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Posts Tagged ‘the parables of Jesus’

IMG_20171202_160825689I could not believe it. I had just finished carefully parcelling up two books of mine a customer had purchased through my website. I checked my laptop to find out her address and wrote it clearly on the front of the parcel. I started writing my own address on the back—then stopped, horrified. Without thinking, I had begun to write our old home address. Oops!

To put a positive spin on this sad event, we have been at our new address for only around five months—which isn’t long, compared with the thirty-two years we spent at our old address! Obviously, five months is not long enough for such key pieces of information to embed themselves in my brain, ready for automatic recall.

Now I had a dilemma. Should I tear up all that good wrapping paper I had used and start over? Or should I simply cross out my silly mistake, eat humble pie, risk my new customer’s raised eyebrows and write the correct address underneath?

In the end, I chose the latter, after ruefully telling my husband what I had done.

‘Ah well,’ he said, ‘the other day, for the first time since we moved, I headed home to our old house after I finished shopping, instead of our new one!’

Hmm. I wonder what would have happened if he had tried to put his key in the door?

Yet when we still lived at our old house, I too did something similar once. As I drove home late one night along Victoria Road, thinking about all sorts of things, I suddenly realised I had gone straight past our street and was heading for Parramatta! Eventually, I managed to get back on track, but all the while, I found myself thinking, ‘How could have done that? How could I have forgotten where I was heading after all these years?’

In the natural, it’s not ideal to forget where I live or drive right past my own street. But it’s a much more serious matter when I begin to do the same in the spiritual. How often, in the busyness of life, have I failed to remember where my real home is? How often do I wander around, looking for peace and comfort in the wrong places? How often have I lost sight of who I am and where I truly belong? How often do I head in the wrong direction, oblivious to those promptings of the Spirit and so preoccupied with my own thoughts and ideas rather than God’s? Yet God is always there, arms open wide, offering us the most wonderful homecoming of all, just as Jesus showed us in the story of the lost son (Luke 15). Each day, God longs to provide the rest, peace, shelter, safety, strengthening and restoration we need—yet all too often I seem to have lost God’s address.

I wonder if, this Christmas, we all need to make it a priority to find our way back home to God, to that place where we truly belong?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

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This Christmas, among the many beautiful gifts I received was a small silver and gold tin from one of our daughters. Judging from the wonderful, gardenia-like perfume I could smell even before I opened the lid, I knew there was something special inside. Yes, to my delight, it turned out to be a precious cake of soap.

I love receiving such gifts, but this particular one seems almost too good to use. At the moment, it lives beside me on my desk so I can open it and enjoy its beautiful perfume from time to time. And that’s how I recently noticed the fine gold lettering on the back of the tin.

Housed in a collectible tin, I read. Yes, it is a pretty cute container. Each precious soapette is made from a rich vegetable base … to create a decadent lather that leaves the skin brilliantly refreshed, it went on. Yes, my skin could definitely do with such refurbishment, I decided!

But it was what I read next that dumbfounded me. There was the word ‘DIRECTIONS’, written in capitals, just as I have here. Yet … wait a minute! What special instructions could one possibly need when it comes to using soap?

I read on with interest. Add water and massage onto body for a creamy lather. Rinse thoroughly with water. Really?! I checked again to make sure there was no hidden gem here I was missing. After all, perhaps I’d being doing it wrong all these years. One never knows. But in the end, I decided that yep, that’s pretty much what it boils down to—adding water, then rinsing!

I laughed out loud. Who could possibly need such simple directions? Doesn’t everyone know that? But then it occurred to me that perhaps cakes of soap were a novelty to some people. Perhaps they always use liquid soap or gel. Perhaps not everyone is old-fashioned like me.

Then I began thinking a little more about it all. Are there other instructions in life I laugh at because they’re so simple or commonplace? What else might I decide not to read because I know all about it already? How often have I jumped in and done something, without bothering to take the time to read the directions or do the necessary preparations?

I’m a bit like that at times when it comes to the Word of God, I decided. I skim over so much, thinking I know all the wisdom contained there. I see and hear the words of Jesus to his disciples and think to myself I’ve heard it all before. Of course I believe it all and try to put such things into practice in my life. Who wouldn’t? But then something—perhaps God’s Spirit—pulls me up short. Are you hearing me, Jo-Anne? Are you really putting into practice the things I am asking you to do here?

Then I remembered the simple story of the sower Jesus told (Luke 8)—and took it to heart. What riches from God have a trampled on in 2012 and simply left for the birds? What wisdom did I not cultivate? What things did I allow to crowd into my life and crowd out God?

In 2013, may we have ears to hear what God says to each of us, however simple and familiar it may seem. And may we have the courage to put it into practice in our lives.

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We all know how powerful stories are. Many of us spend hours glued to TV screens as we watch plots unfold, mysteries solved, the ‘baddies’ brought to justice, the ‘goodies’ almost mess things up but then win through in the end. But there is nothing like hearing a real life story told from the heart. And when God is involved, there is even more power in those words we hear or read.

This past Sunday at our church, the usual sermon took the form of interviews with four different people. Three of these interviews had been filmed previously and interwoven at different points as the stories unfolded, while a fourth happened live in the service. All illustrated a journey through a very difficult situation in the lives of those involved and God’s eventual deliverance. One story involved business difficulties and financial loss; another, the struggle to conceive a child. A third dealt with loss of a partner’s faith in the context of ministry, while the fourth grappled with holding onto God in the midst of enormous physical pain and suffering. I had never been in any of these situations, but my heart was touched and my faith in God strengthened as I saw the pain of those who shared but also their faith in a loving God remain firm, even in the most desperate of situations when there seemed to be no miracles or easy answers.

Afterwards, our minister reminded us of Paul’s story in 2 Corinthians 1 about the hardships he and Timothy suffered as they journeyed through Asia:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Cor 1:8-9)

Paul shares his story honestly with us, here and elsewhere in Scripture, so that his words still encourage and inspire us today.

But Jesus himself clearly believed in the power of story too. Many times in the Gospels we see how he used parables to get his message across in simple, powerful ways. In the middle of Luke’s Gospel, for example, we have parable after parable recorded that Jesus told—the Good Samaritan (10), the rich fool (12), the great banquet (14), the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (15), the shrewd manager (16), the persistent widow; the Pharisee and the tax collector (18), to name a few. Yes, Jesus’ culture was different from ours today, but the power of story does not change. Surely in endeavouring to share the good news about Jesus today, we would be foolish to ignore the power of story?

Which brings me to the second reason I was so encouraged by hearing these stories of difficulty and deliverance. I write stories. That’s what I do. Even the work of non-fiction I have just completed is a story of my own experience of a beautiful, spiritual mentoring relationship. So how encouraging it was to be reminded of the power of story to minister to others and to convict!

But what about you? Do you have a story to tell of God’s grace in your life? It may not seem earth-shattering to you, but God can use it, whether written or spoken. So keep looking for those opportunities to share it. And keep telling it truthfully and with love.

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