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A Light that still Glows

30/12/2015 12:41

Jan 1st 2015 - Australia

An evening walk in Adelaide. The air is still. Warm. A magpie warbles. And then I see it—a thick wall of smoke beyond the trees. Is that fire? I race home and put on the TV. Yes, scary news. Bushfires are burning very close to us—far too close for comfort. We’ve lived 16 years in Australia, but this is a first … for us. The phone rings. There’s more bad news. Mum’s gravely ill in Sri Lanka. But I’m oceans away. My looked forward to New Year turns into a walk in a forest of dread. Early next day Shan braves the extreme temperatures to hose down our home. The fires gain momentum. We pack a bag in case we have to flee. Far away in Sri Lanka, Mum’s entered hospital. I long to see her, but I can't leave my family when our home is at risk. My head aches and fear grips me, a bull terrier grabbing my ankle and not letting go.

 

Will Mum be OK? Oh God, please take care of her. Should I go? Should I stay? My mind races in circles—and I am a mouse trapped in a maze. On Sunday, at church, a friend prays with me and I find comfort. Thank you God. Back home, I rush to check my emails but it's the news I didn’t want to hear. Mum’s dying.

 

My hope flickers; a lone candle in a storm, about to be snuffed out.

Fire. Mum. I remember another day … another time.

July 25th 1983 – Sri Lanka (32 years before)

We cross the road, Mum and I, furtive, hurried, holding hands. The key I clasp in my right hand cuts into my palm but I don’t feel the pain. A loud crackling noise erupts and Mum’s eyes widen in fear. I turn my head. A blaze engulfs shops on the main road—large orange flames, gigantic tongues greedily devouring everything in its wake. My heart stops; my breath escapes in shallow gasps.

 

Mum touches my arm. I look at her. She smiles encouragement, but worry lines paint her forehead. I breathe. I open my neighbour’s front door. We enter the flat. As I move my arm to turn on the light, Mum draws me away. Oh! I’d forgotten the curfew. Mum switches on her torch and we find the kitchen. We open the larder. Mum pulls out a sack of rice and I grab several tins of food. I open the fridge and find some tomatoes and carrots. A vehicle whizzes past. A police car? I freeze. Would they find us? Would they arrest us as looters?

 

My heart thuds so loud, I’m sure Mum hears it too. We get what we can and finally … we leave,  our arms laden with heavy bags. The streets are deserted and an eerie silence prevails. Fear envelops me like a python wrapping itself around its prey. I’m glad of my rubber soles. One little step at a time, we make it home. I step indoors, relief flooding over me.

 

That black Monday in our beautiful Sri Lanka, the unthinkable happened. Race riots broke out and numerous people lost their lives. Houses were burnt to the ground. Ours was almost set alight by a mob who stampeded down our road, incensed, screaming; intent on destruction. It was a world gone mad. In our home, we sheltered 23 neighbours whose home and lives were in danger. Mum and Dad reached out as always to those in need of a safe haven. That was what they did. Feeding our guests was a huge challenge—hence our foray into their houses at dusk braving the curfew. Keeping them safe was even harder. It was surreal. Like being in a movie. I look back in wonder. Did it really happen? It was a dark time in our nation's history and I am very grateful we got through it. I'm deeply thankful that the war finally came to an end.

 

I’m so glad of Mum and Dad’s example all through our lives, THAT PEOPLE MATTER!

Jan 7th 2015 – Sri Lanka
The plane lands at 12.05 a.m. I reach home bleary eyed and tearful. The van zooms towards the home of my childhood. I can’t do this. I can’t see Mum in a coffin. And yet, I must. I hug my sisters, my throat catching; not daring to speak lest the dam bursts. I walk in, enter the hall where her beloved body is laid. That’s not Mum? She looks so different. I burst into tears. My sister cradles me. I go up to my beloved Mama’s body and kiss her. I stroke her precious face. It is cold.

 

Jan 13th 2015 – Sri Lanka
The days disappear in a blur. People are kind, sending us delicious meals, caring for us in thoughtful ways. We’ve spent bitter-sweet moments together as family, bound together by our parents’ infinite love. Smiles, tears, hugs, remembrances. Sharing together, sitting around Mum’s dining table. One final time.
On Election Day, a miracle occurs. Mum has always been a courageous journalist, one who ‘told it like it is’. And now … a new era has dawned—one Mum would have rejoiced in. In an instant, the truth grabs me. Mum’s work was done. Peace envelops me, her own sweet smile reaching down into my heart. Hers was a voice of hope for the future. And now, the future she strived for had arrived. 

Hope flickers within me; a tiny candle that has overcome the darkness.

                                                                                                  

Jan 14th 2015 – Changi airport
I book into a hotel room for my 15 hour layover. After a  4 hour sleep, I am awake. I splash some water on my face, then I make myself a cup of tea. Sitting up in bed, I sip it slowly, waking from my stupor. Then, I remember . Quickly, I jump out of bed and rush to my bag. “This book is for Anusha when I am gone. 4/5/07” What a precious gift—thank you Mama! I turn its pages, careful not to spill any tea on it. I soak in Mum’s journal, filled with wisdom and humour, enjoying its poetry and prose, all copied neatly in her own dear familiar handwriting. And then … and then ... the dam bursts and tears begin to fall, soaking my nightdress. I grieve. Deeply. I miss her so.

Jan 4th 2016 - Australia
It’s one year today since Mama left this world for eternity. She was my special friend and my favourite daily email correspondent of 16 years. How can I share all the love I have for her and all the love she's given me? AAA—Annette Aurelia Abayasekara; known to most folk as Anne Abaysekara. A devoted wife to her beloved Earle. An ever present Mum to her 7 children and their 7 spouses. A beloved Mum, Grandmum and Great grandmum to all 35 in her clan. A courageous journalist for over 70 years. A friend and counsellor to many. Living life as if every moment mattered. Caring deeply as if each person mattered. With the zest of a 21 year old at the ripe age of 89. She and Dad loved our country passionately. And loved people even more. She was a light that death could not snuff out. 

A light that still glows.

Her love affair with books and writing made me what I am today—a Christian writer. Her generosity of spirit enabled us, her seven children to follow our dreams. The security of her love gave us wings. I am warmed by a plethora of precious memories; wrapped soft around my heart in a mother’s sweet embrace. I know she’s still with me. I see her smile each time I think of her. I hear her voice whisper in my heart. I know I am loved and always will be. I look forward so much to our reunion. What a sure and confident hope it is for all who believe! Jesus sealed it for us through His death and resurrection bringing life and freedom and joy. 

Now, as I read her countless loving emails, I feel as if she's in her study, chatting to me as of yore.

22/11/14

 

“Dearestest & Sweetestest of Anu-girls,

 

 Thank you for yours which I have just read with pleasure, as always………

……………………………

…………………………..

 

 I reciprocate all your love a thousand fold.  Holding you close in heart always,

                                            Your forever friend,

                                                Mama-girl

                                                     

The email she wrote when she became gravely ill on the 30th Dec 2014 held no clue that it would be her last letter to me.

Anu-kins, My Precious Darlint,

………….…

…………….

Don't worry about me - I'm sure I'll feel okay tomorrow.   Your farmhouse sounds the ideal place for a family get-together.  More tomorrow, darlintest.

 

                                                           All my love forever,

                                                                  Mama-kins.  

What a shock it was then that "that tomorrow” never arrived. But I am now at peace. Death might steal those we love for an instant. But like the glowing embers of a fire which refuse to be extinguished, or a candle that pierces thick darkness, we in Christ can rejoice, because we know that relationships endure beyond the grave.

And the love between a Mother and daughter is forever.

 
 

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. 

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:29-30

 

Your Father cheers you on

26/12/2015 13:19
I was enjoying my daily Quiet Time with God while my son was rushing around getting ready to leave for work. He emerged wearing a pair of smart black trousers and a long sleeved shirt. But when he checked the day’s weather forecast, he discovered it was going to be warmer than anticipated. So he ran back to his room to change into a short sleeved shirt. In spite of the delay he managed to leave in time to catch his bus. 
 
I stood at the doorway seeing him off. It was a beautiful day. The air was cool and fresh. The sun beamed down in warmth and glory. A few parrots screeched in joy as they raced one another. I watched my son as he walked down our driveway, onto the road and then as he disappeared from sight. Images of my little boy filled my mind, a kaleidoscope of special moments. I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. I was so proud of him. I see him now as the cute chubby three year old he used to be, off to nursery school for the first time, with a small backpack and a blue drink bottle in hand, wearing his cheeky little-boy-grin. I see him next as a five year old beginning primary school, in dark blue shorts and a spotless white shirt, with a class full of 40 other boys dressed in identical attire. A big moment.
He was seven when we left for Malaysia—and spent a year in the Melaka International school in green shorts and yellow shirt, in a class of only seven children. An interesting experience. I picture him next at age eight, after we arrived in this beautiful Land Down Under. His uniform then was black shorts and maroon T shirt with a legionnaire’s hat to protect his neck from the warmth of the South Australian sun. A year 4 boy.
Asela was 12 when he entered high school—decked in grey longs and a white shirt, a green checked tie, a red jumper and a smart green blazer. It was at the Kings Baptist Grammar School that he spent the longest years of his education. They were good ones. I see him next as a lanky 19 year old with a much larger back pack than that once-upon-a time-three-year-old, off to Uni this time. Today, 6 years later, Asela is a quiet thoughtful 25 year old, out and about in the big wide working world. His father and I are very proud of him.
 
