All Things: The God Equation/ FaithWalk

It’s one of the many wonders or paradoxes about God. Going against the expected, the obvious or the natural order of things.

It’s one of the reasons why I love Him.

Take this promise: God makes all things work together for my good. (Rom 8:28)

All things. Not some things or most things. Yes, especially the bad things.

It doesn’t mean that God caused or intended the bad things. We know that bad stuff happens for numerous reasons, including some that are totally inexplicable. And that, this side of eternity, he generally allows them to happen. Suffering happens in our fallen world.

But get this: No matter what occurs in life, God is able to turn things around, so that good can come out of something evil. It may not happen immediately, or we may not see the connection for quite some time. But the process mirrors his way of redemption and grace.

Nothing is irredeemable. Nothing is beyond the touch of grace. Just as a seed is buried and forgotten in the dirty earth, only to rise up as a beautiful flower or majestic oak, so too God is able to take the dark and awful places of our lives and bring about something that reflects His glory.

The story of Joseph in Genesis is the prime example of this. Joseph starts out with such hopes and ambitions, only to find his dreams shattered as he gets thrown in a pit, sold as a slave and ultimately put in prison. But even in the dank prison, God remains committed to Joseph and to fulfilling the purposes he has for his life. Opportunities arise, Joseph gets promoted and life starts to look good again.

Joseph endures a run of dire circumstances and mistreatment but remains faithful to God and doing the right thing. When he finally gets re-united with his brothers and reveals his identity to them, he says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20, NLT)

What an amazing picture of God’s intervention and grace! He didn’t prevent the actions of Joseph’s brothers who tried to harm him. He didn’t stop Joseph ending up in prison. But he turned those situations around and caused good to come out of them. Likewise, if we love God, he promises to make everything turn out for good in the end.

In my own walk of faith, I have seen evidence of this spiritual principle at work in my life. When my dad’s cancer returned and his prognosis became increasingly unfavourable, I felt compelled to invest time in writing a novel for my sons. The project had been on my mind for a while, but for some reason, my dad’s illness inspired me to write.

It was cathartic writing on the train home after visiting him in hospital. The more he deteriorated, the more I wrote. Despite the desperately sad feelings, and literally seeing him fade further away with each visit, I felt that I couldn’t just mope around depressed.  When he died in January 2012 I had nearly finished the manuscript. In the days and weeks after the funeral, having already given up my part time teaching job, I focussed on completing the final chapters. When I went to visit my mother a month and a half later on her birthday, I stayed up late that night, sat at my dad’s table to type the last few pages of the first draft. I finished around midnight.

It felt significant to finish a project that I’d been working on for over a year in that very place at that very time. While I experienced immense loss, I also experienced overriding assurance that I had created something of worth, a labour of love. I know that I probably would not have started writing the story, were it not for the difficult circumstances in which I found myself. The anguish of losing my dad was still brutally painful, but his death didn’t have to mean only an end. For me it signified the beginning of a commitment to write – to start this blog, to pursue freelance opportunities again, to consider publishing my children’s novel. I had birthed something out of the most painful period of my life so far.

I’ve yet to find a publisher for the book. But, somehow that doesn’t seem so important any more.  I mainly wrote it with my sons in mind, and technology means that the older ones have already been able to read it on a Kindle device. A hard copy isn’t necessary these days.

I love to be reminded of God’s ability to make good come out of bad, undermining the negative equations that should result from the natural order of events.  The above song from Jesus Culture, that we sometimes sing at church, encourages me time and again that he makes ALL things work together for my good.

And what about the car crashes, the emergency operations, the major disappointments and all the stuff that just goes wrong? I don’t know. All I know is that through the trials of life I have learned to have compassion and empathy for others going through similar circumstances, where I might once have ignored their plight. And I have learned to trust, as Joseph did, that even in the dark times God is with me.

So I’ll continue to hold on to that promise, and revel in a God whose equations often don’t add up.

What my Dad taught me (without saying a word…)

Today is my second Father’s Day without my Dad. It’s a gut-wrenching day to spend without hearing his voice or seeing his face. But I’ve chosen to smile, knowing that’s how Dad would want me to spend my day – smiling in his memory and focussing on the good things.

So we’ve had a good family day today, we’ve eaten outside, played games and enjoyed fun, laughter and chocolate. We’ve celebrated my husband for being a great dad to our three sons.

That’s not to say I don’t think about my Dad on such days. I do. And I’m thankful for the memories, for the good times and for his legacy. He taught me a lot of things growing up and often had some wise words to share. Words about thankfulness or trust or God’s goodness.

But there’s something that he never really talked about, but simply modelled to me throughout his life. And I think it might just be the most important thing he ever taught me – without saying a single word.

My Dad showed great interest in people. He was friendly and kind to all – whether the guy selling vegetables at a market stall, an old lady sitting alone at the back of church, or the caretaker of the school after parents’ evening. Everyone was important to my Dad and he showed respect to all, regardless of their education or background.

I’ll never forget the time he invited the postman and the milkman in for breakfast one Saturday morning! Dad just wanted to make everyone feel welcome, and was generally easy-going with all those he met. In his job as a chartered surveyor, he sometimes had the opportunity to mingle with some pretty wealthy businessmen. But he never hankered after mixing with the upper crust of society. He showed equal amount of attention to those of both high and low status.

And that’s something for which I’ll always be grateful. My Dad taught me the importance of the individual, the value of listening to others. Without saying one word in this regard, or offering any direct advice, he showed me how to mix with a vast cross-section of society and to be at ease in a variety of settings.

So far in my life, this has proven invaluable – at work, at the school gates, in my neighbourhood, while travelling. When I find myself welcoming strangers or encouraging an outsider, I’m reminded how my Dad’s legacy lives on. In my thoughts, words and actions – as well as in some traits of my sons.

So, thanks, Dad, for being an exemplary father and an all-round decent man – always willing to honour others and show friendliness to all.

See also: My Dad, an English Gentleman, here.

Resisting pigeonholes in social media…


You know when you’re a kid and you have very fixed ideas about what type of music you like, and it doesn’t include a broad range of styles? And then you grow up and realise there are myriad sounds and genres you appreciate, depending on your mood or the occasion. You’ve learned to expand your musical tastes, and in doing so have opened the door to relating to an eclectic mix of people whom you would previously have overlooked.

Well, online it often still feels as if you’re back in school again. Without saying it outright, you get the vibe on social media that people want you to declare your affiliations for things… From religion to politics, education, feminism, culture. There’s nothing inherently backward or sinister about this; we all like to find out what we have in common with those we meet online. We all feel emotionally bolstered when others agree with us.

Yet, one aspect I particularly enjoy about networks such as Twitter is engaging with those who don’t share my preferences and inclinations. It makes for interesting online engagement; I wouldn’t want to only follow writers and teachers. Neither do I revel in drawn out arguments or furiously trying to prove a point. (Certainly not in copious series of 140 character tweets, anyway.)

That’s not to say that I shy away from disagreements, rather that I like to keep it simple and civil. Proving a point or persuading a crowd is not the prime purpose of my online presence. In fact I can think of nothing worse than feeling compelled to constantly justify myself or contradict others on a daily basis.

And maybe that’s why I struggle to fit in at times. I see elements I like among both left & right wing supporters, among both feminists & complementarians. I warm to both working mothers and homeschooling families, and a plethora of other socio-economic groups in between. I was brought up to mingle with all types and classes of people – something for which I am forever grateful.

I find it tricky to commit wholeheartedly to anything other than my faith. That is the one non negotiable, yet even then there are disparate views among Christians. I obviously hold my own strong convictions in this regard. But just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean we can’t get along. Wouldn’t it be so boring if we only engaged with a bunch of people whose thought processes were identikit versions of ours?

Undoubtedly, I value elements or aspects of a variety of organisations and ideologies. I just don’t see why I should be pigeonholed, or squeezed into a certain mould. And, who knows, I might actually learn something, change my mind about something or see things in a different light.

I’m open to ideas and thoughts and solutions. I’m open minded – yes, and a Christian! The two are not mutually exclusive.

Maybe we could simply agree to disagree sometimes? Oh, and I won’t unfollow you for being totally different to me. I love variety, and what better variety can one find than in the human species?