A Sunday’s Collection

What a day!

I had a phone call this morning from Scotland…. at about 4am!!!

Kylie was homesick.

Tomorrow is  her grandmother’s 60th wedding anniversary and her family will all be celebrating today.  She organised a nice surprise for her Nan through her sister and her step-brother is taking his laptop and whatever gear he needs to Skype later this morning, but it’s not like being there.  She and her Nan are close.  It was her Nan that introduced her to Jesus when she was only little.  Her Nan is so proud of her work in Scotland with the Churches over there – but I know she will be missing Kylie today too.

Just imagine.  Sixty years of being married.  I’d have to be live til a ripe old age to get there now.  I’d probably forget half of it.  What a dud.  Oh well – at least I’m not pining away now like a sad sack… most of the time anyway.  Pity about the handsome rogue that missed out on me, though.  Hmmm, if he gets his act together in the next couple of years and stops by I might condescend to get hitched so that I can celebrate forgetting half our marriage when we reach 60 years.  I think I’ll go for a younger man though.  They used to say that women lived about 7 yrs longer than men, so perhaps I should start looking at the guys about 7 years younger than me – that way I wouldn’t end up a lone widow.

Anyway, after spending time talking to Kylie, I just couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up again and dug out my sewing gear.  I’ve had patterns and fabric to make a princess dress for Emily and a fairy outfit for Jasmine.  I washed the material almost as soon as I bought it, but I’ve done nothing with it since.  This morning I cut out the patterns for both outfits and started on the fairy suit.  I’m so excited.  I can’t wait to finish it.  I think I was working right up til lunch time and would probably have kept going if Karen hadn’t appeared at my door.

Jazzy is sooo going to love this outfit.  Paul will have fits because she will want to wear it to places that he won’t think are suitable – but hey – how long are you seven for, right?

Where was I up to? Karen.  Yeah.  Right.

I was just finishing this seem and Karen knocks at my door.

Now I’m really stumped.  Karen NEVER comes to visit me.  I’ve often wondered if she even really likes me.  Like maybe she thinks I’m some kind of hypochondriac because of the Depression or something … anyway – there she is.  So I invite her in with my best manners, like she does when I visit her.  I offer her a cuppa, like she does when I visit her.  And we sit down in the lounge like we do when I visit her.  Now I’m not sure what to do next or what she expects – because I’m not her and I’m just thinking “wait a minute, just be yourself” when she bursts into tears.

Aack!

Karen doesn’t cry.

Karen doesn’t show emotion.

Help!!!

“Karen, what is it? Is there anything I can do?”

She just keeps crying.  Her tissue is fast getting shredded so I go and get my friendly box of Kleenex that I keep handy for visitors.  I seem to get lots of visitors who cry.  I think people think it’s more acceptable and less humiliating to cry in front of someone who gets officially depressed than in front of other people.  Karen thanks me and takes another tissue.

Eventually the tears slow down and she can talk.

“I’m sorry.” First thing everybody says after they’ve cried in front of anybody.  She takes a deep breath.  “I just don’t know what to do.  It’s Joel.  He’s become really ridiculous about this whole Christianity thing.  Hamish has been really good – but Joel has been at him like a …. a … a ”

“Like a Joel.  I remember what he can be like, Karen.  What’s he been doing?”

“He keeps telling asking him if he’s been talking to Jonah.  He’s been ringing the school.  He is insisting that they make sure that he doesn’t go to religious education or spend time with the children that they know have religious beliefs – which is  utterly  ridiculous and he knows it; he’s even taken to searching Hamish’s room to make sure that he hasn’t got any Bibles or religious books hidden.  He’s ridiculous.  Poor Hamish is putting up with it really patiently – which I must say surprises me because, you know, temperament-wise they have always been cut from the same cloth.  He bites his tongue, he answers politely when I want to shout at Joel.  I don’t know why Joel can’t believe him.  I do.  And I don’t know why Joel can’t see that he’s not going to shift what our son believes like he’s trying to.  Anybody can see that he’s really convinced that its true.”

