Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Proverbs 3:5-6’

I have seen books meet all sorts of fates. Some fortunate ones end up on a ‘favourites’ shelf. Some are relegated to lower shelves and end up covered in dust. Some are lent out to friends and perhaps never seen again. Some are donated to op shops or second-hand bookstalls. Some may even end up in the bin. Yet there is something else interesting one can do with books too, as I discovered recently.

This year, our church held a special Christmas fair, featuring handcrafts church members had produced. Our youth group girls decided to make pretty little candles in glass holders, but it was something else on their display table that truly caught my eye. Inspired by their leader, the girls had also created Christmas tree table decorations out of old book pages, with a gold, hand-painted, scrunched-up page moulded into the shape of a star on top!

Now, being an author, I was unsure what to think. Would I really want my books to end up as Christmas tree decorations? Yet, as I chatted with the youth leader involved and joked about how I would tell my author friends about it all, I realised those old books could come to a much more ignominious end than being fashioned into a table decoration!

Later, however, I began to see even more positive aspects to this whole project. For a start, these books had been repurposed so well and in such a creative way. And in this their final format, they would continue giving joy to others, even if not in the way their author had intended. Also, I expect the girls who made them had great fun doing so. Besides, people had paid several dollars for each little tree—and this money is earmarked to go towards a great project our church supports that helps poor families and children in Uganda. Surely this is a much better outcome all round than having those pages gather dust somewhere or end up in the bin?

Sometimes, just like these books, our lives do not unfold in the way we expected. Sometimes, things happen beyond our control that change our futures forever. Yet, if we have committed our lives into God’s hands, then God will always faithfully watch over us and lead us on, bringing to us new ways we can bless others as we listen and step out in faith. And in every phase of our lives too, God seems to prepare us for what is to come.

At different stages, I have been a high school teacher, a fulltime mum, an editor, an office secretary, a church pastor and now a writer and speaker. While I always wanted to be a writer, I never thought I would end up as one, but God did it. Life can stop us in our tracks, turn us upside down and sometimes dismantle us, just like those books that ended up as table decorations. Yet these little trees are still so beautiful and useful—and we can be too as we allow God to re-purpose us and lead us along new paths.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

Advertisement

Read Full Post »

I was standing in our local Koorong bookstore, promoting my latest novel, when I noticed a lovely young couple nearby. Initially, I thought they might not be interested in talking or looking at my books, but how wrong I was! I cannot remember now whether they approached me first or vice versa, but I do remember their smiling, relaxed manner and how intently they listened as I explained why I was there. Soon we were deep in conversation about writing and about my books. Then after buying two, they said goodbye and moved on.

Not long after, however, the girl came back.

‘Tell me, how did you actually start writing?’ she asked me. ‘How did you know that was what you should do?’

I explained how I had always loved writing, but never considered becoming a writer and opted for teaching instead. I told her too how, twenty years before writing my first novel, I had declared to my husband I would write a book ‘one day’, never truly thinking I ever would. Then I began sharing how, when I was in my fifties, God used some words from Isaiah 42 to challenge me to start writing while visiting a friend in Turkey—at which point she stopped me in mid-sentence.

‘Um … this might be a weird question, but … were you on the radio recently?’

For a moment, I was dumbfounded, but then remembered my Vision Christian radio interview in January about a short story I had written and about my writing in general.

‘Well, yes I was earlier this year, although I understand the interview was re-broadcast a few weeks ago too.’

She was stunned, but eventually managed to tell me how, as soon as I mentioned Turkey and Isaiah 42, she remembered hearing someone share this story on the radio. She had sensed even then that God was nudging her to start her own writing journey—and now she was overwhelmed that she had ‘randomly’ met me in person and was standing there hearing that same story again.

We stared at each other, both blown away at what had happened and how surreal it all felt. Yet it soon became clear too that we both knew we were on holy ground. Now she could not ignore that nudge God had given her already to start writing—now, through our ‘random’ conversation, she was not left in any doubt that this is what God wants her to do.

