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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 49:15’

Jo 23This week, I managed to do something I have never done before in the eight years I have been signing my own books. In one brief moment of inattention while talking with a customer, I wrote my maiden name instead of the one I have had for almost forty-six years now! For a moment, I could not believe it. Feeling very embarrassed, I owned up to my silly mistake, hastily reached for a second copy and tried again. And this time, I managed to write my name correctly!

How did I do such a thing? What could have caused my mind to flip back through all those years? One would think forty-six years would be long enough for a change of surname to sink into anyone’s brain. Perhaps my momentary lapse had been due to tiredness, I decided. After all, I had just finished speaking at a women’s breakfast. On top of that, there were those four one-hour long creative writing workshops I had given one after the other the previous day to high school students from four different year levels. Many moons ago, I used to be a high school teacher, but had barely set foot in a classroom since. So these workshops had not only required much effort on my part but had also sent my mind reeling back to past years.

As I later told my husband what I had done, however, I began to see a profound personal lesson emerging from it all. Throughout all those years since I had changed my name from Wardrop to Berthelsen in 1969, God had never left me. God had been with me even through that turbulent teaching period of my life, strengthening me and enabling me to keep going. The previous day, as I had stood in front of those students, I had felt almost a different person from the one I had been all those years earlier. Back then, I was so insecure, struggling to survive in a sea of noisy students. Now I felt so much more confident and at home in myself. Now I was delighted to be able to share my heart for God and my passion for writing with the students in front of me.

These days, it seems I am quite able to forget my own name in certain circumstances. That book with my maiden name in it now resides on a shelf here in my study as a permanent reminded of this fact. But I know one thing for sure. God will never, ever forget my name. And God will continue to watch over me with great love and faithfulness until that day when we meet face to face. The words God spoke to the Israelites so many years ago are also true for me today—and for you:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands … Isaiah 49:15

How blessed we are to belong to the God who knows all things, including our past, our present and our future, and who will never ever forget our name!

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Yesterday, while filing away some talks I gave this past weekend, I decided it was high time I threw out copies of others I gave around fifteen years ago! Why keep these bulging folders any longer? I have changed so much since then. And even if I were to speak on those same topics, my content would be quite different.

As I sorted through these, I noted how much preparation had gone into them—and no doubt much prayer as well. Then I stopped for a moment and reflected on all that has happened since then. Over these past fifteen years, I have spoken in and outside of churches many times, as I still do. In a flash, I saw how invaluable that earlier experience and hours of preparation had been for what I find myself still doing today. But beyond that, I sensed again God’s overwhelming grace in my life. In all those years, God has never forgotten me for a moment. And, just as I experienced this past weekend, as I gave three sessions at a women’s retreat, God is continuing to provide me with opportunities to use the gifts of speaking and encouraging I believe I have been given and continuing to guide and strengthen me.

In Isaiah 49:15, the Lord says to the people of Zion:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands …

Centuries later, I believe God is still not in the business of neglecting us. When we belong to God’s family, God takes responsibility for us—and I saw that clearly yet again this past weekend. Even before I left home, after glancing through my input once more, I decided to sit down quietly and read a few words of Scripture. Recently, I had begun reading through Psalms again and ‘happened’ to be up to Psalm 19. In the last verse there, I found the following:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

This was exactly the prayer I sensed I needed to pray before heading up the coast to speak. I did not know the group well who had invited me and was a little nervous about how I would be received. But, above all, I wanted to please the Lord with what I had prepared. So being given this little prayer brought such reassurance as I set out into the unknown.

And once again, God did not let me down. In fact, I am sure at times God rescued me and gave me words I would not have thought of saying, just as is promised in Isaiah 51:16:

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand—I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

This week, as you seek to love and serve the Lord, may you too receive a fresh glimpse of God’s amazing grace and enjoy that covering of God’s own, powerful hand over you in all you do.

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We have begun a new tradition in our family. Whenever a grandchild turns seven, he or she receives a homemade DVD of themselves, made up of a variety of photos taken and movies made throughout their short lives. Along with these are captions here and there, plus a cute online version of ‘Happy birthday’. And all this is lovingly put together over many hours by Granddad.

It all started when our older granddaughter Amy turned seven. She loved her very own DVD in which she herself was the star and has watched it many times since. She even told her Granddad that her seventh birthday was her favourite, because of this special DVD. So guess what Granddad had to come up with when her younger sister Olivia turned seven? That event took place just this week in our family.

It seems P1040175Olivia loves her very own DVD too, judging by the delighted look on her face as she opened her present and watched it along with us. The photos and movies captured all sorts of events from Olivia’s life—the moment just after she was born; various birthday cakes over the years; special musical performances; times of helping Nanna make cakes and eating the mixture; blowing bubbles and chasing them in our backyard; playing crazy games with her sister; visiting playgrounds with Nanna and Granddad; reading a book about dogs to her own beloved dog Bella, who lay there patiently through it all.

‘She looks so tiny!’ her mum kept exclaiming, as we watched. ‘That’s so cute!’ we all said often.

