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Posts Tagged ‘Parramatta River’

Isn’t it amazing how some little, fleeting incident can trigger an absolute avalanche of vivid memories at times? One moment, we may be grounded firmly in the present, yet the next, our minds are hurtled back to some experience perhaps years earlier. Of course, if the original event was traumatic in any way, such flashbacks can be extremely unsettling. Yet they can also serve to remind us how faithful God has been to us in our lives.

One morning recently (before lockdown!), I was a passenger on the Rivercat, as it headed along the Parramatta River into the city. I could hear the throb of the engines and feel the ferry rocking, as it sliced its way through the wake left by another nearby ferry. The next moment, I was almost overwhelmed with memories of other boat trips taken in Turkey years ago, during several visits to a friend there. This friend was now my reason for heading into the city—she was in hotel quarantine there and I wanted to take her some goodies. No doubt that was why I was susceptible to memories of Turkey that morning, yet their strength and suddenness still took my breath away.

The first memory that surfaced was of a trip across the Bosphorus with my friend from one part of the huge city of Istanbul to another, in a ferry much larger and more crowded than my Sydney Rivercat. Everything was new and strange to me, yet it was all so colourful and interesting. On that trip, I remember how determined I was to stay glued to my friend, come what may. After all, I did not know any Turkish or understand how everything worked.

Then in a flash, I remembered another ferry trip across the Bosphorus a few years later, this time on my own. On that occasion, after a hairy taxi ride where our driver kept falling asleep, my host hurriedly waved goodbye and pointed to my ferry which was about to depart. I dashed for it—and made it. Then it dawned on me that there I was, alone on a crowded ferry, a foreigner who knew little Turkish and still with a bus to catch to the airport when we eventually docked. Time was fast ticking away—but amazingly, by God’s grace, I made it onto that plane.

Other less alarming trips in tourist boats along the Mediterranean coast came to mind too. From time to time, the crew would pull into beautiful coves and islands to enable us all to swim in that pristine, blue water or explore the fascinating sights nearby. What a privilege to enjoy such unique experiences with my friend!

I returned with a jolt to the present. Then a moment later, a huge wave of thankfulness rose up in me, as I realised how each of those memories had highlighted God’s amazing grace in my life in one way or another. Truly, God has watched over me, not only through all those rich experiences I had just relived, but throughout my whole life, even in times of challenge and confusion—and I am so grateful.

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise? Psalm 106:1-2

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2016-06-05 15.27.04For Christmas, I received one of those digital photo frames that changes the displayed photo every few seconds. My husband painstakingly went through all my photos, chose a random selection and uploaded them to my new device. Now, as I sit at our dining-room table and glance across the room, I am reminded of family and friends, of significant events, of places I have visited and beautiful flowers I have admired. But there is one photo that always sends a little shudder down my spine—and that is the one pictured here of the backyard of our old home in Rydalmere on one of those wonderful occasions years ago when the creek over our back fence suddenly became a raging torrent and spread far and wide.

Thankfully, this did not happen often—but when it did, a major, backbreaking clean-up needed to be undertaken. Yet I was always grateful that, while the flood would leave an incredible amount of mud and rubbish in our yard and even semi-flatten our side fence, we knew the water would not rise high enough to get into our house. And that was because our house was built on a rocky kind of protrusion that formed a little headland and included our neighbour’s land on the upside of our house. Yes, the water would swirl around that headland and flow into our back yard with glee, then onwards into all the other yards lower down our street—but it would never rise further than the bottom of our back steps.

So … can you see why I shudder a little whenever this photo catches my eye now? Yes, we could replace it with one that conjures up much more pleasant memories, yet I am also grateful for the reminder that photo has brought me in recent weeks. And that, of course, is the reminder that, just like our homes need a solid foundation to remain secure when those floods come, we too need a firm foundation on which to base our lives, year in and year out.

I think God wanted to reinforce this reminder because, this past week, as I was reading Luke’s Gospel, I came to the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders.

Why do you call me, ’Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. Luke 6:46-49

At times, I know I can take in God’s words and, sadly, let them flow straight out of my brain a moment later—before I have allowed them to change me at any deep level and stir me to action. What a sobering story Jesus told—and what a salutary reminder not merely to listen to the Lord but to do what he says!

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Jo 12I well remember how, as a child, I was at times particularly averse to being told what to do. If my poor mother wanted me to do something I did not want to do, my response would often be ‘But why?’ I would keep asking this until my mother, in exasperation, would eventually snap, ‘Because I said so!’

