Over the last five years, I've had the pleasure of attending an Aussie Christian Writers’ Conference each October. At the first four events I was thrilled to be a presenter as well, which enabled me to afford the trip. This year (as in past years), I eagerly sent in an expression of interest for 10 possible workshops I could present at conference. I prayed diligently over them daily, asking that God’s choice be picked. I was so excited. But my bright balloon of hope was soon pricked and deflated, when I heard back from the conference committee. Surprise surprise! I wasn’t chosen to present this year. Really? That meant I couldn’t attend the conference. Was I sad? Yes. I was. Very.
That was when I received my first surprise. I’d spent the month of May at a personal writing retreat (at home) seeking God on my calling. During one week, I enjoyed a daily Google chat with a lovely writer friend from the US. Robyn grieved with me that I had not been chosen but the next day, she shared an unexpected insight. She told me that God wanted me to know that I was going for conference. Oh? She was all choked up. Robyn added that there was a purpose to my going but she didn’t know what it was. “Thank you” I said. My damp grey cocoon of sadness was transformed into a dainty lttle butterfly of anticipation.
What was God up to?
I awoke next morning to my next surprise. A precious Aussie writer friend emailed me to tell me that she and her husband wanted to gift me the money for the conference. I was blown away! Gob smacked, shocked, joyful, amazed, dancing. Wow! How could I accept it? But God had laid it on their hearts, so it didn’t seem right to refuse. I humbly said ‘Thank you”. The rejection I’d felt over not being accepted as a speaker gurgled down the drain-hole, thanks to my beautiful friend’s generous offer. How grateful I was!
A few weeks later came my third surprise. My brother in Sydney heard of my trip, and he bought me my plane ticket. Yes, it gets better and better doesn't it? Not only that, my brother and sis in law warmly welcomed me to to their lovely spacious home before conference (and afterwards too if I wanted). Of course I said ‘Thank you” once again. Two weeks ago, I boarded my plane for an action packed thrilling six day holiday in Sydney, kissing good bye to my beloved husband who dropped me off at the airport, plying me with plenty of spending money, bless him. What an exhilarating time it was! Rohan Ayya and Swen Acca pampered me from start to end, seeing to my every whim, not allowing me to lift a finger, driving me hither and thither, feeding me scrumptious meals as we relaxed together. I connected with a few close Sri Lankan friends too and their loving kindness was lavished over me. How blessed I was!
The conference was packed with gifted writers and speakers, helpful sessions to learn from, good food to digest, prayer times to relish, beautiful surrounds to enjoy, ministry opportunities to bless, fellowship that invigorated, new friendships and a whole lot more. But my final surprise, when it arrived could have knocked me over with hummingbird's feather.
Why had God taken me to conference?
Was it to minister to others at conference, as I love to do?
Yes, but not the main reason.
Was it so I could support my writer friends?
Yes, but not the main reason
- Was it so I could finally get a few of my books published?
Perhaps, but not the main reason.
- Was it to learn from all the brilliant writers and speakers?
Yes, but not the main reason.
- Was it so I would find inspiration for my writing life?
Yes, but not the main reason.
On the last day of conference, I spent a refreshing time with God in a restful chapel outdoors designed by Him under a canopy of trees. He led me to study Psalm 1—a passage that’s always been close to my heart.
“Blessed is the man (or woman) whose delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3
Of course. The Book of books. Thank you God for the reminder of which BOOK at conference was most important. It was then that God revealed to me why He had brought me there. In the blink of an eye I knew. Simple. He brought me there to meet with Him. I was amazed. And awed. He filled me with great joy as I shed copious tears in His Presence. The great God of the Universe desired to spend time with me. How was that possible? With me? Insignificant little me? Wow! Thank you Father.
Of course I knew He could do that anywhere, any time. But this was a special tryst! You see, I’d been longing for a retreat with Him all year. I’d had two so far, one in May and one in August, for my writing life and my life’s journey. But they had been different - in between carrying on with life’s trivial round. This then, was a unique gift from our Father. And what a gift it was. As I met with Him, He filled my cup and my joy overflowed. Jesus was enough for me. Jesus is enough for me. Always.
