Friend of God

For years one of the more popular worship songs we sang a lot was ‘I am a friend of God’ by Israel Houghton. A very catchy tune (https://youtu.be/4OZZyBBFCMc
) and the lyrics are beautiful. Who am I You are mindful of me, that You hear me when I call… and the chorus … I am a friend of God, He calls me friend…

The lyrics of the song seem to be taken from the book of John 15 verse 15 where it says:

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

It’s only been very recent that the concept of friend of God means anything to me. Ofcourse I knew what I was singing, but now I have a greater appreciation of what it means to be called a friend. Friendship is a 2 way street, it’s a relationship where both parties put effort into. It’s where only the best is wished for the other. Where a word or a look is enough to know what the other is thinking. Where you know the other has your back. You have a true relationship of trust and mutual respect.

That is what God wants with us. Not a servant relationship where you can loose your status if you do something wrong. Not a fear relationship, punished when not obeyed.

I listened to an old recording of pastor Maxwell, who did a week of prayer at Stanborough Park church in the early nineties. He brings out the above points so nicely. He encouraged to see the character of God in each bible book and to read on if it seems God is not relational.

Oh to be called a friend! That’s how I want my relationship to be with God. Much like my relationship with my earthly friends like Althea who is burying her mum next week. I can’t be there but in thoughts and prayers am with her every step of the way. That’s how God wants to be our friend too. To be able to spend time and care for us the same way we would care for Him.

I am a friend of God…. you?

Eagles

Another couple weeks have passed with lots of happenings in it. My friend Althea and her family are mourning as both mother and mother in law passed away in quick succession. Death is such an enemy. It’s such a definite goodbye here on this earth. So hard to find the right words to say.

There is this verse in the Bible, Isaiah 40:31 where it says: but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.

That verse gives such a comfort. God will carry us on His wings, like the eagles carry their young.

There is nothing more powerful than seeing the bald eagle soaring in the sky. The bird is massive, majestic and the wingspan is huge. That verse always comes to mind when I see the telltale sign of the typical shape and white head and tail. I want to be carried on those strong wings, not having to carry my burdens all alone.

With a church band we used to sing that Hillsong song : Hide me now, under your wings… cover me, within your mighty hand… when the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm… Father you are King over the flood… I will be still and know You are God. Find rest my soul.. in Christ alone.. know His power, in quietness and trust.

Through the hard and dark times we learn to trust in Him and allow us to be comforted by the strong wings. That’s what I also wish for my lovely friend Althea and her family. And all who are reading this and are grieving.

I read somewhere online: Grief is the cost of loving someone. We have to go through it. But His wings will carry us. If we let Him.

Twists and Turns

Life is unpredictable sometimes… unexpected twists and turns, stuff that happens even if we did not expect it…. good and bad!

My sister in love turned 50 this week… a milestone birthday, not given to anyone. For sure cause for celebration, even if at a distance! My own 50th birthday was the end of last year… my father in law died 2 days before my birthday… not really a cause of celebration… still, I made the milestone birthday and am still here. My friend Althea’s mum is a woman of each day… we do not know how long she still has…

A recent student missionary from Stanborough Park church is getting married in a few months… Melody’s friend Felicity had a baby girl a little while ago… and on and on it goes… those that have a facebook account and browse through these pages see all sorts of happenings in the lives of those we call Facebook friends… weddings, births, sickness, deaths…..all twists and turns.

Just the other day I watched the Dreamworks Animated movie ‘the Prince of Egypt’. The story of the people of Israel, who were freed from Egypt and under leadership of Moses dwelled in the desert until they could enter the promised land. Moses, the rescued Hebrew baby, adopted by the pharaoh and raised as a prince, discovered who he was and who he needed to be through a life full of twists and turns. The most prominent experience was at a burning bush, where he was commissioned to be the leader of the Israelites and lead them out of Egypt. God spoke with him through that bush that burned, but the fire did not consume it. Moses life can be divided in blocks of 40… each next section of 40 brought another twist. 40 Years at the courts, 40 in the desert to purify and become the leader he needed to be and another 40 years leading the people to Canaan. He had amazing experiences, being face to face with God, but also many lows.. when he battled with temper (and who can blame him when the people he rescued did nothing but complain…. asking for food, asking for water… lamenting ever leaving Egypt and slavery). As result of his temper when he hit the rock instead of spoke to the rock as instructed by God, he was not allowed to lead the people into the promised land.

