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Posts Tagged ‘the kindness of God’

Can you think of a time when you put off beginning some big, new project because the whole thing looked far too daunting? That was how I felt earlier this year when I decided to open that cupboard where all our old photo albums were stashed and do something about them. And that was how I felt too, when I began writing my current novel, Down by the Water, around four years ago. I had already written six novels and two non-fiction books—surely that was enough? To make things more difficult, this novel needed to be set in Queensland in the early 1900s—and hadn’t I vowed and declared I would never write another historical novel? I knew what a time-consuming task that could be, with so many facts needing to be checked.

Yet soon those ideas for the opening chapter began to emerge. Yes, since then, those first few pages have changed many times over, as I realised what needed to be revealed early on and what did not. But I knew I had to keep working on them, because those early pages are vital in winning or losing potential readers.

Beginnings can be hard, can’t they? Yet so can endings. And that is where I am now, tying off those final details of my novel before it is published. The actual writing is finished—and I have lost count how many times that manuscript has been checked through at various levels, not only by me but also by seven other people. I even have a lovely cover for my book. Yet, while I have heaved a sigh of relief that this whole, huge task is almost complete, I also feel quite tentative about releasing this novel out into the big world. What if all that work turns out to be for nothing? What if no one else thinks the story worthwhile? What if …?

Yes, this year, I have been very clearly reminded how challenging both beginnings and endings can be. And perhaps that is why, while reading Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians recently, I noticed in particular how he began and ended these.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:3 and also 2 Corinthians 1:2

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 1 Corinthians 16:23

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

Curious, I then discovered similar greetings in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and also Timothy. In the midst of all the challenging situations those early believers faced, Paul obviously sees God’s grace as key—that overwhelming kindness of God shown in particular in sending Jesus into our world. And as we too choose to rest in that same grace that accepts us and loves us unconditionally and forever, we can know that same peace Paul prayed for those early believers, right here in 2020.

However difficult you and I have found those beginnings and endings this year, God’s grace and peace are always there for us. So Let’s truly hear Paul’s words and take them to heart. Let’s reach out and receive these amazing gifts and be strengthened and comforted as we do.

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I wonder if you are like me and do not readily allow yourself time off from all the tasks around you demanding your attention at home. It might be something I need to finish writing. It might be cooking dinner. It might be vacuuming—my pet hate! Any of these can prevent me putting time aside to be kind to myself and do nothing—or perhaps something special.

Recently, a friend invited me to see the exhibition ‘Modern Masterpieces from The Hermitage’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, with paintings on display ranging from impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro to the more avant-garde Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso. So we locked in a date and I immediately bought our tickets online. No backing out then!

And what a memorable day we had. After a speedy bus ride to the city, we strolled up through Hyde Park and the Domain to the Art Gallery. It was a beautiful day and, as we walked, we enjoyed God’s creative heart on display all around us, particularly in the towering Moreton Bay fig trees lining the road through The Domain.

As we entered the Art Gallery, we were overawed by the building itself, with its spacious, elegant interior, complete with domed ceilings and marble pillars. Our hearts lifted. Our particular exhibition was superbly set out and included an excellent multi-media presentation. And while some of the paintings were more to our taste than others, all spoke of such creativity, of pushing the boundaries, of trying new styles and techniques.

IMG_20190226_131535052Afterwards, we enjoyed lunch in the open air section of the cafeteria and were reminded again of God’s creativity, as we watched the cheeky and persistent rainbow lorikeet pictured here help itself to any crumbs we had left. What fun God musIMG_20190226_115620622t have had, creating its amazing colours! Perhaps it was this very bird, we decided, who inspired the artist Kandinsky to choose the colours he did for his bold landscape included in the exhibition!

As we eventually made our way home, after sampling the special delights of the Queen Victoria Building, we looked back on our wonderful day and felt so blessed—as if God had poured such kindness all over us in so many different ways. We were tired, but our hearts felt lighter and our minds buzzed with creative ideas birthed from seeing such creativity around us—both God’s and man’s, which surely comes from God anyway.

Recently, a friend commented how we can sometimes be less kind to ourselves than God is—and I think that may be true. Some of us are so hard on ourselves that we can end up becoming quite graceless and may even struggle with receiving God’s amazing grace. We do not deserve such compassion and forgiveness, our hearts cry out—we are not good enough. Yet through Jesus, God has reached out to us with such lovingkindness, drawing us close again. We are loved. We are accepted. We are God’s precious children.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

I hope you can show that same kindness and compassion to yourself when you need to—and I hope I can too.

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Jo 23As a small child, I hated being told off. If my mother ever scolded me, I would assert, in no uncertain terms and with many tears, ‘I’m not a naughty girl!’ My pride was injured beyond repair—and besides, I could not bear the thought that I had disappointed her.

All through my growing-up years—and well beyond—I continued to dislike being corrected or rebuked. My fragile self-esteem did not handle such things well and I was always ready with a defensive response. After all, I had to keep that pride of mine intact.

On one occasion around twenty years ago, however, I learnt a valuable lesson in this regard. A minister at our church invited me to take on a task he felt I would do well. At first, I told him I might not be good enough and suggested others who could do a far better job. But, instead of reassuring me, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘That’s not humility, Jo—that’s self-protection!’

Hmm!

Because I respected this minister, I went away and thought about his words—and eventually concluded he was right. I did what he had asked and thoroughly enjoyed it. Through this experience, I learnt to take such correction, given in love and for my ultimate benefit, on board much better than I previously had.

Recently, I was reminded of this lesson when a friend and I visited a dear, mutual friend who is suffering from some degree of dementia. At one point, our friend seemed a bit confused and told us she had once stolen a white hat, so I tried to help her out.

‘Oh, did you? Where did you take it from?’ I asked her gently.

I could hardly believe her quick, clever response.

‘I’m trying to resist correcting you,’ she said with some spirit and a touch of hauteur. ‘It should be “From where did you take it!”’

After a stunned moment, I burst out laughing. With inhibitions gone, our dear friend had simply blurted out her true thoughts—yet I was not offended at all. You see, I know this beautiful, older woman of God. I respect her even now, in her declining years, just as I respected my minister friend who told me the truth all those years ago. And I know her heart of love for me.

This amusing exchange soon set me thinking about my response to God’s corrections and challenges, whether through Scripture, through the words of others or through the Spirit’s whisper deep in my heart. How often do I still bristle a little, become defensive, perhaps pretend I don’t hear anything and decide I can easily justify my words or actions—even to God?

Yes, that old pride of mine still rears its ugly head at times. Yet why do I let this happen? After all, I know God loves and accepts me. I know God is good and kind. I know God has my best interests at heart. And I know God does not make mistakes.

So … next time I hear God’s loving correction, I hope I remember past lessons, swallow my pride—and respond with both alacrity and humility.

He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17

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