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Posts Tagged ‘Rumania’

Jo 23It is so true that, just when we might least expect it, an opportunity can present itself to say a gentle word in season that someone needs to hear.

A few weeks ago, my husband was waiting for our order at a local pizza shop on a Friday night. He noticed a man nearby sitting forward with his head in his hands.

‘Glad the week’s over, are you?’ my husband commented.

They went on to exchange a few pleasantries.

‘Tell me, how you cope with stress in your life?’ the man then asked, out of the blue.

‘Well, it helps me to know I’m doing what God wants me to do,’ my husband replied.

They chatted on for a while. It turned out the man was from Rumania and works in IT. And soon he discovered my husband is a retired minister.

‘My uncle was a sort of minister in a Pentecostal church back in Rumania—I used to go to church then,’ he admitted. ‘Tell me … how do you see the Holy Spirit manifesting himself today?’

Not quite the sort of question one expects to be asked in a pizza shop! Nevertheless, my husband happily responded. Then our pizza was ready and the man thanked him sincerely for their conversation. Only God knows what might ensue in his life as a result.

But this past week, it was my turn. As I waited to have an x-ray at the hospital, I glanced at the other people around me and decided to pray for them. I particularly noticed an elderly couple sitting nearby who seemed quite nervous. They got up several times, once returning with a form to fill out, which they seemed to have trouble doing. The wife tried to help her husband, speaking to him in a language I did not understand and several times reaching in her handbag to find this or that document. Eventually his name was called and off he went. I looked across at his wife and smiled. She smiled in return and then began talking.

‘I’m so worried!’ she told me, a perfect stranger, as she started to cry. ‘My husband … he not well. He got cancer.’

I reached over and held her hand, then moved to sit beside her. Out came her story of migrating to Australia from Italy in the fifties, starting work at fourteen, missing her homeland, marrying a man from her own village, having children. I listened—and my heart went out to her. Then my name was called and I had to leave her.

When my x-ray was over, however, I saw she was still waiting and went over to her.

‘I’m going to be praying for you,’ I told her. ‘I believe in God—God will look after you.’

‘I believe in God too,’ she whispered, as she clung to my hand and the tears began falling again. ‘Thank you so very much!’

In Col 4:6, Paul writes:

Let you conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

What a privilege to be able to take part in these two entirely unexpected conversations! I hope they were grace-filled enough. I hope these two needy ones sensed God’s love reaching out to them, bringing refreshment and comfort. That’s what it’s all about, don’t you think?

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Many years ago, one of our daughters who was only very little at the time was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was a doctor or – wait for it – a shepherd! She had heard various bible stories about shepherds and must have decided they were a kind lot who helped and cared for others. The interesting thing is that while she did not take up either of these occupations, she nevertheless clearly conveys these traits in the way she has related to others throughout her life. Next year she is heading out with a volunteer organisation to spend some time working with orphans in Rumania – still the doctor and the shepherd at heart.

I think of her almost every time I read or speak on Psalm 23. This psalm is so well-known that the temptation is to gloss over the richness of its words and to read it only at funerals or memorial services. Yet I think it gives such encouragement to us as we seek to live our lives well right now, and deep comfort whenever we find ourselves in a hard place.

Right off the bat, the psalm begins with the strong assertion that ‘The LORD is my Shepherd’. What a statement! David, its author, is declaring that Yahweh, the most high God, the ‘I AM’, the one whose name was too holy and too awesome even to be spoken aloud by the ancient Hebrews, is prepared to take on the lowly role of a shepherd and, furthermore, lead and guide him personally through his life. That blows my mind and immediately takes me back to my teenage years when I realised for the first time that the mighty God of the whole universe knew me and cared about me personally – enough to send Jesus to die for me, in fact.

As the psalm continues to unfold, we read wonderful statements about the Lord that I have found so true since then:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the present of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The key factor in it all is that presence of the Shepherd walking closely with me, strengthening me, showing me the way forward, defending me, healing me. My task is to ensure I keep my eyes on my Shepherd, listening for his voice, trusting him when he takes me in a particular direction. In John 10:27, Jesus himself says:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

What a privilege to have Jesus, the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:14-15), intimately involved in my life journey, with all its twists and turns! In fact, he has told us this relationship will never end, that no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). So it is with a grateful heart that I agree with David as he concludes his psalm:

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Can you hear the voice of this faithful Shepherd too? Are you listening?

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