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Posts Tagged ‘Leura’

Jo 17Sometimes we need a gentle reminder of what life is all about, don’t we? I know I can become so focussed on what I am doing from week to week that I can easily forget the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is important because it helps me sort out my priorities in the best possible way and reminds me why I am doing what I am doing in my life. In short, it shows me my life from God’s perspective—and that always gives me much food for thought.

Last week held one of those big picture moments for me. One day, I decided to drive up to the Blue Mountains to see my lovely, older friend Joy, who is now in a nursing home. I crept into the room she shares with another older lady and found both of them sound asleep. So what to do? I did not want to wake my friend and perhaps disorientate her, so I decided to sit and wait—and reflect.

It was peaceful in that room. At one stage, a kind staff member came in and we chatted for a few moments, but apart from that, all was quiet, except for my friend’s gentle breathing and that of the other occupant. Joy looked so small and fragile and somehow defenceless as she lay there, yet she also seemed at peace. Around her in the room, her beautiful family had placed photos of themselves and pictures of the flowers Joy loves, as well as other items she can enjoy touching or looking at. As I sat there, I remembered how much she had enriched my life and the lives of so many others too, over the years. And that is the sort of richness that really counts, isn’t it—the richness of drawing others into a closer connection with God, of passing on the utterly gracious, forgiving love of God to others?

I know that, when the time comes, Joy will be filled with delight that she is finally in God’s presence, just as I believe God will be to welcome her home. She does not have great earthly riches, but her soul is so rich in God—and that richness has been shared with so many others along the way.

That very morning before leaving home, I read the following:

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendour of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendour will not descend with him. Psalm 49:16-17

… But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7

My friend Joy, and all of us, came into the world as defenceless, little babies, bringing nothing with us except ourselves. And all of us, including Joy, will leave this world equally defenceless, through age or illness or injury, taking nothing with us except ourselves. How important it is then for us to be rich in the things of God, to know deep within ourselves that we are God’s beloved children and to be content with loving and serving God and others! That indeed is ‘great gain’—the only sort of gain that really matters, when all is said and done.

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Jo 17It is some months since I have been able to visit my friend in the nursing home where she now lives. As I make my way to her room, I hope and pray she will recognise me. At the door, I see the nurses have just settled Joy in her special, comfortable wheelchair. She turns towards me—and her whole face lights up.

‘Oh! What a … what a … sur … oh!’

I reach out and grasp her hand, while Joy continues to look at my face in wonderment.

‘I’ll take her to the sunroom,’ a lovely nurse tells me—and soon we are settled there.

Joy continues to search my face with loving eyes. I resist the urge to tell her my name. I suspect it has slipped her mind, but it doesn’t matter—I know she knows who I am. I remind her of our book Soul Friend that I wrote about our journey together during my time at theological college, then on into ministry and writing.

‘Yes, Soul Friend,’ she says softly—and I know she remembers.

I talk to her about her family and mine. I share some little Turkish cookies I used to make often and take to her whenever we met and she remembers those too. It is a little hard for her to hold them now, as they tend to break easily. I see that the crumbs they leave on her clothes concern her a little, so I try to help her brush them off. We look at each other and laugh—a laugh that is beautiful music to my ears because it reminds me so vividly of other shared moments of joy. She has not changed—she is still the same precious person deep inside. Yes, she may now have trouble completing sentences. Yes, she may grope for the words she is trying to say. Yes, she may not remember names so easily. But she is still my lovely ‘soul friend’ Joy, out of whose face the love of God shines.

Eventually, I see she is getting tired. A nurse comes to wheel her to a lounge area and I prepare to say goodbye. I hold her hand and give her a kiss.

‘Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you—there’s nothing like a kiss!’ she says, closing her eyes in ecstasy.

‘Then I’ll give you another one!’ I tell her, dropping a light kiss on her forehead.  Her face is suffused with pure joy.

And as I hold her hand one last time, then turn to leave, I hear her familiar, beautiful words that have always felt like a blessing to me—‘Dear friend!’

As I drive away, the thought comes clearly to me that these two beautiful, little words are what God desires to speak into our hearts each day. I am not in my friend’s situation, but so often, I too become confused. So often, I let life overwhelm me. So often, I forget God. Yet each day, God reaches out to me and talks to me as with a dear friend. Each day, God is there to help me on my journey—and I am so blessed.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:11 New Living Translation

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I quite enjoy driving long distances by myself. There is something special about being alone in my car in a kind of bubble with God, listening to music or praying aloud or just enjoying God’s presence. And what makes it even more special is the opportunity to gaze out at the beautiful countryside I am driving through, noting the often dramatic changes in the landscape and marvelling at God’s creativity on display all around me.

This past weekend, I found myself heading west from Sydney to the beautiful town of Orange. I have always loved driving up into the Blue Mountains. Yet again, I feasted my eyes on those vistas of tree-covered slopes, of valleys shrouded in blue haze and of old stone settlers’ cottages and holiday venues from a bygone era. But it was as I crested that mountain range and began to descend to the sloping plains beyond, stretching as far as the eye could see, that my mind was blown yet again with the vastness of it all. And as the road wended its way further west, across smaller ranges and down into rich farming valleys, God seemed to be all around me, in and outside that car, overwhelming me with his own vastness.

I am so thankful for that experience. I am in the midst of a very busy month of speaking—and at these times I can often forget the bigger picture and become overwhelmed with all that has to be attended to. I can even lose sight of why I am doing everything I’m doing, until things become more of a chore than a joy. But my journey over those mountains put a dramatic stop to that, ministering to my spirit in several ways.

Firstly, seeing God’s hand of creativity in such an undeniable way around me enabled me to pull back, focus on that bigger picture again and realise God is quite able to use my speaking and writing to encourage others. I am in the hands of a great, great God, after all.

Secondly, at my destination, I met with a body of women who love the Lord and endeavour to serve God where they are. Some face big challenges right now and others are on the brink of changes that will impact them greatly. And again I saw what a privilege I have to speak into others’ lives and encourage them in some way.

Thirdly, I glimpsed again the power of a written story. One lady had travelled some distance to hear me speak because two of my books had touched her so deeply. How could I ignore God’s encouragement via this dear person to hold fast to the vision I have been given and to believe my books can make a difference?

Yes, I journeyed over physical mountains this past weekend with God. But I suspect I surmounted some inner obstacles as well. People, we have a great God—a God who will help us climb those mountains in our lives and stand victorious till the end!

Who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:31-33

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