The voices we listen to

Woman listeningWe regularly witness people SHOUTING at one another on social media sites these days. It seems that in an age that prides itself on its tolerance and diversity, tolerance often only extends to those who happen to agree with us. Raise a question about what someone has written on one of these sites and watch the fireworks fly! Our tolerance is often exposed as being but a thin veneer.

The loud and insistent voices try to claim our attention. They seek to drown out the quieter, more considered and reflective voices. And they seek to stifle our own inner voice. This is a problem for, without access to these more thoughtful voices, we end up being buffeted from every side, like kites in a storm.

Message in a bottle

Illustration of a message in a bottleI was working with a group of school teachers a few months back, trying to find the words to connect with every person in the room. Sometimes it is hard to make yourself understood when talking with just one person, so how can you be sure when talking to a group of fifty? You call on your experience, you try to read the room and intuit what is going on, and you make an act of faith.

At times I can feel like a castaway on a desert island, placing messages in bottles hoping that one day someone somewhere will read one of them and may even be provoked to respond. I write my words, or I speak them out, but is anybody reading…is anybody listening? Should I write nothing? Say nothing? Would it make any difference if I did nothing at all?

Letting God be God

Cartoon of a person holding a sign saying "No!"Recently I was having a conversation with a young man. He was telling me that, as an atheist, even if God existed he would refuse to believe in him. He said it came down to this: God is not worth his time. He argued that even if he were to meet God face-to-face he would still say, ‘I refuse to believe’. He would not want to give God the satisfaction of having one more person believe in him.

I must admit that I found this confronting. Not for the first time it occurred to me that there is an element of choice when it comes to faith. Two people can encounter the same reality and one choose to say ‘yes’ to it, and the other choose ‘no’.

We will keep them in our prayers and thoughts

Praying handsHow many times have you heard a politician or journalist, whilst commenting on a national disaster, complete their commentary by adding, ‘Our prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends at this most difficult time’? Sometimes I think to myself how very nice that is, and then other times I’ll be more cynical and say, “Really, is this guy going to actually pray for the family”?

This thought crossed my mind recently when a close friend rang to say her dad was gravely ill, and the family had been advised he wouldn’t live much longer. This friend, aged in her early 40’s and with three young sons, lost her husband six years ago.

Taking a walk across the unknown

Illustration of man in a boatThere’s a strange story in the Bible that is a favourite of mine. It concerns Jesus walking on the water and then Peter’s attempt to join him there (see Matthew 14:22-33)*.

At first reading, this story is not immediately relevant to us in our daily lives. The ability to walk on the water may be a miraculous curiosity, perhaps serving to highlight our own lack of faith, but that isn’t telling us anything new. We already know that faith can be hard to come by.

To understand this story we need first to understand that the Scriptures are primarily about who God is and who we are called to be in response to God. Through stories and events, songs and proverbs, letters and parables, God is seeking to teach us about God and about ourselves.


Australian aboriginal dot paintingRecently I read a couple of opinion pieces in the newspaper about our Indigenous history. Both mentioned the word ‘Makarrata’, a Yolngu word meaning, ‘a coming together after a struggle’. The word has stayed with me, not only because it is a reminder of the ongoing struggle our Indigenous brothers and sisters grapple with, but also of struggles in our own lives.

How does this resonate with you? Have you ever found yourself in an ongoing struggle of some type? It might have been with your spouse, a child or in the workplace. Maybe you are currently experiencing a long-standing feud or tension. Such disharmony can make life quite miserable. We might wonder how on earth will we ever resolve the tensions. On the other hand, we might believe it is the other person’s fault, and resolutely decide not to make any move towards healing the situation. Unfortunately, the other party might also be thinking the same as you, and thus a ‘coming together’ is unlikely.

Where are you?

Adam Eve 300x300Occasionally in these reflections it is useful to reference the Bible. I do that if it is useful to the point I want to make. I hope you don’t mind.

However, there is something you should understand about the approach I take. I am not presenting it as history. The Bible is much more interesting than that. While it does contain history (e.g. King David really existed, as did Jesus, St Paul etc.) providing an account of history is not its primary concern. Instead, it is geared towards presenting us with a truth: the truth of the human being’s relationship with God.

Not hearing the news

Faith Journey

reading daily news webreadyA few years ago the British actress, Joanna Lumley, spent a week or two alone on a desert island as part of a TV documentary. She was left with a bag of rice and simply expected to make do. Afterwards, when asked whether she enjoyed anything about the experience she said: “not hearing the news.”

For some of us the daily news has become overwhelming. If it’s not terrorism, it’s wars or natural disasters or whatever nonsense a certain president is up to. It can feel as if the world has become a harsh and unfriendly place. The occasional inspiring human interest story at the end of the news report does little to redress the balance.

Hope for the future

bigstock Child on a beach with hands webreadyWe can hope for many things! I can hope tomorrow is sunny as I have a huge amount of washing to get dry. I can hope my wife picks up some meat for dinner on her way home from work. Then there are the bigger questions about what should I hope for when a close friend or relative dies? And, at a more personal level, I can wonder what hope is there for me when I finish my life on earth?

Some of these questions are very practical in nature. If it rains tomorrow, then I can wash the next day. If my wife doesn’t pick up the meat, then I can pop out to the butcher. But when it comes to the big ticket items, like what happens after death, people will have various views. Some have a pragmatic approach, that when life is over, that’s it! However, my guess is that most of us hope for something more. We hope if we get to this place called Heaven it will be worth it – even if we don’t really know what it will be like. We might also question whether we are worthy of getting into Heaven, or whether such a place even exists?

You are a unique individual in the eyes of God

Close up of baby's hand holding mother's fingerI find myself wondering how I might find the words that can be meaningful to the diverse group of people who are recipients of these reflections. For there is one thing that is certain: you are a unique individual in the eyes of God and God will be communicating with you in ways that only your eyes can see or your heart can discern. Those of you who have children instinctively know what I mean here. What works as a way of communicating with one child may not necessarily work with another. What each responds to is particular to them and, what’s more, something that works well with one child when they are young does not always work when they are older. In the following section I will offer some ideas on how to take this into account as you seek to hear and respond to what God is offering to you, but for now simply note that you are being invited on a journey. Where that journey goes and what it will involve will be unique to you.

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