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

I’ll Have What She’s Having

Dear God,

How can you put forward such challenges though such everyday things as music lessons?

Saturday morning drum lessons.

The sheep stations have disappeared forever, I think …

I believe the cousins have a new pact.

Emily bounced in today radiating with life.  She ran over and gave me a hug.  She then announces to me:

“Now that I’m God’s friend, I want to do everything differently.  And that includes drum lessons.

“First, I want to pray before we start.”

And she did.  She prayed for me, that I’d teach well; for herself, that she’d learn well; and for us as we talked about her idea.

Next she told me that she wanted to change the songs she was working on, and showed me instead Amazing Grace and one she had heard played on my radio station that she had also seen in my music books before (talk about a memory – she went straight to it). that had a more upbeat tempo and challenging rhythm to it.  Both Christian pieces.

I checked:  You do know that there was nothing wrong with the other ones, don’t you?  I would never teach you music that was bad, even when you weren’t a Christian.”

She nodded.

“But I want to think about the words to these ones more.  Please …”

Okay – so I’m a pushover – but I agree …

… and am rewarded with a squeal of delight and an energetic hug.

The second song is quite challenging for Emily and about the standard I’ve been looking to introduce to her for some time.  It’s great that she’s got the motivation to learn it without being pushed.

The surprise came when Hamish turned up for his lesson.  They used to take it turn about who came first, however I was told this week that Emily would always be first from here-on-in.  Strange.  End of the competitive era?

Karen leaves.  Hamish takes his seat, bouncing with enthusiasm.  He grins at me, than says:

“Now that I believe in God and Jesus and am saved and all that, I want to do everything different and that includes this.  Drum lessons.  I want to do exactly what Emily did.  He looks at me knowingly.

Everything falls into place.

And then he prayed.

Help me Father.  I’m not allowed to speak of you to this child and he’s trying to help me do so without doing so.  If I get on this train I can’t get off.

“What do I tell your father when he wants to know why I am teaching you these songs?” I hand him the music.

“That I refused to play anything else.” He is smiling as he reads the words.

Talk about a rock and a hard place.

“It’s not right to disobey your parents.  You … do what you did at the start … and I’ll call your Mum to come back so I’m allowed to talk about God.”

“NO!” Fear.

“Do that thing!” Pray Hamish – Come on, you can do that well.

“Karen?  Alciana.  Can you come back here for a while please?  I need you here so that Hamish and I can discuss his song choices.”

“Can’t.  I’m at the hairdressers.  Why do you need me there?  You’ve always managed without me before.”

“He hasn’t wanted to play hymns and Christian music before.  You know what Joel’s like.”

“Just tell him ‘No'”

“He says he won’t play anything else.”

Karen sighs.

“Well, I guess its only music.  It can’t do any real harm.  Just don’t try and teach him anything about the words or what they mean.”

“You sure about that?” I ask, disbelieving that this might make it through, “Joel will agree to that?”

“I know Joel can get a little ridiculous about these things, but this should be okay.  Leave him to me.”

She hangs up.  I stand and blink.

I stand, look at the phone in bewilderment and just blink for several moments before hanging it up and turning back to Hamish – on his knees, hands still clasped so tightly his knuckles are white …

“Well – it looks like we’ve got a green light on the songs – but no questions to me about the words.  You’re going to have to find someone else for that, okay?

Did I say he was on his knees?  Next thing I know he is leaping in the air and running in circles around my music room.  I’ve never heard him holler such a victory whoop! And for Hamish – that’s saying something.

“Just wait til I tell Emily!”

What a morning!

Speaking of mornings, I had better get stuck into the afternoon.  I have a house to clean, shopping to do and a dinner to prepare.  Bennie is coming to dinner tonight after she finishes work, then I’m driving her home later on.  Ollie is away at a men’s retreat for the weekend.

I believe I’ll also be sharing in the honour of painting the shafts of the handles of his tools baby-doll pink in preparation for the Church working bee next week.  Bennie seems to think that this will make it easier to keep track of the tools  🙂

Father, I pray that Joel will be reasonable about Hamish’s song choices.  Thank you for the enthusiasm that Hamish and Emily have to grow and be transformed in you.

