When my granddaughters get to the beach, they like to collect shells. They sort them and arrange them, show them off and admire them. Some of this enthusiasm must have rubbed off on me because when my husband and I went for a walk on the beach recently, the little girl in me surfaced and I decided to collect shells. It is amazing the colour and variety one can find!
They also come in all sizes. At the shell shop in Shelly Beach there is a shell almost one meter across! It is not for sale. I found shells small as my baby finger nail!
The creativity of God never ceases to astound me. Sure, I can categorise my shells into rough families but even within those groups there is so much variety.
How much more individuality can be found among people! Again, we can roughly group people according to country and heritage but within those groups there is endless variety. If we learn to treat people as individuals, made in the image of God, our interactions with them would be so much deeper.
Our Father created us all and He has a unique plan for us all. I love Psalm 139.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. … Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”(vs 13,14,16 NIV)
Father, please open my eyes to Your wonderful creativity all around me. Help me to treat each person I meet as an unrepeatable masterpiece made in Your image. Amen.
Yesterday we met a couple on the beach. The wife was arranging her husband and little dog on a log to take a photo. I asked her if she would like me to take a photo of both of them. Later she came over to take a photo of my husband and I.
We got chatting. They live in the area and this was only their second visit to the beach in five months. She told us about a lovely nursery within walking distance that we hadn’t known about.
Today was a windy, overcast day. Instead of going to the beach which we usually do, we decided to take a walk and look for the nursery and a little shop not far from it.
What a lovely day we had. We found the nursery.
Besides the nursery itself, there was a restaurant, a second-hand book shop, a scratch patch, a pet shop, an art gallery and a lake with benches at strategic viewing points.
After nearly three weeks, mostly confined to the caravan park, I was sorely in need of a sit-down tea. We ordered a cappuccino each and apple crumble to share.
After tea, we wandered around. I bought a book at the book shop and a cup of shells. We drooled over huge pots and trays of flowers at very good prices compared to our usual shopping haunts. We admired the colourful plants in all their variety. One looked like it had painted finger nails and we named it the finger-nail-plant.
I felt like I had stumbled into a treasure trove. Afterwards we explored further and found the little shop then decided to see whether we could return along the beach. Armed with directions from a lady who worked at the little shop, we made our way to the Illovo station and across the railway bridge. The station itself was almost in ruins which was very sad to see.
Returning along the beach might not have been such a good idea because we had forgotten about the wind, which was much stronger on the beach than in residential area.
Nevertheless, a lovely day and a satisfying long walk.
I think this is a parable of life. We can stay in the same old routine, stuck in a rut and not even realise the wonderful sights and places that may lie around us. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones (yes, it was a challenge walking into the wind with sand smashing against our legs) and explore beyond our everyday life. Who knows what treasure we might stumble upon.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)
I believe that the abundant life includes being able to appreciate the wonderful nature God has created, as well as the works of man inspired by His Spirit of creativity.
Father, give me the courage to venture beyond the familiar and taste the abundant life You have given me. Amen.
“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81 :10b NIV)
This is the verse that spoke to me today. Then I saw a black collared barbet eating from a half orange on the birdfeeder. He was taking big bites, seeming to enjoy himself. I looked down and saw a thrush. I haven’t seen any around for a couple of months. He was pecking in recently watered soil looking for insects.
It occurred to me that God was feeding them both. He was filling their mouths with what they each individually needed. I thought of what I need today – stamina, wisdom, peace. God does not provide the same spiritual nourishment to all His children like a chicken farmer feeding chickens. He knows our individual needs and provides accordingly. Our job is to merely open our mouths wide and allow Him to fill us. Quite often our needs overlap. I am sure many others besides me need peace. His promise is to all of us.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
Likewise, oranges sustain other creatures beside barbets. Bees buzz constantly around the bird feeder, taking tiny sips of the juice. When we were at the game reserve recently, we saw piles of oranges which had been put out for the wild animals. The monkeys helped themselves from the trees.
My Father, You know exactly what I need today. Please breathe Your Spirit on me and fill my mouth as You have promised with Your gifts, physical, spiritual, emotional and relational. I open my mouth wide. Amen.
We’ve been having a cold snap at the moment. (After all, it is winter.) Days are quite pleasant, around 15 degrees C but nights tend to be much colder, at about 4 degrees. We’ve had our gas fire on some evenings and we’ve put our fluffy blanket on the bed.
On Fridays I often take my grandson to Cubs. He was ready in his uniform when I came to collect him at 4.50pm last Friday. In the car he told me with pride how he had been made a sixer (a leader of a small group) the previous week.
I dropped him outside the Scout hall grounds and watched as he ran to sign in, sanitise and have his temperature checked. It was only then that I realised that he hadn’t brought his jacket. The evening was going to cool down and, although I knew they would probably be playing some active run-around games, I thought he would probably get cold. I determined to quickly drive home and fetch his jacket but on the way home I had second thoughts.
How embarrassing might it be for this new little leader to have his Granny interrupt his Cub meeting by bringing him a jacket? If he got cold, he might remember next time to bring something warm to wear. He might learn to take more responsibility for himself.
So I did nothing. It wasn’t easy. I worried. I couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could find out how he had coped.
“How was Cubs?” I asked.
“Great! I got to do the flag.” His face lit up with excitement.
Nobody talked about cold.
Sometimes God does nothing. We wonder why He is not helping us in a difficult situation. Is it possible He trusts us to cope using the skills He has gifted to us? Is there some area of growth He knows we need? Sometimes a little bit of discomfort can teach us things we might not easily learn otherwise.
When Lazarus got sick and his sisters sent an urgent message to Jesus, He did nothing for two days. At first glance this seems very unfeeling. Lazarus died and both Mary and Martha pointed out to Jesus that if He had been there, their brother would not have died. Jesus had a greater plan. Mary and Martha got such a faith boost when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11: 1-44)
Jesus had just fed five thousand men, plus women and children. “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side… Later that night, he was there alone and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (Matthew 14 :22, 23b,24.)
Jesus knew about the storm. He knew the disciples would battle but He sent them out into the storm anyway. Again, Jesus had a greater plan. If the disciples had not had to face the storm, they would not have witnessed Jesus walk on the water and Peter would never had stepped out of the boat to walk on the water towards his Lord. How much their faith grew in that one night!
When God does nothing we usually don’t understand. Our best action is to trust. Trust in the love of God. Trust in His wisdom and overall plan for our lives. It is not easy. But God know exactly what He is doing.
Father God, I don’t understand when You don’t answer my prayers the way I think I need. Please teach me to trust You in every circumstance of my life – even when things are uncomfortable for me. Help me to grow in the areas where You are stretching me and to learn the things You are trying to teach me. Amen.
Most of us know what we should eat. We’ve been told we need lots of vegetables, fruit, and enough protein. There are different schools of thought about amounts of fats and carbohydrates but we all have an idea of what is healthy.
Funny how it’s so much nicer to eat things that we know are unhealthy. A carrot doesn’t remotely have the appeal of a chocolate, or cream scone or lemon meringue pie.
There is a balanced diet for our spiritual growth too. Our pastor told us about it in church on Sunday. It is in 1 Timothy where Paul is warning Timothy about false doctrines that were prevalent in the church at the time.
“If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” (1Tim 4:6-7)
There also appears to be spiritual junk food. Paul talks about godless myths and old wives tales. I think fake news and over-forwarded social media posts can fall into this category. However, just as junk food has more appeal than healthy food, our natural sinful state is to be drawn more to spiritual junk food. We need God’s help to be able to maintain a balanced spiritual diet.
Father God, thank you for the wonderful array of food that you have created for us. Please help me to be wise in selecting physical food and to remember to nourish my spirit with the truths of the faith and good teaching. May I have discernment to be able to identify and avoid godless myths and old wives tales. Amen.
Our neighbours are doing alterations – breaking down walls and eventually building new ones.
Anybody who has ever been involved in any kind of renovation or building will know that the dust collects everywhere. We can see it creeping over the wall.
Sin is like dust. Sometimes it’s easy to spot and we can avoid the area. At other times it is subtle and hardly noticeable until a shaft of sunlight reveals the dust that has collected on a surface. If we ask Jesus to shine the light of His Holy Spirt on our lives, we will see things that we hadn’t noticed, not blatant actions but tiny attitudes of mind, a grumbling spirt, a covetous thought or regarding our time/money/life as our own.
When Jesus washed the disciples feet, Peter objected. When Jesus explained that unless Peter allowed Jesus to wash him, he had no part of his Lord, Peter replied, “Not just my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.” (John13:9-10a NIV)
The roads in those days were dirt roads. Nobody could walk along them in sandaled feet without collecting a lot of dust on their feet – even if they had bathed and put on clean clothes for a special celebration like Passover.
We come to Jesus once in repentance and He forgives our sin, based on His atoning death. That is like the bath; but every day we collect the dust of sin on our souls and it is necessary to ask for forgiveness. That is like having our feet washed.
I am certainly not going to dust my house every day just because the neighbours are building but I will try to get my soul dusted every day.
Lord Jesus, as You did to the disciples, please wash my feet and show me those little dust sins that collect in my heart. Amen.
We moved into our cottage almost ten years ago. We added on some rooms and enlarged some. The renovations were planned by an architect. Although we have a large French window and a smaller window facing north, our lounge always seemed dark. We have a magnificent paperbark tree outside which gives beautiful shade in summer and we always thought that was the reason our house seemed dark. We had two sky lights put in and that helped a bit. However the lounge light stayed on during the day while I was home.
The house next door had five tall conifers growing against our north boundary wall. When the house was sold, I made a point of informing our new neighbours that I would love the trees cut down and we would pay half. Well, they had other things to attend to and repair and I didn’t want to nag them but I talked to the Lord about them. I even talked to the trees! (I remembered what Jesus had said about mountains throwing themselves into the sea.)
While we were away last week, the trees got taken out. The neighbours are doing some renovations and building on to make room for their parents to stay with them.
The difference is amazing. Sun streams into the lounge almost all day. We no longer need the light on in the daytime. I am just wallowing in the sunshine.
John said about Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5NIV)
Sometimes we miss out on the light of God in our lives through circumstances that are beyond our control. They are the things that cast shadows on the abundant life that Christ promised. They are like those five trees, seemingly invincible. They could be an early family tragedy, an unhappy childhood, a disability we were born with, or even poverty. We are totally powerless to remove them. They are not in our garden.
God is not powerless. We can do what we can to improve the light in our lives but then we need to call on Him to take away the trees. It won’t be easy and it won’t be immediate. But our God is faithful.
Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” May we not become so used to living in the shadow that we miss out on the Light of Life.
Lord, please open my eyes to the things with which I have been living, that are casting shadows over my life. May they be rooted up and cast aside. May the Light of Your Life and Your Love bathe me every day. Amen.
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.