Posts Tagged ‘Town Hall Station’

Jo 17I looked around me as the morning train headed towards the city. Not many people in my carriage appeared overly excited about the day ahead. Some were staring into space with glum expressions. Some were dozing. Some were playing electronic games. A few were trying to study or work, frowning as they did.

And, of course, several were talking on their phones. One girl sitting not far from me spent almost the whole trip complaining to a relative or friend about someone else. No sooner had that call ended than she took another one—during which an unpleasant argument ensued. No, there was not much joy around me in that carriage that morning, I decided.

When the train reached the city, I joined the others trudging up those stairs from our underground platform. At last I surfaced in George St and stood still to catch my breath. As I did, I noticed some large banners along both sides of the street. Each of them carried a simple question in bold letters—‘Do you hear the people sing?’—and the well-known image of a wistful, young child wearing a beret and with hair streaming.  Yes, those banners were advertising the new production of Les Misérables, soon to open here in Sydney. But that morning, this question impacted me in another much more significant way.

‘Do you hear the people sing, Jo-Anne?’ God seemed to be asking me. ‘Do they know I love them? Where is the joy in their hearts?’

At once, I recalled those glum faces in the train. Then I looked at the people all around me on busy George St. Most were hurrying along, eyes down, their expressions set. Nearby, a young busker was playing her violin with great dexterity yet little heart and soul. She seemed tired and even bored—how many times had she played those pieces already? Not far from her, an unkempt man sat begging, head bowed in a hopeless manner and hand outstretched to receive whatever coins people might give.

At that point, it occurred to me to wonder how I myself looked. Could others see any joy and peace in me? Or did I seem glum and preoccupied, perhaps even hopeless, as if everything depended on me? Had I even given God a thought on my way into the city? Could God hear my own heart singing that morning? If so, what did it sound like? Was it doleful or even angry, like those who had sung the song with such fervour in Les Misérables?

Maybe I too needed to choose to begin my day with a thankful heart, full of praise for God’s many blessings, whatever was happening or not happening in my life. And maybe I needed to pray for and reach out to those around me more often in love, so that God would hear their hearts sing as well.

Maybe we all need to do what the psalmist urged us to do so long ago:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:1-2

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Jo 23It is a great source of fascination to me how I get to speak at some places. I’ve decided God has a sense of humour and sometimes just seems to want to surprise me with interesting experiences and to enjoy my delight in the journey.

One day last week, I found myself in the gracious, 1920s heritage listed Castlereagh Boutique Hotel in the centre of Sydney, having been invited to speak at a women’s social club that meets there. I had travelled in by train, and, after walking in a massive, unnecessary loop from Town Hall Station, carrying my heavy bags of books, finally found the hotel and tottered inside, feeling like some decrepit, old bag lady.

Instantly, I was in another much grander world that seemed to belong in an Agatha Christie movie. I was soon whisked upstairs to Cello’s Restaurant in the beautifully restored main dining room and invited to set out my books on an expensive looking mahogany table. I was so glad I had brought my special Turkish tablecloth and a good number of books—a shoddy display in such surroundings would have been sacrilege.

When the necessary business meeting concluded, I was invited to come forward. How would my input be received? These women all spoke in a very polished manner and seemed expensively dressed. Taking a deep breath, I launched into my talk. Yes, they seemed to be responding well—I could see some smiles as I shared about my journey of becoming a published author. Encouraged, I risked a few more comments about my faith in God and reasons for writing.

Afterwards, I enjoyed a truly fine dining experience at the club’s expense. A few books were sold and then it was time to pack up. I trundled back to Town Hall station, carrying my now slightly lighter bags of books. Had all my time and effort been worth it?

Then I remembered my conversation with a lady over lunch, an artist and writer so interested in my writing journey, and how others at our table had also joined in. I suspect none of them had met anyone quite like me from Christian ministry circles. I then remembered sensing the longing in another lady who had had some church contact in the past as I later signed a copy of my book Soul Friend for her. And I reflected too on how many women showed such curiosity about my church connections. Had I perhaps given them a more positive image of what it means to be a committed Christian woman and author? I hoped so.

The following day, I received an email from my contact at that club:

We all enjoyed your talk—very inspiring. …  We did appreciate your efforts of carrying books and displaying them so beautifully, especially on your lovely cloth. I have had much feedback and would like to thank you once again for coming along.

Yes, it was a different world. But God had gone before me, even inspiring me, I believe, to take some effort with that book display. God was there, in the beauty of that building and the warmth of the women. And I pray God’s Spirit will continue to work in the lives of those who heard me speak and bought my books.

What a privilege to step into that different world with God—even for a brief time!

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