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Posts Tagged ‘Subiaco Creek’

2016-06-05 15.27.04For Christmas, I received one of those digital photo frames that changes the displayed photo every few seconds. My husband painstakingly went through all my photos, chose a random selection and uploaded them to my new device. Now, as I sit at our dining-room table and glance across the room, I am reminded of family and friends, of significant events, of places I have visited and beautiful flowers I have admired. But there is one photo that always sends a little shudder down my spine—and that is the one pictured here of the backyard of our old home in Rydalmere on one of those wonderful occasions years ago when the creek over our back fence suddenly became a raging torrent and spread far and wide.

Thankfully, this did not happen often—but when it did, a major, backbreaking clean-up needed to be undertaken. Yet I was always grateful that, while the flood would leave an incredible amount of mud and rubbish in our yard and even semi-flatten our side fence, we knew the water would not rise high enough to get into our house. And that was because our house was built on a rocky kind of protrusion that formed a little headland and included our neighbour’s land on the upside of our house. Yes, the water would swirl around that headland and flow into our back yard with glee, then onwards into all the other yards lower down our street—but it would never rise further than the bottom of our back steps.

So … can you see why I shudder a little whenever this photo catches my eye now? Yes, we could replace it with one that conjures up much more pleasant memories, yet I am also grateful for the reminder that photo has brought me in recent weeks. And that, of course, is the reminder that, just like our homes need a solid foundation to remain secure when those floods come, we too need a firm foundation on which to base our lives, year in and year out.

I think God wanted to reinforce this reminder because, this past week, as I was reading Luke’s Gospel, I came to the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders.

Why do you call me, ’Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. Luke 6:46-49

At times, I know I can take in God’s words and, sadly, let them flow straight out of my brain a moment later—before I have allowed them to change me at any deep level and stir me to action. What a sobering story Jesus told—and what a salutary reminder not merely to listen to the Lord but to do what he says!

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Jo 12It is a known fact in our family how much I dislike food shopping. To me, it seems such a waste of time to trail around the supermarket, trying to think of something as mundane as what to cook for dinner! So the other day, there I was, heading home from the shops yet again, feeling frustrated I had wasted so much time and eager to get back to writing, when my whole perspective was changed in an instant.

As I coasted down our street, I saw something that took my breath away. Nice and evenly spaced across the road in a little line, were a mother and father duck and eight little striped ducklings! In a seemingly nonchalant fashion, they were heading straight for the park and, no doubt from there, down the slope and into the creek. I slowed down, thinking they might hightail it back to the safety of the footpath. But no—they kept waddling right along as if they owned the entire road. With no alternative, I stopped the car completely and sat there, gaping at this little family in disbelief. There was nothing I could do but take in the moment, so I sat there grinning as I admired the serene, unhurried way they went about their business.

At that point, I noticed a man and a woman on the footpath nearby—two more real estate agents, canvassing for potential clients in our street. They seemed harassed and preoccupied, but eventually I managed to attract the woman’s attention. I smiled at her and pointed at the ducks crossing the road, a sight they had missed altogether. But the woman gave them only a cursory glance and kept moving. I felt sorry for her. What a lovely experience she had missed out on!

I went to take a photo but then realised it probably wasn’t a good thing to do while sitting in my car in the middle of our normally busy road. By then, the ducks had made it the whole way across and soon disappeared into the park. I quickly turned into our yard, then yelled to my husband to come and take a photo—but we were too late. All we could see of the ducks by then was an occasional little head bobbing above the grass, then the rear end of the mother or father duck as this little family disappeared into the creek.

Much later, I was still smiling at the beautiful little event I had witnessed. To me, it was as if it had been sent directly from God. It was as if God was saying, ‘Oh Jo, here you are, so preoccupied with things and so wishing you were doing something else that you are almost oblivious the beautiful moments right in front of your nose! How about you do life in my way and at my pace for a change?’ Here I was, thinking those real estate agents were missing out, when I myself was so unwilling to live fully in that present moment with God and to be at peace as I went about my daily tasks.

May we all learn to experience God so much more in all the small and big moments of life.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

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Around three years ago, I wrote a blog about a blueberry ash tree I had planted as a tiny seedling on the creek bank behind our house. By that stage, it had managed to survive several years of being attacked by our lawnmower and a total lack of care from me. Then a flood came—and my little tree, then about a metre and half in height, disappeared beneath the murky brown water. Yet, miracle of miracles, after those waters receded, it popped up again, good as new!

In the ensuing years, that blueberry ash has grown to around three metres, producing beautiful, miniature clusters of pale pink flowers and interesting little blue berries, as per its name. But during the heavy rains here in Sydney a few weeks ago, it experienced another adventure. Again, I watched from the safety of our kitchen as it disappeared one afternoon beneath a torrent of fast-flowing, brown water.

Now the deluge was not as high this time, yet somehow, my tree still ended up completely submerged. When I later went to investigate, it was lying almost horizontal and covered in all sorts of debris. For it to be in that position, I was sure its roots must have popped through the surface of the ground—but no. Instead, that tree, with its slender, pliable trunk, had managed to bend almost at right angles, without disturbing the soil around its base. Those roots held firm, somewhere way down deep in that soggy creek bank.

P1040093I hastily cleaned up my tree and propped it up, tying it to our fence for a while, in case of any further flood. It seemed to recover well, but recently, we noticed it was growing at something of an angle. We decided it needed some help to stand up straight again and tied it firmly to a long stake. And it was at that point I realised what a powerful image of our lives this tree conveyed.

