Monthly Archives: May 2012

You are loved!

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This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased

This week is Pentecost, and as a start to the week’s celebration, I got to listen to a wonderful man named Tom Smith. Because of his teaching, and because of my personal circumstances at this time – my mother is having a very serious back-operation today and my sister-in-law is having the first grandchild on Sarel’s side of the family immanently – these are the thoughts that have been rattling through my brain. I hope my sharing them can mean something to you…

The sad thing is that these wonderfully noble motives often lead us down the wrong track…something I was reminded of again when reading the following from Donald Miller: “If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”.

Now, it might not be a Volvo specifically, but we are more often than not trying to affirm our purpose and meaning through physical things. When actually, in those moments where we are faced with the reality of life and death, it isn’t those things that come to mind. Rather it is the things that make us ugly cry, those things that lift our spirits, that force us to breathe deeply and that confront us with the harsh beauty that life is that our thoughts keep returning to. For those are the things that make our lives worthwhile…that make them feel fully lived in the dark of death’s shadow…and at the basis of all these things lies our desire to be loved! It is in the meaning our lives have for those around us – in the love that we are looked at, that we are hugged with – that we finally know that our being here has not been in vain. That knowing that one life has breathed easier because we have lived.

The most wonderful thing?! That, even before we start looking at the people around us – people who can be fickle and childish – we can be grounded in God’s overwhelming love! “The LORD your God is with you;
his power gives you victory. The LORD will take delight in you, and in his love he will give you new life. He will sing and be joyful over you, as joyful as people at a festival.” – Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord DELIGHTS in the mere fact of our existence! He SINGS over the people He has created us to be! And that only because we exist – BEFORE we DO or SAY anything?! My life has meaning because I am I, created by God to be the me I am, my only purpose being to stay true to the dream He dreamt when He made me. We just have to BE for our lives to have abundant meaning! So let’s stop chasing and striving and being so busy with what the world expects that we forget who we are…let’s refocus on God and his delight…let’s relax…for WE are his BELOVED, with whom He is well pleased!

The simple way…

Sore thumb

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“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” – Albert Einstein

Earlier today I was talking to my mother – a woman of beautifully simple and childlike faith (something I have always envied in a way) – looking at the tears in her eyes as she explains to me how stupid she feels when comparing her faith and life to those of others. I tell her that she shouldn’t be comparing herself or her journey/faith to others, as it is exactly the uniqueness of her life that makes her special and mesmerising. And yet, at the back of my mind, I know that I should actually be “preaching” this to myself, for I know that I am constantly comparing. We are all constantly comparing…from our bodies to our things to our faith…and we almost never come out on top… We are so quick to see and appreciate the value of others, yet simultaneously always quicker to dismiss ourselves. But then I am reminded that you can only see others as clearly as you see yourself…which implies that we aren’t really seeing other people as accurately as we think we are…and that we are using skew images to compare ourselves to…like walking in one of those classic carnival “Hall of Mirrors” and taking whatever we see – no matter how disfigured – as our only truth…

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou

But that means that I, that every one of us, are not living within the identity God gave us. We might be confessing that belief every day, but we sure aren’t living it – for our every need to compare ourselves to others is a warped sense of self worth and a not-so-solid self esteem, based on a definition of success that we never chose in the first place! The solution, obviously, would then be to stop comparing yourself – by building your self worth and developing a solid self-esteem that cannot be disturbed by outside factors and opinions. For doing so will give you the freedom to be the only person you were ever meant to be – yourself. The wonderful – and terribly embarrassing – thing is that we do not need to search for a source of self worth or a basis for developing self-esteem, because WE ALREADY HAVE IT! We have had it all along!

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule…you’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you…you’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…you’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat…you’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” – Matthew 5:3-8

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers – most of which are never even seen – don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” – Matthew 6:30-34

So, if we truly are the believers we claim to be, we have to stop comparing! We have to start finding ourselves where we should always have been looking – with God. And we should RELY ONLY on His opinion! “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.” – Johann von Goethe “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin

“Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit.” – Mary Lou Retton

The heart of God

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“JOY is the SERIOUS BUSINESS of HEAVEN!” – CS Lewis

I had the privilege of being present at a baby shower last weekend, and the joy of a wonderful Cape vacation this weekend…and all I constantly found myself thinking about was the spiritual discipline of joy. Which sounds strange – how can joy be a discipline?! But maybe it isn’t that strange, seeing that God’s joy and its many different faces surrounded me.

For the joy of the Lord does surround us – in the spectacle we call “Creation”. Just think about how different the story of creation would have been if God had not been as enthusiastic and as joyous…if He had created like we so often do. Content with “it’s all right”. Not wanting to have to go to too much effort. Just doing the bare minimum to get by. What a sad and depressing thing Creation would have been! But instead infinite combinations, spectacular engineering and abundant creative thought surround us. God did not “settle”, did not simply say, “it’s OK” or “it’ll have to do” – His creation ended with “it was GOOD!” And it was!

And it is this joy, this pleasure of the simple fact of being alive and having possibilities to consider, which should fill us with gratitude and make us jump out of bed every morning. Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for us…is at the heart of God! Does this mean we will never know sorrow? Quite the contrary – we were promised two things…one: that we would be surrounded by difficulty and sorrow…two: that we would never be alone in this, and that we would always have something to look forward to, to strive towards “with grace in our hearts and flowers in our hair” – Mumford & Sons

Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” – Nehemiah 8:9-10

So, make time to celebrate every day’s smallest of miracles. Always keep in front of you the Source of our joy and strong hope. And remember, selfishness is the only thing that keeps us from experiencing the myriad joys God puts into our every day. So don’t just wait…LIVE abundantly! For “today is the day that the Lord has made!”

Up! And away!