Look at this bowl of perfect, ripe cherry tomatoes. There’s a story behind these tomatoes – a story that’s symbolic of my journey of faith.
I have to share with you an encouraging update on my recent battle with eczema…
The Lord has been gracious to me, answering my prayers for healing and leading me to natural options to try. Topically I’ve been daily treating all the eczema patches on my face and body with the Bee Natural range of honey products. Fantastic balms and butters… even if I never have an eczema outbreak again, I’ll still use these products for my normal skin beauty routine. They’re amazing! 🙂
One of my favourite hymns – one of those I chose to be sung at our wedding – is the beautiful ‘Ode to Joy’, also called the ‘Hymn to Joy’ or ‘Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee’.
It perfectly captures the state of my heart today, even though I am ill with a cold and feeling otherwise rundown. Yet after spending time worshipping my great God, I forget the silly shackles of my weak earthly body while my spirit soars to sing this song to my King.
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.
Music: Ludwig von Beethoven, Lyrics: Henry J. van Dyke
The other day, in order to find a movie I hadn’t watched before that started with the letter ‘I’ (thanks to Goal #90 on my 101 things in 1001 days list), I hired Clint Eastwood’s ‘Invictus’. Yes, OK, I am a little late to the party! Most South Africans and even many foreigners will have watched that film long ago, but it had never held all that much interest for me before.
It’s the true story of how the then newly elected President Nelson Mandela used the beloved South African sport of rugby (formerly a ‘white’ sport and almost exclusively Afrikaans) to begin to unify South Africans. When we won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, it was an enormous achievement. It was also probably the first time that people of all our races began to hope that we might actually become a harmonious Rainbow Nation.
Clint Eastwood and his team did a fantastic job telling a story that I’d previously only heard bits and pieces of. (The film sure gives a better impression of South Africans than ‘District 9’ or ‘Elysium’ do! If or when you watch those movies, please don’t believe their take on South Africans. Gag!)
Anyway, the unexpected thing was that as I watched ‘Invictus’, I found myself unable to stop smiling. It started with a little chuckle at hearing Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon speak in South African accents (which they mimicked very well, but it’s always weird to hear how other nations think we sound!). But as the film progressed I couldn’t help smiling to see such a true reflection of so many aspects of South African culture and our complicated interracial interaction. Then at the end the winning of the rugby game was so infectious, my cheeks hurt from grinning so much.
Watching that film brought back memories of the 1994 elections and the 1995 rugby game. I was still a kid back then and thus not very involved in the fanfare that surrounded all the changes in our country. But I recall the craziness after our win on that field. The celebrating went on for weeks, and I didn’t need to leave home to be part of it. Around the neighbourhood and on the TV I heard and saw the jubilation. I remember it being quite ridiculous sometimes, with one van of rugby fans devotedly (and drunkenly) belting out, ‘We won because we won…!’
My family wasn’t into sport, but I remember even my parents being rather proud of the Springboks and their thrashing of New Zealand’s All Blacks. Words like ‘haka’ and ‘scrum’ suddenly made sense, and everywhere was the feeling that we’d done it. Not we, the whites. We, the South Africans. All of us. Indians, Coloureds, blacks, whites and everything in between… we’d done it as a nation, and shown the world after the long years of boycotting and trade embargoes that South Africa was a country full of fight and worthy of respect.
Weird how sport can do that.
Also weird how I felt nothing like that when the Soccer World Cup came to SA in 2010. Duuuude! If we thought the fans were nuts 15 years before, 2010 was insane! But I just wasn’t interested. My own little world was too busy and I was little more than irritated at all the fuss, traffic and noise. And how I hated those vuvuzelas! (I still do. On my unpatriotic days I think such a backward device could only have come from our messed-up country…)
You see, that’s the problem, and the next thought that I had as the credits to ‘Invictus’ rolled. It’s been a long time since the Rugby World Cup. A lot has changed. Of course the most recent and most memorable change is that Mandela has passed away. But over the last 19 years our country has slowly slid from its euphoric high of 1995 for other reasons too.
Our government officials become more corrupt with every passing year. Yes, I know there’s probably no such thing as an honest politician, but Jacob Zuma is another beast altogether. Tell me, when last was your president accused of rape, polygamy, corruption, hate speech, fraud and deliberate extortion of his people? The crime, the poor levels of education, the high costs of living, the new e-toll system and all the old underlying racial rifts make this a shaky nation at best.
The only reason this is on my mind at all is that we’re coming up for our national elections in a few months’ time. You can feel the pressure building everywhere. Oh, how we already miss the wise, humble ruling of good old Madiba. He wasn’t president for long enough, but even after his term had ended there was the sense that while he was still alive, maybe he’d keep this cultural melting pot from boiling over.
