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Archive for January, 2019

Jo 12I am an expert at feeling sorry for people. Just ask my husband, who simply sighs and shakes his head at me, after fifty years of marriage. Last year, during a road trip interstate when we passed through various little country towns where everything looked more than a little down-at-heel, he knew what I would be likely to say next.

‘Oh, this all looks so quiet—and everything seems so old! How do the shops here survive? I feel so sorry for them. Even the pub looks deserted! Oh dear!’

Sometimes too when I spy a small, corner store right here in Sydney somewhere, I can easily feel sorry for its owner, who must find it so hard to compete with the bigger shopping centres. And when I see shop after shop all crammed together in close proximity to its competitors in one of our more heavily populated suburbs, I can manage to feel sorry for those owners too.

‘How do they all make a bean?’ I ask in a worried voice. ‘They must have to work such long hours seven days a week to survive!’

Yes, I am a champion at feeling sorry for all sorts of people—probably unnecessarily, most of the time! That is one reason I do not watch those current affairs shows that often feature some poor person who is being picked on by a neighbour or who has been duped by some dodgy, unscrupulous builder or tree-lopper or who is at odds with a hard-hearted insurance company who refuses to pay up. I cannot bear to see their need—and to be unable to do anything about it. All I can do is hope and pray the story has a good ending and that someone else who can do something about it takes action.

There is a sensible limit, I suspect, in how much energy we should expend in feeling sorry for others in this unproductive way. And there is a difference too, I think, in feeling sorry for someone and having true empathy or compassion for them. So perhaps those of us who can so easily feel sorry for others would do better if we realised this and modelled ourselves more on our great God of compassion, who not only empathises perfectly, but can actually do something about our situation.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

The Lord did not simply wring his hands and say, ‘Oh dear—what a mess my children are in!’ Instead, because of his great compassion for us, he sent his Son Jesus to rescue us. And we see that same compassion in Jesus himself in the way he reached out to those around him, healing so many and preaching the good news of the kingdom.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

What a wonderful, powerful, compassionate God we have who does not simply feel sorry for us but reaches out in love, rescuing us, restoring us and drawing us ever closer to himself!

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Jo 23I wonder what traditions have emerged in your family or among your friends over the years. Perhaps they involve doing something together at a particular time each year or celebrating birthdays or some other special event in a particular way. And if or when these traditions are overlooked or cannot be continued for some reason, we feel their loss keenly.

Almost every school holidays, my husband takes our two older granddaughters out separately for dinner. They are free to choose where they want to go and what they will eat—but, would you believe, most times, they choose the same restaurant and exactly the same meal they chose the previous time? So …  is it still really their favourite restaurant and favourite meal? Or is it that the power of tradition is so strong that it wouldn’t feel right if they chose something different when out with Granddad?

Recently when my husband came home from taking our thirteen-year-old granddaughter out, I asked him how it had gone.

‘Oh, lovely, as usual! We chatted about all sorts of things!’

I left it at that. Obviously, he had enjoyed their time together—and I trust our granddaughter did too. Yes, the day might well come soon when our granddaughters may have other interests and be less willing to accept such invitations. And no doubt one day, my husband will no longer be able to do such things with them. But when those times come, I hope they remember how much he enjoyed listening to them, providing for them and treating them as young ladies.

As I reflected further, I began to wonder how many times I myself have been less than willing to accept a dinner invitation with the most perfect and gracious host of all. How often have I acted like those ungrateful Israelites who forgot how the Lord had set them free and ignored his pleas to submit to him so that he could rescue them from their enemies and fill their mouths with good food?

If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! … But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. Psalm 81:13-16

The beautiful words of Psalm 23 came to mind too, where David writes how the Lord our Shepherd delights to provide a wonderful spread for us, anointing our heads as a host would anoint an honoured guest, and providing us with more than enough food and drink, as well as the space and time to enjoy it, even in the face of our enemies:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

I hope and pray in this coming year, I will value those precious times of being in the Lord’s presence and sharing my life with him each day so that they become a tradition I cannot do without.  And I hope and pray you can too.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

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scan0007This Friday 18th January 2019 is our Golden Wedding anniversary. Fifty years ago, we became husband and wife on a warm, summer’s morning at Annerley Church of Christ in Brisbane! Nine days later, I turned twenty-one—and that afternoon, my sister and her husband were married at Stephen’s Anglican Church, Coorparoo in Brisbane. Our parents must have had quite a time, preparing (and paying for!) two weddings so close together, for sure.

In October, when my sister and her husband wereIMG_20181027_131430316 visiting from Victoria, we took each other out for a meal to celebrate our two Golden Weddings. What fun we had, checking out menus and deciding which two restaurants we would choose! We figured we had a good excuse to spend a little more on our meals this time because, after all, not every couple gets to celebrate such a milestone event—especially two sisters.

IMG_20181025_190738185Something else my sister and I have in common is that we both married ministers! Our journeys have been varied and interesting, with many twists and turns—some of our own choosing and some not. But here we are, fifty years later, still loving and serving God as we are gifted and via the opportunities that come our way—and still great friends with each other too.

Does fifty years sound a loooong time to you? In our village where we live, one couple who are our neighbours have been married for sixty-four years and another couple for even longer— over seventy-five years! As someone jokingly said to us, ‘You’d get a lot less than that for murder!’ At least … I hope they were joking! But whether we think fifty or sixty or seventy something years is a long time depends on our perspective, doesn’t it? Right here and now in our lives, that seems quite an innings. But if we step back and think about all the centuries that have gone by in this world, it does not seem long at all. And when we step back even further and try to see things from the perspective of our eternal God, then fifty or sixty or even seventy years is nothing more than the blink of an eye.

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4

In Psalm 103:15-18, David also highlights this different perspective:

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

How important it is for us to use whatever time God gives us on this earth well, both as individuals and, if married, as a couple! We have this one brief opportunity, whether single or married, widowed or divorced, to use our God-given gifts in whatever way God asks us to. So as we step into 2019, let’s all resolve to live in a way that honours our loving and patient Lord–and also one another–because that is the essence of good relationships, marriage or otherwise, don’t you think?

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Jo 17Recently, our youngest granddaughter arrived for the day, complete with swimming gear galore—enough for half a dozen children! I had promised to take her to the heated pool and spa in our village complex and she was more than a little excited at the prospect.

At top speed, she changed into her cute, little swimming costume, squeezed herself into her brightly-coloured, plastic, inflatable donut ring, strapped a little foam floating device to her back and perched her pink goggles on her head. So, thus attired, off we marched to the pool! While we adults are not allowed to walk through our complex in our swimming costumes, I figured four-year-old Maxine could get away with it. And she did, in the process bringing delighted smiles to the faces of so many who stopped to say hello to her.

‘Guess where we’re going?’ I said, laughing, to each one of them!

We arrived at the pool to find one or two others already there—but they informed us that, while the spa was hot, the water in the main pool was too cold for them. Something had gone wrong with the heating—but that was no deterrent for Maxine.  In a trice, she was bobbing around in that water, while her poor nanna stood waist-deep beside her, feeling a little sorry for herself and wishing she was back home getting those various Christmas jobs done!

We stayed for two hours in the end, chatting away and playing all sorts of games I had to try hard not to win. And from time to time, Maxine would decide to climb out into the much warmer spa, closely followed by her nanna. While I did not mind doing this, it was the reverse that was much harder to take, moving from hot to cold in two seconds flat!

Once or twice, I hinted it might be time for us to head home, but Maxine was definite she had not had enough. So I continued chatting and playing, all the while still feeling a little hard done by. But then, just as I was holding Maxine while she floated on her back and pretended to fall asleep, I sensed God pointing out that this exact moment would never come again. Next year, Maxine will start school. And, while she will visit us these summer holidays, her brother will also be with her, which will change the dynamics considerably. What I needed to focus on at that point was the lovely memories we were making together and the deepening of a bond that will, I pray, last forever.

I’m so glad I heard that little prompt from God. It would have been easy to insist on doing what I wanted to do and cut short our pool time together. And it is sadly so easy, I find, to ignore God’s gentle voice at other times in my life as well, choosing instead to forge ahead and do life in my own way.

Is that the case for you too? As this new year begins, may each of us resolve to choose to listen to those promptings from God more often and follow our Shepherd with our whole heart.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

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