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Archive for February, 2015

Jo 23I think it would be safe to say not many of us have donkeys tethered in the backyard these days. We do not get them out and saddle them up when we need to go shopping or pick the kids up or travel to another town. But this past week, I heard how a friend has decided to call her car her ‘donkey’—and with good reason.

You see, she often drives others who are unable to drive or don’t have cars to doctors’ appointments, waits there with them, then drives them home again—so much so that she has become a little tired of it. But one day recently, she read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and was challenged all over again by the way this man cared for the stranger who had been robbed and beaten up. According to this story Jesus told, not only did the Samaritan delay his journey to stop and treat the man’s wounds but he also put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he proceeded to care further for him. Then, when he had to leave, as well as paying the innkeeper to continue caring for the injured man, he promised to pay any further money owed for the man’s care on his return. Amazing!

I guess that is the reason Jesus told such a story—to shock the ‘expert in the law’ (Luke 10:23) who well knew what was written there about loving God and loving one’s neighbour. And that shock value is still there for us today, as my friend can testify. Instead of grumbling about these demands on her time, she has decided to be thankful for her own good health, call her trusty, little car her ‘donkey’ and saddle it up over and over again, out of love for God and for others.

My friend’s response challenged me so much that I came home and read that Good Samaritan story for myself. As I did, I noted the little conversation at the end where the expert of the law has to admit the Samaritan was the true, merciful neighbour to the one who had been robbed. And I also could not ignore Jesus’ final, unequivocal command—Go and do likewise (Luke 10:37).

So … what does my ‘likewise’ involve? What should it look like? Yes, perhaps it might involve driving someone somewhere in my own ‘donkey’ for an appointment at times, but God calls and gifts each one of us in different ways. Perhaps for me, showing mercy to my neighbour might involve taking someone a casserole at times or inviting them to our home for a meal. But it might also involve helping someone with their writing project or being prepared to speak at some event they are organising in order to support them or selling their books alongside my own books somewhere. Whatever shape that ‘donkey’ may take in my life, I need to saddle it up and use it well for the purpose God intended, showing love to others in the same way as I so easily show it to myself every day of my life.

How about you? What will your ‘likewise’ involve? Are you using your own ‘donkey’ well?

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P1040053Recently, while digging out my old high school magazines from the sixties for a friend, I noticed again our school motto, ‘Scientia est potestas’—‘Knowledge is power’. The school had an excellent academic record and, as a result, there were plenty of high achievers who later made it into all sorts of fields—education, politics, business and so on—including a Governor-General and a few other people of note. While I might not have ended up a person of any great note, I did my best to acquire lots of knowledge and succeed in all my studies.

Seeing that old high school motto reminded me of my primary school one as well—‘Striving to progress’. And, digging a little further, I found my old primary school reports, glued inside an ancient exercise book. Yes, I certainly did ‘strive to progress’, always taking great pride in being top of the class.

I am so thankful for my sound academic background. But I suspect that, in all of the striving towards progress and gaining of knowledge and aiming for excellence, I became more than a tad perfectionist in my approach to things. Perhaps that’s one reason I now find the whole idea of inner peace from God so attractive and write about it often. And perhaps that’s why I resonated with a little phrase I read recently in Emily Freeman’s book Grace for the Good Girl. After sharing about a talk she heard on Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home (Luke 10), which included encouragement to receive the gift of rest, she writes:

I wanted to give myself permission to sit down on the inside and live like I have a God who knows what he’s doing. (p 65)

Isn’t that a wonderful phrase—‘sit down on the inside’? Does that concept resonate with you? To me, it speaks of heaving a big sigh and relaxing every part of me, knowing I am totally accepted and loved by God. To me, it’s the opposite of letting my mind dart here and there, worrying about all sorts of possibilities, and, instead, resting in God with complete trust. Yes, I need to strive to move forward with my writing and speaking, but there is a way of doing this, I believe, that is characterised by peace and trust in God rather than inner angst.

These days too, I seem drawn to those verses about peace in the Bible with enough regularity to cause me to think God wants me to take good note of them. Recently, I noted Jesus’ wonderful words to his disciples—words I believe that are meant for all of us:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Then this past week, I came across the Apostle Paul’s final blessing to the Thessalonians:

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

May we all know that peace-giving presence of the Lord with us as we practise the art of sitting down on the inside.

