Saturday, 31 December 2016

The power of forgiveness

On Christmas evening 2016, a nine year old boy,  Josiah Sisson, was outside on a suburban footpath, looking at Christmas lights in Springwood, south of Brisbane. Tragically, Josiah was hit by an out-of-control vehicle, whose driver registered over three times the legal limit of alcohol permissible in the body when driving. Josiah died in hospital on Boxing Day.
In selfless and amazing acts of Christian love, Josiah's family issued statements about their desire to forgive the driver for taking their son's life. They attended a church service which was also attended by the driver and some of his family and friends, and nationwide news reports showed Karl Sisson, Josiah's father, publicly embracing the 24year old driver.
The family's grace in the face of this avoidable tragedy and particularly the actions of Karl Sisson to me exemplify the transforming power of God's love. When they had every reason for anger and hatred and bitterness, they chose the path of love and forgiveness and personal reconciliation.
Justice still needs to be done and the person responsible will still face the penalties for their actions. In a way though, through their response, Karl and his family have demonstrated the bigger picture. The person concerned needs to face repentance and get right with God, as well as face the human consequences.
The path of forgiveness is still a lonely and difficult road. I pray that the Sisson family will know God's loving hand upon them, and that the support of extended family and friends and their church family, both familiar and strangers, will bring them comfort.
There is a message of forgiveness here for us all. Many of us hang on to past hurts and grievances far less serious that the one described above. Can we look upon the passing of the old year as a time to wipe the slate clean? Doing so allows room to change and grow and enjoy new pursuits and relationships. Doing so is a gift to give yourself.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Goodbye to the old, embrace what is to come.

As 2016 draws to its final hours, it's good to reflect on what has been and look forward to the year ahead. For me personally there have been many times of enjoyment, being blessed in my faith and Christian walk with my Lord; enjoying the love and company of my husband, my family and friends. In my work I've found much fulfillment as I work with severely disabled people who never cease to give love and create a community of diversity and inclusion. I've enjoyed a wonderful trip to Central Australia where I appreciated the beauty of the landscapes around Uluru and Kata Tjuta and learned more of indigenous culture.
A brush with cancer again, resulting in surgery to remove a melanoma and lymph gland, with a very positive outcome has reminded me to be thankful for all the blessings that I enjoy and to be mindful of my health.
I've grown deeper in my knowledge of the word of God, through reading many of the books of the Bible in conjunction with listening to Chuck Smith's excellent series as I study each book. The late Rev. Smith has a teaching series of all 66 books of the Bible available on Youtube. I've enjoyed being part of the congregation at Bridgeman Downs Baptist Church and love it when we as a large congregation sing together.
In my spare time I've read many good books this year and a couple of dreadfuls. I've completed lots of puzzles and coloured pictures and knitted woolen clothing for Vietnam and nearly finished a blanket. My garden in partly weeded and partly wild.
Through the internet I've shared Facebook posts, poetry, six word memoirs and articles on this blog. Through my words I hope to share the love of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know Him, and to encourage those who do to deepen their faith, in good times and not so good. He is the sure hope of peace and joy, starting in this life and continuing unto the heaven to come.
I especially acknowledge those Christians living in circumstances where it's difficult to practice their faith. Be assured that we are remembering you in our prayers and other forms of assistance. You are not forgotten. Whenever we sing, we sing for those who cannot sing aloud.
May God bless those who have visited this blog throughout the coming year.

"Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-15)

Shedding the old makes way for new growth- a living metaphor from the Aussie eucalypts. Photo taken this week hiking in the Conondale ranges.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Singing songs of Joy and Hope

Singing with the cadences of heavenly choirs in worship
Songs of peace and love
Singing the world into the presence of our Father
Singing for those with no voice
Unable to even whisper His name
Behind the veils of oppression and injustice
Singing for those imprisoned for their faith
And those wandering the paths of darkness
In the soul-destroying dungeons of despair
Singing for those with voices stilled by grieving
Sing it out, hope has come
Holy night, away in a manger, joy to the world,
Gloria in excelsis, Mary’s boy child
Jesus Christ
Is come.
The star still shines
Hope reigns
And heaven and earth still sing.
©Jo Collett 2016

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas as we celebrate the reason for the season, God's gift of joy, hope and peace sent to earth in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas.

For the pets in Heaven

I once lost two beloved pets on the same day just before Christmas. My pet cockatiel  Lenny was found on the floor of his cage one December morning. We knew that our elderly terrier dog Pete, who spent much time at the cage watching Lenny sing to him, had little earthly time left. We attended a carols service that evening at church and came home to find Pete's body at the front gate where he had been waiting for us. I like to think that Lenny returned and told him "come on Pete, it's time to go." Christmas Eve is traditionally a special day to celebrate the love of animals, so here is a little poem to remember all the beloved pets that have been part of our lives. Theologians may argue regarding the presence of particular pets in Heaven, but anyone who has loved and been loved by an animal knows they go there.

For the Pets in Heaven
Adam, the first man
Was placed in a garden
Animals all around him
He wandered God’s wonderful creation
With marvellous beasts to surround him

Jesus came from God to Earth
Born in a stable bare
The Baby heard the cattle low
The donkeys stirred
And little lambs visited there.

They share our lives, loyal and true
Pets of every kind
And creatures wild that bring delight
Their gentle beauty shyly shared
An unexpected sight

So Jesus, for those ones in Heaven
Please hear my prayer,
All the poor, mistreated ones, hunted ones
And all those dearly loved and missed
Because we can’t be there

Send your group of special angels
Those with gentle laps and hearts
Loving hands and kindly words
Hold them in your tender care
As long as we’re apart

Whistle and toss a ball for me
Show them love
And let them know they’re not forgotten
Wish the animals merry Christmas
In Heaven above.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Singing for those with no voice.

"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head"

These words first published in 1885 and written by an unknown author will be sung throughout the world this month, as carol services are held to celebrate Christmas. However, in some countries to sing these words could result in imprisonment or death. In some countries Christians must meet secretly, huddled together in closed rooms, the gospel shared in whispers. They cannot sing for fear of their neighbours alerting the authorities.
At present I'm reading "The Insanity of God" by Nik Ripken, who visited our church last weekend. Nik and his wife Ruth are experts on the suffering of persecuted Christians in countries where their religion is either illegal or discouraged. The magnitude of suffering and oppression directed towards Christians in such nations is appalling.
Nik reminded us that there is one church in this world- the body of Christ, the brothers and sisters who love and serve Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. When one member of the body hurts, we all hurt. When one member of the body rejoices, we all rejoice. So when we come together to sing and rejoice in the freedom to worship that we have in countries like Australia, we do so remembering our brothers and sisters who are suffering elsewhere. We do not forget them. We pray for their safety, empowering strength and comfort in all their difficulties. We try to support them in many ways.
When a missionary returns to an oppressed people, he or she will tell them this :
Because they have no voice, we will sing for them.