Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heading North!

Well ... the bag is packed, I'm ready to go ... and no ... I am not going to sing any more of THAT song!

Tomorrow I hop a flight west to Beijing and then back East and North. The northern version of the country I currently reside in.
Tuesday is the day we go in, tomorrow we spend the night in Beijing, picking up Visas for the trip North.

For those of you wishing to know a little more about what I am doing, read on.

Our school works in partnership with the Eugene Bell Foundation. Eugene Bell support TB care centres throughout the North. TB is rampant up there and Eugene Bell do an awesome job partnering with the locals to provide medical supplies and assistance where needed and requested. You can read an excellent article about them here.

For the past nine years, I have served on our fundraising committee. We have an intense 6 week period where staff and students pull out all the stops to raise funds to buy a 6 month resupply kit for our care centre. The past 5 or so years, we have been able to resupply the clinic for a year which has been fantastic. Our kids have fun while saving lives. Things we did in the past year were a cooking school, an arthouse coffee house with live music and poetry, craft bazaars, hot chocolate sales, collecting coins and competing against other classes to get the most weight, soak the teacher campaigns, sales of shammograms (candy and personalised messages on St Patrick's day), an entire school fair put on by the different classes, talent shows ... you name it, our kids do it!

People often wonder how we know that the supplies are getting to where they need to go. Eugene Bell take a visiting team in twice a year and check the supplies and the clinics to see all is going well. I will be on one of those visiting delegations. Actually, I am going to be the official photographer for this visiting delegation and it will probably be some of the most challenging photography of my life! It's dark ... many things are not allowed to be photographed ... i am stepping out of my comfort zone and shooting up close with people ... :) The photos will be used by Eugene Bell with their fundraising and sponsors around the world so I really want to do a good job.

I will be gone two weeks and back on Dec 8th. Please pray for me and the team while I am gone ... Here are the things I would love prayer for ... (will be out of touch with the world for the next two weeks).

1. Health - I will be in and out of TB clinics with very sick patients, please pray for our protection. In addition, if I get sick, i would not be able to visit the sick patients and it is really important i get the pics.

2. Visas. Please pray that all our visas come through fine on Monday 23rd (or 22nd for my Nth American friends).

3. Camera Gear. Please pray on TUESDAY (24th) that all my camera gear gets in okay. We are a little concerned about one of the lenses. Pray that we have no difficulties or malfunctioning equipment.

4. Photography. Pray that I capture "moments". The pictures I am looking to catch are those fleeting moments where faces light up with hope and joy as patients get their meds. Those are the pics I want to bring back and show people.

5. Safety. Pray for our safety as we travel around.

6. Light. please pray that I would shine and be a light in some dark places.

7. Generally ... for me, I think this is going to be a hard trip, yet, I am fully confident that this is a God trip. Pray that I am close with him this trip.

I will post in two and a half weeks. Until then ...


Friday, November 20, 2009

Spring Is Coming

Hi All ...

It's been a long, long time but I am back! A lot has been happening in every which way in my life.

Stunning album out by Steven Curtis Chapman ... Beauty Will Rise. if you have not gotten it ... you need to do it. It is written in the aftermath of his 5 year old daughter's (Maria) death last year. It is the most raw, honest, hope-filled album I have heard in a long long time. Beauty Will Rise. Here is Steven talking about this album.

A song that is speaking to me a lot right now is

Spring Is Coming ...

We planted the seed
while the tears of our grief soaked the ground
The sky lost its sun
And the world lost its green to lifeless brown
Now the chill in the wind has turned the earth hard as stone
And silent seed lies beneath ice and snow
And my heart's heavy now
But I am not letting go
Of this hope I have
That tells me

Spring is coming
Spring is coming
All we have been hoping and longing for
Soon will appear
Spring is coming
Spring is coming
It won't be long now
It's just about here

Here the birds start to sing
Feel the life in the breeze
watch the ice melt away
The kids are coming out to play
Feel the sun on your skin
Growing strong and warm again
Watch the ground
Something is moving
Something is breaking through
New Life is breaking through

Spring is coming (Out of these ashes, beauty will rise)
Spring is coming (Sorrow will be turned to joy)
All we’ve been hoping and longing for (All we’ve hoped for)
Soon will appear (soon will appear)
Spring is coming (Out of the darkness beauty will shine)
Spring is coming (All of earth and heaven rejoice)
It won’t be long now (Spring is coming soon)
It’s just about here (Spring is coming soon)

This song reminds me of the Oscar Wilde Story "The Selfish Giant". If you have not read this, you can read it here. My favorite line in the story is this:
He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

How incredibly hope-filled. When we are going through our dark times ... the winters of our soul, we need to know that there is a Spring. Spring always comes. In the chill of the winter ... when all is barren and brown, it comes. It has to ... it's a natural law. It is also a spiritual one. And when it does ... it is sudden, swift and beautiful.

For the past few years, I have been unwell. In January - March 2008, I was in a very dark place. I was sick, exhausted and struggling. It was winter ... it was dark. I was at the end of myself and desperately needing to connect with God. I went to Cambodia and asked many of you to pray for me that it would be a place of encounter with God. I went, and it was an amazing time. One of the things that God spoke to my heart at the time was a word "Spring Is Coming".

So I went to Cambodia, heard from him, came home with hope and joy that Spring was coming. And then, things got worse and I got sicker. The rest of the year was like this, until I went home and had to have emergency surgery in August. Then, at Christmas, I had to have a hysterectomy. Spring is coming Sarah. What ... how can that be? I am staring in the face of the loss of my fertility and the possibility of "fruitfulness". I am a barren women and you tell me, "spring is coming"? What?

And this my friends, is where God is so incredible, he is the God of paradoxes. In the midst of huge loss ... of winter, new life is unfurling. We don't see it immediately, but we have the hope that under the ground, things are happening ... as Steven sings, new life is breaking through. It will. It does ... it has to. It's a spiritual and natural law. After every winter, there is Spring. The flowers are resting, new life is developing and Spring is coming.

In April this year, I was waiting for Spring (Northern hemisphere here ...). I blogged about the cherry tree outside my kitchen window. Basically, throughout winter, it had stood empty and seemingly lifeless and barren. Then it started to bud, and the buds stayed a long time. There seemed to be no action. Nothing. I watched the buds and one day, coming home from work, I looked up and at the top of the tree, 2 sprays had opened. Just two. I smiled to my self and thought "spring is coming". Seasons change quickly when they change. I arrived home from work the next day, and BOOM! The whole tree had exploded into blossom and was stunning. New life ... fruitfulness ... beauty ... stunning. This is how God works. In our winters ... we hope for ... we long for ... we cry out for Spring. It's hard ... it's dark ... but have hope. Spring is coming.

For me ... the tree has suddenly exploded into blossom. Spring is here. God told me it was just before Cambodia ... and now ...18 months on ... BOOM! Spring is here. A lot is happening, so in summary:
My health is just great ... tumor still there, on meds, but things seem pretty stable. Darling Ruby is doing really REALLY well. She is still on chemo but December the 31st will mark the end of her treatment. It has been a long road, but she is a little miracle really.

I have been granted a sabbatical next year. This means that I have a year away from Korea on half pay to study. I am working on a Masters in Counselling and it's online so I can do it anywhere. I can have 5 months in New Zealand reconnecting with my family and beloved country ... and I get 3 months in Sorrento, Italy, just my favorite place to be! My friends have a summer house there and have made it available to me in the fall.

My neighbour to the North of where I live. On Monday I will be going for two weeks as our school rep on the Eugene Bell Foundation, to visit TB care centres. Watch this space tomorrow and I will update you. Many many things going on with this and its exciting.

Spring is here and I see it. I have longed for it ... hoped for it and it is here. For me, it has been 9 years of winter, and I just sense new life that God is doing, breathing and working. I am keen to see where it goes.

For those of you who are still feeling the barrenness of winter, I will close out with Steven's Words. He says it so much better than me (and even better ... sings it ... get it!)

Spring is coming (Out of these ashes, beauty will rise)
Spring is coming (Sorrow will be turned to joy)
All we’ve been hoping and longing for (All we’ve hoped for)
Soon will appear (soon will appear)
Spring is coming (Out of the darkness beauty will shine)
Spring is coming (All of earth and heaven rejoice)
It won’t be long now (Spring is coming soon)
It’s just about here (Spring is coming soon)

PS. If you are wondering what this picture has to do with Spring ... it's a fig ... figs speak of fruitfulness ... 2nd ... when it seems to be winter and nothing much is happening on the surface, all the action is going on underneath ... just like in this picture! And 3rd. It just happens to be the most favorite picture of all I have shot this year. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009


New song ... one day I will figure out how to record and put them on as audio files ... but for now lyrics will have to suffice. It's a slow, very simple, heart song ... a prayer. Maybe it resonates with you? If so ... be encouraged because he does promise that springs will well up in the desert and he also promises that he will send the rains ...


In this desert place
Lord I seek your face
Come rain … on me
Rain … on me

In this dry and barren land
Lord reach out your hand
Come rain … on me …
Rain … on me …

Lord I need you
And I want you
Rain … on me
Rain on me …

You’re my lover
There’s no other
Rain … on me
Lord, Rain on me

You’re the one who can satisfy
Living water, come bring new life

Let it rain
Streams of living water flow
Come rain
On me …
Let it rain
I stretch my hands
Cry out for you
My rain
Come rain
On me …

Lyrics and Music. Copyright S Carpenter September 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When you have nothing to say ... say nothing!

Hi all

My apologies for not updating my blog in a while. Not sure if anyone is even still reading it ... but if you are ... I will be back in a bit. At present I just have nothing to say. Quite a dry stint and my prayer (and the current song I am working on) is ... Rain on Me. Rain Lord. Let the desert burst into bloom. Cause rivers of life to well up within me and help me break up the fallow ground.

I will be back ... watch this space.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

He Reigns

As mentioned in the post on Enduring Seasons, Oprah asks the question, "what do you know for sure". Having come through a hard couple of years, this song answers that for me! If you haven't read that blog post, click the link above and read it before you read this!

He Reigns

I say
The night is long, can’t find my way
I say
I’m stumbling in the darkness

They say
It’s always dark before the dawn
They say
That when the night is dark
The stars shine bright
The stars shine brighter

When I think I’m all alone
I know that God is on the throne
And when I can’t tell night from day
I tumble to my knees and pray
And this one thing I know
And this one thing I know

He reigns
For when the night is darkest
He’s the light
Shining brighter than the brightest day
He reigns
And when I can’t see my way
This one thing I know
This one thing I know
He Reigns!

He says
He’s the calm in the middle of storms
I say
Those waves are getting higher and higher
Higher and higher

He says
Get out of the boat
Put your feet on the waves
I say
I’m afraid, I’m afraid, I’m afraid the water’s fire

Hold me
Carry me when I can’t find my way
Hold me
Be my light
Be my guide


Refrain (he makes me lie down, he makes me lie down)

The Lord is my shepherd
I’ll not want

He leads me beside waters still

He restores my soul
And guides me in righteousness

When I walk through valleys
In the shadow of death

I’ll not fear
You are with me

Your rod and staff
They comfort me

Goodness and love
Will follow me – as

I will dwell in you
Evermore - as

Refrain to fade out

Words and Music Copyright S Carpenter May 2009

To Every Thing Turn, Turn ... Enduring Through Seasons

I was on Staff Devotions yesterday ...

Last week I reached a milestone. I turned 40. Last year I started a tradition where I break bread with God on my birthday. I sit with him and reflect on the past year and his gifts to me and things I am thankful for in my life. This past Friday morning I found myself reflecting on why 40 is a landmark birthday. 40 is seen as the halfway point in life. Many people seem to struggle with this particular birthday. As I thought about turning 40, I thought about my Dad who died at 49. I thought, “I am sure my father never dreamed that at 40, he would have just 9 short years left”. And that made me think about the fact that NONE of us know how many days we will have. God does. And I thought, Lord, really this is a reminder to me to count my days and make my days count. Can I go to bed tonight saying that I LIVED my day – rather than just getting caught up in the frenzy of it? Was I present in it? Did I love someone today? Did I give them hope? Did I encourage them? Did I reflect Jesus with skin on to someone in my circle? Have I loved and laughed and lived today?

On my birthday, as I sat with God reflecting about things that I was thankful for this past year, health was at the top of my list. Many of you know my story – I have shared it before. The past few years have been really challenging for me. I had surgery in December and since then I have been recovering. As I reflected on the things in my life I am grateful for, I thanked God for answered prayers with my surgery. It was easy to thank him for all those things that went well, a great surgeon, excellent anaesthetist – needle that went into my veins first time … the courage to self inject myself each day for two weeks when I am terrified of needles. There were many things I could thank him for but it took me a few minutes of sitting still, before I could say, “thankyou for the hysterectomy”. I could look at that surgery as huge loss because in all reality it is. But I choose to say, thankyou for all I have gained Lord. Thank you that I live in an age where technology is so advanced and I could have this surgery rather than spending the rest of my life living like I have the past couple of years. Thank you for health. Thank you for life. Thank you that I have energy. Thankyou for the way you work in paradoxes – that in the death of one thing, there is new life in another. And really, that paradox is the crux of seasons. We all go through seasons of plenty and and we all go through seasons where it is hard, brown and barren. Enduring through seasons is what I would like to talk about this morning.

Recently, at bible study, the question was raised as to why some people endure through hard seasons and others don’t. I am sure you can all think of people who have gone through the mill. They have been sifted. They have been tested. They have been proven in the fire and they have come out shining. For all those people we know, each of us probably know others who didn’t make it. We often wonder why that is. Looking back over my life, and the lives of those around me, it seems that the things you focus on and the choices you make in your seasons are critical to your very survival.

Globally, we are seeing people in a difficult season financially. The current economic climate has put a lot of people under severe stress. I am watching this with my own family right now. Several have lost their jobs and are facing uncertainty financially. With all this going on, I was recently chatting with my sister-in-law and she made the comment to me, “you don’t know how hard it is to not have money …” I smiled to myself but said nothing as she spoke. You see, as I was listening, I was musing over the different financial seasons in my life. I clearly remember several years of living, not knowing how I would make my payments each week. I remember vividly the week that the choice came down to me paying my overdue bills or eating. That week, I fasted and paid my bills. I remember being in despair the following week when I got back to the same point. An unexpected bill came in and I was crying to God saying that I couldn’t fast another week (not a great idea when you are seriously anaemic as I was at the time). I had the sense of him saying, “Whose idea was that Sarah, yours or mine?” You see, in the midst of my challenge, I used my brain to problem solve it myself and left God completely out of the picture … so he sat and waited … and watched me come around the mountain to the same place. This time though, there were not the same options. And this time I included him and things were completely different. Currently, I am blessed financially. But I have had a winter season in other areas of my life. The past few years have presented challenges that made the road a hard one to walk.

Seasons are a fact of life. Sometimes they are fruitful and sometimes, they are barren and hard and cold. The bottom line is that the change in seasons will come. Are you prepared? What will you do? How will you get through? In times of plenty, I remember the source. In times of hardship, I know that he is on the throne and he is my redeemer. While recovering from surgery, I read part of a bible study and I was a little perturbed. The implication was that God sends trials on us to test us. I personally struggle with that concept. That is not the God I know. The bottom line is, we live in a sick, diseased word that is fallen and scarred by sin. Stuff happens. My phrase of the year seems to be, “se la vie” – “it is what it is”. We deal with it. How? Well here is a starting point … my God is the Alpha and Omega, who knows the beginning from the end. He is the author and perfector of my faith. He is my redeemer. He has promised that he will not leave me and that he will see the work in my life through to the day of completion – when he takes me home. So when I go through these times, they are not a surprise to God. He has a plan in place and he will redeem my circumstances. When I can’t see my way and it’s falling down all around me, my God is on the throne and he has a plan!

Choose your focus. What are you going to look at in this time? As I look over my life and the lives of those who endured, I see people who are not super spiritual, who are not super human. They are real! Over various seasons in my life, I have cried, I have shouted at God … I have wallowed. But in spite of that, I have chosen to fix my eyes on the one sitting before me. What are you going to look at?

The apostle Paul knew this truth well. He experienced tremendous hardship and having come through it he says in Hebrews 12:1
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that will not grow weary and lose heart."

It is interesting to note that this passage follows on immediately from the heroes of faith chapter. Take a look at those heroes! They were not superhuman, running and never falling. Nope! They crashed and fell … they took detours, they made wrong decisions. What they all have in common is that they persevered. They endured. They focused on their God. They got up and they kept going.

When our focus is correct, it helps us to be content. We can be content if we trust God. And perhaps, here is the second secret to endurance. If we know: God is the author and perfector of our faith; if we know that he has a plan to redeem us; if we know that he does not sit impassively watching our struggles, but has walked the way and walks with us on the way, then we can be content. Paul knew that the secret to contentment is abiding in the presence of God, knowing we are held in his hands and that we are not forsaken.

He said to the Phillipians in Phil 4:11-13:
"I have learnt to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things though him who gives me strength."

Paul knew his source. And he clung to it through many hardships.

One of the things I have learnt over the past few years (and I am still learning it!) is what it means to trust God, stop fighting, lie down and submit. I’ll give you one last story to illustrate this point. When I was diagnosed with my tumour, things were spinning out of my control and I was really struggling. I had to go for an MRI and I did not know what to expect. I did my best to prepare but nothing I read, prepared me for the fact that when they did it, they would want to put a needle in my arm, insert a canula and inject dye. I am really needle phobic and need to psych myself up for things like that. At the MRI machine, none of them spoke English so it was even more of a drama. It might sound strange to you, but one of the hardest things for me was to have to lie down on that MRI machine and surrender control of my body to other people – especially people I could not communicate with. I was telling a friend about that and she spoke the following to me, “the Lord is my shepherd … he MAKES me lie down …” This made me think of my friend Frances. When we were growing up, she had a pet lamb named Thunder. She would pick him up and he would bleat and baa, and kick and struggle. She would flip him on his back and he would go completely limp and lie peacefully in her arms gazing adoringly at her face. Sometimes we are like Thunder. We don’t want to lie down, we kick and we fight. We struggle to gain control. Sometimes, all God is asking of us, is to lie down and surrender to the process … whatever that process is. Lie back in his arms and trust him completely.

A lot of thoughts this morning, so summing them up … how do we get through the hard seasons?
1. Know the season you are in. We will always have seasons in our life. Take hope in the fact that after every winter, there is a Spring! And for those pessimists of you out there, don't even go to the thought of, "well yes, but after every summer there is a winter!". This brings us to the second point ...

2. Watch your focus. Focus on Jesus – the alpha and omega, the author and finisher of your faith, the one who knows beginning from end and is our redeemer.

3. Abide in his presence and practice the art of contentment. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

4. Lie down and submit – think of Se La Vie. It is what it is. Seasons are inevitable. God knew this day was coming. It was not a surprise. I need to surrender to him and let him take the rudder to steer me through.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a song. It is still a little rough. I wanted to share it with you this morning. It’s a song that has come out of the past few years for me. Oprah asks the question, “What do you know for sure?” This song answers that for me. I will post that in another blog ... and you can click here to see it! (sorry you can't hear the tune ... but it is pretty upbeat ...)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Growing Pains

Outside my kitchen and dining room windows is a cherry tree. Towards the end of last week, it seemed the tree exploded into blossom. I have been watching it closely for the past few weeks and I am inspired by the tree. For months it has been barren. No leaves ... just brown bare sticks reaching for the sky.

About a month ago, little woody buds appeared. As I watched, they grew a little bigger. I went off to New York for a week and when I came home a week ago Sunday, they were no longer little woody buds, but tight pink ones. Last Tuesday, I looked at the tree and 3 cherry blossoms had unfolded. Two days ago, the blossoms exploded on the tree. I heard them ... Bang! Bang! BOOM! (that was a whole spray ...) BANG! The noise was thunderous and woke me from slumber. Seriously ... of course I didn't hear them, but they did pretty much burst open on most of the tree over 2 days.

This beautiful cherry tree is an encouragement to me in the process of change. Let's look at that. If you know nothing about trees, you would assume that all the action occurred this past week. Growth is not like that. I often tell my kids that learning is a slow, almost inperceptable process. Change is ongoing and slow. Little steps add up to big ones. It seems nothing is happening but when you look over a long period you see tremendous change. The trick is being faithful in the small things and having faith in the process.

