my repetition of a name, my constant repetition of three small words as I moved through the day.

Now I find myself in a huge church, lights and musicians and energy galore, and my two boys are nearly men, and they’re up on stage worshipping, or they’re jumping in praise with their friends in the church equivalent of a mosh pit, and then the tempo slows, and there’s a quiet transition, and tears get me every time, because His name is about to be sung, and I still can’t help but love Him all the more for the mention of His name.

Those Hillsong people nailed it again, and the lyrics haven’t lost their power for all the times they’ve been sung, and I’m crying my heart out and trying to get the words out but I keep getting choked up . . .

 

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

 

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

How I’ve learned to love His name.

We’re declaring the Gospel now. There’s a reason we love him, and it’s not just the way his name sounds on our lips. It’s the fact He ever loved us to start with, the distance He bridged to bring me close.

 

My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now?

 

 We’ve moved from beauty to wonder now, and we’ll lift His name til kingdom come.

 

What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

 

But it’s the last refrain that finds me absolutely wrecked in His presence. Because all that time, all those years ago, I never realised the power of the words I was speaking out. Never knew that I was doing more than just enjoying His beautiful name. Never realised it wasn’t just another form of prayer. ‘Lord, please bless our family with life and health and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.'

I see the years roll, like wave after wave - Jesus, Jesus, the power of His very name has done so much more than invoke a blessing. I may have loved his name and longed for the benefits He brought, but now I’m realising the power I’ve been wielding all along.

How I’ve repelled the enemy from our lives over and over, simply because no devil can stand at the name of Jesus.

We’ve rushed infants to hospital, but they haven’t died. We’ve had bills stacked high, but they’ve all been paid. We’ve had no idea what to do, but we’ve stepped out in faith. We’ve discovered our woundedness and been healed. We’ve broken down strongholds and we’ve cast out demons, and we’ve hugged the unlovely and forgiven those who wronged us, and it hasn’t come without a fight, but the weapon all along has been the precious name of Jesus.

And today, for any measure of life and health and peace in my life, my family, my world, it’s all been won because there is power in the name of Jesus.

So here I am today. Jeff's car is his sanctuary now - he still turns his morning commute into a Place of Meeting. Eric is eighteen - on the brink of decisions that will shape his life. I flicked through the material he's studying in English class this weekend, and in the face of all that this generation is being fed, all I could come back to was, 'Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.'  My second son boarded an intercity bus last night - he's working away from home four days a week, and the only thing I can send with him that can conquer my fears and pave a path of life and peace under his feet is the name of Jesus once again.

 

. . . the only thing I can send with him that can conquer my fears and pave a path of life and peace under his feet is the name of Jesus once again.

 

And then there are our daughters, Evangeline and Liberty, and I can't be everything they need, can't give them every opportunity - gracious, they've barely had two consecutive years at the same school in their entire lives - we love them to bits, but there's plenty of gaps in our parenting, for sure - but today I find myself speaking into every one of those gaps - Jesus. You who fill all things. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. 

Because it's more than a beautiful name. It's a powerful name too.

 

Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name, above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King

Everyday Miracles - two verses that changed the game

Over and over this year, I have been reflecting on two small verses in a Psalm I had never really noticed before. Now, just so you know, faith comes fairly easy to me. And yet, these words have challenged my idea of a lifestyle of faith, and six months in, I am still not done trying to live in light of these two verses.

When I said, ‘my foot is slipping,’
Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me great joy.
— Psalm 94:18-19

These words are sweet, of course, but they stopped me in my tracks for a whole other reason. Suddenly, I realised that it was only when the natural props in my life fail me that I am aware and conscious of the invisible safety net that has been there all along, unappreciated and the last thing on my mind - the Lord's unfailing love supporting me.

A simple thought came to me when I read these verses.

What would it look like if I put aside all my focus and trust in so many things that are so prone to fail me and just allow the unfailing love of God to be my safety net?

What if I stopped fussing about getting all my ducks in a row and instead lived completely conscious of His unfailing love as my only security?

I distilled it in two ways:
‘Stop Resolving Everything’
and
‘Walk Away from the Boat’

I distilled it down for myself in two ways: 'Stop resolving everything, Jeff!' and  'Walk away from the boat and not toward it.'

In a fumbling and bumbling way I tried it on for size. It was not easy or comfortable, especially for a 'Mr Fix-it' type of guy like myself. Trying to stop the knee-jerk default reactions to grasp onto natural solutions for every problem within the family was not easy for me. As the months have passed by this year I have felt myself being turned inside out by this very simple idea. 

Then came a proliferation of ordinary garden-variety miracles, small and easy to miss, but so anticipated when you have put aside the usual ways of getting everything sorted.

Let me tell you about my post-it notes. You see what is in my 'brain' is represented by a mass of yellow sticky notes that lie between my computer keyboard and screen - things I need to remember to do, good ideas, and most of all my issues. Right now one of these post-it notes says the word 'plumber.' That one is about the two toilets in our home that are on the blink. Another mentions something financial that needs resolving in our business . . . and so on. I find it's good for the soul when I action the post-it's, screw each piece of paper up and bin it with a flourish when something is done!

Then, as I was working one day, the Lord interrupted me with the words, 'bits of paper.' I had no I idea what He was talking about for a while - it felt like I was playing some strange sort of game of charades with the Almighty.

And then I got it. He had come to let me know that he wanted to take responsibility for my collection of post-it notes.

As a result, I've changed the look of my notes. Now, when I write my concern or reminder, I divide the note in two with a diagonal line. One part has the date and the issue I need resolved and the other side stays blank until I get my miracle. Then, when it's all resolved, I write the date and details of the everyday miracle there on the note, and stick it into a book I have kept aside for the purpose.

When I look inside my book I see one example after another. I have a motorcycle which could do to be kept in a garage. Only, our garage right now is doubling as my eldest son's bedroom as well as a kind of teen hangout room with a ping-pong table, Xbox and lounges. There's no room for my motorbike in there. And this was worrying me because motorbikes don't like being in the rain all the time and it would be the understatement of the year to say it rains a lot in Wellington, New Zealand. So I wrote down 'motorcycle' on a post-it with a diagonal line and waited.

A few days later I dropped in on one of my mates who has a bike as well and as we talked, I mentioned my garaging problem. 'Wait a minute,' he said, and then for the next twenty minutes he went on the hunt for a motorcycle cover he had been given and never uses - something I had not even thought of as a solution. The next day I put the cover over my motorcycle and filled out the other side of the paper. The Lord's unfailing love had come through for me again, but in a sweet and simple way that hardly looked like a miracle at all!

In the juggle of life, I realized, I had become so averse to anything going wrong that I made sure I only had a few balls in the air at any one time.

No risk. No complexity. Keep it all tight and doable and safe!

But what God has taught me through this is that as more balls get added into the act that is my life, when it feels like my feet are slipping out from under me, when the small stuff piles up, that's exactly when I need to fall back, not on my better management, but on His unfailing love. The more stuff that is up in the air the more He has to use! 