Now Granddad is preparing for the next special DVD due in our family for our grandson Zain. It’s not needed for a long time, however—our Zain hasn’t even turned one yet! But Granddad is very much keeping it in mind, as he films Zain’s various milestones. Already he has captured that first cuddle at the hospital; that first real smile when Zain’s whole face lit up; the first time he sat up by himself in our lounge; that little mischievous look he has when he reaches out to play with forbidden objects such as the remote control or the phone. And this week his first unaided steps in our home were recorded, as Zain wobbled his way across our lounge room.

Have you ever thought about how God watches each one of his children—how God sees our first staggering steps as new believers and observes us grow and mature as we confront the various challenges in our lives and pass this or that milestone? If we celebrate with our own children and grandchildren and also agonise with them at times, how much more must God be right there in those moments with us? In Isaiah  49:15 we read:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

I am picturing God now in the person of Jesus, watching the DVD of my life, clapping his hands in delight at some spots, closing his eyes at others, gazing at me with such love and pride at times, but crying along with me at others. God has been with me through all the milestones that have marked my life and is still with me now, smiling at me and encouraging me as I take each new, staggering step.

I find that hugely comforting. How about you?

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Next week, I plan to give away something I have hung onto for over thirty years and never used in all that time. It is a Fowler’s Vacola bottling or preserving outfit, complete with large, metal boiler, thermometer, clamps and around three dozen glass jars and lids. My sister is soon to move to a large, country town and hopes to make good use of it there.

I first began bottling when we moved to Victor Harbor, South Australia, thirty-seven years ago. To our delight, we discovered several fruit trees in the backyard of our new home – an apricot tree, a huge nectarine tree and two varieties of peach trees. When summer came, we were inundated with fruit, so I decided to buy a preserving outfit and ask one of the local ladies to show me how to bottle fruit.

It was a very satisfying endeavour. I learnt how to overlap the fruit in the bottles so it would look attractive, how to achieve just the right level of sweetness in the syrup and how to seal those bottles well. It was a lot of work, but it was so wonderful to have a supply of homemade preserves on hand, especially when unexpected visitors arrived. When we moved to Adelaide and then interstate, I thought I would buy fruit and keep on bottling, but it never eventuated. The fruit was too expensive and besides, I no longer had the time. So even though I loved the idea, I gave up on it.

And now as I pack up my old bottling outfit, I see something of a parable of the Christian life in it all. Many times, it seems we taste the sweetness of a close relationship with God and reap the benefits of this in our lives. But then things happen. Our lifestyle changes or we get too busy or Christians disappoint us or we think we know it all – and God is marginalised in our lives, even perhaps packed in a box, put on a high shelf and forgotten about.

But God doesn’t forget us. We might forget God – but God is different. ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’, the Lord says to Joshua in Joshua 1:5. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me’ David writes in Psalm 27:10. And God tells the children of Israel something similar in Isaiah 49:15:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

We can even try to fool ourselves and others and pretend our faith in God is still vital to us, but God sees through it all. Psalm 139:1-4 describes how the Lord knows us intimately – our thoughts, our actions, even the words we haven’t yet said. But God is so faithful to us – and so merciful.

My parable falls down, however, in that I am giving away my preserving outfit – yet I certainly don’t intend to give my faith in God away! I want to remain full of God’s sweetness and flavour until the end, just like that wonderful fruit I used to preserve. And I know God will keep me that way, as I continue to stay close to him and allow his Spirit to permeate my life.

So how about you? Have you put God up on the shelf in your life somewhere?

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Whenever I meet or hear from someone who has enjoyed reading one of my novels, I find myself quite blown away.  Each time, I feel so privileged that words I agonised over a few years back now still touch people’s hearts and hopefully even impact their lives as well.

Recently I met someone who had just finished reading my novel ‘Laura’. Her mind was obviously still full of the characters and storyline, so our conversation went something like this:

‘I found your book so encouraging, Jo-Anne. I absolutely loved your character Laura – but I loved her brother Jamie too.’

‘That’s great – so did I!’ I smile, delighted.

‘I think you could write a sequel and explore Jamie’s journey.  Margaret was doing the best she could – and I can understand why Ken acted like he did.  Then there was Elisabeth – now who was her partner?  What was his name again?’

[A moment’s silence before my new friend thankfully remembers it herself.]

Oh that’s right – Paul.  And Ian and Greg – well, they were just there, but I really loved Jamie.’

I have had such conversations before – conversations in which I valiantly try to remember who on earth this or that character actually is!  I endeavour to hide my confusion and embarrassment, however.  After all, how can I own up to forgetting someone I myself have created and fleshed out and journeyed with for months?  Yes, there are the more notable ones I loved and will always remember, but am I currently writing my sixth novel – which means I have created a cast of well over a hundred characters at this point in time.  I simply can’t store all their names in my head – and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m getting older!

Some say novelists act like gods, in that they are in a position to create whatever characters they like to populate their own little fictitious worlds.  That may be the case – but they are nothing like the God I know.  I forget my less memorable characters at least, but I’m so glad God doesn’t forget us, however memorable or otherwise we are!  God says straight out in Isaiah 49:15: ‘I will not forget you!  And Psalm 139 tells me that God knows everything about me – when I get up, when I go out, even what I’m thinking and what I’m about to say.  I may forget those I have ‘created’ and what they did and said – but God knows me intimately and will never forget me.  And I’m so glad of that.

How about you?

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