Othello

Othello board

Have you ever played Othello? Not Shakespeare’s character, but the board game for two players. The other evening I brought it out to show our grandson who’d never seen it before. I explained the aim of the game and how to begin with the black and white discs. It was many years since I’d used it myself. The box looked tatty and we lost the list of rules many years ago.

The goal is to get more discs of your own colour on the board than your opponent. Players take it in turn to place one of their discs beside the other person’s colour when there’s one of their own at the other end of a row. They can then turn the intervening ones over so there’s more of their colour on the board. Play continues until the board is full.

My grandson stopped our play a few times to check progress, but I explained that it wasn’t worthwhile to keep counting how many white or black discs were on the board. Their configuration could change in a couple of moves and then we’d have to count them all again! It was better to wait until the board was nearly full and then we’d have some understanding of who might win in the end.

My memories of playing Othello with my daughter, when she was her son’s age, brought back a few clues. One was not to focus on covering the squares of the second-row-in from the edge of the board. That might mean the other player could grab a corner! It could be better to make a less valuable move…and wait. Whoever controlled the corners was often the victor because there are no spaces beyond the point of a corner square!

I won’t tell you who won; that’s our secret! But we enjoyed a couple of games before it was time for bed.

The next day I was thinking about this game and wondered how it applied to my life. I know it’s meant to be competitive and fun, but I enjoy learning something in the process. Was life all about being in control?

Sometimes we can look as if we’re on the losing side. We put down our ‘disc’, thinking it will benefit us, and then events change and we see that our decision wasn’t wise. Eternal issues are more important than earthly ones. God knows that. He’s the universal wait-er, He knows the future. It seems that he’s even prepared to ‘lose’ occasionally. Now what about those corners on the board? What do they mean for me?

As I meditated on all this, I sensed God dropping a thought into my heart; a quote from the book of Isaiah by Jesus’ disciple, Peter.

Look! I’m setting up a stone in Zion, a cornerstone in the place of honour. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it.

Ah! The Chief Cornerstone! That’s Jesus, the Head of the Corner! He said that’s who he is. If our lives are built on his foundation, we can be sure we’re secure. If they’re not…well, I’m glad I’ve put my trust in him to control my life!

Dear reader, will you do the same? Jesus will never let us down; after all, he is the chief cornerstone.

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Two Lists

Some of my readers may recall a post I wrote months ago called Giving Good Words, but I see I still have a lot to learn!

Lately I’ve been making a couple of lists. One is about what I enjoy in our new home; the other is what I dislike.

I’ll start with the dislikes! I don’t like the new nylon carpet, even though I chose it. When I use the vacuum cleaner, trails of flattened pile are left behind, making the carpet appear dirty. It looks no better than the old grubby carpet!

Also, my study’s too small for its computer desk, three chairs, spare bed, chest of drawers (with all the greeting cards I’ve received over many years), the sewing machine trolley and two baskets for waste paper and fabric scraps which the kitten climbs into for inspections. And in the cupboard nearly everything I need is behind something else!

As for the small window beside the front door, it gives a good view into the loungeroom from outside. I stuck a lace curtain to the panes but the frisky kitten soon peeled it off. When an unwelcome salesman came to the door and commented, ‘I see you have a piano’, it went on the list! (The window, not the cat, or the piano!) There are plenty of other dislikes that I’ve secretly placed in this catalogue, but I’ll let you off with those few.

Believe me, there is an enjoy list. I’ll try to remember a couple of items! But I must tell you what prompted me to go on here with this topic.

I read Matthew 13:44 in my Bible. This is part of a list that Jesus made. It’s about a man who sold everything so he could to buy a particular field. As I read this verse, I was convicted about my bad habit of listing the things I dislike.

My modern imagination ‘watched’ the man walking around in the field with grass seeds catching on his socks and lots of dust covering his shoes as the sun sweated his head. I suspected he might be hearing these words in his mind: ‘Surely you’re not going to walk inside in those boots! And don’t drop all those seeds in the bathroom when you take off your socks!’

Undeterred by this future tirade, he hurried straight off to buy the field with its dust, grass seeds…and treasure! Wait till she knows what riches I’ve found!  Any wonder this man was joyful! In that field, Jesus said, he’d found the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven!!

I suddenly realised how much precious thinking-time I was wasting on peripherals. What treasure I was missing in my home! How peaceful and cosy it is! Only yesterday a friend said to us, ‘This house is perfect for you two!’

As I promised, I’ll now show you some of the items on my enjoy list.

I love the beautiful garden where lots of vegetables grow. I have my own study and a spacious kitchen, a pantry full of preserves, pleasant neighbours, our family close by, two full rainwater tanks, our friendly kitten, a lovely bathroom with no tiles on the walls (and therefore no grout to clean) and lots more! But this post is already too long.

I want to forget that first list and only remember the treasure that God’s provided for me. I’m asking him to help me do it! I surely need his help…again! How grateful I am for his love and mercy; I don’t deserve them. But he doesn’t give me what I deserve; he gives me JOY!! What a treasure! And I can live in it! Yes, that’s one blessing we get in the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus spoke about!

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Pruning

Do you ever think, I wish I were more loving?

I’m often dissatisfied with my inability to love as perfectly as Jesus. I want my own way, and I justify this attitude with lots of ‘reasons’! The Bible always has the answer to such prevarication, but let’s call it by its proper name: sin.

In relation to this, I’d like to tell you something about our garden. We have sixteen new fruit trees there now. They stand in front of the new paling fences and will eventually be espaliered, which means they’ll be spread out against the fence. From the kitchen window, I can see them with their little ‘arms’ outstretched, waiting to be attached to the trellis as they grow.

When we brought them home from the nursery, Maurie pruned them before he buried their roots in the soil. Such young things, I thought, being pruned so early in their lives. But they’d already experienced it before we knew them; they were familiar with the process.

There’s an old story about pruning. One day Jesus told his friends, ‘I am the Vine and you are the branches, and the Gardener, my Father, has to prune you’. Ouch! I’ve often suspected that God’s pruning would be painful, but when I read Jesus’ story more carefully, I realised that he never said it’s a punishment. So what about the pain from the sharp secateurs and the loss of wood? Well, the tree accepts it. And why? Because it’s a reward for producing fruit!

fresh peaches on tree

Yum!

Our small trees haven’t borne fruit yet, but we expect it. Like the branches on Jesus-The-Vine, they must be prepared so they know what their life-task is, and how they are to produce mature fruit.

Jesus told his friends that they’d already been pruned by the words he’d said to them. Here are some of his words:

Make yourself at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.

As always, he set the example. He loved them because he’d made himself at home in the Gardener’s love by doing what his Father said. That’s why he can tell us to do it. He loves us so much.

Some of our dwarf peach trees are already blossoming, and although the branches of the pear trees are still like twigs, one day they will produce! The inside of the tree is where it gets its ability to ‘grow up’. That’s why God always starts on the inside. He sent his Holy Spirit to live in my spirit so his fruit will be more than outward show. He wants to permeate my whole being. I can’t bear good fruit on my own.

man pruning tree (2)

I have no idea how to prune fruit trees, but Maurie, who grew up on his father’s orchard, and planted his own many years ago, does it almost instinctively. I see his hands holding the slender branches while he takes his snips and cuts confidently. He knows how that branch will follow.

That’s how we learn to love. I need to remember Jesus’ words every time I want to love someone. I want his words to bear fruit in my life.

Do you want that too?

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Fresh Bread for Breakfast

Three beeps sounded from the kitchen. It was 7 am and our bread was ready! My husband went to take it out, but quickly returned. He crawled under the bedclothes again and mumbled, ‘It’s the worst you’ve ever made’.

He was right. Way down at the bottom of the bread bucket lay a heavy, brown mass about one inch high. The night before, I’d placed water, salt, sugar and oil in that bucket, plus the rye and white flours and…oh no! I’d forgotten the yeast!

Maurie had been looking forward to a delicious breakfast of fresh rye bread. He would never waste his precious honey and peanut butter on this boggy glug!

I poured water over the whole mess and soaked it for an hour. Then I tossed it into the compost bin where it landed like a heavy cowpat!

***

I see many of life’s events as pictures that God can use to teach me how to live. This was one of them.

I was reminded of another ‘recipe’. It was Jesus who said it. He’d been talking to the Jewish authorities after they’d asked him who he was. Later he spoke to those who believed in him. His words are a list of instructions for freedom, in this order: obedience, being disciples, knowing the truth,  being set free by the truth. It was that last phrase I’d heard so often on the radio, in conversation and read in newspapers: the truth will set you free! Lots of people, even Christians, quote it with confidence as if it were something I could just grab and swallow like a pill. 

Here’s how Jesus put it: If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’.

I used to think that hearing the truth would set me free by virtue of its own intrinsic value. I’d grab some great ‘revelation’ I’d seen in the Bible and run with it, but that’s not the way God intends for truth to work.

One day I read it again in the Bible and saw the order of Jesus’ words. Mm…so it has some other ingredients. I understood that the truth can’t help me if I’m not willing to put my life on the line for it. If I won’t do that, I’m not a true disciple of Jesus Christ. But when I am his disciple, I’ll obey him. Only then will I really know the truth that will set me free!

I can make them well sometimes!

I can make them well sometimes!

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with fresh bread for breakfast!

It’s surprising how many times Jesus talked about bread and he also said that his food was to do the will of his Father. He was even willing to go without normal meals so he could be obedient.

I want to be free, so I need to follow the way he lived. Having the whole recipe is vital. Our rye bread was useless without that one absolutely necessary ingredient. In the same way, without obedience to Jesus’ words, I’d never really want to know the truth and of course, it would never set me free!

How disappointing it must be for God when he wants to bless me and I don’t do what he says. Was he watching that evening as I put those ingredients in the bread-maker bucket? I’m sure he saw me close the lid without adding the yeast. Perhaps he smiled and said to himself, No fresh bread for breakfast, but I think she’ll learn something valuable tomorrow morning!

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A Blocked Ear

We can all hear from God, our heavenly Father. Here’s a poem about what God has been saying to me lately.

Listening

music rings, melody is noted

words carry, marry for a message

rich, simple, all can be quoted

until a waxen coat shrouds the instrument within

a numbed jawbone like a heavy carapace

from time spent in the toxic, dusty place

balance rocked

desperate for drops of oil

there’s little gratitude for hearing until

the ear’s blocked!

*     *     *

my inner ear is hidden

deep where only wise words reach

keep it open, Lord

pour in your holy oil

prevent the tissue scarring

I want to hear your whispered call

respond to your gentlest footfall

on my spirit-drum

beating heart to heart

with gratitude for inner hearing

~ Lyn Thiele 2016

 

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Squinting into the Sun

This is one of the few photos I have of my mother and me

Here is one of the few photos I have of my mother with me. It was taken with a Box Brownie camera in the back garden of our home. In this small, blurry photograph, Mum is squinting into the sun as usual. I caught that habit from her. What other legacies did she pass on to me and why am I writing about her today?

It’s because my mother would have turned one hundred this week! I never asked her if she wanted to live a long life; I knew she was ready to go at any time. She spent her final few happy years in a hostel for the elderly. One day in the middle of a conversation, she said to me, ‘If I leave here…’ I wondered if she were thinking that she may have to go into a nursing home, so I asked, ‘Where would you go, Mum?’

She laughed, ‘I might die!’ That put me in my place!!

Except for her love of family and friends, her feet weren’t anchored to this world. She’d already ‘sent her treasures on’, expecting to find them waiting there when she arrived in her heavenly home. There was no reason why she should stay here longer than God wanted.

How can I be so sure of that? I know my mother didn’t presume her good works would give her a passport into heaven. She knew it took more than that to be eligible to spend eternity with God. If she’d thought her spirit would just die, why bother to be good; why not just live it up?

But she’d put her hope in Jesus’ promise that he was going to prepare a home in heaven for those who believed him. Whether we know it or not, each of us has a deep longing for the One who made us, who loves us and gave his own life for everyone. King David of Israel knew it too. He wrote these words in a song:

Father of orphans,

champion of widows,

is God in his holy house.

God makes homes for the homeless…

What a home God is preparing for us all! Some people don’t believe it! But I do! I could have ignored what my mother told me about Jesus, but I chose to listen to her. Now I have hope. That’s her greatest legacy to me.

And it’s her gift to all her family and many others whom she told about the reason Jesus came to die. At the bus stop, in the shops, over the neighbour’s fence…and in the way she lived, she told them all.

It may seem odd to say this, but I feel that the way she squinted into the sun was symbolic of her life. Her focus was on a bright future; one so glorious it was almost too hard to believe! So wonderful that it was too much for these earthly eyes.

I sometimes wonder if you can sense my desire to share this hope. As you read this blog post, do you long to know peace in your heart? Was your mother like mine? Has someone told you that Jesus came to die for your sins so you can go to heaven? Don’t turn them off. Please don’t pretend Jesus didn’t come for you. He did.

I hope no-one wastes such a wonderful gift; one that leads to eternal life. You can accept it like I did and know that Jesus loves you so much he wants you to live with him forever! Why not tell him right now?

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Choosing or Chosen

We voted for our politicians last Saturday. It’s compulsory in our nation.

After living in a small country town, we were accustomed to short queues, so it was a shock to find ourselves standing in one of three long lines in a large school hall with hundreds of other people. For us, voting meant catching up with friends and acquaintances, or even strangers, while we waited to perform our civic duty.

Here in the city, we all silently inched forward until we eventually reached the front where the officials were organising who went next. Hardly anyone in the crowd spoke to us and if we were tempted to start a conversation, we felt we’d be rebuffed. We saw no-one whom we knew. It was all a bit of a culture shock for us!

I stood in line and looked at my fellow voters. I wondered if they’d like to share this time in a more enjoyable way. Perhaps they were afraid someone might want to discuss politics! Or even ‘worse’, religion!

When our turn came, we presented ourselves before the table and had our name crossed off the roll. Then we could vote. What a paradox!

Once we’d made our pencil marks in the squares of our choice, we folded the ballot papers so they’d fit through the slit in the box. The one for the Senate took some effort; it was so long and thick. We pushed them in and left the hall.

A couple of people were walking down the path ahead of us and the man announced to anyone who might be listening, ‘Well, that was a waste of an hour’.

‘I hope not’, I said. His wife smiled at me and said, ‘Yes!’

Since the election I’ve meditated on the way everyone is confronted by the candidates outside the polling stations. They have their photos, their smiles and their promises with suggestions on how to vote for them. ‘Choose me’, they say. ‘I’ll give you what you want’.

I’ve thought about the difference between us choosing candidates to run the country and the way Jesus chose us. On one hand, they plead, holding out their hands, offering solutions to the world’s needs as if they’re offering paradise to us. They want us to remember their names, to believe their promises, to choose them.

On the other hand, Jesus also reaches out to us, his hands bearing those nail wounds that show the extent of his genuine love. He died for us. These are the words he said to his friends:

                       ‘You did not choose me; I chose you…’

They are the words he says to us too. He also has a roll, but he doesn’t need to search for our name in his book. Jesus knows us all personally. If we believe that he died for us, he’ll never cross our names off his list!

I’d rather be one of his chosen ones. Wouldn’t you?

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God’s Days Off

Californian poppies

Have you ever wondered what God does for recreation? Does he have days off?

These questions came to me when I thought about how Jesus prayed every night. How wonderful it must have been for him to get away from all the bustle of the day, the crowds and the constant giving-out that was his work on earth! He must have looked forward to talking to his beloved Father. And of course, the Holy Spirit would have been in on the conversation too!

I imagine that they discussed with Jesus all the tasks that awaited him on the following day. He was their visible representative on earth. Maybe he told them about the things he’d done and how he wanted blessings to be poured out on us. Was it like a holiday for them every night? A rest from their work?

Years ago, my sister-in-law was talking to me on the day after her annual holidays began. She told me she was painting the house! I couldn’t believe she’d do such work on holiday!

‘But I enjoy it’, she said. ‘It’s different from what I’ve been doing all year. It doesn’t feel like hard labour!’

I’ve often recalled that conversation and it’s made me wonder what God did after he’d finished his work in creating the earth. We do know he rested. Did that mean going around looking at all the wonders he’d made: the light, the sky, the ocean and the flowers and fruits full of seeds? I would, if I’d done it! What satisfaction it must have given him to see animals, fish, birds and cattle…and humans…enjoying each other in the beautiful world he’d made for them all!

I remember the song King David of Israel wrote when he realised how he’d terribly violated God. He’d killed another man and taken his wife. His pride was shattered! You can find the whole story in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 to 12, in the Bible.

When I read David’s Song (Psalm 51) in The Message Bible, I was amazed at these words that the king cried out:

            God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. 

David knew it was only the creative power of God that could take away all his shame. He knew it would take the same creative might as it took to make the world! Not only would David be clean; he’d be able to share the same rest that God had when he came to the end of his work at the beginning of creation! The same! Amazing!

There’s nothing we’ve done, no bad crimes or ‘small’ fibs, no chaos, no sin; nothing that God’s creative power can’t eradicate. And he doesn’t just clean us up, he makes us fresh!

So when I meditate on what it must have been like for Jesus to spend time with his Father and the Holy Spirit, it takes my breath away. I’m awestruck when I realise that God wants me to have that same kind of rest; to feel his presence, his support and his freedom!

He really wants me to join him! What an amazing thing it is that I can share God’s days off! And so can we all!

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Words of Wisdom from ‘Old Camel Knees’

Tradition has it that James, a servant of Jesus, prayed with great dedication. They say he spent so much time at it, that his knees became calloused from all the kneeling!  He wrote a short letter in the Bible and today I saw something in it that made me think.

In the Message Bible, it reads: In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life’.  James 1: 21 b.

It made me realise that God must enjoy planning how he wants to make us! Those who’ve tried to create a garden from scratch will know how much work it takes to envision, cultivate and finally nurture a beautiful landscape. But it is a wonderful feeling when it is accomplished!

Maurie and I are currently planning a new garden. Some of the features were already there when we bought the house. We’ll keep a few, but others are not so desirable. I’m sure God loves every plant and calls them good, but not all of them should live together!

I’ve tried to imagine how our garden might look, with paths here and there and one more tree in the limited space! Just thinking about it all was too much for my mind to conceive, so I turned to the advice of Old Camel Knees for inspiration! (Maybe his calloused knees were also the result of much weeding! Perhaps that’s where he prayed?)

I know his words in the Bible apply to the spiritual part of my life. It takes ‘simple humility’ to let God be the designer of a natural garden, but we need it especially when he works in us, his garden.

He begins with the soil. Jesus once mentioned soil in a story. He said it can be shallow, weedy, stony or very good and all types react to seeds in their own way. (You can read about it in chapter 11 of the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible.) What does God think of my soil, I wondered. I pictured him adding nutrients to my dirty contribution, digging it over, removing weeds and designing hills so it drained well. Does he begin afresh, or use the elements from my old life that are already there? No! He makes me new!

James also wrote this: throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage.

Who would want those things, anyway? They’re the weeds, the rubbish, the dangerous ‘plants’ in our lives. Sensitive or overwhelming bushes should be eradicated so the rest have room to flourish. Who wants a large yukka squashed right up against a productive peach tree? Now what did Old Camel Knees mean when he wrote that God would ‘landscape you with the Word?’

God only speaks the truth. He is Truth. When he needs to create, he says what he wants and it is! He’s uttered a lot of truths and they’re recorded in the Bible. They’re so amazing that just by believing and doing them, we become beautiful!

Finally I pondered what James meant by ‘a salvation-garden’. How can my life provide salvation?

In a natural garden, beauty, peace and refreshment are some of the pleasures that draw people in. When I let God landscape my life, it will become a haven for those who are looking for these treasures and more. Only God can make me like that!

I’ve written a poem about it and I’d like to share it with you.

N W View from steps

Salvation in God’s Garden

Deep into the inner

real part of me

You speak Your Word

it echoes there

‘Be free!

Know peace and harmony

holy beauty’.

My life sheds

all the gravel

depleted dross

the prickly, unwanted loss

and pain

In the gain

comes refreshing rain.

Pools fill

cascades fall

seeds grow

I know Your touch

so much, so new

and True.

Lyn Thiele ~ June 2016

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Try Waiting

Have you ever felt frustrated by some innovations on the internet? Especially those put in place by strangers who don’t know what you like?

I once typed in the address for my first email after we’d changed servers and an unexpected oddity appeared after the name: a semi-colon. I tried unsuccessfully to delete it. Why hadn’t ‘they’ asked me about this addition to my Inbox! You may think I’m fussy. Well, you’re correct!

This wasn’t the only time I’ve had to tolerate such intrusiveness in my life’s activities. In the past few months other people have made decisions when I’ve been absent. They’ve set in motion new configurations in my personal environment, without consulting me first! I suppose they’ve done their best, but why hadn’t they asked me?

Here’s one example: the installation of the National Broadband Network. No power points were available in convenient rooms in the midst of our renovations, so our telephone was placed in the lounge room, cluttering up my nice design for a spacious, neat area. Yes, it could be moved later, but would cost hundreds of dollars to do so.

I complained of course. I didn’t call it complaining; I was just voicing my opinion or making ‘reasonable’ requests. When nothing improved, I reverted to the default position and talked to Jesus about it all. Surely he would understand.

He reminded me of his own experience. When he came as a human to our world, he could have been forgiven for thinking everyone would understand why he was here. Weren’t they all waiting for the Messiah? Didn’t they know that he knew the best way to do everything, to teach people to love each other and make the world a better place?

But what happened? He was rejected by the very people whom he came to serve. They told him how to behave! Then they killed him on a cruel cross. So sad.

My own minor frustrations were nothing compared with the way Jesus was treated centuries ago…and is still treated today. I’m so glad he rose from the dead and is alive! Many people don’t accept that he came to give them a wonderful life. He wants us to accept that he died in our place so we can eventually go to heaven and spend eternity with him. He wants a close relationship with us. What a blessing and it’s free!

Jesus knows what it is to wait for his children to learn that he loves them. How patient he is! All this time he’s been waiting and when we do turn to him, he welcomes us with open arms. How forgiving!

So I tried his waiting way. I gave up the complaining attitude and let things be. Even if they didn’t improve I decided to accept it. It took a while, but since then, amazingly, they have changed!

Our eldest grandson recently suggested that he could move the modem to the study. The phone could go in there too and we wouldn’t need the old piano stool that it sat on. That corner would be less cluttered! Then he added that we’d now be able to use the printer more conveniently! Wow! I didn’t know such a thing was possible!

Waiting patiently is certainly less stressful and more productive. I’ve found that Jesus’ way is always better! Why don’t we all try it sooner?

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