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Posts Tagged ‘God’s peace’

There I was, congratulating myself that I had finished my shopping in record time. I settled into the driver’s seat and went to take off my facemask. But something was missing. I had lost one of my special earrings, a souvenir from our golden wedding anniversary trip to New Zealand.

While the earrings were not particularly expensive, I was determined to try to find the missing one. I felt around on the floor of the car. Nothing. I looked under the seat. Nothing. I slid my hand down the side of my seat near the handbrake. Again nothing. But then my hand stuck fast—my watch had twisted on my wrist!  I tried to undo the clasp, to no avail. Finally, with a desperate yank, I managed to pull my hand free, but then saw what I had done. The face of my watch was now at right angles to my wrist and some of the links of my watchband were bent out of shape.

What to do? I retraced my steps up to the supermarket, checking on the ground in the car park all the way. To my utter surprise, I found my earring—although the pretty paua shell that had been part of it was broken. But now my watch still had to be fixed, so I headed to our friendly watch repair man and told him the whole story.

‘Wow!’ he said. ‘I can straighten your watch up—I’ve seen others like this. But this could be a warning to you. It’s an omen. You’d better go straight home, before something worse happens!’

At first, I laughed—but then a weird sense of fear crept over me. What if he was right? What if I went and did more shopping and lost my purse? What if I caught coronavirus from someone in the centre? What if I had a car accident as I drove home? I had better get home as quickly and as carefully as I can, before anything else bad happens, just like he said.

But as I returned to my car, I came to my senses. What was I doing, letting such thoughts take hold and control my actions? Yes, fear can be a helpful warning. It can stop us doing foolhardy things like driving too fast or standing too close to the edge of a cliff or being with someone who will do us harm. At times, it is important to listen to that voice telling us to stay safe. But at other times, that voice seeks to bring us undone.

I sat there then, letting various verses from Scripture about fear surface in my mind instead.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Yes, these words bring comfort. This voice speaks freedom. And security. And peace. These words are so much more worth listening to than any weird omen warning, don’t you think?

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A few weeks ago, our village gardeners finally had time to renovate the garden area near our unit. It used to be our neighbour’s pride and joy, before she could no longer look after it. The men worked busily, leaving some of the old plants but also adding lots of extras. Now we have a mixture of hardier shrubs such as azaleas, gardenias and baby nandina, along with some of our neighbour’s special plants—alstroemeria, gerberas, primroses, cyclamen, some kangaroo paw and even a patch of thyme.

Now that was pretty much all we thought was left of our neighbour’s original plants—until I looked closer in one spot and saw some little green shoots almost covered over by the wood chip the gardeners had put everywhere on top to deter any weeds. As gently as I could, I flicked the pieces of wood off them and hoped those little fronds would survive.

IMG_20200727_140611536Lo and behold, when I walked past a few days ago, there they were, standing so much taller and stronger and looking as if they might burst into flower at any moment. I suspect they might be daffodils, but who knows? We will have to wait and see. As well, beside these shoots, there was a cluster of dainty snowdrops on one side and another cluster of little star-shaped daffodil-like flowers on the other. And behind them, some wider shoots had also popped through the ground, along with a beautiful, dainty blue flower—all seemingly out of nowhere.

Yes, many of the other special plants our neighbour had nurtured with such care are now gone, including her hollyhocks and irises and the precious peony she particularly loved, along with the parsley we all enjoyed picking and using! Yet now, what looked like bare patches covered in wood chip are suddenly yielding special, unexpected treasures that remind me each day of our lovely neighbour.

I suspect this little patch of garden could be a fitting image for the strange period we are all in, don’t you think? For many, this is a difficult time when jobs have gone, money is tight and the future looks bleak. For others of us, this isolation time feels more like a weird hiatus, as if the pause button has been hit on our lives and nothing is as we knew it or expected it to be.

Yet, beneath it all, there still is life—and hope. Out of this time that may seem fruitless and bare, good things will come. They may be hidden for now, but soon those fresh possibilities will burst forth, just like the green daffodil shoots did. Eventually, when this isolation time has passed, we will look back and see the new things that blossomed in these months that would never otherwise have seen the light of day.

