Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

This year we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. On Friday I sat across a desk from another man who announced that it was our 15 year anniversary and we both marvelled the length of our relationship. I’m afraid this isn’t a juicy confession – this other man is my Endocrinologist who diagnosed my thyroid cancer 15 years ago and has been faithfully monitoring me ever since.

I still remember that bleak afternoon when the telephone rang whilst I was chopping up vegetables, a baby and a toddler at my feet, listening to the strained voice of my doctor asking if I was alone or if my husband was there with me, before dropping the bomb-shell about the lump in my neck. Strangely I remember hanging up and continuing to chop up the carrots which suddenly affected me like onions.

But now those two little ones are teenagers taller than me – one is learning to drive and has a part-time job and the other plays piano and reads ancient history books I don’t understand. I have watched them grow from little boys into young men and what a privilege this has been.  The day I stood over the chopping board, processing the telephone call, the future wasn’t so certain.

The doctor’s office is currently going ‘soft copy’, scanning and shredding their patients’ files, so on Friday the secretary handed me a crisp white envelope containing my important medical documents. When I came home I checked through them, feeling nervous and a bit sick.  There were the first scan results from St George Hospital – fading black ink heaving under the weight of the medical jargon, describing a suspect nodule clinically and without emotion, masking its meaning and making it sound almost harmless.  But then I flicked through the transparent scans showing the offending black spot in my neck.  My stomach clenched into a knot.  That’s all it had been – a black spot on a scan – it looked like a smudge or blemish that needed a damp cloth to be wiped away – but instead it changed my life.

The report I hated seeing the most was the one indicating the black spot was still there six months after surgery and treatment, and I was to go back into hospital for a further large dose of radioactive iodine. I had been quite positive up to this point, but this setback, and a further period of separation from my babies, pushed me over the edge and life at that time seemed very dark indeed.

Eventually the spot disappeared, the scans were filed away neatly in a dusty folder and life returned to normal. Until Friday those words that dictated life or death for me had been forgotten. But remembering them has made me realise that I was one of the fortunate ones. Since then so many dear family and friends, workmates and acquaintances, have suffered the agony of watching black spots return and grow and win the battle.

Perhaps unpleasant times in our life are best forgotten. But when we are accidentally reminded, there is an opportunity to reflect and be thankful – and I don’t mean the thankfulness we feel when someone buys us a coffee or when we find those new shoes we’ve desired so much are on special. Nor do I mean the smug #gratitude type of thankfulness we post on Facebook to show off to our friends… The thankfulness I mean is the true, deep, gut-wrenching type, the kind that leaps for joy at being alive and breathing, and delights at watching our kids grow up and relishes the thought of seeing our hair turn grey, the wrinkles emerge and our upper arms grow wobbly.  This type of thankfulness leaves me teary-eyed and thanking God for every day I’ve had since the black spot vanished – even the difficult and dull days. Every day of the past 15 years has been a miraculous bonus.

So Happy Anniversary, my dear Endocrinologist  – thanks for tracking through this with me – making that awful telephone call to a young mum at dinner time, listening to all my questions, watching me cry and putting up with me every year since then, taking all those tubes of my blood, explaining what those confusing abbreviations mean (so many times), each year listening patiently to my creative excuses about why I haven’t lost weight and for your unwavering belief that I would beat this. It has been quite a journey and I’m ecstatic to still be here.  Fifteen years of bonus time!

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.         Psalm 28:7


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I met Napoleon under the deep blue sea.  After an awkward descent into the icy ocean, I gazed in awe through foggy goggles at the beauty stretching out before me. Coral bowed and swayed as small fish darted here and there, going about their daily routines, the rich colours of the Reef rising in intensity and receding, teasing me to swim further.

