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Archive for October, 2009

Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m a big fan of Leonard Cohen’s music.  Some of the words of his songs I don’t relate to at all or even agree with, but others really make me stop and think.  Just this morning as I was listening to one of his CDs, a line from his song ‘The Future’ jumped out at me – ‘Love’s the only engine of survival’.  And I reckon he’s pretty spot on – perhaps not quite in the way he meant, but there’s a truth contained in those words, nevertheless.

What keeps you motivated to get up in the morning and face the day?  What drives you to get in and do things in your life?  What keeps you reaching out and relating to others in some way at least?

For me I can honestly say the bottom line is that I know God loves me and accepts me completely, wherever I am in my life and however I’m feeling.  That knowledge is the key thing that keeps me going when I wake up and am tempted to think this whole writing and speaking journey is just too hard.  It’s the key thing that helps me deal with disappointments along the way – times when people aren’t interested in my books or in what I say.  In the end, it’s enough for me to know that however well or otherwise I speak, or however well or otherwise my books sell, nothing – absolutely nothing – will change God’s amazing love for me.

That’s what motivates me in turn to get going and live my life for God, using my gifts as best I can to make a difference in this world.  Surely if God loves me that much, then the least I can do is love him back and do the things he’s called me to do. 

Of course there are other great loves in my life as well that motivate me to keep going.  The love of my husband and family and mine for them; the love of good, loyal friends and mine for them; the love of the beauty of nature; the love of good books and good music; the love of writing and creating interesting people and storylines; the love of speaking and communicating something at least of God’s love to others.  All of these make life rich, interesting and very worthwhile for me.  But if and when all these end, as they surely will, God will still be there.  When everything else falls away, I know that God’s love for me and mine for him will continue on into eternity.  Love will survive when nothing else does.  ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness’, God says to his people in Jeremiah 31:3 – and that’s true for us too, both now and forever.

So yes, Leonard – love truly is ‘the only engine of survival’!

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Tapestry--Eric WardropLast week I was blown away when I answered my doorbell one day to be handed a cylinder that I soon discovered contained a very special gift – the exquisitely worked tapestry pictured here.

This gift is special for several reasons.  Firstly, it came from a cousin, with thanks for my novels and in recognition of the time and effort I put into writing them.  Secondly, the tapestry is beautifully done and must have taken hours and hours to complete – just as my novels do.  Thirdly, it was accompanied by a monetary gift to cover the cost of having the tapestry well framed. Fourthly, my cousin could not have known that I am currently in the process of redecorating our daughter’s old bedroom and fitting it out as my study – a place of my own in which to write and where I can have beautiful things around me such as this tapestry to uplift my spirit.  Fifthly, my cousin could also not have known that I had just finished preparing a talk that included a quote from the writer Madeleine L’Engle on the place of listening in both writing and praying – nor that I already have a framed card near where I now write, featuring another Emerson quotation that says:

To accomplish excellence or anything outstanding, you must listen to that whisper which is heard by you alone.

How could the grace of God not touch my heart through all of this?  Surely the kindness and care and effort behind the gift itself, as well as its appropriateness and even the timing of its arrival, have all the hallmarks of a God who gives lavishly and lovingly?  Yet it’s more than this too.  As I admired the creativity displayed in my beautiful gift, I thought again of how this in itself speaks of God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, who chose to impart something of this creativity to each one of us, children made in his image (Genesis 1:27).  All of us seem to long to be creative in some shape or form, whether it be via tapestry, painting, writing, gardening, knitting, designing, baking – the list is endless.  And for many of us, the desire, whether conscious or subconscious, to mirror something of our Creator to the world is very strong.  Recently a friend told me of a relative’s passion for photography, of recording as faithfully and as artistically as he can the incredible beauty of our own land in a way that will open our hearts afresh in praise to God.  And after perusing his website and being spellbound, I believe he achieves exactly that (see www.davidstowe.com.au).

So how about you?  Look around!  See and marvel at the work of our Creator, both in nature and through those made in his image!  And listen too, to that whisper of God that may well stir your own creative spirit to fashion something that will bless others in ways you might never imagine!

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I’ve been told I’m a pretty independent person.  I hate to ask for help, yet there have been times in my life when I’ve been so grateful that others saw my need and gathered around, willing to do what they could.

Many years ago when I was expecting our third child, neither set of grandparents was free to come and help out with the rest of the family.  I will never forget the amazing way all our friends in the Body of Christ rallied round, providing meals, ferrying our two older children to and from school and kindergarten, minding them until my husband was free to take them home.  Truly they were ‘God with skin on’ for us at that time.

Years later, I ended up in hospital for an unexpected operation, just prior to my husband’s sixtieth birthday party.  Invitations had already been sent out – what should I do?  I arrived home from hospital on the day of the party to find my friends from our church had everything in hand.  They rearranged our house and set out all the food, while I sat and watched.  Again, my friends showed me exactly what God is like.  Again, they were ‘God with skin on’.

Over the years too, God has provided people who strongly believed in me, who cheered me on when I studied for my Bachelor of Theology in my late forties and when I later went on to write my novels.  One such special mentor or ‘spiritual companion’, as she prefers to term it, rescued me so often from my confusion and discouragement that I call her my ‘lifesaver’ and dedicated my first novel ‘Heléna’ to her.  She was, and still is, ‘God with skin on’ for me.

We all need such people – even the strongest and most independent among us.  Recently I noticed in the bible how even the great apostle Paul admitted to that.  In one breath, in Philippians 4:13, he maintains the following:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Yet in the very next breath, he tells his Philippian friends and supporters how good it was of them to share in his ‘troubles’ and reminds them how they sent him aid ‘again and again when I was in need (v 16).

So whoever you are, may you find ‘God with skin on’ beside you too, when you need help. Yes, God is always there anyway and will never leave us, but it helps so much to see God’s love ‘fleshed out’ before our eyes too, don’t you agree?

And perhaps you – or I – need to be ‘God with skin on’ for someone even today.  What do you think?

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It happened to me just last week.  It was not long after breakfast and I was mentally planning out a nice, quiet writing day, when the phone rang.  The scheduled speaker at a meeting that very morning where eighty to ninety people would be present had had to cancel out.  Could I possibly speak instead?

Well, in the end I said I could.  After all, I did have a talk I had given at a similar venue.  Besides, it would obviously help out the organisers of the event.  So, after gathering my notes and books together and quickly getting dressed, I was off.

When I arrived, the group co-ordinator could not get over the fact I had actually made it and was prepared to speak at such short notice.  It was truly weird, she kept saying – quite bizarre, in fact – as if there was a reason behind it!  You see, only the previous day I had emailed the organisation, telling them I was available for speaking engagements in 2010, if they wished to invite me.  It had been around a year since I had last spoken at one of their meetings, so I assumed they must have enough speakers.  Either that – or I wasn’t quite what they wanted!  I had almost talked myself out of emailing, when suddenly I felt had to go ahead anyway.  They could only say thanks, but no thanks.  Imagine my surprise then, when the very next morning, after not hearing for a whole year, I was contacted to speak!

So … if I’d left it one more day before emailing, I would have been too late to help out.  If my email hadn’t been opened just before the frantic phone call was received, they would not have remembered I was still around.  If I’d had another appointment that day, I would have had to say no.  If I’d lived any further away, I wouldn’t have made it in time.  Could it be that God did indeed have a particular reason for my being there that morning?

Well, I duly spoke and sold a few of my novels, but it was the conversations that took place afterwards that were particularly significant.  I shared from the heart – and I hope my words encouraged those who shared equally from their own hearts about their struggles.  In the end, I went away so thankful for the unexpected privilege my morning had held.  I may never know the outcome, but I firmly believe that, by God’s grace, I was in the right place at the right time.  I was where God wanted me to be, doing what God wanted me to do – and that’s all that matters in the end, don’t you think?

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