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Posts Tagged ‘Julian of Norwich’

Around four years ago, while attending a women’s event at our church, I began talking with a young mum sitting nearby. Her face and manner were so open and honest, as she shared the good things happening in her life but also the challenges of balancing all the demands of managing her young family with work and other responsibilities. As we finished talking, I felt God prompted me to bless her with one simple, little phrase. ‘Peace on your home’, I said to her—and immediately saw how moved she was.

Since then, each time I see her leading worship or notice her chatting to someone after church, I repeat quietly in my heart, ‘Peace on your home—peace on your home.’ What a joy to be able to ask God to do this for her and her little family!

Recently too, I was reminded of the lovely, gentle words of farewell my dear mentor and ‘soul friend’ Joy used to say to me when I had finished pouring out all my troubles and questions during my visits to her, especially during my years at theological college. Sometimes, it would just be a simple sentence like, ‘Go gently, dear friend, in God’s love.’ Sometimes, merely a short phrase like ‘God’s peace to you’. Or sometimes, she would quote a line from a favourite poet to me or perhaps the well-known words of Julian of Norwich, written way back in the fourteenth century:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Through this quote, I knew Joy was encouraging me to keep on trusting God, in the midst of all the busyness and stresses of life. Whether things turned out the way I expected them to or not, God was still there, holding me close, and always would be. Therefore, I could be at peace.

These instances of giving and receiving words of peace resurfaced for me while writing another chapter of my work-in-progress, warming my heart and encouraging me to continue. But this past week, I have been encouraged even further, as I have explored the countless references in Scripture to God’s peace —that peace God longs to give us, both on a personal and corporate level. What a privilege to reflect on such verses as those below and breathe in God’s deep comfort and peace in the process!

And as you read them now, may the Lord bless you so much and speak deep peace into your heart too.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ Numbers 6:24-26

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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Jo 23Of course I could never relate to the following (!), but I wonder if you are the sort of person who often tends to be just that little bit harder on yourself than God would ever consider being. Where God would choose to treat you with grace and kindness, you instead choose to drive yourself on and to berate yourself that you have not done enough or been perfect enough. You may even find it difficult to admit you are only human, after all, and not superwoman—or superman!

Yep, somehow that sounds all too familiar to me—at least at times. There are so many things I may want to do and can do. And so many things I may need to do that are merely part of life. Yet, unless I listen to God, learn to trust God’s guidance and rely on God’s enabling, I can easily run myself ragged.

Recently, I read again the very long Psalm 78, where the psalmist challenges God’s people to look back in their history and see how many times God rescued them and had mercy on them, yet how many times they chose to go their own way. As I read, I began to apply it to my own life—to remember the numerous difficult patches God has brought me through, to recall all the wonderful gifts God has given me along the way in the form of special people or amazing experiences or achievements beyond anything I ever expected. And as I did, I sensed things somehow falling into place deep in my spirit and heard God’s calming voice, reassuring me, as Julian of Norwich once wrote, that ‘all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’.

In Psalm 78, we read how God’s people at one stage did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them’ (10-11). Further on in their history, they apparently ‘did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance’ (22). Things seem to look up at another later stage, however:

They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. (35)

Yet sadly, we find a big let-down once again in the very next two verses:

But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with them tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant. (36-37)

Wow! Am I like that at times, I had to ask myself? Hmm.

What a relief then to come to the two following verses, right in the middle of the psalm:

Yet he was merciful, he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. (38-39)

How much we need to remember, like God’s people way back then, that God is our Rock and our Redeemer—that we, who are like that momentary, passing breeze, need to rely so much on God’s strength and love and mercy and forgiveness and grace! Then, and only then, will we be at rest deep down, living out of that place of peace each day.

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Not long after my early novels were published, someone said to me: ‘What a wonderful legacy to leave behind for others!’ Such a thought had never occurred to me—I was so focused on the moment, wondering what my current market would be like. Anyway, if my books did survive for another generation, they would probably be tucked away in some dark corner, regarded as hopelessly old-fashioned and not worth reading.

But this week, this idea of touching a generation other than our own was brought home to me in two quite different ways.

The first occurred when I was researching some authors mentioned in my current non-fiction book. There was the English woman mystic, Julian of Norwich, who lived from around 1342 to 1416. At thirty years of age, she had a series of visions or ‘showings’ which she recorded soon after. Then, having reflected on them for twenty years, she wrote an expanded version called Revelations of Divine Love, which is still available and read today, along with many of her sayings such as ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ And there was also Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun who lived a little later (1515 – 1582) and founded a Carmelite order. Her sayings are also often quoted, such as ‘Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God’—or, as it is sometimes translated, ‘All things pass away; God never changes.’ Now in no way do I claim to be a Julian or a Teresa (!)—yet I was encouraged to see that all these centuries later, their words still speak to so many people.

And the second occurred on Australia Day, which was also my grandfather’s birthday. I remembered how he used to tell us grandchildren that the public holiday was really to commemorate his birthday! But I remembered other things too then—how my grandfather left each grandchild a special letter, written in his beautiful copperplate handwriting, urging us, among other things, to have faith in God. And I also remembered how I loved to sit on the floor near where he was reading and go through all the old things in a nearby cupboard on which a large bookcase rested. I was fascinated by the old hardcover books I found there—books like Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and of course Lorna Doone. You see, R D Blackmore, the author of Lorna Doone, was my grandfather’s great-great-uncle! These books seemed so mysterious and almost other worldly—I can still remember their musty smell and how I would turn their pages almost reverently. They impacted me and no doubt fostered my love of books, even though I found them difficult to read at that age.

Yes, my books will get musty and crumble away too and no doubt end their days in some recycling bin. All things do pass away, except God, as Teresa of Avila wrote. And as Jesus himself declared:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matt 24:35)

Unlike mine, Jesus’ words will ring out down through eternity and will never lose their impact. But I like to think that one day some young girl will sit in front of a cupboard and find my old books there—and maybe even see in their pages something that draws her closer to her heavenly Father and touches her heart. What a privilege that would be!

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