The first sign that Napoleon was approaching was a large dark shadow. I stopped swimming and wondered who’d turned down the lights and there he was, adorned in peacock-blue with splendid plump lips reminding me of Mick Jagger on steroids.  He swam swiftly toward me and stopped with his chin level with mine.  Despite his formidable size, I couldn’t resist scratching his impressive chin.  He seemed to enjoy it, floating beside me and pouting his magnificent lips. I had no food to offer, only scratching, but he seemed content with that.

My heart raced and swelled with affection when I was swimming beside Napoleon. I felt privileged to be in the presence of such a beautiful creature and felt strangely connected to him – two creatures swimming together under the deep blue sea.

Travelling for the past week in Northern Queensland highlighted both the goodness and flaws of our fellow travellers. Driving on dusty highways I noticed the driver who would block the overtaking lane and drive along with stubborn ignorance, causing tempers to flare in all the cars backed up and waiting to pass behind. Was he blissfully unaware of his surroundings, or secretly making a selfish stand?

Then there was the sole service station manager in a remote country town. I staggered in after six hours on the road, with a bladder fit to burst. He met my expectant smile with a sour look and told me he did not have a toilet. I could see the ‘public toilet’ sign hanging enticingly right behind him, but he asserted he did not have a toilet.  The lady in the coffee cart outside told me later that he did have a toilet but felt it wasn’t his job to clean it and now it was in such a filthy state he had taken to refusing people entry. She apologised for his behaviour on behalf of the rest of the town and quickly directed me to alternate facilities.

By contrast, there was the elderly lady working in the second-hand shop in another quiet seaside village, who smiled and looked steadily into my eyes. She was stout and honest, with piercing blue eyes surrounded by deep laugh lines. I imagined the fluffy scones she would bake for CWA meetings, and the nourishing beef casseroles she would slow cook for ailing friends. She began telling me she had just returned to work after losing her husband of 60 years only five weeks ago. Her bravery, openness and kind heart warmed me to the core during my purchase of two wine glasses and some board shorts for the princely sum of $6.00.

There was also the couple who rented us a cottage at a cheaper rate just because I ‘sounded nice on the phone’. When I met them I discovered that the lady had cancer and they were about to leave their idyllic cottages they loved so much to live elsewhere while she attempted to recover her health. Their courage and warmth overwhelmed me and I wondered how in the midst of all they were enduring they had found the energy to be kind to me – a complete stranger.

Travelling has a way of shining a light on the differences in people. In our chance encounters, goodness was illuminated and so was selfishness. We stumbled upon such beauty, and also such ugliness.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite books ‘The Great Divorce’ where C S Lewis describes a ghost’s bus trip from hell into heaven. His descriptions of those trapped in hell compared to those walking free in heaven brim with insight.  The ghosts living in hell are pale, grey and transparent, sustained by their selfishness, lies and illusion.  The creatures in heaven are bright, shining, authentic and real.  Even the blades of grass in heaven are so solid and real that they slice through the feet of the insubstantial ghosts, but bend readily under the feet of the heavenly beings.

Many believe that Heaven and Hell are places awaiting us after our death, but perhaps we have already chosen our path and embarked on the journey in this life.

The lady in the second-hand shop, her face shining with love despite her grief, and the kind-hearted man about to move with his wife to find healing, had an unmistakable authenticity about them. In their openness, honesty and love I sensed the very essence of Heaven. Others, by stark contrast, were rude, pretentious and had dark and empty eyes. They appeared trapped in their selfishness and delusion, emitting the oppressive stench of Hell.

But it was Napoleon, with his colour and charm, who captivated me so fully that I was overwhelmed by joy. If heaven could be found here and now, then I’m sure I found it that day with a Maori Wrasse, God’s incredible masterpiece, swimming beside me under the deep blue sea.

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”                        C S Lewis “The Great Divorce”

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African Violet

On Mum’s window sill in her Jaffa orange kitchen sat a colourful array of African violets.  The flowers would thrive with Mum’s attentive care, just the right amount of gentle sunlight and not too much watering.  I remember calling in for a cup of tea after work and seeing the row of pretty little flowers, bright and cheerful and always in bloom.

