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Posts Tagged ‘1 Samuel 16:7’

Jo 12Isn’t it strange how we sometimes gain a perception of a role or occupation in society, then refuse to budge from there? Take ministers of religion, for instance. Over fifty years ago, when I introduced my husband, then training for ministry, to an aunt of mine, she burst out with the following comment: ‘Oh, so you are nice, after all!’ Did she expect him to look a particular way or be boring or not smile and joke, because he was at theological college? Hmm.

But only two weeks ago, I had a similar experience. I had just spoken at a particular club about my author journey and was standing at my book table, when two ladies came to chat.

‘I love your beautiful jumper,’ one of them said. ‘Where did you get it? It looks very jazzy indeed!’

‘Actually, it’s an op shop buy passed onto me by my sister!’ I told her.

But it was what the other lady said next that left me speechless.

‘Yes—and you don’t look anything at all like a minister’s wife!’

I was sorely tempted to ask her what she thought a minister’s wife looked like! However, I refrained, thinking I might embarrass her. Instead, I laughed and left it at that, yet her comment made me feel sad too. What had she meant? Did she think ministers’ wives always looked dowdy or old-fashioned or stern or colourless or such like? If so, where had she gained her perception of these poor, sad women? Of course, in old movies and even now on TV, ministers are often portrayed as weak and old-fashioned and prosy (think some Mr Bean-type character!). But what of their wives? I felt quite indignant when I thought about the many ministers’ wives I know (not to mention women ministers themselves!) who are always neatly and attractively dressed, have wonderful personalities and are interesting and able women all round.

I know God does not judge us by how we look, as Samuel tells us, and I am so thankful for that:

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

But because I also know how I myself often judge others by their outward appearance, just like those two women had, I always try to look as good as I can, particularly when speaking somewhere. To help with that, I frequent a great second-hand clothing shop that also sells brand new ‘ends of lines’, with labels still attached! I want my money to stretch as far as it can but, much more importantly, I want to honour God even through the way I look. I do not want my appearance to be a stumbling-block for my audience or anyone I will chat to on the day who does not as yet know God—I do not want them to judge God in any negative way because of how I present myself.

I’m so thankful for my lovely, ‘third-hand’, black and gold jumper that apparently helped smash those ladies’ image of what ministers’ wives look like! But more than that, I hope and pray it might have helped them begin to see God in a more attractive light too.

Sometimes appearances do matter, don’t you think?

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Jo 17‘They look so joyful!’ I commented rather cynically, while watching some people singing a hymn on TV about, of all things, the joy of the Lord, all the while with decidedly doleful expressions. Yet, even as I opened my mouth, I felt judgemental. Perhaps they were tired. Perhaps this was the tenth time they had sung this same hymn. Perhaps they had to get it perfect for this particular TV program. And perhaps they did mean what they were singing, but simply didn’t convey that in their faces.

‘They look so joyful!’ I commented again, as I watched various well-known singers, actors and TV personalities perform Christmas carols at the Sydney Carols in the Domain on TV.  And yes, most did indeed look joyful, smiling and with eyes glowing, as they sang with great gusto.

‘But do they really believe it?’ a certain even more sceptical member of our family asked.

‘Well … they might,’ I replied, remembering how some of the performers at least had publicly declared their faith in God in past times. ‘We don’t really know, do we? As for those people in the audience, they must love singing carols, if they’ve bothered to turn up—and they might truly love God too.’

‘If you go by the statistics though,’ was the response, ‘chances are only a small portion do have any real faith in God.’

I had to admit that probably was the truth. Yet, whether all those people believed what they were singing or not, I reflected, at least these carols that honour the coming of Jesus were being sung in our city and broadcast far and wide.

The next day, when I sat down to read my Bible, I found I was up to 1 Samuel 16, the account of how Samuel seeks to decide which of Jesse’s sons the Lord wants as the next king of Israel. As soon as Samuel sees Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, he thinks he must surely be the one God had chosen. Yet in verse 7, we read:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Hmm. Don’t judge by appearances. What a timely reminder! Yes, our cynical comments might have been true—but then again, they might not have!

We can often see how people are feeling by looking at their faces. We may notice, for example, whether someone is happy or frustrated or angry or sad or discouraged or embarrassed. And it’s important to be observant of others and try to discern where they are at. But sometimes we can jump to the wrong conclusion. Sometimes we can assume so much, merely by those outward appearances. Sometimes we can judge so easily—without knowing all the facts.

It’s true only God can know what is really going in someone’s life and heart. The Lord looks way beyond the outer surface, to the very core of a person. But I’d like to think I could become more like him in this regard in 2017 and look beyond those outward appearances more often. Perhaps then, the world would be a more grace-filled place, don’t you think?

