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.

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Unexpected Encounters

Dear God,

Today started normally …

Was sitting on the bus as usual when James-the-Labrador-pup comes bounding down the bus – you can hear him before you see him – and that’s saying something because he is tall.  But today, he stops.  He tilts his head – like dogs do when they’re checking out an unfamiliar person – and get this:  he pauses.

I look slightly behind me to see a woman standing at the end of my seat holding the rail, looking at me as though she should recognise me.  But I don’t know her.  She looks at James intently also – he shuffles his feet, then somehow his whole self.  Finally, she looks at the empty seat.

Yep.  That’s where the elephant’s sitting today.  Filling the bus.  Not sure how.  But that’s how elephants work.

The woman finally finds her voice.

“Excuse me,” she looks and sounds nervous and like she feels a bit silly,  “but is there usually a lady who sits with you here …? ”

I look up at her.  What she sees obviously encourages her because she sounds more certain now …

“… asks you questions about God?”

“Yes!  Do you know her?  Is she alright?”  I ask.

“Yes.  She’s my mother.  She’s in hospital.  She’s fine now, but she broke her hip.  But she’s been refusing to rest until someone came to tell you.  She said you’d be worried.  She was right.  I can see it.”

“I’m just glad she’s okay now.  Do you think she’d mind a visit?  Which hospital is she at?”

Anyway, Grace – Mrs Hedge – it turns out has been talking with the hospital chaplain and mostly wanted to make sure that I knew that she was a believer now.  Her daughter, Carol, and I exchanged details.  I’ll visit Mrs Hedge tomorrow before the girls come to stay in the afternoon.  Carol said that she was keen to hear more about what her mother was learning too.

I wish James had a tail.  I’d have enjoyed watching it wag as he listened.

It only took me 2 buses to get back to work this time.

When I do get in there’s a box on my desk.  A big one.  Curious, I open the lid and there’s a bunch of books.  Commentaries.  Training manuals.  Gospel sharing programmes.  Sermon recordings.  Wow!  Who’s is all this stuff?  Where’d it come from?  What’s it doing on my desk?  Surely God didn’t answer last nights prayer by sending a bunch of angels down from heaven with a selection from his personal library …

I pick up an introduction to the New Testament and see inside it Gina’s name and suddenly feel like someone has grabbed hold of my stomach and tugged sharply.

Good job there’s nothing in there yet.

Gina comes in as I’m replacing the book and putting the box on the floor, trying to decide how to respond.

“You found the box? Great.  There’s another down in my car, but I remembered when I got up here that you catch the bus to work, don’t you?”

I nod dumbly and prepare to speak. Gina waves a finger in front of me.

“No! Don’t say it.  Yes I do know what you want to say and I am going to say this in reply.  I am not going to use any of this again, but I didn’t want to throw it out.  I’d rather you have it than anybody else and its been sitting in boxes at my place for the best part of three years.”

I go to speak.

“Don’t argue, please.  You don’t need to cart it on the bus.  If you like I can give you a lift home today since I’m leaving early too.”

“Can I speak now?”

She nods.

“Thank you.  I’d appreciate the lift.  Do you want to stay and hang out with some DVDs and I’ll make some dinner afterwards?”

“Sounds good.”

Movie was so-so.  Food was fantastic – even if I do say so myself (Gina agreed)

Father, its a strange world.  Here I am praying that my family will become Christians, whereas Gina grew up in a Christian family.  But her story is so sad.  Her Mum died just last year and her Dad was killed in a car accident 10 years ago.  Her brother and his family sound really great Lord, but the stories she tells about how her sisters have treated her over the last couple of years makes me want to cry.

It’s hard to believe that the Gina that I have met is the same person who made a conscious decision to pray for salvation at the age of eight and to reaffirm it publicly and be baptised at fifteen.  To think that this was someone who worked throughout their teens towards the goal of becoming a missionary, asking God to teach her to persevere all things and to help her be single minded when it came to serving and honouring him.  Someone known as a Jesus freak at school.  Someone who led groups to teach peers about you.  Someone who chose her uni studies around areas that she felt would be useful on the mission field.  Father its hard to believe that this is someone who has done twelve months short term mission to some country that I can’t even pronounce.

Lord, even the idea that Gina has been engaged to someone is strange – even after she had that live in partnership last year.  She was going to make promises in your sight at a time when that meant something to her.  Until she questioned whether she was being faithful to her calling or abandoning her priorities, and instead of being supportive – in his hurt, her fiance lashed out at her and told her that she was a double minded woman who couldn’t decide what her priorities were and that she was not good enough for either Christ or men if she was going to mess them around that way.  And rather than slowing down the freight train like pace of the wedding preparations as she’d asked, he broke off the engagement.

And then he left town and she hasn’t seen him since.

He left her behind in an incredible mess.  She’d decided that she didn’t want him anyway if he were going to act like that.  But somewhere in there she questioned if he weren’t right about her not being good enough for Christ, nor fit for his salvation and then hardened her heart and, she said, came to the conclusion that God wasn’t there.

I’m not sure that my heart didn’t break a little tonight.  The story of a hardening heart always makes mine crack a bit.

At the end of the evening I said thanks to Gina for the books etc.  I also told her that I would be giving thanks for them because I had only the night before been praying for wisdom.  I told her that I would be keeping them on a separate shelf in case she ever did decide she wanted them back – and then they would be hers again.

“Okay,” she says, “If you like.  I can’t tell you how to arrange your books.  But I can tell you now, they’ll be staying on that shelf.”

Father, thanks for the wisdom that people have shared in the books and talks and resources that Gina has given me to use.  Please bring her back to her former single minded focus for you.  Please, Lord, build me up so that in the face of opposition and trials I will turn to you and persevere.  And Lord, thank you for the freedom of singleness where I am free of complications and arguments that cause turmoil and divide relationships or hurt partners when life choices need to be made.  Help me not to be tempted by the riches of this world, but to persevere until the end in love of you.

Amen

Contentment

Dear God,

Thanks for sleep and thanks for pills.  Please bring healing soon.  Lord please help me stay ahead of the migraine today and to watch the time so that I don’t miss doses when I need them.  Let the painful dancing, head thrashing elephants sleep today – or even better, tippy-toe off home.  I can live with heavy head.  Just no parties please.  And no pink-elephant-me racing across the office to the bathroom.

Father, the Philippians must have been generous to Paul – he says they sacrificed for the things sent to further the work of the gospel – several times.  While not with him they do what they can for the work outside of Philippi.  Its such a priority to them to see the gospel go out that they give up other things in its favour.

Lord, this is such a contrast with the world.  This is one of the ways that I always think a relationship between believing/unbelieving couples must rub raw in marriage.  We need to support the gospel work vs we need to redecorate is a struggle enough in the west without mixed priorities driving the spending.  I think that’s one of the big areas that highlights to me how far apart our worlds would be if I were to start seeing a non-Christian just because there were no Christian guys were I to get lonely.  There would be a whole new kind of loneliness there.

Lord, I find Paul’s contentment incredible.  Learning to be content regardless of circumstances: here is a man in chains,who has also been in want and in need before.  He also says that he could be content if he were comfortable.  Odd to point out – does this mean that he’s attitude to both could be the same?  It certainly reads as though it were.  Instead he focuses on contentment – living in Christ as his source of this.

Father, if this is the source of all contentment, then make me too more like Christ.  By your grace please complete in me the work that you started when you claimed me as your own.

Amidst all this – the migraine from Monday’s triggers, the need for contentment in Christ; Father, I ask you to please work in Gina by your Spirit to draw her back to you.

Lord may I also be ready to share Jesus with the lady on the bus today.

Amen.

Sent

Dear God,

You have done some amazing things in history; made so many beautiful things and made such and enormous difference to my life that when I was reflecting on it on the way to work, my eyes went a little hazy.  Next thing came this voice,

“Excuse me, are you alright? You look upset.  Do you need a tissue?”

I look up and see the woman to whom I’d been talking last week.

I thank her and take one.  This is forming a bit of a pattern.

Then she goes, “Is there something bothering you, anything you’d like to talk to me about? I know you don’t know me, but I will listen if you want to talk.”

So I tell her, “I’m fine.  I was just thinking about how great it was of God to send Jesus to save me.  They’re tears of joy.”

“I’d have never believed you usually – but you’re not together enough to make something that good up so fast.  Come,” she says, “While you’re talking about that feller Jesus …,  What did you mean when you said it was all about him last week?”

“Well, from what you say you want God’s approval and his blessing and to be with him in heaven after you die, yes?”

“Yes.” she says emphatically.

“Do you remember that verse you quoted on that first day I met you?”

“John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Do you know the verses that follow it?”

“No.  Why?”

“They sort of finish the idea.  They say that God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world though him and that whoever believes in the Son is not condemned, but whoever doesn’t believe is condemned already because he hasn’t believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

“So how does it all revolve around Jesus?”

“He is the Son.  He is the way God has made to save the world.  The only way.  He’s your ‘go to’ man if you like.  You want eternal life – God’s blessing, you’ve got to believe in Jesus.  There is no other way in.  What’s more – Jesus is God’s Son who he sent to save.  That hurt.  Rejecting God’s offer of salvation through his Son will also draw his anger.”

“So how do I know what to believing about Je -sus -drat – this – is – my – stop …”

And she was gone.

Next thing I know a kid comes and sits down beside me.  Well, a uni student, so a ‘young adult’ and he says,

“Wow, that was awesome, where did you learn to do that?”

“To do what?”

“You know, walk up evangelism.  I’m waaay to chicken for that stuff.”

“Um.  I think I might be too.  But she just sat down one day and said something and I gave and answer and she’s been coming back and sitting here and picking up where we left off ever since.  Nice lady.  It’s good that you heard her today.  Now there’s another person to pray for her.”

“She keeps coming back with a question?”

“Yep.  Hey.  We’re told to always be ready to give and answer.  If we fill our minds with good stuff like it says in Philippians, maybe we can always be ready for more opportunities.”

The office was weird.  Everyone said they were surprised to see me.  It seems that my toilet dashes yesterday had everyone thinking I’d eaten something that set me chucking up all afternoon.  Sandy, our department manager was just about to put in a call to the department where Kelly works in the equivalent position to mine to ask to borrow her for something urgent.  Turns out that by 10 she might as well have.

Yesterday’s smoke, tears, headaches and broken sleep combined with the glaring computer screen this morning triggered a migraine.  Got migraine tablets in but not before there was an Elephant rave party in full swing up there in my head with the sub-woofers pounding, elephant bodies packed in to capacity and bouncing off the sides of my skull – and a few of them trying to poke their trunks out through my eye sockets.  And the disco balls.  The disco balls fell off their hooks and rolled back and forth casting reflections everywhere every time my head moved.

Today I really did chuck up dashing back and forth to the bathroom, bumping into things as I tried to run.

By 11.30 the medicine had kicked in and the elephants were all crashed out on the dance floor.  Sure my head would echo with a bang-ang-ang when a loud noise sounded and the now flaccid elephants would slide slowly, heavily from side to side as my head moved – but I could have done something useful – perhaps … if they hadn’t voted unanimously in her favour when Kelly insisted that she drive me home.

Lord, Thanks for Kelly.

Amen

PS  Are elephants excellent or praiseworthy?  They sure make a noble effort!