Tag Archives: Life

Pruning Time

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.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

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.

My Prayer

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.

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.

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.