Making a lemon tart

Today I am making a lemon tart.  Lemons.  Ever since I met Amelia Bedelia as a child I have had a thing about lemony things.  Lemon meringue pie without the meringue.

Pastry.  I have made pastry all my life.  Sometimes it works while other times it is a disaster.  It either won’t roll, it sticks to the bench or it crumbles as I try to put it in the pie dish.  Last time I forgot to put the beans into the pastry shell while baking and then wondered why the pastry rose and filled the dish.

Ground almonds, I need to grind the almonds, I need to grind the raw sugar.  Then I add the flour, the butter and create fine breadcrumbs.  Cold water is added ever so slowly.

Today the pastry rolls perfectly, it goes into the flan dish and then I reach for the beans.  They are in a jar with a pretty lid.  I bought this jar soon after I married and have used these beans each time I have made a pie or a flan or a quiche or a tart.  They are over thirty years old and look at them. Misshapen, burnt, smelly, but they have lived in my cupboard in this jar all this time.  This time I open the jar and pour the beans into the flan.

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The beans really should go out.  Memories of other pies, fruit pies, the time I added salt not sugar to the pastry time, meat pies, lemon tarts, countless lemony tarts.  Not once have these beans complained about losing their beauty. Silently they have filled empty pastry shells, gotten hot and dry in the oven and then been poured back into a jar and thrown carelessly into the back of the cupboard until next time.

“Beans, I really need to get rid of you.”

“I am going to use you one last time and then put you in the bin.”

I pour the beans onto the pastry shell, and put the dish into the oven.  One last time.  Then they are going.  I go to my shopping list and write “dried white beans” for my next shopping trip.

I put the jar into the dishwasher.  Its never been washed, not once and it is like I am about to erase its relationship with these beans as it has watched them age.  In my mind I see the lid covered with luscious fruit that is red, orange and blue with German writing around the edge. I remember the jam in the jar from thirty years ago.  It was rich and delicious.  It was the kind of jar I wanted to keep forever.  A perfect home for my blind beans.

I pick up this lid and look at it closely and see faded fruit covered with rust. It looks jaded and tired. I hold it in my hand and wonder when that happened and how it happened without me noticing.

A new jar with a new lid with new beans is too much.  A new jar will get buried and hidden in my crazy cluttered cupboard.  This jar, and this precious lid are a part of making pastry and I am not ready to replace it. When I need my baking beans, I know what I am looking for and I can find it without thinking.

While the pastry bakes blind using my beans one last time, I turn to making the lemon curd.  I juice the lemons, crack eggs, cut butter and add them to the bowl. As it cooks, I can smell the lemon and the thick buttery texture is begging to be tasted.  I get a small spoon and scoop some out of the pot, into my mouth and soak up its lemon richness. I think about Amelia Bedelia and her lemon meringue pie.  If she came for dinner tonight, I am sure she would ask for the largest piece of lemon tart, even though there is no meringue and then demand an extra large serving of ice cream.

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Going home

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Well, I have still struggled to find words, so I decided that I would pick a photo and write what comes to mind as I look at it.
This week I visited a woman who had returned from two months overseas.  She had spent most of that time sitting beside her brother as he died.  She had emailed me the night before he died saying that it would not be long now.  I prayed as did other friends from our church that the Lord would be with her as she held his hand and watched and waited.
In the last month I have been to three funerals.  Two for people who had lived long full lives and lived well.  One woman leaves a remarkable legacy. They will miss their daily interactions with her.  Her departing will leave a huge unfillable hole.   The third was for a tiny baby who lived for thirty minutes lying in the arms of his loving and devoted parents.  His was a short life.  But he was loved.  Deeply loved.
I took this photo when I was in Singapore in 2013.  This city is not known for its quiet or stillness or tranquility.  You have to search hard to find these giant lily pads.  They are found in their Botanic Gardens in a giant pond. We came here on a drizzly rainy day, heavy with humidity and I longed to take giant leaps across each lily pad to the largest one and lie outstretched and soak in the coolness, the gentleness and the quiet sounds.  It is a place we have since revisited and sat and stopped.
Listen to the quiet drip drip drip. Hear tiny bird sing songs of joy unfettered.  Look at those water lilies and their vibrant splash of colour.  We sit and stop and start to breathe slowly and deeply.
I have watched dear friends weep as they watched their loved ones die.  Their tears are like the drops of rain that fall upon this pond, sometimes they are visible, but others fall softly, lightly and silently.  And yet, with each death, they have all shared a deep hope that their  loved ones are now in a  better place.  Each of my friends said to me “they have gone home”.
“How lovely is your dwelling place Lord Almighty!”
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”  Psalm 84:1-2
Going home will be even lovelier than sitting on this lily pad.
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When will I have words?

