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Posts Tagged ‘God’s mercy’

Jo 17During the school holidays in particular, I am thankful for the lovely heated pool and spa in our village. Usually, our two younger grandchildren enjoy being taken there, but one day recently, our grandson elected to play games at home with Granddad instead.

Meanwhile, his sister Maxine and I headed for the pool. Almost two hours later, as we were still bobbing around there, the cleaning lady arrived to mop out the change rooms.

‘She’s like Cinderella!’ Maxine announced after a while.

‘Pardon? … What do you mean?’

‘Well—she has to do all the work!’

Of course! Why didn’t I see that connection immediately? I laughed, then pointed out that must mean we’re the Ugly Sisters!

Later, however, I began to reflect on Maxine’s immediate response to the scene before her. She loves those old fairy tales, especially the ones featuring beautiful heroines with long, flowing hair. So far these holidays, along with the inevitable, more recent Frozen, we have watched DVDs of Snow White and Tangled (the story of Rapunzel), some more than once. We have also read different versions of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and such like together over the years. And recently, Maxine even managed to cajole her granddad and me into acting out one of these stories with her—this time, Little Red Riding Hood, including cutting that big, bad wolf open with relish, stuffing stones in him and sewing him up again with a flourish! These stories have well and truly made their way into Maxine’s imaginative little mind and continue to play out there in technicolour—for her, it’s natural to think of Cinderella immediately, when she sees a cleaning lady working hard, with no one helping!

All this caused me to reflect again on the power of story and on the fact that Jesus chose to use stories at times as he taught (see Matthew 13). I have read them often, yet how deeply have I allowed them to impact my mind and spirit? How much have they changed the way I see the world and the way I respond immediately to situations around me?

I thought back then over some of these stories Jesus told—the parable of the sower, the good Samaritan, the lost sheep, the unmerciful servant, the wedding banquet. As I see people in need, such as right now, with our bushfires and drought, have I been shaped into thinking immediately of the good Samaritan? Am I prepared to put myself out and give in a costly way—or am I more like that Pharisee who stayed at a safe distance? In my life, am I still acting like that unmerciful servant who was happy to receive the king’s forgiveness, yet did not extend that same forgiveness to another? Or have I allowed God’s mercy to transform me and flow onto those around me? Am I like that dry ground in the parable of the sower where the seeds could not take root? Or have I truly softened my heart and provided a fertile space where the things God says can flourish, bear fruit and bless others?

In 2020, may I remember Jesus’ parables and internalise them more and more. And may Jesus open my eyes too to see the ‘Cinderellas’ around me and reach out to any who need comfort, help and understanding.

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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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