Category Archives: parable

Messages of Affirmation

For my 70th birthday party, my best friend wanted to give me seventy messages of affirmation. She and my husband contacted people who know or knew me in the past. They sent WhatsApp messages and she wrote them down on colourful paper shapes. This was the result.

The brief was to write one sentence and some people did and others wrote more. They varied from things like, “I enjoy your inspirational blog,” to some quite long ones wishing me happy birthday and prayers for the future. Some things I found out about myself that I never knew. For example, three people mentioned that I am a person who gets things done. I have never believed that of myself.

I got messages from people that I haven’t seen for twenty years! I even got a message from somebody I don’t know but who reads my blog.

I was so blessed and encouraged by reading the messages. How wonderful if we could encourage somebody every day in this way. Everybody has some gift, some attribute, some quality that we can focus on and affirm. More often we see people’s faults and don’t even look further to see their good points.

The Bible says, ” Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing our of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” (Philippians 2:1-3 NIV)

What fun it would be if we imagined it was the birthday of everyone we met and we thought of one sentence to affirm them and we said it to them! Surely we would lift their spirits and may even inspire them to great things.

Let’s give it a try – even if it is only one person a day.

My Prayer

Father God, thank you for all those wonderful people who took the time to send a message of encouragement for me. As I have been blessed, may I bless others. Please remind me when I meet people to value them above myself and to notice something good about them. Inspire my words in my communication. Amen.

Sandpaper

“God always puts us around someone who is like sandpaper to smooth off our rough edges…a testing that takes place before we get promoted. If you want to lead, you must first serve in circumstances that may not be ideal and learn to behave wisely. This prepares us to be greatly used by God.” Joyce Meyer.

When I am at the beach, I enjoy collecting little pieces of driftwood, especially if they have some resemblance to an animal or a bird. This one reminded me of a crested bird.

I dried it out and used sandpaper to smooth it. That just brought out the beauty of the wood.

My Prayer

Lord God, You know exactly where my character needs work. Please help me to work with You and not against you when You use sandpaper to smooth me. Amen.

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.

Who is This?

The disciples were in a serious storm and thought they would drown while Jesus slept. They woke Him and called for help. “And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'” (Matthew 8:26-27 ESV)

I understand the awe of the disciples. Those who read my blog will know the frustrations I’ve been having applying for visas to visit New Zealand. My son in New Zealand waited two hours to speak to the help-line and the information he got was not very helpful. I went along the rabbit warren of links and websites again and tried to make an appointment to hand in our passports. At least I found the sub-category that applied to our visas but the message was, “There are no slots available for this visa at present.” I discussed with my husband whether we should pay R1 104 to buy a walk-in appointment. We had almost decided on that but to buy the service we first had to make an appointment. So I tried again. This time there were two slots available, one on 30 September which is only a week away. We booked it, deciding not to go for the walk-in option which would show a lack of trust in the Lord.

Later, idly looking through accumulated emails, I found one from Immigration New Zealand. It said our visas had been approved and we could download our e-visas. The letter requesting us to present our passports has disappeared from my dashboard.

I was overwhelmed and filled with awe. When does an official government directive just disappear? I serve an awesome God. I have no idea what happened. The God who stilled the waves and the winds can also cause websites and technology to do what He directs. My God reigns!

Image by axonite from Pixabay

My Prayer

Lord, I am overwhelmed by Your sheer power. Thank You, thank You, thank You. I don’t understand what You did but I praise You. Amen.

The Prayer Chair

On our last day at Glenschillen in Nottingham Road, we rambled into the wooded area behind the dam. We had seen a map of the walks in the area and decided to find the “Prayer Chair.”

At first we took a wrong path and came to a log cabin that looked newly constructed. There was no path after that.

We retraced our steps and found a lower path. At one stage the path was blocked by a branch. We managed to carefully step over it. At a fork in the path there was a printed sign and an arrow showing the right path. We came to a pine glade where the pine needles were so thick on the ground that they covered a knee-high log that we thought might be the prayer chair but then we found it, not five metres away!

The Prayer Chair

We sat down and prayed because that is what it was there for. There was a beautiful view over the dam and the deck although they seemed so far away.

Life is a lot like a journey. The scenery keeps changing. Sometimes the ground is treacherous underfoot, like pine needles obscuring hazards. Sometimes we take a wrong path, but even that can bring new discoveries. God knows how to use a wrong path for our good. Sometimes obstacles block our way and we have to make our way over them with care. We need to look out for signs and directions, even if we think we know the map. If we look around and are alert, we might find a prayer chair, a place to be still for a while and survey where we used to be.

The best thing to have on a hike is a guide, somebody who has followed the trail before. Psalm 23 tells us that the Lord will lead us in the paths of righteousness.

The Bible says, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
{Psalms 37:24 – 25 NIV}

My Prayer

Thank You Lord that You lead me in this journey of life. Please open my eyes to the Prayer Chairs You have scattered along the way where I can rest and regain my perspective. Amen.

Empty Boxes

We are leaving Scottburgh tomorrow and heading for a caravan park in the Midlands of KZN. In preparation today we disconnected our electricity and gas and took our motorhome to the nearby mall to get groceries for our last five days and to get our monthly tablets from Clicks.

Included in my prescription are two supplements:- Caltrate Plus for my osteoporosis and Piascledene for my osteoarthritis. We usually collect those from the shelves before going to the pharmacy section.

When I picked up a box of Caltrate Plus, it seemed very light and it didn’t rattle. I checked the box to make sure it was a thirty tablet packaging and it was. I tried another box. Same thing. Suspiciously light and no rattle.

Finally my husband opened a box. It was empty. There was an assistant nearby and we asked him what was going on. He told us all the boxes were empty because people steal the supplements. He took a Piascledene box and a Caltrate Plus box to the back and brought them to the pharmacy counter with their proper contents.

I was reminded of the story of the prophet, Samuel. God told him to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. Samuel took one look at the oldest, Eliab, and thought that the future king stood before him.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)

Jesus expressed the same sentiment when he called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs.”

If we have the mind of Christ, we will not judge people by the packaging, the outward appearance but rather try to get to know their heart.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, please give me eyes to see people as You see them and not as the world sees them. I know my heart is open to Your gaze. Please fill it with Your love. Amen.

Telling Others

One of the things I enjoy doing on holiday is hanging up my portable bird feeder and watching birds come to it. It usually takes about a week for the birds to find it. We were at Drakensville for seven days and, in that time, the birds found the new source of food. They would fight each other to perch on the rim and eat seeds. In Karridene it took the birds a little longer to get comfortable with the feeder but, before we left there were communities of sparrows gathering under it. We had to keep guard for monkeys, however. I was looking forward to the birds in Scottburgh. Last year, in Scottburgh, we had hung our feeder right outside our motorhome back window which faced the sea. I could wake up and, without getting out of bed, watch the sun rise and the birds twittering around.

This year, although we are only two sites from where we were last year, hardly any birds visit my feeder. I’ve seen a single sparrow perch on the rim and once, a weaver. I don’t know what’s different. Normally once one bird finds the source of food, it doesn’t take long for all their friends and neighbours to arrive too. Not this time. It almost seems like this year, the birds didn’t tell others. They didn’t witness. Yes, there is at least one sparrow eating from the feeder and about four or five who visit to eat any dropped seeds on the ground, as well as a pair of rock pigeons, but I am going home with half a packet of wild bird seed.

Telling others, or “witnessing,” has been a sensitive topic for me ever since I became a Christian. In fact, the time I did pull out and decide Christianity was not for me, it was because I felt pressured to witness. I know as well as any other Christian about the Great Commission. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

Witnessing has been described as one beggar telling another where to find bread. That’s what the sparrows didn’t do.

Two things have helped me. When I was much younger, I taught Sunday school. It’s much less threatening to tell children about Jesus than adults. Now that I belong to The Gideons International in South Africa, I have access to little pocket-sized Testaments and we are encouraged to hand out at least four a month. I don’t find that difficult. I tell people I have a gift for them and then explain a little about where to find help using the front section and the summary of the gospel at the back. I can’t make disciples – nobody can. Only the Holy Spirit can draw people to Christ. However, the little Testaments are a user-friendly tool I can use to carry out Jesus’ instruction in my small corner of the world.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You made me and You designed my personality. I want to follow Your commandments. Please help me to rely on You in all things and not to try to do things in my own strength. Thank You for the Bible, Your Word. May those I have gifted with the little testaments find You in their pages. Amen.

Bearing One Another’s Burdens.

We went for tea with fellow members of the Motorhome Club who also happen to be camping at Scottburgh. They have sold their house and are living in their imported RV. They were telling us of many problems they have had involving failed vehicle repairs, occasions when they had nowhere to live because their bus was in for repair and similar problems. What got them through, they said, was friends. Friends offered accommodation and other practical help.

It made me think of something we saw on Saturday as we walked home from the flea market. A rubbish truck had broken down and we watched the struggle to load it onto a flatbed truck.

To me this was a visual picture of Galations 6:2. “Bear one another’s Burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV)

Bearing burdens costs. The helper truck used up energy and time to load the broken vehicle and transport it to a workshop. Likewise it costs us when we help others. We are glad to pay the cost, though, because we know that is what our Lord requires. The parable of the good Samaritan tells us that.

Sometimes there is nothing practical that we can do to help. Sometimes just being available to listen can help bear a burden. Sometimes all we can do is pray and that, too, can help ease a burden because we know God always hears our prayers.

My Prayer

Lord, please raise my eyes from my own concerns so I can notice the burdens others are carrying. Show me ways that I can help. Thank You that when I am too weak, You carry me. Amen.

If It’s not Messy, It’s not Real

When one is on a camping holiday, one gets to observe birds up close. I saw sparrows having dust baths right outside our tent. I googled it and discovered that indeed it is a way they clean themselves. They work the dust into their feathers then flap their wings and give them a good shake and the dust cleans them from mites and grease. A messy way to get clean!

A sparrow having a dust bath

When I was in grade two, my teacher told us that, when Jesus was a boy, He crafted sparrows out of wet clay and they flew away. I never heard that story again. Today’s chapter from John Stott’s book deals with sparrows. For the first time since 1958 I read that story again. John Stott writes, “The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas preserves a rather charming story (though almost certainly not authentic) of Jesus as a boy of five. He and other children were playing together beside a stream, and Jesus fashioned twelve sparrows out of soft clay. When his father Joseph asked him why he was breaking the law on the Sabbath day, ‘Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them ” Go!”, and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping.'”

My Bible reading today was from John 9 and deals with the story of Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’” (John 9:6-7a NIV)

We all know what happened. But have we ever thought how messy it was? Jesus was standing with His hands covered in mud. The blind man was (presumably) led away to the pool with his face slathered with brown mud.

Fairy tales are neat and sanitised. “…and they all lived happily ever after.” Real life is messy. The Christmas card showing the immaculately clean baby in the arms of a serene mother, is not the reality. Giving birth is messy. It involves pain and blood. Lots of blood. Mary would have been exhausted, possibly tear-stained. Somehow we get it into our heads that when we become Christians, all our problems will disappear. That’s the fairy tale. The reality is that life is messy. It involves broken bones, times of struggle, hard work, disappointments and loss. Jesus never promised a problem-free life, only that He would be with us in the messiness. Jesus did not come to make life easy but to make men great. (I can’t remember who said that.)

So if life seems messy at the moment, don’t despair. Invite Jesus into the mess. He doesn’t mind getting His hands full of mud. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I have preconceived stereotyped ideas about You. Please help me to come to grips with reality. You are much bigger than I can ever imagine. Help me to trust You implicitly , even in the mess. Amen.

Repentance and Migration

This post is inspired by the second chapter of The Birds Our Teachers by John Stott.

Repentance and faith go together. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15 (selected) NIV)

Peter, in his first sermon, says the same thing, “Repent, then, and turn to God…” (Acts 3:19a NIV)

The theme of returning to the Lord runs through the Old Testament. Jeremiah says, “I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right, no-one repents of his wickedness saying ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle. Even the stork in the sky [and other birds] observe the time of their migration but my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:6-7)

Repentance then, is turning away from doing my own thing. While I was contemplating this, I considered what God’s rights were in my life. I have given Him my life, therefore it is not my own.

God has the right to: i) my love and devotion; ii) train me for service using whatever means He chooses; iii) my money and worldly possessions; iv) my time. When I sin by denying Him His rights, I need to copy the migrating birds returning to their breeding grounds, and return to my God.

Image by Ted Erski from Pixabay

I also have rights. I have the right to become a child of God. (John 1:12)

God has many more rights than I have mentioned. Please add any that come to mind in the comments.

My Prayer

Father God, It is hard to consider wickedness as pursuing my own way. I do it all the time. Please forgive me and help me to return to Your way each time I drift. Amen.

Under or Above

The view from our motorhome is amazing.

It is no surprise that, from a place 500m from the main Scottburgh Beach, I could see surfers on Saturday morning when the weekend visitors arrived. I had every intention of writing a post for Streams of Consciousness Saturday where the prompt was “board.” I even took photos with my DSLR camera. Then I realised that my computer’s card reader no longer works and I left my plug-in one at home.

After the Sunday sermon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBZNtW-SL9A&t=54s by a visiting missionary, Martin de Lange, I decided to redirect my ideas.

Martin spoke about conversations he’s had around a braai where people are asked how they are doing. “All right under the circumstances,” many reply. Martin says Christians are not supposed to live under the circumstances but above them.

That’s where the surfboard illustration comes in. A surfboard is not meant to keep its rider under the water, but above it. Even if the wind blows or the sea is rough, a skillful rider stays above the waves, using their momentum to gather speed.

Faith in Christ is like our spiritual surfboard. Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” (John 10:10 AMP)

Jesus did not intend us to live under the circumstances or to just keep our heads above water. Sure, we have problems but without problems there can be no miracles. We need to give our problems to Jesus and leave them with Him.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, please help me to keep my eyes on You and not on my problems. I don’t need to tell You how big my problems are, but perhaps I should tell my problems how big my God is. Amen.