Category Archives: Scribbles

Isn’t it funny?

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Life will always remain a strange thing…an enigma…the biggest variable in any one of our individual life’s plots…filling it with both pain and beauty. We can experience death and new life all in the span of one week. We can reach the most glorious highs on some levels, while simultaneously experiencing the lowest of lows. Funny that. Funny using an expression like “isn’t it funny” for something that’s actually not “funny” at all, but rather difficult, bizarre or uncomfortable.

When the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time for everything”, he makes it sound so neat in a way. Yes, he mentions things like a time to cry and a time to die; but it still sounds so ordered – like there is a rhythm even to those times, that they will follow on each other, that you will always be able to move from the one to the other. And yet, in our living life, we come to realise that those times aren’t “neat” or “rhythmic”, mostly they are intertwined – joy with tears, success with disappointment, and life with death. Which is so contra-instinctive for us – we WANT life to be more “reliable”, more predictable. We NEED life to be simpler. We NEED to hold on to the belief that tomorrow will be different…will be better…will be more. But life continues on its “merry” way, and tomorrow usually ends up being the same as today – complicated. Which means that we can (and often do!) spend a lot of time questioning the meaning of our existence, the sense our living holds, the reason for our being. Getting so caught up in thinking about life that we don’t live it. But, you might say, such a complicated mess is not worth calling life, never mind living it! And yet, it is what it is, and it remains so no matter our thoughts on the matter.

So why is it worth it? What is the significance of this quagmire? Where is God in all of this? “Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the surface of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.” – Annie Dillard “Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blending and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” – John Muir

We should not strive for peace and calm and simple, for it is only in the difficulty and the chaos and the mess that we can plumb the depths of who we are. You cannot be truly brave and courageous without having felt fear tinge your being and overcoming it. You cannot truly live without confronting the complex reality that life is. “I don’t believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or make you feel miserable either. Life is just supposed to make you feel.” – Gloria Naylor In the fullness of the total experience, in our giving ourselves over to every piece of it, in our looking every part of life and death straight in the eye and conquering it; therein lies living. For if you’re not ready to die, then how can you live? So…hoohah! “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” – Mary Oliver

The only constant…

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Jaco and Lindsey Barnard, 6 April 2012

I will always struggle with how quickly time flies – just as I struggle with the practicality of how time zones work 😀 I was looking at wedding photos of a beautiful and magical wedding – Jaco and Lindsey Barnard’s – and I was reminded of the fact that Sarel and I’s marriage journey had its beginning more than eight years ago. And, me being me, I started thinking back on those years…about the people we were…about all the things that have happened…about the people we have become… And, in a way, it seems so strange that we are still together, for so much has changed in our lives and in our beings.

It is not for nothing that one of the most memorable and oft-repeated quotes of all time is “the only constant in life is change”. And that makes marriage seem like such a strange concept – for you are promising to be with someone forever…yet you cannot be sure who that person will be in ten years…hell, even who you will be! Especially if you are committed to being self-aware and have a desire to always become more yourself, to keep growing, for growth means change and change involves risk, involves stepping from the known to the unknown. With the person you now give your heart to it could mean stepping into being with someone “new and unknown” a few years along the line. I certainly know this to be true of our lives…our marriage…I am not the same person I was on that dewy-eyed day. You are promising to be committed to (and very involved in) a roller-coaster ride…

That's the story of...that's the glory of...

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett

What makes it worthwhile? For worthwhile it certainly is, this rollercoaster called marriage. What makes the change, and the discomfort and grief it often brings, something to commit to and look forward to? “Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.” – Bruce Barton

Exactly that – knowing that your journey brings change and growth, not only in your own being, but also in the being of that one person who has committed to staying. And if you have set out on this journey together for the right reasons, that change will always be for the better. The grace (and discomfort) of marriage is the privilege of having your own purifying fire, bringing with each passing year more clarity and shine. But encapsulated with that fire also the one person who will always be in your corner, who will always be there in your striving towards yourself. Relationships change with time, they only last if you learn to adapt and except that change.

Luckily, we can “always remember that the future comes one day at a time” – Dean Acheson Marriage might begin with that one beautiful day, but it has to continue with a daily renewal of commitment to that day’s spouse. And before you know it, you are ten years down the line; you are different; yet you are loved. May the blessing of the journey be yours.

Here's to you, kid

I will rise

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I might be one of the only idiots who thought about watching “127 Hours” without ever quite getting around to it…but as providence would have it I was channel hopping last night and came across it just as it was starting…so I finally watched it…and sat in silent awe.

Now, for today’s blog, we’re leaving aside the fact that Danny Boyle is one of the most talented and visionary directors of our time, as well as the fact that “127 Hours” is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. No, because watching the movie made me think about “Slumdog Millionaire” – his other big recent film – and about the golden thread that runs through both movies. What it is that makes us survive suffering and adversity – triumphantly…even beautifully. What it is that makes some fight even harder where others would long ago have given up and/or died. What it is that gives strength to the spirit in circumstances where the body is drained.

Now I know this is going to sound corny, but it doesn’t make it any less true – in both of these movies, in these very different but equally terrible situations, what made the different people keep fighting and keep striving was a dream. Their rising above, their realisation that there is something more, their belief in that something, made them continue on when it seemed impossible.  But we’ve all heard that we need a dream, so what’s new? And we all do have lots of dreams. For me, the freshness lay in just being reminded of what our dream should be. For the people in these stories did not have just any dream. It is not just any dream that will make us triumph.

Their dreams were about people – about meaningful relations – about impacting on one or two lives. That’s all…but that’s all that’s needed…for in this dream lies beautiful strength.

Dreams of bigger houses, more things, success, fame etc. cannot carry us through darkness and pain. Only dreams of those hearts near us…of having hearts near us. Only dreams of knowing that our life has made at least one other breathe easier. Only those dreams can make us do the impossible…can make us rise…can give meaning in any and every situation.

Let’s make this the desire of our hearts – today and every day.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” – Matthew 6:22-23

Good fences

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I have been confronted time and time again with the fact that both the way I see Jesus and the way I define what following Him means easily gets distorted – by patterns in my own mind as well as by the people and ideas in the world around me. I grew up with the stories of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”. People of the faith and others constantly remind me that Christians are supposed to be all understanding, all forgiving and all accepting – we should not ask questions, especially when those questions might make the other person feel uncomfortable or confronted. I live in a culture that says that blood (=family) is supposed to be counted above everything else, no matter what they do or who they are.  So I constantly live with the pressure and the guilt of “being Christian = being everything to everybody”, no matter what they do to you, and the tension and anger of constantly getting hurt and being walked all over. I cannot help but wonder if that is what Jesus meant when He said that we have to be the least…especially when he also says that who we are and our joy is important to Him…And so I am left with questions buzzing around in my mind: How many of those preconceived/”drilled in ideas” I walk around with, how many of the sayings that people love quoting, truly come from God? What did Jesus mean when He was talking about “love”?

The strange (and wonderful!) thing is, if you were to pick up any of the Gospels and page through them, you will see a different picture of Jesus and you will come to understand that the love He taught about is not the love me have made it to be. For this blog post we will only be having a look at Matthew, but you are welcome to take any of the other Gospels and give it a go 😀

Jesus begins his public ministry in Matthew 4 – he calls his first disciples, does a few miracles and then gives them the longest sermon ever (the Sermon on the Mount) in Matthew 5-7. This pattern continues in a way in chapters 8-10, except that now they have really started moving – Jesus does more wonders and He calls Levi, while all the while teaching his followers about what it really means to follow Him. And then, at the beginning of chapter 10, Jesus decides to do a dry run with his disciples by sending them out to go and do what they have been seeing and learning. The interesting thing here is a part of the last words He says to them before they head out: “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet” – Matthew 10:14. Especially when we also take into consideration what happens in chapter 12 between Jesus and His family! While Jesus is busy teaching, his mother and brothers arrive and try to get Him to come to talk to them outside (probably in order to take Him home and stop all this embarrassment). He rebuts them, and very strongly I might add: “But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” – Matthew 12:48-50.

It might be like the mustard seed...

Directly afterwards, He tells the story of the sower in the field, a parable that’s message is that not all people will react the same way (receptively and enthusiastically) upon hearing the gospel. This begins to make it clear that, when it comes to priotities, the Kingdom of God is always at the forefront of Jesus’ mind – even if that means having to reject His family. This is affirmed by Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18, giving advice about how to handle someone when they have wandered off of “the Way” – and in this teaching He himself says that there comes a time when it is necessary to create distance/let someone go. Which is not the same as saying that you are now closed off forever was that person to regret his decision and want to return (just look at is teaching on forgiveness in the next section); but then only with true repentance and an effort towards reconciliation.

So, when we talk about love for God and about having a relationship of worth with Him our first thoughts should not be what we learnt as kids or what our culture or those surrounding us say – our first thoughts should be about the Kingdom of God and our part in it. Being a follower of Christ is first and foremost about living the Kingdom…this should be our first priority and what we fight for. Which also means that when anyone – be they family or strangers – hinders or prevents us from living the Kingdom, it becomes our responsibility to still witness to the Kingdom by removing them from our lives, and telling them (in love) the reasons why. For the love of God is NOT about hiding the Kingdom and its principles under the rug for fear of making someone feel bad or confronted, or offending someone.

A good example of what happens when we do not do what is necessary is actually to be found in the Old Testament! In Genesis 12 God calls Abram to leave his land and his family (who do not believe or do as he does) behind and follow him. But, for whatever reason (I am sure those of you with/in families can hear the “conversations”), he decides to take his brother Lot with him. And from there it’s all the way downhill – it’s because Lot does not see the world or believe the way Abraham does, its almost as if Lot’s story is constantly hampering Abraham’s walk with God. First, Lot takes the best part of the land; then Abraham has to step into battle to rescue Lot and his family; and it is Abraham that pleads with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah – only for Lot to then go and live in sin with his daughters…It might sound insensitive to some, but Lot is an interruption (disruption!) of Abrahams journey with God and the destiny he is to fulfill. Would it not have been better to have done what God said in the first place and leave Lot behind?

More importantly, aren’t there people that we need to leave behind? Are there people that we think we are showing the love of God to by loving them like we think we ought to (aka babying them)? When I end with this prayer for each of us I want you to remember that, wherever God is mentioned, it is not the God we were taught to believe in or the one that the world has created. It is the loving but firm God who has given us the Kingdom of God, and who expects of us only to keep on spreading that Kingdom.

God to enfold you, God to surround you. God in your speaking, God in your thinking. God in your sleeping, God in your walking. God in your watching, God in your hoping. God in your life, God on your lips. God in your soul, God in your heart. God in your sufficing, God in your slumber. God in your ever-living soul, God in your eternity.

Seek ye first (and always!) the Kingdom of God...

God-coloured glasses

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“I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” - Jeremiah 29:11

A verse that, I am sure, most of us have run into in one way or another – whether it be in an encouraging note from a friend/loved one in a bad time; as a way for someone to try and motivate you towards bigger and better things; or as a prophetic promise given to you. It is a verse that has been over-used, “done to death”, as a quick solution to sticky/uncomfortable emotions or situations. It has also become one of the flagship verses for any prosperity gospel worth its salt (and then you and I both know what the hope equals…think The Apprentice’s theme song…). It has become a verse all about how God’s only desire is to help us prosper, to protect us and to ensure our every need satisfied while nothing bad happens to us. But is this message that we have become so accustomed to what God initially intended? Was that the message He was trying to convey to his people? For those answers we will need to look a bit farther than we might be used to – at the rest of the text surrounding the verse…

The verse forms part of a message, conveying God’s will, sent by the prophet Jeremiah to the exiled Israelites in Babylon. And here we have to pause a moment to allow for sinking in… Because of Israel’s constant rebellion and disobedience, God had permitted for His people to be defeated and taken away into exile in Babylon. They had gone from free citizens of their own kingdom, to being a small minority in an alien culture constantly being mocked, harassed and humiliated. Their cities, their homes and their land, had been destroyed – worse yet, the Temple, the earthly dwelling-place of God had been flattened to the ground. And now they were being kept prisoner so far away from Zion that it must be impossible for God to be with them. Under these circumstances “holding onto their faith” becomes an ever-dwindling daily battle. And it is into exactly these circumstances that Jeremiah speaks, that he brings his people news of God’s promise of prosperity and hope. But then not the prosperity and hope that they were expecting…

“The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those people whom he allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take away as prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylonia: ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. Marry and have children. Then let your children get married, so that they also may have children. You must increase in numbers and not decrease. Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too. I, the LORD, the God of Israel, warn you not to let yourselves be deceived by the prophets who live among you or by any others who claim they can predict the future. Do not pay any attention to theirt dreams. They are telling you lies in my name. I did not send them. I, the LORD Almighty, have spoken’. The LORD says, ‘When Babylonia’s seventy years are over, I will show my concern for you and keep my promise to bring you back home’. – Jeremiah 29:4-10

We cry out: "Save us as we want to be saved!" The Israelites were hoping for a power play from God – that He would come forcefully and redeem them from exile; taking them back to the Promised Land and blessing them with more than they could need. THAT would be prosperity and hope! And, if we were only to read verse 11, then that hope could very well sound very plausible. BUT, taking the rest of the text into account, that type of future fades; for, instead of immediate rescue and restoration, God proclaims that the exiles should “settle in comfortably” (i.e. build houses and gardens, marry and have kids etc.) and help build Babylon’s interests. Not only that, He commands them to PRAY FOR Babylon and its people! Because Babylon’s interests are now their interests…the country that still humiliated them at every turn was now their country too…A truth that God ensures is “taken home” by His emphasis on the fact that anyone dreaming or saying anything different – proclaiming quick rescue and immanent departure – should be known for the liars they are. There IS promise of rescue, but then only in seventy years time. It is after this “wonderful” news that we find verse 11, promising prosperity and hope. So how is that supposed to work?! Luckily, God is not done talking yet…

“Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:12-13

Wherein lie the prosperity, the future and the hope that God promises in verse 11? NOT in physical rescue/redemption or material success, BUT in the NEW ESSENCE/NATURE of the relationship between themselves and God. It is not rescue that comes first or is most important for their future and their joy – the foundation of the new future and joy that God promises is thus not to be found or bound to circumstance. It is to be found in God’s eternal self/essence and in His being with them in any circumstance.

Why is it important for us to hear at the beginning of 2012? Because we can (and do) also easily feel like we are in an alien situation/country and that no one is looking after our interests (in fact, that some people are fighting against our interests). We also tend to focus on the negatives of our circumstances – because they do make our lives unpleasant – and lose faith. But faith is to look past circumstance and to see God there.

“An undivided heart, which worships God alone, and trusts Him as it should, is raised above all anxiety for earthly wants.” - John Cunningham Geikie

Those ordinary days

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Thanks, but no thanks!

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Shocking to hear? Maybe. Something to be irritated with and start defending against immediately? Definitely. But should it be? What does being a Christian MEAN to you and me? What IMPACT does it have on the way we make our way through the day?

I think, if we were totally honest with ourselves, then we would have to admit that “being Christian” is oftentimes synonymous with “going through the motions”. And then not because we are bad people, or even because we are not passionate about our faith; but simply because it comes so naturally to all of us as human beings to stop thinking about the things that form part of our everyday life.

“And you were once dead in your sins and offenses, in which you walked in times past, according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the power of this sky, the spirit who now works in the sons of distrust. And we too were all conversant in these things, in times past, by the desires of our flesh, acting according to the will of the flesh and according to our own thoughts. And so we were, by nature, sons of wrath even like the others. Yet still, God, who is rich in mercy, for the sake of his exceedingly great charity with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, has enlivened us together in Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And he has raised us up together, and he has caused us to sit down together in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that he may display, in the ages soon to arrive, the abundant wealth of his grace, by his goodness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God. And this is not of works, so that no one may glory. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has prepared and in which we should walk.” – Ephesians 2:1-10

I know, even this text sounds SO familiar, so familiar that we almost “zone out” naturally – unknowingly replacing the text with “blablabla” in our heads because we think we know it so well. But what happens with this text we know so well when we walk out into our every day? Does the passion of the text we know “by heart” translate into days filled with conscious heart and passion? For what the text describes is not mere factual knowledge for us to receive, then say “thank you” for and be grateful (even emotional) over for a little before filing/storing it away somewhere in our subconscious. This text is an inspiration to action – we have been saved and inspired SO THAT WE CAN SAVE AND INSPIRE. The grace of salvation was never meant as something to merely take note of, it was always meant as something to live and breathe. Especially when we journey further in the book of Ephesians…

  “And so…I beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the vocation to which you have been called: with all humility and meekness, with patience, supporting one another in charity… from now on you should walk, not as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, having their intellect obscured, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is within them, because of the blindness of their hearts. Such as these, despairing, have given themselves over to sexual immorality, carrying out every impurity with rapacity. But this is not what you have learned in Christ. For certainly, you have listened to him, and you have been instructed in him, according to the truth that is in Jesus: to set aside your earlier behaviour, the former man, who was corrupted, by means of desire, unto error, and so be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and so put on the new man, who, in accord with God, is created in justice and in the holiness of truth.” – Ephesians 4:1-2, 17-24.

Worship = life

Faith is not most importantly about facts. Or about the routines we have created for ourselves. Faith is not about Sunday, it’s about every other ordinary day filled with ordinary things…but then lived extraordinarily.

“For you were darkness, in times past, but now you are light, in the Lord. So then, walk as sons of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth, affirming what is well-pleasing to God.” – Ephesians 5:8-10.

The best way to illustrate this and make it practical? A story…or a fable in this case…which could be seen as the same thing, but fable just sounds so much more enticing…

“There once was a rich Sultan with a wise Jew named Nathan in his employ. One day, the Sultan confronted Nathan with a burning question: ‘Which faith is the true faith? Is it the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith? For all three lay claim to the one true God and his Holy Scripture?’ Nathan answers the Sultan with a fable…

‘Long ago there lived a man who owned a ring of inestimable value – any person wearing the ring was loved by God and man, if he believed that such was the power of the ring and lived accordingly. It was only natural for the man to be very attached to such a ring; and, aside from never taking it off, he also stated in his will that the ring should go to his most beloved son (who would then of course hand it down to his most beloved son).

The three rings

In this way, after many generations, the ring lands in the hands of a man who had three sons, all of whom he loved very much and equally (depending on the day and the behaviour of the sons of course). He knew it would be impossible to choose one over the other two, so when he became aware of his impending death, he went to a jeweller and had two other rings made that looked the same. The jeweller was so good that it was nigh impossible to point out the original.On his deathbed, the father called each of his sons to him and gave them a ring, accompanied by his best wishes. It did not take long for the sons to realise that they all had a ring, which immediately led to conflict as only families can do. Realising that it would be impossible to solve the conflict themselves, they went to a judge for his verdict. The judge refused to make a decision…but he did give the brothers the following advice: Each of the sons had to prove that his ring brought forth more love, kindness and grace than the others. And if the effect/influence of the ring could still be seen in his grandchildren’s children, then the judge would once again invite that brother to appear before his bench.’”

It is only through each one of us’ daily life in faith that anyone standing on the outside can ever hope to see the beauty, integrity and worth thereof. What is the testimony of your every ordinary day? Can those outside look at you and see God?

What are you showing/giving?

And to all a good year!

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I don’t know about you, but when I think about the fact that by Sunday we’re in 2012 already, I feel a little overwhelmed. I mean, it feels like yesterday that we were beginning with 2011, and it feels like light-years ago. Sheesh, time flies (and faster and faster too)!

“Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.”

Now, I know that not all of us are as emotional or pensive/meditative as others, but at this time of year – even if only for an hour or two – it’s almost impossible to not spend a little while thinking about the year that has passed. And maybe, when looking back, you could be feeling proud, satisfied, surprised, inspired…maybe lonely or sad…or even just tired. This is important because the year that has now gone by has an influence on the year we are entering into: if it’s been a smashing year then you’re probably already jumping for joy at the new year; but if it’s not been your best year, you might be wishing that you could stay in a limbo between the two – a place where you don’t have to deal with the old year, or move into the next.

It would be very easy to over-simplify this and say it’s only about the way you view/understand life – the whole “glass half-empty or glass half-full” shtick – and though there is truth to the saying, we all know it is not as simple as that. We do not live in isolation; people and situations that affect our lives surround us. Whatever the case may be, here we are at the beginning of a new year. Is there something that could be said to inspire us all in our different situations and states of mind?

“You, Lord, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears. Brutal people may attack and try to kill me, but they will stumble. Fierce enemies may attack, but they will fall. Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid; war may break out, but I will trust you. I ask only one thing, lord: Let me live in your house every day of my life to see how wonderful you are and to pray in your temple.” – Psalm 27:1-4

Maybe a text where David is going through the same kind of thought process as we are now with the turning of the year. Looking at Psalm 27 I am struck by the realism of the poem – it was not written by someone wearing rose-coloured glasses; it was written by someone who had experienced both sides of life, someone who understands that life is made up of paradoxes, sweet and sour moments, good and bad. Something that is good for all of us to remember at the beginning of this New Year, especially when New Year’s eve itself can be so euphoric. We joke and we laugh and we celebrate, thinking only about the very best things for ourselves and for those around us. But that is not how life works, so maybe that is a good place to start – admitting, together with David, that this new year will have its good and bad parts. There will be times when our faith and our trust will be tested to the utmost.

Sounds a bit too depressing for New Year? Precisely NOT! For in the midst of the realities of life David is writing a testimony of note! He describes God as his Light and his Redeemer, his Refuge, the Rock on which he builds his life. He is looking back at his life, at the year that has passed, and can still describe God as the One that protected him in every difficult situation, the One that never allowed him to go under in any of the storms in his life. This is a man who knows the realities of life and takes them into account – sickness, disappointment, and loss – but does not let these realities bring him down. Why? Because God is the One who lifts up his head, allowing him to look life straight in the eye.

Psalm 27…life as we know it…is ambivalent…filled with things we will never be able to fully understand or explain. We will never have all the answers. There will always be things that leave us in the dark. But in all pain, in every bitter moment, every bad thing that might happen to us need not steal our joy, because our joy’s foundation is not our circumstances but rather the God who is our Light and our Redeemer, our Refuge and our Rock. And He will never ever forsake us.

“What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us? God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won’t he freely give us everything else? If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God’s right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? It is exactly as the Scriptures say: ‘For you we face death all day long. We are like sheep on their way to be butchered’. In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!” – Romans 8:31-39