Silence for over six months.  Am I really a blogger?  From my output, it would appear I am not. So then, when I begin to write, where do I start?  What do I say?  I really have no answers to these questions.

I am still reflecting on the words of Psalm 18 that I wrote about in my last blog post and parts of it have become a daily prayer.

“I love you Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” v 1-2.

They are a source of much comfort when facing change and this year I have had plenty.  I have lost a job that I loved, I have started a new job that I love.  I have left a church that I loved and now attend a new church that I love.  Put all the emotions associated with that together into a mixing bowl and start stirring. And then we have had family issues that have given me much heartache.  I have done a lot of weeping.  And yet, I have experienced such joy at the same time and I have had a heart of thankfulness through this entire year.  My life looks a little like a bitter-sweet chocolate cake.  I have learnt to eat and enjoy dark chocolate and have discovered that from bitterness it is possible to extract much delight.

Five years ago I made a quilt for my mother-in-law which has sat on her lap or on back of her chair every day, a bit like a travelling companion.  It went with her to her new room in a nursing home in June as her health has deteriorated significantly.  It has been one of the few things that has made her room homely – so who would steal it?  But it has vanished and she has shed tears.  She has lost the ability to communicate with words.

This week I have made her a new quilt and it carries my tears, my joys and each stitch has carried love for this remarkable woman.  She is a woman who knows that she is loved by God and precious in His sight.  I am hopeful she will enjoy the beauty of its colours – they are her favourite colours and that it brings comfort in her final waiting days.

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Here is her new quilt ready for pinning and hand quilting. I discovered this wonderful radio program as I sewed these pieces together.  It is called “Soul Music” and it is on BBC Radio 4.  Each episode is based on a piece of music and people tell stories from their lives about how this music has influenced and shaped them or acquired a significance and become a part of them.

In the last month I have spent time with a woman  on a journey of understanding grace.  She had listened to the episode on Psalm 23 and been deeply moved.  She told me her story of searching for faith and it included this Psalm.  I gave her the Jesus Storybook Bible which she read from cover to cover in one sitting and for the first time in her life began to comprehend how much she is deeply loved by God and saved by His marvellous grace.  (Incidentally this is being republished with an “adult” friendly title: The story of God’s love for you )

That is enough words for one post. I am tired of waiting for words to come, it may never happen, so I will simply write what comes out.  Who knows, I might yet be a blogger.

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Strong ankles

Thank you to those of you who supported me during Dressember.  Thanks to the generosity of family and friends, I raised over $1500 – all of which will help rescue girls out of sexual slavery and help them recover.  These rescued girls face a new life filled with hope!  Thank you!  I thoroughly enjoyed wearing dresses for a month.  Thanks to my daughter, I had plenty to choose from and enjoyed wearing her dresses so much that they permanently live in my cupboard – if I am not wearing them.

Dresses for Dressember

Dresses for Dressember

Three months have elapsed since I last wrote.  I have not had words to share or even the inclination to put fingers to keyboard.  These months have been full of happenings that have taken up my mental and emotional capacity.  I have had nothing left.  Since my last post, this is roughly what has been happening:

Our son Jonathan got engaged to be married to Shelley and their wedding is in two weeks.  I lost my job – was declared “excess to requirements” and had my last day there on 1 December.  We have had various health issues to address for different family members.  A potential new job has arisen – which has required much thought and prayer.  At times, I have felt that one of those events would be enough to face. That is some of what has been heavy in my heart.  But weddings are exciting and I am excited about this event!

This morning I had one of those amazing moments when “God spoke” to me deeply and personally.  I love walking and I wear one of those wrist devices that counts how far I walk each day.  My goal is 10,000 steps and most days I average more.  To walk, you need strong and well supported ankles.  I have been blessed with slender ankles that regularly complain that I expect far too much of them and the feet they hold and support. With slenderness comes fragility and vulnerability.

