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Posts Tagged ‘Westfield Parramatta’

I had made my way bright and early to a large shopping centre nearby. There were two things I needed and I was definitely focussed on finding these quickly, then scuttling home. As I passed a particular clothing store selling ‘intimate apparel’, however, I gasped out loud and stopped dead. No, it was not the very skimpy garments in the window that caught my eye first off. Instead, it was a bold sign there written in large letters:

I COME FIRST

Really? Is that how we are supposed to live our lives? Despite my slightly shocked state, I realised this could be a mere marketing slogan, an overstatement aimed at making potential customers decide they deserve to pamper themselves or buy this or that expensive, perhaps frivolous item, rather than something for someone else or something a little more practical. And maybe there are times when we should do such things. For some of us at least, it may be the right thing to care for ourselves better and put ourselves first more at times, so we can regain our strength or our health. But… ‘I come first’ all the time? Really? Is that what God wants us to do?

I remembered then a recent TV ad I had seen for a reality series that apparently ‘all Australia is waiting to see’, according to the promoters! I had gasped when I heard one of the contestants declare something to the effect that she likes to make all the decisions because ‘it always has to be my way!’ Imagine living or even be friends with someone with such a selfish, arrogant attitude where everything has to suit them and where their needs always come before the needs of others!

Somehow, I think God calls us to march to the beat of a different drum, don’t you? Even in the middle of the shopping centre that morning, I thought of the parable Jesus told on one occasion when he went to eat at the home of a prominent Pharisee and noticed how the guests chose the places of honour at the table (Luke 14). Instead, he urged those present to take the lowest place and leave it to the host to invite them to move up to a better spot. Then he ended with the following:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:11 NLT

I remembered too some challenging words the Apostle Paul wrote about putting others’ welfare before our own:

 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

Paul then urges us to remember Jesus, who put everything aside for us, became a man and humbled himself completely, even to the point of dying on a cross.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave… Philippians 2:5-11 NLT

Really? What a challenge! And what a different attitude from the one that declares ‘I come first!’

Let’s choose it anyway. Let’s dare to be different. Let’s remember Jesus’ example. And let’s do our best to put others first—always.

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This past week, I have undertaken various shopping expeditions, while hunting for birthday and Christmas presents. I bought what I could online and, after traipsing what seemed like kilometres around shops, have now decided there is much to be said for purchasing something with the click of a button, despite those delivery costs! Yes, it was fun—to some degree. Yet throughout this process, I also found myself feeling slightly overwhelmed—even a little shocked.

So many options. So much choice. So many people. So much noise!

These feelings set in early when I visited two similar stores with an astonishing array of exotically-named perfumes and spray mists, crammed together on shelves reaching from floor to ceiling. I mean—how does one choose? Then in several other stores, I saw whole walls filled with board games of every description. Some were variations of the same game, while others seemed mere modern versions of old board games we played years ago, all now packaged expensively, of course. When I was a child, we used pencil and paper to play many of these—no big, fancy boxes for us!

No doubt suddenly being back in large shopping centres after our long COVID lockdown added to my sense of feeling overwhelmed. Yet even shopping online at times, I found the choice of products available equally overwhelming. There, I could flip from one site to another, comparing this item and that with ease. On one, it was cheaper. On another, it was dearer, but delivery was included in the price. On another, there was a bigger range. On yet another, the item looked better quality. After hours of hunting, I was utterly confused as to which was the best buy and where I had seen it!

Through all this, I have concluded that our son-in-law, who grew up in a different culture, made a very wise observation recently. Our daughter wanted to buy him a bicycle for his birthday, so asked him what sort he preferred. Did he want a road bike? Would a mountain bike be better? Perhaps an e-bike would be good. Or even a folding bike, for his trips to the city.

‘Just a plain, normal bike,’ he told her in the end, exasperated. ‘You people here have far too much choice!’

When I was in my teens, I remember being impacted by William Wordsworth’s poem ‘The World is Too Much with Us’, especially its opening lines:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

All that ‘getting and spending’ must have felt overwhelming for me even then. Somehow, I remember sensing we were made for much more than this. But in later years, a few little words the Apostle Paul wrote impacted me even more:

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NLT

Yes, those many things I have been super-busy buying are so temporary, aren’t they? How much more important to be rich in the things of God!

May I remember that this Christmas—and always.

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Jo 17I had just finished some Christmas shopping in Westfield Parramatta and, feeling tired, decided to head home. I walked to my car, started the engine and prepared to reverse slowly to vacate my spot, but instead, found myself being propelled backwards at an alarming rate. I hastily felt for the brake pedal but alas, I could not find it! In desperation, I pulled the hand brake on, to no avail. And with a jolt, I hit the bumper bar of the car opposite with a thud.

But that was not the end. As that waiting traffic watched on, I put my car into drive and tried to manoeuvre my way slowly forwards. Alas, the same thing happened again—my car seemed to have a mind of its own. It sprang forward, straight back into the car spot I had just vacated and proceeded to hit the wall there with some force before stopping. At least there I could turn the engine off and try to figure out what was happening.

‘The brakes just didn’t seem to work!’ I explained to the nice man who had got out of the car waiting to take my spot, as I stood there shaking.

‘Don’t worry! These things happen to the best of us,’ he said, as he tried unsuccessfully to reassure me.

I proceeded to leave my details on the windscreen of the car I had damaged—but what to do now? I was reluctant to try driving a car that did not seem to do what I wanted it to do.

In the end, I contacted security and, as I waited, checked inside my car. I discovered that a thick mat the auto electrician had placed in the front had apparently flipped up onto the brake pedal—and possibly got in the way of the accelerator too. I tried to explain that to the security men, but it was very obvious they suspected I was just some silly woman who had mistaken the accelerator for the brake, then panicked! After all, once one of them helpfully got in the car for me and tried out the brakes, they worked fine for him! Or perhaps I had had a medical episode. ‘Are you okay to drive?’ they kept on asking—and I can well understand their concern. But it’s a good way to learn humility, don’t you think?!

As I recovered from this interesting experience, I began to wonder if my life might sometimes resemble my poor, out-of-control car far too closely, as I career this way and that. Those onlookers in the car park must have watched heart in mouth, yet they were powerless to do anything for me. But our God is not powerless—or uncaring. Instead, God reaches out to us with love and grace, watching over us, giving us the strength to sort things out, bringing the right people alongside us and guiding us to move forward again in the right direction. And I’m so thankful for that, aren’t you?

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. … My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:24. 26

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Jo 17I walked towards the shopping centre escalator, only to realise it was not working.  A young male employee was obviously trying to clean those grooved steps while they were stationary, while a slight young girl stood nearby, looking worried. A lady with a pram and I went to try to find some lifts, but by the time we returned, the worried-looking girl was already climbing the stationary escalator. Others were pushing past her—she seemed to be taking forever. And only then did I notice there was something very wrong with her legs.

Now she was halfway up and clinging to the side of the escalator. The young employee stood there looking helpless, while others kept rushing past. So, in the end, I climbed up to her and offered to help. She leant on my arm and managed a few more steps, legs flailing in various directions, but the effort was agony for her. Those limbs seemed to have a mind of their own.

Eventually, she let go of my arm and hung onto the side again with both hands. She managed to haul herself up a few more steps, but then stopped.

I saw she was crying. I looked around wildly and noticed a huge line-up of people behind us, but for once, I did not care. This girl needed help—she could not stay where she was.

‘I can’t go any further!’ she whispered.

‘Yes, you can!’ I heard myself say. ‘See, we’re almost at the top! Only a few more steps!’

A resolute look came over her face. With a surge of determination, she began climbing again. A young, Muslim woman wearing a pretty headscarf was standing at the top, concern written all over her beautiful face. She reached out, and both of us helped her take those final steps.

I stood there for a while with the poor exhausted girl, arm about her waist.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked her. ‘Would you like a coffee? Or I’ll help you sit down over there.’

‘I’m okay,’ she told me, as she gasped for breath. ‘But thank you so much!’

‘What’s your name?’ I found myself asking her.

‘Lisa,’ she smiled, her eyes still moist.

By then, tears had welled up in my own eyes.

‘Lisa, I will be praying for you today,’ I told her. ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’

She nodded and we parted. Still shaking a little, I decided to buy a coffee for myself. As I sat wiping tears away that would not seem to stop, it was as if God said gently, ‘Jo-Anne, this compassion you are still feeling for that girl is only a tiny fraction of the compassion I have for her—and for you—and for everyone. Oh, how much I long for them all to experience it!’

I remembered then a description of Jesus that has always touched me:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

I don’t know anything more about Lisa and will probably never see her again. But that day, I certainly sensed God’s great compassion for her—and for us all. I know it is so deep and true and wonderful—and I hope with all my heart that you do too.

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