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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Our granddaughters seem to own lots of things that need batteries to keep going. Just before Christmas, our Olivia lined up an interesting array of Santa and Rudolf toys they own and began to demonstrate to me how these only half worked because they ostensibly needed new batteries. They looked a sorry lot, with glowing noses that didn’t quite glow, heads and hands that kind of half moved and voices that sounded very strange and tended to peter out miserably. Then there are the toys that don’t run across the floor anymore because they need new batteries or the cute puppy that no longer wags its tail or the fluffy kitten that has forgotten how to purr – not to mention the camera that won’t click or the keyboard that won’t play. And so the list goes on.

Well, I think I know how these toys feel! I related very well to that poor, tired Santa my granddaughter showed me who just couldn’t sing and dance around. But that was a few weeks ago now. Here I am today on the ‘other side’ of Christmas and heading through much quieter territory, momentarily at least. I have discovered, as I have let myself relax a lot more than normal, the joy of doing nothing for once – of putting aside speaking engagements, book promotion and yes, even writing, and letting those batteries run down completely. And again, I have been reminded that life is not a matter of always having to be productive – and certainly not a matter of ‘doing’ things to impress God or anyone else. God loves us completely and utterly. God understands and in fact has made us so that we need to rest at regular intervals and be renewed. In fact, I suspect God is delighted when we take time out to sit or lie back and just ‘be’, for a change. And as we put everything aside and choose to live ‘in the moment’, simply letting God hold us and ‘be’ with us, then that is when we can best hear not only God’s heart for us but our own hearts as well.

And that’s exactly what happened to me this morning as I took time to read Isaiah 40, forgetting at first that this is the chapter that talks about weariness and renewal! So it was a joy to find and read again what God has said on the subject:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

What an encouragement as we prepare to step into 2011! As we take time to focus on God, who never grows weary, and continue to ‘hope in the Lord’, then we will be strengthened and empowered to do the things God has put in our hearts to do.

Now that’s what I call a total battery recharge – don’t you?

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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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I was in the middle of one of those surreal kind of experiences.  As the rain came pelting down, I focussed all my attention on keeping up with the car in front of me, who in turn was trying to keep up with the one in front of it.  We were both part of a funeral procession, wending its way at quite a fast pace through unfamiliar streets in an unfamiliar town.  I had to get to the lawn cemetery – after all, I was leading the service there for my young friend who had passed away after a long illness.

The rain had eased by the time we arrived, but the clouds hung low on the surrounding mountains, dark and threatening.  Very tentatively, I squelched my way across the grass towards the designated spot.  People were gathered around in a horseshoe shape, only a few able to shelter beneath the nearby canopy.

I began the service.  I read the beautiful, age-old words of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul. …

I prayed, committing my friend’s body to its resting place and her soul to God.  I was vaguely aware, as we each placed a flower provided for us on the coffin and said our final goodbyes, that the sky had cleared and the sun was shining.  I was focussed on the next part of the service, however – I hoped it would be just what her parents wanted and  needed.  I thought I had known how it should all go – but then it came to me.  We would sing the simple old chorus ‘Be still and know that I am God’ together, as my friend’s coffin was lowered into the ground.

And as we did, unbeknown to me, but visible to the mourners as they stood facing me, the clouds parted a little above the surrounding mountains – and a beautiful rainbow appeared.  It was a sacred moment.  God was present, offering peace, comfort and hope in the midst of great sadness.

The rain held off until most people had left.  At home once again, I emailed a friend, telling her what had happened.  She wrote back, almost immediately, still in shock.  That day, she had prayed specifically for a rainbow of hope for the grieving family, as a tangible sign of comfort and encouragement to them.

God knows.  God cares.  I am sure of that.

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