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Archive for January, 2016

Jo 12In recent days, I have watched much more TV than usual. You see, the tennis has been on—not only on one channel but two! Then there was the cricket. Two sorts of cricket, in fact. What a feast!

One night last week, I found myself watching three channels at once, in an effort to keep up with all that tennis and cricket. I soon gave up on the cricket—after all, India was piling on runs and seemed destined to win. No fun in that! I enjoyed flicking from one tennis match to another, but eventually checked the cricket again. Lo and behold, wickets had tumbled and the Aussies were about to win! And all that fun had happened right when I hadn’t been watching.

Now we have noticed a similar, strange phenomenon before in our household. No sooner do I stop watching that cricket match than something exciting occurs. Sometimes I have been known to comment, ‘If I leave the room, I bet someone gets out!’ And sure enough, that’s what seems to happen. If I’m not there, then I miss out on all the action.

Recently, I spent many hours at my laptop, contacting places where I could potentially speak. It can be a draining and somewhat discouraging task, as I try to find out the person I need to approach and decide what to include in those emails. At one stage, my husband asked me whether I felt it was all worth it.

‘Well, unless I act and put myself out there, how can anyone know I’m happy to come and speak? I need to do my part and trust God for the outcome,’ I told him.

Sometimes it’s so easy to remove ourselves from where the action is, don’t you think? We have other things to do. We’re too tired. We’re not interested. We can’t be bothered. We’ve seen and done it all before. And sometimes we need to do this. But unless I watch that TV set, I will miss out on seeing those exciting matches. And unless I make the effort to write those emails and let people know I’m available, I may miss out on so many wonderful speaking opportunities. But … have you ever thought about the fact that it’s the same in our relationship with God?

Last week, as I read Psalm 81, I noticed how often God pleaded with the children of Israel to return from following their own way, to come near, to listen and to be fed with the food that truly satisfies:

Hear, O my people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to me, O Israel! (8)

But my people would not listen to me … (11)

If my people would but listen to me … (13)

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. (16)

In other words, the children of Israel needed to stay close to God—because that was where the real action was. That was where they would find true blessing, where they would be safe and well fed, where they would hear when God spoke.

That’s where we need to be too, don’t you think? Fully engaged with God, listening, alert—and ready to act.

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In my effort to become a little fitter, I often walk around our neighbourhood. But I have discovered I enjoy doing this more if there is some immediate purpose besides getting fit involved.  For example, I set out with much more enthusiasm when I decide to walk to our nearest Aldi for that odd item I might have forgotten. That way, I can see some more tangible, immediate results for my efforts!

Recently, I tried wearing a small backpack during these mini-excursions. I soon discovered that, not only is it easier to head home with those grocery items safely on my back rather than carrying them in my hand, but I also have somewhere to tuck my money and phone and house keys. It is a sad fact that not all women’s walking clothes have pockets! But there is a downside to carrying this backpack –one has to be selective about what one buys at Aldi! Before long, that bottle of milk or tin of something can get quite heavy. As for fruit, all I can say is that, for some odd reason, last week, those bananas were just a tad battered and bruised when I finally got them home!

The weight of my little backpack pales into insignificance, however, when compared to the humongous ones I have seen some high school students wearing home from school on occasions. I remember having to carry school books, sports gear and also my music case across town to high school, but at least I felt balanced, as I carried it all in both hands.

Tea LadyYet even these loads of textbooks pale into insignificance when I recall some village women I saw in north-eastern Turkey when travelling with a friend. Not only did they spend a large portion of their lives bent over picking tea, as in this photo, but they then proceeded to carry that tea in bags on their backs, up and down those hillsides and steep, winding, country lanes. No wonder I saw some older women from that area with backs permanently bent as a result.

Thankfully, we might not be called upon to carry such heavy physical loads on a regular basis. But many of us go through life, bearing heavy emotional burdens that weigh us down so much and cause our hearts to sink and our feet to drag. These burdens might not be of our own making—yet here we are carrying them, often alone and in secret.

Recently, I came across Psalm 68:19 in ‘The Passion’ translation:

What a glorious God! He gives us salvation over and over, then daily he carries our burdens!

Apparently, the word ‘salvation’ is plural in the original Hebrew text—which means that, on a daily basis, the high and holy Lord of the universe is prepared to reach out and rescue us time and time again, then walk beside us, taking those loads off our shoulders and carrying them for us. What a gracious, loving God we have!

I wonder if, in 2016, we will remember to let the Lord carry those loads of ours more often and truly rest in Jesus—I hope and pray we do.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 12:28

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Jo 12What a way to start a new writing year! Courtesy of my husband, who knows all manner of things about computers, here I am, sitting in front of my brand new, wide screen, super quiet laptop that even has a backlit keyboard. I am yet to discover if that means I can sneak into my study in the middle of the night and write away happily without turning any lights on!

