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In the Lion’s Den

Posted by Jenny on Jun 26, 2015 in Homilies

Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

David Psalm 7: 1-2 (NIV)

My one year at boarding school was at times like living in a lion’s den. I was thirteen and my unabashed and maybe naive stand as a Christian meant that I stuck out. More than once I was in the middle of a group of sceptical girls firing questions at me. It was scary but exhilarating at the same time. What smarted was finding out at the end of the year that I had been the target of a false rumour. It was, I hope, based on a simple misunderstanding (the mishearing of a single letter, a “t” instead of a “p” in ship) but still cut deeply. There have been other times like this and I have witnessed close friends and family enduring similar experiences.

Have you ever been falsely accused? Perhaps you were blamed for the actions or mistakes of others. Maybe you were the target of prejudice or unfounded rumours. Perhaps someone maliciously spread lies about you. When this happens, our reputation and relationships can be shattered but what makes it particularly distressing is that it’s undeserved and unfair. Often we want to retaliate or to vehemently insist on our innocence. Maybe we become angry – or maybe we are crushed and even begin to doubt ourselves. We lose our trust in other people. How can our work mate or friend or trusted family member say that? Why didn’t they talk to us first before believing such lies?  We may feel in a bind when speaking up for ourselves results in deepening the conflict. We may want nothing more to do with the accusers if they are going to be like that.

Three thousand years ago King David of Israel faced just this situation. He was falsely accused by an enemy and others believed the accusations. David’s response was not to directly attack his antagonist but to take his case to God because he knows God is just and will, in His own time and way, deal with the accusations and the accuser. Even more than this David trusts God to act on his behalf. A thousand years later, Jesus also faced false accusations. He didn’t retaliate because He knew who he was and was confident in His relationship with the Father. He responded with love and forgiveness.

So what can I do when falsely accused?

  • I can pour out my feelings to God without reserve – the anger, the hurt, the distress. He already knows our deepest thoughts better than we do ourselves. We can’t shock him. He listens and He cares. He is our defender and advocate.
  • I can acknowledge my flaws and weaknesses to God. I may have done something to contribute to the situation. Even if I haven’t, my perceptions aren’t always right, my responses may be less than ideal or I may be failing to trust God’s love and wisdom in the situation.
  • I can pray – both for myself and for my antagonist.
  • If at all possible, I can attempt to reconcile with my accuser. Contemporary wisdom says if someone hurts you cut them off but Jesus says if your brother or sister offends you then go and talk to her. Of course, the other person may not be willing to talk or to listen but surely I should try. To be honest, I find this the hardest step because I hate confrontation. It’s scary. Yet I know I would prefer someone speak to me – rather than to everyone else but me – about perceived faults or offenses.
  • Even if the other person won’t listen, I can love and forgive her because she is precious to God despite her flaws and failures (just as I am). I don’t think this means continually putting myself in an unsafe place but it does mean dealing with my resentment and anger. It also means continuing to act in the best interest of my accuser (love).
  • I can trust and persevere. No matter how pear-shaped the situation becomes, I need to trust in God for the outcomes.

“Lord (God), you are my judge and my shield. I pray that you might plead my case. I ask for forgiveness for my failures. I pray for wisdom and a calm spirit in my responses. I pray that you will give me the resources to cope with the issues I deal with at the moment. Thank you for listening to me even though you know my faults and misconceptions. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being there for me when I haven’t always been there for you. Amen.”

Jeanette O’Hagan

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her  children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at JennysThread.com , JeanetteOHagan.com and http://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker

This article was originally published in The Golden Pen October 2013

Photo credit: ucumari / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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2

Open Our Eyes

Posted by Jenny on May 17, 2015 in Snapshot, Snippets, View Point

I wrote this poem about a month ago – when some politicians in Europe were calling for a ’stop the boats’ policy like Australia’s of huge numbers refugees dying at sea after fleeing among other things the ravages of ISIS. Thankfully, Europe rejected the idea of turning refugees back to the killing fields. Now, it seems that countries in southeast Asia have decided to actually do it – so that refugees fleeing terror are left to starve at sea.

Stop the Boats

So now they cry
‘Stop the boats’
as hundreds die
and sink beneath choppy waves
crowding Italian graves
desperate souls seeking hope
flooding the sea lanes
fearing for their lives.

As blood stained fanatics
spread out their nets
and murder with intent
to incite disorder and terror
and corporate giants
reap rich profits
off the backs of men and women
gleaning a scant living
in their strife torn lands.

