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Posts Tagged ‘finishing the race’

Jo 17Recently, courtesy of a new DVD player and an old video converted to a DVD, I was able to view my parents’ Golden Wedding celebration in 1989 once again. My cousin who filmed it had caught snippets of conversation as she slowly panned around the room, surprising aunties, uncles, cousins and close friends in mid-sentence. What an eye-opener it all was!

First off, there was the shock of seeing our clothes and hairstyles back then—not to mention my ornate glasses I must have thought were so stylish! And my sister and I looked … well … so very young! I actually had dark brown hair back then—what could have happened?

But immediately too so many memories came flooding back, as I saw the faces of my aunties and uncles, some friendly and interested, some a little aloof, and heard the familiar tone of their voices again. One aunty was holding forth on all sorts of matters and sounding so definite, as she always had. Another beautiful, gentle aunty sat smiling and listening quietly, as she let the conversation wash over her. There was an uncle too, passionately expounding on some issue, while nobody around him seemed greatly interested. And yet another aunty sat back with an almost amused look, keeping her usual slight distance between herself and everyone else. What an important part of our lives they all were during my growing-up years! Was the extended family more important back then?

As I watched and listened, however, I was shocked to realise that, apart from one cousin, my sister, me, and those of our children who were able to be present, not one of those there that day is still with us. Of course, I should have known that was inevitable. After all, most were around the same vintage as my parents—and they were celebrating fifty years of marriage. But how are they being remembered now? What difference did they make in this world? No doubt they each left some money or possessions to family members, but what sort of lasting impact did they have on those close to them and others whose lives they touched?

My mind then turned to my own life. My husband and I have celebrated our own Golden Wedding now and, soon enough, our whole generation will no longer be here on earth either. So what sort of legacy will I leave behind? How is my life impacting those close to me and those I meet along the way in all sorts of contexts?

There is a particular verse I would like read out at my funeral that I hope and pray will be true of my life when it ends:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

When my time comes, I hope I will be remembered as being more like that lovely, gentle aunty of mine than the one who tended to tell us what to do. I hope I leave a positive legacy behind and that family and friends have felt encouraged by me in their own journeys rather than discouraged. I hope I finish well, still engaged in that fight and still honouring God with my whole heart.

Is that your hope too?

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Jo 17Who would have thought? Way back in July 2009, I started my personal blog journey, wondering whether I would continue to have enough things to write about. Yet here I am, five hundred blogs later, still finding something each week to share with others.  Also during this time, I have written over ninety blogs for various Christian author groups, sharing lessons from my writing journey and encouraging other authors. Phew!

Now that represents a lot of words cobbled together—around 325,000 in fact. If I had decided not to blog and instead shaped all those words into full-length books, I could have produced three and a half more novels in that time, to add to those I did manage to complete and see through to publication. No one made me choose to churn out those blogs each week, but I continued doing it for various reasons.

Firstly on a practical level, committing myself to producing a blog each week—or perhaps several ahead of time, if I planned to be away or had a busy schedule coming up—has kept me writing consistently, even if that meant less time to spend on bigger writing projects. Also, for wordy writers like me, it is good discipline to restrict myself to around 550 words, while attempting to say something worthwhile each week!

But perhaps more importantly, writing my blogs has become a little ministry that seems to suit my particular gifts and personality well and provides a way for me to connect with those I have known in past years, as well as many readers I don’t know personally at all. It is a way I can encourage others via sharing something God has done in my life or some lesson I have taken to heart from God’s Word or perhaps something God seems to highlight in the people, places or events in the world around me. And in the process, I often encourage myself all over again, as I reflect on what I feel God wants me to say and crystallise those thoughts running around in my brain.

Recently, I chatted with a friend who was preparing a eulogy for the funeral of a close relative. I shared with her how some of Jesus’ words as he prays to his heavenly Father, just prior to being arrested, had challenged me that morning:

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. John 17:4

How wonderful it would be, we decided, if we, like Jesus, could truly say that at the end of our time here on earth! It is what we both aim for in our lives—to do the work God has given us to do, however big or small that might be. And I feel that my writing, including my little effort with my blogs, has been part of that work God has gifted and enabled me to do.

Recently when I spoke at an event, I mentioned some similar words that the Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy and that I would like at my own funeral:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

I hope I can say that when my time comes. Is that your hope too?

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Do you remember those ‘Choose Your Own’ children’s adventure books from years ago? If you as the reader wanted the story to take a certain twist, then you were instructed to turn to a particular page and follow the thread of your own choosing from there on. If you wanted, you could even go back and follow a different trail to a different outcome. What fun! Multiple possibilities for a satisfactory ending at your fingertips.

But what if a book you were reading had no actual ending? What if you were reading along happily, enjoying the book so much that you couldn’t put it down, only to discover those last few pages holding that crucial final resolution to the story were missing? Imagine how annoying that would be!

This very thing happened to a friend of mine recently. In fact, this friend was reading a copy of my own latest novel, The Inheritance! Worse than that, it was a copy I myself had given her as a thank you gift for her kind hospitality during a recent interstate trip. Picture my dismay, then, when she emailed to tell me what had happened!

I hastily posted a replacement copy to my friend to ease her frustration. But I also thought of all those people who have already bought a copy. What if this wasn’t a one-off fluke? What if there were others who would discover the story ended abruptly in mid-sentence? Yet, so far, no one else has complained of any missing pages to me or my publisher. I also checked through any open boxes of my own supplies of this novel, but, in the end, decided all I could do was try to check each copy I personally sell in future. As for bookstore sales, I hope anyone who does find those last pages missing will speedily return their copy to the store.

But this whole alarming event caused me to think about other ‘ends of stories’ in our lives. We live with so much uncertainty, don’t we? We don’t know exactly how our day will unfold when we get up in the morning. We don’t know what the week or month or year ahead will contain. We may think we do, but things often have a habit of turning out differently from what we expected. Yet we know for sure who does know the end of the story—both our own personal story and that of the whole world. And our God, with great grace, has also given us glimpses in Scripture of how things will unfold. We know, for example, that one day we will see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12). One day, Jesus will return and take us to live with him forever in the place he has prepared for us (Jn 3:16; 14:3) where there will be no more tears (Rev 7:16-17). And one day, having finished the race and kept the faith, we too will be welcomed into God’s presence.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:8

That’s one perfect story ending I’m very much looking forward to. How about you?

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