Be not afraid…I go before you

This time next week I’ll be heading to Brisbane’s Airport Motel to meet up with Michelle and Val for the start of our trip of a lifetime – flying to Sydney to catch the Indian Pacific train, spending about a week in Perth, then hopping on the train for the return trip to Sydney before flying back to Brisbane.

Quilpie signVal and Michelle live in the tiny outback Queensland town of Quilpie, about 960km west of Brisbane – population about 550. We met when I was a social worker in Charleville and did weekly outreach to Quilpie, a distance of 200km away.

Following a weekend trip to Tambo and Blackall in OctoberVal, Michelle, Irene 2016, during which we had a ton of fun, thoughts about a longer journey began to form – why not the Indian Pacific? And if we did it one way, why not the other? That was Val’s idea – she hasn’t been on a plane since she was 21, forty years ago. Michelle’s never had a holiday, so this is one huge adventure for her. It’s the first time I’ve travelled with friends, and I’m looking forward to this new experience.

Val began counting down sleeps way back in October – there were more than 200 sleeps to go! And now there’s about six to go. Each of us has had moments of anxiety for a variety of reasons.

As I thought about that I was reminded of John Michael Talbot’s beautiful Christian song: Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest. Even in the joyous times anxiety can grab a hold of us – and even then we can know God’s love, joy and peace in all that we do. It is so good to have his assurance: ‘Be not afraid…I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest’  And I am sure we will have a ball!

To be like Jesus

THIS WEEK I felt bombarded by images of the Church – capital ‘c’, the Church as a whole – behaving badly. I say the Church as a whole because, whether we like it or not, we have all sinned and well and truly fallen short of what God intends for his people.

When I read our national broadcaster’s report on domestic violence in the Church, I felt like crying. Crying for those women mentioned in that report (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-18/domestic-violence-church-submit-to-husbands/8652028) who experienced such ungodly behaviour from those in their homes and churches who claimed to be followers of Jesus. And I felt like crying for what we the Church have done to others down through the ages in the name of Christ. I felt sickened by our hypocrisy, our lack of love and kindness, our pride and sanctimonious attitude towards those who struggle with life’s cruelty.

Then I met up with a guy in my resort community who mentioned he and his wife went to church. When I expressed interest he told me that he was very different from those in his fellowship. Oh? ‘Yes,’ he told me. ‘My ideas on the apocalypse, the end times, differ from most people in the church. They base their thoughts on…’ I politely cut him off and gently told him I try to base my faith on Jesus, his example and teachings.

As I thought about the many failings of the Church and the distress and heartache many experience there, I looked at what I really believe about God and how I want to live for him, perhaps how I could make a difference in our confusing, chaotic world. I realised that at the core of my being and the way I want to live my life is, to put it simply, to be like Jesus.

What a difference we could make in our own lives and in the lives of our families and friends if we lived as Jesus lived, if we treated one another with his loving kindness, respect and concern.

What a difference we could make in the lives of those in and outside of the Church who struggle with life and are screaming out for love, acceptance, kindness and care – if we treated them as we ourselves want to be treated.

What a difference we could make in our communities, our churches, our world if those of us who claim to be his followers were just like him, without our religious trappings, our denominational differences, pride, prejudice, cruel condemnation and judgemental stance.

Many years ago Jesus called people to ‘Come, follow me.’ That call remains today. Now, more than ever, the Church – all who call themselves his followers, and those who stand and watch on in dismay – must heed that call and become once again the salt of the earth and the light of the world that he has called us to be. To be like Jesus:

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:28-30, New International Version)

Waiting

IT’S ALMOST two months since I retired from my position of Senior Social Worker in Outback Queensland. At the time I thought I would be relocating closer to Brisbane to an over 50s active lifestyle resort. That was subject to the sale of my house here in Charleville.

Despite sensing very strongly that moving from the Outback was part of God’s plan for me, that has not happened. That in itself has been something of a puzzle—did I really hear from God, or was that a figment of my imagination?  I am yet to work that out. What I do know is that retirement was definitely the right thing to do.

In the past two months I have been discovering the joy of knowing God more and what he has in mind for me.  In retirement I have been able to return to my love of writing, spending hours working on a new book, which is still in its embryonic stage, reading up on how to better utilise my blog, and being inspired through the work of two authors to boldly claim my calling as a writer.

There are significant challenges to living in the Outback, particularly being isolated from family and friends. However, for now I will set those aside and concentrate on God’s call for me to ‘Write the vision!’ That call came many, many years ago when I was a young mother living in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea.  It came from an Old Testament book (Habakkuk 2:2) and spoke of writing in such a way that it would be easy for people to read and understand what God was saying to them. The ‘vision’ is God’s message of hope, healing and wholeness that is available for us all, and which is so needed in this chaotic world of ours.

For me, the waiting to leave Charleville remains. However, for now I am in a holding pattern waiting for me Pilot, my LORD and my God, to decide when it is best to make the next move. I am so very content, regardless of where I am. The words of Jeremiah the prophet have been so reassuring over the past weeks:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm   you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”                 (Jeremiah 29:11-13)