19 May, 2017

Today was a gift

Today I had an adventure, a good adventure. Earlier this week I anticipated that I'd have time to go for a ride today and the weather forecast looked good too (sunny and 23C, as opposed to the cloudy cooler days we've had recently). But I wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to do with this ride. Would it just be a ride to the park and back? Or more? I was hankering after some coffee-shop time, especially a "date" with Jesus. I nearly ignored that impulse when I struggled to make a decision over where and when and what.

In the end, after haggling with myself for about half an hour after I'd planned to leave, I just left. Not really sure what I was going to do, except go to the park. I had my camera, half of a lunch with me and my phone.

It was a gorgeous day. I made it to the park in about half an hour. It's been six and a half weeks since I'd had enough time to go there and what a difference that time's made. Last time the Sakura (cherry blossoms) weren't quite fully out and there were lots of people sitting under them. Many other trees weren't fully dressed for spring either.

Today it was so green and leafy. New-spring green in a way I didn't understand before I came to this land where the seasons are much more marked than Australia.

A gentleman asleep on the bench.
There were many in the park again, but this time large groups of kindergarten students and their mums. I counted about half a dozen groups that were a hundred strong at least.

There were lots of people strolling, or just sitting. I saw a painter, heard a trumpeter and saw many just happy to be out on such a pleasant day.

One of the massive groups of kindergarten kids in the park today.

What is this?

I spent some time riding around and shooting some photos. While I ate my banana and muesli bar I got a message from a friend who was at the store I'd thoughts about visiting on my way home to get a better "hanger" for my obi (see here). She offered to get it for me (actually it was her who told me about this in the first place). I said, "Yes please" and that freed me up from taking a detour on the way home.

So, I decided to ride another three k's south to a city centre with a Starbucks. 

It was a surprisingly quick ride, but I quickly found myself in that inner-city dilemma of "where do you park your bike?" I rode a long block west till I found a legal spot and then, on my walk back to the place where Starbucks allegedly is (I still haven't laid eyes on it), I discovered a different cafe I've never heard of before: Pier's Cafe. Prices looked reasonable and it appeared to have some nice nooks to sit in, so I took the plunge.

Then I pulled out my phone to read the Bible. Again, no plan, but the verse I spied on Biblegateway.com's home page was from Hebrews 6. I clicked on it and got James 3, no idea why, but I went back to Hebrews 6.

I was blown away when I read this:
Hebrews 6:10-12 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (NIV)
It spoke right to me:
  • My job is to help God's people (I'm in support work). 
  • It's been tempting sometimes recently to give up. Thoughts like, Isn't this just busy work, is it really important that you do this? have been popping up occasionally.
  • The verses encourage us to continue to "the very end" whenever that might be, and not to give up.
  • Finally, we're instructed to not be lazy, but imitate those who have already inherited what we've been promised (i.e. heaven). Which of course brings to mind the two missionaries we lost last month.
Then I found myself wiping tears away. I read it again in several different versions and the tears kept coming. It's been a teary few months, more so than usual.

There is a portion at the end of the chapter which is also encouraging, though it also includes confusing bits and pieces.
 Hebrews 6:18-20 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. 
Now I don't claim to understand all of that (and Bible commentators have different opinions too), but a couple of things also jumped out:
  • "Fleeing to take hold of the hope" reminds me of the tower in Proverbs 18:10 "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe" (NIV). This verse has been a special image in my spiritual walk since 1994, the year after my short-term trip to Indonesia, and probably one of the lowest times of my life.
  • We have a safe and secure anchor for our soul. That too is a strong and encouraging image. No matter what assails us in this life, if we have Jesus as our Lord, then we are secure.
Yep, just as the verse says, I was greatly encouraged! I dwelt on these verses for a while. It wasn't longer than half an hour. We're not talking a super-hero retreat here. But it was exactly what I needed.

As I was on my phone (not the best method for contemplating scripture, I know) I was also getting periodic alerts for other things going on—like a message from a friend organising to get together for coffee next week for mutual encouragement. Then I saw that my long-term friend who was my Matron of Honour commented on something on Facebook. In March I'd dashed into a coffee shop for a late-morning boost to finish my errands for the morning and "run into" this same friend online. We spontaneously chatted online that day too. Such joy! She's a homeschooling mother-of-six, so it's not easy for us to connect. So, today, I tried again: I messaged her, "Do you have time for a chat?"

I held my breath for a couple of minutes. Then my phone started buzzing. We chatted for half an hour using FB video call. It was wonderful, just like having her there across the table from me.

Oh, my heart is full. I didn't know how it was going to turn out, but it turned out that God had some wonderful surprises for me. Thank you Lord!

These last weeks haven't been easy. Not just grief, but extra busy too. It was such a wonderful gift to take time away from my responsibilities and spend time in nature as well as in the Word, with the bonus of unexpected time with a friend too.

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