A Busy Day With A Productive Lunch Break

I’m pleased to say that I made it to work today.  I made it with five minutes to spare.  Not that I slept that well last night.  I was too worried that I wouldn’t wake up this morning.  But I did and that’s the main thing and I can have an early-ish night tonight.  It’s not too late yet.

As Scott did remind me last week – Graham was on to prepare the Bible devotions for before prayer time this week.  But strangely enough, Graham forgot.  We were all a little confused and figured the roster was wrong because Graham has a phenomenal memory.  Forget megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, nanobytes and so forth when you get to this Graham’s level you’re talking elephant-bytes.

Anyway – showing the sheer proportion of his memory capacity he opened up his Bible to the Lords’ Prayer and the words about prayer that Jesus spoke before it and he read the words from Matthew 6:5-15.  From here he worked with us to draw out the ‘big themes’ that Jesus taught us to focus on as we pray –

  • About approaching God in humility
  • About spending time alone in prayers
  • About recognising God’s great holiness
  • Recognising God as the Ruler of everything whose ways ought be honoured in all heaven and all the earth
  • Asking for what is needed to sustain us
  • Seeking forgiveness and forgiving
  • Preservation from temptation
  • & deliverance from Satan

there was debate about whether the last two should be listed together or separately, but in the end we decided that sometimes – scripture says we are tempted by our own sinful desires and other times deceived by Satan – therefore we separated them.  After talking about how we could do these more in prayer we spent time praying about praying before turning again to pray for each other and our colleagues.

We also decided that from next week we would start a series of studies on the slab of the Bible that Graham started us off with.  He has a good book that we can use, so we agreed and he’s volunteered to take the studies with us if anyone wants help preparing.  Sounds good.

Gina was weird today.  Kind of preoccupied.  And really fidgety this afternoon.  I was having enough concentrating because I was so tired without her fussing all over the place all afternoon.  I spent most of the afternoon in prayer that I wouldn’t lose my patience.  I finished up being really glad when it was time to go.

“So I’ll see you at about 5.30, 6ish?” I asked her.  Gina usually comes for her Cello lesson straight from work and we start at about 6 then she stays for dinner afterwards these days.

“Huh?”

“Are you planning to come for your lesson as usual?”

“Oh! It’s Monday! I forgot.” And she looks like she has.  Gina really has been distracted today.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, I’m fine.  I’ve just had a few things on my mind the last few days.  I won’t be there til about 6.30 is that okay?  I’ve got to go home and get the Cello.”

“Sure.”

So it was never going to be an early night tonight.

As it turned out in some ways I wish Gina hadn’t bothered coming to her lesson.  Her mind was obviously somewhere else.  She was everywhere but where she was supposed to be tonight.  She spent dinner apologising – so it wasn’t much of a chat time – especially given that I was too tired to contribute much to the conversation.  Or to leave my filter on.

I told her that I was thinking about getting my hair ‘done’ sometime soon in a silent patch to relieve the sound of the buzzing fly in the next room.  She’s been hinting at me doing it for a while now so she bit.  I’m not going to hear the end of this now until its done.  Good thing I really am planning to do it… perhaps …

I am so tired.  Please, Lord, let me sleep.  And let me wake and get to work tomorrow.

Amen

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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.

Plenty Really

Dear God,

Thanks for a day of plenty.

Went for a spot of shopping to restock my cupboards this morning – should have done it yesterday when I was shopping for spotty people, but I didn’t think of it then.

Had a phone call from an irate Joel.

“Did you say anything to my son about Jesus?”

“Did I not promise you that I would not say any thing to either of your children about God unless you were present?”

“Stop ducking the question.  I was asking about Jesus.”

“Then you were asking about God.  And no, I did not.  Joel, I cannot take responsibility for every thought your children have that has any religious ideas attached to it.  Even if I do not talk to them about God, someone will.  I am not the only person on this earth that believes that he is real or that he has an interest in our lives.”

