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Posts Tagged ‘new year’

Jo 12For quite a few Christmases, I have worked hard at perfecting a certain little trick with my mind—the art of deliberately forgetting. Now I can already forget many things without much effort. For instance, this Christmas, when the time came to put our grandchildren’s presents under the tree, I discovered I had forgotten where I had hidden several of them. Then after finally locating them, I found I had no idea what was in those carefully wrapped parcels!

The older I get too, I find I am improving at forgetting people’s names. How embarrassing it can be, when I find myself unable to introduce someone whose name I was told only moments earlier! Then recently, while reading the Psalms again, I was a little shocked to discover some key verses I had almost forgotten hidden away there. How could I do that? How could I forget Psalm 52:8, for example:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

Or Psalm 55:22:

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Or Psalm 56: 4:

In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

So why would I want to fine hone this skill of forgetting things any further? Well, the reason I do this each Christmas is to help out my husband, who is often stumped for gift ideas for me. So if I see something I would like for myself for Christmas, I buy it—providing it’s not too expensive, that is! Usually it is a book—perhaps a new one by a favourite author or one a friend whose opinion I trust has recommended. But once the checkout person puts that book in its carry bag, my little forgetting trick comes into play. There is a way, I have discovered, of not letting my mind dwell on that purchase anymore, of choosing to delete it from my memory—perhaps not completely, but close enough to it. If I tried, I’m sure I could recall the author of the book, although the title might escape me. But … why would I want to? After all, why spoil the lovely surprise on Christmas morning when I am presented with my gift and discover it is just the sort of excellent book I love to read?!

There are much more important things, however, than Christmas presents bought for oneself that God challenges us to forget or not hold onto—past failures, past regrets, past sins already forgiven as we have come to God in repentance. How wonderful that, by God’s grace, we can let go of them instead and move on with a light, joyous step, looking forward rather than back, as the prophet Isaiah challenged the Israelites to do:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:18-19

So as you step into 2019, what is God challenging you to remember that will strengthen you and give you much needed wisdom and peace? But also … what things might be better to forget?

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Jo 23Something strange occurs in our house around this time of the year. Although I rarely turn our TV on in the daytime, this state of affairs rapidly changes once the cricket season begins. Yes, I love watching our Aussie cricketers—especially when they’re winning! It is exhilarating to see them piling on those runs as they scamper from one end of the pitch to the other. And it is equally exhilarating to watch them bowl out their opponents and send them packing.

But I have discovered something else strange about my behaviour at this time of the year. Even when I choose not to be near our TV, I still turn that cricket coverage on. There is something relaxing about hearing those commentators in the distance from wherever I am in the house. It makes me feel as if summer has truly arrived—and that I can relax for a while and enjoy the moment.

Yet there’s more to it than that. Somehow, that cricket commentary in the background acts as a trigger, resurrecting so many childhood memories. In a moment, I am back there in our old home in Brisbane, playing with my sister or reading, while the sound of the cricket blares out from my father’s radio in another part of the house. At that point in my life, I was not interested in cricket at all. In fact, the sound of it no doubt annoyed my sister and me. Yet now I enjoy that cricket commentary not only for its own sake but also because it evokes such pleasant memories of my father and of those lazy, carefree, summer days of my childhood.

I wonder these days whether I sometimes treat God in the same way I treat that cricket commentary on our TV. How often am I content to relegate God’s voice to the background of my consciousness, enjoying knowing God is there but being too preoccupied with other things to stop and truly listen to what God is saying to me? How often do I read those wonderful passages of Scripture yet fail to pay full attention to them? Do they merely evoke pleasant memories for me at times of God’s past blessings in my life yet fail to touch my spirit as they need to right now?

If I truly want to find out what is happening in those cricket matches, it is not enough just to enjoy the vague sound of that commentary from my study or while preparing a meal in our kitchen. Even if I am already in the lounge room but reading at the same time, I need to put my book aside and focus on what is happening on that TV screen. How much more then do I need to give God my full attention right here and now? How much more important are those words of encouragement and comfort and challenge from God than any cricket commentary?

