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Monday, 29 August 2011

Ray on Monday - Smouldering Fireworks

In my very early teens we were able to purchase and explode fire-crackers almost without limit. Maybe the times were more na├»ve, uncluttered and definitely not as regulated. We had a bonfire in the suburban street and the neighbours gathered around for the ‘show’ and to enjoy some drinks and cake.

Bungers were the choice of the boys and not only reserved for exploding on Empire or Guy Fawkes night. On one occasion my mate and I were in the backyard with nobody else home. We blew up tins, ant nests and mock fortresses. When that was finished we went to a holiday movie.

The trouble was, one or more exploded crackers were smouldering in the grass. Whilst we were away one of them at least was fanned into flame. Fortunately neighbours spotted the fire and hosed it out before major damage was done.

I’ve often thought about that incident in my capacity as a preacher. How often we light various types of crackers and explode them into the lives of others. They might be small or big bungers with or without malicious intent. We say the unkind word, make facetious remarks, or laugh off a serious issue which has hurt another. We can walk away imagining once the verbal fireworks have gone off it is finished. Unfortunately many times the smouldering words cause serious harm to relationships, personalities, dreams or motivation.

I still have to beware of blithely turning words into explosives for I have a quick and often sarcastic ‘tongue.’ In the lives of some their tender hearts are similar to dry grass and easily set on fire. How I need wisdom to ensure I’ve pulled the fuse and hidden the matches when playing with words.

My manual for defusing verbal explosives says “To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble.” Proverbs 27:23.

Ray (now cracker wise) Hawkins

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Fish, Furniture, Fire

Seahorses at Seahorse World
 Hmm, perhaps I should title this Church, Children, Chaos? However, these three “F” words certainly explain these last couple of days in this Hawkins’ household.

To start with my “to do” list is thankfully quite a bit smaller this week but still far too long. Or is this list just another excuse to procrastinate on opening the file to my current writing project? Another hmm! Anyway, just a brief update on what has kept us busy these last few days.

We mind two of our gorgeous grandchildren every Monday during school hours and it was great this week for me to be able to spend more time with them than I’ve been able to recently. That “list” again!

Ray preached at the Church of Christ at Ulverstone last Sunday morning. A lovely time of fellowship and lunch afterwards at the Blue Wren Cafe overlooking that beautiful area of Bass Strait. It was a rare sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed the hour long drive north-west. At long last the daylight hours are starting to become longer and Tasmania is beginning to announce spring is on the way. After all the rain (note all the rain over this winter!) the land looks fresh with plenty of green grass, faint green shoots on bare branches, golden wattle trees already in full flower in some areas of full sunlight and daffodils and early spring bulbs lining the road and gardens in many places.

The last few weeks have been so busy, my love-of-furniture-rearranging-husband was met with a stern “no” each time these last hectic weeks he mentioned moving our television to a different place in our tiny lounge room. These “no’s” come from well over 40 years of discovering these bouts of moving things around usually mean more chaos to add to the already messy house! It never is just a “simple move of the TV into that corner, darling.” And today proved me right once more! Of course, it took ages to work out why the TV kept telling us “no signal”. I think we now have most books back into that bookcase but those videos, cassettes etc, etc, etc, still have to be sorted out once more – tomorrow. Sigh. But still, as usual Ray is right again. The room does look better and I have more room for more family photos!

And now, those Fish? Well, that is what we call the seahorses as well as the aquarium fish at Seahorse Australia and Seahorse World (click on name to view website) – the businesses of our son and daughter-in-law here at Beauty Point. When orders have to be packed to travel interstate and especially to overseas destinations, it many times mean the orders have to be at the airport in the early hours of the morning which means packing live fish immediately beforehand. My way of helping is to stay with our sleeping (hopefully!) grandchildren while Ray helps Craig & Rachelle with the packing. When we can convince our darlings we can sleep in the next morning while Craig has to still be at work by 7am and Rachelle has five children to care for, Ray and I deliver the boxes to the airport for them. It is usually a rush to drive the hour to the airport to arrive in time by 4am, so Ray drives but I drive home because I’ve usually managed to doze or simply relax and read for a couple of hours. We did manage a few hours before up at 1am and then more later this morning. By the way, for our American readers, the order this morning is on its way to Miami. Do look out for seahorses in aquariums and pet shopsand ask where they have come from. Most likely it will be Tasmania!

But we have been saddened today to hear on the news about a shocking house fire in Queensland that claimed the lives of 11 folk, including small children. These were folk of the Samoan Pacific Island community there. On the news we were told they were very “religious” and the community that gathered obviously have a testimony of faith to share, especially as their beautiful voices rose in harmony as the emergency services are now going about their grim work. We can only join them in prayer that the God of all love, all comfort, all peace will meet each grieving heart’s need at this tragic time.

And now, back to "the list". Oops, guess it's bedtime though and this post is late - once again.

Monday, 22 August 2011

In the Gymnasium... of Life?

Our daughter has learnt to walk

Our daughter matures

Each Monday I go to the gym. Why? Because my grand-children need a lift! As they do their warm up and stretches before undertaking their routines I sit and watch. I’m the spectator. In many ways I’d like to be capable of doing something similar. Ah, I remember when I was young and then over the years our lovely daughter grew to be a beautiful woman!

Grandsons like the Larry Boy videos teaching Biblical truths
They also grew to play soccer - and go to the gym!
 The Scriptures invite us to be involved in a spiritual gymnasium geared to developing our fitness to witness and run the race God has set before us. My grandchildren are young. Each division has its own requirements. The younger age groups do that which is suitable for them. As they mature so they will graduate to more difficult stages.
That is also the Biblical principle for our spiritual fitness and testimony. God doesn’t demand of us what he does the spiritually young. He requires different from the more mature. However God doesn’t expect us to remain in the kindergarten arena of the Gym. We are to graduate to the best of our faithfulness and rise up through the ranks to be the very best in our senior years - not merely of years but of spiritual maturity.

I am delighted to have been able to watch our children grow from babies to maturity both physically and, thank God, spiritually too. Now I sit and watch my grandchildren at the gym or on the sports field and enjoy it. However I want to set the pace in the spiritual gymnasium for them to aspire to reach by God’s grace and their faithfulness. I would be so thrilled if in coming years they surpassed me in this realm. I will even help them to achieve it and count it a privilege.
Bye for now. I’m off to the gym – both types!
       1Cor 9:27 reminds me:
I discipline my body and brinbg it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others I myself should become disqualified.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Creativity and Writing

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of being the guest speaker at a special church service for their Chat and Choose group. Many beautiful arts and craft items were displayed. I was in awe of the imagination, the skilled hands that had created so much beauty from large patch-work quilts to the fine tatting and other numerous items.

It has been a very busy time in the Hawkins family and I had found it difficult to not only make the time to prepare but also to decide what message the Lord wanted me to share. To start with, while I enjoy speaking appointments to women and writers’ groups I was rather intimidated to be the preacher delivering the sermon. After all, my husband is the minister! But our roles were to be reversed that day.
As always after prayer and reading the scriptures, the brain began to churn. For some reason I could not get past the thought of God the Master Craftsman, the Creator who looked at all He had made and thought it was “good.” How many times in the past had I read and studied those first chapter of Genesis? This time the thought of God’s valuation of all He had created as “good” really struck home. I looked again and again at that verse twenty-seven: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” And then later, in that last verse thirty-one of chapter one we are told, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

But I thought of Adam’s sad rebellion that brought death and destruction to The Creator’s wonderful, amazing efforts. How would those hard-working craft members feel if their display at church was destroyed? How would I feel if I saw my creative writing work, my books ruined, destroyed? How would I feel if someone thought so little of all my hard work that I think of as “good” they turned away from me, even hated me? 

And although that “image” of God in humankind is now distorted, is part of our desire to “create” and love beauty still from our Creator? He loves us so much He is still reaching out to those who have turned away from Him, rebelled.

I am so very, very thankful our God is still in the “Creating Business!” that He loves us still, was prepared to let His Son suffer what should be our punishment so we can enjoy intimacy with Him again.
Let us never forget the love behind the truth of 2Corinthians5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
And the words of an old Sunday School days hymn written by another writer many, many years ago has been resounding through my head today.
I am so glad that our Father in heaven
Tells of His love in the book He has given.
Wonderful things in the Bible I see
This is the dearest that Jesus loves me.
I am so glad that Jesus loves me!

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Taste Buds Test - and giveaway winners



Always, taste spiritual
food only God can provide!


Cucumbers and leeks - what a snack.

Well that is what the recently escaped nation thought. Since they had been redeemed by the Passover of God from Egypt their taste buds hadn’t been converted. When they experienced some difficulties and were dissatisfied with manna their taste buds cried out for cucumbers. Surely they could have desired something more substantial. They did mention fish but mostly vegetables.

I find it amazing the way their taste buds are simply an expression of their hearts. They forgot the harsh living conditions of slavery. They forgot Pharaoh’s edict to kill all the male babies. They forgot the signs and wonders God did on their behalf. There wasn’t anything wrong with cucumbers and garlic etc. What was wrong was that their taste, which is a symbol of unconverted priorities, swamped their hunger for God. (Read Numbers 11). The result, malnourished spirit, forgetfulness and glaucoma over their spiritual eyesight! Fatal to faith, obedience and blessing.