What an amazing God we have—a God who continues to love us and reach out to us and challenge us to step out in trust and do the things God has put in our hearts to do! When I think how I almost missed talking to this couple because I felt they would not be interested, I cringe. Yet God overruled—and I am so grateful.

It’s about listening to God well, rather than those negative, discouraging voices in our heads, and recognising God’s hand in those ‘random’ encounters, don’t you think? And when we do, God will surely will make the way forward so clear for us.

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

Read Full Post »

I knew it would be quite a long drive to get to my friend Sue’s recent book launch, but I definitely wanted to attend. After all, having just launched my own ninth book, I know full well what it feels like to put our creations out there in public for the first time. Besides, I had been involved in editing Sue’s book, Skinny Girl, in its final stages and was also present at the writers’ conference where she received her publishing contract. I remembered that joyful moment—and now I was looking forward to another equally joyful one.

Soon after lunch that Sunday then, I headed down to Wollongong, about a two-hour drive from home. All went well for a while, but then the rain came, followed by heavy fog which blanketed the surrounding bushland and road ahead, so that I could barely see the taillights of the car in front. Then I noticed a sign flashing above the road that was almost illegible in the fog. Eventually, however, I was able to make out what it said:

Use hazard lights in fog. Stay under 70kph.

I slowed down. Perhaps that would be enough and I could do without those hazard lights. But … wait! Where were they anyway? I remembered locating them on my husband’s car, but where were they in my own ancient Ford Fairmont that has done over 260,000 kilometres? After all, I have only been driving it for around twenty-one years! By that point, most other cars had their hazard lights on, so I hunted around, but could not see that red triangle anywhere. Then in a moment of inspiration, I peered behind the steering wheel and found a mysterious, red button. I pressed it—and lo and behold, those hazard lights started flashing!

I reached the launch safely and, by the time I drove home, the fog had largely lifted. But as I reflected on my rather scary experience, I began to suspect God was speaking to me through it. How often has that thick fog settled around me whenever I become over-busy, so that I cannot seem to connect with God easily? How often have I not read or perhaps noticed that big warning sign across my path, reminding me I need to draw close to God again? Indeed, how often have I even deliberately ignored it, thinking I can survive in my own strength?

It’s a dangerous place to be, isn’t it—in either a physical or a spiritual fog? We feel helpless, directionless and adrift. How much we need those hazard lights around us and that strong presence of the Saviour right beside us, strengthening us and showing us the way forward! In a physical fog, one mistake and disaster could happen. In a spiritual fog, we can forget altogether who God is and how God longs to walk with us each day, loving us, guiding us, watching over us.

However dense that fog in our lives might be right now, let’s reach out to God again. And let’s keep our eyes focussed on God’s light that can illuminate even the darkest, foggiest roads ahead.

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

Read Full Post »

Jo 23I wonder if you own one of those clever washing machines like we do that actually sends little messages to you at times. Recently, ours made a few clanging sounds, then beeped insistently. When I scurried into the laundry to see what was happening, this is the message that was illuminated on the front panel of the machine:

Help! My load is out of balance. Please redistribute and press start.

I hastily did as I was bidden. I removed the big towel that had managed to wrap itself around everything else and straightened out the heavy pair of jeans that was also causing trouble—and lo and behold, my machine then happily went on to finish its cycle. I happily returned to my desk too, but those words I had read stayed with me. Could they possibly have a wider application? Could God ever use a message on a washing machine to challenge us about our lives in general?

I suspect God does sometimes do things like that to get my attention. But what an important challenge for us all to think about, as we begin a new year!

How was this past year in your own life? Was your load ‘out of balance’ at times? Did you feel you were struggling far too often with finding time for things like simply relaxing and taking care of yourself or being quiet with God or contacting someone to see how they were going or working on a project close to your heart? The list could go on, couldn’t it? Sometimes we need to stop, take stock and make those hard decisions to bring things back into balance and enable our lives to run much more smoothly.

