Monthly Archives: January 2021

In the City

I live in Randburg, on the outskirts of the greater Johannesburg Metropolitan area. I go into the centre of Johannesburg as little as possible. First of all there is the traffic going into town and clogging up the streets once you get there. Then, some areas have reputations for crime and lawlessness. Finally, I remember the city as full of litter, noise, bustle and crowds – much like other big cities worldwide.

Just before Christmas there was a special on a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Johannesburg and my husband and I thought we’d grab the opportunity.

Our bus

I was in for a pleasant surprise. The first place we left the bus at was Zoo Lake.

It was quiet and peaceful with a couple of security guards, some joggers, cyclists and a family or two. What a contrast to my mind’s picture of a city.

The next place we explored was the mining district in the centre of town where the stock exchange and banks are. It was a Saturday and the streets were very quiet. We found a quaint coffee bar and enjoyed a cappuccino. The proprietor told us it was very quiet on Saturdays because most people work from Monday to Friday.

Along a street, which was part walkway, mining artifacts and history information boards preened. “Look at us!” they invited.

Our next stop was Gold Reef City Hotel. It was a short stop so the driver could refresh himself and we decided to stay with the bus rather than wander around Gold Reef City which is a day’s outing on its own.

Finally we got to what I’d been waiting for all morning – SciBono, a science and technology discovery centre. We spent two hours there. As a scientist, I was more interested in the centre than my husband was but it’s a wonderful gem in the heart of Newtown.

Our last stop before our loop ended was Constitution Hill, where we saw the flame of democracy. We could have taken a tour but my husband had done it before and I was just toured out.

We had a wonderful day and my view of my own city has changed from a mostly negative picture to something more positive and even uplifting.

This positive attitude to cities in general was reinforced by our sermon on Sunday where Pastor Richard told us that God loves cities. God loves people and He loves cities because that is where more people are.

Tim Keller, in his “Theology of Cities” writes about the New Jerusalem, “This city is the Garden of Eden remade. The city is the fulfillment of the purposes of the Eden of God. We began in a garden but will end in a city: God’s purpose for humanity is urban!”

Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions:” (John 14:2 KJV). That implies a city. I’d never thought of it before.

My Prayer

Father God, thank You for designing cities. Thank You that one day I can live in the New Jerusalem because Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan

Wishes and dreams

This post is part of Linda Hill’s JusJoJan. I didn’t get down to posting yesterday. I was having too much fun on my day of rest.

Today’s word is “wish.”

At the beginning of this year I thought very carefully about what I would wish for 2021. Was it that my little party business would take off? Was it for the Corona Virus to go away? Was it for my thirty-three-year-old son to come back to South Africa, meet a nice Christian girl and settle down?

In the end, it was none of those things. The deepest desire of my heart for the year was to grow closer to Jesus and that He would become more and more real to me in everyday life.

Psalm 37 reads,

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.” (verses 3-5 NIV)

So, if wishes are the desires of our hearts, then it seems like wishes can come true. But, as we’ve learned from fairy tales like Linda’s, there are conditions.

Image by Kranich17 from Pixabay

My Prayer

Father God, please teach me to trust You and delight in You. Amen.

Assignation

First thing in the morning, I am never at my best. Don’t ask me to make any decisions until at least 10am. My husband is the opposite. He’s a lark. I’m an owl.

The Bible says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) If I did such a thing, I would fall asleep praying.

There have been books and sermons preached on what has come to be known as The Quiet Time. It is the time during which we read a portion of scripture, maybe with the help of a Bible-reading aid, we pray and possible meditate. I don’t like the term Quiet Time. I prefer to call it an assignation or a tryst. An appointment to meet Somebody at a specific time at a specific place.

This is not to say that we can’t pray at other times, and I do, mostly just SMS prayers or a quick word of thanks.

I believe it is an important habit for Christians to get into a routine of such an assignation. I have tried various methods and various guides during the years. They all work and at different times different ones are more meaningful. Sometimes I just go through the Psalms, one a day, or sometimes more than one if I find the first ones unhelpful for where I am at. At the moment I’m reading through the Bible in a year, thanks to my YouVersion Bible App.

One thing is almost indispensable and that is my journal. I write my thoughts, sometimes prayers, sometimes drawings. At the back I keep a prayer list so I can tick of prayers I have forgotten about when God answers. A journal doesn’t work for everybody though.

Another indispensable thing is a cup of coffee. Although it is not first thing in the morning, my assignation is usually before breakfast so a cup of coffee, or lately tea, helps in the gradual wake up process.

Then, after breakfast, I am ready for the day.

This post is part of SOC Saturday and JusJoJan.

Tent Dresses

When I was a teenager, tent dresses were in fashion.

Angelique from Pinterest

I hated them. My mother, wanting her daughter to be in fashion, made me one for a party I had been invited to. It was of shiny pink satin with silver embossing and had three silver buttons. I felt overdressed. The other girls also wore tent dresses, but they were made of cotton. I never wore that dress again.

Perhaps there was some psychology in tent dresses. They certainly served to hide a frumpy figure. Thinking back, it was, of course, the age of free love and what better way to mask a budding teenage pregnancy than with clothes that made a tent around your body?

Now I am older. Much older. My figure has bloomed to ample curves and plenty of padding. Recently I went shopping for another summer dress. I must have tried on close to twenty. When I finally came home with the only one that looked reasonable on me, I noticed it was a tent dress.

I have changed my mind about tent dresses. I’m allowed to. My assertiveness training coach said so. It’s one of my rights.

I think we all have opinions seen through coloured glasses influenced by the world around us, our experiences, what our church teaches and what our friends think. We see the world through eyes slanted by social media posts and what google thinks we would be interested in as news.

Paul says, “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12 NIV)

My Prayer

Lord, give me the grace to realise that I do not know all Truth and the humility to admit when I have changed my mind.

This post is part of JusJoJan

The Neighbourly Thing

This post is part of JusJoJan. The word for the day is “neighbor.”

I immediately thought of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked what the greatest law was, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”(Mark 12:30-31 NIV)

When asked who his neighbour was, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man was attacked by robbers, beaten up and left for dead. Religious people walked by and pretended not to see. The man who finally helped him, the Samaritan, was not of his culture and belonged to a despised group of people. Nevertheless, he rendered first aid and organised transport to a place of recovery and rest. He paid for the man’s stay (after all, the robbers had taken all he had.)

Image by falco from Pixabay

That is the standard Jesus has set for us. Of course, we won’t all be called on to spend our money for a stranger’s hospital stay, but we might be. The Samaritan put aside his own agenda and spent time to help a person in distress. We are called to love others as we love ourselves. We can only do this one person at a time. Love equals time. We might not be called on to do the big things but we can all do the little things. We can take time to acknowledge the people who cross our path, to greet them and treat them as valuable, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done, their culture, religion or language. We can take time to help somebody who asks for our help or whom we see needs help.

The Bishop in Les Miserables inspires me with his forgiving attitude to an ex-con and his kindness to a person in need. I’ll be quite honest, I shall probably never attain such an unselfish attitude but, by God’s grace, and by keeping the example of the Good Samaritan in the forefront of my mind, I can learn to love my neighbour more and more each day.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, You set very high standards. Please incline my heart to be able to love my neighbour as You commanded. Amen.

Rejoice!

Today I went on a mini retreat. During my time of meditation I was moved to renew my Covenant with God according to the Methodist tradition.

It reminded me of my marriage vows. (I’ve been thinking about my wedding recently after our anniversary.) It is no small matter to promise to love and honour a man when you have no idea of what the future holds. “For better, for worse,” you say, “in sickness and in health…till death us do part.” That’s quite something. And it’s scary. You are no longer single, but part of a couple.

In the same way, I imagined myself yoked to the Lord Jesus. Then my image changed as I remembered a movie we saw recently which included a TV dating show where couples were chained together until one of them couldn’t stand it anymore and opened a lock. Then a siren went off and they were out of the running to win a million dollars. Quite ridiculous really, but in my imagination I saw myself and Jesus chained together. Where I go, He’ll have to go and where He goes, I have to go. We are a team now. I am no longer my own. It’s scary. And it’s no small matter.

My husband mentioned that when he had looked at our wedding photos, he noticed how radiantly happy I had looked. Well I was. He went on to say he thinks that is how Jesus looks when He looks at me and knows I am His.

Reminds me of the following scripture verse: The Lord your God, in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.(Zephaniah 3:17 New King James Version)

My Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus. Yes, I admit I feel a bit nervous. Then I remember; You are He who wouldn’t break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering candle and You know how to care for what belongs to You. Thank You so much for wanting to share life with me. Please help me to keep my vows and trust You always. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.

Love Letter

I am not only an introvert but slightly socially inept. I find it difficult to express my feelings. That’s why I love letters. On occasions when I wanted to communicate something that was difficult for me to express, I wrote letters. Letters are not like e mails. E mails can be read and deleted and forgotten. A letter can be carried around in a pocket to reread or kept under a pillow to give comfort. Especially love letters.

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

I met my husband a week before he moved away to Bloemfontein from Pretoria. In those early days we spent a lot of time writing letters to each other. How I watched the post box for each new letter. When a letter came I would read it over and over, taking it with me in case I would have a spare minute through the day to read it again.

“The Bible is God’s love letter to us, telling us not only that He loves us, but showing us what He has done to demonstrate His love.” (Billy Graham)

Tomorrow my husband and I, as well as my best friend, are going to the Botanical gardens for a “mini retreat.” We will take our Bibles and spend time quietly with God, committing the year to Him, asking for guidance and hoping for a promise or word to take us into this uncharted future. I am going to consider whatever I read in the Bible as part of God’s love letter to me and I will write a letter in return as my prayer.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

My Prayer

Dear Lord, please open my mind and my heart to see Your Word as your love letter to me. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan

Plans and Agendas

We had a very good sermon (virtually) this morning, called the Peril of Presumption. In it, Pastor Richard talked about the danger of thinking that we are in control of our plans and agendas without acknowledging God’s sovereignty and that, as Christians, we have invited Christ to take control of our lives – meaning we are no longer in control.

Pastor Richard told us about a prayer Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, had prayed, giving God permission to change his agenda without informing him.

That really struck home. Who is in charge here, after all? I might have planned to go to the vegetable shop and the cheese shop. God’s agenda for me might be to listen to a friend who is having a hard time.

A friend told me of the occasions he had allowed his children to bunk school.

In our part of the world, snow hardly ever falls. When my friend heard it was snowing in the Drakensburg, some five hours away, he woke the children early, bundled them into the car and drove to the Drakensburg to show them snow. They climbed over a farm fence and slid down snowy slopes on tea trays they had brought. The children missed their lessons but learned more than a hundred lessons could teach them.

Photo from Pixabay by Alain Audet

On another occasion he whisked them away to watch a solar eclipse which could be seen nearly 600km away.

Our Heavenly Father would like to disrupt our planned activities in the same way, for reasons of His own. Reasons that include our eventual good, our growth or His plans for somebody else. And He’s under no obligation to tell us what His reason is.

James says 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  (James 4:13-14)

My Prayer

Sovereign Lord, may I never lose sight of Your claim on my life, my time and my agenda. Please open my eyes to Your leading and Your will for my time. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.