Category Archives: hard times

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.

Image by Pixabay

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.

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.”

Image by Pixabay

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.

Foolishness

JusJoJan 16 January 2022

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22 – 25.NIV)

If you think about it, Christianity is ridiculous! In other religions Man tries to reach God, or a state of blessedness, by being good – adhering to certain practices and abstaining from others. It is Man’s search for God.

Christianity is the other way around. God took the initiative. He paid the price. He loved us first and then not only became Man so that He could communicate with us and show us what He is like, but also came to suffer and die in our place so that we could be clothed in the righteousness of God. So that we could have a relationship with God.

It is about as ridiculous as my becoming a bird because I love them so much that I want to save them from the cruel bird trap, and being willing to die myself, as a bird, so that the trap may be sprung and therefore harmless to the birds.

Christianity is not a set of rules. It is a relationship. It is the knowledge that God loves me, not for anything that I have done, but because I am me. He created me and I am His.

When our first grandson died after only eleven hours, we were devastated – none so much as his parents. They would have moved heaven and earth to save him. It was not because he was clever or good or obedient or successful that they loved him so desperately, but because he was their son. That is just a little measure of how much God loves me. He did move heaven and earth so I can be alive with Him forever.

My Prayer

Thank You Father God, that You love me so much that You sent Jesus, Your only begotten Son, so that if I believe in Him, I will not perish, but have eternal life with You. Amen.

A Poem of Praise

JuJoJan 14 January 2022.

The word for today is “freckled.” I thought of writing about my family, most of whom are freckled, but instead, a poem came to mind from my school days.

Pied Beauty 

BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

Gerard Manly Hopkins (1844 -1889) suffered from a depressive disorder which today might be labelled bipolar disorder or chronic unipolar depression. Yet he was able to write such a positive poem of praise to God. He could see the beauty in creation from a unique angle.

I thought about this today as we walked home from the caravan place where our motor-home was being sealed. God is a God of variety. He does not make identical or standard anything. We are all unique and He deals with each of us in a unique way. Sometimes the very inclusion of opposites adds depth to His creation.

St Paul understood the essence of this. He wrote,”

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NIV)

… and “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b NIV)

When I got home, I noticed my petunias. Magnificent in their stripiness!

My Prayer

Father, I notice contradictions in myself. Please give me the grace to accept myself, contradictions and all, the way You accept me. Amen.

The Parable of the Chocolate

JusJoJan 10 January 2022

Then the Lord came to the chocolate and said, “I want to use you.” The chocolate was happy until the Lord continued, “First I’ll break you…”

“No no,” cried the chocolate. “I’ve got it all together here. I like my life as it is. I am made of neat rows and columns. Surely that’s the way I’m meant to be.”

And the Lord said, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

The chocolate quaked but finally whispered, “Let it be done to me as You have said.”

So the strong hand of the Lord broke the chocolate into little pieces and put them in a bowl. The chocolate was uncomfortable in her new environment. Nothing was as it used to be.

Then the Lord said to the chocolate, “I am going to melt you.”

But the chocolate cried, “Please don’t melt me. I will lose my strength. I won’t be able to do anything. I’ll be shapeless.”

But the Lord said gently, “Unless I melt you, I cannot use you. Trust Me”

The chocolate cried. She wanted to be used by the Lord, but she didn’t want to be melted. But finally she agreed.

Then the Lord turned up the heat. The chocolate felt herself melting. All her rigidly held ideas, all her prejudices, all her unforgiveness softened and melted away. She became rich and shiny and the aroma of chocolate filled the room.

Image by Pixabay

Then the Lord moulded and shaped the chocolate according to His will. The chocolate had become submissive in His hands.

Finally the Lord filled the empty hollows in the creation He had made. He wrapped each individual piece in shiny foil and sent the pieces into the world to bless everyone they met.

This post was inspired by the following hymn which is also my prayer:

Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on me, Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me. Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on me. (Source: Yes, Lord! Church of God in Christ hymnal#197)

Life’s a Journey

I’ve started going through Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life” again. In chapter four he asks, “What is your metaphor for life?” Some people see life as a circus, a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony or a dance. My husband, in answer to my question, said it was like our fiberoptic Christmas tree – always changing.

I see my life as a journey. It has a starting point and it has a destination. As I go along, I gain more experience and can cope with future travel challenges. There are challenges to travel, of course. Whether it be a long hike with obstacles to overcome, rivers to cross, or difficult rocky outcrops to negotiate, or international travel with borders to cross, languages to learn, visas to obtain, it is seldom a boring predictable experience.

There are travelling companions. They journey with us for different proportions of our travels. My husband has been travelling with me for nearly 43 years but he won’t always be with me. Other people travel only a short distance with me but if I can enrich their journey or help them with directions, it adds to the journey of both of us.

My destination is Heaven and the road has already been mapped out for me. Although many of my traveling companions and other pilgrims before us have the same destination, we don’t reach it at the same time. Each person’s journey is an individual one.

I need travelling clothes that are comfortable but can be adapted instantly if conditions or climates change. I also need a compass and the Bible is an excellent one.

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. … I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.”(Psalm 119:9-10 and 32 NIV)

I can write more about life as a journey, but Rick Warren maintains there are only three Biblical metaphors for life. Life is a test, life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment.

Certainly life is temporary, we all know that. One day my heart will stop beating and my earthly life will be over. Thinking about my life as a test or a trust is challenging because I’m not sure I am doing all that well. However, it might change the way I react to problems, trials and troubles. This will require some serious reflection.

Meanwhile, as the motor car manufacturer maintained, “Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.”

My Prayer

Eternal Father, I know in my mind that my life is not about me but because You willed it according to Your plan. Thank You for the gifts and talents with which You entrusted me. May You have a good return on Your investment. When I am tested, please help me to stand firm and trust in Your strength to overcome. Amen.

The Little Nut Tree

Today I planted a macadamia nut tree. I bought it from a man who advertises plants on our community group. There was no photo in the ad so I had no idea how big the tree was.

It is tiny.

The pot was donated by a friend who has recently moved into a new house. I’ve been wanting a tree in a large pot for some time so when the pot was offered to me I accepted with gratitude.

I did some research on the internet on macadamia trees and found out that i) yes you can plant them in pots although the yield of nuts might be restricted, and ii) that they require a lot of water, especially when they are young.

That reminded me of the verse I read this morning.

Blessed are those that trust in the Lord… They are like trees, planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” (Jer 17:7-8 NLT)

I can just picture trees along the riverbank with a permanent supply of water.

Parys 2017

I’d like to be like that. I’d like my roots to be so deep into trusting God that the heat of the stress of modern day life, the winds of change and disappointment, the drought of Covid or health issues, or loss, or want, or suffering, do not worry me but I can stand firm knowing God is my provider and He is Sovereign.

Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38 NIV) By this He meant the Spirit.

Of course, my little nut tree is not planted by a river. It will have to make do with my watering system. And I am not yet in a place where my trust in God is so deep that the circumstances of life do not worry me.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, Please continue to water me with Your Spirit that I might grow deeper in my love of, and my trust in You. Amen.

The Backpack

This post was inspired by Trudi.

In the Old Testament God gave His Chosen People the Law. This was the moral code His people should live by. They tried to keep it. And failed. Miserably.

By the time Jesus came, He said of the Pharisees, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:4 NIV)

The Pharisees were the religious leaders. They considered religion as things one does, acts one performs.

We all instinctively know the difference between right and wrong. The problem is, in our own strength we are unable to keep God’s Law. The burden of trying to be good is like a heavy backpack on the shoulders of a hiker tackling a steep hill. We cannot please God in our own strength.

Image by Pixabay

But God promises, ” I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekial 36:26-27 NIV)

Now the contents of our backpack, which were mostly food and drink, once they are inside our body, become the source of energy to enable us to continue our journey of life in a relationship with Jesus.

Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

My prayer

Lord, thank You that You have provided everything I need for this journey of life. Thank You for Your Spirit who empowers me to will and to act in order to fulfill Your good purpose. Amen

Black Friday

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt for today is “golly gee.”

We were having problems of our own and gave no thought to Black Friday. Our plans had been disrupted on several levels. We had been without electricity for more than a day. Our initial plan to go to the Gideon National Service Centre in Pretoria had been cancelled when we heard the Service Centre had been closed because two employees had tested positive for Covid. The plan had been to look at the journals with a view to getting my Christmas present from my husband, as well as fetching New Testaments.

Instead, we decided to go to Cresta, our closest mall, and have a look at the selection of journals at Cum Books. We first remembered Black Friday when we saw the fullness of the parking lot.

Golly gee, was Black Friday indeed black! The power outage, which had affected us, had also affected the mall and, according to the saleslady, after working non-stop for more than a day, the generator had decided to give up.

Light came into the front of the shop from the huge glass dome which was close by. However, we had to peruse the shelves by the light of our cell phones. The selection of journals was good and I am very happy with the one I finally chose (and there was a 20% discount because of Black Friday.) We couldn’t do much else though. My data had been used up because our internet had been down. I couldn’t get more from the Autobank because of the power outage. The cell phone shop was closed so I couldn’t get data there either!

The only illumination came from the glass dome on the top right hand side of the photo.

This was an aptly named Black Friday!

But wait!

There was another aptly named Black Friday about two thousand years ago. It was the day of the greatest miscarriage of justice this world had ever seen; the day the innocent Son of God was crucified by proclamation of a weak Roman court intimidated by political threats from leaders who wanted to remain in power at all costs.

The sun itself was darkened for three hours on that black Friday. There was an earthquake which tore the dividing curtain in the temple from top to bottom.

Amazingly, that day is not remembered as Black Friday, but rather as Good Friday because it commemorates what John 3:16 says,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (NKJV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Thank you so much that, for love of me and for the joy set before you, you endured the cross. When things look black all around me, please take my hand and lead me in the path that leads to the resurrection life where I can be with You. Forever. Amen.

Blooming Where we are Planted.

I enjoy certain aspects of gardening but I have brown thumbs. However, one joy I have discovered is taking slips and planting cuttings.

My mother’s gardener works for different people on different days of the week. He takes cuttings or leaves from one garden and transplants them into another. My mother often notices plants that are new to her garden.

I’ve only had success with rock roses and geraniums so far. It’s easy. I cut off a leaf or a short piece of the plant and stick it just like that in some soil. It has no roots or anything and the environment is different from what it is used to. Nevertheless, given water and sun, it develops roots, grows, and will eventually bloom bringing all the beauty of its parent plant to a new location.

What started off as a couple of leaves stuck in the ground is now a lovely pot plant

Sometimes we are transplanted, be it through our own plans or circumstances beyond our control. Either way, God is the gardener and He prepares the soil where we are to be planted. Our job is to merely settle. We explore, meet new people, and slowly grow roots. It takes a long time to grow enough to start blooming but that is ultimately our Father’s desire, that we bloom where we are planted. That we bless those around us with a bit of the culture of our homeland.

Sometimes it’s not even a change of locality that stresses us. Sometimes it’s just a new set of circumstances. Sure, we mourn for what we have lost but God still desires the same thing for us – that we bloom under the new circumstances that have come into our lives.

When the Israelites were captured by the Babylonians, this is what the Lord said to them through the prophet Jeremiah< “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there, do not decrease.” (Jer 29:5-7 NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, sometimes I feel so alone, as if I don’t fit in this place and I long for things as they were in the past. I feel like a shell tumbled and tossed by waves of circumstance beyond my control. Please help me to trust You implicitly, to know that You have a plan for me right here, right now. May I trust Your plan and settle in to Your provision, knowing that growth and root-making are the result of Your work in my life. May I bloom where You have planted me. Amen.