Monthly Archives: May 2022

Walking to School

On a Monday we usually walk the grandchildren to school. This last Monday they got up late so we had less time to get there before the bell. That meant, for the youngest, no picking purple flowers and no stops to admire the bottlebrushes. There was less time to chat about anything and everything. There are two ways to walk to school:- to enjoy the walk and to get there.

Image by นายพิพัฒน์ศักดิ์ ไชยวงษ์ from Pixabay

In the same way there are two ways to live life. There was a motor car advert which said, “Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” We can appreciate each different stage of life we are in. Looking back on early married life, money was tight and we were inexperienced and unsure of ourselves. We were so happy. Then came the kids and life was hectic and sleep was a luxury. Those days were such fun, seeing the unfolding world through the eyes of children. Then life happened and things didn’t always work out according to the fairy tale script. Now we are retired. There are health constraints and money constraints but we are happy. What a joy to walk grandchildren to school, to watch junior sport, to be taught a new game by my grandson, to go shopping and enjoy the pensioners’ tea.

The other way to go through life is at breakneck speed, having no time to stop and look around. There is a goal to be accomplished and no time to waste.

Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” ( Matthew 6:28 KJV) God wants us to rid our minds of ceaseless worry about worldly things. He wants us to stop and look – at the flowers, at the birds, even at the insects. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. (Proverbs 6:6 ESV)

If we go through life appreciating all God’s blessings at different stages of our lives, when a burning bush comes along, we will turn aside and gaze in wonder and give God a gap to show us something amazing.

My prayer

Slow me down, Lord, that I can look around me and see all the wonderful things You have created. When You want to interrupt my everyday life, give me the grace to turn aside and give You my attention. Amen.

Pruning Time

When our youngest child was two, the bank where my husband worked transferred him from Durban to Johannesburg. We bought a house we liked but made the mistake of agreeing to the sellers’ requirement that we only move in after six months. Fortunately the bank paid for us to be accommodated in a guest farm for that period. It was called Siesta.

I met an older lady there whose family was also in limbo. They were waiting for all the red tape to be processed before they could move to Australia. They had had a very traumatic burglary and had decided to get out of South Africa as soon as possible. She took me under her wing. One of the things she taught me was how to prune roses. She said you had to control where new shoots would grow so you get an open look and not a crisscross pattern in the bush. You do this by cutting just above a growth node in the direction you want the branch to go.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

We had a visiting preacher at church today and he preached on John 15. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…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.” (vs 1,2,4 NIV)

If we want to bear fruit, he said, we must do two things – remain, and expect to be pruned. Pruning is not a punishment or a sign of God’s displeasure but a necessary step to growth. Just as gardeners prune roses to produce bigger and healthier blooms and well shaped bushes, God prunes us to train our vigour into healthy growth and much fruit.

It is nearly pruning season for roses. If I were a rose, it is certainly not something I would look forward to, even if it were for my good.

My Prayer

Father God, pruning is not something I relish nor look forward to, yet I have to trust You to know exactly when I need pruning and how to do it. I submit my life again into Your hands. Please help me to remain in Christ. Amen.

A Story of a Cardinal

It started on Tuesday. A rapid tap-tap-tapping caused my son-in-law to go out into the garden to investigate. He took a video of a red-headed woodpecker pecking at one of our acacia trees. He said it was a cardinal woodpecker. Later I saw it too.

I was all set to go to ten pin bowling on Wednesday, when my daughter and granddaughter knocked at our front door and asked if I would like to save a woodpecker. Their cat had caught it and they were alerted by the bird’s loud shrieks. My daughter confiscated it from the cat. They brought it to our cottage because it would be safe from the cats. It looked like it had a broken wing and it was obviously in shock.

With my granddaughter’s help and a pair of gloves, we managed to place the bird gently in a cardboard box and give it a plastic cooldrink bottle lid of water.

My daughter left as she had an art class to run but left my granddaughter, who had stayed home from school after a bout of sickness, to look after the cardinal. I didn’t know what to do. I realised that, once again, the Lord had accepted my invitation to change my schedule as He saw fit. My husband went bowling without me.

I warned my granddaughter that the bird might die. (I’ve had experience with trying to save birds.) Then we prayed, remembering that Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31 NIV) He didn’t actually say that the Father would prevent sparrows falling to the ground, but that He cares. Other translations say that the Father knows about it. We had to pray for the best outcome.

I googled “Bird rehabilitation Johannesburg” and finally got hold of a number to phone in Midrand. When I spoke to a friendly lady called Margie, she advised me that they worked with a vet in Bryanston (about a third of the distance of that to Midrand) and I could take the woodpecker there. By then the bird was looking a little chirpier, even tried to escape when my granddaughter transferred him to a smaller box for travelling.

Cardinal woodpecker ready for a trip to the vet.

The vetinary practice was expecting us and there was no charge so we could leave the cardinal in the best possible place. Margie would fetch him later in the day and take him to the rehabilitation centre. Meanwhile he was whisked off to an incubator.

When the Lord changes our schedule unexpectedly, it can get quite exciting.

My Prayer

Thank You Father, that You know all about me. You care for me and are interested in everything I do. You are always with me. Please help me to be more aware of You in my everyday life. Amen.

From the Sidelines

Tomorrow is Wednesday and the day we join other pensioners for our ten pin bowling league. I am one of the worst bowlers in our group but nobody takes it too seriously and we all just have fun.

Some weeks ago I was trying to practice the presence of God by imagining Jesus with me. First I let Him bowl through me. All I can say is, He may have been a wonderful carpenter, but His bowling was no better than mine.

Then I thought perhaps He is my coach. That gave no better results.

Finally I realised that if God is my Father, He would be where any good father would be – watching his child from the sidelines.

I pictured a school cricket match. The fathers don’t go onto the pitch and hold their sons’ bats. Good fathers get enjoyment out of watching their children play whether they are good players or not. They cheer when their children hit sixes or take wickets, and shout, “Unlucky” if they are bowled.

In actual fact, my Father is more interested in my attitude and sportsmanship than in my performance.

So where is Jesus in the bowling alley? He’s standing unobtrusively behind the bowlers. He cheers when I get a strike and commiserates when I throw a gutter ball. He enjoys my enjoyment and smiles when I react in a God-honouring way.

Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9 ESV)

My Prayer

Thank you, Father, that you love me unconditionally, that there is nothing I can do that will make You love me more, or less. Thank You that You are a good Father and are interested in everything I do. Amen.

Spiritual Diet

When I could no longer button up the bottom three buttons of my Guide shirt, which I haven’t worn for a while, I decided to take a bit more control over my eating habits. The trouble is that junk food is easier to prepare and tastes nicer than good nutritious food. I would much rather grab a chocolate than a carrot any day.

My go-to plan is the Weighless one. I get to eat all food groups but in limited and balanced quantities. Highly processed and sugary foods are no-no’s.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

In church today we heard a sermon on how to read the Bible. One of the points our pastor made was that we should avoid snacking. By this he meant not limiting our spiritual diet to second hand, bite sized social media-type posts or clips. Perhaps one verse and somebody’s thoughts on it that take us less than three minutes to read or listen to. We need to engage with the Bible ourselves, struggle with the difficult passages and not only go for the sweet verses that are easy to read and suit our natural inclination.

Just like eating properly takes extra time and preparation, so our spiritual diet should be properly planned and time budgeted. It has often been said that if we are too busy to have a quiet time, i.e. spend quality time reading the Bible and communing with God, we are too busy. I confess that I often fall into this bad habit. I tell myself that if I am attending church or a corporate prayer meeting, that activity can take the place of a personal assignation with God.

The Bible talks about our spiritual diet – how we need to move on from the simple truths of the faith and go deeper into God’s word, allowing it to transform our character and habits. Paul said, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid foodSolid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:12,14 NLT)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I confess that I have been taking my Bible reading too lightly, preferring the sweet, palatable bits. Please help me to have the discipline to engage with Your Word and with You in a serious way. Amen.

Netball

Both my South African granddaughters play netball. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to watch some of their games. A team consists of seven girls. The object is to pass the ball from the centre to the shooter who, ideally, shoots it into the net.

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabaya (adapted by https://www.remove.bg/)

Meanwhile the opposing team runs interference to try to intercept the ball and pass it to their own shooter. When one team is a lot stronger than the other, goals are scored at a rapid rate and scores like 40 to 0 can occur. However when the teams are more evenly matched, the ball shuttles from one side to the other with goal scoring happening at a much slower rate.

