Category Archives: Beside Still Waters

Lessons learnt during my walk as a Christian

A Dark and scary place

The hours of the night blurred in the dark, the glow of hospital lights a faint beacon in the miasma of pain and nausea.

I couldn’t focus in the mists that swirled in this foreign place. Five nights I thought. Five nights of agony. It’s supposed to be over now, the procedure’s been done.

‘Lord,’ I cry soundlessly.

No answer.

Earlier I had thrown my toys, demanding my pain be attended to.

“It’s a ten,” I kept telling them. I couldn’t read their thoughts as they watched me, unmoving. At last a doctor. “You have to give me something for the pain. It’s a ten.”

He was more focused on telling off the nurse. “It’s a ten,” I told him again. “And if you aren’t going to give me anything to relieve it, then bring a bullet.”

That got his attention. But nothing helped. The pain drilled on. And on. The nausea overwhelmed. I asked for a bucket. The only way I could find some measure of relief was standing against the wall, my elbows resting on a high windowsill, my companion a bucket that boasted the scant evidence of a lunch I had tried to eat.

The misery continued. I had to refuse one of the pain meds because that was causing me to heave fruitlessly at the swill that mocked at me from the floor.

Where was my Lord, my Father, my God?

I was so knocked on my back by this physical attack that I really was not sure I would come back from it. I was more scared than I had ever been, sad beyond words, wandering in no man’s land, feeling utterly abandoned by God.

The future was as huge a wilderness as any tract of uninhabited land and I had no idea how I was going to live in it, what my Lord wanted from me, or for me. In all the dark places that I have been in my life I have always seen a shimmer of the path I am to follow, but not this time.

The pain finally abated, but not the nausea. That continued for another four days. Days in which the thought of food, let alone the sight or smell of it, had my stomach in total revolt.

How do you live the aftermath of a chronic attack? When you have looked death in the eye and not been able to stand and fight as I have done for 65 years? Too wracked by pain and nausea to want to live – where to from here?

Yet, in that barren desert, far in the distance I heard His whispers. I knew it would take faith such as I had never experienced to creep close to the place where I could hear the words of those whispers.

I found these words in my journal: I can’t walk this next part of my journey. If I am to do it, I need some answers and assurances that I am unlikely to get, knowing God as I do. It has to be by faith, blind faith. That’s all. *“Though the Fig tree may not blossom” kind of faith. And I don’t know if I have enough energy left for that. Maybe that is my answer? It is not energy that is needed, but simply resting in the knowledge that troubles will come, no amount of prayer or “right living” will keep them at bay.

The Lord is never silent for long, and one of those mornings as I opened my bible the marker was in 1 Samuel 2. I had not put the ribbon there. I hadn’t been in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, in fact anywhere before Psalms for many months. It is the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, of her need for a child, a need which the Lord finally met. Hannah then returns her son to the Lord, and she prays her release.

The first gem came in verse 1:

“I smile at my enemies,

Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”

No matter what the enemy does, how afflicted we are, how desperately lost and abandoned we may feel,  we are secure in Christ’s salvation. I wondered if I had really grasped that fact. I read on, and then came the big diamond, the rock of many carats:

“He will guard the feet of His saint,

but the wicked shall be silent in darkness

For by strength no man shall prevail.”

I had tried and failed to deal with my illness in my own strength. It is what I had always done. Brave, tough Glenda! So I got up, sick as I was in the face of amazed opposition from my son, and blurred off to do a job I was totally unfit for, and fell hard. In that falling I did exactly what I was trying to circumvent, causing great inconvenience to those who had to cover for me.

Are you seeing what I finally saw? The pride? The ‘Look at me! No matter how sick I am I will get up and do whatever’ kind of pride?

Oh the mortification of that realisation! Of my arrogance.

A couple of days later, the Lord answered my cries. I didn’t dare listen, I just allowed my hand to write as the Holy Spirit directed. It was a few days before I found the courage to read the words He had given me:

When are you going to stop fighting? Striving? For who knows what? When are you going to learn to simply rest, and be, in Me? You agitate for that which you can’t attain. I have it all, here, waiting for you and as much as you don’t want to hear this, you are not ready for any of it.

Yes, you went through a barrier, to a place beyond where you have ever been, and I had to cut your loose to go there. cut. You. loose. To confront you. to help you understand that “by strength no man shall prevail”. So what has until now, been platitude: in your weakness I am made strong, becomes reality. It changes, and morphs into faith I can use.

You saw all those books, pages, paragraphs, that was Me, showing you your destiny. You will write the words I have sealed within you. don’t ask, ‘what then?’ Write. Write as if your life depended on it. That is MY will.

Take each day at its own value. Do that which I ask of you. nothing more, nothing less.

I am God. I am your God. I will not leave you or forsake you. But I will demand your best for My service. That is love.”

Tough words. Words through which God showed me powerfully what it means to ‘rest’ in Him, a glimpse of the consequences should I not surrender my innate resistance to trust in His all-encompassing love.

I had a constricted bile duct in my liver, and had to have a stent put in to open it. The procedure could not be done here in Mbombela, so I was referred to a surgeon in Witbank. The stent was not permanent and had to be removed after six weeks, which meant I would have to return to Witbank on a Sunday, spend the night in order to be admitted first thing Monday morning.

This was the second flare up in my liver, and with all the blood tests and x-rays I have blown my Medical Aid allowance for laboratory, radiology, and consults. Now I would have to find the money for a night’s accommodation for me, and a friend, as I would need someone to drive me home after the stent removal which would be under another anaesthetic. More expense, money I really didn’t have.

So I prayed for the Lord to remove the stent, for His healing. It was my first tentative step towards trusting anew. I had been scheduled for a CT scan a few weeks after the procedure to check how my liver was healing. The surgeon called with the results, sounding somewhat puzzled. The scan looked good, he said, no swelling, no sign of stenosis, infection gone.

Just one little issue –they couldn’t see the stent!

Halleluia! My God reigns and He hears the prayers of His children and He had answered the prayer offered up in my newly refreshed state of faith and trust very clearly.

This happened a few months ago, in June. It has taken time for me to heal, to get back to a routine, and to understand that this is a new phase, a new season, in my journey with Jesus. One in which I look to Him first, consciously determined to include Him in all of my life. I don’t get it right every day, but He is patient and gracious and I am at peace in a way I have never been before.

I am learning to stop, and ask, and listen to what it is my Father is asking me to do. I am learning that faith is simple, if we don’t complicate it. Above all, I am learning to rest in Him, to take each day as it comes.

May the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost be with each of you.

*Habbakuk 3 v17

No to Abortion!

I was probably one of the last people to hear about the referendum on legalising abortion in Ireland. As a firm Christian I am opposed to abortion. I believe the bible, I stand on Psalm 139 where the voice of God states categorically in verse 13:

For You formed my inward parts:

You covered me in my mother’s womb.”

Again in verse 15:

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret,…”

To verse 16 “…Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.

And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there none of them.”

Couldn’t be clearer.

But just to be sure, let us turn to Jeremiah chapter 1. Verse 5:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;

Before you were born I sanctified you;…”

The argument has waxed since my school days, and I have never found myself compelled to get involved in it. I know what I believe, I tell it to whoever will listen, but it is not a cause I ever felt the need to champion.

Until last week.

Until I heard the harsh voice of some woman complaining that they were only allowing abortion up to twelve weeks. What? When did it go beyond twelve weeks? In fact, when did it get to twelve weeks?

I began to listen. I heard how Iceland has the lowest number of Downs children because they simply kill them off before they are born. I heard how many ‘poor’ women have to travel from Ireland each day to Britain to get rid of unwanted pregnancy – what a drag! So much easier if you could just pop down to the local chop out shop. Oh, no, it is now a tablet. Two tablets to be precise so marginally less barbaric than the old forceps routine. But infanticide nonetheless.

A number of years ago I was part of establishing a centre for the shelter and rehabilitation of abused women and children. Nowhere do you find more grounds for the advocacy of abortion than in such an institution. Young girls being forced to give birth to relative’s progeny after being hideously raped and abused. As horrid as that might be, worse was them being forced to keep the child, so the parents could use it to demand reparation.

For me, and for countless others who believe as I do, there are seldom real grounds for abortion, although those who advocate it always have examples to quote of hideous in utero deformities. I believe in a God who aches with every mother carrying a deformed baby, with every mother who may have to trade her life for her unborn child. I believe, too, that He weeps over every little body that is carelessly disposed of.

None of it is His will.

James Chapter 1: verses 16-17:

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Perversion and deformity belong to the other side, and unfortunately we are the prize that is being hard fought. The biggest win for Satan is when we blame God for his misdemeanours. And when we allow man to kill those formed in His image without any fear of retribution.

The bitter truth, however, is that the majority of pregnancies are terminated not because of deformity, or as a result of rape. They are the result of flagrant and irresponsible sexuality, people copulating without precaution, knowing they will not be brought to account for their actions. Instead of cautioning against the ever increasing immorality of modern lifestyles, we push the boundaries further, and further to accommodate ever increasing deviant behaviour. Why else would there be such an increase in the sex trade, children sold into prostitution, paedophilia infiltrating every corner of every nation. We can blame no one but ourselves – we have created this mess and instead of trying to stop it, we seek to relax laws to encourage it.

“After all,” said one of those strident voices, “this is 2018!” God help us!

Please do not tell me that a woman who has felt movement in her womb does not know that she is carrying a living organism, a life form that duplicates herself.

Speak to an honest doctor who has performed an abortion, they will tell you they do not feel good about removing a foetus. After all, their oath is to protect life, prolong it, not take it. Maybe that is why they pushed for a pill? A solution that allows them to sleep well at night.

One of the first managers at the centre was a midwife who I shall call D. As always the topic of abortion came up, and a number of the residents were unconvinced of our assertion that life began pre-conception as far as we were concerned, but certainly at conception if you were disinclined to accept the verse from Jeremiah. A few weeks later, D mentioned she had a special teaching that she wished to share with all of us, residents and staff alike.

I was quite surprised to see a projector set up, an air of grim expectancy on the faces of D and her husband.

She introduced the topic of abortion, and then handed over to the projector. The horror of the images that filled the screen that night will never leave me, and as I listened to the dissonant voices last week I wished I could broadcast them to the entire world.

It was one of the first x-ray films taken of life in utero, and it focussed on abortion. It showed the severe reaction of minute foetuses, as yet indistinguishable as human, recoiling and quivering in agony as they were torn to shreds by forceps. Our horror increased as we saw more procedures, performed later in pregnancies: arms ripped off, minute bodies wracked with pain as the brutality of the assault unfolded, graphically confirming that abortion is spelt M-U-R-D-E-R.

D would never tell us where she got the dvd. Why am I not surprised that it is kept under wraps – to broadcast it would be so inconvenient for those relishing their carefree lifestyle, quite apart from the income generated by the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

The horror I felt hearing the old arguments being touted took me back this time to that night of the dvd.

I worry about women rejoicing, believing they have the right to decide what they can and cannot do with their. Yes, that is true. But when you kill your child, it is not your body that is being damaged, it is the one you allowed to be conceived, and I cannot agree that you should have the right to take that life.

What I can agree to, is you accepting responsibility for your lifestyle, living in a manner that is compatible with decent choices, choices that do not lead to you doing something you may regret one day. Like murder a small hapless human being, momentarily hidden from sight, and conveniently relegated to the unliving.

God of Comfort

I have often found that people who claim the bible to be a collection of fables, a series of tall stories, or historical references that have little relevance today are generally those who have never read it.

When the call of the Lord on my life became such that I could no long ignore it back in 1979, the first thing I did was look for a bible I had been given a couple of years previously. I needed to find out about this God, who drew me with such insistence. I began reading, as advised by the good Samaritan who gave it to me on the flyleaf, the gospel of John, the book which contains more uplifting promises than any other. But as I read John, and then Luke, and some psalms, I found myself being drawn more and more to the old testament. I needed to know where Moses began and Noah ended. I needed to know about Abraham, I remembered who Isaac was but Jacob was a bit of a blur.

I am a voracious reader, able to read before I went to school and years of ingesting books have made me a speedy reader. I devour books. So was it such an impossible feat to read the bible as most people suggested? Certainly the nuns who had trained me at school seemed to think so. I’ve read novels thicker than this without any problems.

So I decided that if I was to understand how and where I fitted in this business of Christianity I would have to read The Book. All of it. My dearest second cousin, Margaret Leach, who had much to do with my conversion, had recommended a bible commentary: What the Bible is All About by What the Bible is All AboutHenrietta Mears. It is still available – I saw it in Cum books a few months back. So armed with Henrietta and my Good News Bible, I read both from cover to cover. It took me about six months. Since then I have re-read the bible twice in its entirety, once in the New International Version and once in the New King James Version.

The ‘begats’ are a challenge, but without plodding through them how would that great student of the Word, Bruce Wilkinson have stumbled upon The Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10, and taught such invaluable lessons from one tiny verse, and then followed that with teachings on the Fruit of the Vine, A Life Worth Living and more besides. Ah, Swaziland, one day you will answer for chasing this man of God and his vision away!

Where those ne’ersayers are possibly right is that it is impossible to take in all that is in this tome in one sitting, probably even in ten. The truths, the stories, the poetry, the ups and downs of the amazing love affair that God has with the pinnacle of His creation, Man, cannot be ingested in one, two or three read-throughs. It has to be a lifelong study, little bites each day, refreshing revisions of certain stories, or simple enjoyment of the poetry of love and of prophecy.

I recently read a book about a widow mourning the loss of her husband. It was achingly yearning in its description of her pain. Throughout I wondered when she might turn to a higher power for comfort. She didn’t, and grieves still. I sorrow for her, and for all who spurn God, determined to find their own way in this morass we call life. At least my grieving widow did not blame God for the loss of her spouse, as many do when catastrophe strikes.

That is another frequent debate generally preceded by the question: how can you believe in a loving God when you look at all the suffering in the world? How can He allow it?

I believe that He hates what happens to His children, I have no doubt that the broad carpenter strengthened shoulders of Jesus are frequently wracked with sobs as He watches His children mauled as forces of evil struggle for supremacy.

For I firmly believe in a spirit world, where good and evil are in constant opposition. That mighty man of wisdom and wealth, King Solomon, writes:

IMG_0586
The finger of God?

 

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11

The Bible tells us that God is Spirit, and He is truth. John 4:24. It also tells us that when the great confrontation took place in the heavenlies between the Father and Satan, He gave Satan dominion over the earth. For a limited time. A time I, and others like me, believe is close to its end. The signs are all there, politically, metaphysically, humanly.

Then God gave us free will – the choice to believe what we will. Being a sinless Deity He is unable to controvert or go back on his word. His protection can only cover us as far as we are willing to walk within its parameters. If we refuse His invitation, He will do nothing other than continue to reach out to us in the hope that one day we will accept His hand.

The cry of the Saviour when He walked this earth was, and still is: “Come to Me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Mathew 11:28. And Again: “….I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

This God is so moved by the plight of man that He made a way of escape for us. That way is Jesus Christ. John 3:

“16.For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten on, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

  1. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”

That is the power of Christ, He took the fall, endured the beating, the shame of the cross, so that we could walk freely into eternity. That this love is unconditional is told in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Onto verse 10

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Wow! I don’t know of any other religion where the deity worshipped reaches out to bring his followers to redemption, into communion with Himself. The opposite. The onus is on the follower to prove their worthiness, through diligent self-effort, with dire consequences should they fail. Or the questionable promise of a virgin or two should you blow yourself and a few others to smithereens.

My God is a God of comfort, whose heart contracts in pain each time one of His children is wounded, abused, or killed, and His constant call is: “Come, come now, come!”

One of my favourite scriptures is found in Romans 8. Paul ends this amazing chapter by saying:

“38: For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, no angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,

39: nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The words of the Psalmist, that Royal David, echo as strongly today as when they were written millennia ago:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,

Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the Wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me, though they saw My work.”

Psalm 95:7b-8

The love of the Father, of His Son Jesus, and of the Holy Counsellor, the Spirit who searches the hearts of men, is boundless. He invites you to come, just as you are. There are no conditions, no works, no words. Just come to Him, He will show you the next step.

Have courage, Walk in Integrity

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After the storm, an eagle soars…

 

Whenever the Lord starts giving me scriptures about trusting Him, it’s a sure-fire certainty that I am about to be tested in this area. The last two weeks seem to have lasted at least a month, but I rejoice that along with the testing come answers, and lessons that amaze in the simplicity of their revelation.

 

One of the hangovers of the victim mentality is a feeling of abandonment, and I am particularly susceptible to these negative emotions when I am tired. Of course the person who gets the blame at these times is God: where are You, why are You not helping me out here? Why no answers? Why must I always fight for everything? I am so tired, so very, very tired!

It was with sinking heart a couple of Fridays ago, after a particularly gruelling battle with bureaucracy, that I realised I was descending into this pit, one I had not been in for a long, long time and I really did not want to go there again, longing instead to be where God is, secure in the knowledge of His love. I battled with my thoughts all day, with the fear that threatened to overwhelm once more, the knowledge that while people seem to think I am strong, I really am extraordinarily weak. The feeble hands hung down, the loins remained un-girded as I silently did battle with my Maker.

Late that afternoon I stopped prevaricating, and sat down with Bible in hand, ready for a “session”! Oh how He must laugh at His children, when He is not in despair at our antics!

He led me to Jeremiah 10 v 6: Inasmuch as there is none like You, o Lord (You are great, and Your name is great in might). Like it or not, He is God, He can do as He pleases. A friend in Mozambique once said this to me when I questioned God’s role in events. At the time those words left me with a faint sense of indignation, although I could not argue with them. Now He was telling me the same thing Himself!

Thereafter I heard this insistent voice saying: “When are you going to leave things in My hands?”

This led to a fresh outburst, which was good in that for once I was able to answer honestly, instead of apportioning blame: Because I am scared, I am scared you won’t answer, I’m scared of the future, and I don’t want to be alone anymore.

The answer really is very simple: God is Lord. He does as He pleases and that is His prerogative. My part is to do as I am told, as long, of course, as I clearly hear the instruction. I am usually so busy off to sort everything out, I don’t hear His voice trailing into the distance behind me!

The next day, after a good night’s sleep I was better positioned to listen. The Lord led me to Deuteronomy 31 v 6: Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Old, well-known, comfortable and comforting words, but this day they leapt off the page at me with new meaning. God truly does go with me, I am the one who gives into fear. He knows that, so He says: “Don’t fear them, for they are impotent in My presence, they may not touch you! I go with you.”

The cross reference to this discussion is found in Psalm 27, another old favourite. “Though an army may encamp against me my heart shall not fear…” and again that injunction: …”wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;…”

It couldn’t be clearer. Or could it. My cell beeped with the tune indicating a message from my home group. it was Fi, with our daily lesson which this day came from Proverbs 4 v12: When you walk your steps will not be impeded, and if you run you will not stumble.” Not on ly did she send these words, but she then sent a prayer for us which began:

“If you don’t learn to thank God in advance, you won’t have the strength you need to wait for the promised.”

Day led into day. We had a dreadful storm, a tornado which ripped through our community, uprooting trees, destroying buildings, leaving us without electricity or water for almost a day. Funny how the Lord tests one’s resolve – I don’t like storms, and strong winds terrify me, but through this storm I was able to keep calm, even filming the gusting rain to send to my boys. Having to deal with the after effects, however, in addition to what seemed like pressure to perform in various aspects of my life on all sides, and pretty soon I felt as if I were in free-fall again.

A new set of questions: You say I must leave things in Your hands. You also say that I am Your hands, that I must be ready to act, to move, to have courage. How do I know when to move and when to wait? The anxiety began to mount once more. A sleepless night, a gnawing in the pit of stomach, a cry for help.

Somewhere along the line I ended up at Deuteronomy 8 v 1-10, again dealing with the need for courage, but telling of God’s presence through every difficulty, of His provision, of how we will suffer lack at times, but never for long. Another day I was impressed to turn to Psalm 37 where almost every question and concern I was struggling with is answered with amazing assurance, but also throughout the verses is the injunction to wait, be patient, wait on the Lord, be controlled, forsake anger, chose instead to trust Him who is able to do abundantly more than we can ever imagine.

I began to understand properly for the first time how worry can lead to wrong doing, but in trusting a door is opened for peace.

Ps 37 v 11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace”! When we allow ourselves to fully trust God, it induces humility – we are stating that we are powerless, He alone is able and worthy. If we can get to this place, this state of simple being, the reward is an abundance of peace, in which we are able to delight. Strong words, powerful promise!

Another lesson learnt, a step closer to my Lord, a walk in the fertile sunshine of my Father’s provision.

And so, as I face the questions that confront me, the choices placed before me, I know that I have to walk in my own integrity, regardless of the actions of those around me. I cannot treat others as they may treat me, I have to treat them as God directs, and above all, I need to guard my heart, so that no hint of resentment paves the way for a root of bitterness to grow from what sometimes seems grossly unfair.

Not Over Yet!

It really is ridiculous. I came back from a wonderful refreshing ten days in Mozambique, and then what happened? How did five weeks fly by, and I have not put pen to paper? When I have serious deadlines to meet?

As most of us do when we find ourselves in similar pickles, I have plenty of justification for the gap, but at the end of the day it comes down to me. Why did I allow people, events, other peoples’ tardiness to overturn my life and cause me to compromise my routine and deadlines? Many questions, one simple answer: old habits die hard.

For as much of my life as I can remember, I have felt responsible. This is largely the legacy of being an only child, left fatherless at a young age, believing I needed to take care of my distraught mother, widowed at the young age of 34. Rather than decreasing as I got older, this sense of being the buck, the one charged with taking care of everything, increased. And as is the manner of the such things, every stage of my life seemed to bring situations that ensured this sense became more and more entrenched.

Of course, how this comes across to others is not great. Overbearing is probably a kind way of putting it, while feeling stressed and unable to cope, lashing out at whoever comes too close.

I am trained in what used to be called Theophostic Prayer Ministry, now Transformation Prayer Ministry, which is a powerful method of bringing healing. One of the steps one takes as a facilitator in the process, is after counsellees have a revelation that exchanges the lies they have believed for the light of truth, is to go back and ‘test’ the emotion, test that the person really does have freedom in that area.

I believe God does that. He takes us through a process where He shows us the error of our ways. But He always comes back to check if we have learnt the lesson, if we’ve really got it. Sometimes He has to check a few times before He can let us go, give us the certificate, be sure we are not going to fall into that trap again.

Tied into this is the scripture so many love to quote from Luke 4:13: “and he left Him, for a while”. The New King James Version says “until an opportune time”, which is also translated as a testing time.

I think that is where I have been the past few weeks.

Thankfully, I have learnt enough to know that when I am in trouble, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, I need to seek Him, seek my God’s wisdom and guidance and I praise Him for He is faithful who carries us!

This morning I woke up with a wonderful feeling of release, that freedom from oppression, understanding once more that I can only be responsible for that which falls under my brief. Equally those around me are responsible for what is theirs. If we are tied into a venture together, we will stand or fall – either way only my share of the load will be accounted to me.

What a relief!

Back to the journey, to the walk Beside Still Waters. Yes, I said I had come to a place of healing, and it seemed I had come to the end of this series of blogs. I have not. There are three more issues that need to be addressed, and I will work on these over the next three weeks.

Meanwhile it is impressed on me once more that our journey on this planet is never over. As much as God’s mercies are new every morning, so are the lessons to be learned, the experiences to be had, the friendships to be developed, until that day when the promise of the heavenly Jerusalem comes to pass.

 

 

The Healed Place

Just when you possibly all thought I had disappeared for good, here I am, back again, after a wonderful break in my old haunt in Mozambique.

The last time I visited the beach two years ago was too soon after the death of my husband for it to have had any therapeutic value, which sounds obverse for some reason. It should have been exactly the right place to go for that healing process. But somehow it was all too raw.

I searched for the Lord, for a way out of the pain, the fear, the bitterness at how my sons, and yes, me, were treated, how we were cut off and discarded as though we had never existed. There was an intensity to my desperation that no amount of sea, sky and beauty could salve. Thank God for loving friends who were patient and forgiving.

I came away from there feeling discouraged and adrift.

When John died, friends who had been widowed told me not to make any decisions for at least a year. I did listen, although not really believing there was anything wrong with me or my decision making processes. Looking back, I see that I was in a pretty bleak, dark hole, and while I might have thought I was functioning quite well and normally, my writing from those months assures me I was not!

Fairly soon after I returned from that unhappy week in Mozambique, I cried out to the Lord. “Is this it? What is to become of me?”

As usual the Lord’s answer was prompt: “Bloom where you are planted.”

Obviously I had more to learn. And those lessons needed to be learned amongst my people, my friends and my family. As if to make sure I didn’t stray from my allotted path, I suddenly became fearful of driving to Mozambique. Much as I yearned for the beach, the thought of making a journey I had taken so many times, almost always alone, overwhelmed me with fear.

Then a couple of months ago, my neighbours mentioned they were going to Praia do Chizavane. Ah! This was my chance. I could go with them and not have to drive. They happily agreed to give me a lift.

And then their dates changed. The new dates were no good for me. Or for my hosts in Mozambique. I knew this was from the Lord, that it was time and I needed to drive myself to Chizavane, to the beach. I was a little anxious, not only of the drive but of confronting my issues, such as remained. Of relationships strained and needing to be restored.

There is something about this particular piece of paradise on the Mozambique coast that creates an atmosphere of healing. It is interesting how many souls turn up, either at the resort of Nascer do Sol, or at the houses of Moya Moya next door, who are in need of a touch, a supportive shoulder, an ear that listens.

Within the hour of my arriving, my friend Erma said, “I hope you don’t think you are here to rest, there are people needing help here this week and we need to be ready! It is not by chance that you are here at this time.”

Oh what joy, what confirmation from the Lord that I was exactly where He wanted me to be.

I laughed, for when was it ever any different? How can anyone who has been blessed and nurtured so abundantly of the Lord not be used of Him to minister to other souls in distress? And that, my friends, is the reward at the end of the journey to healing. Yes, many of those steps might have been painful, there were times when I wondered if I would survive the pain, but I did. Not only did I survive, but I came through it stronger, more loving and understanding I hope, and with an excitement about helping others in their quest to find that place of peace and serenity beside still waters.

I realised that at last I have peace, a calm sense of joy that is so reassuring. It was fabulous visiting my old haunts, saying hello to kingfishers and minute reef dwellers, allowing myself to be embraced once more by the hugeness of that landscape. The importance of catching up with old friends, and renewing those friendships that are impossible to maintain by WhatsApp, or email, or even the odd phone call once more became so apparent to me, as we talked and laughed, or were just companionably silent together.

On my last day I walked west instead of east as I usually do along the beach. The familiar peace and wonder filled me. I looked at a section of the reef, and pools, that I had not seen for years, and it was refreshing. I needed to swim, to be submerged into that water, warm for May, to be released in a final cleansing baptism of healing.

Still Water, Cleansing Waters
Still Waters, Cleansing Waters

I drove home in convoy with the van Vurens to Maputo, and then we parted. As I contended with the traffic of Matola, and finally got onto the open road to Goba border post, I realised that my confidence had returned, the fear was gone.

I have gone through the valley of death, with my Lord alongside every moment, when the time was right, and the road was now straight, He had led me to still waters, beside which I found healing.

 

 

 

 

 

A Last Word on Idols

A large part of repentance is making right the wrong you have done. I think that at times this making good is so horrific that it serves to entrench the lesson! Our God knows us so well.

I soon realised that, as part of this process of dissembling my idols, I would have to apologise to my husband and ask his forgiveness. We place heavy burdens on those we put into positions of prominence because we expect them to live up to our desires, to be the answers we seek. My husband was someone who was emotionally dissociated. He simply did not see things the way I saw them and so he felt no need to behave in any other manner to the way he did. The rights or wrongs of that were not for me to judge – I had to hand that over to the Lord.

The long drive back to Swaziland each month from the beach in Mozambique provided great opportunities for some of my most productive conversations with my heavenly Father. On one such journey, He helped me see that I had made demands on John that he was unable to meet. I wanted a warm, loving relationship where each partner was concerned about the other. In Paul’s discourse on marriage and the roles of husbands and wives, verse 28: “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” I believe marriage is a partnership, with total disclosure, unity and consideration. John did not and refused to even entertain the idea of a partnership.

I finally understood that this was something that I could not accept. As a Christian everything in our marriage flouted the conventions of my belief. Not only that, but I needed to feel loved and cared for, that is who I am. I love hugging and being hugged, I love being included in the lives of those close to me, nurturing and being nurtured. Fair enough, you say, so what did you have to apologise for?

This is where it gets a little complicated, so bear with me. I had to apologise because I had made demands on him that he was unable to meet, and then I held him accountable for that inability, insisting he should be the person I needed him to be. In so doing, I had placed as much strain on him as he on me. I had to release him, to acknowledge that he was who he was, and ask his forgiveness for demanding that he change. I also understood finally, that whilst I loved him, I could not live in a relationship that didn’t offer me what I needed, and that was ok. The massive relief of finally acknowledging that, and being able to walk free of the consuming guilt and condemnation I had felt for so long, for simply wanting to be loved and accepted is indescribable.

People I have shared this have come back at me, as I am sure many of you will too, with the question: “So what about him? His apology?”

It would be nice, I have to admit, if that had been forthcoming. But that was not the deal the Father had struck with me. I needed to be obedient. What John did or didn’t do with that was inconsequential. Was that easy? No way! It was tough, and I fought many emotions, cried many hot tears as I wrangled with this. But deep down I knew I really had no choice. If I was serious about getting my life into sync with God, I had to respect His need for obedience, and if that comes with sacrifice, so be it. Whatever we give up for Him, He will reward in ways we cannot envisage.

What I haven’t yet told you is at some point during this time that I was wrestling with the concept of idols, our house that I was living in at the beach burnt down. Completely. Razed to the ground in a cruel act of burning rage, taking with it almost everything I treasured. I tried valiantly to put it out, but it was a wooden house with a thatch roof and there was a stiff breeze blowing off the sea that evening. Instead of rescuing my possessions, I tried to put out the fire. By the time I realised I was fighting a losing battle, the heat was too great for me to get inside. I had no choice but to walk away.

In those moments of numb despair, as I looked at my life going up in flames before my eyes, I heard the voice of the Lord quietly whispering, “Now you will learn what it means to trust Me.”

Image062
Refiner’s Fire or the enemy at work?

 

 

I found myself wondering what else I was unwilling to relinquish – was there something in the house, another idol, that would have caused me to fall, that God allowed everything to be consumed? Was what I had written so far that awful? I had said to a dear friend the previous week that it was so dry and boring I couldn’t bear it – maybe God couldn’t either! Or maybe He was simply obliterating the past, making a way for the future.

Foolishly, I thought that fire was the culmination of my discipline, my learning curve in the Lord. How little we truly know of desire our Father’s heart, to bring us as close to Him as is humanly possible. In retrospect, that night was the beginning of a stripping away that at times made me feel as if I was being flayed as my Saviour was that awful day two thousand odd years ago, great strips of flesh being peeled away.

I have frequently said to friends that it has been a journey that I would not wish on my worst enemy, but I would not have missed one step of it, because of where it has brought me in relation to my Lord.

Hebrews 12 vv7, 8:

But if you are without chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then are illegitimate and not sons.

We want all the benefits and blessings of God, especially in this day and age of the quick fix, the prosperity gospel, the bless me clubs that many of our churches have become. But we claim these as illegitimate children if we are not prepared to bow our will to the Father’s.

Job 5 vv 17-21

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty

For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.

He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.

In famine He shall redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword.

You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.

Why did God allow it? I never asked. After all, He is God, and as my friend Zoe always says, “He can do what He likes”.

Be blessed this week, in Him.

Steps Remain
Out of the ashes will rise the Phoenix! Praise the Lord!

Those Insidious False Gods!

After that golden morning on the beach, when the Lord decided I had had enough cossetting and now needed to take the next step of my journey to healing and maturity, everything seemed to slow down as I wrestled with the truth of what I felt He was saying to me.

Every passage I read, every verse, mentioned the word ‘idol’, so I was in no doubt that what I had heard Him say was right. But it was going to take time and effort to unpack exactly what the Lord meant. I also had to figure out how it had happened, if I was to truly exorcise this sin from my life.

Whenever I am seeking clarity I revert to the dictionary. The definitions of idol, idolatry, idolize were pretty much as I expected:

image of deity used as object of worship; false god; person or thing that is the object of excessive devotion; false mental conception

except for the last two.

I had to ask myself some searching questions: did I lavish excessive devotion on my husband? My sons? My situation? My status as a victim?

This brought me to the meaning of ‘devotion’. If it meant the amount of time and energy spent thinking about them, doing what all I felt I needed in order to get them and me to where I wanted us to be, then yes, excessive was the right word, and so was devotion, because I was involved with them pretty much all my waking hours. There were few minutes in each day when I did not think about my husband, our relationship, the effects on my sons, my desperation over all of it.

Every thought, every action, reaction, was filtered through my pain, and through my ignorance of my standing in Christ. I felt that sinking feeling as I began to see my life through the Father’s eyes, measured it against the standard of Christ’s perfection and realised that I came up desperately short.

So how did I set about unfurling this idolatrous heart of mine?

I had no choice but to trust the Lord to take me through this. Two verses wormed their way into my life, as they tend to when the Holy Spirit is at work:

Psalms 139v23 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties.

And

Philippians 4 vv6,7: be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Do you know what a relief it was to be be able to confess how scared I was? That indeed I was filled with anxiety, and its cousins, anger and resentment. I realised I was scared to let go of these emotions because if I did, maybe I would never be avenged, there would be no retribution, and I would have lost the battle I had been fighting for almost half my life.

While much of my anger was justified, and the hurt was real, it is what I did with them that mattered. Time and again I had read the scriptures on anger, not to sin as a result of it, not to let the sun go down on it, and I had really tried to be obedient to those scriptures. But we often bury instead of release, and think we have dealt with the sin. And so we come to resentment, that bitter root that we are warned about in Hebrews 12v15

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.

I felt myself wince as I read this with new understanding. How many had been defiled by the bitterness in my soul?

How had this come about? I found the answer in Deuteronomy 29v18. The Lord is warning the Israelites about the foreign gods in the promised land:

So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood

It couldn’t be clearer. If we serve foreign gods, we run the risk of becoming bitter and miserable.

I want to say here, that throughout this time, the Lord dealt so gently with me. He was teaching me a tough lesson in a loving way – you know when the Lord is in control when there is no feeling of condemnation, simply a desire to be rid of anything that separates us from our Father.

Anxieties. I had many of them and one of the biggest was money, particularly the shortage of it. Because it was used to control me, money took on greater significance than it should have. If I was going to be secure financially, I would have to make sure I earned enough. And if I did, and he found out that I had a source of income, he would make sure he fleeced me of it. So I lived a double life, actually, I lived a number of double lives, having to be dishonest, and always afraid of being caught.

When I had to make up shortfalls, or pay my share of holidays, whatever ploy was invoked, it would entrench the lies into my psyche:

You cannot make it on your own, you don’t understand how money works, you will never make enough.

Our situations may be different, but the message is the same. YOU CANNOT cope without me! Over time we begin to believe the lie.

I still have anger, deep seated and unrecognised. I still have to take a stand against my anxieties, my fears for the future. These manifest when I least expect them to, but when they do I thank my Father because I know how to deal with them, to hand over to Him, recognise that He is the best custodian of all my fears, anxieties, shortcomings, but most of all He has my future in His hands, and I can trust Him with it.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Through all the years of turmoil in my life I was quite confident that I trusted the Lord. I was a committed Christian who had read the bible through from cover to cover a couple of times, quite apart from daily readings, bible studies and the like. I knew scripture. Beware of what you think you know!

The problem in my life had to be me – it patently could not be God. Because I was defective, He was unable to help me. I wasn’t good enough, I had to work harder at being better, different. I had a friend who always used to say: ”If you want things to change, you must change you first.” Yes. And no!

Of course I had melt downs along the way, when too many things going wrong got on top of me. At these times I always railed at God, pointing out how I trusted Him in vain; everyone else’s prayers were answered, never mine. I would lose hope, call it “stupid hope” because it was in vain. He would never come through for me.

I always picked myself up again, and soldiered on, because without faith, without God, and yes, that blessed wavering hope, there really is only bleak despair.

By now I had started working through my journals, because one of the books I was going to write would deal with the issue of non-violent abuse. I seriously believed I would be able to write this book with humour, that it would not be a litany of wrongs perpetrated against me, couched in diplomatic terms. I journal pretty much every day, and had books going back a number of years. I was stunned at the repetitiveness of my observations, my ongoing pain, the lack of any resolution or progress. I hate to admit there was a fair bit of whingeing too.

Yes, there were victories along the way, but they were minute in the scale of the problems and issues I faced. I realised that I had lived on a pendulum of despair and hope for most of my life. So where to now?

The sun cuts through the crisp dawn, the beach glistens like antique gold
The sun cuts through the crisp dawn, the beach glistens like antique gold

 

One glorious morning, when the sun was directing golden rays through the crisp winter dawn, and the beach was glistening with magical mystery, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper softly, “Trust me.”

Trust. That stopped me in my tracks. I knew innately my answer to this request was critical. Trust. The toughest thing in all the world. Trusting, when trust has been violated over and over again. How on earth do you trust? No, not today, Lord. Another day, let me just enjoy this time a little longer.

But I was in too deep. I had invited the Lord to search my heart, given Him permission and He was taking me at my word. This was it, the time had come when I needed to commit my all to Him, no matter how hard or how painful.

I started by tentatively asking the Lord to make my ears sensitive to His voice. I wanted to be absolutely sure the voice I heard was His, and not the other fellow. I began praying this scripture from Isaiah 30v21:

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying: “This is the way, walk in it”

Whenever you turn to the right handOr whenever you turn to the left.

There were three main issues that came out of these conversations, and each one rocked me back on my heels. The first was the issue of my idols.

Of course I was aware of idols: make sure you don’t get hung up on money or possessions, beware of philosophies that don’t line up with the teachings of the bible, horoscopes and the like, becareful of artefacts and art in your home and had been careful to observe all these. But what the Lord revealed to me here seemed to come from way out of left field: Are you willing to give up your husband and your sons?

Pardon?

You have made an idol of your husband – are you willing to give him up?

No, now hang on Lord, he’s part of the problem, he’s not an idol.

Are you sure? Then why are your thoughts almost exclusively centred on him? Why does concern over him, his welfare consume you?

And then the big one: why do you believe you are responsible for him? His salvation?

But, Lord, I am, aren’t I, quiet and gentle spirit, win him without a word, no divorce, believing spouse sticking around, it’s all here, in Your word?

What about the part that says I alone draw the hearts? If you are responsible for his spiritual state, why did I die for him? Or you? Or anyone?

I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable as these questions began to simmer through my thoughts. Do you see the deception of the enemy? I had become so hooked up on sorting out my marriage, the emphasis being on me sorting out my marriage, that I had almost made the Lord a spectator. I was not only fighting the injustices in my life, I was fighting God, who was desperately trying to fight for me, if I would only let Him IN!

I also realised that I was looking to John to meet my needs, he was my everything, his salvation would be my final sufficiency. The Holy Spirit began leading to me to a number of verses:

 

Psalms 146v3: Do not put your trust in princes nor in a son of man in whom there is no help

Psalms 118vv8,9: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man

                                 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes

Prov 28v26: He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered

 

I was making John, and to a lesser extent my sons, responsible for my happiness, my peace of mind, my conscience. Aha, now that was an interesting one – the old blame game of the enemy. It was my fault none of them were walking with the Lord, so if they just suddenly miraculously became wonderful men of God, somehow I would be justified and set free, from what all I am not quite sure. What a burden I placed on them, very similar to the burden that ancient tribe placed on their golden calves, and equally fruitless.

