Category Archives: hard times

God Uses Limping People

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man…. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:24,29 NIV)

Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. God was with him. He was not perfect but he trusted God and God used him.

Sometimes our experiences leave us with an emotional and spiritual limp. Almost always we struggled with God as we tried to understand what had happened to us.

Our previous pastor, Leigh Robinson, lost his wife and sister when his son was only a toddler. However, he was able to use this testing experience to help others cope with grief. He even wrote a booklet, “Journey with Grief,” which I have given to many people who have lost loved ones, even non Christians. For South Africans it is available here.

I have heard of many Christians who have gone through traumatic and devastating circumstances that have left them permanently scarred and God was able to use them in amazing ways to help others. Joyce Meyer is one that comes to mind.

So if you walk with a limp, God is able to use you in a special way.

My Prayer

Father God, thank you for the unique experiences that have made me who I am. Help me turn my hurts, disappointments and regrets over to You. Please use me as You will. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.

The Neighbourly Thing

This post is part of JusJoJan. The word for the day is “neighbor.”

I immediately thought of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked what the greatest law was, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”(Mark 12:30-31 NIV)

When asked who his neighbour was, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man was attacked by robbers, beaten up and left for dead. Religious people walked by and pretended not to see. The man who finally helped him, the Samaritan, was not of his culture and belonged to a despised group of people. Nevertheless, he rendered first aid and organised transport to a place of recovery and rest. He paid for the man’s stay (after all, the robbers had taken all he had.)

Image by falco from Pixabay

That is the standard Jesus has set for us. Of course, we won’t all be called on to spend our money for a stranger’s hospital stay, but we might be. The Samaritan put aside his own agenda and spent time to help a person in distress. We are called to love others as we love ourselves. We can only do this one person at a time. Love equals time. We might not be called on to do the big things but we can all do the little things. We can take time to acknowledge the people who cross our path, to greet them and treat them as valuable, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done, their culture, religion or language. We can take time to help somebody who asks for our help or whom we see needs help.

The Bishop in Les Miserables inspires me with his forgiving attitude to an ex-con and his kindness to a person in need. I’ll be quite honest, I shall probably never attain such an unselfish attitude but, by God’s grace, and by keeping the example of the Good Samaritan in the forefront of my mind, I can learn to love my neighbour more and more each day.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, You set very high standards. Please incline my heart to be able to love my neighbour as You commanded. Amen.

Love Letter

I am not only an introvert but slightly socially inept. I find it difficult to express my feelings. That’s why I love letters. On occasions when I wanted to communicate something that was difficult for me to express, I wrote letters. Letters are not like e mails. E mails can be read and deleted and forgotten. A letter can be carried around in a pocket to reread or kept under a pillow to give comfort. Especially love letters.

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

I met my husband a week before he moved away to Bloemfontein from Pretoria. In those early days we spent a lot of time writing letters to each other. How I watched the post box for each new letter. When a letter came I would read it over and over, taking it with me in case I would have a spare minute through the day to read it again.

“The Bible is God’s love letter to us, telling us not only that He loves us, but showing us what He has done to demonstrate His love.” (Billy Graham)

Tomorrow my husband and I, as well as my best friend, are going to the Botanical gardens for a “mini retreat.” We will take our Bibles and spend time quietly with God, committing the year to Him, asking for guidance and hoping for a promise or word to take us into this uncharted future. I am going to consider whatever I read in the Bible as part of God’s love letter to me and I will write a letter in return as my prayer.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

My Prayer

Dear Lord, please open my mind and my heart to see Your Word as your love letter to me. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan

…And a Time to Forget

Why should we forget?

First of all, it’s in our nature, in our humanity. As I approach seventy, I find I am forgetting more and more. However, this is not the kind of forgetting I am talking about. I am talking about a deliberate choice to forget something and think about it no more; to fling it from our fingertips and turn our back on it.

God forgets. On purpose. Isaiah 43:25 reads, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (NIV) This theme is repeated in Hebrews 8:12, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”(NIV)

So we forget, because God forgets. We are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven:- remember no more.

I find it interesting that in Isaiah God forgets for His own sake. Likewise we forgive for our own sakes. It makes very little difference to the person who wronged us, but it makes a difference to us, to our peace, to our happiness and even our health.

So what are we called on to forget? We are called on to forget the sins other people have committed against us. Now I know this is impossible. Because I’ve tried. However, what is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27) It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can practice this kind of forgetting. And it might need constant practice and we might never perfect it.

We also need to forgive ourselves for our sins and failures. After all, if we’ve confessed our sins, God has forgotten them. Who are we to keep thinking about them and calling them to mind? They are removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

John also talks about forgetting. “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16;21 NIV) I think this is not so much forgetting as not concentrating on, not filling our minds with the pain and constantly reliving it.

I have met a number of people who, when asked what was their highlight of 2020, have answered, “Surviving Covid.” They choose not to dwell on the pain, isolation and hopelessness but rather to be grateful that it is over. What I focus on is my choice.

Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”(Philipians 3:13-14 NIV) I do not think Paul was suggesting we forget the past but rather to not let the past drag us back from embracing the present and the future. The past has many treasures that we need to hold onto.

I find I am in need of God’s wisdom and guidance to know what to remember and what to forget. What shall I write in the sand and let God’s gentle waves wash away for ever? What shall I take into the New Year to equip me to face it with hope and courage?

My Prayer

My Father, Please teach me to know when to forget and when to remember. I commit my memory to You, conscious and unconscious. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.

What do you do?

What do you do when Jesus sends you out in a boat to face a storm while He disappears up a mountain? (Matthew 14:21-25)

Image by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay

You trim the sails, row furiously, bail water and trust.

This post is part of One-Liner Wednesday.

It’s Pompom Time!

We live on a property with three acacia trees. The one nearest our cottage is a paper bark. At about this time every year, they all produce masses of pale yellow pompom flowers. Quite soon the bees will come in squadrons to take advantage of all the pollen. Their drone will rival the twitter of birds. I call this bee day.

In another season, the trees produce seeds in untidy pods. In winter the paper bark doesn’t lose all its leaves but it loses most, allowing the sunshine to percolate into our garden.

There are different seasons and some seasons are messy. At the moment we have pompoms scattered on the grass like confetti, on the tiled floor under the gazebo and bunching in the curve of the canvas on the top.

The pod-dropping season is just as messy, as is the leaf-thinning one.

Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, and time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecc 3:1-8 NIV)

Our seasons are not annual, like the paper bark’s. They are linear. One season ends and another begins. Let’s face it, some seasons are messy. Parents of babies and toddlers suffer from interrupted sleep, messy houses, unpunctuality and constant exhaustion. Yet, looking back on those days, weren’t they special? I cried when each of my children went to school for the first time.. It marked the end of that messy season in my life. Now, as a grandmother, life is much more ordered.

The thing about messy seasons is they don’t last forever. In the scale of life they are short-lived. By Christmas there will no longer be pompoms on my grass. Yet somehow, the messy seasons are memorable. Let’s not wish them away too soon.

My prayer

Father God, Creator of all things, thank you for the different seasons of my life. Thank You for the messy times that seem to have flown by. Please help me embrace each new season with the wonder of a child going to a new holiday house. May I explore it and thank You for its unique gifts. Amen.

What a Difference an “S” Makes

My times are in Your hands:” (Psalm 31:15 NKJV)

Image by LittleAngell from Pixabay

I understand this to mean God determines when I am born and when I die. I believe He chose my parents, the era I live in, my country and my birth order.

One of my favourite Psalms is 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. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my informed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Verses 13-16 NIV)

The Lord has chosen my station in life, where I live and what happens to me. I can say with the Psalmist, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”(Psalm 16:6)

So to say, “My times are in Your hands,” is to state a fact.

However, if I say to God, “My time is in Your hands,” it’s a totally different thing. It means, “I commit the time You have given me to Your control and management.” It is a prayer of commitment, of surrender. What a difference an “s” makes!

Jesus didn’t have control over His own time. On the day He heard about the beheading of John the Baptist, He longed to get away to a quiet place by Himself to mourn and process the events. Instead, He was inundated, first by excited disciples who had returned from a mission, and when He took them with Him to a quiet place, the crowds were waiting for Him. He loved them. He gave them His time and then fed them, more than 5000 of them.

Sure I can make plans. I need to go shopping, sort out admin, enjoy coffee with a friend. I need to earn my keep, take care of the home and family God has given me. But I need to remember Whose time it really is.

My prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. You know my beginning and end. Thank You for where you have placed me, my country, my city, my home. Thank You for the family You have given me. I commit to You now, my time. ‘Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.'”

The last line of my prayer is from a hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be,” by Frances R Havergal, 1874.

Chris Tomlin has revamped it in this You Tube version.

The Life of a Daffodil Bulb

I love Spring. I love watching the emergence of blossoms, of flowers, of Spring bulbs. Our first sign of Spring in our shared garden is usually the jasmine, budding even before September and touching the air with whiffs of its heady perfume. Soon sweet-peas add their fragrance with freesias and yesterday-today-tomorrow joining the scent party. My favourite spring flowers are daffodils. They have such smiling faces. It makes me happy just to look at them.

Jesus said,

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”(Luke 12:27 – 28 NIV)

I considered the life of a daffodil. It starts as a bulb, not particularly good-looking but provided by God with all it needs to become a beautiful flower. However, it takes time. At first the bulb is buried under a heavy load of soil. It is dark. It is smelly. It seems like the weight of the world is pushing down on it. It might not be the life the daffodil had planned for itself. It might even question the existence of God. Praying doesn’t seem to help. Nothing changes. Things might even get worse. Winter comes. It gets colder.

The changes, when they come, are gradual. A stretching for the sun, a tentative reaching out to the dirty soil around it. At last a tiny breakthrough. Is that sunshine on its tip? God sends the circumstances, the rain, the sunshine that grow the plant. It is all His doing. When Spring comes, the daffodil, stretched and strengthened, is ready to bloom where it was planted. Again, it is no effort or straining on the plant’s part but only the grace of God that causes the opening of a beautiful flower bringing glory to the Creator and beauty to the world.

My Prayer

Father God, sometimes I find myself in dark and unpleasant places and the burden on my shoulders seems too great for me. Please help me learn from the daffodil that You have a plan for me. It might not be quick, it might not be painless but if I merely trust you and commit myself to your circumstances I will grow into the flower You imagine, bringing glory to You and beauty to the world. Amen.

Travelling Light

Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them, “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” (Luke 9:3 NIV)

He wanted them to travel light.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I picture Jesus taking me on a long hike. “What shall I bring?” I say.

“Nothing. Just trust me,” He says.

That’s just scary. No hiking stick, no spare clothes, no food. What about a water bottle?

I used to lead a Girl Guide company. The Girl Guide motto is Be Prepared. It would be unthinkable to go on a hike without making preparations and being prepared. Trusting Jesus is no easy matter. It is certainly against all we’ve been taught. We feel we need to be in control. I would be inclined to ask Him for a map so I can see where we are compared to where we intend to go. But Jesus won’t give me one. All He asks is my trust and that I will stay close to Him, following where He leads.

In this Covid season we are in at the moment, everybody feels insecure. Matters have been taken out of our hands. Our well-prepared plans have been summarily cancelled and we have no idea what the future holds. With my mind I know God is in control but I still feel unsettled.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, it’s been a long time since I asked You to come into my life and take over. I am so inclined to try to wrest control back from You. Please forgive me and teach me to trust You and rest in Your love. Amen.

A Brush with Instability

During the winter I often write outside under the gazebo. Our house, like most South African houses, is designed more for summer and it is cold in winter.

dav

Recently I noticed the table was no longer stable. The gardener had done his best by inserting a rubber wedge under one foot but that hadn’t helped. Yesterday I found one of the leveling screws on the floor and suddenly it all made sense. The screw had come out of one of the table’s legs leaving it much shorter than the other three.

dav

Today I managed to screw it into the offending leg and now my table is once again stable.

My life is in need of leveling at the moment. When we were at the Beach House I read a lot. I rediscovered my love for historical romances and downloaded a new one from the library as fast as I finished reading the last. This habit has continued since we got back and, much as I love reading, my life has become unbalanced.

I know that a balanced life must include rest and relaxation but too much relaxation is just as unbalanced as too little.

This image is from https://lifejottings.wordpress.com/tag/daily-activities/

Balance seems to be the brush that paints my surroundings at the moment. I have finished working through “The Workbook of Living Prayer “by Maxie Dunham. He talks about the balance between prayer and action.

“There is a certain class of demons that can only be chased away by prayer – the demons of deafness to God, dumbness in thanksgiving, self-sufficiency, worry, despair, and solitude. But there is another class that can only be chased away by action – the demons of illusion, sentimentality, infantilism, narcissism, and laziness. So if we cultivate prayer exclusively, we harbor the second lot, and if we cultivate action exclusively, we harbor the first….

“The goal of prayer is a life of friendship and fellowship with God, co-operation with God’s Spirit, living God’s life in the world.”

My Prayer

Father God, may I see You more clearly every day as I spend time with You and Your Word, may I love You more dearly as I open my eyes to Your actions in nature and in the world, and may I follow You more nearly as I try to be Christ to or receive Christ from every person that I meet. Amen

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday.