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Put it in Writing

JusJoJan 25 January

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.

This is my journal for 2022

Not everybody is helped by journaling their journey with God but it works for me.

My Prayer

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.

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.

The Mean Claw Machine

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.

My Prayer

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.

God’s Perfect Timing

“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?

My Prayer

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.

Communication

We are doing a series in church on the Holy Spirit. On Sunday we learned that the Holy Spirit shines the spotlight on Jesus and that He is the means of communication with God. One of the main ways God communicates with us is through the Bible.

I was reminded of our recent trip to Ramsgate. No holiday at the South Coast in KZN is complete without a visit to the Waffle House in Ramsgate. Thus, when we had three days in Hibberdene together with our Randburg family and our son from Russia, we all went for waffles at the Waffle House.

It is situated next to a lagoon and after we had enjoyed the decadent food and explored the little craft and curio shop, we decided to take two paddle boats on the lagoon. The operator was a big friendly man who equipped us all with life jackets and pushed off the boats. My husband, who decided to stay behind and watch, noticed that during the quieter times the man would read a big book open on his lap. He chatted to the man later and found out it was a well-used Zulu Bible with no cover and pages showing signs of regular handling. The man said he reads the Bible at every opportunity because God speaks to him through His Word. What an example to me!

“Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, selected NIV)

My Prayer

Father, please give me a hunger for Your Word that I may find it more compelling than my cell phone. Amen.

Just Another Example

Last Saturday, in the late afternoon, I fell off my bicycle.

We are staying in the Karridene Caravan Park in KwaZulu Natal. We are allowed to use the facilities of the Protea Hotel Karridene, including a much stronger Wifi signal than the wispy, come-and-go signal we receive at the edges of the caravan park. I had cycled to the conference centre and was on my way back to our site.

I landed on my elbow. A concerned fellow camper came to see if I was all right and walked my bike back to our site. My husband was a hundred metres or so behind me and soon arrived to look after me. My arm was very sore and I could feel the blood running down the inside of my jacket sleeve.

We managed to stop the flow of blood after washing the area well and my husband bandaged up the wound. Remembering my first aid training, I thought it best to put the arm in a sling and used my other jacket with a safety pin for that purpose.

I put my feet up and rested my arm on a pillow while my husband pampered me and made the supper. I took Aspirin and felt warm and snug. Soon I decided to go to bed. I went into the bathroom and changed into my pyjamas. Big mistake. My elbow started bleeding again. Blood soaked through the bandage. We found a dishcloth to use as a pressure pad but I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. However, we tied the pad tightly, sent prayer requests to our family and I entrusted my arm to the Lord, hoping I wouldn’t find blood all over the duvet and pillow in the morning.

It was, of course, all right but I decided in any case to try to get to a medical facility and have the wound properly dressed and have a tetanus shot.

So Sunday saw us at Intercare in Amanzimtoti. While we were out and about, (it takes quite something to disconnect the motorhome from electricity and gas and wind up the legs so we can use the vehicle as a car) we thought we might just as well get a repeat of our tablets which we had planned to do on the Friday.

On Monday, South Africa went crazy. Shopping malls were attacked, looted, burned. The main highway between Johannesburg and Durban was closed. Rumours were rife, people were afraid. Those shopping malls that weren’t totally destroyed were closed. Most of them are still closed. Food became an issue.

Now it’s a week later. My elbow is so much improved, just three scabs and two sections of bruise that are changing from purple to yellow. Things have quietened a lot. The beach is now open, the roads are open and slowly smaller shopping areas are opening with long queues and limited access. In some cases people have queued for up to eight hours to go into a shop. Clicks stores, where we get our tablets, are not yet open in our area.

It just struck me yesterday, as I refilled my tablet container with the new stock. If I hadn’t fallen off my bike and damaged myself badly enough to be beyond my own first aid resources, I would not currently have tablets for my hypertension and hypothyroidism.

Falling off a bicycle is not a good thing. Is it possible that this is just another example of God using something bad for my good? After all, the Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

My Prayer

Lord, please open my eyes to the working of Your hand in all the circumstances of my life. Amen.

Slippery Slope

The caravan park where we are staying is separated from the swimming beach by a railway line. An access bridge has been built across it, made out of what appears to be recycled plastic.

Recently, we decided to get up early so we could see the sun rise over the sea. What we are not used to, coming from a much drier area, is the condensation that collects on any solid surface. As we walked across the bridge we left wet footprints.

My husband nearly slipped three times on the slopes and I had to hold onto the rail which made my gloves wet.

Life is sometimes like that. A person is on the right path, going in the right direction when suddenly his feet slip and he loses balance and lands in a mess, possibly sustaining an injury. It can be caused by something out of the blue or circumstances that are beyond his knowledge or experience.

Even in those circumstances, God is with us. We have faith that He is with us, no matter what.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrew 11:1)

My Prayer

Father God, thank you that You are with me even when my feet slip. May I always trust You and put my hope in Your eternal plan. Amen.

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Today’s prompt is the word, “hope.”

Sunrise over the sea