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Don't wait for Perfection

13/07/2017 19:29
 
For several months last year, I kept planning a dinner party which never happened. I’d connected with a few newcomers to Adelaide and hoped to give them a warm welcome. The problem was that I was either too busy or too sick to bring my plans to fruition. And so the weeks passed by; guilt tugging at my heart like a bull terrier nipping my ankles. If only my health was better! But then ... out of the blues, a brilliant idea popped into my little head. 
 
Rather than cook for a crowd, why not simply order the food? Of course it would be nicer if I cooked a scrumptious meal for my visitors, but since my body wasn’t cooperating, this was a happy alternative. Even if my body didn’t do well on the day, I could still cope with the work involved. Why didn’t think of it before? I suggested it to my beloved and he agreed. We decided to order lamprais for the occasion. Lamprais? What are lamprais you ask.
A lamprais is a special Sri Lankan delicacy, very popular and much enjoyed. It’s a packet containing a variety of different yummy food. On the bed of rice-cooked-in-stock sit lots of mouth-watering accompaniments—a delectable chicken, beef or pork curry, a hot spicy sambal, a sweet but hot onion sambal, delicious cutlets (small round crumbed finger foods, usually made with fish), a white vegetable cooked in coconut milk and golden brown deep fried aubergines. The food is wrapped in a banana leaf. Yum! The advantage of getting individual packets is that washing up is minimal.
 
The dinner was a success. No, I didn’t make them gasp in admiration at my fancy cooking! But I hope I made them feel loved and cared for which was more important. I did create a chocolate Gateaux for dessert and was glad when they tucked in with relish. I learnt an important lesson that evening, that if I but stop a moment to think outside the box, there are plenty of different ways of doing life. Even if plan A goes off the radar, I still have plenty of great alternatives ... especially If my life goals do not include keeping up with the Jones’ or impressing people.
Perfection may be a the ideal but waiting for perfection is rarely desirable.  If I waited till I was well enough to have my new friends over, the day may never have dawned. Settling for what’s possible is better than having good intentions which will not materialise. Compromise is not always a bad thing is it? If I wait till my child is mature enough before I enjoy him, I will lose the thrill of his growing up years. 
 
If I wait till my spouse is perfect before I offer him a compliment, I will lose many opportunities of building him and growing our relationship. If I wait till my life has it all together in order to rejoice in all I have, I will wait forever. If I don’t delight in small every day moments because suffering’s interwoven with the good, I will lose out on life’s many pleasures. If I wait till I have good health in order to be happy, I might have to wait till I reach heaven. If I wait till my life is all ironed out to perfection, I will not enjoy the journey. If I delay my laughter till life is hunky dory, I’d miss all the fun. If I cherish only the good times, I will miss many special moments.
Is there something you are frustrated about because it’s not happening the way you hoped? Perhaps there’s a different way of doing it? Is there someone who annoys you because of his foibles? What are his virtues—I’m sure he has many. Have your plans gone awry and made you discouraged? Perhaps you could try Plan D or E instead? Are you waiting for the perfect partner or the perfect job? Maybe what you already have is worth celebrating?
 
Perfection will be ours to enjoy in heaven. Meanwhile let’s ask God to show us the way when our plans are thwarted. He knows the road ahead and He is our Father. 

 

"Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for the gracious, 

compassionate and righteous man. " Psalm 112:4

"For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:6

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times,

having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Cor 9:8

 

 

Understanding Others

29/06/2017 15:14
My battle with ill health often makes me selfish. Don’t get me wrong. I do love to make others happy. I do try to reach out to others to care for them. I do desire to jump on the  band-wagon of life to whirl and twirl with the best of them. But my battle which chronic fatigue means that I need to pace myself out—all the time. If I spend one short hour walking around the shops, it means that I can’t do much the next day. If I spend a few hours on a bus ride to the city and back, my body creaks and groans for days to come. If I have a busy spell in life, I have to pay for it in pain and fatigue for a long time. It also means I sometimes hold back from helping a friend simply because I know I will pay heavily for it.
 