A bit later that Sunday morning, He confirmed it as I worshipped with the rest of the group in a stirring service of celebration. I sat with a writer friend from New Zealand, sharing a hand fan (because it was hot)! As Catherine and I praised Him together, we discovered God ministering afresh to our hearts. And for the first time during communion, I felt I really understood what it was about. I wept quietly—joyful tears of course, orchestrated by the Holy Spirit as we worshipped our God in wonder and awe and delight. I returned from conference with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, a river of God’s joy bubbling within. What a gift!
Intimacy with Jesus. I couldn’t ask for more.
How are you doing today? Is there something missing in your life?
Jesus knows you. He loves you. He wants to meet with you too. Come to Him. Just as you are.
Let's trust Him. Let's meet with Him. Let's remain with Him.
‘But blessed is the man (or woman) who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 16:7- 8
Recently, my husband enjoyed a week of holidays. We spent three happy days away, sipping Nature’s rich spring wine. The morning after we got home, I made Shan’s cup of coffee and went looking for him. He was seated at his computer. Unfortunately the coffee didn’t quite make it. I tripped over a loose wire and the mug, hot coffee and I went spinning in the air. I landed with an ungainly thud, banging my knee and bruising it, while my tender feet took a beating. The coffee was splattered all over our light carpet and Shan’s special mug rolled away, miraculously intact. My good man's eyebrows shot up in surprise at this unusual display of wifely affection.
My beloved came up trumps. Really. Amazing man. (No wonder I married him!) I lay there for many long minutes, groaning and moaning in pain. Shan empathised with me paying no attention to the fact that he’d been splattered with sticky hot coffee himself. He gave me a hand up when I was ready. He briskly attended to the coffee stains on the carpet and fixed himself another drink. I give him 100 out of 100 for his response to me that day. What a man! Later, I said in jest that I’d come near his desk, said ‘Here’s your coffee’ and flung it at him! We both had a hearty laugh together over it.
Have you flung anything at anyone lately? What was their response? Life has an uncomfortable habit of throwing sticky things at us doesn’t it? Few of us go through life unscathed. Talk of sad surprises and they rain down on us thick and fast, especially when we least expect it. I remember a season I once went through when I l was bereft of many treasures close to my heart, all within a short space of 10 months. And then, three people close to me passed away with little warning. To complete my grief filled season with flourish, my fibro battle raged extra fiercely. ‘What next, Lord?’ I asked.
The years have taught me the best rejoinder to such times. Sitting at Jesus’ feet, shedding tears in His Presence and reading His word brought me healing then as He'd done many times before. He soothed me, refreshed me and led me to a spacious place where I am in today. So my period of loss gave way to a season of much gain and blessing. And you know, I've discovered over the years that when something bad happens, the why question doesn’t take me anywhere productive. God does not promise to explain why He allows bad stuff to happen to us. He does assure us though, that He would be with us through those times. So ‘What now, Lord?” is a better question to ask because that question always has an answer.
It would be great if we discovered God’s grace through a life of ease, wouldn’t it? But if my walk with God has taught me anything, it’s that jewels sparkle in the mud and slime which life flings at us. The one sure way of drawing closer to God’s heart is to experience difficulty, loss, tears and pain. Nothing brings us closer to Him more than hardship and trouble. Take my word for it. I've been there, and I've found many sparkling gems.
I’m grateful to my beloved for showing me the how I should act when life flings things at me. There are many ways of reacting. I could shake my fist and try to get even. I could mope and sulk. I could whine and pine. Or like my amazing husband, I could respond with compassion and love. I could be quick to do whatever is needed with patience and a bright smile.
Has life flung something unpleasant at you lately? I pray that God would comfort you, take you by the hand and lead you into a bright new spacious place of His choosing. May His light shine on your darkness, His love warm you and His arms be around you today.
‘The righteous cry out and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18
Recently, I made a trip to the city. I enjoy my O bahn rides at this time of year, with gurgling streams, verdant foliage and tall gum trees waving merrily at me as I pass by. My favourite bus seat is on a higher level to where we get in—I like watching the world from the elevated stance. That particular day, I drove to our local shopping centre and parked my car, then wandered over to the bus stand. Soon my bus arrived so I hopped in quickly, and selected my favourite seat.
I pulled out my Bible and mp3 player and settled down to a time of inspiring worship and praise. At first, all went well. People got in at each halt, but there was plenty of room, since it was an extra long vehicle. I kept one eye open in case it got crowded and I needed to move over and make room for another. Thankfully the bus was sparsely filled. I noticed a lady who walked passed me and found a seat further on. About 10 minutes later, however, she sprang back to where I was, pushed me hard and sat down. It was a surprise, especially since there were plenty of other empty seats in the bus. I moved as close to the window as possible, but she pressed hard against me.
I sighed. Not comfortable! Oh well, I shall have to make the most of it, I said to myself, vainly trying to feel at ease again. Many minutes later, I wasn’t making much progress. I felt like a squashed little koala in an elephant’s enclosure. No amount of wriggling or positive thinking helped. Worship and prayer was impossible, so I gathered my things, smiled at the lady, said ‘Excuse me please’, then vacated my place. I think she was thrilled to have the seat all to herself.
Right at the last seat of the vehicle I discovered the perfect perch for me. It was uncrowded, with plenty of breathing space. With a sigh of relief, I settled myself down, put on my music and opened my prayer diary. The view from my new seat was better than before. I enjoyed the latter half of journey much more than the first half and I knew I was in a spacious place. (And by the way, on my return journey, I was able to sit in my favourite seat all the way home - a bonus gift from the Lord.)
There are moments in our lives when we are hedged in. I remember a time when life speeded out of control. I was hedged in, in an uncomfortable place, surrounded by those who didn’t have my best interests at heart. I do believe in sticking it out when times get rough. I do believe in loyalty and faithfulness. I do believe in persevering through difficulty. However, in this instance, it was clear what God required of me.
Now I look back with joy from the place of abundance that God led me into, at the time. I was a bird set free to fly in the open sky, delighting in God’s leading and gracious provision. There are seasons when God asks me to stay where I am in order to grow stronger. At other times, He asks me to leave my cage and to break free.
What do you face today? Is He asking you to stay where you are and to persevere in your trial? Or is He asking you to move on to greener pastures and so to write a new chapter of your life? My prayer for you is that whether you stay or move, you will discover your own spacious place—where your heart will soar joyfully on the wings of an eagle.
"May our Lord Jesus Chist himself and God our Father, who loved us
and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."
2 Thessalonians 2:16,17
It was time for a break. We packed our bags, loaded the car and zoomed off, out on the open road. Nature was dressed in her gorgeous springtime attire, the weather was fresh and bracing. I love travelling at this time of year. The green pastures and rolling hills of the Land Down Under never fail to beckon me, soothe me and refresh me. We found sunshine and clouds, friendly winds and cool breezes, meandering country roads and enchanting places.
Carefree lambs frolicked on their soft green playgrounds and sheep grazed contentedly. Jersey cows dotted the landscape—a picturesque black against the lime green grass. We reached our seaside destination and settled into a cosy beautiful cabin. I was fascinated by a large tame peacock that strutted around as if he owned the property. He hopped often onto our deck to peer inside, while his harem—four or five pea-hens, sat around lazily on the verandah of the cabin next to ours. Later that day, we explored the beach, sinking our feet into soft white sand; admiring the green cliffs which contrasted beautifully against the grey-blue sea, as the ocean sang to us sweet songs of joy.
Everything about our little cabin was just right or so it seemed. We liked its cream walls and panelled wooden floors. The kitchen was well fitted and well stocked. Our bedroom was larger than usual with full length mirrors, warm lights and a comfortable bed. But when I entered the spacious bathroom for my bedtime shower, I made my big discovery. The seemingly perfect cabin had one major flaw.
I turned on the taps—the water flow was meager ... but that was only the beginning. Making sure the shower temperature was just right (as you do), I stepped under it. All was well for … 3 seconds. But then all at once, the water turned icy cold. Ouch! Hurriedly, I fiddled with the taps, luring it back to more tolerable temperatures. But that again lasted for only … umm … 5 seconds. This time it spewed hot water. Oh no! I had to jump out of the way to escape the scalding water. I was forced to keep tinkering with the taps in order to have a decent shower. A very quick one too and I was glad to emerge unscathed.
It wasn’t a perfect cabin after all but no, I’m not grumbling. We did have a marvelous time away and returned home rejuvenated. And you know, my shower-time adventures were a timely reminder to check my own spiritual gauge. I’m often passionate about my faith and do aspire to be piping HOT all the time. But when my fibro battle rages and I suffer debilitating fatigue and pain, my walk with God tapers into meltdown mode. Praising Him and feeling thankful is very challenging at such times. So sad to say, my spiritual climate does seem to vacillate, just like those shower temperatures at Aldinga Bay.
A question bothers me. I’m able to cling to God and find His comfort when times are difficult and when in emotional pain. How is it then that I struggle to keep an equal level of fervour when physical suffering plagues me? Surely, my spiritual life should not be dependent on my physical state? It needs to be the other way around, don’t you think? My walk with God should drive my life through every sphere and every season.
The Apostle John’s vision on the island of Patmos included an admonition from Jesus to the church at Laodicea. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth….. Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline”. Hard words, but ones I need to take heed of. Several years ago, God convicted me that 99% of allegiance to Him was not enough. He wanted all of me and asked for total surrender. I found then that it was the only way I would experience the abundance of the life He offers.
But the glorious truth is that God is God and God is good.
Give Him your heart and you find He will heap His riches on you,
grace upon grace and in full measure. You can never outgive Him.
Are you hot, cold or lukewarm today?
Perhaps it’s time to adjust your spiritual temperature?
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:11-12
When my big brother in Sydney heard I was coming to Sydney this year for a Christian Writer’s conference, he stepped in quickly and bought me my air ticket. Wasn’t that generous of him? A week ago, he emailed me the e-ticket and I printed it off at once. The only snag was that I forgot to check how many pages the file contained. Too late I discovered page upon page being churned out of my printer when all I’d intended to print was the itinerary. A thick wad of 10 pages was my prize. What a waste of ink and paper.
A pity that I forget to use my brain sometimes! One thoughtless moment and things swiftly turn pear shaped. A few years ago, I made an error which had dire, prickly consequences all because I’d forgotten to put my thinking cap on. A friend and I had emailed back and forth a few times when she’d asked me for my then boss’s email address. I found it by typing his name in the ‘copy to’ section, pasted it inside the email, and sent it off. What I’d omitted to do before I hit reply was to erase his name from the ‘copy to’ area.
A few days later, when I went merrily to my volunteer job, my boss, looking unusually serious, called me into his office. Puzzled by his expression, I walked in and sat down. Imagine my horror on seeing reams of pages of my email correspondence presented to me. He’d printed them all out, assuming I’d wanted him to read our emails. Nothing was further from the truth. Was I embarrassed? You could say that. Was I mortified? Yes, yes and YES. Oops! A blunder I thought I’d never recover from!
Thankfully the end result was favourable. An issue we'd discussed in our emails had been brought to my boss’s attention, so he kindly offered his listening ears if I wanted to discuss the problem with him. After some thought and prayer I did go back to talk it over and felt a lot better for it. So happily, God used my blunder to settle an issue I’d struggled with. And I learnt that day to be extra careful when sending emails.
