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Posts Tagged ‘God’s compassion’

I wonder if you are like me and do not readily allow yourself time off from all the tasks around you demanding your attention at home. It might be something I need to finish writing. It might be cooking dinner. It might be vacuuming—my pet hate! Any of these can prevent me putting time aside to be kind to myself and do nothing—or perhaps something special.

Recently, a friend invited me to see the exhibition ‘Modern Masterpieces from The Hermitage’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, with paintings on display ranging from impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro to the more avant-garde Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso. So we locked in a date and I immediately bought our tickets online. No backing out then!

And what a memorable day we had. After a speedy bus ride to the city, we strolled up through Hyde Park and the Domain to the Art Gallery. It was a beautiful day and, as we walked, we enjoyed God’s creative heart on display all around us, particularly in the towering Moreton Bay fig trees lining the road through The Domain.

As we entered the Art Gallery, we were overawed by the building itself, with its spacious, elegant interior, complete with domed ceilings and marble pillars. Our hearts lifted. Our particular exhibition was superbly set out and included an excellent multi-media presentation. And while some of the paintings were more to our taste than others, all spoke of such creativity, of pushing the boundaries, of trying new styles and techniques.

IMG_20190226_131535052Afterwards, we enjoyed lunch in the open air section of the cafeteria and were reminded again of God’s creativity, as we watched the cheeky and persistent rainbow lorikeet pictured here help itself to any crumbs we had left. What fun God musIMG_20190226_115620622t have had, creating its amazing colours! Perhaps it was this very bird, we decided, who inspired the artist Kandinsky to choose the colours he did for his bold landscape included in the exhibition!

As we eventually made our way home, after sampling the special delights of the Queen Victoria Building, we looked back on our wonderful day and felt so blessed—as if God had poured such kindness all over us in so many different ways. We were tired, but our hearts felt lighter and our minds buzzed with creative ideas birthed from seeing such creativity around us—both God’s and man’s, which surely comes from God anyway.

Recently, a friend commented how we can sometimes be less kind to ourselves than God is—and I think that may be true. Some of us are so hard on ourselves that we can end up becoming quite graceless and may even struggle with receiving God’s amazing grace. We do not deserve such compassion and forgiveness, our hearts cry out—we are not good enough. Yet through Jesus, God has reached out to us with such lovingkindness, drawing us close again. We are loved. We are accepted. We are God’s precious children.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

I hope you can show that same kindness and compassion to yourself when you need to—and I hope I can too.

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Jo 17I walked towards the shopping centre escalator, only to realise it was not working.  A young male employee was obviously trying to clean those grooved steps while they were stationary, while a slight young girl stood nearby, looking worried. A lady with a pram and I went to try to find some lifts, but by the time we returned, the worried-looking girl was already climbing the stationary escalator. Others were pushing past her—she seemed to be taking forever. And only then did I notice there was something very wrong with her legs.

Now she was halfway up and clinging to the side of the escalator. The young employee stood there looking helpless, while others kept rushing past. So, in the end, I climbed up to her and offered to help. She leant on my arm and managed a few more steps, legs flailing in various directions, but the effort was agony for her. Those limbs seemed to have a mind of their own.

Eventually, she let go of my arm and hung onto the side again with both hands. She managed to haul herself up a few more steps, but then stopped.

I saw she was crying. I looked around wildly and noticed a huge line-up of people behind us, but for once, I did not care. This girl needed help—she could not stay where she was.

‘I can’t go any further!’ she whispered.

‘Yes, you can!’ I heard myself say. ‘See, we’re almost at the top! Only a few more steps!’

A resolute look came over her face. With a surge of determination, she began climbing again. A young, Muslim woman wearing a pretty headscarf was standing at the top, concern written all over her beautiful face. She reached out, and both of us helped her take those final steps.

I stood there for a while with the poor exhausted girl, arm about her waist.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked her. ‘Would you like a coffee? Or I’ll help you sit down over there.’

‘I’m okay,’ she told me, as she gasped for breath. ‘But thank you so much!’

‘What’s your name?’ I found myself asking her.

‘Lisa,’ she smiled, her eyes still moist.

By then, tears had welled up in my own eyes.

‘Lisa, I will be praying for you today,’ I told her. ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’

She nodded and we parted. Still shaking a little, I decided to buy a coffee for myself. As I sat wiping tears away that would not seem to stop, it was as if God said gently, ‘Jo-Anne, this compassion you are still feeling for that girl is only a tiny fraction of the compassion I have for her—and for you—and for everyone. Oh, how much I long for them all to experience it!’

I remembered then a description of Jesus that has always touched me:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

I don’t know anything more about Lisa and will probably never see her again. But that day, I certainly sensed God’s great compassion for her—and for us all. I know it is so deep and true and wonderful—and I hope with all my heart that you do too.

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I stood watching our five-year-old grandson digging in our front garden. I had suggested we pull out an almost dead shrub—a task he carried out with great relish! But now came the tricky part—preparing the ground for whatever I would decide to plant there next.

Our Zain can be an eimg_20170127_151716548xcellent helper. The previous week, he and I cleaned our very dirty garage door that rarely gets closed because my car cannot fit in our carport! Zain did an amazing job, scrubbing hard and hosing down everything in sight—including me! But gardening? Well, let’s just say I was a little concerned about the welfare of the other nearby plants in my garden.

However, I had promised he could help, so we forged ahead. I let him use my small trowel to form a neat hole that soon became bigger … and bigger … and bigger. I hurriedly pushed some dirt back in and suggested we didn’t need it quite that wide. So then our hole became deeper … and deeper … and deeper instead! At that point, I explained we needed to water the ground, so it would be nice and moist for the new plant. And soon my little helper had created an interesting mud puddle, complete with brown bubbles gurgling up in the middle.

Deciding distraction was the best option, I suggested we head off to buy our new shrub. Nurseries are not the best place for active grandsons, so I decided the first native plant I saw on a ‘specials’ table would do. Anyway, how could I go past a shrub called ‘Nandina Nana’? We headed home and Zain seemed determined to get our purchase into the ground as quickly as possible—even though I could see that hole was not exactly where I wanted it.

The next day, when I checked on our handiwork, I noticed the ground was still soft. img_20170203_081329095So—you guessed it—on the spur of the moment, I dug my little shrub up and moved it about twenty centimetres to the left, where I had wanted it to be all along! Hopefully, Zain will never know. And yes, my ‘Nandina Nana’ is still alive—for now at least.

As I reflected on our gardening attempt, I could not help but remember the many times God has had to exercise great patience with me, as I forged ahead willy-nilly in life, wanting to help others without stopping to listen. How many times has God mopped up messes I created as a result? Just as well the Supreme Fixer-Upper has been so ready to forgive my failures and mistakes, put my botched efforts to rights and enable me to stand tall again.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:8, 13-14

Each day as I walk past my new little shrub, may it continue to remind me to be so thankful for our patient, compassionate God. May I learn to listen more often—and then obey. And may God enable me to show something at least of that same patience and compassion towards others, including our lively grandson!

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I have discovered I am quite an independent person. I don’t like to admit even to myself that I need help. And I certainly don’t like asking for it. To me, it seems I am inconveniencing others or treating them as less than equal when I burden them with this or that mundane request. Yet it’s something I have had to do in recent times.

I came home from hospital last week, after having a back operation. While there, I felt very blessed by the gracious way the doctors and nurses attended to my every need. I recall with thankfulness how my lovely neurosurgeon came to explain what he was about to do just prior to my operation. I remember the patience of the nurse who tried to make me comfortable that first difficult night after the operation. I am so grateful for the one who helped me take my first shower and for the kind physio who walked slowly alongside me as I took my first steps outside my room. And all the while, I was learning a new skill—that of humbly receiving help.

Here at home, I am still learning. I now realise the folly of trying to get up from our too low lounge without calling for help from my husband. And I know I can’t change that dressing in the middle of my back myself. I am getting used to giving simple cooking instructions without feeling I should just get up and do it myself, rather than allow my husband to stumble through unknown culinary territory! I have had to learn to receive wonderful casseroles from a loving daughter who is so tired herself as she prepares for the birth of their second child. And with grace, I accepted that lovely bag of goodies left on our doorstep by a friend who has so much illness to deal with in her own family.

Already I can see something of what God is teaching me. I am beginning to allow others to do their job and not intervene. I am beginning to learn to show gratitude for their servant heart and to value who they are more fully. I am beginning to receive that love others want to show me as they minister to my needs. And I am beginning to learn to ask for help more readily, knowing this does not make me any less of a person and realising I can in fact bless the one who helps.

And finally it is beginning to dawn on me that I am learning something about my relationship with God through all this as well. It is God’s heart to care for me—and that heart is so full of perfect love, compassion, patience and healing. As my loving Father, God sees my every need and delights to use all sorts of means to provide for me. It is a huge lesson all over again in receiving from God’s gracious hand. And I am learning to rest in the midst of it and open my heart to all that wonderful healing mercy that’s coming my way right now.

How about you? Is it time for you to learn to receive too?

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! Isaiah 30:18

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I had it all worked out. We would spend a nice, quiet time at home in December and January, with occasional visits from relatives and friends. I would finally get some more writing done, after speaking so much this past year. And, of course, I would make time somehow to watch the cricket on TV. And the tennis. What bliss! I could even start some knitting, in preparation for our new grandchild. That would mean I wasn’t really wasting my time, watching all that sport!

Alas—it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, I am writing this lying awkwardly on my side in bed, my laptop balanced on a nearby chair. I have severe lower back trouble, with resulting bad sciatica in my left leg, which makes walking and even sitting difficult. Of course, I can still watch that cricket and tennis. But it’s hard to write at any length, typing sideways. Besides, the medication I’m on means I have difficulty finding my brain at times. And has anyone tried knitting, while lying flat on one’s back?

This whole experience has served to remind me well of James 4:13-14:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Needless to say, my natural reaction to all this has been to feel very frustrated. I have so much I want to write. I was sure God wanted me to complete my next non-fiction book by June. Besides, I need to be setting up speaking engagements for the coming year and planning out those months ahead. Yet here I am, doing none of it. I have found it easy to slip into feeling sorry for myself, as I lie here in the one position that is reasonably comfortable, heat pack on my back and wondering what will happen at my next visit to the specialist.

Then I received a little card in the mail, out of the blue, from a lady at our church. Apparently, she had heard about my back troubles from my husband and wanted to let me know she is praying for me. A lovely thing, for sure. But it was the words on the front of the card from Lamentations 3:22-23 that struck me most:

The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning.

Hmm. If that‘s true, I thought—and it is—then the Lord is still loving and merciful to me right here in the midst of this change of plan and this pain. Surely a good reason to focus on him rather than feel sorry for myself.

That same day, an email arrived unexpectedly from a writer colleague who did not know about my back troubles. To encourage me for the year ahead, she quoted Lamentations 2:22-23 from the NIV:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think the Lord’s trying to remind me of something, don’t you?  Even that is a loving act—and i am comforted.

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