Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2012

I wonder how you choose to spend your spare time. For many of us, it can be a bit of an unknown quantity—and that’s why I recently questioned the wisdom of spending a whole day at a retreat, focusing on what God is doing in my life. It is also the reason I almost thought twice before offering to care for our grandson for the day this past weekend because our daughter was unwell. After all, I had deadlines to meet and a book launch and other events to plan.

As it turned out, my day spent with God was invaluable—I am still reflecting on how it rescued me from becoming far too inward-looking and anxious about my writing to facing the future with much more thankfulness and joy. And as for my day with my ‘little man’—well, yet again he managed to wrap himself around my heart with those beautiful, big smiles of his. I watched him crawl for the first time and also saw how his face lit up when his father arrived home—precious, irreplaceable moments now etched in my memory.

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? What’s really important in our lives, when all is said and done, and what will turn out to be something that in the end isn’t doesn’t mean very much?

A short while ago, I was chatting with my sister. She and her husband currently have their son, daughter-in-law and three lively, young boys living with them while their own home undergoes a ‘makeover’. Already the family has been there for several months and will be for a while to come. Now my sister is doing lots more washing and cooking that she ever dreamed she would be in their retirement, yet she is happy to help out. She knows how significant this is for their little family—and I’m sure those three boys will long remember the months they spent living with Nanna and Grandpa and the special things they did together.

‘What’s a year in the big scheme of things, when all is said and done?’, we both agreed readily enough. You see, I have learnt this well in my writing journey, where it can take many months and even years to complete a book, only for significant parts to be thrown out during the editing stage—or worse still, for the entire manuscript to be rejected by a publisher. Yet, if we are doing exactly what God wants us to do in those days or weeks or months or years, isn’t that what matters?

I have come to the conclusion that our God, who is eternal, sees time just a little differently from me. And God also knows what things are worth pouring those days and weeks and months into—and what are not. So these days, I’m trying to listen more and recalibrate my life according to God’s agenda rather than my own—our God who declares, ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven … (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

So how is your recalibrating going? It’s a lifelong learning project, isn’t it? But let’s not give up trying to ‘number our days aright’ as Psalm 90:12 puts it. One day we will see as God sees.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I love Psalm 23. To me, it’s a psalm to be absorbed slowly, phrase by phrase, image by image. And that’s exactly what I was given the opportunity to do again at a recent retreat I attended, along with around twenty-five others. Together—and alone—we walked through this psalm with our Shepherd, listening, reflecting, praying, waiting, imagining, allowing our own spirits to be stilled, comforted and strengthened.

And at various stages throughout our day together, we were invited to put ourselves right in the centre of that psalm—to picture what those green pastures and quiet waters might look and feel like, to walk again in our minds into those deep valleys and sense that right path beneath our feet, and even to sit at a table with the Lord, watching our cup overflow and sensing that goodness and mercy all around us.

Now I am in no way an artist, but twice when we were invited to draw what we saw as we reflected, I did just that. At one point, I drew an expanse of green grass and those quiet waters flowing nearby, surrounded by lush vegetation. I drew myself seated on a rug on that grassy bank—and there with me was the Lord. But more than that, he was holding my next book Soul Friend—and enjoying it immensely! Now I have been looking towards the release of this book with some anxiety, even foreboding. Not only is it my first work of non-fiction, but it reveals a great deal about me and my journey over recent years and gives my own personal perspective on all sorts of events in my life. But here was Jesus, reading and enjoying it, looking at me and smiling, with a twinkle in his eyes. And he was saying, ‘Oh, Jo-Anne, I love this! I know I was with you when you were writing it, but it’s wonderful to hold it and see it completed. Well done!’

Was this just my imagination? Even if it was, surely this is a God-given gift, to be able to imagine and see beyond what is there in the natural? Even now I can picture that scene, feel the warmth of the sun there, hear that running water and know the delight of the Lord who sits nearby. And that to me is what Psalm 23 is all about—the wise and loving Shepherd walking our journey with us, refreshing us, guiding and comforting us, protecting us, providing for us, renewing us, loving us.

I encourage you to walk through this psalm again with the Lord—perhaps even now. And as you do, may you know his close, loving presence and sense his great delight in being there with you.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Read Full Post »

I often comment to others how fulfilling it is as a writer to be able to draw on past experiences and past occupations I have had in what I do now. It’s amazing to me how the various strands of our lives are woven together in such unexpected ways at times, as we continue to trust God in every part of our journey. Not only does my past provide ample material for my novels and also the non-fiction I write, but it also pokes its head up in the present in other areas, showing me clearly that God has gone before me and knows a lot more about my life than I do myself.

Last week, I sat down to prepare a workshop I will be taking in October at the Word Writers’ Getaway in Queensland (see www.thewordwriters.com for more information). Since my workshop, Getting in before your editor does, will be two hours long and is, after all, a workshop, I knew I would need to incorporate various exercises for participants to do in our time together. So next came the puzzle of how to balance my input with allowing time for exercises to be completed – and also what type of exercises would be most helpful, given our time constraints. After all, I want this to be a rich learning experience for those who choose to attend this workshop.

Soon my mind was in full swing, as I prepared notes, exercises and a power point presentation—and it was not long before I was enjoying myself immensely! Part of my enjoyment, I realised, stemmed from the fact that I was drawing on skills that had become second nature to me way, way back in my high school teaching years. These same skills had also been accessed, to some degree, in my time as part of a church ministry team when I ran short courses on different aspects of ministry. And on top of that, I was also drawing on lessons learnt from my editing journey with my own and others’ manuscripts in more recent years. So in the midst of my preparation, I took a moment to thank God for the way all these experiences are now bearing fruit in my life, as I endeavour to resource other authors.

And now, as I prepare a seminar I am also presenting, I have found an added reason to be thankful. You see, this seminar is called Writing that irresistible book proposal—definitely a tongue in cheek title! From memory, I reckon I have written somewhere between twenty and twenty-five book proposals in the past few years—and potential publishers or agents have had no trouble in resisting many of them! On the other hand, I have also had six novels and one non-fiction book accepted for publication. So I can draw not only on the positive times when my book proposals have borne fruit, but also on the negative times when all my work seemed to have gone for nothing. To me, this is a further wonderful example of how God weaves everything together and how no experience is wasted—not even those moments of rejection and deep disappointment.

As you look back on your own life, can you see God’s hand at work, weaving those strands together? When you do, may you too be able to say with a thankful heart:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands … (Psalm 31:14-15)

Read Full Post »

I wonder if you can think of a time when you almost held your breath because God seemed so close to you, perhaps even almost tangible. Back in the seventh century or thereabouts, the Celtic Christians in Britain and Ireland had a phrase for such a moment. They termed it the ‘thin place’ – a place or instance when that separation between heaven and earth or God and human beings seemed almost to disappear and the two blended together in perfect harmony.

Does your heart long for such places and experiences? I know mine does. They can happen in all sorts of ways, I’ve discovered – sometimes when we least expect them. Just yesterday, when I had the house to myself, I decided to sit down at our piano and play some of the old, classical pieces I used to enjoy many years ago. I am very much out of practice, but now I was just playing, letting the music flow as best I could and enjoying the beautiful melodies and harmonies of Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart. Memories came flooding back, but along with them was a distinct sense of the presence of God. It was as if God’s heart was reaching out to me through those notes and speaking straight into my spirit. It was as if God’s own immeasurable creativity was inspiring me through the creative works of others, as I cooperated by bringing my own creative ability to the moment through my playing.

Perhaps you have experienced such moments of closeness with God as you have gazed in awe at a beautiful coastline scene or mountain vista or observed God’s creativity at work in the exquisite, intricate design of a tiny flower. Or maybe it has happened in the midst of a time of worship or prayer, as you have gathered together with other believers, or alone as you have put time aside to read Scripture and reflect. Perhaps you have even sensed God close by right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a busy street or a noisy crowd. And maybe you who are authors out there will be familiar with God’s comforting, encouraging presence as you attempt to write words that will minister to others in some way. But in all these situations, we need to have our ears attuned to that still, small voice of the Spirit and our eyes focused not only on what we see before us but beyond that on our ever-present God.

You know, it seems such a shame that we so often miss out on these wonderful, life-giving encounters with the reality of God that go far beyond anything this world can provide. Of course God has called us to make a difference for the Kingdom right here and now, but that’s not all there is. Because God’s Spirit lives in those of us who believe, we will never be fully at home here—along with those great men and women of faith listed in Hebrews 11, we will always be ‘aliens and strangers on earth’ (11:13). So we need to find those thin places for our own wellbeing and spiritual survival. And God is there, ever willing to meet with us, when we take the time to look.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)

This week, may you all experience God in your own thin place and be truly nourished and refreshed in the process.

Read Full Post »