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Posts Tagged ‘life’

Jo 17As an introverted writer, there is nothing I like more than sitting at my desk, typing away in perfect peace and quiet. As I do, I can look out my window at the trees and shrubs and beyond them to the sky. I hear birds chirping and the occasional bark of a dog, yet these sounds are pleasant and somehow reassuring. In these moments, I feel so blessed—and spoilt! I have peace, both inside and out—and I am so grateful for God’s gracious hand on my life.

Yes, sometimes that outer peace of mine disappears when little grandchildren arrive and run around excitedly or when we mind them at their house until mum or dad finish work. Sometimes too, we have visitors for meals or for a longer period. Sometimes I venture out to speak at various events or promote my books, which always involves much relating to others. And each week I attend church and happily mix with the family of God there. I also meet with others one-on-one for coffee and truly value these intimate conversations. Yet afterwards, I scuttle back home to my place of peace, where I sit and process everything—and thank God again for my lovely, quiet space where I can reflect and be refreshed in my spirit.

But sometimes that inner peace of mine can also disappear, which is much more alarming. Sometimes I take my eyes off God and refuse to listen to the Spirit’s voice, urging me to be still, to become aware of God’s presence in me and around me, to remember God knows all about my issues and those facing anyone near and dear to me, as well as those in the world at large. Sometimes I choose to worry so much about this and that, instead of handing it all over to God. Sometimes I fret over situations when it is way beyond my ability to sort it all out for those involved. Sometimes I foolishly ignore that peace God is holding out to me with such love and grace and instead decide to cling onto that deep turmoil within.

How important it is in these times to stop and read again Jesus’ words to his disciples—and to me:

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

And how important the Apostle Paul’s words are too:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Whatever is happening in your life right now, may you too be able to turn to God, be still and rest in that peace only God can give.

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

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I have had some sober reminders this past little while of how uncertain life is for all of us.  Yesterday I discovered that a friend has been diagnosed with a particular form of cancer that will be very difficult and painful to treat.  I hope and pray she will pull through and that her upcoming operation will be successful – but suddenly, life has changed for her and her family.

Then two weeks ago, a friend of my son and daughter-in-law passed away, aged only thirty-five.  She had gone into hospital for a routine foot operation, but while there, a clot formed – and she died with doctors around her.

Truly, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring – and this is exactly what James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about in his very practical letter to the early believers.  This is what he says:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)

Is that how you view your life?  As a vanishing mist – as something that is so insubstantial and fleeting?  This thought could be scary.  It could paralyse us with fear.  Or it could cause us to decide that if life’s as fleeting as that, then we should enjoy it while we can.  We should ‘eat, drink and be merry’ and do it with gusto and with little concern for anyone else except ourselves, because otherwise we might miss out.

And yet this thought could have a different effect on us.  It could spur us on to live life in a much more positive and pro-active way – to do what God wants us to do and to reach out to others in whatever way we have been gifted.  Tomorrow the opportunity might not be there.  Tomorrow the person we could have helped or encouraged in their journey might have completed it.  Tomorrow we ourselves might no longer be in a place where we can offer any more help to anyone.

James actually goes on to say that we do wrong to others and ‘miss the mark’ entirely in our lives if we choose to ignore what God is calling us to do.  He writes:

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17)

Do you know the good you ‘ought to do’?  Are you doing it?  Let’s act while we can – before the mist vanishes.

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Someone read me a beautiful poem recently that contains what I believe is one of the most important questions we could ever be asked.  The poem is ‘A Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver and ends this way:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Well, my life doesn’t quite fit the bill of being ‘wild and precious’, you might be tempted to say.  But just stop and think a minute.  I’m not sure exactly what Mary Oliver meant by ‘wild’ – yet isn’t it true that each morning when we wake up we face a whole raft of possibilities for the day ahead?  Whatever our role in life, each morning we can choose afresh how we act, how we approach the various situations that confront us, how we will respond to others along the way.  And if we consider God to be a vital part of our life, then the journey becomes even more interesting and full of possibilities.  That’s pretty wild, I reckon.

Recently, a woman who had nursed elderly people for many years commented on radio that one of the things in her experience people most regretted at the end of their lives was that they had not grasped the opportunities presented to them along the way or, in other words, had not taken more risks.  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and feel I had not attempted the ‘wild’ things God might have called me to do.  I have gifts and abilities.  You have gifts and abilities that can be used for good to bless and encourage others.  We all do.

And yes, my life and your life are definitely ‘precious’.  Each of us is unique.  Each of us is made in God’s image, according to Genesis 1:27.  And each of us has one opportunity to be all we were created to be, to have a positive impact in this world, to make a difference.

That inspires me to listen to God’s leading each day, to invest myself more fully in what I have been given to do, to try my best to honour God with this particular moment of my ‘one wild and precious life’.

I hope you find Mary Oliver’s question equally fascinating and challenging.

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