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Posts Tagged ‘Solomon’

One recent afternoon, we heard a loud ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ at our front door and found our lovely friend there, holding a small, glass vase in her hand that contained a beautiful, pink camelia and some dainty, little blue flowers.

‘This is for you,’ she told me. ‘Someone gave me this camelia and it’s so perfect, I thought you would enjoy it too. The little blue flowers are forget-me-nots.’

After she left, I sat gazing at those beautiful flowers for a long time. The camelia was indeed exquisite, almost salmon pink in colour, with each petal overlapping the next in such an orderly, perfect way and changing to a lighter shade as the petals spiralled out from the centre. But the forget-me-nots captured my attention too, the dainty, baby-blue flowers in each cluster absolutely perfect in themselves, with their bright yellow centres and white, starlike markings on the tiny petals. How could so much beauty exist in such minuscule form? Surely only the hand of a loving, overwhelmingly creative God could produce something amazing like this?

I remembered then the first few lines of a poem I wrote some years ago on this same theme:

Did you have fun, Lord, creating such beauty

for us your children to enjoy?

It’s as if in pure delight you waved your palette high

and splashed your vibrant colours everywhere with glee,

as if you had to share each fresh design of flower

and then, in pure extravagance,

add speckles to already perfect petals.

Truly, the natural world around us brims with wonderful extravagances of colour and design and intricacy. And it has always blown my mind that many of the tiny flowers and plants and animals and insects created by God will never even be seen by human beings. Perhaps their habitat is some hidden corner in a jungle or some isolated spot in a dry, desert area, far from any sort of civilisation—yet still they flourish. Thomas Gray expressed this same thought in his poem ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ which I remember being drawn to in my early teens when we studied it in our English class:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,           

  And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

But, above all, as I sat gazing at my little posy, I remembered some words Jesus once said that encourage us not to worry:

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Matthew 6:28-30

I continued sitting there for some time, sensing God’s presence around me and taking in the lesson I was doubtless being taught through my special flowers. Yes, I could indeed trust God to provide for me and those close to me in every way. I need not worry, because I belong to a loving, creative God who is more than able to care for me—and for you. Surely a lesson worth learning all over again, don’t you think?

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Jo 17I was listening—truly I was. This particular Sunday, while sitting in a church we were visiting on the way to catch up with friends, I warmed to the minister’s gentle, humble manner as he began speaking. But I must say his topic—‘Money’—did not enthuse me so much. This doesn’t apply to me, I thought. After all, we have given our offering every week for years. Besides, I’m still waiting to make my millions as a writer—although I’m sure that Great Australian Novel is just around the corner!

I tried to focus, but my mind wandered a little—until the minister read out some verses from Proverbs:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God. Proverbs 30:8-9

Wow—what a great heart attitude to have, I decided. This person is asking God not to provide him with too much, in case he ends up believing he is the master of his own destiny, or with too little, in case he is tempted to steal and thus try to be master of his own destiny in a different way. That in itself was challenging. But what I found even more challenging was his motivation for praying as he did, which was not to dishonour God in any way via his behaviour and attitude to life.

Hmm. While having either too much money or too little might not be a huge issue for me at the moment, there are other issues in my life I grapple with and need to pray about. But when I do, what are my motives? Is it so I will be more comfortable in some way? Is it to quell my worries and fears? Is it so I will look good in the eyes of others? Is it to bolster my own pride? Or is it to make sure I am honouring God in every area of my life?

But I then began to realise that, even in the area of money, I may well need to watch my attitude at times. Recently, many Australian authors received this year’s notification of payment from the Australian Government’s PLR and ELR programs, which, according to the relevant website, make payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers in recognition that income is lost through the free multiple use of their books in public and educational lending libraries. Yes, I did earn a small amount this time around, to my surprise—but not nearly as much as other authors I know. And I soon found myself beginning to feel a little jealous. Why them and not me? I could make good use of that money. Humph!

As I sat in that church, I recalled this attitude of mine with some shame. It did not honour God, I decided. In fact, it was decidedly self-centred and graceless. Perhaps I needed to listen more closely to the sermon after all.

I want to have that same God-honouring attitude in my life as that writer of those verses in Proverbs had—don’t you?

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I wonder if you have ever been in the situation of trying to make yourself understood to someone who does not speak the same language as you. It can be fun but also frustrating, can’t it? We can get so far with sign language and facial expressions, but there is a limit, after which we are stuck. Once when I was in Turkey, visiting a friend, I offered to go and buy some sugar for her, as she was in the middle of cooking and had run out. I knew the basic Turkish word for sugar (şeker), but what fun I had, trying to make myself understood, as the helpful shopkeeper showed me raw sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, cube sugar, even lollies (also called şeker in Turkish), and eventually what I wanted—plain old white sugar!

Our two year old grandson Zain now has a beautiful little sister Maxine, who is all of seven weeks old. Now Zain has a special puzzle at home that helps children learn counting and also teaches what the numbers look like. A few days ago, according to Zain’s mum, he recognised the number four and wanted Maxine to appreciate this momentous event.

‘Maxine! Maxine! Look, Maxine—four! Dat’s four, Maxine!’ he told her earnestly, showing her the relevant puzzle piece and trying to help her understand. I doubt that he was duly impressed with her response! But at least he tried.

In John’s Gospel, there is a lovely, honest account of an interaction between Jesus and his disciples that I have often smiled over. In Chapter 16, just after Jesus has explained as clearly as he can that he is leaving the world and going back to his Father in heaven, his disciples respond:

Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have everyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (30)

We can almost hear the relief in Jesus’ voice as he responds simply: “You believe at last!” (31) Finally, after being with Jesus for many months, hearing him teach and watching him perform many miracles, it all seems to click with them. Finally, they seem to understand what he was on about.

Yes, we often strike limitations of some description when it comes to understanding others. Thankfully, however, God has no such limitation. In 1 Chron 28:9, David points out to his son Solomon that God understands not only what we say but what we think, before we even say anything:

And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.

Then in Psalm 147:5, we find the following simple but profound and all-encompassing statement:

Great is the Lord and might in power; his understanding has no limit.

This means that, wherever we are at, however confused and frustrated we might feel, God sees through it all and understands straight away—in fact, even before that. God speaks our language, wherever we are from and however young or old we are. While others might look blankly at us and misunderstand us and our motives at times, God never does. Everything is transparent with God—and I’m so glad of that, aren’t you?

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