If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. If I say,
“Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
I think that I know how the Psalmist was feeling when he wrote the words of Psalm 139, because I recently travelled to Thursday Island to speak at an MU North Queensland Conference.
It may not be ‘the opposite side of the world’ to Sydney, but it was a long way away and a very different place.
I flew to Cairns from Sydney and then took a small plane which stopped at Weipa, Arukun and then Horn Island. Although Thursday Island has a hospital to serve the surrounding area, it doesn’t have an airport of its own so I took the ferry from Horn to Thursday Island.
Although the island sits in a beautiful tropical ocean, it isn’t possible to swim because of the sharks, crocodiles and box jellyfish!
However the MU Conference I was attending soon filled up my time, and I was so busy meeting MU members from both the Torres Strait Islands and the Australian mainland that I wouldn’t have had time for swimming anyway.
The Conference was on the topic of ‘Family Matters’ and we spent time considering and discussing the way God shows that families matter to him and the way that Families matter to us. We remembered that as well as our own biological family, as Christians we are also part of God’s family and that no matter what we are going through, whether good or bad, God is with us and he is faithful and trustworthy.
The services held during the conference in the Quetta Memorial Church, also known as the Old Cathedral were wonderful times of worshipping and praising God and hearing his word explained to us.
There were incredible feasts of home cooked dishes provided by our local MU members, including dugong and turtle, which were both a new experience for me. Then in the evenings we gathered for fellowship, singing and dancing in the marquee set up between the church and the hall.
It all finished far too quickly, but I am left with wonderful memories of Thursday Island and the MU members I met there. We may be separated by distance, but we are united in Christ Jesus and we all live in part of our Heavenly Father’s creation. There is nowhere we can go where we are hidden from him.
President's Report to 120th Annual General Meeting - 1/4/2016
The society that gave birth to Mothers’ Union in Sydney in 1896 was very different to ours today.
Although women in South Australia had been granted the right to vote the previous year, it was still to be another 6 years before the women were granted the right to vote in NSW. Street lighting and a lot of home lighting was by gas, and petrol driven cars weren’t around until early in the 20th Century.
The first meeting of MU in Sydney was held right here in the Chapter House of St Andrew’s Cathedral and it’s hard to imagine what the women who attended the inaugural meeting would think if they were suddenly transported to our meeting here today. So much would be foreign to their experiences, and yet their purpose for the organisation was the same as ours today ‘to be specially concerned with all that strengthens and preserves marriage and Christian family life.’
The way they expressed this was different from the way we do, and the ministries of MU have changed with the changing needs of society, but our purpose is the same, it hasn’t changed and it mustn’t change in the future. We are here to share Christ’s love by encouraging, strengthening and supporting marriage and Christian family life.
My written report describes the way we did this in 2015, and you can read the details there. However what we did in 2015 was founded on the work and ministries of MU Sydney over the past 119 years. We would not be able to do many of the ministries we are involved in if it weren’t for the dedicated service and commitment of our members over all those years. Each member doing their own part, some more and some less, some well-known, others only remembered by God, but all combining to provide the foundations we are building on today. This also means that the future of MU in Sydney depends on us. Sometimes we may think that the small contribution we make as an individual doesn’t matter much, but we serve a great God who takes the many small ministries: the cup of tea at a family court, the visit with a gift and a gospel to a new parent, the phone call to let a housebound friend know she is not forgotten; and turns them into a witness for him that is celebrated 120 years later!
So let us persevere and carry the MU Banner, both literally and metaphorically, looking to God to see the opportunities he opens for us and trusting him to give us the strength, the people and the abilities to turn them from ideas into realities. After all, as Ephesians 3 v 20 & 21 say our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Saturday 24th October started out as a normal day for my family. During the day my husband, Bob, drove us from our home to our son’s new flat and back again. He says he felt fine until late afternoon when he started feeling very tired and a bit sick. During the evening he developed a severe ear ache and at 4am Sunday morning I took him to a local Hospital where they diagnosed an acute ear infection, observed him, put him on antibiotics and painkillers and sent us home.
He slept most of the day and I thought that was good because it meant he was getting better. Unfortunately I was wrong. He actually had a bacterial infection that was resistant to the antibiotic they’d given him and he was getting worse. Late afternoon he was sweating profusely and I couldn’t rouse him, so I called the ambulance and he was taken back to the Hospital, where they discovered that the infection had travelled to his brain and he wasn’t responding to treatment so they transferred him on to intensive care in a larger hospital for specialist treatment.
