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Posts Tagged ‘children of God’

Jo 12Our grandson has a wonderful way of keeping me humble—and this skill of his came to the fore recently when I tried to help him complete his Maths homework. He is only in Year 2, yet sadly I had great trouble understanding some of the questions he had to answer about shapes. What on earth were ‘cuboids’, ‘vertices’ and ‘edges’? I had no idea!

‘I don’t think you have that answer right,’ I told Zain at one stage, as I stared at the cube alongside the first question. ‘I think it has six edges.’

‘No,’ he told me firmly. ‘You’re counting the faces, not the edges!’

I was unconvinced, but decided to go along with him. We counted those edges together and somehow I came up with eight, while he found twelve—or was it sixteen? Another interesting discussion ensued but, in the end, he wrote down my answer of eight. Later, we wrote the same answer for a cuboid—which of course Zain knew straight away was a rectangular prism! Surely everyone knows that, his look implied.

We proceeded then to travel through what for me was the even rockier, more dangerous territory of cylinders and cones and square-based triangles. But when it came to answering an interesting question about whether cylindrical shapes could be stacked, we differed again. While Zain maintained they could not, if they were lying with their curved surfaces lengthwise, as they were on his homework sheet, I maintained they could if they were standing upright on their flat bases. In the end, I felt Zain worked out a clever answer to this one—‘Maybe!’

Eventually, I enlisted my mathematician husband’s help and asked him to check our work. And guess what his first comment was?

‘You have two answers wrong here!’

Yes, I had been wrong about those ‘edges’—and Zain had, I think, been right from the beginning. But, when I told Zain this, to add insult to injury, he responded: ‘Well, you’re just an old lady!’

Now that put me firmly in my place.

Later, as I pondered Zain’s words, I decided that, while I may be ‘just an old lady’ to him—and there is nothing wrong with being an ‘old lady’—I know I am more than that too. I have done many things in my life. I have two tertiary degrees and a couple of diplomas. I have worked in a variety of occupations, including high school teacher, editor and pastor. I have written eight books. I have spoken publicly well over two hundred times in recent years. Along with my pastor husband, I have raised three children. I have had an interesting and varied life and am grateful for that.

But the best thought that came to me was this. Even if I had done none of that in my life, I would still be of such worth in God’s eyes. Whatever my age, I am still God’s precious child. Through Jesus, I have been born again into God’s family. I belong to God. Jesus loves me, this I know.

That’s what really counts in the end, don’t you think?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

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Jo 12I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something interesting happens to me whenever I walk into a Bunnings store. Of course, that friendly aroma of sausages cooking outside the main entrance is always enticing! But besides that, there seems to be some sort of inviting sense of creativity and of making things better or brighter or tidier that sets my heart and mind buzzing whenever I walk in the door. Somehow I feel at home—as if I belong. And there are so many interesting things to discover in those never-ending aisles. What could this or that be? Who would ever use or need that? Somebody must!

Recently, I went there to buy a gift card. I lingered much longer than I needed to, walking up and down several aisles and thinking of my dad as I did. My dad was a great handyman, always fixing things around our house when I was a child. His workshop was in the cool under our Brisbane ‘house on stilts’, where he fashioned all sorts of intriguing things. Occasionally too, he would try his hand at bigger projects, such as building a sun deck on top of our garage. But his greatest passion was our garden, where he worked tirelessly. If he were still with us, I suspect Bunnings would be akin to heaven for him.

On this same visit, I inevitably made my way towards the gardening section. Surely I could fit one more nice pot plant on our balcony? On my way, I passed aisles stacked with bags of potting mix, compost and moist garden soil—and immediately their unmistakeable aromas brought back more memories of my dad working in our garden. Eventually, I reached aisles filled with different seedlings and pots containing a range of beautiful flowers, including gerberas—my dad’s speciality. In fact, way back before gerberas became popular in bouquets, Dad managed to create a hardy, double gerbera variety of his own, with pretty pale pink and yellow blooms.

Then it dawned on me to wonder whether that sense of belonging I often feel at Bunnings may have something to do with those childhood memories of my dad, tinkering away at his work bench under our house or labouring in the back yard in the hot sun. Such memories from years ago are powerful, aren’t they? Whatever my father’s failings—and they were there, alongside many positives—I knew I belonged in my childhood home, where I was always loved and well cared for.

Recently, I was minding our four-year-old granddaughter when she suddenly stopped playing, sat still for a moment, then began to sing the following in such a cute voice, as she looked up at me with her big, brown eyes:

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
*

My heart melted. Yes, my earthly family may no longer be here, but I know I am part of the family of God and that I belong in my amazing heavenly Father’s house. I prayed Maxine would always know this too, deep in her heart—and I pray you do too.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Who You Say I Am Hillsong Worship

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Jo 23


I had finished my shopping and was heading towards the shortest checkout queue when I noticed a man doing the same thing.

‘Ladies before gentlemen!’ he said with a smile.

As I thanked him and forged ahead, I bumped my trolley against the counter.

‘Oops—looks like I need to see where I’m going!’ I laughed.

‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘I’ve been trying to work that out for the past seventy years!’

My mind whirred as I stacked my groceries on that counter, but before I could say anything, he spoke again.

‘Do you know where you’re going?’

For a few moments, that question seemed to hang in the air between us. It was as if time stood still—and almost as if God was smiling at me and saying, ‘Well, Jo—what are you going to say?’

So I said the first thing that came to mind.

‘Actually, I do know where I’m going!’

‘Oh, where’s that?’ he responded.

‘Well, I belong to God—I know Jesus and I believe I’m going to heaven!’

He looked slightly taken aback, but then launched into a little poem I recognised yet now sadly cannot remember. When he had finished, I decided that, if he could quote something to me, I could perhaps quote something back.

‘Oh, I love 1 John 3:1—How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! It’s amazing we can be children of God, don’t you think?’

At that point, it was as if he dredged up a Bible verse of his own from somewhere deep in the recesses of his brain—perhaps from childhood? I could not catch it all, but nodded and smiled.

‘What’s your name?’ he demanded then.

‘I’m Jo-Anne … what’s yours?’

‘I’m Tony,’ he told me, in his lovely European accent.

‘Good to chat, Tony!’I replied, suddenly realising the girl at the checkout was smiling at me—and that the shopper she had just served was looking at me somewhat strangely!

Later, I thought of all the things I could have said instead—but at least the man hadn’t seemed too put off. In fact, I wondered if something had stirred in him as we chatted—perhaps something God had spoken into his heart long ago? And maybe our conversation would cause him to reflect a little more on his own question. I hoped so anyway.

I wondered, however, if what I had said may have come across as just that little bit too presumptuous. Even as I said what I did, I remember thinking, ‘This could sound so proud and arrogant!’ But Jesus himself tells us:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

And in 1 John 5:11-12, we read:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life …

I wonder how you would have answered this man’s question. Perhaps your response would have been much wiser and more sensitive than mine. Whatever the case, I hope you do know where you’re going—because that’s the main thing, isn’t it?

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Jo 17Recently, the funeral an elderly gentleman who had never married and whose closest relative was a sister living in the USA was held at our church. He was a quiet, unassuming man who had worked with a Christian organisation in various parts of the world. Each Sunday, he would catch two buses to get to our church from his home a few suburbs away. But one Sunday a few weeks ago, he apparently fell over at home while getting ready and it was two or three days before friends or neighbours realised something must be wrong. The police broke in—and he was taken to hospital.

As soon as our church heard about his plight, various people started visiting him. Some helped by getting things he needed from home. Others washed his clothes. Still others prayed for and with him. Our pastors liaised with medical staff and kept his sister informed. And when the difficult decision had to be made to turn off his life support system, his Christian friends gathered around his bed, surrounded him in prayer and farewelled him in the most godly, dignified way possible.

At one stage, a nurse commented how sad it was that no family members could be with him at the end of his life.

‘But we are his family—we’re his church family!’ one of those present exclaimed.

Perhaps most moving of all, however, were the words of the head ICU doctor, after noting the love, care and respect shown to his patient by those who visited.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it!’ he said with feeling.

Now that was both a wonderful but sad comment, don’t you think? It was wonderful that the loving, sincere, Christlike care given to this elderly man seemed to amaze this doctor, but sad too that he had never before experienced people who were not biological family acting in this deeply caring way. Perhaps he may have come from a culture where such tasks are shouldered by family members only. Who knows? Yet what a reminder to us of the importance of caring for those alone and in need, not only for their sakes but also for any who might be watching and wondering!

For me, it was also a sobering reminder of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 about gathering the nations together, putting the ‘sheep’ on the right and the ‘goats’ on the left, then welcoming those on the right to take their kingdom inheritance, on the basis of having helped him when he was hungry or thirsty, in need of clothes or shelter, ill or in prison. He goes on to explain how the ‘righteous’ hypocrites will argue that they never saw him in such situations—and then adds some words that always cut me to the heart:

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (40)

How thankful I am that that elderly gentleman, who surely qualifies as one of those whom Jesus called ‘brothers of mine’, with no biological family close by to help, had his church family around him who treated him in a way that honoured both Jesus and him! May I have the grace to follow their example, show the same love and be true family to others.

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This past month, I discovered once again how life can have a way of springing interesting surprises on us! Out of the blue, I was asked if I would accompany the small choir in our Village on the piano. And in what was perhaps a weaker moment, I agreed!

What could have possessed me? After all, it’s a long time since I accompanied a choir or singing group—possibly around … ahem … thirty-five years! Yes, I have played for congregational worship in that time—but not a great deal, as I have felt those days too are over.  Yet I could not help but say yes when our lovely conductor phoned and asked if I would help out. Besides, I soon discovered how much we had in common, with our lifelong involvement in music and also with husbands who are both retired ministers.

In no time at all, I was given the music for five items the choir will sing at two Christmas concerts. Four of these turned out to be easy enough, but the fifth one saw me scurrying to the piano to practise. So many tricky twists and turns and unexpected key changes!

Then the moment came for my big return to accompanying.  Everyone was so welcoming—and so grateful to have someone prepared to play for them. I soon felt at ease, especially when I realised the group found that challenging carol even more challenging than I did! I kept my eye on our conductor—and I also tried to help everyone along, wafting up into the melody line at times when the tricky accompaniment was leading some astray. I knew my role as an accompanist was just that—to accompany the singers and enhance their efforts rather than try to outdo them in any way.

As I strolled home that afternoon, it dawned on me that accompanying others in a musical sense is a little like the style of mentoring or spiritual companionship I have tried to give others over the years and still do. As best I can, I endeavour to walk in step with them, to listen to them, to pray for them, to provide resources that may help them somehow and yes, perhaps even to challenge at times when needed.

Then I realised too what a big part the whole idea of accompanying has played in my own journey with God—and still does. Recently when I spoke somewhere, I shared the following quote from Clement of Alexandria:

Prayer is keeping company with God

This is the privilege you and I have as children of God—to walk hand in hand with Jesus each day, listening, learning, knowing we are loved and accepted, talking with him, receiving strength, comfort and guidance. Of course, the difference is that Jesus is the perfect Shepherd, who is also to be honoured and obeyed as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yet by grace, he chooses to accompany us day by day through all our ups and downs.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

Now that’s the fine art of accompaniment at its best, don’t you think?

 

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We have begun a new tradition in our family. Whenever a grandchild turns seven, he or she receives a homemade DVD of themselves, made up of a variety of photos taken and movies made throughout their short lives. Along with these are captions here and there, plus a cute online version of ‘Happy birthday’. And all this is lovingly put together over many hours by Granddad.

It all started when our older granddaughter Amy turned seven. She loved her very own DVD in which she herself was the star and has watched it many times since. She even told her Granddad that her seventh birthday was her favourite, because of this special DVD. So guess what Granddad had to come up with when her younger sister Olivia turned seven? That event took place just this week in our family.

It seems P1040175Olivia loves her very own DVD too, judging by the delighted look on her face as she opened her present and watched it along with us. The photos and movies captured all sorts of events from Olivia’s life—the moment just after she was born; various birthday cakes over the years; special musical performances; times of helping Nanna make cakes and eating the mixture; blowing bubbles and chasing them in our backyard; playing crazy games with her sister; visiting playgrounds with Nanna and Granddad; reading a book about dogs to her own beloved dog Bella, who lay there patiently through it all.

‘She looks so tiny!’ her mum kept exclaiming, as we watched. ‘That’s so cute!’ we all said often.

Now Granddad is preparing for the next special DVD due in our family for our grandson Zain. It’s not needed for a long time, however—our Zain hasn’t even turned one yet! But Granddad is very much keeping it in mind, as he films Zain’s various milestones. Already he has captured that first cuddle at the hospital; that first real smile when Zain’s whole face lit up; the first time he sat up by himself in our lounge; that little mischievous look he has when he reaches out to play with forbidden objects such as the remote control or the phone. And this week his first unaided steps in our home were recorded, as Zain wobbled his way across our lounge room.

Have you ever thought about how God watches each one of his children—how God sees our first staggering steps as new believers and observes us grow and mature as we confront the various challenges in our lives and pass this or that milestone? If we celebrate with our own children and grandchildren and also agonise with them at times, how much more must God be right there in those moments with us? In Isaiah  49:15 we read:

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!

I am picturing God now in the person of Jesus, watching the DVD of my life, clapping his hands in delight at some spots, closing his eyes at others, gazing at me with such love and pride at times, but crying along with me at others. God has been with me through all the milestones that have marked my life and is still with me now, smiling at me and encouraging me as I take each new, staggering step.

I find that hugely comforting. How about you?

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Right now, I am surrounded by a sea of words. I’m swimming in them – everywhere I look! Even if I close my eyes, they are there, bobbing around and running into one another. You see, I’m deep in editing territory. Somehow I have acquired not one but two comprehensive non-fiction works by other authors to edit – and soon my own non-fiction work will return to me from my manuscript readers/editors, no doubt with many a red mark on it. On top of that, I have just finished critiquing the first fifty pages of three other manuscripts for a writing intensive day coming up.

Now I absolutely love writing. But I have to say I also enjoy editing – even editing my own work. There is nothing like throwing out by the bucket load the very words one has laboured over for hours. When I began my writing journey around eight years ago, I was horrified at the slightest suggestion I might need to dispense with some of those precious words I had so lovingly crafted. Now, six novels and a non-fiction work down the track, I find I don’t think twice about it – well, not usually, anyway. I’ve come to realise, you see, that if I created them all in the first place, I can probably do it again, with a bit of effort.

But what about editing others’ work? Now that’s quite a different matter. I tread very carefully indeed in this territory for several reasons. Firstly, I feel honoured when other authors choose make themselves vulnerable and trust me with their ‘baby’. I value that and want to respect the faith they have shown in me.

Secondly, I tread carefully because I want to appreciate who these authors are and what has gone on in their heads as they have crafted their novel or non-fiction work. I don’t want to come blundering in, trampling their ideas underfoot and failing to appreciate where they’re coming from and what has motivated them to write. They are children of God just as much as I am, with gifts to share with this world – and my task is essentially to help them use these gifts to the best of their ability.

Finally, I tread very carefully because I can so easily make snap decisions about the writing style of others – or even the topic they have chosen to write about – simply because it is not what or how I would write. I need to be impartial and not let my own likes and dislikes get in the way. After all, readers have widely differing tastes in books and in writing styles – no author can please everyone.

So I try to move forward with grace through my sea of words, treating other authors as God would treat them. Yes, I need to tell them the truth about their writing as I see it, which may be hard to hear at times – but I need to do it in love, and with kindness and compassion, as Paul urges us to do in Ephesians 4:15 and 32. I am only one voice. And I don’t have all the answers – I need to become a better author myself. But I believe they can too and I want to give of my best so they can give of their best.

And that’s one of the greatest privileges around, I believe.

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