When my granddaughters get to the beach, they like to collect shells. They sort them and arrange them, show them off and admire them. Some of this enthusiasm must have rubbed off on me because when my husband and I went for a walk on the beach recently, the little girl in me surfaced and I decided to collect shells. It is amazing the colour and variety one can find!
They also come in all sizes. At the shell shop in Shelly Beach there is a shell almost one meter across! It is not for sale. I found shells small as my baby finger nail!
The creativity of God never ceases to astound me. Sure, I can categorise my shells into rough families but even within those groups there is so much variety.
How much more individuality can be found among people! Again, we can roughly group people according to country and heritage but within those groups there is endless variety. If we learn to treat people as individuals, made in the image of God, our interactions with them would be so much deeper.
Our Father created us all and He has a unique plan for us all. I love Psalm 139.
“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. … Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”(vs 13,14,16 NIV)
Father, please open my eyes to Your wonderful creativity all around me. Help me to treat each person I meet as an unrepeatable masterpiece made in Your image. Amen.
The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea- the Lord on high is mighty. (Psalm 93:3-4 NIV)
We are at the seaside. Yesterday I went into the sea with my little inflatable surfer with the intention of surfing the waves. I had done this a couple of days ago with reasonable success but this time I didn’t seem to be able to position myself in the middle and I kept falling off. Moreover there was a very strong side current so I stuck to small waves and shallow water.
Way beyond me, surfers were riding the big waves with style. I got to thinking about waves. Waves transfer energy. In this context the energy is one of motion and surfers are able to move far on the energy of just one wave.
From a scientific point of view, most energy forms have some wave component – light energy, electrical energy, sound energy.
I became aware again of how mighty God is. He spoke and light was created. Imagine the energy, the power involved! God’s power stopped the waters of the Red Sea and held them at bay until He chose to remove His hand. Jesus demonstrated His power over the waves of the sea. He spoke and the sea was calmed, the waves as tame as a puppy dog.
I am convinced that prayer has power – energy if you like. Maybe prayer consists of some form of electromagnetic wave yet to be discovered. Be that as it may, I know that all power, all energy originates from God Himself, the Creator of heaven and earth.
Father God, I stand in awe of Your power as I watch the waves of the sea. May I never forget that You, the mighty God, are for me, not against me. Amen.
Yesterday we met a couple on the beach. The wife was arranging her husband and little dog on a log to take a photo. I asked her if she would like me to take a photo of both of them. Later she came over to take a photo of my husband and I.
We got chatting. They live in the area and this was only their second visit to the beach in five months. She told us about a lovely nursery within walking distance that we hadn’t known about.
Today was a windy, overcast day. Instead of going to the beach which we usually do, we decided to take a walk and look for the nursery and a little shop not far from it.
What a lovely day we had. We found the nursery.
Besides the nursery itself, there was a restaurant, a second-hand book shop, a scratch patch, a pet shop, an art gallery and a lake with benches at strategic viewing points.
After nearly three weeks, mostly confined to the caravan park, I was sorely in need of a sit-down tea. We ordered a cappuccino each and apple crumble to share.
After tea, we wandered around. I bought a book at the book shop and a cup of shells. We drooled over huge pots and trays of flowers at very good prices compared to our usual shopping haunts. We admired the colourful plants in all their variety. One looked like it had painted finger nails and we named it the finger-nail-plant.
I felt like I had stumbled into a treasure trove. Afterwards we explored further and found the little shop then decided to see whether we could return along the beach. Armed with directions from a lady who worked at the little shop, we made our way to the Illovo station and across the railway bridge. The station itself was almost in ruins which was very sad to see.
Returning along the beach might not have been such a good idea because we had forgotten about the wind, which was much stronger on the beach than in residential area.
Nevertheless, a lovely day and a satisfying long walk.
I think this is a parable of life. We can stay in the same old routine, stuck in a rut and not even realise the wonderful sights and places that may lie around us. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones (yes, it was a challenge walking into the wind with sand smashing against our legs) and explore beyond our everyday life. Who knows what treasure we might stumble upon.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)
I believe that the abundant life includes being able to appreciate the wonderful nature God has created, as well as the works of man inspired by His Spirit of creativity.
Father, give me the courage to venture beyond the familiar and taste the abundant life You have given me. Amen.
Today we took our chairs, the makings of coffee, biscuits and ourselves across the railway bridge and on to the swimming beach. We weren’t the only ones there. There were a number of families and we watched the children jump in the waves or dig deep pools.
I was struck again by the vastness of the ocean. If I turned my head in both directions, there was surf as far as I could see.
I was reminded of a song we used to sing when I was a teenager.
Wide, wide as the ocean,
High as the heavens above,
Deep, deep as the deepest sea
Is my Saviour’s love.
