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Archive for January, 2014

I have discovered I am quite an independent person. I don’t like to admit even to myself that I need help. And I certainly don’t like asking for it. To me, it seems I am inconveniencing others or treating them as less than equal when I burden them with this or that mundane request. Yet it’s something I have had to do in recent times.

I came home from hospital last week, after having a back operation. While there, I felt very blessed by the gracious way the doctors and nurses attended to my every need. I recall with thankfulness how my lovely neurosurgeon came to explain what he was about to do just prior to my operation. I remember the patience of the nurse who tried to make me comfortable that first difficult night after the operation. I am so grateful for the one who helped me take my first shower and for the kind physio who walked slowly alongside me as I took my first steps outside my room. And all the while, I was learning a new skill—that of humbly receiving help.

Here at home, I am still learning. I now realise the folly of trying to get up from our too low lounge without calling for help from my husband. And I know I can’t change that dressing in the middle of my back myself. I am getting used to giving simple cooking instructions without feeling I should just get up and do it myself, rather than allow my husband to stumble through unknown culinary territory! I have had to learn to receive wonderful casseroles from a loving daughter who is so tired herself as she prepares for the birth of their second child. And with grace, I accepted that lovely bag of goodies left on our doorstep by a friend who has so much illness to deal with in her own family.

Already I can see something of what God is teaching me. I am beginning to allow others to do their job and not intervene. I am beginning to learn to show gratitude for their servant heart and to value who they are more fully. I am beginning to receive that love others want to show me as they minister to my needs. And I am beginning to learn to ask for help more readily, knowing this does not make me any less of a person and realising I can in fact bless the one who helps.

And finally it is beginning to dawn on me that I am learning something about my relationship with God through all this as well. It is God’s heart to care for me—and that heart is so full of perfect love, compassion, patience and healing. As my loving Father, God sees my every need and delights to use all sorts of means to provide for me. It is a huge lesson all over again in receiving from God’s gracious hand. And I am learning to rest in the midst of it and open my heart to all that wonderful healing mercy that’s coming my way right now.

How about you? Is it time for you to learn to receive too?

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

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Berthelsen-4Don’t you love it when people take the time to email or phone to encourage you in the midst of life’s ups and downs? In recent weeks, I have come to value afresh this caring connection with others and the love of those in the body of Christ in particular.  A precious gift indeed.

Recently, a good friend sent me an email, telling me she felt God was going to give me a ‘rooftop view’ and reminding me of Peter’s rooftop experience in Acts 10. She also expressed the hope and prayer that, as I am by necessity less mobile because of my current back issues and have the opportunity to be quiet, I would draw comfort from the Lord’s presence, be renewed, and enjoy being hidden and shaded by his hand. How blessed am I to have received such loving words and to have now experienced some part at least of the things she wrote about! I value this time on my ‘rooftop’, despite the physical discomfort, and look forward to any insights the Lord wants to give me. And I certainly value being shaded by the Lord’s hand. I have always loved Psalm 91, which now has even more meaning for me:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Ps 91:1-2

I love that mixture of gentle protectiveness but also great strength that these words convey. Over the years, at certain times of need in my own life when I have cried out to the Lord in prayer and also as I have prayed with and for others, I believe God has given me a glimpse of what this looks and feels like. I can remember clearly several occasions when, in the midst of praying, I have seen in my mind a picture of Jesus standing right beside me or the person I am praying for, yet also towering above us, huge in stature, so strong and immovable, yet also so caring and watchful and protective on our behalf.

And this is what I saw again as I sat in God’s presence on my ‘rooftop’ recently. There was Jesus, so strong and tall and trustworthy, assuring me of his love and his protection and also conveying to me that he knew all about my physical pain. Next, I believe I saw him pick me up and carry me to an operating table in a hospital, where he laid me down carefully. Then in my mind I saw him place his hand gently on my head and also on the head of my neurosurgeon standing nearby, ready to operate. It was as if Jesus was saying, ‘I know about all this. I am here. I bless you both.’

What a comforting and reassuring sequence of events! Perhaps you may feel it was only my imagination running away with me—and that may well be the case. Yet I believe the Lord does reveal himself in these ways at times, of which this was one. And how gracious he is to do that.

I hope you have a rooftop too. I hope you meet the Lord there. I hope you hear and see him speak to you—often.

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I’m not so good at waiting, I’ve discovered. How about you? I want this or that now. And I’m definitely not so good at living in the moment—at noticing what I have today and appreciating this particular point in time rather than feeling frustrated as I look ahead to a time that is not yet here.

I’ve discovered this with a vengeance this past week. I have been unable to do many things I normally do because of a severe lower back problem. Instead, I have had to lie down most of the time and simply wait for my specialist appointment and that operation planned for this week. Now I imagine this period of my life wouldn’t have seemed so long, except that I am in some pain. Anyway, I should be used to waiting. That is part and parcel of a writer’s life—waiting for feedback on a manuscript, waiting to find a publisher, waiting until that book is finally released. But I must confess I have become a tad impatient at times, even with those around me, sad to say, who have only been trying to help.

Then one day, I read a sobering account in Luke 19:41-44 about something that happened as Jesus was heading for Jerusalem, knowing he would die there:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and your children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

What sad, sad words! How clearly they show the depth of Jesus’ love for the people and for us. But it was his few, final, desolate words that spoke to me most. To me, they encapsulate Jesus’ deep grief that the people had missed their opportunity to know God. But they also spoke to me personally on a different level. In my frustration at having to wait this past little while and not be doing the things I want to do, was I missing something God wanted to teach me? Was I too not recognising the time of God’s coming to me?

I stopped then and reflected. I prayed and acknowledged God’s presence with me and in me. I stepped back into God, as it were, began to see things from a far different perspective—and soon realised how blessed I am. I have loving, caring, prayerful family and friends around me. I have a specialist I can access easily and a hospital I can go to. I have pain medication and a comfortable bed. But beyond all that, there are things God wants to teach me in this time—and I am so humbled. I don’t want to miss this moment in my life that may never come again. So right now, I am all eyes and ears to see and hear those reminders and revelations from our loving God.

How about you? Are you all eyes and ears too?

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I had it all worked out. We would spend a nice, quiet time at home in December and January, with occasional visits from relatives and friends. I would finally get some more writing done, after speaking so much this past year. And, of course, I would make time somehow to watch the cricket on TV. And the tennis. What bliss! I could even start some knitting, in preparation for our new grandchild. That would mean I wasn’t really wasting my time, watching all that sport!

Alas—it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, I am writing this lying awkwardly on my side in bed, my laptop balanced on a nearby chair. I have severe lower back trouble, with resulting bad sciatica in my left leg, which makes walking and even sitting difficult. Of course, I can still watch that cricket and tennis. But it’s hard to write at any length, typing sideways. Besides, the medication I’m on means I have difficulty finding my brain at times. And has anyone tried knitting, while lying flat on one’s back?

This whole experience has served to remind me well of James 4:13-14:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Needless to say, my natural reaction to all this has been to feel very frustrated. I have so much I want to write. I was sure God wanted me to complete my next non-fiction book by June. Besides, I need to be setting up speaking engagements for the coming year and planning out those months ahead. Yet here I am, doing none of it. I have found it easy to slip into feeling sorry for myself, as I lie here in the one position that is reasonably comfortable, heat pack on my back and wondering what will happen at my next visit to the specialist.

Then I received a little card in the mail, out of the blue, from a lady at our church. Apparently, she had heard about my back troubles from my husband and wanted to let me know she is praying for me. A lovely thing, for sure. But it was the words on the front of the card from Lamentations 3:22-23 that struck me most:

The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning.

Hmm. If that‘s true, I thought—and it is—then the Lord is still loving and merciful to me right here in the midst of this change of plan and this pain. Surely a good reason to focus on him rather than feel sorry for myself.

That same day, an email arrived unexpectedly from a writer colleague who did not know about my back troubles. To encourage me for the year ahead, she quoted Lamentations 2:22-23 from the NIV:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think the Lord’s trying to remind me of something, don’t you?  Even that is a loving act—and i am comforted.

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