Sometimes our lives can end up feeling more than a little askew because of external demands placed upon us, while at other times, this can come as a result of choices we ourselves make. I know in my own life I am very good at doing all the jobs I see around, instead of allowing myself to spend time writing—something that is life-giving for me. Often too, I can overlook spending time with God, in order to complete these same jobs. Yet that is so self-defeating, because my heart is not at rest and at peace as a result and I end up feeling drained and out of kilter, like that washing machine of mine. At times, I need to listen to the warnings of those around me whose wisdom I trust and restore a better balance in my life. But above all, I need to listen to God about it, because God’s heart is to watch over me as a loving father who cares about my wellbeing and does not want to see my life so out of whack.

Before we all press that ‘Start’ button on another year then and are caught up in a whirl of activity again, let’s look to God to order our days, fulling trusting that God will show us how best to live. Then let’s be obedient in 2020 and put into practice what we hear!

Trust in the Lord will 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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Jo 12A few weeks ago, I went to pick up our youngest granddaughter from school. I thought I knew the way, but ended up at our granddaughter’s old day care centre instead! Well, surely I can get to the school from here, I thought to myself—after all, we had often picked up our grandson there. But that soon proved easier said than done, given the extremely winding and what seems to me utterly confusing layout of Glenmore Park, a western suburb of Sydney, where roundabouts abound and streets meander in all directions. The more I tried, the more confused I became. Meanwhile, time was ticking away—and I needed to be at our granddaughter’s classroom before the bell rang. She has only just started school and would be worried otherwise.

What confused me was that this time I had set out from our daughter’s home rather than our own. In the end, I became so disoriented, I had to call up Mr Google on my phone—and yes, there was that big, blue dot on the map that helpfully showed me where I was. I typed in the name of the school and tried hard to make that dot move closer to my destination as I drove along, keeping my phone in view at the same time (ahem!). Imagine my despair when sometimes, whatever I seemed to do, that blue dot started heading in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go!

Eventually, after a few stops by the roadside to check my phone properly, I somehow happened upon the street leading to the school. I parked at the end of what by then was a massive line of cars and ran as fast as I could to Maxine’s classroom, arriving in the nick of time. Phew!

But alas, that was not the end of the story. As our granddaughter sat calmly in her car seat, I much less calmly managed to get lost again en route to her home! Everything seemed back to front to me. So out came that phone again and in went our daughter’s address, as I blithely explained to Maxine that I was ‘just making sure we were on the right road’! And yes, after several more stops to check, that blue dot finally kept moving in the direction it needed to go and we arrived home safely.

After I recovered and was able to reflect on these interesting experiences, it occurred to me that sometimes I can be like that blue dot on the map, as I live my life. My heart is to keep focussing on God in all I do, yet sometimes I make unwise decisions that lead me away from God’s loving presence rather than closer. Sometimes I too go round and round in circles and up dead end roads before I come to my senses, stop, refocus on God and get my bearings again in my life. Does that describe you too?

In these times, may we all remember to listen again to those wise words from Proverbs 3:5-6—and do what they say!

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (The Message version)

Read Full Post »

IMG_20170915_104850396Last week, I decided to walk to some nearby bushland to explore a path my husband had told me about. As instructed, I headed down some rough, wooden stairs and turned right at the creek bank. I continued on slowly, stopping at times to enjoy the beautiful setting and listen to the numerous birds in the surrounding trees. While I was familiar with the tinkling bellbird sounds and the raucous screeching of the sulphur-crested cockatoos, all the rest left me feeling so curious—and ignorant.

But as I kept walking, I began to experience a different feeling as well—an unwelcome sense of fear. While the path ahead looked well-used, it was uneven, with rocks and tree roots protruding in spots. I had good walking shoes on, but I knew I still needed to be careful where I put my feet. Then my mind and imagination began to work overtime. What if I fell over and hurt myself? There was no one else in sight and no houses close by. What if I was not found for a long time?