In Psalm 1:3, we read how those who delight in the law of the Lord are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. In order for us to stand firm, it’s important to ensure our roots go down deep into God as we constantly drink from the living water God provides. Yet life can still become a struggle at times and even the best of us may end up like my poor tree, needing help to weather the storms. How good it is when we are able to call on others who will support us during those times, just like that stake, and provide a shoulder to lean on until we become strong and resilient again! Surely this is one of the functions of the Body of Christ—to lift up our brothers and sisters and to bear one another’s burdens until that resilience wins through again.

Have you been feeling a little like my blueberry ash of late, overwhelmed and bent at right angles? I pray God will soon strengthen you and that others will be there to support you until you can stand up straight and tall once again. May your roots go down deep into God and may you in turn be able to strengthen and encourage many others.

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We live in a designated flood zone. Now we knew that before we bought our home twenty-seven years ago but quickly decided that was fine, since we couldn’t afford anything else near where we needed to be. Besides, the water from the creek over our back fence would never reach the house itself—we could see that.

Well, in all those years, it hasn’t. But it sure is exciting stuff to stand at our kitchen windows after a massive storm like the one we experienced last week and watch our puny, little creek become a raging torrent about four metres deep in the space of about half an hour. It’s even more exciting to watch this same torrent swirl round the high bank between us and our ‘upside’ neighbour’s home into the ‘bay’ provided by our terraced backyard! But when the waters subside, the real fun begins! Then, with no rear or side vehicle access to our backyard, we have to figure out how to get rid of the mass of debris left behind—big logs, bits of wood, sticks of all sizes, masses of dead grass, tennis balls, syringes, plastic drink bottles, an exercise ball, a car battery, a toilet seat lid and many other interesting odds and ends.

The day after this latest inundation, the doorbell rang. Who should be standing there but our son, complete with shovel, fork and rake, with our two granddaughters for moral support! Not long after, our youth minister arrived, along with three young henchmen from the church youth group—also complete with shovels, a rake, a wheelbarrow and other paraphernalia. All afternoon they toiled hard, wheeling barrows filled with debris up our steep backyard, round the house and onto our footpath. I felt so embarrassed at all the effort they were putting in on our behalf and hurried to get a decent afternoon tea together for them.

And then the cavalry arrived! I heard voices outside and opened our front door to find around fifteen more young people streaming into our yard. They were from a training program run by Churches of Christ in NSW and had been enjoying a quiet, retreat afternoon together—until their leader suggested it might be good to come and help us out. Imagine my even greater embarrassment then, as I watched these guys and girls, many with good clothes on, hauling wheelbarrows, carrying muddy sticks, picking up rubbish and getting very messy—all the while smiling and joking together!

Yet along with this embarrassment came great relief and also the realisation of how privileged we are to belong to the body of Christ and have these young people serve us in this way. To me, they epitomised some words from Scripture I had spoken on only recently:

Each one should use whatever gift he [she] has received, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. … If anyone serves, he [she] should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised, through Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 4:10–11.

Just as each one of us is called to receive God’s saving grace in our lives with humility, so I knew I needed to receive this beautiful gift of grace from these young people. And as an added bonus, how wonderful it was to be able to explain to our neighbours where these young people came from and to hear their comments that this was true community in action! As Peter wrote, may God be praised in all things!

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During the recent heavy rains, we knew it was quite likely that the creek outside our back fence would inundate our yard. After all, this creek flows down from a nearby high ridge and into the Parramatta River not far away. So when heavy rains coincide with a high tide in the river, then the water has to go somewhere.

We knew we were not in any danger as we watched the creek quickly rise. Nevertheless, we clearly remembered the mess left in our yard from previous floods and did not want to have to shovel and hose and clean up yet again.

Then I noticed a blueberry ash tree I had planted several years ago on the creek bank was now surrounded by murky water. It had been a giveaway at our local Council’s ‘free tree’ day when a tiny seedling and had managed to survive being attacked by our lawnmower and a total lack of care from me. There it was, still standing bravely upright—and I was so proud of it.

I left my post momentarily. And when I returned, my blueberry ash was nowhere to be seen. I stood staring at the spot, feeling very sad for a tree that had fought so gamely to survive. It had not cost me anything, so was no great loss. But it had taken years to get to about a metre and half in height. And now it was wiped out.

Disgusted, I walked inside.

Not long after, my husband ventured down our yard to begin cleaning up—and next time I looked, lo and behold, there was my blueberry ash again!

‘It was weighed down by a lot of debris that had caught in its leaves,’ my husband told me. “Once I removed that, it sprang back up!’

Later, I went down to inspect my tree myself. Yes, it was standing up, albeit at a slight angle. Even its little, dark blue berries were still intact. At its base, the roots had obviously been strained and tested—but they had held firm. I straightened the tree, packed some more earth around it and placed a rock at its base. Yes, it had survived and would live to grown even firmer and stronger.

Immediately, I thought of the words of Psalm 1:1-3:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

The roots of my blueberry ash had obviously gone down deep enough into the moist soil by the creek to withstand the fast flowing flood waters. Yes, my tree had been weighed down with debris but it had stood firm. What a parable for my own life! What a graphic reminder of how I need to close my ears to discouragement and bad advice and instead send my roots down deep into the Word of God, drinking from that living water only God can provide! Then when the difficulties of my writing journey threaten to overwhelm me, I will remain unmoved, lift my head, shake myself off and start again.

May you too be like my blueberry ash, standing firm, whatever the waters that may swirl around you!

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