Build that wall

The wind was blowing yesterday. Hard and cold. We live in a temperate climate therefore it was very hard and very cold by our standards. I woke up during the night and heard something that sounded like the wind. When I looked out of the window everything was quiet. Obviously I don’t sleep with my hearing aids in and sounds tend to become a little distorted so it could have been trucks driving through town or even the compressors of refrigeration trucks that were parked overnight. Whatever the noise was though, it was not what I thought it was.

Life is a lot like that. Things are very often not what they seem to be. Especially in the political situation we find ourselves in. Yesterday I read that more than 60 railway coaches have been burned out in Cape Town since the beginning of this year. The reasons are as varied but most of them have nothing to do with Spoornet (the railway company). The people who have the contract to supply railway vehicles benefit from it so who knows? The Bloemfontein City Hall was set on fire 2 days ago because the municipal workers apparently didn’t receive the wage increase that they were demanding. The cost of restoring that building will be a drain on city funds making wage increases even more difficult. When people don’t get what politicians promised them they burn tyres, block the main roads and loot shops. The motorists who use those roads mostly have no influence at all with the government department who promised the housing. The owner of the shop which gets emptied is not even affiliated to a political party and is just trying to raise a family by being an entrepreneur. Things don’t make sense and I have realized that, just like the wind which wasn’t the wind, things are very often not what they seem.
In Isaiah 11:3 the Bible says:
“and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;”
When Nehemiah was rebuilding Jerusalem there were enemies plotting against him to try to stop him. They kept sending him messages in an attempt to intimidate him. He realized what their plan was and refused to meet with them. This is what he replied to them, “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; You are just making it up in your head.” Nehemiah realized that they were just trying to cause them to revert into a state of fear and not be able to do any work.
When Nehemiah went to see his friend Shemaiah, this friend tried to trick him into hiding in the temple to avoid being attacked and killed at night. Before he went to Shemaiah he prayed to God saying, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah realized that Shemaiah was trying to cause him harm.
Nehemiah 6:12 – 13 “I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin be doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.”
Nehemiah was using discernment. He prayed and asked God to strengthen his hands, but more than just his hands were strengthened. He had the gift of discernment. James chapter 1 verse 5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
When all these political crimes happen, when farmers get killed on their farms without apparent reason, when little girls and babies are raped and killed, when property is destroyed, it is easy to fall into fear. It is so easy to let fear take you hostage and to become a prisoner in your own house. We aren’t only scared by political problems and crime. Every day things happen that can cause us to become fearful. Our children can become sick or street dangerously off course. Death, divorce, unfaithfulness, retrenchment, the list is endless.
John 1:12, “Yet to all who received him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-” If you were the natural child of a king you would not be expected to live in fear. You would have rights and privileges that others normal citizens would not have. You would have free access to the king and be able to ask his advice at any time. Just like that, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your saviour, you have access to God (The King and Creator of the Universe) at all times. You can ask Him whatever you want and He will answer you. In His Word it says “do not fear” 365 times. Once for every day of the year.
We have to learn to live as overcomers, as victors, as fearless royalty. We have to ask for wisdom and apply it, we have to discern when things aren’t as they seem to be. We have to be the light in the world and not hide in fear. Are we going to allow fear to paralyse us or are we going to do what Nehemiah did and fearlessly complete the task that he knew was his to do? Let us live lives that reflect the glory of God and let us enjoy every bit of it.

The Secret

 

I’ve seen people who are always nice. I even know people who are always nice. I look at them and think “seriously?” But that’s just who they are. They love life and they love people. Even irritating people! And they aren’t just nice to the people and then turn around and gossip about them. I’ve been thinking about this and I realized that they have discovered a secret. The secret is that what goes around comes around. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

 

I’m sure they weren’t born that way. I don’t think babies are born good. They are born brats who cry and scream and demand and only show their dimples and smiles when their grandmothers are around. You don’t believe me? Do yourself a favour and see whether mother’s or grandmother’s post more photos of babies of Facebook. Grandmothers are forever posting photos of cute, smiling, angelic kids. All you see of mothers are a few exhausted looking selfies! Just joking, but sometimes it seems that way.

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Galatians 6:7 – ‘Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.’

 

Proverbs 22:8 – ‘He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, And the rod of his anger will fail.’

 

Matthew 7:16 – 20 ‘You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every food tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, not can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear food fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.’

 

These nice people have discovered that what you give is what you get. If you want to have a difficult and troubled life then keep on dishing out insults and revenge. We feel so offended when people don’t treat us the way we expect to be treated. We feel so offended that we start offending others with out attitude. I am convinced that most people do not purposely give offence. Sometimes they are hurting and say things out of that place of hurt. Other times we just misinterpret what we hear. Whichever way it is, taking offence makes us into bad people. Nobody wants to be around me when I have been offended. I blow off steam and I try to justify my actions. I walk around with a pained expression and everyone around me is supposed to pick up on the fact that I have been wronged. Of course I believe that I am right and that the other party is wrong. In the process I am:

 

Making myself unpleasant to be around.

 

Alienating people who would normally enjoy my company.

 

Thinking negative thoughts.

 

Making myself physically sick because of all the negativity going on in my head.

 

Not getting on with my life because I’m dragging all this baggage around with me.

 

So, how do I remedy the situation? The first step is to get over myself and my insecurities. The second is to open up my minds and allow people to be. To be who they are and not to judge them. Let them be them and let me be the best me I can be. There are so many positive things I can concentrate on and think about and meditate on. My aim is to apply the secrets that so many others have learned and also become nice. The good thing about being nice is you do it for yourself, not for others. You reap so many benefits from it that it really isn’t worth walking around sulking about all the bad things life is throwing at you.

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This is a painting I did of how we are sheltered under God’s wings. H

 

 

Out of the box

Have you ever tried to get out of the box? Have you even just tried to look outside of the box? Just a peek? And what happened? You started seeing the possibilities and the freedom and then you worked up the courage to tell someone about it. You shared your vision. Down came the hammer. BAM! Someone crushed those dreams. Sometimes dreams can be destroyed without even using words. A look or an attitude can be enough to leave the floor full of shards. Most people don’t want others to rise up above their circumstances or to go beyond what is considered safe.

How many of us have advised out children to pursue a career that is stable and offers a pension plan and medical benefits? Why do we do it? To prevent them from following their dreams? Not at all. We mainly want to protect them against financial hardship. Nobody wants to see his child struggle. But isn’t it the struggles and the battles that make us tough and grow character? Isn’t it true that if we haven’t been through troubles and faced our giants that we aren’t really going to have much of a backbone?

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Anyway, to come back to the box, I do think that a lot of the time the ones who upset our apple carts only want to help us. Sometimes however there are those who are jealous and just like to rain on your parade. It really doesn’t matter what the motives of the thundercloud is, we have to decide in our own minds what we really want. We can’t allow people to decide for us what it is we need. If I am really passionate about something then I must go after that thing with my whole heart. I must be willing, no eager, to practice it every day. I remember reading a little joke where the teacher told the class that if you want to cultivate a new habit you had to repeat it 30 times to make it yours. A girl at the back of the class obviously only half-heard. She started repeating over and over: Michael, Michael, Michael …

What is a box, or rather, what is your box? I see anything that keeps you from reaching your potential as a box. How did you get into that box? Were you born in it? No! Little children have imagination and they believe they can do anything. Somewhere along the way you believed something that stopped you from reaching your potential and fulfilling your destiny. Family, friends, culture, religion or the media could have influenced you. Did they put you in the box? No, you did. You put yourself into that box by believing certain things about yourself. Those things don’t even have to be true, you just have to believe them.

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How do you know if what you think you want to do really is what you should be doing? If you really want to do something then go after it. If you wake up in the morning thinking about it and go to sleep at night planning what you are going to accomplish the next day it’s very good sign. I listened to a very good talk about following your dreams. If you are really passionate about something that passion will reflect in the way you do it and then there will be a gap in the market for what you do. Even a cheese sandwich made with passion is a cut above the rest. I love art and I love writing. I love a lot of other things too like gardening and sewing but art and writing are at the top of my list. When I paint (create something artistic) or write I feel alive. I feels like something inside of me has been ignited. It feels like this is what I have been created for. I completed quite a few canvasses this year so far, they are mixed media so I feel I shouldn’t say I ‘painted’ because painting was only a part of what I did. I also enrolled in a creative writing course at the beginning of December and I’ve just completed my fifth assignment. I told my husband that I am not going to wait until I retire so that I can do what I’m passionate about. I’m going to start practising so that when I get to retirement I’ll be used to it. So every day I do something creative. I have also hung my art in our shop and put prices on it. That is huge for me because it feels like I am exposing my soul and becoming vulnerable. I am opening myself up for criticism. I don’t know if anyone will buy anything but I feel like I can call myself an artist. Even if people just look at the work and feel the emotion I will be happy.

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Go after your passion. Don’t hide your light under a bushel or a bucket or what you believe about your abilities. You were created for a purpose and if you don’t get out of the box you are never going to see it happen.

Zuma must go – or must he?

“Zuma must go! Zuma must fall!”

That’s what we’ve been hearing for the last month or so. There have been marches, peaceful protests, petitions on social media and old ladies with petitions in supermarkets. It has been the topic of discussion at every opportunity. It has even surpassed the weather in farming communities. Of course no-one is giving a working alternative. Who will be the successor? Will the person who follows be better? … or not? I saw a Facebook post this morning that mentioned a possible successor to our president and my blood froze. Seriously? Maybe we should just be happy with the devil we know.

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There are prayer meetings being arranged to pray for peace in the country. Excellent! Praying has never been bad. But what are the motives? I’ve heard people say (or ask) that God will (or please should) change things because we have suffered enough. Really? There are farm murders and there is crime and violence. It isn’t safe to walk alone in certain places. There are parts of cities where you surely will get mugged or robbed.

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We can go to church without being persecuted. We can speak our minds without being thrown into prison. We aren’t being persecuted like people in some countries who are not allowed to say a word which is contrary to the beliefs of the state. There are many places we can enjoy which are very safe. We have a free market system. Yes, there are fears, and I believe most of them are very real fears that the situation could become worse.

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I’m just wondering if people are (going to be) praying because they are afraid of being out of their comfort zones or if the prayer is going to be about really seeking God’s face and His will for our country? I remember the little verse about the teabag that only produces a beverage when it is soaked in hot  water. What if we can’t grow spiritually without a bit of suffering? What if we need to be pushed a bit to discover some hidden talents and some compassion and mercy? Maybe, just maybe, we have to get outside of our comfort zones so that we can reach our full potential. So that we can become what we were meant to be. So that the tea bags of our souls can do what they were made to do.

 

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Photos courtesy of TS Photography

 

To forgive …

I am at the shop and my plan was to get my admin up to date. I have a cup of coffee next to me, Jesus Culture playing on the computer and my mind is everywhere, except where its supposed to be. I started thinking about what forgiveness is all about  so I wrote a poem. . All of us, at various stages of our lives have issues with forgiveness. Here it is, please give me feedback about your own experiences with forgiving.

FORGIVENESS

 

Holding onto the past is what I do

Remembering every word and deed

Going over it every day

It soon becomes a great, ugly need

 

The alternative is unthinkable

How can anyone, most of all God, expect

Me to let go of what hurt me so much

As if nothing was ever there?

 

How can I say it’s all over?

How can I live without the pain

That has been part of me for so long?

How? I ask you how is it done?

 

I cannot even start to think where to begin

How do I start to leave it all behind?

My life will be emptied of all the grief

But will there be anything at all left behind?

 

Will I not then be just an empty vessel

Making a lot of noise?

The pain has sustained me and I thought,

Given me good reason to be alive.

 

“Take My hand my child and turn your back

On all the pain and hate,

Take my hand and follow Me

I bore it all for you on a cross on Calvary”

 

My body is trembling at the words I hear

My voice is breaking,

The fear of letting go is too strong but

My heart is crying out for the freedom I need

 

Father, You say I must forgive

But how? How can I say its all OK?

They hurt me so bad, I never was the same

Life is not fair, I did not deserve the pain

 

“Follow Me,” I heard it again

I listened to my heart.

I needed to be free and not caught up

In this trap of fear and hurt

 

Here I am Lord, take me just as I am

Ugly and broken and full of scars

Lonely and hurting with my life in a mess

I sob till the tears wash the mud off my face

 

“That is the only way I ever could.

You are now ready to be washed clean

With My precious blood

Just like all those who are weary.”

 

I have forgiven those I thought I never could

I have put the past where it belongs

I have become a new creature

The kind of perfect imperfection Jesus wants

 

My sins are forgiven, my life is empty

Of all the hate and grief and mud

I am a person proud to call

Jesus my Saviour and my Lord

 

All the ugly has been purged

And even though I thought emptiness

Would be the replacement

I’m all filled up with love

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Pray for the leaders

I have had a very difficult week. Emotionally taxing. On Thursday residents of a certain area were protesting about housing. Apparently the money that was supposed to be used to build hoses had been misappropriated. These people were blocking the main road through out town. Trash, large stones and old car tyres we deposited across the road at various strategic points to prevent traffic from entering and leaving. Soon the tyres had been set alight and the police came along to disperse them. Nobody was injured, some damage was done to the potted palms in the middle of town, and there was a lot of debris to be removed from the street. There were a lot of irate motorists and the businesses in town who are dependent on passing traffic lost business. Then the next day the president fired half of his cabinet and replaced them. This obviously had nothing to do with the protests in a small insignificant town. Speculation as to what the repercussions will be for the country are all over the newspapers and internet. And then one of the opposition parties is saying that farms belonging to white farmers must be redistributed to black people.

These things are causing a lot of negativity. Every time you log into Facebook or other social media there are negative comments. There’s a petition that people can sign which is demanding that the president must be taken out of office. Then I saw another Facebook post where a friend of mine said that we have to pray for our leaders instead of demand that they be removed from their jobs. It was not what I expected to see given all the negative and aggressive talk. I thought about it and I realized that this was exactly the reminder I needed. I have had such negative thoughts racing around my head that I was in a bad mood. I was walking around with a frown and finding it very hard to be joyful. I asked God how I am supposed to handle the situation we find ourselves in.

Phillipians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” and further in the same chapter, verse 8 says, “Finally bretheren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” So, if we want to be joyful and always rejoice we have to think about good things, great and beautiful things, not negative or ugly things. We have to fill our minds with purity and beauty and things that are praiseworthy. How on earth do we do that when the world is in the mess it currently is?

The Bible clearly instructs us to pray for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour.” I don’t think that Paul said this because he and the ruler had a good relationship. The emperors and kings of that time actively persecuted Christians and Nero gave the order to have Paul beheaded. If we think we’re having a hard time with our ruler I think we ought to update our historical knowledge.

This is how I practically see these verses.

If I want to be joyful I need to think about positive things, but how do I do this when everything I hear and see is negative? I have to start praying for the leaders of my country. I don’t have to like people to pray for them but if I’m praying for them I cannot be negative about them. That means my mind can’t be filled with negative thoughts. If I’m not praying for them I will be thinking about all the negative things I hear and see. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I don’t want to be like the rest of the world who are angry and negative and depressed. I want my mind to be renewed so that I can be in God’s will.

I have to pray for them to receive salvation, to be able to make Godly decisions even if they aren’t godly people (yet) and for them to be guided by the Holy Spirit. I am sure that there will be many more things I’m going to discover that I can pray for as I go along. But for now I have to just start praying.

Hope

I have been busy with a lot of things and I haven’t had time to focus enough to write my blog. Maybe my mind has been busier than my hands. A friend who I look up to has been diagnosed with a life threatening condition. She is a committed believer and such an example to me especially now. As always she is positive and lives every day to the full. 

I have been thinking about how people react to bad news. How should I handle situatsions that are beyond my control? The answer I get is one little word – hope. Instead of trying to explain it I wrote this poem. 

HOPE
To live in hope is to be free

From the bondages the world creates for us

So that we can see

Beyond everything life expects 
Hope is the heart that beats

When everyone has given up on us

Hope is the smile that greets

Even when sadness and grief overwhelms
To have hope is to stand up and face

The day that brings us evil

Without thinking of the place

We have been – just looking forward
Hope is the tiny flickering flame

That was planted in the heart

On the day when we became

The plan God made for us
To see hope is the biggest gift

That we can ever receive

For it gives our spirits a lift

And strengthens out faith
Hope never dies

Not even when our bodies do

Hope never lies

Not even when our minds do

Camille sleeping on the couch – I think we all ought to take time out and just chill. 

Eulogy

My friend Joan passed away peacefully. I know she’s in a better place. I know she was totally prepared for dying. She had battled cancer for some years and she knew. She knew what was coming.

But … my heart aches so much. Even though I know she’s pain free and she’s in heaven. I’m glad that she isn’t suffering anymore and that her life can be celebrated. Our friendship began in primary school and after she left that school and went to a boarding school we wrote letters to each other for a while but eventually lost contact. Many years later I found her on Facebook and we took up our friendship an caught up on all the years in between. She led a remarkable life having grown up on a farm in South Africa and then, as a young woman emigrated to Australia with her family. She was a wonderful daughter, wife, mother and friend. Everyone who knew her loved her. That was just how she was – she was loveable. Always positive and inspired and passionate. Joan had such a wide range of interests and passions. From teaching to geocaching to family history to quilting. No matter what she did she worked at it with every fiber of her being.

I think that maybe earth couldn’t contain all her passion. This world as we know it was too small for everything she embodied. A week before she passed away, when she was very, very ill, she was planning a friendship quilt. Selfless right up to the end.

Joan I will love you for ever and I miss you dearly. You are at peace my friend.

 

Because He Lives

I haven’t been writing about my garden because there’s really not much to say. There has been so little rain and so much wind and heat that most of my garden has died. There are a few herbs left that I’m keeping alive. About five minutes ago it started to rain. Thunder, lightning, the whole package. I can hear the rain beating down on the tin roof. What an awesome sound.

 

Last week I spoke to a local farmer who is in his 80’s and he’s farmed in this district for all his life. He told me that he’s never seen a drought like this. He doesn’t want to check on his cattle anymore because he can’t bear to see them starve. My husband spoke to a young farmer who was in tears when he told him how hard it is for him to know that there isn’t enough food for his animals.

 

This is real life. This is where the tyre strikes the tar. Grown men don’t shed tears easily. When a man cries (especially a farmer) you know that his heart is hurting. Does God care? Does He send a drought to force us to get on our knees and become humble again or does He test our faith with harsh circumstances? I don’t know. I really, honestly don’t know. I do know that if things always go well with us we won’t need God and we won’t need miracles. We probably won’t even be thankful for what we have because we’ll take it for granted. I don’t think that God brings bad things over our paths to make us better people or that He tests us with things like disease. I do know that we as humans have free choice. I also know that God is love and that He would never do something bad to us. Romans 8:28 says that God lets all things work together for the good of those that love Him. So, if bad things happen to us and we keep holding onto God and His promises He will make it good for us in the end.

 

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A beautiful rainbow representing one of God’s spectacular promises

 

There’s a song that says “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” I believe that no matter what happens here on earth there is a bright future for us and if it’s not so bright here on earth it will certainly be very bright in Heaven where the streets are paved with gold.

 

If it only rains enough to wet the top layer of soil so be it. If it rains so much that everything is washed away and I have to start all over again that’s OK too. Because Jesus lives I will face tomorrow with a smile.

Comfort Zone

 

Why does everyone react with fear to the word ‘diet’? Well, I suppose it is a 4 letter word but there are a lot of 4 letter words that nobody even bats an eyelid at anymore. They have been used so often and so publically that they have become part of everyday language. People have become desensitized to them. That’s actually really terrible but why isn’t the same thing true about the ‘d’ word?

 

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Firstly it takes us out of our comfort zone – and we don’t like being out of our comfort zones. Comfort zones are comfortable and nice and easy. Comfort zones aren’t like a worn-out couch with the springs that are popping out and sticking your rear end every time you sit down. They aren’t like a bed of nails that’s going to hurt you every time you move. Not at all. That’s why we don’t like getting out of our comfort zone. Food is even named after it – comfort food – it should be called comfort zone food. When you don’t feel well your first reaction is often to reach for some starchy, sweet, sticky familiar food and feed your unwellness.

 

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Now someone mentions that your girth is growing or you double chin has doubled up. Your bathroom scale groan when you step on it as if you had dome it some bodily harm. The dreaded word starts to form in your head and you immediately go into denial. There’s no way you need to lose weight, you convince yourself that there is something wrong with your scale and that your friends need glasses. But it just won’t go away. The scary little word keeps following you around and each time you open a magazine or go onto the net and you see the skinny bodies in bathing costumes and you know that your belly fat will be flopping over the edges of that miniscule piece of fabric. When you buy a chocolate bar at your local supermarket the cashier’s eyes widen ever so slightly. Your husband starts buying you diet soda and when you ask him about it he shrugs and says he didn’t realize it was sugar free.

 

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All the signs are plain to see. You have to make a plan. But the pull of your comfort zone is so strong. It’s like a drug, a habit, something you just can’t leave behind. We all know that feeling. What you have to do is see it as a challenge. Make a decision that eating healthy food is going to be the new normal. Don’t call it a diet, call it and eating plan or a lifestyle or you could invent a brand new word that’s going to make you sound super cool when you tell your friends. Just get out of that comfy chair and face the big ‘D’, take it by the horns and face up to it. Don’t let it rule you and intimidate you. You can do this. You can get out of your comfort zone and not only if you need to go on a diet, but with whatever you want to do.

 

 

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A healthy alternative?

 

 

DO IT TODAY!