Saturday, September 28, 2019

God’s Presence, ESPECIALLY in the darkest valley

Five years ago, as many of you know, we went through the heartbreaking loss of our infant son. It wasn’t just that, though. It was a very difficult pregnancy that required my wife to undergo eight invasive procedures that each time threatened the life of our unborn. It wasn’t just that, either… there is whole other story there that would raise eyebrows.
As we look back, we’re often in disbelief as to how well we were held by God at the time—throughout… the tears, the constant uncertainty, the irreconcilable emotions, the stress, the exhaustion; yet also the prayers of hundreds if not thousands of people, and our own faith.
Like, how did we get through that time? We can only say it was our faith and others’ prayers. How else can we attribute it? We know that God promises to be with us in our darkest valleys, but really, is this what it feels like when God actually does it?
The witness of God’s Presence especially in our darkest valley was and still is irrefutable.
But then this morning, when we were doing some Spring cleaning, having found some heart shaped cards, I gave them to our six-year-old son to draw on. What he did with them surprised us both.
Later we found out that he’d taken them to his bedroom and had then taken down one of the three Bible verse coloured-in cards we have blue-tacked to the toilet wall. He had copied the words of Hebrews 13:5, “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you’,” onto the two heart-shaped cards, and placed his mother’s card right where you see it, depicted per the picture above.
This particular verse is very special to both my wife and me. I’ve written about how it is constructed in the Greek, and how much weight there is in the verse with five ‘no’ words in it, three normal negations, and two strong negations—the negations are the ‘no’ words. In effect, the proper rendering of the verse is more like, “Never, EVER will I ever leave you, never under any circumstances, EVER, will I forsake you,’ says the Lord.” This verse in the Greek has nine words; five mean ‘no’ and two of them mean, ‘definitely not!’ When we read this verse, we really must imagine God reassuring us that we have nothing but the full presence of the Lord, all ways, at all times, especially in our darkest valley experience (see especially Psalm 23).
Now, see where this card is placed in the photograph; against the photograph on my wife’s bedside table of us with both our sons.
My wife said to me, “Look at where he put it.” She interpreted it as our son being probably unaware of the significance of him placing his card against the picture like that. It’s a sign from God—“I was present with you!”
God knew. Even after five years, it brings us enormous comfort to know that God was there with us, in our clear and present danger. And that’s why we got through.
As it turned out, that Footprints in the Sand poem, where we see only one set of footprints, is true. We think those footprints are ours, that we’re completely alone; no, those footprints were those of God who carried us through the whole ordeal. We were literally carried by our faith and others’ prayers, and God was present, just as we were reminded today.