 
I breathe thanks to God for the way He has cared for my boy over the years and has blessed us immeasurably. Asela has faced plenty of challenges and jumped over numerous obstacles over the years. But he has overcome them all to reach where he is today. Hard work on a daily basis and millions of challenging moments are behind us now— minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. They seem to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. Where has the time gone? I ponder on the way my baby has grown and my heart is filled. Thank you Lord. 
When God looks at me, I know He sees through His loving Daddy-God eyes. He perceives my faltering steps; he watches my growth. He sees me when I stumble and especially if I fall. When I cry out to Him, He picks me up. He loves it when I turn to Him in repentance and  start over again. I'm so thankful that He's a God of the second chance. My walk with him has been an invigorating journey over four decades. And yet, I am still an infant in arms in many ways. I glimpse the smallness of my own heart and the largeness of His and I am filled with remorse. But He is patient, He is kind. A doting Parent. Loving. Arms outstretched. Always there for me. His love has been my hiding place. My refuge. And my strength.
 
Another year has flown past. What thoughts grab you as you look back on it? Gratitude? Sadness? Guilt? Shame? Don’t forget that your Heavenly Father is very proud of the steps you’ve taken forward. No matter where you’ve been, it’s the future that matters. He looks at you with a Father's tender gaze. His smile is ever present, his arms are open. His heart is filled with hope for all He desires you become. He knows you better than anyone else. He smiles His approval over everything you’ve accomplished this past year, and delights in the way you've overcome all those challenges. He’s pleased at your faith and your trust in Him. And most of all, He loves the fact that you seek to honour Him through your life.
But what of your mistakes? Your sins? Your waywardness? No, He doesn’t condemn you. Instead He invites you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit for a makeover. A new start in 2016. Yes, your Father cheers you over the finish line of 2015 and welcomes you into the brand New Year, rich with possibilities in His Presence.

Are you ready? The best is yet to be.

“But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me homeward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14

 
 

A large helping of GOOD NEWS!

18/12/2015 17:52
Dec 19th has always been one of the most significant days on my calendar, especially when I was little. It was my beloved Dad’s birthday. And what a grand affair it was! Mum took charge. She ensured that not just her seven children, but all our friends, relatives and neighbours joined in the extravaganza.  For weeks preceding the event, we children would be stifling giggles in the kitchen, practising in hushed tones, (so Dad wouldn’t hear), a nativity play and other novel items for the Show of the year. Dad constructed an elaborate curtain. Mum typed up attractive programmes to hand to our guests. She even composed a new song each year. Here’s one of them, set to the tune of “Marching to Georgia”.
 

“Oh we are the young Abayasekara Seven, very glad to see you here today.

We may not appear to have stepped straight from heaven,

But we did, and are happy to stay...

 
We hope that you all will come year after year, this glad day with us children to share,

It's a Big Day for us in the season of cheer, and right now we are proud to declare,

That our Thatha has been quite the bestest of Dads,

And we wish him with love and with pride,

May his dreams all come true as his Seven grow up,

And our love hold whatever betide.”

When the big day arrived, our home would overflow with family and friends. There was joy and celebration, feasting and fellowship. At the tender age of 3, I played the part of an angel, announcing the good news to the shepherds. “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born in the city a Saviour who is Christ the  Lord.” A bachelor friend of my parents was enchanted by my performance and made a prediction about yours truly—that I’d be a ‘Florence Nightingale’ and would stay single and serve humanity. Alas, his hopes have not been realised.
 
After a scrumptious dinner, we'd enjoy a lively session of carol singing. An uncle and aunt, versatile players of clarinet and piano, provided the music. Those were glorious evenings, filled with the joy and wonder of Christmas. As the years passed, inevitably my older brothers and sisters grew up, got busy and left home, so the number of actors and actresses gradually diminished. I was sad—I’d have liked those concerts to last forever. There was one year when there was just two of us left. The play we chose had more than two characters. So what did we do? We kept switching roles, (wasn’t that clever)? In one scene, my brother was the king and I was a subject. In the next, I was the king and he was a shepherd. In a third, he was the king and I was a servant. The mind boggles. It must  have been a totally bewildering experience for our audience!
This week we reflect afresh on the Christmas narrative. There's Mary and Joseph, travel weary but with full hearts and tear filled eyes as they gaze in wonder at their beautiful baby. A brilliant star illumines the little tableaux. The shepherds hurry in excitedly. Baby Jesus opens his eyes and the shepherds falls to their knees in adoration and worship. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you and I could tiptoe into that stable? Which of the Nativity group would you like to be this Christmas?
 
Would you choose to be …
  1. The donkey that Mary rode on—blessed by the precious load he carried?

  2. The Inn keeper—stunned to hear who was sleeping in his stable?
  3. The Angels, praising God and thrilled to perform their part in God’s story?

  4. The Shepherds who viewed the glory of the Lord and heard the amazing News?
  5. The Wise men who sought for so long ‘til they found Him?

  6. Joseph, willing to trust God no matter that his wife had carried Another’s child?
  7. Mary, gathering treasures of a unique kind and pondering over them in her heart?

