His body broken for you

Not so long back I spent a week with fellow leaders on an Arrow Leadership course. Three residentials in, and with a commitment to open-heartedness and a safe environment, we’ve been sharing places in our hearts that few others see. One morning after we had collectively unburdened our leadership pain, passing the tissues from one to the other, one of the co-ordinators shared a prophetic dream she’d had the night before which led to her to proclaim over each one of us and over our pain: “His body broken for you.”

It was a deeply moving moment, and it’s a proclamation that I keep coming back to and centring my prayers around. The more I reflect on it, the more I understand how it answers a need within me that little else has been able to touch.

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Put some cream on top and call it pudding

I’ve been there a few times now: in the middle of a complex bake and it’s starting to all fall apart. Maybe you forgot halfway through that you were making a double-batch and now the proportions are all off; or you missed adding the eggs a few steps back; or (I’ve done this a few times) you kept the motor running on the food processor while you added the eggs in some false efficiency, and now you’ve blitzed a whole shell into the mixture. 

Whatever happened, you’re now at the point where even your best efforts to rescue the situation are going to produce an imperfect result, and the best move is quite possibly to throw it all out and start again. Depending on your resources available, it can feel like an impossible choice (high baking drama, I know!)

Recently I noticed a similar impulse rising within me as I considered my year thus far. Could I dump it all and start over fresh? Surely I’d do a better job the second time around.

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This is what we’ve got to work with

I haven’t made any new year resolutions this time around. I know the whole practice is naive but I usually do, and I have to say I did rather well with 2022’s—that’s what comes with setting the bar sufficiently low: take the stairs when possible, and have cream in your coffee more often (they came as a pair). 

While I haven’t set any resolutions, I did sit down this week and do that Christian thing where you ask God for a word for the year. Social media tells me that when other people do this, they get things like “golden paths,” “open doors,” or something similarly filled with possibility and promise. What did the Lord say to me? “This is what we’ve got to work with”. 


Um, thanks?

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A piece of woollen crochet with an unravelling thread

Get it together

It is a great consolation to me that God “is mindful that we are but dust.” (Ps 103:14 NASB). 

Myself, however? I tend to live not only un-mindful of that, but in denial of it. We all prefer to pretend to ourselves that we’re something far more substantial, that we have it together—maybe there’s ups and downs and twists and turns in our stories, but at least we know where they’re going and we are making it happen. But it just ain’t so. 

How dusty of us to live denial of our dustiness*

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A photo of Maja's phone background with the phrase "your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence in me" on a moody sea and sky landscape

Settle down

For the last few months I’ve had this phrase on my phone’s background

“Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me”

Isaiah 30:15 (The Message paraphrase)

It’s a reminder that I’ve placed before my eyes as frequently as my phone ever is (too often), in the hope that it will eventually soak into my heart. It speaks to my all-too-human impulse to make it happen for myself, to take things into my own hands and bend them to my own will. To make it work… somehow.

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What to do when God answers your prayer

You would think that the answer to this one would be easy: say “thanks!”, celebrate, or breath a sigh of relief. But sometimes we can be left not knowing what to do, and not knowing how to be before God. When we’ve sat holding this prayer before Him for so long, it’s like suddenly we don’t know what to do with our hands, we don’t know where to look, we don’t know what to say.

Some years ago I was at a woman’s conference and I found myself exactly in this space. It felt so strange; I was at a woman’s conference, and I wasn’t crying – normally my eyes start leaking just on the way driving there. But this time, I had just received my breakthrough. After a protracted season of struggle and disappointment we’d finally conceived our youngest daughter, we’d passed the “danger zone” of pregnancy loss, and it felt like I had nothing left to say to God. I’d said thanks, but now what? I had inhabited the space of grief for so long, that now it was resolved it felt like I didn’t know who I was before God now, I didn’t know what to bring to him.

What do we even talk about any more God?

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Door with handle

Invited into Intimacy

Whenever I read Hebrews 10, I think of Seinfeld. Not Jerry, but Kramer – the way he would swing the door open and stride into the room without ceremony, without even a knock (no idea what I’m on about? See here). In (kind of) the same way, “…we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19).

Even if our conscience is guilty, we don’t need to hide our mistakes (I hope Dad doesn’t find out!), instead, we can “go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (Heb 10:22). We can run into the Father’s presence, even when we’re feeling like that’s the last place we belong. I love how The Passion Translation expresses Romans 8:15-16,

And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!”

We don’t just enter God’s presence in order to find mercy in a transactional sense. It’s not like we hand over the paperwork and get our account book back with our debt cleared; nor do we hand over our afterlife passport to get our heavenly visa like we’ve entered some kind of spiritual immigration office. What we are able to enter into so boldly is not just an audience with the king; we are invited into intimacy with our God. We are invited into the presence of God in order that we may present to him, and that we may experience his present-ness to us. Just as two people can sit together at a table in a cafe, both sipping their coffees but absorbed in separate phones, we can be in a space where God is, but not be present to him. On the other hand, however, because God is everywhere, the opportunity is always open to us to enter into his presence.

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Fine print of mortgage terms and conditions

Terms of Engagement

Now, if I was Creator God, I would have set things up differently in the Garden of Eden. It seems like a bad arrangement from the start: why even put the tree there, in the middle of the garden? Everyone knows that if you don’t want your kids to eat the treats, you hide them out of sight, up high in the cupboard, or you don’t buy them at all. You certainly don’t leave them out in the middle of the kitchen bench.

I would have arranged it differently. It would be less risky, I’d have less chance of being rejected. It would be safer, more controlled, more… robotic. But, of course, that’s not real relationship. Love requires the possibility of being rejected, and so the choice to disobey is offered to Adam and Eve.

In eating the fruit, our first parents weren’t just disobeying a rule, they were pushing away from God. The underlying thought goes something like “I can’t trust God to guide me in life… I know better… I can decide for myself what’s good for me… I’m going to make up my own life separate from you God”.

Turns out, you don’t know better, and your own life separate from God is full of hurt, shame, and ultimately death.

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Painting, Path Leading through Tall Grass by Renoir 1877

Well-worn paths

Every preacher has a favourite verse or theme that they slip into every message. Mine is probably Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

Time and time again, I come back to the idea that a large part of the process of transformation of discipleship lies in changing the way we think. We need to move away from broken systems of thinking and behaving and allow the Spirit to transform us inwardly by a total reformation of how we think. The NIV calls these broken systems “the pattern of this world”, and I think that captures something of the neurobiological reality of who we are as persons: a lot of our being in the world is shaped by patterns of thinking. These are habitual thought processes, ingrained stories that we tell ourselves, ones we picked up from our family of origin, formed as a result of experience, and repeated again, and again, and again.

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Ultrasound scan of missed miscarriage

Dream and disappointment… and dream again.

Several years ago I came home from our national pastors’ conference knowing that it was time to try for a fourth child. I had been arguing about God with this one for a while, but something had shifted, and I had felt a clear nudge: NOW. There followed a constellation of “coincidences” that confirmed that we should go ahead at this time, and before long we had a positive pregnancy test. 

A new dream was on her way!

But that dream didn’t last. The 12-week scan had only bad news: my womb was empty. That little bittie had died weeks ago, but my body hadn’t realised yet it yet. 

I was crushed.

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