Monday, April 29, 2013

Getting into the game

It is surprising to me that God pushes the most unlikely people into limelight. Calvin, pastor and reformer, said this: “Being by nature a bit antisocial and shy, I always loved retirement and peace…But God has so whirled me around by various events that he has never let me rest anywhere, but in spite of my natural inclination, has thrust me into the limelight and made me ‘get into the game’ as they say.” *

Luther, was also thrust ‘into the game.’ He never wanted to leave the monastery but he was thrust into a teaching position and ultimately birthed the reformation.

Then, of course, there was Moses, thrust into the limelight when he met a burning bush. David, when he thought was going to visit his brothers but found himself face to face with a giant. And Amos, a shepherd taking care of sycamore-fig trees (Amos 7:14), thrust into the role of prophet to Israel. None of these people went seeking fame or even attention yet God had other plans for them.

One of my favourite verses is: “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). I am an introvert who loves peace and quiet and avoids being the centre of attention. Yet I find there at times when God thrusts me into the limelight. Like being a writer, for example. Writing is not an occupation where you would expect to be thrust into the limelight. Yet in today’s publishing climate it has become an important part of an author’s role to have a public profile.

I recently came across this quote by Elton Trueblood and found it very challenging: “To make your life small when it could be great is sin and heresy.” It would be easy for me to make my life small – to write for my own pleasure and not put my work out in the public arena; to avoid speaking opportunities and not look for publishing prospects. Yet I know to be faithful to the call on my life I need to ‘get into the game’ and take the steps that will lead to my writing being read by a wider audience. While I may not be entirely comfortable with where this may lead, I can rest in the character of a loving God whose plans and purposes for my life are always good.

*Shelley, B. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008: 256-257

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Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at: http://abooklook.blogspot.com.au

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lest We Forget


    









     They came for us at 1 am. 

    A hot meal and drink were waiting. I ate and drank the food and it sat, like lead in my stomach. When we were finished, everyone dressed in silence and I kept thinking about that meal and wondering if it was my last. What made me lie about my age? My thoughts drifted to home. What was mum doing right now? Did they miss me? I could picture my younger sister collecting eggs, could almost hear the hiss of the fire as dad stoked it ready for breakfast.

    I want to go home.

    I wasn't alone. No one spoke. Orders were given in whispers in case the enemy, only a few miles away, were forewarned about our arrival.

    My hand shook as I stowed my great coat into a pack. I rolled the sleeves of my tunic up to the elbow. I saw the whiteness of Jimmy's arm and realised it was so our own men could identify us in the dawn light.

    The occasional curse was muttered as we made our way down ladders and into boats. The air was so still, with hardly a breath of wind. Most of the space in our small boats was taken up with boxes of ammunition, water and rations. I watched as Jimmy passed shovels and wire cutters to the men in the other boat.

    At 3.30 am we set off. The remaining men stood on deck and took their caps off, circling their arms above their heads in a silent wave. I could feel icy tentacles slide down my spine. I clamped my jaw shut to stop my teeth from chattering. Fear rose and no matter how hard I tried, the silence and pitch black night seemed to taunt me. From the look on Jimmy's face he felt the same.

    I think it took 30-45 minutes for us to reach shore. My feet were numb from being crammed beside a box, and my shirt was damp from mist. The first glow of dawn started to brighten the sky. Rising from behind the hills the sun was the colour of lemons growing on our tree at home.  

    We weren't even off the boats when the first popping noises were heard. Someone yelled for us to get to the trenches. The flashes of rifle fire reminded me of fireworks. I saw Jimmy jump out of the boat, and land in water up to his chest. One minute he was standing there, the next he was floating face down. A pool of blood darkened the water around him.  

    We'd been mates since we were little, Jimmy and me. I couldn't just leave him there. Not like that. I half slid out of the boat and grabbed him by one arm. I tried to drag him onto the beach, but he was too heavy. I felt a sharp pain, like someone had elbowed me in the side and fell over. I could hear screams and gunfire and someone yelling for us to keep going.

    I tried to stand but couldn't. My legs didn't work. I'm cold and tired. So tired. There are dozens of men floating around me. Smithy and Colin…and Jimmy. I can feel the water closing over me. 

    I want to go home. 



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Lee Franklin lives in WA on a property with her hero husband, amazing son and sweet sister-in-law. Oh, and a myriad of animals. She encourages everyone to attend their local dawn service, and show those who fight for our freedom the respect they deserve so much.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I was blind but now I see



I was blind but now I see 

Have you ever really thought about that famous line? Until recently I hadn’t thought much about what it is like to be blind – or deaf for that matter. That is, until I read The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. As you probably know, Helen was both blind and deaf.
Helen speaks of being unable to communicate, to even think with clarity. Words were unknown to her – a strange concept to those of us who have acquired language from infancy. She likens her isolation as a child to a ship lost in a great fog, trying to find the shore, waiting in the fearful unknown, the silent darkness.
Then came love in the tangible form of Miss Anne Sullivan, her teacher. Knowledge and understanding would soon be hers. Her eyes would be opened as ours are when our Saviour comes to find us: He who opens our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear.
…knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge – broad, deep knowledge – is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low… and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.
Helen’s writings are a timeless demonstration of this, from the awakening of her heart, mind and soul when her teacher came in her childhood, to her burgeoning growth in academia.
However, what struck me most was her sheer gratitude and pleasure in living. Helen Keller saw more beauty and colour in the opening of a single bud than I ever have in a field of wildflowers. Her ears heard the approaching thunder while seeming to lack the ability, and she heard the warmth of a friend’s voice in the simplicity of their presence. She was excited by life; she was grateful. She lived and loved every moment. Miss Keller shares the detail in the darkness, the solace in the silence, hope and joy in all things.
Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content… So I try to make the light in others’ eyes my sun, the music in others’ ears my symphony, the smile on others’ lips my happiness.
Helen talks of books as though they were familiar friends that granted her eyes and ears. They were a window to other worlds, cultures, places, friends and foes, adventures and longings of the hearts of others. Her joy makes my own gratitude pale into shadows, but I am not sad or guilt-ridden at this—rather, I am challenged.
I read her expressions with a sense of a torch being passed, and I share this now with my fellow writers. How might we meet the challenge to give senses to the stories being tapped out on our keyboards? As a writer I long not only for life to be breathed into my words, but that the life in them be wholly unconnected to me.
Can my words be alive with the sense of the Saviour? Can they breathe humanity in an almost soul-like quality?
Trying to write is very much like trying to put a Chinese puzzle together. We have a pattern in mind which we wish to work out in words; but the words will not fit the spaces, or, if they do, they will not match the design. But we keep on trying because we know that others have succeeded, and we are not willing to acknowledge defeat.
How true those words. I find it odd that in taking a look at what it is like to be without sight or hearing, I feel better prepared to put my puzzles together.
In a word, literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends.
What I gleaned from Helen Keller’s writings will stay with me forever. My question is: will our own impressions made permanent in ink, make the same impact? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

All quotes from The Story of My Life by Helen Keller