Better Off Some Place Else

Dear God,

It’s on days like today that I know that I’m fragile.  I overslept this morning and was an hour and a half late for work.  I didn’t spend any time reading or reflecting on your word and am frankly to exhausted to focus on the print now.  Please forgive me and help me to be more with it tomorrow.

Work was tiring today.  I had planned to go out to lunch and then shopping for a new NON-COMPANY calendar with Gina who is still a bit distant – I think … or it could be me … I was pretty vague today.  But she was disappointed when I said that I couldn’t go.  I think she’d been looking forward to some time out of the office with company.  Yay me for stuffing that up.

Anyway she went and I stayed to try to catch up on some of the work from this morning, but finished up chasing my own tail.  Plus I’m still pretty tired and found it hard to concentrate.  I’d have been better off just going with Gina.  But it would have looked bad.

Graham came down looking for Gina during lunch and seemed surprised not to find her.  Apparently he’d wanted to talk to her about something and she’d told him to come down at lunch time.  Maybe she forgot we were heading out today.  When I told him that she’d gone out for lunch today Graham just sighed, nodded and left.  Weird.  Graham usually stops to chat a little with the staff.  I’m obviously looking like a jumble of joy to be around today.

About half an hour later Gina bundles back into the office.

“Hi! Did you miss me?”

“Nope.” I say – but actually I did.  Sad hey … “But Graham did.”

“oh.” she nods too absently.  “Good.”

Then she sees me looking at her and quickly adds with a cough, “I mean, I’ll find him later on.”

I look at her sideways, then add with a cough of my own,

“Bulldust!”

And she laughs.  Probably the first sign of levity I have seen in Gina since sometime last week.

I laugh back.

Scott sticks his head in the opening to our work area in the next minute,

“Hel – loooo …. ” and I’m sorry to say that we lost it.  Poor Scott triggered our two overstrung systems into fits of giggles and never did get to ask his question.  Instead he stared at us laughing like a pair of idiots, shrugged his shoulders and moved on to find someone else more sane.

Eventually, Gina and I contained our fits of giggles down to occasional snorts and the odd grin and got back to work.  By the end of the day we were able to grin at each other as we took our worried selves – yes, she was worried about something, who knows what, but something – home.

I feel like I achieved nothing today.

I’m not really sure that I did.

Actually, that’s not true.  I booked a hair appointment.

And I got home.

Lord, I’m too tired tonight to do anything more than sleep.  Please just let me sleep well.  I feel like I’m fading fast.

Amen

Oh Lord, What is Gina’s Bible doing on the shelf?

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

Sound Patterns

Dear God,

What a passage to read on this day when I come before you burdened with my nephew’s situation, not knowing what would be best to pray for him.

In verse 13 of Chapter 1 Paul says to Timothy that he should keep the gospel that he heard from him as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus and to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to him with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Father, these are good things to pray for any believer.  May you keep Hamish soundly patterned after the gospel he first heard and believed with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Please, by your Holy Spirit guard the faith, the salvation that was given to him.  May he stand firm and faithful in your ways.  Father, where others are ashamed to call you their Lord when they are opposed – I thank you that Hamish has been faithful and ask that you will continue to hold him steadily in the face of  Joel’s hostility toward you.  May Joel come to know you also.

Lord, I ask that I will never be ashamed of my faith in you.  May I always be willing to say that I am yours.

Father, please help my family as we start to ask ourselves and each other over the weeks and months ahead where we stand with you because of the boldness that Hamish has shown and Joel’s response to his faith.

May each one turn to you and be saved,

In Jesus name I ask these things

Amen.

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

Demanding Response

Dear God,

Today I read a letter that your servant Paul wrote to another of your servants, Timothy.  Right through.  The letter.  Not the headings in the Bible or the chapter numbers.  Not the verses or the paragraphs.  I copied it out without anything but the words themselves and read it.

Just the letter.  As a letter.

It makes such a difference to how you read things sometimes.

Thank you for preserving it – your word.  Help me to remember to read your word as more than just a text-book when I study it.

Lord, you had so much to say to Timothy through Paul – so much to pass on to others through this letter.  You ask for nothing less than my full attention, do you? Yet to understand anything at all of your character is to be transfixed by you – and it demands a response.  How do I ever get complacent about you? Your presence? Your mercy? Your holiness? The approval that you have granted me?

Father, please open my heart to you as I study your book of 2 Timothy.

Help me also to know what to do with the new knowledge of Gina.  Bennie’s Genie.  What do I do with this?  So far I’ve not had to make a decision because Gina’s not been in yet this week – but sooner or later she’ll be back and will see that there is something that I’m not saying.  She doesn’t miss much.  Lord, please grant me wisdom.

Right now I’d best be going.  Dinner with Jonah and family with Paul and the girls tonight.  Lord, please bless this evening’s conversation and open Paul’s ears and heart.  I can’t wait to spend time with these people.  They seem so lovely and I can’t wait to hear about how Hamish came to Christ!

Amen

Few Should Presume

Dear God,

I have decided that the only living thing that I ever want to be responsible for is a cactus.  I hear they’re pretty hard to kill.  I’m not good with other plants.  I gave up on goldfish after my third, and I don’t really want to be tied down by a cat or a dog.  Besides, I’m not fit to train them.  I’d end up with fat, lazy pets from bribery.

One thing I think I’m glad I’ve not borne is the responsibility for so far is teaching.

Bennie was over for dinner last night.  Dinner was delicious (as always), and we had had dessert.  Right before I went to get the coffee, Bennie spotted the books that Gina had given me loaned me.

“Are these the books that you were telling me about?”

“Yeah.  There’s some great stuff in there.  I’m working through it as fast as I can so its all ready to go back as soon as she wants it again,” I say.  I’m having a confident day for Gina.  “Take a look.  I’ll be back in a minute with some coffee and then we can go do some decorating…”

I came back a couple of minutes later and found Bennie with a book open to the front page where only Gina’s name was written in her lap, in tears.  I put the coffee down.

“Bennie?”

“My Genie …” She was sobbing now.

“Gina is Genie?” I ask, horrified.

Bennie nods.

Genie was a uni student that Bennie poured a lot of time and love and prayer into discipling when she was working in a part time ministry position on a university campus nearby.  Genie was a keen Christian, eager for mission, hungry to grow; she soaked up training in evangelism and how to teach and by the end of uni she was teaching and training others herself and contributing a lot to the running of the ministry.

Gina’s story.  It fit.

Bennie’s heart was breaking.

All I could do was hold her and pray.  Ready to pray with Bennie when she was ready too.

I thought again of Gina and the words I had been reading just before Bennie had come.  How James warned that those who teach would be judged more strictly and I wonder what lay in wait for her should she ignore the need to repent.

No – not many should presume to be teachers.

I looked at Bennie and thought of the other costs.  The joys and the depths of the heartaches.  It is a gift and a burden that God has only assigned to some.  Lord, may it be that this is Gina stumbling – that she will be righted once more to serve you.

Today I had the privilege of meeting a different kind of teacher.  I think Emily was even more excited that I.  We had visiting missionaries on home assignment at Church come to share their future plans with us.

It was the family of Hamish’s friend, Jonah.  It was so exciting to meet and thank Jonah for sharing the gospel with Hamish.  Jonah and his parents and Emily and I were very excited to meet each other.  I believe Emily was invited to play on Tuesday.  She and Jonah disappeared off to one side with much whispering and chattering – and I shall pretend that I don’t want to know what is going on so that I can tell the truth when Joel asks me if I know anything if anything is anything along the lines of my suspicions.

In the end, Paul and Jasmine and I are all invited to come Tuesday for dinner as Paul and Jonah’s father really hit it off, and his mother and I were not done talking about their work overseas when everybody needed to leave.

What a commitment to take on being teachers of the gospel overseas in places where it is barely known.  Where you have to learn a whole new language and culture to communicate with the people.  That has got to be a pretty frightening responsibility to look in the face at times – even if it is a joy.  I know that Kylie used to freak out about going to Scotland … let alone a place closed to the gospel (where people don’t speak English!).

Lord, thanks for the chance to meet these people who were behind getting the message of salvation to my nephew; for Jonah, who chose to speak as your servant and his parents who taught him to do this.  Please support him as he keeps supporting Hamish.

Help me to remember to pray for Kylie, for Jonah’s family and for other missionaries – that they may live blamelessly among the people they serve and honour you in all that they do.

Please help me to live blamelessly here amidst my world as I witness here also Lord.

Amen.

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

Haunting Music

Dear God,

Thank you for a couple of days free from strange and unexpected occurrences.

I expected nothing less that to hear Gina theatricise (is that a word?) about her efforts with the computer today after yesterday’s lesson …

“…and the fingers on my right hand throbbed every time one of them hit the keyboard.  I wanted to spend the day writing things like ‘kill, kill, kill’ & ‘my polo pony’ because they only need you to use your right hand for a while …” grand sweeping gestures of the right hand working the keyboard … “but then – oh my right arm! The muscles just ached! Holding that bow just so …” again she demonstrates, “and manoeuvring it to play … Oh my ..” she stops short and looks at me, “… garden gnomes!”

And that finished me.  I laughed.

“Fine friend and teacher you are. Oh, yes – here’s the picture of sympathy!”

I keep laughing.

” You’ll live.”

But that only takes me back to yesterday ….

For the most part work was unremarkable – but then there’s always Scott.

When they were handing out patience I think Scott thought they were playing cards and decided to pass.  Seriously.  After Bible study (okay, so that was actually remarkable … but it doesn’t fit in the work box properly and I was too nervous to concentrate well) in Graham’s office Scott’s all,

“So what have you got planned for Gina for tonight?”

“A Cello lesson and dinner.”

“Yes, but, come on, an ideal situation for witnessing…”

“Scott, everyday is witnessing.  We witness by being godly and speaking when it is opportune.  But if I’m reading James correctly, if I’m not living righteously then I’m wasting my breath.”

“What’s so wrong about hitting her with the gospel while you’ve got her at your home.”

“She’s coming for a Cello lesson.  She’s invited to dinner, not an evangelistic programme.  She’s not coming for an altar call, Scott.  It’s dishonest to trick someone into a situation they don’t want – do you think it will make her open to listen?  Do you think it reflects how God wants us to come to him?  I’m not going that road.  I’m going to pray for opportunities and openings and boldness – but deception is not an option.  I’m not railroading her, Scott.  She has already said that she doesn’t want to discuss it any further than we have.”

Scott nodded and walked away looking slightly perplexed.

But it’s true.  I mean, I know that James 2 is talking about showing generosity and acting on faith in sacrifice – but its also about demonstrating by what you do that you trust God to be God and be prepared to act accordingly.

So – I will prepare myself to act, to invite, to talk, to comfort, to do whatever is needed to make her way back and be ready to make the most of opportunities, and I will continue to pray.  But I will go about doing as I have promised Gina that I would, and with God’s help I will act in a way that is godly in all I do as his witness that he is trustworthy even though she does not believe that at the moment.  To show that he is real even in the way he opens the way for the sharing of the gospel.

Gina’s lesson went well.  Her aunt’s cello is a beautiful instrument.  I can’t wait until she can play it well.  And she will – if she keeps it up, of course.  Very basic stuff today, but Gina picked up some quickly.  Apparently her Aunt was going to teach her when she was younger, but something interrupted before they got into it.  Still, she was complaining of sore fingers and having trouble holding arm in position to use the bow properly by the end.  She has a nice feel for the instrument and a good ear.  I hope she keeps it up, even if she decides to go to a different teacher after a while.

Dinner was great – as usual.  I hate cooking for just me – so I tend to pull out all stops for a visitor and enjoy myself.  There so much that’s more practical to cook for two or three than for one – even using leftovers.

Gina asked me over dinner what I’d been reading lately.  It was actually a novel that I had found among her books called  Bamboo and Lace.  Reading it now it surprised me that she’d been into that genre of book – I’d have picked her as more of a mystery lover than this book.  But then I’ve only ever met the dark, bruised Gina – not the idealist.  When I told her about the book she smiled at some memory, then let it go following it out through the window with her eyes with a distant expression on her face.

“I used to love that book.  Back when I was thinking of mission and so dedicated to Christ.  I always found the way that she was ready to give up so much of what she wanted – of what the world tells you is important – to do what she was convinced was the only righteous way to respond to her situation so inspiring.  I always hoped that I’d be able to do that if pushed.” She re-entered the room, her voice hardening, “Now look at me,” she added with a brief attempt to laugh at herself.

“Do you ever wish things were different?” I asked

She shrugs here.

“Sometimes.  I haven’t for ages.” she paused. “You can make it look real again sometimes.”

Silence.  I let her look at her own ghosts.  I’m not unsettled.  Now is a time she needs to listen to the Spirit moving moving in her – not to me.

“What?  No words of wisdom?”

“You already know anything I could say,” I grin at her. “You just want an argument so that you can talk yourself out of your thoughts.”

“You’re good.”  She smiles back at me.

“No.  God is good.  But you know that, too.  Coffee?”

Lord, please keep Gina second guessing herself.  Help her to keep questioning you again.  Father, occupy her thoughts – day and night – with your word, your truth, your gospel, your mercy, your hope.  Please bring her back to your fold.

Help me to be wise in how I act and speak, that my deeds will speak of my faith so that you may use me as your mouthpiece be it directly or indirectly.  May I bring honour to my Lord and my God in whom I pray,

Amen