And God is still there too, watching over us and walking with us each day, willing us to keep trusting, whatever is happening—or not happening—around us. So let’s encourage one another today as we join together in a prayer the Apostle Paul prayed long ago:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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Jo 12Each day, there seem to be so many opinions and pieces of information aired on the internet and on TV about surviving and thriving during this isolation period. Some of these contain advice on how to behave and care for ourselves and others, which may or may not be helpful. Some aim to encourage us to think and act in positive ways. Some make us laugh and are full of dry humour. But some also seem to do nothing except induce fear and panic and even more uncertainty. Should I really download that Covid 19 tracking app? Should all these children really head back to school at this stage? Should I really make that trip to the shops or go wherever right now? Should I really plan that event for later in the year?

Whoa! All this can do our heads in, can’t it? And this is where I have found it helpful to step back, so to speak, take a deep breath, and ask myself a different set of questions.

Whose voice am I listening to?

What effect does that voice have on me?

What thoughts am I allowing to take hold of my mind and guide my actions at this time?

Recently, I read the tiny New Testament letter written by Jude, who it is thought was one of Jesus’ brothers. Towards the end, he encourages the early believers to persevere and writes:

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 20-21

Yes, I thought to myself—this is what I need to do! I need to pray and allow the Spirit to speak God’s true and encouraging words into my heart. I need to allow God to build up my faith and to remember all God has taught and shown and done for me in the past. But above all, I need to place myself right in the centre of God’s love afresh each day and be at peace, knowing God will watch over me forever.

And that is why I risk adding yet another blog each week to all those words already out there in cyberspace right now. I want to encourage others to listen to God’s loving voice rather than that voice that would cause us to fear or lose hope. Whoever we are, we all need to know that God is for us, that we truly matter to God, that God longs to provide for us and speak peace into our hearts at this time. At least, I know I do!

And what a wonderful, uplifting, final flourish Jude adds to the end of his letter to those early believers that surely still speaks to us today and encourages us to remember who we belong to and who is in charge:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 24-25

Now what better final word could there be than that?

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Jo 23From time to time, I meet people who make me sit up and take notice. Somehow, they seem to march to the beat of a different drum—and I want to find out what that drum sounds like and how they keep in step with it.

Many years ago, after moving across Sydney, we met some people whose Christian commitment and experience of God seemed so much more real and vital than mine was at the time. One day, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer to find out more.

‘What is it you’ve got that I haven’t got?’ I asked them point blank.

They looked at each other, as if unsure how to answer me. In the end, all they said was ‘Just wait. Just wait. God will show you when the time is right!’

Now I found their response frustrating, if not plain annoying, but they were right. Not long after, God broke into my life in a fresh and sovereign way, overwhelming me with such deep love and opening up a whole new journey of being led by the Spirit in my life and ministry.

I was reminded of this recently when farewelling a friend at the airport. The person at the check-in counter thought she had found an issue with my friend’s visa, so went to check it out with her boss. When she returned, she told my friend it ‘should all be okay’, which didn’t sound so reassuring to me. But my friend stayed calm and seemed to take everything in her stride.

‘You’re so calm about it all!’ this lady finally blurted out, as if she couldn’t help it. ‘It makes me want to say “I’ll have what she’s having!”’

My friend and I looked at each other and laughed. You see, we had prayed for God’s peace to fill her as she said goodbye to family and friends. And here was this staff member wondering why my friend was so calm! I mumbled something about how we had prayed for peace, but there was no time to explain further, with that queue lengthening behind us.

Recently too, I met someone who decided to attend church again one Sunday, after an absence of many years because of having all sorts of doubts about the Christian faith. As the service ended, the pastors announced they would be delighted for anyone with questions about God and Jesus to come and spend time chatting with them about it all.

‘What church ever does anything like that?’ this person thought, amazed—and promptly took them up on the offer.

But the best example of amazement I have ever seen or heard is one I read recently in John 7. Here, the people of Jerusalem are trying to work out who Jesus is and how he could do the things he did. Some want to seize him, but ‘no one laid a hand on him’ (5:44). Finally, the temple guards return to those in authority, who ask why they haven’t arrested Jesus. Then comes this amazing statement:

No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. John 7:46

How could this be? Could Jesus truly be the Messiah, the Son of God? Should we sit up and take notice of him?

