Posts Tagged ‘how God speaks’

Jo 17Recently, I did something I have never done before. Each day for one whole week, I deliberately chose to do some special activity I have wanted to do for some time but always had a reason not to. On top of that, I did not cook dinner any night that week. Instead, we ate out or bought takeaway. You see, the whole thing was a unique birthday present for me—and what fun it all was!

Originally, my husband had wanted me to enjoy a few days away somewhere by myself—to relax, recharge and spend time with God. I thought about this lovely idea and even looked up various venues online but did not feel settled about any of them. Then one night, it came to me. I did not want to go away anywhere. Instead, I wanted to enjoy different, interesting experiences within reach of our own beautiful unit, then come home and not have to cook dinner! A win-win situation, don’t you think?

In the end, we called this wondrous week ‘The Festival of Jo-Anne’ (!)—and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I went shopping, twice over. I went to the movies. I had coffee out. I had a massage. I read. And in between, I had time simply to sit and be and reconnect with God. Yes, it was all very good indeed.

But one reason I enjoyed it even more was that, two weeks earlier, I had finally finished the first draft of my latest novel that had languished on my laptop for over three years, waiting patiently for me to unfold the rest of the story. This special week of mine then was also for me a time when I came up for air, so to speak, when I allowed my poor brain to rest, when I graced myself a little more than usual—and when I sensed God’s love and grace being showered on me from every angle. It was a lovely, hiatus period—a time to gain clearer perspective, not only on my novel, before I plunged into all that necessary editing, but on my life in general.

At one stage in writing this particular novel, I wondered if I should keep going. Should I be content with the eight books of mine that have already been published? Was that where God wanted me to stop? But one day, I sensed God saying gently to me, ‘Jo-Anne, whether you write this book or don’t write it, remember I’ll be just as delighted with you either way!’ What gracious, loving, freeing words to hear! I did not need to feel pressured to produce in any way. Instead, I had permission to write the sort of novel I have wanted to write for some time and to leave the outcome in God’s hands.

Yet I think God was saying more than that too. I think God wanted to remind me that, all the time, whether celebrating the Festival of Jo-Anne or writing or speaking or whatever, I can rest fully in this amazing love of God that accepts me, no matter what.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7 New Living Translation

Maybe you too need to hear this reminder right now?

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This week, I sat down at my desk to write, my mind tired and my body likewise. I squirmed and fidgetted—my back that was operated on some weeks ago still does not take kindly to my sitting anywhere for extended periods. My first task was to write some emails in preparation for our trip to Melbourne this week for three book events. But as I thought about those events, I sighed a little. Did I have the energy to give of my best at each of them? And why was I feeling a little half-hearted about things I usually love doing?

Perhaps it was that I was thinking about our new granddaughter and how I could best help her mum with looking after her and her energetic, two-year-old brother! Perhaps it was that I have several dear friends in the midst of difficult situations in their lives who are very much in my thoughts and prayers. I feel their burdens and wish I could lift these from them. Perhaps it was that my mind preferred to continue figuring out how best to re-arrange the contents of the book I am currently writing. And perhaps, behind and beneath all these things, that old enemy was lurking, trying to dim my enthusiasm for these upcoming book events.

Then two things happened that changed my perspective and caused that joy and anticipation to start flooding back. The first came out of the blue, from a direction I would never have expected. Someone contacted me via my website, asking me to consider being the speaker at a women’s retreat for her church later this year. A few days later, I met some of the women organising this event over lunch, none of whom I had known previously. As I responded to their questions and watched their faces, I was humbled to realise how much trust they were placing in me. And again I saw what a privilege it is to share from the heart with women at events like this and to be part of enabling others to grow in God in some way.

The second came in the form of a simple email from a friend who wanted to share her joy at finally signing a publishing contract for her children’s book. After I had replied to her email and commented on what was happening in my own life, she wrote a further few lines back, including the following simple statement:

What amazing doors God has opened up for you with your books … He is amazing!

I could have easily let my eyes slide over her comment. I could have brushed it aside and not taken it in fully. But God was there beside me, I believe, tapping me on the shoulder and saying gently: Listen to that, Jo! Be thankful for these opportunities! And remember, I am the One opening up those doors for you!

Yes, I needed that broader perspective. And I needed to be reminded not to take for granted all those opportunities God has given me but receive them with an open hand and heart. If I am tired, then God will enable. If I feel discouraged, God will encourage. If I am weak, God will strengthen and empower.

And that’s true for you too!

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9

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Berthelsen-4Don’t you love it when people take the time to email or phone to encourage you in the midst of life’s ups and downs? In recent weeks, I have come to value afresh this caring connection with others and the love of those in the body of Christ in particular.  A precious gift indeed.

Recently, a good friend sent me an email, telling me she felt God was going to give me a ‘rooftop view’ and reminding me of Peter’s rooftop experience in Acts 10. She also expressed the hope and prayer that, as I am by necessity less mobile because of my current back issues and have the opportunity to be quiet, I would draw comfort from the Lord’s presence, be renewed, and enjoy being hidden and shaded by his hand. How blessed am I to have received such loving words and to have now experienced some part at least of the things she wrote about! I value this time on my ‘rooftop’, despite the physical discomfort, and look forward to any insights the Lord wants to give me. And I certainly value being shaded by the Lord’s hand. I have always loved Psalm 91, which now has even more meaning for me:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Ps 91:1-2

I love that mixture of gentle protectiveness but also great strength that these words convey. Over the years, at certain times of need in my own life when I have cried out to the Lord in prayer and also as I have prayed with and for others, I believe God has given me a glimpse of what this looks and feels like. I can remember clearly several occasions when, in the midst of praying, I have seen in my mind a picture of Jesus standing right beside me or the person I am praying for, yet also towering above us, huge in stature, so strong and immovable, yet also so caring and watchful and protective on our behalf.

And this is what I saw again as I sat in God’s presence on my ‘rooftop’ recently. There was Jesus, so strong and tall and trustworthy, assuring me of his love and his protection and also conveying to me that he knew all about my physical pain. Next, I believe I saw him pick me up and carry me to an operating table in a hospital, where he laid me down carefully. Then in my mind I saw him place his hand gently on my head and also on the head of my neurosurgeon standing nearby, ready to operate. It was as if Jesus was saying, ‘I know about all this. I am here. I bless you both.’

What a comforting and reassuring sequence of events! Perhaps you may feel it was only my imagination running away with me—and that may well be the case. Yet I believe the Lord does reveal himself in these ways at times, of which this was one. And how gracious he is to do that.

I hope you have a rooftop too. I hope you meet the Lord there. I hope you hear and see him speak to you—often.

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