Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘The Message’

Jo 23I sat down for a moment at our local shopping centre, in order to respond to a phone text and, as I did, I noticed a lady at the other end of the seat. Soon after, a man sat down between us—and that was when things became interesting! Suddenly, the lady began talking to him—or rather at him.

‘Wasn’t it shocking, that attack in Parramatta on a young mother-to-be! What’s the world coming to? That’s just terrible. I bet the man was high on ice or something. And what will he get for that? Nothing much, probably—just a slap on the wrist! You wait and see. What sort of person would do that to someone else? It’s awful when a young woman can’t sit down with a friend in a café and enjoy a meal!’

She went on and on, her voice loud and indignant. Unfortunately, I suspected that man next to her had hoped for some peace and quiet, as he waited for his own wife to finish shopping. And that became clear from his response.

‘Oh … now I’m well and truly stirred up! And I thought I was going to have a nice, quiet, peaceful morning!’

He spoke softly and smiled as he said it. He even went on to agree with her. Yet I could tell he was irritated by the way she had harangued him. I hoped this lady would get the message, but she seemed oblivious.

‘Yes, and my daughter wanted me to wait downstairs in the car park for her, but I said no. I’ll sit here where I’m nice and comfortable. I’m not going to stand down there, breathing in all those fumes. No way! Then there’s all those people who go down there to smoke too! It’s terrible.’

‘Now I’m even more stirred up!’ the poor man said then.

Regardless, she continued on and on about other issues in her rather grating voice—so much so that I decided I was glad I did not share a house with the poor lady! But then I felt a little uncharitable. After all, she was obviously on edge about lots of things and maybe others had stopped listening to her.

Later, when I thought about this experience, I began to wonder how I myself come across whenever I voice my opinion on matters I feel passionate about. Do my hearers perhaps feel a little assaulted, as that man and I did? Do I take note of their body language and facial expressions to gauge their responses? Do I give them time to speak and share their own views? Hmm.

In Proverbs 25:11, King Solomon writes:

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

Or as The Message version puts it:

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewellery.

Sometimes, we need to speak those challenging words to stir others to action or to stand up for what is right—especially when God prompts us to do so. But we need to be careful to say them in the right way, at the right time and in the right setting. Then they will hopefully be heard and valued, like those precious apples of gold in settings of silver.

Read Full Post »

Jo 12A few weeks ago, I went to pick up our youngest granddaughter from school. I thought I knew the way, but ended up at our granddaughter’s old day care centre instead! Well, surely I can get to the school from here, I thought to myself—after all, we had often picked up our grandson there. But that soon proved easier said than done, given the extremely winding and what seems to me utterly confusing layout of Glenmore Park, a western suburb of Sydney, where roundabouts abound and streets meander in all directions. The more I tried, the more confused I became. Meanwhile, time was ticking away—and I needed to be at our granddaughter’s classroom before the bell rang. She has only just started school and would be worried otherwise.

What confused me was that this time I had set out from our daughter’s home rather than our own. In the end, I became so disoriented, I had to call up Mr Google on my phone—and yes, there was that big, blue dot on the map that helpfully showed me where I was. I typed in the name of the school and tried hard to make that dot move closer to my destination as I drove along, keeping my phone in view at the same time (ahem!). Imagine my despair when sometimes, whatever I seemed to do, that blue dot started heading in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go!

Eventually, after a few stops by the roadside to check my phone properly, I somehow happened upon the street leading to the school. I parked at the end of what by then was a massive line of cars and ran as fast as I could to Maxine’s classroom, arriving in the nick of time. Phew!

But alas, that was not the end of the story. As our granddaughter sat calmly in her car seat, I much less calmly managed to get lost again en route to her home! Everything seemed back to front to me. So out came that phone again and in went our daughter’s address, as I blithely explained to Maxine that I was ‘just making sure we were on the right road’! And yes, after several more stops to check, that blue dot finally kept moving in the direction it needed to go and we arrived home safely.

