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Posts Tagged ‘Australian Open tennis’

Jo 23During the past week, I experienced what is a rare treat for me—a rejuvenating ‘ultimate facial’ in a quiet, restful beauty salon. For an hour and a half, I was surrounded by wonderful aromas and relaxing music as I enjoyed some very necessary skin revitalising, along with a gentle hand and foot massage, at the experienced hands of our beauty therapist daughter. But what made it even more enjoyable was the fact that this was a birthday gift from her, paid for and administered with love.

On another day, I made a much needed visit to a physiotherapist, in an attempt to fix some old injuries I suffered last year during a fall while out walking. There my body was treated with care once again, although this time with much firmer massaging that will hopefully bring more healing and strength to those parts of me that have been damaged.

In this same week, I also enjoyed several meals out with various friends and family members. One evening, we shared a pleasant dinner with a guest in our own home. Over all these meals, I enjoyed not only the food but also the good conversations that took place and, while my body might well not have needed so much food indulgence, my mind and spirit were enriched by these experiences.

In the midst of this, I found time to watch some tennis on TV and feel sorry for those players, toiling away so hard to win those matches, as I relaxed in the coolness of our lounge room. Yes, I also cooked and gardened and wrote a little and minded grandchildren—but I tried to take care of myself in the process and enjoy the moment, being thankful I can do all these things. I am not renowned in my family for caring overly well for myself but am slowly learning not to see it as self-indulgence but rather as good stewardship of the resources God has given me.

Yet there is something else I need to do, if I am to be ready to do the things God has for me to do. I need to put time aside to listen to God in a deliberate, focussed way. How easy it is to overlook our spiritual wellbeing as we care for ourselves in other ways! This in turn can affect our minds and emotions and even our bodies, I believe. We need to care for ourselves in a holistic manner—otherwise we may end up unable to function as God created us to function.

So this week, I am taking part in a three day spiritual retreat where I hope to hear inspiring input, be creative, have good conversation with others, yet also find time to be alone with God. I want God’s Spirit to renew me and to resource me deep down for the year ahead, so that out of that overflow within me, God can refresh others.

How are you at caring for every part of you? Are you, like me, learning to do this better?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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One would think I might have had enough of watching sport on TV in recent days. It began with the Ashes cricket tour, followed by the one day matches, with the twenty-twenty ‘Big Bashes’ mixed in as well. The Australian Open tennis complicated things, forcing me to choose between channels at times. But then, just when it all seemed to be over, along comes the Winter Olympics! Yes, I think to myself, I still have the excuse of recovering from a recent back operation. I can watch some parts of it at least. Should be fun, right?

I gasp, as I see athletes squeezing themselves into tiny capsules before hurtling down an icy course to what seems like certain disaster. I watch horrified, as young men and women balance their snowboard on the knife edge of a huge pipe, then plummet down, only to bob up on the other side to perform amazing tricks. I hold my breath, as skiers try to outdo one another via sliding down a metal bar before skiing backwards into one impossible jump after another. I cringe as other skiers fling themselves down a mountain at breakneck speed or alternately hurtle into the air before hopefully landing upright again.

But my biggest heart-in-mouth experience occurs when those figure skaters take to the ice. They all look stunning. They all appear confident. But then I watch as they attempt a triple this or a quadruple that, spinning high and fast in the air. I gasp as some stumble and crash hard on the ice or manage somehow to steady themselves and I will them to keep going. Yet even if their performance looks excellent to me, the commentators almost always seem to find some fault with it. They did only three twists instead of four, I hear them say. They did not complete a particular element. They did not move their feet cleanly. They over-rotated. Their routine was too simple. Their routine was too complex and frenetic. They did not take the music into account or connect with the audience. Even if the skaters don’t stumble and fall, every little mistake is picked up by those judges and commentators. But to me, they have all given their absolute best. They have shown us the results of months and years of hard work, commitment and training.

As I watch, one overriding thought comes to me. I’m so glad I don’t have to perform like that for God. I’m so glad God doesn’t have some complex marking system where he deducts points for this mistake and for that. I’m so glad God doesn’t exclude me from going further in the competition because of this fall or that. I’m so glad life isn’t a competition at all, where God is concerned. I’m so glad, when I fail, that God picks me up, forgives me and strengthens me to do better. I’m so glad, in the end, because of Jesus, it’s all about grace.

Aren’t you?

Because of his great love, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ … it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ … in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus Eph 2:4-7

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I had it all worked out. We would spend a nice, quiet time at home in December and January, with occasional visits from relatives and friends. I would finally get some more writing done, after speaking so much this past year. And, of course, I would make time somehow to watch the cricket on TV. And the tennis. What bliss! I could even start some knitting, in preparation for our new grandchild. That would mean I wasn’t really wasting my time, watching all that sport!

Alas—it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, I am writing this lying awkwardly on my side in bed, my laptop balanced on a nearby chair. I have severe lower back trouble, with resulting bad sciatica in my left leg, which makes walking and even sitting difficult. Of course, I can still watch that cricket and tennis. But it’s hard to write at any length, typing sideways. Besides, the medication I’m on means I have difficulty finding my brain at times. And has anyone tried knitting, while lying flat on one’s back?

This whole experience has served to remind me well of James 4:13-14:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Needless to say, my natural reaction to all this has been to feel very frustrated. I have so much I want to write. I was sure God wanted me to complete my next non-fiction book by June. Besides, I need to be setting up speaking engagements for the coming year and planning out those months ahead. Yet here I am, doing none of it. I have found it easy to slip into feeling sorry for myself, as I lie here in the one position that is reasonably comfortable, heat pack on my back and wondering what will happen at my next visit to the specialist.

Then I received a little card in the mail, out of the blue, from a lady at our church. Apparently, she had heard about my back troubles from my husband and wanted to let me know she is praying for me. A lovely thing, for sure. But it was the words on the front of the card from Lamentations 3:22-23 that struck me most:

The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning.

Hmm. If that‘s true, I thought—and it is—then the Lord is still loving and merciful to me right here in the midst of this change of plan and this pain. Surely a good reason to focus on him rather than feel sorry for myself.

That same day, an email arrived unexpectedly from a writer colleague who did not know about my back troubles. To encourage me for the year ahead, she quoted Lamentations 2:22-23 from the NIV:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think the Lord’s trying to remind me of something, don’t you?  Even that is a loving act—and i am comforted.

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