You see, a couple of years ago, I did fall over while out walking. My foot twisted under me when I stepped on a small, innocuous looking branch on a perfectly flat, concrete bike path and pow—I hit that concrete with one almighty thud! On that occasion, a cyclist passed by soon after, stopped to help me to my feet and made sure I was okay before riding on. I thought I was—but, as it turned out, I ended up with a chipped ankle bone.

As I dwelt on this past experience, I believe God intervened, halting those tumbling thoughts and enabling me to put things in better perspective. This time around, I was indeed taking much greater care as I walked, whereas on the day I fell, I was still mulling over a talk I had given that morning and was oblivious to my surroundings. I also had my mobile phone with me, so could easily call my husband, as I did when I hurt myself. Besides, another walker would probably come along soon—and there was a busy road not so far away. All up, I was quite safe.

Then I remembered something else—and almost laughed out loud at myself. All week, I had been reading whole passages of Scripture on the theme of ‘Learning to live trustingly’. These included various verses about getting rid of worry and anxiety, about being more than conquerors, about trusting God in every situation—even about walking on straight paths!

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 NIV

Yet here I was, forgetting all those beautiful words in a moment of fear. I had indeed tripped up badly.

At that point, I sensed God smiling at me and whispering: ‘I’m right here with you, Jo-Anne—I haven’t left you. Don’t let that old enemy trip you up with fears and worries. Don’t let him bring you down. Just enjoy my creation around you—and enjoy this moment with me!

I think I need to read all those verses through again very soon and truly believe them this time—don’t you?

Read Full Post »

Jo 17What fun we are having in our house right now, as we prepare to move soon! In every room, there is a growing pile of boxes filled with photo albums, music, framed pictures, board games and other paraphernalia—not to mention books, books and more books! But outside, our rubbish and recycling bins are also being filled to the brim with reams of old files, books no one else would want to read and music very few would recognise now.

I suspect my husband’s part in all this activity has proved to be more challenging than mine. You see, he has a whole wall of built-in bookshelves in his study. So, of course, much culling of books has had to take place. But perhaps the hardest part for him has been dispensing with all those bulging folders of notes from courses he undertook as part of his Doctor of Ministry studies many years ago, along with his resulting three-volume dissertation.

‘I feel as if I am throwing a key part of my life away!’ he commented at one point.

I understand his sense of loss, to some degree at least. I too have dispensed with many folders containing courses I helped devise and run, manuals from other programs I attended, as well as many sermon notes. Yes, it is sad at times, but I have found there are ways of approaching this culling and packing adventure that have helped me not to become too overwhelmed by it all.

Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge any grief we feel, as we throw out work that represents a significant part of our life or significant personal growth experiences. Yes, we put our whole selves into preparing this course or that or completing some challenging ministry task. And yes, those days are gone. But God knows this—and God is right there with us, bringing comfort, as well as whispering, I believe, a  gentle ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ into our hearts.

Secondly, while not ignoring any sense of loss felt, we can try to take a more positive approach. We can thank God for the variety of opportunities we have been afforded in our lives to learn about so many things and to serve others by sharing these resources with them. We can remember how fulfilling it was to use our gifts in these ways and how others grew closer to God as a result. What a privilege to be entrusted with these tasks in God’s kingdom!

But I think the most positive approach to this culling of material and impending move can be found in a wonderful, insightful question a friend asked me recently:

‘So … what is the invitation God is extending to you for the next part of your life?’

What a beautiful thought! Why would I keep looking back then when I can turn and accept God’s gracious invitation to move forward into the next part of my life? God knows me. God loves me. And God still has a myriad of ways for me to bless others in the future. We’re not finished yet!

And the same goes for you 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

Read Full Post »

I watched the man’s earnest face as he talked—and my heart went out to him. At the last minute, just as he and his wife left the bookstore where I was promoting my books, he had rushed back inside to talk with me about his own writing. I had noticed him earlier, quietly standing to one side while his wife bustled about from shelf to shelf, choosing books and dropping them into an almost overflowing basket. It seemed to me he had had plenty of opportunity to chat with me then, but had he been a little embarrassed to put his dream of writing into words? Did he perhaps feel others would laugh?

