A Stirling Discovery

As I walked down our hallway one evening, I noticed a small brown piece of rubbish on the blue carpet runner. A shirt button? Maybe a lump of mud from the garden? I bent to pick it up. It wasn’t part of the normal detritus that enters our house via shoes and paws. When I turned it over, its surface reflected the ceiling lights like fine diamond dust. Beautiful! It would make a nice addition to a pressed-flower picture. ‘What is it?’ I asked my husband. ‘A seedpod off the tree next door. I probably brought it in on my jacket’.

Aha! That’s where those seedlings originated. The seeds blew in and took up residence in our garden. I’d noticed the little plants before, and suggested Maurie could pot them up until they were ready to give to a friend who was establishing a larger garden. I’d thought they were weeds! Mmm – pittosporums. Producing seeds isn’t their only use. A step to our roof for the resident ringtail-possum is another! She’d probably knocked off a few pods to grow a garden for her descendants to use – they’re fast-growing trees! They’ve become popular hedge plants in our country, although their native home is New Zealand. Other pittosporum species hail from various parts of the world, but the first ‘James Stirling’ plant was brought to Australia by Frank Lucas in 1972, and in the years since then, he propagated hundreds of thousands of them. He named the original tree, but no-one seems to know who inspired him to give it that title. Maybe it was Sir James Stirling, the first Governor of the colony in Western Australia?

Regardless of its derivation, I couldn’t help reflecting on its dainty seeds. The pretty rosettes, with their shiny hidden depths, look as if someone has taken a fine brush, dipped it in lacquer, and flicked it onto them. The way they reflect the light reminds me of the words of Jesus to his disciples:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this; as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket do you? Now I’ve put you … on a light stand – shine! … be generous with your lives … you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven – Matthew 5: 14-16.

I’ve thought carefully about those words of Jesus. Surely he wasn’t telling them to brag about their good deeds so people would think they we’re great. Of course not; we’re not allowed to put ourselves on a pedestal. So I began at the end, where he said people would understand our Father in heaven when they saw our good works. How would they know to do that?

Well, if we’ve been talking to people about our Father in heaven, or praising him for what he’s done for us, and then we go on to do things for them that he likes to do, they can easily make the connection: he’s our father. All our good works are likes his great deeds: loving, kind, patient, gentle, faithfully creative, perfect for each person. There’s no purpose in walking around in the dark in this world. All those things light the way to a beautiful, light-filled life, so everyone knows where they’re going.

Like the pittosporum seeds that attract many birds, animals, and possibly bees, to their gleaming surfaces, we’re also meant to be productive, glittering and beautiful, showing people everywhere what God is really like.

 

 

 

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The Friendship Books

Have you heard of The Friendship Books of Francis Gay? I have a small collection, some inherited from my mother, and others which were gifts from dear friends. They’ve been a blessing to me and those with whom I’ve shared the writer’s thoughts.

Francis Gay died in 1977, but the books are still published in time for Christmas, so people can begin reading them on New Year’s Day. For every Sunday, there’s a scripture which stands on its own, anchoring the week ahead. The rest are stories that people sent to Francis, and some experiences and observations he and his wife made during their lives.

Lots of people enjoy a devotional to read each morning or evening. What I like about these books is that they highlight humble lives. Even the famous people are all shown in the light of their natural humanity, their humility. And I also enjoy the tricky jokes of the little boy who shared them with his kindly neighbour!

Francis Gay was Herbert Leslie Gee’s pen-name. An ardent Methodist, he wrote about his travels in his home county of Yorkshire. My mother loved his books; I recall seeing one in the bookshelf when I was a child. He also wrote for children, and about World War Two’s Battle of Britain. Another of his books focussed on hymns; most included Christian themes.

Over the years, I’ve occasionally checked my collection in December to see if the dates of any of them match those of the up-coming year. If so, I’ll use that volume as a daily reading once again. I’ve learnt so much from the simple stories – everlasting truths that I’ve taken to heart and shared with friends. I’m reading the 1981 volume this year.

One day, years ago, I was feeling sorry for myself. I’d received some bad news. The shock of it so filled my mind that I didn’t read my Friendship Book entry. The next day, I turned back to it and realised I wouldn’t have absorbed it if I’d seen it the day before. I still remember the way it spoke to me then. It was about Victor Hugo, who had a habit of going down to the sea each morning and throwing stones into the water. When asked why, he replied, ‘Not stones … I’m throwing my self-pity into the sea’. What a relief to be rid of that burdensome malady! I imagined doing it too, and it helped me.

