Enjoying some time at the Vaal River
Since we lived in Indiana more than 30 years, people assume I am excited to hear that Indiana University is doing so well in the tournament. But, I grew up in North Carolina. And I grew up with a mom who was a North Carolina State fan – at least that’s what I grew up believing. And I have memories of staying up with her watching some very exciting games! That said – I am thrilled to hear that NC State is doing just as well as IU and UK (at least at the time of my writing).
I will always love North Carolina because that is where I am from (even though I spent more of my life in Indiana). And God is my creator – I am from Him and made for Him – so unless I am “in Him/with Him” life is just not satisfying. I can try to love IU and even be happy for their victories, but my heart always goes back to NC State. And I guess my love for NC State is more of a love of those memories of watching intense games and being so linked together in the joy of the victory with my mom. That time we had together way back in the 70’s was priceless.
Back to the idea of “being occupied with God” . . . How do we do that – practically speaking? We can try to make it happen just by “willing” it to be. But just like with basketball, I don’t think any of us gets excited, really excited over at team – to the point of spending years pulling for them whether they win or lose – unless we have some sort of a bond with them. And that bond does not just appear; it has developed.
It’s the same with our relationship with God. To be occupied with God requires just that! We need to be pursuing a relationship with Him. That involves spending time with Him – talking to Him and listening to Him. We need to tell Him that we love Him. We need to be looking for reasons to praise Him. Pray that He will wake you up each morning and when He does – start right away to talk to Him. Let Him be your first thought each morning. Fall asleep at night talking to Him. “Be occupied with Him.”
Love Him who first loved us. Love Him who came to us in our sin and loved us. Love Him who gave His all for us. Love Him who reached out and lifted us from the pit and set us in a spacious place because He delighted in us (Ps 18:19).
Doug and I were at the end of our time in Charleston for Annie and John’s wedding. We had been preoccupied with the preparations for the wedding, spending time with family and shopping for chocolate chips. Though I still spent time in the Word each day, my thoughts were not often on spiritual things. The things I was enjoying were not bad things, but I could see that my desire to speak about Jesus to others was growing small. I commented to Doug that it is so true that our minds must be continually renewed by spending time reading the Bible and meditating on what God is saying or we grow cold. Becoming so indifferent or numb to spiritual matters happens so quickly. It is so natural (because of our sinful nature) that we are drawn to having our minds entertained and distracted from the reality of life.
I opened up my new book, Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray and saw these words, “be occupied with God.” March is here and Americans know what that means. Why do we not have the same stirring and excitement about our Savior as we do about March Madness? Could it be in part because we are not “occupied with God?” Are we filling our minds with so much other stuff and neglecting the source of satisfaction? “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Instead of being conformed to this world – let us resolve to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then meditating on/pondering what we read; worshipping God; confessing sins that are exposed through time in prayer, asking God to search our hearts; praising Him for His blessings; asking Him how to apply what was read.
Resolve to never again to walk away unchanged/unwashed by the Word.
One Wednesday night at church we went through Ephesians 4:1-14 and really looked at each phrase. I thought the notes I took were worth sharing. So, here goes!
God the Father chose believers – those who are “in Christ” because of the work of Christ – God looks at us through the lens of Christ’s perfection – from eternity past He made this plan – that believers would be set apart for Himself – to be like Christ – spotless, righteous, acceptable, pleasing to the Father.
The Father chose believers to be adopted as sons – children of God – with the status of natural-born children – through the work of Jesus – because this is what God desired to do!
God did this with the goal of His beauty being admired – so that His kindness could be shown and known – believers are seen as pleasing, perfect, completely righteous in God’s sight – our position as perfect in Christ.
In Jesus we were bought back out of slavery to sin (now slaves to righteousness) by His giving His life on the cross as the payment of our debt to release us from obligation – legally pardon and redeem us – because of His abounding mercy, His costly kindness and favor and motivated by His abounding, unlimited loving kindness. Jesus did this not as a reaction or out of duty, but because it was according to His plan.
The Holy Spirit set us apart – secured – certified our position – predicted as certain to happen (as an engagement is to a wedding or a down payment as security of total payment) – that we will receive our portion of the riches that will come to us as members to the family of God when we are claimed at His return. This is ultimately so that His beauty, excellence, fame is worshipped, celebrated, honored, hoped in, loved.
After reading – are you amazed to see that we are the recipients of such kindness and extravagant love? He is the Giver!
“Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints and give thanks to His holy name.” Psalm 29:4
Lately I have been pondering differences in cultures – African vs. Western – concerning money and faith. Marriage is actually a third that is still rolling around in my mind.
Money. I was at the settlement this past week and noticed M had some earphones like the ones I use with my IPod. I asked her about them and she showed me her new cell phone. She can listen to the radio through it! I was amazed and wondered if I could listen to the radio through mine. She checked and said, “no, but for R50 I could get one like hers.”
R50 is the equivalent to $7.50-$8.00. This does not sound like much until you remember that a good day’s wage for her is R100. Just the week before, I had taken M some food and after looking it over, she asked if I could give her ~R20 for taxi fare to the clinic to pick up her medication. How can someone buy an expensive cell phone knowing that there might not be food to eat or money for necessities? It just boggles my mind.
Why does the African spend all he has today and not save for tomorrow? The Bible teaches a balance between giving and saving/providing for your own needs and sharing with others in need. My parents never bought anything they could not pay for in cash. They did have a mortgage on their home, but I have a childhood memory of when it was paid off. Even with cars, they saved and paid cash. Three children were put through college without debt, by a combination of saving and living on a tight budget.
In some ways our culture in America is changing to be more like the African – living for today. People are content if they can pay their mortgage, with no thought to ever paying it off. When there is extra money, bigger houses are bought. Why pay off your charge card when you can just pay the minimum balance. What has caused this change in thinking? Is it just a simple case of materialism? I would love to hear your thoughts on this! It does have spiritual implications.
If we are friends on FB, you have seen pics of our Victoria Falls trip. It was truly a once in a lifetime trip thanks to Corryton Church. The Victoria Falls were breathtaking. Of course I spent a lot of time wondering how the first people discovered the falls. Did they know that such a “loud noise” ahead is a signal to get out of the water! Then there was the walking with the lions. I am a lover of cats so this activity was a dream. My own little Charlotte had just gone to cat heaven so I was in need of some time with cats. The sunset cruise was so relaxing. Seeing the wildlife was great, but my favorite part was just hearing the water and seeing the sunset.
After a trip like this, one would guess that I would come back feeling refreshed. Au contraire! I came back feeling “down” and empty actually. I wonder if my “mood” is a reaction to the extravagance of the trip. And maybe in part because I was disappointed that I did not share my faith with anyone in Zimbabwe. I did have a conversation with a taxi driver about why Jesus came, but he seemed to already be firm in his faith.
I still do not really know why I am feeling this way. But, if feeling down causes me to pray more and read my Bible more and examine my heart more . . .
I will trust in the Lord – the One who has never forsaken those who seek Him.
Charlotte died yesterday (August 29, 2011). We brought her and Peaches to our home from the Newburgh Humane Society in July after Annie’s first grade year. She lived 18 very healthy and happy years.
Charlotte was a very sociable cat. That is a nice way of saying, she loved to meow – constantly. She was also very needy – She needed a lap to sit on – constantly.
This picture was taken, I think about a month ago. Rick, our brother in law adopted Charlotte when we were accepted to move to South Africa. He drove 6 hours to pick her up. Rick’s kindness and compassion in taking Charlotte will never be forgotten.
While in the US I heard a sermon entitled “Motivation and Mission.” I was encouraged to examine my motivation for sharing the Gospel. Do I encourage others to seek a relationship with Jesus because that is what I am supposed to do? Or are my words coming from my worship?
Isaiah (26:8b and 9a) writes, “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You.” Every time I read these scriptures I must search my heart and examine my daily walk. Do I have a deep yearning for God? Is making Him known the desire of my heart?
What will I say to someone today about Jesus? Will Jesus even be on my mind? When I spent time with Him this morning, was it just out of habit? Was it like a husband and wife sitting across the breakfast table from each other – each with their section of the newspaper – at times mentioning something they read? Maybe a quick mention of something that is needed to be brought home from the store. Or was it a deep conversation? As I read the Word, did I see God’s character, His care? Did I pour out my heart to Him or did I just read off a “grocery list” of needs to Him?
Today as God speaks to me through His Word – as Pastor Debruyn reminded me – as God “starts the conversation,” will I listen and respond to His Word with admiration and love? Will I see what a gracious privilege it is to hold a Bible in my hands that is in my language?
Will I have that sense of unworthiness as I am in His presence? Will I then be filled with worship, joy, gratitude as I am reminded that He has made me worthy – that because of Jesus’ death for me I am given His righteousness? And as I again ponder the love of God that He would send His Son, Jesus to die for my sin – will I overflow with such worship and joy that I cannot help but tell others?
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
(Spirit of God, Descent Upon My Heart by George Croly 1854)
Does the title bring back that scene from The Princess Bride? Regrettably, I can not remember what the man said after that. I wish I could recall his description of marriage.
Pastor Chris and I were discussing just that topic this morning. Marriage seems more complicated here than in the states. A couple cannot just get married. There is the large matter of the labola. A labola is an arranged payment between a groom and the bride’s family in exchange for their daughter. It seems that originally it was meant as a way for the families to build a relationship. The payment was traditionally made in cash or cattle by the groom. Labola is a way for the groom to say ‘thanks for raising a good daughter.’
The problem comes in when the groom has no means of raising the amount of money required by the bride’s parents. It also can seem to be a way of “buying” a woman and making her something he owns instead of a marriage partner to cherish. Labola has been blamed for the spread of HIV-AIDS. Since the husband might see the wife as a possession that has not pleased him, he feels free to have other wifes or “partners.” Sadly parents seem to prefer that their children commit adultery rather than bless a marriage without receiving the money.
None of the women I am studying the Bible with are technically married though they have lived with the same man for years and have children with him only. So, the dilemma. How is this remedied? There is just not excess money to pay the woman’s family. Should they live apart until the money is raised? What if the husband is not a believer and refuses to pay the money? Does she move out and take her children? Who will support these women?
I have been challenged to search the scriptures for answers. Does “marriage” require a ceremony? Does “marriage” require the blessing of the families?
Sitting here in my office – with freezing cold air coming from the doorway / colliding with the toasty warm sunshine pouring in the windows – my thoughts have gone to food!
The staple food here would have to be “Pop” and I have a scar on my hand from cooking the Zambian version. It is basically corn meal cooked until it is so thick it takes massive amounts of muscle to stir. If I never eat it again, I really will not mind.
So, what food am I craving at 10:00am? Before I tell you, let me explain that butternut squash is a vegetable that is in abundance here. And you can buy it already peeled and cut in chunks! We eat it roasted, baked, in soup, in stew, in muffins and well, I think that covers it. So, back to the recipe I wanted to give you. Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash. This will make your kitchen smell heavenly and oh my – the symphony on your taste buds!
Let me know what you think!!
Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)
Sprinkle with cilantro.