Friday, September 27, 2019

It’s not just a stick leaning against a tree

Innocuous moments are destined to catch us out. Ponder this story that was shared with me.
Having lost her husband of over 50 years to a sharply aggressive metastasising cancer, he himself only in his early 70s, this woman we will call Gladys has been overtaken many times by a new experience in her early-elder years.
The narrative runs like this: even before the diagnosis, let’s say that was less than two months prior to his death, the couple were burning off on their rural property—an annual practice over their entire married existence.
Nothing breathtaking in that! Except for the fact that 50-odd seasons of doing the same thing runs ruts deep into the psyche of a shared experience between the two.
On this final burn-off together, Gladys vaguely recalls leaving a particular stick leaning against a particular tree (after all, according to her, “It was a really good stick!); vaguely, in the sense that it wasn’t a particularly notable action to remember.
What makes the action significant, and what makes the memory sharpen on what should have been a vague recollection but was now no longer, is the fact that she walks past that particular stick leaning against the tree and is suddenly thrown back to a time where life was ‘normal’ and, there, time stands still.
Gladys stands at that tree and has one of those moments where her recall triggers instant grief, and she is literally staggered at the solemnity in that last-time moment she unthinkingly burned off with her now deceased husband who was fighting fit at the time.
It was only 12-months ago.
In that time, she’s ridden the roller coaster of shock at the diagnosis, the choppy waves of a light-speed fight with cancer, the plunge into palliative care and death at home, the abrupt planning of a funeral between Christmas and New Year, and the learning of a ‘new normal’ since; stopped in her tracks is Gladys, frequently through reliving a harrowing darkness in these events of memory as they crop up to remind her of soulmate love that is lost. (It is quite an irredeemable word, “lost.”)
You see, it’s not just a stick leaning against a tree.
It means more than anything. The image is potent on the eye. The moment is caught on the camera of her experience and it changes the trajectory of her day. She immortalises the moment and memorialises the stick, the tree, everything that brings the moment 12-months beforehand sharply into view.
Not only is there pain in such a moment. There is something far deeper to be caught!
Imagine just how significant all our innocuous moments are, for the simple fact they’re shared, for the simple fact they hold us connected to others we care about, and to life itself, and are always significant when peered at through the lens of loss.
Then I saw this posted by a friend on social media:
“Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.” — Charles Spurgeon.
Yes, even the Lord Jesus experienced loss and was sorrowful to the point of tears. Depression is a normal phenomenon of the human condition, and as loss is the cause, the effect is melancholy. We are human after all. There is no shame in it. On the contrary, our depression no matter who we are shows us to be most human, capable of being floored by pain. This is a most important validation, even if we deplore the depression itself. Take heart.
There is always a sharp progression of depression in grief and grief in depression. And it can be a moment that triggers a slide down the slippery slope into the abyss. So often just a moment, a recollection that would hardly rate in times normal.
Our moments are not just sticks leaning against trees. Our moments, all of them, encompass all of what life is itself.

Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

That ‘thorn in the flesh’ that is loss

God is [yes, present tense] inviting us into something deeper.
Day after day, at times hour after cringing hour, we seek God for a bargain — “Take it away, God, please… make the pain go away.” And yet, we find it doesn’t go. God doesn’t take it away.
God didn’t take it away from Paul,
but the Lord gave Paul something better.
We could wallow in drink or a drug, or take the heat out on others, or give up or run away; a million other things that run away from God.
We could do so many other things to sabotage our hope, because to sabotage our hope means we have given ourselves the right to destroy the remotest chance that virtuous work might win the day, eventually. We take the power of God out of our own hands and throw it away. “There, God; be away from me.” God says, “Suit yourself, but anytime you turn back, I’ll be here; just don’t leave it too late.”
Loss ruins so many who would be hopeful if only it didn’t require faith.
Loss is a thorn in the flesh that does not go away, until it does, and yet there will always be room for a little pocket of grief; a sacred memoriam that we learn to prize in acceptance.
If we’re then to hope on the wings of faith for some resolution to this thorn in our flesh we will need a fresh approach; so, let’s go to Paul.
Paul reasoned that it was the thorn itself that reminded him of the ever-prevailing power of God. The thorn brought Paul to weakness, as it does us.
The thorn brought Paul to his knees, continually, without mercy. But there was something utterly beyond it to be won.
And yet, Paul learned to boast in his infirmities. He learned that this biblical response was the only response that worked, even though it seemed the weirdest—and certainly the least rewarding—of all responses. Seemed.
The thorn that buried itself deep into our lives is there despite us, and yet despite its intention we are victors in spite of it. 
Only the gospel viewpoint would challenge our worldview to the point that it’s laughable. But that which makes the world laugh, makes the world pay attention when it starts working.
Loss is something that broadens us upon the eternal perspective. Suddenly our thinking cannot continue without being challenged. We’re brought to a crisis of mind and of faith for a reason. We’re undone to be redone.
If it wasn’t for the thorn in the flesh, Paul would never have known that power in loss that is perfected in weakness. If it wasn’t for that thorn in the flesh, Paul wouldn’t have known the fullness of power in loss; that resurrection power of God that comes when our laments don’t go away—a power that humbles so it can raise.

