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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

There I was, quietly reading away this morning when, in a trice, I found myself swept back into the past. I was a young girl again, watching my father struggle to his feet, put on his gardening hat and declare in a resigned but relatively cheerful voice, ‘Well, I’d better get going again. No rest for the wicked!’

You see, I had just read Isaiah 57:21—“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” A few days ago, a similar verse in Isaiah had not triggered any strong memory. Yet this morning, I was jolted back so forcefully that I could not only hear my father’s voice but see every detail of how he looked—old blue singlet, checked shirt and all. Now to Dad, these words seemed to mean he needed to keep working hard rather than that there would be no heavenly rest or peace for the wicked. At that time, Dad claimed he rejected the idea of eternal life in any form and used to say with finality, ‘When you’re dead, you’re dead.’

Well, it is many years now since he passed away. I was not present in the last weeks of his life, but it seems he may have changed his mind about God and eternal life. I hope he did—I like to think of him at rest and at peace with God. Because that is really what God is talking about in Isaiah 57. In verses 15 and 19, we read:

For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. … Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

We all need that peace, don’t we? There are often so many competing voices seeking to bring us down and make us feel anxious or hurt or frustrated or inadequate or angry. We may well find things in life that give us great peace and joy—a wonderful partner, an interesting job, a new home, success in some area, good friends. But God’s peace goes beyond all of these.

I have always loved Jesus’ words in John 14:27 as he tells his disciples about what lies ahead. I like to imagine the sound of his voice as he spoke out such comforting words—a voice I am sure was filled with authority but also with love:

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.”

Jesus’ peace is different from any we might find in this world. It is far, far deeper and more profound. It is eternal. It is not merely the absence of trouble, but rather the presence of the Prince of Peace within us in the person of his Holy Spirit, even in the midst of strife.

So let’s close our ears to the voices that would pull down our faith and call us to look elsewhere to find a peace that satisfies. Instead, let’s choose to be among those who are ‘contrite and lowly in spirit’, who listen intently to that loving voice of God and learn to recognise it as readily as we do the voices of father or mother or others close to us.

Whose voices are you hearing? Do they speak peace into your spirit?

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I am sure many of you, like me, have had a very big 2010. Perhaps, like me also, you look back at times with a kind of surreal feeling and wonder how you did it all. I think at this stage of the year we can all be excused for ‘feeling our noble tiredness’, as Michael Leunig once put it.

But this is also the time of the year, I often find, when I can tend to feel a little ‘blue’, wondering if all my speaking and writing efforts have made much difference in this world. This is warped thinking, I know. I have some lovely email and Facebook messages from readers who tell me how much they have valued my books – and it was only a few days ago after speaking somewhere that several people told me how much God had challenged and encouraged them through what I said. These comments set my heart and mind and rest and inspire me to keep going. But nothing speaks peace and encouragement into my heart more than God’s word itself, which has a unique way of putting everything in perspective, I find.

Take Isaiah 26, for example. Three things in particular here impacted this week. Firstly, verse 3 reminded me I need to keep trusting steadfastly in God if I am to remain at peace as I look back over the past year:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

What a good antidote that is to the warped thinking of a tired brain! It is also a death knell to the distortions and accusations the enemy delights to throw at us when we are weary. As I choose to remain faithful, my mind focused on God, then I can be at peace, whatever has happened or will happen.

Secondly, verse 8 reminded me why I have put all this effort into speaking and writing this past year. It has been for God’s glory and not my own – ultimately, it’s not about what I have achieved or not achieved or how well people think of me. It’s not about me, full stop – it’s about God.

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

So I can be at rest and at peace, as I take my eyes off myself and instead concern myself with bringing honour to God, waiting for him to show me how that can best be done.

And finally, verse 12 put all my efforts of the past year into very clear perspective. Yes, I might have worked hard, preparing talks, writing and editing my novels, liaising with people and travelling here and there to speak. But behind and in and through all that, God was at work.

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

So again, it’s all about God and not about me. Yes, I needed to be willing to serve God and use my gifts, but God is the one who gave me the gifts; God is the one who called me; God is the one who empowered me; and God is ultimately responsible for what has or has not been accomplished.

I think I like God’s perspective, don’t you? So right now, I’m choosing to remain steadfast, to put God’s renown first and foremost and to remember who has enabled me to accomplish what I have this year.

And that, I believe, is how true peace comes.

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I received a very special gift this past week. It might not seem wonderful to others, but I absolutely love it. I am looking at it now as it sits beside my desk – and even as I do, I feel blessed all over again. So … it is just an old chair, some might say! The cover looks a little worn and ‘pre-loved’ and is in need of being tacked on again in one spot, while the seat itself is definitely lumpy in places. And yet I chose it from my dear friend’s possessions above other things that were freely offered to me.

My friend wanted me to have something of hers with all her heart before she moves out of her very large, old home – and I did not want to disappoint her. Besides, I was delighted at the thought of having something to remember the many times we had met there together. This dear friend has been my ‘spiritual companion’ for a long time now – I know I would not have achieved what I have in my writing journey these past few years, were it not for her wisdom, support and encouragement. But what would be best, we wondered, as we sat drinking our favourite Lady Grey tea and reminiscing? Perhaps one of her precious, old books or some cuttings from the wonderful array of treasured plants in her cottage garden? Or perhaps something else I had admired over the years?

We wandered then along the winding path towards the tiny chapel her husband built many years ago. We stepped across the threshold and I gazed around – this truly was a sacred space that had been lovingly set aside and used for prayer and worship through the years by men and women from a variety of backgrounds. Again my friend asked if there was anything I would like and I shook my head. But then she lifted a cover off an old chair that stood in one corner – and I knew this was what I wanted.

I carefully carried the chair to my car, but whichever way I manoeuvred it, it would not fit in the boot. As a last resort, I flung open the back door and tried sliding it in there – and to my surprise, it fitted perfectly.

My friend and I flung our arms around each other. We were both so happy – she, that she could give me something that had been a precious part of worship for her for so long, and I, that this old chair would continue to be used well by those I now talk and pray with. I am honoured to have it in my study. It symbolises to me all the richness of the loving relationship my friend and I have enjoyed – and beyond that, the relationship of love and grace that God holds out to me – and hopefully to any who may come to talk and pray.

God’s presence is not dependent on particular chairs or any other piece of furniture, I know. But at this stage of the year when tiredness seems to have taken hold, it is so good to have a tangible reminder nearby of the one who is always with me, who knows my heart, who knows everything I have tried to achieve this past year, who knows all the coming year holds and who says to me lovingly: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.’ (John 14:27)

May God bless you too with deep peace as you celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus, the Prince of Peace!

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We have quite a large back garden, spread over two levels and sloping down towards a creek. I love gardening, but rarely get time to do it. On the other hand, my husband hates it! He is prepared to do any heavy work involved, such as mowing, lifting bins of rubbish etc, but has some difficulty at times telling a weed from a ‘real plant’. The difference is that I grew up with a father who was an avid gardener and worked very hard at it, so that my sister and I often got to watch him and imbibe knowledge that way. My husband, on the other hand, definitely did not.

So what’s to be done? We could put more time and effort into gardening – but then I would get even less writing done than I do now. We could let the weeds hold sway – but I find it very difficult to look at a messy garden day in and day out. Or we could bite the bullet and move into a villa or unit with no garden at all to maintain. All these are quite drastic measures, however. Is there some ‘happy medium’ we could find instead?

I think I discovered the best ‘take’ on gardening, and weeding in particular, during a recent phone conversation with an older friend who lives in the Blue Mountains. She has a very large garden, but she is almost eighty years old and is a little beyond keeping it all tidy. Yet she seemed far from depressed as she described its messy state to me.

‘Oh well … I’m having a wonderful time right now watching all the weeds rejoice! They’re so happy no one is bothering them! The vegetables have gone to seed but then that’s good – we can use the seed another season. And it’s all very colourful – there is always something to look at.’

‘Watching all the weeds rejoice’ … I hadn’t thought of it that way exactly! It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We can choose either to see all the negatives of a situation and dwell on those, or instead focus on the positives and see God at work even in the ‘weeds’ of our lives. And it’s a matter of acceptance as well, I believe. My friend can’t do all that much about the weeds – so she sees them in a positive light, each one enjoying the warmer spring weather, breathing in the clean mountain air and almost defiantly rejoicing in their ‘moment in the sun’ while not being interfered with in any way.

And my friend displays more than a little sense of humour about the situation too – again such a vital ingredient in moving through life in a calm, unruffled way. She is at peace with herself, with God and with the world, including nature. She is determined not to let the weeds rob her of enjoying her garden and even sees in them a unique kind of beauty.

So I continue to learn from my wise friend. She teaches me, along with Paul, to say:

I have learnt to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation … (Phil 4:11-12)

May you too learn to watch your weeds rejoice with acceptance, peace and contentment!

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I have often heard the comment that being an author is not for the fainthearted – and I would tend to agree.  There is so much uncertainty in the book world at the moment, with the advent of e-books and the recent economic crisis.  And as an Australian Christian novelist, it is a challenge at times to stay positive when bookstores seem to be ordering fewer Australian novels from Australian publishers, opting instead for the cheaper overseas product.  Yet there is a market here for good Australian novels, I believe – everywhere I speak and offer my books for sale, people seem happy to find something different written by a ‘home-grown’ author.

So how can I and others in similar situations remain positive and hopeful, rather than succumb to gloom and despair and give up?  Well, this week I read some verses in Philippians 4 that challenged me all over again in this regard.  In verses 6-7 we read:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I want to be a person of peace, don’t you?  I want to remain focussed on Jesus, trusting him to use whatever I write for his purposes.  I believe I am doing what he wants me to do, so my role is to write and speak to the best of my ability, but also to surround everything in prayer, constantly bringing my concerns to him rather than allow myself to be consumed with worry and negative thoughts.  And I need to be thankful too for all he has done for me already, not only in regard to my novels, but even more importantly in my whole life. 

There are some ancient words of meditation I often use as I sit at my desk that ground me in God’s peace and remind me of the ‘big picture’ truths about who I am in God.  They go like this:

God is with me now, closer than breathing

And nearer than hands and feet

God has made me for Himself

I come from God

I belong to God

I go to God

God knows me

God loves me

God has a use for me

Now and forever

I can say those words and know they are truth because Jesus came to this world and died for me – and for you.  As I remain in Christ Jesus, God will watch over me and will guard my heart and mind, as Philippians 4:7 says.  Because I belong to a totally wise and loving God, I don’t have to lose heart.  Because God is with me in every way and in everything and has a purpose for my life, I don’t have to live with a mind in turmoil.  God’s peace is there for me to embrace – a peace that defies explanation and is way beyond our understanding.

So I’m going to pray for our Australian Christian publishers and booksellers.  And I will keep on writing my novels and be at peace as I do.  And may the God of peace be with you too, whatever God has called you to do in your life.

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