Acting without thinking—it happens to all of us. I sometimes react badly to a negative situation when I don’t stop to think. I’m ashamed to confess that when my son was little, I’d yell at him for a misdemeanor without counting to ten or thinking things through. A reaction rather than a response often takes us to places we’d rather not visit. How important then to cultivate a habit of thought and to seek God amidst our day to day life.
Have you ever offered advice when your job was to listen?
Have you ever made a decision in haste that you regretted later?
Have you hit back at someone who was unkind to you before weighing your thoughts?
Have you jumped in to ‘rescue’ someone when it was not your job anyway?
Have you judged someone in a moment before you knew all the facts?
O Lord, teach me to use the mind you’ve blessed me with. Let me not rush into quick judgments or hasty decisions. Let me wait on you for answers. Show me how to listen before I speak. Help me use my heart, mind, mouth and actions in a way that glorifies you. Always. Amen.
I have three email addresses—the first which I use all the time. Next is my “junk” email address which is useful when I travel. The third address is linked to my blog. Every so often I receive surprise emails from unknown folk that plop into my blog-linked email address. I’m honoured and blessed to hear how God has used my writing to touch strangers’ lives. What a privilege that He uses broken vessels like me to share His love with His world!
A couple of weeks ago, I received yet another email from a stranger. I read it twice to understand it, then wrote back thanking him and wished him well. I was still puzzled though as to what the writer wanted to convey, so read it a third time. The email implied that its author could show me how to make Jesus my Lord and Saviour. I was surprised. Surely I’d made it clear that He already was? Will also mentioned the importance of acknowledging God as the Source of my writing. Oh? Another surprise. It made my brain whirr like a ceiling fan at high speed on a hot summer’s day.
A few emails later, Will asked for my help in writing a book. I wasn’t sure where his long, vague emails would lead me, so after much thought and prayer, knew it was time to end the correspondence. But I'm very grateful for Will's letters because he reminded me of the importance of giving credit where credit was due. (Thank you Will.) I’d like my readers to be clear about my motivations in writing and to meet the One who inspires it.
42 years ago, the Author of Life burst into my life with startling suddenness, splashing joy into my life, like the glorious flowers that bloom each spring, bringing colour and beauty to our world.
Jesus forgave me, cleansed me and started me off on a God-breathed journey, teaching me what life is all about. His death and resurrection bought for me salvation, freedom and the hope of life with Him eternity. But that's not all. Ten years ago, He took me to a crossroads, then pointed to a new fork in my journey—that of becoming a Christian writer. How I've loved it. My first book was published through a series of unexpected events—all orchestrated by God (that’s another story) and I give Him all the glory. Four year ago, I began to write a weekly blog, and found very quickly that it was a gift from God with which to minister to others. Pursuing hard after God is my life long passion. How exciting then, to encourage others to do the same.
And so today I throw the curtains wide open at the Theatre of LIFE. I walk on centre-stage to sing of Him who loves me. I make known in no uncertain terms, the Truth whom I stand on, Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Lord. It was He who called me to write. I am humbled and blessed to be used for His Kingdom. It is the Holy Spirit who inspires me and guides my writing. There are times when writing doesn’t come easy, but as I wait on Him, the words begin to dance at my fingertips because He steps in and guides my thoughts. He makes me work hard and teaches me to depend on Him. And as God often reminds me through His Word:
"Apart from me, you can do nothing." Jesus (John 15:5)
Sometimes, I plan to write about one aspect of life but God changes it to something completely different—as it occurred in the last blog I wrote. Yes, it’s God who gets the credit for any 'good' I do—be it in the writing sphere or in any aspect of my walk with Him. Without Jesus, I am nothing. My blog today is dedicated to the Author of Life. He began my life—He will complete it. He creates the words that flow into my mind as I write. He is the Author, Editor, Publisher and Advocate of my life. So as the curtains swing wide open and the spotlight beams—it’s not directed at this little singer who struts on the stage, sprouting glad melodies but on the Author of Life who writes her music. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End. He writes my story as He’s written the amazing Story of Life and the wonderful Story of God!
