Monthly Archives: April 2022

Insiders and Outsiders

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers, ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and misfits?’

“Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor; the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m hear to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.'” (Matthew 9:10-13 MSG)

As far back as my school days, there always seemed to be an “in-crowd.” They were the popular girls. They seemed to have secrets that the rest of us didn’t understand. They were confident and poised. I was never one of them.

Image by DONT SELL MY ARTWORK AS IS from Pixabay (adapted)

What Jesus said in this passage makes so much sense intellectually. We need a doctor when we are sick, not when we are well. However it is difficult to understand with our hearts. It is exactly because of our failings, struggles and imperfections that Jesus came. While He came for everybody, It is those who are not in the “in-crowd” that need Him most, those of us who feel like we don’t quite fit in to society, who battle to live a victorious Christian life.

My Prayer

Lord, when I’m not coping, when I feel spiritually weak or unwell, I run to you, my doctor. Please help me to allow You to speak to me, then do what You say. Amen.

Macramé Bird Bath

I recently explored Lifestyle’s Garden Show with a friend. I was interested to see that macramé hanging baskets are fashionable again. I was inspired to make a hanging birdbath for our garden.

I chose tarred sisal because it is for outdoor use. The string itself does not look very pretty or memorable. Compared to some of the beautiful coloured wool available in the wool shop, it looks very drab and uninteresting.

Knotted together, the string becomes something beautiful. Now that I have completed my project, I am pleased with the result.

The finished birdbath

This is a parable of most of us. On our own we are not particularly good looking, talented or memorable. Yet if we allow the Creator to take control of our lives, to twist us into knots when necessary, to make us pass through tight spaces on occasion, all according to His pattern and design, we can become part of something beautiful for the Kingdom. We don’t get to choose with which other pieces of string we are intertwined. We are required only to let go and let God. Imagine trying to knot an article in macramé where each string had a mind of its own and wanted to tie itself into its favourite knot! When we think we know better than God, we just make a big, tangled mess.

The Bible doesn’t talk about macramé and string, but it does talk about living stones.

“…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV)

The stones on their own are nothing special. It is the craft of the Builder that makes something wonderful from a pile of stones. But only if they let Him.

My Prayer

Father God, I submit my life to You again. I give You permission to make of me what You want, to rank me with whom You will, and use me for Your purposes. Amen.

Apology notes

On Saturday I attended a family fun day organised by the Girl Guide Association in this region. The plan was to move around in a small group and take part in activities representing other countries at various well spaced locations at Delta Park. It was great fun and included hitting a piñata, fishing with magnets in the river, making Canadian pancakes on upended tins and solving puzzles.

Delta Park
fun and games at the Mexico base

During the day I came across people I was involved with a long time ago, when I ran a Guide company.

At the end of the day, I received two apologies. One from a young woman who was manning the India base. She told us all about henna painting for Indian weddings. She was dressed up in Indian clothes and I wasn’t 100% sure she was the girl I had known but I asked her how she was doing. She called me Irmgard but I didn’t say anything. When she saw me later, she apologised profusely for getting my name wrong. I also got an SMS from the lady who used to be my commissioner. I had waved to her. She apologised because she hadn’t recognised me.

I need to write an apology letter of my own.

Dear Lord Jesus,

I invited You into my day on Saturday morning then forgot about You. When I woke with a headache, I didn’t consult You or ask for Your help but took two aspirin then slept for another fifteen minutes. I could have used Your help later in the day, too, when I got to the Guide campsite and there was no sign of my granddaughter or my son-in-law. You gave Your help anyway. When, not ten minutes later, I was hailed by my son-in-law, I did not think to thank You.

I know You were with me. You were there in the beautiful autumn trees, in the Ibises rummaging in the newly mown grass, in the gurgling river. How easy it would have been to pray a silent “Thank You.” But I didn’t. I ignored You all day. When I puffed up hills that the Brownies took at a laughing run, I didn’t ask for Your help, although I am sure You would have given it.

I had fun, even though I was physically exhausted and my foot was sore after I twisted it going down a step. However, I am sure my day would have been greatly improved if I had consciously involved You. If I had used the opportunity of walking in nature to also pray, talk the walk, so to speak. Instead, I treated You like a fifth wheel and I’m sorry.

We learned in church today about how You reinstated Peter, meeting him in his weakness where he was. (John 21:15-19). I know You do the same to me. You know I am just dust and yet You love me. Even if I ignore You, You will never forsake me because you have promised. Thank You. Please continue to walk with me into the coming week and help me to be more mindful of You. Amen.

Reflections and Memories

Today we took my car in for a service. The official agent for Chevrolet is Williams Hunt, which is now located in Fourways. It took us just over an hour to get there this morning, with peak-time traffic leg-shackled by an outage of power to robots. We ended up spending time in Cedar Square which is outside of our usual neighborhood, sustaining ourselves with breakfast after our long and tiring journey.

We sat outside a restaurant called Smoke Daddy and I was struck by the reflections in the window.

The only thing “real” in this picture is the portion of a motorbike in the bottom right corner. The rest of the picture is made up of reflections and, in some cases, reflections of reflections.

It struck me that our memories are something like this. Reflections can be distorted by the position of the light, the integrity of the glass doing the reflecting and our point of view. Likewise our memories can be distorted by our emotions, our subjective points of view and other circumstances which can magnify or reduce their importance.

On occasion, my children have recalled incidents from their childhood which I remember totally differently. I am convinced my view is the accurate one, and they are just as sure of the integrity of theirs. The truth might be neither.

God knows that our memories are just as fallible as any other part of our humanity. In various places in the Bible He exhorts us to “remember the Lord our God.” In some cases He gave His people memory aids. In Joshua 4, when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River, which parted for them, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.” (verse 3 ESV)

This was to be a memorial down the generations so the people would remember what God had done for them.

In the New Testament, Jesus arranged the same kind of memory aid when He instituted Holy Communion. “...the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” (1 Corinthians 11:23b – 24 ESV) He did the same with the cup.

Many of the Psalms have a certain structure. They start in depression or despair. Then the psalmist calls to mind what God has done for him in the past. He remembers God’s goodness and power. The Psalm ends with a strong statement of trust in the Lord.

Psalm 77 starts, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.” Then verses 11 and 12 read, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

If it is good enough for the psalmists, it is good enough for me. One of my memory aids is my journal. Sometimes it is encouraging just to look back and realize how God has been at work in my life. It might be an idea to take 12 smooth stones and write on each some event in my life where God was definitely involved. My stones would include how I met my husband, how God provided our cottage and how my back was healed.

My Prayer

Father God, I have a tendency to forget Your goodness to me. I know my memory is fallible. I get distracted by everyday life and even the rumours all around me. Please help me develop a habit of actively and purposely remembering Your mighty works in my life and Your many special gifts to me. Amen.

Prayer for Power

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks[a] to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

Wow! What a prayer! It makes my prayers for others, for their physical health, financial success or logistics, seem quite feeble by comparison. However, I believe my Father, Jehovah Jira, will answer my prayers for earthly provision just as much as He will answer a more profound spiritual prayer like Paul’s.

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.

A Time to Wait

We spend a lot of our lives waiting:- waiting in queues, waiting for children to come out of school, waiting for our tax refund.

On Friday I made hot cross buns. As with all yeast cookery, it is a long process and involves a lot of waiting. After mixing and kneading all the ingredients, there is a time of waiting for the dough to rise. When it has doubled in size, it gets punched down to size and kneaded again. I have an electric bread-maker which performs those tasks for me. I just have to form the buns then wait for them to double in size again. It would be no good putting them into the oven before they have risen. They would turn out like stones. The waiting is necessary for the final product. The buns have to be at the right stage of readiness before the next stage can take place.

Image by alisonyo from Pixabay (My hot cross buns were a bit of a flop. They hardly rose at all)

God also waits for the right stage of readiness before He acts. He could have raised Jesus on the Saturday, but the time was not yet right. God’s timing is always perfect. Sometimes we don’t understand why the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. We don’t understand all the processes that need to take place before the time is right.