“Okay. Okay.  You’ve made your point.  But somebody has been telling him about some gospel and saying that Jesus has saved him for eternal life and that he can talk to God any time he wants to.  And now he wants the rest of us to believe the same rot.”

Stand firm little man.  Even if your Daddy tells you to stay away from God.

“You have no idea how much I’d like to see the same thing, but I will tell you again.  Hamish speaks from his own sources – not from me.  Whether you agree with him or not Joel, he’s a brave boy, especially if you reacted anything like the way you usually do when God’s name is mentioned.”

Joel went quiet.  He spoke with calm reflection.  “Yeah.  I guess he is, isn’t he?”

I told Bennie about Hamish at Church.  She was really excited.

“Well,” she said, “the opposition will either squash him or give him a fire in his belly to press on for God.”

I thought about Hamish.  About how careful he was to guard my promise, his determination to tell his family and his tendency to seize hold of a goal and push on under pressure.  The last is probably a family trait, but the first involved more planning and insight than I’m used to seeing in a ten-year-old.  The second was all he had wanted to do from the time he entrusted himself to Christ.  I have hope.

Bennie and I prayed.

I went to leave Church bursting with energy and restlessness.  The time?  Quarter to eight.  Hmm.  I drove out to Paul’s place to find the girls getting out of the bath and changing into PJs.  Paul looked up and grinned at me, seeing what I held behind my back.

“Auntie Alciana!”

“Auntie Alcie!”

They ran towards me.

I threw a large cushion at each of them and ran for their bedroom to grab another pillow.

Just in time.  Two swirling cushions came pelting at my torso as I turned and made my escape down the hall with my nieces in pursuit.  Emily threw her cushion with surprising accuracy.  I picked it up and threw it back at her and missed as she ducked.  Then turned around and ran into Paul – armed and dangerous.

“Get her Daddy!”

And he did.  While I got in a few pathetic shots – Paul is both bigger and more agile.  He also has longer arms and can stand further away and still hit me while I can’t reach him.  Soon Jazz and Emily came to join in the fray and I’m getting it on all sides until I collapse into a ball on the floor with the girls pelting at me, giggling, and Paul bent over, standing with his weight resting on his hands on his knees – laughing between gasps for breath.

After we’d all settled down, I got to read the bed time story before being tucked into my car and sent on home.

Lord, its on nights like this that I never really want to get home to an empty house.  I want someone there who’ll call out,

“That you honey? How were Paul and the girls?”

Then laugh while I tell him all about it.  To hold me as I tell him about Joel’s phone call and pray with me for Hamish.  He might even make me a hot chocolate … if I smiled nicely enough – and I’d know just the right way.

Father, you know what you’re doing in all of this.  Thank you for the plenty that I have.  You have given me all that I need and people who love me and want me to be around for them; and people who are there to support me also.  Help me to trust you.

Amen

Speechless

Dear God,

Thank you for Jonah.  Thank you for Jonah’s Mum and Dad for raising their little boy to know you.  Thanks for his scripture teachers and his Sunday school teachers and his encouragers.

Hamish came to his drum lesson today.  He was not himself.  He said goodbye to Karen at the door and waited for her to drive away.  Then he looked at me as though sizing me up.

“I didn’t practice this week cos I didn’t think it was fair.  I was too sick to feel up to it the first week I had chicken pox.”

Wait until I told Emily.  She was going to be super relieved.  But Hamish continued,

“I talked to Emily last night and we talked about our practice routines …” going for vague, but got the point across.  Paul will be relieved.  They can’t have made an agreement that lets her go at it all day if he’s at school.  The ‘possums’ were safe.  🙂

Then it came out of nowhere.

“Auntie Alciana, I know Dad won’t let you talk about God to me and Callum.”

I must have looked stunned.

“I was talking with my friend Jonah on Monday at school and telling him about Emily and Jasmine and Uncle Paul and he said we should pray for them.

“So I asked him ‘what’s that?’

“And he said it was talking to God and that ‘because he cares, he listens so I tell him things and ask him things and say thanks and stuff.  Lets ask him to help ’em get better quick and not itch so much.  Chicken Pox are horrible.’

