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Posts Tagged ‘keeping the faith’

Jo 17Who would have thought? Way back in July 2009, I started my personal blog journey, wondering whether I would continue to have enough things to write about. Yet here I am, five hundred blogs later, still finding something each week to share with others.  Also during this time, I have written over ninety blogs for various Christian author groups, sharing lessons from my writing journey and encouraging other authors. Phew!

Now that represents a lot of words cobbled together—around 325,000 in fact. If I had decided not to blog and instead shaped all those words into full-length books, I could have produced three and a half more novels in that time, to add to those I did manage to complete and see through to publication. No one made me choose to churn out those blogs each week, but I continued doing it for various reasons.

Firstly on a practical level, committing myself to producing a blog each week—or perhaps several ahead of time, if I planned to be away or had a busy schedule coming up—has kept me writing consistently, even if that meant less time to spend on bigger writing projects. Also, for wordy writers like me, it is good discipline to restrict myself to around 550 words, while attempting to say something worthwhile each week!

But perhaps more importantly, writing my blogs has become a little ministry that seems to suit my particular gifts and personality well and provides a way for me to connect with those I have known in past years, as well as many readers I don’t know personally at all. It is a way I can encourage others via sharing something God has done in my life or some lesson I have taken to heart from God’s Word or perhaps something God seems to highlight in the people, places or events in the world around me. And in the process, I often encourage myself all over again, as I reflect on what I feel God wants me to say and crystallise those thoughts running around in my brain.

Recently, I chatted with a friend who was preparing a eulogy for the funeral of a close relative. I shared with her how some of Jesus’ words as he prays to his heavenly Father, just prior to being arrested, had challenged me that morning:

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. John 17:4

How wonderful it would be, we decided, if we, like Jesus, could truly say that at the end of our time here on earth! It is what we both aim for in our lives—to do the work God has given us to do, however big or small that might be. And I feel that my writing, including my little effort with my blogs, has been part of that work God has gifted and enabled me to do.

Recently when I spoke at an event, I mentioned some similar words that the Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy and that I would like at my own funeral:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

I hope I can say that when my time comes. Is that your hope too?

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I wonder if you have ever re-discovered something you once loved or used a lot or thought was wonderful, perhaps after many years have elapsed. It’s a bit like finding an old friend, isn’t it? There it is—just as you remembered it. And in a flash, the memories come flooding back.

IMG_20180216_101532547_BURST001Recently, my sister and brother-in-law arrived from interstate for a visit and brought with them my faithful, old, bright yellow shopping trolley I purchased around thirty-eight years ago! At that time, we lived on the other side of Sydney, just a few doors from very busy King Georges Road. And across that busy road was our local supermarket. It was far too close to drive to, yet too far away to carry all those bags of groceries back home. So that bright yellow shopping trolley came in very handy during the time we lived there.

Then we moved—and that trolley languished in a cupboard near our front door for years. Eventually, my sister relocated to Melbourne where she used to frequent the markets. So during one visit we made to her, we took that trolley along and bequeathed it to her. A few years later, she moved to Bendigo, where she too no longer needed that yellow trolley. So from then on, it languished in her garage—until her recent visit to us. You see, because we now live in a village environment, that yellow trolley is perfect for stashing all those groceries in from the boot of my car and trundling them down a nearby walkway to our front door!

In our family too, toys, games and little girls’ clothes also come around and around again. Recently, our daughter-in-law brought a few tubs of such items to us and, as I checked through them all, I found beautiful, sturdy jigsaw puzzles I remember completing with our now fifteen-year-old granddaughter when we used to mind her as a young child, along with her twelve-year-old sister. What memories those puzzles brought back! There were also some board and card games we played together that I know our younger grandchildren will enjoy now. As for those numerous Barbie dolls and accessories, what a treasure trove for our three-year-old Maxine—and her older brother! And those recycled little girls’ clothes too are still beautiful, many of them top name brands and hardly worn. Maxine is surely the best dressed little girl in Blacktown!

All this has caused me to reflect on my own life and wonder again at how God seems to use our gifts in fresh ways at different stages of our lives. It can be unwise to keep hanging onto things we have done in the past or roles we have filled, can’t it? But it seems to me God often surprises us with new twists and turns in our journeys that require a dusting off and reshaping of the old to be useful all over again. Only God could arrange things in such unique ways, don’t you think? So I hope and pray I can follow God’s leading and recycling and remain faithful and useful to the end—and I hope you can too.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

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Have you ever experienced one of those moments when a truth you have almost come to take for granted hits you smack between the eyes once again? It can be just a tad humbling, in my opinion.

There I was this past weekend, speaking to a great group of women at a church breakfast. Little did I suspect God was going to remind me of a home truth in my own life. I have seen before how the things I pass onto others when speaking at such events are the very things God wants to impress on me as well. I should know this, having spoken many times in connection with my books over these past few years. But I had forgotten. And God knew that.

I reached a point in my talk where I had decided to include part of the story of how God became real in my own life, so I began sharing with the women about the three things that had impacted me most deeply back then. I told them how I was shocked when I realised that the Jesus I had heard about in Sunday School and church was actually real—and further, that he was still alive—in which case, I needed to do something about letting him be Lord of my life. I told them about the awe I felt when I realised I mattered to Jesus—that he knew all about me and loved me. And I told them too how I knew at once that, by believing in Jesus and accepting his love, I had indeed discovered the purpose for my being on this earth—to live for God and bring honour to Jesus, whatever my future career path might turn out to be.

I was right in the moment, sharing from my heart with the women. Then, through some almost joking, ‘throw away’ words of mine, God spoke to me.

‘I hate to say it,’ I laughed as I told the women, ‘but this happened to me over fifty years ago now when I was fifteen—so now you can do the Maths easily!’

No, there was no blinding flash that knocked me off my feet at that point—but I did feel the impact of the following gentle words from God deep in my spirit.

‘Yes, it has been fifty years, Jo-Anne. A long time of journeying together, through so many ups and downs.’

Straight away, I was filled with such thankfulness for that journey that I began all those years ago as a fifteen year old, so full of uncertainties and anxieties. Yes, I thought to myself, even as I stood there and kept speaking to the women, God has been so, so faithful to me through it all—so patient and so forbearing and so understanding and so forgiving and … well, just so plain caring about me. But for God, where would I be? Certainly not where I was right at that point, standing on the platform and speaking to those women present.

Yes, I have kept the faith—but only by God’s amazing love and grace through all those years. That’s all I can say.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John :1

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