Love Bridges (noun and verb)

Most likely all of us, at one time or another have seen an adventure movie or read a tale, where the main character comes upon a huge abyss and must get to the other side. The only way across is that rickety bridge that has fallen to ruin. You can picture it I’m sure. It’s very long and falling apart. If it’s wooden, there are surely slats falling off with every movement. Or perhaps it’s made of mossy jungle vines. It’s definitely sagging and swaying in the steam that rises from the chasm below. It is entirely doubtful whether anyone could possibly pass successfully over the long, treacherous expanse. But the hero steps onto it, with much trepidation, determined and with steely resolve. As we’re watching we’re torn between the tension of what will surely happen on this skeletal bridge and the subconscious thought that surely they won’t kill-off the main character just yet. Nine times out of ten, the hero makes it across and we can exhale.

Most likely all of us, at one time or another have encountered in our lives an abyss or chasm or even just little rifts in relationships. Sometimes it feels like someone is emotionally ‘far away’ or out of reach. Human connections are like that. It could be with a spouse when life’s stresses have for too long been the focus and cold has crept in, a teenage child with whom many an angry word has been exchanged, a sibling with whom there are old wounds, a friend who betrayed or a colleague who went too far with cutting words. The varieties are endless when humans are involved. There are crevasses and pits of sadness, pride and hurt, anger and frustration, blame and resentment, resignation and loneliness, hopelessness and cold. At times they run too deep and the gulf seems too wide to traverse. A bridge is needed to somehow reach across.

Bridges in relationships can be built of materials perhaps not initially considered for a solid structure. Love bridges are made with a hand tenderly touching a shoulder on the way by, a smile or twinkle in the eye, shared laughter, a compliment instead of a criticism, a kind gesture, a question with genuine interest instead of a directive, an unexpected note or call, an apology, an assumption and trust in someone’s good intentions, genuine humility over pride. These are but a few of the building materials that can be used after the groundwork has been laid. 

We are just the workers in building these bridges of course. The Design happens long before, with the blueprints being drawn by the Architect, the Master Engineer. For love bridges to be built, we must come by choice looking for work, as unskilled labourers, with a willingness to be led and trained by the Architect. We are asked only to come with prayer and with the constant knowing that, with Him, all things are possible. New spans can be built and broken bridges can be repaired. If we come humbly ready to work, opening our mind and listening with our hearts, and are committed to building a bridge, He will give us the tools and materials of compassion, persistence, patience, courage, creativity, tenderness, trust, levity, authenticity and vulnerability. 

With trepidation we alone might attempt to bridge the gulf, entirely doubtful whether it’s even possible to pass successfully over such a long, treacherous and lonely expanse of disconnection. Sometimes it is even unknown what really lies on the other side. But the first step is choice. Choosing to hope and trust and to be open to the Leading of the Architect. Every loving effort is a fresh slat in the bridge that can be built anew. With time, intention, effort and persistence, we may even find someone taking timid steps toward us through the mist, across that bridge we’ve helped to restore. 

Church Exists Where The Word Is

The church exists specifically where the Word is,  and where the Lord is thereby known, and thus where Divine truths are revealed.NJHD 246

Recently I have been reflecting on what it means to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, especially in light of the drastically changed environment for worship. What are the important parts of worship that need to be retained in order for us successfully remember the Sabbath? Growing up I had a pretty narrow idea of what it meant to follow the third commandment, it was pretty simple, go to church! We had family worship growing up as well, but I never saw it as a replacement or substitute for church. 

In more recent years many of our churches started streaming their services and for quite a while I was resistant to this change. I liked the reverent and peaceful sphere of our church and worried about the cameras, microphones and speakers becoming a distraction. Furthermore, I feared that people would enjoy the convenience of watching a church service from their house on a tv and stop attending the physical service. However, as I examined these doubts about changes, I realized how selfish and misplaced they were. Other people’s choice of how they worship and remember the Sabbath should be according to their understanding of the teachings. 

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Restoring Trust

This is a strange time to be living in. For many it is a devastating time. But even for those who have not lost income, faced health scares or, at worst, lost loved ones to the current pandemic, it’s a hard time in which to feel good about life. I find it is all too easy to get lost in a sort of depression: a heaviness and listlessness, a sadness and unarticulated anxiety for the future. And that’s not a place I want to remain in. But what helps alleviate it? 

I was recently reminded of one of my favourite stories from the Old Testament. 

“And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:15-17)

I love this story for the simple yet profound power in the words “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Even in this time of isolation and distance, uncertainty and loss, we are surrounded by the invisible forces of Good, forces too great to number. And we are strengthened by the multitudes of people rising up to offer help in any way it is needed. 

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Last August, a group of women gathered for our first Australian New Church Women’s Weekend together. That was such a success that, in early March this year, we did it again! Both times we shared delicious home-made meals, fun ice-breaker games, insightful instruction on a woman from the Bible and other spiritual topics, relaxing & enlightening meditations, a charitable project, fresh air & sunshine and down-time to develop relationships with old friends and new acquaintances. The woman from the Bible whom we studied this March was Rebekah. Below is the essence of what was presented; it’s kind of heavy, but hopefully informative. It might be helpful to read Genesis chapters 24-27 to familiarise yourself with the different parts of the story as it is presented in the Bible.

The internal sense of this story is about the process of conjunction of good and truth in the Lord’s Divine Human. Rebekah represents the Divine truth that was to be conjoined with Divine good (Isaac) of His rational. Rebekah, before they were betrothed, stands for the love of truth from doctrinal things, in other words in thought but not yet in action.

Rebekah’s drawing water for Abraham’s servant’s camels and giving them to drink has to do with enlightenment in a person’s natural level, i.e. gaining factual knowledge. Her being sent away from her family (going with the servant) is about truth being elevated and separated from the natural, which happens when a person doesn’t look from truth to good any more (knowing what is right and doing it), but from good to truth (doing it because she loves it, and recognises it as true). Here’s a concrete example: ‘don’t hate’: first we do it because we know we shouldn’t, and eventually we truly love and believe and live it, not because we’re told but because we love it; it’s lifted out of the natural.

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