A couple of years ago I received an African violet as a gift and sat it on my kitchen bench.  The sight of it sitting there reminded me of Mum and her pretty window sill.

I kept the African violet, moving it around from bench to packing box to table as we recently renovated our home and somehow it made it through all the dust and chaos.  However, the little flowers soon disappeared and the leaves lost most of their green hue. When the building works were finally complete the little plant sat forlornly in the corner of our new kitchen bench and I wondered if it was time to throw it away.

Mother’s Day in my house is rich with all the best parts of family life:  breakfast in bed, laughter, gifts and precious time spent together.  I love being a Mum, but despite my thankful heart, I still miss my Mum.  This Mother’s Day was no exception.

Yet something happened this year which brought Mum a little closer.  A tentative shoot emerged from the bedraggled African violet for the first time in so long, and a small purple flower raised its vibrant face to the sun, bright and bold, greeting me on Mother’s Day morning.  Despite its haphazard care, its lack of watering and being abandoned to a dusty corner, the plant bloomed right on cue, a small reminder of another time, of a small kitchen with the Jaffa coloured bench tops and the banter of mother and daughter, chatting over numerous cups of tea.  That little purple flower brought back so many memories, of the complex mother and daughter bond, of laughter and of tears, but mostly the knowledge that I had been loved.

Sometimes it’s the little things that bring the past alive for us – allowing us to reach back and embrace the ones we’ve lost.  More than anything it reminded me that despite all obstacles in its path, even the depths of grief and loss, a mother’s love endures.



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Each year our Christmas tree gains more decorations and loses any semblance of colour coordination.   But each year I love our tree a little more. It captures memories from long ago, with its frayed and faded decorations which once adorned the Christmas trees my husband and I gazed at as children and the collection of treasures made by our sons when their fingers were small and chubby and scribbly masterpieces were presented to us with enthusiastic smiles and lots of glue and glitter.   It’s a tree full of memories.

Christmas is a funny time which brings out both the best, and the worst, in many of us.  I think of it as the bipolar time of year.  When the mood is high, we have the warmth of community carol evenings, churches gathering treats for hampers for the needy, the giving and receiving of gifts and all of the champagne-popping feasting and festivity that happens when friends and family get together.  But then there’s the low mood moments – the pushing and shoving to be first in line at the shops, the road-rage to find a parking spot, the arguments in the supermarket, the stress about having too much to do, the anxiety of waiting to face a festering family conflict on Christmas Day and that lonely empty feeling that everyone else is having a much better time than you.

I witnessed both the highs and the lows last week on a brief trip to our local shopping mall.  There was the helpful man walking by in the congested car park who directed us to a free car space, just out of our vision.  He didn’t need to do this, but he did.  But then there was the lady who pushed into a queue ahead of us, making no eye contact, head held high.  The lady serving saw what had happened and pleasantly said to both of us:  “So who was next?”  The lady jumped in immediately, like a winning contestant on Family Feud punching her buzzer with: “I was”.  She reminded me of a footballer diving in for the winning try.  And I let her enjoy her victory.  When she left the shop assistant made a comment about the rudeness of shoppers at this time of year, and we laughed together. 

On the next leg of my journey I noticed a woman with a young daughter with her shopping trolley stuck on a busy escalator. She wasn’t strong enough to shift it and  the crowd grew rapidly behind her, building up like items on a conveyor belt.  There was lots of huffing and puffing and rolling of eyes and a few creative expletives were thrown around. Eventually one man found it in himself to assist her, but even then it was done in an angry and abrupt manner.  The lady’s small daughter looked on with large frightened eyes.  Meanwhile “Silent Night” played away in the background and the pretty lights twinkled. 

It’s interesting how stressed we become at Christmas.  There’s so much to do, so much to organise, and there’s this gnawing feeling deep inside that our lives have to look and feel perfect at this time of year.  Sometimes in all the striving, the worst in us can come to the surface:  the selfishness, the aggression, the Me-First attitude.  Just as we long for peace, joy and hope all we see are chaos, stress and misery staring right back at us. 