“An’ he prayed to God right then and it was – WOW … !

“I told Mum and Dad that night that I prayed for the girls and Uncle Paul and Dad got really mad.

“‘What’s your aunt been telling you?’ he yelled, real loud. ‘I told her, Karen – none of this God rubbish!  I made her promise that she would not say a word about God if we weren’t there to hear what she said…’ and he’d have kept on shouting if Mum hadn’t stopped him.

“I hadn’t thought of you praying before, so I asked Mum – ‘Wow! Do you think Aunt Alciana prays?’

“Mum said, ‘Probably.’ And then Dad started yelling again.

“So I stayed shut up this time.

“Finally, he asked me who told me about praying.  When I said it was one of the kids from school, he asked me what he said – so I told him and then he just sighed and calmed down.

“‘See,’ says Mum, ‘its okay.’

“But Auntie Alcie, its not okay.  Not now.  Not since Thursday especially.”

I went to talk.

A wise little boy stopped me.

“Not yet!  We got to pray about this separately so you can keep telling truth to Dad and I can keep coming to see you.” he pleaded.

“On Thursday, I told Jonah about Dad’s reaction.  He got all quiet and he said,

“‘Did you get in trouble? Are you still allowed to talk to me?’

“That kinda shocked me. ‘Are there other people who aren’t allowed to talk about God?’

“‘All over the world,’ he says.  ‘Here most people don’t get as mad as your Dad, but people think it’s weird.’

“‘I guess it is if you don’t think he’s there.  But Auntie Alciana’s different.  She’s smart, but makes sure you feel special and treats everyone as important.  If she makes a promise she keeps it.  And she keeps her temper – mostly.  It’s like there’s something more important to her than just getting her own way all the time.’

“Then he told me about Jesus.”

He said he believed.

He wasn’t sure what to do about telling his parents but he wanted them to believe too.

Father, by now he had me in tears.  I gave him a great big hug and he gave me one too and we held on tight for a long time.

I cleared my throat to talk.

Hamish jumped back in alarm. “Don’t talk!”  He looked terrified.

I nodded.

“Come on let’s wash faces and have some morning tea.  Make sure we’re ready when Mum comes to get you, hey?”

We were happily finishing morning tea when Karen collected Hamish.

“See you next week, Auntie Alciana!” he calls, just as though nothing but a drum lesson had passed between us.

Father, who’d have thought that the first of my family to seek you would be Joel’s ten-year-old son to whom I am forbidden to speak of you.  Thank you for his life, for his hope and for his friend.  Please strengthen his friend for the task you have prepared for him and provide other teachers, too, for Hamish.  Please prepare Hamish for the rocky path ahead of him.

Amen.

Rejoice! Transcendent Peace!

Dear God,

Lord, you are the God of all things.  You will bring all history to completion and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to your glory.

You are the one who has begun an incredible work in me and you are the one who has promised to complete it.  I have a sure place in your kingdom.  Help me to press on toward that goal.  You have even shown me how through Jesus.

So I will rejoice!  You say there’s nothing to be anxious about, but to bring it all to you with thanksgiving.  I confess I don’t know how not to be anxious about things like work and deadlines and confrontations and getting sick; things like needing to use the public toilets at nights, and even the occasional spider or cockroach … but I can associate with the thanksgiving of being able to hand something over.  Is it really that simple?  The eternal matters – big stuff, yes.  I get that.  But the rest???  No wonder there is peace.  But its not peace that the problem will go away, is it Lord?  It’s peace that will guard my heart and mind in Christ.  Is this what Gina missed?

Father, you will care for me and my faith – the faith you gave – as I encounter Gina’s unbelief and distance from you each day.  May I remember to keep bring her before you as she herself said I would.  Please reignite that flicker of hope still in her, Lord I’m sure I saw it – just for a moment – when she said she knew I’d pray.  Only you really know.

Lord God, what inspirational things to fill my head with.  To do. What a marvellous way to guard against sinful thoughts and actions!  Father help me – show me the best place to start so that I can fill my head up with so much good stuff that there’s no room for anything else.  Your word.  I could do PTC; I could read some of the classics of Christian literature; maybe I should look at some biographies of some of the missionaries and reformers and people like that, there could be lots to learn from the history of the Church – so much good to fill my mind with!

But … that’s probably not the point here, is it God?  Help me stick with you in my thoughts all the time so that I might experience your peace and act accordingly.  Show me the excellent, the praiseworthy, the pure and noble and lovely and your truth.  May I overflow with these things.

Father, please help me to display Christ to Gina and others I encounter this week.

And – will you please give the little lady on the bus another question.

Amen.

For Heaven’s Sake

Dear God,

Today I’m wearing my hot pink shirt.  It’s symbolic.  If I’m called to stand out like the proverbial elephant, let me do it readily and with boldness!  Today I have lunch with Gina in the beer gardens at the pub.  Today I share with her the gospel.

I have my puffer.  I don’t need it often – but will today, I’m sure.  I am also packing extra deodorant to drown out the smell of smoke for the afternoon, some mint flavoured chewy and some herbal teabags.  And some pain killers.  I’m sure to have a roaring headache after an hour in the pub’s beer garden.  Lord, I’m so nervous – please help me to be ready.  Help me to be clear.  Open her up to the gospel.  Only you can prepare her.

Lord, reading your word this morning, I’m reminded that Gina is one of those who is still an enemy of the cross.  She may not be a persecutor – but she’s a passive enemy – by not standing under you she stands against you.  Her current destiny is destruction, her god is her own satisfaction and what she glories in is not you, so it is only worthy of shame.  Father, what she wants she can only have on Earth.  Please teach her about Heaven.  May she long to live there with you as I do.  As believers everywhere do.  Lord, please reveal to her your truth, the hope of the gospel.

Thank you for the certainty of Heaven.  Thank you that one day Jesus will return to make this body like his.

Father, help me to stand firm today, no matter what.

Amen

Note to self: Just think – a heavenly body 🙂  … I’m sure God shakes his head at me sometimes.

Blessed Refuge

Dear God,

Thanks for a lovely sleep.   Lovely dream of good times in Scotland from last year with some wierd moments thrown in – I’m sure the snowman wasn’t animated.  I woke up, as usual on a Sunday, all tangle up in my doona sprawled all over the bed.  Aah!  Feeling nice and refreshed and ready for the week ahead.

Reading from Psalm 2 today, Lord.  This is one of the ones that always blows me away.  One of the ones that has shadows of Jesus in it.  I always think its amazing how you did that – revealed stuff to David that was now but not yet – like you do with us.  The kings of this world standing against the Lord and his Anointed – his own appointed King, his Son.  A warning to serve the Lord with fear – awe, and to rejoice with trembling and to bow to the Son, his annointed.  Take refuge in the Lord or be destroyed.

But it’s not an awful refuge he offers.  It’s a place of awe and rejoicing in wonder.  Its a blessing.  The kings are being offered something great.

And yet they refuse to submit and plot against him and will ultimately be destroyed.

So much like the peoples today.  So much like the gospel.  Turn and submit to God and his Son or face destruction.  The Son has bought you blessing by his own blood, just ask forgiveness and submit – and yet so many walk away.  But for those of us who come there is rejoicing and blessing.  And prayers for those yet to turn, from all nations.

Father, please help me to be a faithful witness and to share your gospel.  Lord, please bless my family with your refuge – your salvation.  Thanks that Paul and his girls are asking questions.  Well – that Paul’s letting the girls ask questions in front of him and then listening harder to the answers than they are.  Thanks for Mum’s interest in coming to Church and Hamish’s curiosity.  Please open Joel and Dad to you too. Please also open Gina’s heart to your message tomorrow also.  Help me to prepared to give an answer to any question she may have.

Lord, I hadn’t thought about Gina having questions.  I think I’m going to be sick.  Help! Whatever made me think I could do this …  You’re going to have to get me though this, you know that, right?

Amen