The Bible’s a bit like God’s Friendship Book. He’s included stories we can relate to when we’re down; hymns that lift us up to praise him, and lyrical songs our bodies can dance to. There are many instances of people in the Bible – King David, Job, Moses, and more – who experienced times when they felt God was expecting too much of them. Self-pity tricks us into thinking that our own bad attitudes are friends we should keep. After all, shouldn’t we deserve better?! Only God can deal with our self-pity, but we have to let him. We need to be prepared to live without it – to throw it as far away as we can.

I have a feeling that James, Jesus’ brother, knew self-pity well. He wrote, Take the old prophets as your mentors. They … never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard … of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail – James 5: 10-11 – The Message Bible.

Will we relinquish our self-pity? Permanently?

 

 

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Quoting Quotes

I was passing my husband’s study, and thinking of other things on my way to the kitchen, when I heard an astonishing statement: ‘We don’t need any more positive people!’

This pulled me up short. I’m used to hearing leaders emphasising how to be positive, so I was surprised to hear someone say the opposite. Then I realised I’d actually heard something from the latest National Report on the coronavirus. So I quickly had to get my mind into gear as the words of the Chief Medical Officer flowed out of Canberra!

It depends what you’re positive about. Our words, attitudes, feelings; they’re all meant to be optimistic. But this senior doctor was saying he didn’t want any more people with a definite positive diagnosis of COVID-19. He was aiming to lower the number of them. More people with a negative test result means we’re on the right track! Everyone’s interested in the figures these days, but nobody wants to be on the Positive List! If we’re positive (optimistic) about being negative to the virus test, then that’s wonderful!

It’s like having hope. Last week I saw a quote from Jean Kerr on my desk calendar: ‘Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent’. I’d never heard of Jean Kerr, so I looked her up online. I wasn’t prepared for the information I gleaned there: she wasn’t the author of those words; she’d helped herself to them, but changed one pronoun. In this case, Mignon McLaughlin is supposed to be the originator of the saying, but she used ‘we’ instead of ‘you’. It’s dangerous to quote someone else without knowing the context of their words.

If someone were giving an inspirational speech, but criticising those who believe in optimism, and used that sentence of the Chief Medical Officer out of context, he would be disgusted. He’d probably write to the speaker, ask them to check his context, and request an apology. And rightly so. Although the words may have sounded negative when I first overheard them, once I knew who was speaking, and his intent, the meaning was obvious.  It was actually a very positive statement!

Jesus Christ was optimistic, but he said some extremely negative things! He was certain that he would die. He was positive about it. He told his disciples, the Jewish leaders, and the common people. He used the example of Jonah, who was in the fish for three days and nights. While Jonah had no way of getting out of that fish, Jesus stated that he himself could lay down his own life. But he had a wonderful extra to add: he could take it up again! 

If we only read the ‘death notices’ that Jesus broadcast, we’ll miss the whole context of his message! He had more in mind for his people, including us. During these anxious times in our world, when many are fearful about the future, death is so prevalent around the globe. There’s no vaccine against this pandemic; no surety that anyone is immune to the virus, even after they’ve contracted it once, and then recovered. But the words of the apostle Paul in the Bible give us a wonderful assurance of life after death.

Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised … But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back – 1 Corinthians 15: 20, 23

So whether we live or die, Jesus has an answer for us. Will we trust him?

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Staying Home for Easter

We’ve all been encouraged (or rather, told!) to stay home this weekend. Many people like to travel at this time, visiting family, going to holiday destinations, and having a refreshing change of pace. But in most places of the world, that’s out of the question at the moment.

As in many other countries, in Australia we’re bringing change to our homes instead of seeking it away from our normal residence. It’s almost unbelievable that we have so suddenly accepted such new and foreign ways of living.

Today our son did our big shop for us. Yesterday our neighbour bought some milk, and dropped it off at our front door. The day before, a young mother cut a dozen sweet corn cobs off their stalks in Maurie’s Church Community Garden bed, and delivered them to our driveway. He took them inside, cut off the kernels, and froze them for next year’s meals.

Our street is quieter than usual; the children’s voices aren’t filling the pathways as they normally would when they’re home from school. There’s less traffic.

For some, home has become a sort of prison; a bastion of boredom. For others it’s been accepted as a challenge to invent new ways to keep the family occupied, instructed, and entertained. Such a tiny organism has caused this change in our lives. The influence of this virus has spread over the globe and instigated so many reactions and unexpected rules. Numbers are displayed each day: infections, admissions, and sadly, deaths. And the mantra goes on – stay at home, stay at home, stay at home.

It’s especially important for the elderly to keep to themselves as much as possible. And others who are at potential risk of infection must be careful to keep their distance. I feel for the lonely and the sick.

It makes me think of this period in the church calendar when we’re remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He didn’t stay home. When he left his glorious residence, he knew he’d never return to it until he’d experienced a cruel death at the hands of the ones he loved.

Last weekend, Palm Sunday gave us a glimpse of the countdown to the most horrible drama of Jesus’ life. That day, he wept over Jerusalem; he warned the people of their future defeat. He reminded them of their betrayal of him, but he accepted their praise on his way up the hill to the Holy City. He knew full well that they’d turn on him later and demand his crucifixion. And he knew that the reason for it all was so he could provide a home for them; a place of safety in heaven where there would be no more boredom, fear of disease, suffocating confinement, or death.

Yes, Jesus didn’t stay home for Easter.

What are we doing this weekend? Are we longing to get away, or are we happy to stay home and ponder what Jesus did for us? His church cannot gather together to celebrate that special meal, the Communion. But we can still remember his sacrifice for us. In our homes, we can partake of the bread and the wine, the symbols of his body and his blood. And do it together, seeing each other, hearing one another – at the same time … online! Man may have invented the internet, but God provided the ability to use it! In our homes, let’s praise him together!

Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness … Hallelujah! ~ Psalm 150

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You Don’t Need to Carry Your Load by Yourself

Here’s part of a post I began to write a while ago:

‘I’ve been following the journey of Job lately, and eventually I came upon these words: And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm – Job 38:1 – The Message Bible.

Before I read further, I focussed on the word ‘storm’, and was reminded of another man to whom God spoke – Elijah. I looked up the First Book of Kings, where Elijah’s storm experience is recorded. You can read it in chapter 19, verses 9-19. We find these words: Then the word of God came to him. 

What did God say? ‘So Elijah, what are you doing here?’ As if God didn’t already know!  When he asks a question like that, he’s usually wanting us to think about our situation. But Elijah gave an answer that showed he wasn’t aware of his surroundings; he was still thinking about how lonely and sad he was. Read it and see.

God had taken him all that way so he could tell him something special, in a place of revelation, at God’s own special mountain where he’d talked with Moses. Then he sent him back to where he’d come from! But only after he’d given him a vital learning experience.

Like Job…’

*    *     *

Well, that’s as far as I got with the draft of that post. I’ve now moved on from Job, and I’m up to the Psalms. Today I read this:

I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt – Psalm 119:11 – The Message.

In the course of the day, I’ve thought of that verse often. I’m grateful to be able to read the prayers that many mighty ones lifted up to God. Some were cries for help, others were gratitude for amazing blessings, and some, like the one above, were statements of faith.

Job, Elijah, and many others found themselves in places where they had to draw on resources they’d laid up for the future. Perhaps they hoped they might never need them. Here’s another version of that same statement, including more of the context.

I have tried my best to find you—don’t let me wander off from your instructions. I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin. Blessed Lord, teach me your rules – The Living Bible.

Job or Elijah could have spoken these words. They were familiar with the storm. And they knew God.

I now stand in a stormy place, along with everyone in our world. Today I’m seeing things through a different prism than I was back then. How will I react? How are others dealing with the terrible, frightening aspect that the world has taken on? How many are trying to find God’s rules for living: the promises he’s given us for help in our times of standing against the elements, the strong winds that can easily blow us into a place we never expected? What warranties can I grasp in that ‘vault of my heart’ to sustain me in this hour of trouble? The ones I’ve laid up in my personal bank?

Here’s one. Jesus said it to all who were laid low. If you’re burdened in this period where the world is reeling, take it as your own and he will make it happen. It’s true!

Come to Me, you who are weary and heavy laden. Let me give you rest ~ Matthew 11:28

What a wonderful guarantee! The Lord speaks quietly, confidently and lovingly when the storms buffet us. We can always trust him.