Psalm 18 is filled with amazing imagery.  David wrote it in response to his deliverance from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.  I can’t relate to the physical fear of death that David felt, but these last months, I have had moments of mild panic as I have thought about the different things happening in my life.  Yes, I have worried.  Yes, I have not slept.  Yes, my mind has had anxious thoughts swirl and buzz as they have fought for my attention.  One image David uses jumped out at me this morning and made me take notice and read the rest of the Psalm more thoughtfully:

You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not give way. (v 36)

Tired ankles need a rest!

Tired ankles need a rest!

So much depends upon strong ankles.  David says that with the Lord’s help he can scale a wall.  Not with weak ankles!  I don’t think I can scale a wall and have no plans to attempt such a venture, but with the Lord’s help, I can more than cope with what is in my life at this present moment.  David expresses deep confidence in His great God.  He is the creator of this world, He reached down from on high and drew him out of the deep waters, He rescued him, he brought him out into a spacious place:

he rescued me because he delighted in me.  (v 19)

Despite our flaws and failings, we have a God who loves us and hears our cries for help.  He not only hears our cries, but He answers!

I love how David starts this Psalm – he has such confidence in His God and filled with praise:

I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved…. (v 1-3)

I look at my ankles which remind me of my fragility and vulnerability.  Now they also remind me that in His strength they are made strong and will not give way.  What an amazing God we have!

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Dressember and IJM

As a little girl, I loved wearing dresses.  I had a Mum who was ahead of her time who thought that shorts and tee-shirts were far more practical for a little girl.  I hoped that one day I would have a little girl who I could dress up in pretty dresses.  My daughter had other ideas and hated wearing dresses and between the ages of 7 to 15 wore no dresses at all.

I have to be honest, I still don’t wear dresses very often.  I have a few dresses, but mostly to wear to weddings or special events.  My daughter now has more dresses than anyone else I know and wears them most of the time and looks gorgeous.

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Did you know that there are more slaves today than at any other time in history?  Nearly 30 million people are held as modern-day slaves.  They will be found here in Australia, the US, the Philippines, India, Cambodia…everywhere.  I find this disturbing.  As a Christian I find it unsettling.  Did you know that when little girls are rescued from a brothel, they are often wearing no clothes at all?

I first heard about the International Justice Mission or IJM back in 2006.  They are a Christian human rights organisation.  My husband Keith gave me a cd called Add to the Beauty by Sarah Groves.  She wrote it for the IJM and the song with this title resonated with me profoundly.  It began a journey of facing the confronting reality for so many of the world’s poor – that they face violence and oppression and injustice.

It is IJM’s vision to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.  As a Christian, I am inspired by God’s call to love all people and seek justice for the oppressed and protect the poor from violence.  Two of my favourite verses are:

“Seek justice, rescue the oppressed.  Plead for the orphan, defend the widow.” Isaiah 1:17 and “What does the Lord require of you? to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.

I would love to see the end of slavery and this will not  happen overnight and will not happen until it is made to stop.  The work of IJM rescues victims, restores survivors, helps bring criminals to justice and strengthens justice systems so they work effectively to protect the poor and vulnerable.  Their work has rescued more than 18,000 from oppression and over 770 convictions.  You might want to watch this clip about the results of their work in Cebu, Philippines.  Truly amazing!

This month, I am participating in Dressember by wearing a dress every day for the month of December to raise money for IJM.  Can I ask you to partner with me?  My goal of raising $500 is not huge, but I do believe that small things can make a difference.  You can support me here.  All money donated will be forwarded to the IJM office in Australia to support their work.  And I get to wear dresses for a whole month!  I will let you know how I get on – especially finding dresses to wear.

 

 

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Talia’s quilt

Talia's quilt

A year ago next week, some very bright lights triggered a massive migraine which hung around like a bad smell for six months.  I had a foggy brain for most of this time which made thinking difficult and writing next to impossible.  Since emerging from this pea soup existence earlier this year, I have struggled to write – hence my silence – until now.

It is not that I don’t want to write, it is just that I feel like I have lost my writing voice and have nothing to say.  That might be true.  However, a big part of me wants to find that voice again, so I am going to start – very slowly and write about small things.  You are welcome to read if you want, but this is really for me – so that I can regain some level of confidence.

In August I finished a quilt for my niece Talia in time for her sixth birthday.  She has been waiting patiently for three years and when you are that age, three years is a very long time. Talia’s favourite colour is pink and her favourite animal is a pig.  This has not changed in the three years since I started making this quilt.  Her Mum Julie had some fabrics put away to use in a quilt which she gave me.  I used lots of other small scraps sitting in my boxes for the other parts of the quilt.