I, though so unworthy,
Still am a child of His care,
For His Word teaches me
That His love reaches me,
It was so awesome to be reminded again how vast God’s love and power are. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:
“And I pray that you…may…grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”(Selections from verses 17-19 NIV)
Father God, may I know Your love and power that are endless. Please fill me to the measure of all Your fullness. Amen.
Recently my husband and I made an uncharacteristic decision.
Since the beginning of the year, we have been planning to escape the winter cold of Gauteng and spend two months in our motorhome at the South Coast of KZN. We planned, researched, made bookings, paid deposits. We were due to leave on 4 July.
Then the uncertainty came. South Africa, and particularly Gauteng, the province where we live, is in the throes of the third Covid wave.
Then news articles started filtering in. There is a new Covid variant taking over, especially in Gauteng. On Saturday 26 June, our daughter sent us a news article about the president addressing the nation the following day.
We didn’t know what to do. We prayed for guidance. We didn’t have all the facts. We had no idea what the president would say although we suspected he might restrict travel out of Gauteng.
All the guidance we received was to seek the counsel of the saints.
Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Psalm 11:14) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Prov 12:15)
I phoned my best friend and prayer partner. She suggested I shouldn’t think of it as panicking, but as rather having an extra week of holiday. My husband’s friend pointed out that if we left and the provincial borders were closed, we could always come back whereas if we didn’t try, we could be stuck in Gauteng. Our son-in-law helped us to look at worst case scenarios either way.
We worked frantically to squash a week’s worth of preparation into a couple of hours, packing, defrosting the freezer, washing, securing bikes, shopping.
We arrived in Harrismith in the Free State just after sunset. We couldn’t listen to the president’s address because we were having internet problems but we could see the details afterwards. Travel into and out of Gauteng is prohibited but there is no restriction on crossing other provincial borders.
We made the right decision but it could have gone either way. If the restrictions were merely a change in curfew and alcohol sales again, we would have looked and felt foolish. If all provincial borders had been closed, we would have been stuck in the Free State. If caravan parks and places of accommodation had been shut down, we would have had to turn around and come home.
We are now in Karridene, in a lovely caravan park within walking distance of the sea. We are going on to Scottburgh in just less than three weeks.
It is very difficult to make decisions when we don’t know the future. Fortunately we know the God that holds the future. He knows everything and while we can still make bad decisions even if we follow Him and trust Him, He will always be with us through all the consequences and confusion.
Lord, please keep me close to You and help me to recognise Your guidance when You give it. May I always commit all my ways to You. Amen.
“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81 :10b NIV)
This is the verse that spoke to me today. Then I saw a black collared barbet eating from a half orange on the birdfeeder. He was taking big bites, seeming to enjoy himself. I looked down and saw a thrush. I haven’t seen any around for a couple of months. He was pecking in recently watered soil looking for insects.
It occurred to me that God was feeding them both. He was filling their mouths with what they each individually needed. I thought of what I need today – stamina, wisdom, peace. God does not provide the same spiritual nourishment to all His children like a chicken farmer feeding chickens. He knows our individual needs and provides accordingly. Our job is to merely open our mouths wide and allow Him to fill us. Quite often our needs overlap. I am sure many others besides me need peace. His promise is to all of us.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
Likewise, oranges sustain other creatures beside barbets. Bees buzz constantly around the bird feeder, taking tiny sips of the juice. When we were at the game reserve recently, we saw piles of oranges which had been put out for the wild animals. The monkeys helped themselves from the trees.
My Father, You know exactly what I need today. Please breathe Your Spirit on me and fill my mouth as You have promised with Your gifts, physical, spiritual, emotional and relational. I open my mouth wide. Amen.
My hairdresser moved about two months ago. Her business took a serious knock due to the lockdown and she could no longer afford the rent in a small shopping centre where she ran her salon. She decided to operate from her home instead.
I have always travelled about half an hour to have my hair cut. In the past I have seldom been happy with hairdressers and once I found one I liked, I stuck with her, even though she moved out towards the West Rand about five years ago. Her prices and pensioner’s discount are also the best I’ve found.
The first time I went to her home, I got lost. I had looked at the directions on Google Maps before I left and had a general idea of the first couple of kilometers. Then it was time to switch on the GPS.
I have two cell phones. The one that is connected to the cell phone network has limited connectivity (WIFI, Bluetooth and GPS) after it was dropped on its face and repaired. My backup, which is old, has limited battery life. I stopped at the side of the road to connect my main phone. Predictably, it gave me the first instruction then lost the GPS signal. I drove straight, hoping it would regain connection but it didn’t. There was nothing for it but to call on the backup. To do that, I had to pull over again, create a hotspot on my main phone and connect the backup. I connected the backup to my phone charger because I saw there was only 20% charge left although it had been fully charged just three hours earlier. I sent a message to my hairdresser saying I was running late but on my way.
By now I was in territory totally unfamiliar to me. After about five minutes, my backup phone gave me the low battery warning and then went dead. Obviously it was losing more power than it was gaining. I couldn’t switch it on again.
I was lost.
I looked at my WhatsApp messages to see that my hairdresser hadn’t read my message. I was about to phone her when she phoned me wondering where I was. In the end she came to fetch me and I followed her home and charged my flat phone while I had my hair cut so at least I could find my way home.
If we get lost using a GPS device or app, there are three possible reasons.
We think we know better and ignore the instructions.
Our reception of the GPS satellite is faulty or intermittent.
We run out of battery on our device.
The spiritual life is like driving using a GPS device. The signal is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13 NIV)
Romans 8:14 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”(NIV)
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” (Galatians 5:18 NIV)
All Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they accept Jesus into their lives as Lord and Saviour. However, we can still get lost on our spiritual journey. This can be for similar reasons to getting lost with a GPS.
We think we know better and ignore instructions.
We do not hear the Spirit’s promptings because our minds are filled with too many other things. Our reception of the signal is faulty or intermittent.
We have run out of power. We have not been in the habit of plugging into Jesus for daily prayer and scripture reading. We have not spent enough time with our Lord to recharge our batteries.
There is one other reason for getting lost, both in the physical drive and the spiritual walk. We misunderstand the instructions. The voice on my phone says turn right and I turn immediately into a building site when I was meant to turn at the next road.
Spiritually, it is when God calls us to something and we try to do it in our own strength immediately and run ahead of God.
I’m happy to say I have been to have my hair cut subsequently and I did not get lost. I took precautions. I made sure my backup phone was charged 100% and I plugged it into my car charger as I left. Moreover, I had gone to Google Maps on my computer and printed instructions to my destination.
I am sure there are precautions we can take in our Spiritual walk too. By constant communion with our Lord, we can make sure our spiritual batteries are charged.
“Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:10)
We’ve been having a cold snap at the moment. (After all, it is winter.) Days are quite pleasant, around 15 degrees C but nights tend to be much colder, at about 4 degrees. We’ve had our gas fire on some evenings and we’ve put our fluffy blanket on the bed.
On Fridays I often take my grandson to Cubs. He was ready in his uniform when I came to collect him at 4.50pm last Friday. In the car he told me with pride how he had been made a sixer (a leader of a small group) the previous week.
I dropped him outside the Scout hall grounds and watched as he ran to sign in, sanitise and have his temperature checked. It was only then that I realised that he hadn’t brought his jacket. The evening was going to cool down and, although I knew they would probably be playing some active run-around games, I thought he would probably get cold. I determined to quickly drive home and fetch his jacket but on the way home I had second thoughts.
How embarrassing might it be for this new little leader to have his Granny interrupt his Cub meeting by bringing him a jacket? If he got cold, he might remember next time to bring something warm to wear. He might learn to take more responsibility for himself.
So I did nothing. It wasn’t easy. I worried. I couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could find out how he had coped.
“How was Cubs?” I asked.
“Great! I got to do the flag.” His face lit up with excitement.
Nobody talked about cold.
Sometimes God does nothing. We wonder why He is not helping us in a difficult situation. Is it possible He trusts us to cope using the skills He has gifted to us? Is there some area of growth He knows we need? Sometimes a little bit of discomfort can teach us things we might not easily learn otherwise.
When Lazarus got sick and his sisters sent an urgent message to Jesus, He did nothing for two days. At first glance this seems very unfeeling. Lazarus died and both Mary and Martha pointed out to Jesus that if He had been there, their brother would not have died. Jesus had a greater plan. Mary and Martha got such a faith boost when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11: 1-44)
Jesus had just fed five thousand men, plus women and children. “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side… Later that night, he was there alone and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (Matthew 14 :22, 23b,24.)
Jesus knew about the storm. He knew the disciples would battle but He sent them out into the storm anyway. Again, Jesus had a greater plan. If the disciples had not had to face the storm, they would not have witnessed Jesus walk on the water and Peter would never had stepped out of the boat to walk on the water towards his Lord. How much their faith grew in that one night!
When God does nothing we usually don’t understand. Our best action is to trust. Trust in the love of God. Trust in His wisdom and overall plan for our lives. It is not easy. But God know exactly what He is doing.
Father God, I don’t understand when You don’t answer my prayers the way I think I need. Please teach me to trust You in every circumstance of my life – even when things are uncomfortable for me. Help me to grow in the areas where You are stretching me and to learn the things You are trying to teach me. Amen.