A few months ago, I caught a bus to the city. The driver saw me waving frantically from the other side of the road and slowed down—bless him. He waited with utmost patience ‘til I crossed the road. Panting, I climbed onto the bus. “Thank you so much!” He responded with a cheery smile. I validated my bus pass and walked to my favourite seat. How thrilled I was to discover that I was the only lady (or gentleman or child) on that bus. Apart from the bus driver of course. And God. I enjoyed a ride in solitary splendour.
My time in the city that day was a productive, happy one, enjoying a cuppa and chat with a dear friend at my favourite bookshop. Afterwards, with a glad heart and a few new purchases, I made my way back to the busy city streets. And then … it happened again. I hailed my bus, (this time I wasn’t late) and it stopped. Just for me. Because … you’ve guessed right. Once again, I was the only person on that bus. I revelled in a ride in solitary splendour for the second time that day. Twice blessed. Thank you God.
It couldn’t be a coincidence that it happened twice on the one day! Perhaps it was a whisper from God that when I come to Him, I have no competiton. I’m the ‘Only One’ riding His bus. It is a difficult concept to fathom, because my own limitations scream at me constantly. I’m no good at multi tasking. I delight in connecting with others, but if I have an overload of it, with five people clamouring for my attention at the same moment, my brain sizzles and my heart pounds. I simply cannot give my total undivided attention to more than one person at one time.
A physical (and mental) impossibility!
But God! But God can. And He does. When I approach Him, He waits for me as if I was the only person in the whole Universe. He listens to me as if I was the only one desiring His attention, in spite of there being perhaps 1,749,246 others pounding on heaven’s doors that same moment. How does He do it?
There was a little girl (in an imaginary world) who returned from school one afternoon to find her mum very ill. Little Lucy panicked. She picked up the phone. It was dead. She rushed out to call a neighbour. On Dorothy’s house was a sign ‘Gone to help the homeless. Be back at midnight’. Lucy gulped and ran to the next house down their street. Celine’s door had a different message. 'On the phone counselling people. Do not disturb.’ Lucy’s fought back tears. She bit her nails—hard. She ran on, sweat dribbling down her back.
Mr and Mrs Brown’s house had a large notice. 'Praying for the world. Sorry no time for visitors.' Lucy’s heart raced. She clenched her little fists. She ran to the other side of the street. There stood a little house with new Tenants she’d never met. She’d heard there were Three of them and that their door was always open. She peeked through the window and her eyes opened wide. The home was filled to capacity and strains of soft music came to her ears. A party? Tears pricked her eyes and her breath came out in shallow gasps. Wiping her tears with the back of her hand, she turned to walk away ... when the front door opened. A kind faced man with piercing dark eyes walked outside. He smiled at Lucy and her heart was strangely warmed.
“Come in Lucy. I was waiting for you." Lucy gasped. “Jesus?” He took her by the hand and led her in. As if she was the only person present. Lucy received the help she needed that day. Her mum recovered. Yes! A happy ending. For her. And indeed for all who’d come to God’s house that day.
That was just a little story. Only a wee parable? Yes, but … it’s true. God’s doorbell jangles every second. His phone never stops ringing. His front door is pounded upon, day and night. Millions clamour for His help at the very same moment. But the amazing truth is that He is able to respond. To all. He is everywhere at the same time, so He takes it in His stride. His home is always full but He treats you as if you were the Only One present. His ears are always attentive to your cry, ready to rescue you. There’s only one person in His bus today. And that person is YOU!
So clamber aboard with glad expectation. He hears your call. He is mighty to save.
Every. Single. Time.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
Each week, my son diligently places our wheelie bins out on the kerb for collection. Recently he was sick with a nasty flu so I assured him that either his Dad or I would do the needful. My beloved, when he returned from work said he’d put them out after his Thursday night swim. The problem was that since we are both fast approaching 60, our memories are not what they used to be! Shan returned from his swim an hour later. We went to bed that night not giving another thought to our wheelie bins.
Next morning, I waved goodbye to my man, still with no memory of that must-be-done chore. It was not until close to 1 p.m. when I heard the pick-up truck rumbling down our road that I remembered. I leapt to action, adrenaline coursing my veins. It didn’t help though, that I’d injured my knee some weeks before and was limping. A recent decluttering of our home had filled our recycling bin to capacity. I HAD to get rid of it all. Fast. I moved like a baby caterpillar who was climbing Mount Everest … or rather descending Mount Everest in this instance.
Numerous attempts at getting that wheelie bin in motion proved fruitless—it was just too heavy for the likes of little me. But … I was determined. And so I tried. Again. And again. The truck passed our home and started to empty my neighbours’ bin. It was then that I finally managed to get it moving. Those who’ve been to our home know that our driveway is pretty steep. To push a heavy wheelie bin down a precipitous slope needs muscle. And the strength of an ox. Despite my chubby proportions, my strength is more akin to that of a rabbit! But I knew I HAD to do it. So I did. As I rolled the bin down our little hill it picked up speed. Oh no! I would soon be dragged downhill. Help!
Praying all the way, and with great difficulty, I inched the hefty bin down the slope. Our home is three houses from the end of our street, so I had a few minutes grace as the giant truck wheeled around the cul de sac picking up a couple more bins. I rushed across the street and placed our bin by the kerb just as the truck came racing by. Would it stop? I held my breath. It did. A big sigh of relief whooshed through my lips as the truck’s large electronic arms plucked my bin and emptied its contents. Thank you God!
But when the bin was placed back, it tipped over, sprawling ungracefully across the road. Should I pick it up? I hesitated. If I didn’t, the rear wheels of the large truck would crush its bright yellow lid. But if the truck started off at once, I could get hurt. I held up my hand hoping the driver could see it and stepped forward. I lifted the bin onto its feet, my heart in my mouth. The vehicle stayed put. Whew. I waved my thanks to the driver, very grateful. What a patient, kind man! I could have hugged him. After the truck moved away, I pushed my wheelie bin back up my steep driveway, my heart dancing with thanksgiving at the remarlable little miracle I’d been part of.
An impossible task made possible. Persevering against the odds is never easy. But the only way to live; or so I have discovered. After my first book was published 7 years ago, my hunt for an Australian publisher for my next book was a long, arduous journey. The harder I tried, the more rejections I received. Would I ever make it, I wondered. But God. But God worked it out. First … I had to keep hoping. To keep going. To keep on keeping on ... in spite of. Last year, a beautiful, kind and generous friend paid for me to attend our annual Writer's Conference, another miracle. There, God led me to show my manuscript to a publisher. And now ... all going well, my next book, ‘Dancing in the Rain’ is set be published in 2018. Hooray! A gift from God? Absolutely. When God is at the helm, perseverance pays rich dividends.
Sometimes I get weary. I am tempted to stop trying. But like the glowing embers of a fire which will never be snuffed out, there shines an eternal truth. There is always hope. There’s a Special Someone steering the vehicle of life, a gracious Driver who waits patiently for me, even when my life collapses. He gives me the time and space to pick myself up. He heals my broken heart. He helps me realise my God-inspired dreams. He will never leave me nor forsake me.
Today, dear friend, if you are struggling to reach your goals … please don’t give up. Keep pushing through. You are closer today to finding your answer than you were yesterday. You CAN make it—not in human strength alone but with the supernatural power, wisdom and leading of your Heavenly Father. When you reach out to hold His Hand, anything (and everything) becomes possible.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
When I first got behind the wheel, as a mature 50 year old, I trembled Could I do it? Would I actually be able to steer a car? I wasn’t sure. The young inexperienced instructor who tried to teach me was appalled. He said my steering was the worst he’d seen. Talk of encouraging a novice! Besides, he’d asked the impossible of me. He made me spin the car round and round a car park at high speed. As I steered wildly, I’d clung onto that wheel as if my life depended on it. Which it did. A gruelling way to begin my driving lessons!
Two years of instruction, a different (and thankfully competent) teacher, one accident, plenty of experience and finally … I received my driver’s licence. Whew! What a journey. Now, 7 years later, I have progressed a little and even enjoy driving on occasion. However, I still remain cautious when in the driver's seat. As I do my weekly shopping, I’ve been parking my car far from the shops, in a quieter area with less traffic. Recently though, my body has been protesting and coping less and less with exercise (due to chronic illness) so I had to park closer to the shops. The other day, I got as near as I could to the mall and parked my little Mazda between two cars. I noticed a large four wheel drive vehicle was on one side of me, obstructing my view. I would need to be careful when I reversed later to go home.
When I emerged an hour afterwards, there were four empty spots to the right of my vehicle and four empty spots to the left. What a pleasant surprise! Perhaps they had been warned about my driving? Bliss. I could now see clearly around me and reversing out of my spot was as easy as jumping into a clear blue lake on a warm summer’s day. Splash! I sped home with joy in my heart and the wind in my hair.
A Bible verse flashed into my mind. “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18. Other words from scripture waltzed right in as well, like frisky, happy puppies who energised me with their love of life.
The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One,
make the way of the righteous smooth.” Isaiah 26:7
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.
My exit out of that car park that day couldn't have been easier.
A reminder that on life's journey too, He would clear the path before me.
Sometimes the future is uncertain. We don’t have much light. I’ve found (as no doubt you have too) that what’s required of me then is to trust Him as He leads me, one step at a time. Psalm 119:105 reminds me: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God often clears our path but not the whole expressway. Three years ago, I found myself in an unusual season of life. Much of what I’d worked towards in the preceding decade seemed to have disintegrated before my eyes.
Earlier that year, God had spoken to me distinctly through Isaiah 30:21 well before I needed its truth. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Psalm 32:8 confirmed it. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Now, months later, I knew why God had impressed the two verses on my heart.
Just like He told me, God led me that season, one day at a time, one footstep at a time, one hope realised at a time. He whispered each day what to do and where to go. He brought new experiences, new places and new people into my life. He shed light on the patch of road in front of me—no more. But … it was all I needed and forced me to trust Him completely. Out of a place of deep sadness and loss came the brightness of new beginnings and much blessing. I look back now with joy, knowing afresh through experience that trusting Him is always worth it. Life might bring unexpected losses and sad situations. But our faithful God is an expert at using those same losses and turning them into masterpieces of His love.
Are you sad and bewildered today? Is the road rough before you? Is there little light on your path? Fear not. He who leads you sees you, is with you and will never let you go. So cling tight to His Hand. Turn to Him and His Word - His light will shine on your path. One day at a time.
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.
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Proverbs 4:18
I was scrolling through Facebook when a young friend’s comment stopped me in my tracks. She’d responded to my wishes with a ‘Thank you Uncle’. Uncle? Me? It was a first—the first and only time I’ve been called an uncle. And you know what? I’d rather remain an aunt. I’m glad I was born a woman. Not that I have anything against men, you understand. But … I’ve been a woman for almost 60 years and I love being one.
I remember the first time I was called an ‘aunt’. In Sri Lanka, the terms ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ are used to address a person from an older generation (even if she or he is unrelated), as a sign of respect. I was closing our front gate when it occurred. A young pair of dark brown eyes from across the road fixed their gaze on me. “Why are you closing the gate, aunty?”
Was she talking to me? She must have been 12 or 13 years old. I was perhaps 18 or 19, and didn’t feel that much older. What a shock! Did I look old? Some years later when I was a young mum it happened again. ‘Hello aunty’ said the strapping young man who was about to wed my cousin, a bright smile adorning his cheery face. Aunty? Surely not? Did I look like an aunt? He must have been only a few years younger than I!
Isn’t it interesting that we all have opinions about others, often incorrect. Sometimes I bask in people’s loving words. Occasionally though, their observations are a shock to my system. Is that how they view me, I think. Or … oh no – I’ve been totally misunderstood! I once spoke well of a man we both knew to a friend (let’s call her Sally). Sally however had a bad impression of him, so we had a whopping disgareement that day. What was worse, she began to attack my own character as well. She told me that she knew that I thought I was better than her spiritually. I gasped as if she’d thrown a bucket of icy cold water over me.
The truth was that such a thought had never occurred to me, because after all—there is no need to compare myself with others. We are all different and walking our own life journeys. I believed I’d been a good friend to her. I’d expected that my warm feelings towards her were being reciprocated. Sadly, our friendship of almost 10 years tottered over the brink of a crumbly wall and collapsed over the other side, a bit like humpty dumpty.
Though her assessment of me was a sad surprise, her view of me didn’t alter my own view of myself or my evaluation of the kind of friend I’d been. Perhaps it were her own insecurities which made her feel that way? I don’t know. I did know that we human beings are a complicated species. Who are you? Who am I? Are we a sum total of what others say of us? Or something else altogether? Psychologists tell us that our sense of self worth is usually formed in the early years of our lives by the significant people around us. As little people, we believe those who care for us. We carry that view of ourselves into adulthood and it often colours how we live our lives and even what we think about others.
Since I became a believer, I’ve taken as my identity that which Jesus came to bestow on every person in the world. I am a child of God, dearly loved by Him. Nothing I can do, can make Him love me more. Nothing I can do can make Him love me less. It has freed me—because His grace (His undeserved goodness) has changed my life.
The only Person who really knows who I am, is my Creator. He knows me better than I know myself. In spite of my murky insides, He still cherishes me. Amazing! He knit me together in my mother’s womb. Make no mistake—the same goes for you too.You are unique—and greatly loved by your Maker. You are more than a collection of arms and legs, teeth and ears, thoughts and feelings. You have a soul and a spirit which are of intrinsic worth. You are the only YOU in the world. And when linked to your Divine Architect, the sky’s the limit! Did you know that?
Perhaps today’s the day to take stock of your life. To accept yourself. But also to make a few changes. To see the reflection of your face in God’s eyes as you gaze up at Him. Perhaps today's the day you decide to do that special thing which God called you to. It’s never too late. And the right time might be now!
Here are five questions to get us started:
1. Who am I?
2. Do I like myself?
3. What makes me unique and special?
4. What gifts do I bring the world?
5. What is His heart for me this season?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus
to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10
My beloved has been performing modern day miracles in our garden. He’s spent most of his spare time bringing our dead lawns back to life, pruning unwieldy bushes and transforming the great outdoors into a lush green habitation. He removed the curtains from our kitchen windows so we can feast on the beauty of our backyard whenever we walk into our kitchen. I love looking out through the large glass pane. In recent weeks, I’ve been watching something small and exquisite as it smiled sweetly at me from our backyard. It was a lone geranium clad in a baby pink dress, all ready for spring.
One straggly withered geranium hangs on the other side of the creeper, dejected and forlorn, spelling out in no uncertain terms how the harsh winter treated her. So how did this new bloom manage to prosper? I have no idea, but I’m very glad she did. Each time I look out and spot this lone pink geranium, my heart turns a joyful summersault and a fresh breeze of gratitude fans me. All around her is the deep green of winter, so Miss Geranium, in her rosy attire is striking, like a red rose on bed of snow. She adorns the creeper—alone but happy, small but graceful, insignificant but wearing a badge of honour.
And strangely enough, I don't think she's lonely!
Loneliness is a malady of our modern overly connected world. I'm blessed by a plethora of rich relationships so have much to be grateful for. However, it doesn’t mean I’ve never been lonely. Take for instance, my first long term visit into a foreign country. Thirty years ago, I accompanied my new husband to the enchanting city of Bath, England. Shan was off to study for a doctorate and as we both prepared to zoom off on a thrilling new adventure, I floated gaily on cloud 9. It was glamorous and exciting… at first.
But when we arrived at our small, drab, noisy, student studio flat in the height of a chilly winter, just 4 days days before Christmas – that’s when my bright beautiful bubble burst. Despite being with the man I loved, and being ready (or so I’d thought) for new experiences in brand new territory, loneliness seeped into my life, slowly and surely, like a dripping ceiling during a rainy winter might create a cold, wet, miserable home. For the next 18 months, I was terribly homesick. And often lonely.
Who among us has never felt isolated? Thankfully I rarely feel lonely these days. The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve thirsted for solitude and the happier I’ve become in my own company. The more I’ve relished God’s Presence too. These days loneliness takes other forms. It might stab me when people around me are different and I’m the only one marching to the beat of my Heavenly Drummer. It finds me when I don’t feel understood. Its cold finger might prod me when it’s difficult to share my journey with those around me. I’m sure most of us at different times have found ourselves in the sad damp cocoon of loneliness.
But not the Lone Pink Geranium.
Here’s what she said when I asked her:
1. Be YOU.
2. Be bold.
3. Be bright.
4. Be different.
5. Be colourful.
6. Hang in there.
7. Spring is coming.
8. Gaze at your Creator.
9. You can make it.
10. Defy the odds.
11. Cling to Hope
12. Life is short.
13. Be unique.
15. Be YOU!
So let’s learn a lesson from that lone pink geranium. Let’s be ourselves, bold and confident. Let’s make a statement. Be different when needed, especially when God calls us to it. Let’s learn to live to an Audience of One. Alone when we need to be … but never lonely. Because of course we have a God who champions our cause and is with us every step of the way.
Yes … BE YOU!
And reflect your Awesome Creator!
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your
Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
One morning last week as I was enjoying my Quiet Time, a verse from the Bible grabbed me.
“He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber.”
What a wonderful promise! It was comforting to know that our God never sleeps. But then … a friend's comment came to mind. I'd shared the same verse with her.
“He did let my husband’s foot slip you know!”
I was stunned. Stunned because what she said was true. Her husband had fallen off a roof many years ago and he’s been a paraplegic ever since. God did allow his foot to slip. My heart ached for her. So what does the verse mean then? It's obviously not meant to be taken literally. What hope do these promises offer us? Does God promise us any protection? Five friends’ feet slipped this year. Two sprained their ankles; one broke hers, one broke her leg in a compound fracture. The fifth was shaken and took a day to recover. They are all believers, able to claim the promises of scripture boldly.
But … God had let their feet slip.
God has allowed my feet to slip too both in literal and metaphorical ways. I’ve had one sprained ankle and several tumbles in my time. Due to feet that wobble, I’ve learnt to move with care and to look down (instead of up or around me) as I walk. There’ve also been instances in my life when in spite of my good intentions, I have wandered off metaphorical pathways. I’ve made silly blunders—far too many of them. I’ve had moments and seasons when I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
I came to the sobering realisation that I needed help in understanding that Psalm.
Meanwhile, I did know that God has always made good out of all the adversity I've faced in my life.
Here's what He has done for me when my feet have slipped:
Picture a mountain slope after rain. I climb slowly, breathing in the fresh cold air. After a little while I get distracted and that's when I get cocky. And pride comes before a fall. I find the sludge under my feet move. I gasp … too late. My foot slips off the pathway. I slide. Fast. I find myself rolling down at an alarming rate, the mud spattering about me. I shout to God. ‘Help me Father. Save me.” In that instant He is by my side. He smiles. Tenderly He reaches out and picks me up. He places me on His shoulders. He takes a short cut back up the track with long quick strides and with tender glances of grace.
Before long we have reached further up the summit—far above where I’d been walking. That’s what God does. He doesn’t always keep me from harm or sin but when I slip, He comes to my help. He changes it from a permanent slip into a temporary one. He puts me back on track, even further up the path in life than I’d been before my fall.
I decided to do a bit of research on this verse. The commentaries I checked threw light on my darkness and I finally understood. They shared that our spiritual standing will never be offset by anything the world throws at us. So that’s it. What a wonderful promise—even better than its literal meaning. After all, spiritual truths unlike worldly ones last for eternity. Expounders of the Word reminded me that we are grounded in truth and covered by grace. So we can boldly refute all the lies the Enemy whispers in our ears. How heart warming to know that any harm we encounter is short-lived. Our eternal joy and eternal hope will never be dislodged from under our feet.
The glad truth is that the foundation we stand on as followers of Jesus is not our good works or our decent moral lives, No, the Rock we stand on is Jesus. Pain and failure are part of this world and God does not always remove its dangers. But no matter what the difficulty, we are safe when walk with Him. God’s Hand keeps us stready. His truth is immovable. His infinite goodness and power will be a rock under our feet. We might occasionally slip and slide and sway but once we become His, we are His forever.
Has your foot slipped lately? Don’t be afraid. It’s not as bad as you might believe. His grace is but a prayer away. Turn to Him in repentence and trust. He will pick you up. You will rise up and stand firm. You are safe in His care.
All is well.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121: 1- 8 (NIV)