Posts Tagged ‘amazing love’

Jo 17Recently, I did something I have never done before. Each day for one whole week, I deliberately chose to do some special activity I have wanted to do for some time but always had a reason not to. On top of that, I did not cook dinner any night that week. Instead, we ate out or bought takeaway. You see, the whole thing was a unique birthday present for me—and what fun it all was!

Originally, my husband had wanted me to enjoy a few days away somewhere by myself—to relax, recharge and spend time with God. I thought about this lovely idea and even looked up various venues online but did not feel settled about any of them. Then one night, it came to me. I did not want to go away anywhere. Instead, I wanted to enjoy different, interesting experiences within reach of our own beautiful unit, then come home and not have to cook dinner! A win-win situation, don’t you think?

In the end, we called this wondrous week ‘The Festival of Jo-Anne’ (!)—and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I went shopping, twice over. I went to the movies. I had coffee out. I had a massage. I read. And in between, I had time simply to sit and be and reconnect with God. Yes, it was all very good indeed.

But one reason I enjoyed it even more was that, two weeks earlier, I had finally finished the first draft of my latest novel that had languished on my laptop for over three years, waiting patiently for me to unfold the rest of the story. This special week of mine then was also for me a time when I came up for air, so to speak, when I allowed my poor brain to rest, when I graced myself a little more than usual—and when I sensed God’s love and grace being showered on me from every angle. It was a lovely, hiatus period—a time to gain clearer perspective, not only on my novel, before I plunged into all that necessary editing, but on my life in general.

At one stage in writing this particular novel, I wondered if I should keep going. Should I be content with the eight books of mine that have already been published? Was that where God wanted me to stop? But one day, I sensed God saying gently to me, ‘Jo-Anne, whether you write this book or don’t write it, remember I’ll be just as delighted with you either way!’ What gracious, loving, freeing words to hear! I did not need to feel pressured to produce in any way. Instead, I had permission to write the sort of novel I have wanted to write for some time and to leave the outcome in God’s hands.

Yet I think God was saying more than that too. I think God wanted to remind me that, all the time, whether celebrating the Festival of Jo-Anne or writing or speaking or whatever, I can rest fully in this amazing love of God that accepts me, no matter what.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7 New Living Translation

Maybe you too need to hear this reminder right now?

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Jo 17I wonder if you like the sound of your name. Perhaps it depends on who is saying it or the context in which it is being said! If it’s someone such as a cross schoolteacher singling you out for some misdemeanour, as I well remember happening to me, your name might grate on you a little. But if it’s a good friend greeting you after not seeing or hearing from you for some time, then that might be a different matter.

I look forward to hearing my name spoken whenever I call a dear older friend. ‘Hello, Jo-Anne—how lovely to hear your voice! How are you?’ she always says, with such unfeigned joy and delight that my heart feels as if it is melting. And I remember how, many years ago, a young minister at our church went to the trouble of asking me whether I preferred to be called ‘Jo’ or ‘Jo-Anne’. Now I don’t really mind being called ‘Jo’—after all, that is what my husband and almost everyone else has called me for years! But I told him I preferred ‘Jo-Anne’, because it seems just that bit softer and more feminine to me. From then on, he tried hard to remember to call me that. And when he did, I was touched and felt respected.

I thought of this again recently when I read the story of the resurrection in John 20. As I often try to do, I imagined myself right in the middle of that scene at the tomb when Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus is no longer there. She is devastated because she believes someone has taken his body and, in her distress, does not immediately recognise Jesus when he speaks to her. But what a moment that must have been when she hears him say that one word that must have said so much to her—Mary (20:16)! Can you imagine it?

I wonder what tone of voice Jesus used when he said her name. Was it soft and tender? Was it loud and commanding, concerned to make her realise who he actually was? Did it convey joy and delight that she had come, wanting to attend to his body? Did it show something of his pride in her that she was faithful to the end? Perhaps it conveyed trust as well, because as soon as Mary realises who he is, Jesus goes on to give her a message for the other disciples:

Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17

One thing I know for sure. Jesus spoke Mary’s name with amazing love. And today, two thousand years later, Jesus continues to speak our names with that same love, calling us back into relationship with our heavenly Father and into his own family, the family of God. How privileged we are that he knows our names and that we too can hear our Shepherd’s voice, speaking to us by his Spirit, guiding and strengthening us day by day!

