Passing Worries

After all my anxiety over the last few days drum lessons this morning were remarkably uneventful.  Nothing happened.  Well nothing but a lot of noise – because nobody was playing very well.  I don’t think either Emily or Hamish had thought anything would go smoothly today either and had also been wound up all week and not focused on their practice.  They certainly weren’t focused on their work today.

You have to hand it to Joel.  He has us over the barrel.  One false move and he forbids me from seeing Hamish unless he or Karen are there to make sure that God isn’t mentioned – not that I don’t stick to his ridiculous rules and look for ways to encourage the other contacts in his life already – but while I can see Hamish, I can teach him a lot by example.  He has shown me that over the past few weeks.  It’s now even more than giving up the contact with the nephew I love.  I don’t want to let go of the opportunity to witness to him in whatever ways I can.  And Joel knows it.  He thinks he has the ultimate power over me and that I will do whatever he wants now, just because he has seen this new way to use his son against me.  Lord, may I always trust you to care for Hamish more than myself.  May I always turn to you before I turn to Joel.  May there never be a time when he is tempted to ask it of me.

For the moment, Hamish and I spent the first ten minutes of the lesson just staring at each other as though neither of us could believe he was allowed to come.  Karen had that same sense of impermanence about her when she collected him and I told her that I’d see her next week.

Lunch with Megan was a relief after banging bongos and deafening drums with ten-year olds … no matter how beloved said ten-year olds are.  It was a relief to share with someone about Joel and his exhausting need for power over everything.  It’s not something you can talk about with everyone – certainly not with people who know the family, and not people who are inclined to interpret it as gossip or draw you into gossip rather than just the quality that presses upon you.  But Megan is someone I really feel that is able to be trusted with stuff like that.  Joel is kind of overwhelming in a lot of ways.  He sets out to be.  He wants to be overpowering to a certain extent.  He’s kind of funny placed next to Paul who takes things as he finds them, looks for ways to build people up and wrestles with life and engages with people.

It turns out that I needn’t have worried about how to raise Emily’s revelation to Megan.  She started to talk to me almost immediately about how worried she was about Jonah and how withdrawn he’s been getting.  She was horrified when I told her what Emily had said.  She and Carlos will have to work out what to tell him and what not to, but I have an idea that Jonah will know that his Mum is going to be sick for a while, but she is not dying.  Megan is worrying at present about when the right time to tell him that they’re expecting will be, given that he’s ten and picking up on things that people say.  She’s worried about what would happen if he worked it out and then worried about another dead baby without them knowing.

Lord, I am very glad some days not to have to make such decisions.  But then, there are days when I would envy Megan her husband and son.  Father, please give Megan and Carlos wisdom as they decide what to say to Jonah.  May his burdened heart be given rest.

I wonder if Gina has opened her Bible.

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Absent and Concerned

So much for a productive day at work!

I could barely think.  I was so preoccupied by Joel and Hamish.  Just what did Hamish face when he got home?  How is he today?  How is his faith holding up?  And what of that fearful look on Jonah’s face?  What was behind that?  And Emily who carries the world on her shoulders – just like her mother once did … she was white in the face by the time we left – almost translucent.  Far too dry-eyed.  Almost as though in shock.  Not at all consistent with her usual reaction to Hamish’s dilemma.

I was so distracted that I forgot to go to the team meeting this morning – or would have if Gina hadn’t come to get me.  I couldn’t get the computer to work because the cleaner had unplugged the stupid thing – again.  Not that I figured that out either, I had Scott and Kylie in helping me and was about to call I.T. when Gina came back from morning tea and asked had I checked whether the cleaners had unplugged me again.  I took forever to finish two reports because I couldn’t think of the right terminology and finished up having to ask Gina for the words I was looking for (talk about embarrassing) and then I had to complete the second one again because I printed it and closed the document without saving it.  At least I’d printed it and my typing speed is reasonable.

I got to afternoon tea time before Gina cornered me.  She shut the door and asked me what was wrong.

“Why do you think there’s something wrong?” I tried to duck the question.

“You have been all over the place today.  Are you okay?  You were fine yesterday …” she looks like she’s trying to put the pieces together and coming up with nothing.  So at least she doesn’t think I’m in the middle of a relapse.

I sigh.

And then I burst into tears.

And Gina – the lost Gina – the one who served Christ – a ghost of her took over.  She gathered up her wallet, handed me my bag and a fist full of tissues to stuff in it, picked up her bag and stuffed her wallet and another fist full of tissues in it and bundled us both out of the building and down to the back booth of  Johnny’s Bakery round the corner.  She ordered a coffee for herself and a hot chocolate for me – just the way I like it when I’m upset including the froth and marshmallows and waited for it to come before she asked me again.

“What happened?”

So I told her.  I wasn’t sure how she’d react – but I needed to get it out – and she’d know why I was upset, even if she doesn’t believe anymore.  But I got to the part where Joel was angry with Hamish, and she was all for Hamish.  The idea that Joel was that restrictive I think, horrified her.  Even more so when I told her how terrified Hamish looked.  I mean, I love my brother and I don’t think he’d abuse his children – but it’s scary to think of one of them being afraid of him over something like this.

“But that’s not fair.  Hamish should be allowed to believe what he likes.  It’s not like he’s been lying to Joel about it.  Joel even knew that Jonah was a Christian.  I don’t know why it would have never occurred to him that his parents weren’t!”

“I think it was the fact that Paul was there with them that finished him.  The idea that Paul might be being drawn to Christianity scared him.  I think that’s what sent him over the edge.”  Perspective comes with distance from a situation. “Still I’m scared of how it’s going to affect Hamish.  I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be allowed to be friends with Jonah anymore.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope.  Joel never does anything by halves when it gets into his head.  I’m just worried what else will come with it.”

“You need to pray about this, Alciana …” she stopped and looked like she had just said something that was of a foreign language, “.. I mean, that’s what people would normally do in your situation.  What about Emily?  You sounded worried about her too.”

“Yeah.  I think I’ll stop by Paul’s place and talk to Emily on the way home tonight.  I can do that without setting off fireworks.  There was more to that than just Hamish’s situation.  I think Jonah might have said something that worried her too.”

“Poor kid.”

“Yeah.  You should meet her.  She’s got such a giving nature.  She’s a lot like her mother was.  Lisa was my best friend from the time we were little until she died.”

“You miss her.”

“Yeah.”

When I went to see what was going on with Emily, she was asleep.  Paul said that she had stayed home from school that day because she felt sick, although he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  She’d looked really pale and drawn and wasn’t up to eating anything.

“Sounds like Lisa when she was really upset about something” I commented.

Paul just nodded.

“That’s what I’ve been thinking too.  I think I could just about deck Joel like I would have when we were kids – but I know that’d just make things worse.”

“I’m not sure that Hamish and Joel are the only ones she’s worried about.”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you see how Jonah looked when Megan left the room like she did?”

“No.  But the kid’s not stupid.  He’s old enough to worry about his mum getting sick again if she’s nearly died in the last year or two after the same kind of things have happened.  Do you think he might have told Emily that he thinks his mother is dying?”

“I don’t know.  But I know that she looked like she was carrying the world on her shoulders last night.  I think we need to find out just what she is carrying.  I think if I’m right that Megan and Carlos might also need to know something too.  That boy is worrying about something big time.”

“Emily and I will have a little chat.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

“I’ll call.”

Lord please let Emily open up to Paul.  May their conversation be open and may she not feel any need to hold back.  Please comfort her.  Lord I pray for Jonah as he worries about his family.  I pray that you help them to work out the right balance of information to share and help each one of them to trust you.  And Father tonight I also bring before you Hamish and Joel.  Please forgive Joel his ignorance and draw him to you.  Strengthen Hamish for whatever trials you have ahead for him.  May you lighten his burden and make his paths straight.  Help him to hold fast to your promises which are sure and to trust you in everything.

Thanks Lord for Gina today.  Thanks for bringing her face to face with your ways and having to confront her former faith.  I ask that you call her back into your presence and draw her to you.

May you be glorified through the events of this day.

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.

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.

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.

