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Archive for February, 2018

I wonder if you have ever re-discovered something you once loved or used a lot or thought was wonderful, perhaps after many years have elapsed. It’s a bit like finding an old friend, isn’t it? There it is—just as you remembered it. And in a flash, the memories come flooding back.

IMG_20180216_101532547_BURST001Recently, my sister and brother-in-law arrived from interstate for a visit and brought with them my faithful, old, bright yellow shopping trolley I purchased around thirty-eight years ago! At that time, we lived on the other side of Sydney, just a few doors from very busy King Georges Road. And across that busy road was our local supermarket. It was far too close to drive to, yet too far away to carry all those bags of groceries back home. So that bright yellow shopping trolley came in very handy during the time we lived there.

Then we moved—and that trolley languished in a cupboard near our front door for years. Eventually, my sister relocated to Melbourne where she used to frequent the markets. So during one visit we made to her, we took that trolley along and bequeathed it to her. A few years later, she moved to Bendigo, where she too no longer needed that yellow trolley. So from then on, it languished in her garage—until her recent visit to us. You see, because we now live in a village environment, that yellow trolley is perfect for stashing all those groceries in from the boot of my car and trundling them down a nearby walkway to our front door!

In our family too, toys, games and little girls’ clothes also come around and around again. Recently, our daughter-in-law brought a few tubs of such items to us and, as I checked through them all, I found beautiful, sturdy jigsaw puzzles I remember completing with our now fifteen-year-old granddaughter when we used to mind her as a young child, along with her twelve-year-old sister. What memories those puzzles brought back! There were also some board and card games we played together that I know our younger grandchildren will enjoy now. As for those numerous Barbie dolls and accessories, what a treasure trove for our three-year-old Maxine—and her older brother! And those recycled little girls’ clothes too are still beautiful, many of them top name brands and hardly worn. Maxine is surely the best dressed little girl in Blacktown!

All this has caused me to reflect on my own life and wonder again at how God seems to use our gifts in fresh ways at different stages of our lives. It can be unwise to keep hanging onto things we have done in the past or roles we have filled, can’t it? But it seems to me God often surprises us with new twists and turns in our journeys that require a dusting off and reshaping of the old to be useful all over again. Only God could arrange things in such unique ways, don’t you think? So I hope and pray I can follow God’s leading and recycling and remain faithful and useful to the end—and I hope you can too.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

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There I was, about to enter the local supermarket when I noticed some mangoes on display nearby. I reached for a roll of plastic bags, tore one off and opened it, ready to put my mango in. Just then, a little lady much older than I am (!) asked me if I would mind passing her a bag, so I quickly handed her my own. A few moments later, this same little lady came up and handed me a tiny, square piece of cardboard, with something green pressed onto it and covered in clear plastic.

IMG_20180206_120843375‘It’s a real, four-leaf clover!’ she explained. ‘I want you to have it because you were so kind to me. I gave one to my granddaughter when she was doing an exam and she got 97%!’

Not wanting to disappoint her, I joked that I might have to sit for another exam. But later, I wished I could have thought of something a little more helpful to say.

The next day, I was back in that same supermarket. My husband had enjoyed his mango so much, I decided to buy a couple more. This time, the checkout person had trouble scanning some of my purchases and had to repeat the process. I paid my bill and headed off, but something made me look closely at my docket. Sure enough, I had not been charged for my two mangoes.

What a moral dilemma! At first, I thought, ‘It was her mistake—she was rushing too much. Probably I’ve been overcharged on other occasions anyway!’ But then my conscience got the better of me. I went back, showed her the docket and pointed out the problem.

‘Oh, thank you so much,’ she said. ‘That’s very nice of you—you’ll have good karma all day now!’

I blinked a few times, paid my money and turned away, wishing yet again I could have thought of something suitable to say in the moment.

As I reflected more on these two interesting events, I experienced various emotions. I was touched by these ladies’ responses. Both of them could have just thanked me (or not!) and said or done nothing more. I was annoyed at myself for not knowing what to say in return. But I also felt sad that these women seemed to set such store by four-leaf clovers and good karma. And probably they would represent a large percentage of the general population too, as far as such beliefs are concerned.

I don’t want to act or say anything in a graceless, judgemental way, but I’m sure there’s more that affects my life and the outcomes of my words and deeds than four-leaf clovers and good karma. I believe the Lord knows us intimately and watches over us, loving and caring for us, through all the good and bad times in our lives.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. … You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:1, 4)

So I’ve decided it’s much better to opt for that loving, gracious hand of God on me each day, rather than trusting in good karma or four-leaf clovers. How about you?

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Jo 12It happens only once in a blue moon that I take myself off to the movies. I am very choosy about what I watch but, given my sister who was visiting from interstate was also interested in seeing The Greatest Showman, I decided to take the plunge and go. And I have to say, this one did not disappoint.

We both truly admired Hugh Jackman in the starring role of P T Barnum, showman extraordinaire. He acts wonderfully. He sings well. And he was supported by an excellent caste. The music was beautiful—and the cinematography breathtaking at times. And, as far as I noticed, there was nothing offensive in the whole movie, which was a pleasant surprise. I held my breath when Mr P T Barnum was tempted to head off in the wrong direction in life and in show business, giving in to the lure of the talented Miss Jenny Lind, but heaved a sigh of relief when he came to his senses and returned home to his wife and daughters. Phew!

As for the main theme of the movie, was it that every person, however ‘different’ he or she is, has intrinsic value and deserves to be respected? Or was it the need to hold onto our dreams and have the courage to bring them into reality? Then there was the reminder to be true to one’s partner in life and care for family members. All these are very worthwhile values to hold onto. But right at the end of the movie, we noticed an interesting quote on the screen:

The noblest art is that of making others happy. P T Barnum

I had to think about that as a theme. How about you? Would you call ‘making others happy’ the noblest art?

I definitely used to be a people-pleaser and a ‘peace at any price’ person. I wanted to keep everyone around me happy. I hated arguments and would usually acquiesce rather than stick to my guns. Yet over the years, I learnt this was not always the best response and that sometimes I needed to find the courage to stand by what I felt was right. So to me, making others happy in this sense is not ‘the noblest art’.

I’m sure, however, this is not what P T Barnum meant. I suspect he was thinking of those times when something we do for or give to others touches their hearts deeply or eases some load they are carrying in life or at least makes them laugh for a while. After all, there is some truth in the old saying, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’.

Yet even then, this kind of happiness can be so short-lived, can’t it? What we all truly need is a real, deeper, long-lasting joy that can withstand the ups and downs of life. And that for me is found in knowing Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I may not smile all the time or even be happy all the time. But beyond that, there is a deep joy and peace in my spirit that no one can take away. And that surely is the noblest thing in the world to share with others, don’t you think?

 … do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

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Jo 23For a moment, I had trouble believing what I was reading in our village newsletter:

‘Nothing on TV? Come along and join the Bingo crowd each Tuesday!’

Could whoever wrote this be implying that these two activities were the only options? Did that describe their own lives—just TV and Bingo? If that was the case, then I truly felt sorry for him or her.

I know some people may have health issues and can’t participate in other activities, so possibly TV and Bingo are their best—or only—options. But from my perspective at this stage of my life, surely there are other much more interesting and life-giving pastimes available to fill my hours each day? Even within our village here there is a plethora of clubs and groups on offer—aqua aerobics (and swimming), Bible study, cards (500, Canasta, Crazy Whist), chess, choir, crafts of varying sorts, golf croquet, exercise, games (Scrabble etc), hobby workshop (woodwork, metalwork etc), indoor bowls, lawn bowls, library, line dancing, mah-jong, sketching, various snooker groups, table tennis, tai chi, good movies in the movie theatre, a ‘Voice our Views’ group and a writing group. Phew!

Then, of course, there are many other options as well. The village bus goes regularly to different shopping centres nearby, plus there are other bus tours available for different outings further afield. Or we can hop in our cars and go to these places ourselves. We can visit relatives or friends. We can walk through the beautiful bushland nearby or merely through nearby streets. We can chat to people along the way—or to others in the village. There is even a coffee shop on the premises where we can help ourselves to free coffee, while catching up with others. So, barring health issues, why would one choose TV or Bingo instead?

Now I understand the positive aspects of TV as well as anyone. This past month, I have truly enjoyed flicking from the cricket to the tennis and watching both for far too long! Sometimes there actually are worthwhile things on TV. I also love writing, speaking at places, reading and doing word puzzles. But … Bingo? I remember how, when my lovely older friend Joy first moved into a nursing home in the mountains, she was regularly taken to the activities room for Bingo, which she hated with a passion. She and her daughters called it ‘The dreaded “B” word’. I well remember how delighted my friend was when I popped in to visit her once and thus rescued her from participating!

At least that Bingo invitation in our newsletter has caused me to think carefully about how I plan to spend my time this year. Yes, I need to look after myself and relax and have fun doing what I love to do. But while I’m still able, I also want to invest my time and energy in those worthwhile things God wants me to do and connect with the people God gives me to connect with. And I’m sure I will enjoy all that too. There is more to life when we are on the journey with God, don’t you think? So much more than only TV and Bingo!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

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