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Posts Tagged ‘disciples’

I never cease to be amazed at the new discoveries I make each time I read the Gospels. Just when I least expect it, God kind of ‘ambushes’ me with some truth that leaves me almost breathless with its profound challenge.

One day this past week, I was happily wending my way through John’s Gospel when I came to the following words:

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:2-5)

My mouth fell open as I registered the massive contrast in these words. On the one hand, here is Jesus, knowing full well who he is and that he has all power and authority from his Father God. But on the other, here is the all-powerful Son of God choosing to strip down, wrap a towel around him and undertake the humble task of washing his disciples’ dusty feet. It is almost too shocking to take in, and I can well relate to Peter when he objects strongly (6-10).

Yet even as I am trying to register what this means for me, I find it clearly spelt out by Jesus himself:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, not is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (15-17)

But this is a slightly bitter pill for me to swallow. I’m not sure I want to negate myself and serve others. I want to do the interesting, exciting things in ministry. And that doesn’t include washing dirty feet or cleaning up after others or helping behind the scenes where my wonderful efforts will not be recognised. Yet Jesus says I will be blessed if I do these things. So how does that work?

And then, as God’s Spirit gently but firmly wrestles with my own rebellious spirit, I begin to understand. Jesus knew who he was, where he had come from and where he was going – no one could take those truths away from him. He also knew he was here to do his Father’s will. And right now, because of Jesus, I can live my life with this same sure knowledge. I know I am God’s precious child, totally loved, forgiven and accepted through Jesus. I know I was created in God’s image and have been recreated through faith in Jesus. And I also know that God has a place prepared for me in heaven that will last for eternity.

Is it really such a problem to choose the humble road, just as Jesus did? How does the highest honour in this world compare with the privilege of spending eternity with God in heaven? I may well, in theory at least, produce the greatest novel ever and be feted as the next Francine Rivers, but if I lose my servant heart, the heart that Jesus had, then it is all pretty meaningless.

So right now, I’m heading off to find that towel to wrap around my waist. How about you?

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In recent days, I have been involved in finalising the cover of my fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, due for release in June. I was asked by my publisher, Ark House, for suggestions and in the process, told them one thing I don’t like on a cover – a front view of the hero or heroine! I like my readers to imagine these characters themselves. And as the author, no image ever seems to do justice to this ‘real’ person I have walked beside for months who has persevered and struggled and triumphed and lived through so many different experiences.

When the cover was returned for approval, however, I found a front view of the main character on it! And yet … well, she looked lovely, with a rather pensive, sad expression that exactly suits the storyline. So I rapidly had to revise my own mental concept, step back a little and try to appreciate what the graphic artist had come up with. Now I’m very happy with the result – and I hope my readers will be too.

It’s sad but true that we do tend to judge a book by its cover. For this reason, I’m very glad all my novels have excellent covers. In this day of economic downturn and questions about the future of books and bookstores, we authors need all the help we can get! But all of this has led me to wonder how I myself come across to people – how the ‘cover’ I present to the world expresses what is inside me. What do people see when I get up to speak somewhere? What do people notice about the way I live my daily life?

Well, I know they see a grey-haired woman who is definitely not slim and perhaps make judgments about that! It is amazing how people are put in ‘boxes’ simply on the strength of having grey hair, I’ve discovered. Perhaps we would be suitable to speak to Seniors’ Groups, it is suggested nicely – when I absolutely love speaking to young mums or people of any age, including Seniors! But much more importantly, I hope I carry with me in what I do and say – and yes, even in my appearance – something of who God is. After all, each of us is created in God’s image, as Genesis 1:27 tells us. And as the psychologist David Benner puts it in ‘The Gift of Being Yourself’, each of us, when we are prepared to be our true selves, actually is a ‘unique face of God to the world’! What a privilege – but what a responsibility as well.

So I hope both in my life and through my novels, by God’s grace, I reflect that grace and love clearly in a way that points people to God. ‘Let you light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’, Jesus tells his disciples (Matt 5:16). I hope as I speak, that my words carry something of the ‘fragrance of life’ that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 2:16. And I hope and pray that the ‘cover’ of the book of my life will attract people to God and not turn them away.

But I’m so relieved that when God looks at me, the inside matters much more than the outside! In 1 Samuel 16:7, when Samuel is sizing up Jesse’s sons as potential future kings, the Lord reminds him:

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

How about you? What does your ‘cover’ convey? And what does God see in your heart?

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I love Melbourne. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I love its quirky, cosmopolitan, coffee culture. And the city itself always seems elegant and refined to me, with its wonderful old buildings and avant-garde shops. On a recent visit, I stayed close to the inner city – and it was there that I had my op shop experience.

You see, I have a sister who coordinates an emergency relief service in the Fitzroy area. Most weeks, on the two days it is open to the public, she and her wonderful team almost exclusively made up of volunteers look after somewhere around a hundred clients. Many are new to our country and need all sorts of help, but others have simply fallen on hard times or face other challenges that cause them to struggle to make ends meet. My sister and her workers can help with emergency food supplies, voucher assistance for some services and also in advocating with other agencies and government bodies on behalf of clients. All of this is carried out with great wisdom and compassion, whatever the clients’ backgrounds or difficulties. And alongside this, they also run a truly excellent op shop in adjoining premises.

One day I was let loose as an assistant there, sorting out bags of clothes donated by various churches and individuals and arranging these for display, as well as serving customers. And what an interesting assortment of people I met in the process! Migrants from various African nations and also from parts of Asia and the South Pacific; interestingly attired students from the nearby university, some of whom were freezing in the sudden cold snap so came seeking an extra jumper or coat; enterprising women with a keen eye for fabric they could recycle to create fashionable items for resale; and one or two down-at-heel, slightly inebriated gentlemen looking more for a listening ear than for any bargain. Word has got around across the social strata that this shop is worth visiting for a couple of reasons. Not only is it very well run, but most garments are sold for a mere one dollar or less!

So what did I glean from my ‘op shop day’? Firstly, I saw how well off our society is on the whole, in that we can dispense with so many clothes we own and still have more than enough. Admittedly, on the day I was there, we sorted through bags of children’s clothes which obviously were no longer needed, but for whatever reason, great adult clothes had also been discarded.

But secondly and much more importantly, I saw how each customer was treated with compassion and understanding. Prices were lowered further for some clients who could not afford even the dollar, while items were put aside for one or two known to my fellow-worker until such time when they would have the necessary funds. At the end of the day, I came away sensing strongly that God had been honoured in that place. Surely, as Jesus explained to his disciples on one occasion when asked about the end times, the King would say to these hard working volunteers in my sister’s organisation, as they sought to feed and clothe people:

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matt 25:40)

So did I meet the King that day in the op shop? Just maybe I did.

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