Cucumbers and I don’t agree so I’d never hanker for them. Unfortunately what they represent has sometimes infected my spiritual taste buds resulting in a loss of appetite for the manna of God. Mercifully, God the Chef of Heaven wont let me, or you, stay away from His restaurant, cafeteria, barbeque or bistro too long where His ‘bread, meat, milk and wine’ and other Heavenly food are served. He has His way of dealing with legitimate and illegitimate taste bud desires which exclude His meals for our spirit. When Heaven’s Chef is despised, beware!

May our taste buds tingle with the same desire Jesus spoke about in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.’

Ray, with a growing hunger.
Thank you for your comments, Lisa Harris and nickandkathleen and you are both winners of Ray's book.
Watch out for another  giveaway opportunity for Ray's other devotional meditation, Children: God's Special Interest on "Ray on Monday".
More information  About Ray on Mary's website.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Book Readings, Organs and Spires

I saw the notice on the Tasmanian Writers Centre news.
".... any writers interested in reading during an event planned for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the charming St Mary's Anglican Church... Dr Lindsay Hutchinson will be presenting an organ recital on the beautiful 1860 pipe organ..."

I play (kinda) organs, Ray also loves classical music, we are both published, Hagley’s small village less than an hour’s drive away.

                                  “Why not?” thinks Mary.

We are just so honoured to have been able last Saturday evening to share together in this beautiful old church. This is a painting on a card available for sale at the church (and also with the photos used here with permission). Perhaps to many of you reading this, 150 years may seem only a very few compared to the old church buildings where you live. It is certainly not the oldest church here in our comparatively “new” Australia.

Ray and I only fully realised this when visiting a cathedral in England for the very first time. We stood in awe before the plaques on walls of Canterbury Cathedral with names and history going back to the first century AD. And after living for two years in England and able to meander through the beautiful countryside, we could not get over the fact it seemed every village, no matter how small, had a church spire reaching to the heavens as a testimony, a reminder of the God who loves and those who gather to worship Him.

And the book readings? Well, Ray was able to choose a reading from each of his devotional books relatively easier than I could from my novels, especially from his From Eden with Love. How many weddings have been celebrated here and how many will in the years to come. How many times has that wonderful pipe organ of only about three octaves and a relatively few stops peeled out for both weddings, funerals as well as lead in worship songs?
In this celebration of the years of a church where so many, many people have worshipped, I ended up choosing a couple of pages from my Return to Baragula set in that small village’s old wooden building. It certainly did not have a beautiful area for an altar and paintings as does St Mary’s and my second reading was harder to find. We all know only too well that saints and sinners sit in church pews. I decided on a passage in Justice at Baragula that mentions the heroine’s sad attitude to going to church when her own spiritual life has lapsed.

The prominent spire reminded us of our God who deserves all our worship, honour and commitment. The old organ sounded out reminding us of the many faithful who over many years have sung out their faith and love. We can only pray our writing efforts God also used to remind folk that He loves us despite all our failings, that He has placed us in the Body of Christ who gather together all over the world to worship and praise Him together – and that whether in a grand cathedral, a beautiful but smaller church like this St Mary’s, simpler wooden structures – or perhaps even under a tree or a hidden room in dangerous places in our crazy world where being a Christian is a death sentence.

Whenever and wherever we can, let us never neglect opportunities to gather together to worship, to pray, to hear the Word of God that nourishes and guides us to walk closely with Him.

Oh, and when you visit Tasmania, don't forget to find St Marys at Hagley, a testimony to generations of faithful folk in our beautiful Island State seeking to honour our Lord.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Ray on Monday: Time Tables

Waiting for the bus or train can sometimes be a testing time. The time table says one thing but your clock says it is way past the expected arrival time. Any number of factors can contribute to delays, but they do annoy.

In Galatians 4:4 we are told when Christ Jesus entered into this world it was right on time. That is one of the things about God’s scheduling of events. Try as hard as they can, no outside forces can delay it.

Through the history of the World God in His foreknowledge used it to achieve His purposes. The Greek empire had given its language. The Romans gave good roads, safe sea travel and comparative peace. The scattered nation of Israel set up synagogues which made people aware of God’s messages and promises. All this was used by the Lord to get the Gospel known so people could hear and believe.

What were some of the reasons for Christ’s coming? In Galatians 4:4-7 we are told of two. One of them is to redeem. That is to pay a price (His life) to rescue believers from slavery to Sin and the evil influences of the World. The other factor was to present believers with an inheritance. What is that? Participating in what Jesus Christ has secured by His death and resurrection. This includes eternal life and every spiritual blessing in time and eternity. On top of all that we have the privilege of calling God, “our Father.”

We do not know the next schedule of God although some have tried to guess it. Only He knows when He will call us to Himself. His second coming hasn’t been declared, only promised. We just have to be ready! For it will happen right on time!

