A Tribute to Paul Moroney

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I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of my friend, Paul Moroney’s, sudden passing recently. While I haven’t been particularly close to Paul and Hilary Moroney in the last couple of years, I still have many fond memories of him from the various events I have attended at Canberra House of Prayer (C-HOP) since it has opened.

I feel blessed that I was able to see Paul just a few weeks ago, when I went to a Redhill church worship night held at C-HOP. I was returning a book which I had borrowed for an embarrassingly long time (probably at least two years!) and yet he was so forgiving and good-humoured about it.

When I ducked into the dining room by myself to have a quick snack, he teased me about it in a joking way and said, “Taking care of the things of the flesh before the things of the Spirit?!” Haha! I always appreciated his ability to lighten the mood with his cheeky sense of humour. I would often find myself laughing aloud when I had a conversation with him!

Another time several years ago, after praying for a close friend at C-HOP and seeing an exciting spiritual breakthrough, Paul asked afterwards, “What’s your secret? Chocolate? Jelly beans?” I explained that my real secret was fasting for two days!! Paul didn’t take himself too seriously, which was quite refreshing. I also recall spending time with Paul and Hilary several years ago, when we went to a passover dinner at a church in Gundaroo. Paul was very hospitable and willingly welcomed people into his home.

Often when I would go to visit C-HOP, Paul Moroney would be there and I would sit in the dining room and have a chat to him. He was easy to talk to, being so accepting and non-judgemental. He always felt safe and approachable to me, like a warm, fatherly figure. As a young woman, sometimes I have felt uncomfortable around older men, but it was never awkward with Paul. I could tell he was genuine, trustworthy and pure.

Paul Moroney was a kind, gentle and servant-hearted man, who was always working behind the scenes to ensure things ran smoothly at C-HOP. You could find him cooking in the kitchen, sitting at the front reception desk doing admin, praying in the chapel, or filming a special event. Paul was certainly dedicated and committed. While he didn’t draw much attention to himself, he was a true leader, who served faithfully and generously.

I was really touched when I went to the memorial service last Saturday. Hilary shared about how Paul sensed God speaking to him shortly before he died, about entering a new season and a new life. He talked about soaring like an eagle, and was genuinely excited. I don’t think he realised at that time the full meaning of those words – but I believe they have been fulfilled.

Paul Moroney was a wonderful, godly man of strong character, and I’m sure he will be deeply missed by many. I truly respected him, and I want to honour his memory with this brief tribute.

I would like to finish with this song in honour of Paul:

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A Tribute to Hiep

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I would like to write a short tribute to my friend Hiep, who passed away last year due to cancer. Hiep was the friendly face at Crossroads and FOCUS meetings on campus, always greeting people with a friendly smile, a warm hug or an enthusiastic handshake.

I’d known Hiep for quite a few years, as he used to attend my parent’s Bible study and Tuggeranong Uniting Church. Hiep also came over for Christmas lunches at our house a few times. I often bumped into Hiep on the bus or at the interchange, and I knew he would always be happy to see me. He almost became part of the family! I remember how often he would talk about the importance of love, and how his favourite Scripture passage was 1 Corinthians 13.

Hiep loved to come up with new ideas and suggestions, such as the time when he thought that my parents and I should take over the leadership of Tuggeranong Uniting Church! It was wildly unrealistic at the time, but he saw potential in people and was ever the optimist. I admire his sense of enthusiasm, even if we didn’t agree with his advice! Haha.

Some people might have seen Hiep as a church hopper, as he liked to visit lots of different churches and knew a wide range of people. Yet I think he understood something about the unity in the Body of Christ, and he was not an exclusive member of any particular congregation. He didn’t seem particularly worried about denominational differences, and was willing to join in and worship with evangelicals, charismatic groups, and traditional churches.

Hiep loved music, and would often attend performances at the ANU. He also liked to sit in on lectures – I even recall him sitting up the back and listening to the Psychology lectures when I was in first year! Hiep certainly had a wide range of interests and was always keen to learn something new.

When Hiep first started getting pain in his knee, he arrived at our doorstep unexpectedly and asked me to pray for him. We sung worship songs together and had a time of prayer, and Hiep was filled with joy! He strongly believed in the supernatural healing power of God, and his faith remained firm, right up until the last time I saw him – which was at Canberra Hospital.

