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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 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

Milk and honey

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Easter – our blessed reminder and most significant time of year – is approaching fast. By this time next week we will (should?) be right in the middle of the weekend’s remembrances. The Passover lamb now only a memory, a sacrifice made obsolete by the Lamb of God. The door, left open at the end of every Passover Seder as a symbol of their expectant hope for the arrival of the Messiah, no longer necessary – the Messiah and the Kingdom are already near…are here…

Thoughts that enliven me with thankfulness and a re-ignited passion, as I’m sure many of you are, too. Because when I am again confronted with what exactly God was willing to do to reach me, I realise that the sky should be the limit where my life for God is concerned. But this passion and these best of intensions are so often exactly like New Year’s resolutions – they last as long as the feast does…we are inspired to do more, as we should be, only to then fall back into our routine faith – our biggest (only?) desire the desire to be comforted each Sunday…is that the Kingdom of God that Jesus planned? That He gave His everything for?

This is my body, this is my blood...for you...

“So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God…Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God….You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted…Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” – 1 Peter 2:1-11

Yes, the basics are important – we need to start out with comfort and security…with milk…but we cannot stay there…for if we stay there we cease to grow. Milk, the desire to be comforted, should only be our BEGINNING; and not the end we have made it to be. Yes a firm foundation is absolutely essential – sound knowledge of God’s being and what He has done – but a building is not built only to look at, it is meant for living in and around, as the provider of shelter and comfort and a safe space. The laying of the foundation, our new identity as living stones in God’s house, has to have life-altering consequences – for ourselves, yes, but even more so for the people who surround us everyday. A building can only really “be” a building if it’s serving its purpose…we can only really “be” the faithful if our lives become less about ourselves with every day we are given.

We must become the change we want to see in the world.”  – Ghandi

May this Easter be the push we need. May we become the faithful Jesus envisioned while giving all of Himself.

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?

Allo! Allo!

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“Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well” – Jim Rohn

It is right at the start of our journey together that I have to confess to always having had trouble with the above sentiment, as I have always had this inner obsession with the idea that only the very biggest and best will do, for “ordinary” is just a polite way of saying “plain”/”inconsequential”. See, I wanted to be the new Oprah – changing the world one conversation at a time, world domination and influence no mere fantasy but an everyday reality. For I thought that was the only way that I could mean something; that my life could contribute to the betterment of the world.

And then reality hit…hard…as only reality can. And I was forced – by quite a few years of having the option of “ordinary” with a side of “ordinary” – to face the fact that life is made up of ordinary moments. And that it is exactly in each and every “ordinary” moment that extraordinary and meaningful things happen.

 “Nothing is poetical if plain daylight is not poetical; and no monster should amaze us if the normal man does not amaze.” – GK Chesterton

Most of our lives are “small” – we move in small circles and do small things. But, I have learnt, “small” is not the same as “ordinary” or “unimportant”. What our life’s meaning is and will be depends on the viewpoint we choose. And in choosing to do those small things that are put on our path to do with enthusiasm and joy, interacting (really interacting) with those few people God gifts our journey with in love – therein lies true beauty and extraordinariness.

the joy of the small things

“We can learn to rejoice in even the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don’t even notice. It’s like a cartoon I saw of an astonished-looking man saying, ‘What was that?’ The caption below read, ‘Bob experiences a moment of well-being.’ The ordinariness of our good fortune can make it hard to catch. The key is to be here, fully connected with the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life. By taking care of ordinary things – our pots and pans, our clothing, our teeth – we rejoice in them. When we scrub a vegetable or brush our hair, we are expressing appreciation: friendships toward ourselves and toward the living quality that is found in everything. This combination of mindfulness and appreciation connects us fully with reality and brings us joy.” – Pema Chodron

So join me in a new way of rejoicing – rejoicing in the ordinary, the small and the everyday – giving each one of us SO much more to be joyful about! Precisely those small and ordinary things, all bundled together, become your extraordinary legacy. “Whoever is faithful in what is least, is also faithful in what is greater” (Luke 16:10a).