Tag Archives: scripture

Seasons and Cycles

Up until a month ago, we had oranges for breakfast every morning. My husband, who must be the best husband in the world, would prepare them by cutting along the skin of each segment with a grapefruit knife. We paid about R30 for a big pocket of lovely, juicy oranges. Suddenly one Tuesday, there were no piles of orange pockets outside the greengrocer. I asked one of the staff if there were no oranges. He said they only had the half bags and fetched me one. When I looked at the till slip after I had paid for my vegetables, I saw the half bag of oranges cost R45! It was obvious the orange season had come to an end.

Life is a continual procession of repeating cycles. The cycles are made up of different seasons and we have to adapt our behaviour according to the season. The Bible talks about seed time and harvest. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. ” (Genesis 8:22) There will always be cycles and seasons and what we do during those times depends on the season.

Ecclesiastes 3 begins, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” It then continues to list different pairs of opposites for which there is a time. I was struck by verse 5b, “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” During the hard lockdown of Covid in 2020, we experienced a time to refrain from embracing. People built special shields and gloves just so they could hug their grandchildren. This season is not over yet. In most countries relatives can still not visit their loved ones in hospitals.

I’m looking forward to the next season of “a time to embrace.”

Image by Pixabay

My prayer

Father God, thank you that You created the world to include cycles and seasons. Please help me to discern which season I am in now and give me the wisdom to act appropriately. Amen.

A Poem of Praise

JuJoJan 14 January 2022.

The word for today is “freckled.” I thought of writing about my family, most of whom are freckled, but instead, a poem came to mind from my school days.

Pied Beauty 

BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

Gerard Manly Hopkins (1844 -1889) suffered from a depressive disorder which today might be labelled bipolar disorder or chronic unipolar depression. Yet he was able to write such a positive poem of praise to God. He could see the beauty in creation from a unique angle.

I thought about this today as we walked home from the caravan place where our motor-home was being sealed. God is a God of variety. He does not make identical or standard anything. We are all unique and He deals with each of us in a unique way. Sometimes the very inclusion of opposites adds depth to His creation.

St Paul understood the essence of this. He wrote,”

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NIV)

… and “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b NIV)

When I got home, I noticed my petunias. Magnificent in their stripiness!

My Prayer

Father, I notice contradictions in myself. Please give me the grace to accept myself, contradictions and all, the way You accept me. Amen.

The Correct Protocol

JusJoJan 13 January 2022

I’ve recently watched the movie, “Seven Years in Tibet.” It is the true story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian climber who spends much of the war in Tibet in the holy city of Lhasa. There he meets the 14th Dalai Lama who is still a young boy at the time. At one stage the mother of the Dalai Lama explains to him the protocol of being in the presence of such a holy and revered personage. His attitude has to be one of bowed head and folded hands. He can speak if spoken to but not initiate conversation. If he is seated, his head must always to be lower than that of the Dalai Lama. He cannot touch him under any circumstances.

There is usually some kind of protocol for visiting monarchs or heads of state.

Imagine the protocol required to visit the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The Old Testament gives us a hint of this. Only the High Priest was ever allowed to go into the Holy of Holies and then only once a year and only after making a blood sacrifice for his own as well as the people’s sins.

And yet…

“… when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51a NIV).

The separation between God and man has been done away with from God’s side through the blood sacrifice of Jesus.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16NIV)

Not only can we come confidently into God’s presence, we can approach Him as our Father. We can know His love and love Him in return.

Image by Pixabay

The protocol has changed, but only for God’s children. In Revelation we see how a great multitude, that no one can count, and all the the angels, fall on their faces before God’s throne and worship him. (Revelation 7:9-12). The heavenly protocol still exists.

My Prayer

Father God, because I know You love me and I can call you Father, I sometimes forget how powerful and majestic You are. May I never take my relationship with You lightly or fail to give You the glory due to Your name. 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.

The Tempest

JusJoJan 7 January

Image from Pixabay

When I think of a tempest, I think of two occasions when Jesus calmed a storm. The first can be found in Matthew 14:13-44. It was a very emotional day for Jesus. He had heard of the death of John the Baptist and wanted to get away by himself. The crowds followed Him and He ended up feeding five thousand men plus women and children. He sent the disciples away in a boat while He dismissed the crowd. Later, He walked on the water towards them. Peter got out of the boat and walked towards Jesus but when he looked at the storm, his faith failed. As they got into the boat, the storm died down.

The other story can be found in Matthew 8.

Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! we’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (verses 24-26 NIV)

It is interesting to me to notice that, in a party including four seasoned fishermen, who understood storms and were experts at managing boats, they should see fit to wake a carpenter to help them.

These stories are among those I like to use for a Biblical meditation.

I read through the story slowly, maybe reading it a second time out loud.

Then I get comfortable, concentrate on breathing deeply and try to imagine myself as one of the characters in the story, perhaps one of the crowd who stayed behind after Jesus dismissed them, or a disciple, maybe the one commissioned to wake the sleeping Jesus.

I invoke all of my senses if I can. I try to feel the wind around me or the grass under me or, if my character is in the boat, the pitching of the waves. What do I see, hear, smell, taste?

I imagine a moment when Jesus and I are alone together. What does He say to me? What do I reply? He gives me something to remind me of our time together.

Some people are helped or encouraged by such a meditation, others not so much. I encourage you to try it, especially if you are in the midst of a tempest. I’d love to hear your feedback about how you experienced it.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for my imagination. Please help me to use it to get closer to you. Amen.

It’s the Love

3 January 2022

It’s not the thought that counts. It’s the love behind the thought that counts.

When my 12-year-old granddaughter made 52 cards which she shared out among the family and asked them to write or draw something encouraging for my daughter to look at for every Saturday in the year, that was love. The gift itself was worth no more than a sheet or two of cardboard, but the love behind the thought was priceless.

The parents who change their lives to make a happy family home for their disabled child, or the wife who puts her life on hold to look after a husband who has had a stroke, do it out of the abundance of their love. Such gifts have no monetary value but they are worth more than gold, more than diamonds.

The woman who gate-crashed the party at Simon the Leper’s house, broke her treasure and anointed Jesus, did it out of love. To the disciples, especially Judas, it seemed such a waste. But Jesus saw the love that was behind the gift. (Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-48, John 12 ;1-8 NIV)

All around us is an abundance of love but we don’t always see it. Our eyes are too focused on the material, the physical.

God has blessed us with so many things.”… God … richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17b Amplified Version) This is just one of the ways God shows the abundance of His love to us. Most supremely, however, “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)

My Prayer

Father God, please attune my eyes to see the love, the love of ordinary people around me as well as the abundant love You have shown and continue to show us. Thank You for your indescribable gift. Amen.

Gobbledygook

JusJoJan 2 January

Today’s sermon was all about listening to Jesus through 2022, giving His voice higher authority than the other voices we are bombarded with:- scientists, the news, family members, politicians, social media, or people in the limelight.

This is not merely listening like putting on background music, it is listening to understand. “If you have ears, pay attention.” (Mark 4:9 CEV)

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

When the disciples asked why Jesus taught in parables, He replied, quoting from Isaiah in the Old Testament, “These people will look and look, but never see. They will listen and listen, but never understand. If they did, they would turn to God and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12 CEV)

In other words, it will be like gobbledygook to them. Paul said something similar in 1 Corinthians 1. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1 vs 18, 22-24 NIV)

So it is possible to listen and not hear. In this year, 2022, I want to spend more time listening, paying attention so that I may understand.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, You promised that Your sheep will know Your voice. Please teach me to know Your voice, to listen and to give Your voice priority over all other voices that surround me. Amen.

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 Little Nut Tree

Today I planted a macadamia nut tree. I bought it from a man who advertises plants on our community group. There was no photo in the ad so I had no idea how big the tree was.

It is tiny.

The pot was donated by a friend who has recently moved into a new house. I’ve been wanting a tree in a large pot for some time so when the pot was offered to me I accepted with gratitude.

I did some research on the internet on macadamia trees and found out that i) yes you can plant them in pots although the yield of nuts might be restricted, and ii) that they require a lot of water, especially when they are young.

That reminded me of the verse I read this morning.

Blessed are those that trust in the Lord… They are like trees, planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” (Jer 17:7-8 NLT)

I can just picture trees along the riverbank with a permanent supply of water.

Parys 2017

I’d like to be like that. I’d like my roots to be so deep into trusting God that the heat of the stress of modern day life, the winds of change and disappointment, the drought of Covid or health issues, or loss, or want, or suffering, do not worry me but I can stand firm knowing God is my provider and He is Sovereign.

Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38 NIV) By this He meant the Spirit.

Of course, my little nut tree is not planted by a river. It will have to make do with my watering system. And I am not yet in a place where my trust in God is so deep that the circumstances of life do not worry me.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, Please continue to water me with Your Spirit that I might grow deeper in my love of, and my trust in You. Amen.

The Mean Claw Machine

I was sitting in my camping chair watching another glorious Bush sunset when a little boy wandered into my view. He dawdled uncertainly, changing direction and then doubling back on himself. I thought he might be lost, perhaps his family had just arrived and he hadn’t orientated himself yet. I went over to him to ask. I saw tears streaming down his face.

His story was almost incoherent but I pieced together the gist of it. He had put money in the claw machine, trying to get a toy and the toy had slipped out of the claw at the last moment.

I knew how he felt. Disappointment is one of the sharpest emotions. I did my best. I tried to explain to him that those machines hardly ever give you the toy. They are just there to take your money. I don’t think I helped much but before too long his mother found him and took him back to camp which turned out to be right next to us.

We’ve all felt the sting of disappointment. With Covid around it is becoming more and more a fact of life:- ask the three little girls, cousins, who had been offered a trip to the pantomime with their grandparents. They even had pretty new dresses for the occasion. This would be the last special outing together before two of the girls move with their family to England. They were already in the theatre when the performance was cancelled because some of the cast tested positive for Covid. Or ask the bride-to-be whose wedding was postponed because her fiancé couldn’t travel to South Africa, or the grandparents who had spent years saving and planning a trip to visit their children and grandchildren in New Zealand and whose flights were cancelled at the last moment – and another two years have passed and they still haven’t managed to go.

Disappointment happens when we feel we have been promised something or have worked towards something and it is snatched from our grasp unexpectedly. If we accept that disappointment is part of everyday life, how do we deal with it?

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

Jesus faced disappointment just like us. He understands. We can be totally honest with Him about our feelings and He will hug us and infuse His strength into us.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, my high priest, I feel so selfish when I struggle with disappointment. It seems I want my own way and I’m sulking like a child and I just can’t give my disappointment to You graciously. Please soothe me with Your presence and pour Your peace over me. Amen.