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There we were, the whole family seated at the restaurant, waiting for our meals to arrive. The moment had come for me to open my birthday gifts. The first was a small, slim parcel in purple tissue paper and ribbon—my favourite colour. Inside, I discovered a beautiful, handcrafted pair of earrings, chosen for me by one of our daughters—a special gift I now wear with pride. The second was from our son and his family—an intriguing looking box with a brightly striped ribbon keeping the lid in place.

As soon as I lifted that lid, my senses were assailed by a wonderful mix of interesting perfumes. I peeked inside—and there lay an array of beautiful soaps, bath salts and other similar items, of all different shapes, sizes and bright, contrasting colours. It was a delight to pick them up one by one and enjoy those different aromas—mango, orange, peppermint, vanilla, rose, lime, lavender. I loved them all—each one was so intriguing and unique. Again, I had been given a gift I truly love.

‘I chose all them,’ our big, burly Maths teacher son told me then. ‘I spent ages in the shop—the ladies there were laughing at me because I took so long to decide! And did you notice the purple and black tissue paper in the bottom of the box? I had to find just the right colours to go with it all. The box had to be the exact right size as well–and I wanted the ribbon to match all the different colours of the soap too. It looks good, don’t you think?’

I assured him I loved it all. Yes, I laughed, along with everyone else, at the way he was so proud of his gift and the story of how long he had taken to choose it all. But I was touched as well at his labour of love on my behalf.

I open that box again now and admire all those special little gifts it contains. I wonder then if I will have the heart to use them. At the moment, my carefully chosen gift is just that little bit too precious—precious in that it speaks not only of a human love that will go to such trouble to select a special gift for me but also of God’s extravagant love for each one of us. It reminds me how God created us with such care and intricacy—each unique, with our own special shape, size, aroma and flavour to offer this world as only we can.

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

And God has given each of us gifts with which to bless others, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12, and to enable them to function as God intended them to. As God’s children, created in God’s own image with God’s own Spirit living within us, we have all we need to make a difference in this world and to take that light and love of the Lord everywhere we go—surely a labour of love we can all approach with thankfulness and joy.

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Jo 23During the past week, I experienced what is a rare treat for me—a rejuvenating ‘ultimate facial’ in a quiet, restful beauty salon. For an hour and a half, I was surrounded by wonderful aromas and relaxing music as I enjoyed some very necessary skin revitalising, along with a gentle hand and foot massage, at the experienced hands of our beauty therapist daughter. But what made it even more enjoyable was the fact that this was a birthday gift from her, paid for and administered with love.

On another day, I made a much needed visit to a physiotherapist, in an attempt to fix some old injuries I suffered last year during a fall while out walking. There my body was treated with care once again, although this time with much firmer massaging that will hopefully bring more healing and strength to those parts of me that have been damaged.

In this same week, I also enjoyed several meals out with various friends and family members. One evening, we shared a pleasant dinner with a guest in our own home. Over all these meals, I enjoyed not only the food but also the good conversations that took place and, while my body might well not have needed so much food indulgence, my mind and spirit were enriched by these experiences.

In the midst of this, I found time to watch some tennis on TV and feel sorry for those players, toiling away so hard to win those matches, as I relaxed in the coolness of our lounge room. Yes, I also cooked and gardened and wrote a little and minded grandchildren—but I tried to take care of myself in the process and enjoy the moment, being thankful I can do all these things. I am not renowned in my family for caring overly well for myself but am slowly learning not to see it as self-indulgence but rather as good stewardship of the resources God has given me.

Yet there is something else I need to do, if I am to be ready to do the things God has for me to do. I need to put time aside to listen to God in a deliberate, focussed way. How easy it is to overlook our spiritual wellbeing as we care for ourselves in other ways! This in turn can affect our minds and emotions and even our bodies, I believe. We need to care for ourselves in a holistic manner—otherwise we may end up unable to function as God created us to function.

So this week, I am taking part in a three day spiritual retreat where I hope to hear inspiring input, be creative, have good conversation with others, yet also find time to be alone with God. I want God’s Spirit to renew me and to resource me deep down for the year ahead, so that out of that overflow within me, God can refresh others.

How are you at caring for every part of you? Are you, like me, learning to do this better?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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