"Hey universe, you are doing a great job!"

Dear friends,

A father posted this on Facebook:

“My little girl is 2 and whenever she’s happy she will just shout out ‘HAPPY’, there is nothing purer in this world than when she’s just sitting playing with toys or eating toast and just yells out ‘HAPPY’ to let the universe know it’s doing a good job.”

We planted some tomato bushes last weekend. They haven’t borne any fruit yet, but they are still alive! It seems like it has been a long time since I’ve planted something in the garden that will grow and that I can harvest. Probably at least 5 years. Now I have tomatoes in the ground, I’m picking herbs that I potted up recently, the lime tree we planted is flowering prolifically, and we’re looking at what else we might grow if the tomatoes are successful! There is something deeply satisfying as we head into the garden to pick our own herbs or vegetables to eat. There is something even more deeply satisfying in sharing the harvest with others.

“The kingdom of heaven is like…,” said Jesus. And he gave a range of examples: a mustard seed, a pearl of great price, yeast, a farmer sowing seeds, treasure hidden in a field, and the list goes on. I have been reminded lately that I need to be looking for the signs of the kingdom of heaven in the world around me — that I need to see these signs to keep my focus on God’s presence and activity in the world and in my life, because it is God’s presence that holds me and fills me with hope. So, I have been looking. Here are some of the signs of God’s presence reflecting the kingdom of heaven that I have seen.

Each day I visit a local cafe to get coffee. Usually twice a day. As I walk in the door, they greet me by name and begin to prepare my order. Sometimes, if there are customers in the queue before me, I notice they are already making my coffee, and it is ready as soon as I make it to the front of the queue. (It has made me the subject of a few ‘looks’ when I walk out of the shop, coffee in hand, and people who had arrived before me are still waiting!) A few times I’ve made the coffee run a little bit later as the cafe is about to close, and I get told, “We waited for you to come, Jenny!” These are not ‘church people,’ yet they are creating community and a place of belonging through the simple act of knowing my name and making me feel valued every time I go there. I’ve developed a bit of a habit of saying “Bless you!” when I take my coffee from them, and have seen their faces brighten when they hear it.

A colleague and his wife went for a walk through their neighbourhood recently, choosing a different path than normal. They came across a little cottage that had a range of pot plants in the yard with various cuttings growing in them, and a sign inviting passers-by to take a pot if they would like to. Closer inspection revealed a Bible passage attached to each pot. A short message of hope, inspiration, and love for people to receive.

Another colleague has gathered a small group to send messages of love, hope and collegiality to Ministers in Melbourne who have been experiencing the heavy burden of the restrictions, both in their own lives and through their ministries. A simple act of thoughtful compassion, a reminder they are not alone.

These are little things, yet each one has an impact on people that we will never be able to measure. I want to share just one more story, definitely not to sing my own praises, rather to point out yet another way I experience the presence of God in the world and in my life.

An elderly neighbour has recurring health issues that often see her heading off in an ambulance to hospital for treatment. Her adult son has just moved back in with her following a workplace accident that has left him immobilised for at least 8 weeks. Throughout the time we have lived here I have often asked my neighbour if I can do anything for her, and each time she has graciously said “Thank you, I will let you know,” and I have known that I would not hear anything from her. Throughout the pandemic the offers of assistance have been more regular, and the response has been the same each time — until last week when I said to her almost in desperation, “Would you like me to make you a cake?” I was so surprised when she immediately said, “That would be lovely, thank you,” that I had to make it that day. The joy I received as I was baking and taking the cake to her was a highlight of my week. It was a joy that came from understanding her graciousness in receiving what I had to offer — and I wonder how often we think we are “bringing God” to someone as we do something for them when in fact we are encountering God in their gracious receiving of our gifts?

The kingdom of heaven is like… people in a local cafe knowing my name, receiving a gift of a pot plant, people reaching out in love and compassion, and being allowed to serve another. As I sit here and write this letter, I am deeply grateful for the signs of the kingdom of heaven in my life and the world around me. My heart is shouting out “HAPPY! Hey universe, you are doing a great job!”

Blessings and peace,