Friday, December 21, 2012

17 and counting!

"Have you been praying that I have a baby?" my sister grinned at me.
The question caught me by surprise. Of course I had. How did she know?
"Why? Are you expecting?" I finally asked.
The smile was enough. I knew. Before Cherith could say more, the big grin had duplicated itself on my face and I wrapped my arms around her.
"Yay!" I squealed.
"Quiet!" she ordered me, "you're one of the first people to know."
"Oh, I hope it's a girl! We need to balance out the nephew and niece numbers!"
We laughed and hugged again.
Any addition to our family is the best news. Babies most of all.

It took a while for baby's existence to be noticeable. It wasn't until Cherith's belly got really round that it finally hit me. A miracle was taking place inside of her! A brand new life was being created! Truly, "children are an heritage of the LORD: ...[babies] are His reward!"

Early pregnancy went well. No hiccups at all. But as she progressed, crazy days ensued.
Early labour (which thankfully the hospital staff were able to stop.)
Nearly constant braxton hicks.
Fragmented sleep.
Everyday before the due date, it seemed the baby would enter the world. Not so.
Instead, Cherith passed her due date and things settled down. Apparently, the little'un wasn't keen on coming out after all!
Then labour did kick in, for real. A few complications later.... which Ben wrote about...

Little lady bug ;-) was welcomed into this world!


A week after her birth, I was able to meet her.
One of my brothers called up, asking me what I thought of her. 
"Oh, she is so cute!" I answered.
"Cute?" he seemed unimpressed. "I've seen pictures, and to me, she looks beautiful!"
"You know what? you're right! In answer to your question -- she is beautiful." 

I thank God for the beautiful, little number 17 in our blessed family -- 
Katherine Melody!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Children about to be Confiscated


"Quick! Here comes the school bus!" The cry sent five little children dashing for cover. They were walking to get the mail from the letterbox. 
It was always fun hiding from traffic that passed by the family property. But there was an aspect of fear to it too. 

Why were they hiding? The parents followed their convictions to home school. However, the state which they lived in said it was illegal.  Said that the government should educate the children. 

Australia now recognizes home schooling as a legitimate and legal choice for parents. The research is there, which shows that children can be educated at home -- and thrive. At the recent Global Home Education Conference in Berlin, Dr. Gordon Neufeld stated that learning happens in the context of relationship, or "in the village of attachment" as he referred to it. The home is the most obvious environment for such relationship. 
He even stated that the child's measured IQ goes down by 21 points when learning is attempted outside of this village of attachment.

Yes, there are parents who don't feel the conviction to home school or are not able to. Yet, they and the government are beginning to recognize the far-reaching benefits of home schooling -- in some places. What are they exactly? You can read more about Dr. Brian's research on the topic at: http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html

I and my siblings, personally have greatly enjoyed the benefits and freedom of home education. Yet, in the past, it wasn't legal.

It's wonderful not having to worry about such things. A huge relief.

But, there is another family who can't feel at ease about home schooling.  In fact, right now, they're fighting to be able to keep their own children. I know what it feels like to have to fear. Yet, I don't know it to their extent. 

The parents' choice of the education of their children is an undeniable, international right. Most parents enjoy this freedom. When these freedoms are challenged and trampled upon though, we who have it easy, we have a duty. To be the voice for the oppressed. 


The Wunderlichs are one such family that need our support. Mum personally met them in Germany at the Global Home Education Conference in October. A quiet, unassuming, conscientious family, they sought to follow their convictions. The government claims they have no right to though. 
What can we do to help? Dr. Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defence Association asks that we send a statement to the German officials involved in this case. To let them know that the world is watching Germany and that the Wunderlichs are not alone. 
You can read more here and get the address for the officials here: http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Germany/201211270.asp

A few years ago in Australia, the courts were arguing over the custody of a young girl with cancer. When the public were alerted to the situation, the support was enormous. Two thousand letters came into the department's office in a day. The public opinion and support was so outstanding that the case turned for the family. The department had little other choice.

Will taking 10 minutes to write and post a letter really count? Yes. Each letter adds up.

Let us take this opportunity to be Jesus' heart and voice for this family. In letting them know that the Christian world cares. Let us fight for religious freedom. Parents' rights to choose the education of their children is an extension of this.  ...and let us pray for them too.

If I was about to be separated from my family, it would mean the world to me.....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'E' would happen to be....

"'E', Mum, what is a good original 'e' word?" there was a momentary silence as we walked in the dim twilight, back from the garden and goats.
I added, "I wish "f" was one of the letters in "GreaThings". It is the first letter of so many things I'm grateful for -- especially family... and friends.
"I've already thought of one word that I'm grateful for, but I want my wonderful family to have a mention some where in this challenge."
"Encouragement," she simply offered. 
That was the word I was wanting...
"Thanks, Mum." I turned and smiled. Despite the near darkness, I saw her return the smile.

We fell back to silence again as I thought about how much my family have encouraged me. My parents -- the ones that pour their lives into giving me a firm foundation for life. Parents do so much, yet it's easy to take them for granted. I don't want to though. So this year, I'm taking the opportunity to thank God for them; their encouragement and persistence in raising my siblings and I -- even on our rascal-ie days.

As for my siblings, they really do keep me human. ;) Full of practical advice for my improvement and honest to a fault; it certainly helps keep me humble... but I appreciate it. I love them all so much.

Over the years, God has brought many friends across my path. Some of them are but distant memories; some only a phone call away -- or email, as I prefer that method. I thank God for them all though, as He has used each to encourage me in different ways. I'd fill up this blog post to mention you all, but nonetheless you know who you are; also know that you are each, very appreciated and loved.

Oh, and all you blogger friends out there, that are striving for the heavenly goal and sharing your journey: thank you for being a tool in God's hands. You're all an encouragement.

~~~~~~~
Early. I mostly like that word. You know, early in arriving some place, versus late; early harvests... Sometimes I don't like that word though -- like when something I don't want happening, comes early. 
But combined with another word, it's one of my best friends.

Early mornings.
I smile as my mind's eye sees again the faint light as it slowly brushes the sky with tints of yellow and pink: banishing the night. My favorite time of the day. Even though my personal habits change over time subject to the seasons, I always enjoy it. In winter, it's through glass windows. (either that, or putting 7 layers on and venturing out) When it warms up though, I love to take a walk in those crisp early hours. The chilly air stings my face, but the air is so pure and fresh. They say that in nature you see a picture of God -- I'd say that it's most true in the early mornings (and in my favorite season -- spring.) ;-)

Meeting with God early in the morning sets a whole tone to my day. If I don't do it one day -- I know it. My day is much harder. But not just that, I miss the fellowship with God in His word. Some days I can sense His presence; recognize His voice in the Scripture speaking to me. Other days, I can't. Yet I persist in my quest to know Him ever better, as it is by faith that I climb the ladder to heaven, not feeling. On the days when I feel very far from God, I know that, "He is not far from every one of us." Acts 17:27

I will admit, there a days when I do miss out on this blessing, or feel like skipping out....
That's when Natasha's words spoken in Europe resound:
"Man shall not live by sleep alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

Early mornings. Encouragement given by family, friends and my God.
Daily gifts that help me press forward.
Thank You, Father for these "e" words!

stop press!
.....And Elisha! The one who made the hilarious speech at Cherith's wedding -- yeah, he's back home right now. Which means, lots of talking, working together, besides keeping me on my toes. This afternoon, we had a sudden thunderstorm. Hail and heavy sheets of rain pounded the thirsty ground.
Bursting into my room (after knocking), he announced, "It's time to garden now! This is just what I've been wanting. You coming?"
I hesitated, wondering whether I really did want to get saturated.
"You want to come, I know it!" he beamed convincingly.
He succeeded. We cracked up laughing as we ran out in the rain to the 4WD with the trailer on the hitch.  We had to empty it. When down at the garden, two kms away, we got slightly cold -- you know how the wind chills after rain? Soon though, it was just the grand thunder, and the sun peeked out. We worked past dark, and as we came back I knew I had to add him to this post. I am definitely thankful for my brother too! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

GreaThings: Invisible Answers

The Bible. It'd been a few years since I'd read it the whole way through.
A world-view I'd never previously heard of, and a debate that surprised me, challenged me to pick it up again and read it right through. I wanted to understand better how God relates to mankind. To see more of the big picture of the plan of salvation. ...and I have. I've come to know much better the God who "is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy." I've read it in many different passages over and over again. Seen it in the lives of His people of the past... and present.

That was a little over a year ago now. During that year, many things have happened.
Through it all, there have been Scriptures that have helped me incredibly on my journey. Verses that have strengthened me to push on when I felt tiny and helpless, and ready to stop fighting.

As I flick through my diary to remember which passages have meant a lot to me, I find a page written exactly a year ago, the 20th of November. I'd struggled with not understanding why I'd had acne. Why me? I'd grown up so healthy, and as a teenager always avoided all and any foods people suggested might contribute. I prayed too. Begged God to show me the answers, to heal me so I could be like everyone else. That's when I read Job's story. As I read it once again, I was fascinated. When everything went wrong on him, he ripped off his clothes, shaved his head, fell down on the ground --- and worshipped! Not cried, or screamed, or cursed. He worshipped. Wow! "blessed be the name of the LORD," he praised. His question hits me. "what? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not accept evil?" 
Job wasn't heartless. It wasn't as if losing all his children didn't affect him. His friends "saw that his grief was very great". To think... yet he praised God.

As I learnt more about God, His wonderful character of mercy, and also, the fierce battle that is taking place, I knew I had to stand up and join the fight. Yet I felt little. Only just a child. As I read through the Word, I met a new friend. I wrote about him and his experience, earlier this year. I discovered that he too was young. And felt too young. God's promise to him, has encouraged me through many trying, discouraging situations, ""Say not, I am a child... be not afraid of their faces... they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee."  (Jeremiah 1:4) And He has been with me. 

More recently, I've watched one of my dearest persons going through a crisis. It angered me. You know the kind of angry when you want to punch a tree, but you know it won't help? That desperate, helplessness as you look on, knowing nothing you can do will help. I skipped meals. I prayed. My stomach knotted up. I didn't want to think about it, yet couldn't stop myself. The tears would come at any given moment. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined this would happen. I wished it only was a dream.

The days of suspense as I helplessly watched, felt like weeks. The months, years. I prayed constantly. Yet, finally, I knew I had to stand on the promises. As I searched for one relevant to this situation, I found one relevant to all of life's problems. 
"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us:  And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. " 1 John 5:14, 15

In times past, there's mostly been a little bit of visible hope that I've focused my faith on. Now, I'm coming to have hope through the eye of faith, on "the evidence of things not seen". I can't see the work that God is doing. But I'm praying. And I know it's God's will. ...I know too, that though I can't see it, He's answering those petitions.

I'm so thankful for these so-far invisible answers. Thankful for the "word of his grace, which is able to build {us} up, and to give {us} an inheritance among them which are sanctified." Acts 20:38

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Great Things


