Bookends and Benefits

black-dog-bookend

It is always refreshing to read the good thoughts of other writers.
It brings another ‘voice’ , and other insights that can be pondered.

Alan’s writing sparked off in me a line of thought that is interesting.
If I were to sum up the bookends of my life it would be difficult, and I would need to ask that of others who know me, and don’t judge me to harshly.  One end could be contentment and the other, I hope, could be joy – well most days !
That is just a five-minute self-analysis, and I could be wrong – depends who you ask !
What are the bookends of your life – it’s a lovely line of thought and can be quite revealing. 

images.jpg open Bible

 But our lives are like books, and so could it be possible to sum up a book in two words ?  Its fun to try.

The writing further goes on to advocate Joy, and skilfully undergirds the benefits of being a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ.  These benefits, which are all  in Christ  are the bedrock of a beautiful book that can be invisibly read by those who would choose to ‘read’ a believers’ life.   Jesus truly makes all the difference in our lives.  By choosing Him as our God we have access to all these benefits and much, much more.

I hope that you too will be encouraged by Alan’s writing.
I have permission and am privileged to share with you the thoughts of Alan Webster’s Quiet Time 6-3-19 as he writes on :

Philippians 3:1   Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

Surrounded by Joy

If love is the message of the Gospel, then the bookends are joy.
Having joy is a strength that can keep someone going despite the adversity they face.
It might not exhibit as happiness, for that is a fleeting emotion, but joy undergirds a heart during the hardest trials.   Joy in the midst of suffering exhibits as quiet peacefulness, a contentment of knowing that the present is not the end of the story.   It is trusting through the suffering, hoping beyond the pain, claiming the future glory in the present darkness.

How is joy possible ?  It is as Paul calls it – it is joy in the Lord.   If our joy were in anything else, it would finally disappoint.   But we have joy in a conquering Saviour, who even though He died, vanquished every foe and confounded every attempt to annihilate goodness.    We have a caring Intercessor who constantly consoles our circumstances and prays for us.   If nobody else knows, and nobody notices what we are enduring He has intimate knowledge and we are able to pour our emotions  at His feet. It is there that He speaks to us and fills us up with hope.   It is there that we are empowered to take another step, go another season.

We have a constant Companion who never leaves us.   The Good Shepherd never abandons us even in our dreariest days.   Even when we have failed miserably and everyone else departs, He continues to be faithful.   We can lean on Him and He will hold us up.   When we can’t He will carry us.    We have a Covenant-keeping Messiah who holds Himself to the conditions of promise.   He lavishes grace on us and ensure that we will make it to the end.  He seeks out the lost sheep, rescues the wanderers and stands beside the oppressed.
We are never alone.

With all the benefits we have, even on our worst days, we are comforted.   In the Lord, we can take hold of the rich promises which are all yes and amen in Him.   He pours His life into us and swells the living water from deep within our souls.   We can taste and see that the Lord is good. 

If our walk as believers are to be marked in any way, let it be Joy. 

          Laughing Lamb  

 

 

 

Stand and Stare

 

I had seen the notice in the newspaper and thought I would make a note to attend the cancer support group, that was to meet at the Church in the village in Durban North. .
Come the day, I had a hesitancy to go.   Not knowing what to expect, and certainly not wanting to surround myself with strangers who spoke of troubles and problems and sicknesses.   My heels were becoming more firmly entrenched in my obstinacy, when I had a sense of the Lord saying to me, with His two fingers pointing at His own eyes :  ‘Keep your eyes on Me’    So the decision was made, I had to go to the meeting.
Talk about self-sabotage  – something I will have to look into at some time !!

However, it turned out to be a lovely day.  I had a lift to the meeting, so I was free to make quiet observations along the way.
One thing I noticed as we were waiting longer than usual at a robot – ( We have power outages in our country at the moment.  It is a national crisis as our electricity generating plants are in a state of disrepair !!)  –  there was a team of municipal ladies in red overalls  weeding and sweeping the gutters in the streets.   One had a long sharp blade type cutter with which she cut the weeds, the follow-up lady would sweep up the weeds, and another two would trim and clean the pavement, sidewalk or verge as some call it.
All very proper, and although very menial it was a form of employment, so very necessary for our people.  But here is the spark that lifted my day.  One of the young ladies looked very becoming for she wore a long curly “weave” or hair piece that made her look like a career woman!   As the traffic began to move and we passed by I gave her an invisible salute, for here was a young lady holding her own, doing a days work on a  hot humid day, looking the best she can while embracing a lowly work.

The scheduled meeting was quite a large one,  and I was welcomed and acknowledged as a newcomer, and escorted to a seat with a companion throughout the meeting.
The people, mainly woman, were cancer survivors gathering to share their stories.   I sat quietly and listened.   I again realised just how good God has been to me through my own encounter with cancer.

There was both suffering and strength in the room, with an open willingness to talk about their survival journey.   There were some who had nursed mothers, fathers, brothers and loved ones through cancer.  These were  the close family members of cancer patients, (often not regarded) who go through their own particular emotional traumas when their loved ones face the cancer challenge.
Tea and cake were served and we huddled together, like mother hens, to talk around everyday normal things and events.  These are things women do best  – apart from surviving cancer !
The scheduled programme of listening to an inspirational talk on cancer was shelved as the electricity was off.  Some of the ladies spoke at random and the rest respectfully listened to their experiences.
There were one or two caregivers, who had a  wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with this disease.  A small group from Reach for Recovery, who do wonderful support work through their volunteers, had also come to the meeting.  The leader of their group later  came over to speak to me and told me of their work.    She was an elderly Indian lady, with a red dot on her forward indicating she was a Hindu,  and had so much empathy. The love was quite tangible, as she leaned in to give me a hug to say good-by.
I came away feeling emotionally cuddled, clucked over, and ‘seen’   It was so good to be with a group of genuinely caring people.

The meeting had finished a little earlier and I had to wait on the pavement for my ride to arrive.   As the Church is right in the heart of the ‘village’ there were car guards hanging around.  The Church has a crèche, and parents were arriving to collect their kids.  A lot of poverty has filtered into this little suburban region, so there is a soup kitchen on certain days.

Methodist Church

During tea I had overheard a Church member lamenting that their church have many elderly people,  little youth activities, needs repair as its 80 years old in the making.   By today’s wealthy mega Church status it may need a boost or two, but I reckon by Heaven’s standard they are right up there with the best of the best.
It’s a place where vibrant community happens, and the church is at its centre.

I was getting a little impatient waiting.   February is our hot clammy humidity season, and we have been having particularly heavy hazy, lazy days.  I looked up and saw the bluest sky I had seen in a long time.   It was a beautiful radiant bluer-than-blue sky.

corn flower
Best described I suppose would be a ‘cornflower blue’.
I sensed the Lord giving me a wink, and knew  He was watching from a clear sky.              “Just wait”,  I thought Him say.

It was then that I saw a beautiful tan and white boxer dog, tongue panting with a dry thirst, coming toward me.  I gave a little whistle, but he turned and bolted on.   Just then a car stopped,  a lady got out and shouted to the car guard to stop and catch the dog.  For just a moment he stood a little gazed then slipped off his tattered sandals and ran after the dog.  ‘Yeah, he’s not going to catch that dog’ I thought to myself.   The lady in the car sat awhile and frantically watched the scenario unfold.
Never underestimate the power of the grapevine !   The car guard shouted to someone on the opposite side of the road to stop the dog.     She then saw the plan and followed the chase in her car.    I will never know if the boxer was re united with his mistress – I hope so.   But it was an interesting way to pass the time while waiting on the street called Community.

To sum up then, my observations of the day, was a well-groomed aspiring street sweeper,  met a cuddle of caring women,  saw a real faithful old church, spied the bluest sky ever, and watched a barefoot car guard willing to go the extra mile – a nice slice of life.

So don’t hesitate when you get the opportunity to quietly observe real life as it passes by.
You won’t be disappointed.

William Davis, in his poem Leisure, said it this way :

“What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare”

 

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A Beautiful Centrepiece

 

 

It Is Christmas Time.

Christmas-Tablescapes-106

No matter your culture or creed, or what name you may want to give it,  it is that time of the year when the wheels of the world come briefly to a halt and allow us to be recreational, recuperative and even merry.

At its centre is family and festivities, a time to share and a time to remember, a time to love and to be loved, and a time to remember those who aren’t loved and those who are lonely.

It is a special time of the year, and a good time to reflect on the grand story of God and His love for mankind, through His Son Jesus, who was born in a humble stable.
Old, but ever-fresh Christmas carols, impart to us the grand story in simple song.  One of my favourites is O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Phillips Brookes, an Episcopal priest wrote the original poem.  Lewis Redner, his organist wrote it into music for the children of their Church to sing on Christmas day in 1868.
ref:Wikipedia.

I have extracted a few lines from this carol to create a centrepiece for my reflection this Christmas season. 

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light 
The hope and fears of all the years, 
Are met in thee tonight.

These few lines place the everlasting Light, which is Jesus Christ, as a beautiful centrepiece  between Hope and Fear.   If you think about it these are pivotal points in  the human condition – a make or break in life.  If you don’t have hope you are in despair, if you have fear you are depressed, even oppressed.
Jesus raises hope and He erases fear.
This Jesus, the everlasting Light,  is the centre of God’s grand story.  In the beginning there was Light, in the end we will live in His light, and in the middle is the beautiful centrepiece of His life, death and resurrection.

The hope and fears of all the years, right down the many generations, are met in Jesus .    He is the centre between the old and the new, in between our yesterdays and our tomorrows.  More pertinently today,  He is the beautiful centrepiece in the personal hopes and fears of the ordinary Believer.

Let this old-fashion carol unveil the grand story for you far better than I can.
Take a few minutes to listen,  it may ring some distant bells for you.    For an extra jolt of joy, sing along with the words on the screen.  The tune is simple and repetitive but the words are truly profound.  Make it a Christmas centrepiece moment.

I hope this will leave you with a warm glow of the true meaning of Christmas, and the sureness of knowing, that in spite of it all, you are loved by God – for you are the beautiful centrepiece of His affection.

WISHING  JOY  TO  YOU  AND  YOUR LOVED ONES,  THIS  CHRISTMAS  TIME.

Christmas-Bells

Consider the Seed

 

VeryBerryPorridge

I have been on one of my jaunts, and down numerous rabbit holes looking for good food.
I have come to the conclusion that pretty much everything needed for our consumption for a healthy life is tied up in nature, and more pertinently in the small but mighty seed.

In my meanderings I started off in Genesis, and found, what seems to me to be a comprehensive summary of God’s provision of food for man and beast.   I read that on the third day God spoke –

” And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit whose seed is in itself according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good. ”  Genesis 1:12

Seeds are the primary method of propagation in most plant families.
And so God in His goodness and provision perpetually stocked up man’s pantry for food, as a self producing food factory, all through seeds.

When I told my husband that seeds are good for him, he promptly told me that he was not a budgie !!    That is what comes to most minds when we speaks of seeds.  But seeds are so much more than bird food or cattle feed.

seeds
I researched and read that there are different types of seeds.
GRAINS :    A grain crop is a grain-producing plant.  The two main types of commercial grain crops are cereals and legumes.   Grains and cereals are synonymous with caryopses the fruits of the grass family.     ref : Wikipedia
Examples of grass seeds  :  maize, millet, barley, oats, rye, spelt,wheat,  sorghum.
If you think about it these form the basis of our cereals, providing health-sustaining food for our bodies.
They form the staple diet of many people groups, and their nutritive value is immense.

green-peas

Legumes : or grain legumes are members of the Pea family and they are higher in protein.
Some examples :  Chickpeas, common beans, common garden peas, fava beans, lime beans, lentils, lupins, mung beans and soybeans.

HERBS

thyme

In general use, herbs are plants with savoury or aromatic properties that are used for flavouring and garnishing food, medicinal purposes or for fragrances.  Ref : Wikipedia
Some examples : Basil  Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Dill.

 

Fruit

FRUIT  AND  VEGETABLES 
Botanically speaking, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant, whereas vegetables are all other plant-parts, such as roots, leaves and stems for example :  
Fruit – apples squash tomatoes,  – while roots such as beets, potatoes turnips,  and leaves such as spinach, kale and lettuce, and stems eg. celery, broccoli are all vegetables
Ref : http://www.livescience.com

peach fruit

Fruit trees :
The fruit tree and their seeds provide us, with a little heaven on earth.
Fruit has natural filtered water, natural sugars, vitamins, minerals, flavours and other nutrients too.  Cool and refreshing, nutritious and absolutely delicious all at the same time – and a veritable natural pharmacy !

Dr Cherry in his book The Bible Cure says :
Grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables are sources we have available to us for carbohydrates.
The main focus of your food intake should come from the following groups of complex carbohydrates
+  Green/yellow vegetables.
+   Grains, including cereal, rice, whole grain breads,
+  Fruits.
+  Beans and Peas  

What astonished me, was the fact that this food is self-generating – of course terms and conditions apply e.g. good soil, moisture, sunlight, and air must be in supply.