Why do I find that story so intriguing? There is the beautiful song sang by Miriam, the sister of Moses, and Moses wife ‘there can be miracles’…the song reminds us that despite all the twists and turns life gives us, we should not give up believing. That’s what gives us direction, and sustains us so we can navigate that which life throws at us. Moses life was a good example … yes, he died, but because of his believe, and the relationship he had with God, he lead a tremendous life and is spending eternity in heaven.

Something to keep in mind… navigating the weird ways life sometimes goes…. there can be miracles…..

There can be miracles

When you believe

Though hope is frail

Its hard to kill

Who knows what miracles

You can achieve

When you believe somehow you will

You will when you believe

Candles

Candles come in all shapes, seizes and smells… I love candles… the warmth it gives, the little mesmerising flames… the smells softly permeating the air… I don’t like all smells though, I prefer the subtle ones… laying in my bath, a couple candles on the side, a cup of hot tea, and I feel like a little bit of heaven right here on Earth…

Reminds me of the story in the Bible of the 10 girls… candles, or oil lamps were used to lit the way of the groom coming to get his bride.. not sure if you recognise the story, but just in case… the groom took a long time to come, it was late.. am sure the little flames mesmerised these girls also… and they all fell asleep…

Finally the groom came… the sounds of the approaching group wakening these girls. Unfortunately it took such a long time, the oil in the lamps was gone and the flames had gone out. The groom certainly could not arrive in the dark! Lucky, 5 girls had thought to bring extra oil.. and their lamps were quickly lit.. the flames lighting the way, the same as my candle on the side of the bath. The other 5 girls were not so lucky. No oil, no reserves and as a result they were not allowed to enter the house of the bride to be able to celebrate together.

This parable was told by Jesus, to let us all know to be prepared.. preparation is key. We should not be without extra oil, else we are not able to be part of the celebrations.. the celebrations of his coming to take us to live with Him. The extra oil would represent our knowledge of Him. My previous blog post I shared I have a tattoo with ‘saved by grace’ as a reminder. But a reminder is not enough…With that comes an acceptance of His gift for us, and a willingness to let Him be part of our life.

That’s what candles remind me of. That story, and the requirement to be prepared. The sweet smell the candles give off, reminding me of a heavenly feast waiting for me and you.

Do you like candles?

Blessed Assurance

There are not very many hymns that give such a positive message about Jesus as the hymn ‘blessed assurance, Jesus is mine’ . It’s a favourite of mine when leading out in church… the chorus says ‘this is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour, all the day long. To hear the congregation singing it out in full enthusiasm just gives me chills… we all should have our own story to tell about our relationship with Him. I truly hope we all do!!

I looked up who wrote such a powerful hymn that’s sung with so much conviction and found the author is Fanny J Crosby. She has written over 8000 hymns… 2 things I find remarkable about her… she was blind… and she just sang out these words when the composer Phoebe Knapp played the melody for her and asked her what the melody reminded her of. Talking about being inspired!!!! Fanny must have had a true relationship with her Saviour to be able to see these words fitting that tune.

I wonder how my relationship with Jesus bubbles out of me… does it bubble out? Can others see there is a significant other in my life to whom I owe everything?

I have a tattoo on my foot, with the slogan ‘saved by grace’. It’s something I don’t take for granted. He has saved me, and did not ask for anything in return but my heart. That’s the story I want to tell!!!!

What about you?

Maybe you need to read these words of Fanny and feel you have a story to tell too?

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

It is Well

One of the most powerful hymns I love to listen to is the song written by Horatio Spafford. He wrote that song after a couple very traumatic events in his life. The death of his 2-year old son, followed by the great Chicago fire and the financial ruin that followed (as he had invested in Chicago property). He wanted to travel to Europe as a family, but at the last minute changed his mind and sent his wife and 4 daughters ahead. The ship sank and all 4 of his daughters died. His wife survived and sent a telegram ‘saved alone…’ This hymn was written as he sailed past where his daughters perished. How heartbreaking, and what a deep faith he expressed in these words.

When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like seas billow roar. Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know, It is well, with my soul.

