Pause & Ponder // Reading in Nov & Dec

Abundance may make us feel more productive, but perhaps emptiness has greater power to strengthen our souls.

We are accountable before God for our imaginations as much as for our deeds.

As Jesus stepped out of the Judean wilderness and into the public eye, he did not avoid such lonely spaces. On the contrary, he pursued them for the rest of his days. The same word that is translated desert in the temptation appears throughout Jesus’ visible years as solitary or lonely places.

Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years… and Yours – Alicia Britt Chloe

Really, prayer and worry are of the same essence. They are both a rehearsing of circumstances, a mulling over, and a kind of mental and emotional chewing. But in worry, there’s no connection, no traction, no relational receiver.

To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain – Matt Chandler

That is the essence of encouragement—treating the people in your life as the best possible versions of themselves, whether they are currently living up to that standard or not.

Tongue Pierced: How the Words You Speak Transform the Life You Live – Nelson Searcy

Efficiency is a dangerous mind-set to bring to our faith. We do not want to be efficient worshipers, driven by a desire to get more of God in a shorter amount of time.

The Next Story – Tim Challies

It’s not that I hold that belief so much as that belief holds me.

All Is Grace – Brennan Manning

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past thirteen years, it’s this: Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.

“Grace will take you places hustling can’t.” Liz Gilbert

Regret is a tough but fair teacher. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.

Rising Strong – Brene Brown

In Peace Apart

“We live in peace, but we live apart”

This 6 minute film brought tears to my eyes and broke my heart all over again for the land I was born and raised in, making me long afresh for the courage to imagine a better future.

I have a deep love for the land I grew up in. It is full-to-bursting with hope. There is redemption breaking out on macro and micro levels all over the country – stories of communities changed, perceptions challenged, fears overcome.

I have not always felt this way. For a long period of time I struggled with my identity as a Northern Irish citizen, wishing that I hadn’t started from there.

It seems that the more I have found my place in Scotland, made my home in Glasgow, the more I have grown to love and hope for my first home, for Northern Ireland.

The last two years saw a lot of political posturing in my second home, and brought that first home to mind often.

two homes

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

On the whole, I found myself deeply excited and encourage by the discussions surrounding the Scottish independence vote in Sept 2014. What started as a mud-slinging campaign became, for many of us, a real conversation about the kind of nation we wanted to live in (regardless of how we intended to vote).

The similarities between Northern Ireland and Scotland are many.

Is it possible for us to hold intelligent conversations – to imagine a better future – regardless of our political system, religion, school, village…?

Walter Brueggemann reflects on this need for imagination.

We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.

The Prophetic Imagination – Walter Brueggemann

I dream of this for Northern Ireland, in the same ways I dream of it for Scotland. In the post-referendum haze, it was easy to find ourselves sidetracked and lazy in the language we used. It was tempting to take the easy way out and stigmatise ‘the other side’.

This, I think, is our greatest challenge: a failure of imagination.

Having already spent a long time in a deeply divided nation, I have no desire to see Scotland become (more of) one too. Can we be brave enough, have courage enough, to not settle for polarisation but to push and prod our nations onwards? Can we commit together to walk slowly towards a better life?

There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.

Allegiant – Veronica Roth

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