Amen

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

Spotting

Dear God,

By today I had thought that Paul was going to be okay if I went home.  But he’s not.  He’s a mess.  He still needs someone to ‘spot’ for him.

He’s as grumpy as a teenager when it comes to the itches.  The girls are – for the want of a better word – scratchy; and squabbling all the time.  I spend most of my time as peacemaker because Paul has either been unduly abrupt with them or ignores the squabbling altogether until it escalates as though he hopes things will go away.

Jasmine spoke pitifully for all of us when she said very quietly into what became a sea of silence for what felt like hours afterwards, “I want Mummy”.

The girls and Paul have taken to slapping at the ‘spottos’ (Jazz’s term) – but every now and then I find someone looking at me with guilt and hand over spots … and then they slap.  I figure everyone’s afraid that I’ll tape the oven mitts onto them.

I got some good reading in this afternoon while they were all asleep.  One of Lisa and my favourite books – a very well thumbed edition.  Emily is nearly old enough for it now.

Paul appeared, tired and rumpled after sleeping and headed straight for the pills and potions.  He nodded to the book.

“Lisa loved that book.”

“I know.  She wanted Emily to read it next year.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“When she was eleven.  Same for Jasmine.”

“Why eleven?”

“That’s how old we were when we bought it – our first brand new book.”

“You’ve got one too?” he smiled.

“No.  We pooled our pocket money and bought this one together.” I smiled back, remembering.

Paul looked like he didn’t want to say what he was going to say next, and I knew already what it was.

“Don’t, Paul.  We’d already agreed that it should stay here for Emily and Jasmine.”

“But … What if you …? You know … ”

“Paul there is nothing and no-one on the horizon at the moment and even if there were, I’m sure that they can let cousins read a book when they’re eleven if it comes to that.  They’d be at least eight years older than them to start with if anything ever came to pass and hopefully more than that.”

“Eleven, hey … ” he nodded.  “Anything else – rites of passage I need to know about now?”

“I don’t know.  I suppose I’d better think about it.  Some of them will need to stay secret womens’ business – and you won’t want to know; but you’re right … there might be other things.  You should think about whether you’ll want my help with anything in particular or at particular times too – if you don’t remarry or anything”

“I should be okay.  What would I want help with?”

“I don’t know.  Some men are comfortable talking to their daughters about their period and sex and boyfriends and stuff and some go green at the gills, give the girl a pack of pads and run then stand at the door with a shotgun if anything male walks near; others like the girls to get both male and female perspective on the stuff (not the period – the other stuff).  Things like dressing nicely, but appropriately; doing hair and make-up – but friends may do that; formal dresses, weddings … .  The girls will decide lots with you as the time comes when they get older.  Did you and Lisa have a plan about that kind of stuff?”

“Some of it.  But you’re right, I’ll have to re-think it and get back to you.  Some people would suggest that I get Karen to do things because she’s a mother – but I think you’re a better fit.  You get the girls.  Besides, she’s got boys anyway.  If she had daughters, maybe I’d look at things differently and talk to both of you, but you and Lisa were close.  You will think about what Lisa would have said and share stories about Lisa if I need you to do any of that stuff.  I think the girls would like that too.”

Lord, reading your word today you say that we should be quick to listen and slow to anger.  That’s really hard to do with a house full of whining sick people, whinging about being itchy and biting at each other, making complaints about each other’s words and actions.  Especially when all of us are at our most vulnerable and missing someone for whom we are still grieving and would have normally been doing this job.  Thanks for helping me keep my temper most of the time, but please forgive my attitude at times – for I too found myself became a whining complainer and was poor tempered for most of the morning.

Please help me to be humble so that I can live and serve in a manner that is righteous in accordance with the gospel by which I have been saved.  Help me to remember this lesson tomorrow and to work towards change so that I will be someone who does not become caught up in whinging and ill temper when surrounded by it and that in this change I may humble myself to the gospel and so be blessed.

Amen.