If you are feeling this way this Christmas, if that little knot of anxiety is starting to form and grow in your belly, can I encourage you to step back and remember what Christmas is really all about.  It’s not actually about overspending and eating lots of turkey.  It’s about the person we occasionally catch a glimpse of in the Nativity Scene or hear snippets about in a Christmas carol.  He doesn’t play a starring role in the whole Christmas extravaganza these days, but Jesus is the meaning and heart of Christmas. He came to bridge the gap between mankind and God and to model a life of sacrifice, service and compelling love.  

So please pause for just a moment this Christmas. If you have a long Christmas gift list be thankful for it.  My list is smaller than it once was, with a few key family members now missing.  If Christmas holds memories of absent family members and times long past, pause and remember them and don’t be ashamed of the tears.  Just let them fall as they heal and cleanse you.

If someone steals your parking spot, smile at them and don’t yell.   This will probably shock them more than your yelling will.  The other day I blew a kiss and smiled encouragingly at a man who cut me off in traffic.  You should have seen his face!  So much more satisfying for the soul than getting flustered.  Smile at strangers, help people when you can and give someone who really needs it an anonymous gift.  

Breathe and look around you.  Buy simpler gifts and serve simpler food if the effort of creating perfection is impacting your mental health.  It won’t matter.  You’ll be more relaxed and have more fun that way and that’s what people will notice.  Even if your house isn’t pristine and perfect, Christmas can still be wonderful.  I hope that whatever Christmas looks like for you this year, whatever memories and longing it stirs up, that you will be warmed by the true Christmas spirit  – the flame of God’s unconditional love and the light of peace which surpasses all understanding.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

" ... because of the tender mercy of our God,
     by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
  to shine on those living in darkness
     and in the shadow of death,
 to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79


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Some mornings I think buying the newspaper should come with a warning:  “This publication may distress sensitive readers.  Read at your own risk, and NEVER before coffee.”  Is it only me, or does the daily news often leave you speechless and despairing at what we humans are capable of doing to one another?

The breaking news today reveals another act of hatred in France.  We watch helplessly as terrorism flexes its grotesque muscles once again – using violence to enforce extreme ideas and beliefs on the innocent.  Some days reading the  paper or watching the news feels like gasping for breath, drowning in waves of sadness and waste.

Over the holidays I’ve been reading Phillip Yancey’s book: ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace?’.  This book grabbed my attention with its brutal honesty and offer of hope. It provided a positive sequel to the usual tale of disaster the media serves up. Phillip’s stories illuminate a different side to human nature,  a porthole we can peer through to see kindness and wisdom rise up above those waves of sadness.

One story that stood out to me was the story of Gordon Wilson, who was caught in the 1987 IRA bombing near Belfast, when a group of Protestants had gathered to honor the war dead on Veteran’s Day.  Tragically, Gordon’s 20-year-old daughter, Marie, was killed when she and Gordon were buried under five feet of brick and concrete after the bomb blast.   Phillip Yancey says of Gordon – ‘His grace towered over the miserable justifications of the bombers’.  Speaking from his hospital bed, Wilson said: ‘I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge.  Bitter talk is not going to bring Marie Wilson back to life. I shall pray, tonight and every night, that God will forgive them.’.   Gordon Wilson went on to crusade for Protestant-Catholic reconciliation, wrote a book about his daughter and spoke out against violence often with the refrain ‘Love is the bottom line’.

Even in the aftermath of senseless violence, we see there is another way of reacting – an attitude that builds a pathway leading us through the debris and decay.  This pathway is the way of grace.

Grace sits quietly in the midst of chaos – stoic and faithful in the storm.  Closely akin to forgiveness and unconditional love, it calls on us to surrender our rights and let go of our desire for revenge.  Grace invites us to behave in ways quite contrary to our human nature.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes grace as “approval or kindness, especially (in the Christian religion) that is freely given by God to all humans.”

How do we exercise grace in our lives?  It may be as simple as letting the pushy driver merge into my lane in heavy traffic and smiling at them rather than speeding up and swearing.  Or it may be more costly, such as forgiving a parent who has hurt us, letting a friend off the hook when they have let us down, or realising that it doesn’t matter if people don’t agree with us, share our beliefs, customs or ideas.  We accept and care for them anyway.  Just as God loves and accepts us, flaws and all, we offer our love and acceptance to others.

The way of grace is the higher road but it may also be the hardest and most painful way.  Bitterness and hate don’t require us to go against our human nature the way grace does.

But it is only grace that offers the freedom and healing we all crave.  It is a way of standing against the waves of hatred threatening to roll into shore and engulf us.

John Newton, who wrote the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace” published in 1779, knew what it was to find grace.  His discovery of grace led him away from his life as a slave trader, to become a Christian Minister and to advocate for the abolition of slavery.  Grace transformed his life, and we have been singing about this miracle ever since.

Grace is available for all of us – no matter how much we have suffered or how far we have fallen. It is the answer to our prayers and the healing balm for our many disappointments.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.    (John Newton)

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Today I want to lift the lid on a phase in a woman’s life which is often considered ‘secret women’s business’. As a consequence many are left to suffer in silence. My hope is that by sharing my experience, someone else may relate and feel a little less alone.

As women we constantly evolve, grow, change and move on to the next chapter. Just as we become comfortable with the current version of our selves, along comes another phase.  Our bodies are both beautiful and miraculous in their capacity to bring about new life. We are strong and powerful.  With a flash of cleavage we can leave men speechless.  On a good night when we are in our prime, we can stride into a party and know that all eyes are on us. We are clever too – just as capable of getting the top job as any of our male counterparts.  We can do it all.  I am woman, hear me roar.  We are confident, productive and ready for anything.  But then along comes middle age…

As 50 approaches it’s as if a thick fog mysteriously rolls in and settles around us, rendering us colourless and, at times, completely invisible. As our ovaries sink into their gradual decline, the tide of hormones recedes and the woman we once were seems to vanish.

It’s around this time that we enter a phase of life which rarely features in glossy women’s magazines or reality programs.  I remember Mum whispering behind her hand that some unfortunate woman was acting strangely as she was ‘going through The Change’.  I recall the mysterious fanning of flushed faces and moodiness, but saw little other evidence of what this perplexing time in a woman’s life was all about.

So today I will lift the veil of mystery and talk a little about what it is like to be a ‘Menopausal Mama’. At 51, I’m right in the thick of it. If you (or your partner) are there too, you’ll know only too well what I’m talking about.

I’ll start with the ‘hot flushes’ which commonly accompany menopause. Firstly, they are not just hot, they are like being ignited from the inside out, particularly when they frizzle you awake at 3am.  It’s like encountering the Towering Inferno in your intestines.  The word ‘flush’ is way too pleasant a word and doesn’t come close to capturing the intensity.  For me it’s like being on fire, and then add feeling dizzy, disoriented and having difficulty remembering your own name.  The word ‘hot flash’ is sometimes used also, giving the impression that there is something akin to super hero status about this symptom. Believe me,  there is nothing akin to Wonder Woman happening here! On top of this there is the irrepressible desire to burst into tears about anything from the latest terrorist attack to the lid being left off the toothpaste and oozing all over the basin just cleaned that morning. If a ‘hot flush’ takes hold during a business meeting or even at the supermarket checkout, there is no hope of saying anything that makes any sense or of retaining any of your composure.

Then there is the issue of ‘moodiness’…. For most of my life I’ve prided myself on being a ‘nice’ person. I live in fear of upsetting anyone, do all I can to please others and mostly accept others as they are. However, during this Menopausal Mama stage, the niceness has left the building. People are becoming so intolerably annoying.

Cruel, thoughtless, narcissistic type-people have always disappointed me, but now I have to hold back from giving them a good slap and consciously avoid any close contact. Plus now the Smarty Pants I Know Everything types infuriate me too.  Particularly the ones who have had little life experience in a certain area but have done a course and proceed to dish out advice about issues they know little about at a heart level.  I’ve developed an animal instinct for sniffing out dishonesty, a superior attitude and falseness. Along with this, is an insatiable longing for authentic souls, who are brave enough to say what they really think, who genuinely care about other people and who are humble and kind.  The habits and expectations I’ve tolerated in others for years no longer seem to fit and sit around awkwardly like my discarded size 10 red jeans at the back of the wardrobe.

There is also the Complete Mental Blank moment which hits without warning. One moment you’re conversing intelligently and informatively on a subject, and then, whammo, all thoughts are inexplicably wiped from my mind and there is nothing there but blank space. Menopause doesn’t just kidnap your attractiveness, it abducts your mind as well, leaving you with intermittent dementia and dwindling confidence.

Living as an invisible, perspiring and angry woman is challenging, to say the least. If only Happy, Cool and Serene Me could re-appear and live in harmony with the world again.  If only well-meaning people could once again pass me by without attracting such violent reactions.   But is there anything to learn from this difficult yet inevitable phase of the female life?

It’s early days yet for me, but one thing I’m learning is that being a Menopausal Mama forces you to face the truth about your life and your relationships. It’s a time for taking off the rose-tinted glasses and taking a good hard look at your life in the glaring sunlight of truth.  Cracks and hidden doubts are fully visible, in all their confronting ugliness.  I know that the friendships I retain during this period will be true friendships, built to last the test of time, and all of those relationships fractured with dishonesty, deceit or lack of respect will simply fall away.

I’m also learning that being ‘nice’ isn’t always the best path to walk. It may be the easiest and the one which causes less conflict, but ‘nice’ can at times be another word for fear, avoidance, denial and dishonesty. Menopausal Mamas are no longer pretty young girls who bat their eyelids and wait for the world to pay them attention.  They are fearsome ladies who already know their value, whether or not anyone else agrees, and who inhabit their life and make their own fun, regardless of who sings their praise or strokes their egos.

And on the days when looking at life without the flattering filters becomes downright depressing, I tell myself that ‘this too will pass’. It’s a passing phase just as puberty and pregnancy were, and one day the fog will lift.  In the meantime, I hold tightly to the people I love the most and to God who created we women with all our uniqueness and wonder.  I hope that those I love will keep on loving me through this storm and that God will extend an extra measure of grace and understanding to all of us who are living life as Menopausal Mamas.


As Long As Your Eyes Are Blue by Banjo Paterson (first published in 1891)

Wilt thou love me, sweet, when my hair is grey

And my cheeks shall have lost their hue?

When the charms of youth shall have passed away,

Will your love as of old prove true?

For the looks may change, and the heart may range,

And the love be no longer fond;

Wilt thou love with truth in the years of youth

And away to the years beyond?

Oh, I love you, sweet, for your locks of brown

And the blush on your cheek that lies

But I love you most for the kindly heart

That I see in your sweet blue eyes.

For the eyes are signs of the soul within,

Of the heart that is leal and true,

And mine own sweetheart, I shall love you still,

Just as long as your eyes are blue.

For the locks may bleach, and the cheeks of peach

May be reft of their golden hue;

But mine own sweetheart, I shall love you still,

Just as long as your eyes are blue.

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Sydney flower memorial

Martin Place flower memorial

It’s Christmas night and a stillness has settled over our home after all the busyness.  Our bellies are full, our eyes bleary and there are discarded bits of wrapping paper all over the house.  I love the gently flashing Christmas lights – silver and gold dancing in our darkened loungeroom.  Tonight I can finally take a breath and think about all the joy, wonder and longing that Christmas evokes in me.

