Archive for May, 2023

I could not believe my eyes at first. We had driven across town to enjoy a special Mothers’ Day afternoon tea with our son and his family and had just been welcomed into their home with warm hugs. The light was quite dim in their lounge room so I did not immediately notice someone else sitting nearby. But when our daughter-in-law smiled and pointed to my left, I looked closer. No, it couldn’t be … surely it wasn’t our older daughter who has moved interstate, sitting there smiling?

My mind whirled. I stood there for several moments with my mouth wide open and my head swivelling like one of those sideshow clowns ready to swallow any balls people throw their way. Then our daughter stood up—and, the next moment, I was enveloped in a huge, warm hug. She had driven all the way from her home in Victoria by herself to catch up with both family and friends, a huge undertaking for her, given she has had her drivers’ licence for only a few months.

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. And I was still in that state the next day when our daughter drove from where she was staying to spend a couple of hours more with us before heading back south. But the strange thing was I had somehow sensed I might see her on Mothers’ Day, despite how unlikely it seemed. In fact, I had felt this so strongly that I decided to make a batch of gluten-free chocolate brownies on the Saturday prior to Mothers’ Day so I would have something in the house that she could eat. So … why was I so surprised when she actually turned up?

For a start, in the excitement of seeing our son and his family, I forgot for a moment my sense that our daughter might be there too. But also, I suspect I had doubted myself all along and wondered if that sense that she might come was mere wishful thinking. Yes, it had manifested itself in action when I made those gluten-free slices—yet, even as I baked them, I also found myself having one of those weird, negative internal conversations with myself about it all. What are you thinking? How could she come up to see you right now? She’d have to fly to get here—and find someone to look after her cats back home. And there’s no way she would drive such a long distance. Don’t be silly! Yet it happened. Part of me had known it would, but another part did not believe it was possible.

Since then, I have wondered whether this is how I sometimes act towards God. I love God wholeheartedly, have full faith in Jesus Christ and often experience the Spirit’s empowering presence in my life. God has rescued me many times, challenged me through Scripture and prompted me to speak or act in a certain way as the Spirit has led. But, despite all this, how often do I second-guess God and harbour such disbelief when I know I can fully trust instead?

May my half-believing days soon be over. May I, like Thomas, listen to Jesus’ challenge and actually trust him instead:

Then he said to Thomas, ‘… Stop doubting and believe.’ John 20:27b


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He was sitting by himself on the end of the very front row in the room where I was scheduled to speak. I had arrived early to ensure my power point presentation worked at the venue so was preoccupied at first. But then when I had to wait for a staff member to assist, this gentleman and I started to chat. I had already noticed how isolated he seemed to be—and soon I also noticed he was attached to an oxygen machine on his wheelchair.

I cannot remember how our conversation actually began, but it was not long before he told me, a complete stranger, that his wife of sixty-three years had passed away a few months earlier. Then his eyes quickly filled with tears.

‘However much we think we’re prepared for times like this,’ he whispered, ‘it is much, much worse. The pain is terrible. I’m just glad I didn’t go before she did—I wouldn’t have wanted her to experience such pain.’

By then, I was holding his hand. Still with tears in his eyes, he told me how his wife had battled cancer for sixteen years and we talked about how good it was that they had had those extra years together. My heart went out to him—what more could I say? We were in a secular setting and I knew nothing about him.

In the end, after asking him his name, I told him how my husband and I have been in church ministry for a long time and that I would pray for him. I was unsure how he would react but, in an instant, his face lit up with a lovely, grateful smile and he squeezed my hand. In any other setting, I would have prayed out loud for him but had to be content with a quick, silent prayer instead.

A little later, we chatted briefly again and, when he saw some slides in my presentation showing scenes from various ruins in Turkey, he told me he had been a tiler and potter. This gave me the opportunity to include him later as I spoke and he smiled and nodded when I did. Afterwards, I had no chance to catch up with him again. But I hoped he had enjoyed my presentation and that both it and the interaction we had had went some small way towards comforting him in his grief and obvious loneliness.

We do not have to look far, do we, to find lonely people around us? Some may also be carrying heavy burdens of grief like this man—a grief that needs to be shared and listened to with empathy. As this man has come to mind, I continue to pray for him, especially that he will have family and friends around him who understand and have time to listen. But, above all, I pray he will know God’s deep comfort in his own latter years and know too that he is never truly alone with God by his side, just as King David declared long ago. And may we each experience the truth of these words in our own lives too.

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NLT

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When out on our balcony recently, I happened to notice something strange on a long frond of my orchid plant. Thinking it was perhaps an insect, I gingerly picked up the pot to investigate, then almost dropped it—because that ‘something strange’ turned out to be actual orchid flowers. What an event in this household!

The reason for my surprise was that a friend bought me this particular orchid plant at least five years ago, maybe more. I had given up ever seeing any actual orchids on it but wanted to keep it anyway. And there it was now, with its beautiful little deep pink blooms proudly on display at the end of what looked to me like a very dead orchid frond.

Immediately, I connected this lovely image with a recent event in my own life. Earlier this year, I received a contract from Authentic Media in the UK for my third non-fiction book, Swansong: Start creating your legacy of life-giving words today. Since then, I have connected several times via email and Teams video with the lovely staff there who have all been so helpful. Recently, they mentioned they would contact some possible UK endorsers of the book to add to my list of Australian endorsers. In return, I commented that one of my endorsers also ministers in the UK so I would see if he could suggest any other possible UK endorsers too.

Now this man has been a friend since 1985—almost forty years. He has already helped me in significant ways in the past, including endorsing all three of my non-fiction books. I felt so reluctant to bother him with yet another request but sensed I should go ahead anyway and email him.

In a matter of moments, he responded. Yes, he told me, two names of friends who are well-known Christian leaders in the UK had come to mind and he would email them both on my behalf. Then, later that day, I received two further emails from him telling me both these men were happy to read and hopefully endorse my book and introducing me to each of them.

I speedily followed up these leads myself and sent off my manuscript to both gentlemen. Then I sat back and reflected in amazement at how, even after all these years, my Australian endorser friend was able to provide such strategic connections for me—and was still prepared to do so. We have seen each other only once face-to-face in the past ten years, from memory. Yet out of the blue, this man has helped me once again—and in such an amazing way. Just like those orchids seemed to appear out of nowhere after so many years, so God seemed to whip up this wonderful support out of nowhere too, courtesy of my friend.

Sometimes, we may feel something is never, ever going to happen. Sometimes we can lose heart—and lose sight of how amazing our God is. Instead, may we keep trusting and listening to our loving Lord who is always there, longing to bless and provide for us in wonderful ways.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.
 Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

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We have lived in Sydney for many years now, yet there are some parts of our city where I do not willingly choose to drive. One is definitely the airport area, especially the domestic terminal with its current nearby roadworks. I find it slightly overwhelming to be confronted with all those different signs showing me which lane I need to be in to get to that elusive express passenger pick-up area. And if I miss the relevant entry point, it can be tricky indeed, with all those one-way streets, to loop around and have another go.

There can also be one further complication to this whole challenge for me. These days, I find driving at night rather difficult, especially in an unfamiliar area. So you can imagine how I felt when I needed to drive to the airport in the dark recently, not once but twice, in a short space of time. No, I did not look forward to it one little bit.

My first effort went well in the end, however, which was encouraging—although that time, I had someone with me I needed to drop off, which helped. Two pairs of eyes are much better than one in such areas, I have discovered. But coming home, I almost missed the turnoff to the road that would take me around the airport area and back home rather than into the middle of the city. Phew! I am sure those prayers I prayed—out loud—were what saved me and that God enabled me to see where to go just in time.

Then, the day before I needed to return to the airport to pick up my passenger, I happened to come across the following verse in my morning Bible reading:

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NLT

God spoke these words to Joshua after the death of Moses when Joshua inherited the responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land at last. What a massive challenge indeed to take on! No wonder God had to repeat this command to be strong and courageous to Joshua (see 1:6). Yes, God’s words here are full of challenge, but it seems to me they convey such reassuring certainty and compassionate understanding too.

Now I am well aware that my little foray across town in the dark to the airport bears no comparison whatsoever to the massive task that lay ahead for Joshua. But the reassurance and compassion in these words God spoke to Joshua all those years ago was what I sensed for myself too as I realised how God wanted to reach out to me in my own moment of challenge. So I spoke those same words aloud in my study before leaving home—and several times too during my interesting journey!

The following morning, I had to drive some distance again to speak at a group and a place where I have never been before. As I did, those same words God spoke to Joshua reassured me that God was again with me and watching over me. What a privilege to know God is indeed with us wherever we go and well able to see us through whatever challenges we face!

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Not long ago, I met a man with significant health issues that make him appear much older than he actually is. He shuffles along slowly, using a walker. He cannot hold things well, often dropping his belongings. He constantly jerks his body from side to side. His eyes cannot seem to focus anywhere for long and he has trouble speaking clearly. As we chatted, he tried to communicate with my friend and me as best he could. And we tried our best to understand and connect with him in return. However, my friend is quite deaf, so it was doubly difficult for her to understand this man’s soft, slurred speech. In the end, it was up to me to listen as hard as I could, try to grasp the kernel of what this man wanted to say, then relay it all to my friend.

I felt so responsible in undertaking this task. I could tell my friend felt embarrassed that she could not understand everything so I tried hard to make the whole experience easier her. But I certainly did not want to short-change this man either as I relayed all he said because I could see how much his desire to engage with us mattered to him. He had important things to share with us about his abilities and career achievements and wanted to offer his services in these areas however he could to help out his new community. I could see he had—and has—so much still to give to others. Yet his health challenges make it all so difficult.

I honour this man for his courage in continuing to strive to reach out and do things. He is definitely not sitting around moping and feeling sorry for himself as far as I can tell. Yet he cannot now do all those wonderful things he used to love doing—or at least not to the same degree—and I am sure he knows that. So where does he fit now? How can we help him? Even though this man had difficulty looking directly at me as we chatted, I caught a glimpse in his eyes of his need to be taken seriously, to be listened to, to be respected for all he could offer—in other words, to matter to others.

This is such a key issue for us all, isn’t it? We want to know we have some sort of significance at least in this world, that our being here makes a difference to others in some way. Sometimes, we look in the wrong places for this—and, sometimes, as has happened with this man, we may be forced in some way to lay aside those things we have relied on for our significance. How important it is instead then to know we actually matter to God, that God is the one who gives us significance deep inside ourselves, whatever is happening to and around us. This is the truth that blew me away as a fifteen-year-old when I committed my life to God. And this is the truth that still sustains me today.

We matter to God—so much. May we all remember that.

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

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