I found this quilt pattern in a gorgeous book called Material Obsession by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke.  “Annie’s Garden” was designed by Sarah Fielke.  To be honest, it was hard to give this quilt away as it gave me such pleasure to construct.

For the last year, Talia has been asking her mother “do you think Auntie Sarah has finished my quilt?”  As you can see, she is thrilled with her new quilt and that made it easy to give as I know it will be loved and treasured.

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The Terrible Suitcase

Many children will be starting school in the new year – a time of anticipation and excitement and a little angst. The summer before my eldest child started school he caught whooping cough which ended all plans of swimming lessons, fun outings and time with friends. I do remember his anticipation of finally going to big school. He was five and a half and more than a little ready.

I remember trying to prepare him for his first day at school and buying him a special lunch box. I told him there would be “play lunch” and then “lunch” and there was special food for each. I remember picking him up after his first day, wishing I could have been a fly on the wall to see what he had done. I remember him telling me that there had not been any “play lunch” time, so he had not eaten the special snack I had put in his lunch box and he had waited all day for the magic “play lunch” moment – which never came. They had had “little lunch” and he had sat watching the other children eat their little lunch, but alas, his lunch box contained no little lunch. I made sure that he had “little lunch” in his box the next day.

He then told me that “he had not learnt to read”, that he had done some playing and that that was all he would say about school. I learnt that there were not many questions he was prepared to answer and that he usually came home tired, a little grumpy and unenthusiastic about any after school plans that did not involve going home.

I am sure that he thought his lunch box was “the terrible lunch box”, I don’t remember. However, I am sure there were moments as he adjusted to the new routines of school that were terribly bad and I wasn’t there to rescue him or make things better. A new book has recently been published about a little girl who is about to start school and it is written by an old friend of mine who I knew when she was a uni student. It is called “The Terrible Suitcase“. It is about a little girl who gets given a “terrible suitcase” for her going-to-school present instead of the red backpack with yellow rockets and a silver zipper. And she was mad. Very mad.

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It is a delightful story about how this little girl goes to school with the suitcase she doesn’t want – no her mother didn’t buy a new one, even after her friend Howard’s Mum bought the exact red backpack that she wanted – ever so desperately. This little girl’s anger leads to some terrible behaviour with consequences from her mother – no custard for dinner, and still the mother does not intervene or try to make things better.

I love this mother. The first day looms and she turns up at school with her terrible suitcase and things don’t improve. By the afternoon, she disappears into the imagination corner, climbs into her cardboard box to feel sorry for herself in peace. I love this little girl’s teacher who tells her she can stay in there “as long as she likes”. This is where the terrible suitcase makes its peace with its new owner and the terrible suitcase becomes terribly magnificent – not only in her eyes, but in the eyes of her friends. The children take part in an imaginary adventure in which the terrible suitcase plays a star role.

This book would make a wonderful “going to school” present for any child about to start school. Starting school is one of the many first steps a child takes to independence and having to navigate the joys and disappointments in life on their own. Parents need to let their children face disappointments and anger and deal with it.

This terrible red suitcase provided this little girl with an object that enabled her imagination and the imaginations of her friends to kick in and provide enjoyment and adventure. The illustrations by Freya Blackwood are delightful. If you are familiar with Maudie Bear, you will recognise her drawings – they capture this little girl and the terrible suitcase perfectly.

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I am so proud of my friend, and a little envious. Not only has she now written an enjoyable book, that has won the CBC Early Childhood Award for 2013, but it is a helpful reminder to all Mums and Dads that our children do not need rescuing from their disappointments or their anger.

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A summer picnic

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Do you remember reading Wind in the Willows? Do you remember the scene where Mole experiences his very first picnic?

“The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, made her fast, helped the still awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the luncheon-basket. The Mole begged as a favour to be allowed to unpack it all by himself; and the Rat was very pleased to indulge him, and to sprawl at full length on the grass and rest, while his excited friend shook out the tablecloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their contents in due order, still gasping, ‘O my! O my!’ at each fresh revelation.”

Rat has never been on a picnic and is in utter ecstasy when he sets eyes on the fat, wicker luncheon-basket that contains “cold chicken…and coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscressandwidgespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater-”

This extract perfectly captures a moment from a picnic I attended last Saturday. A wedding reception picnic, in a beautiful garden on the edge of Sydney Harbour. It was a warm, breezy evening, the grass was vivid green, the bride and bridegroom glowed with happiness and the guests sat on their individual rugs and gasped “O my!” as we unpacked the contents of our wicker picnic baskets and then sat and ate a delicious feast.

