Monthly Archives: July 2020

Unceasing

When you stay thirty metres from the beach, the sound of the sea is ever-present. The sea never rests. The waves continue their thunderous roar endlessly. Of course, it is possible to wear ear plugs and blot out the sound of the sea, or go into a sound-proof room, or play music loud enough to drown it. Just because one doesn’t hear it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I love the sound of the sea. At night I hear it before I drop off to sleep. It is one of the things I will profoundly miss when we go back to Gauteng tomorrow. However, just because I go away from the sea, it does not stop. Its motion is never-ending, whether I see it or hear it or not.

Over the last two weeks the fishing population has peaked and ebbed. The fishermen continued to cast their lines into the sea. Every day they could take home a catch to feed their families or perhaps even to sell. The next day, the sea would give up more fish – a seemingly limitless supply.

It reminds me of God’s love. Lamentations 3:22 reads, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;” (ESV)

Whether I can see it, or not, whether I believe it or not, God’s love is around me all the time. His gifts, His provision, His blessings never come to an end.

Day by Day

This post is part of One-Liner Wednesday.

Image by Himsan from Pixabay

“Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits and blessings, which thou hast given to me, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Friend, Brother and Redeemer; may I know thee more clearly, love thee for dearly, and follow thee more nearly.” (Part of a prayer by Saint Richard of Chichester, who died in 1255)

I was naked…

Today we walked to the Hibberdene shopping area to buy the last couple of things before we leave on Friday.

While we were in the Chinese shop, a policeman came in. I didn’t hear all of the conversation but from what I did hear, there was a naked man in the back of the police van.

“Naked, naked. Kaalgat,” he said to all nearby and added another word in a language I didn’t understand.

He wanted to buy some cheap clothes for the man. The Chinese owner seemed hostile. Perhaps she had had unpleasant experiences of the police before. She seemed affronted that the police wanted to buy in her shop. Nevertheless she showed the policeman the clothes on sale. He held up a grey, long sleeved top and was looking for pants when we left the shop.

I was impressed. With all the negative media hype, here was a policeman doing his duty but also showing compassion for another person who was possibly homeless, a criminal or drunk. I don’t know whether he was planning to pay for the clothes from his own pocket or whether he thought the SAPS would foot the bill. In either case, I was reminded of Jesus’ words, “I was naked and you clothed me, … Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:36,40b)

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Castles in the Sand

We are staying in a beautiful beach house at a time when leisure travel and accommodation is not permitted, by dint of a medical certificate. The beach in front of us has been largely overtaken by fishermen. When we’ve come here before, it’s been as part of a family group. Now it’s just us. We miss the grandchildren. Where’s the fun of having all this beach sand with no grandchildren to build sandcastles with? So we had to become like little children and build on our own. Once we got started, we actually had fun.

Later in the day, a group of fishermen and their families came down to the beach. A boy of about ten attracted our attention. He was wearing bright red shorts and doing cartwheels along the sand. Later, he took off his shorts and ran into the sea, his brown body glistening with salt water. After his swim, he ran along the beach. When he came to our sand castle, he stopped, examined it carefully then ran round and round it before running back to the fishing group. I was impressed by his sense of joy, fun and enthusiasm.

When Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:3 NIV,) I always thought He was talking about the unwavering trust of a child, the unconditional acceptance. Now I think He also meant that joy, that fun, which children find in everyday life. Nobody who has ever watched a little child delight in a ladybird, or even a snail, can resist the wonder of innocence. I think heaven is going to be a fun place, a place where we can just enjoy all the things God has for us.

We don’t have to wait for heaven. This beautiful earth that God has created for us, is full of things that inspire wonder and appreciation. Instead of rushing past them, or looking at all the things that are wrong with the world, wouldn’t it be fun to experience God’s gifts “new every morning?”

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Fishermen

We have a beautiful view of the sea from the Beach House where we are staying. The dominant features at the moment are fishermen. The fishermen I’ve always thought about from the bible were the kind who go out in fishing boats, cast out their nets, drag the nets behind the boat to the beach and then haul in the catch. The stories of Jesus make me think of large catches but sometimes they also fished all night and caught nothing.

The fishermen in our view use rods, and then there are various skill levels. Over the weekend, there were crowds, including families where older men demonstrated the art of patience to the teenagers who tended to cast a line into the sea, haul it in, throw it out again and after about three attempts pack up and move to another area.

Today there seems to be a group of professionals. They’ve been here since before sunrise. I’ve watched some of them pull out three or four fish on one line.

Yesterday I was wondering what my main calling was. I think the point is, it’s not necessarily what we do but the attitude in which we do it that pleases God.

Colossians 3:23 says:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (NIV)

Whether a fisherman is fishing for fun on the weekend, to provide food for his family or to sell, if he does it as unto the Lord, he will receive a reward from the Lord. If I involve Jesus in everything I do, even cooking or housework, and work as unto Him, I don’t need to stress about whether I should be writing or doing ministry or anything else. I merely need to stay close to Him and attuned to His leading.

In our fellowship group we are working through a series called Fruitfulness on the Frontline by Mark Greene. He pointed out in session three that God only made humans on the sixth day. He spent the other five preparing for man. He created order, made provision, brought joy and beauty and released potential. If what we do works towards any of those outcomes, we are doing God’s work.

Lord, whatever I do, be it large or infinitesimal, easy or difficult, may I dedicate it to you and work as unto you. Thank you. Amen.

Spiritual Mediocrity

One of the benefits of lockdown is, it makes church easier. No more rushing on a Sunday morning, misjudging the time available and grabbing a banana as we rush out the door in a hectic attempt not to be late.

Now, even if we only wake at 9.30, which is an extreme case, we can still participate in church in our pyjamas. We can drink coffee during church and even eat breakfast! Rosebank Union Church has organised their platform in such a way that we can interact with other members of the church or even request prayer during the live broadcast.

We are in Hibberdene at the moment, escaping from the cold of Randburg with a doctor’s note stating it will be better for my husband’s circulation problem in his hands in a warmer climate. When we’ve been on holiday here, or, for that matter in any other location away from home, it is always a mission to attend church on a Sunday. First you have to spend a long time on the computer finding out what churches are nearby, what their times are and how to get there. Then you go to a totally strange place among total strangers and join their service. There have been times, of course when this has been a great blessing, but it’s always a bit stressful. Lockdown has changed all that.

Yesterday’s live service from our own church was a blessing, if somewhat uncomfortable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG9KVvymidI

We are working through Ezra. After seventy years in exile, God worked in the heart of Cyrus, the Babylonian king, as well as in the hearts of some of the exiles, which resulted in a large group of them returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. They started with enthusiasm, built the altar and foundations, dedicated the altar and celebrated. Then opposition came, they got discouraged and the work stopped for 15 years.

Then two prophets gave them a word from God. The reason they were not flourishing, (you earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it, (Hag1:7)) was that they were concentrating on building their own lives and dwellings and businesses and not on what God had called them to do.

Perhaps we, too, are stuck in spiritual mediocrity, putting aside what God has called us to and instead focusing on our own lives, families, needs and wants. I am sure I was not the only member of the congregation to be challenged and determine immediately to change my ways.

However, I am in a quandary. It is all very well for the Israelites. They were called specifically to build the temple – and not all of the exiles were called either. Only some. I am not sure what my main calling is. Certainly I feel called to write. Then I know that God gave me my husband in answer to a prayer. I am called to love him, honour him and cherish him. One of my top three priorities in life, which I formulated for myself long ago at a Christian camp after I recommitted myself to the Lord, was to make one person extremely happy. That I still regard as a priority. Then, at some stages I’ve felt called to get involved in the Gideon ministry, the Alpha ministry and other short time callings.

All I can do is pray and look for God’s guidance.

Dear Father, Please forgive me for living my life as if I were in charge rather than You. You made me, You bought me with a price and I have freely given You access to my life for Your control. You know me inside and out. You understand my personality, my strengths and weaknesses. Please show me where You want me to focus my attention for Your kingdom building. Thank you. Amen.

Unbroken Link

This is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday

I am the true vine…Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1a,4-5 NIV)

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I got to thinking botanical thoughts. Roots of a vine absorb water and nutrients from the soil. This combines with the stored food made by the leaves to make the plant sap – the life of the vine. If a branch gets cut off from the vine, it doesn’t receive the sap. Not only does it not grow or produce fruit, it doesn’t live. It dies. At first glance, if a branch is broken but still looks like it is connected, there is no difference. For a few days the leaves remain green before starting to go limp and then slowly yellow and brown. Eventually the whole branch withers and dies.

Jesus says that’s what happens to us if our link to Him is broken. We wither and die, producing no fruit. On the flip side, if we remain in Him, we don’t have to strain and stress to produce fruit. It is not up to us. The life of the vine produces the grapes. Everything a living branch needs to produce fruit is provided. The chlorophyl in the leaves which enables them to produce glucose from carbon dioxide and water was set in the DNA of the plant from it beginning. Just by being a leaf, a leaf can produce food for the plant. It stores it as starch and it is available to the branch and the whole plant. Some of this nourishment goes into the production of grapes. It is a natural process.

All we need to do to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God, is to remain attached to Jesus, to maintain the link, to abide. The fruit comes from Him, through the Holy Spirit, the life-giving sap.

Thank you, Vine of Life, that I am attached to You, that I have no control over bearing fruit, except to remain in You.

Who I am

Today would have been my father’s birthday.

He died just over ten years ago, not long before he turned 81. I spent some time thinking about him and remembering what he had given me. This included not only physical things, like providing for the family, being an excellent father and the like, but also who he was. I inherited my big frame from him, my square jaw, my logic, my scientific bent and my retiring personality. Any social awkwardness I have was also inherited from my father. Then there was his influence over my life. Little girls always try to please their fathers. He taught me to love classical music and scientific things. I remembering him telling me when I was quite small that it was possible to grow bacteria until you could see them. You made a special soup and that enabled them to grow. In my childish mind, I had this picture of a germ getting bigger and bigger until I could see it. It was only much later, when I studied microbiology that I understood and I grew bacteria myself, not so they would grow as my childish mind had imagined, but to multiply so much that bacterial colonies could be seen on agar plates in petri dishes.

A large part of who I am is a result of who my father was. I believe God planned me specifically, determining who my parents were, where I was born, in what era I lived and the economic circumstances of my family.

I can say with the Psalmist, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:6)

God’s influence is in my ancestry, like a vein of gold running through the baser ore.

When I think of how carefully God planned Jesus’ lineage, I am convinced He planned all of us just as carefully. Sometimes He used mixed marriages and even disreputable characters to be included in Jesus’ family tree. I think of Rahab, the heathen prostitute who sheltered two Israelite spies just before the fall of Jericho. She joined the Israelites and took their God as hers, later marrying Salmon, father of Boaz. Then there was Ruth, the Moabitess. Her people worshipped the god Chemos. When both her husband and her father-in-law died, she followed her widowed mother-in-law to Bethlehem with the famous words, “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NIV)

She went on to marry Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David.

From a purely scientific point of view, I believe God specifically chose to introduce these genes from other cultures and nations to the gene pool from which Jesus would be born. In the same way, I believe God deliberately chose the genetic heritage of each of us to make the unique, unrepeatable masterpiece that is each one of us.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16 NIV)