Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘spiritual mentor’

I am a champion at post mortems. After engaging in any public activity that requires me to perform in some way, I have been known to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over it all, scrutinising my part in it to the nth degree. I think back over what I said, cringing at some phrase I used or some unwise comment. And often I wish I could do it all again—but this time do it right!

This has its positive aspects, I have argued. For example, looking back over my notes for a talk I have given and realising where I could have done better helps me improve for next time. After all, who wants to keep making the same mistakes over and over again? But it also has its negative aspects, not least of which is being too hard on oneself!

Last Friday, I fronted up at Hope103.2 FM radio station, ready to be interviewed by Leigh Hatcher for his Sunday evening program ‘Open House’. Although feeling a little nervous, I was looking forward to it. After all, I knew that anything I might say that was too way off could be edited out! Leigh Hatcher greeted me warmly and suggested he take a photo for the station’s Facebook page. Then as we sat down in his studio, he told me we would be talking about mentoring, something he believes can be so valuable to people.

Now this was a very sensible suggestion, since my new book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, which has just been released, is about the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between my mentor and me during our fifteen years of meeting together and the great encouragement she was to me in my struggles during this time. However, I had thought Leigh might ask questions about the book itself, such as why I wrote it, what a ‘soul friend’ is, how I met my mentor, how I as a novelist came to be writing non-fiction, and other similar questions. Obviously, a quick mental back flip was required. So I put on my mentor hat and marshalled my thoughts.

Leigh’s questions were excellent and I did my best. I knew I was quite capable of talking about mentoring and enjoyed myself. But afterwards … well, you can imagine how my thoughts went! Why didn’t I say this? Why hadn’t I thought of that? Why couldn’t I remember that definition of mentoring I knew so well? Or the list of qualities of a mentor I myself had written?

I returned home and, still in my rather fazed, post-interview state, opened my computer. And there I found an email from a younger friend who is part of my little prayer team. All it had in it was the following verse:

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way … 2 Thess 3:16

As I sat smiling at the screen, I knew I needed to hand over the whole interview to God, put it behind me and receive that peace this verse talks about. I had done my best. Now I needed to rest in that and in the peace God is willing to give us at all times.

May you too know this same deep peace in your heart right now, however good you are at post mortems and whatever your situation in life.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

There I was one day last week, working away happily at my computer, when I heard a few dull thuds outside. Thinking it was the neighbours doing something in their yard, I didn’t investigate. Besides, it was a windy day—perhaps a few small branches were being tossed around. Later, however, when my husband opened our front door to go out, he almost fell over seven large cartons blocking his way. On each carton was a label saying ‘Leave at door of delivery if unattended’. Well, we had definitely been home all morning—but no one had rung the doorbell. Still, I guess the contractor thought we wouldn’t miss the little presents he left us.

My heart stood still when I gazed at those boxes. You see, I knew what they contained—my first copies of my brand new non-fiction book, Soul Friend, due for release next month!

Now this is my sixth book to be published, so one would think I’d be used to the whole process. But I find this moment when new books arrive to be rather daunting, for several reasons. Firstly, I always have to steel myself to open that first box and see what my book actually looks like. Of course I have seen the proposed cover online—but will the real thing look as good? On this occasion, I find myself a little shocked at the bright orange cover, which I expected would be much closer to a deep yellow/gold colour. But I’m still pleased with how it looks and feels as I quickly check through it.

Secondly, as I gaze at these seven boxes now on my study floor, I realise I need to decide yet again where to store them in our small house! Until I complete my new Soul Friend website and am able to offer them for sale nearer my launch date, these copies need to find a home here. Having juggled boxes of books for quite a few years now, I have become adept at turning them into coffee tables, benches and the like! It’s a challenge—but not insurmountable.

Much more formidable in my mind, however, is the challenge that lies ahead of promoting this book, not only via my website but at the various venues where I hope to speak or display my books. You see, I am well aware this will involve much hard work, lots of emails and many hours preparing for speaking engagements. It will include setbacks and doors closed to me—but it will also, by God’s grace, include many open doors and times of great encouragement.

And right now, that is where I need to focus—not on the potential difficulties, but on the wonderful opportunities ahead. From the very beginning of this Soul Friend project, God has been with me—and I know this will not change now. As I stand on the brink of this new adventure, I believe that if I continue to look to God for strength and guidance, I will not fall but stand firm, whatever happens.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

Read Full Post »

This past week, I enjoyed another interesting experience in this writing journey of mine. À la Kath and Kim, for a few brief moments, I became a ‘filum star’! You see, I had agreed to make a little book trailer/promotional video for my non-fiction book Soul Friend, due for release next month. I invited two of my very good friends to take part and engaged a young photographer to film us. We laughed a lot, as, one after the other, we sat in front of that camera, trying to speak as naturally as possible. But in the midst of all the fun, some deeper thoughts also surfaced for me.

As I observed my lovely spiritual mentor Joy, now over eighty years old, bravely sharing her feelings in front of that camera about my writing a book featuring her role in my spiritual journey, I felt so humbled and grateful for her support in it all. Then when my younger friend present—someone I have mentored for many years—took her turn and shared how helpful our relationship has been, these same feelings almost overwhelmed me. Again I glimpsed God’s amazing grace at work, as we have each fed into the lives of the other, through God’s leading and enabling.