Photo by Vijendra Singh on Unsplash

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Prayer in the darkest hour of spiritual attack

God, my God,
There is a stirring in my heart right now of momentous proportions. It gathers up on the gait of a spirit that does not come from You. It rises up against You, Lord, yet You alone are the eternal victor. I cast this truth before the enemy, and the hiss is telling, and yet this accuser of souls cannot stand. It flees to the darker reaches inward and beckons against its own resistance. It is confused and overwhelmed when I speak in the fullness of confidence that comes from You.
There is a one, perhaps a myriad, right now, fighting contempt of spirit, reeling against the critical spirit, being stonewalled into silence, and in the mode of innocence amid attack. Your angels gather as they do in the eternal realm, all at Your behest for the one writhing in lonely spiritual torment. Legions.
Against the darker forces in the spiritual realm these legions fight for the peace of a blissfully unaware humanity. Right now, Lord, make it that the one under a barrage of darkness would know a hint of this protection.
Lord, Your servant is overwhelmed right now; the man, the woman, the child. Their emotions carry them off into forsaken areas where the mind ought not go, and the heart is ever vulnerable. Carry Your protection to these nether regions. Garner within each of them the resolve that conquers and overcomes amid their sorrowful sojourn.
As they read this prayer, Lord, have them believe that, “Wow,” they were led right here. Not that this is any special prayer; but it is their prayer! That, as they sojourn in a circumstance of spirit that does not bear it well, they might be encouraged that they haven’t been destroyed yet, and that ‘yet’ isn’t happening anytime soon, so help them, God!
Even as that darkest of hours descends over this precious one who reads this prayer, may they be quickened in the spirit of their inner being, and may they be given the light that they ask for; that spiritual fortitude that refuses to be beaten.
Not alone, not unforgiven, not beyond God’s reach at the right time, not beyond hope.
I pray these things in the wonderful and awesome name of Jesus, of whom against the enemy cannot stand,
Photo by Farid Askerov on Unsplash

Friday, September 20, 2019

A prayer, God, that he might change

God of my life and that of my partner
You know even more than I do how often I’ve prayed this prayer to You; so many times, consciously and many times I’ve not even been aware. But You know the stirrings of my heart. You know what my heart longs for; that safety of place on this earth, within my relationship or without, to just be! You know how much I just want to BE. To be free to be.
Yet, I find I cannot, Lord, for what ails me. My heart is at pains for what I now realise I can no longer avoid. It’s coming to a head, and I don’t know where to turn.
I hardly need to utter the words, my God. But I will. I will humour You.
I need him to change, Lord; there, I said it! What he does and how he does it, to me, to the kids, Lord, You know. When he treats me like dirt, what does he think the kids think and feel? You know very well the impact he has on the children; it grieves me. He sometimes says sorry, but there’s always a ‘but’. There’s always an excuse. Then comes the blame. And when he’s really sorry, his commitments never stick. Is there any hope, Lord?
What am I to do?
I’ve done all I can to change my heart to accept the things about him that I can’t change, and yet our lives are still so untenable. Our life together is a sham when I and my friends and dear family consider what I put up with; those at least that I’ve let in. I feel so bad that I haven’t trusted some who seem trustworthy, it’s just that the stakes are so high. What if he were to find out?! It would be a disaster. (Oh God, why on earth do I feel so guilty, and why am I so loyal when he hasn’t been?)
Lord, I know that what I put up with is not Your will. I know that You hate the way we’re treated, and thankfully too, I know that when I choose to leave, I’ll have Your blessing. But I pray most sincerely that his heart would change; that finally he would become the man I think secretly he wants to become. Maybe I’m just being hopeful. Is that a sin, Lord, to be hopeful? Is it a false hope, God? And if only that little part of my heart would stop loving him, Lord! (If only I could control these things!)
Whatever happens, Lord, please, please, please, protect us. Put your hedge of angels around us, give us hope to sustain us in this tyranny, help us not lose heart, give us a fragment of Your joy, and provide a portion of peace for us, whatever happens. I am desperate for change.
Always in the precious, beautiful and strong name of Jesus I pray

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What really sets empaths and narcissists apart?

