GOD OF ALL COMFORT – SONG 9 OF 9

Listen to song – God of all Comfort
It was a Sunday morning, almost 30 years ago, when my life changed dramatically. My beloved Dad suffered a heart attack at home, and while I watched helplessly on, my mum out calling the ambulance, he breathed his last. That traumatic time still impacts me today, but so does the comfort and grace of God that I and my family received at that time. I look back and say that God made it “the least worst it had to be”. There were many special moments we’d enjoyed with Dad in the lead up, even though we had no idea we were going to suddenly lose him. And I’ll never forget, the morning after that terrible day, opening our daily bible reading to hear

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1)

This verse, perhaps more than any other, has been proved true over and over in my life. The phrases are so precious to me, because they are life deep. God of all comfort, Father of compassion – what amazing relief to our souls to know these particular names of God. And, just like with the reservoir idea, once again we have that principle of God filling us, comforting us, caring for us – which then becomes the source of all that we share with others.

Can you think of any times in your life where you yourself have received the comfort of God? What forms did God’s comfort take, even in the midst of the tragic circumstance (or maybe before or after it occured)? On the other hand, have there been times when you have felt completely bereft – could you perhaps ask God now to show you how He was present with you in that terrible time?

The Bible makes clear that this life of ours will not be immune from suffering, in fact later in that same chapter, Paul describes his own suffering – “great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself”. In the light of all this, our worldview itself is a comfort – because it explains that though God’s kingdom is here, alive and active, for now it is in the midst of a dark, broken and at times evil world. We wait for the Lord’s return, for wrong to be made right, for every tear to be wiped away – but while we wait, He is with us – He is Emmanuel! Born into a dirty stable, under a local murderous regime, backed by a world-dominating power – having to flee as a baby refugee, as an adult harried by corrupt leaders and eventually murdered after a desecration of justice. That’s one side of the story.

But at the same time, throughout Jesus’ life, and in His resurrection, we see the Kingdom of God alive, pulsing with goodness and grace, bringing light to the darkness, compassion to the needy, healing and comfort to all who looked to Him. And of course, the final explosive turn around as his broken dead body comes back to glorious life and death itself begins to ‘work backwards’! This is the tension we live in the midst of.

Jesus, please give us the grace and the courage to look to you, and to open our hearts to you so that we may receive more of you. Help us to know that you are here with us, even in the midst of the mess.

THE SAFEST PLACE – Song 8 of 9

Listen to song – The Safest Place – if you want to skip straight to the song, it’s at 1:05.

Though it’s quite short and simple in structure, this song speaks of something deep and strong. I think I’ll leave you with the song itself, and if you have time to read more, there are some links below you could look into. I pray that God will speak to all of us this week, giving comfort and healing where we need it, giving His clarity and wisdom, reminding us to stop and remember who we are as His children… Will I let Him be the one I rely on?
The safest place in this whole world
is in letting go, and in flying free
cause it’s only then, when we lose control,
that we’ll ever know if you’re flying underneath.

The safest place in this whole world
is if we can risk it and choose to trust,
cause when we are held by our many fears,
we can never reach out to find how much we are loved.

The safest place in this whole world
is if all our shame can be flung aside,
and with all our failings and broken ways,
we can learn to live far beyond the reach of pride.

Oh help us see that you are who you say,
and to dare to come out from our hiding places,
and set us free from the many ways that we
use to try to keep ourselves safe…

The safest place in this whole world is in letting go,
and in flying free, cause it’s only then,
when we lose control, that we’ll ever know that you’re flying underneath.

EXTRA THOUGHTS:
A number of things I’d read and long thought about influenced the writing of this song… and it has been a helpful one for me and for some of my friends. If you have time to read a bit more, there are 2 choices below that are both linked to the song: A story – Made to Fly (find on my blog) is a fantasy story that I wrote a few years ago, and True Faith Brings committal linked here is a reflection by A.W. Tozer that has profoundly influenced my journey over about 20 yrs… still challenged by it now.

This quote is on our bathroom wall, cause I want to keep being reminded (and for my family to be too) to live in that unceasing yes, that choice to trust in the love and goodness of God, as the bottom line…

GOOD GIFTS – Song 7 of 9

Listen to song – “Good gifts”
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

If you’ve heard me perform before, no doubt you’ve heard this song. It’s a celebratory, end-of-set, sing-along kind of song that has meant so much to me. Last year, my year 5 and 6 music class sang it near the end of the school concert, with their own made up lyrics in the bridge section: a gorgeous list of things they love in life, like ‘swimming in dams and freezing rivers’, ‘walking the dog around the farm’, ‘drawing pictures, making craft and watching too much youtube’! They sang it with joy.

