Category Archives: lockdown

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)

Wise is the man who can discern the times. If we do the right thing but at the wrong time, it is as good as doing the wrong thing. Gardeners know this. Some times are easy to discern. Nobody questions there is a time to be born and a time to die, nor that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. The NIV talks about “a time to search and a time to give up.” (verse 6) How do we know when it is time to search and a time to give up? Who gives the order for the search party to leave?

I battle with knowing when it is time to keep silent and when it is time to speak. I suppose that is where the gift of wisdom comes in.

I would never have thought that a time would come to refrain from embracing. Yet during Covid, that was the right thing to do. Our church had a sign up:- “No handshakes. Fist bumps or elbow bumps only.”

When I was a little girl, I learned the basic rules of hygiene. Flush the toilet every time you use it, wash your hands after you’ve been to the toilet, touched an animal or played outside in the sand. You must bath or shower once a day and brush your teeth three times a day.

We’ve been to Port Elizabeth on a number of occasions during a 10-year drought. Then the rules changed. “Shower every second day (5 minutes only.)” “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.” The situation had changed and so the right thing to do had changed.

Life changes so fast that we can’t always be sure that what we think is the right thing is still the right thing.

Let’s lean fully on God who is never late, never early, but always on time.

My Prayer

God of all time, Please keep me close to You and give me Your wisdom to know when it is the right time to do what. Give me the graciousness to accept others whose view of time is different to mine. 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.

Generosity

4 January 2022

In the first week of December, we went to Dube Private Game Reserve, near Brits, with our daughter and the three grandchildren. (Our son-in-law had to work, unfortunately, and one thing the bush doesn’t have is good internet options for zoom meeting.)

They offer a very good mid-week special from Sunday afternoon to Friday morning out of school holidays for R650 for two. It is one of our favourite places to camp. Besides the game reserve in which one can walk, drive or cycle, there are lovely pools with water slides as well as an indoor pool, a café/fast food outlet and excellent ablutions.

This giraffe thinks nothing of wandering into the caravan park, having an early morning snack, and wandering out again.

The week we went was the last week before the public school holidays. Our grandchildren attend a school where the school terms are slightly different so they were already on holiday.

On the Tuesday, members of staff came around to every site handing out leaflets inviting us all to tea at the Shalom Hall on the Wednesday. When we got there, it turned out to be not so much a tea, but a glorious Christmas party with appropriate musical numbers by some very talented people, scrumptious and plentiful food and festive décor.

All the guests at the Christmas party.

The owners told us they wanted to honour God for helping them get through the rough times of Covid and for all His goodness to them. They also wanted to thank us for our support. First they called for all the children and gave them each an envelope which turned out to contain a hundred-Rand note. Then they called up each person who had booked a site and gave them an envelope containing five hundred-Rand notes. We could hardly believe it. Such generosity is beyond the normal run of life.

I believe that generous people display more of the image of God than some of the rest of us. God’s generosity is not based on any merit of ours but on Who God is. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

It is not enough to admire generous people. We are all called to be generous. Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give,”(Matthew 10:8b NIV) and “ Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”(Luke 6:38 NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, everything I have is a gift from You. Please help me to be generous to others as You have been to me. Amen.

Making Decisions

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.

Setting up camp
A short walk to the beach

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.

My Prayer

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.

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

I am an Arms Dealer

Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay

My husband and I belong to the Gideons.

The Gideons International is an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments.

While we are often recognized for our work with hotels, we also place and distribute Scriptures in strategic locations so they are available to those who want them, as well as to those who may not know they need them.

The first school term is the time to distribute testaments to the Grade 8’s at all the schools in our area. Because of the Covid restrictions, instead of visiting schools, addressing the learners and handing out testaments individually to those who are willing to accept them, my husband has to drop boxes of testaments at the schools for them to distribute.

In the same way, the ladies used to visit clinics and doctors’ rooms and hand out testaments to the medical staff. We can’t do that anymore. Recently I left a box of testaments at the security station of the Windsor clinic.

Paul refers to the Word of God as The Sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17)

The Bible says “…the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

It occurred to me that we are arms dealers. We put swords in the hands of teenagers, we arm nurses, doctors, policemen, even prisoners. How outrageous! How daring! How dangerous! If opposition comes, it is not that surprising. However, in South Africa, most people we come across are happy to receive their weapon. They value the Word of God and treasure it.

On Sunday we joined Dare to Love at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg. It is the largest hospital in South Africa. We distributed over a thousand gift packs containing a Gideon’s testament, a pen, biscuits, chocolates and other goodies. When those ran out, we distributed packs containing the goodies and a Gospel of John booklet. This was meant as a gesture of appreciation to the heroes who serve on the front line.

It was an exciting morning. We are honoured to be allowed to do this work.

My Prayer

Father, thank you for the Bible, the Sword of the Spirit. Teach me to handle it aright. You know that many of the Gideon members are getting old and even dying. Please send new, younger members to help us with this work of distributing Your Word. Amen.

Image by azboomer from Pixabay

The Alpha and the Omega

“The end of the world has arrived!”

Image by icheinfach from Pixabay

This was the theme of many social media posts at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Not long after came a batch of talks by various pastors and scholars showing how this was not the end of the world.

Most of this frenzy has died down recently (or maybe I’m being more selective of what I choose to watch and read. I’m wary of social media.)

In either case, Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.“(Rev 22:13 NIV)

Jesus was at the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-12) and He will be with us at the end of the world.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NIV)

Even if it is the end of the world, if we walk with Jesus, we don’t need to fear. Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, Keep me trusting You so that each new day can be a new beginning. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan and Streams of Consciousness Saturday.

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.

Home Schooling (Again)

South Africa is under adjusted level three lockdown at the moment. This means businesses can still operate but the return to school has been delayed until 14 February.

The King’s School Robin Hills, which my grandchildren attend, has been outstanding in their organisation and management of online schooling. My grandchildren, aged six, nine and eleven, have all learned to navigate google classroom, watch youtube videos (selected or produced by the school), and even attend zoom meetings with their teachers once a day. Every week my daughter collects a pack of worksheets for each child and hands in finished work as required.

My daughter is fortunate in that she is still able to run her art classes, so Granny is supervising the children with their on-line schooling (like many other grannies I know). The older two are capable and responsible, but the youngest is only just learning to read and needs me to read the instructions to her.

I am struck by the different levels of the children’s school work. One is colouring pictures and cutting and pasting them into her book, one is learning spelling words and preparing an oral with cue cards, and one is learning about equivalent ratios and photosynthesis.

In the same way, our Heavenly Father treats us all individually, according to our maturity. The lessons He would like me to learn are not the same ones He’s working on with you. It is no use looking at other Christians and their experiences and expecting God to give us the same. He knows exactly our personalities, our talents, our strengths and weaknesses. You can be sure He is leading us gently into full maturity in Christ.

So let’s not give up the opportunity to learn the lessons He puts in our path daily.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

My Prayer

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)

This post is part of JusJoJan. The word for today is spell.