You Haven’t Been This Age Before

Since my last post, I’ve been thinking about the way we’re all compelled to experience new eras in our lives. The last is like the first; we’ve never dwelt there before.

From the moment of birth, a baby is unknowingly faced with challenges: breathing air, moving in a larger space, as well as learning to walk and talk. Then there’s playgroup, kindergarten and school.

Middle-age heralds the so-called halfway mark long before older years appear on the horizon. Now I’m in ‘aged’ country, I’ve realised something important: I don’t have to cope with each new era on my own. I can ask for help or advice about lifestyle changes or exercises…and pray for the strength to do them!

Every decade of my life has had new lessons to learn and decisions to make. Would I accept this foreign place, would I learn to walk in this unaccustomed way? Or would I prefer to hang onto the ‘progress’ I’d made in the previous era? What if I were like the five-year-old screaming on his first day of school, ‘I haven’t been here before, Mummy! I don’t want to go there!’ What if I refused to ask for help in my new environment. I see that the last era has an uncanny resemblance to the first!

So I wasn’t surprised when a similar theme appeared in my Bible reading one morning. I was up to Psalm 71, The Prayer of an Old Man. In The Message Bible I saw what he said to God, Don’t turn me out to pasture now I’m old. Or put me on the shelf when I can’t pull my weight. This man still longed to keep praising his God.

It reminded me of the afternoon tea I’d attended the day before with the JOY group from our church. Just Older Youth!  We sat around the table and shared how we spent our time. What busy lives these ‘old’ people have! One lady spends three days a week visiting the sick in the hospital, and doing their shopping…and she isn’t well herself. Another runs an Opportunity Shop at the church Community Support Centre, collecting clothing that needy people might be able to use…and not having her own car doesn’t stop her! One of the men does handyman jobs for those who can’t, and grows vegetables for those who don’t!

We heard from the letterbox-drop lady who delivers church advertising pamphlets to notify the community about our helping-services. Two of our number collect their grandchildren from school every day. It would take too long to tell all the stories. Our pastor has encouraged us to share our collective wisdom with the young people who haven’t walked this way yet. I wonder if they know what we all get up to between Sundays?

Before we left for home, we were given a list of mission opportunities for retired people. Would we be willing to spend up to six months contributing our computer skills, teaching, building, plumbing or painting, or perhaps giving electrical, medical, or administrative help?

I looked around the table. Had any of these people here ever thought about opting-out, taking time off, or sitting in a rocking chair? Would they have time to go far away from home to help?  They’d probably be the very ones to volunteer; they already had the habit! Certainly they weren’t asking God to put them out to pasture!

Yes, each era of life has its challenges. Surely, now we’re more experienced, we should know how much we need God to help us to choose to stay off the shelf!

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How Did Jesus’ Mother See Good Friday?

I’ve been thinking about the first Good Friday and how the mother of Jesus must have felt as he went through his trial and almost total rejection by the ones he loved. I’m fascinated by the parallels in her story, interwoven with the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If I were to go backwards from the birth of the church, would I see something tremendous, something unique? And would I be able to explain it?

Fifty days after the Jewish Passover (the time of Jesus death), comes the Day of Pentecost. As Jesus had instructed his disciples, Mary was also there that day in the upper room, waiting for the gift that Jesus had promised. So she also received the Holy Spirit. She already knew him because it was through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was conceived. After the angel Gabriel had visited her as a young woman, she’d known her body was available to shelter a child who would one day give up his own body to shelter mankind.

And it was the Holy Spirit, on the Day of Pentecost, who gave birth to a wonderful, new, living entity, the church: the Body of Christ! This meant that Mary was now part of that Body, not as Jesus’ mother, but as a member of the church.

I traced Mary’s journey back through the years of Jesus’ life. As much as we can know from the Bible story, I watched as she saw him turn water into wine and perform other miracles. I thought of her anxiety when he stayed behind in Jerusalem to talk with the Jewish teachers about his heavenly Father’s plans for him.

I felt the disruption to her life when they fled to Egypt and I empathised with her as Simeon and Anna blessed her baby in the Temple. She must have rejoiced, but shuddered too, at the words of prophecy that some of Jesus’ future experiences would pierce her own heart like the thrust of a sword.

