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Posts Tagged ‘Queensland University’

I have a friend who loves photographing doors, particularly ones that look a little weatherworn. And if they are any shade of blue, that’s even better! On one trip together, it became a joke between us to find as many blue doors as we could and decide if they truly warranted being photographed. As a result, whenever I see an interesting door anywhere, I think of her. And this was the case when I recently came across the intriguing door below, about a third of the way down this beautiful, old staircase in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.

IMG_20181124_102331114
IMG_20181124_102226413I don’t think anyone will open this door in a hurry, do you? Yet how inviting it looks! Could it hide an escape route for those overwhelmed by the expensive clothes, shoes etc sold in the QVB, do you think? Or does it lead to a little room where those tired workers from the endless coffee shops in the building can hide for a brief respite? And what about that interesting Number 417 on it? After all, if I’m correct, that equals three times thirteen squared, so perhaps some superstitious official in the distant past may have decided to block that door right up for good!

Yet my thoughts took a serious turn too as I looked and reflected on those figurative doors barred to me at certain times in my life. When I was nineteen and studying at Queensland University, I tried to change from my Bachelor of Arts degree course to a five-year combined Arts/Divinity course. Way back then, I felt God was calling me to train for some form of ministry, but I soon discovered my Commonwealth Scholarship could not be extended to cover those extra years at university. I knew my parents could not support me through any further study—and I had no part-time job. So I reluctantly abandoned the whole idea.

Then in my middle forties, I felt God again calling me to prepare for some form of ministry, this time at theological college. I left my job and wanted to start studying straight away the following year, but that turned out to be impossible. So instead, I spent that year praying for our church, attending two schools of prayer, auditing two college subjects and reading many books—all of which turned out to be vital for what lay ahead. Then the next year, I began my college course in earnest. Three years later, at the age of forty-nine—thirty years after I first wanted to study divinity/theology—I graduated with that degree, plus a ministry diploma.

Was it a mistake that I did not undertake these studies earlier? I suspect not—because, in those intervening years, God brought so many different experiences across my path, teaching me things I would never otherwise have learnt. In the end, God answered my prayers and those doors I thought would never open for me did indeed open, just as Jesus promised.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10

May those doors that have been barred for you open in God’s time too.

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Jo 17There I was, happily reading John’s Gospel when I noticed I had previously put two exclamation marks beside a particular verse. Then I discovered two more in another spot—and I realised why. What the Jewish leaders were saying and how they were responding to Jesus just seemed so crazy-ridiculous to me!

I read how the Jewish leaders pester Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the Christ. Jesus points out he already has—and how his many miracles back up his claim (10:25-26). They try to stone him, but when Jesus asks which of the many great miracles from God the Father has upset them so much, they dismiss them, as if they are unimportant:

We are not stoning you for any of these,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (10:33)

I then read how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44). While many Jews put their faith in him as a result, some head off to the Pharisees, who call a meeting to discuss the matter:

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him …” (11:47-48)

Their conclusion, in collaboration with the chief priests, strikes me as sad but kind of funny too:

So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (12:10-11)

Doesn’t it seem weird to you that the best idea the Jews can come up with is to kill Lazarus? If Jesus had brought him back to life once, could he not do it again?

Finally, I read the saddest verse of all:

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (12:37)

As I reflected on all this, I remembered a time when I was a student at Queensland University and a keen member of the main Christian group there. One year, we held a mission on campus and tried to strike up conversations about Jesus with passers-by. During one such discussion, some sceptical philosophy students clinched their arguments with us with the following very definite statement:

‘If Jesus were to appear here right now and do some miracle, then we’d believe in him, for sure.’

An older minister helping us then chimed in.

‘Would you really? … Would you really?’

At that point, they left, uncertainty written all over their faces.

I sat for a moment, remembering and reflecting. If God had not opened my eyes to see who Jesus truly is and changed my life forever, I could well have had the same response as these students—and the Jewish leaders. I too could be lost in that sea of scepticism and unbelief. I still scratch my head at God’s absolutely amazing grace and love for me—but I also receive it with a truly grateful heart and with determination to treasure this gift forever.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … John 1:11-12

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Jo 12I never thought I would see the day—yet, there I was, sitting in a Latin class again! And somehow, despite the inordinate number of years since I had last conjugated a Latin verb, there was a distinct familiarity about it all.

Knowing I was coming to visit from interstate, my sister had asked her U3A (University of the Third Age) Latin teacher if I could attend his class with her—and what a blast from the past it was! I was warmly welcomed as some sort of ‘expert’, simply because I had studied Latin for four years at high school, majored in modern languages at university and also survived a year of Classical Greek there. As to how much I remembered … well, that’s another story!

The teacher began by gently helping everyone revise all they had learnt up to that point and soon I felt I was in some sort of wind tunnel, being sucked inexorably back over the years. As those beautiful Latin phrases tumbled so effortlessly from his lips, I was again seated in that old classroom in Brisbane on a stifling, summer day, listening to my own teacher explain some finer point of Latin grammar. A moment later, I could hear her dry voice guiding us through a portion of Livy’s account of Hannibal’s exploits in battle. Next, I am sure I heard her sigh with exasperation, as she attempted to help us scan various lines from Virgil’s Aeneid and appreciate the finer points of Latin poetry. We were all so young and restless—and so eager to get on with our lives and leave those school days behind.

I returned to the present with a jolt, realising as I did how different my current Latin class experience was—and what a different space I was now at in my life. This time around, our male teacher was a gracious, respectful, retired university lecturer who knew exactly how to explain things well and how to remind everyone gently about what they already knew, without making them feel stupid in any way. The class members were all mature-age, experienced, lifelong learners who so valued this opportunity to unravel the intricacies of Latin and put their minds to work yet again. I went along for the ride, enjoying it all. And I did so with a truly thankful heart, as I reflected on the amazing journey I have travelled with God during all those intervening years since that last school Latin class of mine.

I have taken several interesting twists and turns in my life, as I lurched from one career to another. Some roles I undertook I thought would be forever, yet that was not to be. Instead, as I look back, I can see how God taught me things through each one that I would desperately need in the next, all the while shaping me to become more of the person I was created to be. No doubt I made some wrong decisions along the way, yet God has watched over me and gently guided me through it all. My times have indeed been in God’s hands—and I am so grateful.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands … Psalm 31:14-15

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