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Posts Tagged ‘hope in God’

IMG_20191026_124546957‘Do you like rhubarb?’ our dear, old neighbour asked, as he pointed with a trembling hand to a small clump growing nearby. ‘My wife cooks it with apple. Please pick it, otherwise it’ll be wasted.’

That day, he had learnt his wife would need to be in a nursing home and unable to come back to their unit. For thirteen years, she has chosen to care for all the garden areas nearby, with the blessing of our village gardeners, and I remembered how carefully she had tended this precious rhubarb plant in the months it had taken to grow. Now, just as it can be harvested, she is unable to do so.

As he went on to explain that he and his wife would probably both move into a double unit in the nearby nursing home, I noticed how he wiped tears away. He was concerned about the cost and also about the fact that there might not be room for all their possessions.

‘I tried to clean out the garage the other day, but I didn’t get too far,’ he told us. ‘I don’t know what we’ll do with it all.’

We endeavoured to reassure him as best we could. Finding a double unit where they can be together is wonderful, we told him. After all, they have been married for well over sixty years. And their beautiful daughters and sons-in-law will sort out what to take and what to give away, as well as all the paperwork needing to be done.

We felt so sorry for him as he stood there, a frail, old gentleman who is not well himself. Eventually he left, assuring us he had more than enough at home for dinner. Then, feeling so guilty, I went to cut those rhubarb stalks. I cooked them up, along with some apple, then filled a little container for him to take to his wife in hospital. It was the least I could do for her.

As I did, I felt sad, but I also felt at peace for them. You see, they are both Salvation Army officers and beautiful, humble Christians. This time in their lives might be fraught with pain and difficulty, as they suffer ill-health and grieve over the loss of their independence, as well as their lovely unit and garden. But they know where they are going. They know Jesus Christ. They have known him for a very long time. And I know they look forward to the day when they will meet him face to face and be with him forever. I know too they would agree with the words of the Apostle Paul:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Our lovely neighbours will get over this huge hump in their lives in God’s strength and they will keep on trusting, whatever happens. And one day, I am sure, ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7:17)

May we all carry such a hope in our hearts, as we live out our days here with our eyes fixed on the Lord, knowing this is not the end but only the beginning.

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Jo 12I wonder if you can remember a time when you felt so frustrated that you could not get on with what you truly wanted to do because of other pressing commitments in your life. Perhaps you had to work while others were enjoying holidays. Perhaps you had to be at home minding young children or caring for someone with ill-health while colleagues pursued their careers. Or perhaps you had to put study aside, in order to pay the mortgage and support a family. It can be hard, can’t it, to see others doing exactly what you yourself would like to be doing?

For the past four months, my husband and I have been supporting our church’s pastoral team while our two lead pastors (husband and wife) have been on sabbatical leave. We have felt so privileged to be able to work alongside our team and so many wonderful volunteers. Yet even though it was such a positive experience, at times I felt a little rebellious about where I found myself. I am a writer, after all, but in these months, I have not touched my current manuscript. In fact, I can barely remember my characters and what they have been up to! So why was I there ministering, instead of writing? Besides, I have missed my times of solitude, sitting at my laptop, lost in another world as I churn out those words.

Then it dawned on me that, for someone who belongs to God and is committed to doing what God wants, this is a rather silly way to think. After all, if I truly believed God called us to support our pastoral team, then surely I need not worry about what is not getting done—or written! Instead, I can be at peace and do what I have been given to do.

As I realised this, a second thought emerged. Could God possibly have had some further purpose in drawing me back into a pastoral role for a season? Through it all, what did God want to show me or teach me that could not happen any other way?

I decided to journal my responses. Firstly, I felt God wanted to point out how far I have come in those sixteen years since laying down a formal ministry role. I have grown so much, as I have gone on my writing and speaking journey—and I realised how thankful to God I need to be for that. Secondly, as a result of this growth, I believe I have approached this temporary pastoral role in an entirely different way. My trust in God has grown and I have gained greater confidence in using my God-given gifts. Thirdly, as I have ministered this time around, I have felt God’s deep love and affirmation and also a kind of healing from any regrets or sense of failure I may still have felt at leaving ministry all those years ago.

What a lesson, to realise I would have missed out on all this, if I had not helped out for these four months! God is so gracious and long-suffering with us, don’t you think?

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. Psalm 42:11

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P1030746To celebrate the launch of my first non-fiction book in October, a friend gave me the very thoughtful gift of a new journal. Now this isn’t any old journal, I hasten to add. It is from Turkey and is handmade, with a wonderfully ornate blue cloth cover, decorated with gold thread and patterns of green, red and white, and the word ‘Türkiye’ (the name the Turkish people call their country) on the front and back. As well, there are small, metal triangular pieces attached to each corner, so the whole thing does not get worn or tattered. And inside are lots and lots of lovely blank, white pages!

Now when I was in Turkey once, I saw a similar one with a deep red cover in a shop in Istanbul and could not resist buying it. I was so looking forward to using it, but some time later, when another good friend celebrated an important birthday, I realised I needed to give this journal to her. It just seemed right in so many ways—and I know she truly appreciated it. Not long after, I mentioned this to my friend who was still in Turkey and asked her to buy me another one if she was ever in the vicinity of the shop where I had bought it. Time went on and I forgot about it—but obviously, my friend didn’t. So what a special surprise it was to receive such a precious and moving gift from her when I least expected it!

And this week, I decided to begin writing on those pristine pages it contains. Despite having a few unused ones in my old journal, I wanted to commemorate the start of my writing year in some significant way. But what should I write first? My thoughts about my writing at this point? Perhaps my own personal prayer for the year ahead? Or maybe a quote from one of several good books I am currently reading?

In the end, I believe I made the best choice. On the first page of my new journal, I copied out the words of Psalm 33:20-22 as neatly as I could:

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Can you think of a better statement or better prayer with which to begin a new year? I know I can’t. This world really is an uncertain place, isn’t it? No one can say with complete confidence that they know what 2013 will hold for any of us. This past week, parts of our country have been in the grip of catastrophic bushfires, which can turn and race this way or that, according to which way the wind is blowing. One moment, those living in these areas had homes and property and businesses and livestock and pets—and the next, it was all gone. But for any of us, there is no real certainty in life. Yes, there are those who love us deeply, but they may not be able to be there for us forever. Only God is eternal.

So may you too face the year ahead with hope and trust in the Lord, fully aware of the Lord’s unfailing love resting upon you, whatever happens!

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