Go Hamish.  You champion.  God is faithful and holds those who cling to him in the palm of his hand … he even hangs on to ones who flail.  You keep on standing in the face of opposition and be godly.  To hear that his mother is seeing changes in him already is awesome.

“This is Joel we’re talking about, here Karen.  You and I both love him – but we both know that he does absolutely nothing by halves.”

She sighs.

“But this.  This is different.  He has gone beyond reason with this.  You should see him, Alciana.  It truly is like watching him turn into a different man when he gets going.”

I sit with her in silence for a few moments and just listen.

“Alciana?”

“Yes.”

“I need you to explain something to me.”

My heart starts to beat faster.

“What do you want explained, Karen?”

“I need to know what exactly is this “gospel” that my son has taken hold of so strongly.  I need to know what my son believes and why he is holding on to it so strongly.”

My heart is in my mouth and I have tears rising towards my eyes.

“That is something that I would be glad to do for you, Karen.”

And I gulped down a huge mouthful of cold tea.

And so it was that this afternoon I got to share the gospel with Karen.  I told her what Hamish believed.  How did I do it?  I took her through a simple explanation using the 2 Ways to Live drawings and verses.

“And that’s it?” she asked.  “That’s what’s changed my son?”

“That’s what’s transformed your son.”

“But why is Joel making such a big fuss about this?  Anyone would think Hamish had joint some wild cult or something.”

“I’m not sure, Karen.  He wasn’t always, but he hasn’t been reasonable about it for so long now I can’t remember when it started.  He won’t talk to me about it.  Paul might know more.  Maybe Mum or Dad.”

“Your parents couldn’t tell me anything useful.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Do?  I don’t know.  I’d like to understand it more.  Do you think you’d be willing to show me some more about this stuff some time?  I mean, we’d need to be careful.  I don’t want Joel to know.  And I don’t want Hamish to either – he might think I’m taking sides or something, you know?”

“They don’t have to know, Karen.  You just come around when it’s a good time for you and we can talk some more.”

I am praying here at the same time that I look something like casual – because right now I am feeling like I want to take off tap dancing around the room and singing at the top of my voice.

Karen lights up.  Note – I have never ever seen Karen light up.  Maybe we have just made contact, Lord.  Please touch her heart and draw her to you.  Karen always seems like she never really trusts anyone.  Help her to trust you.  Grant her faith.

Anyway, then she asks me about what I was doing when she arrived (like a good visitor), so I got to show her what I was working on for the girls.  We had a good laugh about the idea of Jazz as a fairy and picturing Paul laundering fairy clothes.  Mind you he already does little dresses and cleans little school shoes and all sorts of little girly things.  It’s kind of sweet really.  Lisa would have loved seeing him doing these things.

I miss Lisa.

Anyway, tonight’s Church held yet another surprise.  Carlos and Megan have decided to make our church their home Church for the next while.  This was a big surprise, but apparently after talking to the doctors this week they have taken leave of absence from everything but Carlos’ study and because none of their supporting Churches are in this area where they need to be for Carlos’ study and Megan’s medical needs they’ve chosen to join us.  I’m so glad for the purely selfish reason that I’m going to love having Megan around.

I’m catching up with Megan on Wednesday after work this week.  I’m going to head over there on my way home for afternoon tea.

Father, please help me to sleep well tonight after such a busy day.  I’m tired after the early start.  Please help me to watch my sleep this week so that I don’t get all topsy-turvy on my sleep patterns.  That always ends badly.  Thanks for giving me people to connect with just as I’m reminded of those I miss.  And thanks for the chance to explain the gospel to Karen.  Please may Hamish have his mother to turn to for support in you some day.

Amen.

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Thankful Friends

Dear God,

It’s hard to believe that we have this letter that your servant Paul wrote to his friend not long before he expected to die.  That the words that you gave him to share with Timothy were so profound – that they were inspired by you, yourself.  I’m not sure what I would write to  a close friend if I were in jail expecting that I would be sentenced to death.  There is no wonder that the book – the letter – is so densely backed and intense.

And Timothy… still wrestling with a church with renegade leaders.  Overreaching leadership.  Trying to teach all kinds of different things from your teachings.  Leading people in all different directions.  How do you lead a church like that in unity with a focus on you, on Christ, your gospel – your truth as revealed by your Spirit through your word – or the scriptures and the teaching of Christ as they had then.  What a hard job.

No wonder it is of God’s grace, his mercy and his peace that Paul reminds Timothy – what comfort.  The things that Timothy probably clings to (longing for them from his church), and that his church need reminding of.  I know I do – constantly.  What comfort there is in these three things that you have given and promise that we will know even more fully in heaven.  I bet these are things that Paul’s eyes are cast toward now also as he longs to see him.

Imagine having someone giving thanks for you night and day in their prayers.  For the work Timothy is doing? or for Timothy himself?  I tend to think both.  Please forgive me Lord for not taking the time just to thank you for people, for the work they do, their ministry, their generosity, their friendship.  Please help me to be more thankful.  Thanks for Timothy and the faithfulness that you gave him, for his mother and grandmother who also had faith in you and for the words that we have to learn from here because Timothy was  a faithful servant of yours and a friend of Paul’s who needed encouragement – and who Paul wanted to see again before he died.

Father, I don’t say it often enough – but thank you for a family who care for each other.  Thanks for giving Joel and Paul and I parents who loved us and brought us up the best way they knew how.  Thanks for Karen and for Lisa while she was with us.  Thank you for the kids – for Hamish and Callum and Emily and Jasmine.  For love.  Lord I pray that you will help Joel to be reasonable about Hamish’s faith.  That he will not cut himself off from the rest of the family in suspicion.  I ask that you will open Joel’s heart and draw him to yourself.  Please God.  Claim both him and Paul as your own.  Take Karen and Callum and Jasmine and Mum and Dad as well.  May they become faithful servants of you.  Thank you for the encouragement that is mine and the glory that is yours in Hamish and Emily.  And thank you for my new friend, Megan.

Amen

Sweet and Sour Pudding

What an evening!

Megan is amazing.  She says that she hopes that we can keep in touch – and she’s the kind of person you just believe when she says that.  We just sort of clicked.  It was nice.  I hope we can be friends.  I haven’t had a good Christian friend my own age in so long.  I mean, I’m not setting her up to be my best friend and all that – but I think I could feel connected to her.  The closest I’ve come to that with anyone but Bennie since Kylie went to Scotland and Lisa died is Gina.  I want to be her friend. And for some reason I think she wants to be mine.

The kids had a great time I think for the afternoon, although they were pretty serious after tea and Emily looked pretty rattled by something for a moment.  Not that it was there for all to see for longer than that … but she is so like Lisa it’s hard not to read her sometimes.  I was going to ask her if she wanted to talk on the way home, but – well we were all a little distracted by then …

Carlos is studying full-time this year thanks to some supporters who had put aside his tuition fees.  He’s been working towards developing some further training programmes that can be run for local believers where they are serving.  He also wants to start work on some ongoing work that will help the small team that they work with to remain heartened as the work is often hard and slow to bear fruit despite the fact that the people are kind to them.  It doesn’t help that the government is closed to the gospel.  They tell of tremendous lessons in the value of a prayerful heart and the lessons that they have learned about praying.  I am no longer surprised that the first thing that the first thing that Hamish learned about from Jonah was prayer, nor that this seems to be one of the things that seems most natural for him to do.

I think that Jazzy enjoyed the company of the big kids.  They were pretty good about including her.  There was a little while while they were talking by themselves, but she was quite happily sitting with Paul by then.  I think that he liked them too.  This is good.  It means he can be comfortable talking with Carlos.

Overall the night went well until Joel came to get Hamish.

I hadn’t thought anything of it, but of course – to Joel it was strange that Paul and I were here also.  He threw up his guard immediately.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh,” says Megan, looking around and picking up on the tension, but not aware of the larger picture. “You must be Joel.  Karen said that you’d be picking Hamish up.  It didn’t click then that you’re all family.  We met Alciana and Paul and the girls on Sunday at church and invited them around to get to know them better.  It’s nice to get to meet you too.”