I still remember the first time I read the words that inspired this song, in Henri Nouwen’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’. Chris and I were driving and as I read the section, The Father Celebrates, the tears began streaming down my cheeks. It was a life changing moment of clarity. Neuro-scientists are now writing about the value of forging new neural pathways by choosing to think in new directions and forming new thought habits. And these truths have saved me from falling into abysses of grief and despair, I know. Here are a few snippets…

Celebration belongs to God’s Kingdom…God rejoices. Not because the problems of the world have been solved, not because all human pain and suffering have come to an end, nor because thousands of people have been converted and are now praising him for his goodness. No, God rejoices because one of his children who was lost has been found. What I am called to is to enter into that joy. It is God’s joy, not the joy that the world offers… The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to “steal” all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see….This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded with lies… There is so much rejection, pain, and woundedness among us, but once you choose to claim the joy hidden in the midst of all suffering, life becomes celebration. Joy never denies the sadness, but transforms it to a fertile soil for more joy…

People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Father Calls for a Celebration

May God give you the grace to ‘steal’ or treasure all the joy there is to be had in this coming week, and if you write your own ending to the song, I’d love to hear it!!

Much love to you,
In His unfailing love,
Nerida

KING OF LOVE – SONG 6 OF 9

Listen to Song – King of Love
There are many ‘hard calls’ on us as followers of Jesus, but I wonder if the hardest of all is the call to love your enemy. If we can’t immediately connect with the word ‘enemy’, how about “Love the person who really frustrates you”, or “Love the person you struggle to like”, or “Love the person who has hurt and wounded you, or has threatened someone you care about”. That kind of call pushes us to the end of ourselves – it’s too hard to make it happen by sheer willpower alone, impossible really! The only way we can do it (and know how that love actually works, what it would look like) is to come in our weakness and need to the King of Love. “Lord, I don’t have that kind of love in me… I don’t even want to love this person, but I do want to be connected with you, and I am willing for you to begin your work of freeing me of the bitterness, resentment, wounds and grief, and to do your miracle of love in my life – please fill me with your love, even for this person…”. This is the place of despair and surrender I was in when I wrote this song. And this is where our true mission to others in this hurting world can begin – in brokenness and real dependence on the Father, rather than on our own efforts, however well intentioned.
“We believe that God delights in His world and us. We want to trust in His love, and allow it to transform our lives and our neighbourhood, that we neighbourhood, that we may overflow His presence where we are…”

This was the ‘mission statement’ of a missional community I was a part of in Ballarat in 2000 and 2001, and it’s still a statement that holds a lot of meaning and relevance for me. We had the idea of a natural reservoir, that collects the rain and run off until it is filled, when it can overflow the needed moisture to the land around it. I found this beautiful photo online a few years ago, and based an artwork on it that I’ll share below…

It’s a great visual for our lives as Jesus’ followers. As we grow more and more in our trust in the reality of God’s love, His love for US – that “never stopping, never giving up, unfailing, always-and-forever love”** – as we let our broken hearts rest in that truly safe place, as we bring our broken ways to the only one who can heal us, as we open ourselves to the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, to bring His truth and light into our darkness – He fills us with what we need to share with others around us, even those that are beyond our own capacity to love.
Let’s open our hearts afresh to Him today, and ask Him to show us His deep, unfailing, miraculous, resurrection-working love. It seems to be a very important step of growth when we can come to Him in desparation and throw ourselves on His gracious ability to free and grow us.

**(thanks Sally Lloyd Jones, Jesus Storybook Bible)


KING OF LOVE
It really is true,
that without love I am nothing,
I can do nothing,
worse even than that,
all of my efforts are merely noise,
in the way of …

CH: The King of Love who breaks apart our delusions,
our pretensions,
Conquering, humbling, setting free our truest selves.

My arrogance and criticism have to die, please help them die!
How can a blind one such as I think to see more clearly than the King of Love (… Ch)

Don’t let me stand in the way of your life-giving love,
Don’t let my fear of pain block your way of life,
Don’t let my pride pervert your life-giving love,
Don’t give me my own way lest it block the way of your life-giving love…

Oh King of Love, please break apart my delusions, my pretensions,
conquering, humbling, setting free my truest self! AMEN!!

JESUS – song 5 of 9


https://youtu.be/wtkh6fuKn6Y
I’ve been thinking today about what life would look like if Jesus never lived. Rather than me rattling out a long list of the ways Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have impacted humanity, why don’t you ponder the question yourself for a little while? I mean once you start wondering about it, there’s so much in our life and thinking that would be completely different if Jesus never existed – as individuals and as a culture (even though some in our culture blindly want to throw out what they can of Jesus’ input into our worldview and value systems). I know the reality is that we wouldn’t be here at all if Jesus didn’t exist, but we’re trying to activate our imaginations here! It’s just that the story, the teaching, the example and the work of Jesus are all so woven in, we can take it for granted. Asking questions like ‘What if Jesus had never existed?’ is one way that I can try and get past all the debris in my head about Jesus, to be able to look at Him afresh.

That stack of images and ideas in our heads can sometimes blur our view of Jesus and even cause us to lose our sense of connection with Him – like in that old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. It’s important to keep coming back to the source – reading the gospels as if we’ve never seen them before, allowing ourselves a fresh encounter with the one who was called Emmanuel – God with us. Maybe that could be something to do over the Christmas break? And of course, we can keep asking Jesus to clear away some of the rubble to give us a clearer view of Him and a deeper connection with Him.

Please Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to more of you…

If you’d prefer to have some more visuals with the song, I made an audio-visual version, with lots of these kind of art history images of Jesus, for a high school Scripture class. It is made with the studio version of the song, rather than the live recording. You can find that version here

May you know God’s grace and care for you this week.

Much love, Nerida

“And now, just as you received Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Col 2:6-7)