“You killed the Author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” Acts 3:15
“I am the true vine…. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Jesus (John 15:1, 4)
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
I’m not ardent shopper. No, I’d rather walk in nature’s bounty rather than in shopping malls. The lights that attract me are not neon lights. I’m drawn instead to the glittering stars that twinkle in the velvet sky, the majestic sun which rises high, spilling golden beams in its wake, the friendly moon as it sheds silver moonlight abroad a sleeping world. Doing my weekly shopping is one way of taking care of my loved ones, but I’m relieved when it’s done.
Some months ago, as I cruised around my local supermarket, I found changes were afoot—too many of them. I didn’t know where anything was any more. I stopped to ask for items umpteen times. When I walked into another supermarket half an hour later, you might understand my irritation. They were doing it too. There were plenty of bewildered shoppers, looking here, looking there, looking everywhere. Our grocery shopping experience had turned into a nightmare.
The next week the groceries had been moved again—in both stores. I sighed. I stomped. I sizzled. The shopping got done. Eventually. But I trusted that it would be sorted out by my next shopping trip. One could only hope. Alas, the following week it was no different. Perhaps a little more confusing. But then …something strange occurred. As I watched the electricians fixing one part of the store, as I gazed at workers scurrying to and fro moving grocery items, as I glimpsed some of them in deep consultation, it struck me with force what was going on. They were in my writer’s jargon, editing. Editing? Yes, editing.
For the past few weeks, I’d been trying to figure out why the supermarkets constantly shifted things around. Was it just an unnecessary ploy of the 21st century world to modify everything all of the time, no matter if change was essential or not? Didn’t they realise that when their customers couldn't find what they needed, they would buy less, not more?
That blinding flash of realisation placed clear glasses on my nose. The supermarkets were refining their stores, in the same way I love to refine my stories. I have the luxury of doing it in the comfort of my home without a hundred people walking past me, demanding this or that. But their amendments have to take place while life goes on. Not an easy job is it? It’s like my story being read while I was editing it. A generous dose of understanding warmed my heart. What was previously an annoyance was now taken in my stride. Perceiving the why behind their doings, made all the difference.
Isn’t life like that too? Other people’s actions might sometimes seem alien and hostile to us. Perhaps we need to ask God to remove our blinkers. Life improves with empathy—both on the giver’s side as well as the receiver’s. Has your neighbour angered you by her actions? Has your co-worker’s behavior stumped you? Has your spouse or child annoyed you? Perhaps we need to walk in their moccasins for awhile. There’s always a different perspective—one we don’t readily see.
Are you ready to put on new glasses?
I could lend you my new pair if you like!
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Two years ago, I thought I'd lost everything. I was forced to leave a job and ministry that I was passionate about. What was God doing? Why did He call me to work for Him, then call me out of it? I grieved deeply for a few months, but as it often happens, my season of loss turned out into one of infinite riches. As I’ve rebuilt my life afterwards, I have been aware of God’s gentle nudge to grow deep strong roots into my inward spirit.
And so … the direction of my life has been changing.
From one of intense activity to that of seeking God more.
From one of busyness to that of contemplation and purpose.
From one of being ultra connected to that of being rooted in God.
It hasn’t been easy – this swim against the tide. And yet, I know that the main thing is to keep the main thing as the main thing. I've had to stop jogging through a rose garden and to turn my footsteps instead towards a wilderness. The rose garden beckoned because its flowers were colourful and fragrant, with velvet petals and bright new hues. But the roses would wilt in summer heat, while the cactus flowers would bloom for eternity.
The modern world with its umpteen connections and busy lifestyle continues to beckon me. I have to often say ‘No’ to many good things in search of what God requires of me. Saying ‘No’ to others is never easy. I don’t want to seem aloof and unfriendly. I want to be liked and appreciated. So there’s often been a tussle inside.
Is it OK to say ‘no’ to her Lord?
Was it wrong of me to guard my time with you, Jesus?
Is it selfish of me not to do as he asked, Father?