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Posts Tagged ‘God with us’

Jo 12I missed my friend’s phone call about how her job interview had gone, so my husband passed on her message.

‘On the morning of the interview, she woke up laughing’ he said. ‘She’ll tell you the rest on Sunday.’

I smiled to myself. It sounded good news to me, as I remembered what had transpired after she had asked two of us to pray for her at church the previous Sunday. She had told us how she was feeling about the interview and how it had been a challenging task to compile her resumé, after not having done so for years. So together we bowed our heads and began praying.

Straight away, the other lady present asked God for deep peace for our friend, for the ability to sense God’s presence with her at the interview and for a clear mind to answer any questions put to her. But as I stood there agreeing with her prayer, I found myself feeling more and more joyful. In fact, I almost burst out laughing! What was I to do?

In the end, I prayed for our friend to have a good night’s sleep and wake up on the morning of the interview feeling joyful and refreshed. Then I shared with her how I sensed so much joy surrounding this interview that I had almost laughed aloud! I also told her that I felt she would find herself saying something at one point that she had not expected to say at all—and that, when she did, those interviewing her would heave a sigh of relief, laugh together and say, ‘That’s exactly what we wanted to hear!’ Yet, even as I shared these things, I wondered if they were from God at all or if I had simply imagined them.

How reassuring it was then to see her beaming face last Sunday, as she came to tell me what had happened! Yes, she said, she had indeed woken up laughing on the day of the interview. In fact, she had had a dream during the night that she arrived for the interview in old clothes and with just thongs on her feet. In the dream, she had apologised, but the interviewers had laughed and assured her it didn’t matter!

In the actual interview, however, when asked what she would do if she encountered something she had not dealt with before, my friend, without thinking, simply raised her left arm high, waved it around and let out an anguished ‘Help!’

At that point—you guessed it—the interviewing panel laughed and said, ‘That’s the best answer we could ever have hoped to hear!’

But wait, there’s more! For a long time, my friend has had problems with her left arm—yet this was the arm she had used, with no trouble at all, to raise and wave around enthusiastically!

Yes, Jesus, our Saviour, our Immanuel, has come into this world. Our God is with us, in the midst of our joy—and in the midst of our pain. Our God is with us, whatever our situation. Our God is with us, to the end of all time.

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:25

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Jo 23Some of my friends find winter quite a depressing time, especially on dull, rainy days. I grew up in Queensland, so maybe my affinity for winter stems from that. After all, it was much more bearable in winter to handle wearing those obligatory gloves and black stockings as well as a hat and a tie to high school each day!

Or perhaps this affinity for winter rests on the fact that I can curl up in my warm study, with the sun coming through a nearby window, and enjoy writing those things that are on my heart to write. Even if the weather is dull, the sound of rain on the iron roof next door merely adds to the ambience. And even when my writing is proving difficult, I still find myself blessed to be where I am.

Right now, my husband is in New Zealand. I could have been there with him, but I turned it down. Granted, there were a few things I would have had to reorganise to do that. But, in my heart of hearts, I did not want to go anyway. Now I love my husband. And I love New Zealand. What’s more, I have never seen the northern part of the South Island, where he began his trip. But I am in the throes of editing my eighth book—and I knew if I allowed my mind to be diverted elsewhere, however beautiful that place might be, it would be difficult to regain that momentum.

Right now too, one of our daughters is in Hawaii for a cousin’s wedding. I could have gone there too, but I turned it down. ‘Hawaii? You turned down a visit to Hawaii? In the middle of winter?’ some have asked incredulously. Yep—that’s me! Admittedly, I felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw those photos of that beautiful wedding right beside a beach and read about the other interesting places our daughter has visited. But no, I’m happy to be home, curled up here in my study, pressing on with my editing.

Yes, I can see many things around me that need my attention. At the moment, I can write my name in the dust on my desk or on the piano in our lounge, courtesy not only of my neglect but also of the dusty building site opposite. I daren’t venture too far down our backyard in case I see all those weeds. I need to cook something so there is food to eat tomorrow when our daughter arrives to pick up her two cats I have been minding. I need to attend to those two said cats. But I am here at my desk right now. I am happy to be here. I have a meaningful editing job ahead. And God is with me—so very much with me.

Yesterday, despite its not being Christmas, I read about the birth of Jesus.

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matt 1:23

Immanuel. God with us. God … with … us. Right now, whatever we are doing. Right here, wherever we are. So very present, in the midst of the ordinary.

May you find that as overwhelming and as comforting as I do.