Take last week for instance. I’d planned to visit a special friend who was in hospital. She had few visitors so I was very keen to be there for her, but my body crashed in extreme fatigue and pain, so I couldn’t dream of going out. Today, exactly a week later, and feeling a bit better, I was determined to visit her.
I found that my friend had now been moved to a Nursing Home. Oh! I had to figure out how to get there. It wasn’t a difficult trip by any means. I confess with shame that even after close to seven years of driving, steering a car safely amdist traffic is still a challenge for me, especially to a new destination. I pored over google maps and managed to get the route worked out. Then, taking a deep breath and whispering a prayer for help, I pressed the accelerator and sped off in my little blue car. God was good. The right turn I had trembled over was super easy because the roads were clear. Hooray! The traffic was light all the way. Yay! I did make a wrong turn ... and did a U turn to get back on track. Finally, I found the right road. But then I hit a snag. I wandered around  trying to find Unit 413. There wasn’t one. I turned my car back and asked a passer by for help.
 
Once inside, I did quite well … but where oh where was room 413? Yes, you guessed it. I had to ask someone. I reached the right room at last. My gorgeous 94 year old friend smiled and held my hands when she saw me. She was feeling nervous and disoriented in a new place – naturally, so I was glad I made it. Her son and daughter in law were grateful that I’d come. When I explained why I couldn’t come earlier—her daughter in law’s response blessed me. She too suffers from chronic illness so she fully understood.
On my way out, I got entangled in my merry-go-round routine once again. I walked in circles inside the Nursing home, getting further and further away from the entrance—trying different exit signs till I finally stopped to ask someone how to get out. Whew. My drive back home posed no problems as I breathed a prayer all the way home. When I turned into our road, I thanked God for a safe drive and a good visit. Ah! But what a lot it took out of me!
 
My friend’s daughter in law blessed me by understanding why I couldn’t come more often. If she realised that the drive was also a challenge, she might have been surprised but all the more sympathetic. My struggles reminded me that different things are difficult for different people. Most people wouldn’t find driving a challenge. But maybe something else is. There might be someone who's had a hard life, so even smiling is hard work. Another might find being in crowds overwhelming. Another might find keeping good relationships trying. Each of us have our own  hangups, our own personalities and our own weaknesses, don’t we?
What a wonderful world it would be if everyone was accepting and gracious about each others’ foibles. It’s so easy to judge someone without knowing their full story. I’m glad I wasn’t judged today. May I be full of grace and understanding towards anyone who needs it.
 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Collosians 3:12-14

 
 
 
 

Treasure in Earthen vessels

16/06/2017 14:47
A few weeks ago, I rushed off for a blood test. I hadn’t had  my usual Quiet Time with God before I left, so I was eager to return for my appointment with the King. Once home, I was ready for my second cuppa for the day, this time with my Special Friend. I took out the unique cup and saucer I keep for such occasions. I made a steaming cuppa and  placed it on the little table in our family room. I pulled back a chair for Jesus, then sat with Him, sipping my delicious, soothing cup of tea and chatting with Him, heart to heart. Mmmm. The tea refreshed me and His company revived me.
 
A few minutes later I glanced down and my eyebrows shot up. Oh no! The saucer had a piece chipped off and it’s exquisite beauty was marred. Sigh. But I knew what to do. I turned the chipped part away from me, then placed the cup back on it so it would hide the blemish. I smiled. Who would think it was flawed? The cup covered the broken part of the saucer. It now looked perfect!
Jesus through His death and resurrection, covers my sin, making me perfect in His sight. Isn’t that amazing? It sounds pretty unfair to me, but that’s exactly what He does. That day, I was struggling with guilt. I’d realised that I should have spoken words to enlighten a friend, but hadn’t been able to muster up the courage to do so. It was a bad choice made in a difficult moment which now weighed heavy on my shoulders. But … as I gazed at my cup and saucer, God warmed my heart with His grace and the weighty cloak of guilt fell off.
 
There are words I should speak but don’t. There are other words I don’t mean to say but I do. There are times my actions don’t match up to my convictions. Sometimes I let Him down. Too often I am selfish and want my own way. But … when I realise what I’d done or not done and repent of my sin, Jesus hears me. He covers me. He spreads His arms around me. He shields me with His feathers and holds me close, like an eagle with her young. The chipped saucer looked perfect from where I sat and through that picture Jesus whispered into my heart that yes, I might be a tarnished vessel, marred and scarred, but each time I repent of my sin—He covers my cracks and ugliness.
 
Perhaps you are in a difficult place today? Did you say something you now regret? Or perhaps you did something you wished you had not done? Don’t forget He died for you. He who calls us is always faithful.  The instant we turn to Him in repentance, His forgiveness flows like a river to wash over our iniquities. As far as the East is from the West, so far does He remove our sins from us. What grace. What freedom. What joy. 
 

Christ in me is my hope of glory!

 

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. 

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours 

but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, 

in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7

 

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 

so great is his love for those who fear him; 

as far as the east is from the west, 

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, 

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 

for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:11-14

 
 
 

Using my God-Key

02/06/2017 18:35
 
Well, we are back after 3 exciting weeks away. It was a wonderful, wonderful time, so thank you to all who wished us well and prayed for us. A huge thanks too to those who lavished their love on us. As I reflect now on our holiday, my heart bursts with gratitude to our Father God for keeping us safe and well throughout and showering us with blessings. We tasted  gracious Sri Lankan hospitality, lots of scrumptious spicy food and breathed in the exquisite beauty of our land. We were able to connect with many dear people, revelling in love and  laughter, making fresh memories and taking plenty of pictures to keep those moments alive.
 
It was the very first time in 12 visits to Sri Lanka though that I didn’t find time for shopping. I had to conserve my scarce energy supplies, so I used it for enjoying people instead. I did visit my publisher’s bookshop to buy a carton of my books to ship back home so was then able to buy a few small gifts to give friends back home. In earlier visits, I’d buy souvenirs of Sri Lanka for Aussie friends. This time I brought back souvenirs of God’s love. Perhaps it’s an indication of how God’s been wooing my heart in the last little while.
Among the gifts were key tags with verses on them. I took one for myself because God’s special message to me was on it. I looked around for keys to fit on my new special key-tag, but oops, there were none. The thing is that I already have two sets of key-rings—one with our house-keys and the other with my car keys, so my new key-tag was totally unnecessary. No! I take that back. It was needed.  I promptly attached my invisible God-key to it and popped into in my bag.
 

A God-key? What is that? And what does it do, you ask. 

 
It opens doors of course. 
 

It will remind to me to open unique intangible doors.

 
 

1.      Gratitude and praise

2.      Time with Jesus

3.      Loving God and loving others

4.      Humility and peace

5.      Trusting God

 
 

6.      Saying ‘yes’ to His will

7.      Choosing JOY

8.      Being good and doing good

9.      Reflecting on all He has done for me

10.  Remembering that He is with me always

As I ponder on my perfect holiday, I’m so grateful to God for my six brothers and sisters and the bountiful love that we share. I’m also grateful to God for our seven beloved spouses. I thank God for our large unique 35 member clan comprising of our beautiful children and  grandchildren. The special times we spent together this year forged even stronger links and we’ve carried home many golden memories to relish and enjoy forever. And yet … our love would not have been possible if not for God’s presence and blessing in our lives.
 

And so I need my God-key.

With it I can open all the doors I need to.

Without it, I have nothing.

 
Have you found your God-key today? Let’s use our God-keys to charter new territory. Let’s fling wide open the doors to thanksgiving and praise. The doors to His love and His Word. With trust and obedience. With deep joy. With a smile on our faces and the wind in our hair. With God’s unquenchable love in our hearts. Come join me.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, 

continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, 

strengthened in the faith as you were taught,

and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

 
 
 

Writing Love Letters

30/05/2017 16:21
We spent 3 weeks in Sri Lanka recently, pampered by family and friends. A glorious time it was and we returned home with thankful hearts and invigorated spirits. High on my agenda was the writing of my usual Monday blog, but a list of ‘have to be done’ things swallowed up my good intentions. I had bags to unpack, clothes to wash, meals to prepare, gifts to buy, groceries to purchase, a guest room to get ready, extended family to welcome home and even … a love letter to write. I decided that writing this particular love letter was more important than writing my blog. The deadline was 29th May and happily, I managed it at the nth hour!
 

I gave a love letter today – 29th May. To my husband. It was his birthday after all.

I read a love letter today. It was from Jesus.

I wrote a love letter today. It’s the first of its kind and it was to a stranger.

So what is this love letter to a stranger? 

And how did I find her? 

 

A few years ago, a lady in my church passed away very suddenly. I didn’t know her very well, but she’d begun reading my blog and said she was very encouraged by it. I chatted to her a few times, desiring to get to know her better. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on her side or mine. I did converse with her via online messages, but my anticipated heart-to-heart conversation did not take place after all.
 
My new friend died 4 months after her diagnosis, having spent quality time with her loved ones. Her death was peaceful and it was a good end to a godly life, but her loss affected me deeply. I wrote a blog to celebrate her life. anusha-atukorala.webnode.com/news/this-ones-for-julie/ I determined then that I would write letters of appreciation to the people in my life. I have been doing that slowly but surely over the last 4 years. During my time in Sri Lanka, I too received a beautiful book filled with messages, created for my early 60th birthday celebration. It was a heart-warming collection of love letters from family and friends and I felt cherished and appreciated. THANK YOU SO MUCH to all who contributed. I will be writing to thank you individually, I promise! It was an enormous labour of love performed by my beloved sis. Thank you Super Sal! Thank  you. I had a little surprise up my own sleeve as well because I’d written 26 letters of appreciation to the extended family who celebrated with me and I hope I blessed them too.
A month or two ago, my niece Allison wrote that she was crafting some unique snail mail letters. I pricked up my ears at once. One peek at the link she sent me and I was hooked. These special Love Letters are sent to people who are going through tough circumstances, letters that remind them that they are not alone; letters that encourage and build and bring hope. And so, I wrote my first love letter to a stranger yesterday—to a Sri Lankan residing far away in America. It felt so right to send love to a stranger and I look forward to writing many more. In case you like to read about it, here’s the link: http://www.moreloveletters.com/
 
God’s love letters abound in my life—through His Word, His beautiful creation and His people. Moreover, He asks me to do what He does. I didn’t have time to write a decent blog this week but it doesn’t matter, because my special love letter got written. And perhaps doing that was better, because I just might have got you interested too. Would you like to write a letter? To your spouse or significant other? Your son or daughter? A friend? Your co-worker? An acquaintance? To God? Even a Stranger? Perhaps there is someone who needs to be affirmed by you? Someone who needs to know she is not alone? Let’s keep writing love letters through our spoken words, our written words and through our lives.

Perhaps it’s time to write a love letter today?

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, 

God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

 
 
 
 
 

A Promise for YOU!

28/04/2017 17:14
I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon.
 
  1.            My doctor is a man.

  2. My dentist is a man.
  3. My hairdresser is a man.

 
Do you see what I see? 
 
Professionally, I seem to trust men more than women!  In our early days in  Australia, I found it hard to find a hairdresser who cut my hair the way I liked. So voila! Enter Franko my gentle, Italian Barber. My family sought and found the perfect (Greek) doctor when we arrived and we’ve stuck with him. He’s excellent at what he does and also a caring Christian man. I used to be petrified in the dentist’s chair—but my expert Australian dentist made me feel safe, providing not only outstanding dental care but also treating me with kindness and respect. So in the last 18 years, I have been blissfully content with the services of all three.
A few weeks ago, intent on having my hair just right for our impending trip to Sri Lanka, I called to make an appointment. Alas, my 76 year old barber was sick and not at work. The next week it happened again … time was running out. Surfing the Internet and checking reviews, I was led to a salon not far from home. I was delighted to find that not only did I receive a chic haircut, the charming young lady who snipped my tresses made it a pleasant experience for me—chattering nineteen to the dozen and endearing herself to me.
 
 
Next, it was time to get myself a set of sparkling new teeth. Unfortunately, my dentist was away and unavailable before I left for Sri Lanka. How disappointing … but the receptionist added “Would you consider having someone else clean your teeth, just this once?” Why not? I booked in with the new young dentist at the practice. She cleaned my teeth beautifully so I can now zoom off to Sri Lanka with a cleaner, brighter, whiter smile.
 
 
Believe it or not, my doctor has also been away so I had to look for another professional to approve my fortnightly B12 injections. The person available was … yes, you guessed right – a woman. She was a good doctor and did the needful. And so it was, that in the last couple of weeks, I’ve changed habits of 18 years and have visited women professionals instead of men—all three of them. I’m pleased to report that I  have enjoyed the experience.

Perhaps a new day is dawning?

 
 
I love new seasons don’t you? I’ve enjoyed the four seasons in Australia, (compared to only 2 in Sri Lanka) each with their own magical enchantment. I love Mondays—the start of the working week, pregnant with possibilities. Today is that not only the beginning of a week, it’s also the beginning of a new month. 38 years ago, when I had the thrill of leading a new friend to become a disciple of Jesus, she and I dubbed May as the Month of Miracles! 
 
 
The month of May for me is also associated with a promise. Exactly 20 years ago, in May 1997, my little family prepared to step out on a Grand Adventure—packing  our bags and leaving for foreign shores, first to Malaysia and next to this beautiful Land Down Under. God gave me a promise then. He went on to keep that promise time after time after time these 20 years. Life has often tossed numerous unpleasant surprises at us over the years, but what’s been far bigger and brighter is God’s faithfulness.
In a few days we zoom off to Sri Lanka, to catch up with my family—the Magnificent Seven and our Magnificent Spouses. It’s the first time all fourteen of us will spend a few weeks together in the one place, so excitement rises like the joyous boom of the surf as the tide comes in. One thing (among many) that our parents did right was making all 7 of us (and later all 14) close friends which is why our reunion is so special. My extended clan was intent on celebrating the 60th birthday of the youngest. Me! Little Old Me! (What? 60? When did THAT happen?)
 
 

So … Hooray! It’s a brand new season and I am very excited. 

 
It is true that we have faced an abundance  of challenges since we left Sri Lanka. But the love of God has been my resting place these last 20 years and He has walked with me everywhere, up the glorious mountain peaks and especially down the deep dark valleys, where His light has shone on my darkness. Best of all, through times of difficulty and pain, Jesus became Hiding Place, my Treasure, my All in all. I could not ask for more.
 
How are YOU today? Are circumstances obstructing your path or stealing your peace and joy? May you look up into the face of God in Jesus and snuggle under His wings. He loves you. He loves you. HE LOVES YOU. More than you can ever imagine. A New Season beckons. Let’s follow Him where He leads us. The promise He gave me 20 years ago is for you too. 
 

You can count on it!

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; 

he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; 

do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8

 

 

Why Choose Joy

14/04/2017 21:14
A few months ago, I was out walking one evening when flashing lights appeared in my peripheral vision. Were they shooting stars whizzing across the right side of my face? I soon realised that my vision was impaired. A trip to the Optometrist next day confirmed my suspicions. My rambunctious (and also aging) right eye was having what’s called VPD or Vitreous Posterior Detachment! It was time to visit an eye specialist.
 
I was asked not to drive after my eye appointment because the consultant would put drops into my eye, making it unsafe to drive. Our weekly grocery delivery was due between 8 and 11 a.m. on the day of my doctor's appointment. I was sure I had ample time to catch my 11.30 a.m. bus. Alas … my usually prompt delivery chose the one day it HAD to be punctual, to play games with me! Several calls to the Supermarket and numerous exclamations later, I hurriedly opened the front door to the delivery guy, shoved most (yes, I missed the fish and Ice cream!) of the cold items into the fridge and freezer, then ran all the way to the bus stand.
 
That morning turned into a comedy of errors. As I reached the main road, a bus rumbled past. Oh no! Had I missed it? My beloved assured me that my bus was still on its way (thank you God for caring husbands and modern technology) and it did turn up. What a relief! I’d waited three whole months for my appointment, so another 3 months would have been a little too much! As we approached my bus halt, I got up from my seat and rang the bell. Imagine my surprise when the bus didn’t stop—it went all the way to the main halt instead. I had to clamber back onto the main road and walk a fair distance to reach my destination.
Despite my adventures of the morning, I was still considerably early for my appointment with about 30 minutes to spare. I’d planned to sit in the waiting room, chatting to my Papa God, with my prayer diary in hand and praise music in my ears. But my misadventures for the day were not over yet. The first inkling of a problem reared its head when the nurse asked me for my referral letter. Referral? What referral? (When I got home, I found a letter dated 3 months earlier, reposing serenely in my medical folder!) The receptionist was young, uncertain and inexperienced but rose to the occasion and phoned my optometrist. He was away so his referral would arrive a day too late. Sigh! She next called my GP and very thankfully he obliged. Soon it was faxed to the specialist rooms. It took all of 30 minutes for that fiasco! And … there was one more delay. The drops the receptionist had put into my eyes hadn’t worked so I had to go back to the waiting room, to wait a further 15 minutes for the drops to work. It was turning out to be an interesting day.
 
After my crazy morning … what else could go wrong? Nothing!  Nothing at all. The moment I walked into the surgeon’s room, my day turned on its head. The eye specialist was a dapper small man—not wildly attractive in physical terms, but oh how he blessed me. He was friendly, professional, kind, polite and respectful. At the end of an instructive and helpful visit, he wished me all the best for my writing. When I thanked him for his care he said ‘Pleasure’ sounding as if he meant it. I came away from the appointment, a fountain filled and overflowing. For one thing, the doctor confirmed that all was OK with my eye. And that, after all, was my main concern—everything else was secondary and of little account.
As I walked back to the Plaza to do some shopping afterwards (bleary-eyed but very happy), I asked God to forgive me. He had sent me a teensy test that day but sad to say, I’d failed—miserably. I had been short and impatient with the supermarket over their delivery being late. I was irritated that things didn’t go my way. I didn’t trust God with any of what occurred. My attitude sucked. No, I wasn’t proud of myself. When I walked around the Plaza later, I could finally zoom outside of my petty little world. I thanked God for a happy outcome, grateful too for the kind caring doctor—what a difference he made!
 
The events of my day was a wake-up call to …

                                                              always choose joy.

Choosing joy doesn’t negate circumstances. Choosing joy doesn’t mean I don’t mourn my losses. Choosing joy doesn’t mean I do not suffer. Choosing joy simply means that I decide to trust God despite life’s circumstances. That I do not give into my own self-centredness. That I am forgiving and kind with others’ foibles. That I see the big picture. That I don’t let the mundane stuff of life get to me. That God is glorified through my life.
 
We have just been through the most significant weekend in the Christian Calendar. On Good Friday, darkness descended into our world. It seemed like the light was permanently snuffed out. But the Christian story reverberates with joy. Grieving may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. Satan may have plans to disrupt our world but we know He’s already been defeated. I don’t know what you are going through today. Perhaps there is sadness or grief, a sense of loneliness of emptiness? Perhaps life hurts too much? Choosing joy is not always easy to do. But  for us followers of Jesus, if we refuse to choose joy, it’s like reading a story (we know has a grand ending) stopping every few pages to cry buckets of tears at the twists in the tale we encounter, forgetting to enjoy it’s narrative or to trust its Gifted Author!
 
Why choose joy? Because most of what bothers us is temporary. Because often tomorrow is a brighter day. Because seasons change but God’s love never does. Because one might as well be joyful rather than miserable. Because Jesus our Author is also the Author of JOY!
 

And don’t forget … He has promised to use all our circumstances for our good.

God’s grand story has the best ending possible.
Are you up to it? Let’s choose JOY!
 

"Be Joyful Always." 1 Thess 5:16

 
 
 

 

What's Most Important?

31/03/2017 18:09
I zoomed off the other day on a trip to the city. I reached my favourite bookshop and wandered from aisle to aisle checking books and buying gifts. The next hour disappeared in the blink of an eye. I had a cash gift to spend and a few ideas of books I could buy. God however had other ideas. I don’t usually buy devotionals—I prefer to have a longer time of Bible study with the Lord. That day though, before I began to browse the shelves, my eye caught Sarah Young’s devotional ‘Jesus Always’ and I had to have a peek.
 
 
Her life-giving words seeped into my heart, filling it with heavenly fire and holy longing. The cover declared ‘Embracing JOY in His presence’—I was hooked. 2017 is ‘My Year of Joy’, after all, so here it was—God’s gift to me to understand what that really meant. (Thank you God.)  Another book sang out to me as I passed its shelf and I had to obey its summons -“Imagine Heaven’ by John Burke. The author shares near death experiences (NDE’s), and is passionate about LIFE after life. He assures his readers that his research with people who’ve experienced a trip beyond death reveals that the Bible’s accounts of heaven are accurate.
 
 
I have always been a lover of life but in the last year or two there has been a change within. My long hard battle with fibro fatigue and pain has quelled some of my passion for life so my gaze has shifted heaven-wards. For awhile, I wondered if it was a good thing. Further reflection revealed that it was not just a good thing but perhaps a God thing. True, life’s a precious gift from God and meant to be savoured and lived fully. But eternity is where we are headed, so preparing for LIFE beyond the grave is surely important.
I‘ve been dipping into books that talk of heaven. Two books which blessed me recently were ‘Glimpses of Heaven’ and ‘Further glimpses of heaven’ by Trudy Harris, RN. She shares how as a hospice nurse working in palliative care, she gave emotional, spiritual and practical support to countless dying people, young and old, during their last months, weeks and days on earth. God’s love and reality as they reached the end of life's journey was very real and very precious. ‘Josiah’s Fire’ by Tahni Cullen and Cheryl Ricker has drawn me closer to God through an amazing young boy’s remarkable insights into God’s heart and the reality of heaven.
 
 
You might agree with me that what’s important in heaven’s perspective is often very different to what seems to matters on earth. Perhaps the problem is that we human beings are often good at assigning value on things that don’t have lasting significance. The acquisition of wealth, building reputations rather than character, being super-busy, having a plethora of superficial connections while nursing fractured relationships with those closest to us… these are some of modern world’s foibles. So ... what’s life’s purpose? And what does a good life look like?
I pray that I will never be too heavenly minded for any earthly use! But my focus on LIFE after life should help me live better on earth, don’t you think? The world is an interesting place, with things to do and people to love. According to the author of Imagine Heaven two questions God asks us at the end of our lives are: "What did you do with your life?" and "How well have you loved others?"
 
 
When we consider Jesus' two main commandments, the second question is not at all surprising of course. And yet … how many of us live with love as our highest goal—not the gooey feeling of romantic love, but love as in wanting the best for others, often at cost to oneself. Today April 3rd is my beloved Mama’s (92nd) birthday. As I thank God for her life, I remember with joy that Mama found time to do the important things. She and my Dad spent their lives loving others. She always had time for the 36 members of her clan—her beloved Earle, her children and their life-partners, her grandchildren and their life partners and her great grandchildren. And that wasn’t all—a vast number of others too. Until the end of her life at age 89, Mama reached out in love and made time for people.
 
And so today I thank God for my beloved Mama as she celebrates her birthday in heaven. Following her example, I too desire to spend time doing important things, throwing out those that are inconsequential to life in eternity. Here are a few questions to ponder on today:
 

What’s Most Important?

1.     Do I spend too much time on trivial pursuits? Aren’t there better ways to use my time?

2.     Buying so much stuff! Can I take it all with me when I die?

3.     How well do I care for those closest to me? How well do I reach out to my world?

4.     Am I busy constructing my reputation? Shouldn’t I instead build character?

5.     What am I called to? Impressing others or being faithful to His call?

6.     To be right? Or to be kind? Which would please God more?

7.      Should I build my career? Or use my gifts to care for God’s world?

8.      Bitterness or Forgiveness? Which will I choose?

9.      Working on projects with no lasting value? Or investing in a deep friendship with God?

10.  Ticking all the items on my To-do-list or stopping to help someone in need?

11.  Serving my own agenda? Or serving Him who has called me?

12.  The world’s yardstick of success? Or pleasing the Father’s Heart?

 
Life is short and needs to be grasped with both hands. 

And … Eternity lasts forever.

How are you spending your time today? What do you consider most important?

 
“He has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
 

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

 

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Cor 4:18

 
 

 

The Mystery of Healing

16/03/2017 15:15
One day last year, I was listening to a new CD when one of the songs tiptoed into my heart and stayed there. It was a hymn by ‘George Matheson, O Love that will not let me go”. I was deeply moved by it. George Matheson was only 20 when he went completely blind. His fiancé left him because she said she couldn’t face life with a blind man. What a cruel double blow it was, but he courageously went on to fulfil his calling.
 
 
Matheson lived with his sister. When she married 20 years later—it brought him to another big crisis. She had been his eyes. How could he manage without her? This defining moment led to his writing the hymn - in about five minutes. He says it was as if Someone dictated it. As I listened to the words, my tears flowed and I found myself sobbing—crying for the brave blind young man whose heart must have broken when his fiancé left him. For the middle aged pastor whose life reached crisis-point when his caregiver got married. And yet … Matheson’s life was a fruitful one as a pastor. He blessed countless people (myself included) through his ministry. My tears that day were also a work of the Holy Spirit as He spoke to me through the poignant words and music.
I’ve been reflecting on the mystery of healing from time to time, more so since my own battle with chronic illness has dragged on interminably. Why does God heal sometimes and not all the time? Didn't Jesus heal everyone who came to Him? So does the fault lie in us who are not healed? Is it a lack of faith as Christians often suggest? Jesus said He came to bring us abundant life. How does Cancer or Chronic fatigue or MS or Blindness or Quadriplegia provide life in all its fullness?
 
 
My journey as a believer has been greatly enriched by giants of the faith who have preceded us. Fanny Crosby was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist and composer who wrote over 9000 hymns. She was blind for most of her life. Was her life hampered by her blindness? Apparently not. Listen to what she wrote at the tender age of 8.
 
 

"Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be,
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't,
So weep or sigh because I'm blind, I cannot - nor I won't."

 
 
What a challenge for us who can see but who complain all too easily! Fanny Crosby lived a full life till the age of 95—hers was an inspiring testimony of what God can with a life totally yielded to Him. 
 
Did she not have sufficient faith to receive healing? 
Or did she radiate an abundant life in spite of her blindness?
Psalm 103 tells us that God heals all our diseases. What does it mean? If I’m not healed, it must be due to my sin? Or is it? The Bible instructs us to ask and receive—what happens when we ask but do not receive? The fault has to be mine. Or is it? If I know anything about this walk with God, it is that there is much that God does not reveal to us. After all, an essential ingredient of this faith journey is trust. If we had all the answers, would trust be needed? God doesn’t always remove all trials from us, does He? And what would our characters be like if God pampered us with easy, comfortable lives?
 
