How’s Your Marriage?

Sue’s Views
How’s your marriage? Yes! It can feel like you are two very different species at times. And ….. yes ….. there are times when it seems like you’re not on the same track. But God, in His wisdom, brings along someone to complete us ….. not someone who matches us! Each has something the other lacks. Marriage is the perfect training ground for maturity! There’s no room for selfishness ….. or pride! The most important phrases we must learn if we want a happy marriage are ‘I’m sorry’ ….. ‘I forgive you’ ….. ‘I love you’!

Radical Thinking

Sue’s Views
We saw this tree being torn down branch by branch the other day. No doubt due to concerns based on our recent bad weather incidents. But I’m guessing the whole tree will have to come down. I learned this morning that the word ‘radical’ means ‘dealing with the roots.’ We often associate it with a person or idea that is revolutionary or extreme in a negative context ….. but so many of our ways of thinking are based on traditions we’ve either been taught or have picked up along the way. Jesus was one of the most radical thinkers I know! He challenged the strongest religious and political minds by dealing with roots of tradition and self importance. We won’t change by lopping off a few branches. We must examine our roots and take an axe to them! Now that’s a radical idea!


I quite like aeroplane food… I know most people don't. It's not necessarily about the taste, but the fact that it is all so cutely packaged and neatly compartmentalised! There aren't usually many choices about what you can have, which also makes for an uncomplicated decision… chicken, or beef!

But as I think about that packaged food on that aeroplane, I also can't imagine it being further away from it's natural environment…

Isn't packaging so great?! It's so tidy, sterile, and you can make life so convenient with it! Something about it just screams “easy!”, especially when it's food. Little time, no mess, and certainly no growing or cultivating required! How appealing.

I wonder if we do the same thing with life sometimes… I wonder if we “package” things and give “easy answers” when, sometimes, there aren't any. Perhaps life is more like a messy garden, with dirt and weeds and worms… and real life happening. I also wonder if we “package” the Bible sometimes too… somehow things are much easier when we take a piece of scripture and package it, sterilising it from its intended context and making it seem so… convenient and easy. “Three easy steps to a great prayer life”, “just have enough faith and they will be healed”, “God will always protect you, so therefore nothing bad will happen to you”… but looking at the life of other faithful followers of Jesus, and Jesus's own life, that certainly doesn't seem to be the case. Things seem… messier. But real things are growing. 

In John's account of his time with Jesus, he recalled a time when Jesus told a large group of followers some things that were difficult to understand. He didn't even package what He had to say very nicely, or even explain what He meant. Most of them walked away from Him. To the rest of His disciples, He turned and asked “You don't want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67). Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]”.

When I went through some hard times that I didn't understand, I was looking for answers too… but there didn't seem to be any. God seemed to have gone quiet. I was angry, and was tempted to walk away. Nothing made sense. Life seemed to have fallen apart, and I wanted to blame God. But as time went by, He showed me that I don't always need to know why, I just needed to know who He is, how much He loves me, and that He is all I need. That's what Peter knew, because He'd been with the One who gave true life, and there was no turning back after that.

More and more, I love these parables Jesus told about the Kingdom of Heaven:

Matthew 13:44-46  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Everything… it was worth giving up everything. That hidden treasure, that pearl of great value, that Kingdom, was worth giving up everything else. That's what Peter knew too. And in the end, all of those who had been with Jesus knew it too. He's all we need.

Although it's still a journey I'm on, I think I trust Him more now that I know life is more like a (very!) messy garden, and I won't always know what's going on. But in the “garden” with Him, there is true life…

Ecclesiastes 3:11  “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

This is one of my favourite songs, that encapsulates this so perfectly:

Hate Speech?

Sue’s Views
The whole ‘hate speech’ debacle is something we are going to hear a lot more about in days to come. When asked for a definition ….. we’re told ‘I’ll know it when I hear it!’ In other words ….. ‘If you say something I disagree with or something that offends me ….. you can be prosecuted for being an extremist.’ I definitely don’t recommend offending people but there’s a big difference between offensive language and speaking the truth in love! Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I hate them. I remember threatening to leave home as a 6 year old because my parents wouldn’t allow me to stay up late. I thought they hated me! Sometimes there is a fine line between love and hate! As long as we keep love as our focus it will prevail!

The One Thing

“Cold showers”, my husband said. “I saw this video, and apparently it’s really good for you! I’m going to start doing it twice a day”.

Sure enough, he did, convinced it was the new thing that would help solve some of his energy and sleep problems. I wasn’t so convinced! Instead, after watching a different video, I was convinced that I needed to start balancing my hormones by watching what I eat. Thyroid problems made me tired and so, being interested in natural medicine and old remedies, I started watching videos about what you should (and shouldn’t!) include in your diet, and when. Apparently carbs were the enemy, and so were a lot of other things I’d been eating! I bought a few of the recommended things like apple cider vinegar, and tried to cut out carbs. I felt excited and motivated! This was going to fix everything!

Then I decided that I also needed to read up on financial management, as I was starting a new job and also wanted to be better at teaching our kids about what to do with their pocket money. The guy in the book recommended sitting with your spouse together and discussing your finances over a meal of garlic bread and wine… “Oh no! Carbs! Doesn’t he know that eating both of those in the evening will cause inflammation, weight gain, and can lead to all sorts of health problems?” my brain blared… “how can I balance both finances and health when the finance guy is telling me to do what the doctor told me not to!”

…Ridiculous, right? But seriously… which came first? My brain seemed to be swirling in an anxious flurry. Suddenly, the carbs didn’t seem to matter… because now the priority was to get my kids’ financial management under control!

How many times have you watched a video and then said to yourself, “if only I could just start doing this one thing, I bet that would change everything”…

Anxiety over how to prioritise things in our life only seems to be worse in this digital age. Scrolling through digital media, we are constantly being told what is “the most important thing that you need to be doing right now”. Whether it’s changing your parenting, your health, your finances, the environment, your brain chemistry, growing your own food, community involvement, or your kids’ future in this crazy world… everything seems to have a Ted talk trying to tell us that “if you do nothing else, do this right…” How do we choose? What comes first? What IS the most important thing we need to do, when there seem to be so many choices and so little time and energy to pursue them all?

Luke 10:38-42: “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was also anxious about priorities. At that moment, she believed it was meeting others’ needs… making sure everyone was fed, the meal was cleaned up, everyone was comfortable and had what they needed, especially this important and beloved teacher! And how dare her sister not also think that was the priority! Mary was just… sitting there, at Jesus’s feet?

But Jesus told her what the “one thing” was, the one thing that she needed in that moment, in that space… the one thing that took priority over serving, meeting needs, and having everything in order, the thing her sister had found.

It was Him.

Is parenting important? Yes. Is health important? Yes. Is serving others important? Yes. Is work important? Yes. Is being prepared for a food shortage important? I would say, yes.

But what always takes priority? Him. Sitting at His feet, listening to Him, spending time with Him. And then, in His wonderful way of being a loving Father that knows our needs, He makes all the other things fall into place as well.

Matthew 6:31-33 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the gentiles run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”


The fog had set in overnight, and by 11am it was still hanging around. We were driving in the car on our way somewhere, and were all a bit frustrated at not having had more than 150 metres of visibility for the entire morning. Suddenly our five-year-old daughter asked, “Mummy, why is the sun covered in fog?”. I replied, “Well, the sun is actually not affected by the fog at all. We can’t see the sun because the fog is around us!”

James 1:13 “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed.”

Have you ever had a fog surrounding your heart or mind? You can’t see clearly, can’t make good judgments, can’t get a perspective, because there’s a heavy fog clouding it. It can take many forms… but it always comes with quiet whispers in our mind that try to make us lose our way. Unfortunately, we can’t blame God or anyone else really, for the problem is in our own hearts. 

Recently I’ve had a fog set in… it came suddenly, quietly and unexpectedly, as fogs often do. It was called “stuff”. Now, I’m not a light-packer (despite my mother’s best attempts to teach me how to pack-light on our holidays!), but in general I don’t buy a lot of things. But recently, I’ve had this increasing desire towards materialism and, well, just buying things! Nothing too crazy expensive, just a new magazine from the supermarket here, another shirt from the thrift store there, more toys for the kids, another cute mug for the kitchen… and then I realised that slowly I was getting in a habit of thinking about wanting more, bigger, better… in my mind was the quiet but persistent whispering thought, “if you had more, you would be happier”. Then, like a fresh breeze, this verse helped to blow the fog away:

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Our preoccupation with accumulating things in this world can cloud our perspective on what really matters, and what we really need. Jesus didn’t tell us to ignore our physical needs on this earth (Matthew 6:30-32), but comforted us that our Heavenly Father would provide all our needs as we continued to focus on and depend on Him: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”, Jesus said (Matt. 6:33). When we leave this world, we can take nothing with us except what we have done with our time and resources on this earth (2 Cor. 5:10). It’s a challenge to keep this fog from setting in in our consumerist, materialistic world, but He is faithful to bring His truths to our mind when we need them to blow the fog away!

Is there anything clouding your mind today?

Beyond Understanding

As I began to walk through life,
I saw beauty
There was peace,
There was quiet
I was happy

And then I walked a little further
Someone told me about War
There was danger
But not here
I was safe

I then I grew, and walked some more
I heard that there was darkness
Terrible things were done
But not here
I was secure

My road began to climb
It wound up a steep hill
There was work
I was tired
But I was excited

I reached a mountain-top!
The God of the Universe had found me!
He was loving
I was His child
I was joyful

Then I came to the valley
This valley I had to walk through
I saw suffering
I felt pain
I was hurt

Then there was a darkness
A dark place I hadn’t known before
A place of deep loss and pain
That I’d only heard about
I was angry

Where was that loving God?
How could He allow such pain and suffering in the world?
I had questions
I felt alone
I felt lost

But then I felt His loving arms
His soft, gentle voice that spoke to me
“My child, one day you will know all things,
But right now,
Just trust me.”

And then a new question formed in my mind
How could a perfect God
Have sent His perfect Son
To die for… me?
I was in awe

So when I don’t understand,
I look up to Him, I feel His loving arms
I remember that there are things beyond myself
And He gives me Peace
Beyond understanding…

Always at Work

“Look Mummy! It's the man from the ice cream shop!” shouted one of our kids.

Sure enough, there was the owner of the local ice cream shop, going for a walk with some friends! He came up and said hello with a big smile. Our kids were so excited! They were surprised to see him outside of the space they normally confined him to… his workplace! Now when we go in to the ice cream shop, he gives them a big smile and there's a deeper relationship. He seems more like a real person to them.
I wonder if we sometimes do that with God… confine Him to His “workplace”: church on a Sunday morning! We expect to meet with Him there, and it's a place where He often does wonderful things! But what about at home on Sunday afternoon? What about on Monday morning… or Saturday night?
Jesus spent a lot of time walking around and interacting with people. He often met them on a dusty road, in the marketplace, in their homes, in their ordinary places of work… like a fishing boat on the shore. He didn't just sit in the synagogue and wait for people to come and find Him (although He did spend time teaching in the synagogue). He ate with them, walked with them, prayed with them, journeyed with them. Imagine getting to walk beside Him every day! But in His human body, He was limited to being in one place at one time… now that we have the Holy Spirit, He is literally with us everywhere, 24/7! 
He wants to be invited into every part of your life, and to hear from you at all times of the day, and in all circumstances. When we start to invite Him to work in the seemingly ordinary and often mundane areas of our life, we will be surprised how much it deepens our connection with Him! He becomes so much more real to us when we see that He is always ready to step in, that He knows all the details of our lives, and He has the power to work in all things, not just when there's nice music and a good atmosphere on a Sunday morning! 
Psalm 139:1-10

1O LORD, You have searched me

and known me.

2You know when I sit and when I rise;

You understand my thoughts from afar.

3You search out my path and my lying down;

You are aware of all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

You know all about it, O LORD.

5You hem me in behind and before;

You have laid Your hand upon me.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

7Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?

Where can I flee from Your presence?

8If I ascend to the heavens, You are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.

9If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle by the farthest sea,

10even there Your hand will guide me;

Your right hand will hold me fast.

In Hospital

Have you ever walked into a hospital and thought, “Wow, why are all these people so sick and hurt?” I would guess not. Everybody knows that hospitals are where sick or hurt people go.  

Have you ever been the sick person arriving at the hospital and said to the doctors, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m fine!” Of course not. They would ask what on earth you’re doing there, and tell you to go home. But you’re there precisely because you realise you’re sick or hurt, and need help.  

What do we think Church is? Among other things, church is a bit like a hospital. Jesus is the doctor, and we are all patients… and also partners with Jesus in bringing healing and restoration to each other and others.  

“But the Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”    Luke 5:30-31

Many times we come to church with different expectations… it is a place where I have to dress up, I have to be happy all the time, I have to measure up, I have to pretend, I have to have it together. Imagine walking into a hospital and saying to all the patients, “Stop lying around in bed! Get out of that gown, put some nice clothes on, do your hair, wipe that frown off your face!” You wouldn’t dare! Because you know why those people are there and what they need.

Perhaps we have forgotten that we are all to be counted among the “sick” in Jesus’s reply to the Pharisees… because we have all been born imperfect and born into a broken and fallen world.    As the body of Christ, we get to meet together to minister to one another, to pray for one another, comfort one another, love one another, and provide for one another (among many other “one another”s!). We all have needs, whether spiritual, physical, or emotional! And it’s no use hiding them… because they usually don’t go away on their own!

Even the great Apostle Paul was constantly asking for prayer and other needs from fellow believers in his letters.    When we start being real about the things that aren’t going so well in our hearts or in our lives, it invites others to be open and honest about their needs too. Some things we might not have even thought to pray about! But God cares about all our needs, great and small. Nothing is too small (or too big) for Him!