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The bride is my niece and it was a happy, festive day. Keith spoke at their wedding ceremony earlier from Song of Songs:

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” 8:6-7

Watching C&L make their promises together and participate in their wedding ceremony, it was obvious that this couple was “in love” and were uttering “O My O My” as they gazed upon each other. And yet, we also sensed that they were acutely aware of the seriousness of the promises they were making and they know that this is not what is going to keep their marriage going. On their marriage outline they shared this quote:

On Christian Marriage – excerpt from CS Lewis

“What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous. It opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty.

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. Love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.

‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run; being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Returning to Wind in the Willows, let us look at Rat in this story. For him, this is just another picnic. It is clear that it is a pleasurable ritual he undertakes regularly – he is comfortable with his picnic basket and is content to lie back and watch Mole’s fresh delight. This is the state that CS Lewis alludes to in his quote: a quieter love that is settled and comfortable. This is the engine room that will keep this marriage and indeed all marriages alive.

Here’s to C&L and their marriage that they can cultivate a quieter love that enables them to keep the promises we witnessed them make.

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Christmas books for young and old

Even though my children are now young adults, I still look forward to December when I find all our children’s books about Christmas and put them out to read.  I still read them and enjoy them.  Many of these books are not readily available.  If you are a new parent, or simply enjoy reading children’s books, I am reproducing this list to help you develop your own collection of books for Christmas.  I have added links to where you can find these books either on Amazon or the Book Depository.  They might also be available on booko.

For younger readers:

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A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith (Oxford University Press). The illustrations are magnificent. This edition comes with a nativity set.

The Story of Christmas by Jane Ray (Orchard Books) This has the lushest illustrations. Mary and Joseph look middle-eastern and Mary actually looks pregnant. There is an earthiness and richness to each picture. For small children, it is the illustrations that tell the story – but the words let the pictures tell the story.
20131128-143506.jpgSanta’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev. Santa shares the story about the birth of Jesus and that it was God’s gift to us on the first Christmas. The illustrations are soft and mellow, its simplicity makes it a wonderful book to read again and again.

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Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt. If you haven’t come across this book before, I won’t spoil it for you, but it is a wonderful book that can be read at Christmas and Easter – and can be read and understood at many different levels. It moves me every time I read it.

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Wombat Divine by Mem Fox in which wombat gets to be part of the Christmas nativity play and be baby Jesus. The illustrations by Kerry Argent are wonderful. This is a very Australian interpretation of the story of Jesus’ birth and told beautifully.

For the older reader

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The best Christmas pageant ever by Barbara Robinson. We had a tradition of reading this book every December. It is quirky, funny and filled with unexpected surprises. Christine Jensen gave this book to our family and it has been a wonderful friend to us since then. Christine has introduced my family to many wonderful books and I am forever grateful to her enthusiasm and love for books.

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The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado This is a beautiful story about a crippled lamb who witnesses the birth of Jesus. The illustrations are simply beautiful.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. We read this book each December, and each time, I was reduced to tears – it will still move me.

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Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd- Jones which I have written about in an earlier post.

Star of Wonder by Pat Alexander is a delightful anthology of Christmas Stories and Poems for Children (Lion Book). This book was given to the Condie family by the Jensen family.

During December, we would also read the story of Christmas from each gospel. The bible we used depended on the age of our children.

A new book for 2014

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The Lion Classic Christmas Stories illustrated by Jane Ray – due to be published in August 2014.  It is bound to be delicious and I have added it to my wish list to remind me when it comes out.

This year, I will be reading Come, thou long-expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie a collection of reflections by different authors about Christmas. Contributors include Tim Keller, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon and Joni Eareckson Tada. There are 22 chapters which almost fills December.

Enjoy!  I certainly will.

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The story of two Andys

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I am filled with good intentions. Good intentions that remain just that and rarely or ever become a new habit or behaviour. Take New Year resolutions for example. I will have a list ready to go on 31 December but by the end of January, they are but a distant memory…’did I really think I would go to the gym more?’ ‘walk around Iron Cove Bay every week?’ ‘ be a loving and kind wife?’ ‘be a compassionate and understanding mother?’ Gulp. Fail. Fail. Fail. That is if I even remembered that I had made these resolutions.

