The Long Way Home

We have walked a long way to get here.
You can trace our footsteps back a way…
They go through some beautiful places
and some not quite so pretty.
We’ve stood on top of some mountains,
found ourselves knee deep in clear, flowing streams,
And, from time to time,
we’ve been caught deeper in some much murkier stuff.
In every place we’ve trod
we’ve left a mark.
And every step we’ve taken
has left its mark on us.
Our hands have worked hard to bring us here.
They’ve held hammers and screwdrivers
as we’ve built a world around us,
Crying, burping babies as we’ve welcomed new ones in
Pots, pans and spatulas as we’ve provided for our loved ones
And occasionally,
Tools of a different kind as we’ve torn things down.
On everything we’ve held
we’ve left a tiny mark
And everything we’ve held
has left a mark on us.
We journey in search of the one
who walked many roads
Who held many tools
Who called us to follow, to build and to love.
And as we search,
there’s a chance we might feel
that our feet have become too dirty,
our hands too scarred.
We might feel
That the roads we have travelled (and those we see ahead)
The things our hands have done (and those we see them having to do)
have left us too marked,
too scarred,
too ungentle
to follow a King into his kingdom.
But take courage…
Walk on,
and be met by the one who sees all that you are
and loves you.
Be found again
by the one who knows each success you have celebrated,
each failure you have grieved
and chooses you.
Be drawn into life
by the one who has walked beside your every moment,
and who walks before you even now.
In your journey,
be found by your Lord.


Source: Gareth

Before there can be a fullness

Before there can be a fullness,
there must be an emptiness.
Hands which hold weapons must unclench and release.
Mouths spitting words of hatred must fall silent
Hearts full of fear and anger must beat a slower measure
Bellies full of bile must untwist and cease to churn
Minds full of sins committed and debts owed must wipe the ledgers clean.
Before there can be a fullness
There must be an emptiness.
We must cease fire.
We must lay down arms.
We must end hostilities.
But emptiness on its own is not peace.
It can masquerade as peace for a while;
It is, after all, better than war.
If we could even begin to empty ourselves and our world of conflict
We would be living worthy lives indeed.
But once there is an emptiness,
We have a chance at fullness.
Minds which have wiped away blame and debt
might fill themselves  with new possibilities.
Bellies empty of bile
might fill themselves with food that warms and strengthens.
Hearts which have ceased thrashing in anger
might begin  to beat a rhythm of hope
Mouths empty of hatred
might begin to whisper songs of love.
Hands empty of weapons
might pick up tools to build and grow,
or simply open wide to receive another’s embrace.
And empty arms might be filled with a newborn child.
And empty skies might be filled with Angels singing
And empty tombs might be filled with news so good it spills out and washes across the world.
Once there is an emptiness
There can be a fullness.
And in that fullness we might find our peace.


Source: Gareth

For a moment there was peace

Early in the morning one day last week
A woman stood on a beach,
Her boots sank into the wet sand
as the freezing ocean lapped her toes
and dawn struggled to fight through the fog
mumbling the announcement that a new day was begun.
As she shielded her mug of coffee from the mist that wasn’t quite rain
(or the rain that wasn’t quite mist)
She decided that she had held on to some old hurts for too long;
that being right might be less important than being happy;
that by letting go she might free herself up to experience joy once more.
So in her mind,
one by one,
she examined the trespasses of those who’d sinned against her
and letting them drop into the water
let the waves carry them out to sea.
Immeasurably lighter,
she took a great gulp of her coffee,
And for a moment, there was peace.
Late in the afternoon a hundred years ago
As the beating sun baked a growing city hard
and the paving stones and bricks burned the feet of those inadequately shod
A man walked towards his home,
suffering as the Australian sun mocked his woolen suit
he loosened his tie to little effect,
his eyes unseeing as he pondered his many and heavy responsibilities.
He stood and waited for his tram,
wondering how he might protect his small corner of order
from a mighty and chaotic universe.
A hand tugged at his sleeve.
“Mate…”
A ragged workman was peering at him with an expression of deep concern on his leathery face.
“Yer look like yer about to blow a gasket. Here yer go.”
An ice-cream was thrust into his hand and before the man could give thanks or offer payment the worker walked away.
Staring up to the skies and offering thanks for the kindness of humanity
the man ate his ice-cream.
And for a moment, there was peace.
A hundred years from now… (and two hundred, and five)
Some place in this city
Some point in the day
There will be an act of mercy
A belly filled
A word of love
A hand of hope
A sudden epiphany
And for a moment
There will be peace.