I liken it to running. As part of my road to health and wellness, I have turned a corner from surgery recovery and am able to start exercising again. In some ways it is exciting and other ways, downright discouraging. Several years back I got myself going really well on eating and exercise. I lost 15 kilos without dieting, just being mindful about my eating and making sure I exercised regularly. In addition, I got myself to where I was regularly running 5k runs. Exercise has never been a positive thing for me. I am not coordinated or sporty and don't enjoy it. However I worked at it and I was proud of my achievement. I kept the weight off (with the exception of 2.5 kilos) for several years. I kept the weight off when I got sick. However, the last 2 years I have been really unwell and survival has been the name of the game. I was struggling to have the energy to work and had none whatsoever for exercise. After my surgery I gained 6 kilos and was over my "I never want to be over that again" weight. Horrible. A whole pile of clothes did not fit and I know how hard I worked to lose that weight.

Last week I turned a corner in my health and felt I could start working out at the gym. So, I downloaded a couch - 5k running plan. In 10 weeks I hope to be back to running 5k runs. I am on week two. I could be discouraged about being all the way back at the beginning, having to do the hard yards but I learnt things from the last time. Be faithful in the small things. Make the time, follow the programme, push that little bit harder and small steps, will add up to big ones. When the scales are awful, when I feel yuk about my body and think nothing is happening, it is. Like the cherry, changes are going on in my body. My heart is getting healthier, my bones are getting stronger, I am building muscle and before I know it ... if I stay faithful in the little things ... BOOM! BANG! BOOM! the fruit will explode open and changes will be seen.

The cherry tree is also a great analogy for our spiritual lives. I challenge myself when I look at it. I am feeling a little distant with God at the moment. Not feeling like there is a lot of fruit in my life. BUT ... if I am faithful in the small things. If I am faithful in meeting with him, connecting, studying my bible, being transformed by the renewing of my mind ... BOOM! BANG! BOOM ... the fruit will come.

Be encouraged. If you are frustrated with the rate of change in areas in your life ... hang in ... be faithful to the process and be faithful in the small things ... BOOM ... BANG! BOOM. There will be fruit. It's a spiritual law. You sow ... you will reap!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

To see ... or not to see ...

To see ... or not to see? That is the question ...

The story of Samson is an interesting one. There are many views of the weaknesses of Samson, and two of the common ones are that he was a womaniser and had a problem with self control. When I did my church internship, there was a saying that the three things that will take a leader out, are the gold, the glory or the girls. In other words: money, pride and sex. As I listened to the story of Samson at church last week, I could see all these things in play and yet, I believe that none of those were the REAL problem. Lets look at them:

1. The Gold (Money and possessions) ... Judges 14:13
Samson set up a riddle and the price of the riddle for those who lost it was thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. To appreciate this, you need to appreciate the value of linen. In Genesis 45:22 Benjamin was favoured by the Pharoah and given 5 sets of clothes. In Zechariah 14:14, clothing is listed among the treasures of war. Samson was asking for excessive wealth. Not 5 sets or even 10, but 30. Spoils from each of his companions. He was a man who loved the fine things in life.

2. The Glory (Pride)
Judges 14:34 tells us that Samson was blessed. This means that God's favour was upon him. Samson grew up with this. How easy would it have been to take the favour of God for granted. Perhaps he just assumed it without knowing too much about the source and how to stay under the blessing. Probably until God's blessing was removed, he didn't really value it. There was pride in Samson when he posed his riddle. He was not expecting anyone to be able to answer it. He probably felt for sure it was a safe bet as he would not have had the money for the the thirty sets of clothing. Indeed, when he lost his bet, he was angry (often a response when our pride is wounded) and stripped the clothes he owed off 30 Philistines.

When Samson found out his wife was given away, he became embroiled in a tit for tat, get revenge type situation that resulted in:
- destroyed grain
- destroyed vineyards
- destroyed olive trees
- his ex wife and her father's loss of life
- big trouble in Judah with the Philistines

Often when our pride is wounded and we react out of that, it robs us of fruitfulness and results in conflict. You can see Samson is still operating in pride and a stubborn attitude when the Judeans came to see him. They ask, "what have you done to us" (Judges 15:11) and Samson's response is, "I merely did to them what they did to me". AND SOME! That's kind of the understatement of the century right there. Ah Nope! He did a lot more. The thing that pushes my button in this response is that word "merely". Not merely at all. Not by a long shot. Samson's response is a little like some of my kids at school when I intervene in conflict and ask what happened. More often than not, the response starts with, "I just ...". I hate that word just. And Samson using "merely" is the same attitude. It seeks to minimise the damage and feels no compassion for the wounded. It seeks to minimise the wrong committed. That's pride - the direct opposite of humility. And there is not a lot of humility felt in Samson's responses.

