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Posts Tagged ‘Australian Christian author and speaker’

Jo 23Isn’t it wonderful when we meet people who seem to be so at peace with God, with themselves and with the world at large? I can think of a number of folk I have met over the years who could be described in this way. And the reason I have noticed them is, no doubt, that I have longed to be so much more like them.

I grew up with a very caring mum who always did more that she should have for me. She worked hard in every area of her life—but she also worked hard at worrying. I’m sure I often gave her plenty of scope to do just that—yet sometimes it seemed to me she worried about nothing. Sadly, her fears about what might happen robbed her of her enjoyment of many things, often bringing a worried frown to her face and uncertain questions to her lips.

When our children were growing up, one of their favourite ‘Mr Men’ books was Mr Worry. Poor Mr Worry worries about everyone and everything—until he meets a wizard who promises to make sure none of the things Mr Worry is worried about will ever happen. For a whole week, Mr Worry can’t think of a single thing to worry about. But then all that changes. And, on the last page of this little book, we discover that Mr Worry, after seeing the wizard again, goes home ‘to worry about not having anything to worry about!

Now I’d be interested to know how that wizard could ensure none of those things that worried Mr Worry so much would ever happen! It’s a nice thought—but hardly realistic, after all. How much more realistic, in contrast, are the Apostle Paul’s words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

This does not mean that those of us who pray and trust God with our future will never encounter difficulties. In John 17:33, we read Jesus’ words to his disciples not long before he is crucified:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This is what it’s about—peace in the midst of whatever is happening around us, knowing our God is with us and is bigger than anything the world can throw at us. Yes, at times God does rescue us out of difficult situations while, at other times, our path seems to lie through them instead. Yet we are not alone. God is with us, strengthening us and watching over us. ‘And the God of peace will be with you’, Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:9.

This is my prayer for myself for 2015—that, whatever happens with my writing and speaking, my family, my friends and the world at large, I will remain in that place of deep peace with God.

May you too find this place of deep, deep peace in God as you face the year ahead.

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As a young child, I loved it when relatives came to visit or when we visited them. These people belonged to us and we belonged to them. We didn’t choose one another—that was decided for us. And yes, as I grew up, I did discover that some relatives were perhaps less enjoyable to be with than others! Come to think of it, they probably thought much the same about me!

I was (and am) fortunate enough to have a great older sister, yet it felt good to have that extended family out there as well. I remember one cousin in particular who was happy to play with my sister and me whenever we visited their family or they us. Together, we would have wonderful, imaginative adventures and plan out special concerts which our longsuffering parents had to endure as we shared our talents with them!

But I am so thankful I belong to another special, extremely extended family. Recently, I took a friend with me to a group some distance from Sydney where I was to speak. This group was from a different church denomination and my friend knew none of the women there. Yet as we drove home, she commented:

‘It’s amazing, isn’t it, how even though I hadn’t met any of these women before, there was an instant connection. It makes a real difference when we are all part of God’s family.’

Since then, I have had cause to think about her statement further as I have spoken at several other venues, inside and outside our own denomination, as well as at one interdenominational group. At the meeting with this latter group, people came to chat to me who remembered me from past connections or who knew one of our children or some mutual friend. One lady, on reading my latest book Soul Friend, had discovered it was about my relationship with my spiritual mentor Joy, whom she had known many, many years ago in another Christian context. She was so delighted to meet me as a result. In this instance in particular, but also in the other connections made that day, I realised again how blessed I am to belong to the huge, multi-faceted family of God. We might have our different ways of worshipping or meeting together. We might even sadly disagree about various issues at times within our own local church family. Yet despite that, something very deep and lasting binds us together in a unique way. And that something—or rather Someone—is the very Spirit of God who lives in each one of us through our faith in Jesus Christ. We are brothers and sisters. We are family.

I love Paul’s heart for this family of God and for the passionate way he challenges us to care for one another and stay united. In Ephesians 4:3-6, we read:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

It is a precious thing to belong to God’s family. May we never take this lightly but do all we can to continue loving, caring for and building one another up as we are able and as God has gifted us to do.

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I quite enjoy driving long distances by myself. There is something special about being alone in my car in a kind of bubble with God, listening to music or praying aloud or just enjoying God’s presence. And what makes it even more special is the opportunity to gaze out at the beautiful countryside I am driving through, noting the often dramatic changes in the landscape and marvelling at God’s creativity on display all around me.

This past weekend, I found myself heading west from Sydney to the beautiful town of Orange. I have always loved driving up into the Blue Mountains. Yet again, I feasted my eyes on those vistas of tree-covered slopes, of valleys shrouded in blue haze and of old stone settlers’ cottages and holiday venues from a bygone era. But it was as I crested that mountain range and began to descend to the sloping plains beyond, stretching as far as the eye could see, that my mind was blown yet again with the vastness of it all. And as the road wended its way further west, across smaller ranges and down into rich farming valleys, God seemed to be all around me, in and outside that car, overwhelming me with his own vastness.

I am so thankful for that experience. I am in the midst of a very busy month of speaking—and at these times I can often forget the bigger picture and become overwhelmed with all that has to be attended to. I can even lose sight of why I am doing everything I’m doing, until things become more of a chore than a joy. But my journey over those mountains put a dramatic stop to that, ministering to my spirit in several ways.

Firstly, seeing God’s hand of creativity in such an undeniable way around me enabled me to pull back, focus on that bigger picture again and realise God is quite able to use my speaking and writing to encourage others. I am in the hands of a great, great God, after all.

Secondly, at my destination, I met with a body of women who love the Lord and endeavour to serve God where they are. Some face big challenges right now and others are on the brink of changes that will impact them greatly. And again I saw what a privilege I have to speak into others’ lives and encourage them in some way.

Thirdly, I glimpsed again the power of a written story. One lady had travelled some distance to hear me speak because two of my books had touched her so deeply. How could I ignore God’s encouragement via this dear person to hold fast to the vision I have been given and to believe my books can make a difference?

Yes, I journeyed over physical mountains this past weekend with God. But I suspect I surmounted some inner obstacles as well. People, we have a great God—a God who will help us climb those mountains in our lives and stand victorious till the end!

Who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:31-33

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