Tag Archives: love

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…

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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

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...

Value added

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Transforming (rediscovering?) value

How do you define the value of a life? Of your life?

Society has given us many ways to define value…or is that success as value…? All of us are almost programmed with lists of things we have to want to be, do and achieve in order to be estimated as valuable. But, when all is said and done, when there is nobody left but you and nothing other than your thoughts and memories – your heart – what are the things that make you feel valuable? What are the things you think about and treasure?

Tonight, as I was sitting on the Gautrain coming home with my youngest godson sleeping on my lap, I realised once again that those are the moments that matter. That those are the things we should be striving toward. When I think back on my life those are the moments I remember, the moments that make my heart feel like bursting with a sense of purpose and wellbeing. Another life trusting me enough to be completely vulnerable with me. I once thought that what you put out into the world, those things that the world around us measures as being successful, would make me feel valuable. But I have come to realise that it is not the academic article I write for three people to read and one to like; the qualifications that I have; the amount of things on society’s checklist that I have been able to tick off, or even living up to what others see as my potential that makes my being present, my living here, meaningful.
The moments that life, my life, has made the most sense were those moments spent with others. It is only in seeing/recognising one another (which implies being and respecting yourself and allowing others the same courtesy), in journeying together and discussing everything from farting to world peace that we can ever start to know what true value is – in the best of times and in the worst of times.

Valueing others

“Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another.” – Ayn Rand

“Different things delight different people. But it is my delight to keep the ruling faculty sound without turning away either from any man or from any things which happen to men, but looking at and receiving all with welcome eyes and using everything according to its value.” – Marcus Aurelius

“He who does not feel his friends to be the world to him, does not deserve that the world should hear of him.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe