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Posts Tagged ‘speaking’

Here I was, innocently driving along a busy Sydney road on a boiling hot day, my mind grappling with how to rescue one of the main protagonists in my current novel from the pickle he has managed to get himself into, when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a bright red bus travelling in the opposite direction. At least, it wasn’t so much the bus itself I noticed, but rather the words on the front where the destination is displayed. This bus wasn’t going anywhere though. Instead, its sign read: ‘Sorry – not in service’.

Now the first thing that struck me was what a polite bus it was! Such messages are normally a lot more abrupt, with a simple ‘Not in service’ sufficing. So I reflected for a moment on the vast difference one little word can make – especially the word ‘sorry’.

But the second thought that came to me was much more profound. And I suspect it was one of those blinding reminders I seem to need from God at regular intervals to keep me on track in my life. It occurred to me to wonder how many times God sees this sign written all over us – with or without the word ‘sorry’ attached. How often have I simply chosen to go about my own business as I plan my day or my week or the year ahead, forgetting all about what God might want me to do or whom God might want me to serve? How often has God had to look for another to do what I was being prompted to do or to say those words God had for me to say?

Now I don’t believe God wants to put a big guilt trip on me. Yet on the other hand, if God sent Jesus Christ to die for me, if God has given me eternal life and so much else in my life here and now, surely I need at least to think about how I can love and serve God in return? Surely I need to consider how I can truly be ‘in service’ for the King of Kings, remembering the great love I have received and allowing this love to touch others through me? ‘We love because he first loved us’, we are reminded in 1 John 4:19. ‘Freely you have received, freely give’, Jesus himself tells his disciples in Matthew 10:8.

So I’ve decided that as 2011 begins to get under way for me, I don’t want a ‘Sorry – not in service’ sign over my life, polite as that may be. I want to be ready and willing to do the things God has for me to do. In 1 Peter 4:10 we read:

Each one should use whatever gift he [she] has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

What a privilege to be able to ‘administer God’s grace’ in just the way we have been gifted and created to do! For me right now, I endeavour to do that through my writing and speaking, hopefully passing on God’s love, building others up and encouraging them in turn to be all God has called them to be.

But how about you? How has God gifted you? Are you ‘in service’ too?

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I wonder how you are feeling as you look towards the year ahead. Apprehensive? Daunted? Bored? Overwhelmed? Even a little trapped? Perhaps you have no idea how you feel – or perhaps you are still in holiday mode and don’t even want to think about it at this stage. On the other hand, perhaps you are like my granddaughter who asked excitedly when her father joked how he would see her next year, as he put her to bed on New Year’s Eve: ‘So am I going to school tomorrow?’ She had been told for so long that she would be going to school ‘next year’, that to her delight, she thought the moment had finally arrived! Maybe some of you share Olivia’s excitement and anticipation at what the coming year might hold and can’t wait for things to begin.

Some of you who, like me, had a very big year last year might be wondering how you will handle another similarly busy year. As I get ready to launch into 2011 with both my writing and speaking, I find myself feeling a strange mixture of emotions. I have a fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, due for release in June. I have some speaking engagements and an interstate trip lined up, and no doubt more will emerge as the year unfolds. I have a half finished novel on my computer that I can’t wait to get back to – after all, I want to find out what happens in the end! I am thinking of beginning a work of non-fiction – something I thought I would never do. So I am excited about the prospects ahead. Yet I feel challenged and a little apprehensive too. Will my fifth novel find a ready readership? Will my sixth turn out to be my best writing yet, as I hope it will? Will it perhaps be the ‘breakthrough novel’ for me? Is what I write worth spending so much time on? Will it make a difference in anyone’s life? Will the things I say when I speak anywhere truly bring honour to God and impact those who hear?

I turn to Isaiah, one of my favourite books of the bible, and see these words in Chapter 51:16:

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand – I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

And then I find myself on firmer ground. Then I sit back with a sigh of relief, knowing I am one of God’s people and that these words apply to me too in 2011. God tells me here that I have his words in my mouth – surely as I stay close to God, these will flow both onto the page and into my listener’s ears. Even more than that, I know that as I step out into this year, God’s hand is overshadowing me and protecting me. Whatever the year might hold – success, fulfilment, disappointment, challenge, loss, joy – God will uphold, God will equip, God will comfort, God will watch over me.

And this assurance is there for you to take hold of too. So 2011 … here we come!

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I am sure many of you, like me, have had a very big 2010. Perhaps, like me also, you look back at times with a kind of surreal feeling and wonder how you did it all. I think at this stage of the year we can all be excused for ‘feeling our noble tiredness’, as Michael Leunig once put it.

But this is also the time of the year, I often find, when I can tend to feel a little ‘blue’, wondering if all my speaking and writing efforts have made much difference in this world. This is warped thinking, I know. I have some lovely email and Facebook messages from readers who tell me how much they have valued my books – and it was only a few days ago after speaking somewhere that several people told me how much God had challenged and encouraged them through what I said. These comments set my heart and mind and rest and inspire me to keep going. But nothing speaks peace and encouragement into my heart more than God’s word itself, which has a unique way of putting everything in perspective, I find.

Take Isaiah 26, for example. Three things in particular here impacted this week. Firstly, verse 3 reminded me I need to keep trusting steadfastly in God if I am to remain at peace as I look back over the past year:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

What a good antidote that is to the warped thinking of a tired brain! It is also a death knell to the distortions and accusations the enemy delights to throw at us when we are weary. As I choose to remain faithful, my mind focused on God, then I can be at peace, whatever has happened or will happen.

Secondly, verse 8 reminded me why I have put all this effort into speaking and writing this past year. It has been for God’s glory and not my own – ultimately, it’s not about what I have achieved or not achieved or how well people think of me. It’s not about me, full stop – it’s about God.

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

So I can be at rest and at peace, as I take my eyes off myself and instead concern myself with bringing honour to God, waiting for him to show me how that can best be done.

And finally, verse 12 put all my efforts of the past year into very clear perspective. Yes, I might have worked hard, preparing talks, writing and editing my novels, liaising with people and travelling here and there to speak. But behind and in and through all that, God was at work.

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

So again, it’s all about God and not about me. Yes, I needed to be willing to serve God and use my gifts, but God is the one who gave me the gifts; God is the one who called me; God is the one who empowered me; and God is ultimately responsible for what has or has not been accomplished.

I think I like God’s perspective, don’t you? So right now, I’m choosing to remain steadfast, to put God’s renown first and foremost and to remember who has enabled me to accomplish what I have this year.

And that, I believe, is how true peace comes.

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It happens to be my birthday this week – and yes, that definitely indicates I’m getting older!  Now I can let that mournful truth affect me in either of two ways.  I can be discouraged, decide I’ve done enough and slow down a little in my writing and speaking endeavours – or I can be encouraged, redouble my efforts and forge ahead, knowing I have even less time to complete all those novels in my mind that are waiting to burst onto the page.

I’ve decided I’m choosing the latter.  In 2010, I will put my best foot forward once again to speak wherever I’m invited about God and about writing in whatever ‘mix’ seems appropriate.  And I’m also aiming to complete my sixth novel, which has patiently waited in the wings these past few months when I have been too busy with other things.  Not that I know myself yet exactly how my characters are going to develop and what they actually will want to do in the end.  I think I know – but I might be wrong.  And I can’t wait to find out!

But how about you?  What unique contribution does God have for you to make to the lives of those around you this year?  Because each of us has something to offer, however little we believe that.  Just today I received a very apt birthday card in the mail, featuring a quote from Max Lucado that says:

Your life has a plot; your years have a theme. You can do something in a manner that no one else can.

I didn’t always believe that, particularly the last part.  I think that many years of my life were spent trying to be like someone else or trying to be the sort of person I thought God wanted me to be, without ever realising it was okay to relax and fully be the person I had been made to be in the first place.  Some time back I read some interesting words written by psychologist and spiritual retreat leader David Benner in his book ‘The Gift of Being Yourself’:

(Our true self) is the image of God that you are – the unique face of God that has been set aside from eternity for you.

That’s a sobering but amazing thought, isn’t it?  Each one of us, created uniquely in the image of God, as Genesis 1:27 talks about, is given the ability to mirror God to the world in a completely unique way as a result.  No one else is going to write my books.  No one else is going to speak exactly as I do and will.  No one else will relate to others or work or care for people or simply live the exact same way as you do.  Each of us has the opportunity to show the world something of God in a unique way.

Are you up for the challenge in 2010?  Whatever your age – go for it!

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