Monthly Archives: February 2020

Flat batteries, robberies and denuded trees.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, to those who have been called according to his purposes. (Rom 8:28 NIV)

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how the shade had been removed from the courtyard where I write. Now I can’t drink my coffee in the courtyard because of the hot African sun.

However, God is very inventive and He is using even denuded trees for my good. I don’t like drinking coffee at my computer – a break is meant to be a break! I’ve had to get creative. In the corner, a new pharmacy has opened up and they have a little coffee nook tucked away in the back. Last week I decided to explore while drinking my coffee and walking. I noticed they sold healthy-looking rusks in packs of four so I bought a pack and asked if I could drink my coffee and eat a rusk at their little counter. They were very friendly and welcoming and said I could come any time. I chatted to the lady at the till and told her why I was looking for a place to sit.

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Today I thought I’d buy some of their cappuccino and drink it with my breakfast bar. Again, I was met with a very friendly reception. The cappuccino was good and the cheapest I’ve come across in a while.

As I was leaving, I heard the same cashier talking about me to another customer. “She says she’s a blogger.”

I felt encouraged to write a blog today which I hadn’t been planning. I felt my purpose had been authenticated.

So what good has God wrought from denuded trees? He has forced me to become more sociable, make connections with people and feel more positive about my writing.

I am reminded of how my son came to go on a missions trip to a closed country. I had been helping at an Alpha course about four years ago. I don’t like driving at night anymore, so my husband would drop me. My son, who went to a different church, was having battery problems. Twice he’d been stranded because his car wouldn’t start. He said it needed a long run and I suggested he take and fetch me from our church to charge the battery. While he waited for our group to finish, he found a pamphlet about an upcoming short-term missions trip. It included ministry through winter sports. Being a sport scientist, he was interested and made inquiries. Turns out they were praying for a man to join the team of ladies that were going. The problem was, there wasn’t enough time for a passport renewal and under ordinary circumstances, his passport would have expired. However, we had had an armed robbery some time previously during which we had been forced to open our safe. Beside jewellery, all our passports had been taken. We had all had to renew our passports. If it hadn’t been for that robbery, my son would never have gone on the mission. As a result of that missions trip, one of the ladies in the team has become a full time missionary in that closed country.

God can use negative, and even traumatic events like armed robbery for good.

Image by Martin de Arriba from Pixabay

As for me, I am learning to be more outgoing, connecting with people and enjoying my coffee.

Solar Lantern

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You are the light of the world. Matt 5:14

Yesterday I bought a solar lantern meant to look like a candle, complete with amber light and a realistic flicker. The instructions said to put it in a sunny spot and the longer it is in the sunshine, the longer it will burn at night.

That’s not news to any of us, especially us South Africans who are learning to cope with load-shedding. However, there is a spiritual analogy here.

The longer we spend with the Light of the World, the more power we have to fulfill our destiny as lights of the world. This is accumulative so it doesn’t matter if it is one big chunk of time or constant little intervals throughout the day.

I have learned from experience that if you allow rechargeable batteries to stay flat for too long before recharging them, the battery gives in and they no longer function as they should. Just today I threw away a rechargeable torch that we used to keep in the motor-home, a rechargeable light bulb and a three-way-charge emergency lantern.

Let us not neglect our spiritual batteries lest we loose our ability to give light to a dark world.

The Foul line

Every Wednesday, my husband and I take part in a 10 pin bowling pensioners league. I am not particularly good but I have learned the rules, how to score and the etiquette. Or course, nowadays the bowling machine does everything for you – sets up the pins, counts which ones you knock down, gives advice on how to get the rest and scores for you. It even monitors the foul line, gives a loud beep if you overstep, and displays a big red F next to your score, discounting any points you might have otherwise earned in that frame.

Yesterday, for the first time since I’ve been bowling in the league, I set off the foul line alarm. Not once, but three times. The first time I would have got a strike. I thought I had got a strike until I saw the ugly red F next to my name. It’s not like I did it on purpose! There was something about my bowling style that was wrong. After the third time, I was almost in tears. When I heard the beep I froze and checked the position of my front foot. It was way behind the line. Someone suggested my ball was too low and setting off the alarm. I could barely bowl at all during that game getting my lowest score in a long time.

Some people think God is like a bowling machine, just waiting for you to break one of the rules. They think Christianity is following a set of commandments. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Christianity is about relationship. God longs to have a relationship with us but our sin- nature (wanting to do things our way and being gods of our own lives) causes a barrier between us. Jesus did away with that barrier by taking our sin-nature upon himself and giving us His righteousness, removing the barrier to relationship. That sets us free to have a relationship with Him.

Phil 2:13 reads, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

If God works within us making us want to and able to do things His way, we’ll probably find that we’ll end up keeping the commandments anyway, but that is a by-product. We already have His approval. We don’t need to earn it. It is a gift.

Stolen Car

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About five years ago, our red VW Polo 1.9TDI was stolen. It was parked outside a friend’s house where our fellowship group met once a week. The more we looked for it, the more it wasn’t there.

We had bought the car with specific purposes in mind. a) We needed something powerful to tow our caravan, b) I was still involved in Girl Guides and the hatchback was useful for transporting tents, tables and crates of camping equipment from the Guide hall to the campground and c) it was a comfortable economical car for long trips.

The car was insured but the payout didn’t cover the cost of the replacement. We got on with life. Our circumstances changed.

Recently my husband got a call from the Police. They had recovered our car and needed us to go to their Benoni compound to identify it. It was difficult because so much had changed. The seats had been changed and there was new trim on the inside. Different hub caps had been fitted. Even the engine number had been changed – by one digit.

I was reminded of that wonderful hymn, “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. He was involved in the Atlantic slave trade and was certainly not fulfilling the purpose for which God had made him. During a dreadful storm, he cried out to God for help. He became a changed man, a new creation. He wrote in the hymn, “I once was lost but now am found…”

In a way, we were all once lost, perhaps even stolen. Under new management. Ephesians 2 v 1-5 reads, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions.” (NIV)

What once was lost, has now been found and returned to its rightful owner: in the case of the red Polo, the insurance company, in the case of us, our Father.

Mosquito bites and lightning strikes.

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The gazebo in our garden is a lovely, cool place to have a quiet time in the mornings. The only problem is the mosquitoes. I spray myself when I remember and light a citronella candle, but very often I become aware of two or three itchy bites at breakfast time. They are very, very annoying and I know the more I scratch them, the itchier they become, but I can’t help it.

With my mind and experience I know that by the next day the itch will be gone and even the red bump will have faded. However, that doesn’t help the present discomfort.

Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18 NIV)

I would like to rephrase it. Our present problems are like mosquito bites compared to the wonderful things God has in store for us.

Problems come every day. No sooner do we overcome one problem than another is ready to take its place. Most of these are not of our doing but are very stressful all the same.

I live in an area of South Africa where lightning storms are frequent and violent. A friend’s house was struck by lightning last week. It frizzled her gate motor, security cameras, all her UPS backups and all the light bulbs. Even after the electrician had called and replaced all the lights, the power seemed to weaken and strengthen in unpredictable waves. She was stressed and distracted and, even though she knew with her mind that things would eventually be back to normal, she felt downhearted and overwhelmed.

Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

Some problems don’t seem to have an end in sight. However, we are promised that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 NIV)

We might not see the promised good this side of the grave but we trust that God’s Word is true and reliable. There will come a time when we will look back and regard our troubles as no more than annoying mosquito bites, forgotten in the Glory of God.

Leafless trees

My gym is in a small shopping centre in Boskruin. Besides the gym, there is a maths/science tutoring centre, a nail salon, a karate supplies shop, recently a little coffee shop and pharmacy. These form one side of a square around a little children’s playground and some concrete tables and benches.

The tutoring centre allows me a quiet space and a desk where I write for three hours after gym. Halfway through, I take a break and sit on one of the concrete benches in the shade with my instant cappuccino. That is, I did until last week.

Last Monday I saw that somebody had cut the trees, removing almost all the branches and taking away any shade over the benches.

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Now I can’t sit there anymore. It’s just too hot in the searing South African sunshine. Instead I have to drink my cappuccino at the desk which is not the same at all. I realised the importance of shade, of shadow.

This morning I read Psalm 91.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (1).

What a beautiful picture this invokes of resting in God’s shade.

The Psalm ends just as encouragingly.

Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him, I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (14-16)

I would much rather choose the shade of God’s love and protection than the harsh, unfeeling forces of the world around me.

Disintegrating Shoes

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Nothing lasts forever. A few weeks ago, we were just about to leave for gym when we passed our daughter coming out of the tool shed next to the car port. She told us she had gone there to fetch some stuff that had been stored in a black refuse bag. As she lifted it, the whole bag fell apart with black bag dust covering the floor. We agreed it was good to know that the refuse bags we use are designed to biodegrade in landfill sites.

After gym I realised I had forgotten to pack my sandals. When I was still working, I used to go straight to work after gym and, after I left my shoes at home the first time, and had to go home to fetch them and be late for work, I put a spare pair of old but still usable sandals in the spare wheel gap in my car. So I retrieved the spare shoes and put them on because my husband and I were going shopping after gym.

As I walked on the black carpet at the entrance to the shopping centre, I noticed I was leaving funny white footprints. I looked under my shoes and saw that the soles were disintegrating. I had wondered why one shoe felt unbalanced. A big chunk of the heel was left in the car along with crumbs of greyish white sole.

I put both shoes in the nearest bin and put on my gym shoes. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of my crumbling soles, but this is my grandson’s sports shoe. It didn’t quite disintegrate but it is no longer usable.

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Sometimes we lavish our money and our time on things of no lasting value. In the end they disintegrate into dust.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even us.

Our circumstances change. I am no longer earning a salary each month. I don’t know how long I will still be able to do the things I can now do. I can’t do some things that I could do twenty years ago. Friends are leaving the country, family is scattering. Our cottage, which I love, will not always be ours. One day other people will live there. They will change the things I chose when we had the alterations made. Maybe they will take out the wood paneling, or rip up the laminated flooring.

Jesus says even the earth will pass away. The only thing we can rely on, is God’s Word. That will remain forever. I have no choice but to trust the One who is eternal, not only with the changing circumstances of my life as it now is, but also with my eternal destiny.

From Slush Pile to Mulch.

I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. One year, as a new year’s resolution, I decided to write a science fiction book. I didn’t quite finish it in a year but it was close. It was bad. Even the friends I asked to read it were not encouraging.

Then, at a Writers retreat/workshop in 2015, I felt God calling me to write. https://jennyyoung27.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/how-it-all-began-2/

This was very exciting. I didn’t know what God wanted me to write so my natural instincts turned to fiction. I joined the South African Writers Circle, signed up for how to write articles articles and read everything I could.

Then, after a lot of practice and a little inspiration, I wrote a South African novel, They Call Me Nothing.

I thought it was good, my friends thought it was good, even my writers club gave me second place for the first chapter in one of their competitions.

However, I submitted it to the only two South African publishers that accept that genre (coming of age, English fiction) and recently I was again rejected by the second one. They had asked for a hard copy manuscript and stipulated that manuscripts cannot be returned so I can picture what happens to the product of two years of my life. It will go into the recycling bin for paper, end up becoming a slurry of paper mulch, be pressed, rolled and dried and possibly be turned into cardboard for toothpaste packaging.

It was not good enough. It wouldn’t sell.

I read Psalm 84 today. Verse 11 at first dismayed me. For the Lord is a sun and a shield. The Lord bestows favour and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (NIV)

There is no way my walk is blameless. Why, I’m not even keeping the first and greatest commandment to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. What chance do I have of receiving the Lord’s blessing and favour?

Then I remembered grace. This year I’ve been hearing a lot about grace. Christianity is different from all other religions. Other religions teach that man must live a good life, according to a set of rules, to earn God’s approval. Christianity teaches that God gives His approval freely to us as we are. We are imputed with Christ’s righteousness because He took on our sins and died for them. “Salvation is not a reward for the righteous but a gift for the guilty.” (Steve Lawson)

I am so glad God is not like a publisher, carefully evaluating stories and consigning all but the most excellent to the recycling bin. God is our Father. Each of our life stories is very important to Him, whether or not they make the slightest impact on other people or the world.