There is also pride at work in the way Samson plays with Delilah when she seeks to find the source of his power. Instead of just saying I won't tell you. He plays with her - enjoys it. Playing with fire ... we can play with it but one day, we will be burnt.

3. The Girls (Sex)
This is an obvious flaw in Samson. It started early ... he spies a Philistine woman and wants her (Judges 14:2). His attitude is, I want her. Get her for me. Samson is consecrated to God. He does not seems to care that he is defiling himself. God had specific prohibitions on marriage with the people of Canaan. His parents try to sway him, but he would not listen. The whole story of his life really starts to go downhill from here. He loses his first wife, which sets in motion many of the events listed above. He then leads Israel for twenty years. Not much is mentioned about this time, so we can assume nothing particularly noteworthy went on. Sometime around the twenty year mark, Samson heads to Gaza and sees a prostitute. He spends the night with her. He is in the wrong place (a Philistine strong hold) with the wrong person defiling himself. Not long after that he falls in love with Delilah - a woman whose allegiance was certainly not to Samson. She went for the money - eleven hundred shekels - the price of 275 slaves. A LOT of money. This was the price for betrayal.

It's good to examine yourself in the light of these top three points. What is it that will take you out? These are all valid points, but really, I do not believe these are the main problem, they are problems but they are not the core issue. I believe the core issue in Samson's story was vision. It is interesting that he allowed different things to fill his vision and distract him ... and it is interesting that ultimately he paid for this with blindness.

Pause and think on this.

What fills your vision. What is it that you are looking at and focusing on. Is it God in your picture or is it the picture itself?
- Are you focusing on offenses?
- Are you focusing on disappointments?
- Are you focusing on hurt?
- Is your vision skewed because of envy?
- Is your vision skewed because of pride?

What fills your vision? God or circumstances? If it is circumstances, you must make God the focus. See him in the picture. Know that nothing you walk through is without him. Know that he will bring good out of all things if you focus on him and walk according to his ways. There is a key there. If we focus on God, it is much easier to walk according to his ways. If we focus on the circumstances, we tend to get caught up in reacting out of self ... and that is never pretty. The bottom line is ... like Samson, if you allow anything but God to fill your vision, you WILL lose it. Sure God came through in the end. The tragedy is that Samson lost his eyes before he looked to God. Isaiah spoke to the people of his time ... and Jesus also spoke of this when he said:
"though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah:
"You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving,
For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
unerstand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them."

Don't let that be you. Keep your focus on him. He and he alone, should fill your vision.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy New Year

Hi All

I know it has been quite a while since I have posted so thought I would just write a quick update here. Sorry I have not posted. At present I am away from Korea at a secret location, hiding out with Elvis and Salmon Rushdie ... well actually, I am in NZ recovering from surgery but the above sounds SO much more interesting!

I had my surgery a month ago and it has gone well although at present I am still on house arrest for another 2 weeks! The most common thing that I hear is how lovely it must be to have all that time off. Well ... yes, but its not like time off in the sense that I am not allowed to go beach walking, or walking beyond the house on my surgeon's instructions. So ... I have read and read ...and I am over reading. I am eeking out my Boston Legal Season 4 and not doing much. That extends to thinking. I am not in the space for deep thinking at the moment. When I start to think, the only thing on my brain at present is "grace".

Grace. What a marvellous thing. We say grace. We have grace. We extend grace. We receive grace. We are saved by grace. And, if you are anything like me, you aren't as good as extending it as receiving it?! At the moment I am having to tell myself - show grace. Grace to those around me as I get antsy with healing and grace to myself in this period as well.

So thats the only word I have for you. Receive his grace ... extend his grace and live under His Smile.

Peace to you and yours.