God has let me down

God has let me down. He didn’t heal my mum. He hasn’t answered my prayers about mental health challenges in my family. These are good prayers, and unanswered they have left my heart broken. I wonder if God really cares. Yet Jesus stated that if you, as imperfect parents ‘know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him’ (Matthew 7:11). Unfortunately, when my prayers go unanswered this claim feels like a broken promise.

As I listen to both my own and others’ hearts I sense that although we often pray for specific things there is usually a deeper layer to our requests. Beyond the specifics we are really asking, ‘Does Anyone care?’ Beneath our words we search for reassurance that Someone is there for us. We want to know we are not alone. Silence from God fuels our fears of abandonment.

Yet praying for specific requests leaves us in control. Praying for specifics means we are telling God what to do. We may pray for the thing we want – whilst remaining unaware of what it is we really need. On the other hand, praying for the Spirit requires us to trust that God knows exactly what we need.

Jesus also talks about parents giving good gifts in Luke 11:13.  This time rather than claiming God will give good gifts to us, Jesus says God delights to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Jesus seems to be saying God will do better than give us any old good thing. By interchanging words Jesus suggests the best gift of all is God’s Spirit. I imagine God is genuinely delighted when we finally understand that the gift of the Spirit is the gift to ask for.

Today is Pentecost Sunday – the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. On that day the Spirit literally empowered all present to step out of a place of fear and take the transformative gift of the Spirit to the ends of the earth. God changed them, not their situation.

God may not change our circumstances but in the midst of our circumstances the empowering gift of the Spirit will always be the answer to our deepest needs. Thus the words of Jesus become an invitation to pray less for specifics, and more for the Spirit; to pray less for particulars, and more for God’s powerful presence.  I’m going to give it a go – will you join me?


There’s a hole in my heart

Having been out of town for a couple of days my husband and son were enjoying some uninterrupted quality time without me. My arrival back home was about to disrupt their companionship. As I drove into the garage I wondered if my often exuberant young son would welcome me home with ear-deafening, arm-waving enthusiasm. Alternatively,  I might be blatantly ignored to protest my absence.

Once inside I discovered father and son watching a movie together. Careful not to intrude, I quietly slipped into the room and found a space near them. There was no rapturous welcome. But neither was I shunned. I was simply allowed to join their shared experience.

Eventually the movie finished. Hardly daring to assume full reinstatement to the family fold, I asked my son, ‘Who do you want to put you to bed, Mum or Dad?’

‘Both!’ announced my five year old with touching certainty. However, there was no time to dwell on that magic moment. ‘No,’ he’d changed his mind. ‘I need Mum. I need to hear her say ‘I love you’.’

As I whispered the words he longed to hear, I thought back to my own childhood. Never voiced, the question “Do my parents love me?” clung to me for many years. Of course my parents loved me. But sometimes they were emotionally unavailable, sometimes they could not be physically present, sometimes they simply didn’t understand what I needed. Their very best attempts to love me did not fully meet the needs of my heart. How I longed for something to magically fill the gnawing emptiness which pervaded my being.

The years have shown me that we all ache for a deep and lasting sense of being fully loved. However, research shows no human can ever completely and consistently meet our deepest innermost needs. This creates a void within us which some have described as a ‘God-shaped hole’.

Often we mistakenly try to fill this inner emptiness with options which don’t match the nature of the space. We desperately demand love from others – and then become resentful when they fail to meet our need. We try to numb our ache with addictive substances, with consumerism or compulsive behaviours. We try comfort food or alcohol, for example, which literally fill us up for a time. But eventually we discover that whatever we try only brings temporary relief and never completely plugs the gaping hole in our innermost being.

I’ve discovered only God’s love truly satisfies my own aching heart. Only God’s love is totally unconditional, consistent and dependable one hundred per cent of the time. Only God’s love completely fills the God-shaped hole inside of me.

This God-shaped hole must remain topped up if we are to avoid feelings of inner emptiness. To plug the gap we can focus on the words of God in the Bible; we can respond to the depth of God’s love for us demonstrated by the death of Jesus on the Cross; we can listen for God’s love whispered to us every day in the beauty of creation.  May the longings of our hearts be completely satisfied as we turn to the only one able to perfectly fill the God-shaped hole in each of our hearts.

