Tag Archives: God

A Story of a Cardinal

It started on Tuesday. A rapid tap-tap-tapping caused my son-in-law to go out into the garden to investigate. He took a video of a red-headed woodpecker pecking at one of our acacia trees. He said it was a cardinal woodpecker. Later I saw it too.

I was all set to go to ten pin bowling on Wednesday, when my daughter and granddaughter knocked at our front door and asked if I would like to save a woodpecker. Their cat had caught it and they were alerted by the bird’s loud shrieks. My daughter confiscated it from the cat. They brought it to our cottage because it would be safe from the cats. It looked like it had a broken wing and it was obviously in shock.

With my granddaughter’s help and a pair of gloves, we managed to place the bird gently in a cardboard box and give it a plastic cooldrink bottle lid of water.

My daughter left as she had an art class to run but left my granddaughter, who had stayed home from school after a bout of sickness, to look after the cardinal. I didn’t know what to do. I realised that, once again, the Lord had accepted my invitation to change my schedule as He saw fit. My husband went bowling without me.

I warned my granddaughter that the bird might die. (I’ve had experience with trying to save birds.) Then we prayed, remembering that Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31 NIV) He didn’t actually say that the Father would prevent sparrows falling to the ground, but that He cares. Other translations say that the Father knows about it. We had to pray for the best outcome.

I googled “Bird rehabilitation Johannesburg” and finally got hold of a number to phone in Midrand. When I spoke to a friendly lady called Margie, she advised me that they worked with a vet in Bryanston (about a third of the distance of that to Midrand) and I could take the woodpecker there. By then the bird was looking a little chirpier, even tried to escape when my granddaughter transferred him to a smaller box for travelling.

Cardinal woodpecker ready for a trip to the vet.

The vetinary practice was expecting us and there was no charge so we could leave the cardinal in the best possible place. Margie would fetch him later in the day and take him to the rehabilitation centre. Meanwhile he was whisked off to an incubator.

When the Lord changes our schedule unexpectedly, it can get quite exciting.

My Prayer

Thank You Father, that You know all about me. You care for me and are interested in everything I do. You are always with me. Please help me to be more aware of You in my everyday life. Amen.

From the Sidelines

Tomorrow is Wednesday and the day we join other pensioners for our ten pin bowling league. I am one of the worst bowlers in our group but nobody takes it too seriously and we all just have fun.

Some weeks ago I was trying to practice the presence of God by imagining Jesus with me. First I let Him bowl through me. All I can say is, He may have been a wonderful carpenter, but His bowling was no better than mine.

Then I thought perhaps He is my coach. That gave no better results.

Finally I realised that if God is my Father, He would be where any good father would be – watching his child from the sidelines.

I pictured a school cricket match. The fathers don’t go onto the pitch and hold their sons’ bats. Good fathers get enjoyment out of watching their children play whether they are good players or not. They cheer when their children hit sixes or take wickets, and shout, “Unlucky” if they are bowled.

In actual fact, my Father is more interested in my attitude and sportsmanship than in my performance.

So where is Jesus in the bowling alley? He’s standing unobtrusively behind the bowlers. He cheers when I get a strike and commiserates when I throw a gutter ball. He enjoys my enjoyment and smiles when I react in a God-honouring way.

Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9 ESV)

My Prayer

Thank you, Father, that you love me unconditionally, that there is nothing I can do that will make You love me more, or less. Thank You that You are a good Father and are interested in everything I do. Amen.

Spiritual Diet

When I could no longer button up the bottom three buttons of my Guide shirt, which I haven’t worn for a while, I decided to take a bit more control over my eating habits. The trouble is that junk food is easier to prepare and tastes nicer than good nutritious food. I would much rather grab a chocolate than a carrot any day.

My go-to plan is the Weighless one. I get to eat all food groups but in limited and balanced quantities. Highly processed and sugary foods are no-no’s.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

In church today we heard a sermon on how to read the Bible. One of the points our pastor made was that we should avoid snacking. By this he meant not limiting our spiritual diet to second hand, bite sized social media-type posts or clips. Perhaps one verse and somebody’s thoughts on it that take us less than three minutes to read or listen to. We need to engage with the Bible ourselves, struggle with the difficult passages and not only go for the sweet verses that are easy to read and suit our natural inclination.

Just like eating properly takes extra time and preparation, so our spiritual diet should be properly planned and time budgeted. It has often been said that if we are too busy to have a quiet time, i.e. spend quality time reading the Bible and communing with God, we are too busy. I confess that I often fall into this bad habit. I tell myself that if I am attending church or a corporate prayer meeting, that activity can take the place of a personal assignation with God.