Whatever his reason, I was determined to answer him as best I could. You see, I remember how hard it was for me to display my ignorance and ask those tentative questions about writing my own first novel. I remember how impossible the whole dream felt. I remember how even I myself had trouble imagining I could create a story others might want to read. Yet I desired to do it—with all my heart.

‘What do you think is the most important thing above all to know in order to write a book?’ he barked at me, staring me straight in the eye.

This gentleman wanted a quick, honest response, I could see. My mind darted this way and that—there were so many things he should know, so many pitfalls he needed to be warned about.

In the end, I told him I have to know it was what God wants me to do. No, that doesn’t mean I announce to one and all that God told me to write this book—which does make it awkward if no one thinks it’s very good! For me, however, I need to be able to sense God’s delight in what I am creating and to be strengthened by the Spirit as I put in the hard yards required to write the best book I can. I don’t want to pour a year of my life into a project that isn’t going to bear fruit for the Kingdom. And I sensed this was where this gentleman was coming from, too.

We talked for a few more minutes before I gave him my card and told him I could supply him with some notes about getting started in writing if he emailed me. Then he was gone.

Will his book ever materialise? I don’t know—but I suspect it will. At least, I think his has much more chance of doing so than those of the two or three other would-be authors who had approached me earlier in the day. I tried to be gentle and encouraging with them all, although I did stifle a sigh at the young woman who seemed rather overconfident about it all and a little unwilling to listen.

But what is the dream or challenge God has put on your heart lately? Whatever it is, whether writing a book or doing something quite different, I hope you can move ahead with your hand in the Lord’s, listening to his voice and looking for his guidance in whatever shape that might come.

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.‘ Prov 3:5-6

Read Full Post »

I did not know quite what to expect with my first bookstore appearance a few weeks ago. Despite having five published novels already, I had not previously done in-store book signings. But for my new non-fiction book Soul Friend, I felt it was time for me to taste such an experience.

It was a week day and there were no great crowds around. But then I noticed my table was positioned right next to the children’s section—surely a trap for any doting grandmother! On top of that, I was slap bang on the edge of the store’s coffee shop—another equally serious temptation! Soon, however, I began to focus on the job in hand. How could I engage the attention of those young mums talking nearby? How could I encourage the few customers who passed by my table to stop and take a look?

After a few moments of thought and prayer, I decided the only way was to step out of my comfort zone and instigate some conversations myself. So I gave out my business cards, explained about my books and chatted with anyone who was willing to stop and talk. And how interesting that turned out to be! One couple even invited me to join them for lunch as they told me about the challenges they were facing. I discovered in that bookstore that, however many books I signed or didn’t sign, God had some special appointments for me along the way.

And that is the attitude I took with me into my second and third in-store book signings. At the second store, I was situated right opposite the front door—a wonderful opportunity to engage with people as soon as they entered. Again, I gave out lots of my cards and had some moving conversations with a variety of people, from those new to Australia to a cancer sufferer to some would-be authors. And in it all, I sensed the grace of God at work in my life, irrespective of how many books I signed.

My third in-store book signing was the most diverse and challenging of all, however. This time, I was in a much bigger store and soon found that many people simply walked past my table, eyes down, intent on where they were heading and too busy to stop and talk. A few times I was mistaken for a store worker, despite my ‘author’ badge, and was asked for assistance. I pointed the way to the coffee shop and the toilets. I gave my opinion about the right cards to choose and the right books to buy. I gave an old lady my chair. I even helped lost spouses find each other and children their parents. And in between, I did sign some books. But more than that, again I had some significant conversations with people—those I believe God had for me to meet that day in that bookstore.

Yes, these three events were rather tiring and challenging. And yes, I would have liked to sign more books in the process. But I did my best and tried to engage with those I sensed God had for me to engage with. And that’s all any of us can do, I believe.

May you, like me, be content with stepping out in trust and leaving the outcome of our efforts to God.

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »