Category Archives: bible

Surprise!

Yes, I am still here. Still kicking. Dana and Cynthia, your last two comments made me laugh. I know I have been terribly slack and I do deserve to be fired from my blog.¬† ūüôā So…where does one begin after such a long absence? I suppose I can’t recap and fill in all those missing months but I can start with today.

Ahhh…today. Today was a crazy, up-and-down, emotional, busy day. First of all, I am hormonal.¬† That in itself should tell you a lot. Secondly, it is the second week of school and I have forgotten what a time-consuming, draining, demanding job this is. If you want to do it well, that is. And I want to accomplish so much this year.¬† I am already feeling somewhat stressed and overwhelmed.

Thirdly,¬† I have been plagued by the same weariness that has dogged me this year, spiritually speaking. (Which probably accounts a bit for the few-and-far-between blog entries. My words tend to dry up when I go through a tough time.) Oh, I have felt the presence of Jesus, and I have seen precious truths in his word, but that fresh “first-love” thing where Jesus was the adoring focus of my every thought, has faded into something more commonplace and mundane and familiar. I have to guard against “going through the motions”, like that song says. Sometimes I feel old and jaded spiritually.¬†I have seen much, and my innocence has been lost, and it is hard to maintain that child-like wonder and naivety that I once had.

Back to today. Today, in a spurt of energy after being sick for two days, I tried to bring some order into this badly neglected house. I worked hard, y’all, but at the end of the afternoon, it became clear to me that I had hardly made a dent in my list of things that need attention around here. I so wanted to keep my momentum and carry on working, but Friday nights are church nights for us. I called hubby and told him I didn’t want to go to church. I wanted to get things done around here and besides, I am weary. I am weary of being dry and jaded and…weary. I knew I had no choice but to go though, since I have the car and hubby needed me to get him from work and take him to church.

We sang this song during worship: “You stretch your arms out wide, I lift my hands up high, to my Saviour…”, when¬†Jesus met me. ¬†I took the words to heart and realized again that his arms are always outstretched to meet me. And all I need to do is reach mine up, like my little girly used to do, and let him pull me into his embrace, where all struggle and strife ceases. ¬†As I worshipped, Jesus gently chided me for spouting off fancy words about his goodness and his mercy and his heart that overflows with a desire to redeem us to the uttermost, and yet¬†not believing them for¬†my own life. (I have started writing my book, guess what the first chapter is about?)

He actually asked me: “Why all the angst? Am I your Saviour or not? Do you believe my good intentions for you or not? If you do, why not lift your arms to me and I will pick you up and carry you. Chill out a bit.” And he invited me to dance with him. So I stepped away from my microphone and got off the stage and danced with my God.

His sweet presence hasn’t left me. He sat next to me as I listened to my pastor preach, he is with me now as I type this.

I am tired of religion. I am tired of going through the motions. I am tired of trying and failing and seeing my flesh prevail too many times and of beating myself up for it.

I will never be tired of being with my Jesus, and of baring my soul before him. He is the sweetest person I know. He is life, and in his presence there is joy forevermore.

All I want

I have had a rough week. Or two. I cannot quite put my finger on one single reason why, but I reckon it has something to do with back-to-school craziness and adjusting to teaching again. There are lots of changes around here but I don’t feel like writing about them now. They are nothing serious, but it always takes time to get used to doing new things in new ways. Add a good dose of the old hormones to the mix, and you get a pretty emotional Sumi.

I am not typically given to mood swings, but my emotions have certainly been running the gamut here. Loneliness. Anger. Melancholy. Frustration. Depression. Missing Jenna. Being weepy for no discernable reason at all. I do think that as I approach my mid forties those hormones are stepping up a bit. So I am not taking my current state of mind seriously. I realise it is transcient and I will be myself again very soon.

I found it hard to enter into worship at church tonight though. I have made several faux pas this week, blurted out something that I shouldn’t have, lost my cool with a rude driver in a really over-the-top way (with my kids as witnesses), nursed anger towards my hubby for not being here more, struggled to find my stride in a new class I am teaching at school. My house is a wreck, our family is in desperate need for a better routine, I am not getting around to everything that demands my time. To top it all, I have not been yoked with Jesus and drawing on my relationship with God to see me through. I have been (moodily) going it alone. And failing desperately.

I arrived too late at church to secure my regular spot on the worship team. We have been missing a microphone ever since a concert we had at the church two weeks ago, and there are only three mics for four singers. Until we can get the situation rectified, the one who arrives last misses out, or has to share a mic with another singer. I decided not to share tonight, but to worship off the stage where I could fling my arms out wide and sing freely without the constraints of being a part of the team.

As always, I could feel Jesus tugging at my heart and wooing me to enter into that place of intimate worship with him. But I felt too sullied, too broken, too useless to give in to that tender call. What could Jesus possibly want from miserable old me? Someone who keeps failing at the same old things, over and over and over again? I told him such. I told him that all I could give him was this pitifully weak and unfaithful heart of mine.

He whispered back:

It’s all I want.

When you’re weary…

My dad always tells the story of the guy who got a flat tire¬†on a lonely highway. Far in the distance, he could make out the lights of a farm house. He set off across the fields to go and borrow a jack from the farmer, and as he¬†plodded on¬†he rehearsed in his head¬†how he would ask the farmer for this. He realised it was quite late in the evening. The farmer probably wouldn’t take kindly to being¬†disturbed. ¬†These farm folk are quite set in their ways and the farmer probably wouldn’t even open the door to him, never mind lend him a jack.¬†By the time the man reached the front door of the farm house, he was fuming. When the farmer opened the door the stranded man shouted one sentence to him: “You can just take your jack and shove it, then!” and stormed off.

LOL! I can so be like that man! I have always had this propensity for painting scenarios in my head before anything actually comes to pass. I did not get stranded on a lonely road, nor did I need to ask anyone for help, but the last week or so I had tried to figure out the next valley that I thought God was bringing me to, and tried to see the good in it.

I had, what I thought, (and a nurse friend agreed) were swollen lymph glands. Then, last week I noticed an unmistakeable lump in my side. ¬†I’ve been feeling tired lately. Full of tiny, unexplainable aches and pains.¬† OKKKK…I thought, so my next test would be a real battle for my health. I envisioned myself losing my hair…getting painfully thin…watching my kids and my hubby worry about me…blah blah blah. I know that God doesn’t delight in afflicting his children and that everything he does is redemptive,¬†so I was trying really hard to keep my chin up and trust him, in whatever he does and wherever he leads me. I know everything works together for those who love him and who are called according to his purposes.

But I was scared. I was in a mental battle.  And in the midst of this niggling worry, I hit a real low emotionally.

I went to the doctor today. The “swollen lymph glands” are actually just knots in the muscles around my spine. The lump is a simple fatty deposit thingy. The aches and pains are probably just the beginnings of¬† arthritis, and I am really very well.¬† Talk about getting myself worked up over nothing!

The emotional low lingers though. As I left the doctor’s office, mentally exhausted and deep in thought, a lamp post jumped into the parking lot right in front of me and ding-ed my car badly. Sigh.

I am just a bit out of sorts and find myself missing Jenna and bursting into tears at odd moments.¬† I guess I should take the advice I wrote to a bloggy friend yesterday: We all get weary and feel tapped dry sometimes. Even Jesus got weary and had to sit down to rest. When he did though, he sat on a well. I need to go and sit on the well of God’s living water and allow¬†his sweet presence¬†to wash over me and restore my vision. Everything I need is in Jesus.

In his presence is fullness of joy.

Isa 41:17-18When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none; their tongue fails for thirst, I Jehovah will hear them, I the God of Israel will not leave them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

Not MY God

I happened to be in the company of a few dear ladies recently who started a discussion on a certain bible passage. I was kind of zoned out at the time because I had been running around like crazy, not taking the time to eat properly.¬†It was a conversation that didn’t sit well with me, yet in my low blood sugar induced, mentally challenged state at the time I was unable to formulate a reply. This bothered me a little, since I want to be “instant in season and out of season”, and able to give a¬†reason to those who would ask me¬†about the hope I have within me.

Tonight, as I told hubby about it,¬†the words that had eluded me at the time, came (sort of).¬†I am often at my most eloquent when talking to the hubby-man, because he is such a willing listener. Plus, I monologue well. ūüôā The only other time when I¬†consider myself¬†really eloquent is when I make great speeches in my head during those twilight moments before I drop off to sleep. They always seem profound at the time but since I never write them down, and since I cannot judge fairly in my sleepy haze, I cannot be sure. ūüôā

Anyhoo…one of the ladies had recently watched a sermon on being lukewarm that moved her greatly. With great passion,¬† she described how the bible teacher in the video expounded on Revelation 3, you know, the¬†passage that talks about the far too comfortable Laodicean church who thinks it is in need of nothing, but is in fact “poor, miserable, wretched, blind and naked”. The bible teacher mentioned that God tells the Laodiceans that because they are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, that he would spit (or vomit) them out of his mouth. He told his congregation that he fears that many of those listening will be going to hell because they are lukewarm, and comfortable that way, and encouraged them to return to their first love.

I know what I am about to say will fly in the face of popular theology. Bear with me, and read until the end if you can. I’m trying to make a point, and I might fail.¬† But I know what is in my heart and it is worthwhile to me to try and express it. So, have mercy.¬†Please.

First of all, there was much in the video that was true and challenging, and I have to give the preacher his props. His zeal for God is challenging and inspiring. Still, any discussion like the one above makes my heart sink into my shoes. I want to say to people who hold to  this theology: Not MY God.  I want to rise up and defend the character of my God, whom I know to be the kindest, most long-suffering, most redemptive person there is. Frankly, the idea that He is so fickle that he would spit/vomit out and condemn anyone to hell simply because they are lukewarm turns him into the kind of stern, severe and exacting person that I struggle to be around.  

But it is IN THE BIBLE, you say. I hear you.¬†I am a bible girl through and through. I love God’s word and I believe it¬†is¬†unerring,¬†divinely inspired, and a source of life to those who would lay its words up into their hearts. ¬†And I believe that there is such a place as hell, because God’s word tells us so.

So, let me explain.

Long ago, when I was a young christian, Revelation 3 used to strike fear into my heart, because I knew that there was always room for improvement when it came to how “on fire” I was for Jesus. Now, however, it is one of my favorite passages in the bible, because it contains one of the most tender calls for intimacy from the own mouth of God towards his people.¬† I am going to paraphrase it to say what I believe God is saying to his people. (Remember, this letter is written to a church, to God’s own people, and not to the world.)

The passage starts off with God telling his people that he wishes they were either hot or cold. But because they are lukewarm, he is going to spit them out of his mouth. He then tells them that they think they are rich and increased with goods and think they need nothing, yet they do not realise that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Because of this, he counsels them to buy gold tried in the fire (in other words to allow God to bring his dealings into their lives and let it refine them). With infinite tenderness, he tells them that¬†his love towards them is the motivating factor for¬†these¬†strong words, and for his dealings in our lives. Be zealous therefore¬†( have warmth of feeling toward/ be moved with desire ), he tells them, and repent ( reconsider / think differently). Then follows the sweet words that I love, and that I think are the point of this whole passage: Behold, I stand at the door and knock…if any man hears me and opens up, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.

The whole tone of this passage is redemptive.¬† God doesn’t mince words, he tells his people exactly where they are at, but he offers a way out, and tenderly invites them to intimacy. This is where I differ from the common interpretation of this scripture: I don’t believe that this passage is talking about God condemning people to hell. I believe that God is telling the Laodiceans: If you are going to continue being complacent and so comfortable in all the blessings that I have given you,¬† so that you sit back and forget how much you need me, then I am not going to be able to fellowship with you. I am going to have to pull back and bring my dealings into your life – and my advice to you is that you allow it to change you.

The preacher justified his position that the Laodiciens were not saved and were going to hell, because God said they were poor, miserable, blind…etc. He said those words do not describe christians. Yet David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, called¬†himself¬† “poor and needy”. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”¬† Paul said: “…when I am weak, then he is strong.” Being in a state where you are aware that in yourself you are nothing, that without God you are poor and needy, does not make you a hell-bound¬†unbeliever. On the contrary. God himself says: “To this man will¬†I look, to him who is of a poor and contrite spirit…” (Is 66:2) It is our neediness, even as christians, ¬†that qualifies us to receive his grace on a daily basis.¬†¬†When we cannot admit that we are in need, then his grace will be of no effect in our lives.¬† This is the one thing the Laodiceans lack.

I honestly believe the spitting out/vomiting issue has to do with fellowship/intimacy rather than salvation. God cannot fellowship, his grace cannot flow in the life of a lukewarm christian. He will have to allow them to go through trials until they see how desperately they are in need of him.¬†This is a theme that recurs throughout the bible. There are countless instances where God allows his wayward people to go through the fire in order to bring them to repentance. One of my favorites is the account of Homer, Hosea’s unfaithful wife, who is a type of the unfaithful church of God. (Read how God deals with her in Hosea 2. It is precious. Did you know that the words “Baali” means “my master”, but the word “Ishi” means, my “husband/lover”?) Still, God assures us that when we go through the fire,¬†it will not harm us, and¬†he will be with us. (Is 43: 2)¬†

¬†I would perhaps, find it easier to follow this preacher’s interpretation of this scripture if I believed you could lose your salvation. But how can you lose by your works, something that you were given as a completely unearned gift of grace? It doesn’t make sense.

More so, if you look at God’s character. Which is the very reason I am sitting here so furiously typing away at my keyboard, knowing full well that I am saying controversial things that might make waves for me both within and without the blog world.

Not MY God.

What father will throw his kid into a fiery pit simply because he has a drug addiction and is enslaved to his passions, acting ‘lukewarm’ towards his father as a result? Tough love…yeah…a father might¬†resort to that. With a view to redemption. My heavenly father might¬†use some tough love on his children too, but in the end it is still love, and it is still with an end goal in mind. Redemption. Restoration. Fellowship. Sitting down to a meal together.

There is no-one sweeter and kinder and more tender than my God. He, who created us as fathers and mothers, after his own image, will never abandon his own children. Why do we¬†know instinctively that it goes completely against the grain of any¬†human father’s heart, yet we are so quick to attribute that kind of heartlessness to our father God? ¬†He says he will never leave us or forsake us. He says that we are engraved on the palms of his hands. In¬†Isaiah 66 he says he will comfort his people as a mother comforts her children.

Not MY God.

It irks me, that anyone would tarnish his great love and his character like that. It frustrates me that people come to God out of fear thanks to interpretations of passages like these, and since they view him as a demanding taskmaster who requires what we cannot give (in our own strength, remember, it is all by grace), they can never fully invite him into the depths of their hearts. Fear is never a precursor to intimacy.

Rom 2:4… do you despise the riches of His kindness, and the forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

 

renewal

Have I told you lately that I have a sweet hubby?

The man saw an email I had written to a friend where I mentioned that he seems to be struggling to come to terms with Jenna’s death lately. I expressed the fear that perhaps he was secretly, at the back of his mind, blaming me for what happened. After all, I was there. I knew my husband is too sweet to EVER express anything like that to me, but my fear was that that was what he was thinking.

And so, I got this email in my inbox this afternoon. From the sweet man himself:

My precious Sumi

Just thinking about your comment to Heather in your last email to her, and instead of coming to you and just telling you, I am writing this so that you have it “on record” ūüôā

Simply put, I don’t blame you, period. Settle that in your heart.

If anything, I blame life (that part that denies the foreseeable and brings about the unforeseeable), and yes, lately I have felt angry, cheated, but this is not the overarching attitude of my heart concerning Jenna’s death. I have to admit that lately I have found myself in a dry and dark place in my walk with Jesus, and could not find His grace that normally so balms and constantly washes my heart and soul when dealing with Jenna’s passing, and therefore was focused on what life did, rather than on what He is doing.

This last weekend however He has been dealing with me in His gentle, merciful, gracious, yet so powerfully two edged sword “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” way, as He usually does. I was sitting down stairs in the wee hours of Sunday morning before going to bed, crying many tears. Mostly of sheer frustration at myself , but also of a quiet, strengthening, and reviving hope in Jesus, and His promise that He “…has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…”
and that He himself would make it happen because “…he which begun a good work in you will perform(perfect) it…”, which is all “…according to the riches of his grace ; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence…” blessing us “…with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places…” so that all is fulfilled “..according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself..”.

Think about this, He considered it all, carefully thought it through, counted the cost, and made a decision of His will that He Himself would make available to us ALL that would be required (all the blessings, treasures, riches of heaven and His grace) to indeed bring us before Him holy and without blame.

And then today, after you called me about accessing your old emails from when Jenna died, I started reading them myself, and all the peace, all the grace, all the wonderful sense of His comfort, love, and purpose came back like a flood.

All I can say Sumi, is lets go together through the next month, the 1 year anniversary, with a strong determination to tightly cling to Jesus, and rekindle into a burning passion our sense of His purpose in all this, not looking too sadly at what life “did to us’, but looking carefully at, and submitting to, and firmly taking hold of all Jesus is doing. Lets come out of this with the wind of the Holy Spirit in our faces as we run with all our might toward His calling, and possess the land He has promised us.

I love you Sumi, I love you soooo very much, and I bless you, as my adorable wife, and the wonderfully awesome mother of our children.

It is an indisputable fact that Jenna had the best mom, ever. And I know she still brags about you up there in heaven ūüôā

Love you
R.

Pages in a book…

The middle boy was reminiscing this afternoon about a trip that he took with my dad whilst we were visiting South Africa last year. They had gone to a nearby game reserve. The boy told me today, in the same enthusiastic terms that he used on that day almost a year ago, how intimidating a lion’s stare can be when¬†it is a yard away from your car. How he never thought a lion was THAT big. How cute and cuddly lion cubs are.

I listened with half an ear. I was trying to remember things. I had opted to stay home that day, because…why? I can’t remember why anymore. I think we went shopping instead? What did we go shopping for? I was trying to remember because those were Jenna days. Our last few days with her. Or were they? Did this happen after Jenna left us and before her daddy and two other brothers joined us in South Africa?

I don’t think so. If my brain serves correctly,¬†they went to the game reserve on a Thursday morning.¬†¬†Jenna, my mom and I did go shopping. I think.

As the anniversary of that trip and all that transpired approaches, I find myself wanting¬†to coax my all-too-forgetful brain into recalling every detail, every word, every sight of my little miss muffin’s last days with us.¬† It frustrates me that I can recall a cute conversation with Jenna when this picture was taken three short days before she left us..but¬†I can’t remember a word of what was said!¬†¬†
jennasmall

I remember where she was standing when she pinched her little cheeks like that. I know where everyone else in the house was at that time. I remember that she told me the sweetest thing. I remember that I just wanted to eat her up and keep her that small and cute forever, but since I couldn’t, I would do the next best thing and take her picture. BUT WHAT DID SHE SAY? It eludes me, and I hate that.

If she were still with us it wouldn’t be an issue because there’d be more sweet toddler moments to come. But that was it. My last precious days with her and memory fails me.

Of course, there are some things¬†I will¬†NEVER forget.¬†I woke up next to Jenna’s sweet sleeping face and stared at her in wonderment enough mornings, to be able to trace the perfect line of her eyebrows and the symmetry¬†of that little rose-bud mouth in my mind’s eye any time. I will never forget what a sweet little Jenna kiss on my cheek felt like. I will never forget her¬†sweet voice as she told her brothers that they were her ‘best brothers’, or her bossy voice as she tried to¬†organize them. Who can forget seeing Jenna rush up to her best friend Joseph for an exuberant greeting at every church service? How can I forget that sweet, nurturing¬†tilt of her head as she¬†snuggled a soft toy under her chin?

I will never ever forget her. 

Still, it is not without frustration, that I remember that there are moments, snippets of conversation, that my brain has seemingly lost forever.

I was thinking about this when my eye caught part of Psalm 139 on my fridge door:

Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance; and in thy book they were all written,
Even the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was none of them.

It has always comforted us to know that God had numbered Jenna’s days before she was born and that she had lived her intended life-span here on earth. It was a short life, but a full one, and she still lives!

Today though, it occurred to me that if all Jenna’s days were written in a book that perhaps those cute moments are not lost to me forever. