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Archive for February, 2011

There are some things in life we say thank you for quite easily – it’s really nothing more than a habit or a custom. For example, with my thoughts far away, I have just said a very mechanical thank you to my husband as he brought me my morning coffee. And yesterday I blithely waved my thanks to the driver who let me into the line of traffic on a busy motorway. But more than I care to acknowledge, my mind focuses in on the difficulties in my life and the things I don’t have – and I can so easily forget to be thankful.

This past week, one of our daughters returned home safely from Ghana, having married her fiancé there in his home town. She thoroughly enjoyed her visit, meeting family members and friends and experiencing their warm hospitality, but she did miss a few things we take for granted here – hot, running water in our homes; large, air conditioned shopping centres; sealed roads; and the wide variety of foods in supermarkets and restaurants. As a beauty therapist, having to wash her face and hair in cold water and note the resultant mud running off was quite an impacting experience! Needless to say, she was SO thankful to God to be driven home on good roads to her modern, air conditioned unit and to luxuriate in a hot shower again.

I received another reminder to be thankful this past week via my sister, who works with an organisation offering emergency relief. One client recently told her his visit would hopefully be a ‘one-off’ – that he was just going through a difficult patch. Then last week, she received a note from him, written on a recycled card in an envelope made from a piece of paper and sticky-taped together. Even the stamp was recycled, having missed being franked. The note read: I just wanted to thank you all for the kindness you showed me when I was having a really difficult time last month. I really appreciated your support. This man had obviously been in genuine need and was so thankful for the assistance graciously offered him. And he did not forget to say thank you.

And this past week my husband had an experience he will remember for a long time. He wore his brand new, expensive hearing aids one day when he went to pick up our grandchildren after school. After driving them to their home, he realised he had lost one of the hearing aids. They looked everywhere in the house to no avail, so quickly headed back to the school to search the grounds there. But as my husband got out of the car, he suddenly remembered how he had bent down and picked up a ball some child had kicked over the fence. Instantly he knew this must have been when the hearing aid fell out. He looked around on the grass close to the car – and lo and behold, there it was! I leave it to you to imagine how thankful to God he was.

These three examples have forcibly reminded me of the story in Luke 17 of the ten lepers Jesus told to go and show themselves to the priests. On the way, they were healed – yet only one of them came back to thank Jesus. I want to have that same heart of thankfulness that this man had. I want to remember God’s goodness to me on a daily basis and not take it for granted. So later today, when I finally finish writing my sixth novel, the first thing I plan to do is thank God – very fervently! It has been a long road with many interruptions this time around, but I am so grateful to God for enabling me to complete it and for the rich experiences along the way. THANK YOU, LORD!

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Here I was, innocently driving along a busy Sydney road on a boiling hot day, my mind grappling with how to rescue one of the main protagonists in my current novel from the pickle he has managed to get himself into, when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a bright red bus travelling in the opposite direction. At least, it wasn’t so much the bus itself I noticed, but rather the words on the front where the destination is displayed. This bus wasn’t going anywhere though. Instead, its sign read: ‘Sorry – not in service’.

Now the first thing that struck me was what a polite bus it was! Such messages are normally a lot more abrupt, with a simple ‘Not in service’ sufficing. So I reflected for a moment on the vast difference one little word can make – especially the word ‘sorry’.

But the second thought that came to me was much more profound. And I suspect it was one of those blinding reminders I seem to need from God at regular intervals to keep me on track in my life. It occurred to me to wonder how many times God sees this sign written all over us – with or without the word ‘sorry’ attached. How often have I simply chosen to go about my own business as I plan my day or my week or the year ahead, forgetting all about what God might want me to do or whom God might want me to serve? How often has God had to look for another to do what I was being prompted to do or to say those words God had for me to say?

Now I don’t believe God wants to put a big guilt trip on me. Yet on the other hand, if God sent Jesus Christ to die for me, if God has given me eternal life and so much else in my life here and now, surely I need at least to think about how I can love and serve God in return? Surely I need to consider how I can truly be ‘in service’ for the King of Kings, remembering the great love I have received and allowing this love to touch others through me? ‘We love because he first loved us’, we are reminded in 1 John 4:19. ‘Freely you have received, freely give’, Jesus himself tells his disciples in Matthew 10:8.

So I’ve decided that as 2011 begins to get under way for me, I don’t want a ‘Sorry – not in service’ sign over my life, polite as that may be. I want to be ready and willing to do the things God has for me to do. In 1 Peter 4:10 we read:

Each one should use whatever gift he [she] has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

What a privilege to be able to ‘administer God’s grace’ in just the way we have been gifted and created to do! For me right now, I endeavour to do that through my writing and speaking, hopefully passing on God’s love, building others up and encouraging them in turn to be all God has called them to be.

But how about you? How has God gifted you? Are you ‘in service’ too?

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This week, our younger granddaughter started school. On a day when the temperature reached 42 degrees in her area of Sydney, Olivia headed off in her brand new uniform, shoes and socks and all, to a classroom with overhead fans but no air-conditioning. Apart from a little weep in the lunch hour, she managed to make it through the day. But all did not go quite to plan.

You see, her older sister, Amy, had been commissioned by her mother to head for the canteen at lunchtime to buy an iceblock for both Olivia and her, in an attempt to cool them down. But when lunchtime arrived, Amy could not find her sister, so decided she should join the extremely long queue anyway and buy the iceblocks. Her plan was to find Olivia quickly afterwards, complete with iceblock. The helpful canteen lady cut the top off the wrappings, and Amy duly set out to look for her sister – but to no avail. She ate her iceblock – but what to do with the other one? The temptation must have been great to polish it off as well. But no – Amy carefully positioned it in her lunchbox so well, open side up, that it still hadn’t spilt by the time school finished. And then came her apology to her mother.

“Mum, I looked everywhere for Olivia, but I couldn’t find her. I still saved her iceblock for her though – I’m really sorry it melted!”

Well, Amy obviously loves her sister – and so much wanted to do the right thing. Her plan didn’t quite succeed, but at least she tried – at least she didn’t just give up and think only about herself. And that, I believe, is the kind of attitude that really gladdens God’s heart.

But I myself have also experienced love in action on a personal level this week. While I was away for a few days, my husband set to and dusted and vacuumed the house for me – a job I absolutely detest.  And he was the one who insisted I go away for some quality time by myself – a truly loving gift for me at this stage when my greatest desire is get back into that novel and write!

So often in recent days too we have seen love in action on a national level. Via our TV screens at least, we have witnessed the way so many have tried to pitch in and assist those whose homes and lives have been ravaged by the floods in various parts of Australia.  And whether these ‘good Samaritans’ know it or not, whether they even acknowledge or believe in God, surely these loving, self-giving actions are a reflection of the nature of God, who is the very essence of love?

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16b)  

Well, I’m proud of our Amy, I’m proud of my husband, and I’m proud of so many in our nation. But if the love we have for one another is a mere reflection of God’s love, then how amazing and awesome and incomprehensible must that love of God be? No wonder Paul describes it in Ephesians 3:19 as a love ‘that surpasses knowledge’! Yet despite that, he still prays that these Ephesians will ‘get it’ – that they may indeed ‘have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love’. (3:18-19) 

So as you too observe and experience those acts of love around you, big and small, may you too ‘get it’! May you too grasp something of that amazing love of Christ for yourself and know it is so real.

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I am so grateful for all the wonderfully convenient means of communication available to us these days. I can be sitting at my desk at home writing away when suddenly I might hear a little tune emanating from my computer and see a message screen appear. It is my friend in Turkey trying to contact me via skype. I go to answer her call – and then I am confronted with a dilemma. Should I click on the mere ‘Call’ button – or should I opt for ‘Video call’? After all, I have just showered and am dressed ready for bed! But then, remembering how she and I have travelled around Turkey together several times, I realise she has seen me in all sorts of strange garb! So I blithely opt for a video call – and soon we are laughing and talking together, despite the geographical distance between us.

We chat for some time – skype is free, after all. But then I hear my friend’s mobile phone ringing. She moves away to answer it and I hear her thanking someone in Turkish and arranging to see them later. But then I hear another phone ring – it must be my friend’s landline this time! I discover I am right, as her face reappears momentarily on my screen to tell me she has to answer her other phone and won’t be a moment. I sit and stare at my friend’s bedroom in far away Turkey and reflect on how different things are from many years ago when we used to contact our overseas friends via letter only. Then, just as my friend comes back, I hear her doorbell ring – and this time she is gone for a while, since she has to run down several flights of stairs to retrieve a parcel from the postman!

As I wait again, the thought comes to me: Could God be trying to get my attention? Could this be a kind of parable of how God sees me in my life in general? Could it be that God often waits for me in the same way I am waiting for my friend to return, watching me as I rush from one activity to the next, from meeting with people to shopping to housework to minding grandchildren to writing to preparing talks to gardening to ….? Could it be that even when I am sitting quietly all alone at my desk, God is patiently waiting to have my full attention, as my mind jumps from the various entries in my diary to the tasks awaiting me on my computer to the books I’m half through reading?

Yes, it is quite possible, I realise. I want to spend time with such a gracious, loving God, just as I know my friend really wants to talk with me via skype. My friend’s calls had to be answered – but most times, I reflect with some sadness, I have a choice whether I turn my computer on and become immersed in all that writing and all those emails yet again, or whether I sit back, open my Bible, and spend some quality time with God. And I know from experience that when I make that choice, God is always there waiting, ready to listen and speak, always patient with me, always understanding me, always loving me.

What is it that causes God to have to wait for you? What does God have to do to get your attention? God is calling. God has things to say to us. So let’s listen – and listen well!

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27)

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