Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

Jo 17Have you ever had the opportunity to boo someone off the stage or platform, as I did recently?  What fun it was! Never mind that most of the audience members were around sixty years younger than I am and took up decidedly less space in those City Recital Hall seats.  I was determined to make the most of this chance of a lifetime!

As you may have guessed, we were all at the pantomime ‘Puss in Boots’. What an opportunity to let our imaginations run riot and play that age-old game of ‘let’s pretend’!

The main characters’ costumes weren’t particularly fancy, except for the scary ogre’s colourful outfit. Puss in Boots merely had a furry tail attached around her middle and cat’s ears on her head, then later donned a red hat and boots when she and the miller’s son, Harry, set off on their adventures. The props were simple—just a large folding screen, with doors that rotated, allowing the characters to go through and around it. A few other devices were used, like a cut-out shape of a castle and the big sign prompting us all to boo. There was also appropriate music and stage lighting. But we the audience were the ones who filled in the gaps with our own vivid imaginations. We yelled out, ‘Hello, Harry!’ whenever the male lead asked us to. We responded gleefully with ‘Oh no you can’t!’ to his firm ‘Oh yes, I can!’ We screamed ‘Behind you!’ when Puss couldn’t find the big ogre. Yep, our imaginations had a great workout—especially our grandson’s.

Now Zain has always been quite adept at playing ‘Let’s pretend’ games. ‘Nanna, imagine if …’ he will say, with a twinkle in his eye. And off he goes on a wonderful flight of fancy. But Zain’s not the only one who does this.  I do too—although in nowhere near such a fun way. You see, my ‘let’s pretend’ games tend to happen when I want to impress others. I may want them to believe I have everything under control and am cool, calm and collected. Or I may want them to think I know more than I do.  Perhaps I may even want them to think I’m more ‘spiritual’ than I am or more prayerful or more Christlike or more … on it goes.  That game of ‘Let’s pretend’ is so helpful in hiding my real self that others may not like or approve of.

Do I fool anyone? Maybe—or maybe not. I know I certainly don’t fool myself. And I also know I don’t fool God. What a futile thing even to attempt, when God is present everywhere and knows us so intimately!

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Psalm 139:1-4

Just as well God is also totally loving, gracious and merciful, don’t you think?  So in 2018, I plan to remember that, keep my ‘let’s pretend’ moments to pantomimes and the like and, instead, be real with God and with others—and with myself. How about you?

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theinheritancefrontonly--final versionThis past Sunday, our family celebrated not only Fathers’ Day but also the official release of my sixth novel, The Inheritance! Now you might well think I’d be used to all that goes with such events by Novel Number Six. I myself thought I would merely take it in my stride—but no! Not this time. As those copies begin to appear in the bookstores, I find myself holding my breath just a tad yet again.

You see, I know this new novel is a little different from my previous ones. For starters, it feature two main characters of equal importance—and that’s something new for me. The Inheritance explores Michael Trevelyan’s struggle to come to grips with the past, be reconciled with himself, his family and ultimately God, and face the future with courage and integrity. But it also explores Alexandra Hope’s struggle to stay true to her faith in God and pursue God’s purposes for her life. It was quite a balancing act at times to put myself in the ‘head’ of one and then of the other, trying to react as each one might in a given situation. Yet while it was challenging, it was also great fun—especially when Michael chose to be very angry, arrogant and bitter all at once! I hope I have done both him and Alexandra justice. After all, they are real people—aren’t they?!

I feel too I have incorporated more suspense into the story this time around, although it is hard for me to judge this aspect of my own novels. As I wrote, at times I didn’t even know myself what twists and turns my main characters would experience in their lives or how things would turn out for some of my minor characters either. Yet, while the story might have captured and held my interest, will it do the same for my readers?

Finally, I believe the central theme of this novel is so important for us all to take to heart. I have attempted to convey clearly in The Inheritance how anger, bitterness, hypocrisy and pretence can have such an adverse effect in our own lives, as well as in the lives of others, and keep us from experiencing God’s amazing grace. As I wrote, the words of Hebrews 12:15 were very much in the forefront of my mind: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. I felt responsible writing about such a significant issue and did not want to trivialise it in any way. And I hope and pray God uses this story to touch readers’ hearts and enable them to experience more and more of that amazing grace of God.

So for me, another new and fresh adventure begins, as I journey with my latest creation, The Inheritance. Again, I am so thankful to God that yet another of my stories has seen the light of day, courtesy of my new publisher, Even Before Publishing. If you would like to check out The Inheritance, it is now available not only in hard copy via my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com, and my publisher’s website, www.evenbeforepublishing.com, or in Christian bookstores but also as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon or for other devices via the bookstores.

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I wonder how important the cover is to you when choosing a book. If the book is by one of your favourite authors, perhaps you go ahead and buy it anyway, irrespective of the cover. Or perhaps if the title sounds interesting, that’s all you will notice. Or maybe someone you trust has recommended you buy the book – in which case the cover is pretty irrelevant yet again.

Recently, I played a part in creating the cover of my first work of non-fiction entitled Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Now I had certain ideas I felt might work to convey the main concept of the book. I even found possible images on the net that I thought might be suitable. And my publisher listened and took these into account. But there was also quite a bit of ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ involved, as we asked ourselves lots of questions and negotiated our way towards an agreement. Does the cover give a clear sense of the content of the book? Will the image we have chosen appeal to all ages or does it look too old-fashioned? Is it eye-catching enough? Does the main colour of the cover contrast enough with my other books? Is the title in the correct place on the cover? Does it stand out enough? Have we used the best font for this? Should there be an endorsement on the cover as well as a sub-title?

All these decisions – just over the cover! Yet what about the contents? What if the book doesn’t live up to that cover? How many times have you bought a book and started reading, only to find it does not capture your interest and leaves you feeling somewhat disappointed and disgruntled?

You know, in the midst of this whole process of deciding on my latest book cover, it occurred to me to wonder if I go through the same process at times in my own life. I might be somewhere where I am not already known, perhaps speaking in a strange place – so what ‘cover’ will I choose? What image should I present? How relaxed and ‘myself’ can I afford to be in this environment? But even broader than that, what about my life in general? Is there an image I like to present to those around me that does not line up with what’s actually happening in my heart and soul and mind? How authentic is my life really? How authentic is my relationship with God? Does it stack up when that cover is opened and people turn the pages?

It seems to me Jesus never pretended and that he easily saw through the hypocrisy and pretence in others as well. In fact, it seems some of the strongest words he spoke were to the Pharisees when he called them to account for their attempts to appear so holy. In Luke 11:39-40, after a Pharisee had judged him for not washing before a meal, he says:

Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?

It’s no use trying to pretend to God, he was reminding those present. God sees beyond that outward image and right into our hearts. And I’m glad of that. I want what I appear to be on the outside to match what’s on the inside, don’t you? I want people to open that ‘cover’ and not be disappointed or put off God as a result of who I really am and how I live my life each day.

How about you? Is that your desire, too?

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We have a very cute grandson. He is five months old now and has reached the stage of making interesting noises when you smile and talk to him. He has his own little language and loves it if you repeat the sounds he makes to him.

One day last week, I caught our daughter trying to teach him to say ‘Mum, Mum’. She’s hoping to get in quick, before he decides to say ‘Dadda’ first! How anxious we are to hear those first words from our children and grandchildren! It’s like they are real little people then, able to communicate with us on another level.

At the same time as my daughter was trying to get our grandson to say his first ‘words’, however, I was busy editing my two latest books. With the shorter of the two, I dispensed with over five thousand words. With the longer book, so far, over seven thousand words have wafted off into cyberspace somewhere. And that’s even after many previous edits. Now the irony of this situation soon struck me. Here was my daughter, trying hard for that very first real word from our Zain, while I, on the other hand, was wishing I had not been so verbose!

Words come so easily to so many of us – particularly writers. Yet with them comes a big responsibility. How many glib statements can slip from our tongues or end up on that computer screen when we dash off an email? Recently, I found an interesting verse in Ecclesiastes 5:2:

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

It reminded me of a time years ago when I was speaking regularly in our church. I felt then that God warned me not to get up and speak until the words I planned to say were burned into my own spirit. I felt God was pointing out I had no right to say things that were not true in my own experience and that I was not putting into practice myself. I am still glad of that strong warning today, as I prepare to speak somewhere and even as I write these blogs. No, my words are not often ‘few’, I have to admit, so in saying or writing the ‘many’, I know I need to be even more careful to honour God through them all.

I am reminded, too, of Jesus’ very stern words to the Pharisees on one occasion:

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt 12:34-37)

Now I will rejoice as much as our daughter when our little grandson says those first words – but I will also pray for him to speak words that honour God throughout his life. And may this be true for each of us. May our words, as the writer of Proverbs puts it (Prov 16:24), always be ‘sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

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These past few days, we have had the privilege (?!) of minding our daughter’s cat. Now Panda (she’s the cat!) is fourteen years old and not as agile as she once was. She stalks somewhat disdainfully around our house, thinking twice before she tries to jump up anywhere. And when given the freedom of our backyard, she tentatively explores it a little but soon settles down in a favourite spot under a tree. She has always been a little choosey whom she selects as a trustworthy friend and does not seem very enamoured with either my husband or me. But from around 5.30pm on, I am her very best friend, apparently, as she brushes up against my legs and meows plaintively. Now I hate to doubt her motives, but I suspect it could have something to do with the fact it’s almost her dinnertime.

It dawned on me today, however, that Panda might actually be enacting a real life parable before my very eyes. Could it be she exhibits some of my own attitudes to God? Could it be, for starters, that just as she doesn’t seem to care much about me most of the day, but changes her mind quickly at dinnertime, she might well be mirroring my own behaviour towards God? Surely this is what I do when I turn to God only when I need something?

But then I see another even more disquieting way in which Panda might well mirror my own behaviour. She appears to be a lovely, old cat. She looks like she is just waiting for you to pat her and or to sit in your lap. But in reality she’s not so friendly at all – well, not to most strangers anyway – and has even been known in the past to hiss and lash out. Could I possibly be as deceptive at times as our Panda? How often do I pretend to be much more righteous and holy and … well … nicer than I really am? Yet I don’t fool God for one minute. God sees past it all, right into my heart.

Then there’s the certain knowledge that in a couple of days when our daughter comes to reclaim her pet, Panda will very speedily switch her allegiance from me back to our daughter!  How could my feline friend be so fickle after all I have done for her – cleaning out her litter tray, providing her favourite gourmet salmon dinners, stroking her when she deigns to let me, removing all her hairs from my best lounge chair? Yet is it possible I’m as fickle as that with God? Could it be that I regularly switch my allegiance from God to whatever else is bringing me pleasure and fulfilment at any given time?

I’m so thankful God is much more gracious and loving with me than I will ever be with our Panda! I’m so glad God cares enough to forgive my pretence and my ever-changing allegiances and helps me do better. And as I gaze at a sleeping Panda curled up under a nearby chair, I echo David’s prayer from Psalm 139:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

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