The space between loss and hope

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Reading these beautiful words from ‘Abbey of the Arts’ about Holy Saturday really struck a chord with me today.

“I love the wide space of Holy Saturday that lingers between the suffering and death of Jesus on Friday and the vigil Saturday night proclaiming the return of the Easter fire. For me, Holy Saturday evokes much about the human condition—the ways we are called to let go of things or people, identities or securities and then wonder what will rise up out of the ashes of our lives. The suffering that we experience because of pain or grief or great sorrow and we don’t know if we will ever grasp joy again. Much of our lives rest in that space between loss and hope. Our lives are full of Holy Saturday experiences.”

You can read the full blog post here.

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Peace – In this broken world

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This beautiful South African song expresses what I wrote in my last post, and is also so appropriate for Good Friday. Have a read of the translation of the lyrics below.

Cape Town Youth Choir (formerly Pro Cantu) – “Ukuthula”

Translation:

Ukuthula – Peace

In this (broken) world of trouble
The blood of Jesus flowed (so that you could have:)

Ukuthula – Peace
Usindiso – Redemption
Ukubonga – Praise
Ukutholwa – Faith
Ukunqoba – Victory
Induduzo – Comfort

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Purchase this track on their album “Forever Young”:

https://itunes.apple.com/za/album/ukuthula/id603615325?i=603615699

Website: http://www.ctyc.co.za
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CapeTownYouthChoir
Twitter: https://twitter.com/capetownchoir
iTunes: http://bit.ly/ctyc-itunes
Google Play Music: http://bit.ly/ctyc-google-play

South African Traditional
Conductor: Leon Starker
Soloist: Astrid Joseph
Live recording in St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town (21 Aug 2011)

Stick with the pain a while – Good Friday

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I’ve just read a wonderful blog post by Sarah Kewly Hyde about how to deal with pain. I thought it was pretty relevant to share on Good Friday, when we are asked to wait a while with grief and not rush to Sunday too quickly. She writes about not rushing from our own pain and grief, otherwise we just repress it and store up trouble for later.

I’ve been really challenged on that recently – challenged to write emotional rants to God on scraps of paper which I will rip up and chuck (I realised my journal was getting a bit sanatised for fear of someone reading it one day!). Giving time to expressing my emotions, even when they are ugly. Reminding myself that God loves me as much in that space as when I’m feeling hunky dory. I sometimes then take a new page in my journal and start the page ‘My dear daughter Hilary’….and then write what comes to mind as a letter to me from God. And sometimes what comes is of great comfort and truely does seem to be from Him.

Sarah also writes about being present with those in pain and not rushing away for fear of not knowing what to say. I couldn’t agree more. Also something I’ve really learnt in my own life and actually wish I’d known earlier.

She mentions this passage in Isaiah, a verse God has really spoken to me through, in terms of finding treasures of revelation and intimacy with Him, hidden in the dark secret places of pain and struggle. Which is a different and new take on that verse for me.

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3.

Another theme that echos what I believe God’s been teaching me is that God never promised us an easy life with no trouble, in fact Jesus promised us there will be trouble (John 16:33). When there is trouble, it’s not evidence that God is not good or personal, it’s evidence that the world is broken and evil is present, as the bible says it is. Let’s be angry with evil rather than angry with God. Although he can take it if we are angry with him. He’d rather we wrestle with him than walk away from him. In fact he called his people ‘wrestles with God’ (the meaning of ‘Israel’) so that’s the amazing kind of relationship we’re invited into with him. He’s not distant and unquestionable but close and wanting us to engage with him. (I would emphasise that I don’t believe God brings pain or suffering to teach us lessons, its Satan who comes to steal, kill and destroy.)

So he doesn’t promise a trouble free life but what he does promise us is that he will be with us in trouble and that he will give us peace in the midst of it. And I for one have experienced those promises to be true.

Having said all that I am definitely a believer in Jesus’ power to bring transformation and healing, I’ve seen it in many people’s lives including my own. And of course we move towards that but sometimes we need to pause to be real along the way.

In her post she writes:

“Tragic, awful things happen to good people all the time. We need to get our heads around that. Life is not fair. Some people have an endless rollercoaster of heartbreak, others skip through with a platinum credit card, a fabulous job, a model family. But always, always God is present. To me, and to the Syrian orphan in the refugee camp. The one we serve didn’t get off the cross until he was done – until God’s will was worked out. That’s the blueprint for dealing with pain: stay with it until God says it’s done. We can’t rush these things. And know that as well as the promise of presence, after the agony of the cross came the healing and wholeness of new life.”

I highly recommend reading the whole post here.

