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?

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 

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

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

It saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

I am so tired I can barely think or move, father

but so joyful I could overflow

There is so much that I can’t speak or say

More hope than I though I’d know

Heavenly Father,

You called my nephew, Hamish to be your child and you held his fathers heart closed.  Please open it.

You called my niece, Emily to be your child today and she sat and asked question after question.  And her father let her.  He waited with her while I played with her sister.  He let her commit her life to Christ.  And he let his remain open.  The Sunday School teacher’s husband is a friend of Lisa’s brother.  Paul has questions of his own that will go down better with a mate than me.

I can’t wait til Hamish finds out he has another Christian he’s allowed to talk to.

Lord, I’m not sure there are words adequate to thank you.  But thanks for Hamish’s witness to Emily.  I pray that she will tell him that.  Please prepare Joel and help him to respond reasonably to Paul’s interest and to Emily’s decision.

Amen