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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic priest’

Jo 12I hope I never cease to be moved by the amazing life stories I hear at times from the most unexpected people. One such story inspired me to write my first novel around sixteen years ago—and parts of others too have found their way into my novels since then. Yet it is often these very parts that people think I have made up myself. Surely that couldn’t happen, one sceptical reader told me once to my face!

But truth can indeed be stranger than fiction, as I discovered again last Sunday when I met a lovely man from South America at a church where I was speaking. After a while, I asked him how he had come to know or hear about God. His face lit up—and, with great excitement, he launched into his story. From what I remember of it all, his uncle belonged to the army back home and was involved in one of the ongoing wars with a neighbouring country. Eventually, the uncle’s troops won their battle with the enemy soldiers, so they entered their town to raid it and take whatever they could find for themselves. But by the time the uncle got there, the only thing left was an old book.

‘What use is that to me?’ he thought in disgust. ‘Oh well, I have some time now—I might as well read it.’

It turned out to be a bible. And as he read, he began to wonder if it was all true, so he showed it to a Catholic priest in his own town.

‘Oh, you shouldn’t be reading this,’ he was told. ‘We’re the only ones allowed to do that. Give it to me!’

But this soldier refused to and eventually found another Christian pastor, who explained to him what this book he had found was about and helped him understand it. As a result, this man then became a believer.

Yet that was not the end of the story. Eventually, this soldier told his sister about the book and about Jesus Christ—and she believed in him too. Then in time, this lady told her son—and he also believed. … And this son was the man I met right here in Sydney last Sunday. Now this man constantly tells his own children in no uncertain terms about God’s precious book, the bible—the word of God that is true and powerful and active.

This man’s uncle did not know, when he first picked up his bible, that it is indeed a much stronger weapon than any gun or grenade or knife he had been issued with—or doubled-edged sword, for that matter!

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Yet God spoke deep into his spirit through the book he found, despite his ignorance. And thankfully, this uncle had an open, seeker’s heart that reached out to God and was so responsive, as God’s Spirit drew him close.

What a story—and what a challenge! May my own heart be equally open to God—and may I always value my own ‘old book’ as much as this man did.

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Jo 17I had driven into Camperdown to visit our older daughter who was in the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, recovering from an operation. I had never been to this hospital before—I am much more familiar with the beautiful, old Royal Prince Alfred hospital, across the road and down a little way. So what would the Lifehouse be like, I wondered. How would it compare?

I love the Victorian architecture of RPA, particularly that grand entrance foyer, with its tiled floor and stained glass windows. But what a contrast this much newer hospital was! In only a few seconds, the super-quick, glass-sided lift whisked me directly from the underground car park up to the eighth floor. As I sped upwards, I noticed the modern decor everywhere and how shiny and light-filled each floor was.

Once on the right level, a cheerful nurse guided me to our daughter’s room—and there she was, smiling at me, despite the big operation she had just undergone. We chatted for a while, but I soon noticed her eyelids drooping.

‘Why don’t I go down to the cafe in the foyer while you rest?’ I suggested.

‘Okay,’ she responded. ‘There’s a piano down there you might like to play.’

A piano? Why would there be a piano in the foyer of a hospital? Perhaps the painkillers were playing with her mind, I decided. I tiptoed out, took that zippy lift to the ground floor—and there near the cafe, just as our daughter had said, was a grand piano with a sign nearby, inviting anyone to feel free to play! I glanced around. Hmm—only one or two people within earshot. Perhaps I would take up that invitation after I had my coffee.

I almost thought better of it, however, when a few more people entered the cafe. In fact, I had decided to walk right past that piano when something made me change my mind. But … what could I play without music?

Immediately, the chorus of a simple, old song written by Catholic priest Frank Andersen came to mind:

I have carried you on eagle’s wings

I will care for you in all your years.

I sat down and began playing. Soon I felt the wonderful, healing presence of God, along with a deep sense of awe and privilege. And as I played, I prayed God would somehow use my music to bless and encourage someone in that hospital, whether patient, relative, friend or worker.

I played just the one piece—I needed to get back to our daughter. But as I stood to leave, a lady came past.

‘Thank you very much for playing,’ she said with emotion. ‘It was so beautiful!’

As I headed up in that lift, I prayed God would indeed carry this lady—and any others who had listened—on eagle’s wings through whatever trials they were facing, closer and closer to his heart. Could God possibly do that through one simple piece of music, I wondered?

Yes, I decided, surely God could.

This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. ’ Exodus 19:3-4

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