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Posts Tagged ‘celebrating Christmas’

Jo 17It can be disconcerting at times to discover certain literary ‘masterpieces’ on my laptop that I wrote over ten years ago now! My style has changed markedly since I began my writing journey in earnest in 2004, as has the style of novels publishers and bookstores want. So when two people asked me recently about my earlier novels that are no longer available for purchase, I almost baulked at lending them my own copies, because I find it hard to open them without wanting to change things and edit out more than a few words! I also own recorded versions of these novels produced by CBM Australia and narrated by well-known Australian actors, yet I cannot bear to listen to them because I know I would want to change far too much.

In the end, I went ahead and lent these friends the novels they wanted. After all, they understand they are my earlier novels—but they still wanted to read them. So far, one friend has returned her copy, telling me in the process how much she enjoyed it, to my great relief! Yet I know there was so much more for me to learn back then about the art of novel-writing—and there still is.

In the light of all this then, you can imagine my feelings when I recently found the following poem of mine, written way back in 1985! I am not a poet, but that year, many things were stirring in me that I felt I needed to express somehow. So, having been inspired by Isaiah’s amazing prophecy about the coming Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), I wrote the following—and I have sensed God challenging me to share it once again with you all:

 

Wonderful Counsellor, surround me with your wisdom.

My mind is tired, with indecision torn.

Where is the path prepared for me to follow?

I need you, Lord, to watch, to guide, to warn.

 

Almighty God, defend me with your power.

My weakness wins, my courage ebbs away.

O Holy One, great Lord of all creation,

For strength to stand secure I humbly pray.

 

Everlasting Father, how you love me!

I am your child, forgiven, forever free!

O hold me fast, transform me to your likeness,

Till men in me your face more clearly see.

 

Prince of Peace, bestow your calm assurance.

My heart is troubled, turmoil takes control.

O send your soothing Spirit to surround me.

Speak, Lord, till I am still within my soul!

 

Perhaps this Christmas, you too are at a crossroads in your life, as I was then. Or perhaps you feel plain weary and spent, after a year in which you have given of yourself in so many ways. If that is the case, I pray that, this Christmas, you can truly welcome the Prince of Peace into your heart afresh and receive those life-giving words I know the Wonderful Counsellor has for you. And may each of us, however we feel this Christmas, stop and give heartfelt thanks for the amazing gift of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

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There’s something about the Christmas season, isn’t there, that makes us want to catch up with friends over coffee or a meal. In some cases, it’s about finding out how each other has travelled during the past year. At other times, I find it’s more about letting that person know I value their friendship and am grateful for their presence in my life.

Recently I thought about this a lot as I prepared for my final speaking engagement of the year. In keeping with the theme of my new non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, I decided to look at the Apostle Paul’s relationship with Timothy. And all over again, I discovered how many good reminders there are in 2 Timothy 1 alone about what is involved in a strong mentoring relationship or spiritual friendship.

Firstly, it’s obvious how much sincere love and concern Paul has for Timothy. Straight up, he calls him his ‘dear son’ and goes on to declare: Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy (1:4). There needs to be love and mutual respect in any good friendship, don’t you agree?

Secondly, Paul prays for Timothy with all his heart. I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers (1:3). What a gift to give to someone else—to pray for him or her constantly, night and day!

Thirdly, Paul obviously believes in Timothy and affirms him for the strengths he sees in him. He affirms his sincere faith and the gift of God at work in his young friend (1:5-6), urging him to keep fanning these into flame and not let the good that has been deposited in his life be wasted. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you …  (1:13) In my own life, I know how important it has been to hear positive affirmation at times, particularly in my writing journey. It still is.

Fourthly, Paul is not backward in challenging Timothy to hang in there till the end, as he himself is doing. He urges him on, at times perhaps sounding as if he is telling him what to do. Yet it is coming from a heart full of love for Timothy, a heart that knows God will enable and will strengthen him to finish the race.

Finally, Paul writes all this to Timothy with complete honesty and integrity. There is no pretence—his conscience is clear before God and men (1:3).  In 1 Cor 4:16-17, Paul is bold enough to write to them: Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. With Paul, there is no discord between what he says and how he lives—and that’s how I want to live too.

So as you catch up with friends and family this Christmas, remember to show them you value them and to thank God for their input into your life. After all, it could mean the difference between someone achieving all God has for them to achieve or letting those sparks and embers die out altogether.

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This a special time for our daughter and son-in-law. They are expecting their first child on 14th January—only a couple of weeks away now. Of course they are very excited—and so are we! In preparation for this baby’s arrival, our daughter Tina has set up their nursery beautifully. But they have not had to buy a great deal themselves. You see, Tina is a beauty therapist and has been working at the same salon for over seven years now. She has many regular clients, several of whom come in each week for some treatment or other. And these clients are so delighted about her baby and so sad she is leaving that they have gone out of their way to give her the most beautiful and expensive baby gifts. Perhaps you can understand what sort of gifts I mean a little more if I mention that this salon is in a very well off area of Sydney’s North Shore. So now she has beautiful, little baby suits with French labels on them, made out of lovely, soft fabric and so well designed—not to mention fine quality cot sheets and blankets and cute baby toys. But beyond all that even, one client has passed onto her their ‘old’ nursery furniture—a large cot, a matching chest of drawers and a change table. This furniture hardly looks used and is again if the finest quality—we estimate it would cost well over a thousand dollars.

So much excitement. So much preparation. So much delight shown by clients, friends and family members alike in giving our Tina and Kofi these beautiful gifts. This baby will surely be much loved and also very well dressed and well provided for.

All of which has made me think at this special time of year. We have just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Yes, his arrival had long been anticipated by the Jews as they waited for the coming of their Messiah. And Joseph and Mary must surely have been waiting in awe to see this baby entrusted to them, this one born of the Holy Spirit who was to be the Saviour of the world. But when he did arrive, there was no beautiful, white cot waiting for him or chest of drawers for all his clothes. Instead, this baby was born in a stable and put to bed in a feeding trough. Yes, wise men did come from a long way off to worship him and give him expensive gifts, but before he was too much older, he became a refugee, along with his parents, and had to flee to Egypt, since his life was under threat. I doubt Mary had time to gather many clothes together for this trip or the ability to carry things like change tables.

And later, after this baby had grown up, he found himself despised and rejected by the very people who had anticipated for so long the arrival of their Messiah. Just as there had been no physical room for the Christ child anywhere other than a stable at his birth, so people had no room in their hearts for Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Have you made room in your hearts this Christmas for Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High? Have I? Or has he again been pushed to the perimeter, perhaps almost cast aside in the midst of all the exciting presents and fine food?

I hope and pray he hasn’t. I hope he sees in my heart more joy at his coming even that the joy with which we will welcome our new grandchild so very soon.

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