When a Tree Falls

When a tree falls

There’s something about the rugged, rawness of the South Island’s West Coast which draws me in every time: the bleak yet beautiful beaches; the luscious rainforest; the cascading waterfalls. One of my favourite spots is Truman Track, a short walking track just up the road from the Punakaiki blowholes. The track dramatically changes from the sub-tropical rainforest of nikau palms and rimu near the road, to smaller more delicate ferns, before finally giving way to flax as the track emerges right on the rugged Coastal headland.

It’s over 25 years since I first walked this track and I still remember a fallen tree which caught my attention. It totally blocked the popular walkway and I would have expected it to have been cleared off the track. However, a sign explained why this enormous fallen giant had been left where it fell, forcing me to clamber up and over its immense girth.

The sign described the role of this tree in the forest ecosystem and how it was essential to the life of the forest. Forest bugs were deconstructing the tree and creating rich, organic humus which was being absorbed into the soil. This process ensured the forest floor was continually replenished. The death of this tree was giving life to the mosses, ferns and saplings which now grew on and around this once majestic creature.

My fallen tree symbolises a truth I would rather avoid! You see, I don’t want to be that toppled tree lying across the track. I don’t plan to fall or fail. Ever! Rather, I long to be like Northland’s tall and proud Tane Mahuta – the Lord of the Forest. I want to be a magnificent tree: important, significant, admired and valued. This version of me may not be real, but it’s the image my ego prefers!  So it’s pretty tough when I find myself lying broken across the track. Yet from time to time we are all felled by either our own choices or circumstances beyond our control. And when this happens we have a choice. We can resent and resist the fall or we can embrace a process of transformation.

Just as the forest needs the tree to be broken down we actually need times when we are forced to face our true selves. However, we need not face the process alone. Jesus, who died then created new life, promises that ‘Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die’ (John 11:25). Easter reveals the transformational power available to us through Jesus. By inviting Jesus into our own transformation process we are gifted a God-given understanding of our true identity. Then like the tree we are ready to nourish the world around us.


An Invitation to Make a Fresh Start

How to make a fresh start

How are you going with those New Year’s Resolutions? Apparently only 8% of us ever successfully achieve them. I’ve certainly felt a reluctance to set myself up to fail. But making a fresh start – now that’s a resolution I understand.

Can fresh starts be more successful than annual Resolutions? I’ve been studying a guy called Abraham whom God invited to make a fresh start. Abraham’s experience offers us six do’s and don’ts to guide us should we embrace our own invitation to make a fresh start.

Do – respond to the invitation

One day, out of the blue, God interrupted Abraham’s everyday life in Mesopotamia and invited him to a fresh start in the land of Canaan (modern day Israel). Surprisingly Abraham accepted God’s invitation and he and his clan set out for Canaan. Without Google maps this was a journey into the unknown and required gutsy faith. By accepting God’s invitation Abraham took the first step towards making a life changing fresh start.

Don’t – give up!

The journey ground to a halt when Terah, Abraham’s dad, decided they would settle in Haran. After his dad died Abraham again committed to embracing God’s invitation to a fresh start. Although Terah is the true family patriarch he did not become the patriarch of fresh starts! He gave up, Abraham didn’t! It’s not the only time Abraham got off track. However, he always picked the journey up again. He didn’t give up. Thus it’s Abraham we admire thousands of years later as the model of how to embrace a fresh start with God.

Don’t – wait until we have God sorted

Abraham didn’t know much about God – he probably worshiped idols like his father (Joshua 24:2). So when Abraham responded to God’s invitation he knew very little about this Deity.  Abraham’s lack of understanding did not become a barrier to embracing the invitation. The journey itself developed his relationship with God. As Jesus once said, faith as small as a mustard seed is enough.

 Don’t – wait until we have ourselves sorted

Abraham messed up quite a few times along the way yet this was not a barrier to God offering him the invitation. Abraham actually successfully arrived in Canaan (Genesis 12:5) but his fresh start journey was not yet complete. When things got tough he failed to rely on God and went further than God had told him to – he headed beyond Canaan to Egypt. And there he created a mess for himself and his wife, Sarah. Fear led him to deceive the Egyptians about the true nature of his relationship with Sarah. Consequently Pharaoh ‘borrowed her’ until he found out! This deception could have ended very badly for Abraham and Sarah.

