Category Archives: challenge

Beyond Understanding

JusJoJan 27 January 2022

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

These are some of my favourite verses. The trouble with being anxious is that it has nothing to do with logic. There are tools and tricks to try to talk yourself out of anxiety but they don’t get to the heart of the thing. My Mom used to reason thus:

What is the worst thing that can happen to me in this situation? Can they kill me? Can they put me in prison? If the worst possible thing happens, can I cope? Will I get through it?

While these methods can work to a certain extent, they don’t touch the emotions, or the heart. In the Bible, the heart describes a person’s center for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities. That is why we need a peace that affects our hearts as well as our minds.

I first noticed this distinction when I was battling with a personal problem, an unhealthy affection. I stood on this verse for a number of weeks or maybe it was months, until the strong attraction weakened.

The peace that God gives as a direct result of our prayer and petition cannot be explained. It cannot be understood. It is beyond understanding but it can be felt. It is like the touch of our Father’s hand on our shoulder.

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My Prayer

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, today I pray for all those who are reading this post. May they experience that peace which passes understanding as Your gift. Amen.

Becoming Ourselves

JusJoJan 26 January. One-Liner-Wednesday

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be…. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” C. S. Lewis.

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Put it in Writing

JusJoJan 25 January

I am somewhat socially inept. I don’t pick up the unspoken cues that other people notice, or perhaps I was never actively taught the art of conversation and what is and is not appropriate. (My Mother did teach me never to ask anybody how much money they earn though.)

My timing is out and whenever I ask a question at the dinner table, the person is stuck with a mouthful of food. I try to be caring and show an interest in other people’s concerns but somehow I don’t get it right. Appropriate words fail me just when I gather up enough courage to open my mouth. If I’m having a deep conversation about something that affects me emotionally, I normally cry which interferes with the message I’m trying to convey.

I have on occasion resorted to writing letters. Somehow the written word seems more weighty than the spoken. People can always deny having said something, but once you’ve written it, there is no turning back.

In my dealings with God I rely heavily on the written word. I’m so glad that nowadays we have the Bible in print form (and the electronic equivalent) and it’s not just word of mouth traditions handed down from generation to generation.

I keep a journal. In it I write verses that impact me and thoughts about what I am reading or studying at the moment. I find writing things down helps keep my mind from wandering. When I write my prayers I feel like I am serious about them. That doesn’t stop me from whispering SMS prayers during the day, however. It just feels more like a basic contract that I can build on. Another advantage of a journal is that I can keep a record of specific prayers for specific people so that when they are answered, I can note it and my faith grows because I might not otherwise even remember that I had prayed.

To cater for journal-writing-people like me, they now manufacture beautiful journals with appropriate scripture verses or beautiful scenes. That just makes it seem more special but there is actually nothing wrong with a plain school book. In fact, my earlier journals are just that, perhaps with the page of an old calendar or something pretty to cover them.

This is my journal for 2022

Not everybody is helped by journaling their journey with God but it works for me.

My Prayer

Thank You, Father God for the Bible. You have committed Your promises to writing and I can stand on them. Please help me in my everyday communication with people. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, Amen.

Unbelievable but true

JusJoJan 24 January

If you had told me fifty years ago that one day I would be walking around with a computer in my pocket, I would have regarded it as unbelievable. Yet it is true.

image by Pixabay

Much of the Christian faith is unbelievable. Most unbelievable of all is the fact that the Eternal God of the universe, Whom my human mind can’t even comprehend, should love me. That He should want a relationship with me and welcome me into His family. However unbelievable it may seem to me, it is true. And it is true of each one of us.

1 John 3:1 reads, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! and that is what we are.” (NIV)

I’ve struggled in the past and sometimes still struggle with the personal aspect of this. I can accept that Jesus came to save the world but it’s hard to believe that He came for me. What has helped me is the little word, “whosoever” in the old King James version. I am whosoever. Some translations talk about anyone or everyone.

Jesus said, ” And the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, never reject anyone who follows me]. (John 6:37b Amplified Bible)

My Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that You love me. May this truth sink down from my mind to my heart and take root there, colouring all that I think, feel and do. Amen.

Add Value to Survival

JusJoJan 23 January 2022

When I was at school, probably preteens/early teens, it was fashionable to have an autograph book. One would pass the book around the class (I was in an all-girls school in my early high school career) and everybody would write a short funny saying or rhyme and their name. Girls wrote clever things like “YY U R, YY U B. I C U R YY 4 me.” (Too wise you are, too wise you be, I see you are too wise for me.) One girl made a page of bricks in her book with the question on top, “What is better than gold?” The plan was for everybody to write their answer and their name in a brick to build a friendship wall. One girl, I think her name was Colleen, wrote “Peace with God” as her answer. I was not a Christian at the time and I thought that a weak answer.

I think differently now. If I had an autograph book, I would ask the question on my Wall of Life, “What adds value to surviving that makes life worth living?” People would come up with many answers.

I’ve heard it said, “Friendship has no survival value but it adds value to survival.” So “Friends” could make up one brick of my wall.

The Bible says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.“(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV) This is true not only of friends, but husbands and wives, parents and children, family or any other person who enriches our lives by being who they are.

My classmate, Colleen, was also right. Peace with God makes the difference between living and surviving. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)

There are more bricks to be filled in. Please add your contribution in the comments. If you can add a relevant scripture verse, all the better. I think “Chocolate,” “Cappuccino” and “Sunsets” would look good on my wall.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for the people and things that add value to my life. May I never take them for granted but value them and give You thanks always. Amen.

Experiment in Prayer

JusJoJan 22 January

This post is also part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday

This morning I determined, once again to try to keep in conversation with God all day. When I got back inside from the gazebo and saw that my husband was still praying in his study, I decided to do the exercises I’m supposed to do once a week but hadn’t done for about five weeks.

Suddenly I thought about chocolate. I have a stash in the drawer next to my bed. As I approached it, I remembered I was keeping in conversation with the Lord and I hesitated. The verse came into my mind, “He gave us all things richly to enjoy.” So I broke off a piece and started my chocolate conversation. It went something like this.

“Thank you, Lord for chocolate. Like the advert says, It’s like heaven in my mouth. I can feel it melting. It’s so amazing that You made things in three phases, liquid, solid and gas. I can taste the change from solid to liquid right here in my mouth. Isn’t that amazing! My tongue is so sensitive, it can feel the edge of a nut on the broken side, and it can feel the grooves that divides the chocolate squares. I wonder if it can make out the printed name on top. … No, seems not. It is a very sensitive instrument though – when my fingers can’t feel the end in a roll of sellotape, my tongue often can. Now the chocolate has all melted and dissolved away and only the nuts and raisins are left. They are the icing on the cake:- pockets of sweet fruitiness and nibbles of brittle goodness. Thank you Lord, I enjoyed that.

Over breakfast we could see and appreciate the birds on the bird feeder and the beautiful blue sky. I tried to carry on a similar conversation about my oats with mushy apple, raisins and cinnamon topped with yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. So many flavours. I tried to distinguish each one and then praised God for the variety of tastes and smells He created.

After breakfast the thought came to me to try to fix my sewing machine one last time. We had planned to take it to the sewing shop for repairs after my husband’s dentist appointment. I did the things I had done yesterday when my granddaughter and I had realised that although the bobbin would wind, the needle would not go up and down. the wheel was frozen. I unclipped the retaining ring, removed the bobbin casing and turned the wheel. It rotated. I phoned the sewing shop to find out whether they had a technician on site. Then I could show him what I had done. the problem had to be in the housing (my book calls it the hook race.)

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No technician on site. They would send the machine away. I put back the pieces, checking after each step if the wheel turned. I got the retaining ring in place but not secured. It turned. I clipped the left side. It worked. I clipped the right side. It didn’t work. However when I secured the right side first, it worked. Left side… still worked. When I prayed yesterday, I thought the Lord would enable me to fix it first time. I must remember that answers to prayer are not always immediate. I thanked the Lord. I had been in discussion with Him during my dismantling and reassembling, mainly along the lines that if I could not fix the machine, it was due for a service anyway but if I was able to fix it, it was a sign that it didn’t need a service and would continue running for some time. I’m not sure if this is a correct Christian method of handling things but it seemed to work for me.

So my highlights of the day, my icing on the cake, so to speak, were my chocolate prayer and an answer to a prayer I prayed yesterday. Again I became less mindful and my conversation waned as the day progressed. Still, I’ll try again tomorrow.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord for being with me again today. May I become more mindful of You every day. Amen.

The Mission

JusJoJan 21 January 2021

I am reading “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. He was uneducated and served briefly as a footman and a soldier before becoming a Lay brother among the barefooted Carmelites at Paris in the year 1666. He saw his mission in life to constantly walk as if in Christ’s presence. He served his fellow monks and brothers from the monastery kitchen and saw God’s glory shining in the commonplace.

We each received a fridge magnet like this at a church camp a couple of years ago.

What struck me today was “that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by continually conversing with Him.”

That echoes what Paul said to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

I determined to try to do that today. I had a couple of errands to run at Cresta, our nearest shopping mall. On the way is the Shoprite centre which caters mainly for the poorer people living in Windsor. I decided to explore. We usually just pop into Shoprite for something specific and don’t wander around the corner. I came across a coffee shop that will open on Saturday and was meanwhile serving cappuccinos for R20. I told the proprietor I would return after I’d done my shopping.