I think we should—don’t you?

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Jo 17As an introverted writer, there is nothing I like more than sitting at my desk, typing away in perfect peace and quiet. As I do, I can look out my window at the trees and shrubs and beyond them to the sky. I hear birds chirping and the occasional bark of a dog, yet these sounds are pleasant and somehow reassuring. In these moments, I feel so blessed—and spoilt! I have peace, both inside and out—and I am so grateful for God’s gracious hand on my life.

Yes, sometimes that outer peace of mine disappears when little grandchildren arrive and run around excitedly or when we mind them at their house until mum or dad finish work. Sometimes too, we have visitors for meals or for a longer period. Sometimes I venture out to speak at various events or promote my books, which always involves much relating to others. And each week I attend church and happily mix with the family of God there. I also meet with others one-on-one for coffee and truly value these intimate conversations. Yet afterwards, I scuttle back home to my place of peace, where I sit and process everything—and thank God again for my lovely, quiet space where I can reflect and be refreshed in my spirit.

But sometimes that inner peace of mine can also disappear, which is much more alarming. Sometimes I take my eyes off God and refuse to listen to the Spirit’s voice, urging me to be still, to become aware of God’s presence in me and around me, to remember God knows all about my issues and those facing anyone near and dear to me, as well as those in the world at large. Sometimes I choose to worry so much about this and that, instead of handing it all over to God. Sometimes I fret over situations when it is way beyond my ability to sort it all out for those involved. Sometimes I foolishly ignore that peace God is holding out to me with such love and grace and instead decide to cling onto that deep turmoil within.

How important it is in these times to stop and read again Jesus’ words to his disciples—and to me:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

And how important the Apostle Paul’s words are too:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Whatever is happening in your life right now, may you too be able to turn to God, be still and rest in that peace only God can give.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

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This past week, I enjoyed another interesting experience in this writing journey of mine. À la Kath and Kim, for a few brief moments, I became a ‘filum star’! You see, I had agreed to make a little book trailer/promotional video for my non-fiction book Soul Friend, due for release next month. I invited two of my very good friends to take part and engaged a young photographer to film us. We laughed a lot, as, one after the other, we sat in front of that camera, trying to speak as naturally as possible. But in the midst of all the fun, some deeper thoughts also surfaced for me.

As I observed my lovely spiritual mentor Joy, now over eighty years old, bravely sharing her feelings in front of that camera about my writing a book featuring her role in my spiritual journey, I felt so humbled and grateful for her support in it all. Then when my younger friend present—someone I have mentored for many years—took her turn and shared how helpful our relationship has been, these same feelings almost overwhelmed me. Again I glimpsed God’s amazing grace at work, as we have each fed into the lives of the other, through God’s leading and enabling.

But later I realised that, represented in my lounge room, were four generations of committed Christian believers—my spiritual mentor in her eighties, I in my sixties, my younger friend in her forties and our wonderful video person in his twenties. God has gifted us all in a variety of ways and each of us is endeavouring to use these gifts as best we can at this stage of our journey. The opportunities my older friend Joy now has for ministry are different from the many she had earlier. Mine too have changed over the years, as I have moved through various careers into my current writing and speaking role. My younger friend is giving herself totally by serving overseas and is home only for a visit. And our young photographer friend is poised on the brink of doing wonderful things in his field, I believe. Whatever our age, God is using each of us as we step out in faith.

Now I am sure I am not cut out to be a ‘filum star’! I have spoken publicly many, many times—but sitting in front of that camera is a different experience altogether! I knew I couldn’t ‘run off at the mouth’, as I tend to do on occasions. Our time was very limited and we had to watch our words. And that’s why I was so thankful when, as we waited for our other collaborators to arrive on the day, my friend Joy, who felt somewhat the same as I did, quoted some encouraging words from Scripture out loud and prayed for God’s wisdom and peace for both of us.

And God does not let us down, we discovered yet again. God rescues, God guides, God gives wisdom and peace—even in front of a camera.

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. (Psalm 18:31-32)

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