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Without a doubt, I have some interesting experiences in this writing and speaking journey of mine. And radio interviews, particularly those conducted by phone, would have to be high on that list.

Recently, the publicist at my publisher organised one such interview with Ian Andersen from 92.9 Voice FM Toowoomba. Now I quite enjoy doing interviews like these, but they always feel a little surreal. After all, how bizarre is it that I can sit at my desk here in Sydney, chatting on the phone with someone I have never met, knowing everything I say is being recorded for any number of people I will probably never meet either to hear?

Just prior to this, I was speaking with an author friend on the phone and telling her about my interview.

‘Oh, well, just make sure you look your best,’ she said in a perfectly normal voice.

I was silent for a moment. What could she mean? Surely she’d heard me say it was a phone interview?

‘You know—like Hyacinth Bucket did!’ she continued a moment later.

I was still mystified, so she went on to explain how this particular character from the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances would make sure she looked as perfect as possible before ever answering the phone. Later I Googled some images of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Bouquet’)—and there she was in all her glory, complete with make-up and jewellery, answering the phone in her best hat, which matched perfectly with the rest of her outfit!

I loved my friend’s quick sense of humour, while at the same time feeling a little embarrassed at my ignorance of Hyacinth Bucket. But more embarrassment was to come. Not long after, as I sat waiting at my desk for that phone call, I found myself straightening my clothes and tidying my hair. After all, I didn’t know this interviewer and I didn’t want to look too much like the epitome of an author working at home in her disreputable old track pants and top, with messy hair and no make-up! Then I woke up to what I was doing and laughed out loud at myself. Not even my husband was home to see me—and my phone interviewer certainly wouldn’t. Even if he could, would it really make any difference to the quality of our conversation? He probably wouldn’t notice anyway—or care—what I looked like.

As I sat there, I reflected how wonderful it is when family and friends don’t care how we look and accept us as we are. Yes, it’s pleasant to be complimented on our appearance, but it’s good to know too we are loved just as we are. Yet it’s even better, as far as I’m concerned, to know God loves me just as I am, despite the fact that he can see right into my heart and soul to the real me.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7

God loves me, warts and all, with all my funny ways. Yes, God wants me to become more like Jesus, but in the process, I am still accepted and loved where I am right now. And I’m so glad of that.

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There is nothing quite like finding people out there who think the same as you, is there? I experienced this a few days ago when a group of Christian authors got together in Sydney. Previously, most of us had met only online—but now we were able to share face to face and hear about each other’s writing journey.

What impressed me most was each person’s desire to honour God through her writing. We were a mixed lot in many ways. Some of us were novelists of varying descriptions, one wrote children’s books, one wrote non-fiction and another, poetry. Some were published and some not. And some had been writing for many years, while others were just beginning. But we were all determined to keep God first in our writing journey.

I was impressed. Here were six other women prepared to spend long hours alone, working hard to create and refine thousands of words, crafting them into a shape people will hopefully read. They have no guarantee of this and they have no guarantee any publisher will ever offer them a contract. But God has put a dream in their hearts—and they are determined to fulfil that dream.

God can also see their hearts—and mine. God doesn’t need those words printed on paper and bound into a book to read what is deep in our spirits. God can see my motivation as I sit writing and I believe is cheering me and my friends on, as we persevere. And that’s true for each one of you, whether you are an author or not. You may slave away patiently for hours at something quite different, believing you are doing exactly what you have been called to do. God sees that—and God knows.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, Samuel says the following to David’s father, Jesse:

Man looks at the outwards appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

So while others might not think we are doing anything significant, God sees. While we might not have that book released yet that is the tangible representation of those hours spent pouring words onto a page, God knows every single one of them anyway.

For those of us who do end up being published, we may well receive words of praise from readers. And for some, there may even be accolades or awards from those with the expertise to judge our books against others. Yet God’s heart is to reward us for our efforts anyway, even if—and especially if—no one else sees how we have put our heart and soul into it all. In Matthew 6, we read about those who loved to let the world know how pious they were and made sure people were watching when they gave money or prayed or fasted. Of course, I don’t mean that those of us who have had books published or won awards are showing off! But this is what Jesus says about those who care much more for the praise of men than the praise of God:

… I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (v 2,5,16)

your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (v 4,18)

So be encouraged, all of you, writers or otherwise, who may feel you are labouring away, with no one noticing your efforts. God sees your heart. God knows. And one day, you will hear those most wonderful words of all spoken with such joy, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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I have been thinking a lot about faces recently for several reasons. Firstly, my fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, is due for release in about a week – and featured on the front is the face of one of the main characters in the novel. This was something I vowed and declared I would never agree to with any of my novels. I like my readers to imagine their own heroes and heroines. After all, many of us have no doubt been disappointed in how the main characters in our favourite books are depicted when seeing the movie adaptation of the stories.

Yet on this occasion, the particular image chosen by the graphic artist seems to convey something of the conflicting emotions my character, Doctor Susan Curtis, experiences in the novel. There is a kind of pensive, wistful air about her that appeals to me – and I hope to my readers as well. (For more information, please visit my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com).

My second reason for my focus on faces is that this past week, a rare event occurred for me. I was treated to a blissful facial at the salon where our daughter works! Such things usually come my way only by virtue of a birthday or Christmas present – but I do enjoy them. I experienced the tender, loving care our daughter took of my skin and other facial features – and I must admit I was ashamed of how little I do in this regard. After all, I am made in the image of God, as Genesis 1:27 tells me, so I need to do what I can to honour God through my appearance as well as through my life and the words I say.

But my third reason for thinking of faces – and the reason for the above facial – is that our lovely beauty therapist daughter, Tina, celebrated her wedding last Saturday evening. She was married overseas in February but this was the first opportunity she and her husband, Kofi, have had to celebrate with friends here. Someone commented recently that Tina and Kofi are a ‘shining couple’ – and they did both looked radiant on the night. Their faces clearly displayed their happiness at being together and their joy that they could celebrate with friends and family.

So these events caused me to wonder just how much my joy at being a child of God and the peace and happiness I have as a result truly show on my own face. I know outward appearances aren’t everything. They don’t seem to matter much to God, who, as 1 Samuel 16:7 says, prefers to look at our heart instead. And of course all of us go through difficult periods when it’s hard to look particularly joyful. But if my face is completely miserable most of the time, or has a hard, critical expression, surely that doesn’t convey a very positive picture of God to the world at large?

Some of us have more interesting and attractive features than others – and there’s little we can do about that. But I hope I do my best with what I have to shine forth God’s love and grace to those around me. I hope in some small measure that I mirror the face of God to them, so that no stumbling block is put in their way and that they will long to seek his face themselves with all their hearts (Psalm 27:8; 105:4).

How about you?

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What did we do before the advent of email, Facebook, skype, blogs, and all the ways of linking us to others via the internet? Yes, we phoned, sent cards and letters – even telegrammed at times. But that was way back. Now – well, let me tell you a story about some conversations in a purple dressing-gown!

I have a good friend who lives in Turkey, with whom I communicate often via email but also by skype. At first she would skype me on our normal home phone, but then, after I also installed the program, we graduated to speaking via a small handset attached to my computer plus a webcam which didn’t seem to work, so I gave up on it. Finally, however, with the advent of my new laptop, I now simply sit at my computer talking to her – all the necessary ‘bits and pieces’ are built-in. Now, with one click of the mouse, I can even choose between a normal skype call and a video one, enabling my friend to see the top half of my body at least as I chat away.

The first few times we talked via video skype, I joked about what I was wearing. It was always the same – my warm, fluffy, purple dressing-gown! My friend tends to skype me later in the evening, by which time I am often comfortably ensconced at my computer, writing a few more precious lines of my latest novel before heading to bed. One time when I apologised for how I was dressed, my friend commented that it didn’t matter one bit to her. After all, we know each other well and have travelled around Turkey together several times, sharing a room in all sorts of B and Bs, ancient and modern!

But her response made me think. Whenever she skypes me, I want to ‘look nice’ on that screen. Almost unconsciously, I tidy my hair and straighten the collar of my purple dressing-gown – and yet, she doesn’t care! All she wants to do is connect with me and feel she is being heard and getting some response in return.

And that, I realised, is how God is with me too. God actually doesn’t care what I look like – in fact, God can see me any time at all, whether I am dressed carefully in my best or lounging around in my old jeans, jumper and ugg boots – even in a purple dressing-gown!  So why put on a ‘front’ for God? It doesn’t change anything – except perhaps make our communication just that bit more difficult.

In 1 Samuel, we read how God sent Samuel to find Jesse and anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. At first, Samuel went by outward appearance, as Jesse’s first son came before him. Surely, he thought, this was the one God had chosen – but no. In 1 Sam 16:7, God says:

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Lord looks at the heart. God sees right inside me, past all the pretence, past all the self-justification, past all the outward trappings. God knows. God understands.

And as I sit snuggled up yet again in my purple dressing-gown, I’m so glad of that.

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