We know she ‘pondered these things in her heart’ and I guessed she’d often meditated on them over the years. Did she and Joseph have many discussions about these things? I’m sure they did. And did Jesus talk to her about the truth? I believe he did. Did she understand her role in history and in the cataclysmic events of Good Friday? How close was she following in those hours of his ordeal?

Perhaps others have studied these things and come up with answers. Here are a few of my own questions to God…and some are still questions!

How close did she follow in those hours before the trial?

When she stood before the cross, did she remember…

meeting Gabriel the angel

singing praises to God and rejoicing with her cousin?

She’d remember

giving birth and the visits by the shepherds and the wise men.

She’d recall the words of Simeon that stung her inner being

there in the Temple.

*

Clinging to John, the beloved disciple,

did she sense again the tenderness she’d felt

when she nurtured baby Jesus in the manger?

What could he give her now from his place of danger?

 What comfort could she offer through her tears?

*

In fifty days to Pentecost

his gift to her would come

all would be hers in miraculous tongues

to praise him.

What a Mystery! What a glorious wonder!

Lyn Thiele ~ 4/2017

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Decluttering?

This week I’ve been going through my old greeting cards. Engagement, wedding, Christmas and baby cards; thankyou notes, letters and Orders of Service from funerals and weddings… There must be hundreds of them and I haven’t kept them all!

Just a Few!

I’m now looking for ideas to reduce their storage space. There are dedicated sites online where people suggest recycling, scanning, throwing them away or cutting them up to reduce the thickness of the card. These blogging ladies are many years younger than I, but have they ever contemplated an old age where they might wish to read their cards? They say they’ll remember all those loving messages. Mmm…

I had a few laughs yesterday at the notes on our grandchildren’s drawings. The mother of one wrote that she’d asked him, ‘what is it?’ Her three-year-old replied, ‘Just scribble’. That comment made my day; it fitted his older personality perfectly!

And the sole letter I have from my father? One of his grandsons wants a scan of it to compare Grandad’s spidery scrawl with his own. Where else would he find such evidence? And the two letters from my husband? I’m privileged to have them! There’s definitely a need for less detritus in the world; we can’t keep everything. But what if Moses and Ezra, and the readers of Paul’s letters had been declutterers?

The part I enjoy is remembering the people: the ladies who added to the pleasure of my wedding day with a pretty card and encouraging words, or a poem that I’ve shared many times with other young brides.

Then there are my sons’ words which touch my heart. Some men don’t find it easy to speak the love they feel, but a card allows them to. I see the personality in each one. Before peeping inside, I can tell that it is from my eldest, for instance: unique. Another son signs with his own special funny face cartoon. I can see him every day if I wish, but after all these years, his cards are not only from him, he still comes with them.

And the ones from the girls: my daughters-in-law, grand-daughters and my daughter! How much tenderness, love and thought has gone into every message. I reach out to them as I read their words. Just writing about it on here moves me to tears. I also have many tiny notes that were handed to me during church services, with pictures, spiritual encouragement and words of love from my little girl.

I feel sad for the people who cheerfully dispose of the cards that dear friends and family have taken time to buy for them. I appreciate them all the more because they write loving words, and in some cases, cleverly craft them especially for me.

When I see how few Get-Well cards I’ve accumulated, I’m grateful to the Lord for his gift of health. He doesn’t send greeting cards, but he’s given us his wonderful words. Read the Psalms and feel his love and everlasting care.

King David wrote, My choice is you, God, first and only. And now I find I’m your choice! ~ Psalm 16: 5 (The Message Bible). Imagine opening a card and reading a message from our Heavenly Father saying, ‘You are My choice!’

What if my home lay in the path of a fierce North Queensland cyclone, and my cards, computer, and everything else I treasured, were blown away in a huge involuntary decluttering this very day, would those words from God be enough?

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Focus and Changing Focus

The important and the urgent. People have written reams about this subject. It’s one I relate to. How often do I miss the correct path, the right door, the most suitable task, or all of them?

I know God’s given me special signposts to follow (this blog was one), but so often I forget to look out for them. He’s shown me pictures, scripture verses and prophetic words that I can read as reminders, if only I’ll recall them, dwell on them and put them into practice. In the changed environment such as I have here now in a new church, I’ve been resolutely looking for the way he wants me to function. Dear Lord, will the old guidelines fit in this place too? I believe so.

