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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 55:8-9’

Jo 12I have never been a great furniture shopper. After all, we lived in a small house for thirty-two years where there was often no room and no funds for a bigger—or better—this or that. If something worked, we tended to hang onto it, even if it looked a bit worn or old-fashioned.

Since we have moved into a beautiful, new unit, however, the picture has changed. We decided we needed several lovely, new things. As it happens, I have a friend who has a good eye for colour—plus she tells me she has such fun spending other people’s money! So we embarked on a shopping spree. Over several hours, we managed to tick five items off my list. Wanting to save a few dollars, we decided to pick up a TV unit I had bought rather than pay to have it delivered—and noted it came in a rather large flat pack. Hmm.

I knew my husband would sigh when he saw it, because he has had some interesting experiences putting together things in flat packs. One TV unit we bought years ago was supposed to take three-quarters of an hour to assemble. Three hours later, it was finally finished! With this bigger, new one, I did offer to help, but he decided to work quietly by himself, methodically checking every step. And several hours later—voila! There was our completed unit—and I must say it looks excellent. Yes, it took a while, but if I had attempted it, I would probably still be working on it!

We have both had to put not only several individual items together in this move (some without any instructions!), but whole rooms of furniture. Where would this or that fit? Where would it look or work best? Should we throw it out and buy something new? And that’s when I began to reflect on God’s amazing ability to arrange not merely rooms in a house, but our entire, very messy, complicated lives.

At various times over the years, God has managed to put the pieces of my life together in wonderful ways, rearranging things, pointing me in another direction, giving me hope, showing me the best way ahead. At one stage years ago, friends suggested I might try a different occupation, but I could see no way of doing that. Yet God managed to provide me with a job that suited my abilities so well and even gave me skills I would need years later as a writer. At another stage, when I wondered if my first novel would ever find a publisher, God managed to do just that. And now, as we have recently moved house, God has done it again and provided somewhere special that is so beautiful, quiet and comfortable—just right for us.

I’m very thankful I belong to that Master-builder who is able to put those pieces of my life together in a way that is so wise and just so right. Truly, God’s ways are vastly different from our ways—and so much better too!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

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I was intrigued, even as I opened the lovely card that had just arrived for me in the mail. Apart from anything else, hand-written cards or letters do not pop into my mailbox often these days, what with emails and other electronic forms of communication. Who would bother to write at length to me in this way—and so neatly and carefully too?

I soon discovered thimg_20170116_123459191_hdre card was from a lady I had never met. She had just finished reading my latest book, Becoming Me, she explained, and wanted to tell me how much she had enjoyed it. But that was not all. She went on to tell me she had thoroughly enjoyed all my books and had not been able to put any of them down until she had finished. Wow—now that’s the sort of letter authors long to receive, for sure!

But it was the way she had come across my books that captured my attention even more. You see, it seems this lady has never actually bought any of them but has instead borrowed them from others. And it was who those ‘others’ turned out to be that intrigued me most. The first kind person to lend her my books turned out to be her sister-in-law, a lady we knew quite a few years ago at a church here in Sydney. Every time this lady would travel interstate to visit her, she would apparently pass on my latest book to her—something I love to hear, as to me that means my book isn’t sitting on a shelf somewhere, gathering dust, but will hopefully be enjoyed by yet another reader!

Eventually in this way, the lady who wrote to me got hold of my first five novels, one after the other. But while reading my fifth, Heléna’s Legacy, she noticed I had dedicated it to my parents, Tom and Rene Wardrop. ‘Wardrop?’ she thought. ‘I know someone of that name at my mother’s retirement village. I wonder if there’s a connection?’ She enquired further and soon discovered this person she knew is actually my cousin! And thus began this lady’s journey of borrowing books six, seven and eight of mine from my cousin, instead of having to wait until her sister-in-law visited from Sydney!

As I read about this whole sequence of events, I could not help thinking, once again, how amazingly God weaves our lives together in ways we would never have imagined. Who would have thought the lady we knew here in Sydney would bother to pass each of those books of mine onto to her sister-in-law interstate? Who would have thought her sister-in-law would notice my parent’s surname in the front of my fifth novel and make the connection with my cousin? Who would have thought my cousin would go on lending her my books? And who would have thought this lady would bother to write such a lovely, encouraging card to me, so full of ‘God-connections’?

Truly, God’s ways are so much more amazing than ours could ever be—don’t you agree?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

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Jo 17I was disappointed, I have to admit. During the weeks leading up to our recent trip to South Australia, I had been in contact with a particular church to see if an author visit there would be possible. I did not want to intrude or upset any plans the leadership might have—after all, it had been a long time since we had lived in South Australia and been part of this church.

Eventually, I thought it was all arranged. Then, a week before we left, an email arrived: I’m sorry, but there has been some miscommunication—I have arranged for something else to happen in our morning service that day. I hope you can find another church instead.

Well, that was that—and it was too late to enquire elsewhere. We had been looking forward to visiting this church, but would it be wise to do so now? Did I even want to?

On the Saturday of that same weekend, I had scheduled an author visit at the Adelaide Koorong Bookstore. I had barely finished setting up when an older man approached my table.

‘What’s this? Something special on, is there?’

Then he noticed my name.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen! I know you from years ago at church!’

As soon as he told me who he was, I remembered him. And yes, he was from the very church where I had hoped to be interviewed the following day! We chatted for quite a while—I could not get over the fact that the first person who walked in the bookstore that morning knew me, after all those years.

Later, when I told my husband what had happened, we decided we should attend this church, for old times’ sake. And, as soon as we walked in, the gentleman I had met at the bookstore the previous day came scurrying up.

‘I tried to get onto you, but I didn’t have your mobile number. I’ve spoken to the minister—would you be able to talk about your books for a couple of minutes in the service?’

And so I did, unprepared as I was. Afterwards, I chatted with the minister with whom I had liaised and soon saw how much he had on his plate at that church. And yes, there was something extra on in the service that day, with a couple being farewelled. A special luncheon was held for them, during which we got to talk to several people we had known all those years earlier and even sell some of my books.

Later, we could not help but marvel at the way God brought all this about. I had sensed God wanted me at that church. So when it didn’t happen, I was confused. But God wasn’t—and promptly found a unique way around those obstacles that had arisen. Again I experienced, as I have many times in my life, the truth of Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

May you too experience God’s unexpected ways in your life and know the real and lasting joy this brings.

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Helena CoverAs I sat reading the email enquiry that had just arrived via my website, I felt more than a little surprised. You see, someone had written to ask where she could get hold of twenty-five copies of my very first novel Heléna, first published way back in 2007. She explained how she had loved it and planned to review it at her church’s women’s retreat, so needed to have copies available for their bookstall.

I suggested she check at a nearby Christian bookstore, as I had none on hand. She did this, but with no success. So I agreed to order in some copies from my previous publisher for her—and within less than a fortnight, those books had arrived. I contacted my prospective customer again and she arranged to pick them up from me. I looked forward to meeting her and to discovering where she had first come across Heléna. Had she bought it from me after I had spoken somewhere? Had she found it in a bookstore? Had someone perhaps given it to her?

When she arrived, she was in a hurry. But in those few moments together, she told me a story that blew my mind.

‘Oh, I found my copy of Heléna in a Vinnies store at Ryde!’ she told me. ‘It looked new—and when I picked it up, I realised it was a Christian book, so I bought it. I’ve read some of your other books too since then.’

At that point, I showed her one of my bookmarks that feature my most recent novel The Inheritance and my memoir Soul Friend.

‘I haven’t read The Inheritance,’ she told me, ‘but I’ve read Soul Friend. In fact, I lent it to a friend I worked with. She was unhappy in her job and I thought it might help her. I didn’t want her to leave, but when she read it, it gave her the strength to do just that and to move on in her life. And that has been the best thing for her.’

As I stood clutching the cash payment she insisted on making then and there for all twenty-five copies of Heléna, I felt so humbled. Only God could have arranged for her to buy that second hand copy in Vinnies and be moved by it, then to read more of my books. Only God could have prompted her to lend Soul Friend to her friend. And only God could have used it to inspire this person to make a wise decision and move on. I could never have dreamed up this sequence of events—but God certainly could.

As my lovely customer left, clutching her carton of books, I thanked God for her and prayed those copies would be well received at the women’s retreat. And I remembered once again some verses I love from Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

I could not agree more. How about you?

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Jo 23I did not have a good attitude as I headed off to catch the train to the city. I was tired. I had writing to do at home and this meeting would take up most of my day. Why waste my time in this way?

I wondered that even more when only six people turned up for our meeting. Usually there were more than twice as many. I stifled a sigh and felt embarrassed for one person who was present for the first time. Surely she’d be disappointed to find the group was so small.

This new person introduced herself and shared about the challenges facing her. Others shared as well, including one lady who had only recently left hospital and was still far from well. When the new person had to leave early, I wondered again if she had felt it was worthwhile. The rest of us then prayed for the lady who had been ill—and straight away it was obvious how important this prayer was for her. We could almost see the weight being lifted off her shoulders as we gathered round her.

The next day, I received a call from the new person who had been present. She wanted to buy two of my books and was also recommending me as a speaker to friends she knew. I thanked her but also told her how sorry I was there had been so few people at our meeting.

‘Oh, that was fine,’ she told me. ‘I was just blown away by the group—it was amazing! I wouldn’t have shared all I did if the group had been any bigger. There’s no one else I can talk to about the things I told the group yesterday.’

How humbling it was to discover I had completely misjudged the situation. Then I realised that, had there been more people present, the lady who had been ill would also probably not have shared as much and we would have been unable to pray for her as we did. It would all have been worth it just for her—let alone for the new person as well. It was as if God had arranged it all just for them.

Yet that was not quite true, because we had all received prayer in the group. The others had prayed for me about completing my current manuscript, although, in my tiredness, I could not remember exactly what they had prayed. That night, I found myself able to get through much more editing than I would have expected—and the following day as well. I felt alert and empowered and more hopeful about this particular manuscript. Could this have happened as a result of those prayers the group had prayed? Hmm.

In my great wisdom, I had thought my trip into town was a waste of time. Yet God had it all in hand, went before us and brought great comfort and healing to us all that day. Who are we to outthink and criticise God? As Isaiah reminds us:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heaves are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

I’m so glad that’s the case—aren’t you?

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I never cease to be amazed at the neat things God does in my life. Just when I least expect it, I am surprised yet again with some kind act or some special insight that leaves me gobsmacked.

This past weekend, I found myself trying to round off that final chapter of my current work in progress—a non-fiction book, entitled Coming Home to Myself. Should be simple, right? Hmm—wrong! Instead, I found myself writing several paragraphs, then deleting them—over and over again. I swapped them around. I shortened them. I split them up. But nothing seemed to flow well.

As you might imagine, I became somewhat frustrated. I have struck difficult patches in my writing before, but this time, it all seemed particularly confusing. Eventually, I stood up and declared out loud, in a firm voice, ‘This is enough!’ I then prayed, still out loud, asking God to show me the way forward. Almost immediately, the thought came to go to our china cabinet and get out my set of five wooden Russian ‘babushka’ dolls I bought at a market stall in London years ago, simply because I loved them. I had always envisaged these dolls featuring on the cover of my book. In fact, I mention them in my introduction, since, to me, they depict my own journey over the years, as God has gently removed various self-protective layers from my life and enabled me to become who I believe I was created to be. But I had never thought of mentioning them again, to conclude my book.

P1030938I took them back to my desk and lined them up. The words began to flow, almost carrying me along with them. Then, as I wrote, out of the blue, I remembered how I had once dropped the smallest doll of the set and how I had been unable to find it for years. Then one day when we moved the whole china cabinet, there it was, right at the back underneath it. I had forgotten that whole experience, but saw immediately how it fitted in so well with the theme of my final two paragraphs, which stresses the importance of not losing sight of who we are at the very centre of our being—that person made in the image of God, created to show something of God to the world in our own unique way.

I almost laughed with joy as I wrote. How freeing it was, as those words flowed out! I could feel the lightness in my spirit and such a sense of the fullness of God in me. Surely God had prompted me to stand firm against that overwhelming confusion, to get out those Russian dolls and to remember, as I did, my experience of losing—and finding—that littlest doll all those years ago. Again, I knew I had been privileged to experience another touch of God’s amazing love and grace in my life, just when I least expected it and in a way I could never have envisaged.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

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I did not know quite what to expect when I fronted up at our local Christian bookstore last Saturday for their first ever Author Expo. What would the next four hours involve? What interesting ‘God conversations’ would I have? I was already looking forward to meeting or renewing acquaintance with the other authors. But I discovered yet again that God has a way of bringing special surprises across our path that touch our hearts in a way that is hard to ignore.

Our individual tables were all set out ready along one of the main aisles. I had barely settled in before the author at the next table introduced herself and we began chatting. Then I noticed another author two tables away.

‘Oh, I must speak to that man,’ I told my new friend. ‘I was in a writers’ group he led in the early eighties. He might be encouraged to see I now have seven books published.’

‘But I was in a writers’ group he ran back then too!’ she gasped.

Had we been in the same group? We could not remember each other. But she had also continued writing and was now celebrating the release of her first novel.

A little later, I managed to speak to this gentleman who had run the writers’ group. How wonderful it was to see his face light up when I pointed out how, thirty years later, here were two authors he had encouraged in their writing journey! And what a wonderful glimpse it was into the faithfulness of God in my life, taking me through so many different experiences during those years that have equipped me to do what I do now.

Then there was the moment when I handed one of my bookmarks to a customer, only to have her smile at me and say:

‘Well, Jo-Anne Berthelsen! I know you many years ago from church. I’m ….’

And on the conversation went. I had not recognised her, which was not surprising, since she was around six years old last time I saw her thirty years ago! Again, I was overwhelmed with the grace of God in bringing me to where I am now and also in keeping this young woman close through all the ups and downs of her own life.

Another precious moment occurred when I noticed a woman smiling at me and began to chat with her. When I commented on her lovely accent, she told me she was from Iraq and again I marvelled at how God puts people in the right place just at the right time. I happened at that point to have a friend with me who has worked in Northern Iraq among Kurdish widows there. How wonderful it was to introduce her to this woman and see them connect at a heart level!

Are you rejoicing like me that we belong to a God of such wonderful surprises—a God who can see the whole picture and whose ways are so much higher than ours?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

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