Three days ago I wrote a blog post on a research education blog I have slowly been cultivating over the last year or so. It is a space for me to reflect on my reading and research for my PhD. I rarely connect The Jester Flys with this humble little 7mouths2feed because I know my audience is quite different. But today as I sat in Church, I was overwhelmed by the connection between my life and that blog post.

I had written about hope, the hope that teachers hold close.

“Hope that we can  make a difference. Hope to support young people on their learning journey. Hope that they will understand. Hope that they will grow in independence and knowledge. Hope that will unlock something and that it will usher in a lifetime of learning.”

There it was … hope. I realised that I needed to see and remember and recall the hope I have in faith in God. The assurance of His Love, the peace that I experience in this life, the comfort, the hope in future grace. But to say I got there because of something that happened in church alone would be inaccurate. I share this now because I have connected the dots and want to be frank about the way I see God at work, in spite of my hard heart and incapacity to hope.

In the last week, in the midst of busyness, flu and a house full of sick kids my man and I watched this talk from Tim Keller about identity.

It offered me a new framework for thinking about my life, my purpose and my identity.

Then an overdue phone call from a close friend reminded me of my need to be in relationship with people who will encourage me, support me, challenge in my faith. Not in how I will spend my money, how I will advance my career or what Netflix series I should watch. But how I should live my life and be real. I needed more of God’s word in my life.

I then flicked through my Shereadstruth app and was reminded of Proverbs 1:7 – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Finally, my man shared with me a great presentation from The Austin Stone Community Church. The Stone’s teaching has been a source of regular encouragement for us, but their home and their missional life is far away in Texas. You can get a sense of these stories here.
I was moved by people sharing their story, sharing their hope in the midst of pain and loss and suffering. This story  in particular.  I was moved by the way people responded to those needs. They offered hope, they showed love and they served.

Reminding myself that I was a part of something bigger than me and that God had a plan for me that was larger than anything I could ever imagine, reminded me that there is hope. Hope in a future in which I am loved, assured and forgiven.

I see Hope in a new light today. Hope underpins all that I do, all that I am. As a wife, mother, daughter and friend; in my role as educator, researcher, coach and counselor. Hope is something I want to hold on to. Hope.

No Grey Area

It has been a week now, and the avalanche of social media hype surrounding the debut of the film 50 Shades of Grey seems to have subsided. Thank. God. No really.

The book has apparently little literary merit. It is chick lit at its worst. I say ‘apparently’ because I have not read it and have no desire to. I wrote about the book several times upon its release here and here.

The film on the other hand has piqued the interest of people who would not devote any respectable amount of time to reading the book, but a few short hours on the big screen seems to have been a different matter. But the verdicts have been mixed. Feminist have been vocal. There has been reports of the film being more about domestic, emotional and psychological abuse than erotica. And for those who have sat there, it has been confronting, funny, disappointing and tragic in the most absurd way. If you are interested in reading one such review you could start here and read Rosie Waterland’s review on Mamamia.

One of the things I find problematic is the positioning of a rich, good looking man – a protagonist that many a reader would ‘fall’ for – in such a role as Mr Grey. The reality is we are all easily seduced, by a word, a look, a gesture of kindness, a promise of love, romance, hope and fulfillment. This latest hurrah seems like a slightly more grown up (twisted and unchaste) version of the Twilight series that had girls swooning.

I have four girls. I don’t want them to enter adulthood thinking this pulp fiction is how women should behave and what they should aspire to. This is not about being progressive. This is about confronting what behaviour we should abhor and avoid. But when you are young, naive and “entering the world of men” as the sixteen von Trapp daughter sang in The Sound of Music sometimes there is not the wisdom and discernment there to protect you and save you from yourself.

There is no grey area when it comes to Mr Grey. Say no. It is a black and white issue. Really.

How does Hope work for you?

The first week of term has been less than perfect. Sickness -5 out of 7. Disruption to routines, extra work demands. And yet as much as I craved time and space for me with all the little people back at school it didn’t really surprise me to have the week not go as planned. What is a plan anyway? And nothing – your week, relationship, work, holiday, health – is ever perfect, right? We fail. Sin is real. So why don’t we give up now and abandon future hope?

 In my life—and I think it is the intended biblical pattern—hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength.
  • If I am put down, I look to the emotional reservoir of hope for the strength to return good for evil. Without hope I have no power to absorb the wrong and walk in love, and I sink into self-pity or self-justification.
  • If I experience a setback in my planning—I get sick, or things don’t go the way I’d hoped in the board meeting, for example—I look to the emotional reservoir of hope for the strength to keep going and not give up.
  • If I face a temptation to be dishonest, to steal, to lie, or to lust, I look to the emotional reservoir of hope for the strength to hold fast to the way of righteousness, and deny myself some brief, unsatisfying pleasure.
That is the way it works for me. That is the way I fight for holiness in the Christian life.  

Sweet and Bitter

Where are you flying today? It is well and truly winter here in the Southern Hemisphere. The days are getting shorter, the air cooler, the nights freezing. As my little one says,” Mummy I am making smoke with my mouth!” Well steam at least. In spite of the lovely markers of the changing seasons it is easy to feel blue and downcast. Heavy hearted that the weather has again transported you to the blues. Don’t fear blue bird. Allow yourself to fly……winter will soon become spring. A day will come when all pain and suffering and hardship and grief and tears will end. He holds the hope to a future of real joy!  

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” 

― John PiperA Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God

More than Coffee

It is always exciting when a new business opens. And especially when it means there is more good coffee in town. In recent weeks our small regional town has seen retail stores close, several large car dealerships shut their doors and another chain store launch their ‘closing down’ sale. So our home town is feeling flat. But the warm welcome of a new cafe offers more than a good coffee to the local resident.  It offers hope. Hope for future growth. More employment. More opportunities for people to connect and build community.

I am sure that when this idea for a new venture was being sketched out on paper napkins over drinks no one would have dreamt that it was going to be about more than just the food or the coffee. It would be about hope. Hope for them. Hope for us and for the whole community.

He is the designer of all Hope. He knew. That gives me Hope.

A Grief Unknown

It always surprises me when you get to know someone a bit better as they shed another layer, another hurt or grief. Over coffee today I learnt of a friend who carries the burden of losing a baby. He has a name, and together the family grieve for his life lost, a family once hoped for and a vision of a life imagined, now unknown. I wanted to ask her where her hope comes from, longing to know if there was  something filling the God shaped hole that is in all of us. But kids and chaos got in the way. There were words I did not say, sentiments not expressed. I am sad for her. Have you ever lost a baby? Or grieved with a friend who has been on that journey? What did you do? What did you say to bring comfort and hope?

I have a hope and it is expresses in this hymn, one I have loved for years and want at my funeral. It was written in 1664 by Samuel Crossman, My Song is Love Unknown.

My song is love unknown,

My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.
Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.
Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.
They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.
In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.