After I recovered and was able to reflect on these interesting experiences, it occurred to me that sometimes I can be like that blue dot on the map, as I live my life. My heart is to keep focussing on God in all I do, yet sometimes I make unwise decisions that lead me away from God’s loving presence rather than closer. Sometimes I too go round and round in circles and up dead end roads before I come to my senses, stop, refocus on God and get my bearings again in my life. Does that describe you too?

In these times, may we all remember to listen again to those wise words from Proverbs 3:5-6—and do what they say!

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (The Message version)

Read Full Post »

Jo 17I love the Psalms. Time and time again, I come back to them—particularly when I am busy. In my old Bible that I am reluctant to pension off because I know where everything is in it, there are many verses in the Psalms I have highlighted via a wiggly line drawn beside them. And many of these are now etched in my mind, so that they feel like old friends when I come across them again.

Yet I often still find surprises along the way. One morning recently, we needed leave home earlier than usual, in order to mind our grandchildren for the day. I rushed around, organising this and that, but then found myself with a few minutes spare before we actually had to walk out our door. So I decided I could read at least a few verses of the psalm I was up to and thus have it in my mind as we drove to our daughter’s house. I opened my Bible to Psalm 116—yes, I had read that yesterday. I turned the page and there before me was Psalm 117—all two verses of it!

Praise the Lord, all your nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

That was it! I was sure I had never seen this tiny psalm before, yet I must have. Despite its brevity, I decided it packed quite a punch. And it was just the right length for me to remember, as we hurried out to begin a day full of interesting activities with our two young grandchildren.

Later that evening, as I sat down to re-read my huge psalm of the day and ponder on it some more, I decided it pretty much sums up in a nutshell what our amazing God is like and how we are called to respond to him.

Great is his love toward us’—that to me surely gets straight to the heart of the gospel. In my own life, it was God’s love that first drew me to him as a fifteen-year-old. Even after all these years, I can still remember thinking, ‘Wow! God knows me! And God loves me!’ Then many years later in my life, I believe God gave me a glimpse of his amazing love for me all over again one New Year’s Eve. I saw in my mind a picture of someone whom I knew was Jesus holding me as a baby and looking down at me with the most incredible love shining from his face. He was speaking tenderly and saying over and over again, ‘Wow—Jo-Anne!’—and I knew I would remain loved and secure in his arms forever, just as this psalm goes on to say. Whatever happened in my life, the Lord would remain faithful.

And, after more than fifty-five years, that is still my testimony. God has rescued me so many times, picked me up and held me close until I was strong enough to stand again. So what can I do but praise the Lord from my heart, as The Message version of this psalm encourages us all to do?

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!

Read Full Post »

I wonder if you remember Madame Defarge, the infamous character created by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. I studied this novel at high school and still feel chilled at the image of this woman weaving the names of those French aristocrats condemned to death by the republicans into her knitting and watching with satisfaction as that guillotine comes crashing down on each of them in turn.

Thankfully, I am no Madam Defarge, with her deep-seated desire for revenge against those who had caused her family such grief. Besides, weaving anyone’s names into my knitting would be way beyond my ability! However, from time to time, I do love to sit and knit little garments for our grandchildren. Mostly, this is a pleasant, relaxing pursuit for me—unless I am up to a patterned section. Then I am obliged to count carefully and focus or disaster will strike—at which point I may well moan and wail with some vehemence.

When all is going smoothly knitting-wise, I find there is something very fulfilling about watching a little garment grow beneath my fingers. Eventually, the moment arrives when I knit that last stitch and cut through the wool with a satisfying snip. Yay, I’ve finished! But then I realise I still need to sew this part to that part and complete other jobs like adding buttons—tedious tasks which seem to take so long.

Recently, P1040088however, while completing a little cardigan for our youngest granddaughter, I decided to do something much more positive than griping when I made a mistake or complaining about those final, tedious tasks. No, I did not attempt to weave her name into it. Instead, I decided put my energy into praying for our precious little Maxine as I backstitched those final seams together. Then, as I attached the buttons, pushing my needle through the four holes of each one to form an ‘x’ shape, I pictured that ‘x’ standing not only for my love for Maxine but also for God’s amazing love for her. I prayed she would come to know that love of God for herself and that we would faithfully mirror this to her through all our words and actions. And I prayed she would step into all God has for her in her life and fulfil her unique place in this world with great joy.