And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back like a scroll. The trumpet shall resound and the Lord shall descend. Even so, it is well with my soul

The first Christmas without my father in law just passed. Not so easy, the celebration mood was not quite there. The whole family together, a unique experience, and the timber of his voice missing. How he would have enjoyed having us all there.

The last Sabbath was particularly hard. He was such a proud church going man. Not seeing him in church is still so very strange, and yet, we have to go on. No more smiling face with the large moustache, proud smiling at his kids.

I am not a great writer, and don’t have the talents Horatio had, putting his thoughts so elegantly to paper.. in such a way as he could. We still sing this song to this day testifying of his faith. However, these words sum it all up so well, it is well with my soul. I can sing that with all my heart and know it to be true. All those gone before us will be reunited with us when He descends to take us home. Our fathers, mothers, uncles, nieces, cousins, friends… all we can say is Lord haste that day!

It is well with my soul…

In Between

One of my friends has written a song called ‘In Between’. The first couple lines are something like this:

Do you ever feel you’re somewhere in between: an answer and a question, blame and confession? Between: genuine and fake, give and take?
Do you ever feel you’re somewhere in between?

That is how I view the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The business of Christmas is past, and really it’s more or less waiting till the new year has started and normal life resumes.

For those having to work, it may seem different to you…. but for me…the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to be able to take the period off. And yet… restlessness sets in right about now. A normal rhythm is actually nice.. you know what to expect, you know what to do.

The in between time flies by with the unusual… especially with Christmas in the middle of the week. Hairdresser, some shopping, visiting family… and the week is over. Holiday days always seem to go faster than regular days..

That rhythm though…I heard a sermon once about living life 3 miles per hour… an ideal speed, where life is in rhythm and harmony. We need rhythm, a normal pace. It gives stability to life.

With that.. a few more in between days… see you at the other side.. the new year. Have a blessed one!

Week before Christmas

It’s a week before Christmas.. well… almost anyways…the volume of people in the shops is a very big clue.. the Christmas music playing in every store… people frantically searching for the perfect presents for cousins once removed, or the distant aunt whom is only thought about cause her Christmas presents already arrived under the tree.

I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. I love the lights, the thought of peace.. the tranquil spirit shown in every magazine and shop window…

However, as I sit here drinking a cup of tea I can’t help but remember that story about Jesus clearing out the temple because He disagrees with what His Fathers house should look like. Did He know 2000 years ago how commercialised Christmas has become and how the most important element to remember at Christmas is all but forgotten about? Am sure He is sad about that.

Jesus came to this world as a little baby, which we are privileged to remember at Christmas time. He did not stay a baby… he grew up and showed us unselfish love when He died on the cross… which we remember at Easter.

I wonder what would happen if we all slowed down and took the commercial aspects out of this period of the year. Would we truly have that Christmas atmosphere every song sings about?

I hope I will be better about it all this year… yes, am in a shopping mall, but I went to look at the fishes… they remind me about the verse in the Bible were it says ‘don’t worry about tomorrow’… I know those were birds.. but it’s winter, cold and the fishes were available to look at.

Merry ‘Christ’mas!

California

Even though I have travelled quite a bit around America, I had not made it to the west coast.. many colleagues come from there, so many stories have been told… and now I can add my own stories!!

Last weekend I flew to California just for the weekend… not to see the Hollywood glitz and glam.. one of my biggest wishes was to see the Pacific Ocean.. driving on the Pacific highway would be the bonus.

The warm air and beautiful blue sky was in stark contrast to the blackened hills. The recent fire images from the news sprang to mind quickly when you actually drive through these hills.. and see the devastation. A quick reminder that life is temporary and this is not our home. I can’t wait for the permanent home in Heaven!

No beach visit is complete without shells… and even though I was assured that the beaches are mostly bare of shells, I found some!! To be treasured for sure.

The beach visited is often used for shooting movies and tv series.. I did not see any celebrities though and would not even recognise any anyways. I was far more interested in trying to spot marine life! I instantly regretted not taking my camera.. 2 whales were frolicking in the area were the surf was. We could follow them and observe from probably 30 ft away… so cool! A pod of dolphins was seen further in the sea… man! Awesome!!! That’s the only word I have to describe it.

I did not realise I would be so quickly hooked on a place so alien to me.. walking in the sunshine on the beach…. California… I will be back!!!