First World Problems

My first experience of the third world was a result of my own first world problem… “Mum, I need an ipod”. That's what I told her when I was 15. She was horrified. She grew up in a time when there was barely enough to eat, and the thought of her daughter living in a world where an iPod was a “need” made her realise I needed a wake-up call! Luckily, our church was planning a short-term mission trip to Honduras that summer, so she signed the two of us up! We spent a week staying at a ranch, eating local food, mixing concrete to help build latrines and lay floors, bringing medical and hygiene supplies and school supplies for the kids, and spending time with the kids in their school. It was so eye-opening. I saw a lot of real physical need. I can't say I changed much after I came back from that trip, not that year anyway… but it planted a seed in my mind that began to grow. When I got to university, I came back to Christ after many years of wandering. One of my first thoughts was, “I want to go back to the developing places of the world”. I wanted to leave the comfort and ease of western society and be challenged by the daily physical struggle of those in the third world… and I wanted to help somehow. Maybe I could be a teacher, or help in an orphanage?
I felt a call to study Chinese. I didn't know why. The puzzle pieces just didn't seem to be coming together. I wanted to help someone, somewhere… but who? How? Where? After some fasting and praying I started to come across material about the persecuted church in China… poverty, suffering, struggle, but God was doing miracles and the Chistians were alive with joy and faith! A fire was lit in me… that's what I wanted! I wasn't going there to help… I was going to learn. How was their faith so alive and full of power? Why didn't we have stories like that in the West? Was it their poverty? Was it their political climate?

In the dictionary, a first world problem is defined as “a relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration (implying a contrast with serious problems such as those that may be experienced in the developing world)”. I guess most of us would agree that a problem like “my coffee isn't hot enough” or “my kitchen isn't the colour I want it to be”, when compared with those living in less than $1 a day, are not “real problems”. But what about us as Christians living in this prosperous developed world? What if the first world church has a lot more spiritual “first world problems” than we realise? How did we end up with things like apathy, complacency, materialism, desire for comfort and security, fear and worry, low levels of faith, self-sufficiency, with all of our “Christianity”? When we read of movements of the work of the Holy Spirit today in places like Africa and Asia, we have to stop and wonder… why aren't we seeing that here? 

Then I had a thought… where did Jesus struggle the most when He was walking the earth? Where did He perform the least amount of miracles… and why?

Mark 6:1-6
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
1 He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary* and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence* at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Verse 3 is so interesting… rephrased, “isn't this that carpenter's son? This is the kid that we grew up with in our neighbourhood! Look, we know all his brothers and sisters!” Today, we could almost rephrase it, like “Oh yeah, Jesus, He's the guy I grew up with in Sunday School when I was a kid, we celebrate Christmas and Easter, he's the guy whose principles founded our nation… we're a Christian country! … I know all about that Jesus guy…”.  Familiarity. Maybe it was that same familiarity that bred contempt in those from his own hometown… maybe that contempt is why they took offense at him… and were stuck in unbelief. Are we “hometown” pals with Jesus? 
It's probably a complex issue, and something that can't be over-simplified. Perhaps many of us have become like the third set of seeds in the parable of the sower that were growing, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful (Matt. 13:22). But how much do we think about the fact that we, in our “Christian nation”, might be so familiar with Jesus and so quick to assume we know him by association, because, well, we're a “Christian nation”… that we are like those who are actually stuck in unbelief? Is our Church routine, our religious principles, and our comfortable enjoyment of the blessings we believe God gave us, actually lulling us into an unbelieving familiarity with the Saviour of the world? The Jesus who requires absolute obedience and wants every part of our life? Are our first world spiritual problems more serious than we thought?
In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. Isn't that scary? Isn't it… a wake up call?
Most people will acknowledge that Jesus was a wonderful teacher. Most people like the principles he taught about love, mercy, servitude, and humility. But Jesus said, “if you love me, you will obey my commands”. It has taken me a long time to realise that, in fact, I have a lot of unbelief and disobedience in my heart! I actually wasn't doing things like forgiving (Matthew 6:15), taking my thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), being content with much or with little (Phil. 4:12), confessing our sins to one another (Jam. 5:16), believing that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me (Eph. 1:19-20), fearing God instead of fearing man (Matt. 10:28), denying myself and taking up my cross daily (Matt. 16:24-25), doing nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves (Phil 2:3), and believing that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Let's cast off our over-familiarity with the Saviour of the World, and come to him believing that he is who he says he is, and that we need him and his power every day of our lives! Not just His principles, with “a form of Godliness but denying it's power” (2 Tim. 3:5)… but with full belief, faith and obedience. Only then will we see him move in power like he promised!