It’s like offering Him a larger hand when He is playing cards with my life as the stake.

His infinite intellect can find (amongst what I would see as chaos) a bunch of miraculous and wonderful resolutions that are invisible to my eye and my mind as He works everything for good in my life. Its like offering him a larger hand when He is playing cards with my life as the stake. The less I do to resolve it all, I've found, the more He has to work with.

Awaken the Dawn

Coming from New Zealand - the first country on earth to greet each new day. But what if there's more to ushering in the purposes of God than simply awakening the dawn? In this compelling message, Anya unpacks Psalm 57 and draws us along with the intriguing journey of 'The Company of Prophets.' 

Awake my soul | Awake harp and lyre | Awaken the dawn

This pivotal message was originally preached at the Tapanui New Life Church (Otago, NZ) but is now available for all of us who long to awaken to the incredible Glory of God.

#awakemysoul #awakeharpandlyre #awakenthedawn #companyofprophets #psalm57 #propheticword #anyamckeenz 

The Rock that is Higher than I

I, and it seems, a number of people this week, have been drawn to a scripture laden with powerful imagery.

 

‘When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.’ 

Psalm 61: 2

 

There are so very many reasons for our hearts to be overwhelmed on any given day—responsibilities, activities, to-do lists, projects, relationships to maintain, even the desire to draw near to God amidst what seems like an endless barrage of distractions.

And I find this verse strangely conflicting, because a heart only gets overwhelmed when everything seems to big or too much. We get overwhelmed when trouble, or situations or the details of our lives, or the sadness of the world, loom big, and us finite human beings can’t take it anymore. 

But now I’m left wondering—why, when someone is overwhelmed, would they ask to be led to something even more overwhelming? 

I mean, which of us need yet another thing that’s bigger than us, another thing to make us feel small, or inadequate? What we really long for is a smooth pathway, for everything to ease off. We want the overwhelm to diminish, to lessen.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I

And then, I see it: Ayers Rock, that great monolith in the Australian desert, and though I’ve never scaled it, I know one thing for sure: Even big things seem small at the foot of Ayers Rock. 

There’s not a thing you can bring to Ayers Rock that isn't overwhelmed by it's height.

And I realise that in my state of overwhelm, what I’m really doing is crying out to be overwhelmed by something greater. I don’t want to drown in the small stuff. I want to be overshadowed by something solid and safe and bigger than it all.

In my state of overwhelm, what I’m really doing is crying out to be overwhelmed by something greater.

Do you hear the cry of David’s heart? He’s been fighting his battles, learning to rule, shepherding a nation – but now he feels a long way from the center of things—and the further he finds himself, the fainter grows his heart.

 

‘From the ends of the earth I cry to YouWhen my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock.’

 

Some of us are literally at the end of the earth – us New Zealanders know all about that – but it’s possible to be right in the mix and yet, when it comes to the presence of God and to the center of His purposes and plans, to feel like you’re dropping off the periphery.

And then David recalls a beautiful word, spoken in bygone days, one that all us Scripture Union camp kids sang with gusto, and maybe today’s the day to sing it once again:

 

‘Oh praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock

His works are perfect, and all his ways are just.

A faithful God who does no wrong;

Upright and just is he.’

 

And the word on my heart is this: GOD IS THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER. Therefore,

 

When I feel insignificant, I can pray, 'Lead me to the One who is great.’ 

When I stuff up or people disappoint, 'Lead me to the One who is perfect.’

When situations frustrate me and justice fails, 'Lead me to Him whose ways are just.'

When I have done wrong, or been wronged, when I struggle to stay true, or when others turn their back, 'Lead me to Him who is faithful and true.’

 

Interestingly, the prayer is not a prayer that we would make our way back to the Rock - if that were the case, there's a chance we could lose our way, or end up too tired or too busy to make the trek. And so we pray, not, ‘help me find the rock,’ or ‘help me get back to the Rock,’ but, ‘Lead me to the Rock.’

The Holy Spirit responds to such a prayer, and sure enough, He comes alongside us; gently and purposefully He plots the path and clears the way and keep us company until He brings us right into the presence of the One who is above all – the One who is higher than I.

And then, as we linger there in the shadow of the Almighty, something incredible shifts. 

We become the very people that a weary, overwhelmed world, seeks out!

As we take our place in a Kingdom not of this world, we become like Him - in the words of Isaiah 32:2, ‘like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like . . . the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.’

Alone in the Fight – Or Not

Isn't it the case that the most challenging moments in our lives can leave us feeling isolated and alone? We find ourselves up against something we barely understand, acutely conscious that we are out of our depth and yet help can seem of reach. Impossibility stares us down. We pray. We fight. We do what we can. And yet we still end up describing these moments as silent battles or quiet struggles. Why is it that our most challenging times so often see us cast in a scene as a lone character pitted against unreasonable odds? Is it true? In the fight, are we really on our own? 

Why is it that our most challenging times . . . see us cast in a scene as a lone character pitted against unreasonable odds?

Anya and I have been leading others in prayer ministry for a number of years now. Our lounge room has born witness to a number of great breakthrough moments emerging out of times where the Holy Spirit takes over – identifying strongholds and their roots, gently plotting a course through difficult memories, healing wounds and breaking chains. And now that we've done this awhile, it's become obvious that there are some go-to strategies of the Enemy - strategies he uses repeatedly, on one person after another, time after time. 

One standout is a stronghold that the Holy Spirit calls Rejection. Maybe a third of the people we have prayed with have carried this same wound. Rejection, when it is operating, leaves us feeling abandoned and cast away - alone in the fight.

However, if this issue is so common, are we really on our own in this battle? Or could it be that multitudes of people are facing the assault of a common enemy, who continually uses the same strategy to harm us? If that is the case then the reality shifts. We are not are not truly alone. We are, instead, part of a huge company of people battling Rejection, though we may not see our allies in the turmoil of a hard-fought battle.

Our spiritual adversaries have endured for thousands of years. They do not touch a single life - instead, they bring their poison and pain wherever there is the opportunity. But think of it - there are others out there also taking a swing at the very foe we are, bringing the same heart and intent, pushing back to overcome the same challenge. Coordinated by the same Commander, and as we unknowingly work in partnership, our strength is added to each other's and we get to prevail!

As we contend . . . we can be sure there are many others joining us, coming against the same foe, bringing the same inetent, pushing back against the same challenge.

I think some of our most common Enemies - Fear, Rejection, Shame, Loneliness - they've spanned history and geography, all of them gradually succumbing to the blows of an army of faithful men and women down through the centuries from every place throughout the Earth. The reality is that some dark spirit that I oppose today might also have also received a wound from one of the great men or women of the Bible along the way; it's being weakened by the day, as God's people around the globe say 'enough is enough,' and rise up to overcome.

So, when I combat Sickness (capitalization intentional) in my family and you do the same in yours, we are working together. Because these foes persist from one generation to the next, I can fight against the same enemy that you face, or even one that opposed a Bible hero from millennia ago. Take Infertility for instance. As we face up to that heinous beast and fight to overcome him, notice the chips in his armor and cuts on his flanks!

 

Look there! Rebecca took a swing at that! Rachel gave her life to overcome him a second time and left awful wounds in his hide! Sarah cut a deep gash there! Hannah broke his helmet and Elizabeth is responsible for the gaping injury on his tail! He has fallen once, twice, so many times and just take heart - Infertility will succumb to your attack as well!

 

The nature of the reign of Christ is such that he will reign until he has put all of his enemies under his feet - and from the moment Christ ascended to the throne until today, he has made progress to that end. Some enemies are already under his feet, some are weakening, and soon our united attack will see them fall forever. The last chapter of Romans says that we can look forward to our enemies soon finding their place under our feet. Amazingly, our purpose and the purpose of the rule and reign of Christ is the same. Our battle is his and his fights in part are ours. 

Our purpose, and the purpose of the rule and reign of Christ are the same.

Three times in two chapters, Elijah speaks the words, 'I alone am left.' - it seems his descent into depression and discouragement is profound, even as miracles and tremendous revelation surround him. Nevertheless, those were the words in his head and on his lips, and they could well have been responsible for shutting down his spectacular and glorious ministry. Yet all the while, those words were blatantly untrue. In fact, God had thousands of faithful allies reserved for himself. Elijah was not alone - and neither are we. Maybe it is time for us to look up and fight with the hope and energy that flows into those who see the nearness of a shared victory.


FUN IN THE TRENCHES

It was a solemn service this morning, as thousands of people converged on the grounds of our Nation's War Memorial in the darkness of the pre-dawn hour. It's an annual ritual here in Australia and New Zealand, a day when we remember the sacrifices of war, and the common bonds that were forged on a far-away battlefield. Anzac's, they were called. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corp.

We stood in respectful silence. I could picture the bloodshed, the terror, the sheer courage it must have taken to advance even one step let alone take a whole ridge, because not so long ago our family gathered the sunscreen and hats and cameras, and after a breakfast of cucumber and tomato, we boarded a minibus full of tourists ready for the experience of a lifetime. That day, we would tour the Battlefields of Gallipoli.

Our guide's thick Turkish accent made it difficult to catch the torrent of information he had to share with us, but one thing was clear. The battle of Gallipoli was fraught from the start. How our boys even made it out of the boats with a volley of Turkish gunfire raining down on them from up above and all around, we can’t imagine.

All I know was, after six hours of bumping along from one site to another, pausing at each in an attempt to comprehend scenes from a century past, surveying the impossible terrain, taking in one graphic account after another of soldiers trying desperately to make their country proud, to take some ground, to advance against an enemy they didn't even hate, we'd got the picture. The Turks were on home soil; they knew the lay of the land better than our boys could ever have, and they came with centuries of battle and feud in their blood. ‘Every Turk is born a Soldier,’ they still teach their children.

So it had been a long day and now we'd run out of water. We'd walked the hills in the scorching heat, stood at the rocky lookouts, read the heart wrenching tombstones, and payed our respects at the statue of the unknown soldier. We'd taken in one story after another, and all the while, the very atmosphere around us seemed, even after all these decades, to still hold a weight of deep, unspeakable sorrow.

'One last stop,' our guide said, as he gestured to the driver to pull over to the side of the road. 'You can get out here.'  We sighed. We’d had six hours of getting in and out of the bus, of taking in the atrocities of this remote, dusty, wearying place and of listening respectfully to long-winded history lessons. We wanted to go home. Our children wanted to go home. 

And then, we saw the trenches. The very trenches where our soldiers once hid and aimed and fired and retreated, but now they looked for all the world like a great children's maze, with tunnels and bridges and little alleyways leading off in all directions. I can understand why our children looked at us with questioning eyes. All day they'd had to be quiet, to show respect, to keep still. This was a vast graveyard we were on, after all.

But now, we smiled and nodded the answer they were craving. 'Yes, you can! Go and have fun in the trenches!' And that's all it took. Suddenly our children were energized. For the next twenty minutes they ducked and ran and dodged and played, chasing each other down, outsmarting enemies, rescuing soldiers, jumping over mounds of dirt and sneakily peering around corners. By the time it came to board the bus, our spirits had thoroughly lifted. 

And I believe the Lord is saying to his children today, 'You get to have fun in the trenches.’

And we do, because despite the fact we're in an atmosphere of battle between good and evil, and though we may be actively engaged in contending for those around us, or fighting an enemy that sometimes seems to be resourced on every side, the reality is, the victory is won, the war is over, and like children playing capture the flag, we get to run into the enemy camp with a level of joy and lightheartedness that might even seem inappropriate in light of the conflict, but there it is.

And so God's people give a cheer! We're the ones who get to run! We get to retrieve another soul, grab back what is rightfully ours - maybe some peace or some joy or some hope for the future; we get to play plunder-the-enemy, to tag each other and say, ‘your turn; you’re it!’, we get to cheer as our brothers and sisters get fresh breakthrough, and even our contending starts to feel like fun when we know the outcome is a done deal and we're all in this together.

'If you become as little children,' the Scriptures say, and I’m picturing my kids at Gallipoli,  certainly aware that they were in the scene of a once-deadly battle, yet without the fear. Without the risk of death or defeat or desertion. 

I feel many of us have gotten battle weary. We’ve fought for our kids, we’ve fought for our marriages, we’ve stood our ground when the enemy went after us en mass, and we’ve done it all in a world that’s not our native home.

This ANZAC day, God is saying to His people, ‘you get to have fun in the trenches.’

But I think there's something more. You see, the fun is in the trenches. For some of us, it's time to get out of the bus. It's time to get out there and be a bit carefree, to pray some bold prayers, make some outrageous requests, claim some spoils, to plunder what the enemy has taken, because Yes, it's okay! You get to have fun in the trenches!  And, you get to do it together with your brothers and sisters all over the world.

'Shake off your shoes,' I hear the Lord say, 'let the dust get between your toes! It’s been a long day, and I don’t want you to arrive home heavy-hearted.'

Moving Mountains

I'm picturing Jesus there, instructing his disciples in the art of moving mountains. Moving mountains, of all things! The picture is confounding, despite the familiarity of His words . . .

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt . . . you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 
 Matthew 21:21 (NIV)

We Jesus-followers love to sing about taking on the mountains that stand in the way of our inheritance or calling; we lift our hearts with songs when we face insurmountable odds that block our way. And we can all recognise them. The big issues that bar our way.  These are not everyday trifles that can be shifted with natural intervention or with a single prayer. These are the problems that make us gasp at their magnitude, that steal away our hope, and sometimes even leave us reeling with unanswered questions about the heart of God toward us and the ones we love.

And Jesus wades into all that potential despair and impossibility and suggests that mountains can be moved. That they are ours to move, in fact.