Remarkably, despite his human flaws Abraham becomes one of God’s favourite people. Not because he was perfect! I suspect his failures forced Abraham’s to embrace an  inner journey – one which transformed his character. His fresh start journey required a parallel inner journey that developed the humility, courage and faith he needed to overcome the challenges of embracing a fresh start. God’s invitation is never conditional on us having ourselves sorted before we begin.

Do – set boundaries

The next challenge Abraham faced is that he and his nephew started to quarrel, as did their staff. The same space could no longer support both of their families and livestock. So Abraham set new boundaries. Firstly he faced the fact it was time to create some distance between himself and his nephew. Abraham also set a boundary around how he and his nephew would treat each other – quarrelling was not to be part of their on-going journey. I tend to resort to setting boundaries grumpily, once resentments have built up. But Abraham set his boundaries graciously, generously offering his nephew first dibs on the land.

Do – make bold declarations of faith

Throughout the journey Abraham often boldly professed his trust in God. When he first arrived in Canaan he built a monument to God and took time out to pray (Genesis 12:8); after a big battle he refused to take the plunder declaring he was trusting God for all he needed (Genesis 14:22, 23); and having finally settled in Canaan he participated in a special ceremony with God to celebrate completing his journey (Genesis 15). Audacious professions of faith helped cement his intent and kept him focussed on the journey.

Do’s and Don’ts for our next fresh start

What is true for Abraham is true for us – God invites us to make a fresh start. We can put up barriers or we can allow the invitation to beckon us to greatness! As we ponder the invitation currently in front of us let’s be guided by Abraham’s six do’s and don’ts. Firstly, do accept the invitation. And even if we get off track go back to it – don’t give up. Don’t think we must have a well-defined theology before we can step out with God. And don’t allow a sense of messiness or brokenness be a barrier to a fresh start.  Do set boundaries to support the journey; and finally, do boldly profess our growing faith in  God. This helps cement our intention to continue the journey.

The invitation awaits us – will we embrace the fresh start being offered to us today?

Abraham’s journey can be traced in Genesis 12 – 15 in the Bible.

Prime Ministers and Party Phone Lines

Apparently after Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s prime minister elect an Australian radio producer phoned her office to ask how to correctly pronounce her name. He was somewhat surprised to have Jacinda herself take the call!

In fact, the scenario was so unexpected he tweeted about it, and the story made international news. The world seemed shocked that such an important woman had time for a mere mortal. It seems we assume high-up people are far too busy and superior to have time for ordinary individuals like ourselves.

Jacinda was then interviewed about this apparently rare event and expressed her intent to remain accessible. Somehow this reminded me of a conversation I had with my Aunty Margaret many years ago. We were talking about party telephone lines, and not political ones! She described how older household phones were connected to a shared party line. If someone was already on the line when she picked up the telephone handpiece they would yell in her ear, ‘Working!’ With a number of households covered by the same telephone line it’s hardly surprising the phone line was often busy and unavailable.

The radio producer expected his attempt to contact our prime minister elect’s office would be intercepted by a Press Secretary, who would give him the clear message she was working and unavailable.

I often encounter people who assume God operates a bit like the old party telephone lines or an inaccessible dignitary. Somehow as we travel through life many of us absorb a myth that God is too busy or too lofty to have time for someone like us. We assume that if we were to pick up the phone to connect with God that either we won’t get through or that God will promptly yell down the line, ‘Working’!

Obviously phone technology has advanced somewhat. To be honest I don’t understand mobile phone technology. I don’t understand how it is possible to transmit voice, text or pictures without an actual physical phone line to carry the communication. Yet even though I don’t understand the technology I use my cell phone every day!

Similarly, I do not understand how God can be instantly available to each one of us. I don’t understand how God can be simultaneously connected to the thousands of people who are attempting a connection at any one time.

However, I do know God is not like a party telephone line! Rather, God operates more like a cell phone! God can always be contacted and is always within our coverage range. In fact, God’s cell phone contract reads, ‘Call to me and I will answer you …’ But wait, there’s more! God’s connection contract comes with a bonus offer! ‘…I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’ (Jeremiah 33:3).[1]

What do we expect when we attempt to connect with God? A ‘working’ party line response? If so let’s seek a better deal. Now is a good time to upgrade our expectations!

