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Posts Tagged ‘local church’

This week marks a big milestone in our family, as we celebrate my husband’s eightieth birthday! To keep things COVID-safe, we are staging ‘The Festival of Lionel’, several small get-togethers over ten days or so with friends and family members. It all seems a little surreal—as one kind friend wrote when invited to come and celebrate with us, ‘But … are you sure he’s eighty?’

Yes, Lionel was born in 1940—a very long time ago indeed, although in some ways, it seems to have flown. And what a lot he has packed into those many years! After ministering at a small church in Brisbane where our first daughter, Jane, was born, Lionel accepted a call to a church in Sydney, where our son Andrew came along.  A lecturing role at the Bible College of South Australia in beautiful Victor Harbor followed. We loved those six years of living near the beach and surrounding farms and our third child, Tina, was born there.

But then the college relocated to Adelaide, where we lived until Lionel’s role there finished a year later. We returned to Sydney, where he became a local church pastor again, until he was offered another lecturing role, this time at our theological college, which necessitated a move across town for us. Twelve years later, after that role ended, Lionel joined our church’s pastoral team full-time, before training as an intentional interim minister. He then worked in this capacity at several different churches, helping them find their feet again, and trained others in this ministry too.

Can you imagine the number of sermons Lionel has preached down through the years, often two different sermons each Sunday? And what about all those lectures—and the thousands of hours of preparation that went into them? Lionel already knew his bible well when I met him way back in 1968, during his own time at theological college, but along the way, he added to that knowledge with further study in the USA. He was—and still is—convinced of the truth of the gospel. His desire was to equip others well for their own ministries, whatever shape or form these might take, and to this day, even at the ripe old age of eighty, he still enjoys doing that.

Lionel has touched many lives through the years—college students, those who made up the church congregations where he ministered and also friends along the way, as well as family. His life has been well spent, serving the Lord and equipping others to do the same—and we hope and pray he can continue doing such things for quite some years yet.

Right now, however, what fun we are having, celebrating this milestone birthday! Yet it’s wonderful to know that one day a much more joyful celebration will take place for him when he meets Jesus face to face. On that day, I’m sure he will hear the same words the faithful servant who used his talents well heard when his master returned:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21

What a celebration that will be, sharing in the Lord’s happiness! Are you looking forward to that for yourself too?

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I was taught a big lesson one evening at our old church. I should never have had to learn it in the first place—I should have known better. But the way it happened has ensured I will never forget what I discovered about myself that evening.

Our service had finished and people were beginning to disperse. As I walked from the chapel itself towards our hall, I saw a man sitting at the rear on the old gas heater we used at that time. This man—let’s call him Alan—was known to us from previous visits to our church. Alan would tend to wander in late, smelling strongly of alcohol, and sit at the back, staring around with bloodshot eyes.

I always kept my distance from him. And this particular night, I realised he could see that. In fact, he could see right through me, I discovered. As I walked past him, I must have given him a less than friendly look, because the next moment, I heard him saying something to me.

‘You don’t like me, do you?’

At first, I had trouble taking in what he had said. I stopped and turned, already feeling embarrassed.

‘P-p-pardon?’

‘You don’t like me, do you?’ he repeated, looking straight at me in a way that gave me no escape.

I walked on, without even giving him the courtesy of a response. I sensed he was laughing at my discomfort—and rightly so, I began to realise. You see, he was right. I didn’t like him. In fact, I despised him for the way he lived his life. Yet I knew nothing about him. I had never bothered to try to find out what his background was like, what had caused him to drink so much, what issues he had faced, what opportunities he had missed out on. Others did chat to him and try to help him—but all I had done was judge him. And Alan could see that clearly.

Fast forward many years to the present. This time I sat while someone shared with me how broken-hearted she felt at the things she had done. As I listened, I found myself feeling just that bit angry with her—and a little self-righteous too. How could she have done those things I would never have done? How could she have let herself and others down like that?

But as full-blown judgement began to kick in, that image of Alan from all those years ago and that question he asked came to mind. And I was silent. Then I heard her own remorseful cry: ‘How could I have done it? How could God forgive things like that?’

Yes, we could both see some answers to her first question. But as to the second, there is no real reason, is there, except that God loves us so completely—enough to forgive us over and over again as we come with contrite, broken hearts. If I felt aghast at what I heard, how much more must God be offended by the things we all choose to do? Yet time and time again, God forgives, God restores, God takes our punishment away—because of Jesus and the price he paid to set us free.

Now that blows my mind. How about you?

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him …Ps 103:12

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Have you ever heard of the Living Book program?  Recently I was interviewed by a journalist from the ‘Auburn Review’ about my involvement in this program at the Auburn Library.  You can see this interview by clicking here:

http://www.torchpublishing.com.au/read/Auburn_Review_14_June_2010/images1/004.jpg

As it explains, ‘Living Books’ are people who are prepared to share their own stories, lives or culture with anyone who chooses to ‘borrow’ them at the Library for a twenty-minute period.  Readers can reserve a ‘book’ for a particular time slot and then when the moment arrives, they are introduced to their ‘Living Book’ by one of the library staff, who will later inform them when their ‘borrowing period’ is up.

There are certain rules in place for ‘readers’, one of which is that each ‘book’ must be returned ‘in the same mental and physical condition’ as when it was borrowed!  But the ‘books’ too have rights, including time out for a break when needed.

I have found that ‘readers’ reserve the two ‘books’ I have listed in the ‘catalogue’ (‘Writing for Publication’ and the more personal ‘Writing from the Heart – An Author’s Journey’) for a variety of reasons.  Some are clear that they want tips about novel writing or how to find a publisher.  Some simply want to know about my own personal journey – how I have managed to finish five novels and have four published.  Some don’t know anything much about writing and in fact may simply want to practise their English!  And that’s fine by me.  Then there are others who, I suspect, are quite lonely and just enjoy one-on-one time with someone who will listen and have an intelligent conversation with them.

I have met some fascinating people through this program – like the young scientist who just ‘happened’ to be in the library one day when the program was on and came and chatted about his dream to write that he had almost lost.  At the end, he thanked me for reigniting this dream – what a privilege!  Or the writer from one of the Eastern European countries who had published books in his homeland but now faced the challenge of doing the same here in a language not his own.  Or the Iranian doctor who was struggling to retrain in his profession here.  Or the Chinese student for whom authors were obviously such exalted beings!  Often they ask me why I write and what I write about, and I answer honestly. I tell them my novels have a fair bit about God and faith in God in them and that I used to be part of a local church ministry team.  At that point, ‘readers’ sometimes talk about their own faith, Christian or otherwise, and how this impacts their lives.  And what interesting discussions we have had!  Or they may be puzzled at my answers and choose to take the conversation in another direction.  And that’s fine too – they have the right to do so.

One of the reasons I enjoy being part of the Living Book program is that it is an opportunity to engage one-on-one with another person in a way that may greatly encourage them or make some difference in their lives. And I also want my ‘readers’ to feel valued and listened to in the process.  After all, that’s how God treats me.  So watch out for a Living Library program in your area – or come along and visit our program on Saturday 9th July at the Regents Park Community Centre on this occasion behind the Library in Amy St Regents Park, Sydney, from 2.00-4.00pm!

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