Let me start with this premise: those who take responsibility for their lives don’t need to be told to do it, and those who don’t, need to know but won’t take heed.
And this is what sets empaths and narcissists apart; the former does well in life, relationships and achievements because they own what they can impact; the latter harm others (and very often empaths who feel sorry for them!) because they refuse to accept that taking personal responsibility for one’s actions is the key to success.
If you need to repeat yourself to an adult, watch to see if they’re even listening. Chances are they need to know what you’re attempting to help them with, but because they’re rather fond of being right in their own eyes, they have no hope for change. Yet, note the person you don’t need to assist; they see the need of change without much if any prompting.
The child who is a self-starter will accept a loss, do their best to reconcile it, and move on anyway. The child might start anxiously and doubting. They may be incredibly uncertain. They may voice their sense of insecurity and lack of self-worth. And if they can only be encouraged to learn what they can, take responsibility for what is theirs, and to map out a way to resolution, these children will grow to be adult grownups.
The child who cannot get past the injustice of what occurred, however, will not move on, so therefore they cannot move on. That child will be a grownup child one day. Yes, an oxymoron, but there are many entitled, narcissistic, manipulative adults around who have never learned the value of being honest; that there’s no way past ‘GO’ when they refuse their responsibility and therefore there’s no $200 each time around the board.
The empath takes on the burden of another person, which we’d all admit is a cost, yet they prosper for their well-placed anxiety, for their care begets care. The feel the heat that the next person feels, yet they communicate love by symbiosis. Be an empath.
But the narcissist couldn’t give a toss, yet they lament that nobody cares about them, never computing just what would make the difference. Don’t be a narcissist.
The empath takes responsibility—at times, many times, too much—and yet, overall, they still flourish. Be an empath.
The narcissist, however, will not and therefore cannot take responsibility and will forever externalise what would be the only thing they have control over. Don’t be a narcissist.
The empath is not only capable of bearing another’s burden, but they’re willing to do so, and favour follows them as a general principle. Be an empath.
Those who refuse to take responsibility are destined to find others to blame, yet they themselves will irrefutably fall and fail, most unfortunately taking responsible people with them. Don’t be a narcissist.
There is a discipleship conundrum in this.
Those who bear no responsibility for their behaviour don’t have the traits for growth. It is that simple. You might be thinking of people right now—perhaps even yourself—as sitting in either camp; those who do take responsibility and those who don’t.
Let’s zone in on apology…
Those who don’t take responsibility, don’t tend to apologise, whereas those who do take responsibility, do apologise, and they have hope for reconciling their broken relationships. There tends to be less hurt in their lives.
Those who don’t ever sincerely apologise—yes, let’s label them ‘narcissistic’—leave a long trail of relationships that ‘didn’t work out’.
Do you tend to apologise and your partner not? Or, is it the other way around?
The key for the empath is to care but not to care too much that they enable narcissists to abuse them.
The prayer for the narcissistic is they’ll gain the miracle of insight, but the truth is, a miracle is truly necessary.
Narcissists don’t change because they refuse to accept the only power for change; the taking of their responsibility.
We all bear God’s image, but it is only the empath who truly bears the heart of God. The empath is not perfect, but they find unconscionable acts unconscionable and cannot do them without making amends. They are little Jesus’s. Narcissists, on the other hand, are little devils.

Image by emeza on DeviantArt.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

8 ideas for unmasking, managing and defeating depression

Something really concerns me about what we’re doing in terms of grief and depression. An appetite for tolerating soul defeat grows. It’s true, those we grieve we’ll continue to miss, and while there is always a degree of finality about depressive symptoms, we can leave it at that, thinking we’re doing all we can by doing nothing.
I’ve had my battles with depression, and even when I’m mentally healthy I can slide on a random day. Depression for me is when there are many more of those dark days interspersed within only a few ‘fair’ days. It’s about a countenance of soul that is driven by thoughts that are like kamikaze bombers. The worst idea at these times is living in constant fear that I’m going to be overwhelmed by the hour or day from hell.
The scariest thing is feeling like nobody gets us; the spiritual isolation of it. It further disconnects us from people who could reach us when we’ve already decided they can’t.
What concerns me a lot about the concepts of grief and depression is managing the tension between accepting what we cannot change and changing what we can. Both elements are valid.
Too many people downplay mental illness (usually those are numbered in those who’ve never suffered it), while too many people disempower people by normalising grief and depression. I believe that deep insurgences at a soul level don’t respond well to glib, overly simplified solutions. But just the same, such incursions are not beyond being affected by things any of us who suffer can do.
Here are some of the things I’ve found useful:
1.        Recognise symptoms early– the earlier I have recognised I’m not myself, that I’m getting too easily annoyed or threatened, the quicker I can admit I’m not as healthy as I’d like to be. I’ve learned, for me, irritability is the indicator I look for; that sense that I resent being out of control that leads me to getting incensed in ways I normally don’t. That kind of anger speaks greatly about the undercurrent of fear. Becoming aware early is key. The earlier the better. That takes honesty.
2.        Be honest – it takes courage to be honest. We cannot overcome a nemesis until we begin to admit we’re under threat of defeat. There’s no shame in being overrun or overcome.
3.        Recognise the power of hope – the quicker we can begin to invest in activities (3-4 per week) that inspire life in us, the better. We all need things, activities, interactions, experiences we can look forward to. Six months into a season of grief I discovered this. On a weekend that was looking particularly brutal I can recall saying to myself, “I have to fill my time with things I want to do.” So, I did just that. I learned a lot about taking responsibility for joy on that weekend, where I got creative and literally did 8-10 things to make it a memorable time. I planned it so one activity led to another and so forth. We all need things to look forward to doing, and especially when we’re grieving or depressed.
4.        Search the Bible, other writings, movies, books, anything – God will vindicate our search by always giving us entry to open doorways of revelation that lead us through the darkest of days. Learning to search is a key part of spiritual resilience.
5.        Connect with others– even, and especially even, when we either don’t feel like it or don’t think it will help. I’ve always been constantly amazed how effective connecting with other empathic humans has been, whether it’s spending a few hours together or a ten-minute chat on the phone. But pick the person who can, and wants to, minister to you. If you’re like me, you probably don’t value a huge amount of advice, just listening, gentle affirmations (it’s surprising how much affirmation can be done without saying much).
6.        Accept everything – the biggest affront to our moment of mental stammer is everything’s a challenge. This idea won’t fly as a mode for living all of life, but it will help you to chill when the living moment has simply become too much; where there is overwhelm. And, actually, acceptance is a very powerful concept in the overall plan for healing.
7.        Believe you can and will overcome this – honestly, there is an insane amount of power in belief. If a person refuses to accept that ‘this’ is their lot for life, they take the only control they have directly with both hands. The tension is believing for a future state. What may not be a reality right now can certainly become a reality over the months and years to come. Believe that you CAN overcome, and you CAN overcome.
8.        Control your environment– have some say over who you allow in your life. Wherever we’re planted in toxic places, we cannot possibly grow, and our mental health cannot possibly prosper. It’s your life. You do not have to remain in toxic, abusive relationships. If we can’t make changes straight away, we can plan for a better future state.
Grief and depression are unavoidable states of humanity, but we must always believe there are things we can do to brighten our hope.
Photo by Kristel Hayes on Unsplash

Friday, September 13, 2019

The pain that is saying goodbye and good riddance

I do write a lot about grief, and like grief is mostly about changes we would never embrace if we did not have to, so too this is an example of grief that is all too irreconcilable.
I saw it in a vision through an image of a group socialising in a lounge room on social media. They were having fun. They’d been friends for decades. And they’d also belonged to a church that had hurt them all considerably.
You see, this church had done something abusive to one of their number—with no thought of contrition, with every thought to their right to do such a thing. The group one-by-one left on mass. Anytime there is mention of this church, a mood of death hits the room. Some won’t go there. Others, once started, cannot stop venting their hurt, their frustration, their lament. Others are just silent.
I look at a group like this and I can see what bonds them and what binds them. Truth would have them all admit that those bonds and binds could fit a whole deal better, but that’s their lot. Nobody can change the past, and no one is going to change what the past meant for each one.
Too often bloody-minded churches are happy to let the haemorrhage continue undressed and unaddressed once it leaves its borders. As some are given to saying goodbye and good riddance so, too, do these kinds of churches say goodbye and good riddance. And it isn’t good enough.
Why do church leaderships, when they arrive at Matthew 5, skip over verses 23-24, and think, “Phew! Glad we didn’t have to go there!”
If you’re Christian and someone has been hurt by you, you go to them and seek to restore the relationship. Your love of God is inconsequential if there are relationships on a human plane that are damaged, and you can do something to reconcile and restore them.
It’s true, some people do walk out of churches hurt and disappointed and they don’t try to help the leadership of those churches understand the issues. But too many people and groups of people become aware of abusive dynamics in churches that churches simply won’t admit and, worse, defend—as their right!
That said, there is an authority problem in many churches. Churches by their nature hold Jesus as the head of the church, which means churches have the right to claim independence from other human authority, but these very churches are tempted to become authoritarian in their own right—especially when a leader, who ‘hears from God’, defends their right to rule as they see the Holy Spirit leads.
But it can’t be the Holy Spirit in charge if there’s division and disunity by way of people or groups leaving disgruntled and there’s no effort going in to reconcile.
I can tell you that if the powerful party (let’s say the leadership of a church) has nothing to gain, and therefore no interest, in reconciliation, there are people who become marooned in their faith.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider that Jesus was talking about millstones around necks and bottoms of seas in the context of those who so damage God’s and the church’s name by refusing to work with those who think those churches have got a case to answer.
How disgusting it is that churches get away with leaving people spiritually marooned when they’re greatly positioned to broker peace in broken people’s lives. Isn’t that what the love of Christ is about?
There is great pain in saying goodbye and good riddance purely in the fact that in many circumstances, no matter how hard people try as they leave a damaging church experience, they simply cannot say good riddance, because the problems don’t go away. It is incumbent on both parties to explore a solution that at least gives all parties peace.

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

Thursday, September 12, 2019

“Dad, are you being a peacemaker?”

And just like that I was reduced to the truth! But, first, let me recount a story for you.
Many of us search our whole lives long to do what our ancient purpose has decreed for us to do. And until we’ve found that purpose, I believe, we meander through life completely without the meaning we need to sustain our life. God has been drawing me into my purpose over my lifetime, but most acutely over the past 16 years, and never more poignantly than over the past six years!
You see, I’m a peacemaker. Actually, according to Jesus, anyone who would be called a child of God is necessarily a peacemaker (see Matthew 5:9). The truth is people must see God in us before they’ll say, “You’re a child of God.” HOW they see God in us is through a direct correlation—we engage in peacemaking as an outworking of WHO we are. Today, I’m not only a peacemaker who people call a child of God, I have the honour and privilege of doing peacemaking for my work. Imagine the thrill of doing that which turns you on; that’s my reality.
Let’s get to the story.
I got to go interstate recently to help a colleague present at a Christian schools conference. I had to take an indirect flight and spent all day Sunday travelling to attend the conference on the Monday.
A number of things occurred that mirrored my unknown cause to anxiety on this trip. I arrived at the airport and realised that excess baggage tickets were required. I arranged that and then hurried to security only to realise my phone had gone! Instant panic… with laptop out and everything on trays and people behind me (though travel on planes excites me with a boyish joy, I do make an anxious traveller!) I attempted (unsuccessfully) to balance thoughts of which possessions mattered most—the ones I had on me or the one that had my entire life on it that could well have disappeared already. Fortunately, in paying the excess baggage, I’d left it with airline staff—I only had to prove who I was.
The first flight to another state went uneventfully other than me losing a key to my carry-on luggage, which I hadn’t stowed, and I only worked this out when I was en route to the third state on my second flight. It wasn’t the key. It was the key tag that was attached to the key—a precious keepsake of Nathanael’s life… LOST! I prayed that God might have it returned to me. I felt like crying. But being readied to touch down at my destination had me steel myself.
I arrived and was collected at the airport by a friend. But one part of the two items I’d checked in hadn’t arrived. It took 45 minutes at 8.30pm to discover it hadn’t been packed onto the second flight. The airline, however, were marvellous and worked through the night to get the box (full of resources for the conference) to us.
I arrived at my colleague’s place about 9.30pm in time to go to bed… the only trouble is I’m on earlier time; it’s 7.30pm for me. By this stage I needed some time to reconcile my day and happily let my marvellous hosts go to bed. I probably slept four hours, which is nearly but not quite enough for me—I operate better on six hours.
Getting up and ready and travelling to the event was a pleasant experience. Once we arrived at the venue there was some work required with the organisers to understand what we required—everyone happy. We set up our stall, displaying our wares—peacemaking resources for schools, for staff and students.
All was going well. I had a podium spot to fill that was slated at 5-10 minutes, part of which was a video that runs for nearly three minutes. The keynote speaker goes a few minutes over time, and you have to know this about me, my anxiety levels rose a little further. I had too much to communicate in three minutes, dove down a rabbit warren or two that I didn’t need to, and in effect felt I’d wasted the precious opportunity to compel the delegates that what we’re doing will help grow peacemakers for life. (I ‘processed’ this for about two or three days afterward.) I left backstage to go and support my colleague who was running a workshop for fifty people. She did so well! The workshop and some of the conversations redeemed the earlier disappointment. After this, however, after packing up and getting changed, I hit the wall. Spiritual attack cloaked in discouragement. It’s how it rolls for me.
On the flight home I watched the same movie I watched on the way over—Thunder Road. I didn’t realise until after I watched it the second time that it was a comedy. It seemed so sad. I felt it was almost autobiographical.
The flight was delayed, however. I arrived home at 9pm—four hours sleep in 40 hours. I normally sleep well anywhere, but not on this flight. My wife picked me up with our son, because there was nobody to be with him at home.
We arrived home and I was done! It’s like I had nothing left in the tank emotionally, but I did have enough in me to say and do some inappropriate things. Dropped my bags, kicked my shoes off, “I’ve had enough!” Words were exchanged between my wife and I—me being undisciplined (to be polite), my wife telling me to watch what I was doing and saying.
I tell you all this for this: I walked up to my son’s room, say goodnight, and he just looks at me in the eye and says, “Dad, are you being a peacemaker?”
There’s a moment right there where I couldn’t run. Like a deer in headlights. BAM!
“No, I’m not. I’m not being a peacemaker at all, am I?”
I called my wife to the room, apologised the best I could, and we hugged, all three of us.
For all the frustration and disappointment of that trip interstate, I’d do it all again to see the power of peacemaking work through a six-year-old.
With one sentence, with one humble and courageous question, with a heart of kind enquiry, my son brought me to the point of confession and repentance.
When people ask whether peacemaking for children works, I tell them this story.

Image taken of under my son’s bed, where he’s made a home for some of his favourite things.