If we're going to move mountains, then clearly we need the right perspectives and the right approach.

It takes faith to identify the mountains that Jesus was talking about - that is not necessarily challenging, but it does take a Christian to think this way. It takes another level of maturity and discernment to have a sense that, in fact, our problems have spiritual substance to them, making them measurable, finite and able to be tackled spiritually

Nearly a decade ago, I was moving several trailer-loads of smelly compost via wheelbarrow into some new garden beds we had built. After several hours my pen-pusher muscles were complaining and still I had made only a small dent in the mounds of soil. Perhaps it was the stench or simply the sheer amount of work I was faced with, but the comparisons between these piles of soil and the mountains that we need moved in our life was not lost on me. It all comes down to patience, persistence and using the right tools.

We need spiritual means to shift what are, essentially, spiritual problems.

The reality is, we need spiritual means to shift what are essentially, spiritual problems. That observation drove me forward in hope and into some key overcoming moments in my life across the intervening years.

The other day as I was on my way out the door to go for a walk at lunchtime, I felt the Lord prompt me with an interesting question: 'What is a mountain?'   As I rode the elevator down to the ground floor I did a quick search on my phone. It turns out that the word Jesus used in the original language (oros) means 'mountain' or 'hill' or 'rise.'. No surprise there. 'Looks like the translators got it correct,' I figured. Not wanting to respond to the Almighty with a shrug though, I pressed in deeper. The Lord was trying to teach me something, and so I dug around a bit more. And then, I understood . . .

The word for mountain conveys a sense of rising up. Related words are even used in the context of bird flight. Yes, 'mountain' in Greek means 'mountain,' but instead of having an underlying sense of weight and immovability, these mountains that block our way might be better understood as being light on their feet! There is a sense of upward movement in the word Jesus uses, as though these mountains are intentionally rising up to obstruct our way. They are literally an uprising against us.

And so I began to wonder - what would happen if we stopped calling the seemingly insurmountable issues in our lives, mountains, and started calling them uprisings instead?

I wonder what would happen if we stopped calling them mountains and started calling them uprisings instead?

Because speaking to an object that is by definition unmovable, and expecting it to move, is one thing. Speaking to an entity that has risen up with the intent to obscure and obstruct our way is quite another. It is much more intuitive to speak to an uprising that has sprung up, and direct it to rise up again so as to move aside, than it is to talk to a towering, solid, mass. In other words, we can move the mountains in the spiritual realm because it is in their nature to move! It is no more difficult for them to rise up and shift out of our path at our word as it was for them to rise up and take their place on our path in the first place! 

And so I'm left with with fresh hope. This command of Jesus isn't about gritty determination in the face of the impossible. It's all about us rising in authority to command every obstacle, every hindrance, everything that rises up against us, to clear out of the way so that Christ our king may rule and reign in our lives.

He Leads Them Out

We're coming to the end of this series - reflections on the very delightful and gently powerful words of the most well-known chapter in the Bible. Psalm twenty-three. All the way through we've been listening to the voice of a Shepherd, and yet he's been writing all along from the perspective of the sheep

The entire Psalm has been a punctuated by divine encounters, and, now, at the end, we are left wondering, "How is it that an Old Testament character had it so good?" Is it possible that now that Jesus has come He could be offering something even better than a Psalm 23 experience?

And so we ask Him. Jesus? What do you think of Psalm 23? How can you possibly top that?

He grins at our naivety. "Oh", he murmurs to no-one in particular. "What a great question!" And then He looks us in the eye, works with those ancient words, and begins to explain from that the whole Psalm is, in fact, speaking of Him! We lean in close; there's a heartwarming moment to be had, and now we get to hear what He has to say . . .

"You know", he remarks. "I am the good shepherd that David was talking about."

Yes, we nod. That's precious. We knew that. 

But Christ does not linger long on how it feels to be the Shepherd or proceed to tell us what Shepherding is like from his point of view. Instead, in a beautiful twist, He is anxious to invite us into an experience of our own. Now He too is talking from the perspective of the sheep.

'My sheep hear my voice and they know me.'

These well-known words are not just a general invitation to live a life of responsiveness to the voice of God. It is an invitation, yes, but with a very specific objective in mind. We are welcomed in . . . just as David was, to a place where abundant provision and care are the order of the day. It comes as a shock to realise that the allure of that age-old poem is not just an unattainable dream. It is a reality laying within arms reach.

His voice rings out over the noise that is our life.

'I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly. I have come that you might live your life to the full.' 

His sheep hear and run in the direction of the voice of the one they trust most of all. And he leads them out. He leads them out of their limitations, disappointment and lack. He goes before them as they move from a barren field and into a lush pasture. He draws them into the presence of the Father, into His house. It stands to reason. After all, He is the way . . . no one comes to the Father but by Him. He is the one who prepares a place for us and then comes again. He is the one who receives us unto himself so that where He is we can be also.

The book of Hebrews gently echoes the Christ encounter of John 10. The readers of that letter were not doing well. They were making do with a natural version of Christianity. It was a tough white-knuckle ride. They had lived through horrible persecution for their faith and had suffered much for owning his name. Holding on was so difficult that they were considering turning their backs on everything! Anxiously looking on from a distance the author pleads with them, 'If you hear his voice, don't harden your heart.'

He's taken the good shepherd's invitation to enter in, and He's bringing it to them. His voice was there to guide them from what wasn't working for them into much-deserved rest. And even so, there was a very real possibility that their hearts, long calloused from too much pain and waiting in vain, would respond with only a cynical grunt of disbelief when the Saviour came to call them out. 

But Psalm 23 is for us, and so is John 10, and so is Hebrews 3.

He leads us out and we learn the way, and then a singular encounter turns into a lifestyle of coming and going between this world and the world that is unseen, yet so real. We go in and out to find pasture at will. The welcome is a permanent one. We get to draw near whenever we desire because that place is our true home. There is always a welcome for us in our Father's house! His presence is effortlessly accessible. It is as if the blessings of heaven are always so near at hand so that the only way to describe it is this:

'goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives!'

 

READ THE REST OF THE SERIES:

Interludes that Ensure Success (Psalm 23 Series Pt 1)

The Overflowing Cup (Psalm 23 Series Pt 2)

What's in the Cup? (Psalm 23 Series Pt 3)

and

The Realm that has no need of Austerity Measures (A Psalm 23 Reflection by Anya McKee)

What's in the Cup?

 

'. . . my cup overflows'

PSALM 23:5

 

So David, the warrior king, lifts his cup right there on the battlefield. He's recognised the presence of the Lord, he's stepped into a place of rest and refreshment, and it's not bothering him a bit that the Host of this whole other-worldly picnic, who simply offered to refill his cup, now stands before him and continues to pour, despite the obvious - his cup has now overflowed, and whatever's in the pitcher is now spilling all around him.

