Archive for March, 2017


The Borders of Heartland – a new creation prayer

March 21, 2017

O God

you have given us large hearts for loving

in the likeness of your own

seeming strong hearts, patient, forbearing hearts

that can endure much,

forgive much, grace much.

Hearts that can speak and sigh

Hearts that can heave and howl

Hearts that may grieve and grow

Hearts that sink and soar

Hearts that long and yearn

Hearts that leap and learn

Hearts that race and rest

Hearts that beat and burst

Hearts that can open and overflow

Your heart-gifts to us are many.


But in your wisdom

you have not given us

invincible hearts

infinite hearts

immortal hearts

insurable hearts.

Our hearts, mercifully

hurt and ache

fail and break

our hearts know limits and borders

hearts hear pretense

hearts sense awry

hearts smell a rat

hearts cry mercy

hearts call time

hearts feel the cold.

shiver the chill

reach to close the door.


O God,

Our hearts are but human

and though divine love be boundless

our hearts hit the wall

our hearts stumble and fall

Though Your love pours out freely

from everlasting to everlasting

Our hearts run dry

and as from dust we came,

so our hearts return to dust.


And yet, yet, still, again…

You gently blow upon this crumbled crusted earth pile

and the merest moisture in your divine loving exhalation

falls in gentlest droplet

the finest mist settles upon us

and soaks in

and tiny fragments hold together

glued by the globules of God

and life again in grace is stirred

and in a love not our own;

love and life returns

rising a muddy mess

but a beating animated heart

buds again in new creation,

barely recognisable – no matter

barely alive – no matter

wholly loved

and – miracle –

loving another time.




It’s Complicated…

March 15, 2017

[This reflection on a story of Jesus talking with a woman by a well in Samaria originally published as a parent conversation starter page for use in Scripture Union Victoria community events.        Beth Barnett, Rewind: John’s Gospel, 2012.]

Was there ever a time when life was simple?
When relationships and families were straightforward?
I don’t think so.
There is a lot of misty eyed sentimentality about the traditional family, but I think that is the extent of it. The ‘traditional’ family is a myth. Or perhaps better to say the ‘traditional’ family is the family with extra hangers on, multiple partners, re-arrangements, relationship bust-ups, people who won’t talk to each other, favourites, scandals, griefs and silent sufferers.

I’m not saying this is the healthy family, or the ideal family. But reading the history books, including the Bible, we get the sense that families have never been quiet, orderly, and predictable. We need to keep our eyes open to the wider world to recognise that what is portrayed as ‘normal’ in our suburban images is really far from normal around the world. Widows and orphans abound, families separated by tragedy and turmoil, multiple partners, extended families, child-headed households, are all part of the ‘normal’ of family life for millions of people around the world.

Skilling up for being family doesn’t mean trying to get everything ordered and straight. Rather it means looking for the ways in which we can find life, real life, in the midst of chaos, change, challenge, heartache and surprises.


What’s Your Story?
• Do you think you have a ‘normal’ family?
• Are there times when you disagree with others about whether your family is ‘normal’ or 
• How do your kids react to the complicated parts of life?
• Have there been unforseen challenges or surprises that have ‘messed up’ your family, but 
perhaps in a good way?

What’s God’s Story?

Jesus and a woman are standing by a well, in the heat of the day.

On every level this meeting is extraordinary. In fact, more than that – it’s inappropriate, unlikely, compromising and dodgy.

A man talking to a woman. A Jew talking to a Samaritan. This is not the time to be out in the midday sun. They are clearly both social misfits. The man is unmarried, very strange for that culture.

And all around the town people know that the woman has had a string of husbands. We don’t know why. In her culture there were laws to protect widows that obligated the husband’s next of kin to marry his widow. This could account for her track record. Or perhaps she was divorced; was unfaithfulness in the mix?

Whatever the reason, we know that any of those scenarios mean a life of grief, disruption and things not being ‘normal’.

Jesus chats away though, as if they do this every day, as if everything is normal. For Jesus, with the eyes and the heart of God in human skin, he sees pain and tragedy, things going pear shaped, heartache, settling for second best as completely normal. Jesus has heaps of time for the person who is thirsty for life to get better, and for something other than the rat race of “you’re not good enough” and of “you don’t conform to our idea of normal”. And for everyone who is that kind of thirsty (and who isn’t) Jesus says, “Get to know God – that’ll blow your idea of ‘normal’ right out of the water, and it’ll keep you coming back for more.”


Twists and Turns -Creation Stories

March 8, 2017

The Bible has stories,
Some big some small,
Stories tangled together
With a thread through them all

They don’t all explain things
In quite the same way
So there’s room for some ques􏰉tions
And there’s room for some play

They’re good to hear twice On the very same day
And then come back for more A􏰊fter going away.

I’d tell you one now
But that will not do
If I tell you one story
I will have to tell two

Because right at the start as the Bible gets going
We straight away see that it’s strange way of knowing

Declares God too great to be simply defined
In one quick sketch leaving ques􏰉tions behind
But in more than two stories, each with details specific
Told in songs, tales and poems – the Bible’s prolific

You can’t just take one bit and think you know all
The whole truth about God is a mighty big call

The First Story begins with some calendar days
And God’s Voice speaks and makes things in wonderful ways

First the light, then the waters and seasons and land
Plants and animals sprout and then woman with man
So everything happens at the sound of God’s speech
And it happens in order, with a neat place for each

But look, turn the page to see Story Two
And spot all the differences – there’s quite a few

God’s sleeves are rolled up and he’s playing with mud
God makes first a garden and a man – flesh and blood
God makes animal friends for the man to name
But none of the animals are just quite the same

So God, with his own hands, s􏰉till messy and muddy
Makes a woman, a sister, a life-long best buddy

What wonderful stories when taken in tandem
Show a God who can speak and whose ways are not random

And that God is with us in muck and in mess
And his purpose for us is to love, work and bless

God’s world works together in ways we can trust
But he asks us to help and take care of the dust
And the water and air and animals and plants
And God’s working with us, so it’s not left􏰊 to chance.

Two stories together twis􏰉ting round one another
Show us more about God and more of each other
Watch the twists of these stories as you follow along
And see this is God’s world, and it’s where we belong

(All- Age Story from Beth Barnett, Twists and Turns, SU Vic, 2012)