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Posts Tagged ‘flagstaff on a mountaintop’

Jo 12There I was, standing peacefully at the supermarket checkout, when the lady in front shook her head, turned to me and started muttering:

‘I could have done this in ten minutes! It’s not worth it, bringing my husband with me, I can tell you that!

I looked and saw her husband happily chatting to the checkout girl. Then the lady went on:

‘I asked why she hadn’t put our cold things into the blue bag but he’d packed it away! He’s no help at all!’

I glanced at another lady behind me in the queue then and caught her grinning.

‘Well, if I brought my husband shopping with me, he’d still be back in the chocolate aisle now!’ she announced.

Then I decided to add my contribution to the conversation.

‘My husband doesn’t come with me either. If he did, he’d organise everything with military precision and know exactly what was in each aisle and what order to get things! I know where things are and usually have a list, but I like to see what’s on special and get ideas for different things to cook.’

(I rest my case!)

I watched then as the first lady and her husband left, with things apparently reconciled between them. Phew! No doubt she would be very happy to have his help with loading everything she had bought into the car and unloading it later.

All the way home, I chuckled at this amusing little episode. I shared it with my own husband then—and, thankfully, he laughed too! After over fifty years of marriage, we are well aware how different we are and how we can help each other best. But then I began thinking a little more seriously about this whole experience. The first lady’s husband looked as if he was only trying to help—had he felt rejected and rebuffed by his wife’s response? Had she overreacted, thinking she was holding the queue up? Was she perhaps a little tense and stressed that day anyway? Who knows?

I wonder what you are like when it comes to accepting help. I know I am not the best—I am quite independent and am also reluctant to bother others. Yet recently, when someone offered to make a cake to help out with some catering I needed to do, I accepted—and it felt good. Not only did this lady look pleased, but I was quite relieved too and grateful for her thoughtfulness.

Often too, I know I have rejected God’s help in my life and gone it alone, preferring to do things in my own strength rather than trust God. Yet how much that must grieve God’s heart! I think we see a glimpse of this in Isaiah 30, where the Lord says to his people:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. (15)

Instead, the Israelites decide to do it their way and flee on horses, even though the Lord warns them they will be defeated. Then we come to these beautiful words:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. (18)

It’s all about the right help at the right time, don’t you think? And the Lord’s help is always exactly that.

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Jo 17There can be some scary moments in bringing up children. This past week, our one year old granddaughter began running very high temperatures and coughing in a weird way. In the end, she was diagnosed as having a chest infection, plus mild croup.

Our daughter contacted me to ask about an old remedy I used many years ago when her brother had croup as a two year old. Her question brought back vivid memories of holding our son in our steaming bathroom with the hot water turned on full, since we did not own a vaporiser. Then another memory surfaced of an elderly farmer’s wife telling me at church that our son had croup.

‘You need to get hold of an old flannel singlet, soak it in three parts water to two parts white vinegar to one part metho, then wrap it around his neck,’ she said. ‘I’ll bring some flannel around for you.’

True to her word, she did. I thanked her, not really believing what she said could ever work. Still, what did I have to lose? It was the weekend, with no doctor available back then. It seemed cruel to do this to our son when he was so unwell. Yet, to our great surprise, it worked—not only then, but at other times too when he had croup. That elderly farmer’s wife knew what she was talking about, as she passed that wisdom of generations onto me.

Eventually, I remembered the details of this old remedy and texted them to our daughter. In the end, she didn’t need them—our little Maxine bounced back and whatever the doctor had given her seemed to work. But I wondered too if our daughter had felt a little sceptical, as I had, about whether my old remedy would actually work.

Sometimes I think we respond a little like that when God shows us which way to go in our lives or how to respond in a particular situation. We know what we read in Scripture about forgiving someone is right. We sense God prompting us in our spirit to take some course of action but we decide we know better. We listen to the godly advice of someone we trust and agree that is what will work—yet we hesitate.

I have always found Isaiah 30 very challenging. Being a strong-willed person, I relate easily to those obstinate people back then who would not listen to God:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  Isaiah 30:15

Instead, they tried to rescue themselves and flee, despite being told they would end up ‘like a flagstaff on a mountaintop’ (17).  Yet, all the while, God longed for them to turn to him and trust him.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him. (18)

I think God knows the right remedy for our ailments, don’t you? After all, God’s been around a long time and knows a thing or two! May we all learn to listen to him more, to wait and trust, as we reap the benefits of his amazing grace and compassion in our lives.

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