 

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The Fork in Our Road

We were about to leave for home after an enjoyable family celebration. Unfortunately our GPS decided not to work, so a friend found an app on our phone and set it up. We already had a route in mind, but the ‘App-GPS-person’ had other ideas!

It was okay for a while, but then she said, ‘Turn left at the fork’. She sounded so caring and personal, but I’ve read that the owner of the voice can’t actually see us on the road! We ignored the directions and took a way we were sure would eventually lead us home. The suburb had once been familiar to us many years before, but now the roads looked different, and the surroundings were built-up, unlike the quiet, pleasant streets we’d known sixty years ago!

All our problems began at that busy fork in the road. We were already in the wrong lane, and before we knew it, we were heading down the incorrect tine of that fork. The heavy traffic prevented us from going back, so we had no choice but to keep on, hoping to find a quick way to our original ‘shortcut!’ The weather was humid, so we had the car window down and ‘the voice’ was drowned out by the noise on the congested road. However, without our permission, a whole half-hour had just been added to our 45-minute trip! I was about to learn a few life-lessons on this journey!

At that fork, we had no conception that we were making a choice! There was no opportunity to deliberate before we took the wrong road. We should have made allowances for  tiredness, deafness… and presumption! We thought we knew the road, but ‘progress’ had altered the old ways! How dare it! Yes, these problems were all related to a change in our age! We’d never been this vintage before!! You could call it the ‘too-many-birthdays-syndrome’ – TMBS. (I hope that acronym doesn’t stand for anything obnoxious!) In any case, this TMBS can reduce our ability to think quickly.

On this trip, we were now being given ‘correction-instructions’. Well, we ignored them too! This trip was becoming a bit of a joke: an argument between us and the GPS. Of course, we knew best! After all, didn’t they realise that we were older and had more experience in driving?

Looking back, it’s amazing how much more ‘intelligent’ I am since I meditated on these matters, and related them to my life. I’ve been drawing connections between this fork-in-the-road experience and the information God’s given me over the years. I’d even recorded it in various diaries and notebooks, but this time, I’d forgotten to refer to it for the current part of my journey. Many lessons in life are repetitive. Have you noticed that handy hint? We’re often heading for a ‘fork’, and if we’d only think ahead at the beginning, before we begin to move onto the road, we might make a decision of value. Yes, value: keep calm! Listening, admitting our fallibility, giving space to the age we occupy in life, and most importantly, being aware that God has sent his Holy Spirit to be our loving Guide. He’s had a Global Positioning System in operation forever! And with him, we’ll retain our serenity. What peace!

I’m sure the Apostle Paul stood before many forks on his journeys. He wrote to the church at Philippi: …in all your prayers, ask God for what you need … with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus ~ Philippians 4: 6-7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Church Lending Libraries

Have you ever attended a church with a Lending Library with free books, and a notebook to fill in your details? Were those books old, dilapidated and dusty? Were there any for little kids, teenagers, or men? Who checked them for doctrinal perfection? And who took the initiative to throw away the torn ones, or who repaired them? It’s not an unimportant job to run a church Lending Library! And I wouldn’t suggest turning up at parishioners’ homes to search their bookshelves for any ‘permanently-borrowed’ ones!

They say, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but without reading the whole volume, how else can we know if it’s any good? People do judge a book by its cover in a church lending library. The old ones are often left on the shelves, but they can be very wise and helpful. Modern books might look good, but they may rely on ‘promotional’ material to impress potential readers that they’re better than they really are!

Church librarians are usually women, and as you might have guessed, it’s one of my jobs in our church. It involves checking donations, reading books by little-known authors (Yay!), dusting the shelves, and taking some damaged ones home for my multi-talented husband to repair. I also follow-up the tardy-returners, but in a multicultural congregation like ours, I have difficulty deciphering many of the signatures. And people are often in a hurry, so I have to ask someone who the borrower is or what they look like.

I think it’s amazing that these dear people are so good at English when they speak more than one other language. I learnt Latin and French at school, but they’re useless to me now in our ‘etcetera-church!’ Of course, I don’t intend to denigrate anyone with the use of that odd term. I only mean African/Indian/Cambodian/and many more nationalities. What a privilege to have so many lovely people who share our faith in God. I’m so glad I don’t have to read any foreign-language books! I’d need an assistant for that.

When I was a child I went with my mother when she arranged the flowers for the next Sunday’s church service. It was school-holiday time and even the kindergarten was closed. The building seemed so desolate that day without the congregation or any music. I wandered around and found the quiet vestry out the back. In there I noticed the old Lending Library. I doubt if the books had been dusted for years, let alone borrowed or read. They looked so boring to a young teenager! They made me sad.

Recently I read about a priest who rediscovered a precious book. He sent it to the king, who tore his clothes in anguish when he realised that he and his people had neglected it even though it contained all God’s instructions about the way his people should live. Long before, Moses, their great leader, had written it to prevent them from being carried away into captivity by their enemies.

It reminded me of another world-famous book that people leave on their bookshelf. It’s the only one that has the whole Truth that we need to know about death, life, and heaven. It tells us about our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We neglect it at our peril. It’s the Christian Bible. I hope you have one and that you read it. If not, maybe you can go to a church and borrow one. They’re sure to give it to you for free. You’ll never regret reading it. It’s full of God’s words, written for the whole world, but especially for you.

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Homesick for Our Own Land?

Since reading a poem at our church’s Australia Day celebration this week, I’ve been thinking about my attitude to my heavenly home.

The poem was written by a famous Australian when she was 19 years old, and visiting England. Although Dorothea Mackellar admired the English scenery, it was vastly different to her own land. She was so homesick for Australia, that she wrote the poem, ‘My Country’. Many Australian children learnt it at school. The words are graphic, yet poignant. And they evoke such strong patriotic emotions in her readers. Compared with England, our land is harsh in places, and yet we still love it, because it’s home for us.

Since then, I’ve been meditating on the fact that, although I’m actually a citizen of heaven, how much do I understand of it? And how homesick am I for that amazing place that Jesus told us about. God has given us some information about his home where we will go one day, but for now, I’m not longing to be there … yet.

Dorothea was a gifted, observant poet. She could express her feelings about her homeland, and show why she loved it, even its sad and haunting aspects, such as these lines:

Core of my heart, my country! 

Land of the rainbow gold,

For flood and fire and famine

She pays us back threefold

As I read those words, I was reminded of the sad images we’ve all been seeing in our news lately of bushfire damage, and the anguish of the people who’ve lost so much in recent months.

But the last words of the poem gave me pause for thought:

An opal-hearted country, 

A wilful, lavish land

All you who have not loved her,

You will not understand.

Though earth holds many splendours, 

Wherever I may die,

I know to what brown country 

My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea believed in God. She made it plain in another of her poems, which she asked to be read at her memorial service after she died. It was one of her favourites. It’s called ‘Colour’, and in it she thanked God for all the colour he’d put in her life.

But I can’t help believing that when I die, my own thoughts will fly to another country – the one that’s mentioned in the hymn, ‘I vow to thee, my country..’. that we loved to sing at school. It was written by Cecil Spring-Rice and the final verse says,

And there’s another country I’ve heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;

Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Surely this is referring to the heavenly country where we all long to go. But our eyes are focussed on this place where we all live now. There’s still some good here, but what earthly country can lay claim to always having peace? Isn’t that what we all yearn for?

You may recall other patriotic songs from your childhood, but I hope every one of us can say that heaven is the place where we want to return. That’s where the most wonderful person is – our Saviour, Jesus. His disciple John recorded in his Gospel (14: 3) that Jesus promised, ‘After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back. Then I will take you with me, so that you can be where I am’.

 

 

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Refreshing

I was looking in an old journal and found this statement that God had said to me:  ‘There are refreshing things coming!’

At the time, I’d been sitting at the piano, and as I recall those words now, I appreciate how music is one way that God refreshes us. It flows over our weary spirits; it revives our souls. Today I was meditating on this again. Why did God tell me? and ‘Did it come to pass?’

One summer, my brother-in-law brought his family on holidays. I’d made a cake and he was amused when I said, ‘Don’t worry if it’s not finished, and goes stale, I’ll make a trifle out of it’.

When we need refreshing, it’s the stale things in our lives that need it. How do we tell if something is stale? It can’t be used for it’s original purpose. But burnt cake can be pared back, and some people like to eat burnt biscuits! You’ve probably heard the myth of the resourceful apprentice who left the bakery so he could watch something happening in the street. Look it up and see how biscuits (meaning ‘twice-baked’ – from the Latin, bis cotus), might have originated!

God uses leftovers, but he imbues them with fresh potential. That’s why he’s given us hope. It’s one of the abiding things, along with faith and love. When I’m feeling stale and dry, drained of my usual resources, I can be sure God will raid his store of refreshing ones to revive me. If I sense I’ve become hardened and discouraged about my use, he’ll soften me with his replenishing moisturisers, just like jelly and soft fruit in a trifle! Then he’ll put me to good use to refresh other people.

These provisions might include an encouraging call from a friend, or a word that I’ve mislaid in the Bible, such as Psalm 23 where we find refreshment mentioned. God might even take something I wouldn’t accept in more happy times, and show me how innovative he is! The refreshing might even come from an enemy!

The Bible is full of words about refreshing, reviving, and replenishing. God told many prophets to pass on this message to his people:

Jeremiah 31:25  ~ I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls – The Message Bible

Isaiah 44:3 ~  I will give you abundant water for your thirst and for your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children ~ The Living Bible

Paul: 2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new ~ J B Phillips

While our land lies hardened and black from raging bushfires, and people reel from the disastrous horrors, God wants to revive and refresh those who are mourning. These fires have ravaged our country, leaving it seared and empty like the way we sometimes feel when we’re stale. That’s the time when God’s people should be willing refreshers. Perhaps we ourselves have become hardened to his refreshing? Have you ever put dry old scones in a microwave oven for a few seconds, then used the soft results for afternoon tea? People might think they’re the leftovers, but God can take them and use them differently, like stale cake in a delicious trifle!

So what about the fulfilment of the promise from God? Yes, it happened. All over the world, the Holy Spirit swept through the church with holy laughter and changed lives. Who can deny the refreshing benefits of a good laugh!

Let’s believe God’s promise and receive his refreshing – for ourselves, and others.

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Do we value what we’re given?

It’s surprising what the dead leave behind! These leavings show us what they valued, or  what might have been discarded if death hadn’t overtaken them…

I’ve had to sort a few objects belonging to various family members. It’s hard to decide what to give away, or keep. And it’s often difficult to sense what they valued.

Here’s a relevant message that Jesus sent to one of the early churches. I’ve been puzzled about its meaning, particularly the words Jesus spoke at the end.

“… Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name” – Revelation 2:17 (The Message Bible).

Because I never really understood what Jesus meant by this new name, I haven’t cherished it. But a gift from Jesus shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a treasure.

Recently I found an interesting object when I was going through the mementos of Maurie’s brother, Vic. It’s a small piece of dull metal. After examining it and doing some research, I learnt that it’s an Identification Tag from WW2 belonging to an American serviceman. This information was on it: his name and Social Security Number, his next of kin and their address, the date of his last tetanus immunisation, and his blood group.

So did Vic find it in Australia, New Guinea, or in England when he was serving in the war? Was it given to him? I know it’s part of a pair, but we only have one.

I looked online and found the funeral details of a man who’d fought in the war. He died in 1996 and belonged to the Christian Brethren Church. Was he the owner of the tag? Then I discovered that the American Government owns these tags, not the serviceman or woman … or the finder. So we plan to send it to the Defence Department in Washington D.C., hoping that, after all these years, his family may be able to keep it.

I have these questions: Did this soldier value his tag? What did it mean to him? Was his life changed because he didn’t have it? We may never know.

In light of all this, I’ve taken another look at the scripture above, and thought about my attitude to the special stone Jesus said he’d give to those who won the victory. The Bible mentions many special stones, most of them engraved with words, especially names. That’s a hint to the meaning of this one. They were often reminders of God’s presence, of his promise to always be with us.

So no matter what situation we’re in, Jesus will give the conquerors something to carry everywhere. Something we can pull out at any time and remember what it means for us in our everyday life, and in emergencies. Do we really value this gift, or have we mislaid it somewhere? Like the American soldier’s tag, is our stone, with that good name deeply etched in it, floating around in places where it’s of no use to us? The American Government wouldn’t help us if we fronted up with that old ‘dog tag’ – it doesn’t have our name on it.

Well, an experience can challenge us to apply something we’ve just learnt! Today, as I was living my life, I encountered a small trial. After I’d ‘automatically’ become involved with it, I thought of that white stone! Oops! Now I see why Jesus promised us a stone. We only overcome things by faith in his power. His presence is always with us – to live beautifully!

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