Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘counting our blessings’

Jo 12I love my old car. It is a 1999 model Ford Fairmont that has done quite a few kilometres—over 255,000 in fact! No doubt it chews up more petrol than a small, newer car would—but it requires only a gentle touch on the steering wheel to point it where I want to go and it still soars up those hills like a bird.

Sadly, however, little things have begun to go wrong with it. The numbers and symbols on the dashboard telling me what setting the air-con is on stopped working a while back. The remote unlocks the boot, but refuses to either lock or unlock the car itself. And (ahem) certain parts of the car do not lock properly at all anymore! I can live with all that, but I found it hard on a long trip recently when my poor old car refused to warm up inside at all, so that I arrived at my speaking engagement in a slightly frozen state!

As I drove home afterwards, I suspect it was God who reminded me how, back when our children were young, we had no car air-conditioning at all and no fancy numbers and symbols on the dashboard. To cool ourselves, we wound the windows down. To warm up, we wore jumpers. And we certainly didn’t own a remote to lock and unlock the car. Yet now I took for granted and felt entitled to a car that could deliver so much more.

Then it dawned on me to wonder whether God was also pointing out other things I had taken for granted that day—like the fact that I had been invited to speak somewhere at all; or the fact that I was able to drive myself there—and through such beautiful countryside; or the fact that my ability to speak and to thoroughly enjoy doing so comes from God anyway. How grateful I needed to be for all these things—and so very much more!

But then I started to ask myself some even more serious questions. What if I had I begun to take God for granted in my life in general? Had I come to presume too much on God’s grace and patience and long-suffering towards me each day? Was I treating God in too cavalier a fashion, listening only when I felt I needed to, instead of staying in that place of intimacy? Had I forgotten how much I need to thank God for the many blessings poured out on me in all sorts of ways over the years?

I think I need to remember well that recent cold drive to my speaking engagement. I don’t want to take anything in my life for granted, but instead thank God each day with a grateful heart for all I have been given.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100

Read Full Post »

Jo 17Sometimes, forgetting things can be advantageous, don’t you think? I don’t mean that slight absentmindedness that leaves me unable to remember where I have put things in our new unit because there are so many more cupboards than there were in our old house! Can you imagine the fun I had in our first Christmas here, hunting for those bonbons I had stashed away somewhere—or even some of our grandchildren’s presents I had bought earlier and hidden who knows where? But what I do mean, for example, are those times I when I somehow made a fool of myself and felt embarrassed or ashamed as a result. I may still recall something of the incident, but can more readily laugh at myself and let it go, while appreciating the things I learnt through the whole experience.

Yet there are many more instances where it is definitely not advantageous to forget things—or people. There is a family anecdote one of our children often tells when they feel a little hard done by for one reason or another. ‘Well, I’m not surprised this has happened’ they might say, ‘because, after all, you drove home and left me playing at the Lego table in the newsagent when I was a child. And another time, you left me sitting watching TV in the electrical store in the main street!’

Fortunately, they are joking when they remind us of these events in an injured voice. Yes, these two incidents really happened—and both times, my husband was the culprit! Just to reassure you, however,  on each occasion, it wasn’t long before he realised what he had done and scuttled back to find our poor lost child, who didn’t seem concerned at all and had barely missed him!

It’s not good to forget people—or their names, as I often do. But it is even more concerning when we forget who God is and what God has done for us in our lives. Recently, I came across some very sobering verses in the Psalms:

When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles, they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. Psalm 106:7-13

Wow—what a challenge! As I enter this new year of 2018, have I truly remembered all the times God led and rescued me in 2017? Have I allowed all this to strengthen my faith in God? Have I turned and praised God for it all with a truly thankful heart? Or have I, like those Israelites, forgotten what God has done for me and forged ahead in my own strength?

May you and I remember those many past kindnesses of God well—and remember too to wait patiently for God’s counsel as we move into 2018!

Read Full Post »

Jo 17I looked around me as the morning train headed towards the city. Not many people in my carriage appeared overly excited about the day ahead. Some were staring into space with glum expressions. Some were dozing. Some were playing electronic games. A few were trying to study or work, frowning as they did.

And, of course, several were talking on their phones. One girl sitting not far from me spent almost the whole trip complaining to a relative or friend about someone else. No sooner had that call ended than she took another one—during which an unpleasant argument ensued. No, there was not much joy around me in that carriage that morning, I decided.

When the train reached the city, I joined the others trudging up those stairs from our underground platform. At last I surfaced in George St and stood still to catch my breath. As I did, I noticed some large banners along both sides of the street. Each of them carried a simple question in bold letters—‘Do you hear the people sing?’—and the well-known image of a wistful, young child wearing a beret and with hair streaming.  Yes, those banners were advertising the new production of Les Misérables, soon to open here in Sydney. But that morning, this question impacted me in another much more significant way.

‘Do you hear the people sing, Jo-Anne?’ God seemed to be asking me. ‘Do they know I love them? Where is the joy in their hearts?’

At once, I recalled those glum faces in the train. Then I looked at the people all around me on busy George St. Most were hurrying along, eyes down, their expressions set. Nearby, a young busker was playing her violin with great dexterity yet little heart and soul. She seemed tired and even bored—how many times had she played those pieces already? Not far from her, an unkempt man sat begging, head bowed in a hopeless manner and hand outstretched to receive whatever coins people might give.

At that point, it occurred to me to wonder how I myself looked. Could others see any joy and peace in me? Or did I seem glum and preoccupied, perhaps even hopeless, as if everything depended on me? Had I even given God a thought on my way into the city? Could God hear my own heart singing that morning? If so, what did it sound like? Was it doleful or even angry, like those who had sung the song with such fervour in Les Misérables?

Maybe I too needed to choose to begin my day with a thankful heart, full of praise for God’s many blessings, whatever was happening or not happening in my life. And maybe I needed to pray for and reach out to those around me more often in love, so that God would hear their hearts sing as well.

Maybe we all need to do what the psalmist urged us to do so long ago:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:1-2

Read Full Post »

One morning recently, I turned on my computer and noticed someone had left a Skype message for me. I proceeded to investigate and, as I had suspected it might be, it was my friend who lives on the other side of the world, sending me a chirpy, little message.

Hi!  You’re on the computer nice and early in the morning!  I haven’t even gone to bed yet on the day before!

We then proceeded to have a brief, written ‘chat’ before she closed down for the night.

Not long after, I received an email from another friend who I knew was currently overseas. She was emailing from Dubai Airport via her Ipad in the middle of an eighteen hour wait for her flight home! Her travel plans had been disrupted because of the extreme winter weather in Europe. But on top of that, she felt distinctly fluey and was asking us to pray she would be okay during the rest of her waiting period and then on the flight home.

Later that day, I began to realise how readily I had taken for granted the fact that these two friends could contact me so easily. Yet how amazing that someone on the other side of the world would notice me online and be able to say a quick hi! And how amazing my friend could immediately gather together the prayer support she needed as she sat in a strange airport!

A few days ago, I opened my computer to find that a reader had contacted me via my website to say she had just re-read my first four novels and enjoyed them so much yet again. She had written especially to encourage me. Yet I did not stop to enjoy the moment, take in her words fully and thank God for them. Then I noticed someone had sent me a message via Facebook, telling me how she had given some copies of my non-fiction book Soul Friend away at Christmas and how one girl she mentors had devoured the book and gained so much from it. ‘Oh, that’s nice!’, I thought to myself—and went blithely on with whatever I was doing.

But then that voice inside me pulled me up short. Here I was, taking for granted these lovely messages from my readers. Here was I, so full of my own concerns, almost missing the gentle ways God was using others to encourage me in my writing journey.

Have you been so wrapped up lately in all the big and urgent issues of life that you have almost ignored that prompting inside you, urging you to stop and enjoy the moment, to be thankful for the blessings right before your eyes that you take for granted? Could God be trying to get your attention, too?

This week, I read a familiar verse, Psalm 46:10, that I am sure was another little prompt from God:

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I don’t want to take God for granted. Each day, I want to be still and acknowledge God’s greatness, tuning my ears in more and more readily to the Holy Spirit’s voice and seeing God’s hand in every part of my life.

How about you? Stop for a moment. Look around you. Listen for God’s gentle whisper. Be still, and know that God is there.

Read Full Post »

There I was, sitting quietly as I waited for the meeting to start at which I was to speak. I chatted to a friend nearby, then glanced around to make sure all my books set out on a nearby table for sale later looked neat and inviting. And in that moment, it was like the scales were lifted from my eyes.

In an instant, I saw more clearly than I ever have how gracious God has been to me over these past nine years since I began writing and how thankful I need to be for this. It was as if God had taken a beautiful colour photo of my book table, with its display of my five novels and one non-fiction book, enlarged it and held it before my eyes for a moment so that I could not ignore it. And as I looked, the many opportunities I have been given in these years to speak at different places also flashed into my mind. What rich experiences had come my way in all sorts of shapes and sizes! And what a privilege each one of them had been!

As the enormity of this moment sunk in, I felt almost overwhelmed—and very humbled. Apart from the grace of God at work in my life, none of this would have happened. I would not have written one book in this time, let alone six, with a seventh due out next year! Apart from the absolute faithfulness of God in encouraging me, both directly and through others, I would not have begun my writing journey or persevered through all sorts of discouragement and lasted the distance.

I sat there, wondering how I would be able to get up and speak after such a revelation. But then I decided the best way was to be honest and share what God had shown me—so that’s where I began. And I hope and pray something of the awe I was feeling at God’s grace and faithfulness to me touched those present, causing them to praise God too and to realise that without God, we are nothing.

How much we all need to remember the grace and faithfulness of God to us! King David challenges us to do exactly that in 1 Chron 16:8-13:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

So … thank you, Lord God, for all you have done for me. As I speak and write of your love and grace to us your children, may I do so with great joy and gladness. Where would I be without you? Help me to stay close to you and to rely on your strength in everything I do. I remember you, Lord, with a heart full of gratitude. I remember what you have done for me. I remember how awesome you are and I honour you—now and forever. Amen

Read Full Post »