It would be a learning experience to walk in each of their shoes,  wouldn’t it? But I can't stop there. Let me don our Lord's cloak of humility; put on His Royal Crown of Love. Let me slip my feet into my Saviour’s sandals and follow Him. Let me touch the lives of the grieving, the sorrowing and the lost, those for whom He came. Will you join me?
 
And here’s the thing. It was the greatest show on earth, but it was the littlest of them all, only a few hours old who was the leading STAR! Over 2000 years later, He’s still the STAR! He is the One who makes our world turn on its axis. He who threw off His King’s royal cloak and changed into a a poor man’s attire. He who created the universe and all who live in it. He who flung the stars into space and breathed life into us. He who is the Light of  the World, the Bread of Life, the Door to Eternal Life. He who died a cruel death on a cross so that you and I might find our way back to God. Today I'd like to offer you some good news. The best news ever. No matter how bleak your situation, the messsage of Christmas never dims. Jesus came into the world to bring you life. And joy. And hope. And peace with God. Would you like a large helping of that?
 
So come, let us go together to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, born in a lowly stable—but the Christ, the Saviour of the World. And as we worship Him, may we be transformed, so that like the shepherds, we too will hasten away, filled with elation and wonder, to share the good news of great joy with all the world!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 

on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:2

 

When God asks me to trust Him

11/12/2015 17:50
 
Some years ago, an unforeseen windfall turned up in my mail box. I opened what I thought was yet another bill but found instead a cheque for 21 dollars. That  doesn’t sound much, does it—a wee drop in the ocean? But because it was unexpected, I felt rich. The Uniform shop of my son’s high school had just sold on of his shirts—FIVE years after he'd left. It was like slipping your hand into your jacket pocket and discovering a 20 dollar bill you didn't know existed. But even better. Time for celebration!
 
In a few weeks, you and I will be kneeling at the foot of the manger, in awe and wonder, worshipping the Saviour of the world. God’s plans for that precious little baby took 33 years to reach fulfillment. Our Lord Jesus grew up to experience terrible suffering and heartache, abandonment by those close to Him, being taunted by people He had created, enduring a cruel death on a cross before the Father’s purposes unfolded and His Kingdom was revealed. It wasn’t an easy road that He travelled.
And what about Mary, His mother? We can sugar coat it now, because we know what history has proclaimed to us. But make no mistake—hers was no trouble-free life either. Would you have believed her when she told you she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Would I? I wonder what that unplanned pregnancy cost Mary? And then … after Jesus was born, it became even more difficult. Mary and Joseph were forced to flee in haste to Egypt with their new born. King Herod was killing all the babies in the land, as he tried in vain to get rid of baby Jesus. What terror must have struck Mary’s doting mother heart!
 
The promises given virgin Mary by the Angel are easier for us to believe now, many centuries after those scriptures were fulfilled, than it was for her then. Christian scholars speculate that Mary must have been around 16 years old when she had her baby. I marvel at her maturity. She was very young—but she’d cultivated the kind of heart God looked for, to house the Lord of the Universe. Pure, humble, trusting, willing to be used by God in any way that He chose. Her chief desire was to please God.
Mary’s words in the Magnificat ring clear, sweet, melodious.

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on, generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.Luke 1: 46-49
 

Mary would not have had a clue as to what God would accomplish through her little boy. But she surrendered fully to all God asked of her. She knew God and trusted Him. There are occasions when God's ways are hard to understand and He asks me to simply wait on Him. Being still before Him in patience is rarely easy. But His waiting room is a soft cocoon, one where He nurtures me, teaches me and grows me. A safe place where he aligns my hearts desires and dreams to His glorious plans and purposes. Mary burst into a song of praise because she believed God’s promises as if they had already been fulfilled. Dare we also trust God in the same way? Shall we then join with her? Let us sing songs of joy and adoration to our mighty God as we wait in hope and expectation for the fulfillment of His promises to us, in His way and in His time.
 

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” 

Psalm 27:13,14

"Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." Luke 2:78,79

 
 
 

All I want for Christmas

04/12/2015 15:36
Last December, cruising through a brand new season of life, I had more time on my hands than usual. So when I heard there was an Advent Retreat on offer, my heart quickened. I knew I had to go for it. A friend and I drove off excitedly, the open road before us and the wind on our faces. I hadn’t a clue about what to expect, but was sure I’d like it. And call it an adventure, we got well and truly lost on our long ride down South. Thankfully, my  phone’s GPS came to our assistance and we were able to steer my friend’s car in the right direction. We reached safely—bang on time too, so all's well that ends well. Thank you God.
 
Us six participants were warmly welcomed by the Director of the Retreat Centre. He explained to us how the day would work and took us on a guided tour of the place. Its rooms were tastefully decorated with simple objects that would aid our spiritual reflection. We were given printed notes to use and asked to sit anywhere we liked. I chose to sit outdoors—on the sweet smelling grass, with the sun smiling down on me and a few busy ants for company.
 
Lunchtime brought us together again and that was good too—as we shared our stories with each another. Afterwards we retreated once more to our private meditations. It was around 2.30 when we completed the retreat and it was time to go home. But oh dear, what a hot day it was! My friend suggested we stop at a famous Catholic church to view their unique Way of the cross in the outdoors. And so we did, but with the temperatures soaring over 40 degrees, my fibro symptoms flared up. When I reached home I was exhausted, my tongue hanging out and my body screaming in pain. Fibro symptoms and heat don’t mix—it took me days to recover. I enjoyed the experience, but oh for a new body.
All I want for Christmas is a new body, Lord” I whispered. As I mouthed the words, I realised that I’d sung different lyrics before. For many decades, I had very painful feet which only worsened with time, so each Christmas, I'd sing to God, requesting the miracle of 'two new feet’. And guess what? Our awesome God came through for me big time. In Dec 2014, after two foot operations, I was transformed. I now possess two mostly pain-free, working feet—what a fabulous gift it’s been! Thank you Lord. Thank you.
 
2015 has been a bad fibro year—probably worse than last year. So yes, a working body for Christmas would be lovely. But you know,  God’s been answering my prayers during the last little while and my latest treatment seems to be working. Perhaps I will have a new body for Christmas after all. I am filled with hope.
What do I really want this Christmas? Here's a starting point ...
  1. A world where peace reigns, no terrorism, no wars, no strife.

  2. The elimination of poverty and hunger, disease and suffering.
  3. Every child to grow up in a safe loving nurturing environment.

  4. Families united and rejoicing together.
  5. Thriving relationships the world over.

  6. That the good news of Jesus reaches the corners of the earth.
  7. God’s will to be done in earth as it is in heaven.

As I reflect on what it would be like to have a perfect world, I am transported back to the creation story. God crafted a perfect world you know, one free of pain and anguish. A world where man and beast lived together in harmony. But then came rebellion. Man sinned, and fell short of the glory of God. Suffering entered the world.
 
All I want for Christmas is nothing new. It’s what God created in the first place and what Jesus came to give us. He was born in a smelly stable 2000 years ago, to bring life and hope for all mankind. One glorious day, the story begun at creation will reach its magnificent conclusion. We will behold His glory—the glory of the One begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. All I want for Christmas is to see men reconciled to God. 

 

All I want for Christmas is Jesus, the Light and Hope of the World!

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father like Son, Generous Inside and out, true from start to finish.” John 1:14 (MSG)

 
 
 

No problems, only Opportunities

26/11/2015 14:52
It was Saturday. A quiet relaxed peaceful Saturday when all was right with the world. We’d slept in (as one is wont to do on a holiday)—and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Now it was time to do something useful. My tech-expert husband said he’d add some disk space to my computer. I was delighted. The door of our family room opened and our son walked in. His eyebrows shot up when he saw Shan busy, at an opened-up computer.
 
“Is there a problem?”
I smiled. “No problem, son. Only opportunities.”
 
When I studied Computer Programming many moons ago, one of my lecturers had a favourite catchphrase. “No problems; only opportunities.’ A good way to view life, don’t you think? If only I can always see the world through that kind of lens, I’m sure my life would be much more enjoyable. The trouble is that when a certain kind of opportunity arrives on my doorstep, I often mistake it for a problem.
 
This year has been brimming over with opportunities, but it’s taken me months to discover it. I’ve been fighting a losing battle with my arch enemy fibromyalgia. No matter what techniques I’ve tried to quell my foe – he’d pop up uninvited and cause mayhem. I've been on the losing side and I didn’t like it. There were times the pain and discomfort have been too much—far more than I could bear. During such days, I’d cry out to God, feeling hopeless, thinking He’d abandoned me. Afterwards though, I was deeply ashamed. I should have trusted God. But … why was life so hard?
 
Apart from my fibro-battle, I've also been job hunting. What made it extra difficult was the urgency to regain my health in time to commence work. In faith, I’d apply for a job, and then ask God to give me the fitness I needed to do it. Not even one interview has come my way—perhaps it was a blessing because my body hasn’t cooperated. I just couldn't understand it. Why didn’t God at least make my illness bearable? I knew He heard my cries for help.  I knew He could heal me in an instant if He chose to. I wanted a miracle fix and I wanted it NOW. That’s how I saw it. Until one beautiful day, my spiritual eyes were opened.
I saw then, that the only way forward was by viewing my battle through God’s eyes, not mine. It was a eureka moment. Desiring overnight success had only brought me discouragement. I invented a battle plan. I resolved to give myself time. I decided to stop applying for jobs until my health improved. That took the pressure off me. I asked a dear friend if she’d be my cheering squad when I was discouraged and she graciously agreed. I changed the name of my bad fibro days to ‘Training Days’.
 