Now as we head for major elections, there’s a sense of dread among many South Africans that this could be the last chance for the opposition parties to overthrow (peacefully and democratically, we hope) the clowns who currently lead this land. If Zuma or someone like him gets to rule South Africa for another few years, fears are great that we’ll end up like our poor neighbour Zimbabwe did.
Hmmm. It doesn’t feel right to be posting about politics on my cheerful blog, does it?! It’s out of character for me to even care about these things, really, because I have very little interest in politics of any kind. I just want to live my simple quiet life and leave the ruling of the country up to someone else. But of course I understand that I have to play a part in choosing that ruler, too.
Selah, South Africa – pause and consider.
It’s a good time to watch ‘Invictus’, I think. We all need the reminder that this country can achieve the seemingly impossible. This country needs another miracle election; another watershed change that will begin to reverse the damage that Zuma and his cronies have done. We don’t want the old white government back – everyone knows by now that that won’t work anymore – but neither can we stand the ongoing worry that this country is currently led by men who just don’t know what they’re doing!
In the end, within the limited sphere of my life I can do only three things to make any difference in what happens to this country.
I can cast my vote at the next elections, knowing it counts.
I can aim for kindness and understanding in my daily dealings with South Africans of all races.
And above all, I can pray fervently for this beautiful land, knowing that ultimately it is God who makes or breaks rulers and places them where He wants them in order to fulfil His specific purposes in history.
Ah, how everlastingly peaceful and beautiful and just His reign will be one day when His kingdom comes!
Sorry I’ve been so quiet, friends.
Each week of this new year has brought a new distressing event in our lives. I’ve already mentioned the retrenchment we’re facing; then add to that some upsetting family news over the past few days and now my poor Vodka ratty has a broken paw 😦
Sigh… they do say these things happen in threes 😦 (Though I far prefer the German version: ‘aller guten Dinge sind drei‘!)
Anyway, the accident must have happened sometime during his free run last night… Vodka did seem uncharacteristically skittish afterwards, and just before bed I noticed he was holding up his right front paw. At that stage it wasn’t swollen or discoloured, and he still let me touch it gently without squeaking.
But this morning the poor little pink foot had developed purple stripes over the toes and was clearly swollen. He couldn’t put any weight on it and held it very close to his body, walking with a pronounced limp. Turns out it’s a simple closed fracture on his little leg. My poor bub!
After doing some internet research and chatting to the vet, I’ve now isolated him in a cage without levels, switched his meals to easy-to-eat-with-one-paw foods and given him a tiny drop of the painkiller and anti-inflammatory, Metacam. I’m making sure he stays hydrated, too: squeezing fresh grape juice and mixing it with honey or vitamins before feeding it to him with a syringe.
We’re going to keep an eye on him over the next few days, but from all I’ve read online there’s not much more we can do – or even need to do. Thankfully ratties usually heal fairly quickly, and we’re boosting his diet with extra protein, carbs and vitamins to help him recover. I did put his best friend Moon in the cage with him, but Moony was not impressed with having to play nurse! So for now Voddy’s alone and it’s more peaceful that way.
It’s ironic that it would be Vodka – the rat I usually get most frustrated with – who goes through this horrible experience and needs my help. It’s changed my view of him completely. Sometimes when he’d senselessly attack Mishka I’d see him as a mean little critter, but today seeing him so slow, cautious and in pain has melted my heart. He’s an innocent animal in my care, just like each of our other sweet boys, and I’ve been wrong to love him less. Well I sure plan to make it up to him from here on in! 🙂
The last few weeks have really worn me down. With each new development I’ve seen more clearly that it’s only God’s grace that’s carrying me through. I certainly have no human strength or energy reserves left to face each new wave of bad news. I know it’s the time I spend praying and reading God’s wonderful Bible that renews my hope and faith each day. I may often be weak and discouraged, but I serve a great and faithful Father, who knows exactly what I need and supplies it abundantly!
And on my heart are the words of that lovely worship song from Matt Redman:
Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord…
Shewwee! We’re only two weeks in and already 2014 promises to be a hectic and interesting year for Ninja and I.
For starters, we’ve just heard that retrenchments are planned at Ninja’s company for the first quarter of the year 😦 So we’re now pre-emptively on the search for new work for him. (We’re very grateful that my own contract has been extended for the year.)
