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Posts Tagged ‘the light of the world’

In our home, I have a reputation for liking to let as much light in as possible. Each morning, one of the first things I do is pull the blind up in our bedroom. Then I open the heavy curtains next to our dining table and the shutters on our kitchen window. And finally, I walk into my study and pull the blind up there. Usually, my husband has already opened the curtains over the glass doors that lead onto our balcony, so I can see the sky outside. And, because we live in a downstairs unit, I often like some electric lights on as well—especially in our recent dull weather.

There is something attractive about light, isn’t there? A few weeks ago, when all that smoke cleared after the bushfires, many of us felt so cheered to see sunlight and blue sky again. Somehow that natural light has a positive effect on us and lifts our spirits, doesn’t it? But light is so useful too, in all its various shapes and forms. Without it, we can lose direction, stumble over things and, in general, be unable to function to the best of our ability. Light is attractive. Light is useful. And light can even save us. Just think of those lighthouses that have prevented so many ships from floundering on the rocks below.

Recently at our church, we held a women’s retreat day, with the theme ‘Let there be light!’ Everything was set out beautifully, with fairy lights strung here and there and little IMG_20200222_092925131pretend candles on our tables that we all turned on at one stage. But my eye was caught by two beautiful collections of lights at the front of our auditorium, each containing a fascinating mix of lamps big and small, along with candles of all shapes and sizes in various intricately made candleholders. As the day unfolded, all those lamps and candles were lit, one after the other, to reflect the fact that each one of us is called to be a light to our world, whatever shape or size we are or however we are equipped to shine.

But we were also reminded at one stage that it is God’s light we are called to bring to the world, as we allow it to shine through us. As we receive God’s grace and mercy and step from darkness to light ourselves, we have the wonderful privilege of belonging to God and being chosen to show God’s goodness to the world, so that others may be drawn towards that light as well.

… for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 New Living Translation

At some point that day, I saw in my mind a picture of a huge throng of women, each carrying a light high, as they streamed from all corners of the world towards a beautiful, shining throne surrounded by light. And I was overwhelmed at the privilege of being counted among that throng and being able to hold my own lamp high, as we all praised God. What a wonderful day that will be, don’t you think?

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Jo 12I wonder if you are like me and consistently put off certain jobs around the house as long as you can because they are way too time-consuming or too messy or too back-breaking or too whatever. There are several I detest for all these reasons, but one is definitely cleaning that grotty oven of ours.

Since moving over a year ago, I have scrubbed the oven shelves and base several times. But I knew the whole oven needed a thorough clean, because one day, to my horror, I discovered black splatter marks everywhere, especially on the top surface where the element is. We suspect the previous occupants used the oven grill often—something I rarely do—so this grime was well and truly baked on.

Now I could still see at least some of this mess, even though our oven light wasn’t working. In fact, I had decided we mustn’t have a light and had complained often about this to my husband. I could see a square piece of metal on one oven wall, but thought it was merely part of either the element or the shelf structure.

Finally the day came when I took the plunge and sprayed some powerful oven cleaner on all that built-up grease and grime. Half an hour later, I began wiping off copious amounts of gunk—and imagine my surprise when I discovered that that square piece of metal I had seen was actually a light! It didn’t work, however, so the next day, our handyman came and fixed the blown bulb. He turned the light on—and lo and behold, just like that, every corner of that oven was illuminated!

What a miracle! I could actually see clearly now whether my cakes were cooking as I hoped they would. But the downside was I could now also see all those parts I hadn’t managed to get clean in my first attack on that oven!

Around the same time, I happened to read some verses in John’s Gospel about, of all things, light and darkness:

This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. John 3:19-20

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

I am well aware it might seem almost sacrilegious to compare Jesus, the Light of the World, to a little old oven light. Yet this whole mundane oven-cleaning event has shown me once again the huge difference between letting Jesus’ light show up the mess that accumulates in my life at times and pretending that mess simply isn’t there—between allowing God to remove that blackness in me and continuing to operate under layers of gunk, unable to see the way ahead or to function as God intended.

What strange creatures we are, to hide from that wonderful Light that can make all the difference in our lives, both now and forever! Let’s stop doing that. Instead, let’s risk exposing that darkness in us to the light of our loving Lord, who sees all things anyway.

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P1020237I think it began around twenty years ago, although I can’t quite remember how or why. It has waned a little of late, but did not take much to rekindle when I was given a beautiful amethyst one recently. Yes, I will admit it—I love candles. This very moment, I have one burning nearby. Why? Now that’s a good question!

I remember years ago mentioning this love of mine in a training group and receiving some blank stares and incredulous looks, particularly from the male ministers present. What is she on about, they were clearly wondering. Has she lost it altogether? What is so good about having a candle burning when working alone or when counselling or mentoring someone? Is this some superstitious rubbish?

Candles perform several functions for me. Firstly, they serve as a tangible reminder of the presence of God as I sit at my desk and write. Yes, I know God is with me anyway every moment of the day—but I can be forgetful of that at times. And as I acknowledge God’s presence in this way, I remember Jesus who said: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12) How easily I can lose sight of that truth at times and allow the old enemy to let the darkness of discouragement take over!

