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Posts Tagged ‘using our God-given gifts’

Jo 23In the past few weeks, we have had the joy of reconnecting with various old friends, as we have prepared to move house. Some have emailed, in response to our emails notifying them of our change of address, expressing their delight that we have found somewhere lovely to live. Others have said they will come and visit, once we are fully settled in. Still others called in before we moved out, making their way around boxes and enjoying a final, informal cuppa in our old home.

One couple came with whom we have stayed in contact for over forty years, mainly through email and Facebook. Yet when we met again face to face, the years simply fell away. We had heard they were shipping old but good theological books to an overseas country and asked if they could use my husband’s remaining books that we simply cannot take with us. What a joy to know these volumes will be used yet again by those who truly need such resources! And what a joy too to see how this couple have remained so faithful to God over the years, using the gifts God has given them in amazing, practical ways, with such servant hearts!

Another popped in with homemade slice in hand to visit us one last time in our old home. Many years ago, we were in the same small group at church. As we talked, I realised all over again the journey we had shared during those years and beyond, as this girl went through huge, traumatic life events. Yet here she was, still firmly trusting God, ready to pray with us as we faced our big move. Over the years, we have not seen each other often, yet our friendship has remained as fresh and firm as ever. How deep those roots go when we share those big life experiences with others and with God!

As for those emails from family and friends, I found myself deeply touched by the good wishes in them and especially those assurances of prayer on our behalf, as we said goodbye to our old home. Some emails were only brief, yet I could still feel that heart connection with those who wrote them and picture their faces as they did. One girl I rarely see but with whom I have shared some deep things via email simply wrote: ‘Oh Jo! That’s huge!’ Those four little, heartfelt words almost brought me to tears. Immediately, I could tell she was with me in spirit, feeling for me, praying for me, understanding the depth of emotions I might well be experiencing as we move. What a comfort and privilege to have such constant friends like her who love us and are so concerned for our wellbeing!

Then one morning just before we moved, I ‘happened’ to read Psalm 121. And it was as if the Lord, the greatest Friend of all, reached out to me once again, wrapped his arms around me and lovingly reassured me of his faithful protection:

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.   Psalm 121:7-8

What more could we want or need? Forever friends—with God and with so many others.

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Jo 23I think it would be safe to say not many of us have donkeys tethered in the backyard these days. We do not get them out and saddle them up when we need to go shopping or pick the kids up or travel to another town. But this past week, I heard how a friend has decided to call her car her ‘donkey’—and with good reason.

You see, she often drives others who are unable to drive or don’t have cars to doctors’ appointments, waits there with them, then drives them home again—so much so that she has become a little tired of it. But one day recently, she read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and was challenged all over again by the way this man cared for the stranger who had been robbed and beaten up. According to this story Jesus told, not only did the Samaritan delay his journey to stop and treat the man’s wounds but he also put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he proceeded to care further for him. Then, when he had to leave, as well as paying the innkeeper to continue caring for the injured man, he promised to pay any further money owed for the man’s care on his return. Amazing!

I guess that is the reason Jesus told such a story—to shock the ‘expert in the law’ (Luke 10:23) who well knew what was written there about loving God and loving one’s neighbour. And that shock value is still there for us today, as my friend can testify. Instead of grumbling about these demands on her time, she has decided to be thankful for her own good health, call her trusty, little car her ‘donkey’ and saddle it up over and over again, out of love for God and for others.

My friend’s response challenged me so much that I came home and read that Good Samaritan story for myself. As I did, I noted the little conversation at the end where the expert of the law has to admit the Samaritan was the true, merciful neighbour to the one who had been robbed. And I also could not ignore Jesus’ final, unequivocal command—Go and do likewise (Luke 10:37).

So … what does my ‘likewise’ involve? What should it look like? Yes, perhaps it might involve driving someone somewhere in my own ‘donkey’ for an appointment at times, but God calls and gifts each one of us in different ways. Perhaps for me, showing mercy to my neighbour might involve taking someone a casserole at times or inviting them to our home for a meal. But it might also involve helping someone with their writing project or being prepared to speak at some event they are organising in order to support them or selling their books alongside my own books somewhere. Whatever shape that ‘donkey’ may take in my life, I need to saddle it up and use it well for the purpose God intended, showing love to others in the same way as I so easily show it to myself every day of my life.

How about you? What will your ‘likewise’ involve? Are you using your own ‘donkey’ well?

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It’s a funny thing. The older I get (!), the more I seem to see the potential in people I meet and appreciate their individuality. People are interesting. I love hearing their heart and recognising that image of God in them that is in each one of us. And I am thankful for the opportunities that promoting my books and speaking at so many places this past year have given me to do just that.

On the other hand, the older I get, the more introverted I have also become. It’s a puzzle—and I put it down, in some measure at least, to my writing journey of the past ten years. I love being alone. I love those times when, with the whole house to myself, I put on some music on, curl up with my laptop and write away to my heart’s content. What luxury!

In those times, I am never lonely. I agree with actor and screenwriter Dirk Bogarde who once wrote: ‘I have always been told that writing is a lonely, solitary, reclusive job. … But even as a novice writer I have not found that to be true at all. It is neither lonely nor reclusive, and it is solitary only by virtue of the fact that one has to be alone and in silence in order to hear the voices that fill one’s head. It is impossible to be lonely with so much conversation going on. But, apart from the voices of those characters in my head, I know I am not alone. God is always there, already aware of the words I am about to write and so much a part of the whole creative act.

Nevertheless, at times I have found I also need the encouragement of others—friends who value my writing journey and want to see me fulfilled in using my God-given gifts. And this is where contact with other Christian authors, either face to face or via the net, can become so important. We speak the same language. We understand the issues involved in writing and publishing and promotion. We recognise our mutual desire to bring God glory in some way through our writing. And we want to see all our books out there and selling well.

cmas_a5_flierThat’s why I’ve chosen to join together with some other local Christian authors here in Sydney this Thursday 5th December between 4.00pm and 8.00pm to stage our second ‘Meet the Author Christmas Book Market’ At Ryde Presbyterian Church, Cnr Bowden and Squires Sts, Ryde. This is a co-operative effort where we make not only our books but ourselves available so that people can chat with us in a relaxed environment. We have each agreed to promote this event as much as possible through our own networks. And we will all be there, encouraging one another at a variety of levels as we promote our books.

It’s all about encouragement, particularly in the Body of Christ, don’t you think?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

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