It was not so long ago that my husband installed a new hard disk in my old laptop and that helped—for a while. But then weird things began happening. I could be in the middle of writing something, when, without any warning, the laptop would switch itself off—just like that. It was as if it was telling me, ‘I can’t be bothered doing this anymore—I’ve had enough!’

But then it developed another interesting habit. At one stage, I went to find a particular folder that contained various outlines for new novels—but, alas, that whole folder had disappeared! We searched and eventually found it hiding in some obscure place where it shouldn’t have been, as if it had a mind of its own. On another occasion, I went to where I save all my weekly blogs, only to find many of them missing. My laptop was trying to tell me I had not written any blogs since last August—yet I definitely had! Eventually, we found them too, hiding in a folder I rarely use. Who knows how they got there? Surely I hadn’t had a ‘seniors’ moment’?!

My husband tried all sorts of things recommended by experts in the field, but that laptop still kept turning off. And I too was a little turned off it—my confidence in it had been severely shaken. So we decided it was time to replace it.

As we went through the whole reinstalling process, I began to wonder what this experience might be showing me about myself. Were there times when I switched off from God, as if I couldn’t be bothered listening anymore or doing life God’s way? Were there times when I forgot things God has shown me in the past and lost sight of them by accident or neglect? Had I sometimes deliberately hidden them away out of mind somewhere, in an attempt to ignore their implications for my life?

Yes, I decided, all those things have happened and could happen again—unless I stay close to God. Without those life-giving words of God impacting me deep down and without taking time to listen to the Spirit’s gentle voice, I can easily lose the plot and switch off, just like my pesky old laptop. So this year, I plan to continue to have my Bible open beside me as I write and to be like that tree in Psalm 1, looking to God to sustain me each day and to enable new life and growth to emerge.

… his [her] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he [she] meditates day and night. He [she] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. …

Is that your heart’s desire too, as you step into 2016?

Please note: I am pleased to announce that Susan Barnes is the winner of a free copy of my memoir ‘Soul Friend’, as offered on last week’s blog. Congratulations, Susan!

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BLOG TOUR pic front coverToday, I’m delighted to be part of a blog tour to celebrate the recent release of Glimpses of Light, a collection of poetry and short stories (fiction and creative non-fiction) by twenty-one authors who are part of Christian Writers Downunder. Glimpses of Light, which contains one of my own short stories, is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format. All profits from the sale of this anthology go to CBM Australia (formerly Christian Blind Mission), an organisation which seeks to help people living with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries. Currently too, there is a giveaway for Glimpses of Light running on Goodreads, so check it out!

Last week, our Glimpses of Light blog tour featured award-winning South Australian author Paula Vince, whose excellent contemporary inspirational fiction is set in her own beautiful Adelaide Hills. On ‘The Vince Review’, Paula discusses the concept of light and shares how comments from her family helped her create her story, ‘Moon People’, for the anthology.

And now it’s my turn! When the call went out for submissions for Glimpses of Light, I almost ignored it. While I have written some short stories in the past, these are not what I am most comfortable creating. However, as soon as I read how all submissions needed to include an aspect of ‘light’, I immediately thought of my friendship with a young woman who lost her sight as a mere toddler and some amazing moments we had together. I had already woven these experiences into my third novel, Laura, published in 2009. Perhaps I could change the order of things a little to suit the short story genre better and submit a piece of creative non-fiction, I decided. How delighted I was when I heard my story, ‘Revelation’, was to be included in Glimpses of Light! Here was another opportunity for God to bless and encourage others as they read about those real life events that had impacted me so deeply.

I was also happy to seize the opportunity to support CBM Australia through this publication. Since 2007, CBM has recorded each of my novels and made them available for those with print disabilities as audio books through their lending library, which has now merged with the Vision Australia library. As well, this seemed to me a good opportunity to join in on a venture with other Christian authors and support them in their efforts to produce what I consider is an excellent publication.

And now (drum roll please!), if you live in Australia and would like to win a print copy of my latest novel The Inheritance or my memoir Soul Friend, please leave a comment below, indicating which book you would prefer. While this offer is unavailable to any authors/editors associated with Glimpses of Light, as well as anyone based overseas, I would love to post someone out there a prize! The winner will be announced on my blog on Tuesday 12th January, as well as in the Christian Writers Downunder Facebook group.

And now another drum roll for the next author on our blog tour—Jeanette O’Hagan. Jeanette lives in Queensland and has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves writing poetry and also young adult fantasy fiction and has also been the very committed, efficient and hard working co-editor of Glimpses of Light. Jeanette’s blog will appear this Friday 8th January on her website (see also ‘Jenny’s Thread’), so be sure to check it out.

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