Source: Gareth

Listening, Watching, Acting

Listening God
The voices of conflict cry out to be heard….
Men and women stand in parliaments and cry out in shrill, self-satisfied anger while meters, miles and continents away,
your children hope for food and safety.
Watching God
Warriors bare their chests and boast of victory
or hunch at their desks bored while they wiggle the joystick
that will rain death upon another continent,
while crouched in homes and holes,
your children hope for deliverance
Acting God
In small rooms and large,
In business suits and uniforms
people gather to make
quiet deals which stave off war,
In churches, mosques, synagogues and town halls,
Friends and neighbours gather wearing cardigans or t-shirts
finding food to share,
money to give,
new ways to understand.
Let our ears hear,
Let our eyes see,
let our hands work to bring about your Kingdom,
Listening
Watching
Acting
God.


Source: Gareth

Living Lives of Beauty

I’m not primarily a visual person.  I tend to experience the world more through my ears than my eyes.  I learn faster by listening to someone talk than by reading something they’ve written.  I can sit and work happily in an office that looks like a tornado hit it (anyone who’s seen my office will be nodding at this point) but if the traffic noise on North Road is too intrusive I find it hard to concentrate.  And while I tend to quite enjoy art, it’s music that tends to drive me.
This is why it came as a bit of a surprise a couple of years ago when I found myself moved to tears in front of a painting.  It was not a day where I expected to be moved to tears.  Cal and I were in New York doing New York things… We’d had breakfast at a diner, taken our clothes to a Laundromat and wandered the streets a bit with me humming Paul Simon songs and Cal asking me to stop.
We went to the Met Museum and I was happily caught up in marveling at Henry VIII’s enormous armor that I’d just seen when almost by accident we wandered into a room full of Van Gogh.  He took my breath away.
I found myself standing in front of a painting, caught up the whorls and eddies of his brush strokes, drawn into the painting, moved by its warmth and beauty to the point where it took a couple of other Australian tourists standing side by side with the painting so they could take “selfies” with it to jar me back to reality.
The thing is that Van Gogh did not have an enormous amount of success in his lifetime.  Interest was beginning to pick up around the time he died but much of his work was done not to attract money or fame, but simply to create works of great beauty.  It was that beauty which took my breath away 150 odd years later, and found me gruffly wiping a tear from the corner of my eye, trying not to snarl at the gurning Aussies who’d broken me out of my dream state.
It’s a constant temptation to “measure our success”.  We measure ourselves against Key Performance Indicators, or the marks we get in our courses of study, or the wealth we create for ourselves and our companies.  We measure ourselves by the number of people in the pews or the fullness of the plates.  None of those things are bad things.  If we don’t have goals, we can live pretty aimlessly.
But perhaps one of our aims should be beauty for beauty’s sake.  We’re not all Van Gogh, but we’re all capable of beauty.  If we live peacefully because peace is beautiful, we may not be rewarded with a hundred friends.  If we live justly because justice is beautiful, we may not always be treated with justice ourselves. If we live prayerfully because prayer is beautiful, we may not fill our pews.  But success is not always measured in what we see.  Maybe, somewhere far from where we sit, long into the future, someone may be transformed by our acts of beauty.
We Christians are followers of a “failed” leader, who chose a life of peace, justice and love and was put to death in a violent, hateful and unjust manner.  (Of course, that was not the end of the story). If anyone should believe in the capacity for our acts of hope and beauty to outlive us, it’s us.


Source: Gareth