Secondly, noticing that small, flickering flame, I am reminded of the light I am endeavouring to shine through my writing and speaking. Even though it might be only one small, insignificant flame, it is still burning brightly and has the potential to shine God’s light into someone’s life. And, as Jesus reminded us, each one of us is called to do just that for others:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:14-15

Thirdly, there are aesthetic reasons behind my love of candles. I love their colours—beautiful purples, lilacs, blues and creams. I love the perfume of the scented ones—rose, vanilla, eucalypt. I love the ever-changing shape of the flame as it burns—darker at the centre, then lighter and brighter towards the tip. I love the sense of warmth and comfort candles bring to a room. In 2000, during a trip to Europe, my friend and I stayed with a family in the Netherlands. When evening fell, our hostess would busy herself lighting the many candles dotted around their sitting room. Then we would relax together in this gentle light, chatting and enjoying such warm fellowship, despite my being a stranger from the other side of the world. That warm, welcoming scene is etched forever in my memory.

And finally, as my candle burns, I love to remember the ones who gave it to me—my sister, a good friend, a mentoree, my  daughter, a group of women to whom I spoke. I pray for them, that they too will know the presence of the Saviour, the Light of the World, with them and that their light will continue to shine brightly wherever they are, today and always.

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This past week, I achieved a couple of ‘firsts’ again for me. I gave the final of ten talks I had agreed to give at various venues during May—a record number for me all in one month. And I also completed the final few edits of my next novel, The Inheritance.

Now I am so grateful for those ten speaking opportunities—I loved them all. I even look forward to more in the coming months. But it has felt at times a bit like a mini-marathon, as I have juggled preparation and editing. I completed the original version The Inheritance in May 2011, so it has been in my mind for a while—even through the writing and eventual release of my first non-fiction work, Soul Friend, last August. But now I again have a clean writing slate, so to speak. At last I am again on the brink of being able to dive in to another whole project—and that can be a heart-stopping moment, I’ve discovered.

You see, in one way, the possibilities are endless—almost overwhelmingly so. Of course, one key decision I need to make is whether to plunge into writing a second work of non-fiction or to opt for a seventh novel. Which should it be? I have ideas for both. In fact, I have the outlines or general concepts for three more novels already saved on my computer, each very different from the other. How do I decide?

And it’s at this point that, despite all those ideas running around in my head, I can hear that doubting little voice whispering away as well. What makes you think you can come up with yet another book? None of those plots you’ve already thought out are any good. Anyway, it will be such hard work—and you don’t have the time, in the midst of preparing for speaking engagements. As for another non-fiction book, what on earth would you say that hasn’t already been said? I know from past experience this is the enemy using my old self-doubt, so I close my ears to it all. But on it goes.

I turn to the Scriptures, wondering what God has to say to me today. I am excited, as I always am, when it’s time to begin reading a different book in the Bible—and today I am about to start John’s Gospel yet again. I read that first chapter and am reminded that God, ‘the Word’, created all things, that in him was life and that this life brought great light to men, overcoming and confounding the darkness. I read on and take in the mind-boggling fact that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14).

I remember that the Spirit of this ‘One and Only lives in me right now, inspiring me, encouraging me, dispelling the darkness of doubt and fear. I know, as I listen to that voice that is so full of grace and truth, it will become clear which of those endless possibilities I am to pursue. The Word is with me and in me, shaping my own words. And I am so blessed.

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I think I have mentioned once or twice before that we have a cute little grandson! On various occasions when I have been minding him, he has been quite happy with me—until he sees his mother or father arrive. Then a sudden transformation seems to occur. A delighted grin spreads across his face, his eyes sparkle and he quickly heads for whichever parent it is as fast as his little legs will go. He then proceeds to sit in his mother’s or father’s arms with an extremely satisfied look, as if well pleased with himself and the world at large.

Perhaps you have grandchildren of your own who behave the same way. Or perhaps, like me, you have been to the airport to meet someone you haven’t seen for some time. At last they emerge from the customs area. Their faces light up and they quickly move towards you, eager for that hug and to hear that ‘Welcome home!’ I love watching the faces of others at the airport, too, as they wait to greet family members and friends. Even though they are strangers to me, it is a delight to see their faces light up with joy when their loved one appears.

I love to think of God’s face lighting up like that for me whenever I seek to spend time reading my Bible or just being quiet in God’s presence. I know God is everywhere and always sees us, but when I consciously make time to do this, I believe God welcomes me with joy and delight. After all, God loves me and I love God—so why wouldn’t both of us to rejoice?

This week, I came across another of my favourite verses from Psalms. Psalm 44 begins with the psalmist declaring how they heard from their forefathers what God has done for them in the past, driving out the nations before them. Then in verse 3, we read:

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.

How much the light of God’s face must have meant to the children of Israel as it shone upon them in love all those years ago! And how privileged we are to know that same love of God in our own lives today through Jesus Christ! On occasions in the media, we hear some comment such as ‘the gods must be smiling on us’, when the weather is good or some event has gone well or some fortunate thing has occurred. But we can each know the one true God, whose face is always turned towards us in love and whose light shines upon us continually because of Jesus Christ.

I remember when I first came to understand this amazing love of God and how the face of the speaker I was listening to at the time truly shone with the light and love and joy of the Lord. It was like a special switch had been turned on inside him—and I wanted that, too. So this year, may the light and love of the Lord shine through my face and yours, as we reach out to a needy world. May we be fully switched on inside by God’s love, ready to shine that light through everything we do!

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