One definition of a seed :  A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food.  It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plant which occurs after fertilization and some growth with-in the mother plant.   Ref : http://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/seed
What is an Ovule ? – the part of the ovary of seed plants that contain the female germ cell and after fertilisation becomes the seed.

Perhaps that is a bit to much information !   But seemingly a pattern is set, which I suspect is a pattern for not only food but for the way of Life itself.  The ovule, is where the seed grows.   Humans too come from the same concept.   There must be a blue print for the pattern of Life.
The life-cycle of the seed, to me, reflects such a pattern.

However, apart from the marvellous provision that the seed provides for our good food, our health and well-being,  the seed also illustrates for us life-lessons.
“Be fruitful and multiply’   That is the purpose of the seed to be productive and to cause increase.
“There will always be seed-time and harvest time –  a pattern for the prosterity of life.  There are seasons in our personal lives too …… ” a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to make war and a time to make peace”
“Sowing and reaping” is a principle not only applied to the farmer, but to reciprocity, to  finance and even hinge on justice and reprisal.
Seeds are in our genealogies.
(Yes,  somewhere in every family tree there may be a nut!)
God planted a seed  in Abraham, with the promise of many many descendants, even while his wife Sarah was old and barren.   Abraham believed God, and so began the story of the People of Faith, who  would exponentially grow in history,  to make the invisible God known to the nations of the world.
Hidden in plain sight, but perhaps a little obscure in the heap of histories,  is Jesus Christ, who is Abraham’s Seed,  (ref : Gal 3:16)
God’s promise of salvation for the People of His Promise, that would extend far beyond Abraham’s imagination.

Not all seeds grow, but all have potential to grow  – (author unknown)

A seed can hold a destiny, because faith (what you think and what you believe) is like a seed.    The promises of God are the seeds of faith.  We can believe them, nourish them in our thought-life to grow a better and more abundant tomorrow.
The Seed is the word of God  – Luke 8:11
It is good spiritual food for intellectual understanding, and the sound development of  mind, soul, and spirit – and that of our societies !

Mustard_Seed Tree

But there is another life lesson the seed brings to us, and it is that of transformation.
“………  unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  (John 12:24
If a grain of wheat dies, it can produce and become more.  More grain,  – and more bread to give food and life to many who are hungry.

wheat ear

That is perhaps the hidden essence of life – to die so that there can be a rebirth.   A surrendered life of ‘becoming’ is an ongoing process, but carries with it seeds of great magnitude, and a new consciousness.    One just has to ponder the story of the Cross of Christ, and the resurrection power of transformation.

All plant life starts with seeds.   They are small, but they are mighty.   Seeds are not just little ‘husky’ things, but carry various and necessary compounds that work in our bodies in many precise and methodical ways to grow cells or to repair damaged ones.  Therein lies the wonder of the seed.
Seeds, plants and nutrition all have a part to play in the restorative power that can bring healing and wellness to a sick body.

Plants are loaded with essential minerals, vitamins and disease-fighting nutrients that are often lacking in our modern-day diets.
I read of some cancer fighting plants, with their unique compounds found in their substance :  There are many more of course
Garlic and Onions : – Allium compounds, which increase activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help to break down cancer causing substances.
Grapes : contain ellagic acid., this compound blocks enzymes necessary for cancer cells to grow, thus slowing the growth of tumors.   Grapes also contain compounds that can prevent blood clots.   Another substance in grape skins (resveratrol) prevents deposit of cholesterol in arteries.
Citrus Fruits  – contain limonene, which stimulates cancer-killing immune cells (T-lymphocytes and others)   Oranges are shown to have strong anticancer benefits.
Some 60 anti-cancer chemicals contained in citrus fruits.
Tomatoes –  contain lycopene, an anti cancer substance, some researches suggest may be stronger than beta carotene.
Watermelons, Carrots and Red Peppers also contain this powerful substance.
Broccoli and Cabbage  – contain indoles, can effect estrogen converting it to a benign form that will not stimulate abnormal breast cancer cells.   These cruciferous vegetables contain multiple cancer fighting chemicals.  Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower also fall in this category.
Ref : The Bible Cure. Dr Reginald Cherry M.C.  Siloam Press.

vegetables-colorful

I for one, would like to applaud those who are sowers of seeds, the farmer, the teacher and the preacher, for they scatter seeds that bring us good food for increased growth, health and sensible development.

But there are those who would modify the preciousness of the seed. These modifiers are those who tamper with the health and well-being of many generations to come !!   To them I say  ‘hands off our seeds’.

seed shoots

So in my jaunt in search of good food, the seed became the focal point of consideration.  Think about it, what comes first :   the seed, the plant, the flower, the fruit, the death and then the rebirth – a cycle and a pattern for the good life, both physical and spiritual.

All that, and more is the precious seed from which plants grow and provide us with the most, and the best nutrition for sustaining the life of man and beast here on earth.

Here’s to good food and good health. Let’s be thankful and eat from God’s sustenance for us, provided ultimately through the Seed.

Yellow-Mustard-Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Story of a Sparrow

 

Let my sparrow drawing bring you a tender story.

Mossie

Written in the annals of our nation’s very diverse history is a story of a sparrow.

The background is the Anglo Boer war of 1901.
With the discovery of gold and diamonds, the British Empire came to occupy the land.
The British desperately tried to bring the pioneer Boers to submission.   The Boers,  fiercely resisted, fighting their enemy with guerrilla warfare,  that cost the British much.  Eventually a ‘scorched earth policy’ was implemented, where their farmsteads were burnt down, their fields salted so that they could not grow crops to survive.  Their women and children were taken to concentration camps.   But there was, overcrowding, bad hygiene, severe malnutrition, and endemic contagious diseases.  Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps of the Anglo Boer war.  The women in particular knew immeasurable grief as they  helplessly watched their children suffer, and give them over to death.
One such woman was Anette Marais, and the story goes …

“Anette Marais sat on a log and shook the dust off her tatty clothes.  Around her sit a group of women with familiar but weary faces.  Just a few feet away is the high wire fence of the concentration camp.
She opens her Bible and begins to read.   She had wrestled with God in the dark hours of the night, and begged Him for a message of hope for these women,  for who knows how much longer……!

Anette reads the words of Matthew 10:29 .
 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?   And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows
.
While she is busy reading these words, a small insignificant sparrow comes and sits upon her shoulder.
The group of women stare in surprise at the incident unfolding before their eyes.
And so the sparrow becomes a sign of hope in the impossible situation of the concentration camp at Bethulie.

It is fantastic to see how in the following months the sparrow of Bethulie became a beacon of faith and hope for these women.    On May 1902 the Anglo Boer war ended.
Anette, on returning to her home, met a women of influence, and told her the sparrow story.    She,  in turn, retold the story.
In 1923 General Jan Smuts had two sparrows minted on the smallest coin of the then South African currency.”
-cent-south-africa-1963.jpg

So remember the story of the sparrow on days you may feel small, insignificant, forlorn or forgotten.   May faith and hope be a beacon in our lives too.

PS     In South Africa, the sparrow is known as a Mossie.   I translated the story from Afrikaans.  The author is unknown.  More Afrikaans sparrow stories can be found in my Menu bar, just click on Random Writings and scroll down to Mossie Dag.
Reference on the background of the Anglo Boer War is from Wikipedia, should you want to know more.

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Re-bloom

 

beauty bouganvilla

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

 

hedge bouganvilla

A sunbeam-lit  Bougainvillea hedge

 

bouganvilla

Keep memory alive in a pot of beauty.

It was last year that I wrote on Beautiful Bougainvillea, so at the risk of being repetitive I am posting these pictures of the beauty that surrounds me,  to share it with you. The motivational gurus say if you want to be smart surround yourself with smart people.  I reckon if you want to be beautiful surround yourself with beauty.   And where can one find beauty at its best but in a garden.

I just could not helped being amazed at the lovely tangerine/pink Bougainvillea that I woke up to one morning, and met its beauty in a moment.   I mean it had been there all along, growing quietly and unnoticed until one morning it just said ” hello there ,  it’s re-bloom time again!”   And re-bloom it has, together with the other Bougainville’s in my garden.

It was John Keats who wrote in his poem Endymion ” a thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its beauty increases.”     I don’t think that we can be in a garden and fully appreciate the loveliness of nature in all its forms.   Amazingly God first created a garden and then man, to care and maintain it.   What a setting He created for man, and for the story of man, to unfold itself from – a garden!   Not the cosmos, not a distant star or a shallow pool of chemical soup  – no, a garden !

One of the lessons I like to take from the garden is the grace of the re-bloom.  Just when you think you have ‘arrived’ reached the top of the pile with nowhere else to go , or sunk so low that you cannot breathe with the waters of despair wallowing around you, or all is so futile and irrelevant – and begin to think what really matters in life?,  or even when all seems done and dusted, there is then the time of the re-bloom.   Re-bloom – it’s a thread woven into the life of the Garden.   And into the garden of  Life it is called the second chance, or the grace of God.   It is a thing woven in and throughout the fabric of life – our lives and the principles in nature.   I have been heard to whisper (even if only in my own mind)  – it’s never over till it’s over.

And that is perhaps why I relate so strongly to the Bougainvillea, apart from its beauty and the sheer joy it gives in its abundant profusion of colourful little petals that have the capacity to mass itself in awesome displays, for those along the highway of life.
And if you pass by that way often, you will encounter their re-bloom, and then remember for yourself – the grace of God, the God of the second chance.

shine throu bogan

Bougainvillea a thing of beauty indeed.

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.

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

 

Beautiful Bougainvillea

The blooming season has started.  Spring has come before Spring should be here !! Everywhere I look I see splashes of colour that lift my sagging soul.

Outside my bedroom window the Bougainvillea has been blooming  for sometime. Splashing out with tangerine petals that turn a bright pink as they mature , just plain showing off !  But it is beautiful, and just stands there in all its glory for me to enjoy.

Then around the corner into the back yard are three beautiful Bougainvillea.  One a bright cerise pink, planted about three years ago, so it’s a strong plant. The other one, a soft soft creamy pink, a “youngling” struggling to be magnificent too  !

Then there’s the little beautiful bush Bougainvillea, blooming in its softer shade of ‘petunia-pink’ – planted in memory of a dear sister who passed away last year.

When I look out my kitchen window, pass the wash-line, the tall wall and the hedge, my eye follows toward the sky. Over the road, on the high ridge are very tall trees, where the hadedahs have an over night resting place.  And monkeys often take up a view-point of the humans below, hoping to catch a whiff of what’s for rummaging.

But climbing upon the tall trees are two shades of beautiful Bougainvillea vines, one a magenta pink and the other a reddish pink. Sparsely spread they just make such a statement for the power of colour in the vivid green of the leafy trees.  A little out of place, but relentless in their climb for their beauty to be seen  – just for me from my kitchen window, I’d like to think !

Beautiful Bougainvillea everywhere to behold !  But now is the season to feast the eye on what God’s handiwork has created in the realm of nature, if we would just but stop and look and see His glory revealed.  Seasons come and go, as do the colourful petals of the Bougainvillea plant.   Soon they will be strained, stressed and stale, but never really die, as some plants do, and then !  –  and then comes the magnificent re-growth, the re-bloom.  I do like their never-die attitude.

The beautiful Bougainvillea, a beauty to behold, bringing colour and joy and heralding in Spring …… and so a new season begins.

When one speaks of seasons one is speaking of change.  Change is inevitable, but I am reminded of one constant, found in the Book of
Isaiah 40:8 :

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

Mirror Mirror on the wall …looking at Nacissism.

 

many mirrors

The article on Self-esteem sparked me to take a long muse down a road named Narcissism.

So to really get into it I want to share with you a poem I wrote about my self !!!

 Shades of Self

Knowing me, knowing you is a song often sung,
But do I know me?
In solitude I am so fine. And am always right.
Can climb the highest mountain, reach the height.
Yet in conversations with you, my halo dims, the varnish shifts, my layers thin.
And if I look closely I see some shades of me I did not know.
So I’ve gathered them together, my collectables if you like, to share with you.
Straight from the shelf,
Not all good-looking, theses shades of Self
There is the Wannabee, the Lookatme, the Knowitall and the Toldyouso,
The ever-present Babbler, and don’t forget these too –
The Mender, Bender and the Defender, all to often the Pretender, the Spender – and the ever ready Opinionator too.
Now, herein lies some stories, characters in tact.
Weave the threads, bring in the gold.
Let it show perhaps too,
Your shades of Self,
In your story told.

I remembered a picture somewhere of a good-looking Greek fella who fell in love with his own image mirrored in a water brook.   He had met a beautiful girl, and they fell in love. But it didn’t work out because he just couldn’t get past loving the image of himself !!

narcissism

Sounds a lot like the dysfunctional marriages of today !   Self-love in personalities can play havoc with harmony and happiness.   And it’s not just a case of having a pretty face or a beautiful body.  It’s not silly vanity, or an inflated ego, it is far more serious than that and reaches deep into the personality.     Narcissism is no new thing !  Indeed its an age-old human condition wired into the human psyche.  If it is not transformed, or goes unchecked, it goes to the extreme and becomes a personality disorder that has a huge and devastating impact on the lives of other people.  It is a very serious condition, and almost always goes undetected by the carrier.

worm

orange butterf;u

We all have a Self, so likely there will be some degree of narcissism in all of us.   I once asked God if He wanted me to be a butterfly why did He not just make me a butterfly.  I liked being me, I really liked myself, why did  I  have to change ?  I thought I heard Him sigh a heavy sigh, but He did not answer, and just let life’s circumstances continue to flow over me.       Now some years later, I get a glint of why I had to transform from a worm to a butterfly, it was so that those living with me would have a fighting chance to survive my bossy, over-bearing ways, and self-opinionated personality.
(So sorry Family !)

images (4)

I  have an enquiring mind,  but I am not a psychologist.  So to get more light on the subject and delve a little deeper into narcissism, I investigated, and came across a site that gave several Psychological approaches, or theories, on the subject.  If you are interested you can Goggle     https://ruveydacelenk.com/2014/12/23/narsisistik-kisilik
Don’t forget to click on the Translate button.    It will give far more understanding on this very complex subject.   But best as I can understand it  (and that took some time !) I have come to some understanding of the Self.

In the development or construction of the psychological Self or Personality, Observations made, form Perceptions – right or wrong.  A response can go up to protect the Self, or a resistance to challenge the perception.   So even in our tiniest beings, – where and when most of the Personality is formed – observations lead to responses, that cause us to make a choice that helps us to deal with the emotion or feeling  we have observed or experience in life.
Thus the Personality, the Self, is formed through a defence or resistance response (flight or fight), and either route can lead to a distortion – the Lie !    So construction of the Personality (through our thought-life which builds the neuron patterns in our brain) determines what we believe about our Self.

This self-constructed Self, called self-esteem – taken to the extreme becomes Narcissism.  Now Narcissism constantly needs to be guarded to portray a desired, acceptable and presentable Self –  which in fact can be a False Self.   And come hell or high water it demands to be protected and respected, and will emotionally annihilate anything in its path that will want to obstruct it !!    And in fact, in my opinion, it should be respected – (I did not say tolerated !)  for it is who the person is or has become,…. and that is  holy ground – the very portal of hell or heaven !!
That is,  until Truth be told,  that will help to deconstruct the Lies, that cause us to limp, often exhaustively, through life because we have to  prop up the False Self, through fear or performance, to be made acceptable by others, who don’t really care or even matter !

So could you say we need a saving of the Self ?  My answer is yes !  Because we are all created with this amazing power called the Will, our choice, our desire – good or bad.
The Will, our choice,  is our ‘distinction’ from other created species, and is accommodated in the Mind – the headquarters of the Self.  It is at this point of decision where we can embrace a thought or expel a thought.  If,  we can discern, examine or judge a thought for what it is, we can build a positive construct, if we expel or disregard a wrong thought (negative) it evaporates into a gas and is diminished !  Now that is power – the power of our Will, our choice, our decision – that plots the course of our life.
So it would seem that the forming of the Personality, the Self, or the Soul can form self-distorted constructions (neural pathways) that can, and will manifest eventually in psychological development or disorders, and even deviant behaviour.

What I have gleaned from Psychology is that there is more, much more.   In dire cases, the Self or Personality can fragment or split (sometimes necessary for surviving the hurt, shame and pain of trauma), can dissociate itself and form other “selves” or personalities, display patterns of obsessive behaviour, self sabotage on inferiority or insecurity, or roar and rage in smouldering silent angry rebellion. Anxieties and depressions are almost the order of our modern societies.  Could these be signs of the  True Self  wanting out?

worm to butterfly

Well that is my understanding and opinion, and I suppose I am entitled to it, because after all I’m just a recovering narcissist !

hand mirror

But  wait there is more, this distorted Self is not the True Self.  So how do you get to dig out the True Self from all the cacophony of voices, distortions and misconstruction.   Perhaps then an exercise in the deconstruction of the distortion  – the Lie, is a place to begin, enter the psychologist, the healer or the Truth.
After wracking my poor brain on the theories of Psychology and narcissism, I asked myself what is the truth of the matter.  So I turned to the pages of the Bible, the book of wisdom, – by the way a must read, –  to look  a little deeper for the soul and for the spirit.  I came across some of these Scriptures that told me that indeed we do have a soul and a spirit. Of course, in Theology there is more, much more than just the psychology of man, in fact a whole magnificent story unfolds of the restoration of Mankind.

Psalm  139:14    I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

Proverbs 18:14   The spirit of man will sustain him in sickness , But who can bear a broken spirit ?

1 Thessalonians 5:23    Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and                                               may your whole spirit,  soul and body be preserved blameless…..

So, as humans we are made up of the body,the soul, and the spirit.  Three engines, if you like, that should function in harmony.   The body we know, the soul is taking a little longer to know, and the spirit  (the subconscious) which is almost unknown to most.  The spirit is very important, because it is here where The Lie operates.  It hides itself, like the coward it is, – so undetected, can continue to reinforce even entrench more lies, with invading thoughts, false belief systems, false identities, deviant behaviour, in fact all things devious and deceitful,  that cause immeasurable torments, sadness and sorrow in the soul, and play havoc with our happiness and our lives, and the lives of others, especially those near and dear to us.

The Truth of the matter is that we are made in the image and likeness of God.  God is love, and God has a will. His will is His desire.   We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made because, like God, we too have a will,  a choice, a desire, that operates through decision.
We carry, in us, the original blue print for Love and for the good, the lovely, the honourable, the pure, and all the value and virtues of goodness.  So when we have to make a decision, when we have to make a choice, it should  be for the good, for the love of the Self, because our original Self is designed in our Creator’s image.  That’s good self-esteem, and ‘narcissism’ at its best !!
That’s what our souls long for, the magnificent Self.

But of course we do not know this when we are tiny tots, rebellious teens or ambitious adults, growing our personalities. So we just develop along the lines of survival, need and greed to feed the Self.   That is unless we come to  know and accept the love of God, through Jesus Christ,  Who loves us with an unconditional love,  (warts and all) and wants to set us free from the Lie, to be who we really are – our True Self, in Him.  His task is the task of unique restoration, as we are all the same, yet each one so unique in their personality.     We  find this out when we search the Scriptures that mirror and reveal who we really are, and what lurks and is hidden beneath the surface in our souls.

But where do we begin ?  The key is Christ, to accept Him and invite Him into our hearts and our minds, to read His Word, the Bible, and by reading His Word a transformation begins to take place in our thought processes.

Romans 12:2….. , but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may                                          prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Now we are lining up our thoughts with His thoughts, His Will – His desires, which are good and favourable toward the Self, (for we are His workmanship, His creation) , and our decisions will become positive decisions that will be for our good, our development and for the prosperity of our soul, and our lives.

Jeremiah 29 : 11    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

It is however necessary,  to implant the Word of God in our hearts.
James 1:21   …. , and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Bible picture.jpg

Is this all just religious talk.  The answer is no, because this is what the Word of God,  has the power to do,  – it is  a game changer  !

Hebrews 4:12       The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged-sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Truth, and only the Truth will make us free to be who we blue butterflyreally are, and destined to become.

We are complex, us human beings, but with the help of God, and when we begin firing in all three engines of body soul and spirit – can be magnificent in our inward parts, no longer deceived or broken, or functioning out of deficit or the Lie,  but made whole, in the right image and with a healthy, life-giving self-esteem.

Narcissism is nothing more than Pride – the very thing that caused Lucifer to lose his place in heaven, and raise hell on earth !
Narcissism is identified in the Greek fables.   In the eighties it was labelled Self-esteem, and is found in the Trolls of today’s world we call Virtual Reality  – the Internet and Social Media.

We are in the age of consumerism and humanism.  The era of  ‘the selfie’ !  Progress and development are accelerating.  We can reach higher, farther and faster on any level.    We need to take care that in our humanism we do not lose our humanity.  We need to hold onto a belief system that puts people first.  Today’s advanced technology may well pave the way for our younger generation to go into a kind of emotional isolation or “flight mode” –  desperately seeking purpose and attention, trying to escape from the gaping holes in their souls.    Or is it just sheer ignorance of the Truth about the Self, – the Truth that actually  keep us real and mentally and emotionally grounded.

Masks

Perhaps its time for change, from face book to face-off to face-to-face, where real interaction with real people help us to see ourselves a little clearer with warts and all.    A getting to know the real me, the real you, – and that will take a whole lot of courage because emotional pain is almost unbearable, and will distort any image .
Bring out the mirror, take on Truth, get a little more honest, a little more humble, a little more real,  then, observe the personality bloom like a sweet-smelling magnificent rose, for all around to enjoy.

So lets boot out nauseating narcissism, give the selfish Self a big shove to make room for others  –  and bloom where we are planted in the garden of humanity,  – or even too in the cesspool of life.

6937419-awesome-rose-buds

1 Peter 3:4   rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty          of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

 three butterflies