Yes, the people are different and they want me to join them in their work, except that I’m the one who has to decide if God wants me to do every special task. Am I brave enough to say, ‘No’ when I’m sure it doesn’t fit those godly words that I’ve carried all the way down here? Over the years, my husband and I have served in most departments in all our local churches, but now our energy levels are (slightly) lower, the time available to us is less (we need to rest more often!), and we must seek the same priorities between new boundaries.

This makes me think of a furry animal that I heard of two weeks ago. A lady I know lives in the bush. Two water tanks stood in her yard, but had to be shifted. No, they weren’t in the wrong place; they were in the resident wombat’s way! Wombats have their definite, permanent track and if there’s something obstructing it, they won’t go around, they’ll go underneath! This one dug a tunnel below the tanks and they began to tip over. The same applied to the front gate: if the lady were to drive out and leave it closed for a while, she could come home and find a trench under her entrance! If only I were as focussed as a wombat! But then again, I should also be willing to change!

This year I’ve been determining my life’s priorities with family, home and new church. For me, they fall into two types: helping and responsibility. The latter is shrinking somewhat and the way I approach it has changed. My life is different. I have a certain amount of responsibility, but I can help with more tasks. I’m accountable for keeping up with family and friends; I can only assist, if necessary, with renovations! One of my own jobs is to prepare our meals, but I can help by contributing advice on what to plant in the new garden beds. I’m happy to chat with newcomers at the services every Sunday morning, but I’m better not to travel to a distant church to play the piano. Proof-reading’s my job and I do that at home. I’m finding my place, but I have to watch myself so I don’t forget why! It’s not so I can have less to do, but that I will be more focussed on what God wants me to be. As long as I obey the Lord’s voice telling me what’s a help-task and what my responsibility is, I won’t feel guilty; I’ll be at peace, knowing I’m doing God’s will.

Some things are important, others are just urgent. This is my big, overall job at the moment: learning my most important ones and asking God for his strength to do them.

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From Those to Whom Much is Given…

Do you remember this saying? From those to whom much is given, much will be required. At school we repeated it many times at assembly. It wasn’t set to music or emblazoned across the back wall in glittering letters: we just spoke the words. They were part of a prayer. And they became embedded in our hearts.

Eventually we left our years of formal education behind, but those words that Jesus said remained as a guiding light. Occasionally we’d quote them to someone and find a common memory. Why did they cling to us like that? They were almost as indelible as our school motto. I’m sure other students have similar experiences.

At a recent school reunion, I met friends I hadn’t seen for sixty years and these powerful words were quoted. We’d passed through lots of circumstances, dramatic and more gentle, since the days when we sat in the classroom or hurried along the cloisters together. Now we were catching up on a lot of lives! I knew that a couple of my old companions had spent ‘holidays’ volunteering in East Timor’s health clinics, giving back from their own store of blessings. Others had been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for exceptional contributions in service to youth and education, or in community and mental health fields. One was honoured for her research into the eradication of poliomyelitis. Some had worked compassionately with children who were recovering from family violence and other trauma. That day, it wasn’t long before I found another one who’d made a lasting contribution in her world. Here’s her story.

She was among the 60,000 people in Australia, who, each year, experience a stroke. In spite of her own struggles for recovery, my friend Wendy found the vision and energy to write a book for other stroke survivors. She also organised an annual exhibition of their art. Still more, she went on to found the Stroke A Chord Choir: a voice for aphasia.

Although she can still speak after her stroke, there are others who cannot. The side of their brain that controls speech is affected. This is called aphasia. Amazingly, the other side of the brain continues to orchestrate their ability to sing. Doctors knew of this paradox in the effects of stroke, but no-one had ever thought to take it further until Wendy contacted a music therapist about helping these people with communication. How they love to sing! And how wonderful it is for their families to hear them!

In her book, ‘Left of Tomorrow’ – a journey of stroke recovery, Wendy Lyons provides information for her readers that she desperately tried to find after her own stroke. With honesty, sensitivity and compassion, she’s written about extremely personal experiences, while maintaining a sense of humour. Despite living with severe pain as a constant reminder of her stroke, Wendy still looks to the future with hope and a belief in her immortality. I admire her courage.

Yes, we have remembered Jesus’ words. As teenagers, we had a desire to do something special, perhaps even difficult; a challenge. As we quoted them in assembly, reading aloud the simple truth, God’s living words waited for the opportunity to move in a way that we never expected. In our later years, it is still possible to live them.

My Prayer is: Lord Jesus, please help me to hand over the many blessings that you’ve given me so you can use them again to bless others. May I not hold back when I know you will walk with me into places of need. Give me courage. ~ Amen.

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More than a Granny Smith

Years ago we were walking through an old orchard. The trees were almost bare, their branches gaunt. The apples had been picked for juice and taken to the factory, but I happened to see a lone green one hanging on.

Maurie said, ‘It’ll be delicious. They always are when they’ve been left to ripen on the tree’.

He picked it and I bit into it immediately. He was right! I still remember that fresh apple. I was sure it had waited to bless me with its juicy flavour and fragrance; the best Granny Smith apple I’ve ever tasted.

Some fruit is better when it’s picked early and ripened slowly indoors. Others are harvested long before they mature, and then transported far away to the supermarkets where they look like solid, mock fruit for weeks. Bananas are gassed to speed up the ripening process, but when they’ve been in the fruit bowl a short time, they’re unexpectedly ripe and we have to eat them in a hurry.

It’s the same with babies. All of mine made late appearances, but they never had peeling skin or flaking fingernails, which ‘they’ say are signs of being ‘over-done’!

We’ve been on baby-arrival-watch lately. Do you remember Tenealle and Johnee, of ‘Biggest Loser’ TV fame? I wrote about them a while ago on here. Well, they’re now the proud parents of a splendid son! His name is Arrow. I’m sure Johnee wants a quiver-full but he’ll have to wait a while yet!

Then there’s been the special one in our family: our grand-daughter’s baby was due on the 31st of January, but he kept us all in suspense until the 10th of February. James doesn’t look over-cooked either. He’s beautiful! What a thrill to have him here at last! Now we’re great-grandparents, our sons are great-uncles and our daughter is a great-aunt. And his mother and father…are parents!!

Even if he were born early, he’d be more than welcome. Like that apple, every child is fresh, even if they’re ‘late’. They have their own special time and of course, we can enjoy a baby in lots of different ways. What a magnificent blessing they are. Thousands of times more wonderful than a Granny Smith apple!

A Prayer for Dear James

May your life be a light

that shines on the road

where others will follow

May you know the truths

that bring joy and laughter

May you see with the eye

that sparkles

more than

those who try

to reflect the darkness

May all your ways

be solid underfoot

And every time

you touch or sense

a need

May you be filled

with  compassion

Most of all

May you know 

God’s  boundless Love

Forever

Lyn Thiele ~ 2017

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Be Fruitful and Multiply!

For a very special reason, I’ve been meditating lately on something that God said to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Have you ever wondered what he meant when he told them to ‘be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth?’

I’ve often presumed those words meant some sort of environmental advice: trying not to leave this world without replacing yourself…at least! Some say ‘that’s none of God’s business!’ And there are thinking people who believe the earth’s population is too large already. They ask how God would work it out in practice, when many countries have poverty on a large scale, hardly any resources to provide for their people, and war ravaging their land? Parts of the world have abundant riches but the citizens restrict the size of their families and the statistics show no growth.

My parents had four children. Recently I added up their descendants and wondered how many would come to a family reunion if we held one. That’s part of the reason why I was thinking about this topic.

To satisfy my curiosity about God’s words to our first ancestors, I checked the Bible – the best place to look when we want to know what God said about anything. You might guess I made a couple of significant discoveries…as usual!

Here’s how several different translations put those words that I quoted briefly at the beginning. I used the one from the old Authorised Bible (more well-known these days as the King James Version), but other people have translated the same words into more modern language.  

The New International Version gives it this way: Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.

The Good News Bible has slightly different words: Have many children so that your descendants will live over the earth and bring it under their control.

And here’s an even more modern one from The Message Bible: Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! 

When I re-read the whole story at the beginning of the Bible, I saw something I’d never noticed before. God said the same thing to the birds and the fish! All translations are basically the same, but there was still something more that I’d missed in the story. Each time God spoke those words, whether to fish, birds or humans, we’re told what those words were. I don’t mean the actual words, of course, but the value of them. That pulled me up! I’d never noticed that either!

They’re not a command. That’s right! When God told them to prosper, reproduce, fill the earth and take charge…he was giving them a blessing!

Let’s see what effect that might have on our interpretation of God’s words. Forget about the environment idea; God had bigger plans. In light of my parents’ legacy, I saw that he was giving his creation something important. More important than many of us realise. Right at the start, he was saying that family is a blessing. Being a family, living as a family, participating with God in the creation of a family is a wonderful blessing!

And if you’re wondering what that special reason is that I mentioned at the top of this post, I’ll tell you now. My parents’ descendants now number 30 precious people, but very soon they’ll add up to 31, as well as every partner, and they’re all family!

Our eldest grandchild and her husband are expecting the birth of their first baby any day now. In fact, I was hoping he’d be born before I wrote this post! He’ll be our first great-grandchild!  God knew how much we would enjoy being fruitful! What a blessing!!

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Petunia

Petunia

sad…drab…unclad

drained of moisture and colour

pallid green foliage, faded pink petals

limp, dust-laden

poor offerings in the blooming bed

doomed to leave the space she’d filled

among her fresh, vivid friends

***

down…trod…den

such harsh, final syllables

for a tender plant

a careless foot from an animal or man?

her branches lifted by the wind

one time too many?

***

lilies of the field, he said

more beautiful than Solomon

spread their loveliness

disseminate their splendour

freely, bountifully, for a brief day

and die…

consider, he said

Lyn Thiele 1/2017

I wrote this poem after I discovered a once-lovely petunia dying in our garden. I’m sorry I can’t show you any ‘before’ pics, but it was beautiful. The flowers covered the foliage with colour, every petal fresh and bright. The leaves looked lush and it was a stand-out loveliness by the wall of the house…until the weather grew stormy. I was sad that its vigour was gone and it looked so bedraggled. It made me think of the way Jesusdying petunia spoke of the lilies of the field. If I loved this plant, how much more must he love his own creation!

In his famous outdoor sermon Jesus looked at the fields nearby and saw some fragile flowers. He compared them with the magnificence of Solomon, that wise king of Israel, whom he dearly loved. In spite of Solomon’s wealth, they far outclassed his splendour. They were clothed with more beauty than a king, but they’d done nothing to spin their fabric. Nor had they worked to buy their fragrance or designed their glorious colours. They spent their lives glorifying their Creator!

I’d read this Bible story in Matthew 6: 28-30 and wondered: was God using this petunia to talk to me about something? An attitude I needed to address in my life? Yes. But I wasn’t aware of the details…yet.

A few days later I went shopping for some clothes to wear to a special event. I found something I really liked, but wasn’t sure if I should ‘waste’ that much money! It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it, I’m just accustomed to being extra careful with my purchases. So I didn’t buy it, but went home and thought long and hard. Perhaps I should get something else?

‘Do you think it would be extravagant of me to spend so much money on one item of clothing?’ I asked Maurie.

He laughed and said, ‘Of course not! Go and buy it!’

During the night, I was reminded that Jesus saw Solomon when he was king. He knew him, spoke to him and loved him. He also saw the lovely flowers on their one day of glory…and he sees me! He knows me like his flowers and loves me. He gave wisdom to Solomon when he asked for it and he wants to give to me. Could I accept a new piece of clothing as a gift from him? After all, he provides the money I have. Yes! I will!

Jesus’ sermon illustration wasn’t meant to tell me that I shouldn’t have nice clothes, or a good home and healthy food; it was about my priorities. When I worship him first, and not things, my heavenly Father will give me what I need! Jesus said so!

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What to Eat When You Feel Down!

I’ve been working on the notes of a church study, and it’s reminded me of some of my school lessons: punctuation, grammar, spelling and the one I can particularly use on this project – précis. It means a short form of a text that leaves only the important parts. My brief is to reduce the wordiness, make the phrasing more modern and easy to read, and…interesting! I was also asked to see if there were any vital parts missing…and to add them! This is an eight-week course, so I’ve tried not to extend the number of pages.

I deleted much of the highlighting and all the underlining, making the pages less crowded and more inviting. I found a few more illustrations for readers who prefer pictures rather than big slabs of text, then I cut out the repetitive stuff! I checked every scripture reference and discovered the needed additions, but it was challenging to find a place for them. These notes have been around for years and the original compiler knew they needed updating! Proofreading is one of my pleasures, but it can be tricky when the material originates from more than one source.

As I cut into the study notes, I thought of the Bible and wondered why there’s so much repetition in God’s Word. They quoted Old Testament sayings repeatedly and whole chapters were duplicated in large swathes! Stories are told more than once and obscure people pop up in unexpected places. There are many lists, lots of names and genealogies…well, they abound. If I were God, I’d have a smaller book!

But I knew he’d have a reason. He didn’t only design it to be read; he wanted us to eat it! His words are food for our spirits, something we can carry with us like a meal in the desert where there’s no other food. He knows our spiritual digestive system!

The prophet Elijah discovered this same truth. After he’d had a stoush with the prophets of Baal and by God’s power overcome them resoundingly, he had a deep downer. Depressed and discouraged, he went into the wilderness to sleep it off. He thought he was the only prophet of God left in the world. How was God going to manage? What could he do with such a down-in-the-mouth seer? Well, God has supplies that even Elijah never knew.

As he slept under a broom tree, an angel was preparing a meal for him. When he woke, there it was! Twice the angel woke him and told him to eat and drink. That food was special, strengthening him for the forty days and nights it took him to travel across the desert to Sinai, the mountain of God. This was the place where God gave his Word to Moses, the site where he spoke, where the people of Israel saw his fire and smoke! Now this would be the place where Elijah would hear God’s famous whisper. I’ve read it could be translated as sound of sheer silence. Now there’s a thought about God’s Word!

What other book can I read, I thought, that would feed me like the Bible? None. I can taste its flavours every day, even a small mouthful is rich. It’s never out of date, never boring, always sustaining and it has something for me to carry on my journey. I’m so thankful that God didn’t ask me to proofread it!

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Two Kings and First Impressions

You’ve probably read about the prophet Samuel and how he anointed David, the shepherd boy. You may have a picture in your mind of a scene on a farm near Bethlehem. As a child, I imagined Jesse’s seven handsome sons being paraded before the prophet Samuel with only their family watching? That was my first impression, retained for many years until last week, when I read the story properly!

Samuel was at home in Ramah when God told him to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next King of Israel. ‘Fill your flask with anointing oil…I’ve spotted the very king I want’, the Lord said and told Samuel to take a heifer with him. The prophet sent a message on ahead inviting the leaders of the town to meet him there and be sure to invite Jesse too.

When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him apprehensively. ‘Is there something wrong?’…David's anointing by Samuel at prcas3216

‘No, I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God’, Samuel said. ‘Prepare yourselves, be consecrated and join me in worship’. He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship. 

I’d completely missed that part! Now I  saw that it wasn’t a private family gathering on the farm, but a well-planned event. An important group of people were there to watch it in a public place.

This multi-layered story continued. Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse, was presented first. Samuel, going by his own first impression, presumed that here was the chosen one, but the Lord said, I don’t look on the outside, I look into the heart.

All the other sons auditioned, but God didn’t give Samuel the go-ahead on any of them! Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more and David’s name was reluctantly mentioned. ‘He’s out looking after the sheep’. Jesse said. I wonder how long it took them to find David and bring him to the place where the onlookers were waiting. The town leaders were probably wondering what Samuel was doing!

When David was brought in, God gave Samuel the order: Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one! Imagine Samuel’s excitement! He took his flask of oil and started pouring.

I love this next part. Then, with a special anointing of his own, the Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. (References from 1 Samuel 16: 1-13 in The Message Bible)

Now let’s compare that story with the birth of David’s famous descendant, the one called Jesus. What was my first impression of that event?

nativity-scene-mary-joseph-baby-jesus-1326846-wallpaper

As a child, I used to concertina the events into a single short period, no longer than a week, maybe! The inn-keeper at the door, the stable and the manger, the angels and the shepherds, the wise men and the star. Cruel King Herod was a part of it, then the soldiers with their swords slashing against the dear little boys under two years of age. Was Jesus still a baby in his swaddling clothes when Joseph escaped to Egypt with him and Mary? How many people in Bethlehem got to know the toddler before he left? Did they see his kind nature, his beautiful love, his tender heart, even then?

Our task is to see as God does. No cursory glance, no reading into it something that isn’t there. God looks for a person whose heart is soft, where he can etch his own special impression. David and Jesus both had that kind of heart. And so can we.

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