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The joy of the Lord

THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH

I remember how i used to play "dress up " in my grans high heels and long skirts. I used to lick smarties and then apply their color to my eyes and lips. I used to pull my moms petticoats over my head and imagine that the long silky material hanging down my back was a stunning display of hair.
I used to play " house" where i cooked and cleaned with zest.

As i left my childhood behind and stepped into teenage shoes, my imaginary games seized being acted out but continued being alive in my mind. I would dream about having my own money, my own house and car,my own freedom and the space to make my own choices without parental eyes and ears kneehaltering everything i wanted to do.

EVENTUALLY, what felt like forever, the time came to leave my teenage years behind and actually step into my colour full, imaginary world and live my dreams! Such freedom!! Such endless opportunities!! So much to explore and experience…….and the best of it all: no one to tell me how, when ,where and how!!

That was 24 years ago.
I am now 42.

Been married for twenty.
Two boys :age 10 and 2.
Just changed jobs after 16 years in one vocation.

I am tired on more levels than one.

I find myself looking at my children and envying the simplicity of their life.
My entire chilhood, i dreamed about being " big".
Now i find myself wishing to be small and young again.
I detest and find my freedom of choice i so longed for, burdensome and somedays frightfull.
Daily i have to make numerous decisions on parenting, finances, marriage. The choices are endless and so is the resultant consequences…….
I often battle sleepless nights as i toss and turn ,wondering if i made right choices.
I often have to fight off depression as i am overwhelmed by responsibility. I long for someone to just make decisions for me and tell me what to do. How i would love for someone else to worry about how they are going to pay the bills or clean the yard or fix the burst pipes or flat car tyre!
How i wish someone else could
" doctor or nurse " me back to health when i am sick.
I wish someone else will cook and clean – its not as much fun as i thought.

Being " big" has not turned out to be as thrilling as i imagined all those years.
Yet i know i am blessed. I have a wonderfull strong marriage. My boys are healthy and beautifull.

" I should not feel like this,Lord."

‘ we are all Gods children’

This familiar saying enters my troubled thoughts like a sudden comet from nowhere, followed by bursts of familiar verses where God likens Himself as our father.

Its only days later that I understand the full impact of
" this comet"

I am playing with my two yr old by the rock pools on the beach. Its a new experience for him. He clings frighfully to me and wills himself to keep a safe distance from the waves, albeit them being gentle tidal waves.
I pick him up and while holding him, i demonstate to him how i run towards the oncoming gentle waves and " catch" them and jump into them. I show him how to find the hollow buckets formed by the rocks and how to sit in it and find the " treasures" of colorfull pebbles and shells within their bellies.
Soon he overcomes his fear
and two hours later, with skin shrivelled up from being in the water too long and his cheeks and shoulders rosy and warm not just from too much sun but also excitement, i now have to pull him away from that which he earlier was too scared to attempt.

"Lord, enable me to allow You to show me too, how to find fun and enjoyment in the midsts of the rocks of my daily path.
Show me how to gauge the ebb and flow of the waves in my life so i dont have to be hit over by them or run in fear from them but meet them face on. Show me how to frolick in the daily low tides waves of my ordinary daily routine .
Help me discover the rockpools that has been carved out by the mundane,yet constant sameness of everyday and may i too take the time to linger long enough in them to discover their treasures.
Teach me and demonstrate to me how to find joy in the midsts of my daily life.

A few days later i am sitting down haggered and exhausted. Me and the kids have been up with vomiting and diarrhoea. I have just hung the last towel and sheet. The sheet is fluttering in the wind. My two year old screeches in delight as he stands underneath the flapping sheet, trying to grab it as the wind flaps it backwards and forwards.

I sit and watch him, delighting myself in watching his delight.

Most days i feel overwhelmed with the stark reality that i need to teach my sons and model to them how to live right.
I take this call to mother very serious.
Every opportunity i get,i try and teach them lessons.

And yet on days ,like today, when i am tired and demotivated., i find that in moments like these, it is my children that teach ME.

"Lord, as an add on to my
‘ rockpool prayer’, open my eyes to recognise when Your Spirit is blowing through my day. Let me stop and enjoy the small moments of my " big world" and allow myself to find the fun and laughter in the small things of my ordinary day.

There is a difference between joy and happiness.
I AM happy.
My life is full and blessed.
But most days i just survive…..i am too tired and overwhelmed to enjoy it.

Teach me Lord……how to be a child again.
Teach me the art of childhood joy.

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As a deer pants for water.

In the book of Psalms, David makes the well known statement:" as a deer pants for water, so my soul thirst for You Lord"

I have often read it and even sang the song that was based on this psalm.
I would read or sing these words and ever so often i would look at the people around me singing it.
Some would stand motion and expressionless and " just sing"
Some would have their hands stretched heavenward and with contorted faces sing along.
I looked at everyone around me, while simultaneously looking within MYSELF.
I would stand there and wonder:" are they REALLY thirsting, or are they ,like me , trying to will myself and convince myself ( and maybe even convincing others)that i am truely thirsting after God?

For i know in God alone i can be safe, satisfied, healed,protected,guided. But to actually be desperate for Gods presence…to THIRST……

I have cried out to God before in pain,anguish and anger,but i have never really THIRSTED for Him.
On my lifes journey when i was in the pit of depression, devout of any feeling or sense of purpose ,my senses were so numb. For me my depression was the closest i could imagine with my human mind what hell would be like, because it was a dark, suffocating,lonely and fearfull place.
But it was devout of any sense or feeling. No emotions, no appetite and hence definately no thirst.
No, even in my depression i can not claim that my soul thirsted for God.
What i longed for was to once again walk in The Light and have purpose guide my steps.
I craved deliverance from my darkness.
I cannot claimed i thirsted for God.

In times of pain or disillusionment i have cried out in anguish and anger at God. I was desperate yes. Desperate to be delivered from my circumstances , but even in this i cannot claimed that i thirsted for God.

In times of fear and uncertainty, i have clung to God for peace and direction. But even here what i longed for was deliverance from my anxiety.
I cannot really claim i thirsted for God.

It was only when i willingly decided to withdraw from people and God and just be still and know that God is, that the true meaning of this became of meaning to me.

I was responsibility overtaxed.
In short: burned out.
Not depressed.
Not anxious.
Not hopeless.
Just pulled in so many directions for so many years, i could not stretch any further.
So i took time out from people…..and from God.

My faith was deep enough to know He would never leave or forsake me and that He Himself commands us to just be still and just KNOW He exist.
My faith was mature enough to know my salvation was secured.

I did not read my bible.
I did not go to church.
I did not listen to worship songs. And i completely withdrew from all people.
I just was.
I just was ….a mom and a wife……no more.

I knew i could not live on bread alone, so i did play my worship songs while cooking and cleaning. I did try and read a verse here and there between a monsterous to-do-list.

Then one morning as i walked to work, instead of trying to pray through my list of thoughts, i decided to just plug my earphones in my ears and not think, but just listen to worship music.
It was not that i was seeking God.
I merely wanted to distract my very busy mind.
I just wanted to forget all the responsibility and worry.

I am not sure if it was because the earphones blocked out the traffic sounds around me, or the fact that one can hear the music so much more in detail when its plugged next to your eardrum, but as the music played i listened to Gods word transformed into lyrics. I listened with more than my ears, i listened with my heart. I meditated on the words of truth sung and in my minds eye, i imagined the greatness, the magnitude, the mercy and love of my God that was being sung about.
And suddenly i felt something in the pit of my stomach…..it was like air was sucked out from me and as i allowed the music, the words and the mental images it conjured, to enter in,it was asof water trickeled in and satisfied! Something i did not know i lacked.
Through tears i felt my soul gasp,sucking in whatever it was that was taking place.
" oh God…..oh God……." Is all i could whisper through tears.
" i miss You Lord….."

I dont think " thirsting after God" is something we can, or need to will.
Its not something we have to muster up or try to attain.
It is something we are born with – an inert thirst to see our Makers face.
Spirit is born of Spirit.

Someone once wrote: our soul is restless untill it finds its rest in God.

I dont think modern man knows what real thirst is in the true physical sense.
But we all know what a craving is.
Thirsting and craving is probably closely related.

When people get councilled to help them to stop smoking, they are taught that a craving last only three minutes. If you can distract yourself from grabbing a cigarette for three minutes, the intense desire will pass.
I think thirsting for God is a natural need,but we have become so distracted, so focussed on other things,that we have suppressed that craving.

But it is there.
It depends what one focus or meditate on.

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AKNOWLDGE HIM IN ALL YOUR WAYS AND HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT

Over the years i have learned what God meant by the statement:" He will not give His glory to another"
The hebrew for glory is ‘ kavedh’ and means TO SHOW ONESELF great or mighty. Thus God’ s glory is how He makes Himself known or shows Himself.
If His Word says that he never leaves us or forsake us, instead of trying to " spot satan or evil’ s handy work in a given situation, rather stop and ask:" Lord show me where YOU are in this?"
Hand and hand, closely related to this,
i have learned that the reason WHY it is so powerfull when we choose to praise God in the midsts of trails and pain, is because it ignores satan, it takes the focus off you and your circumstances and it places the glory where it belongs: back on God.

