Tag Archives: parable

Lemon Tree

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!”

My Prayer

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.

Even the Most Insignificant

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.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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 Prayer

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.

Walking to School

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.

Image by นายพิพัฒน์ศักดิ์ ไชยวงษ์ from Pixabay

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.

My prayer

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Princess Story

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Aster. She was an orphan and lived in the streets stealing, fighting and hanging around with a group of outlaws. Her clothes were dirty and tatty and her hair was matted and unkempt.

One day Aster was thrown off a vegetable cart where she had climbed to help herself to a free meal. She landed in the street and broke her ankle.

As it happened, the king of that country was being driven in his royal coach behind the cart and the king saw what had happened.

He took the girl home to his palace to care for her. He called for the royal doctor to treat her foot and apply ointments to her scratches and bruises. The king told Aster he wanted to adopt her. Aster couldn’t believe it. She was dirty, had never been taught to be polite or kind and did not even like herself. How could such a magnificent king want her in his household? There were many princes and princesses in the king’s family already, all clean, well mannered and beautifully dressed.

As soon as Aster agreed, the king called for the documents to be drawn up and he signed them and put his seal upon them.

Aster became a princess at that moment.

The king arranged a bath for her and bought her beautiful clothes. Although Aster was now a princess, she didn’t feel like one. She used bad language and fought with the other children. But slowly, from watching the behaviour of the king and the other royal children, and wanting to do everything she could to please her new father, Aster learned to behave more and more like a princess.

At church we are looking at the Household of God from 1 Timothy. On Sunday we looked at 1 Timothy 3:15 and 16.

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness flows is great:” (verse 16a)

Pastor Richard pointed out that we often confuse godliness with goodliness. We think being godly is being good, upright, moral, honest. But that is goodliness. Paul goes on in verse 16 to talk about Jesus. He is the mystery from which true godliness flows.

Other Bible passages agree. “The secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you, bringing with him the hope of all the glorious things to come.” (Colossians 1:27 Philips translation.)

In my fairy tale, there might have been many little girls in the kingdom with beautiful clothes who were taught to behave like princesses, but they were not. Aster could do nothing to become a princess. It was a free gift of the king. In the same way, we cannot strive to be godly. We need merely to agree to Christ coming to live in us. He does the rest and it is not an overnight transformation.

But He has promised, “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.” Phiippins 1:6 NIV)

Fingers

I fell in church last week and damaged the ring finger of my left hand. i didn’t think it was broken. As soon as I got home I applied a cold compress then later I immobilized it by bandaging it to my middle finger.

“Lucky it’s not your right hand,” everybody says. And they are right. I would be much worse off if it were my right hand. But it’s only my left, the less important one. Moreover, it’s not like it’s an important finger either. A ring finger is only good for putting rings on, after all. Don’t you hate it when you get labelled and categorized by that label?

That’s another thing. Wearing a ring on a damaged finger is a problem. It took me ten minutes or more to give a thought to the fact that my finger might swell and I should get my ring off. It was too late. My finger did swell and the purple moved down but I made sure every day that my ring could swivel.

This whole experience has given me a different view of my fingers. They work together, like a well-oiled machine. Inactivate one gear or cog and the machine no longer functions correctly. Just try eating while holding your fork with a thumb and index finger! It seems to me that the ring finger is more useful than the middle finger although our hand can’t function well without all our finger supporting and helping each other. Some people have to, but it requires a lot of time and therapy relearning, practicing and strengthening.

The Bible says, “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to those parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:24b-27 NIV)

No matter how insignificant and unimportant we may feel, we are all part of Christ’s body and if we hurt, the whole body suffers. God is constantly aware of every one of us and we can trust Him to take care of us.

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday. The word for today is “different.”