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Posts Tagged ‘Bendigo’

Jo 12I never thought I would see the day—yet, there I was, sitting in a Latin class again! And somehow, despite the inordinate number of years since I had last conjugated a Latin verb, there was a distinct familiarity about it all.

Knowing I was coming to visit from interstate, my sister had asked her U3A (University of the Third Age) Latin teacher if I could attend his class with her—and what a blast from the past it was! I was warmly welcomed as some sort of ‘expert’, simply because I had studied Latin for four years at high school, majored in modern languages at university and also survived a year of Classical Greek there. As to how much I remembered … well, that’s another story!

The teacher began by gently helping everyone revise all they had learnt up to that point and soon I felt I was in some sort of wind tunnel, being sucked inexorably back over the years. As those beautiful Latin phrases tumbled so effortlessly from his lips, I was again seated in that old classroom in Brisbane on a stifling, summer day, listening to my own teacher explain some finer point of Latin grammar. A moment later, I could hear her dry voice guiding us through a portion of Livy’s account of Hannibal’s exploits in battle. Next, I am sure I heard her sigh with exasperation, as she attempted to help us scan various lines from Virgil’s Aeneid and appreciate the finer points of Latin poetry. We were all so young and restless—and so eager to get on with our lives and leave those school days behind.

I returned to the present with a jolt, realising as I did how different my current Latin class experience was—and what a different space I was now at in my life. This time around, our male teacher was a gracious, respectful, retired university lecturer who knew exactly how to explain things well and how to remind everyone gently about what they already knew, without making them feel stupid in any way. The class members were all mature-age, experienced, lifelong learners who so valued this opportunity to unravel the intricacies of Latin and put their minds to work yet again. I went along for the ride, enjoying it all. And I did so with a truly thankful heart, as I reflected on the amazing journey I have travelled with God during all those intervening years since that last school Latin class of mine.

I have taken several interesting twists and turns in my life, as I lurched from one career to another. Some roles I undertook I thought would be forever, yet that was not to be. Instead, as I look back, I can see how God taught me things through each one that I would desperately need in the next, all the while shaping me to become more of the person I was created to be. No doubt I made some wrong decisions along the way, yet God has watched over me and gently guided me through it all. My times have indeed been in God’s hands—and I am so grateful.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands … Psalm 31:14-15

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Right now, I can hear rain falling on our neighbour’s galvanised iron roof. It is steady and soaking, penetrating deep into the soil, as I discovered yesterday when pulling out the many weeds that had emerged during our recent time away. Yes, this rain will cause them to grow more—but it will also refresh the plants and shrubs, giving them a wonderful new lease on life.

This was not the case in my sister’s garden in Bendigo, however, when we visited her a fortnight ago. There, they were longing for rain. The ground was dry and parched, with even the small native plants and shrubs struggling to survive. Each time those clouds appeared in the sky, all bets were on as to whether they would provide that much needed refreshment for the land and that top-up for their tanks.

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Snowy Mts, Australia

On our way home, we decided to travel via the Alpine Way through Thredbo and Jindabyne. At one point, we saw something white and gleaming in the distance. Eventually, we discovered it was not snow we had glimpsed but huge water pipes, part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. As well as providing around ten per cent of all electricity needs for New South Wales, this scheme supplies vital water to the farming industries of both inland New South Wales and Victoria. What a huge undertaking, to harness all that water and power on such a massive scale! Yet how important this venture has been, not only in providing that much-needed energy but also in bringing refreshment and life to our land.

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Snowy Mts, Australia

Then in a spot not far away from these huge pipes, I discovered how those Snowy Mountain waterways can also provide another form of refreshment. As I stood on the banks of a beautiful, clear stream, listening as it tumbled and gurgled along over smooth stones, I could not help but relax inside and be so thankful for the beauty before me. God seemed so close, as if desiring to speak to me through it all. Then I remembered some favourite yet challenging verses from Psalm 42:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

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Nth-east Turkey

Over the years, whenever we sang a popular worship song based on that verse, I often felt I should stay silent. I would ask myself how much I honestly did pant and thirst for God, as the writers of this psalm did. Yet now when I put time aside to seek God, to listen to those streams of living water and to truly receive them in my spirit, how refreshing and life-giving it is!  And perhaps it is that longing to be close to God that draws me to those beautiful streams in our Snowy Mountains—and elsewhere too. During a visit to Turkey some years ago, I can well remember sitting with a friend by the mountain stream pictured here and placing our peaches we planned to eat for lunch in the water to cool them. Then we simply sat and prayed together, enjoying God’s presence and receiving deep refreshment to our souls.

May you too remember to sit beside that stream of God’s living water often and harness all the refreshment God longs to give you in your life.

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About a week ago, we returned from a trip to Victoria, just prior to all the flooding in the north-eastern part of the state. As we drove, we enjoyed the lush, green countryside but also noted the swollen rivers and creeks and the large amount of water lying beside the roads. The constant heavy rains have been a blessing to many, filling the dams and soaking the soil, but they have also now caused widespread destruction to homes, farms, roads and bridges in the area. Dorothea Mackellar was certainly right when she talked about both the beauty and the terror of our ‘wide, brown land’ in her well-known poem ‘My Country’.

Towards the end of our time away, an alarming event occurred in my nephew’s backyard in Bendigo, as a result of all the rain. One Saturday morning, the family woke to find their large rainwater tank tilted at a very awkward angle. Realising that if the tank split, then litres and litres of water would cascade through the neighbour’s property, not to mention their own, they called the SES and friends for assistance. As a result, all the water was pumped out and the empty tank moved to another spot. A steel fence was also placed around the now gaping hole beside where the tank had been, in order to keep out my nephew’s three little boys, plus a collection of their inquisitive young friends!

As I write this, it is still unclear exactly why the ground near the base of the tank became so unstable. Many properties in Bendigo are built over old goldmining shafts – was that the reason for the cave-in? After all, the resulting hole was about eight feet long – and no one could actually see how deep it was! Or was it just the relentless rain that had caused the disaster?

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear. The ground near the tank had given way. While the base built for the tank remained strong and firm, the same could not be said for the earth beside and beneath one edge.

Does this remind you of an illustration Jesus used on one occasion? In Matthew 7:24-25 we read:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Jesus goes on to contrast this with the house built on the sand, which eventually ‘fell with a great crash’.  I’m happy my nephew’s tank didn’t fall ‘with a great crash’ – but I feel so much happier about the fact that his life and that of his little family are on a very firm footing. While the ground around their tank may be in question, their own lives are built securely on the firm foundation that Jesus illustrates here – that of sincerely trying to take in his words and put them into practice, even in very challenging ways.

So how firm is your foundation? Is your life on slightly shaky ground? Let’s all be sure we listen well to Jesus and then live as he wants us to.

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