Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent​ time

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Advent begins…

The gospels are full of waiting people, waiting with promise. Waiting is active, which means we are fully present in the moment. Trusting that something is happening deep in our God-given promise.

Henri Nouwen writes ‘Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. We are always waiting, but it is waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps. Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful – waiting.’

The thrill of HOPE

I am reminded of the hope we have in Christ, who is HOPE, and how this sacred season is perfect for our hearts to awaken. Advent reminds me to stop, to breathe, to wait to wonder, to look, to yearn, to anticipate. Let us join in with the candle lighters, the life declarers, and the hope bringers – believing that God sent his only son as a babe and He made his home on earth and it all fell into place.

Advent is about a bigger picture. It’s about our eyes being opened spiritually, our ears hearing a new sound. To Emmanuel – God with us. How many of us are weary in the waiting, the wondering, and worrying? Advent is not the same old same old.  Advent is a time of change, let us spend time looking at the areas in our lives to be redeemed, recognizing what is holding us in its power

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maybe catching a tiny spark of wonder, the newest of realizations, or the joy of transformation.

“Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent…If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this advent time” Fire of Advent. Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, 

YOU are loved and I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Love, Michelle xo

 

 

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A Call To The Curious Barefoot Life

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~Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God.

But only he who sees takes his shoes off;

the rest sit ’round and pluck blackberries~

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

While scrolling my instagram feed of Bella’s mission in Portland and Em, Jess and friends visit in Stourbridge, I came across an insta story which started this musing. My friend Dani (who I babysat for in Portugal and now lives in Texas with her husband) wrote that she’d heard her Mom, Nessa (my friend who lives in Florida and was preaching in Ecuador) preach on the challenge of surrender. Dani sent it to me on Whatsapp and here I am still musing on Nessa’s challenge. 

It starts with an inquisitive Moses and God in a blazing but not consumed bush, who asked of Moses, ‘Do not come any closer,…..Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Exodus 3:5

This was significant, as in the Old Testament removing your sandal and giving to another was a symbol of handing over, of giving up rights.

What did Jesus do at the Last Supper? He washed the disciples worn, dusty feet. We know that Peter, responded ‘No, I will not participate in this’ (Because he knew it was a degrading task) But Jesus, apparently committing a faux pas in His upside-down kingdom way responded ‘If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing’ Another symbol of shoes off, humility and surrender to a washing that can only be offered by the One. Not only that, the message of ‘the way down is the way up.’

Of course, we are not in the Old Testament custom of handing over shoes as redemption. It’s about our heart response to God almighty who lives in an everlasting fire and calls us to surrender – a life of serving Him and others.

Let’s journey on through on this barefoot pilgrimage – an older more poetic definition of pilgrim has its root in the Latin ‘through the field’. The ancient image suggests a curious soul who walks beyond known boundaries, crosses fields, touches the earth with a destination in mind and purpose in heart.

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My thoughts on the feet of the One who touched the earth with destination in mind and purpose in His heart

Feet of Jesus.

The womb of the chosen mother,

Trough hay in newborn toes,

Kicking.

Childhood Passover pilgrimage,

Into cold waters of Jordan,

Obeying.

The pinnacle of the temple,

Temptation to step,

Overcoming.

Fragrance fills the air,

Awash with tears,

Receiving.

Storm shakes the night,

Boat rocks as water holds,

Walking.

Dove feathers fly,

As tables overturn,

Stamping.

Fastened by nails to Cedar,

Splintered agony to death,

Loving.

Resurrected beach strolls,

With grains of sand known,

Living.

 

 

Let’s follow this example of humility and reverence of removal

Of shaking off the dust and dirt and saying yes the holy.  

And as we surrender,

God’s presence in us, promises that where we stand, is sacred, holy ground.

You are loved!

Michelle xo
PS. These feet belong to my friend Marnie and was taken during our trip to Africa a few years ago – you can read about that here  and the countryside pic was taken when Phil and I completed the Worcestershire way a few years ago which you can read about here 

Transformation!

Hello again from France!

As our time here draws to a close, I thought I’d offer part two of my musings alongside a few pics – click here for the first.