[1] The HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (North American Edition) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Well, we’re almost there – I’ve closed the office for the year, cleaned out the work fridge, and turned on my email out of office message. All that’s left for me to do is the final grocery shop and food preparation. I might be getting there in terms of physical preparation, but I don’t think I’m there yet spiritually. So tonight I need to pause and invite the Christmas story to weave its way through my heart and holiday hopes.

I’ve turned to Isaiah in the Bible. Hundreds of years before Jesus came Isaiah spoke of a child who would be the beginning of something new.

Talk of a baby emerges in the middle of a conversation about how bleak things are – and then in Isaiah 9:1 the tone of the conversation starts to change. Suddenly Isaiah proclaims, ‘Those who walked in the dark have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land of darkest shadows.’[i]

Immediately I connect with this portrayal of the Christmas story. Because our world seems pretty dark just now, and living in my region certainly feels like living in a land of darkest shadows. We’ve had our fair share of tragedies this year. Sometimes it’s even been our own hearts that have felt dark.

Isaiah continues, ‘A child has been born for us. We have been given a son…’[ii] With these words Isaiah offers a hint of hope. This gift is for us; this child has been given to us.

Isaiah demonstrates how perfect this gift is for us by choosing four names to describe him. The first is ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ or ‘Wise Guide’. And to get through Christmas don’t we need that! This gift includes a wise counsellor and guide just for us. Yet a counsellor is of no use unless we talk to them! A guide is of no use unless we listen to them! So although this gift is given to us it does require action from us if we are to benefit from it.

Isaiah’s next name is ‘Mighty’ or ‘Strong God’. It’s hard to do Life on our own, just using our own resources. Here’s reassurance that God is strong enough to handle our stuff. Here’s a promise that this God is tough enough to see us through the hardest aspects of this Christmas season.

Isaiah’s third name for Jesus is a ‘Father who is forever’ – a father who will not walk out on us or abandon us, ever. It seems our hearts often long for a father figure. Yet no human will ever perfectly meet this need. However, in this child is the promise of a dependable, solid father figure. This is a timely reminder when expectations of family members so often trip us up over the Christmas dinner table.

Isaiah’s final name is ‘Prince of Peace’. Can’t we all do with some extra peace of heart and mind just now? Imagine being calm, peaceful, untroubled and unflappable this close to Christmas! Sounds like the perfect Christmas gift to me!

So are we there yet? I suspect that as we receive these four qualities of the Christ-child  we will find we have finally arrived at our Christmas destination.

[i] Isaiah 9:2 (Contemporary English Version)

[ii] Isaiah 9:6 (Contemporary English Version)

It’s Just Not Fair

As the first-born child I am responsible, conscientious, reliable…AND controlling and over-cautious! Researchers can explain why I’ve turned out this way and why a second child is more likely to be the rebel in the family, with a stronger interest in socialising than family obligations. Jesus may not have read the research, but he knew human nature, and captured these tendencies in a classic story about two brothers.

In the story we find the older son outside sulking. Earlier his younger brother had rebelled and abandoned all family responsibilities. Amazingly, the Father had understood his need to leave home and try to fill his heart with a variety of people, places and things. The Father let the lad go – even granting his request to take his inheritance with him. Unsurprisingly he wastes it all and eventually heads home to grovel for some grace from his Father. Thrilled that this young lad has finally come home the Father throws a lavish ‘Welcome home’ party. Instead of rejecting this wayward son the Dad celebrates that this son is now ready to satisfy his heart with the love of his Father.

The hardworking older brother is furious! How could his Father treat his good-for-nothing brother like this? What had that lout done to deserve such extravagance? Didn’t the Father understand how he was slogging away on the family farm? It just wasn’t fair!

Discontented and disconnected the first-born son chose to pout outside as the party continued without him. As the eldest daughter I get how this happens. When the good qualities found in a ‘proper’ child get out of balance we so easily slide into resentment and martyrdom. Our focus on doing can shut out our need for loving connection. Like the son in the story we can fail to grasp the unconditional acceptance being held out to us too.

