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Posts Tagged ‘praying’

Right now, I am in the middle of a lengthy task that has become quite familiar to me in the past few years. It is the task of destroying something I have been at great pains to create over many months—those wonderful, superfluous words in my latest manuscript.

Years ago, I would almost have died at the very thought. ‘No!’ I would scream. ‘These priceless pearls are all necessary to set the scene and make my meaning clear.’ Alas, I soon discovered this extra verbiage did not do anything of the sort. So I have disciplined myself since then to step back and try to see what I have written through someone else’s eyes—perhaps eyes more like my husband’s, who much prefers novels where the storyline is untrammelled by any excess baggage.

So in editing my seventh book and first non-fiction effort, I find I am relatively at ease in throwing out hundreds and even thousands of words over which I laboured long and hard. After telling a friend this recently, she commented how we may be quite content not to own this or that. But once we do own it, then it is much, much harder to consider throwing it out. It is ours. It is part of us now. How then could I possibly delete so many words I had created and now had a life out there on the page/screen?

Well, in many cases, I can see they have served their purpose. I needed them to help me shape what it was I really wanted to say. They were written in an initial burst of enthusiasm and insight, but now are either expendable or at least in line for a solid makeover. I can get rid of them without much regret then, knowing my work will be the better for it. I have learnt to be ruthless for the sake of what is to come.

But what about the rest of my life? What if some things are standing in the way of forging a better relationship with God? Yes, I can be ruthless is getting rid of material possessions, although I may cringe a little when it comes to books. And I can give away money to bless others and be used in God’s kingdom. But what about my precious time? And what about all those creative thoughts in my head I am loath to put aside in order to spend even a few reflective moments with my heavenly Father?

I suspect I need to employ a few more ruthless editing skills in my life in general in order to focus on the things that really are important—things like listening to God, reflecting on God’s Word, praying, doing what God wants me to do. Perhaps I need to have a mind like Paul’s when he writes in Philippians 4:7-8:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him …

How are you doing at hanging onto what is really important and getting rid of the rest? How are you at being ruthless in order to gain Christ?

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I get to do some interesting things, I’ve decided. One day last week, I found myself sitting in a large, open tent in the main courtyard at Macquarie University here in Sydney. On the desk in front of me was a sign with the title ‘novelist and minister’ beneath my name, followed by a brief description of who I am and the novels I’ve written. You see, I was taking part in a ‘Living Library’ event as the University Library’s contribution to ‘Diversity Week’ on campus. Potential readers – which included some high school students visiting the campus, uni students and staff – were free to ‘browse’ and choose which of us ‘living books’ they would like to ‘borrow’ and relate to for a while, asking as many questions as they liked.

As we were welcomed to the area by a member of the local Aboriginal tribe and treated to a ‘smoking ceremony’, I looked around at the diverse group of other ‘Living Books’ on hand – a Jewish Czech holocaust survivor, a gay activist student, a recovered alcoholic, a visually impaired Aboriginal woman elder, a young lesbian girl, a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, an Arab Palestinian Masters’ degree student, a young male Aboriginal activist, a Turkish man keen to talk about Islam and living as a Muslim in Australia, a breast cancer survivor, a beautiful young migrant woman from South India – and ME! What was I doing there, I asked myself? Who would want to talk to me, with all these other interesting ‘books’ available?

But then two young high school girls shyly approached my table and we began talking. One in particular loved creative writing and wanted to know exactly how I went about writing novels. She had all sorts of interesting questions – with the result that about forty-five minutes passed without our realising it. Then a very curious female uni student sat down, munching her ‘vegie-burger’ as we talked. She loves writing poetry, she told me – and off we went, talking about writing ‘from the heart’ and how cathartic that can be. Soon after, a young male social science student arrived – and he too had some interesting observations to make. And in the midst of all that, I got to talk to some degree at least with the other ‘living books’ and library staff.

So what was the point of my being there, I asked myself, as I walked to my car? Well, besides imparting information about writing novels, I hope I inspired the young people who ‘read’ me to hold onto their dreams, to believe they are here for a purpose and have each been given unique gifts. I was not backward in telling them how I love writing about God and about things that will hopefully encourage and uplift people – and they seemed to respect that. And I hope too in all my conversations with those present that God was honoured in the process – that some salt and light at least filtered through my words.