 
I’ve been blessed recently by an uplifting true story—‘The Untold Love Story of Joni and Ken Eareckson Tada. Joni has suffered more than most of us. She became a quadriplegic at the tender age of 17. After decades of living in a wheelchair, she went through a season of intolerable pain when she was tested more than she could bear. Then, as if she hadn’t suffered enough, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. How much could one person take? How unfair it seemed. And yet, Ken and Joni consider her cancer journey a gift from God. It had drawn them closer together and they found God’s love afresh through it. Their story inspires me.
 
 
But … questions remain. Perhaps your healing and mine are marked ‘Later’! Yes God desires wholeness for us. Yes, His death has won the battle. Yes, we can ask for healing and expect it. But in life's classroom, there's never enough space for short glib answers to be scribbled on God’s blackboard. We do know that God loves us. We do know that He is good and that He is always faithful. These three glorious truth can be our resting place as we struggle up the mountain of hope. We do know that often it’s in times of suffering that we can see His face more clearly (as we seek it) because tough times are usually treasures wrapped in ugly wrapping paper. We do know that we can ask boldly of a Father who loves to lavish good things upon us.
So how do we respond when life’s not the peaceful stroll in lush surroundings that we envisioned it to be?  Like Joni and Ken Tada (and countless others) we can be a powerful witness to Him, as in our weakness, we choose to lean on Him, praise Him in the hallway and live a different kind of abundant life—one that brings glory to God in spite of our suffering.
 
 
Today if you feel discouraged, do keep holding onto Him. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a Saviour who loves us. Satan’s plans are never permanent—God has a habit of using them to accomplish His own purposes. Jesus overturned the Enemy’s tables and transformed death into LIFE. One glad day He will surprise you. Your suffering will fade into insignificance as you marvel with joy how He worked it all out all for your eternal good.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"

 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding; 

in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

 


"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 

'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 

plans to give you hope and a future'" Jeremiah 29:11

 
 
 

Becoming Whole

03/03/2017 14:31
My son’s been using a stainless steel water bottle. He fills it each night, tucks it into his backpack and takes it with him to work. This sleek silver bottle is long and large and houses an ample supply of water—750 mls of it. It lasted a long time—but as it often happens, one day, it cracked. I soon bought him a replacement. The new bottle was identical to his previous one and Asela was very pleased.  Unfortunately his new shiny acquistiion didn’t enjoy the same life span of its predecssor. The very next evening my son came to me, an apology etched across his face.

 

“I’m really sorry, Ammi, but my bottle broke today!”

“What? Already? But … it’s a brand new bottle, Asela!”

“I know. I really am sorry. I bent down to tie my shoelace and the bottle fell out of my bag. The lid broke. I can’t use it.” 

 
I examined the bottle. Hmmm. It was just one of those unfortunate happenings. An accident. The bottle had no use, the way it was. “I know what I’ll do.” he said. “ I can fix the top of my old bottle onto my new one.” Voila! And so it was, that we fitted the old bottle top onto his brand new bottle. Did it work? Yes, it did. Perfectly.
Blaise Pascal was a French Mathematician, Physicist, Philosopher and Scientist who lived in the 17th century. Listen to what he said: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” At the tender age of 16, I discovered that what Pascal said was true. I pondered then if life’s little round was all there was. Not that I lacked anything. I’d enjoyed a very happy childhood with parents who loved me dearly. Life was good. But … surely there was more?
 
What do you and I need to be complete? If I look inside my heart, I see a dark stain of sin within.  And there is a space inside each of us which cries out to be filled. We need forgiveness. Hope. Renewal. We need a Saviour. The glad news is that a Saviour did come to show us the way back to God. His Name is Jesus. He lived a sinless life, but but He was put to death on a cross. On that rugged cross, sin was defeated once and for all time, and Jesus rose again to live forever. His death and resurrection cancelled the debt of all our sin. 
 
What a gift - the undeserved goodness of God being lavished upon us. Jesus said ”I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. And here's a promise for all who come to Him in faith. John 1:12 tell us “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, to them gave he power to become children of God.
 

Do you call yourself a child of God? If not, would you like to?

My son’s broken new bottle was almost complete ... but not quite. Without its top it could hold water. It even looked new and shiny but was ready to be thrown away. What a waste! Thankfully, the old bottle-top made it whole again. Is there something missing in your life? The Saviour of the World is waiting to connect with you. He longs to bring you into His Kingdom. 
 

Will you step out in faith and reach out to Him today?

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 
 
 
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