Tag Archives: parable

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.”

The Life of a Daffodil Bulb

I love Spring. I love watching the emergence of blossoms, of flowers, of Spring bulbs. Our first sign of Spring in our shared garden is usually the jasmine, budding even before September and touching the air with whiffs of its heady perfume. Soon sweet-peas add their fragrance with freesias and yesterday-today-tomorrow joining the scent party. My favourite spring flowers are daffodils. They have such smiling faces. It makes me happy just to look at them.

Jesus said,

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”(Luke 12:27 – 28 NIV)

I considered the life of a daffodil. It starts as a bulb, not particularly good-looking but provided by God with all it needs to become a beautiful flower. However, it takes time. At first the bulb is buried under a heavy load of soil. It is dark. It is smelly. It seems like the weight of the world is pushing down on it. It might not be the life the daffodil had planned for itself. It might even question the existence of God. Praying doesn’t seem to help. Nothing changes. Things might even get worse. Winter comes. It gets colder.

The changes, when they come, are gradual. A stretching for the sun, a tentative reaching out to the dirty soil around it. At last a tiny breakthrough. Is that sunshine on its tip? God sends the circumstances, the rain, the sunshine that grow the plant. It is all His doing. When Spring comes, the daffodil, stretched and strengthened, is ready to bloom where it was planted. Again, it is no effort or straining on the plant’s part but only the grace of God that causes the opening of a beautiful flower bringing glory to the Creator and beauty to the world.

My Prayer

Father God, sometimes I find myself in dark and unpleasant places and the burden on my shoulders seems too great for me. Please help me learn from the daffodil that You have a plan for me. It might not be quick, it might not be painless but if I merely trust you and commit myself to your circumstances I will grow into the flower You imagine, bringing glory to You and beauty to the world. Amen.

Wind Chimes and Rainbows

A wind chime hangs outside my kitchen window. In the centre a ball is suspended from a string which continues to a plastic teardrop shaped like cut crystal. Around the main string hang three metal tubes of different lengths. When the wind blows, the ball moves and tings on the sides of the tubes, making the chiming noise. At a certain time of day the teardrop catches the sunlight and scatters it into rainbows which come through my kitchen window and dance around the counter top.

The wind chime has no motor or energy source of its own. All it has to do to make magic is just to be itself and allow itself to be moved by the wind. If it decided to take control and hold its strings rigid like wires, it would not work.

Wind and sun are around us all the time but it takes this simple contraption to draw our attention to them.

Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8)

We are like that wind chime. All we have to do is to be what God created us to be and hold ourselves open to His Spirit. He does the work. His breath blows into us and His light shines through us and we can bring joy to the world and glory to our creator. When we decide to take control and do things our own way, we fall short of the magic for which we were created.

God is around us all the time but I, for one, am not usually aware of Him. Perhaps we all need to try to cultivate more mindfulness. In this way we can become more truly ourselves and bring glory to God. A time of quiet, of bible reading, of contemplation, can help us to cultivate this awareness. I am working through a book called “Taste and See” by Margaret Silf and am finding it helpful to explore different ways to become more mindful of God.

Enjoying Life

Two scriptures have grabbed my attention recently.

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17 NLT)

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. (Psalm 36:8 NIV)

These verses speak to me about enjoyment and delight. God is the creator of all good gifts and pleasures. We only need to look at the variety of delicious food He has made available to us. Imagine if we ate grass every day like cattle! Or think of the futuristic scenario where all our nutrition might be reduced to a tablet a day. How much we would miss out on!

When our grandchildren were younger, I used to agonise over buying them presents for birthdays. How disappointed I was when a specially chosen doll was never played with, or a toy was left in the toy box unenjoyed. How much it delighted me when a gift we had given got taken to bed with the three-year-old, or was played with every day by the four-year-old.

I think God is delighted when we enjoy His gifts. He loves watching us having fun, enjoying life to the full. There is such a variety of things to enjoy; art, music, ballet, good wine, great sport-matches, riveting books and all things excellent.

Let us not merely “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” but “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

My Prayer.

Lord, even in the midst of this Corona pandemic, please open my eyes to the good gifts You have given me. May I enjoy them and give You thanks and praise. Amen.

Lockdown Day 25 Little Parables

Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise! (Prov 6:6 NIV)

This morning my husband directed my attention to a sliver of grated cheese that was being moved by a work party of ants.

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As we watched, the cheese slowly moved towards the sink.

To me it was a parable of how, when we work together, we can accomplish impossible-seeming tasks. Our church team has managed to distribute 2,136 masks so far to the destitute in the township of Alexandra. Nothing was purchased. As people run out of elastic or fabric, others drop what they have in excess at the entrance of the church and people who need come and collect.

My sewing machine light has given in and I was tempted to use the excuse to discontinue sewing masks. However, the parable of the ants has inspired me. I devised a hack, using a light my husband used to use over his bathroom mirror.

All over the country, South Africans are working together to help others.

I believe that after this crisis, we will emerge as a society that is more co-operative, more caring and more able to forge together a strong, united nation. The following video seems like a miracle but maybe it’s only a taste of things to come.

Lockdown Day 15. Hand Washing

Today is Good Friday.

Last night we heard the news of the extended lockdown. Another two weeks!

Our six-year-old granddaughter is very meticulous about sanitising her hands. I have hand sanitiser mounted on the wall next to our front door.

We got together with the family and celebrated our own Tenebrae service. We took turns reading the account of Jesus’ last day before the Crucifixion from Luke chapters 22 and 23. At dramatic pauses, we extinguished one of eight candles until it was dark. Then we lit the ninth candle, the Christ-light as a symbol of Hope.

One of the dramatic pauses was when Pontius Pilate washed his hands. He was trying to wash the guilt of Jesus’ unlawful death from himself.

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Although soap and water can get rid of the corona virus, it’s not so easy to get rid of guilt. The Bible says without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.(Hebrews9:22 NIV)

That reminds me of a song by Hillsong.

We can wash our hands and keep our social distance and try to keep the corona virus from us and our family but all that can really save us globally is a vaccine. That reminds me of a very potent parable that I think is very appropriate for this time in history as well as Good Friday. It was written in 2009.

This is the parable .

I can add only one thing to the story. The vaccine was free for all but people had the choice of whether to take it or not.

Christ’s forgiveness is not cheap but it is free for all. We have a choice to make, whether to accept it or not.

Lockdown Day 13 Green Tomatoes and Seeds

A tomato plant grew itself in a bath of soil I used to use for some strawberries that never thrived. When I found the branches drooping, I saved two nearly ripe tomatoes that were lying in the mud and looped up the others. I knew that the two on the ground would be eaten by insects. I didn’t know whether tomatoes ripen if you pick them too early, but I was willing to try. My husband, always trying to be helpful, thought I knew something he didn’t know about tomatoes and picked all of them so we had a whole row of tomatoes on our kitchen window sill. Maybe it was just as well. The plant wilted and died within a week. The gardener cut it down to just a stump and one twig has sprouted.

Some tomatoes did ripen. Some went rotten and got composted but two remained stubbornly pale green. A week ago I was making toasted cheese sandwiches and I thought they would go really nicely with a thin slice of tomato. I cut a thin slice of one of the green tomatoes and tasted it. It tasted all right so I used that one up.

Today I was inspired to cook a special breakfast to compensate for not being able to go out for a bacon and egg breakfast with my husband. I got carried away and added fried banana and fried onions to the bacon and egg. Then I thought about fried tomato and wondered whether the last green tomato would do the job. When I opened it, this is what I saw.


Although the tomato had never ripened, the seeds presumably had and were starting to grow. One sprout popped up like a jack-in-the-box. I don’t know what would have happened if I had just left the tomato. Anyway, I planted it, just as it is in the old bath with the one remaining twig of the parent plant.

This is a parable of lockdown for me. Who knows what seeds God is growing in us, unseen and unknown in a confined space. Our church has been meditating on the Fruit of the Spirit during this lockdown period. Let’s hope that when we are finally released from our bubble, plants of love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control will spring out ready to help heal the world. (Gal5:25)