The theme of transformation runs deep through the ministry of Bless.

Whether it’s the land on which they live (shout out to these girls who laid the floor this week!)

or the lives they reach,

What a privilege to partner for the past 10 days and involve ourselves in the joy and hands-on work of transformation. As our time in France comes to an end, we know it’s just the beginning of a renewed friendship with our longtime friends here in France.

Our refugee friends hold a place in our hearts. Our new brothers with their wide smiles and long eyelashes. Their laughter. Their fierce love for dominos.  Of creativity and colour. The ones who have walked across the land. The desert. The Alps.

Who are leaders and dreamers and carers

Who are created in the image of God.

WIth purpose.

This week we have offered meals, water, fruit, clothes and lots of shoes from the converted ambulance. SOS Chai needs our help to keep going! You can give through their Giving page here.  

 

This song will remind me of this trip. 

I am no victim

I live with a vision

I’m covered by the force of love

Covered in my Savior’s blood

I am no orphan

I’m not a poor man

The Kingdom’s now become my own

And with the King I’ve found a home

(And with the King I have a home)

He’s not just reviving

Not simply restoring

Greater things have yet to come

Greater things have yet to come

He is my Father

I do not wonder

If His plans for me are good

If He’ll come through like He should

‘Cause He is provision

And enough wisdom

To usher in my brightest days

To turn my mourning into praise

I am who He says I am

He is who He says He is

I’m defined by all His promises

Shaped by every word He says

Greater things have yet to come!

Praying you’ll experience the transforming grace of God in your life today,

Love, Michelle xo

 

God sees Diamonds

 

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Hi friends,

We are seven days into our Pursuit School trip to Normandy in France, working alongside our friends Gerard and Chrissie Kelly and the ministry of Bless.

Our days are filled with time in the Bethanie prayer room, food and games with our new Sudanese friends (connect four champ over here;) speaking at church plants, celebrating D’Day.  Onto worshipping in a tiny chapel on the Compostela pilgrimage, on the grounds of our friends’ new campsite and visiting the landing beaches on D’Day.  

 

Stay tuned for my musings over the next days as I reflect on our time.

Let’s begin with the Bless mission statement written by Gerard 

 

We believe every human being has a worth, worth seeing.

Every name is a sound worth saying.

Your potential is a prayer worth praying.

You see coal – God sees diamonds

 

We believe in the grace of the gifts God gives.

His breath in everything that lives.

Greater gifts to be discovered – deep in you, disguised, dust-covered.

You see coal – God sees diamonds 

 

We see traces of truth in the yearnings of youth

God’s image in imagination.

We crave a community that will honour audacity,

And cherish the dreams of its children.

You see coal – God sees diamonds.

 

We see God seeking a servant generation.

Kindness as the kindling to kick-start transformation.

Love as liberation of a captive creation.

We are digging for the diamonds God sees.

 

During our first visit to Caen, we enjoyed the church of Saint Pierre built around the 13th century and the Chateau de Caen built by William the Conqueror in 1060. Our eyes were drawn to stained glass and broken walls, ancient limestone carrying whispered prayers of hundreds of years – of wars and rebuilding.

It was a warehouse on the Presqu’ile that captured my imagination.  

The old warehouse surrounded by white vans housing trafficked daughters – their candles burning.

The derelict warehouse with shattered windows and prophetic graffiti.

The roof caught my attention.

Among the verses of love in 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that ‘love bears all things.’  Brian Simmons writes, although commonly understood to mean that love can bear hardships of any kind, the nominalized form of the verb (stego) is actually the word for ‘roof’ found in Mark 2:4 which says, ‘since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. Paul is saying that love covers all things like a roof covers the house. And like a roof protects and shields, you could say that love springs no leak. It is a safe place that offers shelter, not exposure.

The challenge is that as we offer this kind of love, we can bring transformation that does not follow a system but looks for ways to take off the roof.

||As we stood on broken glass and sang Amazing Grace, Dedicating the ruins,

I saw the pieces forming a mosaic, Into a place of beauty,

Where the writing is on the wall, And a new song rises from the land||

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Watch this (sacred) space,  thank you for your prayers!

Love, Michelle xo

‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink…whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.’

