I'm back!! :)  My small cohort of readers will have noticed how my blogging dipped right off last year.  It was a crazy year that went like a blur due to home renovations and the whole 'adjusting and settling back home in Australia' thing.  Now that the dust has settled both physically and metaphorically speaking, I am seeing clearer and feeling ready to take on this new year.  I have a sense of anticipation as I not only undertake study at Uni but also as I dare to believe that God has a plan for yes, even me, back here in Aus.  

I want to share a few poetic thoughts with you with the hope that they will stir something in you for the new year and maybe give you a little inspiration as they have for me, to dare to believe..

What if?

What if I dared to believe?
What if I dared to really live?
What if I chose to take God at His word
and let His Spirit free in me?

What if I chose to refute and rebuke
Those voices in my head;
The insults and accusations 
That keep me locked in fear and dread?

The voices that remind me
of my weakness and where I fall;
that mock and taunt relentlessly 
“You’re alone after all”

What if I saw through the lies
and believed He can use even me?
Embracing God’s beautiful truth
That He gives purpose and destiny.

With all my limitations
and though I’m feeling weak
If His Holy Spirit is unleashed in me
Could I truly be free?

Could I touch the world like Jesus did?
Could I know His strength in me?
If I opened my heart fully to Him;
and gave Him liberty?

If I cast aside all doubt and fear
and embrace His plans for me,
What would He do?
How would He work?

If I dared to believe....

Wow!  We have been back in Australia for 4 months now and I have finally got around to writing a blog.  Yes, it has been fairly full on with the whole resettling, re-establishing our home and family but all things considered, the adjustment has been pretty smooth.  There are still moments where it all feels a bit surreal but we are so thankful for wonderful family and friends around us who have helped us feel 'at home'.  

Many times we have been asked, 'what's been the biggest adjustment since coming home?'... and our reply has been an emphatic 'technology'.  We have observed huge changes in technology, the ease of access and excessive use among kids and adults alike.  The challenge for us, has been what lines to draw in relation to how we as a family assimilate back into our own culture, 'embrace' these developments and to what extent we allow it in our home. 

I am not anti-technology by any means.  We live in a developed world where technology is very much a part of our society and if we don't 'keep up' we will be left behind when it comes to the workplace and also when it comes to being able to relate to the next generation.  Technology brings some wonderful benefits.  We have a wealth of information at our fingertips and communication and networking has taken a quantum leap.  But like anything, it is generally not the tool that is the problem but how it is used.  

Like so many kids, ours are feeling pulled into the same trap of thinking that without computer games.. there is just 'nothing to do!'.  (as I said to my lot today...'because for centuries until now, children have been sitting on their hands!')  Well, it has motivated me to do some research of my own and I have found some very interesting and challenging articles that warn of the dangers of excessive use, not only psychologically but also physiologically.  As parents, we can't just shake our heads and throw our hands in the air as if there is nothing we can do about it.  We are still the parents and it is our responsibility to put not only restrictions and controls in place for our children's protection but to provide alternatives for our kids so that, in time, they will choose them for themselves over the video games.

I am talking about being creative in our approach to tackling the issue of technology in our homes.  We can get angry and start pulling plugs and banning this and that but if we are to win the hearts of our kids, I really do think we have to go a whole lot deeper.  I think we have to beat them at the game... out-romance the competition and woo them toward real, playful, multi-sensory experiences that build relationship, community and treasured memories.  God has given us a wonderful world and 5 senses with which to experience it.  Kids think 3D is cool...well 5D was invented first and its way better!!

This is not an easy battle, in fact, it feels like trying to swim against the flow of a whirlpool most of the time.  Tightening up the reigns on the technology use won't get us the popularity vote with our kids or their friends initially but I love my kids too much to remain passive on this issue.  I want them to become the healthy, creative, engaged in life, vibrant individuals God has created them to be; to use their gifts and experience life in all it's fullness!  

The battle for our kids hearts and minds is a battle worth fighting and I'm in it to win it! ... WHO'S WITH ME?!!!!!