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In my life, I’ve had three real babies and five ‘book babies’. Even now, I can remember the challenges of deciding on names for our real children. And I can certainly remember the dilemmas of what to call my ‘book babies’ too. With three of them, I opted for the names of their main characters. For another, I chose a phrase from Psalm 23, All the Days of My Life. And for my most recent novel, I decided on the name Heléna’s Legacy¸ since this summed up the main thrust of the plot. Besides, it has a nice rhythm to it – plus a bit of alliteration and assonance thrown in!

There’s a lot to think about, isn’t there, in choosing a name? Just this week I witnessed firsthand two people’s struggles with choosing names for their babies. In the first instance, our daughter Tina is struggling to find just the right name for their first child. She likes a certain girl’s name, but her husband thinks it’s a little old-fashioned. And as for a boy’s name, they are tossing up between two options. To complicate matters, her husband is Ghanaian—and it’s common practice amongst Ghanaians to choose the day of the week on which a child is born as one of the names for that child. Hence our son-in-law’s name is Kofi, which means Friday.

The second instance involves an author whose book I have just finished editing. I thought the current title of the manuscript was not the best and he agreed. It was a friend’s suggestion, but he himself had always had something different in mind. The only trouble with his ‘something different’ is that, while many of his potential readers will relate to this title, a good proportion, in my opinion, won’t. In fact, they might even be somewhat offended by it. So what to do? Will this author go with his initial idea?  Or will he play it safe for the sake of possibly gaining more book sales?

While thinking about these dilemmas this week, I noticed a manger scene featured in a large shopping centre. Yes, with Christmas approaching, these sometimes still do pop up, despite some people apparently feeling that mentioning the real meaning of Christmas spoils it all for everyone! Later I reflected on the fact that Mary and Joseph were left in no doubt what their baby was to be called. In Matthew 1:20-21, we read how the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and made it clear:

She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Jesus, we are told, is the Greek form of Joshua, which means ‘The Lord saves’. But in the same chapter, we read that Jesus will also be called ‘Immanuel’, which means ‘God with us’ (1:23)—a name given to the Son of God hundreds of years earlier by God himself through the prophet Isaiah (Is 7:14). Well, they are both wonderful names, don’t you think? Yet many people at the time rejected this man called Jesus, their Messiah, the one anointed by God to be their Saviour. Some acknowledged the truth of the name ‘Immanuel’—but others refused to believe God was indeed amongst them.

I hear such love in both these names – Jesus and Immanuel. They epitomise God’s heart for us—God reaching out to us, knowing full well these beautiful names might be ridiculed and even used as curses. But God chose the best names ever, from my perspective. I need a Saviour. I need God with me.  Those names for me are so full of meaning—and I think they’re absolutely perfect.

How about you?

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I love Christmas for all sorts of reasons. I love the fun things like presents and great food and the company of family and friends.  I love the goodwill that flows from people, even in the midst of end-of-year tiredness and coping with summer heat.  I love the relaxing, holiday feel of this time – particularly the sound of cricket on TV!  Yes, usually there is some sadness, as I remember past Christmases and people who were important in my life but are no longer here.  But as I sit with my sadness, I can remember too in the midst of it the good things about that person and how he or she enriched my life.  I can remember past places with nostalgia where we lived and celebrated Christmas with friends we no longer see but also with thankfulness for what these people and periods in our life meant to us.  But however I’m feeling, there is one thing about Christmas that honestly brings me such comfort and joy.  And that to me is best summed up in the words of Matthew 1:23:

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

What a gift to us!  Immanuel – God with us.  God come to earth to share our pain, to show us the way, to renew us and ultimately to rescue us.  No wonder we rejoice at Christmas, although for many the reason we do this has been lost.  No wonder we want to show love to others, since we have been so greatly loved by God.  That’s the perspective I want to keep at Christmas, no matter what’s going on around me.  I want to remember with sincere thankfulness and with joy that whatever happens in my life and in this world, God hasn’t abandoned me.  In fact God has come to us in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ – Immanuel, God with us.  And that means God will never leave me or forsake me in this life or the next.

So I am looking forward this 2009 to once again celebrating Christmas with great thankfulness.  But I also want to take this opportunity to thank those who have supported me so well this past year in my writing and speaking journey: firstly my husband Lionel, who has provided essential computer and bookkeeping expertise; secondly my daughter Jane, who has helped so much with my website and blog; thirdly, the wonderful members of my email prayer team, who pray for me wherever I speak; and finally, all of you who have bought my books, read my blogs, emailed to encourage me and invited me to speak.  Thank you so much for all your love and support.

So happy Christmas to you all!  May you too remember the blessing of Immanuel – God with us.

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