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Posts Tagged ‘children of Israel’

Jo 23Last Saturday night, another historic moment occurred in our household. At 10.30pm, I walked out of my study and announced with a great sigh to my husband, ‘I’ve finished writing my book!’

‘I don’t know how you do it!’ he responded with feeling.

‘I don’t know how I do it either,’ I replied with even more feeling.

Now let me clarify a little. Because this is my eighth book, I know I haven’t exactly ‘finished’ yet. I know this is only the beginning of the next part of my journey with this particular volume. I finished the first draft some time back. Last night’s milestone marked the completion of a very thorough edit and rewrite. Next step is obtaining comments from my first reader/editor. Then it will be back to editing again—and on it goes.

I know all this, yet last night at 10.30, I felt great relief. This book, my second work of non-fiction, has proved difficult to write. I can’t even remember when I started it because so many things have intervened since then. I almost gave up on it once or twice. With so many interruptions, I became a little disconnected from it all and found myself having to check back often so as not to repeat myself. Yet I wanted to finish it because I felt the idea for this book was something God had given me. So I persevered. And I’m glad I did because I learnt so much yet again about God and about myself.

This book, currently titled Coming Home to Myself, has taken me on a journey through so many memories of childhood years, of years at university, of marriage and children, of university again, of returning to teaching, of other jobs, of theological college, of ministry, of writing and speaking. As I wrote and remembered, I tried to highlight how God persevered with me through it all, rescuing me, restoring me, helping me emerge and grow and learn, drawing me on to become more of the person I had been created to be. And, in the process, I have been brought face to face with my own weaknesses and shortcomings and slowness to respond to what God has been teaching me. But, once again, I have also been overwhelmed with the reality of God’s absolute faithfulness and patience and perseverance and longsuffering in so many ways.

‘I don’t know how you do it!’ I have found myself wanting to say to God so often in response.

Yet I do know. It’s right there in the pages of my bible and it’s written on my heart. In Jeremiah 31:3, God declares to the children of Israel:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’

And in Ephesians 3:17-18, Paul prays:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ …

That’s how God does it—by loving me without end with the most amazing, pure, self-giving, accepting love. And that’s how I plan to do it too—by loving God till the end and by letting this amazing love of God inform my writing and flow onto others.

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This past weekend as I looked at my diary, I realised I will be delivering about a dozen different talks over the next three months. I am not complaining. In fact, I’m very much looking forward to giving each one and meeting so many different people along the way. I feel blessed to be able to do this—but it does of course involve a lot of preparation, which means a lot of concentrated time, effort and prayer on my part. To do that, other things need to fall by the wayside if I am not going to fall apart in the process!

I am a writer and a speaker. But sometimes the order of those occupations has to be reversed. Over the next three months, I will definitely be more of a speaker than a writer. But after that, it seems I’ll be more of a writer than a speaker again for a while. Now I love preparing talks for different audiences. I have been trained in this area and naturally enjoy teaching and sharing in a public setting. But I am an introvert at heart, so most of all, I love writing in the quietness of my study. I enjoy the whole process of immersing myself in creating a new manuscript, becoming lost in the story and finding myself in a completely different world.

So what does one do? I have come to the conclusion that I basically need to trust God more—to go with the flow, taking hold of whatever God-given speaking opportunities come to hand and making the most of each one to share God’s love. And when those speaking engagements dry up for a time, then again I go with the flow, retreating to my quiet study with a satisfied sigh as I hopefully lose myself in another storyline.

In all this, I am beginning to realise more and more that God can not only be trusted but also has lots of wonderful bonuses along the way for us! This past week, as I have thrown myself into preparing two somewhat difficult talks to get my head around, I discovered God was there right in the midst of it all, blessing me in an amazing way. As I delved into Scripture to find out more about these topics, I found myself yet again in awe of God’s heart of love for us. I needed to check many parts of the Old Testament as well as the New, from the beginning of Genesis right through to Revelation, and as I did, it opened my eyes to God’s utter grace and amazing loving-kindness to us flowing right down through the centuries to this day.

In Jeremiah 31:3, we read some words the Lord spoke to the people of Israel in past years:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

This is certainly what I see as I look back over these past few days and note the way God has fed my spirit and strengthened my faith. While in my heart of hearts I might want to be writing, God simply smiles on me and blesses me right where I am.

Who wouldn’t want to go with the flow and enjoy the ride with such a loving God?

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I have some clear memories from my childhood that I’m not so proud of. I was a very strong-willed child who didn’t like very much being told what to do, when to do it, what to wear, what to … well anything, really! On those occasions when my will clashed with my mother’s, I would argue on and on until eventually she would come to the end of her patience. With a very upset, angry look on her face, she would say with some passion, ‘Well, do what you like – you will anyway!

I remember how, while at first I was happy I had got my own way, this happiness was dulled somewhat by the knowledge that I had upset my mother and was displeasing her by pressing on with whatever I wanted to do. And I think I remember giving in myself at that point in some instances at least – although perhaps that’s wishful thinking on my part or the distortion that time can bring!

I think it’s these memories of my childhood wilfulness that cause me even now to sit up and take notice when I read passages in the bible dealing with the stubborn and rebellious attitude of God’s people. It couldn’t possibly be, of course, that I am still rather strong-willed and stubborn! Whatever the reason, this week I found myself taking particular note when I came across Psalm 81. Here the Lord reminds the Israelites how he rescued them from slavery and begs them to listen to him so they will triumph over their enemies. I could clearly hear his love for his children and feel his grief as I read verses 11-12:

But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.

I heard this love even louder and stronger in the final verse of this psalm, however, which paints a beautiful picture of the Lord’s provision for his children, would they but listen.

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

It seems this honey the Lord promised was the best and sweetest wild honey that could be obtained then from bees that established themselves high up in the clefts of rocks. If the Israelites truly listened, the Lord would provide not only water from the rock, as happened at Meribah (see v 7), but the best honey ever and the highest quality wheat for their bread.

Now I’m a bit partial to fresh bread and honey, I must admit. And that in itself should make me long even more for such good gifts from God’s hand. In fact, in reality, I know I have tasted them over and over again as I have grown to love and trust God more and look to him for the things that truly satisfy. How sweet it is for me to remember, for example, that whatever happens with the books I have poured myself into writing during the past eight years, I am still perfectly loved and valued by God! One day, I believe, the Lord will welcome me into heaven and he and I will sit down together and write the most perfect books imaginable! And that will indeed taste to me like the best bread and the sweetest honey ever.

Is God’s wheat and honey on your menu today?

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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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