A wink, a smile, a tender touch.
A mother’s look that says so much.
A beckoning wave, the silent call;
A look between lovers requiring no words at all.

A tightened fist or a tender embrace,
The gentle caress of a baby’s face.
The elderly couple walking hand in hand,
It’s the unspoken language we all understand.

The sideways glance or dad’s head to toe:
That interrogative look that all girls know.
The gestures that cross every culture and creed,
As ancient as time and powerful indeed.

Friend or stranger, whoever it be,
It’s a sentiment expressed silently.
A hand on the shoulder at the grave side
Or a fathers’s tender expression of pride.

Where joy or pain is deeply heard -
Action speaks louder than word. 

1 John 3:18

Dear children, let us not love merely with words or in speech but with actions and in truth.
Poetry and music are such a gift.  I love the way it communicates from the heart and expresses real human emotion that, while unique to the individual, is also common to humankind.   That is why I love the Psalms so much.  The Psalmists shared with us the heights and depths of what it means to know, love and experience God in every day life.  We may not experience the same circumstances or trials that they did but we relate to their cries of the heart as they give voice to what our own hearts feel.  The following reflection is my own adaption of Psalm 127.. 

Watching You, Watching me

When I am alone, afraid and downcast
Where can I go for help?
Where can I run for protection;
to be known, loved, accepted?

I raise my eyes to the heavens;
To my Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth.
I look to the Lord, my Forever;
To the One who never sleeps 
and whose eyes are looking at me.

You are my Shelter;
The Protector of my life.
I will not be afraid 
for I am watching you, 
and you're watching me.
The sun beats down.  The ground is hot and parched and so am I.  I head out to the well in the heat of the day to avoid bumping into anyone.  I hate the way people stare and whisper as I walk by.  They have no idea of the pain of my loss and the burdens I carry every day.   

As I approach the well and prepare to draw water, I notice a man walking this way.  My heart sinks.  I can see he is a Jew.  I prepare myself for a serve of judgement and shame.  To my surprise he asks me for water.   Doesn’t he realise who I am?  “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?”  I wait for the look of horror on his face as he hears my response... but there is nothing, not a grimace, not a flinch.  He begins talking about some kind of living water and how I should be asking him for water.  I’m curious.  Who is this man and what is he talking about?  He doesn’t even have anything to draw with.  This water he speaks of does sound wonderful though.  I carry my ‘burden’ every day to and from this well.  I thirst, Oh how I thirst.  Water of life that bubbles up and overflows into eternal life; that sounds like something I would like to have.  “Sir, give me this water you speak of so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

I get the feeling he’s talking about a different kind of water.  I see the way he looks at me; lovingly; gently; knowingly.  Then he reveals a hidden truth about me.  How can he know these things?  Seeing every scar, every burden, every struggle, he pursues me with kindly eyes.  He sees me and yet doesn’t judge me.  He knows me and yet accepts me.  I have to find out who this man is.  “I see you are a prophet”.  I am captivated by his response as he speaks of the Messiah and of a time when worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth.  Then he declares “I who speak to you am he.”  My water jar falls to the ground and I am overwhelmed with joy.  Surely this is the Christ.  I must tell the others.

What is in your jar?  What are the burdens that you carry every day and try to hide from others?  Bring your jar to the Well of Living water.  Let Him who sees into the deepest part of your being and who knows everything that you ever did; let Him fill you with the water that heals, forgives, restores, liberates and wells up into eternal life.




She was guilty and condemned
Left abandoned without a friend
Her sin exposed for all to see
Used and abused but where was he?
The crowd pressed in took up their stones
She stood fearful and alone
With no voice for her defense
She was to die for her offence.

Then Jesus stood before the crowd
And spoke out strong and loud
"Let he who has no sin cast the first stone"
The crowd was silenced and ashamed
The 'unclean' woman they had named
Was no more guilty than their own self righteous hearts.

The stones fell to the ground
As she stood and looked around
The accusing crowd moved silently away
Jesus looked into her eyes
Seeing through her vain disguise
To a heart in need of rescue
To show her what is true...

And He saw She.

She is loved, she is forgiven
She is purposeful and driven
She is light , she is colour
She is rock and she is fire
She is nourished and inspired
Full of longing and desire
She is active, she is brave
A voice for justice, the lost to save
She is beautiful, She is free
She is worthy, She is me.

Trish Bartell
Inspired by Elissa Macpherson
She Conference Cairns June 2010

Just last week we returned from a wonderful 2 days in the Baiyer Valley, where we went to attend a special farewell ceremony put on for us by one of our Baptist school communities.  It was a really wonderful couple of days filled with sights, sounds, tastes and all kinds of memorable experiences that will stay with us forever.  We washed in a rapid flowing (freezing) river; we ate pig, chicken, kaukau, banana and an assortment of local greens that had been cooked in the ground with hot rocks (called a mumu); we sat up late with local friends singing songs, dancing and telling stories around a lantern and then we attempted to sleep in a round house made from bush materials with a fire in the centre.  I say ‘attempted to sleep’ because we shared our round house with rats and I-have-no-idea-what-that-was falling from the roof as we lay on our mattresses.  This on its own made for an incredibly memorable experience but there is more!

Only 5 years ago, this community was living in darkness.  There was tribal fighting in the area, the school was being mismanaged in every way; corruption was rife; teachers were hardly ever attending classes; students were not attending, in fact, classrooms were being used as brothels.  Their situation was desperate and when Ray first attended a community meeting there in 2007, he saw first hand the community’s anger about their schools circumstances.  Ray is in the process of writing a thesis (literally!) about the changes that have taken place there (and at other Baptist schools) over the past 5 years.  The transformation has been nothing short of miraculous to the point that it looks and feels like a completely different place. 

Many of the tears I shed at our farewell ceremony last week were for this very reason.  Not only are we sad to say goodbye to the wonderful people we have come to know and love out there but as I looked out at the hundreds of smiling happy children dressed in their bright clean uniforms, singing praise songs and expressing their appreciation, and as I looked around at the bright new classrooms where Christ is now taught and honoured, I was moved to tears with gratitude to God for what has happened in this community.  He is the One who changes lives; He is the One who works miracles and restores light and life where once there was darkness and despair.  What we have seen God do here gives us cause to praise and worship Him for He has done great things!

These are the things that will be most memorable to us even more than the rats, mozzies and dips in the freezing river.  These memories will go beyond even this life.  I imagine sitting around in Heaven some day telling stories about the things we saw God do in this place and we will sing and dance in praise to Him.  THAT is awesome!

I have been a total stress-head lately.  We are 4 months from leaving PNG; leaving our friends here and this chapter of our ministry.  We have begun packing boxes and selling household goods.  Pictures are coming off the walls and bits and pieces are making their way out the door to new homes.  It is rather unsettling, all this packing up to go home, but added to that is the daunting prospect of re-settling back home again after 5 amazing years in PNG.  Among many things, I wonder what l will do with my life?  I will have to re-train because I can’t teach in the regular classroom anymore.  So what field do I move into where a person with a speech impairment can function effectively?  And so it goes on...

With so many big changes ahead of us, it is reasonable to be somewhat anxious, isn't it?.  The challenge for me though is to sift through the 'crazy' and take control of my thoughts and the only way I can do that is by coming back to Jesus time and time again and putting my hope in Him.  Casting all my cares on Him because He cares for me. (1Peter 5:7)

I was having a 'fret' the other day and during some intense prayer and meditation, a beautiful image came into my mind. First the scripture verse Zeph 3:17 popped into my thoughts as though Jesus had whispered it himself; "I will quiet you with my love".  Then an image came to me of Jesus reaching forward and as He gently placed His finger on my lips he said "I love you.. and I've got this..trust me".  Yes!  He totally loves me and He has got everything under control.  I really have no need to fear or worry.  Thank you Jesus!!