Riding Elephants

Dear God

My alarm clock screeches and I wake to a sense of comfort this morning that wasn’t there before.  There are other Christians at work.  You have given me encouragers.   I’m  not alone there anymore (I mean I was never really alone with you with me … but … ).  Maybe I’ll get to meet Scott’s wife one day and can ask her how she copes with the “Hel-looo everybody!” to the contents of the fridge … and if he’s named their coffee machine … 🙂

Reading Philippians – your word Lord … through Paul here you bring one head spin after another.  First he’s able to rejoice in prison in chains and he considers it a privilege to suffer for Jesus – all so that the gospel can be preached.  He upholds humility, where others should be considered better than oneself and serving others interests as well as your own.  He pushes people to be bold and stand up for the gospel and live worthily of it – like Jesus – against opposition.  And he says do all of the is in awe that God is working through you and in you to do his will and purpose.  That’s scary stuff, Lord.

And his champions, yours – if they’re in your word – are the ones who’s primary interests are those of Jesus and the work of his gospel.

Lord, Paul is so sure and confident in Jesus.  No wonder he can say with such certainty to rejoice in him – although I’m not sure how I’d go in the face of such opposition.

The difference in the amount of confidence he has in the old way of the law, where righteousness was seen to need to come from the person cannot possibly stand in comparison to your grace and mercy, Lord where your righteousness is what we have been given through faith, and that also from you.

It blows me away how intimately Paul wants to know Jesus and the example he sets up for us.  To share his resurrection must have already happened – or at least in the now but not yet sense if he’s a Christian, but to share in his sufferings – following Jesus mission that closely that he cops that … I guess he is getting some of that by being in prison here, isn’t he? … And to become like him in his death – Father, this is a committed follower.  I’m not sure what it means to become like him in his death – is this part of the next bit or something different?  Please help me remember to find someone to ask on Sunday at Church.

Lord what an amazing thing it will be the day that I get to take hold of the resurrection you called me to.  How I long for that day, that perfection.  Father, its so easy to lose sight of that goal.  Help every day be an impatient push towards it.  Help me always remember to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the life you called me to and make this my priority.

Even if I feel like the pink elephant with the purple spots and orange stripes.  Thanks that there are no prisons and chains for preaching the gospel in Australia.

Amen.

Ostriches, Elephants and Pigs

Dear God,

You have a funny habit of bringing people back again for strange reasons that I really don’t get.  Take the nice lady on the bus from the other day.  I finished up seated next to her again today, thinking again about how to get Gina talking about the gospel and I was about to start praying about it when the lady leans over and says to me, “Excuse me, dear.  Are you alright? You look dreadfully worried about something.  I know you don’t know me, but I will listen if you want to talk.”

I thought.  Well, why not.  What if she’s my encourager?

So I told her that I wasn’t sure that my friend at work knew about Jesus.

“Doesn’t everybody?”

Okay we’re not the encourager.

“No.  Besides,” I added, “even when some people know the story of Jesus, they don’t realise that they still need his forgiveness.”

“Why does she?” asks the lady, then looks up and back at me and says, “this is my stop today, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She’s an ostrich.  Head in the sand.  No idea about any relevance at all of anything she knows about you.

Right.  Then work.  Lunchtime comes.  Tea room with Gina chatting away, looking for an in –

“Hel-looo Everybody!”

And Scott sits down with his sandwich and coffee across the table from us.

Silence.

An Elephant – a pink elephant with purple spots and orange stripes stands in the middle of the room.

Gina makes some lame excuse and goes back to her work.

“I keep interrupting something, don’t I?” says Scott. “It’s hard in the tea room to have an uninterrupted conversation.  I sometimes organise to head out for lunch if I want to have a serious conversation with someone.”

So I ask him where.  I mean everywhere around here is too noisy or has nowhere to sit.

“Benny’s Bakehouse is not too bad,” he tells me.  “I take people there sometimes to talk when they have questions about God.”

Pause.  The elephant is poised eagerly on a ball in the corner of the room, trunk lifted high …

I ask him straight out – I want to be S – U – R – E sure, “Scott, are you a Christian?”

“Yes.”

The trumpet sounds!

So, Lord, I was able to share with him about trying to find a way to share the Gospel with Gina, but how hard it had been to find an opening.  He was really excited.  He told me how he and Kelly and Graham had been praying for her a lot lately.  He told me how they’ve been meeting in Graham’s office every Monday at lunchtime to encourage each other from the Bible and to pray for each other and others in the workplace.

Father, I ask for one and you provide three in the same day – one in the same department and I’ve always thought that Kelly would make a nice friend  – maybe here’s a chance for that too.

I’m as happy as a pig in mud!

Praise be the the God of Heaven and Earth.

Amen.