Training Days? Yes, Training Days. My bad fibro days are perfect days to be trained in godliness. In sacrificial praise because praise at such times is so hard to do. It’s a good time to cultivate a joy that’s not dependent on feelings. A great opportunity to learn empathy for others who like me battle chronic illness on a daily basis. It’s a training in perseverance through life’s hard times; in trusting God when I don’t understand. A time to enjoy the Giver in spite of a lack of His gifts. To learn to love God when life is difficult.

At church the next Sunday, our Pastor repeated the words of a song we’d sung. 
God has not forsaken you’ he said. As his words wrapped themselves around me, my eyes filled with tears. I heard God’s tender whispers within and heaven's music resounded in my ears. No—He had not abandoned me. God reiterated it through a book I was reading - ‘How people grow’ by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend. 
 
Don’t confuse pain and suffering with the lack of God’s presence” they said. That powerful truth reached the core of my being. Yet another moment of comfort and clarity and I finally understood.
 
There are times in our lives when we can’t fathom His purposes. But as we wait for Him, we learn many worthwhile lessons. An old hymn gently reminds us of how we need to live each day: 

"Trust and obey, there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

Have unexpected opportunities knocked on your door dressed in problem’s working clothes?

Have you been struggling as I have?

Perhaps we could train together and cheer one another to the finish line?

What do you think?

“God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” 

Hebrews 12:10,11

 

 

Treasure in Unlikely Places

19/11/2015 15:36
We’d returned after a few days away and it was time to settle back into our little nest. Surprisingly, I was on the ball. Before we turned in that night, I’d unpacked our bags, cleared the dishes, washed the dirty clothes and everything was back where they should be. Next morning, I hunted for my mp3 player. It would need re-charging. I looked in the top draw of my desk where it usually resides. It wasn’t there. Perhaps it was still in my bag? Hope reared it’s pretty head. So off I went to peer inside our large travel bag. But dear oh dear … it wasn’t there either. Puzzle puzzle. There was one more place I could try.
 
I’d placed our camera charger in the bottom draw of my desk. Had my mp3 player joined it? It had. Hooray! In case you haven’t realised it by now, my mp3 player is one of my prized possessions. It’s crammed full with music, sermons and audio books and provides me with spiritual sustenance. So yes, I was very glad to track it down.
 
Sometimes we need to look in unlikely places for a different type of commodity.
God’s grace, patience, friends, hope, significance.
 
God’s grace is found … NOT through a life of ease. It’s often discovered through trials, sickness and hardship. Have you experienced that?
 
Patience mostly finds its way into our lives through life’s vicissitudes. Ah! Be careful what you pray for then, won’t you? Would you like a helping of that?
 
Friends. There’ve been people I didn’t realise were kindred spirits ‘til I got to know them better. A good reminder then to spend time with those I’m not attracted to at first glance.
 
Hope. Where do I look for it? I find it in many likely places—God whispers, His Truth, the encouragement of friends. It enters the inner chambers of my heart when I remember all that God has done for me in the past. Hope needs to be kept at all costs. It must be found again if lost because it is a necessity in life’s battles. Sometimes, hope is found in unlikely places—like when I’m bruised and hurting and perplexed. In the giving up of my own agenda, I find it and God places it back in my hands.
 
Significance is not found in the usual spaces I hunt for it. Not in what I do. Not even in what I am. It’s found in Jesus. My Rock. My Hiding Place. My All in All.
There was a tough season in my life when the ground beneath my feet gave way. When the people I hoped in, let me down. When circumstances pushed me right out of my comfort zone. When I needed God badly. For many years, those tough circumstances continued to batter me, unabated. But my life was transformed from within. What made the difference? A Person. To my joy, I discovered that the same trials which broke my heart and caused me grief, also brought me the One Sure Treasure in Life. Jesus.
 
Are you being tossed about in life’s ocean? Are you perplexed as to where your little boat is taking you? When you set your GPS to lead you to your desired haven, it plunged you instead into rough seas and squally winds. You cried out to God—but He didn’t seem to have heard you. When darkness fell, you reeled in sad surprise. Although your boat was at last sailing on calmer waters, it was moving you away from your destination.
 
Fear not. Your GPS is not broken. You sought a place of security. Of comfort. Of hope. And that’s exactly where He’s taking you. Though your boat may be moving in alien waters, you can relax and rest. Don't forget that Treasure is often found in unlikely places. So cling on  to your Captain… and sail on. When the day breaks, you will find your vessel has landed where His Treasure awaits you.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 
 
 

The Power of ONE

12/11/2015 17:56
I was excited. Thanks to my beloved’s generosity, I had birthday money to spend. On a previous visit to my favourite store, a number of books had caught my eye. And they’d sent me a voucher—25% off all purchases plus a free cuppa as a birthday gift. So off I went on an exciting spending spree. The trees waved their arms at me in gladness. The sun smiled. Streams gurgled. And my heart sang praise songs all the way.
 