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28

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I think I have mentioned once or twice before that we have a cute little grandson! On various occasions when I have been minding him, he has been quite happy with me—until he sees his mother or father arrive. Then a sudden transformation seems to occur. A delighted grin spreads across his face, his eyes sparkle and he quickly heads for whichever parent it is as fast as his little legs will go. He then proceeds to sit in his mother’s or father’s arms with an extremely satisfied look, as if well pleased with himself and the world at large.

Perhaps you have grandchildren of your own who behave the same way. Or perhaps, like me, you have been to the airport to meet someone you haven’t seen for some time. At last they emerge from the customs area. Their faces light up and they quickly move towards you, eager for that hug and to hear that ‘Welcome home!’ I love watching the faces of others at the airport, too, as they wait to greet family members and friends. Even though they are strangers to me, it is a delight to see their faces light up with joy when their loved one appears.

I love to think of God’s face lighting up like that for me whenever I seek to spend time reading my Bible or just being quiet in God’s presence. I know God is everywhere and always sees us, but when I consciously make time to do this, I believe God welcomes me with joy and delight. After all, God loves me and I love God—so why wouldn’t both of us to rejoice?

This week, I came across another of my favourite verses from Psalms. Psalm 44 begins with the psalmist declaring how they heard from their forefathers what God has done for them in the past, driving out the nations before them. Then in verse 3, we read:

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.

How much the light of God’s face must have meant to the children of Israel as it shone upon them in love all those years ago! And how privileged we are to know that same love of God in our own lives today through Jesus Christ! On occasions in the media, we hear some comment such as ‘the gods must be smiling on us’, when the weather is good or some event has gone well or some fortunate thing has occurred. But we can each know the one true God, whose face is always turned towards us in love and whose light shines upon us continually because of Jesus Christ.

I remember when I first came to understand this amazing love of God and how the face of the speaker I was listening to at the time truly shone with the light and love and joy of the Lord. It was like a special switch had been turned on inside him—and I wanted that, too. So this year, may the light and love of the Lord shine through my face and yours, as we reach out to a needy world. May we be fully switched on inside by God’s love, ready to shine that light through everything we do!

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There’s something magical about the excitement in a child’s face as he or she anticipates an upcoming birthday, isn’t there?  Recently our granddaughter turned seven – an event for which she had been counting down the days for some time.  She has various close relatives on both sides of the family – what could they possibly come up with this time for her birthday?

Well, one doting grandfather is of quite an original turn of mind and decided he would create something unique.  He spent literally hours and hours at his computer, figuring out how to use his reasonably new software to fashion a DVD out of some very brief movie snippets he had filmed with his own camera over the last couple of years.  He worked patiently, cutting sections out and ‘splicing’ others together until it all flowed smoothly.  And as an introduction, he managed to find a birthday song online where our granddaughter’s name could even be inserted at various spots.  Can you imagine her face when it came time for her to see her own personal DVD?  Absolute delight, shock, surprise, wonder, excitement – they were all there, written large on her face.  The gift was a definite ‘hit’, even though our granddaughter would have no idea of the hours her grandfather had spent in creating it.  He had enjoyed himself in the process, however, and learnt a lot along the way.  And the cost moneywise was virtually nothing.

Then one of her aunties spent considerable time checking out the trendiest children’s clothing stores for just the right kind of ‘with it’ pyjamas for her niece.  A trip to various jewellery stores followed, as she searched for purple earrings for a little girl with newly pierced ears.  She revelled in it all, despite time (and financial) constraints, and she was happy with her purchases – but she felt something was missing.  Then one day, she spied an extra gift in a ‘two dollar’ shop she couldn’t resist. It was a pretty little ‘secret’ diary, with a padlock and key, so only her niece would be able to look at the contents – and all for two dollars!  And you guessed it.  On the night when she opened all her gifts, apart from Granddad’s DVD, the ‘secret diary’ won hands down over the much more expensive earrings, pyjamas, books, craft kits etc.

So what is it that I take away from our seventh birthday experiences?  Some lovely memories of the joy of the moment, of course.  But also the realisation that it’s not always the expensive presents that mean the most.  It’s the ones where, whatever the financial cost, the giver has truly engaged in the process, reaching out in real love to someone else, desiring the best for him or her.

And that to me is surely a reflection of God’s love for us, don’t you agree?  God is always reaching out with the most amazing love, wanting to give good gifts to his children.  God engaged in the process long before we were even born.  God desires the best for each one of us and understands what we need better even than we do ourselves.  So let’s all, just like a little seven-year-old child, open our hearts and hands to him and receive with thankfulness the best gift of all – God’s own ‘indescribable gift’ of grace (2 Cor 9:15)!

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