I tried to talk to the Lord as I walked around Cresta. I asked for His opinion on whether I should buy a set of three notebooks with a Bible verse on the cover. Of course, I did get distracted and forget my conversation but I found myself wandering around like a tourist in another country wanting to experience the new sights and sounds. Occasionally I’d pray for somebody as I walked past them.

I bought myself a flavoured fizzy water which I opened in the car before driving off to my cappuccino. It fizzed and volcanoed out of the bottle and over my dress and on the door of the car. The kind security guard saw what had happened and came to help me mop up. I saw that as a touch from the Lord.

I was the only person in the coffee shop and I managed to chat to Enoch, who was running it. He had a backer who had helped him and funded his little enterprise and he was excited about opening on Saturday. He said he prayed his business would go well and so I asked whether I could pray for him and his coffee shop and I did. His Fairtrade coffee was delicious and I will be back.

What could have been a stressful chore became a relaxed and interesting adventure.

I’d like to say that I spent the rest of the day in continual conversation with the Lord, but I didn’t. As soon as I got home I got into routine and went on with the normal process of my day, except when my sewing machine didn’t work and I prayed about it. Nevertheless, it’s a start and I shall continue trying to converse with the Lord in everyday things.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord, for a fun day. Thank You for for being with me through the security guard. Thank You for the people I met. I’d love to be in conversation with You as I do everyday things tomorrow. Please remind me. May I serve others as others have served me in the ordinary things. Amen.

Trusting

JusJoJan 20 January, 2022

This year I’d love to trust the Lord more, looking to Him for protection, guidance, provision and wisdom. This morning I realized how far away I still am in trusting God.

Out of the blue, our outside alarm went off. My husband was in his study, the grandchildren, who live next door in the main house, had just left for school. Suddenly I was afraid. I pictured somebody sneaking into the property as the automatic gate was closing and now roaming the garden. I locked the door. I had been about to go out and spend time with the Lord in the gazebo in our garden. Now I hesitated.

Then I heard my husband’s phone. The security company had picked up the alarm activation. Normally they would only phone him if my daughter hadn’t answered her phone. She is the first contact. Perhaps she was driving. I heard my husband say, “False alarm. Everything’s OK.” How did he know? Had he checked?

Image from Pixabay

It’s not as if I had forgotten about the Lord. It’s almost as if I could hear Him say, “What! Don’t you trust me to protect you?” I have no idea why I reacted like I did. I am not normally that fearful. My heart raced and I had this queer feeling in my stomach. All I know is, despite what I profess to believe, I was not trusting the Lord. I was leaning on my own understanding, and especially my own imagination.

Of course, my husband was right. It was a false alarm. He had realized that because the clangor had only been sounding for about thirty seconds, somebody must have switched it off.

The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

My Prayer

Lord, I am sorry I am so fearful. I know it is a sign of not trusting You completely, of doubting Your love for me. Please forgive me. Amen.

A Pilgrim’s Prayer

JusJoJan 19 January 2022

Brother Lawrence, who prayed, “Lord of all pots and pans and things…Make me a saint by getting meals And washing up the plates,” could say, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

Image from Pixabay

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday

Seasons and Cycles

Up until a month ago, we had oranges for breakfast every morning. My husband, who must be the best husband in the world, would prepare them by cutting along the skin of each segment with a grapefruit knife. We paid about R30 for a big pocket of lovely, juicy oranges. Suddenly one Tuesday, there were no piles of orange pockets outside the greengrocer. I asked one of the staff if there were no oranges. He said they only had the half bags and fetched me one. When I looked at the till slip after I had paid for my vegetables, I saw the half bag of oranges cost R45! It was obvious the orange season had come to an end.

Life is a continual procession of repeating cycles. The cycles are made up of different seasons and we have to adapt our behaviour according to the season. The Bible talks about seed time and harvest. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. ” (Genesis 8:22) There will always be cycles and seasons and what we do during those times depends on the season.

Ecclesiastes 3 begins, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” It then continues to list different pairs of opposites for which there is a time. I was struck by verse 5b, “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” During the hard lockdown of Covid in 2020, we experienced a time to refrain from embracing. People built special shields and gloves just so they could hug their grandchildren. This season is not over yet. In most countries relatives can still not visit their loved ones in hospitals.

I’m looking forward to the next season of “a time to embrace.”

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My prayer

Father God, thank you that You created the world to include cycles and seasons. Please help me to discern which season I am in now and give me the wisdom to act appropriately. Amen.