Archive for November, 2013

Have you ever wanted to discuss something important with someone, only to realise it’s probably not a good idea at that strategic moment? Perhaps the person seems too busy or too grumpy or too something or other. Much better to retreat and try again later!

I’ve certainly done that. But recently, I stumbled upon an example that stopped me in my tracks. I was reading in Luke’s Gospel how Jesus was led out into the desert and tempted by the devil for forty days and nights. At the end of that time, Jesus is very hungry (Lk 4:2) and also, no doubt, weak and tired. It’s then that the devil pounces, suggesting a way Jesus can satisfy that hunger. But Jesus stands firm, immediately quoting Scripture at his adversary:

‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone.’

The devil then tries to tempt Jesus to worship him and, when that doesn’t work, he tries to persuade Jesus to throw himself down from the highest point of the temple to prove the angels will rescue him. But when that doesn’t work either, he gives up—for the moment at least:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Lk 4:13

That last phrase, an opportune time, impacted me with extra force. The devil was watching Jesus, waiting for just that right moment to pounce again—that moment of weakness or selfishness or lack of obedience to his Father. I read on, taking in the momentous occasion when Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1-2 aloud in the synagogue in Nazareth and declares he has now fulfilled those very words. His hearers become furious, drive him out of the town and try to throw him off a cliff. But, as verse 30 says, he (Jesus) walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

It was not the devil in the end but Jesus who called the shots. Jesus simply walked away. Many times over, we read of instances where the devil tried to trap Jesus, yet each time, Jesus saw through his tricks. In fact, it was not until Jesus knew his time had come (Jn 8:20, 13:1) that he allowed the devil to do what he wanted with him (Jn 10:18). Even then, this happened only because Jesus knew it was his Father’s will (Lk 22:42).

I began to think about the many ‘opportune times’ I give the devil on a regular basis to cause trouble in my own life. How often do I decide to ignore what God is saying to me about some attitude or behaviour of mine? How often do I refuse to take time to listen to God, to pray and to read and know Scripture, so I can use it as Jesus did? How often do I make myself easy prey to all sorts of difficulties the devil delights to bring my way?

Yet right now, we have been given an opportune time of a different sort—a time to turn to God, to ask for and receive the forgiveness and love and grace God offers each of us so freely.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Is 55:6

Right now, I’m doing just that. How about you?


Read Full Post »

I had arrived early to speak to a community group and proceeded to convey my three boxes of books, briefcase, laptop and data projector up the steep stairs into the large function room. Once there, I discovered the projector screen was at one end, which would necessitate everyone turning around awkwardly. With no blank wall to use instead, I decided to ditch my power point presentation. And, since all available tables were in use, I fetched my own from the car.

I was still arranging my books when several ladies began checking them out. I explained how all of them contain strong faith themes, which did not seem to deter them. One lady bought three, just like that, then began sharing some sad snippets from her life story with me. Next, she bought me a drink. We then discovered we had some contacts in common—and I felt, for those brief moments, that our hearts had touched.

I was seated at the committee’s table for dinner, where everyone seemed curious to hear about my writing journey. These were intelligent, professional women and I enjoyed myself immensely. But then I was asked to begin my talk—at the same time as all the women headed, table by table, to the buffet to help themselves to dessert! I tried to keep going over the resultant chatter, paused once or twice, then decided to plough on regardless.

Eventually, they were all seated and listening. I relaxed and allowed the words to flow. At one stage, I found myself explaining how important it is for me as an author to see God’s creativity in nature and to be inspired by that. I went on to talk about how God has given us the gifts we have and how it’s important to do what God has called us to do in this world. But then I wondered if I should be saying such things. I had spoken at a church earlier that day—it was fine to say such things there. But at a community group?

Later, I discovered my talk had been well received, as several women chatted with me and bought books. Then the club secretary came to say goodbye.

‘I hope you were happy with my input,’ I commented. ‘Sometimes I forget where I am and think I’m at a church group …’

‘No, it was fine,’ she assured me earnestly. ‘After all, that’s who you are.’

Yes, that is who I am, I thought, as I drove home. And if others can talk about things that are important to them, then why shouldn’t I do the same? Of course I need to be sensitive in each situation and honour the wishes of those who have asked me to speak. But I still need to be me. After all, God created my inmost being and knit me together in my mother’s womb, as Psalm 139 tells us. God purposed me to be who I am, so I have a responsibility to be me. As Rob Bell states, ‘We don’t need a second anybody. We need the first you.

It was an interesting evening. And, despite the difficulties encountered, I believe it was so worth it, just being me for God.

How about you? Are you being a second somebody else—or the first you?

Read Full Post »

Do you remember those ‘Choose Your Own’ children’s adventure books from years ago? If you as the reader wanted the story to take a certain twist, then you were instructed to turn to a particular page and follow the thread of your own choosing from there on. If you wanted, you could even go back and follow a different trail to a different outcome. What fun! Multiple possibilities for a satisfactory ending at your fingertips.

But what if a book you were reading had no actual ending? What if you were reading along happily, enjoying the book so much that you couldn’t put it down, only to discover those last few pages holding that crucial final resolution to the story were missing? Imagine how annoying that would be!

This very thing happened to a friend of mine recently. In fact, this friend was reading a copy of my own latest novel, The Inheritance! Worse than that, it was a copy I myself had given her as a thank you gift for her kind hospitality during a recent interstate trip. Picture my dismay, then, when she emailed to tell me what had happened!

I hastily posted a replacement copy to my friend to ease her frustration. But I also thought of all those people who have already bought a copy. What if this wasn’t a one-off fluke? What if there were others who would discover the story ended abruptly in mid-sentence? Yet, so far, no one else has complained of any missing pages to me or my publisher. I also checked through any open boxes of my own supplies of this novel, but, in the end, decided all I could do was try to check each copy I personally sell in future. As for bookstore sales, I hope anyone who does find those last pages missing will speedily return their copy to the store.

But this whole alarming event caused me to think about other ‘ends of stories’ in our lives. We live with so much uncertainty, don’t we? We don’t know exactly how our day will unfold when we get up in the morning. We don’t know what the week or month or year ahead will contain. We may think we do, but things often have a habit of turning out differently from what we expected. Yet we know for sure who does know the end of the story—both our own personal story and that of the whole world. And our God, with great grace, has also given us glimpses in Scripture of how things will unfold. We know, for example, that one day we will see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12). One day, Jesus will return and take us to live with him forever in the place he has prepared for us (Jn 3:16; 14:3) where there will be no more tears (Rev 7:16-17). And one day, having finished the race and kept the faith, we too will be welcomed into God’s presence.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:8

That’s one perfect story ending I’m very much looking forward to. How about you?

Read Full Post »

Yes, there it is again—something dark brown around my laptop. I can see it in my peripheral vision as I type and it doesn’t seem right. For so long, all I have seen is a mass of white stuff, interspersed with a few coloured folders and bits and pieces. Yet now, wonder upon wonders, could it possibly be … ? Yes, it’s the top of my desk! Now don’t get me wrong. There are still a few things scattered across the surface around me as I sit writing this. My diary, a couple of notebooks, my journal, my Bible, a few cards, a pen or two, a candle, some other odds and ends. But how exciting it is to be able to see the dark wood of that desk again, after weeks and months of its being submerged in copies of various talks I had promised to give during our two recent interstate visits!

I’m not complaining, however. I felt privileged to be able to speak at all the places I was invited to do so and enjoyed it all. I met many wonderful people and watched God work in the lives of a number of them as I shared. Some have even emailed and sent cards to me since then, so our relationship is ongoing. On top of that, my books have now reached a wider audience. Already, I have received some lovely, encouraging feedback about my latest novel The Inheritance, launched in the middle of these interstate visits.

But oh, how wonderful it is to have a tidier desk—for a while at least. Yet I realise that tidy desk represents more to me than the fact that I have come through a very busy period in my life and met all my interstate speaking and bookstore appearance obligations for the moment. Somehow this paring down of stuff in my line of vision seems to have pared back something deep down inside me as well. Something seems to have shifted a little in my spirit so that once again I have space to reflect, to be still, to acknowledge God’s presence with me and in me, to be just me. What freedom that brings with it for introverts like me!

I enjoy preparing messages and talks of varying descriptions. I enjoy writing my weekly blog. I even enjoy answering emails. But what a special joy it is to allow my mind to float free for a while from all these things! Yet I am also aware of a sense of anticipation building within me that maybe, just maybe I will soon be able to get back to working on my current writing project—another work of non-fiction. Maybe, wonder of wonders, I will even have time as well to check in on those novel outlines waiting patiently on my laptop for my consideration as to whether they should be pursued further or not.

But for today at least, I know I need to take care of my mind and spirit and just be. I know I need to give God that time and space to speak, to show me the way ahead, to remind me that anything envisioned or attempted apart from him is quite useless, when all is said and done.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11

Read Full Post »