We stir the pot
and skim the profits
content to swallow
slave-tended beans
and wear slave-tended fads
consuming cheap luxuries
while slamming the door
on those who dare
transgress our borders.

Let’s open our eyes
and open our hearts
give welcome and aid
but better yet
fair reward for honest labour
so people no longer
feel constrained to flee
their mother lands.

Jeanette O’Hagan 22 April 2015

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0

Christmas Wishes

Posted by Jenny on Dec 25, 2014 in Christmas

Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year. It is a time to remember our family, even when they can’t always be with us; of giving as well as receiving; of hope for peace and goodwill in midst of the turmoil and heartbreak of this world.

It is also a time to remember the birth of a baby in humble circumstances who changed the world, when eternal God became flesh and blood and walked among us. As Max Lucado says in “It Began in a Manager” ‘The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be.’

Jenny

Other posts on Christmas

Is Jesus the Reason for the Season?

The Baby, the Angels and the Shepherds

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2

Death of Truth?

Posted by Jenny on Aug 12, 2014 in Book Reviews

Reflecting on recent events (as reported) in Iraq and the this week’s reading in my course on postmodernism as a reaction to WW2:

The death of Truth

Some men kill for honour
children beheaded
families scattered and
blood seeps into the ground
As once again labels
become more important
than our common humanity
and an ancient faith is
driven out by the sword.

So the horror repeats
Hate and war
based on wrong ideals
Ideas that kill
False god/s of mayhem
and the light of reason
and of compassion
flutters out.

Some say,
How can this happen?
How can there be a God
when those made in His Image
obey the Father of Lies?
Does the darkness mean
there is no Light?
Does a lie prove
that Truth doesn’t exist
beyond shadow of doubt?
If there is no Truth
how can there be a lie?
Only because we can
see light’s glimmer
do we know
that darkness abounds.

Jeanette O’Hagan © 12 July 2014

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Reflecting on Friendship

Posted by Jenny on Jul 11, 2014 in View Point

Last week I had to the opportunity to reflect on friendship as a guest on Michelle Denis Evans’ blog. Michelle is the author of Spiralling Out of Control, Spiralling Out of the Shadow and Life Reflections.

Friendship Across the Years

I didn’t come easily to making friends.

This verse in my poem ‘A Long Time Ago’ captures something of how I felt in the primary school playground.

It was
the
silence
the closed games
and head shakes
acid that etched
corroding self-confidence
as yet again
I trembled “Can I play?”
Averted heads
closed looks
leaving me to wander
and circle
overtures of friendship
rejected
adrift in solitary pursuits
until at the end of the day
I could return to riotous play
and daring adventures with
my brothers.

Verse 4  A Long Time Ago by Jeanette O’Hagan 29 January 2014

Books were my friends. And, yes, as the years passed I did get better at making school friends as well but we moved often – over eight different schools. So every year or two I would have to start all over again.I spent much of my school years finding friends between the pages of a book and in my own fertile imagination. Yet as I read Anne Shirley’s adventures and especially her enduring friendship with Dianna Barry, I felt a sense of discontent. “Mum, why can’t I find a special bosom friend like Anne?” I’d ask.

….

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Wheels of Fire

Posted by Jenny on Jun 24, 2014 in Snippets

By Jeanette O’Hagan



The fires of countless galaxies

wheel against the dark expanse

in clotted coloured whirls

like Catherine wheels’ mad dance.

And in the deep soundless space

sun roars with warmth and light

As nine planets circle round,

alone the blue-green one, just right.

This marbled ball cradles prolific life

Towering mountains, heaving seas,

verdant forests and grass filled plains;

habitats shaped and honed to please.

And from the smallest microbe

to the grandeur of the blue whale,

life’s complex detail spins

as Great Artificer weaves time’s tale.

Vast space and wild energies

mutely obedient to natural laws

our small minds’ grasp emerging pattern

‘til immense timeless mind gives us pause.

Jeanette O’Hagan c April 2014

First published in Omega Writers Words With Wings April 2014

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2

Ripples in Time

Posted by Jenny on May 18, 2014 in Homilies

What difference can one person make? What difference do you make in your family, your workplace or in the world?

In the Power of One, Bryce Courtney weaves a story about a small boy, PK who through his hope, courage, refusal to accept injustice, and his acceptance of those different from himself, makes a difference in the midst of an unjust society.

Mother Teresa was a small,  uneducated single woman who through determination and faith made a difference in the multitudinous needs of India. Her faith, courage and dedication have influenced many throughout the world.

Over four thousand years ago, the faith and obedience of a childless couple continues to influence our world. God promises Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would become a great nation and through this nation the whole world would be blessed. (Genesis 12:2-3;13:14-17;15:1-22; 17:1-22).

Unlikely choice

We all know Abraham and Sarah were heroes of the faith not ordinary people like us. Yet, if we look closer, we can see that for many reasons this couple was an unlikely choice.

They came from a family of idol worshippers (Joshua 24:2). But more than that, both Sarah and Abraham were people with normal human frailties – fear, dishonesty, doubt, complaisance – which constantly places God’s plan in jeopardy. At times their faith is stretched to the limit. They attempt to bring about God’s promise through their own plans – adopting an heir or through surrogacy. But God says “No! This is not my plan. In my time, Sarah will have a baby and through that baby she will be the mother of the nation through whom the whole world will be blessed.” God works through this couple, challenging and changing them, despite their flaws and their moments of doubt.

One obstacle in particular seems insurmountable. Sarah, we are told, was old (way past menopause) and barren. This was a couple who had struggled with infertility for years and years – for decades – who had hoped until that hope had grown old, shrivelled up and died. Why would God choose them? Yet God promises that they would not just have a child but descendants as numerous as the grains of sands of the wide, barren Sahara desert – of all the deserts and beaches of the world.

It is because God called Abraham and Sarah, that God calls us. He wants us to be part of His plans. We may think we are not qualified but God isn’t interested in finding qualified people. We know we are flawed but it is God who renews and transforms us. He takes unqualified flawed people – people with impediments, with past mistakes and character faults – and qualifies them for His work of blessing the world.

Unexpected Delays

And that’s the end of the story, right? God calls Abraham and Sarah, promises them a child and, on arrival in the new land, Sarah has a baby and God’s promises are fulfilled. After all, if God has promised to bless us and minster through us – if He has a plan and is in charge of executing it – then there should be no impediments to the immediate fulfilment of his plan – right?

Wrong! Throughout Abraham and Sarah’s story there is ongoing tension and suspense. They remain aliens in the land God has promised them. There are ongoing threats to their safety and prosperity. Almost immediately there is a drought and they find themselves in Egypt fielding off the Pharaoh’s unwelcome attentions. There is conflict with the inhabitants of the land and conflict within the family.

But the biggest disappointment is that year after year goes by and there is still no child. The fulfilment of the promises – especially that of a son – don’t seem humanly possible, so both Abraham and Sarah start trying alternative plans, to make God’s promise work. Each time, they bring about more problems than they solve.

In fact, they are often the biggest impediment to God’s plan.

Why does God delay? We live in a society that values instant results. We don’t like waiting. We speed through life in an effort to get to our destinations as fast as possible, cutting corners, taking unnecessary risks – and all the time taking little notice of the country we travel through.

Perhaps God builds in delays because he as interested in how we make the journey and the type of people we are becoming as much as in arriving at our destination. We, like Sarah and Abraham, have to come to the end of our own resources and to learn to trust God completely.

And then, God brings about the impossible. God says – this time next year you will be holding a baby in your arms. And what causes Sarah to laugh because it seems beyond credibility – becomes the source of joyous laughter, as Isaac at last is born.

Unlimited Potential

Both Abraham and Sarah see God do the miraculous – they are given a son when all hope has been lost. Yet at the end of their life, God’s grand promises are only partially fulfilled – they are still aliens in the land of promise, they own a burial plot and are still a small family. By the end of Abraham and Sarah’s life so few of God’s promises had been made concrete.

Yet as the story of God’s people continues to unfold throughout the Old and New Testaments, God brings about His promises in ever widening circles. Isaac’s, son Jacob becomes Israel, Jacob’s descendants become God’s promised people who centuries later take possession of the promised land and through this small nation millennia later, Jesus the Messiah is born.

It is in Jesus that the promises are fully fulfilled. It is through Jesus that all the families on the earth – every tribe, people, language and ethnic group can now become part of God’s family. Sarah and Abraham’s spiritual descendants now number in the billions – and we can now be part of God’s plans.

Throw a pebble into a pond it may at first seem to sink to the bottom without trace. But the pebble causes small ripples to expand across the surface of the pond in ever widening circles.

The fact is that we all make a difference – whether for good or for bad. But the kind of difference we make doesn’t depends on positive thinking or on hard work and virtuous effort. Abraham and Sarah made a difference because they responded in faith to God’s promises.

It is not our smallness, or human frailty or even our mistakes that count. Nor is it our strength, our abilities and talents, even the strength of our faith that counts. What counts is God – God who works in and through us when we trust him, God who knows the plans he has for us, who knows the right times and the necessary trials – God whose plans will never fail, though they may take longer than we expect.

Like a pebble in a pond, let’s allow God to work through us. Let’s surrender our lives, our plans, our hopes and fears, our inadequacies, – even our lack of results, our failures – to him and continue respond in faith and obedience to His promises.

Jeanette O’Hagan

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at JennysThread.comhttp://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker and JeanetteOHagan.com

Another article by Jeanette In the Lion’s Den

Photo by Jeanette O’Hagan All Rights Reserved.

First published as a guest blog in Golden Pen for Christian Women on 8 December 2014

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The Bunny or the Lamb

Posted by Jenny on Apr 10, 2014 in Snippets

The Bunny or the Lamb – what does Easter mean to you? Do you love the Easter Eggs, the Hot Cross Buns, the chance of a long week-end to go camping, visit family and friends, or just chill out? Or does it have some other – perhaps deeper – meaning? And what does a lamb have to do with it anyhow?

I look at Easter at Christian Writers Downunder today. Read it here.

Easter Egg image courtesy of  sattvaFreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4

Author Interview: Paula Vince

Posted by Jenny on Apr 7, 2014 in Book Reviews, Snippets

Today, I have the pleasure of talking to someone special – award winning author Paula Vince. Paula writes inspirational New Adult dramas with suspense, mystery and romantic elements.  Intrigued?

Read on and meet this fascinating author.

About Paula:

Award-winning author, Paula Vince loves to evoke tears and laughter through her novels. A wife and homeschooling mother of three, she resides in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Her youth was brightened by great fiction and she’s on a mission to pay it forward.

Her novel, Picking up the Pieces, won the religious fiction section of the 2011 International Book Awards. Her novel, Best Forgotten, was winner of the 2011 CALEB Award in the fiction category and also recognized as the best overall entry for the year. She is also author of The Risky Way Home, A Design of Gold and the Quenarden Trilogy.  Paula is also one of the four authors of The Greenfield Legacy.

Her new novel, Imogen’s Chance, will be published in April, 2014.

Paula’s books are a skillful blend of drama and romance tied together with elements of mystery and suspense.

Find out more at www.justoccurred.blogspot.com

Welcome to Jenny’s thread, Paula. I’m thrilled to have you with us today and am looking forward to learning more about you and your writing.

Imogen’s Chance is your ninth book to be published and more than one of your books has won awards. How did you start writing and why?

I think writing has been in my DNA since I was small. At school, whenever we got a chance to do some silent reading or write stories, I’d be instantly happy. I found it very easy to get involved in the worlds of story book characters, so it followed naturally that I wanted to write them. The initial choice was to make myself happy, so if I could make others happy too, it would be a bonus.

Paula, your books are often about troubled young men and women in their early 20s usually facing some big questions in life. What attracts you to writing about this age group?

I first started trying to write novels when I finished University and got married, which happened at the same time. Back then, I was the same age as my characters, which made it easy for me to relate to them. Since then, I’ve kept the habit going and suddenly I’m older, while some members of my family are a similar age to my characters. I have a nineteen-year-old son and a 23-year-old nephew boarder, as well as younger children.

I also remember those twenties as a memorable transition time in my life. I felt that childhood was finally behind me, and the adult world beckoned. It was an interesting stage where I’d switch from anxiety to enthusiasm and back again in a flash. I decided that, as I could swing so easily between apprehension and anticipation, it was a perfect age to set in stories.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

I think there are bits of me in all of them. I can certainly relate to Imogen’s honest longing to do all the right things, without knowing how much of her past she ought to reveal to the people in her life. I can even relate to Asher, who I initially thought was completely unlike me. His personal uncertainty and sense of not living up to expectations is something I’ve been familiar with at different times.

As a reader, what do you think makes a good story?

I think that, first and foremost, the characters must be easy to love and empathise with. Readers should find it easy to imagine their physical appearances, even though descriptions may be sparse. In the same way, we ought to be able to hear their distinct voices in our minds’ ears while we read their dialogue.

Secondly, the plot should be tense and fast-moving enough to bring the best out of the characters and hold our interest. The very best stories leave us with that ‘book hangover’ feeling, when we don’t want to begin a new book because our head is still too full of the last. (I find these are the times I pick up non-fiction instead, until the impressions begin to fade away.)

Who/what are the biggest influences in your writing and why?

I think I’d have to say every author whose books I’ve immensely enjoyed, although there are far too many to single out. I might also mention my husband, Andrew, who has always encouraged me. When we were first married, I told him that although I’d always wanted to write fiction, I didn’t think I had it in me. He kept urging me to give it a go, telling me that he was certain I’d come up with a good story.

What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?

The marketing part, which comes with each new book, is always a challenge for me. I’m not a natural salesperson. Daydreaming is easy, but recognising opportunities as they whiz past is not so easy. Often, I’d hear about opportunities in retrospect, and think, ‘If only I’d known, I could have gone to that.’ Unlike my hero, Asher, I don’t have the gift of the gab, which means coming up with the right things to say when I’m trying to sell books at public forums can be a strain.

As for coping strategies, I think it’s just a matter of doing it often enough to get used to it.

Faith is woven through your books sometimes more understated, at other times more obvious. Can you tell me what faith means to you?

I’ve battled with fear and uncertainty at different times in my life, and my faith has always pulled me through. Since I was very young, I’ve had a fascination with the way God may choose to work in people’s lives. This makes it easy to create characters who become intrigued with the same subject.

Without giving too much away, what is your favourite moment in Imogen’s Chance?

Okay, I’ll say the bit with the lights in the cabin. It made me very happy to write that. I hope that’s cryptic enough to make everybody want to read the book. Apart from that, I liked all of the interactions between Asher and his brother, Seth. In the early stages, I had the feeling there might be a bit of friction between those two, but had no idea why. As I let them have their way and converse with each other, the hidden chinks in their attitudes toward each other started showing, surprising even me. I loved it when the buried feelings of those two young men came to light.

Launching a new book is a very busy time so I know you have lots of things on your mind, but I can’t help wondering – do you have some other writing projects on the boil?

It’s all still in my head at the moment, except for a few rough jottings on paper. As well as wanting to write a nostalgic story based on my grandfather’s real war experiences, I have some ideas regarding more romantic triangles, guilty secrets and unexpected turns of events like nothing I’ve written so far.

Thanks for inviting me to discuss my book with your readers, Jenny. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks for talking with us Paula. I’ve enjoyed reading a number of your books over the last couple of years, including Imogen’s Chance. I find your books entertaining as well as giving me lots to think about. Thank you so much for sharing about yourself, your books and your life as a writer. We wish you great success with the launch of your latest book Imogen’s Chance.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Paula. Let me encourage you to check out her blog for information about Paula’s Blog Tour through April – with the chance to win copies of Imogen’s Chance along the way and a special promotion Greenfield Legacy Pack for the first three people who leave a comment at every visit spot, and tell Paula about it on her blog. Don’t forget to comment today too.

Jeanette O’Hagan


***

About Imogen’s Chance:

She has given herself a chance to fix her personal history. But will old mistakes bring up new emotions?

Imogen Browne longs to make up for past mistakes before she can move on. She quietly resolves to help the Dorazio family, whose lives she accidentally upset. Her biggest challenge is Asher, the one person who may never forgive her. And he is facing a crisis of his own. Imogen must tread very carefully, as trying to fix things may well make them shatter.

A sensitive story about misplaced loyalty, celebrating life and falling in love. Can family secrets concealed with the best intentions bear the light of day?

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Some more Scriptural Trimerics

Posted by Jenny on Mar 6, 2014 in Snippets

Last month I shared my first dabbling with the trimeric poetic form – as a way of exploring Scripture. Here are two more examples “A Dark Glass” (based on 1 Corinthians 13:12) and “Don’t Compare” (based on Galatians 6:4) – though “A Dark Glass” is not quite true to form as I could not resist reusing the first line of the first stanza and ended up adding an extra line on the last one.


A Dark Glass

Now we see through a tarnished mirror

Then we will see your beloved face.

Now we see in tantalising part

Then we will know you as you know us.

Now we see through tarnished mirror.

Dark glass spotted and rimmed

reflects divine face undimmed.

Then we will see your beloved face

no longer blurred by earthly tears

or distorted by our doubts and fears.

Now we see in tantalising part

dotted lines, misty ladders to the sky

caterpillars cocooning in faith to fly.

Then we will know you as you know us

deep, tender, pure, complete, delight

no longer straining for full sight

transformed by your eternal light.

Based on 1 Cor 13:12

Jeanette O’Hagan © 26 February 2014

Don’t Compare

Be sure to do what you should

for then you will feel satisfied

having done your work well

not having to compare yourself.

For then you will feel satisfied

knowing you have done your best

not trying to get away with any less.

Having done your work well

loving God who is love and light

and loving others in all delight.

Not having to compare yourself

with others young or old, big or small

knowing He loves you what’ver your score.

From Galatians 6:4

Jeanette O’Hagan c 7 February 2014

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