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Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

Jo 23While shopping recently, I asked a young salesgirl for a particular product.

‘We don’t have it,’ she told me, ‘but you could check on the net. Um … could you do that?’

Her tone of voice and the sceptical glance she gave me conveyed a crystal-clear message—’I’m sure you wouldn’t know the first thing about computers. You’re far too old!

I tried to suppress a smile. Little did she know that, as a writer, I spend hours and hours at my laptop—and that is why my husband decided recently I needed a new one, complete with the latest Microsoft Office.

As some of you know, setting up a new laptop can be a scary experience fraught with difficulty, but my husband has done this many times before and was sure he could tackle it again. So when my new laptop arrived, he set about it all in his usual meticulous way.

At first, everything worked smoothly—but then something weird began to happen. While I could easily receive emails, I could not always send them! Sometimes they would jack up, dig their heels in and stay right where they were—which they eventually did all the time, unless we connected my laptop to our modem via a cable, instead of using wifi. But that could only be temporary—we still needed to fix the problem.

First of all, my husband explored all the common causes of such difficulties. Then he contacted the manufacturer, who suggested he contact our service provider, who suggested we contact Microsoft. Round and round it went, with various phone conversations with overseas employees whose strong accents my husband had great difficulty understanding! He asked some tech-savvy friends as well—but everyone was flummoxed.

Then one night, as he mulled over the whole issue, he sensed God saying to him: ‘Just relax about it all—leave it to me!’ So he decided to do exactly that, while still carefully working on the problem. And it was not long before, by many devious means, he discovered on the net how a particular little program on my laptop had caused similar troubles for others. He investigated further, found the spot somewhere in the bowels of my laptop where he could turn this program off—and voila! Problem solved, just like that. In the end, his tally of options tried that didn’t work as opposed to the one that did was 18:1!

So what did we learn in all this? Yes, God does answer our prayers—even those to do with troublesome computers. But that does not always mean we are to sit back and do nothing. In this instance, it seemed my husband discovered God’s answer while giving his whole heart and mind to solving the problem—yet the difference was that now he was more relaxed that God would indeed lead him to a solution. Yes, sometimes God steps in and rescues us straight away. But at other times, God gently shows us the way forward, as we continue to persevere and work hard in God’s strength.

Have you found this to be so in your life too?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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Maxine's 1st bday 2015 073eI know. I should never have tried to feed our little granddaughter while sitting on the lounge, but I thought it might work. Besides, her dinner was yummy spaghetti Bolognese—she was bound to like it. I tried to pop that first spoonful into her mouth, but she knocked it flying. I got the message. She was not interested—at all.

I decided to play a game with her. I picked up one long strand and dangled it into her mouth, but she was still unhappy. What she wanted, I realised, was to put her hands right in the middle of that spaghetti Bolognese and shovel it all in herself! She refused every other tricky manoeuvre I could think of to feed her and stubbornly hung out for what she really wanted to do.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. Her Nanna caved in! And a few strands did make it to her mouth. But lots more ended up on us both—as well as the lounge and carpet!

Not long after, it was story time. Our three year old grandson Zain picked out two books and was soon seated on the lounge listening intently as Granddad read the first one. I thought Maxine would happily play by herself for a while, but no. With an affronted yell, she grabbed the other book and, after glancing at me as if to say, ‘Ha! I’ve got a book too now!’, she ensconced herself beside her brother and howled. No, she was not happy sharing Zain’s storybook. She wanted Nanna to read her one of her own. And she stubbornly hung in there till Nanna once again caved in.

Now one might well say I should have let Maxine know at that point who was really in charge and not indulge her. After all, she needs to know she can’t always get her own way. Yet for some strange, perverse reason, I admired her strong determination to go for what she wanted and to persevere, despite my best efforts to deter or distract her. Part of me cheered her along—You go for it, girl! Make it clear to us what’s going on inside that little head of yours so we understand. Grow and learn!

You see, such thinking at certain times in my life has enabled me to overcome so many obstacles, return to study twice and get those necessary qualifications, as well as persevere in my writing journey of recent years. I know I could not have achieved all this apart from God. I would have fallen in a heap many times over, had God’s Spirit not strengthened me to stay focussed on what I believed I had been called to do. Yet I had a choice as well—to give in to the enemy’s lies and taunts or to stubbornly stand firm and resist, as the Apostle Paul urges us to do:

Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Ephesians 6:13-14

Hmm—I think stubbornness has its place at times, don’t you?

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Jo 23After writing seven books, one would think I’d know the drill when it comes to my eighth. But no. Instead, I seem to have the knack of forgetting the painful parts of bringing a book into being and remembering only the joy of it all—a little like when having our three children!

So here I was, about a third of the way through editing and re-writing my latest book when I came to a particularly poorly written section. What was I thinking when I wrote those words? What did they add to the storyline? Why would anyone be interested in reading such rubbish anyway? So out these wondrous sentences all went, with one click of that handy delete button on my keyboard.

But that wasn’t the end of it. I began to question more than just a few sentences here and there. I began to question the whole idea of writing a second memoir. Was it worth all the effort I was exerting to polish it up? Would my publisher be interested in it anyway? Would there be a market out there for it?

I was tired. And I had other things to do, such as preparing for some upcoming writing workshops. I had also spoken somewhere the previous day where only a few people turned up. I’m sure God touched those present, but it had required effort on my part and a long drive to be there. I sat at my desk feeling somewhat hard done by, to put it mildly. Was it all worth it?

At that point, I noticed my Bible open beside me. I had not read it that day—I had been too busy editing. I glanced down at that open page and it was then that I saw the heading of the particular section I was to read next in Hebrews:

A Call to Persevere!

I literally felt a slight jolt through my body and almost laughed out loud. How like God to set my thinking straight in such an ‘in your face’ way!

I read on. Yes, I soon realised that Hebrews 10:19-25 deals with the need to hold onto our Christian faith and the hope this gives us and to encourage one another to do the same, right to the very end.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Heb 10:23-24

So essentially, this passage is not about hanging in there in writing books. But behind those words, by the Spirit’s prompting, I believe I saw and heard the heart of God for me, right where I am now—and for us all. And as my own spirit was encouraged, I began to see things from God’s perspective instead of my own warped and limited one. I began to look at my writing with fresh eyes and to see that yes, perhaps I was saying some worthwhile things after all and perhaps I could polish and fine tune this manuscript as required. I simply needed to persevere. And I know how to do that. I’ve done it before and I can do it again, in God’s strength.

How about you? Do you need a little more God-perspective too?

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Jo 23Last Saturday night, another historic moment occurred in our household. At 10.30pm, I walked out of my study and announced with a great sigh to my husband, ‘I’ve finished writing my book!’

‘I don’t know how you do it!’ he responded with feeling.

‘I don’t know how I do it either,’ I replied with even more feeling.

Now let me clarify a little. Because this is my eighth book, I know I haven’t exactly ‘finished’ yet. I know this is only the beginning of the next part of my journey with this particular volume. I finished the first draft some time back. Last night’s milestone marked the completion of a very thorough edit and rewrite. Next step is obtaining comments from my first reader/editor. Then it will be back to editing again—and on it goes.

I know all this, yet last night at 10.30, I felt great relief. This book, my second work of non-fiction, has proved difficult to write. I can’t even remember when I started it because so many things have intervened since then. I almost gave up on it once or twice. With so many interruptions, I became a little disconnected from it all and found myself having to check back often so as not to repeat myself. Yet I wanted to finish it because I felt the idea for this book was something God had given me. So I persevered. And I’m glad I did because I learnt so much yet again about God and about myself.

This book, currently titled Coming Home to Myself, has taken me on a journey through so many memories of childhood years, of years at university, of marriage and children, of university again, of returning to teaching, of other jobs, of theological college, of ministry, of writing and speaking. As I wrote and remembered, I tried to highlight how God persevered with me through it all, rescuing me, restoring me, helping me emerge and grow and learn, drawing me on to become more of the person I had been created to be. And, in the process, I have been brought face to face with my own weaknesses and shortcomings and slowness to respond to what God has been teaching me. But, once again, I have also been overwhelmed with the reality of God’s absolute faithfulness and patience and perseverance and longsuffering in so many ways.

‘I don’t know how you do it!’ I have found myself wanting to say to God so often in response.

Yet I do know. It’s right there in the pages of my bible and it’s written on my heart. In Jeremiah 31:3, God declares to the children of Israel:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’

And in Ephesians 3:17-18, Paul prays:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ …

That’s how God does it—by loving me without end with the most amazing, pure, self-giving, accepting love. And that’s how I plan to do it too—by loving God till the end and by letting this amazing love of God inform my writing and flow onto others.

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This past week, I met up with an old friend for lunch. As we sat chatting (for over two hours!), we reminisced about our high school years together. At one stage, I shared how I had caught up with a mutual friend while in Queensland recently. I was book signing in the town where this mutual friend lives and she came to find me. Despite the forty-eight years that have elapsed since we were at school together, we recognised each other immediately—and what a joy it was to share our spiritual journeys right there in the middle of the bookstore!

At that same two hour lunch with my friend, I also updated her on another mutual friend I had seen recently. All four of us had been involved in a Christian group at our high school—at least in our final two years. After high school, our lives took different directions. One married a grazier and lived on remote properties, with little opportunity to meet with other Christians. But God watched over her and she would head over to a neighbouring property whenever the pastor from this family’s church came to visit. Another moved overseas with her husband and was reconnected with church via some Americans in Germany. After having one child, she then had triplets, but sadly her husband passed away when the triplets were quite young. Yet God kept his hand on this friend and today, she is a vital part of her local church. The final friend married a minister, as I did, and has served faithfully alongside him in country churches for many years. God has sustained her through times of ill health and challenge and enabled her to serve others with patience and grace.

Yes, God has indeed watched over us, throughout the twists and turns of our lives. As a result, here we are today, still loving and serving the Lord with all our hearts. Yet while God has been so faithful, there is another important aspect here too.  All three of my friends have hung in there through some very tough times. They have reached out to God and the Body of Christ and have continued to grow in their faith. They have chosen to keep following the Lord, despite discouragement from family members, despite deep grief and loss, despite loneliness and disappointment. They have chosen to love and serve others and to remain faithful to the end.

I thought of my three friends as I again read this week the parable of the sower from Luke 8. Through all these years, they did not allow the devil to take away God’s word from their hearts (v 12). They did not fall away, but let this word take root in their lives (v 13). And they were not ‘choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures’ (v 14). Instead they heard the word, retained it, then persevered—and bore wonderful fruit in their lives as a result (v 15).

It’s so true we are saved by grace and not works, but persevering is pretty important too, don’t you think? Surely, in the light of God’s amazing love and grace, this is what we are all called upon to do?

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I have a friend, Dale Harcombe, whose first general fiction novel Streets on a Map is due for release this month from Ark House Press. Dale lives in South Coast NSW and, prior to Streets on a Map, has had seven children’s novels and Kaleidoscope, a book of poems, published. For more information, please visit Dale’s website  and her own blog.

Recently, Dale asked several author friends to write a guest blog for her on the topic ‘The map I use for writing is …’. Here is my effort on Dale’s behalf:

When I write, I always use the same large-scale map, without which I would inevitably lose my way and give up. I do also begin with a more detailed one, yet while displaying many of the twists and turns of my proposed journey, it does have one distinct drawback. It has a tendency to change regularly, with landmarks being added and removed, streets shortened or lengthened or even disappearing altogether and narrow lanes, over time, becoming major highways. So I need to ‘zoom out’ frequently to my large-scale map, if I am to keep my bearings at all.

What does my large-scale map look like? Well, there are only four main roads marked on it – but they are extremely important and form a strategic crossroad right in the centre. 

The name of my first road is Experience. I have travelled this road for some years now and learnt many things that invariably find their way into my writing. I love this road. It makes me feel secure, as I know where I am going and can easily describe it to others as well. It is a rich road, full of memories – and I am so thankful for it.

My second road is called Imagination. I particularly love this road and always enjoy travelling along it. The journey is invariably interesting and exciting, with unexpected vistas opening up almost at every corner and serendipitous events that often take my breath away. I can tend to forget where I am at times as I journey through the somewhat uncharted territory this road traverses – but I would definitely be the poorer if it did not exist.

My third road has a slightly dull sounding name. It is called Perseverance. At times, my feet lag as I step out here, but I know the route this road covers is essential in getting to where I want to go. I try to walk here with my head held high, looking straight ahead and not being distracted by the various tempting turnoffs along the way. I know if I wander, I may never reach my desired destination.

And my final road is the most important of all. It is called Inspiration and is a beautiful highway, fashioned by Someone with much more experience, imagination and perseverance than I will ever have. If I am dispirited as I journey here, I know I can stop for a moment and breathe in fresh ideas and phrases that seem to come from somewhere above and beyond – perhaps even from another place altogether. I am uplifted and encouraged every time my journey takes me this way.

But whichever route I take, I always eagerly head for the crossroads in the centre. That’s where I come to meet the one who always understands, who believes in me and loves me, who helps me find my way again. Jesus, who himself is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to stay motivated, largely in preparation for a writers’ workshop I’ll be taking on the topic at the Word Writers’ Fair in Brisbane on 6th November (see www.thewordwriters.com). It has been a timely journey – I never cease to be amazed how, when I am preparing input for some speaking engagement, God so often uses it to speak to me first and foremost! You see, the fact is that I have now completed seven years of solid novel writing, plus preparing for many speaking engagements over that period. Is it time then for me to have a sabbatical? Or should I forge ahead, complete Novel Number Six and fulfil those speaking engagements that are beginning to emerge for 2011?

Please don’t get me wrong. I love preparing talks – and delivering whatever God has given me to say. And I love writing with a passion. I can’t wait to complete my current novel and find out what happens to my characters! And I have several more ideas for novels sitting on my computer, almost begging me to investigate them more fully. Yet on certain days at least, it can be an effort to stay focused, to pick up the threads of my current novel and to move my characters forward in a way which is consistent with who they are and the journey they have already travelled.

I have heard what God wanted me to, I believe, as I have prepared my workshop input. I know there are vital ‘God factors’ in staying motivated – things like remembering our call from God to write, reading God’s Word, practising the presence of God, praying, and being thankful for the journey thus far. I have seen again the importance of receiving encouragement from others in the form of a mentor who understands the creative process, a wider faith community, friends who will pray for us and teachers and editors who will give us specific, helpful writing input. I have noted too the place of watching our responses to any negative feedback and of learning to say no to things that are not right to undertake. And again I have been reminded of the whole self-care aspect – getting enough exercise and sleep; finding words, objects, places that motivate me; disciplining my time; setting goals; celebrating my little writing ‘victories’; and putting past failures behind me.

But then God takes over again and drops those extra encouraging words into my spirit. This morning I read the following beautiful, simple prayer from 2 Thessalonians 3:5:

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

That prayer to me highlights the two key things I need to remember in my writing journey – the real direction I need to be heading in my heart. If I focus on God’s amazing love for me and remember that this love will never change, whether I write well or not so well or even whether I write at all, then I am on solid ground. And if I keep Christ’s example before me of persevering to the end and of being so determined to do his Father’s will – well, what motivation could be stronger than that?

And just now, again in God’s exquisite timing, an email has arrived, telling me my fifth manuscript has been accepted for publication! Do you think God is sitting back, smiling and enjoying this special encouraging gift along with me? I do!

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