Pause to Ponder

 

Cross

Easter.    It’s that time of year again when the world slows down just a little, and there is time to pause and ponder on the things of God.   He has been around forever, and will be with us even when we are unaware of His presence.  He just is, and yet we miss Him, if we do not look for Him, or take a little time to listen for Him.

There is more to life than just living, and not everything is as it seems.  There is a mystery at play, a mystery in full view, if we were to pause, to ponder and to perceive.
Easter time is a good time to ponder on The Great Story of God, the story of righteousness, redemption and restoration, and all things good.  And for that we need to look at the cross, and the finished work of Jesus Christ.

aaron-burden-76177-unsplash

The cross is a place of brutal suffering – where Jesus was lashed with a whip of seven tails, that tore and ripped the skin off his body; where a crown of thorns mockingly pierced the flesh of his skull.   And so when we are in pain and suffering – God knows.
He was nailed to a wooden cross and crucified by a people that was called to be His own.
And so when we are betrayed – God knows.
The cross is a place of sacrifice – where God deemed it fit for His Son to die for the sake of mankind,  – that is you and me.  And so when we sacrifice for the sake of others – God knows.
The cross is a place of rejection.  He was rejected by man, and abandoned by God.
And so when we are rejected, abandoned and all alone – God knows.

Rejected rose

As the song goes   “Like a rose trampled on the ground, He took the fall and thought of me above all”

The cross where the significance of self and its sin, melts into the sacrificed life of Christ Jesus, that makes us acceptable, and worthy, and beautiful before a Holy God.

The cross, is a place of salvation – where forgiveness is given, but so often not received, because we do not ask for forgiveness from God, from others, even from ourselves and are hard-pressed to give forgiveness to those who have done us wrong.

So often are we pre-occupied with only ourselves, and don’t listen or  ask after the promises, and the ways of God.

The cross, is pivotal to the story of God, and to history itself.
The cross is a place of death, and death has to be breached, so that new life can begin.  The cross is a place of life – the place where heaven opens and righteousness and restoration happens.   The veil is lifted between earth and heaven –  and so He opens the way, for those who choose to believe in God and in His story.

holycross
Jesus died,  and rose again.  The miracle of all the ages.   He is the resurrection to the new life, the new creation, through a new covenant – a covenant of the heart !
And the new creation is what it is all about !  He is the beginning of our story, and He is the end of our story.   But it is not the final end, for if we receive His invitation to heaven, and ask Him to come and live in our hearts today, we join Him, and reign with Him in His resurrected life, and continue into the new creation that is coming.  A new beginning – a new story !!

So take time to ponder the old old story of Jesus and His cross, and accept His invitation today to real life, life bought by His sacrifice and His blood, and by His love,  for mankind, that is you and me, to shine before God.

John 14:6    Jesus said to him  ” I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

This Easter, pause to ponder,  and to pray … Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for going my own way, and not following You.   Thank you for dying in my place.  Please come into my heart, and live Your life through me.  Thank You for the precious and miraculous gift of salvation.  Amen.

Red rose    Easter blessings to all.

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Billy Graham, Messenger of Good News

 

images.jpg open Bible

Billy Graham, Evangelist, passed away in February 2018.  He was 99 years old.

In a newsletter from Mission Aviation Fellowship the following was quoted to honour him for his life and work.

MAF had the privilege of flying him in 1960 for his African Safari for Souls in East Africa where thousands came to know Jesus.

“All over the world I have been privileged to see people respond in faith to the simple yet profound message of God’s love in Jesus Christ.   They have come from every conceivable social, racial, political and ideological background, for Christ transcends the boundaries that divide us.   And in Christ, they have found the answer to their deepest spiritual longings …..   Christ brings hope in the midst of despair, joy in the midst of sorrow, forgiveness in the midst of guilt and peace in the midst of turmoil “
(Billy Graham,  The Courage of Conviction, Ballantine Publishers 1986)

“Christ belongs to all people.   He belongs to the whole world !”
(Billy Graham, Johannesburg Crusade, 1973)

These are profound words that leave one a little silent, and a little saddened, by the passing of Billy Graham, who was a messenger of  the good news of Jesus Christ, and gave his life for the great commission.

Mark 16:15  …….  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”

Red rose

 

 

Mind-shifts and Mine-fields.

bright sunrise

 

A new day is dawning in South Africa.

South Africa, amazing, vibrant, diverse and surprising, as usual, has not failed to provide for speculative and spectacular politics over these past few days.   And especially so the last few months of the years of Jacob Zuma’s term in office, from which he was ousted by his own party members  just months before his term ended.   Just as with the previous South African president Thabo Mbeki.  The wheel has indeed turned !

South Africa has a way of going all the way to the edge of demise, before pulling back in resilience and fortitude.   The birth of the new South Africa in 1994 was a tumultuous time when the shadow of a civil war loomed but was narrowly prevented by prayer and skilful peace-keeping interventions that drew us back from the brink.

The Nelson Mandela years were hopeful with the new vision for a country where Oppression was lifted and all people were to be equal.   The working out of that dream was not an easy one as many mind-shifts had to be made.  Slowly the privileged ones had to expand their minds to inclusivity, and perhaps even more slowly, the underprivileged ones has to let go their grip on being a victim of their history.   Both difficult, almost impossible tasks for a very passionate, vibrant and an outspoken society – yet necessary to grow in unity and wholeness to build one nation.   But it would take time.

Thabo Mbeki, a man for an African vision saw a larger picture, and spoke of an African Renaissance.  This might have planted seeds, but for the time being it may well have been a vision for a time to come.  The Government of the day were finding their new power-based feet, as ordinary South Africans were grappling,  with their new-found identities, pressing social issues, the Aids epidemic, and wanted swift and decisive plans and actions.

Thabo Mbeki was unceremoniously recalled by his party, and in his place Jacob Zuma took over the reigns of this fledgling nation.   When a nation and its leaders are in unchartered waters it would be good to have a compass or a plan.   There was no clear announced vision to take the country forward, probably due to the identity crisis in the new governing party.   For years they had been fostering a revolution movement to take over the country, and had perhaps, in hindsight now, not made the mind-shift from political revolution to good political governance.  So political football was played out, to only the delight of the political parties involved, as the rest of society was waiting for  a clear directive to move forward – none came.     But the dissatisfaction of the poorer citizens who saw no economic change whatsoever began to demonstrate their dissatisfaction and very real frustrations with protest marches and the burning of some establishments.
Huge mine-fields for the nation were beginning to appear as greed and corruption had seduced well positioned power people in power structures to take, grab and hold onto  all the resources and wealth that were there for the taking – the looting of the State coffers.     And this happened, without a peep from anyone, until it was almost to late, and another demise glaringly stared us in the face, as foreign looters – (and  calculating foreign  nations with power and nuclear aspirations may well have played a pinnacle role,  perhaps yet to be revealed, when the rotting cancer of corruption in South Africa is finally and fully exposed)  –  and all this went unchecked !
The global markets reacted to the situation in South Africa, and then only did the alarm bells go off.   Of course the president was not equipped to deal with these problems, buried his head in the sand and strategically played delay tactics to squirm out of any responsibility.
But  ordinary South Africans are resilient, and fierce stalwarts of integrity and righteousness.  And so once again, the claw-back from the demise came this time through protest marches, the media, the press, and by God’s grace the Judicial system, that had been waving the constitutional flag of morality and justice to reign supreme for all South Africans.

flying SA flag

Now,  a new day has dawned in South African politics with a new president. Cyril Ramaphosa, who spoke at the State of the Nation address in Cape Town on 16 February 2018.    He breathed hope into our politically fatigued nation,  gave a renewed vision of hope –  a revived Nelson Mandel vision for equality for all South Africans.   But this time, having passed through all the tumultuous times of nation construction and deconstruction,  there is an inclusive economic plan, that means business with the rest of the world to invest into our collective future, even a building stone for a fast developing  African continent.

All South Africans have been invited to take part in this new era that has dawned.  As President Ramaphosa indicated in his speech,  it is for all South Africans who want equality through hard work, integrity, the rooting out of corruption, and to build a new South Africa.
To cap it all a former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel put it this way :
” Ship South Africa has a new captain, and its all hands on deck “

The  one mind-shift that will accelerate the move from poverty to progress to prosperity is this:   Ask not what can I get but rather ask what can I give ! – then go and build and plant wherever you are, and whatever you do, to benefit yourself and others in our community.

The time has indeed come for all South Africans to build and to plant one nation with integrity and with honour, for the benefit of all who live in her, and for the benefit of the country and the continent.

 May God bless South Africa.

Butterfly SA

Jeremiah 18 : 9  And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom,
                              to build and to plant it,…..

 

From Menial to Magnificent

 

skeleton

Hoarding is one thing.   That is easy.  Cleaning out is another,  not an easy thing for me.   But the day comes when the small menial tasks need to be done.  And the Bible says  do not despise the day of small things.

I have been labelled a hoarder, and although I don’t totally agree with that,  well at best then, a recovering hoarder ?   I  have yet a long way to go.   How some people can ruthlessly throw out their sort-after possessions beats me.   I don’t easily throw things away. This may just be a throw-back from my frugal upbringing.  I have learnt overtime  though, to surreptitiously absorb excess into my domain.  Like any good South African taxi driver will say  …  there is always room for one more !!

Taxi

I am learning to de-clutter, but not so much with my papers on words and writings.    And come the first month of the year I seem to have an automatic resolve to go through all my “papers and writings” – these precious snippets of wisdom that I have collected.  I usually make little piles of the favourites and then keep them in a special box – for next year’s clean out !  It’s hard for me to discard “old friends”.

I am so glad I do this, for if I had to be ruthless with my wisdom collection I would never have re-discovered the amazing snippets taken from Philip Yancey’s book on Dr Paul Brand, and his insight on the power of the blood, which I had re-written on a piece of notepaper and kept !

The book :  In the Likeness of God.  The Dr Paul Brand Tribute Edition of  Fearfully and Wonderfully Made  and  In His Image.   ISBN 0-310-25905-3 Zondervan

Read and marvel with me, as he describes the red blood that runs through all our veins.

Blood cells

But first, allow me to introduce you to Dr Brand, then you will have an appreciation of his insight and his writing.
And incidentally, notice how Philip Yancey describes, in the Preface of the book, how he had learned about Dr Paul Brand in the first place !

…”my wife cleaned out the closet of a medical-supply house and in the process stumbles across an intriguing essay he had written on “The Gift of Pain”

And further on in the book he writes …

“….  I can imagine God taking great delight in steering me to Dr Brand
(through my wife’s serendipitous discovery of his essay in a closet, of course) at a critical time in my spiritual journey.

pink feather duster

Aha !!! – So there is value in hoarding … and, value too in cleaning out, and good housekeeping,  that can take us from the menial to the magnificent !  Discoveries and re-discoveries, as I had just made.

Meet Dr Paul Brand, both a good and great man…. but allow Mr Yancey to express in his own words from the book :

” An orthopedic surgeon, Dr Brand had spent most of his medical career in India, where he made a dramatic discovery about leprosy, one of the oldest and most feared diseases.  Careful research convinced him that the terrible manifestations of the cruel disease – missing toes and fingers, blindness, ulcers, facial deformities – all trace back to the single cause of painlessness.  Leprosy silences nerve cells, and as a result its victims unwittingly destroy themselves, bit by bit, because they cannot feel pain.  When he moved to a high-tech laboratory in the United States, he applied what he had learned about painlessness to other diseases, such as diabetes, thus helping to prevent tens of thousands of amputations each year”  ……..

“… The conversations that stand out sharpest to me now are those in which he recalled individual patients, “nobodies” on whom he had lavished medical attention.  When he began his pioneering work, he was the only orthopedic surgeon in the world working among fifteen million victims of leprosy.  He and Margaret (his wife) performed several dozen surgical procedures on some of these patients, restoring rigid claws into usable hands through innovative tendon transfers, remaking feet, forestalling blindness, transplanting eyebrow, fashioning new noses.
He told me of his patients’ family histories, the awful rejection they had experience as the disease presented itself, the trial-and-error treatments of doctor and patient experimenting together.   Almost always his eyes would moisten and he would wipe away tears as he remembered their suffering.   To him these, among the most neglected people on earth, were not nobodies, but people made in the image of God,and he devoted his life to try to honour that image.”

“Most impressive to me, the wisest and most brilliant man I have ever met devoted much of his life to some of the lowest people on the planet : members of the Untouchable cast in India afflicted with leprosy.”…….

“Dr Brand described his writing journey this way : “In a sense we doctors are like employees at the complaint desk of a large department store.   We tend to get a biased view of the quality of the product when we hear about its aches and pains all day.   In this little manuscript, which I set aside long ago,
I tried instead to pause and wonder at what God made, the human body. ” ...

Indeed Philip Yancey’s book captures, apart from the life and insights of Dr Paul Brand,  also the comparison of the human body to that of the Body of Christ.

The notes that I had taken  from the book were on the chapter on the blood.  I will try to compose the snippets in such a way that will show the magnificence of the life-giving blood that runs unceremoniously through our veins every moment of the day, every moment of our lives.

Just to elaborate a little,  an incident occurred  at the Connaught Hospital where a young beautiful accident victim was wheeled into his ward. Dr Brand at first could not feel a pulse, and thought she was dead.  Then he witnessed how she came back to life as new blood was administered to her,  as the blood began to flow through her veins.

”  That young woman entered my life for only an hour or so, but the experience left me utterly changed.   I had seen a miracle : a corpse resurrected, the creation of Eve when breath entered into and animated her body.  If medicine,   if blood  could do this… “

This incident change the course of Dr Brand’s life.

The following  extracts are what brought me to the brink of astonishment, as I read about the miracle and power of blood.

” For most of us, the organ of blood, if one can think of this fluid mass as an organ, comes to consciousness mainly when we begin to lose it.  Then, the sight of it in tinted urine, a nosebleed, or a weeping wound provokes alarm.   We miss the dramatic sense of blood’s power that I saw demonstrated in the Connaught patient – the power that sustains our lives at every moment   ……… ”

” …..  perhaps a technological metaphor would serve best today.
Imagine an enormous tube snaking southward from Canada through the Amazon delta, plunging into oceans  only to surface at every inhabited island  …… ”

” Such a pipeline exists inside each one of us, servicing not six billion but one hundred trillion cells in the human body.   An endless supply of oxygen, amino acids, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sugars, lipids, cholesterol, and hormones surges past our cells, carried on blood cell rafts or suspended in the fluid.   Each cell has special withdrawal privileges to gather the resources needed to fuel a tiny engine for its complex chemical reactions.
In addition, that same pipeline ferries away refuse, exhaust gasses, and worn-out chemicals.   In the interest of economical transport, the body dissolves its vital substances into a liquid (much as a coal is shipped more efficiently through a slurry pipeline than by truck or train)   Five or six quarts of this all-purpose fluid suffice for the body’s hundred trillion cells.”

“… What the telescope does to nearby galaxies, the microscope does to a drop of blood  :  it unveils the staggering reality.   A speck of blood the size of this letter “o”  contains 5,000,000 red cells,  300,000 platelets and  7,000 white cells.   The fluid is actually an ocean stock with living matter…”

”  A view through a microscope clarifies the various components of blood but gives no picture of the daily frenzy encountered by each cell….

”  Sixty thousand miles of blood vessels link every living cell, even the blood vessels themselves are fed by blood vessels…. ”

”  An average red cell endures the cycle of loading, unloading, and jostling through the body for a half million round trips over four months…”

” The components of this circulatory system cooperate to accomplish a simple goal : nourishing and cleansing each living cell.   If any part of the network breaks down – the heart takes an unscheduled rest, a clot overgrows and blocks an artery, a defect diminished the red cells’ oxygen capacity – life ebbs away.  The brain, master of the body, can survive intact only five minutes without replenishment.”

”  The drama of resurrection enacted before me in Connaught Hospital takes place without fanfare in each heartbeat of a healthy human being.   Every cell in every body lives at the mercy of blood.” 

One can only but stand in awe of the miracle of who were truly are – God’s intricate and magnificent workmanship – the human body.

Human body systems

Saint Augustine said   “Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars;  and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

 

We can assuredly agree with Psalmist of 139  where he glorifies God with these words

You created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I fearfully and wonderfully made. 

 

three butterflies

 

A MOMENT IN TIME

 

Hour glass

The sands of Time are settling down on 2018.

Time, is a gift to us all.  And how quickly it passes us by.  This I realised as I observed a little old lady having her lunch in a popular restaurant, renowned for its hamburgers and good coffee.   I had popped in after doing my shopping, and felt I needed a “spoil” after the Christmas rush, and to make the new year my own, with a little celebration of my favourite – banana milkshake !

This was quite uneventful, until I saw the little old lady, stricken with age, with a question mark for posture, stand up and begin to reach for her two wheel walker.  This with the help of her, I ‘m assuming, granddaughter.  The scene began to painstakingly unfold as she finally got in the position to begin her shuffle toward the door.   She looked up, and began to move forward.  Then to my amazement she stopped and with confidence, did a little bob-bob-sway-sway dance, with a sweet smile on her face, and a twinkle in her eye  – all this as she caught and held my gaze.  I was delighted,  gave her a big smile, a wave, and a thumbs up sign.  Not a word was spoken, not a word was needed as she expressed her mischief and her sense of humour.
She continued her epic shuffle to the door, but before she got there stopped and did the bob-bob-sway-sway dance again, but this time to the waitresses who were watching her go.  They all waved and clapped their hands in response to her happy presence, and called out to her  “goodbye Granny, come again”   Her smiling granddaughter looked up, caught my eye, and we just beamed at each other.   I thought to myself, I hope I can age as gracefully as this little old lady has shown me today, and that I can retain a sense of humour and playfulness into my ripe old age.

It was a moment in time, …. and it put a smile on my soul as I watched humanity play itself out before me. I got more than a banana milkshake for my new year’s celebration !  I got a lesson on life, and saw how the Aged and Elderly among us are special, and need to be seen and appreciated – and applauded !

So teach us to number our days,  That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

three butterflies

 

 

This Christmas Day

 

angel

Luke 2:10-12

Then the angel said to them  “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you  this day
in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the lord.
And this will be the sign to you : You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger”

 

nativity

May Jesus be born afresh in our hearts this Christmas Day

art-mary-joseph-and-the-baby-in-free-manger-image-information-free-jesus-christmas-clip-art-manger-image-information-images-ix-free

 

red ribbon holly