This reminds me of our attempts to carry out the Great Commission. We know what the goal is and we work together as a team. As Paul says, “ I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV) There may be some very talented players in a team but no matter how good a shooter is, unless the rest of the team works together to pass her the ball, no goals will be scored.

Just like in a netball game, there is opposition running interference. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings..” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV) We need to be alert, keep our mind on the game and stand firm.

Fortunately we know that we are on the stronger team so although our progress may be slow by worldly standards, Christ has already won the battle and our victory is assured.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You have won the victory. Please help me to keep my eye on the ball, stand firm and be alert. May my life be lived to Your glory. Amen.

The Deal

Jesus said “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Matthew 16:24-26 MSG)

Image by Tung Nguyen from Pixabay

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.

God has a Sense of Humour

Saturday Night.

Our motorhome is almost packed and we are heading off tomorrow to Dube Private Game Reserve.

Life is not quite so simple however. I have asked one of our fellowship group members to lead the group in my absence.

The church has a lovely support system for group leaders with a monthly breakfast get-together and training. It was due to be tomorrow at 8am. I invited the stand-in leader to join me. My husband and I would go to church in the motorhome, I would attend the meeting, he would attend the early service and we’d leave straight after.

Meanwhile, today was the day when our Gideon weekly prayer meeting was to be in person rather than on WhatsApp. I don’t often attend the monthly in-person meetings. On Saturdays I usually take my granddaughter to Brownies and the timing might be tight. The WhatsApp method is easier. It’s not a problem to pray in bed from 7am to 7.30 and still be able to leave by 8.10. Assuming I would not be going, my husband planned a breakfast meeting with a friend and a fellow Gideon after the prayer meeting.

However, my granddaughter didn’t go to Brownies today because of a ballet rehearsal. I made my own plans. I needed to buy last-minute fresh vegetables before our trip. I decided I would go out to breakfast at a restaurant in the same complex as the fruit and vegetable shop, then buy the vegetables and be home in time to make soup for guests arriving at 12. That would leave the late afternoon to pack. My husband invited me to join the friend at breakfast. “Then I’ll have to attend the prayer meeting,” I replied. “And get up early,” I thought.

Then I remembered. I have given my time to the Lord. I don’t get to make the plans. He does. I didn’t even need to ask. I knew what the Lord would prefer between my praying and my spending an extra hour in bed.

Both the prayer meeting and the breakfast were blessings. I suggested that I could give our friend’s wife some documents at the training tomorrow, to which her husband replied that he wasn’t aware of a training tomorrow. It was almost six weeks since I had diarised the date so I checked with the elder who is my supervisor/mentor.

“Didn’t you get the message?” she asked. No, I didn’t. It appears that while I am on the email group, I am not yet on the WhatsApp group. The meeting has been cancelled.

Imagine how embarrassed I would have been if only our stand-in leader and I had arrived at the church for a meeting that wasn’t! That’s what would have happened if I had opted for the extra hour in bed.

I am sure the Lord had a good chuckle. He has a sense of humour.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord for giving me free choice. Thank You for Your amazing ability to co-ordinate events and work all things together for good for those who love You. May Ibe more and more aware of Your presence with me every day. Amen.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

Sitting in the bath one morning, I noticed the sunshine coming through the window falling on my hand. Even though it is an almost seventy-year-old hand, it is an amazing piece of engineering! What piece of man-made mechanical expertise in daily use lasts as long?

I though of my skin. Waterproof but breathable. How many rain coats have I been through trying to find that combination? On top of that, skin is elastic – although admittedly there is a bracelet of fold lines at the start of my wrist. These lines are badges of work done, trophies of accomplishments. Moreover, skin is self-repairing. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to buy such an amazing material!

I swiveled my hand and opened and closed the fingers. I considered my bones, so delicately crafted, so well designed and well integrated with each other. I got to thinking about nerves for communication, blood vessels to keep all the parts alive and functioning, muscles for movement and tendons for connection.

How awesome and creative is our God! I love Psalm 139.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.”
(ESV)

My Prayer

Creator God, I praise You for Your wonderful works, Your amazing designs and infinite variety. Truly, I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I stand in awe of You. Amen.