Wednesday was miserable, cold and rainy in Gqeberha. From the dining room window we saw cold birds. The hadedas sat hunched like buzzards. The hoopoes were intermittently sheltering under the hedge to get out of the rain. What a blessing to have shelter when it rains.
God wants to be our shelter in times of trouble. The Bible says “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4 NIV) It sounds so cozy, like being tucked under a down duvet in winter.
However, God will not impose His protection and shelter on us against our will. Jesus said of Jerusalem, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37 NIV) God created us with free will and He will always respect it. He offers protection, shelter and comfort but it’s up to us to accept it.
Thank You Lord for Your sheltering hand over me. Please keep me from stubborn self-reliance and pride. May I rest in Your comforting embrace like a little child on her father’s lap.
We are currently staying with my brother in Gqeberha, formally known as Port Elizabeth, the windiest city in South Africa. This morning I remembered why. The sound of a strong wind outside reminded me not to be blasé about it. The wind has been known to uproot trees, overturn cars and I remember my Granny telling how she saved herself from being blown away by clinging to a pole.
Quite often we can become blasé about God’s power. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2 ESV) I have heard this story so often that I haven’t realised how scary it must have been.
I’ve been reading the Old Testament about the time of Moses recently. The power of God and His requirements for His people take one’s breath away.
Hebrews 10:31 reads, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (NIV) This was brought home to me by the following account of the 1949 revival in the Hebrides.
One of the seven men and two women who had decided to pray earnestly for revival, read from Psalm 24, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart…”(Vs 3-4a NIV) He then prayed, asking God to reveal if his own hands were clean and his own heart was pure. That night, God met with them in a powerful way. “Three men were lying on the straw having fallen under the power of God. They were lifted out of the ordinary into the extraordinary.” (Duncan Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival)
We cannot play games with God. He is not a “Tame Lion.” We do not come into His presence on our terms, but on His. We serve Him according to His will. Best I don’t forget that.
My God, thank You that You deal gently with me, masking Your power that I be not overwhelmed. Please keep me from taking Your power or majesty lightly. Teach me Your ways. I have taken You for my God. Amen.
“Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19 NIV)
Today we flew to Gqeberha. We got up at 6 although we had both been awake since soon after 5am. We packed the last things that were still in use until this morning, went across to say goodbye to the grandchildren before school and then our daughter took us to the Gautrain bus at 7.45. The plan was to arrive at the airport, drop off our luggage, go through security and have time enough for breakfast at Wimpy before boarding. Our timing worked perfectly – except I hadn’t calculated that boarding time was at least half an hour before take off. There was no time for breakfast – not even to buy a cup of cappuccino at the coffee stall near where a line had already formed outside our boarding gate.
The last time we flew Covid was still very much of a danger and, even when flights were allowed, certainly there was no eating and drinking on planes. Imagine our delight therefore when we were told that light snacks would be served and we could choose between a chicken and beef sandwich.
Now I understand a bit about what the Bible means by “times of refreshing.” Eating a meal with juice and coffee when one is hungry is such a time.
When our spiritual life is dry and faded and perhaps we have slipped into lethargy or subtle sin, repentance and turning again to God can bring just such a burst of energy to our spirit as a meal can do to our hungry and thirsty body.
Father God, please show me the symptoms of spiritual hunger that I may come to You for times of refreshing when I am under-nourished and languishing. Amen.
One of my Dad’s stock phrases was “No peace for the wicked.” He would say it with a feigned sigh and a twinkle when work had to be done; for instance at the end of supper when it was time for dishes to be washed or when something around the house had broken and he had to repair it.
I was surprised to find out much later that this phrase actually originates from the Bible from Isaiah. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:21 ESV)
I was surprised because my father was not a Christian although he had a very strong ethical standard of his own. He did not drink because he had seen what alcohol had done to his father, he was very honest and when somebody near him used bad language, he would accost them and tell them there were ladies present. He went to church because my Mom is a believer and my Dad loved her very much. He even sang in the church choir but his private mission statement was “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,” as per William Earnest Henley.
My father died just before his eightieth birthday in 2010. Of course I prayed for him most of my life that he might have a relationship with Christ and I didn’t see it happen but I trust my God who loves me with my Dad’s soul and I am at peace.
I remember my Dad’s quirky ways. He had other favourite sayings. “Lucky I’m tolerant,” was one and “I believe you where thousands wouldn’t,” was another.
Thank You, Lord, for parents who loved each other and a happy childhood. My my children’s memories of me be happy ones. Amen.
I am somewhat socially inept. I don’t pick up the unspoken cues that other people notice, or perhaps I was never actively taught the art of conversation and what is and is not appropriate. (My Mother did teach me never to ask anybody how much money they earn though.)
My timing is out and whenever I ask a question at the dinner table, the person is stuck with a mouthful of food. I try to be caring and show an interest in other people’s concerns but somehow I don’t get it right. Appropriate words fail me just when I gather up enough courage to open my mouth. If I’m having a deep conversation about something that affects me emotionally, I normally cry which interferes with the message I’m trying to convey.
I have on occasion resorted to writing letters. Somehow the written word seems more weighty than the spoken. People can always deny having said something, but once you’ve written it, there is no turning back.
In my dealings with God I rely heavily on the written word. I’m so glad that nowadays we have the Bible in print form (and the electronic equivalent) and it’s not just word of mouth traditions handed down from generation to generation.
I keep a journal. In it I write verses that impact me and thoughts about what I am reading or studying at the moment. I find writing things down helps keep my mind from wandering. When I write my prayers I feel like I am serious about them. That doesn’t stop me from whispering SMS prayers during the day, however. It just feels more like a basic contract that I can build on. Another advantage of a journal is that I can keep a record of specific prayers for specific people so that when they are answered, I can note it and my faith grows because I might not otherwise even remember that I had prayed.
To cater for journal-writing-people like me, they now manufacture beautiful journals with appropriate scripture verses or beautiful scenes. That just makes it seem more special but there is actually nothing wrong with a plain school book. In fact, my earlier journals are just that, perhaps with the page of an old calendar or something pretty to cover them.
Not everybody is helped by journaling their journey with God but it works for me.
Thank You, Father God for the Bible. You have committed Your promises to writing and I can stand on them. Please help me in my everyday communication with people. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, Amen.
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.
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.
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)
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.
I was sitting in my camping chair watching another glorious Bush sunset when a little boy wandered into my view. He dawdled uncertainly, changing direction and then doubling back on himself. I thought he might be lost, perhaps his family had just arrived and he hadn’t orientated himself yet. I went over to him to ask. I saw tears streaming down his face.
His story was almost incoherent but I pieced together the gist of it. He had put money in the claw machine, trying to get a toy and the toy had slipped out of the claw at the last moment.
I knew how he felt. Disappointment is one of the sharpest emotions. I did my best. I tried to explain to him that those machines hardly ever give you the toy. They are just there to take your money. I don’t think I helped much but before too long his mother found him and took him back to camp which turned out to be right next to us.
We’ve all felt the sting of disappointment. With Covid around it is becoming more and more a fact of life:- ask the three little girls, cousins, who had been offered a trip to the pantomime with their grandparents. They even had pretty new dresses for the occasion. This would be the last special outing together before two of the girls move with their family to England. They were already in the theatre when the performance was cancelled because some of the cast tested positive for Covid. Or ask the bride-to-be whose wedding was postponed because her fiancé couldn’t travel to South Africa, or the grandparents who had spent years saving and planning a trip to visit their children and grandchildren in New Zealand and whose flights were cancelled at the last moment – and another two years have passed and they still haven’t managed to go.
Disappointment happens when we feel we have been promised something or have worked towards something and it is snatched from our grasp unexpectedly. If we accept that disappointment is part of everyday life, how do we deal with it?
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)
Jesus faced disappointment just like us. He understands. We can be totally honest with Him about our feelings and He will hug us and infuse His strength into us.
Lord Jesus, my high priest, I feel so selfish when I struggle with disappointment. It seems I want my own way and I’m sulking like a child and I just can’t give my disappointment to You graciously. Please soothe me with Your presence and pour Your peace over me. Amen.
“But I trust in you, Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hands;” (Psalm 31:14-15a NIV)
Last year in early Autumn, I bought a rose bush from a sidewalk sale. There were not too many to choose from but I selected the one I liked the best and I asked my gardener to plant it for me.
After Winter, I couldn’t remember what my rose looked like. I also didn’t know its name. How excited I was to see a bud some weeks ago.
I couldn’t wait for my bud to open so I could remember what the rose looked like. It took a long time and every day I’d go to the garden to have a look but all I’d see was the bud. Finally, after what seemed much too long, the bud started opening until it unfolded into the beautiful flower God had created it to be.
If I had become impatient and taken things into my own hands, prising open the bud and pulling off the petals, I would never have seen my rose. I had to wait for the right time.
I know that God has a plan for my life and for my children’s lives. I cannot take things into my own hands and try to work out the plan myself. I have to wait for God’s timing and watch with wonder as signs of his perfect plan unfold. God is never late, never early but always on time. Why is it so hard to trust Him?
Father God, I know that You love me and that You have a plan for my life. Teach me to rest in Your love and trust your timing implicitly. Amen.