Last year Keith and I spent two weeks in Pakistan. It is slightly off the beaten track for tourists, but we ignored warnings from the Dept of Foreign Affairs and went anyway. It was a life changing two weeks. I am a Christian and I am female and this is not a country where it is easy to be either. I wanted to hide away and become invisible. I met many Christians during my time there and their faith and commitment to Christ filled me with awe and amazement. It also made me realise that living in Australia is reasonably easy in comparison. I saw how much I took for granted in my sheltered and comfortable life. I came home wanting to pray for Christians living in hard places.

The other thing that struck me during my time there was the Muslim call to prayer. Every morning I was awakened to chanting calling those faithful ones to come and pray. They are disciplined in their prayer. I came home wanting to be more disciplined in my prayer. Their example confronted my prayer life – I forget to pray and then when I do pray for someone, I feel like my prayers are shallow and filled with umms and distracted utterances. I remember crying this deep and heartfelt prayer ‘Lord teach me to pray’. And then I wondered if this good intention would follow the way of any other good intention I have had.

So, what happened? Let me introduce you to two Andy’s. God has used them to help move this good intention into a habit that has become a part of my life. The first Andy started working at our church this year and he preached on prayer one Sunday morning. He was explaining these verses:

‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.’ Colossians 4:2-4

His words were encouraging and wise and he made prayer ‘doable’. He encouraged us to write down words or use words from the Bible and speak them, rather than sitting with a blank mind. It was an idea that resonated. I have grown up in an era where Christians have largely abandoned set prayers for the practise of extemporary prayer. I have no problems with this per se, but it has not helped me. When it comes to prayer, being spontaneous and unscripted have not been good travelling companions, particularly if you have a mind like mine that is both blank and wandering.

When I want to pray about someone, my blank mind struggles to think of good words to use, and then my mind becomes distracted and I find I have wandered off track without actually praying. Andy made me realise that words help. I have started collecting prayers and using them and using parts of the Bible that I have been reading and considering and using them to shape how I pray for others. If you would like to be inspired to pray, you can listen to his sermon. – choose the speaker Andy Judd – “What if prayer was our first resort?”

My distracted mind has been reigned in. I can read these words, pray for people and I have prayed.

I thought I might use my electronic devices to help me pray. Following the example I had witnessed in Pakistan, I set my “I” devices to beep at 7am reminding me to pray. I then created a prayer calendar on my iPad listing who I wanted to pray for each day. I signed up to receive prayer letters from a number of people I knew were serving The Lord in difficult places – around the world and then in Australia and I was set. I started praying and I started writing to friends who have moved away to serve The Lord in different places – I felt like I was getting somewhere and that God was answering this prayer I had prayed.
However, I was struggling to keep track of prayer letters and what to pray for each person.

The second Andy has developed an App. Keith was teaching a class of students about prayer and shared with them my new habit of using my electronic devices to help me pray. A student bounded up to Keith and told him about PrayerMate which is an App that Andy had developed. I excitedly downloaded it and started using it.

This App has helped me enormously. You add the person you want to pray for, link to their email, a photo – if you have it, and it then allows you to add any prayer letters you receive as an attachment. There is also space for you to add other things you would like to pray for this person and then you work out when you want to pray for them – daily, weekly or monthly. Each day I have a completely different list of people to pray for – some appear daily while others make less regular appearances. However over the month, I am able to work through this list. The App includes a prayer feed gallery which includes a number of mission organisations and theological colleges – including Moore College! You might want to consider using this App: – Andy is English, he answers emails and has been very very helpful.

Seeing God answer this prayer “Lord teach me to pray” has not happened overnight. It has taken time, motivation and determination. God has used these two Andy’s in answering this prayer. I am becoming a person who not only remembers to pray but actually does and I find this quite amazing. Now, when I am asked to pray for someone, I have a place to write it down and a system that reminds me to pray.

There are so many exhortations in the Bible to pray – it is a good thing to do. If I can manage to start doing it, well, you could too. If this is a longing you have, to be a person who prays, well pray – ask God to change your prayer life. It is a prayer He will answer.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3

‘The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,and his ears are attentive to their cry; The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.’ Psalm 34:15, 17

Ponder these words. Use the model of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew as a starting point if you don’t know what to pray or how to pray. The Lord will hear and answer!

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