Tag Archives: Life

Add Value to Survival

JusJoJan 23 January 2022

When I was at school, probably preteens/early teens, it was fashionable to have an autograph book. One would pass the book around the class (I was in an all-girls school in my early high school career) and everybody would write a short funny saying or rhyme and their name. Girls wrote clever things like “YY U R, YY U B. I C U R YY 4 me.” (Too wise you are, too wise you be, I see you are too wise for me.) One girl made a page of bricks in her book with the question on top, “What is better than gold?” The plan was for everybody to write their answer and their name in a brick to build a friendship wall. One girl, I think her name was Colleen, wrote “Peace with God” as her answer. I was not a Christian at the time and I thought that a weak answer.

I think differently now. If I had an autograph book, I would ask the question on my Wall of Life, “What adds value to surviving that makes life worth living?” People would come up with many answers.

I’ve heard it said, “Friendship has no survival value but it adds value to survival.” So “Friends” could make up one brick of my wall.

The Bible says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.“(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV) This is true not only of friends, but husbands and wives, parents and children, family or any other person who enriches our lives by being who they are.

My classmate, Colleen, was also right. Peace with God makes the difference between living and surviving. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)

There are more bricks to be filled in. Please add your contribution in the comments. If you can add a relevant scripture verse, all the better. I think “Chocolate,” “Cappuccino” and “Sunsets” would look good on my wall.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for the people and things that add value to my life. May I never take them for granted but value them and give You thanks always. Amen.

Box of Chocolates

JusJoJan 10 January 2022

This post is part of JusJoJan. The word for today is “chocolate.” So here goes.

Image by Pixabay

The thing that makes a box of chocolates special compared to a slab of chocolate is the variety and the surprise. Not everybody likes every chocolate in a mixed box. If I come across a coconut or a Turkish delight chocolate, I quickly look for somebody to hand it on to. Nevertheless, a box of chocolates to me is a symbol of abundance. (Did I mention I was a chocoholic?)

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (John 10:10b Amplified Bible.)

Life is a gift. It consists of years, months, weeks, days. So, each day is a gift. Imagine the excitement we would feel if we regarded each day as a chocolate from a big box. Suppose we woke up each morning and there, on our bedside table, was an unlabeled chocolate wrapped in gold foil. Depending on our character, we’d unwrap it slowly and carefully or quickly with excitement. Then we’d bite into it and savour all the goodness of our gift.

Then we’d be able to say, with the Psalmist, “This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, may I not take my days for granted but recognise that each one is a special gift from You.

Life’s a Journey

I’ve started going through Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life” again. In chapter four he asks, “What is your metaphor for life?” Some people see life as a circus, a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony or a dance. My husband, in answer to my question, said it was like our fiberoptic Christmas tree – always changing.

I see my life as a journey. It has a starting point and it has a destination. As I go along, I gain more experience and can cope with future travel challenges. There are challenges to travel, of course. Whether it be a long hike with obstacles to overcome, rivers to cross, or difficult rocky outcrops to negotiate, or international travel with borders to cross, languages to learn, visas to obtain, it is seldom a boring predictable experience.

There are travelling companions. They journey with us for different proportions of our travels. My husband has been travelling with me for nearly 43 years but he won’t always be with me. Other people travel only a short distance with me but if I can enrich their journey or help them with directions, it adds to the journey of both of us.

My destination is Heaven and the road has already been mapped out for me. Although many of my traveling companions and other pilgrims before us have the same destination, we don’t reach it at the same time. Each person’s journey is an individual one.

I need travelling clothes that are comfortable but can be adapted instantly if conditions or climates change. I also need a compass and the Bible is an excellent one.

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. … I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.”(Psalm 119:9-10 and 32 NIV)

I can write more about life as a journey, but Rick Warren maintains there are only three Biblical metaphors for life. Life is a test, life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment.

Certainly life is temporary, we all know that. One day my heart will stop beating and my earthly life will be over. Thinking about my life as a test or a trust is challenging because I’m not sure I am doing all that well. However, it might change the way I react to problems, trials and troubles. This will require some serious reflection.

Meanwhile, as the motor car manufacturer maintained, “Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.”

My Prayer

Eternal Father, I know in my mind that my life is not about me but because You willed it according to Your plan. Thank You for the gifts and talents with which You entrusted me. May You have a good return on Your investment. When I am tested, please help me to stand firm and trust in Your strength to overcome. Amen.

The Unicorn Granny and Other Memories

Christmas has come and gone and I’m now in this strange doldrum era between Christmas and New Year.

My Christmas memories of 2021 consist of little things. My youngest South African granddaughter (7) secretly made Christmas hats for all her family. She cut and folded paper plates, covered them with silver or gold paper, used her pocket money to buy little Christmas bows and adorned them according the the colour preferences of the recipients.

Mine was magic. It turned me into a unicorn granny – a grannicorn?

I will remember the lovely Zoom call we had with all our children, scattered around the world, from New Zealand to Russia…

and the Christmas message I got from a friend I haven’t seen or had contact with in over five years.

I will remember singing old songs at the tops of our voices while the grandchildren queried the meanings of the lyrics.

Then there are the things I probably won’t forget, even if I try:-, Waking up on Christmas morning with a headache and feeling of nausea and deciding not to risk church in person, packing a couple of Christmas nibbles for a friend and finding one container of Christmas mince crumbles had gone mouldy, scrubbing the burned bits off the gammon because I had allowed the water/wine mix to boil dry.

Good, quirky or unfortunate, these are some of this year’s Christmas memories.

So I would like to give thanks to God for all His blessings. For the family He has given us, for technology, enabling us to video-chat with those far away and receive messages from old friends, for His material gifts, enabling us to cook a special meal and give gifts to each other.

Most of all I would like to give thanks to God for His great gift of Christ. God became man and lived among us. The world will never be the same again, and since I’ve met Him, I will never be the same again.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger telling the world how bad it was. He came to help. To put the world right again.” (John 3:16-17 MSG)

My Prayer

Lord, all I can say in the face of Your great love is, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Amen

Trees

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday.

I have always loved the song, “Trees,” sung by Nelson Eddy and later by Mario Lonza.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

We’ve been away in the Bush for the last five days, at a place called Dube Game Lodge.

We set up our motorhome between the trees and enjoyed the outdoor life. I got to thinking about trees. Besides the poetic beauty of trees as mentioned in the song, there is also the great design principle. Anybody who has ever tried making a model scene will know how difficult it is to get your trees to stand. You have to make bases or somehow prop up you sticks that represent stems.

In real trees, a network of roots anchor the tree in the ground and grow as the tree grows. I have heard that the root system of a tree is at least as big in area as the branch system. Not only do the roots anchor the tree, they also source the water and minerals from the ground that the tree needs. The food the tree makes itself, turning carbon dioxide into glucose and then to starch which is stored in the leaves. How wonderful is that! Moreover, a by product of the whole process is oxygen, which keeps us and all living things alive.

We use the structural strength of trees to make building materials. And more trees can grow if we are responsible in cutting them down and replanting.

If Man had designed trees, they would all be identical:- perfectly straight, maybe even square in diameter with branches, if any, at regular intervals and at right angles.

Fortunately, God’s designs combine function with beauty. Each tree is different and there are so many varieties. The Bible says, “…God…richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)

Next time you see a tree, stop for a moment and admire its beauty, Its functionality and its amazing design. Give thanks and glory to the God who designed it.

My Prayer

Creator God, as I walk through this life, open my eyes to see Your fingerprints on all created things. I praise You for Your marvelous works. Amen.

Building a House

In my assignation with the Lord this morning, I read Psalm 27. Having just blogged yesterday about allowing God to do things His way and not trying to struggle on in my own strength, I was struck by the first two verses.

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (NIV)

I am a great believer in energy efficiency. To build in vain seems such a waste of energy.

I am going to apply this principle to my vague plan to publish a collection of my better blog posts. If the Lord organises it, then I will not labour in vain.

My Prayer

Father God, if this vague plan of mine is of You, please will You take over. If not, please show me how to use my time to glorify you. Amen.

The Tomato Plant.

I may have mentioned before that I have brown thumbs – the opposite of green fingers. The idea of growing my own vegetables is very attractive but my success has been meagre. When I planted tomatoes, they looked healthy for a while – even gave me five tomatoes to eat. Then they developed some kind of fungal disease and the plant died even before the last six tomatoes ripened.

In winter I bought a packet of tomato seeds and some of those compostable planting pots and some growing pellets. As soon as Spring arrived I planted them. When they were big enough I cut off the bases of the pots and planted them suitably spaced in my vegetable garden. Now, two months later, five of the nine pots contain living plants. One is about 20cm tall but the others are still about 10cm. I’m not feeling too optimistic.

About six weeks ago I noticed a tomato plant among my clivias. It already had flowers so I knew it wouldn’t be long before there were some tomatoes. Now it is producing fruit. Abundantly. They turned out to be baby tomatoes. My favourite kind. Three or four times a week I can collect upwards of 20 tomatoes – enough for a salad for lunch.

This tomato plant I had nothing to do with. I didn’t plant it. It just grew. God planted it.

What this says to me is that if I start a new endeavour in my own strength and wisdom, the results are not amazing. If God starts something and I keep my grubby paws off it, it will work out exactly according to His plan. I have to learn to be led by the Spirit, not my own imagination or good ideas. Perhaps I also need to examine my motives. If my motive is purely to glorify God, then it is a worthy endeavour. If my motive is to make money or get fame or recognition or to impress others, the results are in no way guaranteed.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)

My Prayer

Father God, I find it difficult to discern when my thoughts and ideas come from myself and when they are from You. Please help me to live so closely to You that my default is to be led by Your Spirit. Teach me to hear Your voice and obey Your commands. Amen.

Democracy

On Monday I voted in the municipal elections in South Africa. Because I am over sixty five, it was fairly pleasant. We were taken to the front of the queue for initial checking of documents then escorted to the door of the classroom where our section of the alphabet was voting. I don’t think we took longer than ten minutes.

I am able to vote because I live in a democracy. My husband and I reminisced about the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 when the queues snaked around the block and my husband waited six hours. We still had dependent children at that stage so I came and went with the children, keeping an eye on progress.

As a civic-minded gesture, Wimpy offered free coffee to every person who showed their marked thumb to prove they had voted.

The special ink leaked all the way around my nail and under it.

Just because South Africa is a democracy doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Far from it. In fact it seems that what the majority wants is not even close to what I want.

My ultimate citizenship is not in South Africa. Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus, Christ.” (Phil 3:20 NIV)

Heaven is not a democracy. Its citizens do not vote on the way it is governed nor any policies. Its citizens have no rights except the right to be God’s children. (“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 NIV) All they have is gifted to them through God’s grace alone.

Heaven is a kingdom, with all authority and power vested in King Jesus. His word is law.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

That he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:20-21 ESV)

Until I get to my home country, I am an exile, not quite fitting in with the customs and mores of this world. I am called to pray for my earthly rulers and authorities, for my country of residence for peace and prosperity.

My Prayer

Father God, when I feel alone and rejected in this world, please remind me that I am a citizen of heaven where love is the only language spoken and grace is the legal tender. Please bless South Africa and give her leaders wisdom and a knowledge of You. Amen.

Blooming Where we are Planted.

I enjoy certain aspects of gardening but I have brown thumbs. However, one joy I have discovered is taking slips and planting cuttings.

My mother’s gardener works for different people on different days of the week. He takes cuttings or leaves from one garden and transplants them into another. My mother often notices plants that are new to her garden.

I’ve only had success with rock roses and geraniums so far. It’s easy. I cut off a leaf or a short piece of the plant and stick it just like that in some soil. It has no roots or anything and the environment is different from what it is used to. Nevertheless, given water and sun, it develops roots, grows, and will eventually bloom bringing all the beauty of its parent plant to a new location.

What started off as a couple of leaves stuck in the ground is now a lovely pot plant

Sometimes we are transplanted, be it through our own plans or circumstances beyond our control. Either way, God is the gardener and He prepares the soil where we are to be planted. Our job is to merely settle. We explore, meet new people, and slowly grow roots. It takes a long time to grow enough to start blooming but that is ultimately our Father’s desire, that we bloom where we are planted. That we bless those around us with a bit of the culture of our homeland.

Sometimes it’s not even a change of locality that stresses us. Sometimes it’s just a new set of circumstances. Sure, we mourn for what we have lost but God still desires the same thing for us – that we bloom under the new circumstances that have come into our lives.

When the Israelites were captured by the Babylonians, this is what the Lord said to them through the prophet Jeremiah< “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there, do not decrease.” (Jer 29:5-7 NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, sometimes I feel so alone, as if I don’t fit in this place and I long for things as they were in the past. I feel like a shell tumbled and tossed by waves of circumstance beyond my control. Please help me to trust You implicitly, to know that You have a plan for me right here, right now. May I trust Your plan and settle in to Your provision, knowing that growth and root-making are the result of Your work in my life. May I bloom where You have planted me. Amen.