A Sunday’s Collection

What a day!

I had a phone call this morning from Scotland…. at about 4am!!!

Kylie was homesick.

Tomorrow is  her grandmother’s 60th wedding anniversary and her family will all be celebrating today.  She organised a nice surprise for her Nan through her sister and her step-brother is taking his laptop and whatever gear he needs to Skype later this morning, but it’s not like being there.  She and her Nan are close.  It was her Nan that introduced her to Jesus when she was only little.  Her Nan is so proud of her work in Scotland with the Churches over there – but I know she will be missing Kylie today too.

Just imagine.  Sixty years of being married.  I’d have to be live til a ripe old age to get there now.  I’d probably forget half of it.  What a dud.  Oh well – at least I’m not pining away now like a sad sack… most of the time anyway.  Pity about the handsome rogue that missed out on me, though.  Hmmm, if he gets his act together in the next couple of years and stops by I might condescend to get hitched so that I can celebrate forgetting half our marriage when we reach 60 years.  I think I’ll go for a younger man though.  They used to say that women lived about 7 yrs longer than men, so perhaps I should start looking at the guys about 7 years younger than me – that way I wouldn’t end up a lone widow.

Anyway, after spending time talking to Kylie, I just couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up again and dug out my sewing gear.  I’ve had patterns and fabric to make a princess dress for Emily and a fairy outfit for Jasmine.  I washed the material almost as soon as I bought it, but I’ve done nothing with it since.  This morning I cut out the patterns for both outfits and started on the fairy suit.  I’m so excited.  I can’t wait to finish it.  I think I was working right up til lunch time and would probably have kept going if Karen hadn’t appeared at my door.

Jazzy is sooo going to love this outfit.  Paul will have fits because she will want to wear it to places that he won’t think are suitable – but hey – how long are you seven for, right?

Where was I up to? Karen.  Yeah.  Right.

I was just finishing this seem and Karen knocks at my door.

Now I’m really stumped.  Karen NEVER comes to visit me.  I’ve often wondered if she even really likes me.  Like maybe she thinks I’m some kind of hypochondriac because of the Depression or something … anyway – there she is.  So I invite her in with my best manners, like she does when I visit her.  I offer her a cuppa, like she does when I visit her.  And we sit down in the lounge like we do when I visit her.  Now I’m not sure what to do next or what she expects – because I’m not her and I’m just thinking “wait a minute, just be yourself” when she bursts into tears.

Aack!

Karen doesn’t cry.

Karen doesn’t show emotion.

Help!!!

“Karen, what is it? Is there anything I can do?”

She just keeps crying.  Her tissue is fast getting shredded so I go and get my friendly box of Kleenex that I keep handy for visitors.  I seem to get lots of visitors who cry.  I think people think it’s more acceptable and less humiliating to cry in front of someone who gets officially depressed than in front of other people.  Karen thanks me and takes another tissue.

Eventually the tears slow down and she can talk.

“I’m sorry.” First thing everybody says after they’ve cried in front of anybody.  She takes a deep breath.  “I just don’t know what to do.  It’s Joel.  He’s become really ridiculous about this whole Christianity thing.  Hamish has been really good – but Joel has been at him like a …. a … a ”

“Like a Joel.  I remember what he can be like, Karen.  What’s he been doing?”

“He keeps telling asking him if he’s been talking to Jonah.  He’s been ringing the school.  He is insisting that they make sure that he doesn’t go to religious education or spend time with the children that they know have religious beliefs – which is  utterly  ridiculous and he knows it; he’s even taken to searching Hamish’s room to make sure that he hasn’t got any Bibles or religious books hidden.  He’s ridiculous.  Poor Hamish is putting up with it really patiently – which I must say surprises me because, you know, temperament-wise they have always been cut from the same cloth.  He bites his tongue, he answers politely when I want to shout at Joel.  I don’t know why Joel can’t believe him.  I do.  And I don’t know why Joel can’t see that he’s not going to shift what our son believes like he’s trying to.  Anybody can see that he’s really convinced that its true.”

Go Hamish.  You champion.  God is faithful and holds those who cling to him in the palm of his hand … he even hangs on to ones who flail.  You keep on standing in the face of opposition and be godly.  To hear that his mother is seeing changes in him already is awesome.

“This is Joel we’re talking about, here Karen.  You and I both love him – but we both know that he does absolutely nothing by halves.”

She sighs.

“But this.  This is different.  He has gone beyond reason with this.  You should see him, Alciana.  It truly is like watching him turn into a different man when he gets going.”

I sit with her in silence for a few moments and just listen.

“Alciana?”

“Yes.”

“I need you to explain something to me.”

My heart starts to beat faster.

“What do you want explained, Karen?”

“I need to know what exactly is this “gospel” that my son has taken hold of so strongly.  I need to know what my son believes and why he is holding on to it so strongly.”

My heart is in my mouth and I have tears rising towards my eyes.

“That is something that I would be glad to do for you, Karen.”

And I gulped down a huge mouthful of cold tea.

And so it was that this afternoon I got to share the gospel with Karen.  I told her what Hamish believed.  How did I do it?  I took her through a simple explanation using the 2 Ways to Live drawings and verses.

“And that’s it?” she asked.  “That’s what’s changed my son?”

“That’s what’s transformed your son.”

“But why is Joel making such a big fuss about this?  Anyone would think Hamish had joint some wild cult or something.”

“I’m not sure, Karen.  He wasn’t always, but he hasn’t been reasonable about it for so long now I can’t remember when it started.  He won’t talk to me about it.  Paul might know more.  Maybe Mum or Dad.”

“Your parents couldn’t tell me anything useful.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Do?  I don’t know.  I’d like to understand it more.  Do you think you’d be willing to show me some more about this stuff some time?  I mean, we’d need to be careful.  I don’t want Joel to know.  And I don’t want Hamish to either – he might think I’m taking sides or something, you know?”

“They don’t have to know, Karen.  You just come around when it’s a good time for you and we can talk some more.”

I am praying here at the same time that I look something like casual – because right now I am feeling like I want to take off tap dancing around the room and singing at the top of my voice.

Karen lights up.  Note – I have never ever seen Karen light up.  Maybe we have just made contact, Lord.  Please touch her heart and draw her to you.  Karen always seems like she never really trusts anyone.  Help her to trust you.  Grant her faith.

Anyway, then she asks me about what I was doing when she arrived (like a good visitor), so I got to show her what I was working on for the girls.  We had a good laugh about the idea of Jazz as a fairy and picturing Paul laundering fairy clothes.  Mind you he already does little dresses and cleans little school shoes and all sorts of little girly things.  It’s kind of sweet really.  Lisa would have loved seeing him doing these things.

I miss Lisa.

Anyway, tonight’s Church held yet another surprise.  Carlos and Megan have decided to make our church their home Church for the next while.  This was a big surprise, but apparently after talking to the doctors this week they have taken leave of absence from everything but Carlos’ study and because none of their supporting Churches are in this area where they need to be for Carlos’ study and Megan’s medical needs they’ve chosen to join us.  I’m so glad for the purely selfish reason that I’m going to love having Megan around.

I’m catching up with Megan on Wednesday after work this week.  I’m going to head over there on my way home for afternoon tea.

Father, please help me to sleep well tonight after such a busy day.  I’m tired after the early start.  Please help me to watch my sleep this week so that I don’t get all topsy-turvy on my sleep patterns.  That always ends badly.  Thanks for giving me people to connect with just as I’m reminded of those I miss.  And thanks for the chance to explain the gospel to Karen.  Please may Hamish have his mother to turn to for support in you some day.

Amen.

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Plenty Really

Dear God,

Thanks for a day of plenty.

Went for a spot of shopping to restock my cupboards this morning – should have done it yesterday when I was shopping for spotty people, but I didn’t think of it then.

Had a phone call from an irate Joel.

“Did you say anything to my son about Jesus?”

“Did I not promise you that I would not say any thing to either of your children about God unless you were present?”

“Stop ducking the question.  I was asking about Jesus.”

“Then you were asking about God.  And no, I did not.  Joel, I cannot take responsibility for every thought your children have that has any religious ideas attached to it.  Even if I do not talk to them about God, someone will.  I am not the only person on this earth that believes that he is real or that he has an interest in our lives.”

“Okay. Okay.  You’ve made your point.  But somebody has been telling him about some gospel and saying that Jesus has saved him for eternal life and that he can talk to God any time he wants to.  And now he wants the rest of us to believe the same rot.”

Stand firm little man.  Even if your Daddy tells you to stay away from God.

“You have no idea how much I’d like to see the same thing, but I will tell you again.  Hamish speaks from his own sources – not from me.  Whether you agree with him or not Joel, he’s a brave boy, especially if you reacted anything like the way you usually do when God’s name is mentioned.”

Joel went quiet.  He spoke with calm reflection.  “Yeah.  I guess he is, isn’t he?”

I told Bennie about Hamish at Church.  She was really excited.

“Well,” she said, “the opposition will either squash him or give him a fire in his belly to press on for God.”

