Category Archives: inspiration

Remember the Avocado Tree

Recently I read that walking by the Spirit is no more than inviting God into my internal conversation with myself. I resolved to try to live this way but since then, haven’t really been doing it intentionally.

This morning, while I was bathing, my thoughts were in idle mode, just running on themselves. Mainly I was thinking about the Girl Guide camp my daughter is running this weekend. The weather forecast is dismal – 80% rain on Sunday. Every Guider knows the hassle of packing up in the rain. You can’t pack up wet tents. They go mouldy and rot. Mostly you have to take them down wet, bundle them loosely, take them home and, as soon as the sun shines, put them up again then pack them properly when they are dry. I idly thought of possible contingency plans.

While I was worrying thus, it is almost as if the Lord interrupted my thoughts.

HIM: Why do you need a contingency plan. I thought you handed that over to Me last night.

(I remembered I had prayed last night with the family that it wouldn’t rain until the tents had been packed away.)

ME: Yes, but the weather forecast said…

HIM: Do you think I can’t?

ME: I know You can.

HIM: Don’t you trust Me? Or would you rather trust the weather service?

I had to think carefully about these questions. I decided it was not that I didn’t trust God nor that I doubted His power but rather that I thought the God of the universe should not be troubled by such a trifling matter.

HIM Remember the trees? remember the avocado tree.

That silenced me. I remembered them both.

Our neighbours used to have eight tall conifers just in front of our north-eastern wall which divides them from us. When the house was sold about two or more years ago, we got new neighbours. I was careful to hint to them that we’d love the trees cut down and we would be happy to pay half. Then later, when I saw they were actually cutting down other trees, I raised the matter again and tried to set up a meeting. It never happened. Soon after that I read again Mark 23-24.

Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ but does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”(NIV)

There was nobody around, just me and the trees, so I thought I’d try it. “Trees,” I said, “be cut down in Jesus’ name.” then I stopped fretting about it.

The trees are no longer there. In about April this year, the neighbours started work on extensions. They wanted to build extra rooms so her parents could move in with them. The trees were in the way.

As for the avocado tree, we have a tall avocado tree next to our house. It has never given us any fruit. When we came back from a two month winter escape this year, my gardener reported that the tree was dying. Sure enough the leaves were hanging limp and seemed to be a dull grey colour. Remembering the conifers, I said to it, “Tree, live, in Jesus name.” Although many leaves turned brown and fell off, new leaves grew. Now it looks like this.

sdr_HDRB

So tomorrow I am going with my daughter to help with the Guide camp until her assistant arrives. Maybe I should take an avocado leaf with me.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, I am never quite sure when You are speaking to me and when it is my own imagination. Please interrupt my thoughts more and more frequently and teach me to know Your voice.

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

Thanksgiving and Halloween

Thanksgiving and Halloween are typically American. Neither is part of the South African history or culture.

Many South African Christians of the older generation are against Halloween on the grounds that it is a celebration of evil. I heard a talk about twenty years ago by a policeman who told us about the increase of certain crimes on the 31st October, including rape and cruelty or dismemberment of domestic animals.

Others, perhaps younger, see Halloween as a harmless bit of fun for children. Children love dressing up and this is a great opportunity. Perhaps these younger people are more global citizens and have been exposed to international standards.

Thanksgiving is another American event, in fact, a public holiday. It is a time for families to get together and give thanks to God for all His blessings. Festival foods like roast turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie are enjoyed.

One would think these American events have nothing to do with South Africans. Yet, come mid October, shops are full of skeletons, witches hats, evil masks, spiders and webs with plastic jack ‘o lanterns scattered about.

Come November, there are no great sales on turkey, no specials on cranberry sauce, no pumpkin pie, not even tinned pumpkin to make pumpkin pie. There are no thanksgiving events in shops or malls. Thanksgiving is not mentioned in any advertising. Families do not make special plans to get together to give thanks to God.

I find this disparity odd. Why does one American custom spread and another not? Could it be something to do with our fallen nature? Do we find it much more fun to indulge our darker side and dress up as something evil than to focus on God? Could it be that there is no commercial advantage in advertising gratitude?

Perhaps giving thanks to God need not wait for a special day. Being thankful, not only to God but to others, is a habit well worth cultivating. Every day.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thes 5:16-18 NIV)

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for all your blessings. I know that all good things come from You. Thank You for the wonderful people You have put in my life. May I never take them for granted. Truly, the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places and I am forever grateful. 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.

The Tomato Plant.

I may have mentioned before that I have brown thumbs – the opposite of green fingers. The idea of growing my own vegetables is very attractive but my success has been meagre. When I planted tomatoes, they looked healthy for a while – even gave me five tomatoes to eat. Then they developed some kind of fungal disease and the plant died even before the last six tomatoes ripened.

In winter I bought a packet of tomato seeds and some of those compostable planting pots and some growing pellets. As soon as Spring arrived I planted them. When they were big enough I cut off the bases of the pots and planted them suitably spaced in my vegetable garden. Now, two months later, five of the nine pots contain living plants. One is about 20cm tall but the others are still about 10cm. I’m not feeling too optimistic.

About six weeks ago I noticed a tomato plant among my clivias. It already had flowers so I knew it wouldn’t be long before there were some tomatoes. Now it is producing fruit. Abundantly. They turned out to be baby tomatoes. My favourite kind. Three or four times a week I can collect upwards of 20 tomatoes – enough for a salad for lunch.

This tomato plant I had nothing to do with. I didn’t plant it. It just grew. God planted it.

What this says to me is that if I start a new endeavour in my own strength and wisdom, the results are not amazing. If God starts something and I keep my grubby paws off it, it will work out exactly according to His plan. I have to learn to be led by the Spirit, not my own imagination or good ideas. Perhaps I also need to examine my motives. If my motive is purely to glorify God, then it is a worthy endeavour. If my motive is to make money or get fame or recognition or to impress others, the results are in no way guaranteed.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)

My Prayer

Father God, I find it difficult to discern when my thoughts and ideas come from myself and when they are from You. Please help me to live so closely to You that my default is to be led by Your Spirit. Teach me to hear Your voice and obey Your commands. Amen.

Black and White

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday The prompt for today is “black,” “white,” or “grey.”

An old song goes, “White is black and black is white for no good reason that I know, Only that my baby says it’s so. Night is day and day is night The moon at noon is all aglow Just because my baby says it’s so.” (From the film “The singing Marine” 1937 sung by Dick Powel)

Adapted from Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

This is not the only occasion when our perception of truth is confused by people we admire. Picture the teenager who has been taught by his parents and teachers to avoid drugs because they can harm him. His friends in the popular crowd tell him something quite different. “They will expand your mind,” they say, “surely you don’t subscribe to such an old-fashioned set of values?. Everybody who is anybody is doing it.”

Later in life it is “the smart thing to do,” to lie to the insurance or to cheat on your tax return.

The question is, whom do we want to impress? Does the teenager want to appear cool to his friends or obedient to his parents? Does the opinion of our colleagues matter more to us than the opinion of God?

God says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NIV)

Opinion is swayed so much by social media, by movies and music, by the general perception of “Everybody is doing it so it must be right.” There are fashions and cycles to what society believes. I’ve been reading Jane Austen at the moment and it’s fascinating to read how society of the day viewed things. How can we know the Truth?

Jesus prayed for us.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one… Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15 and 17 NIV)

To those who had believed him Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, You promised that if we hold to Your teaching, we will know the truth. So I ask in confidence, open my eyes to the truth that will set me free. Amen.

Democracy

On Monday I voted in the municipal elections in South Africa. Because I am over sixty five, it was fairly pleasant. We were taken to the front of the queue for initial checking of documents then escorted to the door of the classroom where our section of the alphabet was voting. I don’t think we took longer than ten minutes.

I am able to vote because I live in a democracy. My husband and I reminisced about the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 when the queues snaked around the block and my husband waited six hours. We still had dependent children at that stage so I came and went with the children, keeping an eye on progress.

As a civic-minded gesture, Wimpy offered free coffee to every person who showed their marked thumb to prove they had voted.

The special ink leaked all the way around my nail and under it.

Just because South Africa is a democracy doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Far from it. In fact it seems that what the majority wants is not even close to what I want.

My ultimate citizenship is not in South Africa. Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus, Christ.” (Phil 3:20 NIV)

Heaven is not a democracy. Its citizens do not vote on the way it is governed nor any policies. Its citizens have no rights except the right to be God’s children. (“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 NIV) All they have is gifted to them through God’s grace alone.

Heaven is a kingdom, with all authority and power vested in King Jesus. His word is law.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

That he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:20-21 ESV)

Until I get to my home country, I am an exile, not quite fitting in with the customs and mores of this world. I am called to pray for my earthly rulers and authorities, for my country of residence for peace and prosperity.

My Prayer

Father God, when I feel alone and rejected in this world, please remind me that I am a citizen of heaven where love is the only language spoken and grace is the legal tender. Please bless South Africa and give her leaders wisdom and a knowledge of You. Amen.

Instructions for Life

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley 29.

Image by Paul Henri Degrande from Pixabay

This post is part of One-Liner Wednesday.

Boo Hoo

Image by MariangelaCastro from Pixabay

I cry much too easily. It’s almost as if other people have a valve on their tear ducts that they can control, whereas I don’t.

It first became an embarrassment to me when I was five. I was in grade one and tended to be a goody-goody. When the teacher said “No talking,” I didn’t talk. Not so the other members of my class. Finally the teacher warned, “If you don’t stop talking I am going to smack you all!”

They didn’t and she did. Smacks on the hand with a ruler for every one of us. Who do you think was the only one to cry? It was not only the pain but the whole unfairness of it.

It’s embarrassing enough when one is five and in the first year of school. How much worse is it when one is a teenager? I remember a Scripture Union camp where in our small groups we could ask for prayer. My prayer was that I wouldn’t cry so easily.

God didn’t answer that prayer. Now I am one year short of seventy and I still cry too easily. My granddaughter of seven knows that there are certain books Granny can’t read without crying. They are books about abandoned kittens or lost puppies or lonely little girls. My sons know me well. If we are watching a movie together, one or other of them will pass me a tissue or two during the sad bits.

It is good to know that Jesus wept (John 11:35.) I don’t think He wept quite as often as I do, however.

There are other references to tears in the Bible and they bring me some comfort. David says, “Put my tears into Your bottle;” (Psalm 56:8b NKJV.) God will certainly need a large bottle for my tears! It is comforting to know that God cares – that He feels for my sadness, disappointment or loss. He understands.

The best is yet to come. “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things are passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'” (Rev 21:4-5a NKJV)

I can’t wait.

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt is the word, “boo.”