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Posts Tagged ‘backyard’

Next week, I plan to give away something I have hung onto for over thirty years and never used in all that time. It is a Fowler’s Vacola bottling or preserving outfit, complete with large, metal boiler, thermometer, clamps and around three dozen glass jars and lids. My sister is soon to move to a large, country town and hopes to make good use of it there.

I first began bottling when we moved to Victor Harbor, South Australia, thirty-seven years ago. To our delight, we discovered several fruit trees in the backyard of our new home – an apricot tree, a huge nectarine tree and two varieties of peach trees. When summer came, we were inundated with fruit, so I decided to buy a preserving outfit and ask one of the local ladies to show me how to bottle fruit.

It was a very satisfying endeavour. I learnt how to overlap the fruit in the bottles so it would look attractive, how to achieve just the right level of sweetness in the syrup and how to seal those bottles well. It was a lot of work, but it was so wonderful to have a supply of homemade preserves on hand, especially when unexpected visitors arrived. When we moved to Adelaide and then interstate, I thought I would buy fruit and keep on bottling, but it never eventuated. The fruit was too expensive and besides, I no longer had the time. So even though I loved the idea, I gave up on it.

And now as I pack up my old bottling outfit, I see something of a parable of the Christian life in it all. Many times, it seems we taste the sweetness of a close relationship with God and reap the benefits of this in our lives. But then things happen. Our lifestyle changes or we get too busy or Christians disappoint us or we think we know it all – and God is marginalised in our lives, even perhaps packed in a box, put on a high shelf and forgotten about.

But God doesn’t forget us. We might forget God – but God is different. ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’, the Lord says to Joshua in Joshua 1:5. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me’ David writes in Psalm 27:10. And God tells the children of Israel something similar in Isaiah 49:15:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

We can even try to fool ourselves and others and pretend our faith in God is still vital to us, but God sees through it all. Psalm 139:1-4 describes how the Lord knows us intimately – our thoughts, our actions, even the words we haven’t yet said. But God is so faithful to us – and so merciful.

My parable falls down, however, in that I am giving away my preserving outfit – yet I certainly don’t intend to give my faith in God away! I want to remain full of God’s sweetness and flavour until the end, just like that wonderful fruit I used to preserve. And I know God will keep me that way, as I continue to stay close to him and allow his Spirit to permeate my life.

So how about you? Have you put God up on the shelf in your life somewhere?

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I have some jewellery which I particularly love – a gold bracelet and ring I received as a farewell gift from the church where I was part of the ministry team for some time.  Yes, this jewellery is valuable in monetary terms, but its value lies much more in what it represents – all the love and thoughtfulness on the part of my friends, especially those who so carefully chose the gifts.

I rarely take my ring and bracelet off.  But one night recently, I realised the bracelet was no longer around my wrist. I looked everywhere in the house with no success. And then it dawned on me – I had spent some time pulling weeds in the backyard that afternoon. I had roughly pushed the large pile of rubbish I collected into an old garbage bin and carried it up the steps from our backyard to a spot near the house. Could my bracelet be among all those weeds in that bin?

It was dark and cold outside, so I resigned myself to leaving the search until the following morning and going to bed without knowing if my bracelet would ever be seen again. But my husband had other ideas. Acting on a ‘strong hunch’, he grabbed a torch and headed down our back steps, intent on seeing if the bracelet was lying on the ground somewhere. I tried to dissuade him – I thought it would be a completely fruitless exercise. But he was determined to set my mind at rest.

Within less than a minute, he had returned. I was still yelling out to him not to worry, that I would go through the garbage bin the next day.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to,” he told me calmly – and held out my gold bracelet to me.

Somehow in the dark, with a very weak torch and without even knowing exactly where I had been in yard, he had spotted it lying there on the grass.

At that point, I was forcibly reminded of the story Jesus told about the woman with the lost coin:

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

Even as I write this, I am looking down at my bracelet, rejoicing that it was indeed found. But Jesus tells us this is absolutely nothing compared with the joy in heaven when one of us is truly found by God. I know how much I love my bracelet and how sorry I would be to lose it – but that’s nothing at all to how much God loves and values us. God is that woman searching for her lost coin. God is that shepherd we read about in the same chapter of Luke, seeking out his lost sheep, just as he is also that loving father who welcomes his lost son home.

 God paid a huge price to buy us back. In love for us, God went to great lengths to find us. And as I look down at my gold bracelet and am reminded of this, I am truly grateful.

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