Tag Archives: prayer

Lifeguards

It is the middle of winter. Only visitors from Gauteng would want to go down to the beach and wet their toes in the sea.

At first the beach seemed deserted.

Kings Beach Gqeberha

First I saw the children. Ten or twelve of them swimming in the cold water. Then I saw the lifeguards. They were fully dressed and no doubt hoping that they would not be called upon to dive into the waves to rescue anybody. But they were there.

A lifeguard is not the same as a swimming teacher. A swimming teacher is somebody who enters into an agreement with her students or their parents to teach them to swim. In the beginning she goes into the water with them, supports them and then gradually teaches them how to swim without her help. The Lord is often like our swimming teacher. He comes alongside us and helps us learn new things. We have entered into a covenant with Him and we do our best to listen to His instructions and try to do things His way.

A lifeguard has no relationship with the person he rescues. He sees somebody in trouble trying to attract his attention, and goes out to save them. Sometimes God acts like a lifeguard. Many people who have no relationship with Him will pray when they are in trouble. God always responds.

Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy. (Psalm 31:21-22 NIV)

God knows exactly what we need in the various stages of our life and walk. He will not give us a swimming teacher when we need a lifeguard nor a lifeguard when we need a swimming teacher.

My Prayer

Father God, You know exactly what I need today. I trust You with my current circumstances, knowing You can be all in all to me. Amen.

Hadedas and Hoopoes

Hadedas and Hoopoes in the Rain

Wednesday was miserable, cold and rainy in Gqeberha. From the dining room window we saw cold birds. The hadedas sat hunched like buzzards. The hoopoes were intermittently sheltering under the hedge to get out of the rain. What a blessing to have shelter when it rains.

God wants to be our shelter in times of trouble. The Bible says “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4 NIV) It sounds so cozy, like being tucked under a down duvet in winter.

However, God will not impose His protection and shelter on us against our will. Jesus said of Jerusalem,  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37 NIV) God created us with free will and He will always respect it. He offers protection, shelter and comfort but it’s up to us to accept it.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord for Your sheltering hand over me. Please keep me from stubborn self-reliance and pride. May I rest in Your comforting embrace like a little child on her father’s lap.

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.

Mighty Rushing Wind

We are currently staying with my brother in Gqeberha, formally known as Port Elizabeth, the windiest city in South Africa. This morning I remembered why. The sound of a strong wind outside reminded me not to be blasé about it. The wind has been known to uproot trees, overturn cars and I remember my Granny telling how she saved herself from being blown away by clinging to a pole.

Quite often we can become blasé about God’s power. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2 ESV) I have heard this story so often that I haven’t realised how scary it must have been.

I’ve been reading the Old Testament about the time of Moses recently. The power of God and His requirements for His people take one’s breath away.

Hebrews 10:31 reads, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (NIV) This was brought home to me by the following account of the 1949 revival in the Hebrides.

One of the seven men and two women who had decided to pray earnestly for revival, read from Psalm 24, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart…”(Vs 3-4a NIV) He then prayed, asking God to reveal if his own hands were clean and his own heart was pure. That night, God met with them in a powerful way. “Three men were lying on the straw having fallen under the power of God. They were lifted out of the ordinary into the extraordinary.” (Duncan Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival)

We cannot play games with God. He is not a “Tame Lion.” We do not come into His presence on our terms, but on His. We serve Him according to His will. Best I don’t forget that.

My Prayer

My God, thank You that You deal gently with me, masking Your power that I be not overwhelmed. Please keep me from taking Your power or majesty lightly. Teach me Your ways. I have taken You for my God. 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.

A Story of a Cardinal

It started on Tuesday. A rapid tap-tap-tapping caused my son-in-law to go out into the garden to investigate. He took a video of a red-headed woodpecker pecking at one of our acacia trees. He said it was a cardinal woodpecker. Later I saw it too.

I was all set to go to ten pin bowling on Wednesday, when my daughter and granddaughter knocked at our front door and asked if I would like to save a woodpecker. Their cat had caught it and they were alerted by the bird’s loud shrieks. My daughter confiscated it from the cat. They brought it to our cottage because it would be safe from the cats. It looked like it had a broken wing and it was obviously in shock.

With my granddaughter’s help and a pair of gloves, we managed to place the bird gently in a cardboard box and give it a plastic cooldrink bottle lid of water.

My daughter left as she had an art class to run but left my granddaughter, who had stayed home from school after a bout of sickness, to look after the cardinal. I didn’t know what to do. I realised that, once again, the Lord had accepted my invitation to change my schedule as He saw fit. My husband went bowling without me.

I warned my granddaughter that the bird might die. (I’ve had experience with trying to save birds.) Then we prayed, remembering that Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31 NIV) He didn’t actually say that the Father would prevent sparrows falling to the ground, but that He cares. Other translations say that the Father knows about it. We had to pray for the best outcome.

I googled “Bird rehabilitation Johannesburg” and finally got hold of a number to phone in Midrand. When I spoke to a friendly lady called Margie, she advised me that they worked with a vet in Bryanston (about a third of the distance of that to Midrand) and I could take the woodpecker there. By then the bird was looking a little chirpier, even tried to escape when my granddaughter transferred him to a smaller box for travelling.

Cardinal woodpecker ready for a trip to the vet.

The vetinary practice was expecting us and there was no charge so we could leave the cardinal in the best possible place. Margie would fetch him later in the day and take him to the rehabilitation centre. Meanwhile he was whisked off to an incubator.

When the Lord changes our schedule unexpectedly, it can get quite exciting.

My Prayer

Thank You Father, that You know all about me. You care for me and are interested in everything I do. You are always with me. Please help me to be more aware of You in my everyday life. 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.

God has a Sense of Humour

Saturday Night.

Our motorhome is almost packed and we are heading off tomorrow to Dube Private Game Reserve.

Life is not quite so simple however. I have asked one of our fellowship group members to lead the group in my absence.

The church has a lovely support system for group leaders with a monthly breakfast get-together and training. It was due to be tomorrow at 8am. I invited the stand-in leader to join me. My husband and I would go to church in the motorhome, I would attend the meeting, he would attend the early service and we’d leave straight after.

Meanwhile, today was the day when our Gideon weekly prayer meeting was to be in person rather than on WhatsApp. I don’t often attend the monthly in-person meetings. On Saturdays I usually take my granddaughter to Brownies and the timing might be tight. The WhatsApp method is easier. It’s not a problem to pray in bed from 7am to 7.30 and still be able to leave by 8.10. Assuming I would not be going, my husband planned a breakfast meeting with a friend and a fellow Gideon after the prayer meeting.

However, my granddaughter didn’t go to Brownies today because of a ballet rehearsal. I made my own plans. I needed to buy last-minute fresh vegetables before our trip. I decided I would go out to breakfast at a restaurant in the same complex as the fruit and vegetable shop, then buy the vegetables and be home in time to make soup for guests arriving at 12. That would leave the late afternoon to pack. My husband invited me to join the friend at breakfast. “Then I’ll have to attend the prayer meeting,” I replied. “And get up early,” I thought.

Then I remembered. I have given my time to the Lord. I don’t get to make the plans. He does. I didn’t even need to ask. I knew what the Lord would prefer between my praying and my spending an extra hour in bed.

Both the prayer meeting and the breakfast were blessings. I suggested that I could give our friend’s wife some documents at the training tomorrow, to which her husband replied that he wasn’t aware of a training tomorrow. It was almost six weeks since I had diarised the date so I checked with the elder who is my supervisor/mentor.

“Didn’t you get the message?” she asked. No, I didn’t. It appears that while I am on the email group, I am not yet on the WhatsApp group. The meeting has been cancelled.

Imagine how embarrassed I would have been if only our stand-in leader and I had arrived at the church for a meeting that wasn’t! That’s what would have happened if I had opted for the extra hour in bed.

I am sure the Lord had a good chuckle. He has a sense of humour.

My Prayer

Thank You Lord for giving me free choice. Thank You for Your amazing ability to co-ordinate events and work all things together for good for those who love You. May Ibe more and more aware of Your presence with me every day. 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.

Apology notes

On Saturday I attended a family fun day organised by the Girl Guide Association in this region. The plan was to move around in a small group and take part in activities representing other countries at various well spaced locations at Delta Park. It was great fun and included hitting a piñata, fishing with magnets in the river, making Canadian pancakes on upended tins and solving puzzles.

Delta Park
fun and games at the Mexico base

During the day I came across people I was involved with a long time ago, when I ran a Guide company.

At the end of the day, I received two apologies. One from a young woman who was manning the India base. She told us all about henna painting for Indian weddings. She was dressed up in Indian clothes and I wasn’t 100% sure she was the girl I had known but I asked her how she was doing. She called me Irmgard but I didn’t say anything. When she saw me later, she apologised profusely for getting my name wrong. I also got an SMS from the lady who used to be my commissioner. I had waved to her. She apologised because she hadn’t recognised me.

I need to write an apology letter of my own.

Dear Lord Jesus,

I invited You into my day on Saturday morning then forgot about You. When I woke with a headache, I didn’t consult You or ask for Your help but took two aspirin then slept for another fifteen minutes. I could have used Your help later in the day, too, when I got to the Guide campsite and there was no sign of my granddaughter or my son-in-law. You gave Your help anyway. When, not ten minutes later, I was hailed by my son-in-law, I did not think to thank You.

I know You were with me. You were there in the beautiful autumn trees, in the Ibises rummaging in the newly mown grass, in the gurgling river. How easy it would have been to pray a silent “Thank You.” But I didn’t. I ignored You all day. When I puffed up hills that the Brownies took at a laughing run, I didn’t ask for Your help, although I am sure You would have given it.

I had fun, even though I was physically exhausted and my foot was sore after I twisted it going down a step. However, I am sure my day would have been greatly improved if I had consciously involved You. If I had used the opportunity of walking in nature to also pray, talk the walk, so to speak. Instead, I treated You like a fifth wheel and I’m sorry.

We learned in church today about how You reinstated Peter, meeting him in his weakness where he was. (John 21:15-19). I know You do the same to me. You know I am just dust and yet You love me. Even if I ignore You, You will never forsake me because you have promised. Thank You. Please continue to walk with me into the coming week and help me to be more mindful of You. Amen.