The other thing I would recommend which has helped me hugely is a series of sermons at St Barnabas Kensington, London on going through tough times in February 2015, particularly ‘wrestling with God’ and ‘Desert’. http://www.stbk.org.uk/Media/AllMedia.aspx

Entering as a baby

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This Christmas I’ve been thinking about how surprising it is (if we reflect afresh, ignoring the familiarity of the story) that Jesus did not come as a powerful king with a palace, riches and an army. He didn’t have to enter the world as a baby but he chose to. As I look into the eyes of the babies in my life, I’m struck by their powerlessness and dependency on their parents. How radical and shocking that the creator and king of the universe chose to enter the world like that. Chosing to strip away all power and privilege he had every right to claim, to be a vulnerable baby to an unmarried mother. Born to a family travelling away from home, with no place to stay and then fleeing for their lives, refugees if you like.

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Even as a grown man he was a homeless wanderer, a controversial vagrant who owned nothing and encouraged his disciples to also go out into the world with no bag or possessions. He chose to hang out with people on the edge of society, the people others shamed and rejected. He didn’t do anything to elevate or justify himself in the eyes of others, in fact quite the opposite. He was not a king who dominated people but who chose to serve and invited his followers to do the same. He didn’t demand obedience but invited people to walk with him.

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If we look at Jesus as a person and if he is the exact representation of God as he claimed to be, it gives a very different view of God than if we take our view of God from the fallen and broken groups of ‘religious people’, who obviously and continuously get it wrong and misrepresent His heart, as we all do.

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So I’ve been thinking, for us who follow him and seek to emulate him in our lives, maybe we shouldn’t hold onto entitlements to a steady life, comfort, wealth, people’s good opinions or worldly power/influence. He could have chosen to have all those things but instead chose a life with none of them. That in itself is such a challenge to me. What am I expecting from life and are those expectations consistent with emulating the one I claim to follow?

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In between people

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Photograph Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2014
Following the post of my poem ‘In the Air’ some wise friends of mine commented that being ‘in-between’ is “probably what a lot of life is going to look like”, that “it seems like that is the way of Jesus”. That got me thinking. Recently I have read a few passages in the bible about that theme and have felt God whispering to me about it. While I was in the beautiful prayer room at La Motte Wine Estate (if you are in Cape Town do visit it, if you haven’t already) I was reading the passage below from Hebrews and then weeks later I read the passage below from John and its been buzzing around in my thoughts.
I’m like the wind*
He says.
No one knows where I’m from
or where I’m going
and neither do I really.
But it’s reassuring
that He says
it’s the same
for all who belong to Him
and are filled with His breath.
What’s it like to be like wind?
Surely wind can’t hold anything
can’t cling to anything
or any place.
the same choice remains
for the wind-like followers.
The in between people
The sojourners
The pilgrims from a long line of pilgrims
Abraham to Joseph, Moses to Ruth, Mary to Jesus himself.
Always passing through.
Even when I find a place, a precious place
where I feel at home
(or even a few)
even there
I am only ever a temporary resident.
For I’ll always be a stranger
a visitor
on this earth.
I am not of this world
just as the one I follow is not.
Our home
our true home
for which our heart longs
is more beautiful
more magnificent
than all we could imagine.
Our heavenly home
is where we’ll return to
and finally
feel fully ourselves
and fully at home
forever.
So no wonder I feel like a wanderer.
A stranger.
I must hold lightly
I’m only passing through.
(Having said all that, I do feel at home in Cape Town and am planning to come back!!)
Copyright 2014 © Hilary Murdoch. All rights reserved.
*No reference to Dirty Dancing or Patrick Swazye intended 😉
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
 –
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
 –
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – Jesus (John 17:16)
 –
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)
This song has also been a real blessing to me recently (click to open the video).
In the process,
in the waiting,
you’re making melodies over me.
Your presence
is the promise,
for I am a pilgrim on a journey.

Personal update…

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Following my last post, a few people have felt left ‘up in the air’ themselves about what I am up to! So let me give you a brief update (if you are reading this blog and don’t know me personally feel free to ignore!). If you know me and want to hear more details, do contact me by email. I plan to write a proper email update soon.

I still feel very much at home in Cape Town, and still feel called to live and work there, in fact opportunities and openings seem to be increasing. However I am visiting my other home, London for Christmas and hope to be back in Cape Town in January, February or March depending on a few factors.

My main reason for going to the UK is to meet my new nephew and to await my visa renewal but also to have time to reflect on the first 3 years in SA and on the next 3 years there (I hope!).

My current 3 year South African volunteer work visa finishes mid January and I’ve applied in Cape Town for a new one and wait to hear the outcome. I’ll keep you posted…!

In the air

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Cardboard boxes

Rolls and rolls of brown tape

Stuff of life contained

Packed away

Paused

Held.

To be reclaimed

one day

timing to be confirmed

hopefully not too far away.

Unpacked into a new season.

Connections re-established

Life resumed.

So much stuff.

How much does one really need?

Very little if we’re honest.

But we keep it

as a security blanket.

There’s a freedom and lightness in simplicity

but I’m rarely brave enough

to shed enough

to experience it.

In the air

literally

between places

between lives

and yet living my life

in this moment.

I’m not alone

flying with my constant companion.

Knowing I’m loved and known

held in hearts

in both places I call home.

Copyright © 2014 Hilary Murdoch. All rights reserved.

Plane over Cape Town image: Reuters