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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Spirit’

Jo 12I was chatting to a friend who had come to visit, as we walked along a paved ramp near our unit. The gardens to our left were beautiful, but instead, our eyes were drawn to some stains on those pavers beneath our feet.

‘These need attending to,’ my friend who likes to get in and fix things commented. ‘Who is responsible for cleaning common walkways like this here?’

‘I don’t know,’ I told her. ‘But I think I’ll get out here myself and scrub them off, as they annoy me too!’

The next day, I filled a bucket with soapy water, took my scrubbing brush and tried to clean those messy marks off the walkway. Yet, despite my best efforts and much bending over, some spots did not budge. I stretched my sore back and sighed, but in the end, decided to leave it at that.

A few days later, my husband and I heard a loud, whirring sound nearby. We poked our heads out—and there was a workman with not one but two large machines, washing down the pavers and blasting away all those dirty marks! Being new to our village, we did not realise that this event apparently happens every six months or so—the outside cleaning is all done for us.

Soon after, a neighbour told me another similar story.

‘We’re only quite new here too and, a few months ago, I decided to clean our outside windows. I took the screens off, then couldn’t get them back on, so had to ask the maintenance man for help. But when he came, he told us that contractors clean our outside windows, so we don’t have to do them ourselves at all!’

Now that’s two lovely cleaning tasks I will be very happy to leave to the professionals in future!

Years ago now, I also discovered how foolish it usually is for me to try to fix anything that goes wrong with my trusty laptop. I have a wonderful husband who is a whiz at all things computer-related, so I have learnt it’s much better to consult him in the first place, rather than press this or that button or click on this or that with my mouse. I do try at times—but that tends to complicate things even further rather than fix anything.

I suspect I need to apply these lessons in other areas of my life too. I can try to fix aspects of my behaviour that do not honour God. But unless I stop relying so much on myself and instead, learn to rely more and more on God’s strength on a daily basis, I will no doubt fail again. In the end, God is the Expert, the Master Designer, the only one who can ultimately fix things in our lives. And God has chosen to do this in the most amazing way, through sending our Saviour Jesus Christ into our broken world. Like the Apostle Paul, I know I need to declare from the bottom of my heart:

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 7:24-25

How about you? Is that your heart cry too?

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This Christmas, among the many beautiful gifts I received was a small silver and gold tin from one of our daughters. Judging from the wonderful, gardenia-like perfume I could smell even before I opened the lid, I knew there was something special inside. Yes, to my delight, it turned out to be a precious cake of soap.

I love receiving such gifts, but this particular one seems almost too good to use. At the moment, it lives beside me on my desk so I can open it and enjoy its beautiful perfume from time to time. And that’s how I recently noticed the fine gold lettering on the back of the tin.

Housed in a collectible tin, I read. Yes, it is a pretty cute container. Each precious soapette is made from a rich vegetable base … to create a decadent lather that leaves the skin brilliantly refreshed, it went on. Yes, my skin could definitely do with such refurbishment, I decided!

But it was what I read next that dumbfounded me. There was the word ‘DIRECTIONS’, written in capitals, just as I have here. Yet … wait a minute! What special instructions could one possibly need when it comes to using soap?

I read on with interest. Add water and massage onto body for a creamy lather. Rinse thoroughly with water. Really?! I checked again to make sure there was no hidden gem here I was missing. After all, perhaps I’d being doing it wrong all these years. One never knows. But in the end, I decided that yep, that’s pretty much what it boils down to—adding water, then rinsing!

I laughed out loud. Who could possibly need such simple directions? Doesn’t everyone know that? But then it occurred to me that perhaps cakes of soap were a novelty to some people. Perhaps they always use liquid soap or gel. Perhaps not everyone is old-fashioned like me.

Then I began thinking a little more about it all. Are there other instructions in life I laugh at because they’re so simple or commonplace? What else might I decide not to read because I know all about it already? How often have I jumped in and done something, without bothering to take the time to read the directions or do the necessary preparations?

I’m a bit like that at times when it comes to the Word of God, I decided. I skim over so much, thinking I know all the wisdom contained there. I see and hear the words of Jesus to his disciples and think to myself I’ve heard it all before. Of course I believe it all and try to put such things into practice in my life. Who wouldn’t? But then something—perhaps God’s Spirit—pulls me up short. Are you hearing me, Jo-Anne? Are you really putting into practice the things I am asking you to do here?

Then I remembered the simple story of the sower Jesus told (Luke 8)—and took it to heart. What riches from God have a trampled on in 2012 and simply left for the birds? What wisdom did I not cultivate? What things did I allow to crowd into my life and crowd out God?

In 2013, may we have ears to hear what God says to each of us, however simple and familiar it may seem. And may we have the courage to put it into practice in our lives.

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This past week, I had the joy of visiting a school friend from around forty-five years ago! As we reminisced, I was amazed at the memories that came flooding back – some quite funny, but others much more poignant. My friend remembered, of all things, the yummy ham sandwiches my mother made for us to eat during a train trip to my friend’s home in a country town one school holidays! I, on the other hand, remembered being part my friend’s large family for that holiday week and especially the family devotions around the breakfast table, which would end when they all scraped their chairs back and knelt to pray for various family members and missionaries.

My friend went on to remind me how I had sung at her wedding a few years later. Initially, I had no memory of doing so, yet as she talked, I dimly recollected standing outside her minister father’s church and thinking how lovely my friend looked. The memory was there, but it needed some prodding. But then my friend truly managed to shock me when she showed me a collection of favourite recipes I had painstakingly typed out for her as a special wedding present and put in a green ring binder, all in the days before home computers! I had absolutely no memory of doing that for her, but the evidence was there, clear before my eyes – even to the point of their being a handwritten note from me tucked inside the cover!

Well, my memory is definitely not as good as it used to be. But quite often when writing my novels, some image or experience from years ago will surface so vividly in my mind that I am at once back there in the moment and my fingers can scarcely fly fast enough across my keyboard. It is as if God’s Spirit stirs inside me and says: ‘Remember that, Jo-Anne? Yes, go ahead and describe that exactly as it happened! Look at all the riches and resources you have tucked away in your mind, ripe for the picking!’ I thank God for so many memories from the varied occupations I have had, from the travel I have done, from my happy childhood and school years, from the people who have enriched my life – and yes, from the difficult times too that have caused me to face my grief and pain and move on with God, strengthened for the journey ahead.

It mightn’t matter if I don’t remember some things in my life. My friend wasn’t offended when I forgot the gift I had made for her – or at least I hope she wasn’t! But it does matter if I forget what God has done for me. It matters a lot – for all of us. In several places in Scripture we are encouraged to remember. In 1 Chronicles 16:11-12, David writes:

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced …

We are to remember who God is and his goodness to us – and we are never to forget God’s Son, Jesus, and what he has done.  Jesus himself pleads with us to remember him each time we share in the Lord’s Supper:

This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)

So how are you doing at this kind of remembering?

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