It’s so important, don’t you think, to grasp these opportunities to pray in the course of our everyday life? Whether in a quiet, private place or surrounded by people and noise and activity in a very public setting, we can reach out to God in our hearts and minds, even if only for a few conscious moments. Recently, I read a simple but lovely description of prayer in Henri Nouwen’s book, Reaching Out. According to him, prayer is ‘a creative contact with the source of all life’ (p 91). What a privilege to be connected to the Source of All Life every moment of the day!

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul urges us to ‘pray continually’, or to ‘pray all the time’, as Peterson puts it in The Message. May we never forget our loving, Creator God is present, ready and willing to listen, to communicate and to do life with us, wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

Read Full Post »

We had been waiting for that text message for a couple of hours by the time we finally heard. There had been some delay in our son-in-law’s being able to use his phone. ‘It’s a girl!’ the text told us—and the next minute we were off to the hospital, along with the new baby’s two-year-old brother.

I walked into the Special Care Unit and there was our daughter, still looking somewhat dazed after her caesarean but proudly holding her new baby. We later learnt the baby had been wedged up under her ribs in a perpendicular position, so had needed some firm extricating. But there our daughter was, so grateful this little bundle of joy was now outside rather than inside her still! I walked up to the bed and gazed at our new little granddaughter—our fourth grandchild. At first, I found myself merely thinking Oh that’s lovely—the baby’s well and it’s a girl. But as I stood there, I realised I was looking down at another unique and absolutely amazing example of God’s incomparable handiwork. Here was a brand new little person, created in the image of God to live and do and be in a way no one else on this planet ever could.

IMG_20140305_112203

Maxine Marie Antwi Konadu

This past week, I have been able to cuddle little Maxine quite a few times and examine her more closely. Her little fingers attract me first—lovely long ones with beautifully shaped fingernails. Her toes too, so minuscule. I love her sweet, button mouth—such a pretty shape—and her cute little ears, tinged on the top with darker skin. Her father is from Ghana and has beautiful, deep black skin and we have been told that the colour on Maxine’s ears is the colour she will end up. We found this to be true with her brother Zain, whose skin is now a lovely, milk chocolate colour. I gently stroke her mop of black, straight hair and cup her head in my hand. I know much of this hair will soon go or change to a lighter colour. Then eventually, those gorgeous tight curls, just like her brother’s, will hopefully appear and her mother will be delighted!

For a moment, little Maxine opens her eyes and seems to want to work out who is holding her and where she is. A puzzled look appears on her face and then her eyelids droop closed again, as if it is all too much effort. I stand looking down at her, smiling and rocking her gently. And all the while, I marvel. How amazing that our God can create such an exquisite little creature, down to the minutest detail of exact skin colour and curl of hair! How wonderful that right now, God is doing this same thing all over the world for all sorts of families this very moment!

I love Psalm 139 in any shape or form, but here are verses 13-14 from The Message version of the bible:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvellously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!

May these be Maxine’s own words of praise from her heart too in the years to come, by God’s grace!

Read Full Post »

I love Easter and the lead-up to it. It’s a fun time of the year, with Easter eggs and family celebrations and extra days to relax. But it’s much more than that. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road—where we get to the kernel of what it’s all about to be a Christian.

I remember attending a special three hour long service at our local church one Good Friday when I was about twelve. The service was built around the ‘stations of the cross’, which were depicted in various paintings on the walls of that old stone church. Every so often, we would be invited to gather around the next ‘station’ and listen to special readings and prayers. Somehow, even though I was so young, the awesome events we were remembering touched my heart. While I did not fully comprehend it all at that stage, I knew something earth-shattering had happened when Jesus was crucified.

