Wallowing in the Light

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 The Message (MSG).

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Jesus used metaphors to explain hard to explain stuff. I like that. A metaphor is so much easier to understand. It gives me a picture I can relate to and understand.

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This has been a season for me of being a light-bearer, a holder of light in the darkness. Bringing out the God-colors in the landscape of daily living.

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I’ve always been both a words person and a visual person. But for most of the time, given a choice between my paintbrush or my pencil, I’ve picked up the pencil first. Right now words are hard.

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Where to begin? How to write? What words do justice to what I want to say? Sometimes, words just don’t cut it. My time for that is now.

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I’ve been wanting to share something of my journey in the last few months and it’s been hard to begin to know where to even start, let alone have the time to get organised to blog.

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I’ve been a ‘light holder’ for my daughter who has been battling major depression.

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It’s been a tough time and yet a time of privilege.

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Yet again, faced with difficulties my faith has been a comfort, a support and a guide.

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I don’t know how it goes for those without a faith who are coping with the darkness of depression and for those who are supporting a loved one through such an ordeal. I can only imagine how hard it must be.

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For the last seven months I’ve been living and breathing a daily neverending prayer conversation both spoken and unspoken to Jesus, Light of the World.

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And I’ve been so grateful for the presence of God.

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Hope…

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Stillness…

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Patience…

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Calm…

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Peace…

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Reslience…

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Love…

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Endurance…

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Presence….

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Encouragement…

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Faith…

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These are the names of the paints I have been using to show the light.

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Almost every day we go for a walk to our local beach and we enjoy the light reflecting on the water.

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It gives us hope and confidence in better times ahead.

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Even in the darkest moments The Light has been with us.

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The Light is always with us.

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I thought I’d share some of my light photos with you from our beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

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It’s interesting look back at these photos from the last six weeks. The most beautiful light photos are when there are clouds or rain… it’s almost as if God is reminding me right now that The Light is even more present and beautiful in the tough times.

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A picture really is worth a thousand words.

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Light in the Darkness

Our family is using the 25 Stockings book each night at the dinner table.  As well as three versions of homemade ’25 Stockings’ hanging across the room, our 19 year old daughter bought an Advent candle this year. It’s one of those candles with incremental marks down it from 1 – 25.  So each night when we are all together we light the candle as we eat our dinner.  This requires very careful watching because although the candle starts off burning slowly, all of a sudden the wax drips down the side and the mark is reached for the day and it’s time to blow out the candle.

Once we’ve finished eating we read the bible passage. Because our children have always had this experience (I started writing the book when I was 19!) they love the three questions so we have to include that, and then we usually read the reflection and the prayer.

A couple of nights ago we also did the Discussion Time talking about darkness and times when we’ve been in the dark and turned on a light and how this makes a difference and of course how this relates to the metaphor of God’s love.  We had a satisfying conversation about light and darkness and times we’ve each felt God’s presence.   It was nice sitting there in front of a candle and talking about the impact of light that a single candle creates in a darkened room.

Last night I wasn’t feeling so good and although I went to bed early, I was up and down all night.  At first the rest of the family were still all up so while my room was in darkness, the rest of the house was a blaze of light.  By about midnight, 17’s door was shut and I figured he had turned in for the night. But sometime after 1, when I was up again and the rest of the house was this time in darkness too, I reasonably thought everyone else had now gone to bed.  But… around 17’s closed door was a silhouette of light.  (Not that, there was anything wrong with him still being up – he is on holiday)

I was pondering the idea that I had only seen the light around his door because the rest of the house was in darkness.  It was kind of the opposite thinking of our earlier discussion talking about darkness and the difference that happens when a candle is lit.  (Okay, I know it sounds like the same thing but bear with me.)  The light had been on all the time, but I only saw that it was on when the rest of the house changed from light to dark.

So maybe sometimes the metaphor is that we can be like a light in the darkness for others just like a candle lighting up the darkness.  And maybe other times we are part of a larger group of lights, indistinguishable as individuals until we are separated and stand as a solitary light in darkness.

I’ve really liked the metaphor as a follower of Jesus, of being a light in the darkness, or being salt adding flavour to the world.  But I also think there is a balance and when we are being ‘light’ we carry on being true to our call to follow Jesus and be light to the world, by both gathering with a larger group of other ‘lights’ and also living, working and spending time on our own with others who are not followers of Jesus, and therefore hopefully bringing light to their darkness.

