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Archive for February, 2019

Awesome!

During our recent holiday in the South Island of New Zealand, we stayed in Air Bnbs, all of which worked well for us. Afterwards, we were asked to rate our stay at each place, but one question that puzzled us was this: ‘Did this Air Bnb meet your expectations?’ Don’t you think this is a strange question? After all, our expectations could have been outrageously high, yet the Bnb could still have been excellent. Alternately, they could have been low, so that even a mediocre Bnb would receive a positive response!

Before we set out on our trip, I had high expectations of the beautiful scenery and unique places we hoped to see. Often, my imagination leads me to conjure up images that are far from reality, but this time, reality truly far exceeded my expectations. At every turn, there seemed to be some amazing gem of nature to admire, with so many different facets, each displaying some aspect of God’s awesome creativity. At times, it seemed a sacrilege to try to take a photo of the scene before me—I felt no photo of mine could ever do it all justice. And as I saw other tourists rushing around, trying to get this shot and that, without seeming to stop for a moment to take it all in, I wondered if they were short-changing themselves.

P1040517It was not only the beautiful vistas but also the amazing variety all around us in nature that often blew my mind. On our way down to Milford Sound, at one moment we were rolling through green, restful, pastoral land, with sheep and deer grazing nearby. But soon we came to high mountains, some still snow-capped, with clear streams flowing from theP1040533 valleys in between. Sometimes we stopped to take short walks through the rainforests alongside these, in awe of the fact that, in one 360 degree turn, we could feast our eyes on so much natural variety within such a relatively small area. It was as if God had condensedP1040520 everything into one huge, single, mind-blowing experience that almost reached overload at times.

But when we came to the glacier country on the west coast, I was amazed yet again. There we were, standing in the car park on a humidP1040577 day, wearing light, summer clothes. Yet, before us, etched against the blue sky, were snow-capped peaks and an icy glacier, as well as those misty, brooding clouds that seemed to roll in with such speed from the nearby ocean. What a reminder these rugged mountains and wide riverbeds filled with slate-like rock were to me of the power and might of our awesome Creator God, who alone could bring such a diverse, magnificent world into being!

Later, I remembered and reflected on the words of Romans 1:20:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

So Lord, how can I not praise your name for your awesome power and majesty and endless creativity I saw at every turn? Open my eyes to see more and more of you in this amazing world you have created—and may I never take you for granted or forget you, my awesome God!

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Jo 12It was the second last day of our wonderful holiday in the South Island of New Zealand. We had arrived at the wharf in Picton for our ferry trip to Wellington, only to discover the ferry was cancelled. So … what to do during those extra hours until the afternoon ferry arrived? At that point, I admit I felt a little miffed that our plans for our afternoon in Wellington were foiled.

In the end, we visited a museum and enjoyed a delicious morning tea. Then I noticed a jewellery store I had not previously explored.

‘I’ll read my book in the car,’ my husband speedily volunteered. ‘But make sure you buy something for yourself!’

After wandering around the shop for ages, I chose an inexpensive pair of paua shell earrings.

‘This is all part of our Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations,’ I told the young girl serving me. ‘They’ll always remind me of our beautiful time here.’

‘You don’t look old enough to have a Golden Wedding anniversary!’ the store manager/owner who had joined us by then commented.

‘I’m seventy-one,’ I told her, all the while thinking what a good salesperson she was.

No!’ she responded, shocked. ‘Your skin’s so smooth. You look about fifty-eight to me! What’s your secret?’

I laughed and was about to give some flippant answer, but felt a clear check in my spirit. In that moment, I saw my opportunity to say something of much more lasting value instead.

‘Well,’ I began, ‘my husband has been a minister all our married life. Both of us have a firm faith in God and are connected closely with a church community—so I think when you are at peace inside you, then that makes a big difference overall.’

The older lady nodded, her eyes big.

‘But what have you yourself done in your life?’ she asked then.

I told her briefly about my various occupations, that I myself had trained for ministry in my late forties and also had become a writer in my late fifties. We talked then about how important it is to keep learning and growing in our lives, to which she strongly agreed.

‘And what books do you write? Do you have a card or something, so we can look you up?’ the younger girl burst out then.

I explained how my books have a lot of ‘faith content’, then fished in my bag and found two business cards, hoping and praying both women would indeed look me up and read what I write the books I do write. After chatting for a while longer, I eventually left, in awe of how God had managed to use this little window of time in my life when I was feeling quite miffed to share something at least with these women of the difference faith in our loving God can make in our lives. My words were no doubt inadequate, yet I was sure God could still use them in some way.

We have a wonderful ‘secret’ to share, don’t you think? So let’s endeavour, in all gentleness and grace, to do just that.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect … 1 Peter 3:15

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Jo 17I love the Psalms. Time and time again, I come back to them—particularly when I am busy. In my old Bible that I am reluctant to pension off because I know where everything is in it, there are many verses in the Psalms I have highlighted via a wiggly line drawn beside them. And many of these are now etched in my mind, so that they feel like old friends when I come across them again.

Yet I often still find surprises along the way. One morning recently, we needed leave home earlier than usual, in order to mind our grandchildren for the day. I rushed around, organising this and that, but then found myself with a few minutes spare before we actually had to walk out our door. So I decided I could read at least a few verses of the psalm I was up to and thus have it in my mind as we drove to our daughter’s house. I opened my Bible to Psalm 116—yes, I had read that yesterday. I turned the page and there before me was Psalm 117—all two verses of it!

Praise the Lord, all your nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

That was it! I was sure I had never seen this tiny psalm before, yet I must have. Despite its brevity, I decided it packed quite a punch. And it was just the right length for me to remember, as we hurried out to begin a day full of interesting activities with our two young grandchildren.

Later that evening, as I sat down to re-read my huge psalm of the day and ponder on it some more, I decided it pretty much sums up in a nutshell what our amazing God is like and how we are called to respond to him.

Great is his love toward us’—that to me surely gets straight to the heart of the gospel. In my own life, it was God’s love that first drew me to him as a fifteen-year-old. Even after all these years, I can still remember thinking, ‘Wow! God knows me! And God loves me!’ Then many years later in my life, I believe God gave me a glimpse of his amazing love for me all over again one New Year’s Eve. I saw in my mind a picture of someone whom I knew was Jesus holding me as a baby and looking down at me with the most incredible love shining from his face. He was speaking tenderly and saying over and over again, ‘Wow—Jo-Anne!’—and I knew I would remain loved and secure in his arms forever, just as this psalm goes on to say. Whatever happened in my life, the Lord would remain faithful.

And, after more than fifty-five years, that is still my testimony. God has rescued me so many times, picked me up and held me close until I was strong enough to stand again. So what can I do but praise the Lord from my heart, as The Message version of this psalm encourages us all to do?

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!

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