Ever since my eldest sister married an American and lived there, I've heard about the wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Well, I guess I had read of it in story books before then, but she told me how special and amazing it was. The idea fascinated me. A whole nation setting aside a day in the year to express their gratitude to God? I mean, sure, we are supposed to express gratitude everyday, as Christians -- but a whole nation? That's different!

I've yet to experience an American Thanksgiving Day, (though I hope I'll get a chance sometime soon). Nonetheless, I've decided to join in the November thankfulness, Australian as I am. ;) I'd been thinking about writing a post with such a theme, but wasn't sure how or when. Chantel's GreaThings challenge has provided the perfect opportunity for this.
As I'm joining late, and (accidentally) followed last year's schedule,  I'm going to do it a little differently, (as I've already written this post out.)

What does gratitude mean to me?
A heart of genuine appreciation. "Thank-you", while showing good manners, I've noticed it can be bit meaningless. As a little girl, I once gave a friend a gift. She thanked me and stuffed it in drawer. I was very disappointed and regretted giving it to her. She didn't seem to appreciate it very much. Thereafter, I decided I would always try to show any givers I was blessed by, true appreciation -- taking the opportunity to do "thank-you!" When my great aunt made me a dress, I made sure I wore it around her and showed her that I really did like it. I loved to see her proud smile as she surveyed her handiwork in use. She sensed the childish heart of genuine appreciation. Her caring gift made me smile. My obvious appreciation made her heart smile.

R is for....
Redemption.
I was down in the garden holding the kinked hose so that it'd be un-kinked while Mum watered. Standing there, I  thought about what "R" word captured something I'm grateful for. Redemption, came to mind. The word that summarises my captivity and the act of love that freed me.

Even though Mum never taught us about wars, as children, we eventually found about them. When I heard about the atrocities Hitler committed, I instantly hated him. How could any one ever be that cruel?
My attitude changed recently when Mum explained to me what "total depravity" meant. When I realised that without God's Spirit in my heart; without redemption -- I'd be destined to be as hopeless as wretch as Hitler became, I was humbled. It was a chilling thought. Previously, I hadn't really understood the verse where Paul said that there was nothing good in him -- nothing at all. Wasn't he an astounding, godly man, one like those in Acts 15:26, who "hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"? If that's not "good", what is? That's when Mum explained that anything good in us is God's goodness in us.
The opportunity to live a fulfilled, happy life: possible because of the amazing event of Redemption... the moment in time when Jesus stepped down from heaven, where He was adored and angels joyfully fulfilled His bidding; stepped down to this earth, where He was not particularly wanted. Yet He took on our helplessness; swapped places, to give us a second chance.
A simple "Thank-you" seems puny in light of such a gift. Thinking about it, I become aware of the opportunities I have to show appreciation in action. A gift like that deserves sharing. It makes me smile to hear someone proudly show off something I've given them. ...

I can't help but think that the Father smiles when He sees and hears us telling and sharing with others His gift. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

We Met, Finally!! :-)


After writing for around 7 years, and co-authoring this blog for three, on a rainy October day not long ago, we met. The day we've talked of and imagined and dreamed about, finally came! Couldn't be more pleased! It was so special! Christella truly is an amazing, sweet, godly, special, precious, fun (and I'm sure I could think of more adjectives to describe her) girl! :-) 

Love you and miss you! So glad Dad and I were able to go to Australia and meet you and some of your family as well! :-)

P.S. I must add, as the other party who also met my good friend and blog co-author for the first time, I too was thrilled. Elyssa is both what I imagined and totally not. (All in a good way.) She's both serious and good to talk to and lots of fun. And just as I knew it'd be, we're better friends than ever. Love ya! ~Christella 
P.P.S. I'm scheming for how I can get her back to Australia.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?


I began to play the familiar hymn I'd played so often, but this time the words: "Must Jesus bear the cross alone, And all the world go free?" touched me in a way they'd never before and tears began to form in my eyes. Truly, Jesus has born the hardest and largest cross anyone could ever bear. He has been for ages and is still bearing the sorrows and griefs of this world, must He bear it all alone? When the blessings and the gift of love out weigh my petty trials which they do in every case, how could I be so cruel as to complain that my lot in life is too hard? Is a little sorrow, a little pain, a little cross too much for me to share and are my cherished dreams and possessions and people too big to give up for One who's given all for me?

Oh dear Father, remind me each time I start to lose my focus. I don't want Jesus to have to bear the cross alone.

Monday, September 17, 2012

We Can't Afford to Sleep...

Most of us, if not all of us, believe that Jesus is coming soon and that we are living in the final generation. But, how do we live our lives? Do we really believe it? As a friend was talking about Jesus coming being near, 1Thessalonians 5:2 came to mind and really struck me...

“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (Thessalonians 5:2-3)

I have head knowledge that Jesus is coming soon, but often I have pushed it years down the road and allowed myself to feel safe and secure... There is so very much to take up our time and attention and to relax our vigilance in our spiritual lives, and that is exactly what Satan wants especially during this time in history! However, more than ever will we need a close relationship with God and a strong, unflinching faith, more love, more hope and courage in these times ahead. We can not allow ourselves for a moment to feel secure, lest we find ourselves suddenly caught off guard. If we wait till the last, it will be too late to develop character, too late to strengthen faith, too late to receive hope and courage, to fill our minds with the precious promises of God's word that will carry us through the very end time events, and it will be too late to win a soul for Christ.

Paul continues on in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-9
"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Basically, God is saying through Paul, "You have no reason not to watch and be sober because you have the light, you know that the day of the Lord's coming is soon. So watch and be ready for God wants you to be saved." Oh friends, let us not get caught up in the things of the world so much so, that we feel safe in peace and feel as though we have a few minutes of time to sleep, for that will be the time of our destruction! Let us not allow the Lord to come as a thief in the night, but may we be found watching, working and ready.

We can't afford to sleep... No, not for a moment! There is too much at stake!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To Fight "the Crime"

Someone was over for lunch. A trivial bit of information about a person came to my mind. 
"You know..." I began to say. Before I could say any more, A Diet of Words, a post that I read the other day, stopped me. The post was all about speaking words that heal, instead of hurt. I realized that useless gossip, often does hurt yourself and others. What now, though? I quickly tried to think of something more relevant and meaningful to say instead. I glanced at the table. It had the casserole dish containing vegan quiche on it, which our visitor had brought. Ah, yes!
"Thank you for sharing this quiche with us," I continued my sentence, "It was really tasty!"
Mum smiled and agreed. It really was good. The visitor grinned and told how they had made it -- in a quick bid to use up some pak choy they had pulled out of their garden.

I was thrilled, with God's help, to have been able to stop the tide of trivia from spilling from my mouth, and say something meaningful instead. 

But mixed in with success, is failure too. At least it was for me, that day. Not many hours after my victory, I gave an opinion on someone. As it came time to feed and milk the goats, I thought about what I'd said. I couldn't deny it -- it was gossip. Before reading Heather's post, I'd not given it much practical thought, but, that night, I did. The words of Paul came to my mind, 
“They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29b-32)
It's not right of me to participate or even just listen, because both, encourages it.

So, I'd failed. What now though? More of the concepts in "Diet of Words" joined my train of thought.
When finding yourself talking about someone not present, stop, explain your "diet of words" and pray for the person, instead.
Unfortunately, it was too late to follow the advice to a tee. I determined it wasn't too late to learn from my mistake, though.
When the milking was finished, and I'd returned to the house, I knelt down. Asked for God's forgiveness. Prayed for His blessing and guidance in the lives of these friends. I knew it would be a blessing for them, but it blessed me too. Peace filled me.

I hope to do this again, in the future -- but before the words even come out of my mouth. By God's grace, I want to turn every would-be-conversation-about-someone into a prayer for them, instead. Even if it means saying, "At the moment, I feel like talking about this person; instead, can we pray for them right now?"

Elyssa, is right. It's a cruelty and a crime we don't think about much: gossiping. It seperates friends and can make us suspicious and bitter. But it's something that everyone does. For a long time, I've known deep down, that it's not the best to gossip.  I didn't quite know what to do about this problem though. That's when I came across the "Say it to Her Face" Challenge. I saw the merit in it. Appreciated the wisdom. I've decided to join in.

I know I'll fail at times. But, I know too, that I can succeed, in Christ. I know, because I've experienced victory. We can fight this crime.

Will you join me?

*Disclaimer: This is a personal conviction God has placed on my heart. Please do not feel forced to take this on as your conviction (unless the Holy Spirit has been prompting you in this area).

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Crime Rarely Considered As Such

It's not fair or right. It is cruel, cruel, cruel. That "it" is gossip. Gossip that brings out peoples weaknesses and failures for all to criticize whether it be true or no, and misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation,  dissecting character and turning people against them. That is the crime rarely considered as such and it is wicked.

"We think with horror of the cannibal who feasts on the still warm and trembling flesh of his victim; but are the results of even this practice more terrible than are the agony and ruin caused by misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation, dissecting character?" 
~Ellen White

No one is worthy of this... And Your pastors and elders do not deserve it either! It's hard being a pastor, and to stand against the tide. You have no idea how much they go through, the trials they endure, the load they carry, or how close to despair and hopelessness, and discouragement they come to. If they are men who love the Lord with their whole hearts, who are holding up the banner of truth when most others are not and who stand for their convictions, than stand by them, encourage them, love them! They are sinners in need of a Savior as much as you, and they are striving with their whole hearts to be like Jesus, to keep pressing forward in their christian walk and character building. So don't pick on their faults, don't gossip and spread evil rumors to whoever will listen, that are 99.99% always false about them or anyone else for that matter. Don't do it to anyone, even if it were true, it or rather YOU may cause much much harm, cost their eternal life and the ruin of many other souls if you indulge in such a crime.

 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Proverbs 18:21

If you have a problem with someone, speak personally to them about it and try to work it out... Most often it's only a simple misunderstanding.. Don't hold a grudge or talk bad to their hurt behind their back... It's just not right.

Your pastors love you, and care about you, and pray for you, and try their very  best to be there for you whenever you are in need. But who loves them, cares about them, prays for them, and are there when they need someone? Most often, no one. So don't make their burden heavier, or wound their hearts more by misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation, or dissecting character, there are plenty of people who already do that... Show them you love them, care about them, appreciate them... It will bless them and you so much, even if it was just a word, a smile, or an action.

Think twice, or three or four or as many times as needed before you speak and remember the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you and remember we are all sinners in need of a Savior! Oh, that we would be the grave of each other's faults and failures!

Oh how we must be so careful how we deal with souls, for eternity is at stake...

Eternity... Death and life are in the balances!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We Sow in Hope

Sometimes I wonder why we do it; we dig and water and fertilize the trees and plants that don't seem to yield fruit, or that look almost dead. Sometimes i wonder why we re-plant trees, over and over again when they die and why we replant seeds two or three times over in one season when they don't grow or the plants die. Why do we do it? Because we HOPE! We try to learn what went wrong last time, and then we sow again in hope that this time it will work. We hope that this time the trees will grow, and survive the long winter, and harsh summers. We hope the tomatoes and melons and potatoes will grow healthy and produce well. We get excited, and dream and talk of the day when we can harvest sweet juicy corn, crisp sweet cucumbers, flavorful and colorful tomatoes etc.. So we work with joy and anticipation and we plant in hope. But then, it amazes me. God hopes too!

God had hope for the human race- that's why He sent Jesus.

God had hope for Israel, that's why he sent prophet after prophet.

Jesus had hope for Judas, that's why Jesus did not cast him away, but loved him and kept him as a disciple till the end.

Jesus has hope for us, that's why He gives us life and has mercy and forgives us after we've so miserably failed him. That's why he keeps working and refining us for He knows what beautiful masterpieces we may become and hopes that we will be willing to become.

May we also not be discouraged but continue to sow in hope in whatever God has given us to do, as well as in our labour for souls. One never knows what wonderful reward it will yield nor what persevering prayer, love, kindness, and care will do to win souls for eternity!

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” 
 (Galatians 6:9)



    




Saturday, May 26, 2012

Goodbye, Father



"Mother, mother! Why did she have to die? Is she in purgatory, right now?" Tears streamed down his cheeks, turning into icicles almost instantly. The biting winds stung his face. He stumbled over a hard lump of snow. Jamming his hands into his pockets, he clutched his woolen coat closer.  With gloves on, he fumbled to open the lock on the massive gates of the private parkland where he was a gardener. He closed it behind him. He had had to work that Tuesday, as heavy as his heart felt; as much as he missed his mother. She was gone now. Gone from that dreadful TB. She had died that very morning.

The year was 1911. Peter was 14. And this was St. Petersburg, Russia, in the cruel face of winter. Heavy clouds dropped snowflakes endlessly. Even the sun hid for the sorrow of it all.

"Ivan. Stanislav. My brothers! They died only last year. Now mother too?
Where is she?" he wondered and cried. 
The funeral didn't help him know any better. The priest sprinkled holy water constantly, it seemed. Did he even know where she was? At one time, he said she was asleep in the grave. But only minutes later, he said she was in heaven. He also said she was in purgatory, and waved some incense on her coffin. Where, oh where, was she really?

He traipsed home through the snow. There would be his stern father, home too, from his job of dispatching goods at the railway station. But mother would not be there! Even if she had been so sick and on the verge of the shadow of death for a while, he missed her quiet presence so much! At least there was still Elena, dear beloved sister! The thought cheered him for a moment. But then, she had taken it hard too. His heart sank again.

But wait. "Music?" he gasped quietly. He stopped, listening. Yes, it was music. It was singing! Where was it coming from? He scanned the landscape. He could see the majestic, golden domes of the St. Petersburg cathedral in the near distance. But over there, on the snowy slope was the source of the music. Huddled under a great big canvas tent was a small group of people. He felt himself drawn to them. Soon he was there, among the growing group of curious spectators. There was a man playing a piano accordion. Another was playing a violin. Others were singing hymns. They were missionaries--Seventh-day Adventist missionaries.

He hurried home. Father was not happy to hear about it, however. He was a patriotic Pole. Nothing but the Catholic religion would be right in his home.

Peter kept returning to that tent, whenever he got a chance. He made friends with the missionaries. He learned about their beliefs. Conviction burned within him. There was something more in what these people had, that he hadn't seen before. 
"Do they have the truth?" He pondered it often.

The missionaries gave him a Bible. He studied it earnestly. He struggled with conviction, but finally came to an answer. If he was to follow God with all his heart, he was going to keep His commandments. Including the Sabbath.

"Peter, we are Catholic. I do not want you going to those Seventh-day Adventists across town, son!" 
Marcel was very disturbed with his only and last son's disloyalty to his heritage. The tension grew. Peter learned more and more. Mother was not in hell, purgatory, or heaven, he discovered. She was asleep in the grave. He became increasingly convinced that it was the truth, that the missionaries had brought. It was with difficulty that he kept the Sabbath. Neither the country, nor his father approved.

The tension mounted and climaxed in 1913.
"Peter!" his father shouted angrily one day, "you either leave home NOW or abandon your foolish beliefs."
"I will go then, Father." Peter's mind was made up. He had come to treasure the truth. Nothing mattered more to him, than being faithful to God.
"Go then! And go far away! I don't even want to breathe the same air as you."

Peter packed his few belongings. Elena looked on in silence. Father had tried to get her to talk him out of his beliefs. But she didn't even try. She knew she could never change his mind.

The two siblings looked at each other for one last moment. Their eyes filled up and tears streaked their faces. Peter gave her a quick hug, and ran. How could have guessed he would never, ever see his precious sister again?

The next moment he was at the train station. He was so familiar with the place. He and his siblings had come and helped their father here many times. But now wasn't a time to remember. A ticket was purchased with a few coins from the scant amount of rubles he had. He hauled in his small suitcase. There was little in there. A few clothes. A Bible. His dear Bible - the reason he was making this trip. The scenery was whizzing by. The miles clocked up, taking him further away from his home, his dear sister, the place of his birth. The train took him Far East. One thousand miles away. 

Siberia.

Alone, the teenager had to find work. Work? Not anything would do. Who would let him keep the Sabbath? He first tried to get a good job. Flowers. It didn't last long. He was promised leave on Sabbath, but his boss would try and get him to plant. 
"You agreed that I wouldn't work on Sabbath but would make up for it on other holy days," he would reply.
The manager began pleading with him saying that he had taken a silly position. "Your ways don't suit me," the boss stated.
"I'll talk to you further on Sunday, today I cannot do my own pleasure by discussing this any further," Peter said.

He lost that job. Next he was a fire stoker at the jail. But he was told there would be no work for him if he wouldn't work Saturdays. He got another job at the water board, only to be given the same ultimatum after a month of working there.
"I guess, I'll stop looking for good jobs now," he decided finally.

He took a shovel and became a trench digger for pipe installations. He worked hard along with Chinese labourers. He was the only white worker, no other Europeans would do such work. They had to dig a trench 3.5m deep, 1m wide and 2m long to earn 3 roubles. He wrote his sister letters.
"Often before the sun rose I would already be working like a mole," he told her.
That job didn't last forever either. He supported himself in other ways too. Coach driver. Farm and factory worker.

The years slipped past. He experienced a lot of hardship and pain. But God blessed him amazingly. He was baptized, along with a few others. Eleven years after that bittersweet winter's day, he met and married his young sweetheart. They moved south to Harbin. Here a one-off Bible school was run by two American Adventist ministers. Peter was one of those who graduated as a Bible teacher. 

Their firstborn little girl was born during that period, Nadia. Two years later she had a little sister. Over the years, two more little girls were born and lastly, a boy. 

They had many hard times. One time, their home was inundated due to major flooding. They had to be evacuated. Other times, they had to live in a single room in a central part of a city.

Peter kept up correspondence with his sister. She stayed in Russia. She married too. They went through the Bolshevik revolution; the Stalinist purges, where 20 million were killed; the communist oppression.  She and her husband were not able to have any children. That is, until they adopted a little girl. Very soon, they were expecting their own little one. They however, were not Christians. Elena had had a negative experience with a priest and decided to never follow any religion. Her life is a stark contrast to her brother's.
The sibling’s lives provide an amazing illustration. They show two lives, one disregarding of God and the other with God as Supreme.


                     Elena:
                 ·     Suffered through the Bolshevik Revolution.
                 ·          Divorced after 8 years of marriage.
                 ·          Had one biological child.
                 ·          Her descendants are still in Russia under the Soviet Union, and are poor.
                 ·          Has only a few posterity, of whom little is known.




Peter:
·                     Escaped the revolution and purges, which most-likely would’ve been his end.
·                     His daughters all say that they have never seen as happy marriage as their parents had.
·                     He had five children.
·                     God blessed him with great wisdom, so that he was able to prepare his family to move to Australia after his death. When they arrived, they were able to put a deposit on a house immediately.
·                     He has over 100 descendants, including doctors, ministers, lawyers, nurses, teachers, barristers, missionaries and more.

His posterity are God-fearing, comfortably-situated, well-respected citizens.


Peter was my great-grandfather. As I look back, I see a bigger picture than he would've been able to. How God led him to those missionaries. How that choice to follow God, whatever the cost and inconvenience, affected the rest of his life and the lives of his posterity. I and all his descendants are where we are today, 100 years later, thanks to great-grandfather, Peter. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jehovahjireh


The agony which must have coursed through Abraham's soul after those fateful words were spoken: "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” could hardly be imagined. I marvel at the tremendous amount of faith and love Abraham and Isaac had as they worked to fulfil the divine command, though it seemed that God was asking something unreasonable, and contrary to all the promises that were given to Abraham. As Abraham lifted the knife to slay his beloved son, God called out "Abraham! Abraham! Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." At the climax of this test, at the climax of their faith God stepped in. It was enough. He knew for a certainty where Abraham's love and loyalty was and He provided. Abraham saw a ram caught in the bushes so he took it and offered it for a burnt offering to God instead of his son, Isaac. Abraham called the name of that place "Jehovahjireh" in other words, "The Lord will see to it or the Lord will provide". Most assuredly, all who put their faith in God will also have a Mount Moriah where they may, as Abraham did, rename "Jehovahjireh".

Perhaps the Mount Moriah in your life is salvation and whether or not you can be forgiven and accepted of God. Well, the Lord has already provided for you. When the human race was condemned to die, through Jesus, a way was provided whereby all who trust in Him might be saved. I won't say it is free, for it cost the blood of Jesus, and that is the highest price that ever could be paid for you or for me. Doesn't that thrill you with awe that the life of the Son of God was shed for you, that you might be saved and have life? You must only believe-believe enough to give your whole heart to God and have faith in His promises.

Perhaps the Mount Moriah in your life is character perfection. If you are struggling with discouragement that you do not have strength to overcome, God has promised to grant power and victory to all who ask of Him. He will provide the grace necessary to sustain you. He will complete the work that He has started in you. It may drive you to your knees in prayer, but it is in realizing our total helplessness and having faith enough to depend on One who is stronger, that the victory will be gained.

Maybe it is financial issues, needs, decisions, or a whole host of other things. The promise is there “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) God will provide! He'll supply your needs physical, mentally and spiritually.

I heard a story once of a grandmother who had to take care of her grandchildren. She was poor and struggled daily to put food on the table. One day, they had nothing and the children were hungry. Grandma set the table, she took the bread knife and sharpened it, then she gathered the children around her and thanked God for the food that He was going to send them. After they had finished praying, someone knocked on the door and said he had felt impressed to bring them food! God rewarded their faith and did provide!

There other stories, some on how God revealed His will to His servants to go and speak to someone, or preach at meetings when they were so ill they had to be carried into the meeting room. However the moment they stood up to preach they were filled with strength and power to proclaim the messages God had given them to share. It took faith, much faith to travel and even to try, but God provided the strength and the health!

Perhaps the trials in life will not make any sense to us. Perhaps our 'Mount Moriah' experience will take us out of our comfort zone in faith, and stretch us, like Abraham. Perhaps we will have to set the table and sharpen the knife as the widowed grandmother, or be taken in our sick bed to the meeting so to speak, but if we will resist every cloud of doubt, believe God and act on our faith according to His will, He will provide! As our faith, so shall it be! If we ask much and expect much, we shall receive much. For Abraham's faith, God promised "in blessing I will bless thee.."(Genesis 22:17) and that promise is just as much to you and I for our faith, as it was to Abraham and his.

What a motto to build a life, shape a life and carry through life - "Jehovahjireh - The Lord will see to it, or the Lord will provide"! Shall we make it ours?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jeremiah and the Ethiopian


A dear friend and I were discussing the end times. 
"It's daunting what the future holds," she confessed.
"I know that feeling, I really do." I agreed.
"It's so soon! It feels like it could almost be tomorrow," she added.
"I know. That's why I'm so grateful Jesus gave us signs to know when it's at the door. Even though it's extremely soon, not all the signs are fulfilled, so thankfully, we can know it won't be tomorrow!" 
There was a thoughtful pause. 
"Hey you know, I've been meaning to tell you something! I have a new best friend! Well, sort of. He died a few thousand years ago." I announce chirpily.
"...but in his story I feel a real connection. Like he could've been my brother. He inspires me - despite being long gone. He was young. I think he might've even been a teenager, like me. His name? Jeremiah.
"It all started when God spoke to him one day. Told him of His special watchcare over him since He formed him in his mother's womb. He told how from that early time, He'd chosen him to be a prophet unto the nations." I animatedly tell her.
When Jeremiah heard this, he was shocked. "But, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child!" 
"When I read this, my heart leapt." I told her.
"You know, That's how I feel! I know God has called me to be a missionary, and yet constantly, I feel my inadequacy. I hear myself saying those words."
I continue my dynamic narrative. 
"As I read on, I heard God's answer to Jeremiah -- and His answer to me, 
"Say not, I am a child... be not afraid of their faces... they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee." 


"Everyday I've been reading through Jeremiah. Even though I've read the Bible a few times through before, each new day, I've been surprised by a new twist of events in his story. When I read of God's  promise to be with Jeremiah, I was comforted. Those who follow God, have wonderful lives, with His promised blessings! At least, that's what I thought...


The next day or so though, I was stunned by God's answer to a complaint of Jeremiah's. He had said, 
"Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me."
God answered, 
"I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you."
Jeremiah pleads, "O LORD, you know!...that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke."


God continues, "If thou return, if you are faithful, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me..."


"You know it amazed me," I told my friend, "when Jeremiah asked if he had to go through it all, God said he did.  Yet, God's promise was -- if you are faithful through all this, you will receive your reward."


"Oh Christella, that's just what I needed to hear!" my friend interrupted.


I resumed my story, but only for a moment. 
"Oh, I need to go for now, Stella. Mum's calling me, but I'll talk to you again tomorrow, hey?"
Our phone conversation ended. My thoughts didn't. The story continues. I remember back to a few days ago when I read of Jeremiah's experience.


What?! I'd thought. This isn't the way it's supposed to work! If we're obeying Him, we can escape what everyone else is going through, can't we? 


I keep reading. Things get hard for young Jeremiah. The priest's son, "smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks."
Ouch! Poor guy! 
I stand back though, as I read Jeremiah's response. He's not intimidated. God's given him something to tell this Pashur, and he tells it. 
"And you, Pashur, and all that dwell in your house will go into captivity: and you will come to Babylon, and there you will die, and will be buried there, you, and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies."
Boy, Jeremiah had courage! Flogged, yet he was un-flinching in speaking out!


Apart from the scene of action though, Jeremiah cries out to God. 
"O LORD, You have deceived me... I am in derision daily, every one mocks me."


I watch as Jeremiah's courage weakens. The conflict within him is intense. Firstly, no one wants to listen to his warnings. They don't just ignore these warnings, but they mock it. On top of it all, he is physically hurt.  It's all too much.
In his own words, "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name."
The struggle doesn't end there though. "But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." 


Once again, Jeremiah takes up his disappointing duty. This time though, he trusts, and works. Trusts God, even when he is thrown into prison. Even, into a dungeon, left to die. As he calls out to God, my heart goes out to him. This abused messenger, is only a young person?!  God hears his cries. An Ethiopian friend hears of Jeremiah's location in the dank mire of the dungeon. He makes his way to the king's house; speaks to the king. It's serious, the young man being stuck in there. He'll die of starvation! The king sees the issue. He sends a group of 30 men to help the Ethiopian in rescuing Jeremiah. He is drawn up with chords, having old rags between the rope and him, for protection. God delivers him. 


Things don't get rosy though. He is kept in the prison until the day of doom that he'd been foretelling. It's the king's prison though. Not a dungeon, so not as bad. 


Questions fill my mind as I read more. Why did he have to suffer so much? That's not the way it's supposed to work! 


Did my friend ask these questions? I don't know. Yet, I can only believe that he just kept trusting God to be faithful and keep his promises. 


I see Jeremiah, captured along with the rest of the wicked nation. As the Babylonion armies maraud the city, there is a turn of events though. "Look after Jeremiah well," Nebuchadnezzar instructs. I can only imagine the smile on the young prophets face as he recalls God's now-fulfilled promise, "I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction."  
Despite this good treatment, Jeremiah is still in chains. 
Unexpectedly, he is set free, with the choice of going to Babylon or staying back in Jerusalem. He chooses to continue his calling among the few left in their own land. 


I stop reading. Lift my gaze from the page to the hills across from me. I see the picture. God was testing him, testing Jeremiah. It's not until the last moment that he is given freedom. I see the smile on God's face as He sees His servant pass the final test. Sees him be faithful. I see God's joy in fulfilling His promise of bringing him back again. 
~~~~
It's dark, everyone is in bed. As I kneel and pray, my thoughts go back to my morning reading. How did they relate to my day? The happenings of the day came back to mind. Awe fills me. It was a hard day. A very difficult one to get through. Tears and discouragement kept welling up and almost overwhelming me. I'd felt like giving up the fight. As I think of my morning reading and my day, I'm fully in awe. 
"Why Father, you planned it perfectly! Only this morning I read about how Jeremiah had to suffer, yet you promised that if he was faithful anyway, then he would see his reward. I know I haven't suffered like him -- yet, it's perfect. I needed this today and by your power I will be faithful in what you've called me to do. I love You!"
~~~~~
I didn't get to finish telling Jeremiah's story to my friend. How did it relate to the end times anyway?


Well, that Ethiopian friend came back into the story. While still in the king's chains, God gave Jeremiah a message to pass on to Ebedmelech. 
"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.  But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee.... because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD."
I have wondered, especially as a little girl, how can I go through that all? Will God deliver me? 
In God's message to this Ethiopian, I hear the answer.
"You will not be given into the hands of the men of whom you are afraid," He promises.
"Because you have put your trust in Me."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mean Mama

"I hate the lead-up to Mother's day." So said a friend last week.
Silently, I agreed. For a different reason though. For her, it was a reminder of the bad relationship she had with her mother. That was not it at all, for me. My struggle is different. It's knowing how to fully show my appreciation for the amazing Mama that I have. And I never succeed at it. Because, each new day I come to appreciate her more.

As a young child, I used to wonder if other Mummy's were nicer than mine. Why, I had to be in the loungeroom at 7 every morning (and evening) for worship, even in winter! I had to wash the dishes too! When I didn't, I got punished. Surely, other mothers weren't that mean! It seemed the list was endless, what I was meant to do.

And why wasn't I allowed to drink soy milk straight from the carton? Too bad! I would do it when nobody was looking. After I had first prayed and asked God to not let anybody catch me though, of course. Mysteriously, it always worked. ;-)

It didn't make sense either why when I had to wipe the table after breakfast, that I couldn't wipe it onto the floor. I mean, Able could sweep the floor after me, instead of before I cleaned the table, couldn't he? Apparently not. Bethany demonstrated for 5-year-old-me how to properly wipe it -- into my hand; not the floor. I was not impressed. So yucky! I didn't want all those crumbs and food bits in my clean hands. Mum didn't bend though. She wanted me to learn to be tidy, and not leave a mess after me.
I learnt.

Another thing that used to puzzle me when I was four was, why couldn't I keep my eyes open in prayer? It was much more interesting than keeping them tight shut for ten minutes. It felt like that's how long the old people prayed for, anyway. One time, doing her motherly checking, she saw me with my eyes open during prayer. After worship, I was taken to Mum and Dad's bedroom.
"Did you open your eyes in prayer, sweetheart?" Mummy asked.
I didn't want to lie. I felt terribly bad. "Yes, I did, Mummy! I'm so sorry!"
"That was naughty of you, but because you told the truth, I won't punish you. Let's pray together and ask God's forgiveness."
Kneeling facing each other, Mama held my little hands, and we prayed.
I was so happy. It felt good to tell the truth! And to be forgiven. After that, I never opened my eyes in prayer again. Mummy had made me happy by not punishing me, so I wanted to make her happy too.

 Sometimes, I'd be walking on the veranda, and hear a certain sound. Crying. Praying. I'd tiptoe to a vantange point - where I could see where the sound was coming from. It was Mama. I heard our names. She was praying for us. Why did she have sad days?

Now I know. I've come to grasp more of what it would've been like for her to birth, potty train, discipline, raise, and worry about 8 children. I'm the second youngest. I never had to be the assistant mother, like my eldest sister and the other girls, did. I never knew the attitude that people had towards her for having so many children. But I am an older sister. And an aunt. I became an older sister at two, and an aunt at eight. As my summers have added up, so has my understanding. I know what it's like to cry and pray for a brother or sister that is struggling. Or a nephew that is lost for ten hours -- in the cold and dark.

The way Mum raised us, I come to appreciate each new day - literally. Every night I thank God for blessing me with such an amazing mother. She's faced a great deal pain and roughed it so many times. Yet, she's clung to God... and loved us continually. I love the way she trusts me. I can't help but trust her too.

Not long ago, I wanted to go overseas. I planned. I dreamed. I talked. And I prayed that God would convince Mum that she should let me go. Finally, I got an answer. A. Definite. No. It disappointed me -- to say the least. Why did my mother not want to me to enjoy myself? My hopes were dashed. But I accepted the answer, and moved on. Mum always said she wanted only the best for me, but why couldn't I see it right then? I decided to trust her anyway. One day maybe, she'd let me do something wonderful and adventurous.

One night, it was just Mum and I still awake. It was late. I confided to her about my discouragement over the happenings of the day. She encouraged me to keep going. We sat together on the bed. And talked. Slowly, she shared the vision she had for my life. I was stunned. They far surpassed my puny longed-for-adventures. She told of the desire she had for me to be more fully, a missionary. The plans warmed me. And I grasped a bit of the picture. Of what it means when God says He has good plans for my life, and not evil ones. And I realized the reality of how much Mum wants the best life possible for me and my siblings.



The little details of how she raised us -- from encouraging us all to learn music, even sitting beside us when we were unmotivated to practise; to holding my hand as I went to sleep as a five year old; to reading us the same Bible story every day for a week, until she was sure we'd grasped it (we never noticed it was the same!); training us to thing hard about deep things; to how when we asked questions, she didn't just answer, but showed us how to find the answer for ourselves in the Bible, as well as teaching us to read the Bible everyday.  The list is endless.

My Mama being mean, is a lie.


She's really the BEST!
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