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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians’

Can you think of a time when you put off beginning some big, new project because the whole thing looked far too daunting? That was how I felt earlier this year when I decided to open that cupboard where all our old photo albums were stashed and do something about them. And that was how I felt too, when I began writing my current novel, Down by the Water, around four years ago. I had already written six novels and two non-fiction books—surely that was enough? To make things more difficult, this novel needed to be set in Queensland in the early 1900s—and hadn’t I vowed and declared I would never write another historical novel? I knew what a time-consuming task that could be, with so many facts needing to be checked.

Yet soon those ideas for the opening chapter began to emerge. Yes, since then, those first few pages have changed many times over, as I realised what needed to be revealed early on and what did not. But I knew I had to keep working on them, because those early pages are vital in winning or losing potential readers.

Beginnings can be hard, can’t they? Yet so can endings. And that is where I am now, tying off those final details of my novel before it is published. The actual writing is finished—and I have lost count how many times that manuscript has been checked through at various levels, not only by me but also by seven other people. I even have a lovely cover for my book. Yet, while I have heaved a sigh of relief that this whole, huge task is almost complete, I also feel quite tentative about releasing this novel out into the big world. What if all that work turns out to be for nothing? What if no one else thinks the story worthwhile? What if …?

Yes, this year, I have been very clearly reminded how challenging both beginnings and endings can be. And perhaps that is why, while reading Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians recently, I noticed in particular how he began and ended these.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:3 and also 2 Corinthians 1:2

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 1 Corinthians 16:23

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

Curious, I then discovered similar greetings in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and also Timothy. In the midst of all the challenging situations those early believers faced, Paul obviously sees God’s grace as key—that overwhelming kindness of God shown in particular in sending Jesus into our world. And as we too choose to rest in that same grace that accepts us and loves us unconditionally and forever, we can know that same peace Paul prayed for those early believers, right here in 2020.

However difficult you and I have found those beginnings and endings this year, God’s grace and peace are always there for us. So Let’s truly hear Paul’s words and take them to heart. Let’s reach out and receive these amazing gifts and be strengthened and comforted as we do.

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This past week, I have been forcibly reminded of the fact that in this world, people get hurt.  People disappoint other people.  People speak out of their own wounded places and either deliberately or inadvertently inflict further pain on others.  This seems to happen even in places we might least expect – even, dare I say it, amongst Christian people, amongst people in the church who should, one would think, be able to do better.

Just yesterday I received an anguished email from a friend who had tried her best to be hospitable, to invite those from within her circle of ‘church friends’ and those from without into her home.  Yet from her perspective, it was a dismal failure.  One friend from ‘without’ went home apparently the worse for the experience, left out of the conversation for a large part of the afternoon and in fact, totally alienated by it.  Others present had not been sensitive to where she might be coming from and – even worse – had not seemed to care.  Instead, they were too focussed on their own issues, achievements and needs, too keen to steal the limelight, to be heard and appreciated.

Well, the church is essentially people, after all – a bunch of sinners saved by grace.  Jesus loved us enough to die in our place, to rescue us and bring us back into relationship with God.  I – and probably you – will never be completely ‘perfect’, in this life at least.  We are all ‘a work in progress’.  But is it too much to expect that we might ‘progress’ a little more thoughtfully and graciously, treating our neighbour with love and respect, putting others’ needs before our own?  One of my favourite chapters of the bible is Philippians 2, where we read in verses 3 and 4:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Maybe if we all took these words to heart a little more, we would fare better.  Maybe fewer people would get hurt and, in particular, be alienated from the church and perhaps from God.  Maybe my friend would not have to write any more anguished emails to me.  Maybe God’s heart would not be so grieved at the way we treat one another.  Is that too much to hope for?

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