One particular morning i was walking to work, pondering on all my " lessons" from the last few years.
I was rather dispondent this particular morning and my mind was like a noisy zoo, conflicting voices of depression, confusion, exhaustion, doubt and much more ,all shouting at each other for centre stage.
I tried to override these voices with some selftalk:
" ok,this is a good time to practice what you preach, to walk the talk.
Lord, i feel so wound up and unsettled. Please help me. I know Your Word says that You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is steadfast on You and that when we aknowledge You in all our ways, You will make our paths straight.
Please help me."

As i walked on the way to work i was waiting to hear from God. I expcted Him to now " do as He says He will".
But nothing happened.
I looked up and decided to then start worshipping God. I looked up and saw a small bird pecking around in a bush. The sunlight caught his small body, his green and blue feathers shimmering like satin. Everything about him was perfect and beautifull. Even the green leaves and the little pink flowers in the bush was stunningly formed.
I looked up and saw the fluffy white clouds against the bright blue sky. I felt the crisp morning breeze on my bare skin and felt the wind twirl my loose hair ends. As i looked down on the ground i saw an ant carrying a morsel of food 4 times the size of itself and a centipede slowly going through some leaves.
" thank you Lord for Your creation. Such beauty and diversity.You are truly magnificent! How marvelous is the works of Your hands!
Other religions worship the god of the sun,the god of the river, the god of different animals,but You, You are not just God of ALL, but CREATOR of all!! My God is amasing!!!!"

"Thank You Lord for my legs that are able to walk this morning,my eyes that are able see Your glory all around"

A movement on my right caught my eye and saw a young lady struggeling to pull a big green dusbin uphill towards the gate to be in time for the garbage truck
" thank You Lord, that i have a loving husband that does that for me. How blessed i am. Lord, i dont know this lady, but You do. Please bless her today and may she know how special she is. If she is waiting for a life partner, please bless her with a Godfearing man.If she is married, lead them to You so they can fully enjoy the benefits of a godly marriage. If she is unsaved, please lead her to a place where she can know that she does not have to carry around the garbage of her own life, but that You will cleanse her from all unrigteousness."

As i walk past the security gaurd standing by the gate of a block of flats, i smile and greet him.
He looks baffled as if not expecting it. He smiles back nervously.
" lord protect this man as he stands protecting others. Watch over him as he watches over others and as he gets paid to keep others save, i pray that he will get to know the Ultimate Savior of his life. And if he does know You allready, save him this day then from all his troubles as he trusts in You."

A man is walking towards me. He is looking rather " dodgy".
His eyes looks glassy and he is in desperate need of care – on more than one level.
"Lord, please cover me in the blood of Your Lamb. Forgive me for judging this mans intentions, but if he has any evil intend, please protect me. May You open his eyes to see Your angel surrounding me and may he be drawn to You. "

I walk pass unharmed, i trust and hope that my prayer has prepared the way for Gods salavation for him

On the opposite side of the road, another man is carrying an entire wooden door on his head.
" lord, You know his circumstances. Please may Your will be done in His life. If he is unsaved, may You lead him to open the door of his heart to You. If he is allready saved, please open doors of opportunity and blessings to him."

I walk past two men sweeping the pavement and gutters. I smile broadly and greet them. They look up puzzled and then hesitantly greet back.
"Lord, bless the work of their hands. If they are unsaved, let Your Spirit sweep through their hearts and lead them to YOU."

As i cross the busy intersection, two cars rush pass me, even though i have right of way as a pedestrian, causing me to halt.
"Lord forgive them their selfishness. Protect them as they rush to their destination. In their rush, may they not miss YOU on their journey, whether they are believers or not……."

A bus waits for me to cross. I smile and mouth the words THANK YOU to him. He smiles back and nod.
" Lord may goodness return to him three fold"

I walk into my work place……and i have not really encountered any miraculous evidence of God on my way. But my spirit feel lighter and less cluttered.

I have chosen to aknowledge Him in my path today….and i have indeed found His signature all over…i have put the Glory where it belongs and
as i have chosen to have my mind stead fast on Him, i now find that i am in a place of perfect peace…..just like He promised.

Its only the next and following days that i realise that He has indeed made my path straight just as He promised. For as i walk deep in thought,pondering about many worries, my thoughts get interrupted by a joyous greeting. I look up and see the security gaurd greeting me with a radiant face and wishing me a great day.
In the days to follow the security gaurd, the beggar and the street sweeper seem to notice the days i dont walk and every now and again they stop me to say more than just hallo.
Just a few months ago we were all strangers to each other, each one busy in is own lot.

We are all made in the image of God. This is a sobering thought to keep in mind when we deal with people around us.

Sometimes we seek to find God in the storm or the earthquake, but He is found in the stillness and the quietness in our daily ordinary everyday path….we just need to aknowledge it……

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Being surrendered

the silhouette of mother with the child against the background of the sunset

We are (or me at least) are so misconceived regarding our role as a parent. We think we are there to teach them and to help them mature. We feel most days that they slow us down in our own personal walk, as we patiently wait for them to sleep through, be out of nappies, feed and dress themselves. We think parenting is about teaching them how to talk and walk.
But it is THEM that teaches us!
When we watch every word we speak and rethink every move we make because we know there are little eyes that watch, little ears that listen and little pitter-patter feet that follow, it is inadvertently them that are teaching us how to talk and how to walk …….. correctly.

How we learn to see the world again through the eyes of a child!!
I am forced to slow down yes!! But as I slow down to see why my toddler is lagging behind, or is suddenly quiet, I am forced to look at the bug he discovered. I am forced to linger long enough to actually NOTICE, that the “shongololo” or the house fly or the cockroach is actually beautifully crafted!

Before kids I looked upon them in haste, irritation and disgust.
But now I notice the shiny blue-green color of the housefly as the sun reflects on him. I notice how he delicately rubs his arms together and that his wings are silky and has amazing patterns crafted on it. I manage to watch as the shongololo’s many legs move as if in a wave form.

When my toddler tries to mimmic the “bzz-bzz” sound of the fly, I laugh warmly and find myself mimmicing it along with him. When he asks for the shongololo to be placed on his forearm and he screeches in delight as it moves along his arm, I laugh aloud with him. I am forced to find time to actually smile and laugh numerous times throughout the day … and the “feel good hormones” are released.
I find myself explaining to my boy each time he pulls his breath in when we walk outside that it is the wind. When it rustles through the leaves or through his baby soft curles I explain: “it’s the wind baby”.  Previously a gentle breeze would have gone unnoticed by me as I rush around probably faster than the wind myself!
I find that as I carry him at night outside with me to lock up the garage and the gates, we stop to see the moon and stars and clouds in the sky. Yes, I am forced to slow down … but I am forced to see my Maker’s signature all around me and notice Him again.
It is in fact our children who teach US how to walk and talk and live again.
Recently, however, I have started to understand a new lesson, one previously misunderstood. The lesson on surrender and dependence on God.
As I hold my toddler at the end of the day in my arms, his willing surrender and total abandon as he snuggles his soft head in my neck, places his arm around my neck, just being still and happy to be with me and to know he is safe and loved. The feeling of delight that wells up in me is beyond description by words. When he runs to me arms lifted up when he is scared, lonely or hurt, conjures another strong and powerful emotion up inside of me.

That surrender, that dependence … it brings a new understanding!

It no longer holds such a negative hold on me.  Somewhere the words from far off flood my mind: “be still and know I am God” … and “I will never leave you or forsake you” … and “If you call on Me, I will answer” … and suddenly I understand!!!

I for once truly SEE and HEAR
Not words on the pages of a Bible
but the beat – beat – beat of The Father’s Heart……..

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Walking on water

walking_on_water

This past Sunday morning, We were singing: “Spirit lead me where my trust will know no boundaries, Let me walk upon the waters, take me deeper than my feet would ever wander and my faith would be made stronger”. Years ago, I would sing that BOLDLY, confident to want to walk upon the water, to go where my faith will know no boundaries and my faith will be made stronger. I wanted to GO DEEPER with my God!!!

Little did I realise that in order for your faith to be stronger it needs RESISTANCE training; and this comes in the form of heavy burdens to lift, some distances to run where the finish line never seems to become visible.

To have your faith taken where it knows no boundaries, it has to be surrounded first WITH boundaries … boundaries that are MOUNT EVEREST high.

Little did I know to “go deeper and walk UPON the water” won’t happen on dry, safe ground where the sun of His face shines down on me. To go deep, to walk on water, you need … yes …water … lots of water!!! It comes in the form of wave upon wave upon wave – some days in the form of storms – and you sink! You sink and splutter!!

But guess what?

It is here where you indeed go deeper with your God, where the “God you want and the God who is” are poles apart.

I sing this song today not so much with innocent boldness and excitement, but with a deeper understanding that like my Pastor said, I CAN HAVE THAT!; but it will not be given … it needs to be developed, earned … and it will be painfull, tiring, confusing

But oh so worth it!!!

Nothing beats freedom, a faith that cannot be shaken.

But I now know that the storm will come!
And when I enter the storm, I will not be the same when I come out of the storm Because that is the PURPOSE of the storm.

I sing that song and I am not half as deep as I want to go and I have not yet managed to successfully tell my “mount everests” to be cast in the sea and then to follow them and walk upon the water. But the beauty of each new day is that I get to start again.

I have learned to “ride the waves” and to climb the mountain and I have discovered that along this journey I have had many, many deep conversations with My God. I have indeed gone deeper. And if I have developed some scars through these storms, it is not because I was fighting so hard, but because He would not let me go when I was tossed back and fro.

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I am a doglover of note!

Likewise I am besotted with butterflies.

I was walking with timothy’s new puppy, Sugar, around greyville racecourse.

I was thorougly enjoying watching Sugar bouncing around in pure, blissfull, endless energey and inquisitiveness.

Every now and again a cricket or some bewildered insect would leap up out of the grass where it was habitating unaware, causing Sugar to bounce with frowned , determined expression, ears pulled in attention, tail caught between pointing stiff and wagging endlessly!

However, every now and again, it would be a buttefly that gracefully tries to swoop up out of her way, just to meets its grave end, inside her snapping jaws! (more…)

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Do this in remeberance of Me. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine again until that day that I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.

These were Jesus’ words to his friends, before He was arrested. These were the words before he was to die, so to speak.

Whenever we have communion I try and imagine me sitting at the table with Jesus. For now, we do it in remeberance of Him, of who He was here on earth and what He did. But one day we will be sitting on table WITH Him, celebrating in a love feast!!

Sometimes I feel the communion is too easy, too relaxed. It does not always move us to truly remember………

I have often thought about how the Isrealites had to slaughter an animal to make atonement for their sins. Sometimes I think they had it so much better. You see, if I had to drag an animal to the slaughterhouse each time I sinned, if I had to remove an innocent soft little lamb from its mother’s side, cuddle it in my arms while carrying it to the place of slaughter and sacrifice, feel its little heart beating under my arm where it is lying while I am carrying its warm body and look into its unbeknown innocent eyes, I think I would probably be more likely to think twice before I sin.

The very effort of having to perform this act of sacrifice, to hold it down in position as it wriggles and struggles to get free, to watch its body go limp as blood drains from it Maybe it would be easier for me to remember to confess to turn around

If I had to clean up the area of slaughter after each event and wash of the bloodstained slab it was slaughtered on and wash off my bloodstained hands I would remember for a second time.

I would remember for days on end.

But here we sit in our pews.

We travel to our place of worship in the comfort of our cars. We sit down and don’t GIVE God worship. No! We are LED in worship. We bring nothing to God except ourselves.

We sit back and are served the communion elements. The elements are neatly and elegantly prepared, by someone else. The bread has been baked by someone else, been cut into neat little white squares, by someone else. The grapes were planted and grown by someone else, packed and pressed by someone else, bought from the shop by someone else, poured into little sip-sized glasses by someone else, and conveniently delivered to us where we are sitting by someone else. Cleaning and washing up afterwards are done by someone else, while we rush home to enjoy a real meal.

We sit, we receive and I wonder if we really, truly remember?!

All this goes through my mind as I wait for the elements to be delivered to every member so that we can all partake in The Lord’s table together.

I make a decision!

I choose to remember.

As the elements are served to us,I remember that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. I grab hold of the perfectly square-sized, soft piece of bread and I rememberthat He was perfect and sinless. I notice the pure whiteness of the bread andI remember that He was pure and He came to make us white as snow too. I drink the sweet red grape juice and I imagine that if grace and mercy had to have a taste, it would be sweet like this.

This is too easy, Lord I say as I swallow the elements down, Everything is neatly packaged and served to us. We don’t even give anything in return. It does not feel right.

I hear the Sprit reply: Its no different from what My Son did, my daughter. He too served you. He asked for nothing in return, except that You come and receive…..

As the sweetness flows down into my inner being I remember the words: I am The True Vine. Whoever stays in Me will bear fruit……

THAT’S IT!!! I remember now!! He bore my sins, so I can bear fruit. And that is something that I CAN do.

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