What is it, I wonder, that is so plentiful in the heavenlies, so abundant, perhaps, in its supply, that it can be poured out without any thought for waste or excess? My mind goes to New Testament 'excessive language': peace that passes understandingjoy unspeakable and full of glorylove that passes knowledge. The peace I find there can't be understood in light of my circumstances. The joy available to me cannot be explained in terms of natural cause and effect. I can never fathom with human knowledge the love that comes to me straight from my Father's heart. Something incredible is going on. It's as if an everyday serve of love, joy and peace is insufficient for people who dwell with Christ. Paul's doing away with any hint of 'I'm doing okay, under the circumstances' response; in its place he hints that there's more on offer - and in so doing he's decoupling us from being subject to the stresses and demands of the here and now.

It’s as if an everyday serve of love, joy and peace is insufficient for people who dwell with Christ

We don't have to try too hard to imagine a set of circumstances that leave us without any physical way to feel love. We know that the need we feel in that void of love can drive us to do things that are uncharacteristic, destructive and regrettable. And in the end, it rarely accomplishes much and the loneliness and isolation close in anyway.

But as it turns out, Heaven's resources are not limited by what is happening around us. Every spiritual blessing in Christ is is on offer regardless of how our week is panning out.

We are not dependent on the level of affirmation that we are receiving or how we are treated. We can enter in and go straight to the true source of love, joy or peace . . . and come out a living paradox. Our overflowing cup means that those around us will feel will feel the effects of what we have experienced. We have enough for ourselves, and also for others. Incredibly, the flow of things is always from the Heavens to the Earth. Eventually, this kind of lifestyle will bend our circumstances so they line up with the heavenly reality we are living out.

Love is difficult to manufacture here. Peace can be even more difficult at times. Joy is perhaps the most elusive thing on Earth. But for us, they are not far away. They are readily accessible in abundant quantities . . . according to his riches in Christ Jesus . . . He is lavishing on us . . . every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. 

 

READ THE REST OF THE SERIES!

Interludes that Ensure Success (Psalm 23 Series Pt 1)

The Overflowing Cup (Psalm 23 Series Pt 2)

He Leads the out (Psalm 23 Pt 4)

and

The Realm that Has No Need Of Austerity Measures (a Psalm 23 Reflection by Anya McKee)

The Overflowing Cup

There's no doubt Psalm 23 is loved by people throughout the world; it's long been a source of comfort in bereavement, depression, sickness and sadness, and the go-to text for many a funeral service. Strangely, its images of divine care have the power to console even those who have lost touch with faith. It seems that David’s experience and its aftertaste is an antidote for whatever difficult circumstance reader finds themselves in.

And indeed, the imagery is incredible, calling us in to slow down and reflect.

 

Green pastures  -  Quiet Waters  -  Paths of Righteousness  -  The Shadow of Death  -  A Rod and a Staff  -  A Prepared Table  -  Anointing Oil  -  An Overflowing Cup

 

And that's where I stop a moment - at the picture of the overflowing cup. 

Something within me doesn't like the idea at all. For a start, most of us we've have had excessiveness trained out of us. I mean, who among us would we ever sit down with a friend and purposely fill their cup with coffee or tea until it overflowed over onto the coffee table or spilled into a puddle on the carpet? In our minds, that would be a complete accident, a situation that would make both host and guest equally anxious, possibly embarrassed. It's certainly not a scene we'd care to repeat.

By and large, we’ve had the excessiveness trained out of us.


And here is where the culture of heaven is so opposite to ours. In the heavenlies, there's always excess; always abundance. In the unseen realm, lack is noticeably absent and lavish is a way of life. There's no 'half-full' or 'nearly full' scenarios in heaven. There, an overflowing cup is not a source of panic - it's a source of delight! And so, David holds out his cup before him. His Host serves him once again, and as usual, the level rises and the liquid sloshes over the rim in a way that is bizarrely gratifying.

It's the overflowing cup, the outpouring of it all, that makes the difference. As David steps back into 'real life', a new dynamic comes into play. David has not simply had his own needs met. He's been refreshed, and his situation has turned around, for sure, but there's something more.  He's been in the presence of the Lord, and he's received such a lavish outpouring that there's more than he can contain. He emerges, not just with his need for personal restoration met. Now he's a man with something left to give. 

We live in a culture of ‘enough and to spare.’
— Torn Curtain Living


Paul uses this language to communicate the paradox of living and serving out of a heavenly encounter: We are . . .

 

“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything”. 1 Cor 6: 10


It is the miraculous nature of the kingdom that weakness turns to a stunning display of strength, where those who are running low themselves end up pouring out of an abundance to those around them. We live in a culture of 'enough and to spare!'

 

READ THE REST OF THE SERIES!

Interludes that Ensure Success (Psalm 23 Series Pt 1)

What's in the Cup? (Psalm 23 Series Pt 3)

He Leads them out (Psalm 23 Pt 4)

and

The Realm that Has No Need Of Austerity Measures (a Psalm 23 Reflection by Anya McKee)

Interludes that Ensure Success

Green pastures and quiet waters. David was reflecting on his lifestyle - one that included supernatural moments of sanctuary that restored his soul. I love the poignant imagery of Psalm 23 – no lack, quiet rest, an overflowing cup and a table spread. It's the prepared table that most captures my imagination though because this isn't a table prepared for a family meal at the end of the day or a table prepared for a nice celebration dinner. This table is set in the middle of a battle. Set right there in the presence of his enemies.

The Psalm conjures up a vivid scene. Here is a great king with armies to lead and a battle not yet won. He's in the midst of fierce conflict. Utterly focused, I see him engrossed with the defeat of the enemy in front of him.

Yet in that moment of exhilaration and exhaustion, desperation and determination, dread and even disgust, something other-worldly takes place. David feels unnerved at first; a strange wave of peace is sweeping slowly towards him, disturbing the regular ring of steel on steel. A mounting silence builds, interrupting the final gasps of dying men and the cries of horror David has become so accustomed to at times like this. He tries to shake it off, but it's real. The quiet has distracted him as much as it has ruined the concentration of his quarry. Even the enemy seems to have wearily disengaged from the fight. 

Then, striding across the battlefield, He came, striding forward with carefree steps, holding a picnic hamper in one hand and a blanket in the other. Opposing sides step back to allow Him passage, resting silently on their swords with heads bowed. By the time of His arrival, the whole field is pin-drop still. It's the Lord - the Lord who is Strong in Battle - coming to a stop right there, in the midst of the carnage, finding an open place, spreading the blanket, unpacking the hamper and beckoning to David.

It’s the Lord . . . coming to a stop right there, in the midst of the carnage.

The young king made his way over to join Him, seated on the ground. There, for him to take his fill of, is joy, food, drink, and rest. He soon felt revived, refreshed, restored. Soon enough the battle is re-joined but David is not the same man. Earlier he had just been surviving the day. Now, victory was sure, irrespective of what challenges the remainder of the day might bring. 

How is it that (urgent crises) have the power to intimidate us so that a simple break or even a lapse of attention seems like an unreasonable luxury?

All of us have urgent crises scattered through our days. They call for our undivided attention and quickly wear us down. How is it that they have the power to intimidate us so that a simple break or even a lapse of attention seems an unreasonable luxury? Amazingly, David, with his life on the line, perceives the presence of the Lord and finds the focus to step away from the urgency of the moment for a heavenly encounter. That choice served not to hinder his effectiveness. Instead, it ensured his success.

 

READ THE REST OF THE SERIES!

The Overflowing Cup (Psalm 23 Series Pt 2)

What's in the Cup? (Psalm 23 Series Pt 3)

He Leads the out (Psalm 23 Pt 4)

and

The Realm that Has No Need Of Austerity Measures (a Psalm 23 Reflection by Anya McKee)

What could be harder than stepping out of the boat?

There are nights here in New Zealand when the wind rallies from across the ocean and hurls itself violently against our exposed little island.

We're snug, tucked in under the covers, and the windows are secured, but still, on a gale-force night, the walls of the house shudder, the usually placid sea outside my window whips up like fury, and the wind literally whistles.

When you live here on this sea-framed island at the bottom of the world, it's easy to picture Peter and his friends trying to keep their cool in the middle of a storm It doesn't matter how confident the sailor or well-crafted the boat, when the sea turns choppy, it's time to make for shore.

But these men had tried, the storm was intensifying, and the whole lot of them were out of their depth . . .

I admire Peter for handling the situation the way he did. It's not easy to recover your wits, let alone summon your faith when you think you've seen a ghost.

But it wasn't a ghost. It turned out to be Jesus-to his relief - and I love that, rather than futilely trying to make himself heard against such wind, rather than calling for Jesus to calm the whole thing down, he simply throws himself with abandon right out into the squall.  This isn't a time to overthink the situation; it's time to fall back on instinct–and if your first instinct is to step out in faith, you're in good shape right there. Before you know it, you've thrown a leg over the side of your water-laden vessel, and what do you know? You're walking with Jesus!

When you're copping it on every side, you're in despair, and Jesus appears, you don't care anymore about the fallout. You don't care if the water's cold, or what the others think, or that you might just drown. Desperation fuels faith, and it's astounding how people can rise when a glimmer of hope appears in the distance.

Desperation fuels faith, and it’s astounding how people can rise when a glimmer of hope appears in the distance.
— Anya McKee

But there's something that takes more grit than stepping out onto a raging sea.

It's stepping out when . . .

The water isn't lashing at the boat.

The wind isn't raging and the night isn't dark.

The men aren't soaked to the skin, bone-weary from rowing, and scared they might not make it home.

It's stepping out of a watertight dinghy when your way out in the middle of a lake and the sun is sparkling off the water, the children are dangling their lines off the side and there's barely a wisp of wind to spoil the calm. It's when you're warm and dry and enjoying the day, and there's not a ghost in sight.

Maybe the greatest faith-heroes are those who are simply going about their normal day when suddenly they catch a glimpse of Jesus. They're landscaping their gardens and educating their kids, paying down mortgages and coaching the local soccer team. They're rising every morning to milk the cows and check the fences and tend the farm just like their fathers did before them. They're making beds because the grandchildren are coming over, they're planning the Summer break, they're meeting the deadlines.

When Jesus approaches in the midst of life-as-normal, and you're not even sure whether it's him, what's a man or woman to do? Because he's always doing something out of the ordinary, that's for sure, and what if the only response that takes even an ounce of faith, is to step out of your tidy world and start doing the same thing He is . . . ?

There are people all over the world who looked up from their relatively peaceful lives, perceived the Lord was up to something, and stepped out simply because if He was walking on water, they would too.

 

If He was rescuing sex-slaves, they would too.

If He was sitting with his people in refugee camps, they would too.

If He was reaching out to a disillusioned teen, they would too.

 

No one doubts it took incredible faith for Peter to step out of the boat that day. But perhaps the faith he showed some three years earlier, was just as great when a vaguely familiar man approached him as simply went about his normal life, mending his nets on his hometown seashore, and said, 'Follow Me.'

Today, Lord, we want to find you in our field of sight. Some of us are in trouble, and whatever it takes, we're ready to throw ourselves with abandon and come to you. Others of us are comfortable, we've weathered some storms in the past, but right now life is calm enough, and Lord–we want to live by faith too. Make us people who are ready to risk it all, not out of desperation, but because we've caught a glimpse of what you're up to, and we'll abandon it all to be in the scene of a miracle with You . . . 

The Realm that has no need of Austerity measures

We scraped the old jam jar into the new one, tipped the last remaining drops of shampoo into the nearly-finished bottle of conditioner. We rolled the toothpaste tubes so tightly they punctured at the seams and we superglued the broken china.  Nothing went to waste. I grew with the motto etched deep into my spirit, Waste not, want not.

So if my husband's role in ensuring we would not live a life of want was to work a sixty-hour week and bring in the most hefty income possible, it seemed my part was simple, old-fashioned better home management. I should shop carefully, spend wisely, and above all, ensure nothing was frittered away.  After all, our lack of want depended on our lack of waste.

I must say, I never did all that well at it. I always seemed to forget something on my shopping list, and end up  driving back to the store again. I would buy a dress for the girls, only to realise that it wasn't such a bargain after all if they had no shoes to go with it. I'd still end up with shriveled veges in the fridge at the end of the week, and still find us leaving lights on in the middle of the day. I felt guilty about the waste, and I believed our future ease depended on my present diligence.

But I had accepted a lie. It's a lie because it only relates to the physical world.


And though it often holds true here on earth, at least to a point, I'm not made to live within the limitations of this world. The really true thing is: There's another, more real, world, and it's spiritual. It's where I belong. It's my Home Country, and now that my citizenship is not of this earth, but is there, I live by the laws of that place. In the heavenlies, the principle relating to lack and want is this:

 

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.
 


So we had just sold everything - the leather couches and the bunk beds and the kitchenware, and even the clothes. None of it had retained much value after all. And then we landed in Turkey. We needed to start again, and we had to settle quickly. Our family of six don't thrive in limbo. Within a week, we needed whitegoods, linens, light-fittings, curtains, rugs, beds . . . the list was overwhelming.

I didn't know which shops had well-priced goods, and whether local products were of better quality than imports. I didn't realise that there were markets only a few blocks away that sold fresher produce at half the price. I didn't even know that buying a bus card turned out to be more economical than paying cash. I didn't have ten words of Turkish to try to bargain with. I got exchange rates horribly confused. And I was too tired to do better. If only I'd known that His provision was not dependent on my good management.
 

If only I’d known that His provision was not dependent on my good management.

 

And then, in the midst of it all, the Lord, keeper of the resources of heaven and earth and all the swirling universes, whispered the truth into my heart.  The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.

And streams of grace flowed, and the whole thing was turned upside down and bathed in lavish kindness, because He - the one I loved and longed for - was telling me that I would never be in want simply because He was my Shepherd. Not because I did such a good job of household management. Not because I got every decision right when everything - language, culture, exhaustion, just being female in a suddenly male-heavy world - conspired to help me get it wrong.

The burden fell away. My spirit, tight from years of measuring and portioning and calculating and controlling, was freed. I didn't want to live anymore according to the stifling, guilt-inducing presumptions of this world. I want to be a woman who feels the freedom of His world. My Father's world! The world where supply is endless, given lavishly from a heart of unbridled love, and where I receive with simple joy and honest gratitude.

And in this world, the spiritual world, the reality is that there is a table lavishly spread and a cup that overflows. He wants me to see there is always plenty in His home, and that I don't need to stretch it or keep it for another day, for he will be my Shepherd tomorrow too.

'Lord, I come to You for a renewed mind. I reject the words that belong only to this earth -'Waste not, want not' - for my life and the life of my children. They only bring pride for all our thrift, or guilt for not doing a better job of it all.  At the end of the day, it's only more effort, more of me . . .
You call me to live according to the pattern of another world - the world I was created for - a world where works count for nothing, and faith for everything. A world where striving ceases. In Your presence I now take hold of the freedom and blessing You desire. I take words that acknowledge Your bountiful heart and Your endless care. Teach me to live free, because You, Lord, are my Shepherd, and for that reason alone, I shall not want.'

Believing for Naomi

I think of her often, Naomi, old and spent, making her way back home. Only it wasn’t home anymore. Hadn’t been for nigh on thirty years. 

She’d packed up her belongings and her two sons, and off they'd set, a little family of four.

They call it uprooting, and for good reason. There’s a correlation between the sturdiness of a tree and the depth of its roots. 

I moved so many times in my childhood that by the age of twenty, I’d lost count of the houses I’d lived in, the schools I’d attended. Even the countries were beginning to stack up, the cultures navigated, the languages tried, the experiences embraced.

We humans are resilient, aren’t we? It’s no small thing to leave behind grandparents and cousins and schoolmates, neighbours and communities. The goodbyes accumulate and they hurt, and we grieve and then, we move on. Before we know it, we’re immersed in the next thing, digging deep, doing what women across the world just do. We make a home wherever we are. We reach out to those around us. We serve another meal. Hang a load of laundry. We cry, we call home, but in the end, we are home. Wherever we are, we’re home. In a sense.

And I think of Naomi, of the day she left Judah. Her friends were experiencing the same drought, the same famine, but they were doing what generations before had done. Sticking it out.

Kindly they waved goodbye, but I can see the concern in their eyes, the intuitive sense that this wasn’t going to be the prosperity-generating move Elimilech hoped it would be. They’ll be back, a lot of them would have thought. They’ll be back. But they didn’t come back, did they?

And no one back home could begin to imagine the path that little family set out upon. The people of Israel went back a long way. They stuck together. They shared land, shared values, shared a future hope.

Did Naomi’s friends have a clue what it was like to start again with no connections, no childhood friends? Could they picture unfamiliar customs? The sort of customs that cry out to be followed when you’re new in a place, but mess with your head and your heart all at once?

It’s not easy for the ones who stay home. The women of Judah may have heard of child sacrifices, but had their spirit ever trembled at the frantic beating of drums and the screams of a frenzied crowd? Did they know loneliness? Fear? Had any of them visited a land where worship, their sort, at least, was nonexistant?

But more tender is the grief Naomi has encountered, away from the sturdy support of her friends; away from father and mother and generational roots. She knows the vulnerability of being a guest in another land. She knows the protection offered to Moabites doesn’t extend to her. She’s aware that if things don’t turn out well, there’s very few people in Moab for her to turn to.

And then she loses her very husband and sons. No one back home even knows. No-one comes for her, no-one sends their love. She’s out of sight and out of mind, and who could expect differently, after all?

And so it is, that as the unkindness of the years mounts, the strains take their toll, the hope once held is now long-dead, that this woman, in her old age, ponders who she has become.  Who am I?  What defines me?  Who have I become?

And Naomi comes up with the only name that rings true. Marah. Call me Marah.

She’s not hiding it. There’s no pretending. Life’s been hard; God, for all she can see, has been heavy-handed toward her, and she’s bitter about it.

So she waves goodbye to Moab, to those who had finally begun to think of her as one of them, those who had at least some concept of what she’s lived through in recent years, and she turns towards home - if that’s what you call a place when the roots have been torn up. She journeys back to Bethlehem.

I can hear her thoughts as if they were mine.

 

Will anyone remember me? Do they still think we’re crazy? They never knew how great my boys turned out—what superb businessmen they made, how respected they were in the community. They don’t know how Elimilech cared for us all, and helped settle us as best we could. They don’t know I learned to speak the language of Moab, how I learned to feel at ease in their marketplaces. They can’t imagine that, yes, eventually, I called Moab, home.

Do I tell them how much I regret going? Oh I can nearly hear it now—the I told you so’s. The, what did you expect? And then the ones who openly shamed us, calling our loyalty into question, saying that if we valued raising our kids to fear the Lord, we’d protect them from crass, idolatrous people—not take them off to live with them.

Do they even want to know that Orpah was perfect for Mahlon? How happy he was with her?

 

She takes what few belongings she can—only what she can carry. A few changes of clothing, a flask of water, some small gifts from friends. But she couldn’t bring back the remains of her husband, couldn’t carry those three precious bodies back to home soil, and the tearing in her soul when she thinks of it wracks her body with pain.

 

Call me Marah. Bitter.

 

And if there’s one group of women in the Bible I love and admire, it’s the women of Bethlehem in Judah.

For, despite the insistence of an aged and sorrowfilled woman, despite all their offers of help and reaching out in womanly solidaity, there’s one thing they refuse to do.  They refuse to call her Mara.

Naomi might use the name all she likes, but her friends know better. They remember. They know the true Naomi. So pleasant, so at ease, so loved.

The women of Bethlehem are happy to sit and listen to her stories, to place an arm around her when she sighs too deep for words; to honour what might have been. But call her Bitter? It might be the only thing she's asking them to do for her, but I can see those women shrug it off without a minute's thought.

Maybe they know how a woman lives up to expectations, and they’re not going to set the bar so sad.

Or maybe they know the power of calling out the grace and the loveliness, the real Naomi. The woman God purposed.

There’s no minimising what she’s been through, no lack of kindness and help, and before long the community has gathered around again.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this . . . Between the place of bitterness, isolation and shame and the place of delight and restoration and belonging, there needs to be women believing the best, speaking the truth, tenderly affirming what God says of us.

And if there is a woman whose roots are all upended, who's lost the very thing that speaks of stability and fruitfulness and any kind of future, I want you to know there is a Father in heaven who remembers the real you. He still calls you his daughter. He knows your heart wasn't made to carry bitterness, nor your spirit to sustain shame. You may call yourself hurt or isolated or hopeless, but none of us agree!

Your heart wasn’t made to carry bitterness, nor your spirit to sustain shame.
— Anya McKee

Honey, we hear you. We can listen to your story, and nod kindly. We understand.

But we’ll never stop calling you out the real you. We’ll believe for you even when you can’t believe for yourself. We’ll speak truth over you and into you and for you, until the lies the enemy has got you talking are silenced. We’ll speak words of life until life indeed returns, and one day, you’ll agree with us!

You've come home, and this homeland of ours is more glorious than the land in which you've been camped. You will find joy again. You’ll hold a baby or find a job, or own that home, or find family; you’ll be honoured again, loved, celebrated. 

And til you believe it again, we’ll keep on calling you Naomi.

That’s just what women do.

 

Windmills

Welcome to Palmerston North, a small city in the heart country of New Zealand where students walk along the banks of the river, world cultures mix and mingle and share the bikeways, and by and large,the locals have roots that go back three or four generations.

And here is where I'm praying 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' Here, in my city. My neighbourhood. My family. My nation.

If ever there's a picture that tells how it's done, it's here, on the hilltops surrounding this city. Reality is, I live in one of the windiest cities in one of the windiest countries of the world.

We can't escape the wind,of course, and so we harness it. We've got masses of turbines on the hills around us. Doesn't matter where you're standing or where you're looking, chances are, you'll glimpse a turbine if you're visiting town.

They stand there, a whole array of towering structures, their long white blades turning, turning, capturing all that is unseen, all that power and potential up there in the sky, and with every sweep, they it all down here to earth. Creating energy. Bringing light and power and transformation to our lives here below.

So it is with our prayers, our presence. We're the ones, the ones who get to belong to two realms - this seen one we see with our eyes, this earth we inhabit - and the unseen, the heavenlies, the one we see by faith rather then by sight. And so we stand between heaven and earth, human turbines, firmly planted, yet reaching ever upwards, harnessing all that is good and lovely and true up there, and bringing it powerfully to this world we love so dearly.

"Lord, I reach up, into Your presence. I take from the heavenlies a great measure of . . ."  and it doesn't matter what the need of the moment is, you name it, it's there in measureless supply. Courage for the job interview, rest for a worn-out soul, shoes for the kids or grace for the neighbour . . . if it's in His realm, it's ours for the harvesting.

That's how we change the world. That's how we bring a slice of heaven to earth. We reach up, and bring down, and reach up again, and bring down.

And the thing I love, is that on the blustery days, the stormy days, the turbines don't quit. They don't struggle. That's when they reach peak performance. It's in the blasts that the blades do their most intense work. I've watched them there, hundreds of them, all together, turning, turning, making the most of an invisible resource, like a great multitude of believers all about one cause, all effortlessly in sync, maximising the opportunity to empower and bless and bring light and life to humanity.

"Lord, I reach defiantly into the heavens today. In the face of all that buffets and batters and threatens and storms, I choose to relentlessly reach up and bring down, reach up and bring down, until day after day, generation after generation, the unlimited resources of God flow in my life,my community, my world."

The Theatre - A Spoken Word Drama


THIS SHORT SPOKEN WORD DRAMA IS BEING PRODUCED IN THEATER-QUALITY AUDIO, SUITABLE FOR USE IN WORSHIP SERVICES, CONFERENCES AND WORSHIP SESSIONS.

PLEASE DIRECT ENQUIRIES AND PERMISSION REQUESTS TO TORN CURTAIN COLLECTIVE


They're coming in, thankfully, because the show's about to start. It's a scramble out there, between the car parks and the umbrellas, the tickets shoved somewhere in the depths of pockets and the clock ticking.

I watch them hustle through the theatre doors, some anxious, some excited, all relieved to be in from the cold. The light's gentle light in here. There's warmth. Beauty.

I greet them one by one, take their coats, store the bulky items, and usher them inside. 

There's a place allocated for each of them, and I want to make them feel welcome, to help them adjust to the surroundings. For some, it's their first visit. They want to know the layout of the place, what to expect. Others settle in confidently. They've been here before, perhaps. 

It's quiet in there, considering the number of people, but the enthusiasm is palpable. I watch them, whispering their random thoughts, as if offloading the details of the day. One by one they're switching off their phones and turning their faces to the stage. 

And then, the lights dim. 

The curtain parts.

And across the audience, there are gasps of breath, an audible exclamation here and there, and someone it seems couldn't help themselves and gave an outright hoot!

Talk about glorious. Talk about grand! Talk about the whole thing messing with their expectations! I'm blown away myself, though I've seen it a thousand times!

For it's not a set made of wood and props. It seems to be real! Strain as I might, I can't see a backdrop! It's a vista alright! And the actors - they're dressed in such an array I can hardly tell what the story is going to be about. There's movement and life, and colours blending together, and the music fills the skies, and . . . does this place have a roof, even? Oh my! No one seems to know where to rest their eyes. 

There's one old man up there on his knees, hands raised, and never have I beheld such a look of gratitude. A company of women, young and free, are trekking over mountains. They're stopping along the way, lifting the faces of little girls, painting their nails and calling them lovely. There's a construction team building a house, determination and satisfaction all working at once, and there's children bending low to share their secrets, and dancers twirling . . .

I can see larger then life figures - angels, it appears - and they're going here and there, one holding a lamp, another opening a door, one, it seems, setting a great table for a feast.

And then, the moment that still to this day, brings tears to my eyes and a thrill to my soul. For into the darkened audience steps the Director, quiet, unseen, until there he is, tapping one person after another on the shoulder, tugging them to their feet, leading them up and onto the stage, and into the scene, and . . .

I can't keep track of them all! They're all transformed! The lot of them! One by one they're taking their places, stepping into the character they were, it appears, absolutely made for! They make it look so easy! So natural. They're taking their cues from the director, but there's a freedom about their movements that amazes me! They're confident, vibrant, and yes, they did come from somewhere out there, but they're more alive than ever in here! 

I begin to suspect the curtain will never close. So this is the Director's magic! This was his plan to get the world talking! 

But no - there are some heading back towards the street. They haven't bothered with collecting their stuff. And they're still in character! They're taking the show to the road, by the look of it, and there's whole communities gathering around, looking on and getting intrigued. These people seem to have come from another world! They're still climbing their mountains and building their homes, and there's song and dance out here, and even the angels seem to be still in the mix!

I tiptoe. I don't want to be seen, but I so want to be there, with them all. I feel self-conscious. Am I allowed on stage? I'd like to be up there, yet I'm not sure.

The curtain feels heavy, but it's firmly pulled aside, right here beside me, and I'm holding onto it's folds. And then, I look down, and now it's me who's gasping! What's this I'm wearing?! Who is this person I've become? It's the real me! I've been asking "Who am I?" for years, and now? Now I'm more myself than I ever imagined possible! I feel like I'm taking my first breath of air! And before I know it, well, there I am too, among the beautiful, lost in the great expanse of it all, but somehow found.  I'm taking in the sights, and finding that I too, have been made for another world.