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Posts Tagged ‘Probus Clubs’

Jo 12Isn’t it strange how we sometimes gain a perception of a role or occupation in society, then refuse to budge from there? Take ministers of religion, for instance. Over fifty years ago, when I introduced my husband, then training for ministry, to an aunt of mine, she burst out with the following comment: ‘Oh, so you are nice, after all!’ Did she expect him to look a particular way or be boring or not smile and joke, because he was at theological college? Hmm.

But only two weeks ago, I had a similar experience. I had just spoken at a particular club about my author journey and was standing at my book table, when two ladies came to chat.

‘I love your beautiful jumper,’ one of them said. ‘Where did you get it? It looks very jazzy indeed!’

‘Actually, it’s an op shop buy passed onto me by my sister!’ I told her.

But it was what the other lady said next that left me speechless.

‘Yes—and you don’t look anything at all like a minister’s wife!’

I was sorely tempted to ask her what she thought a minister’s wife looked like! However, I refrained, thinking I might embarrass her. Instead, I laughed and left it at that, yet her comment made me feel sad too. What had she meant? Did she think ministers’ wives always looked dowdy or old-fashioned or stern or colourless or such like? If so, where had she gained her perception of these poor, sad women? Of course, in old movies and even now on TV, ministers are often portrayed as weak and old-fashioned and prosy (think some Mr Bean-type character!). But what of their wives? I felt quite indignant when I thought about the many ministers’ wives I know (not to mention women ministers themselves!) who are always neatly and attractively dressed, have wonderful personalities and are interesting and able women all round.

I know God does not judge us by how we look, as Samuel tells us, and I am so thankful for that:

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

But because I also know how I myself often judge others by their outward appearance, just like those two women had, I always try to look as good as I can, particularly when speaking somewhere. To help with that, I frequent a great second-hand clothing shop that also sells brand new ‘ends of lines’, with labels still attached! I want my money to stretch as far as it can but, much more importantly, I want to honour God even through the way I look. I do not want my appearance to be a stumbling-block for my audience or anyone I will chat to on the day who does not as yet know God—I do not want them to judge God in any negative way because of how I present myself.

I’m so thankful for my lovely, ‘third-hand’, black and gold jumper that apparently helped smash those ladies’ image of what ministers’ wives look like! But more than that, I hope and pray it might have helped them begin to see God in a more attractive light too.

Sometimes appearances do matter, don’t you think?

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You’d think at this stage of my life I might settle down a bit. But no—I keep on having such interesting adventures! At times it’s like God is smiling at me and saying, ‘Hmmm, what little challenge can I think up for Jo-Anne next?’ These adventures seem to come in different shapes and sizes and shades of scariness as well. Some I know I will manage fine. But others … well, let’s just say I can feel a tad stre-e-e-e-tched at times!

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to the women from a Probus Club—something I knew I could do. I always value these opportunities outside church-related groups and this group turned out to be particularly receptive. Afterwards, several women came to share their own experiences with me, some very personal. As I signed the books they bought, I asked if I could write ‘God bless’ as well. Then more interesting conversation ensued as I explained how those words represent my little prayer that God will encourage and speak to anyone who reads my book.

I know I will enjoy this week’s little adventure too. How could I not, when I will be speaking to a group called ‘The Cheerful Ladies’ Club’?! This group derives its name from the Club that features in Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ books set in Africa and is run by a good friend of mine through her church. Many of these women have heard me speak already, so what a privilege to go there, knowing already I will be warmly received.

Soon too I will be sharing with a group of women at another church where I feel very much at home. The following week, I travel across town to speak at a singles’ club. Then not long after, I head to a church in Victoria to give two sessions at a special women’s event. Finally that month, I am to present a writing workshop and seminar, thankfully much closer to home. Oh, and somewhere in the mix as well is the launch of my seventh book, The Inheritance!

A very busy month of speaking in Queensland then follows, including input at a church seniors’ group, a writing seminar, speaking in a morning service and co-presenting a mentoring conference—plus a few other events in between! What interesting adventures God has lined up for me in my home state.

I have two ways of approaching all these adventures. I can feel overwhelmed by it all and wish I could curl up in my cosy study here in Sydney and just write! Or I can take a deep breath, choose to trust God, who has been behind my schedule from the beginning anyway, pray, relax and focus on preparing my next lot of input to the best of my ability.

Yes, I’ll admit I regularly veer towards the former rather than the latter of these two options. But God always gently calls me back, reminding me he is in the midst of all my adventures, scary or otherwise, just as Psalm 139 says. No wonder it’s my favourite psalm!

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me … (4-6)

How about you? Is God in all your adventures too?

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