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!!!

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Kindness

My car is very small… Smart small that is.. and while I don’t like how tiny it is at times, I love I don’t have to worry parking it… I park it on the tiniest of corners while I am traveling, trusting it will start again when I need it driving to work…

I had joked about it before I set off this morning…. wonder if my car feels deserted and is willing to start today….. yup! It did… Hei ho…. off to work I go!

Until I reached the first little hill on a tiny road… the lights came on all at once… never a good sign… I managed to steer it as close to the curb as possible…no more power… stuck on this small road….

I was surprised how many people actually stopped to ask if I was ok…. uhmm… yes… although my car won’t start…. a motor cyclist asked at least twice.. a cyclist called out to me.. total strangers… when a big truck appeared wanting to crawl past, a couple came out of their driveway to assist. So kind…

It reminds me of the story of the Samaritan… the wounded stranger on the ground needed help… and everyone was too busy to stop and help… until a kind stranger came by. Not only did he tend to the wounds, but he went out of his way to ensure the wounded person got the care he needed. Unselfishly kind. Kind without expecting anything in return…

I got rescued too… my car in fact did start up again… and I could continue my Friday as planned… remembering how I felt when strangers were kind, I tried to do the same…

Have you been kind today?

Laying to Rest

We laid my father-in-law to rest yesterday… a diagnosis made 2 months ago, and the fight following did not result in success. Not all fights can be won. He was spared much suffering, but leaves an empty space.

A wise man said to me a few days ago that even if the wish to die is not there, the knowledge of Jesus and His loving grace is there. That makes death a pause… not a permanent end. And life has been worth living, he is now sleeping in the knowledge of Jesus return to take us all home.

It does not ease the pain. We want to keep close that which is precious to us. We want the physical touch, the conversations, the knowledge the other person is there when we need them.

We were touched by the love of the people that loved him too. Cards, texts, emails, presence at the service.. it’s a wonderful thought to know he touched so many lives.

Life will go on. The missing will not get less, but life will be a new normal which takes getting used to. Memories will be relived and stories retold. All the ‘firsts’ will be hard. This is not unique to this family, all of us have to deal with loss, a tearing apart of a connection. Death is the enemy. But glad we know Jesus, who is Life!

1 Timothy 6:12

Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses.

Because He lives

As I was driving down the motorway, reflecting on the day and the sad news that sickness is winning over life, the song below came to my mind. I copied the full lyrics… and maybe that is just enough for this blog post.

It sums up my sentiment pretty well. The future is the only thing that allows me to get through these days and I know that is the same for my family.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and the joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives.

And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

Because he lives
Because he lives

Written by William J. Gaither and Gloria Gaither

I hope that where ever you are, and what ever you are going through, this song gives you as much courage to face tomorrow as it gives me.