I grimaced.  I did.  Joel didn’t see it.  Paul did.  I don’t know about the girls – but I saw the equally horrified look on Hamish’s face and knew the truth.  Hamish was scared.  Not just worried.  Scared.  Thankfully, Megan, puzzled by my grimace, had not seen it.  Emily grasped his hand.  She had.  Hamish shuffled his feet and shoulders and everything in between but accepted the support. And the clock only ticked once.

“You people are all the same.  You take an intelligent person and try to brainwash them into the fold.  I’ve seen it before.  Well no more.  No thank you.  You will not do that to my son.”

Megan and Carlos stood aghast at Joel’s accusations.  Carlos went to take a step forward.  I shook my head and said quietly,

“Not today.” and nodded at Hamish.

Hamish stood ashen face, but with a kind of defiance in every muscle of his body.

Emily’s knuckles were white, but she didn’t seem to notice.  She had tears in her eyes, looking at her Uncle Joel with a resigned disbelief.

And Jonah looked sad.  Like he’d seen it all before.  Felt it all before.  Praying the prayers he’d prayed before.  And I realised, given his parents’ account of their ministry that he probably had.

“Hamish.” Joel summoned his son.

Hamish started walking only to be held back by his cousin’s grasp.  Realising that she was still holding his hand, Emily let go and Hamish walked obediently out of the house, thanking his friend’s parents for their hospitality.

When Hamish had gone, Joel turned briskly and left the house, wiping his feet on the doormat as he left.

Trust Joel for that little bit of drama.

Megan had tears in her eyes – for Hamish, I think – and perhaps Joel.  Carl’s voice was raspy.  Paul and I were embarrassed and both started to apologise for the scene at once.

Carlos interrupted and reassured us.

“We all know that the word of God is not welcome among unbelievers.  It should be no surprise to us that Joel was hostile to Megan or myself that he didn’t like his son being with believers.  We’re just not used to such strong reactions at home.  This is a part of everyday where we are normally.”

Which is all very well but Joel was still horribly rude.  And his son, despite his lack of fear for his faith was terrified of his father.

Suddenly then Megan got up and hurried from the room with Carlos behind her.

There must have been some kind of routine to this because Jonah frowned, stood and with Emily by his side went purposely from the room in a different direction.  Jazzy – somehow after Joel’s soap opera scene had fallen asleep in a bean bag.

Paul and I just looked at each other.

“She’s out like a light.  We should go soon.”

“Yeah.  Wait ’til Megan comes back and we can find Emily then.”

“Nice people.”

“Yeah.  I hope I get to see more of Megan.  She says she doesn’t really know a lot of people around here.  She could make a good friend.”

“You haven’t really had that for a while – what with Kylie overseas and Lisa gone … ”

“No.  What did you think of Carlos?”

“Seems like a good bloke.  He said he’d come and help Andy and I sort out a couple of the questions I’m having that he can’t answer.”

“That’s great.”

“Yeah.  I’m beginning to think so.”

Megan and Carlos come back in.

“Where are the kids.”

“Went walkabout.”

“Ah. Sorry.  People tell you about morning sickness – mine comes at night.  Half Irish, you see.”

“Oh. Congratulations.  Does Jonah know?”

“No.  We won’t tell him ’til we’re reasonably sure this one’s going to make it.  The last couple haven’t and before that I carried one to term and she died a day after she was born.  That nearly broke his heart.”

“Oh Megan.”

“Megan gets pretty sick when she’s pregnant too.  We nearly lost her with the last miscarriage.  That’s another reason why we came home when we found out she was pregnant again.”

“We haven’t told many people.  But – I wanted to tell you.  I want us to be friends, and you seem to too.  But please don’t tell anyone else about the baby.”

“Of course I won’t tell anybody and if Paul does, I’ll box his ears – but you can trust him with a secret forever.  Lisa used to say the only thing you had to worry about is if he’d remember it… ” I grinned at him.  He grinned back at the memory.

“If you’re not careful I’ll start …”

“Then we’d better say our thank yous and goodbyes and go”

Lord, please soften Joel’s heart.  Strengthen Hamish for whatever is in the days ahead.  I have a feeling that they’re not going to be easy.  Help Jonah to be a support for his friend no matter how creative he has to be.  And Lord please help him with whatever that worried look was for.  Help me to find a moment to talk to Emily also.  Thanks for the work you’re doing in Paul.  May he continue to ask questions about you and come to trust you.

And Father, thank you for a friend.  Please keep her safe.

Amen.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

It saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

I am so tired I can barely think or move, father

but so joyful I could overflow

There is so much that I can’t speak or say

More hope than I though I’d know

Heavenly Father,

You called my nephew, Hamish to be your child and you held his fathers heart closed.  Please open it.

You called my niece, Emily to be your child today and she sat and asked question after question.  And her father let her.  He waited with her while I played with her sister.  He let her commit her life to Christ.  And he let his remain open.  The Sunday School teacher’s husband is a friend of Lisa’s brother.  Paul has questions of his own that will go down better with a mate than me.

I can’t wait til Hamish finds out he has another Christian he’s allowed to talk to.

Lord, I’m not sure there are words adequate to thank you.  But thanks for Hamish’s witness to Emily.  I pray that she will tell him that.  Please prepare Joel and help him to respond reasonably to Paul’s interest and to Emily’s decision.

Amen

You’ve Got Me Beat

Dear God,

Thanks for a week without a lot of incidents.  I’m still pretty exhausted and recovering from last week, I think.  I mean, there was Wednesday – but who could complain about Wednesday?  That kind of exhaustion is elating.  Imagine – Paul’s answer to Emily’s wanting to understand more about God was for all of them to go to Church and Sunday School.  I don’t know why I should be surprised that you can work without me, Father.  I guess I just start feeling like I have to take on everything myself.  And I’m so used to Joel.  That is the most taxing thing at the moment.  This whole situation with Joel and Hamish.  Father, only you can resolve this one.  Please do.  I worry so much about Hamish, Joel can be frightening when he never intends to be – when he’s frightened … which is what he is when it comes to you, Lord.  Please soften Joel’s heart Father.

Hamish was so stoic today when he came for his lessons.  Cracking jokes, showing off – full of beans.  Like he’d forced himself to swallow every one of them that he could bring himself to before he came – for my sake.  Lot’s of fun – don’t get me wrong – he had me in stitches to the point where I couldn’t remember what we were supposed to be doing.  But it was like he was trying to prove to me that he was alright.  And he’s not.  He gave me an extra long hug at the end when Karen came to get him.

Karen smiled an unspoken acknowledgement of my brother’s stubbornness at me.

I nodded and smiled an ‘I don’t know how you put up with it’ back to her.

To which she shrugged and half smiled an ‘I love the man …’

All without speaking while Hamish had his head tucked over my shoulder.

Emily on the other hand was pumped.  She was genuinely excited and full of questions about Church and Sunday school and what happened and people who would be there and – you name it … down to how many cubicles were in the toilets, what kinds of flowers and ‘did the minister wear a dress?’ because someone at school told her that ministers wore dresses …  She could barely focus on her drumming either and stopped to ask a new question every time she started anything.

What sheep station?

Maybe I was wrong after all.

Who needs to compete for sheep stations – or whatever it’s ten-year-old’s equivalent is when you have Church to look forward to or long for?  A desire to worship him unhindered.  A curiosity driven by the Spirit that seems insatiable that drives as many spiritual questions as a child’s enquiring mind drives ones that seem random … or “why?”…

I have to ask myself, ‘where did that go in me?’ at times; and ‘what did it become?’

Father help me take the time – no matter how long I live here on earth to know you to stop and be astounded by your wonderful glory, your authority, your creativity, your love, your holiness and your majesty.  And you grace Lord.  Always by your grace.

Father help me to prepare for Gina’s cello lesson on Monday too.  I’m kind of nervous about that.  Prepare her also.  It’s going to be weird to teach an adult after all this time.  Thanks for this chance to spend good time with her.

Amen

See today Hamish Johns’ Secret Diary for an update on his journey.

Lessons

Dear God,

I get so scared of things sometimes that I tie myself in knots.  But here’s the silly bit.  I forget to ask you to help untangle me and show me the way through the frightening times.  Thanks that you are an all seeing God who watches tirelessly and tends to me anyway.  Help me to learn to ask for help earlier.  Please. Please.

I think I’ve been having nightmares this week.  I am so excited for Hamish.  Yet to not be able to share this time of new faith with him more closely than planning how to rotate memory verses in my special spot that will suit him on Saturdays.  It’s hard not to feel bitter towards Joel for that.  Please don’t let Hamish be tempted to start lying so that he can do things like go to Sunday School or to the homes of Christians who Joel may not approve of or to hide his Bible.  Help him to trust you in everything and Lord, please take care of his needs.  Help Jonah to show him things with a wisdom that is yours rather than that of a ten-year-old and help his parents support him in ministering to the friend you have placed beside him.  Father, if it pleases you, may I please have a chance to meet Jonah and his family?

Lord, Hamish is still such a young Christian, but still, may his faith be reflected in his deeds.

I was at Paul’s place to visit him and the girls – and do an extra drum lesson with Emily yesterday.  She and Hamish have agreed that this week she will practice no more than she would in a normal school week since he stopped for her last week.  Both have decided that this is fair.

Emily wasn’t all that focused on her lesson – which didn’t really bother me as it was an extra and she was still pretty tired physically.  But partway through Emily stopped and asked me,

“Auntie Alciana, do you believe in God?”

I think there’s an elephant at the door about to find it’s way into the room …

“Yes, honey.  You know I believe in God.  You’ve heard me talk about him sometimes with your Mum.”

“Yeah.  She believed in God too, didn’t she?  But she used to say that you had to be pretty special for God and she wasn’t sure she was special enough – only she never knew I heard her tell you that.”

“I’m sad you heard her say that, because she was special enough alright!”

“Oh.  I know.  I remember last year when the two of you were so happy not long before she died.  She said that it was pretty awesome to think that Jesus thought she was special enough to pay for her like he did!

“You’ve got big ears, Miss Emily, don’t you?  She did say that, didn’t she?”

We both had tears in our eyes by now.  The conversation that she was referring to happened in hospital not long before Lisa had died.  After years of wishing that she could be a Christian and not believing it possible, she asked and was born again.

“I was mad at God before because she said that soon he was taking her to a new home to be with him not long after that.  I think I thought he was just taking her away because she was his now – but you are a Christian and you’re still here and now Hamish is talking about all of this stuff and I’m scared that he’s going to get taken away too or that God will decide he needs you there not here and …”

Emily finished up in my arms in tears.  I just held her and rocked her and – well you’ll remember the babble that probably would have made sense to no-one but you, Father.  Eventually I just said,

“Em, I think we should get your Dad and have a good talk about some of this, hey …?”

“Are you worried Dad will be like Uncle Joel and not let you see me if you talk about God with me?” She suddenly looks terrified.  She also doesn’t miss much that goes on around her.

“No.” she loses her look of fright, “but some of this he needs to know about, and I’m sure he’d be more comfortable knowing what you wanted to know about God too.”

“Okay”

So it was that we, hand-in-hand with blotchy red eyes and wobbly smiles we found Paul in his hammock reading a book.

What followed was an exhausting conversation where Emily – and Paul – asked a lot of questions with the end result that Paul suggested that if Emily already had questions about God, perhaps she should go to Sunday School where she could learn more and find out more about him.

I was stunned.  It must have shown because Paul looked almost hurt by my surprise.

“I am not Joel.  Lisa always believed in God and we talked a few times about getting the girls to Sunday School but never got ourselves organised enough to do it.”

“Really?” this from a very excited Emily. “I can go learn about God?  Mummy wanted me to learn about God?”

“Yep”

And the girl who was so melancholy runs off towards her drums with yells of delight punching the air.

“Wow! This is exciting. I can hardly wait.  I can be here at …”

“No – don’t worry.  I’ll take both of them.  It’s time I looked into the God my wife spent so much time thinking about.  If she was right – she was heading his way last time I saw her alive.”

“You’re ready for this, Paul?”

“Emily is.  She’ll come home talking about it anyway, ready or not.  If what you’re always saying about him being trustworthy is anywhere near right – then I’ve got to be ready whether I go or not.”

He earns a hug for that.

Lord help Paul.  Give him curiosity for the Word, not just a sense of duty to his wife.  Thanks that the girls have a chance to learn about you through Sunday School.

Father, please help me tomorrow also as Gina and I start out with her first Cello lesson on an odd night.  May I be a good teacher, a good friend and a good witness as well as good company for dinner afterwards.

Amen

 

See today an entry to Hamish Johns’ Secret Diary for an update on his journey.

A Tune With A Strong Ring To It

Dear God,

I’m not sure whether I feel old or young again.  Kathy did music tonight and decided to go retro and got out the ‘Ring of Praise’ Books.  Some excellent lyrics in some of them, but right now I feel like I’ve been to an 80’s churches gathering, I will probably be trying to sing songs I only half remember all week, and right now I’ve got ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ going round and round in my head and driving me nuts.

I had a good chat with the Strongs, though after the service, and they helped me sort through a lot of questions that came up through Philippians as well as talking about my lunch tomorrow with Gina.  We spent some time praying about that, which was good.

The Strongs were, a long time ago in a past life, my youth group leaders.  They’re great people and I still look up to them.  Bernadette – Bennie is one of those people who seems to just ‘get it’ when you try and explain something.  She’s warm and empathic and lots of fun.  She used to play some really fun practical jokes on Oliver.  It’s amazing what a wife can get away with that a bunch of youth group kids could never dream of. We had a pact with Bennie – we left the guys alone and she’d get Ollie.  I think Oliver had a similar pact with the boys. Not sure how it would go down some places, but it used to work.

One time Oliver came down to a camp in his ‘station car’ (ie the old bomb that he used to drive to the station and park there everyday and drive home again and use for nothing else) and Bennie came down later. Overnight Bennie, the other leaders (one of whom was a 4th year apprentice panel beater and backyard mechanic, and there was another in the second category)& a few of us older kids pulled the main parts of the car to peices and laid them out neatly like they do the human skeletons in Bones.  Took ages.  I don’t think I’d ever seen Ollie look so stunned.

“I thought we had until Monday.”  He said blandly, trusting that she’d planned the clean-up.

Later in the day we were outside near the car park and opened the pre-printed study guides.  The talks for the weekend addressed what it means for us to be part of the body of Christ.   Ollie had already been using an illustration about how a car fits and works together.

The car went the next day.  Bennie had arranged for a Christian friend who worked for a wreckers to pick up the parts later on in the weekend.

I do believe that was the weekend that her sleeping bag was stitched up at the mouth (the zipper had been glued in place long ago).  And about a third of the way down.  And then about another third of the way down to the bottom.  And boy was it cold that year!

Good thing she had a quick unpick in her camp survival kit.  You should have seen that kit – it had everything and a bit more.  She was prepared for anything that would happen in the normal flow of events or for her own adventures.  You never knew what she’d be up to.  But it was never the same.  She would always outdo him – but never make a fool of him.  And there was almost always something that would help his talks or our discussions along.  Although, she’s always said she probably over-did it with the car – it over powered the study.   Clever lady.  Lots of fun.  But the first one to put everything down and appear by your side before anyone else noticed you needed somebody.  She’s the one who first taught me what it meant to really be part of Your Church body.

Father, thanks for the Strongs, their sense of fun and their teaching from your word.  Through them you laid some great foundation stones.  Father I thank you for all that you’ve done, you gave your Son freely for me, and I thank you for … aaak I’m being drawn into the “Ring” … Lord, I thank you for everything that you’ve done in saving me.

Amen