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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 34:8’

I did not feel like baking on this particular day—and that should have been a warning to me. I know from past experience that when my mind is elsewhere, whatever I attempt in the kitchen may not turn out well. And that was definitely the case this time around.

I measured out the butter for my fruit cake carefully. Then the sugar followed—and the mixed fruit and nuts. I even congratulated myself that I had enough mixed fruit left for another fruit cake some other time. Then, after adding water, I put everything on to boil for a few minutes. But as I stirred that mixture, it did not look the same as usual. Had I put too much butter in? No—I remembered weighing it out so carefully. Perhaps I was imagining it. After all, I had not made this particular boiled fruit cake for a while.

I put the mixture aside until cool. But later, when I added the eggs, vanilla, flour and spices, it still looked different. I checked through the ingredients again. Yes, I had remembered everything. So, with a shrug, I put the cake in the oven.

Over two hours later, as I went to cut that cake, I noticed a lot less mixed fruit than usual in it. How could that be? Then in a sudden flash of insight, I realised what I had done. I had used only one cup of mixed fruit instead of three! As a result of my lack of concentration, I had left out two-thirds of the main ingredient! Yes, the cake was still edible. But it lacked its usual firm texture and lovely, rich taste my husband enjoys so much.

I slunk off to my study, feeling so disgruntled and annoyed with myself. But as I mulled over my mistake, I decided to ask God what I could learn from the whole experience. Surely something could be salvaged from this disappointing event, apart from a rather crumbly cake?

Then into my head and heart came the following thought. Yes, Jesus is Lord of my life. He died for me, has forgiven me, has brought me into God’s family, has given me fulfilment in this life and hope for the future. I love him and belong to him. Yet at times, I still manage to step into my days without giving much thought to this ‘main ingredient’ in my life. Or perhaps I spend some moments with him, but take on board only a portion of what he wants to say to me. As a result, I miss out on so much of the richness Jesus wants to pour into my days. And there is little of value within me either that I can offer to others for them to enjoy. In other words, I know the best recipe for my life—but I do not always follow it well.

I hope I take more care next time I bake. But much more importantly, I hope I have learnt that deeper lesson God had for me and ensure I am filled each day with the best main ingredient ever—that rich, tasty soul food God offers each one of us.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8   

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It’s not every day we take ourselves off to enjoy high tea somewhere, so we had been particularly looking forward to this one, a special Christmas gift from our son and daughter-in-law. And at last, there we were, standing slightly overawed in the grand entrance to the Wintergarden Restaurant of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains, and wondering if we were back in the early 1900s when this amazing edifice was built.

I gathered together as many ladylike manners as I could muster and tried not to boggle at the beautiful, satin upholstered furniture nearby and the dining tables beyond, with their pristine, white linen tablecloths and plush chairs. Then a staff member greeted us and ushered us to our table beside the huge windows that framed a stunning view of the Megalong Valley and the surrounding mountains. By this stage, we were slightly speechless—this did not feel like us!

Soon, a lovely waiter came to take our beverage order. Then, not long after, another staff member brought our sumptuous high tea to us with a smile and asked whether we wanted the different treats explained to us. Yes, that would be helpful, we decided, as our eyes bulged.

But where to start? Soon we were demolishing the middle tier of savoury food—curried egg sandwiches, cucumber and cream cheese squares, tiny rye sliders, delicious lamb wraps and small pastry treats. Then, feeling almost replete already, we slowly moved on to the lower tier of delicious scones, jam and cream. Yum! After that, we waited some considerable time before deciding to tackle those tempting cakes and desserts on the top tier. And what a delight each one turned out to be, when we finally gave in! There was such attention to detail too, with a little chocolate stalk and flower petal leaf on the delicious citrus ball and gold edging on the raspberry that decorated the chocolate mousse creation. They were almost too lovely to eat.

Later, as we recovered and reflected on the whole experience, I sensed God saying, ‘I’m glad you enjoyed it, but the feast I provide for everyone is even more beautiful and satisfying!’  

Then I remembered God’s heart-wrenching plea to the Israelites so many years ago:

If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:13-16

I wonder how many times I, like the Israelites, have turned down that gentle but insistent invitation to come and eat the food only God can provide that will truly sustain me, whatever happens in life? I wonder how many times I have struggled on in my own strength, starving myself of spiritual nourishment, when it was there all the time for the taking?

Let’s not turn away or ignore that beautiful feast God offers each one of us. Instead, each day, let’s do what King David urges us to do:

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

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Jo 17One day recently, feeling quite uninventive, I chose to make a good old standby again for dinner—some humble beef rissoles. Not wanting to rush, I started preparing them early. I had time to add a few more things than usual to make them a little tastier—dried mixed herbs, basil, black pepper and also some fresh parsley and thyme my neighbour is always telling me to take from her garden. I added a chopped onion, along with breadcrumbs and an egg, all the while thinking how much tastier these rissoles would be than usual.

As I cooked them, my husband commented how enticing our dinner smelt. We were both looking forward to those rissoles. But alas, even though I had gone that extra mile and added ingredients I usually don’t bother adding, I had forgotten one key item—that very necessary salt! Now I know some people don’t put any salt in their cooking, but that is certainly not what we like to do. As soon as I took that first bite, I realised my mistake. I could not believe it! I had had so much extra time, but still managed to forget that one ingredient that makes such a difference.

