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Archive for December, 2011

This a special time for our daughter and son-in-law. They are expecting their first child on 14th January—only a couple of weeks away now. Of course they are very excited—and so are we! In preparation for this baby’s arrival, our daughter Tina has set up their nursery beautifully. But they have not had to buy a great deal themselves. You see, Tina is a beauty therapist and has been working at the same salon for over seven years now. She has many regular clients, several of whom come in each week for some treatment or other. And these clients are so delighted about her baby and so sad she is leaving that they have gone out of their way to give her the most beautiful and expensive baby gifts. Perhaps you can understand what sort of gifts I mean a little more if I mention that this salon is in a very well off area of Sydney’s North Shore. So now she has beautiful, little baby suits with French labels on them, made out of lovely, soft fabric and so well designed—not to mention fine quality cot sheets and blankets and cute baby toys. But beyond all that even, one client has passed onto her their ‘old’ nursery furniture—a large cot, a matching chest of drawers and a change table. This furniture hardly looks used and is again if the finest quality—we estimate it would cost well over a thousand dollars.

So much excitement. So much preparation. So much delight shown by clients, friends and family members alike in giving our Tina and Kofi these beautiful gifts. This baby will surely be much loved and also very well dressed and well provided for.

All of which has made me think at this special time of year. We have just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Yes, his arrival had long been anticipated by the Jews as they waited for the coming of their Messiah. And Joseph and Mary must surely have been waiting in awe to see this baby entrusted to them, this one born of the Holy Spirit who was to be the Saviour of the world. But when he did arrive, there was no beautiful, white cot waiting for him or chest of drawers for all his clothes. Instead, this baby was born in a stable and put to bed in a feeding trough. Yes, wise men did come from a long way off to worship him and give him expensive gifts, but before he was too much older, he became a refugee, along with his parents, and had to flee to Egypt, since his life was under threat. I doubt Mary had time to gather many clothes together for this trip or the ability to carry things like change tables.

And later, after this baby had grown up, he found himself despised and rejected by the very people who had anticipated for so long the arrival of their Messiah. Just as there had been no physical room for the Christ child anywhere other than a stable at his birth, so people had no room in their hearts for Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Have you made room in your hearts this Christmas for Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High? Have I? Or has he again been pushed to the perimeter, perhaps almost cast aside in the midst of all the exciting presents and fine food?

I hope and pray he hasn’t. I hope he sees in my heart more joy at his coming even that the joy with which we will welcome our new grandchild so very soon.

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I wonder if you’re like me and have a drawer or a box or a folder where you put all sorts of precious things you can’t quite bring yourself to throw away? My drawer of treasures is almost overflowing. It currently contains old certificates, cards of appreciation from the various places I have worked, funny little messages my children or grandchildren have written, various orders of service from weddings and funerals we have attended, newspaper and magazine cuttings about people I knew—and so the list goes on. But in one folder I unearthed there recently, I found some of my writing from over twenty-five years ago. I didn’t even remember clearly that I was doing any writing at that stage of my life, but there was the evidence before my eyes. As I sorted through it, I found an old church newsletter from 1985—and on the front was a poem I had written.

Now I don’t pretend to be a poet. I have enough trouble being a novelist! But I immediately remembered the emotions and frustrations I was feeling at that time in my life as I read my poem again—emotions that stirred me enough to work hard to express them on paper. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I came through that time, but it occurred to me that there may be some people out there who are going through similar frustrations in their lives right now, particularly in their writing journeys. So last week, I chose to share my poem in a blog I wrote for the International Christian Fiction Writers blog (http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/).  And lo and behold, already two people I have never met have contacted me from the other side of the world, expressing how much the poem had meant to them and asking for permission to reproduce it. One lives in the Adirondack Mountains in the north of New York State – I don’t even know where that is!

If God could use a simple, little poem to bless someone else so far away, I figured that maybe he also wants to bless someone closer to home. So I decided to share my poem again, in case any of you identify too with what I wrote. The poem really is a prayer—a cry from my heart at the time—and is based on Isaiah 9:6:  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Wonderful Counsellor, surround me with your wisdom.

My mind is tired, with indecision torn.

Where is the path prepared for me to follow?

I need you, Lord, to watch, to guide, to warn.

 

Almighty God, defend me with your power.

My weakness wins, my courage ebbs away.

O Holy One, great Lord of all creation,

For strength to stand secure I humbly pray.

 

Everlasting Father, how you love me!

I am your child, forgiven, forever free!

O hold me fast, transform me to your likeness,

Till men in me your face more clearly see.

 

Prince of Peace, bestow your calm assurance.

My heart is troubled, turmoil takes control.

O send your soothing Spirit to surround me.

Speak, Lord, till I am still within my soul!

 

Is that your heart cry right now? May you have listening ears to hear what God is saying to you. And may you know the loving presence of the Prince of Peace close by you and around you this Christmas, giving you all the wisdom and assurance you need.

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I have a friend who is very good at losing things. I had thought of basing my next novel on my friend’s exciting exploits but figure people would probably not believe the half of it!

It all started when my friend was seven. She was given a gold signet ring as a special Christmas gift—something she had long set her heart on. However, it was a little too big and one day not long after, while she was playing at the beach, it slipped off and was lost in the sand. She and others searched in vain, praying they would find it, but it was impossible. The next morning, my friend went back to the beach, no doubt a little disconsolately. She began building a sandcastle, letting the dry sand run through her fingers over the top of the castle, when lo and behold, the ring appeared! It had lain in the sand there for a whole day, even when the tide flowed in and out over it.

Years later, my friend lost a beautiful, little butterfly brooch she cherished, given to her by an older relative. More years passed, until one day when she visited a second-hand shop with a friend, she happened to see a brooch exactly the same as the one she lost. Needless to say, she bought it then and there, redeeming ‘her’ brooch for some relatively small amount. Was it perhaps the very one she lost? We will never know.

Then more recently, while my friend was moving into a new home that is situated at the top of a long, steep driveway, a ring she was wearing came off and rolled down … and down … and down … quickly disappearing from sight. Certain she would never see it again but desperate to find it, my friend slowly walked down her driveway late that night with a torch to look one more time. And then she saw it, lying right at the bottom between two rubbish bins on the footpath, gleaming in the light of her small torch! It could have disappeared in the grass anywhere along the way, rolled into two large drains nearby or bounced right across the road. Instead, it apparently rolled in a perfectly straight line as it went on its merry way down to the road below.

And then there were the gold earrings my friend’s daughter gave her. She had no idea where she could have lost them, so eventually her daughter gave her another pair. Then one day when my friend was tidying some linen in a cupboard, she found a folded over placemat. Wondering why it was folded the way it was, she investigated—and yes, there were the earrings, neatly lying just where she must have left them.

My friend well knows the meaning of rejoicing when something she has lost is found and relates very easily to the woman Jesus tells us about in Luke 15 who loses a coin. But I am sure she understands God’s heart well too for his lost children and shares in the wonderful rejoicing in heaven when one of them turns back to the Father.

… I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

This Christmas, let’s rejoice in our ‘found’ state as we remember our Saviour’s birth. And for those of you who still feel lost, may you too find peace and joy this Christmas as you welcome the Christ Child into your heart.

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What drives me to keep writing? I ask myself that question quite often these days, as do others from time to time. Surely, with five novels published and a sixth waiting for acceptance, I must have used up all the ideas I have in my head for plots?  Sometimes I look at all the effort involved, not only in writing a novel but actually getting out there and promoting it, and am tempted to think that maybe I’ve written enough. But then something happens—and I’m spurred on yet again to keep at it.

This past week saw my husband heading to Canberra for the funeral of a colleague who has spent many years in ministry. When I saw the order of service my husband brought home, I realised this gentleman was around the same age as I am. There was something quite stark and almost shocking, I quickly discovered, in seeing the same year as I was born printed on this order of service. I am mortal, I found myself thinking. There will be an end to this life I’m living and this writing and speaking and editing – perhaps even sooner than I imagined.

Now I did already have an inkling this was the case, of course. But somehow in being so focused on the tasks at hand, all needing to be done in a certain time frame, I had lost sight a little of the bigger picture. This salutary lesson was then quickly followed by another a few days later—something I find God is very good at when it’s necessary to get my attention. There I was, happily reading through 2 Corinthians 4, when I came across the following verses:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (4:16-18).

Hmm—so all these books I’m spending so much time creating won’t last forever. Yet if God has called me to write them, then they are definitely important.

It seems to be a matter of balance, don’t you think? We are called to work with all our might at what God has given us to do, but at the same time, we are to remember they are not an end in themselves. While we have to deal very much with the ‘seen’ in our lives on a daily basis, we are nevertheless to focus on the ‘unseen’ through it all—even the troubles we have along the way. For me then, this means I am to live and write and speak for God to the best of my ability, knowing it’s for God’s glory and not my own, and also knowing I could step into eternity at any time. I won’t be here forever, but while I am, I am to work for the things that truly will last forever.

So I hope I’ve taken God’s gentle reminders to heart.  Right now, I reckon the gentleman whose funeral my husband attended is enjoying that eternal glory with God in heaven. And that’s where I want my focus to be too. I want to write for eternity.

How about you? Where is your focus?

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