A Busy Day With A Productive Lunch Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?”

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

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

“Are you okay?”

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

“Sure.”

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

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

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

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

Amen

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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.

No Day For the Faint Hearted

The coffee machine died today.

Everyone at work was strung out like nothing on earth.

No, I am not kidding.  I promise you this.  Tempers were short.  Fuses would blow over next to nothing.  People were complaining of headaches.  You could almost see Charlie Green’s eyes roll back in their sockets.

If you ever want to make a workplace dysfunctional – just kill the coffeepot.

The only sane person in the place was Angie who’s pregnant and has been off the stuff for about six months… Oh – and of course there was Gina who is on a herbal tea fad (thank goodness) but she had something under her skin anyway and was no more fun than those suffering from coffeepot withdrawal.

I spent the morning playing it safe and stuck to desk work in the office with as little human contact as possible, then just before lunch snuck out to use the photocopier… only to find Scott having a show down with the machine.  He was red in the face and yelling at the thing calling it all manner of names that I’ve never heard him use on anything alive or dead as though this was going to stir the machine into action.  He’d obviously been there for some time with something he wanted done with some urgency.  But driven mad by lack of caffeine, he’d not examined the problem carefully in the exhaustive, systematic way that Scott usually does.

How did I know that?

Because I could see exactly why the machine wasn’t working.  And so could Gina when she stopped beside me looking at Scott’s ranting and raging.

“What the…?”

“I believe he’s trying to photocopy something.”

“You reckon?” she asks sarcastically.

Both of us know how awful the morning has been.  Both of us are a little unsettled by this foul tempered Scott who seems to have taken up residence where our annoyingly goofy Scott usually resides.  Neither of us is convinced we want to see the new Scott flatly embarrassed.

“You go and distract him and I’ll get that while he’s not looking.”

“Why do I have to do the talking?  He’ll bite my head off and swallow me whole.”

“No he won’t.  Just ask him some dumb question about what next week’s Bible study is supposed to be – I can’t do that and you know it.  Go on – now!” and she pushed me out of the shelter of the doorway and into the path of the jolly green giant.

“Uh … Scott?”

“What?” he thunders back at me.

Gina sneaks in on the other side of the photocopy room.  I’m committed now.

“Um. What passage are we looking at next week before prayer meeting?  I think it’s my turn to prepare.”

Scott looks kind of shocked now.  As though I’ve hit him over the head with a club.

Gina is down on her hands and knees beside the photocopier.

“I’m not sure, I’d have to check, but it’s not your turn” he adds calmly, speaking with the old Scott’s voice, “It’s Graham’s turn next week – you’re after Graham.”

“Oh,” I say, as Gina plugs the photocopier in and switches it on at the wall, “Thanks.” she rises and scoots out of the room.  “Hey, are you okay, you look kind of strung out?”

He looks a little embarrassed here as though wondering how much I’ve seen.  I must have kept a pretty blank face though, because he just answered,

“Yeah, a bit.  But I’m okay now.  Now if I can just get this photocopier working …” and he pushed the button again, looking stunned when the machine whirred to action and started copying.  “Well what do you know?”

“Yep.  A photocopier that copies things,” I say, as though oblivious to his last few minutes.  And then I leave.  Quickly.  Before I fall over laughing like Gina is already around the corner as she greets me with the words, “Well what do you know?”

After lunch though, the internet goes down, the internal mail servers crash and the fax goes off to join the coffee machine in the great electrical circuit in the sky.

Once more our department shows that we have the best staff with the most initiative in the place though – Kylie copied the coffee preferences list from the tea room and took Gina and I down to Gloria Jeans with her to get coffees, hot chocolate and iced tea for the team.  We were the only group in the building that left feeling good today.

Gina followed me home, saying that she thought that she’d left a book she wanted at my place after her Cello lesson on Monday.  I didn’t remember seeing one around anywhere – but then I’ve barely stopped and I’ve been a bit preoccupied the last couple of days.  When we got in there were two messages on my phone so I left her to scout for her book while I went to listen to the messages and make some hot chocolate.  The first message was from Emily who sounded distressed and asked me to call her back.  The second was Hamish – which worried me more.  He clearly asked me not to call back but said that he’d call back when he had a chance.

Preoccupied, I went back out to Gina who said that she had found the book.  We talked a little over our hot chocolate, but I didn’t notice until later that she hadn’t had much to say.

I called Emily almost as soon as Gina left.  She sounded so distressed that I went around to Paul’s to talk to her.

It seems that Hamish has been forbidden to talk to Jonah anymore.  This surprised no-one but Emily who couldn’t believe that her uncle could be so hard-hearted.  Hamish had also had his Bible taken off him and was told that he was not allowed to be a Christian anymore.  This did surprise me.  I had not expected Joel to be so direct and heavy-handed.  But Emily said that Hamish had told Joel that he could not say that it was not true about Jesus when it was true and that he was not embarrassed to be a Christian no matter what he thought of him.  She asked me if I thought that was brave, to which I agreed it was and told her that God helped people to be brave for him.

Emily also told me that Jonah thought that his mother was dying.  When I asked her why he thought that, she said that all he had told her was that “this was just like it was last time”.  I will have to talk to Megan.

When I got home I found two things.  Another message from Hamish on my answering machine.  The same as the first one.  “Don’t call me back.”

And a gap in the shelf that held Gina’s books.

Her Bible was gone.

nb Hamish also posted today 

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

 

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

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.

Going Places

Dear God,

Whoever made up that song that goes “The Wheels on the Bus go round and round” obviously never travelled in peak hour traffic.  The trip home tonight took forever.  The morning trips seem to move faster these days.  Please notice, with your perfect all-hearing ears that I said “morning trips” and “seem”, not “bus” and “do”.  Probably because of this funny little lady that’s been sitting next to me the last few days.

This morning I was thinking about how great it was to know Christians at work.  I was so over-joyed a tear trickled down my cheek.  Then, suddenly – out of nowhere came a voice,

“Excuse me, are you alright? You look upset.  Do you need a tissue?”

So I thank her and take one.

Then she goes, “Is there something bothering you, anything you’d like to talk to me about? I know you don’t know me, but I will listen if you want to talk.”

I smile.  She continues.

“Yesterday you said that even when some people know the story of Jesus, they don’t realise that they still need his forgiveness.  What did you mean by that?”

“Okay then. You said everybody knows about Jesus, yes?”

“Yes.”

“What is it that everybody knows about him?  Because some know more than others…”

“That he came to save us from our sins.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Okay.” I nodded, “but was everybody taught how?”

“Well you ask forgiveness for your sins.”

“As simple as that?” I ask.

“As simple as that.” she nods.

“Have you?” I asked her.

“Have I what?” she looked confused.

“Have you asked forgiveness?”

“Of course not.  Only sinners need to do that.”

“Are you telling me that you don’t sin?”

“I’m pretty good.  Are you telling me that God doesn’t forgive good people?”

“Different people say different things about good and bad people.  The thing is that’s not what its really all about.  It all revolves around Jesus…”

And at this point she hops up and mutters over her shoulder something like “This is my stop.  Maybe I’ll catch you tomorrow.”

Funny lady.  Think she’s lonely and wants someone to talk to more than anything.  Be great if she did get to know you, come to think of it.  She asks a new question every day.  Help me to listen carefully.

Getting Gina to go to lunch was a flop.

“Not you too!  Kelly’s been trying to get me to go there.  That’s that funny little place where the buskers can play a song and get a meal for free.”

“Yeah – off peak times or John would go mad, of course.”

“Broke more like it, given the way some of ’em sound.”

“Fair go,” Scott interrupts, “they need a licence.

“Hmm.  Or no fixed address from what I understand or the guy working his way through humming what he calls Handel’s “Messiah” would starve.

“I’m told the food’s great.” I say, trusting Scott.

“That may be,” says Gina, “but I’d rather go to the pub for lunch.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“Nope.  I prefer the pub meals to any others around here and its alright in the beer garden.”

Father, she was asking me to agree to sit with her and eat in an area where everybody smokes.  Thank you for helping me not to show my disgust.  Thanks for the ability to put my own preferences and concerns aside and agree to go where she wanted to.  I know I surprised Scott.  I don’t usually put aside my preferences that easily.

When he raised his concern with me about how sitting amidst all that smoke might cause me trouble for the rest of the day because smoke does always knock me around.  I reassured him that this was what I felt was right.  It would mean having the conversation somewhere where Gina was comfortable.  If it was for the sake of the gospel then her interests could come above my own and I felt that this meant trusting God with my health on Gina’s turf.

Thanks that Scott put up no more argument and that he and the others will be ready and praying.

Father, What am I going to do at the pub? I’m going to feel like I’m the pink elephant with the purple polka dots and orange stripes.  How’s it going to affect me for the afternoon with all that smoke?  I’d better go in early.  I might be as useful as the elephant by the afternoon.  Please protect me.

Amen.