Perhaps that’s why a certain phrase jumped out at me recently when I read Luke’s account of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples. After Jesus sits in Simon’s fishing boat and teaches the crowd on the shore of the lake, he tells Simon to head for deep water and let down the nets. Then Simon replies:

Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5

No wonder Simon respected Jesus enough even then to do whatever Jesus told him to do. After all, Jesus had just healed many people while in Simon’s home, including Simon’s own mother-in-law. But Simon soon becomes much more astonished when his fishing nets start to break and both his and his partners’ boats begin to sink from their enormous catch. In fact, in fear, he falls at Jesus’ knees and says “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (8) It’s almost as if he is saying, ‘What have I got myself into? I can’t handle this!’ But Jesus reaches out and reassures him, so much so that he and his partners James and John end up leaving their boats and following him:

Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” (10)

Recently, I learnt how a newcomer to our country heard this story for the first time while fishing in the Parramatta River. He laughed loudly at the idea of catching men—yet now he has begun a journey just like Simon’s and we hope his mind will also soon be boggled by Jesus’ awesome power and authority. But what about my own response to Jesus’ authority? What is Jesus calling me to do in 2020? Am I going to say like Simon, ‘Because you say so, I will do this or that?’ Or will I instead curl up in fear and decide not to let down my own ‘nets’ in the coming year?

I have always felt Jesus’ gentleness and love, as well as his quiet authority, whenever he has challenged me to step out and do something. And this was particularly strong when I began my current novel. Back then, I sensed Jesus saying, ‘I’ll be so delighted if you write this book, Jo-Anne. But I’ll be just as delighted with you if you don’t!’ What wonderful freedom that gave me—simply to write as time permitted and enjoy the process, irrespective of the outcome! Yet surely this is Jesus’ heart for us all in whatever he calls us to do. Jesus has the power and authority to call us to act—and we need to listen and be obedient. Yet it seems to me he also surrounds us with such love and grace and mercy, however we respond.

‘But because you say so …’. May that be my honest response—and yours—as we embrace all God has for us in the coming year.

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During the recent heavy rains, we knew it was quite likely that the creek outside our back fence would inundate our yard. After all, this creek flows down from a nearby high ridge and into the Parramatta River not far away. So when heavy rains coincide with a high tide in the river, then the water has to go somewhere.

We knew we were not in any danger as we watched the creek quickly rise. Nevertheless, we clearly remembered the mess left in our yard from previous floods and did not want to have to shovel and hose and clean up yet again.

Then I noticed a blueberry ash tree I had planted several years ago on the creek bank was now surrounded by murky water. It had been a giveaway at our local Council’s ‘free tree’ day when a tiny seedling and had managed to survive being attacked by our lawnmower and a total lack of care from me. There it was, still standing bravely upright—and I was so proud of it.

I left my post momentarily. And when I returned, my blueberry ash was nowhere to be seen. I stood staring at the spot, feeling very sad for a tree that had fought so gamely to survive. It had not cost me anything, so was no great loss. But it had taken years to get to about a metre and half in height. And now it was wiped out.

Disgusted, I walked inside.

Not long after, my husband ventured down our yard to begin cleaning up—and next time I looked, lo and behold, there was my blueberry ash again!

‘It was weighed down by a lot of debris that had caught in its leaves,’ my husband told me. “Once I removed that, it sprang back up!’

Later, I went down to inspect my tree myself. Yes, it was standing up, albeit at a slight angle. Even its little, dark blue berries were still intact. At its base, the roots had obviously been strained and tested—but they had held firm. I straightened the tree, packed some more earth around it and placed a rock at its base. Yes, it had survived and would live to grown even firmer and stronger.

Immediately, I thought of the words of Psalm 1:1-3:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

The roots of my blueberry ash had obviously gone down deep enough into the moist soil by the creek to withstand the fast flowing flood waters. Yes, my tree had been weighed down with debris but it had stood firm. What a parable for my own life! What a graphic reminder of how I need to close my ears to discouragement and bad advice and instead send my roots down deep into the Word of God, drinking from that living water only God can provide! Then when the difficulties of my writing journey threaten to overwhelm me, I will remain unmoved, lift my head, shake myself off and start again.

May you too be like my blueberry ash, standing firm, whatever the waters that may swirl around you!

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