Tag Archives: faith

My International Women’s Day Thanksgiving

Apparently, some Jewish men would wake up each morning and pray, “Thank you God for not making me a woman.” It makes me incredibly sad to think that like them, there are still too many men today who cannot imagine that being a woman can be just as exciting and energising and amazing as being a man, or react as if being likened to a woman is the worst kind of insult. And it breaks my heart that there are too many women around the world who have been made to feel less than their brothers: less valuable, less loved, less called, less empowered, less worthy. Because nothing could be further from the truth.

This International Women’s Day I am thanking God for making me a woman.

I am thanking God for the delight and privilege it is to embody my life and calling as a daughter of the King. For the exhilarating journey it has been to embrace my calling as a woman in ministry and a woman in leadership.

I am thanking God that on the day of creation He made both female and male in His image and called us to serve and steward this world He had made.

I am thanking God that on the day of His resurrection He invited both women and men to share in and tell of the new kind of life He had made possible.

I am thanking God that on the day of Pentecost He poured out His Spirit on both His daughters and His sons, young and old, empowering them to live out and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom.

I am thanking God that on the day when all things will be set right there will full unity and equality between women and men, from every tribe and every tongue, as together we experience the fulfilment and flourishing of all His good purposes.

I am thanking God that I get to live as a woman at a time when women are raising their voices and telling their stories and naming their outrage and stepping out into their calling and using their gifts and refusing to be silenced, pigeonholed, or overlooked.

I am thanking God that although I have never wanted to see myself as a ‘pioneer’ or ‘trailblazer’, that in my little corner of the world I have had the privilege of being the first woman to take on a number of roles and accomplishments. I am thanking God for opening doors that even I couldn’t see, for breaking down barriers before I realised they were there, for giving His grace to walk the road before I knew how difficult it could be, and for pouring out His joy and delight as I step into all He has for me.

I am thanking God for the many men who are my colleagues, peers, friends, and brothers, who have supported and encouraged, championed and advocated for me, and at times stood aside to give me ‘their’ place, who continue to respect and work alongside me as their equal, who listen to and learn from me, who honour and embrace my calling and my contributions.

I am thanking God for the many women who are my sisters, confidantes, mentors and mentees, who inspire and challenge me, who look up to and walk alongside me, who delight in and delight me, who enlarge my own imagination as they model all the different ways they are called to flourish as women of God, who show me more and more of how thankful we can be for God’s gift of making, equipping, calling, and delighting in us as women.

And I am thanking God that although there is still plenty of work to be done for us to lift up and embrace, include and hear His daughters all around the world, that His heart has always been and will always be towards and for them, and that He has made each of us women according to His will and for His good purpose in this world.

Thank you God for making me a woman.
Thank you God for making women.
Thank you God for women.

 

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Today would be a good day to walk the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem

I’ve realised that in my Monday travel reflections, I have actually been avoiding writing about some of my very favourite places to visit, because it is so hard to capture in a few words and images why I love them so much. One such place is Jerusalem. Definitely one of my favourite places in the world, I’ve been there on four different trips and I certainly plan to go back again in the future. In particular, today I’m thinking how lovely it would be to walk through the stone streets of the Old City. I won’t be able to capture all I love about it, but I’d like to at least make a start!

Mt Scopus view over Jerusalem

What do I love about the Old City streets?

I love the beautiful Jerusalem sandstones themselves. If stones could talk … what tales they could tell! And yet, silent as they are, they testify to the creativity and ingenuity of those who have come before, and to the inevitable passage of time.

Tower of David

I love the history. Imagining all those who have walked these streets before me. Allowing stories from ancient and more modern times come to life in the place where they actually happened.

Roman Cardo

I love the layers. The remnants of ruined houses from the Roman era frozen in time beneath the pavement.

Burnt House

Walking through the tunnel built by Hezekiah that lies beneath the foundations of the city itself.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

The archaeological excavations of sites where Jesus visited and spoke.
Pool of Bethesda

The jumble of streets with steps and twists and corners and hidden delights.

Old City street

Walking on the rooftops with their paradoxical mix of satellite dishes and ancient stones.

Rooftop Walk

I love the walls. Walking atop the city wall, circumnavigating the city just as David, Nehemiah and so many others have done before.

Walls

The ancient Israelite wall unearthed below the current street.

Hezekiah's Wall

The Western Wall. The remnants of the glorious Temple of Herod, a place for prayer and contemplation every day …

Western Wall

… and for an amazing celebration to welcome in the Sabbath evening.

Western Wall Sabbath

I love the markets. The hustle and bustle of shopkeepers selling artefacts and trinkets and the foods of a number of different cultures.

Old City shop

And getting up early enough to walk through the streets before the shops open and the tourists descend.

Old City shops opening

And I love seeing people’s faith in practice. Orthodox Jews mingling with Israeli soldiers, seeking ways to respect their shared traditions.

Crowds

Muslims gathered to study in the grounds of the Dome of the Rock.

Dome of the Rock study group

Christian pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa, following the footsteps of the crucified Lord Jesus.

Via Dolorosa sign

What have I learned from walking the Old City streets?

There is an incredible richness of tradition and history and faith in this city. A sacred place for the three of the world’s major religions, it has been a place of incredible prayer and devotion.

Old City view

Of course it has also been a place of terrible conflict and strife. As an outsider, the complex combination of historical experiences and current politics makes it hard to see how this can ever truly be a city of peace.

Western Wall Israeli soldiers 1

And yet … in the Old City itself, people of different cultures, languages and faiths work and live side by side. Ordinary people seeking to live their lives, even as the currents of world politics and religion swirl around them. They remind me once again of the common humanity we all share.

Old City Market

While as a Christian I believe that the story of Jerusalem (along with all other stories) ultimately finds its fulfilment in Jesus, I acknowledge that I can learn so much from people of other faiths and practices. I remember my own “good Samaritan story” – when I twisted my ankle quite badly one Friday morning on the uneven steps outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Christian pilgrims swarmed past me oblivious, the Israeli police paid me no heed, and the first Muslim shopkeeper I asked for assistance was afraid of compromising his faith by touching me on his holy day. Another Muslim stall-holder came to my aid, providing me with a cane and helping me hobble up the street to where I was staying. He told me why the first man had been reluctant to help, but that he believed helping someone in need was more important than following religious rules. I shared with him that Jesus told a beautiful story that very much said the same thing.

Mosque and Israeli flags

Psalm 122 calls its readers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Is that because this city more so than any other needs peace? Perhaps. But it is also because this city was for the psalmist the place where the living God had revealed His very presence. The prayer was that His true shalom might be known as it radiated out from Himself and His people. In Jesus, God has revealed Himself once and for all to all people everywhere. No longer do we need to go to Jerusalem to meet with God. But I still pray that this place, so dear to the heart of His people throughout the ages, would continue to be a place where the hope of peace and wholeness that He brings may be experienced more and more.

Psalm 122 sign in three languages

Seeing things from a new perspective (or, today would be a good day to be in Cappadocia)

 

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I have a just a few (thousand!) digital photos from my travels 🙂 But the one above is what I have as a background on my iPad. I love the photo itself, but I also love what it reminds me of. The day that I had the privilege of hot-air ballooning across the surreal landscape of Cappadocia.

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This remote part of Turkey has a fascinating, alien-like landscape that is an amazing sight to behold in and of itself. What made it even more intriguing was seeing it from a new perspective as we floated above (and even between) it.

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In some ways it is nothing out of the ordinary, just rocks and sky, dirt and trees. But we spent a tranquil couple of hours in the air, just wondering and marveling at the earth below us.

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Watching the sunrise and the shadows play. Listening to the stillness and contemplating the world in all its varied splendour.

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It was a beautiful exercise in seeing things from a different perspective and these photos remind me that that is not a bad metaphor to take into other areas of life.

sunrise

With photography, some of the most beautiful and memorable images from around the world have happened when someone took their camera and looked at things from a slightly different angle, gaining a new perspective on what is seen.

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Some of the best inventions and innovations in the world have come about when someone dared to look at an age-old problem from a new perspective.

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I think seeing with a different perspective is a helpful picture of what study is all about. I love the insights I gain when I take something I know a little about, and ask new questions, or bring new perspectives to bear on it, and suddenly more that was previously unknown is revealed.

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I hope that in my vocation, as I teach and preach, that I am able to help others look at things with a new perspective. I teach the Bible, which doesn’t change. But we can always look at it and listen to it in new ways, and God speaks amazing truth when we have our perspective shifted, even if only ever so slightly.

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And in the end, I think is a pretty good picture for what my faith in Jesus means to me. I spoke at a youth group Q and A night on Friday, and one of the questions was “What difference does being a Christian make to your every day life?” My answer was that it completely changes not only the way I see the world, but the very way that I understand what it is to be in the world, and therefore the way that I am in the world.

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I have a new perspective on who I am, and how valuable people are, and what the purpose of life is, and what the goal of history is, and how I want to live all of that out. I have been transformed and I want to be a part of seeing the world transformed.

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Today, like every day, is a good day to stop and look at the world around from a new perspective.

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