But later I realised that, represented in my lounge room, were four generations of committed Christian believers—my spiritual mentor in her eighties, I in my sixties, my younger friend in her forties and our wonderful video person in his twenties. God has gifted us all in a variety of ways and each of us is endeavouring to use these gifts as best we can at this stage of our journey. The opportunities my older friend Joy now has for ministry are different from the many she had earlier. Mine too have changed over the years, as I have moved through various careers into my current writing and speaking role. My younger friend is giving herself totally by serving overseas and is home only for a visit. And our young photographer friend is poised on the brink of doing wonderful things in his field, I believe. Whatever our age, God is using each of us as we step out in faith.

Now I am sure I am not cut out to be a ‘filum star’! I have spoken publicly many, many times—but sitting in front of that camera is a different experience altogether! I knew I couldn’t ‘run off at the mouth’, as I tend to do on occasions. Our time was very limited and we had to watch our words. And that’s why I was so thankful when, as we waited for our other collaborators to arrive on the day, my friend Joy, who felt somewhat the same as I did, quoted some encouraging words from Scripture out loud and prayed for God’s wisdom and peace for both of us.

And God does not let us down, we discovered yet again. God rescues, God guides, God gives wisdom and peace—even in front of a camera.

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. (Psalm 18:31-32)

Read Full Post »

I wonder if you can remember a time when, like me, you have spoken in haste and rebuked someone harshly. Sometime we say things in the heat of the moment, don’t we, that we wish could take back – but it’s too late. Our words have done their work and pulled someone down instead of building him or her up. How much better it would be if we stopped and thought first before opening our mouths or typing that angry email or sending that curt text!

This week as I prepared to speak on a rather challenging passage of Scripture about confronting someone who has sinned against us (Matthew 18:15-20), I came across Proverbs 25:11-12 and was immediately captivated:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold

is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.

We all need those wise, careful rebukes at times, don’t we? None of us is perfect. But it’s at such moments that my pride often kicks in and I go into defence mode, trotting out all my excuses as to why I did what I did or said what I said. Instead, we are called to have a ‘listening ear’ when someone cares enough to confront us. Otherwise, we might miss those wise words of rebuke or challenge from God that could be life-changing.

I well remember several occasions over the years when someone rebuked me in a wise and godly way – and I actually managed to listen and take heed. I knew these people had my best interests at heart. And to this day, I remember their rebukes with gratitude and not with any bitterness, because these people took a risk and spoke truth into my life. Their words were indeed ‘aptly spoken’, as Proverbs puts it – true ‘earrings of gold’ that I treasure even more than my favourite pieces of gold jewellery.

In writing my recently completed first non-fiction book, I had to come to grips with this issue all over again. You see, this book is called Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey and is an account of my relationship with my special spiritual friend and mentor, Joy, over the past fifteen years. In that time, there were of course occasions when I had difficulties with other people – and Joy helped me work through these. But now I had to decide which of these, if any, to include in my book. If I left them all out, I would be writing dishonestly. And I might also miss an opportunity to help someone going through a similar situation. But if I included them, people might be hurt. So I tried to walk carefully with God as I wrote, checking my motives and looking for ways to polish those ‘apples of gold’ I felt it necessary to include.

But how about you? Could the words of rebuke you need to speak or write at times be described as precious gold earrings or ornaments? And are you developing that listening ear to hear and value the wise words of another who might seek to help you grow in God?

I know I’m still on this journey, but I hope I am learning how better to pass on those golden words, as well as develop that listening ear. And I hope and pray that’s your heart too.

Read Full Post »

Just over a year ago, after completing six novels, I began planning out my very first non-fiction book. I had been thinking and talking about it for some time, but in May 2011, I knew I had to act. Months of reading through my old journals and emails, marshalling my thoughts into some sort of order and of course writing ensued, before the first draft of Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey emerged. Then it was time for much revision and editing, before submitting it to a publisher. To my delight, it was accepted and is now due for release in October.

Over these months, I noted several differences between writing novels and non-fiction – I hope I have managed to tackle these well and overcome the challenge of switching genre. But next came a further new experience – that of working with a different publisher. This turned out to be an excellent and comfortable fit, but it still involved learning how to work with someone different and understand what was expected of me.

However, now that Soul Friend is complete, I can see even more new challenges looming, as I begin my whole promotion journey. In many ways, this will be similar to promoting my novels, but I think I see differences ahead as well. Non-fiction opens up some areas for me that were closed to novels, while on the other hand, I expect there to be some difficulty in promoting my non-fiction work as readily as I have my novels in secular venues. So now is the time to re-think my approach, to pray, to discuss, to plan – and to begin contacting people and organisations yet again.

At times, I cringe at the thought – it all seems too daunting. But then as I take time to regroup with God, I begin to glimpse the exciting nature of it all and the amazing privilege that is mine of being able to write and speak in this way. And I also glimpse again the truth that I am not doing this on my own. God is with me and will lead and sustain me as I step out in this new part of my journey.

This morning, as I continued my regular reading of Scripture, I reached Isaiah 42:18-20 again. Back in 2003, God used these verses to challenge me to begin writing, to show me that I was being deaf and blind to the clear call I had already been given to get on with producing my first novel I had talked about for so long. Now my eyes were drawn to verse 16 a little earlier on:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

So … will God not be there at every new twist and turn in this different phase of my writing experience, showing me the way forward?  I might feel I’m still groping along rather blindly in it all, still not seeing and hearing clearly what to do, but God will be there, and will even be smoothing the way ahead for me. How gracious and loving and understanding is our God?

Yes, I am challenged. But I am also blessed beyond measure. How about you?

Read Full Post »

I’m on the home run – I think – with my first non-fiction book Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey, due for release in October by Even Before Publishing. A few days ago, the first layout version of the book arrived for me to check through and to get someone else to proofread as well. Now I know from past experience with my previous books how essential this meticulous proofreading is. But each time, I find such experiences somewhat disconcerting. As I discover this little mistake and that little oversight, I ask myself how these could ever have escaped my attention – as well as the attention of my two manuscript readers/editors – during our numerous checks prior to this. They seem so obvious now. Admittedly, some always tend to creep in during the editing process – as one thing is changed, so another is affected without noticing. And sometimes things happen as the manuscript is imported into a different program. But I know they will be there – I don’t assume anything with my work these days.

This time around, however, my experience has been even more interesting in that each day this week we have minded our five-month-old grandson. Can you picture him sitting on my lap, a little unhappy for some reason or another, reaching out his cute little hands towards my keyboard? Can you imagine my attempts to type sensible comments with one hand, while holding him firmly with the other?

Nevertheless, I have now succeeded in finishing it. Yet I am left with this weird feeling inside. Are there other mistakes I should have noticed? Are there more clumsy sentences I should have changed, even at this late stage? Have I acknowledged everything I should have acknowledged? Does the book do my lovely spiritual mentor justice? After all, this book is about the spiritual journey I have enjoyed with her over the past fifteen years – it reflects on her as well as on me.

And then as I reach for my Bible in order to sit in the sun and let God’s Word minister to me, even before I open it, I am reminded again of God’s amazing grace. God has been right beside me, through all the challenges of this week. And right now, God is saying a wonderful ‘Well done’ to me at another task completed to the best of my ability.

Yet as I let my mind relax and focus fully on God, I am reminded of another even deeper truth. Every day of my life, God sees my mistakes – my impatient words to a family member, my self-focus, my complaining about this or that, my self-doubt, my forgetting others who need my support. Yet God never gives up on me but continues to reach out in love, to forgive, to urge me on to do better. From God’s perspective, all my mistakes are gone. As Psalm 103:11-13 says:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him …

There are no hidden mistakes with God. God sees. God knows. God loves. God forgives. I still find that so amazing and freeing – and I pray with all my heart you do too.

Read Full Post »

Recently I received a very lovely compliment. After responding to a friend’s email with a long one of my own, she emailed again and began with the words: Thanks Jo-Anne. You always put such a lot into your letters. You write generously. I was so glad she felt that way, because I do love to let people know their emails have truly been ‘heard’ and taken seriously. Yes they do take time to write, but in my opinion it is time well spent. And of course I simply love writing anyway.

Her response reminded me of another writer friend’s comment when we first began emailing each other. She so appreciated my emails, she told me – she hated ‘those two-liner things’ and always felt ripped off by them! So while some, including myself, may think my emails are far too wordy and wonder why I don’t get straight to the point, others seem happy that I write ‘generously’.

But not all of us like writing, I know. For some, it is a chore to be avoided. But there are many ways to reach out to others with generosity. Perhaps you are able to share your finances with others who need a little help, just as Jesus himself urged us to. Recently, in gathering material for my current non-fiction book, I read through my old journals and noted the way God has cared for me over the years through the financial generosity of others. I was reminded of a young single girl who was convinced God wanted her to pay for me to attend a three week prayer ministry school, costing several hundred dollars. At first I felt terrible taking advantage of her offer, but I did – and I have been grateful ever since for the insights this school gave me. She knew God was preparing me for something during this school – and she was right. And I know she felt blessed by the way God has used that gift she gave me many times over since then.

And what about our abilities and expertise? It can make such a difference if someone will walk beside us and share the knowledge they have gleaned over the years. When I was first starting out as an author, another much more experienced author very generously helped me with information and introduced me to her own contacts. I valued that so much and now try to do the same for others. What a joy it is to do this and know I have saved someone hours and hours of trying to find out the same information I was able to give them so easily!

Then there is our time too – that most precious of commodities in our busy world. How special is it when someone is prepared to sit down with us and truly hear what is happening in our lives? In writing my current book, I have thought in particular of the many, many hours my special spiritual mentor spent talking with me over the past fifteen years. How generous she was with her time – and how much I owe her for the amazing impact she has had on my life!

In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul writes the following:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

I have found this so true in my life. And I am determined to continue being as generous as possible in my email writing and with whatever other resources God has given me.

How about you? Are you living life generously?

Read Full Post »