Easter Saturday is a time of waiting. “Waiting for God to do what only God can do. And of all the kinds of waiting we can do, there is no waiting more difficult than waiting on God!” (from Rosebank Union Church Holy Saturday Prayer Retreat)

There are different ways to cope with the waiting of Easter Saturday. We can look back on Friday and stay locked in fear, disappointment and depression. We can look forward to Sunday, trusting in God’s promises and His faithfulness. We can look around at the gifts and opportunities that are unique to Saturday. If there is a friend to bring comfort, we can rejoice in the gift of friendship, if there is a beautiful sunset, beautiful art, beautiful music or delicious food, we can appreciate and enjoy them. Perhaps we notice somebody else to whom we can be a blessing.

Most likely, our waiting will be a mixture of these different view points, but as we wait more and more on God, we can use our waiting period more and more for His glory and our growth.

Psalm 27 v 13-14 reads, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; and wait for the Lord.” (ESV)

My Prayer

Lord, I am not good at waiting. Please teach me the self-control to wait patiently and to trust You, no matter what. May I not waste the waiting times You have set for my growth. Amen.

Easter Sky

My oldest granddaughter recently acquired a cell phone – ahead of her thirteenth birthday. She uses it predominantly for taking photos and reading. She loves photographing skies and flowers. A few days ago she captured this image of the sky.

The Easter sky

A huge cloud cross dominates the picture. We can’t avoid seeing it.

On Good Friday we can’t avoid the cross, a symbol of God’s love.

Christianity is full of symbolism. We need only remember the ritual of animal sacrifice, an enacted symbol of the one perfect sacrifice to take away our sin and rebellion. Then there was the Passover lamb, sacrificed before the flight from Egypt, when lamb’s blood was painted on the lintel of each Israelite door to protect the people within from the Angel of Death’s retribution. Again, the lamb’s blood was a symbol of God’s redemption and pointed to “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

Jesus himself instituted the symbols of bread and wine to represent His body and blood.

“For I received from the Lord Himself that [instruction] which I passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is (represents) My body, which is [offered as a sacrifice] for you. Do this in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are [symbolically] proclaiming [the fact of] the Lord’s death until He comes [again].” (1Corinthians 11 vs 23-26 Amplified)

Some of these symbols, like blood and the cross, an instrument of torture, seem bizarre to us. Yet God uses these symbols to bring home to us the lengths to which He was prepared to go to restore relationship with us, and the breadth of His love for us.

I believe that Christ, through His Holy Spirit, also sends us little signs or symbols in our everyday lives to remind us how much He loves us. They will be personal to us. I believe the Easter sky was one such sign. We need only to keep our eyes open and lift our thoughts to Him as often as we can.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for the cross. I don’t like to think about Your suffering on that Friday but it happened. And You did it for me. I cannot even get my mind around such great love. Thank You, thank You, thank You. Amen.

The Cinderella Fruit

Image by anwar suseno from Pixabay

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22 ESV)

Love is popular. There are songs and poems written about it down the ages. Peace is almost as popular. Everybody wants Love, Peace and Joy at their party. Patience, Kindness, Goodness and Faithfulness are welcome everywhere but don’t get as much limelight as Love, Joy and Peace.

It is easy to spot those Christians where the popular fruit is growing. A loving person or a joyful person are hard to miss. Likewise people growing in peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness are easy to spot.

Self-control is the Cinderella fruit, easily overlooked and undervalued. Yet self-control is a fruit of maturity. We have all come across children who think the world revolves around them and want their desires fulfilled NOW. Hopefully as they grow and mature, with the training of loving parents, they learn a measure of self-control. But true self control is the result of the Holy Spirit working in a surrendered life.

Self-control refuses to be grumpy even when he is tired or hungry. Self-control doesn’t react aggressively when a driver cuts in in front of him or hoots at him. Self-control can discipline himself to spend time with the Lord on a regular basis. Self-control can stick to a diet, can get up on a cold winter’s morning without complaining, can suffer pain and illness without becoming a pain to others and can control his thoughts. Yet the person with self-control is not immediately obvious to all, although the opposite Is perfectly patent.

I am not sure whether the Holy Spirit grows these seven fruits evenly in our lives or whether He causes circumstances which grow a particular one at a specific time. I can certainly think of times in my life where patience training has been noticeable. What have other people experienced? Do you think the Fruit of the Spirit grow evenly in our lives or do certain of the fruit have growth spurts?

My Prayer

Holy Spirit of Jesus, please continue to grow Your fruit in my life that I may conform more closely to the image of Christ. Amen.