The Bible talks about our spiritual diet – how we need to move on from the simple truths of the faith and go deeper into God’s word, allowing it to transform our character and habits. Paul said, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid foodSolid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:12,14 NLT)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I confess that I have been taking my Bible reading too lightly, preferring the sweet, palatable bits. Please help me to have the discipline to engage with Your Word and with You in a serious way. Amen.

God has a Sense of Humour

Saturday Night.

Our motorhome is almost packed and we are heading off tomorrow to Dube Private Game Reserve.

Life is not quite so simple however. I have asked one of our fellowship group members to lead the group in my absence.

The church has a lovely support system for group leaders with a monthly breakfast get-together and training. It was due to be tomorrow at 8am. I invited the stand-in leader to join me. My husband and I would go to church in the motorhome, I would attend the meeting, he would attend the early service and we’d leave straight after.

Meanwhile, today was the day when our Gideon weekly prayer meeting was to be in person rather than on WhatsApp. I don’t often attend the monthly in-person meetings. On Saturdays I usually take my granddaughter to Brownies and the timing might be tight. The WhatsApp method is easier. It’s not a problem to pray in bed from 7am to 7.30 and still be able to leave by 8.10. Assuming I would not be going, my husband planned a breakfast meeting with a friend and a fellow Gideon after the prayer meeting.

However, my granddaughter didn’t go to Brownies today because of a ballet rehearsal. I made my own plans. I needed to buy last-minute fresh vegetables before our trip. I decided I would go out to breakfast at a restaurant in the same complex as the fruit and vegetable shop, then buy the vegetables and be home in time to make soup for guests arriving at 12. That would leave the late afternoon to pack. My husband invited me to join the friend at breakfast. “Then I’ll have to attend the prayer meeting,” I replied. “And get up early,” I thought.

Then I remembered. I have given my time to the Lord. I don’t get to make the plans. He does. I didn’t even need to ask. I knew what the Lord would prefer between my praying and my spending an extra hour in bed.

Both the prayer meeting and the breakfast were blessings. I suggested that I could give our friend’s wife some documents at the training tomorrow, to which her husband replied that he wasn’t aware of a training tomorrow. It was almost six weeks since I had diarised the date so I checked with the elder who is my supervisor/mentor.

“Didn’t you get the message?” she asked. No, I didn’t. It appears that while I am on the email group, I am not yet on the WhatsApp group. The meeting has been cancelled.

Imagine how embarrassed I would have been if only our stand-in leader and I had arrived at the church for a meeting that wasn’t! That’s what would have happened if I had opted for the extra hour in bed.

I am sure the Lord had a good chuckle. He has a sense of humour.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord for giving me free choice. Thank You for Your amazing ability to co-ordinate events and work all things together for good for those who love You. May Ibe more and more aware of Your presence with me every day. Amen.

The Prescription

My reading for today included Proverbs 3:5-10. It is a prescription for health, wealth and favour. Perhaps we should call it a prescripture.

Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh[a]
    and refreshment[b] to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.
(ESV)

What stood out for me was verse 7. “Be not wise in your own eyes.”

I don’t know about other people, but I confess I am wise in my own eyes. My “wisdom” comes from many sources. Firstly, there is formal education. I did well at school and understood what I was taught. At university I specialised in microbiology, including bacteriology, virology, mycology, immunology and molecular genetics.

Then there is the wisdom of my parents. I tend to think that the way my parents did things was the right way. I am also influenced by my own experience. I will do things the way that has been successful for me with the least effort. Added to that is the influence of other people. When my daughter was a teenager, she persuaded me that my habit of tucking blouses into skirts or trousers was old fashioned. Younger friends agreed. Now I have an almost teenage granddaughter who tucks her tops into her skirts. Oh the freedom to express my own fashion sense (which was never amazing but it’s mine.”)

Other people speak with such confidence that I assume they are authorities. Campers will tell us the right way to pitch a tent or hammer in a peg. Friends will tell us how to attach a bicycle to a motorhome, polish furniture or attach toilet rolls. Some of this is useful and some is just their opinion. Then there are adverts, articles, Google searches, videos and the like.

So I’ve ended up thinking my way is the right way. And it isn’t. I make decisions based on a hodgepodge of history and interactions. I am wise in my own eyes.

The prescription from Proverbs is to give up this habit if I want spiritual health, in the same way a doctor might tell a patient she should give up smoking if she wants to improve her health. The trouble with prescriptions is that the doctor can’t make us follow his instructions or take the medicine he prescribes. That choice is up to us.

My Prayer

Father God, You have set out the right way to live in Your word. I confess that I don’t obey Your instructions. Please forgive me for leaning on my own understanding and being wise in my own eyes. Help me to trust in You with all my heart, and consult Your wisdom rather than my own. Amen.

Water

Yesterday I was still in bed when my husband told me we had a water problem. Fearing that our pipes had sprung another leak and anticipating that we’d be frantically mopping the laminated floor to try to save it from being ruined, I was slightly relieved when it seemed to be only a pressure problem. Instead of a gush, there was a trickle.

Image by Mikes-Photography from Pixabay

It soon became clear that this was not only our problem but that there was a generalized water disruption in our area affecting a number of suburbs. All sorts of problems surfaced which I would never have thought about. My daughter came to borrow the vacuum pump pot because the water boiler in the art studio wasn’t working. For a while hot water trickled out of the cold taps but before long even that dried up. We hadn’t realized how dependent we are on our water on tap. I kept trying to wash my hands after cutting an orange or before cooking. We couldn’t flush the toilet. Fortunately there is a borehole on the property so my husband fetched water in a bucket. To wash dishes we had to heat it in a pot because I didn’t want our kettle to scale up too much. As the day got later and there was still no water, I started contemplating how I could bath. It might have to be a quick cold wash instead.

Drinking water is a necessity for life but we use water for much more than drinking. Without water, plants won’t grow and there would be no life on earth. But water is also used for cleansing.

Jesus referred to water a lot.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit,.. (John 7:37-39a ESV)

Jesus knows that in the same way as people without water will die, so without the Spirit of God, a Christian cannot survive. Moreover, the Christian can be a channel of life to others, leading them to cleansing and eternal life.

My Prayer

Jesus, I want to come to You often and drink. Please fill me with Your Spirit and may rivers of living water flow out of my heart. Amen.

In His Time

There’s a lovely little chorus my children used to sing when they were little. It’s called “In His Time.”

In his time, in his time
He makes all things beautiful
In his time

Lord please show me everyday
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time

Sometimes we can’t understand God’s perspective on time. I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in Genesis 37 and 39 again.

Joseph was a teenager, somewhat cocky and arrogant as many teenage boys are. His brothers hated him. So much so, that, when the opportunity arose, most of them would have killed him. The oldest brother intervened, persuading them not to shed their brother’s blood but rather to throw him down a well. He intended to rescue him later but in the interim the other brothers sold Joseph to slave traders on their way to Egypt.

Joseph found himself in a terrible situation not through any actions of his own. He was a slave in a foreign country. He couldn’t speak the language. He trusted in God and prayed to Him, no doubt begging to be returned to his father. God didn’t answer that prayer. But He was with Joseph in his situation. “When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes. “ (Genesis 39:3-4a NIV)

Joseph was unjustly accused. Again an innocent person suffered because of the sin of others. Joseph ended up in the king’s prison. He must have wondered why God had allowed such an unjust thing to happen to him. Yet again the Lord was with Joseph and everything he did was successful. but he was still not free. He was still in a foreign land.

Joseph was thirty before things finally changed for him. ten years of the prime of his life were wasted. Or were they?

When Joseph finally appeared before Pharaoh, there was no trace of the arrogant youth. Joseph was humble, yet confident in God. God had used the years that seemed wasted to mould Joseph’s character. In the ten years, Joseph had also learned to speak Egyptian, a skill he needed both to communicate with Pharaoh and to fulfill his role as overseer of all Egypt. God couldn’t have used Joseph as he was when he first arrived in Egypt. God’s plan needed time.

So often we find ourselves in a situation where God doesn’t answer our prayers. We can’t understand why He has allowed us to suffer. We pray and we pray. We feel God has abandoned us, we doubt His love.

God uses the unjust, the unfair, the unfortunate trials of our lives to fit us for His future plans. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us and He honours that promise. He is with us when we struggle, when we don’t understand, when things seem to go from bad to worse. Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

God makes all things beautiful in His time. That is the point. It takes time and we should not waste the pain.

My Prayer

Lord, I am limited by my perception of time. I can’t understand why You don’t bring healing when I’ve been praying for years. Like the Psalmist I want to ask, “How long, Lord, how long?” Even though I don’t understand Your ways and Your times, please give me eyes to see Your presence with me even when there seems no relief in sight. Amen.

The Birds and the Bees

Our dining room table is near the window that overlooks the bird feeder. While we eat breakfast, we enjoy the birds visiting our garden to eat fruit, bread and seeds.

Black Collared Barbets are frequent visitors

Every morning I put out bread and apples or oranges cut in half in the fruit feeder. The bread feeder hangs beneath it. It is like a cage which can just accommodate two slices of bread. As the sparrows and weavers eat the bread, crumbs drop onto the ground so clumsier birds like doves cluster under the feeder to forage for bread crumbs.

When I go out to replace the fruit every morning, a buzz of up to ten bees greets me. They think I put fruit out for them. My purpose is to feed sparrows, weavers and mid-sized birds like barbets, starlings and occasional go-away-birds. However, doves also benefit and so do bees.

This illustrates to me that all our actions have knock-on consequences. “The Butterfly Effect” is a metaphor to demonstrate that little insignificant events can lead to significant results over time. Recently both my husband and I have had feedback about something we did or said at least ten years ago, that we have forgotten about but had an impact on other people that they still remember.

Adam and Eve made a decision to go their own way instead of God’s way and the whole of humanity was contaminated by sin. The Bible says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV)

The things we do and say have consequences that we might never have imagined. They will affect people we might not even know. The things we do matter. The things we say matter.

My Prayer

Lord, I sometimes speak without thinking and act on the spur of the moment. Please teach me to guard my tongue and measure my steps. I want to commit my ways to You so You can direct my paths. Every day. Amen.

Like a Little Child

Jesus said,” Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,…” (Matthew 18:3-5 ESV)

Image by Steven Batty from Pixabay

After church this morning, we met the missionaries our church supports from the Ukraine, Arkadiy and Anneke Naydenov. Since the calamitous events that have been happening in the Ukraine recently, their life has been turned upside down. They managed to escape to Hungary and recently arrived safely in South Africa. They have a five month old baby, a contented, peaceful, happy child. Anneke was telling us that during air raid sirens, crossing borders, living in different countries and four different houses, he would just look at her in complete trust and coo happily. “That,” she said, “is how we should trust God.”

I’ve been meditating on that picture all afternoon. My trust in God is so far from that ideal and yet, all of us, at one time, had that same unquestioning trust in our parents. We could do nothing for ourselves, we were totally dependent on our parents, particularly our mothers. Imagine how stress-free our lives would be if we could recapture that trust and place it in God, Who loves us more than our parents ever could, Who has promised to care for us and provide for us, Who is the perfect Parent.

My Prayer

Father God, I know that You love me. I believe You know how to care for those who belong to You. Why do I find it so difficult to trust You with all my heart? Please help me. Amen.

Apology notes

On Saturday I attended a family fun day organised by the Girl Guide Association in this region. The plan was to move around in a small group and take part in activities representing other countries at various well spaced locations at Delta Park. It was great fun and included hitting a piñata, fishing with magnets in the river, making Canadian pancakes on upended tins and solving puzzles.

Delta Park
fun and games at the Mexico base

During the day I came across people I was involved with a long time ago, when I ran a Guide company.

At the end of the day, I received two apologies. One from a young woman who was manning the India base. She told us all about henna painting for Indian weddings. She was dressed up in Indian clothes and I wasn’t 100% sure she was the girl I had known but I asked her how she was doing. She called me Irmgard but I didn’t say anything. When she saw me later, she apologised profusely for getting my name wrong. I also got an SMS from the lady who used to be my commissioner. I had waved to her. She apologised because she hadn’t recognised me.

I need to write an apology letter of my own.

Dear Lord Jesus,

I invited You into my day on Saturday morning then forgot about You. When I woke with a headache, I didn’t consult You or ask for Your help but took two aspirin then slept for another fifteen minutes. I could have used Your help later in the day, too, when I got to the Guide campsite and there was no sign of my granddaughter or my son-in-law. You gave Your help anyway. When, not ten minutes later, I was hailed by my son-in-law, I did not think to thank You.

I know You were with me. You were there in the beautiful autumn trees, in the Ibises rummaging in the newly mown grass, in the gurgling river. How easy it would have been to pray a silent “Thank You.” But I didn’t. I ignored You all day. When I puffed up hills that the Brownies took at a laughing run, I didn’t ask for Your help, although I am sure You would have given it.

I had fun, even though I was physically exhausted and my foot was sore after I twisted it going down a step. However, I am sure my day would have been greatly improved if I had consciously involved You. If I had used the opportunity of walking in nature to also pray, talk the walk, so to speak. Instead, I treated You like a fifth wheel and I’m sorry.

We learned in church today about how You reinstated Peter, meeting him in his weakness where he was. (John 21:15-19). I know You do the same to me. You know I am just dust and yet You love me. Even if I ignore You, You will never forsake me because you have promised. Thank You. Please continue to walk with me into the coming week and help me to be more mindful of You. Amen.