By the time I reached the bookshop it was past 11 a.m and my stomach was rumbling. I ordered a gluten free lemon slice with a mug of English breakfast tea. I sat down at a table, opened my Bible, put on my earplugs and switched on my mp3 player. My cuppa took ten minutes to arrive and I was ready for it. I sipped the tea. Ah! Just what I needed. But … where was my cake?
 
I tried to be patient. After ten more minutes, I couldn’t concentrate on my Quiet Time. Serving a readymade slice of cake should take only two minutes surely? Not twenty. I  waited a little more, then walked to the counter to inquire after it. I received a mumbled response. Hmmm. I waited another ten minutes and asked again. This time, I was heard. The cake was served on a plate and placed on the hatch connecting the kitchen to the café. But it didn't make its way to my table. I walked up to the counter a third time and asked if I could take my piece of cake. The girl at the café muttered a quick ‘sorry’ and nodded. The cake was yummy and the tea refreshing, but the good service I’d expected had been sadly lacking.
No matter, I thought. Two happy hours of browsing followed and I soon filled a shopping basket. I had two Bibles, ten books (for myself and gifts for friends), cards, bookmarks and a few knick knacks. There were four or five CD’s I wanted to check if suitable, but the headphones provided didn’t work. I asked the sales lady present. She told me to go to the front of the store. I was rather taken aback at her brusque manner.
 
I waited almost an hour before another customer finished with her headphones and I pounced on them. But oh dear! There was no sound on them either. What was going on? I did a little more browsing. Then, just before I presented my bulging shopping basket at the sales desk, I decided to have one last attempt at checking my CD’s. This time, I was pleasantly surprised. A friendly face smiled at me.
“Can I help you?”
 
Her cordial tone warmed me. The caring sales girl immediately tracked one of my CD’s and I had a listen to its music. She explained at length that some of the music didn’t play on that system, so I’d need to take those CDs to the front. At last I knew why I’d earlier been urged to go to the front desk. A little later, I went forward to pay for my purchases. That same charming girl served me. She was polite, smiling and extremely helpful. If not for her, I’d have left the bookshop that day very disappointed at their service.
 
‘Thank you Madison. You’ve been very helpful and I’d like to commend you’.
Madison beamed. I'm so glad I made her smile. She deserved it. I wrote to the bookshop later to tell them what a breath of fresh air Madison had been. Exceptionally welcoming. Obviously desiring to serve. She went out of her way to help me. 10 minutes with this young lady had thankfully over-written the former 110 minutes of substandard service.
 
Can one person make a difference? The Bible is full of people who did. There was Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, David, Esther … to name just a few. And how about St Paul, Peter, James and John? Mary Magdeline. Andrew. Barnabus. Timothy. Even a prostitute called Rahab. And more. Lots more. They all made a difference.
 
Do you wonder if your life has significance? Don’t wonder any more. One Hitler caused havoc in our world. One Mother Teresa showed us how to love. One man, Jesus died for the sins of all. He changed the course of history and offered us the gift of eternal life. There is one you. And yes, you can make a difference. 

 

You will. 
I know you will.
 

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Collosians 3:17

 
 
 

Are you an Introvert?

05/11/2015 16:29
I was looking forward to a lunch date with my beloved. I stood at the spot we’d planned to meet in Rundle Mall, waiting for my date. People of all shapes and sizes whizzed past me, intent on their business. Tall folk, short folk and plenty in between. Cool air swirled around me. Clouds ambled leisurely across the sky and a slice of blue sky beamed.
 
I watched the world go past, energised by all I beheld. Life cruised in my veins and I felt a sense of deep joy. The thing is, I enjoy two opposite kinds of atmosphere. Nature’s serene green stillness has always been one of my favourite pick-me-ups. But strangely enough, a very different kind of ambiance also refreshes me. Seven years ago, when we spent three fabulous weeks in America, I thrived in NewYork. The pulse of that famous  city is incredible. Experiencing its vitality was a never to be forgotten experience.
 
My other favourite city in the US was a total opposite to New York in atmosphere. Santa Barbara wrapped her quiet arms around me as we enjoyed its mountains and swirling seas, its resplendent Spanish architecture, clean streets, fresh air and serenity. Two very diverse cities, but they both filled me. It’s like the two opposing experiences of life which bring me vitality. Spending time alone is something I need often for renewal. But being with people invigorates me too. So which am I? An introvert? Or an extrovert?
Are YOU an introvert? Or a lively extrovert? Perhaps you’re like me – a walking talking ambivert? As I get older, the introvert side of me seems to kick in more strongly. I crave silence and solitude. I dislike the phone. I enjoy face to face interactions with others and like communciating via writing. Conversations only on trivial matters can leave me feeling dissatisfied. Communicating on deeper insights and spiritual truth bring me joy. I love walking, listening to music, reading and writing. I enjoy being home alone.
 
Perhaps the introvert side of my nature is taking over? What do you think? Some time ago, I read a helpful article on introversion which dispelled a few myths and resonated within me. Extroverts get their energy from other people. Introverts find energy in their own company. Being introvert doesn’t mean one is selfish and self absorbed. Neither does it mean one is anti social. So to set the record straight – no – introvert does not mean shy, boring and too quiet. It does mean reflective, creative and with a vibrant interior life. I find myself gravitating easily to introverts – perhaps because I can have in-depth conversations with them. Not that I dislike extroverts. Far from it. They add life to the party and I need them. They brighten the world and get us all connected.
The world needs both the extroverts and the introverts, don’t you think? And please don’t forget us ambiverts. I've just done an online test to settle the matter and yes, I am (as I suspected) smack bang in the middle – an ambivert. God’s created us all very different to one another with purpose. Imagine a world filled with only bouncy talkative individuals. Who would listen to them if there were no quieter folk around? Or imagine a world filled with people who are so silent that no one talks to anyone? The mind boggles!
 
The truth is that no matter how noisy or how quiet, every person on earth has significance. We are all created by the same God. We are all loved equally by Him. Jesus died for every one of us—the extroverts as well as the introverts, and oops, let’s not forget us ambiverts. Often, introverts are made to feel lesser beings, so a correction on that score is perhaps needed. Are you an introvert? If so I am very glad to make your acquaintance. Are you an extrovert? Thank you for adding life to my journey. Perhaps like me you are an ambivert? If so, welcome to the club.
Today I celebrate our differences and our oneness in Christ. Created by God, for Him and for each other. 
So … extroverts, introverts and ambiverts – rejoice.
 

We were all made for each other.

Let us fulfill our calling.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:5, 7

 

 

We have a HELPER

29/10/2015 16:51
I’d been looking forward to it all year, so when THE weekend arrived, I was filled with anticipation, like a bubbly toddler jumping up and down before an outing. I bumped into two delegates at the airport gate—what a serendipitous start that was. We chewed each others’ ears off and our excitement mounted. Soon, we were seated in a plane leaving for Melbourne. Writers from different parts of Australia and New Zealand gathered in the one spot and we caught a charter bus to our conference. An hour later we reached our destination. The beautiful Lake Dewar beckoned, serene, blue, and glistening in the dappled sunlight.
 
When I walked into my room, I sighed with contentment. It was exactly what I’d hoped for - a room with a view. Cosy but not too small. One that contained comfortable amenities. The trees outside my window whispered secrets to each other, while the lake beyond shimmered in springtime loveliness. Yes, this was a room where I could meet with God, and my heart was filled to overflowing.
I knew it would be a full on kind of weekend with much to do and much to delight in. We Christian writers are passionate creatures. Passionate about Jesus and passionate about our writing. That double espresso of zeal is a great mix. We spent three wonderful days together, packed with connections, learning, fellowship, food, laughter, meetings, worship, prayer, talking, listening, hearing, doing. Lots of doing. All kinds of doing. I revelled in it, soaking in many writing ideas like the blotting paper next to a storyteller's ink-well.
 
The sessions and workshops on a variety of writing related topics were informative and well presented. My mind and body were fed with the finest of fare and I was helped in my quest to become a writer of excellence. On Saturday afternoon, I chose to attend a workshop on self editing. It struck me as I listened, that I already knew many of the facts presented. The problem though was that the head knowledge I possessed didn’t always translate into practical outworkings of it.
Over the past few years, I’ve read many books on writing good fiction. The rules are clear enough. But making them work in my own creations are another matter.
 
I know I need to show, not tell. But how do I do that?
I know I need to be less verbose. But how do I write well enough to hook my reader?
I know I need to use good metaphors. But where do I find those elusive gems?
It’s like knowing all that God requires of me as a disciple of Jesus, but finding that living it out doesn’t always come easy. Know what I mean? There've been times when I've wished I had more power to overcome sin. What a relief it was to discover that the same resurrection power which raised Jesus from the dead is also available to me and indeed to all of His children. His Spirit fills me, empowers me and enables me take baby steps forward every day, to becoming more like Jesus. During this past year, God’s led me to a church family where I have enjoyed a palpable sense of His Presence. I’m energised each Sunday as I worship with joy and abandon. I've been blessed with a nearness of the Spirit that I didn't know before. I call it My Season of the Holy Spirit.
 
How blessed we are that He aids us in every aspect of the journey – work, play, battles with sin, ministry, our war with the Enemy, all of it. Are there times when life seems to be a tough, back-breaking trek up a steep mountain? Take heart my friend. Greater is he that is within you than he that is in the world. Yes, praise God, you and I have been given everything we need for life and godliness. May He bless you today with a shield for the battle, strength when you're weary, courage for tough times and wisdom for your way. And most of all, His abundant, overflowing, inexpressible joy.

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:26, 27

 

 

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