Category Archives: hard times

When God Does Nothing

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.

My Prayer

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.

Sunshine

We moved into our cottage almost ten years ago. We added on some rooms and enlarged some. The renovations were planned by an architect. Although we have a large French window and a smaller window facing north, our lounge always seemed dark. We have a magnificent paperbark tree outside which gives beautiful shade in summer and we always thought that was the reason our house seemed dark. We had two sky lights put in and that helped a bit. However the lounge light stayed on during the day while I was home.

The house next door had five tall conifers growing against our north boundary wall. When the house was sold, I made a point of informing our new neighbours that I would love the trees cut down and we would pay half. Well, they had other things to attend to and repair and I didn’t want to nag them but I talked to the Lord about them. I even talked to the trees! (I remembered what Jesus had said about mountains throwing themselves into the sea.)

While we were away last week, the trees got taken out. The neighbours are doing some renovations and building on to make room for their parents to stay with them.

The difference is amazing. Sun streams into the lounge almost all day. We no longer need the light on in the daytime. I am just wallowing in the sunshine.

John said about Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5NIV)

Sometimes we miss out on the light of God in our lives through circumstances that are beyond our control. They are the things that cast shadows on the abundant life that Christ promised. They are like those five trees, seemingly invincible. They could be an early family tragedy, an unhappy childhood, a disability we were born with, or even poverty. We are totally powerless to remove them. They are not in our garden.

God is not powerless. We can do what we can to improve the light in our lives but then we need to call on Him to take away the trees. It won’t be easy and it won’t be immediate. But our God is faithful.

Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” May we not become so used to living in the shadow that we miss out on the Light of Life.

My Prayer

Lord, please open my eyes to the things with which I have been living, that are casting shadows over my life. May they be rooted up and cast aside. May the Light of Your Life and Your Love bathe me every day. Amen.

Beach Memories 1

Just before Easter we went to Port Elizabeth, mostly to visit family but also to enjoy being at the seaside. We overlapped with the younger family for three days and made a plan to go spend a sunny morning at the beach.

I love watching my grandchildren enjoy themselves.

Watching them relate to their father spoke to me about our relationship with God. The six-year-old didn’t venture into the waves on her own, but only when holding her father’s hand tightly. It must have been scary for her. Her Dad told her when to jump and helped her bounce over the big waves.

I picture myself as a little girl going into scary waves of life. My Father holds me tight. I must listen to His voice and obey promptly. Sure, He could calm the waves and make them flat but mostly, He doesn’t. He could also keep me out of the sea altogether but then I wouldn’t grow, or learn or have the adventure of the seaside!

This is illustrated in Matthew 14:22 and Mark 6:45

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. (NIV)

Jesus knew a storm was going to blow up later that evening and the disciples were going to struggle to get to shore. He could have prevented it. If He had, we would not have the account of Jesus walking on water and Peter would never have learned that to take his eyes off Jesus is to sink. Jesus was glorified and the disciples faith grew.

My Prayer

Father, when I am afraid of what lies ahead of me, please hold me tight and tell me when to jump and when to hold my breath. Amen.

Fingers

I fell in church last week and damaged the ring finger of my left hand. i didn’t think it was broken. As soon as I got home I applied a cold compress then later I immobilized it by bandaging it to my middle finger.

“Lucky it’s not your right hand,” everybody says. And they are right. I would be much worse off if it were my right hand. But it’s only my left, the less important one. Moreover, it’s not like it’s an important finger either. A ring finger is only good for putting rings on, after all. Don’t you hate it when you get labelled and categorized by that label?

That’s another thing. Wearing a ring on a damaged finger is a problem. It took me ten minutes or more to give a thought to the fact that my finger might swell and I should get my ring off. It was too late. My finger did swell and the purple moved down but I made sure every day that my ring could swivel.

This whole experience has given me a different view of my fingers. They work together, like a well-oiled machine. Inactivate one gear or cog and the machine no longer functions correctly. Just try eating while holding your fork with a thumb and index finger! It seems to me that the ring finger is more useful than the middle finger although our hand can’t function well without all our finger supporting and helping each other. Some people have to, but it requires a lot of time and therapy relearning, practicing and strengthening.

The Bible says, “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to those parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:24b-27 NIV)

No matter how insignificant and unimportant we may feel, we are all part of Christ’s body and if we hurt, the whole body suffers. God is constantly aware of every one of us and we can trust Him to take care of us.

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday. The word for today is “different.”

One Year On

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday

 Now that I have retired, my main roles are wife, mother and grandmother. We are particularly blessed in that we live in a cottage on the property of our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren.

When the lockdown came, I cried. I had seen footage from other countries and I had been keeping an eye on the news since the first Covid 19 was diagnosed in South Africa but I didn’t fully understand the scale of the pandemic.

I cried for my country. I never thought it would come to this. I cried for the poor people who would lose their jobs, I cried for the homeless who would be housed in emergency shelters.

Our laws were strict. Nobody was allowed to leave their homes except for medical emergencies and essential shopping. Malls were closed except for food suppliers.

It was March 2020, about two weeks before the Easter school holidays. The schools would close early and stay closed until further notice.

We were given four days to prepare for lockdown. My husband and I made the most of our four days.

We took our motorhome for a run to charge the battery. We went to the Botanical gardens and enjoyed walking around in  the gardens before we were locked down when we wouldn’t be able to walk outside our house.

We did our slightly bigger than normal grocery shop on Tuesday but I forgot to get stock cubes to make butternut soup, although I did buy a big bag of butternuts.

I went to Checkers. It was full to bursting. Queues for the tills stretched all the way down the aisles. The ten-items-only queue snaked across the front of the isles and down the last isle. As I looked around for maybe the shortest queue, a black lady smiled at me and offered that I could go ahead of her in the ten-items-only line. That was my first glimpse of glory. An ordinary housewife, having already waited for who knows how long, being kind to a stranger. She was about twentieth from the till so I thanked her but decided I could probably do without stock cubes. That small gesture brought a lightness to my step.

Perhaps that set the tone for my lockdown. I determined to see the glimpses of glory, to keep my eyes open to the beauty, the fun. These ranged from dew drops on a spiderweb to the family making a campfire from the chopped down branch.

My son-in-law worked from home so he got to see the children more during the day. We did fun things together. We cleaned out the store room and found three tents. For the rest of the lockdown the children camped int the art studio which unfortunately had to be closed.

We all learned many things. I had never heard of Zoom before. The children learned to do on-line schooling and learned to use Google Classroom.

As a family, we grew closer. Once the hard lockdown had been lifted, I missed certain aspects of it – the sense of community where we contacted neighbours to find out how they were doing, the sense of peace where rush hour was bird song not traffic noise, the ability to do online church together.

So I learned, I grew, I appreciated little things. The crisis is not over. We are expecting a third wave of the virus any day. We still cannot visit our family in New Zealand. Meanwhile may I make the most of every day and continue to look for glimpses of glory.

Spider web in the garden
sailing boats on puddles

Live With It

Jacob wrestled with God through the night (Genesis 32:24.) God touched his hip and it was wrenched. His name was changed. “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”(28)

For the rest of his life Jacob walked with a limp. He had to change his behaviour and live with it. Perhaps he carved himself a walking stick. Perhaps his family had to help him sit down and rise. Life would never be the same again. He had to live with a new normal.

My six-year-old granddaughter has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. After a week’s stay in hospital she now has to monitor her blood sugar carefully, watch what she eats and always be aware of her condition. Life will never be the same again for her or her family. Habits and routines have to change. It’s something they need to learn to live with. A new normal.

We all have something that has changed our lives and we now have to live with a new normal. It might be a medical condition, loss of a loved one, change in financial circumstances. There are many kinds of losses from bereavement to job loss to displacement. We need to grieve our loss appropriately and then learn to live with it.

Life is not a fairy tale with a happily ever after ending. However, it is a story. It is our story and the decisions and actions we choose today influence the end. We can choose to be happy, even while we live with the new normal.

Although we might have to live with it, we don’t have to do it on our own. Paul tells us: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

My Prayer

Lord please give me:

The gratitude to appreciate all the good things in my life, The attitude of trust to know that You will help me through my challenges, griefs and losses, and the latitude to look around and notice others who might need my help in learning to live with their new normal. Amen.

Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay

Watch your step

We had a few very wet weeks recently, with rain falling almost every day. An area of my garden consists of clay soil and it doesn’t drain very well. As a result, it has been muddy for weeks. I bought some more stepping stones to supplement the ones that have sunken into the ground and it is now possible for me to walk from our front path to the gazebo without getting muddy shoes if I watch where I place my feet.

Proverbs 4:23, 26, 27 read, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. …Give careful thought to the paths of your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

It is easy enough to stay on the path if we are mindful, if we are watching each step. If we are sincere about living God’s way, we know what to avoid, places we shouldn’t frequent in the same way we avoid certain areas because of security concerns.

However, we are not always mindful. Recently my 87-year old mother had a fall in the bathroom. It was unexpected and she had no sense of danger. She was just not mindful, possibly stumbling about half awake in the early hours of the morning.

In the same way, if we are unmindful of God walking with us, if we shuffle along following our own desires and inclinations, we might very well stumble and fall.

My mother only ripped the skin of her arm, but it could have been much worse and a spiritual fall can be tragic.

My Prayer.

Father God, please keep me mindful of You and Your commands that I might not stray from the path You have set before me. Amen.

Casting All Your Cares on Him

Image by pucho from Pixabay

Jesus says, “Come unto me, all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Peter reinforces this idea when he exhorts us, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Nevertheless, we find it very difficult to give our burdens to Jesus without taking them up again and worrying about them ourselves. It is as if we want to be God, sorting out our problems ourselves.

It reminds me of my youngest grandchild. She loves to help wherever she can. Sometimes she insists on carrying heavy six-packs of milk. “Let me help you with that,” we’ll say as it is obvious she is struggling.

“I can manage,” she’ll say, struggling up the garden path with two heavy six-packs in her arms. She wants to be independent. She wants to be thought of as a big girl.

Don’t we do exactly the same with Jesus?

“Give Me your burden,” He’ll say. “It’s weighing you down. It’s slowing you down. It’s robbing you of abundant life.”

“No thanks,” we say, “I can manage,” and we continue to worry, trying to show that we are like God, we can fix things.

My Prayer

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that You are willing and able to shoulder my burdens. Please give me the grace and the humility to surrender them to You. Amen.

Stormy Weather

We’ve all been hearing about Cyclone Eloise recently. Across Southern Africa at least 15 people have died, including two from South Africa.

It reminds me of the Covid pandemic. It sweeps across the world leaving death in its wake.

There were storms in the Bible too. Elijah was on a mountain and experienced wind strong enough to break rocks, an earthquake and a fire but the Lord was not in any of these natural disasters. God was in the aftermath – in a still, small voice. ( 1 Kings 19)

The disciples were in a boat in the eye of a storm that they, experienced fishermen, thought might kill them. They woke Jesus. I don’t imagine they woke him at the first sign of the storm or when they thought they could cope on their own. It was only when things were out of their control that they called to Him.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:25-26 NIV)

We are in the midst of a Covid storm. Maybe we think we can cope. Let’s not wait until we are out of our depth to call on Jesus. He’s not sleeping. He is only a whisper away. He has the power and the authority to still any storm.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, all around me is uncertainty, fear and confusion. Please still the raging anxiety in my heart and bring me peace. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.

Close Eyes and Point

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday as well as Just Jot it Saturday. The challenge is to just write as thoughts come without overly editing or changing. The prompt is “close eyes and point.” I am going to use the Bible, open it up, close my eyes and point. Then I need to write about whatever my finger points to.

Could be dangerous. I heard of a man who did that when seeking guidance from God. His first point was to “And Judas went and hanged himself.” He didn’t find this very helpful so tried again. “Go thou and do likewise,” he read in dismay. Deciding to give it one more try, he closed his eyes and pointed again. “What you do, do quickly,” was the sentence.

So I’m understandably a bit nervous. Here goes…

My word is “money” from the sentence, “He scattered the coins of the money changers.”

I am going to bend the rules a bit and write about money changes. This can be considered in many ways: money changes hands, money changes everything. money changes down the years: what cost 50 cents once upon a time is now R10.

When I was a little girl, I got one-and-three for pocket money. That was a shilling (12p) and a ticky (3p) or metrically, about fifteen cents. With that I got to go to matinee movies on a Saturday morning and buy myself a chocolate bar. Nowadays it’s not even enough to offer a beggar.

Although Jesus overturned the money changers’ tables, money is not seen as evil in itself. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10) We see this in our society – opportunists who have used the Covid crisis to make money off PPE equipment. No thought at all to how many nurses may die in hospitals earmarked for that equipment. Much more profitable to sell it and get rich.

That is what is behind all corruption – the love of money.

Jesus warns us, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Money is neither good nor evil. It is merely a tool. It can be used for either purpose, to help others and promote the kingdom of God or to sqander on selfish wants and insubstantial pleasures.

Let us never make a tool our master.

My prayer

Father God, please help me to keep my priorities in line with Your will and to serve no other master. Amen.