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Posts Tagged ‘Turkish’

I wonder if you have ever been in the situation of trying to make yourself understood to someone who does not speak the same language as you. It can be fun but also frustrating, can’t it? We can get so far with sign language and facial expressions, but there is a limit, after which we are stuck. Once when I was in Turkey, visiting a friend, I offered to go and buy some sugar for her, as she was in the middle of cooking and had run out. I knew the basic Turkish word for sugar (şeker), but what fun I had, trying to make myself understood, as the helpful shopkeeper showed me raw sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, cube sugar, even lollies (also called şeker in Turkish), and eventually what I wanted—plain old white sugar!

Our two year old grandson Zain now has a beautiful little sister Maxine, who is all of seven weeks old. Now Zain has a special puzzle at home that helps children learn counting and also teaches what the numbers look like. A few days ago, according to Zain’s mum, he recognised the number four and wanted Maxine to appreciate this momentous event.

‘Maxine! Maxine! Look, Maxine—four! Dat’s four, Maxine!’ he told her earnestly, showing her the relevant puzzle piece and trying to help her understand. I doubt that he was duly impressed with her response! But at least he tried.

In John’s Gospel, there is a lovely, honest account of an interaction between Jesus and his disciples that I have often smiled over. In Chapter 16, just after Jesus has explained as clearly as he can that he is leaving the world and going back to his Father in heaven, his disciples respond:

Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have everyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (30)

We can almost hear the relief in Jesus’ voice as he responds simply: “You believe at last!” (31) Finally, after being with Jesus for many months, hearing him teach and watching him perform many miracles, it all seems to click with them. Finally, they seem to understand what he was on about.

Yes, we often strike limitations of some description when it comes to understanding others. Thankfully, however, God has no such limitation. In 1 Chron 28:9, David points out to his son Solomon that God understands not only what we say but what we think, before we even say anything:

And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.

Then in Psalm 147:5, we find the following simple but profound and all-encompassing statement:

Great is the Lord and might in power; his understanding has no limit.

This means that, wherever we are at, however confused and frustrated we might feel, God sees through it all and understands straight away—in fact, even before that. God speaks our language, wherever we are from and however young or old we are. While others might look blankly at us and misunderstand us and our motives at times, God never does. Everything is transparent with God—and I’m so glad of that, aren’t you?

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I am so grateful for all the wonderfully convenient means of communication available to us these days. I can be sitting at my desk at home writing away when suddenly I might hear a little tune emanating from my computer and see a message screen appear. It is my friend in Turkey trying to contact me via skype. I go to answer her call – and then I am confronted with a dilemma. Should I click on the mere ‘Call’ button – or should I opt for ‘Video call’? After all, I have just showered and am dressed ready for bed! But then, remembering how she and I have travelled around Turkey together several times, I realise she has seen me in all sorts of strange garb! So I blithely opt for a video call – and soon we are laughing and talking together, despite the geographical distance between us.

We chat for some time – skype is free, after all. But then I hear my friend’s mobile phone ringing. She moves away to answer it and I hear her thanking someone in Turkish and arranging to see them later. But then I hear another phone ring – it must be my friend’s landline this time! I discover I am right, as her face reappears momentarily on my screen to tell me she has to answer her other phone and won’t be a moment. I sit and stare at my friend’s bedroom in far away Turkey and reflect on how different things are from many years ago when we used to contact our overseas friends via letter only. Then, just as my friend comes back, I hear her doorbell ring – and this time she is gone for a while, since she has to run down several flights of stairs to retrieve a parcel from the postman!

As I wait again, the thought comes to me: Could God be trying to get my attention? Could this be a kind of parable of how God sees me in my life in general? Could it be that God often waits for me in the same way I am waiting for my friend to return, watching me as I rush from one activity to the next, from meeting with people to shopping to housework to minding grandchildren to writing to preparing talks to gardening to ….? Could it be that even when I am sitting quietly all alone at my desk, God is patiently waiting to have my full attention, as my mind jumps from the various entries in my diary to the tasks awaiting me on my computer to the books I’m half through reading?

Yes, it is quite possible, I realise. I want to spend time with such a gracious, loving God, just as I know my friend really wants to talk with me via skype. My friend’s calls had to be answered – but most times, I reflect with some sadness, I have a choice whether I turn my computer on and become immersed in all that writing and all those emails yet again, or whether I sit back, open my Bible, and spend some quality time with God. And I know from experience that when I make that choice, God is always there waiting, ready to listen and speak, always patient with me, always understanding me, always loving me.

What is it that causes God to have to wait for you? What does God have to do to get your attention? God is calling. God has things to say to us. So let’s listen – and listen well!

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27)

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I get to do some interesting things, I’ve decided. One day last week, I found myself sitting in a large, open tent in the main courtyard at Macquarie University here in Sydney. On the desk in front of me was a sign with the title ‘novelist and minister’ beneath my name, followed by a brief description of who I am and the novels I’ve written. You see, I was taking part in a ‘Living Library’ event as the University Library’s contribution to ‘Diversity Week’ on campus. Potential readers – which included some high school students visiting the campus, uni students and staff – were free to ‘browse’ and choose which of us ‘living books’ they would like to ‘borrow’ and relate to for a while, asking as many questions as they liked.

As we were welcomed to the area by a member of the local Aboriginal tribe and treated to a ‘smoking ceremony’, I looked around at the diverse group of other ‘Living Books’ on hand – a Jewish Czech holocaust survivor, a gay activist student, a recovered alcoholic, a visually impaired Aboriginal woman elder, a young lesbian girl, a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, an Arab Palestinian Masters’ degree student, a young male Aboriginal activist, a Turkish man keen to talk about Islam and living as a Muslim in Australia, a breast cancer survivor, a beautiful young migrant woman from South India – and ME! What was I doing there, I asked myself? Who would want to talk to me, with all these other interesting ‘books’ available?

But then two young high school girls shyly approached my table and we began talking. One in particular loved creative writing and wanted to know exactly how I went about writing novels. She had all sorts of interesting questions – with the result that about forty-five minutes passed without our realising it. Then a very curious female uni student sat down, munching her ‘vegie-burger’ as we talked. She loves writing poetry, she told me – and off we went, talking about writing ‘from the heart’ and how cathartic that can be. Soon after, a young male social science student arrived – and he too had some interesting observations to make. And in the midst of all that, I got to talk to some degree at least with the other ‘living books’ and library staff.

So what was the point of my being there, I asked myself, as I walked to my car? Well, besides imparting information about writing novels, I hope I inspired the young people who ‘read’ me to hold onto their dreams, to believe they are here for a purpose and have each been given unique gifts. I was not backward in telling them how I love writing about God and about things that will hopefully encourage and uplift people – and they seemed to respect that. And I hope too in all my conversations with those present that God was honoured in the process – that some salt and light at least filtered through my words.

And even as I write this, I find myself praying for those whose lives I touched yesterday, if only for a brief moment. Lord, have mercy on them. Heal their hearts. Bring peace to the troubled ones. Protect the young ones on the brink of life and career and show them who you are. Fulfil their dreams – reveal to them your dreams for their lives. And help me not to hide in my own little ‘cocoon’ – please keep my heart soft to the world out there that needs you so much!

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