It’s a balance that is a struggle and maybe always changing.  There is something wonderful and refreshing for followers to spend large amounts of time with other followers of Jesus.  And maybe at different times in our lives we need this fellowship more than other times.   But if we spend all of our time with our friends from our church groups, then how much is our light shining noticeably to others?  And if we spend too much time with others who are not followers of Jesus, are we in danger of our light ‘battery’ running out or our candle burning until the flame is extinguished.

Anyway, that was my middle of the night musing… instead of sleeping!  Just thought I’d share it.

Golden days of Autumn

It’s officially autumn in New Zealand and this year it is unseasonably cold!  Well that seems to be the way of the world these days – unpredictability of weather!  But this blog entry isn’t about climate change or weather patterns.   I was just thinking the other day that I find myself looking forward to Autumn (a little bit).  Now that might not seem strange, but it doesn’t seem that many years ago when I didn’t like autumn.  It signaled the start of the cold part of the year, a time of short days when the waking day begins in the darkness and night closes in during the early evening, a time of extra layers of clothes, wet socks from walking in the rain, runny noses and condensation on the windows.

I think I’ve always been a summer person.  I love the beach, the warmth and the light.  I love juicy stone fruit and long lazy days.  I love walking barefoot, the smell of citronella and sunblock and wearing sunhats.  I love gardens full of colour and the sound of cicadas and insects.  I love lying under a leafy tree and reading a good book…. yes Summer is my season!  And because spring precedes summer and proclaims it’s arrival, I love spring too.  Spring with its new life and its promises of good things to come, with the brilliant green of new leaves, and the buds of pink blossoms, the days beginning to stretch and the shedding of winter blankets.    And coming into third place, I kind of like winter too, the chance to hibernate and curl up in front of a warm fire, with a good movie and a glass of mulled wine,  I always feel like knitting in winter, a hobby that keeps me connected to the rich heritage of times passed as I practice the hobby of my grandmothers and my mother in law.  And I love puddle walks and rain dances, especially with a child or two in tow, going out in the rain with an umbrella and gumboots and a willngness to get well and truly wet.  And winter seems so much closer to Spring with its new lambs and daffodils and wearing pink.

It’s just autumn that’s always been my least favourite season.  So I’m kind of wondering why I suddenly find myself looking forward to autumn.  Is it because I live under a magnificent, old and large oak tree (which for personal reasons is very dear to me – watch this blog for more oak tree stories), which showers our roof with a barrage of acorns in firecracker sounds that are somehow soothing?  Is it because I now have a garden that has berries which fruit in autumn and there’s something special about eating things you’ve grown yourself?  Is it because we had a road trip holiday five years ago (okay if you’ve read my earlier blogs you’ll know I like road trips and metaphors and when they connect together you might see a general theme emerging here 🙂 ) through the eastern side of Canada and the USA and drove miles and miles never getting sick of the brilliantly coloured trees? (Our native trees are evergreen so we don’t get the same multicoloured autumns in NZ)

I’m not sure when or why I decided that I was looking forward to autumn, and this is clearly more of a ramble than an orderly and coherent entry. This isn’t the first year I’ve felt this way but it still strikes me as contrary to my younger self experience.  So, I was wondering if it is because I’ve reached a stage of life and faith where I know that there is good in every part of the journey from beginning to end, that there are good things to be found along the path as we walk and that some of the best experiences happen in the hard and difficult times? That for every new idea (Spring) there is a seasoned voice of experience (Autumn) pointing an opportunity, full of fruit, mature and complex in flavour and ripe for picking.  There is something about listening to the voices of people who have already travelled the faith journey, who have had their times of hardship, of desperately holding on to faith to see them through, who can talk of the cycle of days and years when God seems close and all is rosy and wonderful and other times when the darkness settles early and it’s hard to find the light.  When autumn heralds a bleak winter ahead, it is hard to feel happy and optimistic.  Yet, it is in the hardest and most difficult times of our lives that we turn to God.

And maybe that is why I’ve come to like Autumn.  Because as a metaphor it was and is, easy for me to be happy in Spring and Summer when all is so fresh, hopeful and wonderful, but when I reflect on the days of autumn and winter – these have been the times when God has been close.  Times when I’ve needed to know that I’m not walking alone. That in the darkness and bleakness there is a closeness that is comforting and rallying.  And somehow it seems right that we need all four of the seasons to appreciate the fullness and complexity of our living and walking faith journey.  If every day was spring, how would we ever experience and find the fruit of autumn?

(Photo credit:  the colours of ‘fall’  driving in Quebec Province, Canada 2009)