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

Seeking Strength

Dear God,

This morning for some reason I wake feeling weary.  Perhaps it is the things that I am dreading today in the day ahead of me.  Lord, I am dreading a confrontation with Joel; dreading seeing Hamish having been intimidated in his faith.  I am looking forward to seeing Megan again at lunch time, but Father – how do I tell her that her son thinks she’s dying?  How do I tell her of the things that he had confided in Emily?  Please Lord, will you settle my mind to take one step at a time and to focus upon each moment as it passes today and help me to draw on you for strength as each one comes.

Father as Paul instructed Timothy and Timothy probably sought your help to do – I ask you to help me to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  May I be firm in my faith and thankful for the blessing of forgiveness that you have given.  Help me to show the way to you to others.  May I not be intimidated by people like Joel or by people who try to twist the truth.  Lord help Hamish to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus also in spite of any opposition he may come up against at home.

Thanks that you provided reliable people for Timothy to teach your gospel to – the truth that Paul taught in the presence of so many witnesses.  Thank you that this has been handed down and that you continue to provide reliable teachers.  I thank you for Bennie and Ollie and their ministry.  Thanks for Gordon who leads our Church so prayerfully and for Kathleen and the kids.  May you help them to choose reliable people to teach to be teachers also so that your word will be taught and the work will be shared.

Father, may I be dedicated when it comes to serving you.  Help me to be focused on your kingdom, on your ways – may I not get so caught up in the things of this world that I lose sight of what you have focused on.  Your eternal glory – that I might give thanks for my salvation in Jesus that I will have the honour of loving and worshipping you eternally.

Father help me see today through the lens of eternity.

Amen

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

 

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

Sweet and Sour Pudding

What an evening!

Megan is amazing.  She says that she hopes that we can keep in touch – and she’s the kind of person you just believe when she says that.  We just sort of clicked.  It was nice.  I hope we can be friends.  I haven’t had a good Christian friend my own age in so long.  I mean, I’m not setting her up to be my best friend and all that – but I think I could feel connected to her.  The closest I’ve come to that with anyone but Bennie since Kylie went to Scotland and Lisa died is Gina.  I want to be her friend. And for some reason I think she wants to be mine.

The kids had a great time I think for the afternoon, although they were pretty serious after tea and Emily looked pretty rattled by something for a moment.  Not that it was there for all to see for longer than that … but she is so like Lisa it’s hard not to read her sometimes.  I was going to ask her if she wanted to talk on the way home, but – well we were all a little distracted by then …

Carlos is studying full-time this year thanks to some supporters who had put aside his tuition fees.  He’s been working towards developing some further training programmes that can be run for local believers where they are serving.  He also wants to start work on some ongoing work that will help the small team that they work with to remain heartened as the work is often hard and slow to bear fruit despite the fact that the people are kind to them.  It doesn’t help that the government is closed to the gospel.  They tell of tremendous lessons in the value of a prayerful heart and the lessons that they have learned about praying.  I am no longer surprised that the first thing that the first thing that Hamish learned about from Jonah was prayer, nor that this seems to be one of the things that seems most natural for him to do.

I think that Jazzy enjoyed the company of the big kids.  They were pretty good about including her.  There was a little while while they were talking by themselves, but she was quite happily sitting with Paul by then.  I think that he liked them too.  This is good.  It means he can be comfortable talking with Carlos.

Overall the night went well until Joel came to get Hamish.

I hadn’t thought anything of it, but of course – to Joel it was strange that Paul and I were here also.  He threw up his guard immediately.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh,” says Megan, looking around and picking up on the tension, but not aware of the larger picture. “You must be Joel.  Karen said that you’d be picking Hamish up.  It didn’t click then that you’re all family.  We met Alciana and Paul and the girls on Sunday at church and invited them around to get to know them better.  It’s nice to get to meet you too.”

I grimaced.  I did.  Joel didn’t see it.  Paul did.  I don’t know about the girls – but I saw the equally horrified look on Hamish’s face and knew the truth.  Hamish was scared.  Not just worried.  Scared.  Thankfully, Megan, puzzled by my grimace, had not seen it.  Emily grasped his hand.  She had.  Hamish shuffled his feet and shoulders and everything in between but accepted the support. And the clock only ticked once.

“You people are all the same.  You take an intelligent person and try to brainwash them into the fold.  I’ve seen it before.  Well no more.  No thank you.  You will not do that to my son.”

Megan and Carlos stood aghast at Joel’s accusations.  Carlos went to take a step forward.  I shook my head and said quietly,

“Not today.” and nodded at Hamish.

Hamish stood ashen face, but with a kind of defiance in every muscle of his body.

Emily’s knuckles were white, but she didn’t seem to notice.  She had tears in her eyes, looking at her Uncle Joel with a resigned disbelief.

And Jonah looked sad.  Like he’d seen it all before.  Felt it all before.  Praying the prayers he’d prayed before.  And I realised, given his parents’ account of their ministry that he probably had.

“Hamish.” Joel summoned his son.

Hamish started walking only to be held back by his cousin’s grasp.  Realising that she was still holding his hand, Emily let go and Hamish walked obediently out of the house, thanking his friend’s parents for their hospitality.

When Hamish had gone, Joel turned briskly and left the house, wiping his feet on the doormat as he left.

Trust Joel for that little bit of drama.

Megan had tears in her eyes – for Hamish, I think – and perhaps Joel.  Carl’s voice was raspy.  Paul and I were embarrassed and both started to apologise for the scene at once.

Carlos interrupted and reassured us.

“We all know that the word of God is not welcome among unbelievers.  It should be no surprise to us that Joel was hostile to Megan or myself that he didn’t like his son being with believers.  We’re just not used to such strong reactions at home.  This is a part of everyday where we are normally.”

Which is all very well but Joel was still horribly rude.  And his son, despite his lack of fear for his faith was terrified of his father.

Suddenly then Megan got up and hurried from the room with Carlos behind her.

There must have been some kind of routine to this because Jonah frowned, stood and with Emily by his side went purposely from the room in a different direction.  Jazzy – somehow after Joel’s soap opera scene had fallen asleep in a bean bag.

Paul and I just looked at each other.

“She’s out like a light.  We should go soon.”

“Yeah.  Wait ’til Megan comes back and we can find Emily then.”

“Nice people.”

“Yeah.  I hope I get to see more of Megan.  She says she doesn’t really know a lot of people around here.  She could make a good friend.”

“You haven’t really had that for a while – what with Kylie overseas and Lisa gone … ”

“No.  What did you think of Carlos?”

“Seems like a good bloke.  He said he’d come and help Andy and I sort out a couple of the questions I’m having that he can’t answer.”

“That’s great.”

“Yeah.  I’m beginning to think so.”

Megan and Carlos come back in.

“Where are the kids.”

“Went walkabout.”

“Ah. Sorry.  People tell you about morning sickness – mine comes at night.  Half Irish, you see.”

“Oh. Congratulations.  Does Jonah know?”

“No.  We won’t tell him ’til we’re reasonably sure this one’s going to make it.  The last couple haven’t and before that I carried one to term and she died a day after she was born.  That nearly broke his heart.”

“Oh Megan.”

“Megan gets pretty sick when she’s pregnant too.  We nearly lost her with the last miscarriage.  That’s another reason why we came home when we found out she was pregnant again.”

“We haven’t told many people.  But – I wanted to tell you.  I want us to be friends, and you seem to too.  But please don’t tell anyone else about the baby.”

“Of course I won’t tell anybody and if Paul does, I’ll box his ears – but you can trust him with a secret forever.  Lisa used to say the only thing you had to worry about is if he’d remember it… ” I grinned at him.  He grinned back at the memory.

“If you’re not careful I’ll start …”

“Then we’d better say our thank yous and goodbyes and go”

Lord, please soften Joel’s heart.  Strengthen Hamish for whatever is in the days ahead.  I have a feeling that they’re not going to be easy.  Help Jonah to be a support for his friend no matter how creative he has to be.  And Lord please help him with whatever that worried look was for.  Help me to find a moment to talk to Emily also.  Thanks for the work you’re doing in Paul.  May he continue to ask questions about you and come to trust you.

And Father, thank you for a friend.  Please keep her safe.

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