The Holy Pause

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WRITTEN BY: Cathie Ostapchuk

Sometime between the close of Christmas celebrations and the dawn of a New Year comes either a feeling of anticipation for all that awaits, or a sense of dread. We can try to resist, kicking and screaming, the turning of the calendar page that will find us in the start of a new year of days, weeks and months, but change is coming, impervious to our cries for the clock to turn back.

Some of us are looking forward to welcoming a new calendar year, because we innately believe in new beginnings, new resolutions, new goals, and new opportunities to grow spiritually, personally and professionally.

The desire to stay and beg for more time in this current year comes from the realization that we didn’t have enough days to finish what we started, to mend broken relationships, to reflect and process, to heal, to rest, and to make decisions about our future. Where did the year go?

The days between Christmas and January 1 are a gift given as a holy pause and an opportunity to linger, suspended in the wake of all that we have experienced, knowing that there will be a moment when it is time to stand up, look up and move forward.

In music, this holy pause is called a fermata: a sign placed above the last note of a song as an indication to hold that note until the conductor brings the baton down and the music ends before a new melody can begin.

For Gather Women, this fermata carries in it both gratitude for all that God has done in our midst over the last months and holy anticipation of all He wants to do in the year ahead.

Keri, a dear friend of Gather wrote the following reflection on what Gather has meant to her and her next generation daughters, and how it relates to the celebration of Christ in our midst:

At Christmas people gather – as families, as friends, as work colleagues, around meals, for Santa pictures, at malls, at markets – all GOOD reasons to gather!

But God, Jesus who became flesh, loved us enough to enter our world to once and for all, forever and ever, for all of eternity and without end so that we could be GATHERED to Him. What a precious promise. The day when we will all GATHER at His feet and worship in His presence… it is our hope.

That very first Christmas, shepherds and wise men were drawn by angelic announcements and by light to gather. Light... a source of comfort. A source of welcome. A source of safety. A source of hope. Her hope. Your hope. Our hope.

‘Come home when the street lights turn on, we will leave the porch light on’, said most parents in our generation to their children. In Christ, God has given us an eternal porch light, always waiting for us to come home.” 

We want to thank you, daughters of this nation, and His beloved, for being a light in the darkness for many women who live in the shadows, and for those who live in bright lights. For those that already gather and for those who long to gather with their sisters. Thank you for lighting the way for all women to gather. Thank you for taking risks and being light in the darkness of our world. It only takes the smallest flicker of light to dispel the darkness.  

Our holy pause is one of gratitude for all of you seeking hope and bringing hope into your spaces of mission and in your small and large platforms and spheres of influence. God was truly in our midst this past year as the light and voice and presence of women who follow Christ shone brighter and was heard with louder proclamation.

Dagmar Morgan-Sinclair expressed this so beautifully in our Gather Rise Manifesto:

We, who gather as the one, the few, the many 

We, who stand together arms locked, hands folded, 

and knees bent before our Saviour

We, women who dare to be fireworks that bring light to darkness

We, women who Rise like hands in holy worship

We, women who will not settle until all women RISE

Rise with a righteous strength that goes beyond reason

Rise with a love that is beyond fathom

Rise with each other, for each other 

We gather and together we RISE.

As we head into a New Year, we are sensing that God is calling us to go deeper into the mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. We wonder at His mercy. We wonder at His grace – and as the fermata lifts and our new song begins in 2019, we invite you to step into the wonder with us.

Let our lights shine brighter and be the porch light for women wandering in the dark.

May our collective voices reflect the anthem of freedom and grace that only Christ can bring.

May we equip leaders, and those who are to influence the generations to follow.

May we go into the shadows and the fringes to invite women to the table of sisterhood.

May we love justice and act on its behalf, even if, and especially if, it costs us.

May we be catalysts and encouragers in our local churches, serving well, and flourishing alongside men.

May we live our calling in the body of Christ and honour those who are gifted and called to teach and preach the word of God, men and women alike.

We love you, women in this nation – diverse and beautiful, each of you. You have been planted here for this time in history. And we want to move forward with you with joyful and hope-filled anticipation into a new refrain of wonder in the year ahead.

Let us Gather. The one. The few. The many.  


Advent Week 5: CHRIST

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Written by Joy Byers

The Son of Man did not come to  be served but to serve, and to give His LIFE as a ransom for many.
(Matthew 20:28)

It is Christmastime, that season that is filled with the fullness of the promise of things to come and the memories of things past. Outside, the gently falling snow blankets the countryside as far as the eye can see. Enthralled by the beauty in God’s creation, my mind wanders and rests a while with my Jesus.

He came to seek and save the lost, to bring us back into the beautiful communion between Creator and created. I remember those days of wandering in the “desert places” of my life, thinking all was well and good; without Christ. I had an upward moving career, a family I loved and treasured and so many of the benefits that society defines as success. I seemingly had it all and yet quietly, in the shadows of my life, a friend prayed for me; prayed that I would encounter the Lover of my soul.

Christ was born for THIS! That all who call on His name would be saved.

In the busyness of this season we can so easily  be carried away by the harried hurry of the days. Truth be told, we sometimes enter in with a mixture of anticipation and dread. We anticipate the joy of the season while experiencing the dread of the extended family get togethers of Christmas time. Spending time with family members who are perhaps a bit “eclectic” or that cousin who tells the most off colour jokes and then laughs doubly loud as if hearing the joke for the first time.  Those people in our lives that we all have and sometimes wish we didn’t.

Christ our King was born for THIS - to give us GRACE for the season as we love others well, sharing His Hope, Peace and Joy with all those He invites us to community with.  In this season of awkward gatherings we remember that nothing is ever by accident - in all things God has a plan and purpose for bring us being present.

As the snow dances and swirls outside my window, I am reminded of the extravagant love God lavishes on us. The invitation that He gives us to “Come”, the invitation to step into His presence, to walk with Him and talk with Him, to experience the fullness of Emmanuel, God with us.

Christ was born for THIS! Forgiveness of the mistakes we have made in our pasts and of the things that will come in our futures.

Christ was born for THIS!  To give us real HOPE; Assurance of His Presence with us...Emmanuel. To reveal the Truth that is found in Christ alone.

May you experience the unmatched presence of Christ our King with you this Christmas.

Christ was born for THIS!


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Advent Week 4: LOVE

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Written by: Helen Burns

Years ago, I stood on the platform of a great church in Australia about to teach a room full of Bible College students who had gathered to study from many nations of the world. I felt the weight, the honour and the responsibility of this opportunity and I didn’t take it lightly. In the moments just before I stepped onto the stage I sensed the whisper of the Holy Spirit saying, ‘You didn’t get here on your own.’

That moment grounded and affirmed what I knew so well – I was standing on the shoulders of great men and women of faith that had invested a lifetime of faithfulness to God and prayer into my life. I have learned through the lives of my parents and grandparents and many others how to love and trust Jesus. Though they never stood on platforms with a microphone in their hands, their love, investment and example prepared me to.

Take a look and see the people that God has brought or is bringing into your life, as they are a picture of your future. These connections are an expression of the love that we need from each other to do the good work we have been called to do. God is always at work, divinely connecting you with others in love for His purpose.

One of my favourite stories of divine connection is found in Luke 1, a story that we tend to read often as we prepare for Christmas. I am so drawn to the beautiful relationship that existed between Elizabeth and Mary. There is so much to wisdom to glean from their divinely connected lives:

Two divinely connected individuals – all for a purpose greater than what they could have ever dreamed or imagined.

Two women who loved God and loved each other, and used their lives to serve His greater purpose.

Two women, both pregnant miraculously (one past child-bearing years and barren; one young and a virgin). 

Two divine angelic visitations.

Two women who were chosen to raise sons who would change the world – Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.

Two women who sang the prophetic song of their hearts over each other:

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
(Elizabeth’s song, Luke 1:41-45 NLT)        

“My soul chooses to glorify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He is always mindful of me and my situation…
The Mighty One has done great things for me…holy is His name.
I’m bursting with God-news. He came and rescued me, 
Declaring me His favoured one, beautiful inside and out.
His mercy flows in wave after wave to all those who are in awe before him,
From generation to generation.

What God has done for me will never be forgotten
He continues to fill my hungry soul with good things.
He has helped me, His servant; He remains merciful to me even as he promised.
Therefore today—and tomorrow, I stand quiet before Him, 
I stand still; I know that He is God.” 
(Mary’s song, Luke 1:46-55; paraphrase)

Mary needed Elizabeth - someone who she could trust completely to help nurture the enormous God-assignment on her life. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to be Mary who, at such a young and tender age, accepted the responsibility to carry God into this world – literally!

Elizabeth also needed Mary - someone she could pour her life into. Elizabeth had believed God for the promised Messiah, and now she would use her love, her wisdom and strength to lend toward the fulfilment of a long-awaited promise for her people.

We need each other, especially in these exciting and prophetic days that we have been chosen and called to live in. This is why I so strongly believing in the mandate and mission of Gather Women. It exists for the very purpose of bringing women together, to connect them, equip them and champion them.

We are so much better together. Let’s choose to be Mary’s and Elizabeth’s in the lives of one another and help fuel the God-dreams, the visions and callings in each other. This expression of our love is so needed in a world where women are often told to compete against each other, instead of with each other.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)

Who is your Mary? Who is your Elizabeth?


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