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....
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.
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