Ray in waiting.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Writers and Unexpected Storms of Life

So often we can plan our days only to have those “extra” things in life happen that have to take first priority. During our book promotion and lovely fellowship times in southern Tasmania that I shared with you last week, we heard the sad news that the father of our dear daughter-in-law in New South Wales had passed away. So last Saturday Ray and I flew up to share with our son and dear Karen at this sad time. It was such a privilege last Monday to be at that God honouring funeral service to celebrate Ted’s life.

Tomorrow is the funeral of an uncle of mine in South Australia. Alas, this time it is simply not possible to consider flying all that distance to be with the family there. Unlike Ted, my uncle was much older and been in bad health for a long time. For both of them, their suffering is now over and they are at rest. Those of us who remember them now have to return to deal with our own living and those we love.

Interruptions, especially stormy ones, happen of various kinds and time lengths for all of us, including writers like myself, a fiction writer, and my husband who writes devotional meditations. Some may perhaps be anticipated but more often not the day or the hour. So, how do we handle them? Or perhaps I should ask how should we respond to them?

My own father died when I was a teenager but my dear mother lived another fifty-two years. I remember a time of tears, a time of trying to remember not to set the dinner table for six any longer, a time when Mum’s own health crashed the following year. But despite those moments still of sadness at those memories, one thing still stands out for me, the support and love that surrounded me from family and our church family who prayed, who were there for us when we needed them to be God’s loving hands and feet for us.

As I look back on the things I have written over the years, including those diaries and then the book manuscripts that have been published, I realise that all my experiences through those unexpected and often unwelcome interruptions have helped shape my plots, my characters, the twists and turns in their lives. My first published story back in 1993, Search For Tomorrow, had a heroine who had not only lost her father but also her mother, brother and fiancee in a car accident. How would that affect your faith in God?

My heroine had very little real knowledge of God before that dreadful interruption in her life and so believed He could not love her to allow that to happen. Some of you who have read the book may remember what my heroine’s old Nursing Tutor told her after she at long last asked questions that puzzled her. I wrote this first manuscript before the days of computers so have had to scan this section for you. This Heartsong Presents book was also included in the Barbour volume of my Search series they called Australia.

I can certainly testify that has been so very, very true in my own life over all these years.

“Interruptions” may be allowed by God, used by Him in our lives however HE wants to work them out “for good” (Romans 8:28). For writers, they help us to get under the skin of our characters as we try to show their journey through the storms with a loving, giving and keeping God.
Jesus told His disciples – and us - He will never leave us comfortless. “Wherever I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). With two funerals in a week it is simply wonderful to know those two dear men are now face to face with Jesus where He with the Father.

So what about you? Have you had "interruptions" in your life you would like to share with me here?

Monday, 1 August 2011

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Ray on Monday: Why Bother to Marry?

The right to the rite of Marriage is a hot topic at the moment. The Gay and Lesbian alliance are making emotive appeals for equality with heterosexual couples in the realm of marriage. The Christian Faith in particular is under attack because of its Biblical stance in defining this union between a man and a woman.

However, as I look at this issue I ask myself, “Why bother with marriage?” Apart from the Biblical teaching on it there is no meaning, no boundaries, no framework in which this beautiful, God ordained union has authority. Marriage, from the Biblical view, has its meaning from its creation and its symbolism. Reject that premise and you destroy the meaning and boundaries of Marriage.

The Bible declares God united Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (read Genesis 1-3). The second aspect is beyond the natural ability of a same sex relationship. However the symbolism of Marriage points to a Heavenly event between Jesus Christ and His redeemed Bride, the Church (Read Ephesians 5:22-33). Every-time Christians marry it is a testimony to both these events.

Disparage the Biblical account and reject its authority means any type of relationship is acceptable. Should Christians lose heart as the Biblical teaching is sidelined and assaulted? Definitely not! Remember the Church was born into a similar pagan society and the disciples of Christ showed the amazing difference Christ and his teaching makes, especially in this arena.

We have the right to proclaim our faith and its value to men and women and our society, especially for the welfare of children. We do not have the right to be offensive or crude. The best and long lasting defence of Marriage is for Christian married couples to live together as the Scriptures teach, to provide a safe, stable and spiritual home for any children conceived.

Safeguard your marriage by making it a three way relationship, you, your spouse and Jesus Christ. Nourish your marriage through faithfulness in worship and honesty with each other. Refresh your relationship by praying for each other and spending time together. Keep the foundations of your relationship strong through knowing God’s word and obeying it.

Ray, happily married and confident in God’s reasons for making Marriage meaningful.

Win a copy of Ray's 31 Day Devotional book on Marriage, ‘From Eden with Love’. To enter in the draw, please leave a comment here and  don't forget to leave your email address also here OR see details about his books on his page on Mary (and Ray) Hawkins website  and send an email to the contact address there. Winner will be announced next Monday!