While we were waiting for the transfer I took out my phone and called the minister at the church I had worked in for many years. Although it was Sunday night he answered, listened to what I said and said he would pray and he would get people in the church praying too. I also rang my sister and she also said she would get their church praying.
At the time, no Bible verses sprang to my mind, I didn’t suddenly experience peace or any sense that things would turn out the way I wanted, in fact I was still very scared, but I did have a feeling of being part of a bigger family who were supporting me and I felt that I had done everything I could do and I could leave the future in God’s hands.
The rest of the story is that the doctors chose one of only two common antibiotics that would work on the bacteria Bob had and within 12 hours he went from being unconscious and unable to breathe for himself to sitting up talking to us.
It did take 3 weeks for him to get out of hospital and he did have considerable ongoing treatment, but God has been gracious to us and he doesn’t appear to have any permanent brain damage.
Comfort comes in many different forms, and the comfort I received from God came through doctors, nurses and praying friends. God sends his comfort in different ways according to the needs of the person and the situation they are in, but a passage in 2 Corinthians tells us a number of things about comfort.
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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Firstly it tells us that all comfort comes from God, whether we recognize him or not because he is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
The second thing we hear is that the comfort God gives us has more than one purpose. We are comforted in all our troubles so we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from God. But we have to accept God’s comfort before we can pass it on. Just like our salvation, our comfort is a free gift from God to us which we can accept or reject, but having accepted it, God’s purpose is that we pass it on.
Many Christians will tell you of the support they have felt when they are going through problems, both big and small, and they know that others are praying for them. Sometimes we can find that because of sickness or other problems we just can’t pray for ourselves, but we are carried by the prayers of others. I know because I’ve been in that situation more than once.
So what comfort is God offering you today? Are you prepared to accept his comfort and spend time with him in prayer and reading his word?
Who is God calling you to pass his comfort on to? Whatever else you do for them, will you pray for them?
Let’s remember David’s words about the God he knew and loved which are just as true for us today.
Psalm 119 v 76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
God’s love never failed David, his love will never fail to us. He has promised and he always keeps his promises – that is true comfort.
I promised our webmaster I would write a new blog once I started work as MU Sydney Diocesan President. I’m now nearly half way through my first year and I am only just making good on that promise.
In my defence, I have been on a very steep learning curve finding out all that’s involved in my new position, and it has kept me very busy. However, that is more of a self justification than a valid excuse, because there have been many times I could have written. I just didn’t take the opportunities I had.
So, as I‘ve had 6 months to learn about being Diocesan President, what have I actually learnt in that time?
- I’ve learnt that watching other people do a job is not at all the same as doing it yourself!
- I’ve learnt that keeping an organisation operating apparently effortlessly requires a tremendous amount of hard work behind the scenes.
- I’ve learnt to carefully choose the issues I give my time to. Without planning and careful selection, my time is swallowed up by things that other people can handle perfectly well. I need to work on the things that only I can do. (Mostly!)
- I’ve learnt that working with a team may take longer in the short term than doing things myself, but in the long term it spreads the load, gives opportunities for a number of people to contribute their talents, helps them to realise they are valuable to the group, and stops me burning myself out.
- I’ve learnt that lots of people are happy to help, but I need to give them the chance.
- I’ve learnt to be quick to admit it, when I don’t know something, and to be prepared to find the answer and get back to the enquirer.
- I’ve learnt to be quick to apologise when I have got something wrong.
- I’ve learnt that MU members are loyal, compassionate, committed and very encouraging - although I already knew that.
I could continue on, but the question is ‘how is any of this helpful to people reading my blog?’
Well, there is one other thing I’ve learnt, which is relevant to every Christian. Whatever situation I face, God is there with me and will guide and direct me, if I’m prepared to ask and then to listen and watch.
As James 1:5-7 says
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
I’ve also learnt that God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we expect. So we need to keep an open mind about the way God is directing us, and we need to make the most of the opportunities he gives us, even if they weren’t the ones we were anticipating, or even wanting.
What unexpected opportunity is God opening for you?
Are you prepared to take it and to trust him to help you make the most of it?
1358 delegates from 38 different countries met to encourage each other in their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the sufficient and only means of salvation. They met to reaffirm their belief in the Bible as the true word of God and to commit to following the will of God revealed through the Bible. And I was one of those delegates, sent by MU Sydney to make contact with MU members attending the Conference.
There are many official reports, but I want to share some of the highlights from my personal perspective. The first thing that I think of is the daily Bible Studies, on the book of Ephesians, led by a different person each day, so coming with a different way of presentation, but in each case clear, focused on the passage, and passionately committed to discerning God’s will for us in our societies today.
The phrase ‘every tribe and nation’ comes to my mind, as I think back about participating in the Conference, and although it’s a bit of an exaggeration, the experience of worshipping God together with Christian brothers and sisters from many countries was powerful and inspiring. The singing was led by African musicians and singers, and many times it felt as though we were being brought together into the Throne Room of our Heavenly Father, united by our faith, hope and love. ‘How Great Thou Art’ became a particular favourite. The daily worship session was led by a group from a different country each day, reminding us that we are united in Christ, regardless of where we live.
The theme that ‘we are not alone’, presented through a session early in the conference was a continued encouragement. However the session was sobering as it also showed us the persecution being suffered by so many of our Christian brothers and sisters as they seek to stand firm for the Gospel, received in the Bible, not modified to suit the wishes of different societies.
Mini Conferences on particular topics operated within the larger conference, during three of the days, and they provided another way of people meeting and interacting with others who shared their particular ministry focus or interest. I attended the ‘Marriage and Family’ mini conference, and found it very interesting that so many of the issues discussed were common to all the different societies represented, whether African, Australian, Asian, American or European. I met up with a number of MU members at the mini conference, but I also found them at other times, by looking for women dressed in various forms of MU uniforms.
The Conference began and concluded with a Communion service in Nairobi Cathedral, a wonderful opportunity to praise God together and express our common faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord. The Nairobi Cathedral Children’s choir sang beautifully at the closing service.
But it wasn’t just the formal parts of the conference, vital as they are, that gave the conference its impact. The opportunities to meet and share over Morning and Afternoon Tea, lunch and the two Conference dinners were invaluable in developing contacts and relationships. And it wasn’t all work, as we all loaded onto buses on Thursday afternoon for a trip to Nairobi National Park to see animals in the wild. To my delight and that of my bus companions, we saw lions, a rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, monkeys, baboons and deer (I’m a bit hazy on the actual type of deer, but we saw several types). Then we had dinner at the Carnivore centre, a spectacular experience, and another opportunity for sharing with other delegates.
During the last two days, a document called the Nairobi Communique was written by a group of selected delegates. All delegates then broke into national or area groups, and discussed the document, submitting their suggestions to the writing committee. The final document, including a series of resolutions called the Nairobi Commitment was presented to the Conference on the final day and overwhelmingly adopted. Details are on the Gafcon website www.gafcon.org
Although the Conference has now concluded, many of the relationships formed and contacts made will be continuing, thanks to email and the internet. For me it has been a once in a lifetime experience, and I am so thankful that God provided the way for me to attend. I pray that as the delegates return to their ‘normal’ lives, along with the memories we will carry with us the commitment to stand for the truth of the Gospel, regardless of any opposition we face from within or outside the church.
26 October 2013
A while ago we moved into our brand new house and since then we’ve had family and friends to visit us, to see what the house is like. Before we moved in I could show them the house plans, and photos of the house being built, but now I can actually walk them through the rooms, and let them experience it for themselves. I certainly don’t feel any need to bring out the plans and show those, the plans have been superseded.
It reminds me of Hebrew 1: 1-2 which says
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
We’d all love to be able to see God, and that’s one of the joys we look forward to in heaven. Hebrews reminds us that God has been in touch with his creation ever since he made the world, and that he communicated in various ways in the past through the prophets. But we don’t need prophets bringing us messages from God these days, because God has shown us exactly what he is like in the person of Jesus.
That’s what Hebrews 1:3 goes on to say:
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all thingsby his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Our focus is on Jesus, and of course we learn about him through the Bible. Verse 3 also reminds us that Jesus’ work has been completed, he has already provided purification for sins, and so he was able to sit down at God’s right hand.
Since Jesus’ work is complete, there is nothing we can do to add to it, we simply need to accept what he has already done for us. That is incredibly freeing, and our response to that is to lovingly, gratefully serve him. Our service doesn’t, add to our salvation, but it does please God, and that must surely be what we want to do, after all he’s done for us.
I’ve had a few unfortunate travelling experiences recently. It started on Good Friday when my husband and I were driving down the mountain to attend the service at our church. We started by congratulating ourselves that we were going down, when everyone else was going up, but then we realised that we would be joining the upward crawl when we needed to get back home later in the day. Sure enough, the part of our trip that normally takes half an hour, took an hour and three quarters that afternoon.
Since then I’ve had another two very slow trips, caused by traffic accidents along my route, the most recent being on a Thursday evening, the day before the MU Sydney Executive meeting. Well, you could correctly point out to me that traffic delays are all part of living in a large city, so I decided to travel to the meeting by public transport. I boarded the 7.30am train at Wentworth Falls on the Friday morning, and settled down for the trip. About 15 mins out from the city centre the train stopped. That isn’t unusual as the concentration of trains near the city means this often happens, but what was unusual was the announcement saying that due to an accident the passengers on our train would be evacuated. That did eventually happen, but not for an hour and a half, during which we sat and watched many, many trains go past us in both directions. It appears the accident concerned our train alone.
So I didn’t do any better when I abandoned my car and tried to use public transport. What’s the answer? Do I just give up travelling and stay at home? That would be one solution, but people who know me, also know that that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
It started me thinking about my spiritual journey, am I as persistent when obstacles arise there? There are often things that stop me reading my Bible, but how determined am I to do it despite the interruptions? Do I decide it’s too hard today, and I can just try again tomorrow, or do I try again today, even if I’m tired? If things make it difficult for me to attend church or MU do I look for ways around the obstacle, and if the ways around prove to have their own problems, do I keep on trying?
I do if it’s a means of getting me somewhere I want to go physically, so why am I so easily put off when it’s my spiritual progress that’s jeopardised?
James had some wise advice about persevering in James 1:2-5
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance) 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
It’s not the time of year we usually make ‘resolutions’, but I’m resolving to be more persevering in my spiritual walk as well as my physical.
One of our supermarket chains has an advertisement in which it claims to have ‘everything you need to celebrate Easter’. Of course it has Easter eggs, chocolates, meat to cook, fruit and vegetables, hot cross buns and Easter Cards (with bunnies and chickens on them, of course).
I feel very inclined to contact them and ask them when they are holding their worship services, and who is leading the praise and thanks to Jesus for all he has done for us. Because that’s what I need to do to celebrate Easter, not buy things.
When I think about that first Easter, I think about the way the disciples must have felt. Total confusion and devastation on the Friday when they all deserted Jesus at the time of his arrest, and fled. They thought that Jesus had come from God to lead them into a new way of living, a new kingdom. Had they been wrong? It seems it had all ended, so what would they do now?
Saturday was a day of deep depression when they huddled together, hiding from the Jews, in case they were next in line. Then came Sunday, and it started, not in joy, but in confusion. The women arrived, telling of angels outside the tomb, the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body missing. Peter and John went to see for themselves, and found the empty tomb, just as the women had said. What did it mean?
Then everything changed because Jesus himself was with them, explaining that this was all God’s plan and things had not sunk into chaos. All that had happened was known by God and had been necessary so that, through Jesus’ death, ‘everyone who believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16. How were they feeling now? Surely joy, mixed with amazement, combined with the dawning of understanding, as all the things Jesus had said to them previously now fell into place and made sense.
The first disciples didn’t understood what was happening, but we have the benefit of knowing the whole story, so we can celebrate together. My prayer as I write this is that you, and your family, have a joy filled, Christ centred Easter.
It’s now around two months since I moved house and life has continued to be a little complicated, because I work one and a half hours’ drive from where I’m now living.
Some friends were going overseas for a couple of months, so they have given me the keys to their unit, which is only 10 mins away from the church I work at. This has been a great blessing, and has definitely made it possible for me to do my work more effectively, but there are some problems with my organisational skills. I now have things at my temporary home up the Blue Mountains, at my friends’ place, at my mother’s place and at work. Yes, you’ve guessed it, wherever I am, I’m sure to be missing something I think I really need.
This is all contributing to me feeling a bit fragmented. The places I’m staying in are very comfortable and nice, so I’m a bit surprised to find that I am looking forward so much to being back in a home that is my own. I need to remember that many of my Christian brothers and sisters have no home they can call their own, at least here on earth. I also need to remember that for everyone who is a Christian, our security is in God, not in the place we live, the job we hold, or any other thing that the world thinks is important.
One of my favourite Psalms is no. 139. It has comforted me in a number of different situations, and once again it speaks to me about the fact that no matter where I am, in the world he made, I’m still within God’s care. I can never find a place where I can hide from God. (Just ask Jonah!)
Psalm 139 : 7 - 10
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,your right hand will hold me fast.
So, as I move from place to place, I can be certain that God is with me, wherever I am. And whatever my accommodation, I can be sure that I have a permanent home waiting for me in heaven.
How do I know? Because Jesus said so, and I trust his word.
In John 14 :2-4 Jesus said
‘ My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
The way to the place where Jesus has gone is belief in Jesus as God, and acceptance of him as Saviour and Lord of my life. I’ve done that, have you?