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Archive for October, 2021

It can be so easy at times, can’t it, to criticise others? I would never say anything so silly or so rude, I may decide, as I listen to someone talk nonsense. Or I may watch someone act in a certain way and think, I would never do that. Yes, I am adept at such thoughts. And my pride will often not allow me to realise I may be just the same.

I had my critic’s hat well and truly on recently as I read Jesus’ words about being the good shepherd who would lay down his life for his sheep and give them eternal life (John 10:1-30). This divided those present who then tried to stone Jesus.

Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:31-33

Then I noticed I had put two little exclamation marks in the margin beside these verses on some previous occasion. Yes, I thought, I must have found these verses staggering then, just as I do now. What a weird response from those Jews! How could they possibly not believe in Jesus, after seeing his miracles firsthand? They couldn’t deny them, but, somehow, they simply ignored them and pushed on with their charges against him. How crazy is that?

The next day, I came to the account of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and how many Jews put their faith in Jesus as a result (11:1-45).  Yes, surely this is to be expected, I thought. But then I read how some still did not believe and indeed went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done. And what did these Pharisees do then? They called a meeting—of course! And what a dilemma they had.

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him …” (47-48)

How ridiculous, I thought again. They could not deny Jesus’ miracles, yet they could not bring themselves to believe in him either. What a stupid and dangerous way to respond!

Then it was that I heard that gentle rebuke from God somewhere inside me. Would you have been any different, Jo-Anne? And … what about the miracles I perform each day in your own life that you miss entirely?

I sat back and reflected. Yes, there just outside my window were those trees gently swaying in the breeze and that beautiful, blue sky. Yes, this past week, we saw two of our grandchildren and marvelled at how much they had grown. Yes, this past while, God had enabled me to finish editing someone’s manuscript in time. Yes, there was this. Yes, there was that. So many miracles came to mind then—so many I had overlooked or taken for granted or explained away.

I may not have seen any resurrections or physical healings this past week—but I saw miracles, just the same. May I never miss them again. And may I always be so thankful to God for them.

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Recently, after waiting several months, I finally took delivery of a brand-new car. Now I thought my trusty, twenty-two-year-old Ford Fairmont was luxurious enough, but my mind has been boggled by all those amazingly clever features my Toyota Corolla has. I mean, how did I ever drive before without keyless ignition? And how did I ever get by without being able to lock and unlock the car even if my key is still in my handbag?

Sometimes I suspect my new car could be smarter than I am, especially when it refuses to lock if a window is down a fraction or when it winks at me from those little lights in my outside mirror, if a car is near my blind spot. Even during school holidays, whenever I drive near a school, a bell dings and that very polite lady hidden in my car somewhere says in a state of mild panic: ‘Caution! You are approaching a school zone!’ And when she later informs me I have now left the zone, I feel I have been given an early mark for good behaviour.

However, this lady completely floored me when I discovered she can read every speed sign around. I mean, I had barely erred a few kilometres over the fifty kph limit near where we live when her voice startled me almost out of my wits. ‘Please obey all traffic regulations!’ she boomed in a highly accusatory tone. It was as if she were saying, ‘What on earth do you think you’re doing, Jo-Anne? How dare you go over the speed limit! Stop it this instant!’

I was shocked and embarrassed. I do not normally speed and, if I did, it was probably because I was distracted by all the bells and whistles in my new car. However, not wishing to upset her again, I immediately slowed down and toed the line.

This experience helped me drive more safely, which is a good thing. But, as soon as I heard that lady’s urgent, reproving voice, it somehow reminded me of my old view of God. As a young person and even on into my adult years, I used to think of God as being much more of a judge than a friend.  Often, I would picture God as frowning at me and as disappointed in me, if I failed to reach those high standards I was required to meet. If I behaved, God would love me and be pleased with me, I thought. But otherwise…

Imagine my relief then when I experienced how gracious and loving and accepting God is! Gradually I saw too that I need to love God in return with all my heart and soul and others as well (Luke 10:27-28). And that involves living in a way that pleases God and brings God honour—which includes obeying the road rules! But I do not need to fear being told off by a harsh, disapproving, heavenly judge. Instead, I can step into each day at peace with God, rejoicing that Jesus has bridged the gap between us and ready to love and serve God and others as the Spirit leads.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood… to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Revelation 1:6

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It’s amazing how so much conversation, uplifting or otherwise, can fly around the world so quickly on the internet via such platforms as Facebook and Twitter, isn’t it? In a trice, someone can respond to a post with a pleasant or unpleasant comment—and a whole interesting ‘discussion’ can ensue. Just a few little words, yet they can quickly become a stream or river—or even a torrent.

Sometimes, an undignified and even vicious spat may erupt. Yet at other times, people are kind and courteous, wanting to build others up rather than tear down—and I am convinced God can use such online exchanges at times in ways we would never imagine. In fact, I think God might have even smiled at one I became involved in recently and enjoyed how it unfolded.

It began when our son shared the words of Proverbs 16:24 on Facebook from his home in Sydney, together with a graphic of honey dripping from a piece of honeycomb.

Kind words are like honey—
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

These words are well worth pondering, I thought—and that’s exactly what one of our daughters did. But then she had an honest question, which she shared on her brother’s post from her home on the other side of Sydney: How can kind words actually be healthy for our bodies?

Our son then responded online that he didn’t quite know, but hoped someone out there would. And as I thought about our daughter’s question, several ideas came to me. Kind words certainly make us feel good, just like that burst of sweetness we experience when we taste honey does. We seem to relax inside when we realise someone appreciates us, don’t we? And we feel connected to them too, heart to heart or soul to soul.

Then I vaguely remembered how honey was used in times past as a kind of antiseptic on an open wound. And didn’t some people drink hot honey and lemon juice for their health? After checking online, I soon discovered that a honey and lemon drink can apparently help our digestion, flush out toxins from the body and even stop us putting on weight! So … can kind words actually have a similar healthy effect?  

Delving further online, I read that, as we experience someone’s kindness, our bodies apparently produce the hormone oxytocin. This then stimulates production of nitric oxide which, in turn, dilates our arteries and reduces blood pressure. As well, this oxytocin can act as an anti-inflammatory in our cardiovascular system, thus protecting our whole bodies. Wow—amazing! Apparently then, there really is a scientific reason for those lovely, warm fuzzies we can feel throughout our bodies when we receive a kind word from someone.

From yet another part of Sydney then, I decided to share some brief comments about this on our son’s post, in an attempt to answer his sister’s question. Soon others followed with more comments, resulting in a flow of excellent and uplifting thoughts on the subject. From one little post online of a verse from Proverbs then, a whole group of people across Sydney and beyond were connected and built up in a unique way. Those kind words flowed on—and in the process, I suspect God’s heart was gladdened too.

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