Peace beyond our understanding

Rabaul - photo Zena Grant-Thomson

“Bye, Robyn!” I called as she headed out to work. “Have a good day,” she replied.
"I'm planning to go and look at the Chinese shops, and have a walk around near the water," I told her. The joys of holidays!
I combed my damp hair, ready for the day. I was having a relaxing holiday in Rabaul with Robyn, after my year’s teaching on New Ireland.
Suddenly I was enveloped in strong, tangible peace. 
I stood still to enjoy it. The heavy tropical air was moist and hot but I no longer noticed it pressing on my skin. All I could feel was this wonderful peace. 

This must be the peace that passes all understanding the Bible mentions, I thought. I felt so calm. So strong.
If I always felt like this, I could do anything, I thought. I could cope with anything at all.
My thoughts were interrupted by the screech of tyres in the driveway. Footsteps clattered up the steps. My brother-in-law's black curly hair and worried face appeared at …

How I became an atheist - for a season

My reasons are not really intellectual reasonings but ‘things that happened’, despite the many discussions with university students and lecturers. This post is a bit longer than usual and will perhaps appeal to a different group of readers.

Recently a friend asked me why I’d become an atheist earlier in life.
Using a lot of material from my earlier blog, Jeanette’s Journallings (jeanettegt.blogspot.comMY JOURNEY INTO – AND OUT OF – ATHEISM) , I’ll answer in brief. 

Someone else asked why I had moved on from atheism. (“Why did you do it?” a friend asked in wide-eyed horror, on discovering I was a Christian.)
So I’ll tell you the brief outline over a short series of blog posts. 

My sister and I (two teeth missing) at the beach

During my childhood years, I had no doubt at all. God was there. We were not Christians except on a social level, but I said my prayers obediently every night – ‘now I lay me …’. 
God shone through the sunlit flowering peach tree, He sang through the birds. Once He inte…

God gave us His peace - and His Son

#Christmas #peace

The house rustles and glistens with Christmas wrappings, pretty cards and our lovely wreath. Cards fill the lounge shelves with the good news that the Saviour is born. Carols resound through the house calling all God’s people to come and worship Him.
It’s Christmas.
A card on my dressing table says ‘PEACE JOY HOPE’ and others say ‘peace’.
I gaze at the pretty card on my antique dressing table.
Peace . . .

My mind flicks back to 1971, June, a small bookmark poked into the frame of an old spotted mirror.
‘ You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You’Isaiah 26: 3 , it says.

Peace. One of the gifts that Jesus promised us.  And how I needed it back then. Every day as I prepared for teaching, I battled anxiety at the thought of the unruly boys I’d face that day. Boys who were at school only because they were too young to leave, legally. Boys who broke the law and boasted about it. My stomach churned in anticipation each morning.
And I’…

God whispers to my mother

My mother had Alzheimer’s disease for many years. She degenerated from being an alert, intelligent woman to a forgetful woman (“Dear, I think I’ve locked the keys in the house”), then to a woman who was barely there. A fast-aging woman who lay upon a bed in a nursing home. She had all but disappeared.
For quite a long time after Mum stopped talking, she sang. Formerly a successful singer, she had a lovely soprano voice. Once-popular songs and hymns rang through the wards, blessing other oldies and the nurses. She worshipped God in her singing, arresting workers in their footsteps to listen. And pray.
She grew silent.

Eventually she was unable to speak or sing at all and simply lay there.
We’d visit her, bringing flowers and perfume, anything she used to love and would, we hoped, enjoy.
We’d walk along the flower-edged paths to the large building. Through the wide passageways, smelling dinner cooking already. All the familiar smells of a nursing home.
Friendly nurses would greet us. “How’s M…

When I think I'm going under

Jenny and I were paddling, sometimes floating, hanging on to the edges of a rubber raft in shallow water. It was an unpatrolled beach on the Gold Coast. The warm sun lulled us into a hazy, ‘half with it’ state as we talked …
Suddenly Jenny interrupted. “Nettie, can you touch the bottom?” her voice curled tightly around the question mark. I poked my toes down. Further and further. All I felt was cool, deep water and no sand at all. What had happened to the beach? “We’re way out!” I exclaimed, looking in dismay at the fast-receding beach. “We’re caught in a rip!”
Jenny was a good a swimmer so was less concerned than I was. I was scared. Soon we were out in the menacing-looking ocean, surrounded by turbulent waves as strong currents slapped against one another and splashed wildly. I felt helpless.
Were we going to drown?
“Let’s praise God,” Jenny suggested. “You know, like Paul and Silas.” So we did. Out loud against the roar of the crashing waves. And still we clung to the rubber raft.

As I pra…

God whispers in a school in the jungle - Part 2

I drifted in and out of sleep all day, still feeling sick and light-headed.
In the afternoon the giggling of girls wafted in from the garden where they plucked snails from the hibiscus shrubs. The snails – intended as food for Japanese soldiers during the war – had reached plague proportions and provided one of the daily chores for the girls.
                           The hill at the back of the school. Ocean in the distance.

Peter called from the doorway while he was on duty organising the girls. “Feeling any better, Jeanette?” “A bit, thanks.” “It’s nearly five o’clock,” he continued. “Are you ready for Miss Marchment to come over?” So she had told him about dinner. She really was bringing FOOD. So kind of her but ... I still felt sick. How on earth would I get it down?

“Okay Peter, I’ll get ready now.” I hauled myself out of bed and shivered under a freezing shower. Hot water would have been nice but we had none here. I still ached all over and felt woozy in my head.

What would I talk a…

God whispers in a school in the jungle - Part 1

                                         Photo of classrooms at Madina Girls High School, PNG 1973

God, help! Send someone! I prayed. I’d been healthy nearly all the time I taught in New Ireland. But that morning I woke to waves of burning heat, tiredness and nausea. The room seemed to reel around me. No way could I get up and teach that day. In fact, I felt so sick I didn’t know how to contact Miss Marchment (aka Mrs Barrington, the headmistress in my novel Lantern Light). I was too weak to walk and there were no phones in our houses.
The high-pitched sound of girls giggling floated across from the oval where they were  assembling.
Where I should be. 
Soon their voices would soar in four-part harmony, singing the PNG national anthem. Life – exotic island life – was resuming for the day outside. And I lay there feeling miserable.
I groped my way a few steps across the cool wooden floor to the bathroom and then back to bed. Every part of me ached. What a predicament! God! I kept praying. Wha…