Over the Fence

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 13 January 2019.

TiergartenLast month we stayed in an apartment in Berlin that overlooked the Holocaust Memorial, itself built upon the former line of the Berlin Wall. Beyond that, we could see the Tiergarten, the largest city park in Berlin, and in the distance, the golden statue of Victory that rises from the Tiergarten’s heart. We were, I believe, looking at the view that once would have belonged to a well-placed East Berliner, and quite literally, the grass would have been greener on the other side of the Wall. I was struck by how difficult it must have been to have that view each morning, and know it was out of reach.

The best things in life are often beyond us, aren’t they? Whether it’s particular things, or particular experiences, or particular abilities, we can’t arrange our reality to bring them within our grasp. We don’t grow up to play for Australia. We don’t retire in our 30s. We don’t even get a date with our first crush.

More important than all of these, however, is the fact that we can’t reach over the gulf that separates us from the God who made us. We might catch a glimpse of his glory, we might hope to get his attention when we’re in desperate need, we might dream of someone who can look after us - but we can’t force his hand, and we can’t force our way into his presence even to plead our case.

That’s why we’ve just celebrated the coming of Jesus. He’s the one who tore down the dividing wall of hostility, the gate for the sheep, the way, the truth and the life. He has won the victory, and he’s no lifeless statue!

The Stories We Live By

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 23 December 2018.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except all the Christmas movies and shows we can now access via Netflix. Oh, the joy and whimsy we can share with our loved ones; from the classics of Home Alone, and Miracle on 34th Street, to the new adventures of The Christmas Prince and for those who like to live outside the box... Die Hard!
We live in a world that loves to tell stories, especially ones with a happy ending. Ones that captivate us, ones that make us feel good, ones that change our world view and challenge us.
But in this world of story telling, we can often overlook the important ones (and it is not the one you think I am going to say) - our own stories.
At Christmas time, we have a great opportunity to tell people our stories: the stories of our adventures this year, the stories of our triumphs, of our shortcomings and for many of us, our hardships. Let me encourage you, the most important story you can tell this Christmas is the story of how Jesus changed your life.
For me, I was a child who went to Scripture and wanted to learn more about God. My teacher said the best place to do that was at church, so I begged my mum to take me. That was 24 years ago. There have been many triumphs, shortcomings, and unfortunately harships in my life. But Christmas reminds me of the promise in Jesus name ‘Immanuel - God with us’! God has never left me. He came as a baby to be my Saviour.
This Christmas, don’t just share the shows you watch on Netflix, share stories that truly matter. Amanda

Wind Powered Faith

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 09 December 2018.

Wind PowerAs we were setting up for simply christmas last night, there was a bit of breeze about, making for a challenge. Things blew away, such as sheet music, and other things blew over. Winds can be powerful, even when not especially strong.

It reminded me of some of the stuff wind does. The breeze was certainly nice on a hot day, keeping us all cool and refreshed. That is perhaps wind at its most appreciated - wind as a source of pleasure. Kite-flyers, sailors, and people with far too much washing to dry all are glad of wind.

But we have greater reason than that. Wind, after all, is what enables us to speak to each other. Without the ability to speak words, we would be strangers to one another, able to observe but never understand those around us. Wind saves us from such loneliness.

And of course, wind is also the air we breathe. Without fresh air reaching our lungs, we could not live for even an hour. It’s a simple but essential ingredient in our existence.

There’s nothing to it, but it means everything to us - life, love, and joy are just the beginning. It’s the most insubstantial part of God’s creation, yet literally vital. We can’t see it, but it changes our lives. And if we must be thankful for even that which we cannot see, how much more all the blessings that abound in what we see around us?

Out of Place?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 02 December 2018.

FeathersAh, Ireland! The Emerald Isle, home to a well-loved accent, entertaining stories of leprechauns, the beauty of Celtic Christianity, and a monument to a tribe of American Indians.

Normally, a nation celebrates its home-grown heroes, or others who have played important roles in the establishment of the country. It may mark its gratitude to other nations or cities for help at critical times. But it is very odd indeed for a nation to memorialise a tiny people group from a different country, from a different continent...

Midway through last year, the ‘Kindred Spirits Monument’ was unveiled in the town of Midleton in County Cork. It honours a decision taken in 1847 by the Choctaw nation. Having heard of the Great Hunger, a famine in Ireland that stretched from 1845-49, they raised $170 to send in famine relief. They knew themselves what it meant to suffer, having been evicted from their ancestral lands in the previous decade at the cost of thousands of lives, and they felt sympathy for the suffering of the Irish poor.

It’s a beautiful story of human kindness, isn’t it? Something that has been honoured by the people of Ireland many times since, and for good reason. We can only admire the grace of those who are beggars themselves making it possible for beggars to find bread.

It was, of course, the Irishman C. S. Lewis who used that image to describe our task in evangelism. In sharing the gospel, we are showing a grace that can win the world’s admiration! It is not out of place to love others.

From the Garden

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 24 November 2018.

WeedsThough some members of my family will find that it exceeds their ability to imagine, I quite like weeding. It’s true, I don’t weed as much as I might, but it’s not from dislike of the task. It’s therapeutic, I think, in fact.

Many of the different tasks and responsibilities that we have are ongoing. We don’t get to take a breather from breathing. And as soon as you finish the washing up, you find the one item you missed seeing before you let the water out. Chores have a way of recurring with great regularity.

That’s why I like weeding. Once you take the weeds out, you’re left with a clean garden bed, or lawn that is composed only of grass. It’s a job that you can finish. Or at least it appears that way for a few days, until you see the weeds shamelessly growing back.

They always do. They’re a small but ever-present reminder that we live in a fallen world, where things don’t work the way they’re meant to. And they do their job well, mutely testifying to our sheer inability to fix even the smallest part of that curse we brought upon ourselves.

Right there in my garden is the proof that I can’t get back to the garden of Eden. Not with prodigious amounts of manual labour. Not with the best of modern technology. Not with the support of even the most dedicated weed-pullers the world has ever seen.

On our own, we’re stuck. But one day, in a garden, a man spoke to a woman. The first man stayed silent while the serpent did his work, but this man spoke, and revealed the fact of his resurrection. His father, the Gardener, was making all things new again, at last!

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