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Posts Tagged ‘God’s guidance’

One morning recently, I decided to take a particular route through our village to the main road. Just before I entered an area bordering on bushland, I noticed a nearby sign. I read what it said—it was very clear:

IMG_20171013_120522229 (2)Even as one part of my brain took these words in, however, another part thought: ‘This will never happen to me! Those magpies won’t bother me! They’re probably not close by at all—it may not even be the right season for them.’

How wrong I was! I had taken only a few steps before—whoosh! Something came at me from behind and off to my right, swooping down at breakneck speed and narrowly missing my head.  Needless to say, I scuttled off, no doubt looking more than a little undignified in the process! Why I thought I was immune to those attacking magpies, I have no idea. Put it down to ignorance or arrogance—or both.

Later, I told my husband about my perilous adventure. Yet the next day, he too chose to walk through that same area and did not even notice the sign. This time, that pesky magpie dive-bombed a little more accurately and, while no damage was done, my husband did get quite a fright. Was he forewarned? Yep. Did he remember what I had said? Nope!

What silly creatures we can be! I know in other areas of my life as well, I have not heeded warnings on occasions from those much wiser than I—gentle suggestions to take time off, to be kinder to myself, to rest and relax. Instead, I have kept going and become exhausted in the process. I did not think it would happen to me. I thought I was invincible.

Years ago, I remember singing a particular song in church in which we all passionately declared we would follow Jesus forever and never fall away. I have forgotten the exact words, but I remember holding my breath at how fervently we all sang them. I hoped and prayed we would be able to stand firm, whatever happened in our lives, but I sensed even then how desperately I would need God’s help to do so. And sadly, as time went by, many who sang those words did cease following the Lord.

I think too of the Apostle Peter’s fervent declaration of faithfulness just prior to Jesus’ death and of Jesus’ heartrending response, predicting what would actually happen:

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Matthew 26:33-34

How easy it is to make promises to God, yet not keep them!  How tempting it can be to forget how much we need God and to think, ‘It couldn’t happen to me’! How quickly we can become just that little bit too complacent and cease to care about living in a way that honours God!

May we all continue to walk humbly each day in the strength and power that God gives. And may we always be ready to listen with all our hearts to that Voice behind us, saying , “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21b)

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Jo 17‘What day is it today?’ I ask my husband.

‘It’s Thursday,’ he tells me, without comment. He is used to my strange ways.

‘It can’t be!’ I say, aghast. ‘What happened to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? Before we know it, another week will be over!’

It seems I am not the only one in our family who is familiar with this ‘before we know it’ feeling. Recently, after picking up our three-year-old granddaughter from day care, we chatted together as we drove along.

‘I fell over at my brother’s school and hurt my knee,’ she told us at one stage.

‘Oh, that’s sad,’ her grandad said. ‘Did you cry?’

‘Yes, I did,’ she replied, ‘but before I knew it, it didn’t hurt anymore!’

This concept of time passing so quickly seemed such an adult thing for a young child to grasp—but obviously Maxine knew what it meant. One minute that pain was there and the next, it was gone. And that’s the case with so many things in life, don’t you think? We think and act as if a particular stage of our lives will last forever—but it doesn’t. At times, we cannot see beyond the now. Yet when we step back and view things with a wider perspective, we realise everything is finite.

One of my favourite movies from years ago now is Dead Poets Society. A key thought the main character, innovative teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams), often expressed resonated strongly with me—‘Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.’ I suspect I saw this movie at a time in my life when I felt a little restless and was wondering what God had ahead for me. I wanted to make my life count, in whatever way God had gifted me to do so. But time was passing, so I needed to grasp hold of those ‘God opportunities’ that arose, however challenging they might be. And I’m so glad God enabled me to do just that. Not long after this movie was first released, I changed jobs—and this change eventually led to my being able to attend theological college fulltime in my late forties and obtain my Bachelor of Theology degree, a dream I had had ever since I was around nineteen years old.

Now at this stage of my life, I wonder again what God has for me to do. Should I persevere with my writing and speaking? Or is God leading me into a different kind of ministry? Whatever the answers to those questions might turn out to be, I know I still want to ‘seize the moment’ and make my life count, because, before I know it, I will no longer have these opportunities. Even though we live in different times from the Apostle Paul, I want to heed his commands to do just that.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:16-17

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:4

May God guide us all as we seize those moments we have been given and make the most of them.

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Jo 12I never thought I would see the day—yet, there I was, sitting in a Latin class again! And somehow, despite the inordinate number of years since I had last conjugated a Latin verb, there was a distinct familiarity about it all.

Knowing I was coming to visit from interstate, my sister had asked her U3A (University of the Third Age) Latin teacher if I could attend his class with her—and what a blast from the past it was! I was warmly welcomed as some sort of ‘expert’, simply because I had studied Latin for four years at high school, majored in modern languages at university and also survived a year of Classical Greek there. As to how much I remembered … well, that’s another story!

The teacher began by gently helping everyone revise all they had learnt up to that point and soon I felt I was in some sort of wind tunnel, being sucked inexorably back over the years. As those beautiful Latin phrases tumbled so effortlessly from his lips, I was again seated in that old classroom in Brisbane on a stifling, summer day, listening to my own teacher explain some finer point of Latin grammar. A moment later, I could hear her dry voice guiding us through a portion of Livy’s account of Hannibal’s exploits in battle. Next, I am sure I heard her sigh with exasperation, as she attempted to help us scan various lines from Virgil’s Aeneid and appreciate the finer points of Latin poetry. We were all so young and restless—and so eager to get on with our lives and leave those school days behind.

I returned to the present with a jolt, realising as I did how different my current Latin class experience was—and what a different space I was now at in my life. This time around, our male teacher was a gracious, respectful, retired university lecturer who knew exactly how to explain things well and how to remind everyone gently about what they already knew, without making them feel stupid in any way. The class members were all mature-age, experienced, lifelong learners who so valued this opportunity to unravel the intricacies of Latin and put their minds to work yet again. I went along for the ride, enjoying it all. And I did so with a truly thankful heart, as I reflected on the amazing journey I have travelled with God during all those intervening years since that last school Latin class of mine.

I have taken several interesting twists and turns in my life, as I lurched from one career to another. Some roles I undertook I thought would be forever, yet that was not to be. Instead, as I look back, I can see how God taught me things through each one that I would desperately need in the next, all the while shaping me to become more of the person I was created to be. No doubt I made some wrong decisions along the way, yet God has watched over me and gently guided me through it all. My times have indeed been in God’s hands—and I am so grateful.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands … Psalm 31:14-15

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Jo 17‘So how is the moving going?’

I looked around, trying not to drop the mountain of things I was carrying into our lovely, new unit in a village complex. Then I saw a lady eyeing me curiously as she worked in a nearby garden.

‘Oh, not bad, thanks,’ I responded, keen to keep going, yet realising I needed to introduce myself. ‘My name’s Jo-Anne. You’ve done a beautiful job in the garden here.’

We chatted on—and then my new friend came out with something that took my breath away.

‘We’ve been praying for you, ever since the man who lived in your unit left ages ago,’ she said in such a matter-of-fact manner that I wondered if I had heard her correctly. Did she really say that word ‘praying’? I decided to fish a little.

‘Er … did you know my husband has been a minister all our married life?’

‘Yes—we did hear that,’ she admitted. ‘We go to church in Auburn.’

‘Which church?’ I asked, unable to resist fishing further. ‘I know Auburn quite well.’

‘The Salvation Army,’ she responded. ‘We have so many different nationalities there. They all love us and call us “Mum and Dad” or “Aunty and Uncle”.’

I was gobsmacked—as I have been several times lately during our move from our old home into our beautiful unit. At each step of the way, God has guided us, protected us and watched over us. Now here someone was telling me she had been praying for us for months!

‘Wow—thanks so much for those prayers,’ I told her. ‘Lots of people were praying for the sale of our old home and that worked out so well. Now I find you’ve been praying for whoever would move into this unit. No wonder our move has gone so smoothly!’

The next day, I saw her again. I had decided to ask our near neighbours first, before playing my piano, but as it turned out, I had to practise briefly before I could do this. You see, just before moving into our Village, I was asked to play for the monthly church service here, to be held two days after we arrived. I usually don’t play for services anymore—so what a surprise to find myself doing such a thing again! It was as if God was saying, ‘Come on, Jo—you can do this! Let’s bless some more people with those gifts I gave you!’ Now however, I decided to ask at least this one neighbour.

‘Oh, I’ve been waiting for you to play!’ she said. ‘And I’m sure no one will mind at all.’

I was relieved. It had been a moot point whether to bring my piano with me at all, but now through this lady’s response and through being asked to play for the service, it seemed so right that I had.

Truly, God hems us in, behind and before, as David wrote, watching our backs but also smoothing the path ahead for us. And, just like David, that is the type of love I still cannot fathom. How blessed we are!

You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:5-6

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I watched the man’s earnest face as he talked—and my heart went out to him. At the last minute, just as he and his wife left the bookstore where I was promoting my books, he had rushed back inside to talk with me about his own writing. I had noticed him earlier, quietly standing to one side while his wife bustled about from shelf to shelf, choosing books and dropping them into an almost overflowing basket. It seemed to me he had had plenty of opportunity to chat with me then, but had he been a little embarrassed to put his dream of writing into words? Did he perhaps feel others would laugh?

Whatever his reason, I was determined to answer him as best I could. You see, I remember how hard it was for me to display my ignorance and ask those tentative questions about writing my own first novel. I remember how impossible the whole dream felt. I remember how even I myself had trouble imagining I could create a story others might want to read. Yet I desired to do it—with all my heart.

‘What do you think is the most important thing above all to know in order to write a book?’ he barked at me, staring me straight in the eye.

This gentleman wanted a quick, honest response, I could see. My mind darted this way and that—there were so many things he should know, so many pitfalls he needed to be warned about.

In the end, I told him I have to know it was what God wants me to do. No, that doesn’t mean I announce to one and all that God told me to write this book—which does make it awkward if no one thinks it’s very good! For me, however, I need to be able to sense God’s delight in what I am creating and to be strengthened by the Spirit as I put in the hard yards required to write the best book I can. I don’t want to pour a year of my life into a project that isn’t going to bear fruit for the Kingdom. And I sensed this was where this gentleman was coming from, too.

We talked for a few more minutes before I gave him my card and told him I could supply him with some notes about getting started in writing if he emailed me. Then he was gone.

Will his book ever materialise? I don’t know—but I suspect it will. At least, I think his has much more chance of doing so than those of the two or three other would-be authors who had approached me earlier in the day. I tried to be gentle and encouraging with them all, although I did stifle a sigh at the young woman who seemed rather overconfident about it all and a little unwilling to listen.

But what is the dream or challenge God has put on your heart lately? Whatever it is, whether writing a book or doing something quite different, I hope you can move ahead with your hand in the Lord’s, listening to his voice and looking for his guidance in whatever shape that might come.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.‘ Prov 3:5-6

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