Eventually, I managed to laugh at myself, as I hastened to sprinkle table salt all over those poor old rissoles! But this whole episode rankled for a long time afterwards. You see, I would much rather have spent the afternoon writing or preparing for some speaking event than cooking dinner. It was a sacrifice to me to put that time aside. So for the meal not to turn out as I wanted it to was a little annoying, to say the least. However, as I sat thinking about it all, I decided to ask God what lessons I could learn from this episode.

Apart from realising I should focus more on what I am supposed to be doing rather than dream about what to write next in my current novel (!), I felt God highlighted a much more important lesson for me in general. What if I were to forget that ‘salt’ in other areas of my life as well? What if I were to leave it out of my writing and my speaking in particular, so that all those words I labour over became bland and tasteless? Worse still, what if what I thought was ‘salt’ was only some useless, powdery substance left behind after the real salt had gone, as apparently happened in Bible times? If I did, then those words of mine would be mere worthless rubbish. What if I lost sight altogether of those key things God wants me to highlight so others may ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8)?

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says to his disciples:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.’

I want God’s perfect balance and seasoning to be present in all my creative efforts. I want my words to remain punchy and flavoursome to the end, with just the right amount of salt in them. So Lord, may I never forget that valuable, key ingredient—ever again!

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pexels-photo-461252There we were on Christmas day, waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. I had put some cherries out for us to enjoy and offered one to our three-year-old granddaughter.

‘These are lovely, Maxine. Would you like one?’ I said.

She gazed at them for a moment, then came out with this profound statement.

‘I don’t like cherries because I’ve never had them before!’

Now that obviously made complete sense to her. After all, surely if her parents hadn’t given them to her before this, then those funny red things with stems must be yucky! I remembered too the response of one of our own children, when faced with eating something they hadn’t tasted previously. ‘I won’t like it!’ they would say, obviously fearful of what lay ahead.

Sadly, I suspect I can be like Maxine at times, or that child of ours.  Often I can be very picky—but more so with books than food.  I may find myself turned off by a cover I dislike or the quality of the paper or the size of the print. I don’t mind small print, but I do object when a large font is used and those lines are spread so far apart and the margins are so wide, making that book too insubstantial for me and not worth the money I paid for it! Yet some smaller books I own have turned out to be absolute gems, such as Henri Nouwen’s Out of Solitude or Eugene Petersen’s The Wisdom of Each Other.

Much sadder than pre-judging books, however, are the times I have pre-judged people because of their appearance or something different about them. The biggest lesson I learnt in this regard occurred around twenty-five years ago when I met a young woman at a prayer training course. At first, after discovering she was blind, I avoided her. I felt I would not know how to relate to someone who could not see. And, to my shame, I was reluctant to put myself out to help her. Yet God drew us together—and that young woman taught me so much about myself, about courage, about perseverance, about relating to those who suffer from any degree of vision impairment.

A few years later, I found myself at another course where most participants were from a different part of the Body of Christ. ‘They won’t be able to teach me anything much,’ I decided in complete arrogance. Yet their kind acceptance, attentiveness and intelligent conversation turned out to be a wonderful, healing gift from God for me.

Now I’m hoping there aren’t too many others of you out there like me who are practised pre-judgers.  I hope you taste those cherries or look carefully at those smaller books before making up your mind. I hope you listen to and accept others, however different they are. And I hope I do too more and more. But above all, if Jesus Christ is someone unfamiliar to you, I hope and pray that, in the coming year, you may not pre-judge or write him off too quickly but instead take time to get to know him, to experience his amazing love and to taste his absolute goodness for yourself.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

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Jo 17No, I’m not talking about a huge cricket score, much as I love my cricket. I’m celebrating the passing of yet another writing milestone—the posting of my own personal Blog Number 300. Woohoo!!

‘I don’t know how you can come up with a different blog each week,’ someone said to me recently. ‘I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to write about.’

Back when I began blogging in July 2009, I myself wondered if a weekly blog was too ambitious a goal. Yet I am so thankful that, time after time, God opened my eyes and ears and birthed an idea just at the right moment. Some blogs I wrote seemed to hit the mark better than others. But even in those weeks when fewer people read them, I would often receive some encouraging online comment. It was worth it, I decided, if God blessed one person through what I had written.

During these years, I have also written over sixty blogs for Australasian Christian Writers, Christian Writers Downunder and International Christian Fiction Writers. I have enjoyed producing these writing-related blogs as well and hope other authors have been encouraged in their own journeys as a result, just as their blogs have helped me in various ways.

In all this blog writing, however, I know I am the one who has benefited most by far. But for my blogs, I might well have not been so alert to the many diverse ways God has touched my life, whether it be through Scripture, through some experience or event, through a friend or family member, through the Spirit’s prompting within me, through a book or article or through the wonders in the world around me. As well, collecting my thoughts together and fine tuning them has enabled me to take what God is saying to heart so much more myself. Then, from a practical writing perspective, the mere discipline of writing five hundred or so words each week in a way that will connect with others has helped me put things more clearly and succinctly. And, beyond all that, my blogs have connected me with so many of you, my readers, who have taken the time to comment from wherever you are in the world, often sharing your own beautiful thoughts in the process.

In January 2012, I received the following message from a reader:

I was at an IT in-service day last year where one presenter talked about his Biblical perspective on the use of the internet and encouraged us to be cyber salt. I always think of this now when I read your posts. Thanks for all the encouragement you provide. I love reading your gems.

What a privilege to have provided some of that ‘cyber salt’ three hundred times now, even if only in small amounts! In God’s hands, it can make a big difference in another’s life. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says:

‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?’

So, however God gifts and enables, let’s all continue to be salt in this world so that others may ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8). As for me—well, I’m aiming at the four hundred mark now!

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