 

It’s time to Sing your Song.

Happy October!

IMG_0711It’s been a while… because…and that update is in my next post! My friend messaged me yesterday and suggested a little ‘kaizen,’ a Japanese word, loosely meaning small, continuous change that will eventually add up to big change. Kaizen, could be little things such as cutting down sugar, slowly, building up exercise, gradually, small amounts of time aside to read, adding up to books completed. You get the idea.  

For me. Writing small amounts that will affect the habit once more. So today. I’m writing and musing a little…

There are two verses that are dancing around my soul this week.

 

 

 

The first – one of my favourites.

The Lord your God in your midst,

The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing. Zeph 3:17

The other is the promise of the new song sung from despair in Psalm 40.

I waited patiently for the Lord; 

And He inclined to me,

And heard my cry. 

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,

Out of the miry clay,

And set my feet upon a rock,

And established my steps.

He has put a new song in my mouth—

 

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Here’s a poem I wrote ‘The Song’ Inspired by Psalm 40  

I’m breathing.

This darkness can swallow whole.

It echoes down here.

In the slime.

Wait.

I’m silent.

Surrounded by the mess of me.

I abandon.

Quiet.

I’m inhaling.

A new fragrance as I meander putrid alleys.

Breathe.

I’m hearing.

Faint somethings of a new sound.

Listen.

I’m feeling.

A dancing breeze, blowing in a new choreography.

Move.

I’m touching.

I reach. Wings beneath.

Landing.

I’m listening.

Thunder, wild, declaring.

Ending.

I’m calling.

You hear. You hear.

You rescue. You’re here.

I’m tasting.

Purity.

We sit. We feast.

I’m singing. A new song.

I’m seeing. You. In me.

©Michelle Collins

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Father God, I pray that we hear your song, your song of extreme affection. That we know the true meaning of you rejoicing over us, your dancing and spinning around in joy. Give us ears to hear your love songs, songs of hope and future – and when hear them, that we will believe them. I pray that we will know the beating of your heart. That we respond to the divine romance and our song will join yours. Amen.

You are loved,

Michelle xo

 

Playing and Praying

 

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Phil’s (our) sabbatical drew to a close with long days in Maui, where we valued a time of stopping our work to contemplate His.

We returned to the thoughts of Eugene Peterson who writes well on the Sabbath.

“…it’s the evening when God begins, without our help, his creative day and the morning is when God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated – to participate. So we sleep to get out of the way for a while and join in the rhythm of salvation. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn” He also adds, “the Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deut 5:15). Never a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves”

…a familiar story?

As I think of the next 7 years of ministry, the goal is to both pray and play well – to enjoy the art of living and lighten up, even scripture is advising me ‘not to take myself seriously, but take God seriously (Micah 6:8 MSG)

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Eugene wraps his thoughts with Psalm 92, of gratitude, prayer and the metaphors of music, animals and nature to learn from. Praying and playing share this quality: they develop and mature with age, they don’t go into decline…they are life-enhancing.

We were looking through our gazillions of pics this morning – of Zebras in the Serengeti, Grizzly bears along the highway to Banff, a Rattlesnake poised on my daily walk around the orchards. And from last week as the dawn chorus took on a tropical twist and the ocean was still, the clan took their snorkels down to the salty water and while playing the reef…

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Playing and Praying

From Psalm 92. //What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks,  to sing an anthem to you, the High God! To announce your love each daybreak, sing your faithful presence all through the night, Accompanied by dulcimer and harp, the full-bodied music of strings. You made me so happy, God. I saw your work and I shouted for joy. How magnificent your work, God! How profound your thoughts!….My ears are filled with the sounds of promise: Good people will prosper like palm trees, Grow tall like Lebanon cedars; transplanted to God’s courtyard, They’ll grow tall in the presence of God, lithe and green, virile still in old age. Such witnesses to upright God!//

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I will announce your faithfulness and love.

Evening and Morning.  

Sanctifying my days. Applying His ways.

The sacred rhythms of praying and playing.

Emptying from the clamor of me. Making Him room.

Being. Doing. Repeat.

And in the sabbath sounds I hear a whisper,

‘don’t forget I AM Good News. I AM joy. I AM life.’

The good news is a person: Jesus, who walked on this earth to offer an alternative to a humanity devoid of real hope, who died on a cross in order to redeem humanity, who came “to bring good news to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free. Let’s not forget that truth.

With a sabbath softened heart. We continue…

Love, Michelle xo

 

**There have been a number of reading inspirations in the last few weeks. I have been nervous to finish Pete Greig’s book – Dirty Glory – thoughts on that in 6 months or so…**

 

You are Invited…

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‘The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus Who was nailed to the cross. He is not here! He has risen from the dead as He said He would. Come and see the place where the Lord lay. Run fast and tell His followers that He is risen from the dead. He is going before you to the country of Galilee. You will see Him there as I have told you.” They went away from the grave in a hurry. They were afraid and yet had much joy. They ran to tell the news to His followers. As they went to tell the followers, Jesus met them and said hello to them. They came and held His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My followers to go to Galilee. They will see Me there.” Matthew 28:5

C.S Lewis calls it ‘The Strangest Story of all’

The Easter Story.

It’s all about stories.

Those ordinary ones who put Him there that day, the same men who went home to their wives making dinner, to their kids. Pilate…Caiaphas…Soldiers…those doing their job.

The nameless carpenter who crafted the cross. Doing his job.

These ordinaries remind me of the destructive darkness that lies deep… that we are all capable of.

I am reminded that the cross dealt with that darkness and if I don’t deal with it then it deals with me.

It’s all about stories.

Your story, His story.

What will you do with your story? Do you live it for yourself. Or do you occasionally allow God an appearance.  Or do you take your story and fully immerse into God’s story.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. 1 Peter 1:3 MSG

Richard Rohr writes ‘Most of human life is Holy Saturday, a few days of life are Good Friday, but there only needs to be one single Easter Sunday for us to know the final and eternal pattern. We now live inside of such cosmic hope. Jesus trusted enough to outstare the darkness, to outstare the void, to hold out for the resurrection of the forever-awaited “third day,” and not to try to manufacture His own. That is how God stretches and expands the soul, and makes it big enough to include God.’

Today you are invited into the story of the resurrected life.

‘But Michelle – it’s okay for you to talk of this resurrected life, but really, is this story the answer to my life that feels so dead and dark? How do I leave my Holy Saturday life. How do I leave a tomb life. A life of darkness that I can’t see my way out of.’

Invite Him in.

Invite Jesus into your tomb – your mess – your dark. Allow him to lead you out.

A resurrected life awaits you, a life of life.

And when the betrayal of Maundy Thursday, the darkness of Good Friday, the confusion, questions and doubt of Silent Saturday happen we can face them from the place of resurrection.

We can face those days in the power, promise and the presence of Jesus.

Happy Easter!

Love, Michelle xo

 

It’s a YES from me!

Hi friends, 

I read this quote recently, ‘put your YES on the table and let God put it on the map.’

I immediately thought of two significant YES moments.

The obvious being YES to Canada seven and a half years ago;  then there was this moment.

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I’m 22 years old, sitting under the African sun, the air is smoky as fires crackle outside homes along the roadside. I’m writing, not only saying yes to God, but to a place. To a mission and a lifelong love of a ministry. I remember wanting to go Africa the day I said yes to Jesus, anywhere in Africa! I’d tried to get there through various charities but it didn’t happen immediately. A ‘yes’ doesn’t mean we click our fingers and it happens. A few years later I went with a good friend to Living Waters to Mwanza, Tanzania. I remember more than one person saying to me ‘how do you think those poor Africans feel, you white people coming and going.’

Fair question?

Back to my journalling. I’m 22. I’m saying yes and ‘Lord, can my yes stay here, not necessarily live here, but commit to this group of people?’

And now 23 journals later, I am still staying yes, to the same place and people. My yes joined the unwavering yes of the ‘good friend’ I traveled with – oh and we’ve been married 19 years, he’s a veryyyyy good friend.

When my 14 year old Bella sent me a photo of her first African sunset over Lake Victoria a few weeks ago…

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…my heart beat faster, as it does when Emily’s eyes light up when she talks about Mwanza. Then came more pictures, and videos of laughter,  of movie nights and colouring and games with the children (we like to call it family night) and then the pics of helping in school, teaching ABC’s and 123’s.

Phil was able to spend quality time with Living Water’s staff, teachers and friends, looking into familiar faces and smiles, of newly weds or of new parents or into the eyes of those heavy with grief. 

To find a charity, a tribe, a ministry, a community you can invest in outside of your own comfortable world, whether one mile or ten thousand away – this is Jesus living, the way of the kingdom. For us it’s a blessing to board four flights and travel across the world to be with family. We love our Living Waters family – Carolyn, Agricola, Happiness, Lillian, Goodluck, Baby Agnes, Joyce, Doris, Fred and many, many more! 

You might remember a trip I took three years ago – I wrote about it, here and here  (this one was my favourite)  A friend on our team, Cathleen who lives in Kelowna, said YES too – to something she had no experience of, yet felt a call and passion to run with.

The dream to build a secondary school!

Three years later Phil and Bella were able to see Living Waters Secondary school close to completion. An inspiring, innovative project built from shipping containers! WOW! Follow the journey of the school here.

What are you saying YES to today that will live longer than you?

Have a great weekend,

Love, Michelle xo

P.S.  Thank you Carolyn for saying YES in the beginning!

 

I’m stuck in Hope

Hey y’all  – a quick check in from the land of Hope!

Pursuit School of Evangelism was prayed for and commissioned yesterday at the Multiply conference in Vancouver with Luis Palau. Excited to see where God takes this vision!

I am sitting here in a terracotta colored motel room in a town called Hope, BC. Perhaps not our first choice of vacay but the Coquihalla is closed due to multiple accidents and severe weather warnings. In fact, it’s the first time in many years that all roads between the Coast and the Interior are closed. We are often involved in firsts.

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So we end up in Hope where Rambo was filmed! There are a few more visitors tonight as sleepy motels fill up #quietatmosphere

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It brings me to thinking about… wait for it…Hope!

I reposted a blog yesterday, which told the story of my baby bro – here it is. It was read and shared more than ever. Always thankful for hope being shared and the power of prayer realized.

I was thinking about some of my old Hope posts and remembered ‘Camp Hope’ from 2010. Can you remember the emotional scene as we watched 33 Chilean miners rise in the Phoenix capsule, following the natural response of family, friends and strangers setting up an actual ‘Camp Hope.’ Above ground. Waiting.

I love hope, not wishful thinking hope but a confident expectation kind of hope.

I spend a lot of time in Camp Hope. Praying and believing for those trapped, blinded by the dark and awaiting rescue. I’ll wait in Camp Hope for as long as it takes – until I see the Phoenix. We all have our role in the camp, some keep spirits high, some cry, some keep order and some can’t find words  and that’s ok too.

‘The moment we get tired in waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans’ Romans 8:28

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

My favorite quote is in a letter written by 19-year-old Chilean miner Jimmy Sanchez? ‘There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here’

And then there’s Jacob (Joseph’s Father) in the Old Testament.

On reaching Jacob they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt. Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them’ Genesis 45:26

This far surpassed any news he could have expected – in fact – the King James Bible says he fainted. Of course he did! He had concluded that Joseph was dead – therefore he was unable to conceive any alternative.

God loves to break in far beyond our imagination, far beyond our expectations and our conclusions and surprise us.

Let’s allow our imagination to run wild and find our faith extreme.

I’m staying in Hope,

Love, Michelle x

 

Our Promise. Be.

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Our Promise. Be.

From Isaiah 9

Where words fail.

Faces pale.

Find us in groans of grief.

Our Promise.

Wonderful Counsellor. Be.

Wild fear, smothered in dark.

Tormented.

Too painful, just too hard.

Our promise.

Mighty God. Be.

In the empty, the void.

In the missing voice. No choice.

In loss like no other.

Our Promise.

Everlasting Father. Be.

Restless sunset.

A world making us wince.

Lost innocence.

Our promise.

Prince of Peace. Be.

O come, O come Emmanuel.

Be with us.

Praying this over you today,

Love, Michelle