Tag Archives: encouragement

Milk and Honey

This post is part of the Saturday Streams of Consciousness challenge. Today’s challenge is to write about the last thing I put in my fridge. Since I am currently enjoying frothy cappuccino, the last thing I put back in my fridge was milk. I can’t think of milk without thinking of milk and honey and the land God promised to the Israelites.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

God promised to lead them to a Land of Milk and Honey. However, once they were almost at the Promised Land, close enough, indeed, to send spies to scout out the land, they had a crisis of faith. Although two of the twelve spies brought back proof of the productivity of the land and urged the people to immediately take possession, the other eight talked fear into them. The people are like giants, they reported, we are like grasshoppers in their eyes and we appeared the same to ourselves. They forgot about God. They forgot about the promise.

They relied, instead, on democracy. “Let’s vote on it,” they said. “After all, the majority of the people can’t be wrong, can they?”

We know what happened as a result of their worldly thinking. God said, in essence, “All right, have it your way. You could have done this the easy way by trusting Me but you have chosen to do it the hard way by trusting yourselves. Maybe the next generation will do better. none of you will see the promised land except Joshua and Caleb, who were willing to trust me.”

The Israelites spent another 38 years in the Wildeness in God’s training camp. Their own resources were totally inadequate. They had to rely on Him. Nevertheless none of that generation got to see the Promised land, except Joshua and Caleb.

How often don’t we rely on popular opinion rather than God’s word? On my own I am not courageous enough to go against the thinking of the masses. After all, the majority has to be right, doesn’t it? The story of Joshua shows us that kind of thinking is a lie. God’s truth is true, no matter how many people don’t believe it. He will keep His promises, no matter how many people don’t trust Him. We need to make our own decisions, not be swayed by others.

God said to Joshua as He says to me, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (Josh 1:5-7 (NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, You know that I am neither strong nor courageous. Yet my life is hidden in Christ. He has enough strength and courage to work out this fruit in me. Help me to trust You and Your word rather than social media and popular opinion. Amen.

Cloves and Bananas

Flavours are important. For breakfast I usually have a bowl of oats. Over the years I’ve made my own tweaks to my oats. I mush up tinned pie apples and add cinnamon and raisins to make a yummy addition. One tablespoon of this and one of yoghurt, mix it into the oats, sprinkle with chopped peanuts and you have oats-a-la-Jenny.

Yesterday my oats tasted funny. I had mixed up a new batch of apple mush the day before. I cast my mind back and tried to think of a reason my oats tasted of cloves instead of cinnamon. I went to the spice cupboard. My spices are arranged alphabetically. Cinnamon first. The bottle was empty. Next powdered cloves. Brown powder. I deduced what had happened.

Cloves can be used to spice apples. Baked apples often have whole cloves stuck into them. But it’s not the same. Luckily it wasn’t cayenne pepper or something. At least my breakfast was still edible.

Isn’t it amazing the different flavours God has created for us to enjoy? Isn’t it wonderful that He has given us the ability to differentiate between them?

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

My granddaughter doesn’t like bananas. I found a recipe on the internet for a healthy chocolate mousse using organic cocoa, avocado and a super ripe banana. My grandson helped me make this as our experimental pudding. He took his sister a taste without telling her the ingredients.

“It tastes like banana,” she said.

Flavours matter.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything…” (Matt 5:13 NIV)

He could have said the same about cloves, or bananas. If they lose their flavour, they are not good for anything.

God has called us all to certain things. We have different gifts, different callings.

I’ve been reading the Max Lucado book, In the Eye of the Storm. Today I read how, as a teenager, he had asked a friend to join him and his father on a fishing holiday. They couldn’t fish because of the rainy, icy, sleety weather. Cooped up together in a camper, he discovered flaws he hadn’t noticed in his friend before and even in his father. He says, “When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.” Maybe that’s true of all of us. If we don’t do what God has called us to do, we lose our flavour.

I believe I am called to write. My spiritual gift is encouragement. What happens when I don’t write, when I don’t encourage? I fritter my time away on other things. I search the internet for bargains on the things I covet but can’t afford. I spend time on my cell phone allowing other people’s opinions to influence my mind. I laze around feeling depressed and even headachy.

I know life is a balance between various aspects, but I pray that I might never lose my flavour.

My prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the gifts you have endowed me with, for my calling and my ministry. Please help me keep close to You that I may never lose my flavour. Amen.

The Life of a Daffodil Bulb

I love Spring. I love watching the emergence of blossoms, of flowers, of Spring bulbs. Our first sign of Spring in our shared garden is usually the jasmine, budding even before September and touching the air with whiffs of its heady perfume. Soon sweet-peas add their fragrance with freesias and yesterday-today-tomorrow joining the scent party. My favourite spring flowers are daffodils. They have such smiling faces. It makes me happy just to look at them.

Jesus said,

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”(Luke 12:27 – 28 NIV)

I considered the life of a daffodil. It starts as a bulb, not particularly good-looking but provided by God with all it needs to become a beautiful flower. However, it takes time. At first the bulb is buried under a heavy load of soil. It is dark. It is smelly. It seems like the weight of the world is pushing down on it. It might not be the life the daffodil had planned for itself. It might even question the existence of God. Praying doesn’t seem to help. Nothing changes. Things might even get worse. Winter comes. It gets colder.

The changes, when they come, are gradual. A stretching for the sun, a tentative reaching out to the dirty soil around it. At last a tiny breakthrough. Is that sunshine on its tip? God sends the circumstances, the rain, the sunshine that grow the plant. It is all His doing. When Spring comes, the daffodil, stretched and strengthened, is ready to bloom where it was planted. Again, it is no effort or straining on the plant’s part but only the grace of God that causes the opening of a beautiful flower bringing glory to the Creator and beauty to the world.

My Prayer

Father God, sometimes I find myself in dark and unpleasant places and the burden on my shoulders seems too great for me. Please help me learn from the daffodil that You have a plan for me. It might not be quick, it might not be painless but if I merely trust you and commit myself to your circumstances I will grow into the flower You imagine, bringing glory to You and beauty to the world. Amen.

Encouragement with Red Ribbons

A spiritual exercise I did recently prompted by Margaret Silf’s book, “Taste and See” encouraged me to imagine my life as a store topped by a living area. What product or service would my store offer?

On reflection, I decided my store would offer encouragement, bottled in pretty glass jars tied with coloured ribbons. Different sized and shaped bottles of encouragement would be displayed in the store window.

Image by Tesa Robbins from Pixabay

Of course, encouragement doesn’t last. It is like a bottle of sweets, enjoyed for the moment but gone by tomorrow.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 reads, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

That’s all very well, but I want something more concrete. How do I encourage others? I think it starts with my attitude towards others. If I accept others just as they are, if I care about them as individuals and see each as God’s unrepeatable masterpiece, I already create an atmosphere of encouragement.

Then it is concentrating on the good in people, regarding them as competent and trustworthy, and not focusing on their faults and failings. It is a word of appreciation or applause for something done. It is enthusiasm for what they love or are called to do. It is sincere words of support or agreement. It includes offering an apt word of scripture according to the circumstances.

To encourage means to imbue with courage. The Oxford dictionary defines it as to give someone support, courage or hope.

My Prayer

Father God, please give me eyes to see others as You see them and to accept them as they are. Give me ears to listen and understand so I may enter into their struggles, joys and sorrows. Give me a tongue to be able to communicate the hope I have in You, the faith that You are good and that You have everything under control. Amen.

Lockdown Day 1 Glimpses of Glory.

Yesterday was hectic. My husband and I decided to take the last opportunity to go out for breakfast and cappuccino while we still could. Portabello restaurant was quiet. In the beginning we were the only people seated there although another couple did come a little later on. 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 or more 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.

My bible reading for today was from Psalm 119.

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.” (vs 18 and 19)

I’d like to adapt that for today to read:

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things.

That kindness from a stranger was a wonderful thing. The spider web catching the sunlight that I saw the other evening was a wonderful thing.


The snail trail that my grandchildren pointed out to me this morning was a wonderful thing.

dig

The ladybird that the neighbour’s children found among the pine cones elicited tinkling childish laughter that gladdened my husband as he hung up the washing. That was a wonderful thing.

In our normal hectic life, we miss these wonderful things. They have always been there but we rushed right past them.

My prayer, therefore is:

Lord, may I see wonderful things, glimpses of Your Glory, amidst the chaos, uncertainty and confusion of this time.

Virtual World

On Sunday we attended Virtual Church. Well, it wasn’t quite virtual reality – if you compare it to some games where you wear a helmet and wield a sword, but it was not real church. It was watching videos pre-recorded or selected by our leaders for us to watch at home with possibly a small group. Like video games, there are limits and restrictions. One of the restrictions is my knowledge of technology but the most notable difference is the lack of contact with other (real) people. It is difficult to carry out the injunction in Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together…but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” But, as the world pulls together to fight this common pandemic using hygiene and social distancing, this is becoming the new reality.

Although we can’t continue meeting together (in big groups) we can certainly encourage each other. We can pray and tell people we are praying for them. We can send encouraging messages via WhatsApp rather than sensational type suspect news and messages which are more likely to engender fear than encouragement. A tip I learned yesterday; before mindlessly sending on a forwarded message, make it personal. Tell the person what the message/video/picture meant to you, why you think it will enrich them and how it made you think of them.

My encouraging message for today is Psalm 91 vs 1-3 (NIV).

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord,”He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

Blending

Adult colouring books are not really my thing. I thought I’d give it a try (since everybody else was so enthusiastic about it) and bought myself a book. Well, I have half coloured one page. I saw a journal in a Christian book shop with bible verses and small pictures to colour on every alternate page and plenty of space to write so I considered I might manage that.

My daughter is an artist and taught me to blend with Aquelle crayons. “Use different colours,” she said, “and blend them together with your wet paintbrush”. It worked quite well for a non-artist.

dav

It occurs to me  that is what God does in a marriage or in a family. He uses different colours (people), puts them together artistically, and blends them making a more vibrant and dynamic picture.  My husband and I are very different but God has managed to blend us together so the “Us” contains elements of each of us but also of a combination of both of us, making the whole more than the sum of the parts. In the hands of the Master, each marriage and family is an unrepeatable masterpiece.

Load shedding

South Africa is undergoing load shedding at the moment. That means that for four hours at a time, electricity is switched off in a certain area. It is staggered so that yesterday it was 4 pm to 8 pm and today it is 8 am to 12.30 pm. Sitting in the dark with candles and torch light got me to thinking about the references to darkness and light in the bible. They didn’t have electricity in those days.

The obvious ones came to mind. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path,” Psalm 119:105

or “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick….” (Math 5:15 KJV)    Of course the NIV translates a bushel as a bowl. Last night I lit a candle just so we could see what we were eating for dinner. I can’t imagine putting it under a bowl or tall vase.

 

But the verses my mind lingered on are from John 1.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it……..

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own and his own did not receive him.” (John 1:4-5 and 9-11 NIV)

What particularly struck me was the contrast between the darkness and the world. The darkness had to submit to the light. It had no choice.  However the true light came to his own and his own did not receive him. They had a choice. They could accept him or reject him.

The choice is still there today. We can accept the Light of the World or reject him. Verse 12 tells us “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…born of God.”

Just when I thought I was off the hook!

I have been taking it easy lately. I haven’t blogged for ages, I haven’t written anything for the writers circle and my book is sitting at chapter four where it has been since June.

Those of you who follow my blog will know that I felt called to write after a Christian writers’ retreat. A couple of months ago I contacted Valerie who is involved in  a project called “Books in Homes Africa” Their mission is to produce affordable books so every home can buy them thus bringing literacy to South Africa.  Val was excited about some of my children’s books, including “The Saddest Little Sugar Bowl in the World.” The upshot is I have donated my children’s stories to the project.

I thought that was it. I thought that was what the call was about. I enjoyed the freedom of not having to look after my blog, not having to try to find time in my busy day to write. I deleted without reading all the e mails from writers’ blogs I had subscribed to.

I might need to rethink! An interesting set of co-incidences happened this last weekend.

  • First I got an e mail advising me that there was a pingback on one of my blog posts. When I went to check it out, I saw it was the one about the writers retreat and how I had felt called to write, “Waking the Dragon”
  • Then I also got an e mail from Val after months. I hadn’t worried or followed up at all because I had released my books to the wider world and what happened to them was none of my concern. However her e mail encouraged me and I thought maybe I could write more stories for beginner readers.
  • We were on a motorhome rally at a lovely resort in Vereniging over the weekend and I had brought my Kindle to do some reading. My cheaper version shows adverts for books from Amazon as the sleep screen and as I took up my Kindle on Saturday to continue reading “The Girl on the Train”, this is what I sawSo now I am going to have to get more disciplined again and go back to my novel. I’ll have to read the first three chapters again just o see what’s happening. I am just going to have to believe that whom God calls, he equips (Hebrews 13:21) because I certainly don’t have the  perseverance to do it on my own. I can’t even stick to a diet for a week!