Tag Archives: Life

Active or Passive

Part of my training as a writer included the advice to use strong verbs and to use them in the active voice rather than the passive. My Pro Writing Aid, which checks English usage and promotes better writing, will highlight any passive verbs and suggest active alternatives.

At a recent retreat, I re-read the Peace Prayer of St Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The second stanza compares the difference between the active and passive voice. The Christian is seeking to actively take the initiative in consoling, understanding,, loving, giving, pardoning and dying.

Of course, this is not the full picture of the Christian life. We, who are led by the Spirit, must guard against leading instead of being led, although we must submit rather than be submitted to.

And then there is Paul’s passive injunction, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)

My Prayer

Lord, please guide me as to when I must be active and when I must be passive. I know that You are more interested in who I am than what I do, but what I do often flows from who I am. Please refine my character, making me more like Christ every day. Amen.

Goodbye Tooth

I have just had a tooth pulled. I have been worrying about it ever since last week when the dentist told me that, after my course of antibiotics, he would have to remove the tooth.

Image by Rafael Juárez from Pixabay

In the back of my mind was the last time I had had a tooth pulled. I had ended up in tears in the dentist’s chair.

I asked our fellowship group and my best friends to pray for me. They prayed that the procedure would go well and that I would be brave. I was not sure that I wanted to be brave.

The prayer made a difference. I slept better than I had the night before.

In my personal prayer time before the event I read Psalm 27. What stood out for me was verse 11. “Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” (NIV)

I wondered what Jesus’ way of approaching a tooth extraction was. I don’t think that He was a health nut, refusing to eat this or that because it was bad for Him. He was the guest of tax collectors and sinners. He would have eaten the food they prepared for Him and enjoyed it. As He was fully human, there is a fair chance that he had to have a tooth removed. And without anesthetic too! I tried to picture Him.

No doubt, He was more concerned with the other people around Him than Himself.

The Psalm ends “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27 :14 NIV)

Nevertheless, I took my own precautions. I took two painkillers before we left and downloaded a gripping audiobook to distract me while I waited for the injections to take effect.

I didn’t need the audiobook. The dental assistant helped by making conversation. Remembering that Jesus focused more on other people, I listened and asked questions. I learned she was the mother of two girls, one 22 and the other 11. Her older daughter was about to graduate and I could see how proud she was. She was also soon to be a Granny. She’s sorry her mother is no longer around to be able to meet her granddaughter.

The extraction went so much better than I expected or feared. Yes, the injections were sore, yes, the smell of hot bone was unpleasant during the drilling process to chip away space for the instruments to get a grip and yes, I had to swallow automatically several times while the dentist was loosening my tooth from side to side.

But I know the Lord was with me. He comforted me and calmed me. I realise that most of my fears come from inside me, from my own anxious thoughts. I shall probably be taking pain killers for the next day or two but I hope I remember to focus outwardly and love others.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord, that You are with me when I am afraid. Please continue to teach me Your ways and lead me in a straight path. Amen.

Mind Where You Walk

In two-and-a-half weeks’ time we will be heading for New Zealand. One of the things I still have to do is thoroughly clean the bottom of my hiking boots. Australia and New Zealand are very conscious of their ecology, their indigenous fauna and flora. They go out of their way to prevent any threat from microscopic organisms which might carry disease into their ecosystem. Many bacteria, fungi and protozoa are found in soil and mud and these are the ones that might be stowaways on my shoes. Once I’ve cleaned the soles, I have to mind where I walk and how I walk. The airport is fine with its hard floors but my garden is a no-no.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

The Bible talks about this. “Therefore see that you walk carefully [living life with honor, purpose and courage; shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people],“(Ephesians 5:15 Amplified Bible)

Although it is important how we walk, it is also important where we walk. It is not only the Aussies and the Kiwis that know that the places we go can contaminate us. We’ve all experienced the irritation of walking in doggy do or cow pats. If we hobnob with those who tolerate and enable evil, as the verse above puts it, it affects us like a bad smell following us around.

1 Galatians 5:16 tells us how to walk wisely. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” (NIV)

Of course we are but human and we will go astray and get our feet dirty.

When Jesus was washing the disciples feet, Peter suggested the Lord wash all of him. Jesus said, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” (John 13:10 NIV)

We have been forgiven once for all through the death of Christ. We have had a bath. Nevertheless, as we go through the world we do sin and it is like picking up dirt on our feet. We need only to go to Jesus and confess and He will wash our feet again.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You have atoned for my sin on the cross and imputed Your righteousness to me. Nevertheless, I have sinned today. My attitudes and thoughts have not been honouring to You. I have been selfish and done what I wanted without consulting You or thinking of others. Please forgive me. Amen.

A Rose in the Car

Recently a friend gave me a single rose. I wanted to keep it from wilting in the car on my way home. We have been in the middle of a heat wave for the last week or two. I asked for a small bottle that I could use to keep the flower in water. I managed to find a suitable spot in my car to wedge the bottle and keep the flower upright.

As long as the stem of the rose remained connected to the water, the rose would stay alive and drink up the water. However, should the stem be removed from the water for a while, it would suck up air instead, leading to a quick decline.

Jesus said, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. for a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NLT)

Jesus was talking about a vine and its branches but it is also true of a rose and water. The rose stem needs to remain in the water so the water can remain and flow through the rose stem.

In John 7, Jesus talks about “living water,” by which He meant the Spirit. If we walk by the Spirit, i.e. keep constantly connected to Him, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh, (Gal 5: 16) which cause us to wilt and fade as the living water is no longer in us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I do not always keep connected to You. Please help me to walk more and more by the Spirit, like a rose keeping its stem constantly in the water. I know that without You I can do nothing. Thank You for Your life-giving Spirit. Amen.

If It’s not Messy, It’s not Real

When one is on a camping holiday, one gets to observe birds up close. I saw sparrows having dust baths right outside our tent. I googled it and discovered that indeed it is a way they clean themselves. They work the dust into their feathers then flap their wings and give them a good shake and the dust cleans them from mites and grease. A messy way to get clean!

A sparrow having a dust bath

When I was in grade two, my teacher told us that, when Jesus was a boy, He crafted sparrows out of wet clay and they flew away. I never heard that story again. Today’s chapter from John Stott’s book deals with sparrows. For the first time since 1958 I read that story again. John Stott writes, “The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas preserves a rather charming story (though almost certainly not authentic) of Jesus as a boy of five. He and other children were playing together beside a stream, and Jesus fashioned twelve sparrows out of soft clay. When his father Joseph asked him why he was breaking the law on the Sabbath day, ‘Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them ” Go!”, and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping.'”

My Bible reading today was from John 9 and deals with the story of Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind. “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’” (John 9:6-7a NIV)

We all know what happened. But have we ever thought how messy it was? Jesus was standing with His hands covered in mud. The blind man was (presumably) led away to the pool with his face slathered with brown mud.

Fairy tales are neat and sanitised. “…and they all lived happily ever after.” Real life is messy. The Christmas card showing the immaculately clean baby in the arms of a serene mother, is not the reality. Giving birth is messy. It involves pain and blood. Lots of blood. Mary would have been exhausted, possibly tear-stained. Somehow we get it into our heads that when we become Christians, all our problems will disappear. That’s the fairy tale. The reality is that life is messy. It involves broken bones, times of struggle, hard work, disappointments and loss. Jesus never promised a problem-free life, only that He would be with us in the messiness. Jesus did not come to make life easy but to make men great. (I can’t remember who said that.)

So if life seems messy at the moment, don’t despair. Invite Jesus into the mess. He doesn’t mind getting His hands full of mud. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, I have preconceived stereotyped ideas about You. Please help me to come to grips with reality. You are much bigger than I can ever imagine. Help me to trust You implicitly , even in the mess. Amen.

The Day of the Birds

On Wednesdays, the TC Robertson Nature Reserve runs a tea garden to raise funds.

Three eats and bottomless tea/coffee

There is also a book table where secondhand books can be bought at a tempting price. I must have been having a bird day because what attracted me was a book by John Stott called The Birds, Our Teachers and a beautiful photographic magazine of birds of South Africa.

I hadn’t known that John Stott was an avid bird-watcher. The first chapter of his book is on Matthew 6:26. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet, your heavenly Father feeds them.” (ESV)

In other words, watch birds. Learn from them. According to John Stott, there are three common misunderstandings about this verse.

First, Jesus was not prohibiting forethought and planning – only worry. In fact, we are told to look at the ant which makes provision for the hard times of winter.

Secondly, Jesus did not mean that God’s children were guaranteed protection from accidents – only that nothing can harm us without our heavenly Father’s knowledge and permission.

Thirdly, Jesus did not mean that we can sit back and leave God to do it all. Sure, God feeds the birds, but not like we feed our pets, providing food in their bowls every day. Jesus knew very well that birds feed themselves. God provides the wherewithal for them to feed themselves, but they have to forage for their food.

I found these thoughts very helpful.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord that You created an orderly world. Thank You for the variety of birds, flowers, animals and people that You have made. How great are Your works. May I ever be mindful of them and learn from them. Amen.

Rest Stop

We are on our way to the South Coast in our motorhome. The vehicle is heavy, uses a lot of petrol and travels slowly. We tackle manageable chunks. Today’s journey was from Randburg to Harrismith. The advert says, “Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.” However, after two hours travelling, it is time for a rest stop. It can be dangerous if the driver gets fatigued and he loses concentration. Luckily, nowadays there are One Stop petrol stations with nice, clean bathrooms, a shop to buy groceries and some kind of fast food or sit down restaurant, as well as petrol pumps. We stopped at Villiers.

The Bible talks a lot about rest and refreshing. God knows that in the journey of life, we also need rest stops. He commanded in Exodus 20, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (verses 8-10a NIV) When the Pharisees got obsessive-compulsive about it and micromanaged the law, Jesus pointed that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27 NIV) God knows that we need to rest from our labour regularly. In the same way that a mother of a two-year-old will insist on an afternoon nap, God prescribed a regular rest for our good.

The Bible also talks about “times of refreshing” eg Acts 3:19. This is like splashing cold water on your face when you have been driving for some time. In everyday life we can experience times of refreshing by looking out of the window and seeing God’s creation, going for a walk or run, attending a retreat or stopping to smell a flower.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You that You have provided opportunities to rest and refresh myself. Thank You for an opportunity to go away on holiday. May I be a blessing to everyone I meet along the way and at our destination. Amen.

Turkish Carpets

My son spent a week in Turkey before coming to visit us in South Africa. He gave me a mouse pad that looks like a Turkish carpet.

High quality Turkish carpets are made by hand. Wool or silk is used. The long threads are laid side by side on the loom, then the rug maker knots the cross threads around a group of two and between them, cutting the pile to size with a sharp knife. For each square centimeter of carpet, a hundred and forty to a hundred and fifty knots are needed. The whole process takes a long time – two years for a medium sized rug.

We are masterpieces under construction and God uses the hands-on-process. No part of our past is accidental. God has a plan and works towards it slowly. He knots us to different people at different times and to different situations to make the pattern He designed. We are not yet complete. We are growing in Christ and it is not through our efforts but His.

Paul wrote to the Colossians , “To them (God’s people) he has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” (Col 1:27-28)

My Prayer

Father God, thank You that You treat me as an individual. You are growing me into the person You designed me to be. Please give me patience in the process and willingness to be compliant in Your hands. Amen.

We’ve got this

There’s nothing that can happen to me today that God and I can’t handle together.

I can’t remember where I first read this. It is in general use in various forms.

Image by Anja-#pray for ukraine# #helping hands# stop the war from Pixabay

This post is part of One-Liner-Wednesday.