I’ve read this story many times, but only recently noticed that both sons were given their inheritance. It seems the older son was so focussed on the tasks and commitments in front of him that he had not taken up the generosity of his Father. Too busy doing what was expected of him he hadn’t ever thought to party with his father. He hadn’t leaned into the lavish goodness waiting for him at home. As a result he totally failed to understand his Father’s generous and gracious heart.

The wise Father longs to embrace both sons, and it is the Father who seeks to melt the hard heart of his firstborn. The word used of their encounter is very powerful – Jesus said the father went and entreated him. Just as the Father had restored the younger son, the ‘good’ son also needed to experience the depth of relationship being offered him.

Recently I’ve come to see that rather than being like one or the other son we hold the essence of each within us. We all can be like a younger brother who makes poor choices and who is heartbroken when he faces up to his flaws. And like this son we may come to realise our need for restoration and seek out the Father.

Yet we also hold within us an older child who is quick to judge our failure to be as perfect as we hoped or imagined. Just as the more outwardly ‘proper’ brother failed to grasp the depth of his Father’s love it can be difficult for those of us who live ‘proper’ lives to accept God loves our flawed selves. We can be our own harshest critics. And when we cannot forgive ourselves it is hard to believe that God wants to. Forgiveness is never fair.

The story is particularly confronting for those of us who identify most strongly with the more proper son. It suggests we also need a change of heart. How challenging to see that God’s lavish love is far too generous to be fair.

This story is found in the Bible in Luke 15:11–32
For more on the youngest son see ‘God Doesn’t Vote with the Tribe’ at https://shamelessandfree.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/god-doesnt-vote-with-the-tribe/

God doesn’t vote with the Tribe!

God doesn’t vote with the Tribe!

Recently I’ve been considering Reality TV shows and how catch phrases become part of their predictable format. Remember Survivor’s ‘The tribe has spoken’ and Project Runway’s equally blunt, ‘You’re out? Such shows tap into the human psyche’s need to divide the world into winners and losers; those we tolerate and those we write off; good guys and bad guys; those who love us and those who don’t.

This kind of thinking even happened in Jesus’ day. Back then the religious leaders were pretty sure they were in with God, and everyone else was out. These holier-than-thou leaders grumbled to Jesus, accusing him of spending too much time with the people they wanted to vote out of God’s whānau (family). In response, Jesus told a story about two brothers.

I’m Out

In the story the younger brother ditches his responsibilities as a son, and goes on a frivolous O.E. He ensures his elimination from the whānau by demanding his inheritance early – as if to say, ‘Dad, I wish you were dead.’ Those listening understood these actions confirmed he had absolutely opted out of his whānau.

Having wasted his inheritance the son loses his friends and dignity. Forced to work as a farm hand he finds himself so hungry he longs to eat from the slops he fed to the pigs. The shame that engulfs him reinforces his sense of elimination from the whānau. However, he remembers life back home and how even the farm workers were well fed. Something deep within this lad turns him back towards his Father. He can only hope his Dad will offer him some scraps of love…

The story was told to demonstrate that God does not vote as we expect. You see, God understands that like the younger son we actually need to go on a journey and explore our freedom. We have to discover that filling our lives with relationships, possessions and distractions does not heal the emptiness deep within our hearts. This is the journey we all must take before we are ready to head home. Once opting out no longer works for us we will risk the vulnerable path of returning to the heart of the Father.

You’re In

The Father in the story longs for his boy to come home. He watches and waits for a change of heart. Immediately the Father sees the son coming he rushes to hold him tight. I love how the young ratbag is held close to the heartbeat of his Father: fully known, fully loved and fully accepted.

For the religious leaders listening to the story this was an unexpected twist. What about us? Do we believe God welcomes us in? Whether we assume we’ve been eliminated or feel like others have voted us out remember, God does not vote with the tribe. Rather, God’s arms are flung wide open – always, always, always inviting us in.

This story is found in the Bible in Luke 15:11–32

An invitation to leave our tattered rags at the door

I’ve been meaning to invite some friends around to my place for a long time now, but I never seem to be organised enough to have everything ready. When I am finally ready to invite them over I wonder who will be free to come.

Jesus tells two stories in the Bible about inviting people to a party.  I wrote about how the first story portrays God’s generous invitation to each of us here: https://shamelessandfree.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/we-are-invited/

In the second story a King invites guests to a wedding banquet for his son. When the servants are sent to tell the guests everything is ready every single one of them refuse to come. Feeling deeply hurt by this rejection of his hospitality the King sends his servants out to invite anyone who would come – ‘the good and the bad alike’.

Once the banquet hall is full the King starts to mix and mingle with his guests. However, he discovers one guest who is not wearing suitable wedding clothes. Immediately the King has this guest thrown out.

At first I couldn’t make sense of the King’s reaction – he knew the guests had come at short notice; he knew they might not have the means to buy flash new wedding clothes; he knew they had come from the street corners. This harsh reaction didn’t fit with the generous invitation of the King, especially in a story Jesus told to show us what God is like.

But then I remembered being in India and Egypt where as a woman I had to cover myself with a scarf or a special garment in order to enter some sacred spaces. The garment represented a sacred transaction that allowed me to be fully acceptable in that space.

And I’ve discovered that back in Jesus’ day when a Persian King invited guests to a wedding he also ensured all wedding guests were gifted intricately embroidered white wedding garments. What a beautiful picture of the invitation God offers us. I love the idea that we are invited to leave our tattered rags at the door: rags of pain, shame and past mistakes. Yet to do so we must risk being seen as we really are. This is the step between letting go of our tattered rags and being clothed by the King.

Remember it’s not our past which excludes us from the banquet, but a refusal to accept all God offers. Unlike my intention to invite friends around God’s invitation is ready now. Dare we accept the invitation and allow ourselves to be wrapped in unconditional love and graciousness?

This story is found in the Bible in Matthew 22:1 – 14

We Are Invited to Come Home

We Are Invited

I’m no party animal. In fact, for my fiftieth birthday I left the country just to ensure nobody threw me a party! Yet a story Jesus told about a bloke who hosted a banquet has captured my attention. In the story a rich and generous Host, who represents God, sends out invitations to a party.

Without text messages or Facebook to announce all was ready the Host relied on a servant to find all invited guests and inform them preparations were complete. However, every single person on the guest list now rejected their invitation. Each was too wrapped up in the trappings of their outwardly successful lives – too busy with property, relationships or possessions to come; too busy to experience the lavish welcome being offered by the Host. The Host was bitterly disappointed. With his heart, and his feast ready for sharing the servant was immediately sent out again with instructions to search far and wide for people crippled by Life. Many accepted, yet still there was room. The servant was sent out once again to look even further afield. This time the instruction was to search along country roads and look behind hedges for anyone who would come.

It’s all about the welcome

Having studied this story many times I now believe the thing about this party is not the food, it’s the welcome. The guy throwing the party oozed tender acceptance. He longed to lavish love and welcome on his guests. I’m reminded of a well-known photo of Princess Diana, arms flung wide open greeting her two young sons. Or a parent embracing their new baby with joy and delight. It’s like the tightest of hugs I give my young adult son each time we catch up. It’s being held, aware you are known fully and fully accepted. It’s everything we need when Life breaks us. Being welcomed to this party is like being welcomed home.

A few years ago I reflected further on this story and understood it held a deeper challenge for me. I realised that I had yet to accept the Host’s invitation for myself. In fact, I was hiding behind a hedge, trying to cover up a childhood which had left me emotionally crippled and fragile. Sure, I knew all about God’s generous welcome but it had not yet healed me. I understood the banquet was available but had not yet been satisfied by it.

Striving to be good enough

Subconsciously I was striving to be good enough for God. Yet how on earth do we measure ‘enough’? How do we know when we have prayed enough, served enough or given enough to earn our place at the table? It was after I messed up my life that I understood this invitation fully. When I was stripped me of everything – the protective shell I had put up, the masks, the achievements that made me appear worthy – when all of that was gone all I had left was vulnerability.

It is a huge risk to accept the invitation; to risk being seen fully, to risk the Host knowing we are less than we want to be. The intimacy of the Host’s welcome is difficult to accept when we cannot even accept ourselves. Yet we are invited to come with nothing but our messy and broken, raw and real selves.

The Host longs to wrap us in acceptance and hold us in healing embrace close to his heartbeat. Our vulnerability is perfectly matched with lavish love. As the Host welcomes us home the hunger of our hearts is truly satisfied. This is the point of the story. And it took me 30 years to work that out!

This story is found in The Bible, Luke 14:16-24