Finally, I want to share this song in memory of Hiep. I know we will meet again in Heaven!

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Prayers for Devotional Times

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I just wanted to share some prayers that I have incorporated into my devotional times, in case they may be helpful and encouraging to others!

Pleading the Blood of Jesus (adapted from p.63-64 in ‘Prayers that Avail Much’ by Germaine Copeland):

Morning Prayer:

Father, I come in the name of Jesus to plead His blood on my life and on all that belongs to me, and on all over which You have made me a steward.

I plead the blood of Jesus on the portals of my mind, my body (the temple of the Holy Spirit), my emotions, and my will. I believe that I am protected by the blood of the Lamb which gives me access to the Holy of Holies.

I plead the blood on my household, on my family and on my friends, and on all those You have connected me to in this life.

Lord, You have said that the life of the flesh is in the blood. Thank You for this blood that has cleansed me from sin and sealed the New Covenant of which I am a partaker.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Evening Prayer:

Father, as I lie down to sleep, I plead the blood of Jesus upon my life—within me, around me, and between me and all evil and the author of evil.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

The Caleb Prayer (from p.60 in ‘The Grace Outpouring’ by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts):

O High King of Heaven,

Have mercy on our land.

Revive Your church;

Send the Holy Spirit

For the sake of the children.

May Your Kingdom come to our nation.

In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

Prayer for Healing and Wholeness (I think from the Joseph Prince website, but I can’t remember!)

Lord Jesus, I thank You that You love me and that You are both able and willing to heal me. At the Cross, You took all my sicknesses and pains in Your own body, and by Your stripes, I am healed! Your body was scourged and broken so that mine can be made whole. I receive all that You have done for me and I rest in Your finished work on the Cross. There is nothing more for me to do. As I wait on You for the complete manifestation of my healing, I choose to focus on and give praise for Your great love for me. Amen!”

Prayer from the Anglican Prayer Book ‘A Prayer Book for Australia’ (p.119)

Almighty God,

To whom all hearts are open,

All desires known,

And from whom no secrets are hidden:

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

By the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit,

That we may perfectly love You,

And worthily magnify Your holy name,

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer from ‘Spiritual Direction’ by Henri Nouwen (p.68)

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Let me know You as my loving brother who holds nothing—not even my worst sins—against me, but who wants to touch me in a gentle embrace. Take away my many fears, suspicions, and doubts by which I prevent You from being my Lord, and give me the courage and freedom to appear naked and vulnerable in the light of Your presence, confident in Your unfathomable mercy, and willing to listen to You at all times and places. Amen.

A Blessing of the Whole Person (from p.221 in ‘A Prayer Book for Australia’)

God our Creator,

You have made each one of us in every part.

Bless us through and through,

That we may delight to serve You to the full.

Bless our eyes, that we may discern the beauty You give.

Bless our ears, that we may hear You in the music of sounds.

Bless our sense of smell, that Your fragrance may fill our being.

Bless our lips, that we may speak Your truth, and sing Your joy.

Bless our hands, that they may play, write and touch as You guide them.

Bless our feet, that they may be messengers of Your peace.

Bless our imaginations, that we may be fired with wonder in Your truth.

Bless our hearts, that they may be filled with Your love.

Bless us through and through,

That we may delight to serve You to the full,

Through Jesus Christ, who took our nature to make us whole.

Amen.

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Seasons of Relevance

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Last night I was reading this section from ‘Deep Unto Deep’ by Dana Candler, and it very much resonated with what I had been mulling over yesterday.

“Chapter 11: Seasons of Relevance

One day we will all stand together on the sea of glass like crystal and, with one voice like the sound of many waters and mighty thunderings, proclaim, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7). On that day, we will see many things that are difficult for us to see now—one of which will be the relevance of each individual season that the Lord brought us through, from small to great.

We will look with wonder at the times we thought were meaningless and see the grandeur of their significance in the wide scope of God’s call upon our lives.  We will look with new eyes at the times of suffering and hardship and see their eternal worth, far more than gold. We will gasp to see what He was forming in us even in the dullest of days. Even the times that we thought were utter loss because of our own failure, God will redeem and give beauty for ashes (Is. 61:3).

Our responsibility was simply to say, “Yes,” to Him and to agree with the leadership of Jesus over our lives—even when we did not understand His ways. It is the days, the weeks, the months and all of their contents that prepare us for the Lamb of God. These are the tools of God that make us ready. And on that final day, we will see the wonders that the handiwork of God formed in our lives because of our small “yes’s” to Him all along the way. He will bring forth a bride made ready.

This is why each season is so relevant. Whether the most glorious, the most difficult or the most barren, each has a noble assignment before the throne of God. Not one is extra or merely a pointless period without any value. Each is carefully arranged to bring us into the fullness that God desires for us.” (pp.167-168)

I also found this section quite helpful:

“Tucked right in between our most extreme and intense seasons, whether the darkened night times or the high mountain seasons of Love’s exhilaration, these in-between-seasons offer their contribution to our continual movement forward in Love. These are the seasons that fill the pages between the climax points of our personal volumes of life. They are the climb before the mountain top and the descent before the valley floor. They are indeed the journey. So often in our life of prayer, we can perceive relevance in the times of difficulty, and we easily understand the significance of the seasons of victory. Yet in the months and years that lie in between, our hearts are prone to the most discouragement. It is the “in between” periods that leave us the most disillusioned.

Their relevance is not guaranteed to reveal itself in this life. We may never understand the gold of these days until the age to come when the Lord pulls back the veil and unlocks their divine job descriptions and purpose. Yet we can rest in their importance simply by the truth that He placed them unavoidably in our path and, therefore, has hidden worth within their chambers. They are menial and mundane to our understandings, and we only wish that we could be rid of them and get onto the real dramas of knowing and loving Him. Yet something about our God loves these blah passages and finds great purpose in their contribution.

In these times, the best way to position the heart is in rest. We rest in the understanding that all His ways are love and even these pathways are part of the package. Our tendency is to waste many a day running about the small cell of these enclosed seasons, rearing our heads into their boundary lines and continually attempting to outrun them. Either we have the response just described, or we sit down in disillusionment and allow doubt to eat away at our belief in God’s banner of love over our lives. Either way, we do not recognise the hand of the Lord behind their monotonous walls and, thus, become greatly discouraged within their custody.

The most important thing for us to know and believe is that the Holy Spirit is continually and constantly leading us carefully and strategically forward in our love and our knowledge of God. There is a portion for each season and an invitation within each day.

… All the seasons are indeed bringing us into greater love. All the passages and parts of the journey are unto the fullness of knowing the height and width and depth and length of God’s knowledge-surpassing love. Love does not have an end. It is endless for it is contained within the infinite and everlasting God. Yet He is leading each lover of Himself into the utter consumption of Divine Love. We cannot know Love’s end, but we can find our own end in its all-consuming love.” (pp. 175-177)

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A Song of Christ’s Goodness

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A Song of Christ’s Goodness

(from Anselm of Canterbury in ‘A Prayer Book for Australia’)

Jesus, as a mother You gather Your people to You:

You are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often You weep over our sins and our pride:

Tenderly You draw us from hatred and judgement.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:

In sickness You nurse us and with pure milk You feed us.

Jesus, by Your dying, we are born to new life:

By Your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through Your sweet goodness:

Through Your gentleness we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead:

Your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in Your mercy, heal us:

In Your love and tenderness remake us.

In Your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness:

For the beauty of Heaven, may Your love prepare us.

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Reflections on Dependence, Relationships and God

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The issue of dependence is a difficult one, especially because Christians often adopt the prevailing attitude of our Western culture – that independence is always the highest ideal we should aspire to. I’ve noticed that many Christians put a spiritual spin on it, saying we should never depend on anyone else, except for God. While this may sound compelling and worthy of aspiring to, it needs to be examined more carefully.

Many cultures – especially collectivist cultures, such as in Asia, Africa or South America – understand that we are all dependent on each other to some degree. From our need for food and shelter to our craving for connection, we can’t escape the fact that to some extent, we will always be dependent on other people. (Of course God can supernaturally multiply food and so forth, but that is the exception rather than the rule.)

And ultimately we are all dependent on God, who provides all these things. Collectivist cultures accept and embrace this reality, rather than trying to pretend we are all free agents in control of our own destiny.

It seems to me that the Bible was written in the context of a collectivist culture, and even the metaphors for the church emphasise dependence. For example, the community of believers is described as a human body – and of course, each part is dependent on the other. Also, there are many Scriptures that point to the importance of friendships, for instance “carry each other’s burdens” and “in the presence of many counsellors, there is safety”. Even Jesus lived in community, while never fully entrusting himself to any person.

He sent the disciples out in pairs, not alone. And the disciples were a group who lived and spent the vast majority of their time together. Jesus had close friendships within the group of disciples. If believers did end up alone, it was usually due to persecution or some extenuating circumstance – not because they chose to launch out independently and “just depend on God”.

Now, I do understand that highly dependent relationships can become an issue, and when taken to an extreme can become idolatrous. I’m familiar with this due to my past experiences, as I have experienced a toxic, overly emotionally dependent friendship in my teenage years. Usually there are problems with boundaries and attachment, which complicates matters further. There is also often a high level of enmeshment and emotional manipulation involved.

However, I have now come to a point where I can have close, enduring friendships of interdependence, but not extreme dependence. The book ‘The Friendships of Women” by Dee Brestin addresses this issue quite well. Also, if you Google “emotional dependency” there are numerous websites describing the typical characteristics of unhealthy emotionally dependent friendships.

However, I have learned that nearly all friendships involve some degree of dependence, otherwise there is usually no vulnerability, intimacy or openness. It seems the word “interdependence” is a good way of describing this healthy, normal form of dependence, which is experienced in close friendships, family relationships and marriages. In fact, attachment theorists have discovered a concept known as the “dependency paradox” where the more dependent we are on our spouse – the more confident and successful we can be.

Which brings me to my next point – attachment theory goes against the grain of the ideals of our Western culture, and points out that our most foundational relationships require mutual dependence. Like I said, researchers have discovered a fascinating concept known as the “dependency paradox”. It started when researchers observed parents and children.

The children who relied most on their parents and had a secure attachment, also showed the greatest freedom to explore the world and confidence to try new things. Amazingly, a similar concept applies to marriage. The more we trust and depend on our spouse, the more confident we become and the more we can achieve. This is because we know the relationship is secure, and instead of focusing on the lack of connection in the relationship – we are free to focus on other aspects of life.

I strongly believe that the more we learn to depend on God AND other people in healthy, secure relationships (whether close friends or a spouse), the more we will be free to focus on the Kingdom – rather than getting paralysed by the loneliness or anxiety we feel. When our “attachment system” is set off, it prevents us from focusing on other important aspects of life such as work, ministry, and other worthwhile pursuits.

This is most pronounced in people with an Anxious attachment style, compared to Secure and Avoidant types. I would highly recommend reading the book “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, because it has completely challenged my preconceptions about relationships – and what is the ideal we should be aspiring to!

Which brings me to my final point, about the reasons why people advocate independence so strongly and may fear dependence to a great degree. Many people with an Avoidant attachment style come from a place of insecurity and a fear of “needing” other people. These people are on the opposite extreme of the spectrum to me.

I don’t think either extreme of being Anxious or Avoidant is ideal, although it helps to put in perspective why some people struggle more than others with issues related to being dependent. I also think it’s common for Avoidant people to spiritualise their independent attitude by claiming that we have to “just depend on God” which is not always entirely healthy… and could mask their fear of vulnerability and intimacy.

Anyway, I felt it was important to address this issue thoroughly, because the idea of being dependent versus independent is so strongly influenced by our culture, our attachment style, and our spiritual background. While I believe that being dependent on God is very important – and God must always come first – I don’t think it needs to be at the expense of having healthy, interdependent relationships with a spouse, close friends or a broader community. Further, when people criticise others for being too dependent, it usually makes matters worse, rather than better.

We would be far better off acknowledging the reality that God made us for community and for relationships, rather than rebuking people and making them feel shame for a perfectly normal desire. Not only that, loneliness is so prevalent in our culture, and I’ve noticed that some people take a “blame the victim” mentality. This is even worse in Christian circles, where people are made to feel condemned for “not depending on God enough”. While identifying too strongly as a victim can lead to feelings of powerlessness, I also think that accepting the fact that the structure of our society leads to much loneliness is wise, mature and honest.

Instead of blaming or condemning people, I feel it would be better to acknowledge their grief and struggle – and simply pray for them. Often the people who condemn others are actually the ones who disavow their own needs, and are fearful of being vulnerable and of holding space for those who are suffering.

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