Surprisingly though, it’s not nearly as stressful as you’d expect. I feel as though I’ve landed softly in a spiritual and an emotional safety net of faith. Of course retrenchment is disappointing and disruptive. Changing jobs is a stressful adjustment at the best of times. But we truly believe that it’s our Heavenly Father, and not our employers, who is our ultimate Provider… and He is eternally trustworthy, having promised not to put us through more than He enables us to handle.
Still, a retrenchment would have a knock-on effect on our other major plans for 2014: moving into our new home (a cottage we’re building at my folks’ place). We were originally planning to move somewhere in early spring (that’s September for us down here in the southern hemisphere), but now we’ve all agreed to aim for early May instead.
And that in itself is scary and exciting, stressful and rewarding. If we were very eager before to finish building and move in, now we’ll all be doubling our prayers and our efforts 🙂
All of this may also have an effect on the Sunshine Scrapbook, because as we get closer to the time of relocation I’ll probably have to take a break from blogging in order to tidy up our old home and sort out the new one. Will keep you posted on that.
But in the meantime I can say that I stand facing this new year with a deeper faith than I would have a few years back. Not so long ago I was completely disillusioned about what God was doing in my life, and I regarded each new challenge with suspicion, fearing that my precious little plans would be thwarted!
Praise God for growing me past that point, so that now I can stand firm. Where do I get this firm foundation? From childish airy-fairy hope that there’s a Good Guy Up There who’s going to make all my troubles go away? No.
Jesus said, ‘Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.’ (Matthew 7:24–25)
Storms will come – that’s a given. I’m definitely expecting a few in the year ahead. But God’s Word and my practical application of it are the two things that ground me during trials. May He give me grace to build my life on that firm foundation through 2014 and beyond 🙂
I suppose the news from the southern tip of Africa must have reached your shores by now: Nelson Mandela passed away last week. And it’s possible that you might be wondering how it’s affected me, seeing as I’m South African and all.
But I must say, I’ve been hesitant to add my voice to the millions out there already bemoaning his fate and singing his praises. At times like these I’m always wary of the tightrope of saying either too little or too much…
The short version is: to me, Madiba’s passing is big news, but it’s not life-altering news. It hasn’t completely rocked my world or upset my schedule or kept me up at night. I haven’t shed a single tear, and can’t force myself to either.
Yet that doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to his legacy or his effect on my country.
The problem is that I’m too young to remember personally the horrors of apartheid. I grew up in the non-segregated New South Africa. All I recall of that watershed election of South Africa’s first black president was that people were nervous. No one knew how it would turn out, or at least that was the undercurrent I picked up from the adults around me.
It also doesn’t help that I have less than zero interest in politics. It took a long time for me to learn about what Mandela and the other black South Africans suffered under apartheid. I remember finally reading Long Walk to Freedom and being horrified at what previous generations had gotten away with. But by the time I had realised that, it seemed the patched-up Rainbow Nation was well on its way to recovery anyway.
Only much later could I look back at the facts and see how vital Nelson Mandela was in bringing about that relatively peaceful change from white supremacy to multiracial equality.
And now that pivotal role player is done with this short slice of his eternity, and everyone has something to say about it.
On the one hand I feel I have no right to throw in my two cents’ worth, considering that this was all a bit before my time. But on the other hand there is truth in what people say, that Tata Madiba did what he did (amazingly!) for all the people of South Africa.
Unlike the presidents before and after him, he made it clear that no matter our skin colour, we all have equal value because of our shared humanity and our heritage in this beautiful country. His goal wasn’t supression of whites to get revenge for the oppression of blacks.
In that way, I respect what he did and I’m grateful that God used this freedom fighter in such a way that even I, as a whitey, can reap the benefits of his long, hard struggle for South Africa. He certainly deserves his title as ‘father of our nation’.
But as I close, I must admit there’s another side to all of this too. For one thing, I’m slightly incredulous at how devastated so many people seem to be by Madiba’s death. As if it took them by surprise. As if we hadn’t had ages to prepare ourselves for the inevitable passing of a weak, tired, sick old man. Did they really think he was going to live forever?
And I’m more than a little uncomfortable with the virtual deification of this man. Honour and respect and lament is definitely his due, but worship is not. Mandela was after all just a human like the rest of us. Not a saint, not a god. He was sinful and in need of a saviour just like you and me.
So I’m trying to keep that in perspective as the world mourns his passing and celebrates his successes. I like the way Albert Mohler has put it in his blog post on the topic; I couldn’t have summed it up better myself 🙂
My resolution to eat a salad as a main meal every day for 30 consecutive days has been going splendidly. I feel so blessed by the bountiful ‘harvest’ I’m able to buy!
Of course, I’m in a city in the twenty-second century, so unfortunately my fresh produce doesn’t come to me with bits of soil still clinging to it… One day I hope to have a little patch of land where I can experiment with growing a few of my own fresh goodies, but for now I buy the freshest and the best selections I can for my money and convenience, and it’s a blessing.
This is one way I measure wealth: when my fridge is full not just of food, but of good food that hasn’t been fiddled with too much between God’s hand and my plate 🙂
There are so many diets and eating plans out there, some of which totally take over people’s lives. That’s not for me. I’m just content to make small changes for the better wherever I can.
If the label says ‘organic’ and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. And on the other end of the spectrum, if the best-before date is in a year’s time, I don’t really want to be putting that stuff in my body!
I know most of my readers will be heading for their northern-hemisphere winter now, so salads may not seem very appealing. But may I encourage you to balance out your cold-weather comfort foods with fresh produce whenever you get a chance.
You’ll reap a harvest of health 🙂
Every year on the 31st of October, popular Western culture tells us that it’s OK for the dark and demonic to come out to play. People make a fuss with costumes and parties and scary stories; shops stock up on icky black sweets; kids dress up and eat too much candy.
It’s so predictable it’s boring.
Of course, there is the genuinely wicked side of Halloween too. The occult is alive (?) and kicking. But really, all of it – the silly dressing up or the true satanic worship – doesn’t ruffle me much. Different people respond differently to Halloween, but for me it’s quite easy to ignore. Probably because I have something much more meaningful to celebrate on October 31st 🙂
It was a Saturday, 31 October 1517, when the German monk Martin Luther bravely nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church – and consequently changed the world. The gist of the theses could be summed up in the document’s original title: Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.
Aaaand… I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? No?
OK, so why did Luther vandalise a church door with his Latin grafitti?
In short, the Roman Catholic Church, which was at that time one of the most powerful institutions in Europe, promised people forgiveness for their sins and escape from purgatory in exchange for what the Church had more than enough of already: money.
But the papacy had it all wrong. They never realised that salvation is a free gift from God. No amount of wealth or good works or ‘churchianty’ could ever be enough to rescue a sinner from the rightful punishment of their rebellion against a holy God. It wasn’t enough then and it isn’t enough today.
Think about it. If you can buy your way into heaven – with money, or prayers, or flagellation, or donations and alms, or being a nice person – then how is Christianity different from any other religion? The only thing that separates true Christian faith from every other belief system is this: for the former, God is entirely responsible for the salvation of sinners. For everyone else, man has to earn the forgiveness/blessing/help of his deity through some form of works or sacrifice.
It was a clever ploy, though, on the Church’s part. They knew that what people craved most was peace. Everyone wanted to believe they were good; everybody wanted the chance for a clean slate again; no matter how poor, people wanted assurance that they and their loved ones were right before God. The Church knew that, and they capitalised on it.
It had gone on that way for centuries. Those who were supposed to have brought the light of the gospel to the world had instead created the spiritual Dark Ages in so-called Christendom. Then, thankfully, Luther’s probing queries and barely veiled jabs at the Pope’s pardons, indulgences and other man-made contrivances eventually led to a revolution now known as the Protestant Reformation.
‘All right,’ I hear you say, ‘nice history lesson. But so what? Why’s that worth celebrating?’
Well, fast-forward five centuries and here I am, a modern girl still influenced by the Reformation today.
For one thing, I’m thankful for Luther and the other Reformers for translating the Bible into their local vernacular, making it accessible even to those who couldn’t read Latin. It’s a precious thing to have the Word of God in your own language. (In God’s providence, the Western printing press was developed at just the right time to help speed up the dissemination of the Bible.)
In addition, Luther and his compatriots advocated an important way of reading the Bible, often referred to as hermeneutics and/or exegesis. This basically means we read the Scriptures in context, rather than latching onto a single random verse and making it mean whatever we want it to. Trust me, it makes a world of difference!
I’m also better off for the Reformation because it showed that my relationship with God doesn’t have to be mediated by a whole complex network of bishops, priests and a pope. Those guys are just human, and they can’t stand before the Most High God on their own any more than I can 😛 Jesus Christ is the only mediator who can and should bridge the gap between God and man.
The knock-on effects of Luther’s writings that day in 1517 have changed millions of lives. The Reformation removed the gilt-edged encrustations of centuries of papal policy to show the core truths of the genuine Christian faith.
In summary, I celebrate Reformation Day on 31 October because the Protestant Reformation exposed the Church’s empty religious rituals and man-centred pomp, and pointed people back to the proper foundation for their faith: the Word of God.
And it’s that same Word of God that teaches me I have no need to either fear or participate in what other people might get up to when they celebrate Halloween 🙂