I thought about Hamish.  About how careful he was to guard my promise, his determination to tell his family and his tendency to seize hold of a goal and push on under pressure.  The last is probably a family trait, but the first involved more planning and insight than I’m used to seeing in a ten-year-old.  The second was all he had wanted to do from the time he entrusted himself to Christ.  I have hope.

Bennie and I prayed.

I went to leave Church bursting with energy and restlessness.  The time?  Quarter to eight.  Hmm.  I drove out to Paul’s place to find the girls getting out of the bath and changing into PJs.  Paul looked up and grinned at me, seeing what I held behind my back.

“Auntie Alciana!”

“Auntie Alcie!”

They ran towards me.

I threw a large cushion at each of them and ran for their bedroom to grab another pillow.

Just in time.  Two swirling cushions came pelting at my torso as I turned and made my escape down the hall with my nieces in pursuit.  Emily threw her cushion with surprising accuracy.  I picked it up and threw it back at her and missed as she ducked.  Then turned around and ran into Paul – armed and dangerous.

“Get her Daddy!”

And he did.  While I got in a few pathetic shots – Paul is both bigger and more agile.  He also has longer arms and can stand further away and still hit me while I can’t reach him.  Soon Jazz and Emily came to join in the fray and I’m getting it on all sides until I collapse into a ball on the floor with the girls pelting at me, giggling, and Paul bent over, standing with his weight resting on his hands on his knees – laughing between gasps for breath.

After we’d all settled down, I got to read the bed time story before being tucked into my car and sent on home.

Lord, its on nights like this that I never really want to get home to an empty house.  I want someone there who’ll call out,

“That you honey? How were Paul and the girls?”

Then laugh while I tell him all about it.  To hold me as I tell him about Joel’s phone call and pray with me for Hamish.  He might even make me a hot chocolate … if I smiled nicely enough – and I’d know just the right way.

Father, you know what you’re doing in all of this.  Thank you for the plenty that I have.  You have given me all that I need and people who love me and want me to be around for them; and people who are there to support me also.  Help me to trust you.

Amen

Sweet Dreams

Dear God,

Today was a family day.  It was a great one.  It was a hard one.  As I stand and watch my precious nieces sleeping peacefully in my spare room all rugged up in bright, pretty bedding that I couldn’t help myself from getting for them.  They love the cushions at the end of the bed with the clumsy hand stitched pictures and their names on them for when they sleep over that Lisa and I made them when they were very little – one for home and one for here.  Father, I miss Lisa at times like this most of all.  She just loved being a Mum.  Its in these moments that I yearn for it too.

Emily and Hamish are still practicing hard.  Karen must be going out of her brain – or would be if they hadn’t bought him that electronic drum kit so that he could use earphones … still the dull thuds must get to her.  Em will be just bashing away down the back shed at home as usual and since they’re on acreage she gets away with it – mostly.  She’s not right under the neighbour’s windows – and they all know she lost her Mum last year so I think they’re pretty cool about it anyway.  Paul once said to her, “Perhaps it’ll help keep the possums at bay.” and she’s never let him forget it.  Good luck swallowing those words, Paul.  You’ve got a better chance with the possums than Emily.

I will swear that they are still competing over something.  I wonder what the prize is.  What’s the equivalent to a sheep station to a ten-year-old?

Mrs Hedge … sorry Grace was a hoot.  She might have broken her hip, but she’s keen as to be up and moving pain or no pain.  I can just see her leading the ward walking frame races – as soon as the nurses, physios & OTs turn their backs!  Thanks that she’s doing well. Please continue to heal her rapidly.

What a joy to know that she now belongs to you, Lord.  All that energy and she wants others to know you too.  She’s already got her family lined up for a course explaining the gospel like a true matriarch.  Carol says that she and several of the others are genuinely interested, others are wanting to do it because they’re worried about Grace being taken advantage of by a religious group.  She says that some changes in her mother are noticeable even now and she was so excited when they gave her a Bible – she read that like she usually reads the newspaper – and she won’t move in the morning most days till she’s read the paper cover to cover.  That was right up until she started catching that bus – always that particular bus since her last doctor’s appointment.

“I couldn’t work out why until she sent me to tell the ‘girl who answers my questions’ that she was okay,” she added.

So she had been a seeker when she kept joining me on the bus.  Thank you Lord for the privilege of being part of the plan.

Lord, how many of my own demons do I face down tonight when I am vulnerable.  My longing for children of my own to mother – and yes now is a time when missing out on a husband seems like a kick in the teeth – I want someone to share my days with – and my doona … well some of it anyway; my plans, my dreams … and it would have been nice to have a family of my own to talk about with Grace today.

But you Oh Lord are my sustainer, my companion and my protector.  You are with me always and your word promises that your grace is sufficient for me – even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.  May my gratitude for this raise my head and heart to you and comfort my troubled heart.

Lord, in Psalm 3 David asks you to strike his enemies on the jaw and break the teeth of the wicked.  Father my enemies are not the ones David faced.  Tonight they’re the feelings that I have been cheated or robbed of something that should have been mine when I encounter moments of yearning – they are ghosts, sins like envy and discontent.  Father, smite them.

From you comes my deliverance

May your blessing be upon me

Amen.

Honourable Friends

Dear God,

Please send me a Timothy.  I think I’d want to get married if I met a Timothy.  No.  I know I’d fall for a Timothy.  Or an Epaphroditus – as long as we don’t have to name kids after their father …

Imagine someone who looks out first for the interests of Jesus; who works to see the spread of the gospel above his own interests – and looks after his friend in prison while he does it.  And then Epaphroditus who almost died when he got sick when he went to see to Paul’s needs in prison … someone who almost died for the work of Christ.  No wonder Paul speaks of them as men worth honouring.

Priorities are a funny thing.  On a list I can write: “Priority 1: honouring God”, but what does that look like?  Please show me.

What might need to give up in the course of doing your will?  Health? Certainty of my future here?  They’re both gone anyway.  Marriage?  Kids?  Done.  Dignity?  Work?  Sleep-ins?  Coffee?  Comfort? Do you really have to ask them of me?  But not freedom.  Surely never that.   Please never my freedom.

Am I going to be ready?  Please, please,  please make me ready before you ask it of me?  Is there going to be anything I need to give up anyway?

How do I put you first before all things if I can’t walk away from something without letting go if I must?

Help me God, I’m drowning.  The only thing that holds my head together through all of this stuff is the knowledge that you finish what you start.  Perhaps you could send me an encourager.

Today is a day that I might just ask for one at home – one that I would call “hot”, you know. (Even better if he doesn’t care if he doesn’t get much of the doona).  But it would be also be awesome to have someone to be an encourager at work. (I don’t care what they do with their doona).  Would you help me to find one?

Amen

Bold Bolters

Dear God,

Thank you for a great night’s sleep.  I woke up this morning all bundled up in my doona with my feet on one side of the bed and my head on the other.  What was I thinking last night?  If I had a husband I’d have to learn to share the bed … and the doona.  And he’d snore all night and keep me awake.  He’d probably hog the doona himself.  I couldn’t be selfish in my bed anymore.  And he’d be used to being selfish too.  Imagine. Two selfish bed hogs.  It doesn’t bear thinking about.  Thank you for a nice comfy bed and a nice nights sleep with no snoring – except maybe my own – with noone to complain about it.

Continued reading Philippians this morning – of course you already know all of this – but hey … Did you really get Paul rejoicing while he was in chains?  That’s pretty amazing.  What’s even more amazing that the fact that he was in prison encouraged others to preach the gospel with courage.  I guess that’s like what you hear happens in countries where there is persecution.  Here in the west we wilt if we are frowned upon..  I can’t remember the last time I did something bold or courageous for the sake of your gospel or even tried to introduce it to a friend who I thought wouldn’t like talking about your way much.  I need to do that.  If Paul can do chains and others risk them, then surely I can share.  It’s interesting that among all this he encourages the Philippians to conduct themselves in a way that’s worthy of the gospel regardless of what happens.

What does it mean to be worthy of the gospel? Does it mean to keep proclaiming it?  Does it mean to keep away from the sin we repented from?  How do we do that? and what happens if we keep falling over?  Or are you talking about how we face oppressors and how we answer and treat them? Not denying you, but being like Paul and Stephen and Daniel who refused to deny you, but instead proclaimed your name all the more?  I feel like backing away, chanting “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy” and bolting in fear like in some movie at times.

I’m so glad that you’re a forgiving God.  Father, please help me to live in a way that’s worthy of the gospel – that shows that I’ve repented and that shares that you offer the joy of this grace and mercy to others.  Help me stop – help me want to stop all the sinful things I still do.

Lord help me meet opposition with steadfastness.  Help me to share the gospel with someone this week.  I’m not sure who yet, but please help me to know when the time is right and give me boldness to speak up.

Amen

Truth Tonight

Dear God,

You know how I said I don’t care about being single.  I think that tonight is one of those times that I’m lying.  Can I please have a husband now?  I want one that is nice to talk to if that’s not too much trouble.

Amen