May 2015 be a year when you and I choose to tune in to God’s voice, listen to and learn from our loving Saviour, live the way God wants us to live and do the things we are being called to do.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

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This past week, I received an email from an old friend in which she described beginning a new year as being like looking at a huge, blank canvas and not having a clue what kind of picture will emerge on it. Do you relate to that image as you look ahead to 2012?

I certainly do—as do many of my author friends in particular, I expect. We may have spent the past year writing our novels or works of non-fiction, but what will happen to them in 2012? Will they end up being published? Or will they still be sitting there in a year’s time—along with a pile of rejection letters? Perhaps we had a book published this past year, but will it continue to sell well? Are we even with the right publisher? And what speaking engagements and promotional opportunities lie ahead for us?

In the eight years I have been writing, if nothing else, I have learnt that no one year is the same as another. I have had five novels published in that time, some of which have sold more than others. And at the beginning of each year, I have tried my best to line up as many speaking engagements as possible. Some years I have been almost overwhelmed with speaking opportunities, whereas in other years, for no apparent reason, I have suffered a dearth of them.

So as I stand on the brink of yet another year of writing and speaking, what can I do? Well, I can hope my sixth novel will be accepted for publication. And I can also hope my very first work of non-fiction will be too. I hope both these things fill part of that blank canvas for me in the coming year—but I can’t bank on it. I hope too that many speaking engagements will be scattered along the way, but I can’t be sure of these yet either. Some people are to get back to me in the new year, while others have yet to respond to my emails. And of course, I plan to keep writing—perhaps another work of non-fiction or one of those other novels I have outlined on my computer. But I’m not sure any of them will ‘work’—I’ll simply have to begin writing and see.

All this uncertainty can be very off-putting. But this past week, I was reminded clearly from Isaiah 2 that there is only one way for us to travel such an uncertain road. In verse 5, God says to the children of Israel through Isaiah, but surely to us too:

Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Then in verse 22 at the end of that same chapter, I read the following:

Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?

My dear friend finished her email I mentioned above with the thought that God knows already what that finished picture on the blank canvas before us for 2012 will look like. I don’t know about you, but I find that hugely reassuring. How privileged we are to know we can trust the Lord and walk in his light rather than bank on mere human beings in the year ahead! God knows. God sees. And God will undertake for me and for you.

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Recently, as I was saying goodbye to a friend at her door, she let out a small scream and stared down at a something near where we were standing.  At first, I thought she must have seen some fearsome insect or reptile, but I soon realised her scream had actually been a cry of joy.  I looked where she was pointing excitedly and saw two tiny, tiny shoots poking through the earth in a large pot, each with two miniscule leaves.  Nothing much to get so excited about, I thought.  But then she explained how, when she had looked just three or four hours earlier, they had not been there at all – and that the seeds planted there were actually sunflower seeds, a gift from a young friend soon to be married.  This friend had given such seeds to various people to plant, in the hope that, come her wedding day, enough of them would have survived and bloomed in time to be carried as bouquets at her wedding!

A beautiful idea, I thought to myself.  And then another thought came, that these two tiny, vulnerable plants that have pushed their way to the surface towards the sun are a little like our own lives, as we face another year.  There may be all sorts of things ahead that will nurture us and help us grow and flourish, yet there may also be others that will batter us and perhaps even threaten to destroy.  So I know I need assurance that, whatever happens, I am safe and secure in God’s loving care and protection.  Then I can step out into this new year with much more courage and joy, ready to tackle any challenge that may come, ready to truly live and use my gifts fully to bless and encourage others.

I have a childhood memory of a plaque my mother used to keep on our dining room sideboard, featuring the following poem by M L Haskins:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

‘Give me a light, that I might tread safely into the unknown!’

And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness

and put your hand into the hand of God!

This shall be to you better than light

and safer than a known way.’

I thought that was all there was to this poem, until I recently discovered two more lines:

So I went forth, and finding the hand of God

trod gladly into the night.

May we all find that hand of God lovingly held out to us, as we enter the new year.  May we all tread gladly into whatever 2010 will hold for us, knowing that we need not fear the night, since God is with us.

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