Since then, in the days leading up to Easter, I have always liked to follow Jesus’ journey to the cross by reading one of the Gospel accounts of the events involved, stopping often to reflect. Time and time again, I have been deeply moved by what I have found there—and inevitably, something in particular challenges me, demanding a response. This year, it was the conversation Jesus has his disciples just prior to the Lord’s Supper. In Matthew 26:20-22 we read:

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Eventually it comes to Judas’s turn. As I read his own “Surely not I, Rabbi?’ (25), I began to wonder what was in his heart as he said those words. Was he aghast at himself at what he knew he was about to do? He had already been paid thirty silver coins to hand Jesus over to the authorities (15). Was he feeling ambivalent about the whole deal by this point? Or was he just plain pretending?

Then comes Jesus’ simple but confronting ‘Yes, it is you.” Or, as some translations put it, “You yourself have said it. From such a brief response, it is hard to tell what he must have been feeling. No doubt there was love as well as deep grief in his eyes as he looked at Judas and uttered those words. But could there also have been deep disappointment and even anger in his words? Was he trying to challenge Judas to the very end?

In ‘The Message’ version of the Bible, Eugene Peterson expresses Jesus’ response this way: “Don’t play games with me, Judas!” Whoa!! Now that certainly caused me to stop and think. Do I ever try to fool myself when God’s Spirit convicts me of something and come back with the same smart rejoinder, ‘Surely not I?’ Does Jesus have cause to say to me at times ‘Don’t play games with me, Jo-Anne’? What an affront to my Saviour, who loves me and gave his life for me!

This Easter, may you and I find time to stop, reflect and be real with God. May we put aside our little games and our ‘Surely not I?’s once and for all and kneel with contrite hearts before Jesus, the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Read Full Post »

I wonder how you feel when you hear or see the word ‘ambition’. Is your response positive or negative? Whichever is your answer, can you figure out why that is the case?

Recently I read an excellent blog and also a two part article that both touch on the topic of women and ambition—in particular, Christian women and ambition. I am not about to attempt to emulate or repeat the excellent material in these writings, but if you are interested in reading them, please check out the following links:

http://rachelheldevans.com/is-ambition-sin

http://www.giftedforleadership.com/2012/09/how_pride_destroys_leadership.html

http://www.giftedforleadership.com/2012/09/how_pride_destroys_leadership_1.html

Instead, I wanted to share with you something of the dilemma I myself face at times in the process of trying to promote both my novels and my newly released non-fiction book, Soul Friend. Earlier in my writing journey, I found it hard to contact places where I might be able to speak and hopefully sell my books—I still do, to some extent. To put it bluntly, at times I felt I had tickets on myself and was being far too pushy for my own comfort. Where was the humility in what I was doing? How come I thought I had the right to be heard by the people, churches or groups I was approaching?

At the same time, I felt God was with me as I wrote those emails and made those calls. I still do. Even as I write this, I can sense God’s Spirit saying, ‘It’s okay to put yourself out there, Jo-Anne! I gifted you to write and speak. I have given you things to say and write. This is part of the task I have entrusted to you—to find those places where you can pass on the things I have given you and to reach those people who need to hear what you have to say!

It stands to reason too that if I believe in my books and in the strong Christian faith themes contained in them, why would I not want to follow through and share them with the world out there? What sort of an author—and Christian—would I be if I spent months and even years writing my books, only to let them sit there because I couldn’t be bothered or couldn’t find the courage to get out there and try to promote them?

I have come to the conclusion that there are two different sorts of ambition—godly ambition and selfish ambition. If I am ambitious to live fully for God, to do the best I can to use my gifts, to write the things that honour God and to want to speak about these to people as well, then I feel I am going about things with the right attitude. But if I am doing it all to fulfil some need in me, to boost my own ego and bolster my pride, then I don’t want to be a part of it at all. This to me is indeed ambition with attitude—the wrong attitude. As John says (1 John 2:16-17 The Message version):

Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

I have an ambition to do what God wants. Do you have that ambition too?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »