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Posts Tagged ‘practising the presence of God’

I sat there waiting, the talk I was about to give clutched in my hands. I had known there would be a business session first, followed by morning tea. Then, as guest speaker, I was to address everyone physically present, as well as those joining in via Zoom from home. My husband and I had arrived early to set up my book table and check in with the person in charge of technology, with whom we had already liaised via email, text and Zoom, but I was still nervous. What if I could not share all those power point slides during my talk? What if our Zoom connection via my mobile phone did not work?

As the meeting began, my heart sank. The first speaker seemed to have no idea how to use Zoom—or the microphone right in front of him. Only the top of his head was visible on the screen showing us all what those at home could see, while the microphone obscured the rest of his face. And he spoke so softly, it was hard to hear him. The technology expert seemed busy with other things and took ages to act. And as I watched, I became more and more anxious.

But worse was to come. As one particular person approached the microphone, the slide presentation he needed to show could not be found. A frustrating fifteen-minute wait ensued, until it was eventually located. But this episode did little to inspire me with confidence.

A string of people then came to promote upcoming events, but they all moved so slowly and took so long to share what needed to be shared—and much more too! I stared at my watch and saw those precious minutes ticking away, shortening the time available for me to speak.

Just then, my husband noticed my anxiety and leaned over to me.

‘Relax,’ he told me. ‘God’s in charge!’

At first, I felt angry. How could I possibly relax, when these people seemed unaware how time was slipping away? And how could I shorten my talk, yet still say what I needed to say? But then I took a deep breath and tried to focus on God. Yes, I could not deny God was right there with me and was indeed in charge. I had prayed about the morning and I had also invited my prayer team to pray for me as I spoke. In this moment, I needed to trust God and simply do my best in the time I was given to share from my heart.

At last, the moment came. All our technology worked perfectly and everyone could hear and see me. I left out certain parts and finished exactly when I was supposed to, to my great relief. And afterwards, there was even time for some book sales and several interesting conversations with people.

Yes, God was there, in the midst of the chaos and failures and anxiety. And God is right there now too for us all, whatever is happening in our lives, walking through each moment with us. God knows. God cares. Our God is sufficient—always.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NLT

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Yes, there it is again—something dark brown around my laptop. I can see it in my peripheral vision as I type and it doesn’t seem right. For so long, all I have seen is a mass of white stuff, interspersed with a few coloured folders and bits and pieces. Yet now, wonder upon wonders, could it possibly be … ? Yes, it’s the top of my desk! Now don’t get me wrong. There are still a few things scattered across the surface around me as I sit writing this. My diary, a couple of notebooks, my journal, my Bible, a few cards, a pen or two, a candle, some other odds and ends. But how exciting it is to be able to see the dark wood of that desk again, after weeks and months of its being submerged in copies of various talks I had promised to give during our two recent interstate visits!

I’m not complaining, however. I felt privileged to be able to speak at all the places I was invited to do so and enjoyed it all. I met many wonderful people and watched God work in the lives of a number of them as I shared. Some have even emailed and sent cards to me since then, so our relationship is ongoing. On top of that, my books have now reached a wider audience. Already, I have received some lovely, encouraging feedback about my latest novel The Inheritance, launched in the middle of these interstate visits.

But oh, how wonderful it is to have a tidier desk—for a while at least. Yet I realise that tidy desk represents more to me than the fact that I have come through a very busy period in my life and met all my interstate speaking and bookstore appearance obligations for the moment. Somehow this paring down of stuff in my line of vision seems to have pared back something deep down inside me as well. Something seems to have shifted a little in my spirit so that once again I have space to reflect, to be still, to acknowledge God’s presence with me and in me, to be just me. What freedom that brings with it for introverts like me!

I enjoy preparing messages and talks of varying descriptions. I enjoy writing my weekly blog. I even enjoy answering emails. But what a special joy it is to allow my mind to float free for a while from all these things! Yet I am also aware of a sense of anticipation building within me that maybe, just maybe I will soon be able to get back to working on my current writing project—another work of non-fiction. Maybe, wonder of wonders, I will even have time as well to check in on those novel outlines waiting patiently on my laptop for my consideration as to whether they should be pursued further or not.

But for today at least, I know I need to take care of my mind and spirit and just be. I know I need to give God that time and space to speak, to show me the way ahead, to remind me that anything envisioned or attempted apart from him is quite useless, when all is said and done.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11

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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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