Whispers all around us now

 

Photo Arlene Dodson  sunset - whispers all around

 

A few weeks ago a close family friend was planning to leave for a New Zealand holiday with his wife. They looked forward to their much-needed break.

A day or two before they were due to leave, Rob (we’ll call him Rob), in preparation for his flight, went to the doctor. He hoped to get help for a lingering cough after a cold.

The doctor examined him carefully and said, “Your cough is fine but your heart’s not beating normally. It needs to be checked.”
Rob groaned inwardly. Surely not a delay in getting away on holidays?
The doctor sent him for tests.
He was not okay at all.
He was admitted to hospital where further tests showed atrial fibrillation–
“You were headed for cardiac failure,” the doctor told him. He proceeded to treat him and aborted the threatened crisis.

God had put it clearly on Rob’s mind to get the cough checked. If he hadn’t, the flight would probably have precipitated a cardiac arrest either in mid-air or on their holiday in New Zealand.
We’re SO thankful to God for intervening in Rob’s life.

Similarly with Fred, a man in our former church. Highly successful in his career, he was given an American assignment. When the doctor examined him prior to his flight, tests showed he had advanced cancer.
Fred came through that cancer crisis (with much prayer and intense medical treatment). I believe God led him to have those extensive tests, which were instrumental in saving his life.

It’s not only these life-and-death dramas where God whispers. He cares about very little things too.

Robyn lived in Brisbane before moving up this way. She had a lovely home with a lawn sloping down to the road. No fence.
She had always wanted a tree fern so she bought one and planted it in her front garden. It was small but would grow to a pretty plant.

 

Photo Pixabaypalm-fern PixaBay (003)

 

Soon after, she woke one morning to see the lawn was bare. She ran down – sure enough – the tree fern had disappeared. A neat hole remained.
She cried out to God. Father, You know I loved that little plant. Why did You let someone steal it? They ought to put it back where they found it.

A few days later she was making a cup of tea in the kitchen and looked out over the lawn. The tree fern was back!
She ran down to check. Sure enough, this time the plant was neatly patted back into the soil!

All around us – from the moment we wake to birdsong in the morning until the sky glows with the setting sun, God whispers His love over our world.

DROUGHT – written a while ago in Kenilworth

Until recently Queensland was in severe drought. Parts still are. This was written a while ago but is still applicable in some areas. I pray for the farmers who still suffer the effects of drought.
The land is aching. Parched. I look from my veranda to dry yellow-brown grass, plants dying, even weeds wilting. The entire countryside is tired, drained.

 

 

Kenilworth drought

 

The river has shrunk to a narrow silver thread, trickling lazily over dry rocks. Only the deep hole there to swim and cool off. Down near the little stream are banks of cracked mud. Dry and scaly. In the wet weather mud swells, and now it has shrunk.

 

Further up, big cracks form in the land.
Crows make loud protesting ‘ark’ sounds. They hover and flap in the dusty air.

Over dinner one night I comment how pretty the yellow-flowering creepers are on the trees near the bank.
“They’re a pest,” Jim tells me. “They kill the trees. Suck the life out of them. They’re parasites.”
Oh.
I wonder if, in drought, only parasites thrive.

I watch one of the trees sinking under its load of vines. Stooped like an old man hunched against the wind. Bony knuckled finger-branches clutching the dry air.

Clouds rise in the sky one morning. Rain! I think. Their bellies are grey with promise. But they rise higher and higher and are gone.
The setting sun defies the prayers for rain.
Farmers are desperate.

 

Photo by Elvira Meridy White

Elvira - drought

The leaves outside my window hang limp. The grass there is dry, scorched. Crisp in parts.

My heart aches for the farmers. I pray they will have the resources, natural and spiritual, to survive this hard season. I have learned to view it as a disaster, but part of a pattern. Jim’s philosophical awareness of the seasons helped. All his knowledge as a farmer has helped to make this beautiful property.

And I see in the Bible, in Isaiah 41:18 (second half) – “I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.”

He will. It seems thirst, dryness, whether it is land or people, attracts water. Real rain or spiritual rain.

Does God Hide Things?

Our New Zealand holiday sparkled with miracles, many involving our bright orange Vauxhall, Amazing Gracie.

We were puttering along happily when Gracie made a strange groaning sound. Then stopped.
Nobody said anything.
We all prayed silently, desperately. How many more breakdowns could this old car survive?
The boys got out and managed to open the bonnet and peer in. Even Alan was mystified.

 

“Look, there’s a garage just down the road.” Peter tried hard to sound cheerful.
“I’ll see if they can fix it.” And off he went.

Soon after, he arrived back with a mechanic. The mechanic poked around under the bonnet while the boys looked on.

“Sorry, Mate,” the mechanic said. “It needs a new part. Well, an old new part actually.”

“Not a problem,” Peter told him. “We’ll buy it if you can fix it.”
The mechanic cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry. You don’t realise. This is a very old car. They don’t make these parts any more. We haven’t got any.”
“You mean . . .?” Peter’s cheerfulness wavered.
“This is it. You’ll have to get a bus from here. Or buy a new car. This one’s had it.”

Peter’s face appeared at the car window. “Pray!” he whispered urgently.
Margy, Jenny and I kept praying.
We had no spare money for yet another car. Gracie’s cheapness had been one of its big blessings. (A blessing which came with adventures like regular breakdowns on mountainous roads.)
We three girls looked at one another. A bus! After all our adventures in this little orange capsule of laughter and fun. I sighed and tried to summon some faith.
How could our miracle-studded holiday end like this? – in the middle of nowhere. Catching a bus. A let-down after Gracie, which we’d happily pushed on and off the car ferry and down the main street of a small town. Our car which had had the – yes, grace – to break down in appropriate places where we could get help.

Peter wandered up to the car yard and walked around in his sandals. Suddenly he stubbed his toe on something hard and bent down to look at it.

He picked up a dirty old piece of metal, scrutinised it, then showed the mechanic.
“Would this be the part we need?” he asked.
The man was flabbergasted.
“How – where – did you get this?”
“It was here in the dust,” Peter smiled. “God must have hidden it there for years.”

 

 

Photo Margaret J Smith

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After a short time Gracie sputtered to life and off we went, cheering and singing towards Christchurch and then beautiful Queenstown.

Praising in the Rain

“It’s raining!” Jenny sighed, fighting tears. “This is meant to be a holiday.”

I frowned into the night. Jenny was a diabetic and her health made it harder to cope with being cold and damp all night.

God, I thought, how do we get things to go better?

Our New Zealand holiday had begun in Auckland with a sunny, blue-skied time. We slept on comfy beds and were treated to wonderful home-cooked meals.
We’d established that we could not hitch our way around the two islands. We’d tried, staggering across the airport lounge with heavy metal-framed back packs on our backs, our knees buckling under us.  We barely made it across the room.

So we bought a car – a 1949 bright orange Vauxhall, for a mere $120 between five of us (1976, mind you). Consequently we called it Amazing Gracie. Little did we know how often that car would earn its name!

Gracie puttered all the way up to the Bay of Islands. We’d heard how beautiful this area was – but we saw only dense white mist. It was raining!

 

 

Photo from Pixabayrainy-day-1831908_960_720
In a gap between rain showers we pitched two tents in a camping ground in the fading daylight. I began the night stretching out my sleeping bag near the tent, hoping to sleep under the stars. Just as I began to relax, a drip fell on my forehead.  Oh no! Then another. Soon it was raining in earnest so I grabbed my sleeping bag and crawled into the tent with the other two girls.
We dozed intermittently while it rained all night. The synthetic tent fabric sagged, soggy and cold, on Jenny’s face.

God! I thought, this is meant to be a holiday!
I was determined not to be robbed. A thought whispered inside me. “Let’s praise God for the rain!” I said.

We began a feeble praising and singing which grew stronger as we cheered up.

Everything was cold and damp. Our clothes, our backpacks, our sleeping bags.
But no longer our spirits.

The tent was sodden.

An unfamiliar man’s face appeared at the opening of the tent.
“Would you girls like to come to our caravan and have a hot drink?” he asked. “My wife told me to ask you.”

We combed our wet hair and straightened our clothes, then followed him to a caravan.
Soon we were sitting in a cosy mini-lounge, sipping hot chocolate and eating a snack breakfast. It warmed us through and cheered our spirits.
Had our praises turned the corner for us? We wondered.

Later that morning we packed up and began the trip back down the island.

 

Thick grey cloud hid the world around us.

Suddenly Peter said, “You’d better pray if you want to see Mt Egmont!”

We gazed in dismay at the never-ending cloud – and prayed.

The clouds parted and a few miles along, there was Mt Egmont, bright and sparkling with its snowy peak piercing the clear blue sky and glittering in the sunshine.

 

Mary River Reflections

I’m floating along the Mary River in a small canoe. It’s late spring and the warm sun is balm on my back. I relax and forget the busy life I’ve been leading back in town. I’m on holidays.

 

Mary River – photo Roger and Daphne Saunders

mary r kenilworth -roger and daphne saunders

Branches trail across the river’s edge, dripping vines into the water. Tiny wrens break the silence with their twittering. The current carries me towards the Homestead shores, so there’s no need to paddle now. Just bask in the sun and enjoy the silence and the beauty as I drift along.

Dragonflies glisten, their wings catching the sunlight as they skip across the water weed.

Beside me float images of pine-clad mountains, trees and clouds. They skim along on the river’s surface.

My mind drifts to that other world of busy people, chatter, teaching lessons. I enjoy it all – but this peaceful world is a haven.

Gazing back at the reflections of clouds and trees, I wonder if this life is a reflection of heaven. A verse from Corinthians tells us we see life and even God as if in a dim mirror now – and in heaven we will see Him and His creation clearly, face to face.

 

If this beauty, this peace, is only a reflection, how wonderful will the real thing be?

How do non-believers view our faith? or any faiths?

How do most unbelievers view our faith? Do they see us as delusional? Or weak people needing a crutch? (That’s what I believed as an atheist.) Or as enviable but rather simple people?

I grew up in a home where my parents apparently had no religion but, being socially correct, sent us to Sunday School. We went to a Methodist Sunday School which I enjoyed but it had little impact on my life.

Down the street lived the Joneses, a religious family who were part of a denomination where the people kept mainly to themselves. We socialised with them on rare occasions like birthday parties, the Jones girls always clad in pretty dresses. They were not part of our tree-climbing, cubby-house-making childhood. There was a wide gulf in those days between some of the denominations.
We had no idea of the smorgasbord of faiths our society would embrace in these days to come.

 

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Photo – Oakeybourne, our old Queenslander at Corinda

 

One day I noticed my mother looking sad.
“What’s wrong, Mum?” I asked.
She sighed. “Mr Jones has died. He had an accident.”
“What sort of accident?”
“He was driving home from their Tamborine house and fell asleep at the wheel of the car. He crashed into a tree and was killed.”
I was shocked.
The sudden death of one’s father was a world-shattering event.
“What will happen to them?”
“Nothing. They’ll be all right. Mary has faith.”
And I watched the Joneses continue with their lives, obviously sobered at first, but stoic.
They continued to go to work, to school and even paid us a brief visit at Mum’s invitation.
I watched in bewilderment as Mrs Jones sat in our large old kitchen and spoke calmly and lovingly about her husband. It was an early spring day, fragrant with flowers and the smell of scones baking, while outside the peach blossom tree glowed luminous pink, covered with flowers. I could hear the bees buzzing frantically while the old timber house with its galvanised iron roof creaked in the early heat.
Mrs Jones wiped an errant tear from her cheek but continued talking quietly, gently.
I was puzzled. Why did having faith make such a huge difference?
What did it really mean?
And how come they had it and we didn’t?
“Because they’re religious,” Mum told me.

Of course it’s not that simple.
But I was awe-struck at their coping in adversity.
The image of Mrs Jones talking calmly to Mum stayed with me over the years

Through a Glass Darkly

Late last year in Queensland we had serious bush fires, mainly north of where we live.

“You can hardly see the town from the road,” my sister greets me. “The haze from the smoke is just awful.”
“It must be unbearable up north where the fires are. Straddie too, I heard. And the smoke’s in the air a lot here too,” I reply.
I look out at a blurred landscape. The once bright green trees are dim. Hazy.

For the past few days South-East Queensland has been shrouded in dust and smoke. We look sadly at the hazy landscape; it is the result of many bushfires burning ferociously, north-west of here. Fires rage day and night while firemen and others, even teams from interstate, fight the blazes. Aircraft drop water on the fires. But still they rage.

The mass of smoke and dust from our parched, drought-stricken land stings our lungs with acrid fumes. It heavies our spirits with the pain of human suffering. Television shows us sad families standing beside the ruins of houses and properties. Their faces show shock, grief, sometimes stoicism. The death of lifetimes of dreams.

Even beautiful Kenilworth is smudged out of focus with dust and smoke.

 

Photo by Elvira Meridy White

haze - Elvira

We sigh and pray for rain.
Looking at the smudgy landscape, I think of a verse in the Bible telling us we see through a glass darkly – this earthly life is like a haze hiding the intensity of God’s beauty from us.

 

 

Hazes form from all sorts of  sources. At the beach recently I noticed the long gleaming strip of beach from Coolum to Noosa showed Noosa Heads at the end.

 

 

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A few days later a thick salt haze had swallowed the headland.

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I remember once when I was about fourteen, I sat on the side veranda gazing at the huge old magnolia tree.
Suddenly it seemed a veil lifted and I was aware of a realm beyond the world of my senses, a realm I could not see or hear. But I could sense it. It was real. A haze had departed from my spiritual awareness.

What lay ahead for me? I wondered.
It was like a call. A call to what? To be a writer? A musician? I had no idea, in our godless childhood world.

The veil slipped back and I picked up my notepad and began to write a poem to capture the feeling before it faded. The galvanised iron roof creaked and crackled in the summer heat as I wrote.

Many years later I read that verse in the Bible telling us that now we see through a glass darkly (or in a dim mirror) and later we will see face to face.

Through a glass darkly.
And through a haze faintly. Trusting that beyond the smudgy distance is the glowing reality.