I think of the families who are facing a time of deep sorrow this Christmas. Sydney was adorned last week with a floral memorial in Martin Place, the vivid colours and sweet fragrances symbols of our collective grief and sadness at a cafe siege where two hostages and the gunman lost their lives.  The flowers brought beauty to a place tarnished by ugliness and evil.  They have since been removed, but the memory of that sea of flowers has left a lasting image in my mind.

The flowers were a positive and powerful reaction to an act of violence against innocent souls.  They demonstrated that people have the capacity to react with love and grace, rather than rushing to seek revenge or to judge others, and I felt so moved by this spirit of love.

Christmas is many things to many people. For some it is packed full of gift-giving, heart-warming folk stories of Santa, lights transforming ordinary suburbs into fairy lands, and bucket-loads of delicious food which we devour unashamedly. For others it is a lonely time where ‘Brady Bunch’ families flaunt their perfection and amplify the emptiness we feel, where fractured families are forced together and old grievances are revisited, or when financial pressure stretches us to the limit. Whether yours was a positive or a negative Christmas, it’s easy to forget the reason for all the fun and fuss – the humble birth of Jesus.

Reflecting on Jesus and the extraordinary way he lived his life tonight has highlighted a few truths for me.  These truths are just as relevant today as they were over 2000 years ago.  One thing that jumps out at me is the unexpected and controversial ideas Jesus held in violent and turbulent times:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.… ” (Luke 6, 27-28)

History tells us that Jesus lived an exceptional 33 years on our planet. He wasn’t exceptional in conventional terms.  He wasn’t powerful or rich, but he was exceptional in his love for all mankind – particularly those who were doing it tough – the diseased, the mentally ill, the disabled, the homeless and those on the fringe of society, the prostitutes – and even the much hated tax man. He offered acceptance, healing and new life to everyone searching for it.  But he was betrayed and murdered while still a young man, despite the fact that he’d done nothing wrong. When faced with unspeakable violence, he didn’t fight back.  He didn’t condemn his murderers, but forgave them. Even while hanging on the cross, he spoke healing words to the criminal hanging next to him.  Yet in his life he was never weak or wimpy. He never hesitated in pointing out to the religious hypocrites the error of their ways. But he didn’t try to force himself on others, he never resorted to violence and he always responded in love. Jesus lived his life overcoming evil with good.

I wonder how somebody as flawed and ordinary as me can ever hope to follow in such lofty footsteps.  Two weeks before Christmas I was in my local post office and I encountered a woman who gave me a clue to the answer.

Struggling under my bundle of Christmas parcels, I hastily grabbed some post-packs and fumbled my way back to write the addresses. The post office was elbow to elbow crowded, with a line of flustered shoppers going right out onto the footpath. The atmosphere of tension and impatience was suffocating. Finally at the desk, I grabbed a pen on a string to write the addresses.  It didn’t work.  I moved to the next one, but this pen was out of ink too.  I scribbled and scribbled on a spare piece of paper, but all I got was dry scratching.  Anxious now, my face getting hot, I reached into my bulging handbag and everything you could wish for was in there – except a pen.  At this desperate moment I felt a gentle pat on my arm. I looked up to see a kind face of a woman, smiling knowingly at me.  “Here you are dear. I have plenty. You can keep this one.” It was a shiny, burgundy pen, full of blue ink.  I smiled and got teary all at once.  Her kindness and thoughtfulness overwhelmed me.  In that one simple act, a rushing tide of selfishness and stress lost all its power, and kindness and joy gently and gracefully took over.

So this Christmas, let’s not despair at the evil intentions of others, but instead remember that each of us has the choice to tip the scales for goodness.  Jesus is so much more than the baby in the manger in the nativity scene. His spirit of love lives on like a steady flame which ignites and glows more brightly each time one of us offers a simple act of kindness.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.    Romans 12:21

Happy Christmas to all and a big thank you to my readers, for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts, for your thoughtful comments and special friendship.


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