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Posted By Nan

Isaiah 40:1-20
The lamb is led by his Shepherd to the stable where the infant lies. The infant the angels proclaimed. The one foretold in prophesy. The Messiah. Immanuel. God with us. The infant Jesus. He led us to the manger. He opened our eyes so we could meet Him. He leads us now and we follow. We have followed Him as faithfully as we could. We have followed Him through 2018. Maybe that was a walk through generally pleasant scenery. Maybe that was a walk through spectacular scenery and wonderful blessings. Maybe that was a difficult walk through dark, stark regions. Whatever year you have had, 2019 is looming. So what will that year offer you?
For me, 2018 has been largely a good year, with generally pleasant scenery. After a decade of difficult walking through a dark, rocky place, I emerged into a beautiful and pleasant valley. God gave us a house this year and we have praised Him constantly for His gracious gift to us. God has shown me the last remaining shackles of religiosity I have to cast off this year. He has taught me about Hildegard of Bingen and allowed me to learn what He taught her. He has challenged my view of Him and His place in the world. I have encountered more of the Aslan of C.S.Lewis’s Narnia books than every before. I have encountered the spiritual side of God that Western Philosophies have tried to erase. I have met God in many unexpected places and learned that there is nothing unexpected about where we meet God. Only our narrow view of Him restricts how we meet Him. But God can break through that narrow view and we can see Him if we are open to receive Him. I don’t know what God has in store for me in 2019, but I know that God has many plans and many unexplored aspects of Him for me to find. I know that exciting things are happening. I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way. That I am not the only person God has revealed this greater depth to.
I believe 2019 for many people will be a year of equipping to prepare the way in the desert. To allow all to see God’s bright glory. There will be many that God will place on a high mountain to raise their voices to loudly proclaim the Good News. (The Message v3-4,8-9).
Whatever happens this year for you. Please know that God is there with you. As Psalm 23 says: “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil. For you are with me; Your rod [to protect] and your staff [to guide], they comfort me.” (Amplified).
May God be with you as you walk with Him into and through 2019.

Posted By Nan

Revelation 1:17b-18, Matthew 22:32, 37-40, Deuteronomy 6:5
“… “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” NIV
“… He is not the God of the dead but of the living. … Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.” NIV
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” NIV
Nativity sets. So many people have them. Often they are elaborate pieces lovingly collected over many years, carefully stored during the year, and reverently unwrapped and placed in a prized position at Christmas time.
I didn’t grow up with nativity sets. I didn’t grow up with such overt Christian symbols. But living in Europe, among many cultures, I became interested in the nativity sets and decided to collect my own. Having made the decision to get a nativity set, I set out for a Christmas Market in Germany, one of the most favoured places to buy a nativity set. I discovered you cannot just buy a set, you have to buy the pieces individually. That was a quandary. Where would I start?
The story we celebrate at Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, so for me the baby came first. After all, Jesus is the first and the last.
So I buy Jesus first, but who next?
His mother? Young and trusting. Considering herself blessed because of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit growing inside her?
His earthly father? A man who sought to remove himself from Mary without shaming her, but was faithful to God’s instruction to accept this child, a gift from God.
An angel, who announced the birth of our saviour to the shepherds on the hillside?
A shepherd, who heard the good news and rushed to meet his saviour?
A sheep, following its shepherd as we follow Jesus?
A donkey, witness to the glorious birth and one who bore the mother with the child inside?
An ox, a solid worker in the fields and carrier of heavy burdens, who was also witness to the glorious birth?
The wise men, who travelled in faith a long distance to meet the saviour?
A camel, that bore the wise men on its back?
So hard to know how to proceed.
As I pondered this, I saw my perfect nativity. It was carved out of a tree branch. An arc of wood with cut outs of trees and a stable. Above the stable, a star. And in the stable a man and woman bent over a manger with a baby inside. Simple and uncluttered. Because faith in God through Jesus is not complicated, or fancy, or embellished. It is simple and uncluttered.
Every year I get that nativity out of its wrapping and hold it. And I remember how simple faith in God is. And I remind myself not to complicate it with rules and legalism and layers of doctrine. I remember that faith in God is very simple. And this is the beauty of God’s gift. Something too awesome to ever comprehend, but so simple we can all follow it.
May your focus this Christmas Season be on Jesus and His presence in your life and may God bless you richly over the coming days.

Posted By Nan

Psalm 40
“I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” v10 NIV.
As I prepared to read this blog, I was reading a blog by Sarah Mae about what it was like to share her story. (
I felt God calling me to share my story. But which one? As I prayed about it, God told me to tell the story of my brother. We have been estranged for many years, formally. But our estrangement goes back further than that to before my birth.
My parents did not want or plan to have a fourth child. When they found out my mother was pregnant there was no rejoicing, only cursing. There was no change of heart during the pregnancy. My arrival was not anticipated with joy by my parents. That set the pattern of my childhood. My parents were both abusive and I was subjected to emotional, sexual and physical abuse in my family of origin. I did not truly get away from my mother’s controlling behaviour until my husband and I moved overseas with our four children. Then her hold over me was weakened. It was completely broken a few years later when she died of cancer.
After she died, I thought the relationships I had struggled all my life to build with my siblings would finally develop. I was very naïve. I did not understand how God had given me strength, compassion and a deep love for others that overrode the negative programming of my parents. I found my siblings as disinterested in knowing me, or having contact with me, as they had always been. My mother dying was, for them, all about them.
It hurt. I was alone in the world and had no idea who I was because I defined myself by the need to gain my mother’s approval. Even as she lay dying, she looked at me with hatred. There was never any approval. Never any love.
After my mother’s death, in an effort to establish a relationship with my siblings, I sent them  emails every week. There were never any replies. Once I had a terrible few weeks, feeling really depressed and struggling to cope with the crushing hurt and pain of my childhood. Members of my family were sick so a lot of time was directed at them. So it was a few weeks between emails. I sent an email to them and apologised for the delay in writing because we had all been sick. My oldest brother shot back “well we’ve been sicker”. I was astonished. My mother wove a narrative in our family about what a wonderful, caring person my brother was. Another lie was exposed. My brother was a self absorbed man with no empathy for others.
As time went on, I realised all correspondence from my brother and his wife was all about them. There was never any acknowledgement of what was happening in my life. Just all about how hard their lives were.
My brother and his wife were responsible for the care of my father, who had suffered long term effects from a stroke and needed some support. I would ask them how he was, and they would not answer. Then I would get an email about how sick he was, and I would respond asking for more information. No response. Months later I would receive a circular letter to their friends talking about how well my father was.
I was stuck on the other side of the world and could not come back to Australia to visit my father. He did not answer the phone when I rang. I relied on my siblings for information about my father and it appeared I was being punished because I was not there to help them out. There was even a reference in one of their circular letters to how hard their life was caring for my father and how they thought someone would be moving back to Sydney to help them out. That someone was me. I had made it clear to them we could not move back to Australia as there were no jobs with my husband’s company in Australia. Even when we lived in Australia we had lived a two hour drive away from my parents.
The nastiness continued. I tried to heal things, but my brother was just not interested. At one stage he mocked my trust and faith in God. I was appalled. How could this man, a preacher in his church and someone I had looked up to as a more mature Christian and mentor, mock any profession of trust in God?
I saw them once after my mother died and their behaviour was so bad, I realised I could never see them again. We moved back to Australia and moved north to Queensland. We never visited Sydney. To see my father meant going through my brother whose behaviour was toxic and who did everything he could to prevent me having contact with my father. When we were overseas we could not afford the money to fly back to Australia for a visit, yet I was judged and treated as though I was deliberately avoiding my father. When we moved back to Queensland we were sailing very close to bankruptcy for ten years and I could not afford the air fare to Sydney to see my father. Nor could I afford accommodation when I was there. I told my brother this, but I was still judged as ‘not caring’ because I wouldn’t visit. My brother’s toxic behaviour was out of control.
As the years have gone on, his behaviour has become more and more toxic. Until I decided to cut off contact with him. This was not respected. My decision was never discussed but they insisted on continuing to email and write abuse to me. I blocked their email addresses. I moved and didn’t tell them where I lived. I knew they had my phone number but they never used it.
In April 2017, my father died. I did not know this. I had been working regularly and catching the train. This allowed me the time to write more frequent letters to him. I was really enjoying being able to write to him, even though my brother never told me how he was, even when he was able to contact me. I found out three months later when my father in law died. My brother could have rung me. But he chose not to. His intent was to punish me. All these months I had been writing letters to my father, who was already dead. It was devastating.
I won’t even go into the nastiness my brother is still visiting on me over my parent’s estate. He is using any opportunity he can to be nasty.
My brother was someone I looked up to. I saw him as a mentor, who could guide my faith in God. He and his wife gave me my first Bible. He preached in church. I thought he had faith and was a loyal follower of God. But how can that be? When he behaves that way.
Over all these years I have prayed for guidance from God. In all that time God has stood by me and supported me. He has shown me the things my brother is doing wrong. He has revealed His anger at my brother’s behaviour. He is the one who instructed me to cut off contact. It is to God that I turn when the nastiness gets too much. It is God in whom I trust. My brother’s sin is not my responsibility. That is between him and God.
As I approach Christmas, I think it is a shame I cannot have contact with my siblings. That I do not have anyone to turn to outside my immediate family. But I know that God is always there. He gave me a wonderful husband and four beautiful children. As they grow older, He is giving them beautiful partners. God has not left me without support. He sends friends across my path. He uses my pain to reach out to others and offer empathy in my role as a counsellor.
God is my strength. He lifted me out of the slimy pit and set my feet on a rock so I had somewhere firm to stand (v2). He has taught me to praise Him and draw my strength from Him (v3). God’s steadfast love has sustained me and leads me through my life. He has changed me, taught me to forgive and let go of bitterness, allowed me to heal. He wants you to know that you can have this too.
Christmas is often a time when thoughts turn to estranged family members. I don’t feel that pain anymore because God has taught me to rejoice in the blessings He has given me. But I know that for many that pain is still very present. For many walking in the place of pain it may seem you are alone, yet I have found that is not so. God is always with you. He loves you and He cares about you. He knows your pain and He seeks to comfort you and heal it.
When we sing of love coming down at Christmas, we are not singing empty words. Jesus is a powerful example of how much God loves us. And Jesus understands the loneliness of those estranged from their families.
So if you feel that pain, lean into God’s comfort. Don’t fight the pain. Allow God to take that pain and transform it into something beautiful. And remember, you are not alone.
My prayer is for all those who are hurting this Christmas. May you know God’s comfort and transforming love. May you be comforted.

Posted By Nan

Isaiah 40:21-31
Sometimes in life, the stresses and struggles of living in this world get too much and you just feel bone weary. I found myself like that today. Working on a committee of a community organisation with a former member who is doing everything in his power to hamper the work of the organisation and a stressed President constantly ringing me, texting me and emailing me about the latest message she wants me to send when the solution is already in progress. I just felt bone weary. So I turned to God. He gave me His peace and comfort and the instruction to ask the President to not contact me about this matter. Spiritual support and practical advice. And if you follow the practical advice, He is able to intervene in the situation. The poem by Loretta Burns is a beautiful reminder of the need for us to let go so God can intervene in situations.

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend.
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my Friend.
But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.
At last I snatched the back and cried,
"How could You be so slow"-
"My child," He said,
"What could I do? You never did let go.

I read that poem often, as well as these verses from Isaiah 40, when I want to remind myself the importance of letting go and trusting God. God does not grow weary and he can give strength to us and refresh us when we grow weary.
Another verse I love to meditate on when things seem overwhelming is Psalm 4:6-8:
“Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth (Isaiah 40:28a). In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8).

May you know God’s peace and strength when you grow weary.

Posted By Nan

Psalm 19
This psalm is so beautiful. It is one that is best read out loud, slowly, with great emphasis. It brings me to my knees in awe of God. If there is any justification of why we should do things in God’s name, any encouragement to do so, then it is found in this Psalm.
I love the way it starts by reminding us that all of God’s creation declares God’s glory. They do it not just once, but continuously day and night. Their praise is understood in all languages and by all people. There is nowhere on earth where that praise cannot be heard.
Are you listening? Can you hear it? Be still and sit in the praise of creation for God. That praise is something you hear with all your senses. So sit and be still and open yourself to hearing the continuous glorification of God.
As we sit in the glorious praise of God, we can also remember that God’s law – not legalism, but His law – is perfect and revives our souls. His statutes can be trusted. All that God directs us to do brings joy. His commands are radiant. Fear of God is pure. God’s directions are righteous and more precious than anything in all creation. God will guide us to do what is right.
We know we are not perfect. And we know that the birth of Jesus we will shortly celebrate happened so that Jesus could live among us, then die to cleanse us from our sins and make us blameless. God knows we sin at times without realising it. He also knows we sin at times knowing we do it. God loves us and forgives us.
What a beautiful reminder this Psalm is of all God’s glory and greatness. What a wonderful Psalm to just be still and read out loud.
Here is a beautiful challenge. Take time over the next few days to sit quietly, where you cannot be interrupted, and slowly read this psalm out loud. Allow yourself to hear the glorification of God and join in. Rejoice at the way God watches over us and has provided the means to make us blameless and able to enter into his presence.
Finally, may the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be pleasing in God’s sight. Always remember that God is your Lord, your Rock and your Redeemer. (v14).



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