And even as I write this, I find myself praying for those whose lives I touched yesterday, if only for a brief moment. Lord, have mercy on them. Heal their hearts. Bring peace to the troubled ones. Protect the young ones on the brink of life and career and show them who you are. Fulfil their dreams – reveal to them your dreams for their lives. And help me not to hide in my own little ‘cocoon’ – please keep my heart soft to the world out there that needs you so much!

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This morning, as I read from Luke’s Gospel, I was bowled over yet again by the amazing grace and patience of Jesus.  He is sitting at the table with his disciples and they have just celebrated the Last Supper together, when a dispute apparently occurs as to which of them should be considered the greatest.  Jesus cuts through all their arguing and tells them that is not to be their attitude.  Instead they are to serve, just as he served them.  But then he goes on to address Simon Peter in particular:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  (Luke 22:31-32)

What an amazing glimpse into Jesus’ heart for Simon Peter and for us!  Jesus, the Son of God, out of love and concern for this man, puts time and effort into praying for him, that his faith will remain firm.  All this, despite knowing Peter will in fact deny him soon after, as the following verses show.  Jesus obviously loves and believes enough in this passionate disciple of his to forgive, even ahead of time, the hurt and pain of Peter’s denial, so soon after asserting he would be prepared to experience prison and death for Jesus’ sake.  But what’s more, Jesus actively prays in faith that he will repent and return to being the passionate disciple and leader Jesus knows he can be.  Jesus says ‘when you have turned back’, not ‘if you turn back’.  And he also shows his complete trust in Peter’s future willingness and ability to strengthen his ‘brothers’.

How incredibly humbling it must have been for Simon Peter to hear that Jesus, the Son of God, was praying for him!  How incredibly humbling it is for me to sit here today and realise that even now, according to Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, still pleading for me and for each one of us.  However much we have fallen short of the person he wants us to be, however much we have ignored or denied him, he still reaches out to us in love, reminding us that he died for us, that we belong to him, that we can step up yet again and encourage others, as we rely on his strength.

In John 21, we see how Jesus, after his resurrection, meets Simon Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and reinstates him.  He asks him the pointed question three times: ‘Do you love me?’, and three times Simon Peter strongly affirms he does.  May this be our hearts today.  May each one of us realise afresh today that Jesus is ‘for’us, that he loves and believes in us and that he longs for us to remain firm, just as he did as he prayed for Peter.

And may we too extend this same amazing grace and patience to others, knowing we would not be where we are except for Jesus, who pleads even now on our behalf.

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Someone once said that novelists are like bowerbirds, continually collecting glistening treasures or colourful scraps of material wherever they can and storing them away in a safe place, ready to weave into that next wonderful, creative piece of writing. Yet this isn’t something they necessarily do on purpose, I believe.  More often than not, it’s as if these treasures force their way unbidden into the writer’s mind and imagination and remain there, ready for the picking when the moment comes.

Two weeks ago, my third novel ‘Laura’ was launched.  ‘Laura’ was inspired by the life of a friend who happens to be blind.  Many early events in the novel grew out of snippets of information she shared with me about her own growing up years as someone with a perceived ‘disability’ – times when she learnt to be strong and to live life the same as her sighted brothers and sisters did.  But these facts are woven together with others gleaned from research, along with people, places and events that I created from my own imagination.  Now, three years after completing the novel, at times I find it hard to remember what came from where and to tell the difference between fact and fiction myself.

On the other hand, I’ll never forget where the ideas for some specific events later in the novel originated – for example, the moment when Laura first hears the words of the old hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’.  You see, I was there when my friend did just that.  Then there’s the occasion when Laura helps a friend choose her wedding dress – and again, that is very close to the truth.  Let me tell you what really happened, as I remember it.

While visiting my friend where she now lives in the States, I needed to find a dress to wear to our son’s wedding.  One day at a huge clothing store, I tried on outfit after outfit, becoming more and more frustrated and embarrassed in the process.  Then my friend, who cannot see at all, held out a dress with matching jacket she had chosen from one of the racks and suggested I try it on.

It was not quite the kind of outfit I had in mind, yet, reluctant to offend her, I put it on – and immediately loved it!  I wore it proudly to the wedding and have kept it as a reminder of God’s grace to me ever since.  You see, while I know my friend chose the outfit by feeling the lovely soft fabric of the dress itself and the trimmings and pattern of the matching brocade jacket, I know too that all the time she was praying for just the right dress for me.  And God heard her prayers – and mine.

So yes, novelists are indeed like bowerbirds – but with good reason.  That’s how God made them to be, I reckon.  And if that’s the case, then I’m happy to join their ranks and admit to being a ‘bowerbird’ any day!

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