What a mess we get ourselves into when we walk according to the dictates of our hearts, look to our own understanding, and do not seek the wisdom of God. My problems had become so big that God was obscured somewhere in the midst of them, and to an extent He had become the enemy!

I had to repent. It took time to unravel all this piece by piece, surrender it, ask for forgiveness and cleansing, and to be filled with more of His Holy Spirit so that His truth became my reality, not the lies of the enemy.

The Real Meaning?

Words are living, with a creative power that can work for good or bad. God spoke the world into being. The Word of God is living, according to Paul in Hebrews 4;12, as I am sure many of us can attest as we mull over things that have been said, frequently enhancing them until we have interpreted them to suit our emotions and needs. So many fights and wars have started because clear unequivocal communication is hard.

I lived in a world where the words that were spoken at me, to me and over me, were uttered with an intention contrary to their literal meaning. I had to learn to discern their true intimation, and react accordingly. For my husband, it was a game, and like all games there were rules. if I broke the rules, there would be retribution designed to make sure I thought twice before doing so again.

I realised one day that making me lose my temper was a big win, so I would be needled and provoked until I reacted. I have a temper. I don’t like losing it because it is an exhausting explosion of negative energy that does no good to anyone, least of all me. Someone described losing one’s rag being like dropping a can of paint – a lot of people get splashed.

So I would try really hard to contain my anger, but he was a well-seasoned veteran in the art of goading, and I was no match. The point would come when I would crack and start yelling. I would end up feeling awful, frequently in tears, he would be smiling smugly at having won, my children and staff walking around me on tiptoe.

Until I found what has become an important foundational scripture.

Proverbs 4:23: ‘Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.’ NKJV

The amplified Bible says: ‘keep and guard your heart with all vigilance, and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.’

NIV: ‘Above all guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.’

In other words choose wisely what you allow to penetrate your heart, make sure it is truth and that it edifies. It is our choice to accept or reject the things that are said to us. Reject lies and falsehoods, particularly those that demean you and attack the very essence of who you are. If our hearts are tainted with skewed truth, our lives reflect this. Easier said than done, but going back to these words over and over again really helped me to sift out much of what was said. It just wasn’t enough.

I am a bit slow on the uptake but when it dawned on me that this was a deliberate ploy, a move in a contorted game, I decided, come what may I would not to take the bait. I closed myself off and allowed the jibes to pass over my head, countering with remarks like “can I get you a drink?” “how was your day?” and so on. It felt good because for once I was in control. But it annoyed my partner to the extent that he did not speak to me for three weeks! I’d spoilt the game.

That was small potatoes. The biggest lie levelled at me consistently over the years was that I was insane. If ever I tried to react to some irrational accusation, that I was always responsible for, the tirade would begin: “You’re mad! Paranoid, you are totally irrational. Off your head! You should be on medication. You need help.” In later years I became bi-polar, probably needing to be on Lithium.

What was actually meant by all this was: you don’t matter, you scarcely exist; I don’t have to answer to you. I certainly don’t have to honour any promise I may make to you.

Stop and think about this for a moment. How do we regard the insane? If they are not institutionalised, we disregard them, write off what they are saying as insignificant because it is part of their malaise, the mentally unstable are non-people in a way.

When I wasn’t mad, I was a depressive. I got to a place where I eventually allowed myself to be put on medication. I was so demoralised and filled with fear, that I was having panic attacks. I think I lasted a year on the fad drug of that time, Cipromil. It was awful – I was wandering around in a state of recumbent docility.

“You are a depressive that is why you are so difficult to live with. It makes my life easier when you are on medication!” Yeah, right, because I was zonked out, any drive and energy sublimated under the effects of emotion deadening narcotics

There is a film called ‘The Stepford Wives’, where men working together in some large company drugged their wives into submission. They were like robots, smiling and obedient and pretty much brain dead. I was adamant I would never be a Stepford wife!

Through all this did I behave irrationally. Darn sure I did, any sane person would. How do you cope when any normal relational issue that needs to be discussed and resolved is met with blunt refusal because you are crazy? How do you manage in a world where you don’t really exist? This sobriquet is amongst the cruellest there is – how do you cast off that cloak? Those taunting voices, that quiet confidential voice that would say confidingly, “Well you know she is a depressive and she won’t take anything for it.” My husband’s remedy for everything was a mood elevator and a sleeping pill.

I often felt that I was living in a vacuum, shaped like a bubble, transparent but opaquely thick. I would be talking and people would see me, but not react in any way. My lips would be moving, I could hear my voice, but others would not hear what I was saying. He had effectively silenced me, people genuinely did not hear much of what I said, so suggestions I gave went unheeded, while the same suggestion from someone else would be accepted, pleas for help ignored. I retreated further and further into a lonely cell located somewhere close to hell, desperate and isolated. When I ventured out I was prickly with defence, loud and repetitive as one is when no one listens to you, aggressive and defensive.

I had a lot to unpack those first months at the beach. I had to figure out what was truth, what was lie, what was reality, what was hope. But my journey had begun, and that was good and it was positive.

One of the first verses that was given to me in those early days of freedom is found in Psalm 18v19:

“He also brought me out into a broad place;

He delivered me because He delighted in me.”

I couldn’t stop reading this verse. God Himself delighted in me! this person who no-one wanted to be near, according to all I had been told, this reject, this crazy woman! But God had brought me out, and He delighted in me. God is so good and gentle. He gives us the encouragement that we need, the strength of His succour so that we are armed to face the fight, to take those steps into His light. Because He knew that as much as I needed His healing, He needed my repentance in order to bring it about.