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.
My sister-in-law has planted a lemon tree in a pot in their sheltered patio. It has three lemons almost ripe. My nephew and I were discussing recipes that use lemons and there are thousands. My favourite might be lemon meringue pie. I make mine with condensed milk to which an egg and the lemon juice are added. What makes it special is the juxtaposition of the sour lemon juice and the super sweet condensed milk. Either on its own would be either too sweet or too sour.
Life is a lot like that. If only good things happened, it would be more like a fairy tale where everybody lives happily ever after. It is the negative aspects of life that make the positive more special.
Jesus said, “I have said these things to you that you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)
Life is not a fairy tale and we must expect setbacks, heartaches and trouble. Only in heaven will there be no more tears, no death and no pain. Meanwhile we are in a fallen world.
Jesus promises to be with us always, strengthening us for times of setbacks, heartaches and trouble. The best we can do is stay close to Him and allow Him to shape our reactions to circumstances, good and bad.
They say, “If life serves you lemons, make lemonade.” I say, “If life serves you lemons, make lemon meringue pie!”
Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You are with me through good times and bad. Please keep me close to You and may I be aware of Your presence especially in the times when I am too weak to hold on to You.
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.
My husband, who was born in the first half of the last century, still uses a diary for his time management. It is fairly easy to buy him a Christmas present. If he hasn’t bought himself one by Christmas, I can’t go wrong with a hard-backed, page-a day diary for the next year.
If an event is not yet finalised, my husband will pencil it in, either to be inked in later, or rubbed out.
When we pray together in the morning, we’ve recently been getting into the habit of specifically confirming to the Lord His right to change our plans and our agenda if He wishes. It is like the plans we make, and there are many, are only penciled into our diary awaiting His final confirmation. This helps us cope when unexpected things crop up and when things don’t quite work out according to our plan.
Currently we are planning to fly to Gqeberha on Tuesday to spend time with my mother and other members of both our families.
James says, “Come now, you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”(James 4:13-15 ESV)
So our plans have only been penciled in. If the Lord wills, we will fly to Gqeberha on Tuesday.
Father, I don’t know the future. You do. I know Your plans toward me are good so I can trust my future and my plans to You. Amen.
Tuesday was one of those days. On Monday night we had both power and water outages. For some strange reason when we have a water cut, hot water comes out of the cold tap until it dries up completely.
On Tuesday morning we had left-over dishes from our community group meeting on Monday. We had had soup and rolls as well as the usual tea and coffee. The electricity was back and we were able to do a double wash- load of bed and bath linen. The cold water was back but not the hot. Nothing but coughing and spluttering came out of the hot tap even after ten minutes. We decided that since the washing machine was working, we would load all the dishes into the dishwasher rather than boiling kettlesful of water for dishes. After the two-hour cycle, the dishes were no cleaner than when they had gone in and we ended up having to boil the water anyway and was them.
Tuesday is our shopping day and this particular Tuesday we had to be home earlier than normal because my husband was fetching our grandson at an earlier time than usual. Meanwhile I was expecting a delivery of ink cartridges for the printer and I notified the family so my daughter or son-in-law who were working from home, could take collection if necessary.
“More haste less speed,” they say. My husband knocked over his cappuccino, making a big mess but fortunately not breaking the mug. When at last we were ready to leave, much later than we’d intended, my husband pushed the panic button by mistake and we had to waste another couple of minutes sending messages.
As we finally drove out of the electric gate, the delivery vehicle drove up. He scanned my ID document and handed me my parcel. If we hadn’t been delayed, we would have missed him. I am not sure if he would have given the parcel to my family if he needed my ID card. Is it possible that the Lord took control of my schedule again and delayed us? Or was it just co-incidence?
The Bible says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV.) The verse doesn’t say “all significant things,” just “all things.” Neither does it mention “great good” just “good.”
I believe that my loving Heavenly Father uses even insignificant things like spilled coffee for my good, even a tiny good. Receiving delivery as I did saved all kinds of hassle like the courier having to come again, red tape, possibly having to stay at home all morning waiting.
My Father, thank You that You are interested in even the insignificant things in my life:- the incidents that will not be remembered, the daily bumps and spills and mistakes. You can use all things both big and small, pleasant or unpleasant for my good or the good of others according to Your design. Please become more and more involved in the detail of my life. I surrender my plans to Your control. Amen.
On a Monday we usually walk the grandchildren to school. This last Monday they got up late so we had less time to get there before the bell. That meant, for the youngest, no picking purple flowers and no stops to admire the bottlebrushes. There was less time to chat about anything and everything. There are two ways to walk to school:- to enjoy the walk and to get there.
In the same way there are two ways to live life. There was a motor car advert which said, “Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” We can appreciate each different stage of life we are in. Looking back on early married life, money was tight and we were inexperienced and unsure of ourselves. We were so happy. Then came the kids and life was hectic and sleep was a luxury. Those days were such fun, seeing the unfolding world through the eyes of children. Then life happened and things didn’t always work out according to the fairy tale script. Now we are retired. There are health constraints and money constraints but we are happy. What a joy to walk grandchildren to school, to watch junior sport, to be taught a new game by my grandson, to go shopping and enjoy the pensioners’ tea.
The other way to go through life is at breakneck speed, having no time to stop and look around. There is a goal to be accomplished and no time to waste.
Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” ( Matthew 6:28 KJV) God wants us to rid our minds of ceaseless worry about worldly things. He wants us to stop and look – at the flowers, at the birds, even at the insects. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. (Proverbs 6:6 ESV)
If we go through life appreciating all God’s blessings at different stages of our lives, when a burning bush comes along, we will turn aside and gaze in wonder and give God a gap to show us something amazing.
Slow me down, Lord, that I can look around me and see all the wonderful things You have created. When You want to interrupt my everyday life, give me the grace to turn aside and give You my attention. Amen.
When our youngest child was two, the bank where my husband worked transferred him from Durban to Johannesburg. We bought a house we liked but made the mistake of agreeing to the sellers’ requirement that we only move in after six months. Fortunately the bank paid for us to be accommodated in a guest farm for that period. It was called Siesta.
I met an older lady there whose family was also in limbo. They were waiting for all the red tape to be processed before they could move to Australia. They had had a very traumatic burglary and had decided to get out of South Africa as soon as possible. She took me under her wing. One of the things she taught me was how to prune roses. She said you had to control where new shoots would grow so you get an open look and not a crisscross pattern in the bush. You do this by cutting just above a growth node in the direction you want the branch to go.
We had a visiting preacher at church today and he preached on John 15. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (vs 1,2,4 NIV)
If we want to bear fruit, he said, we must do two things – remain, and expect to be pruned. Pruning is not a punishment or a sign of God’s displeasure but a necessary step to growth. Just as gardeners prune roses to produce bigger and healthier blooms and well shaped bushes, God prunes us to train our vigour into healthy growth and much fruit.
It is nearly pruning season for roses. If I were a rose, it is certainly not something I would look forward to, even if it were for my good.
Father God, pruning is not something I relish nor look forward to, yet I have to trust You to know exactly when I need pruning and how to do it. I submit my life again into Your hands. Please help me to remain in Christ. Amen.
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.
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.
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.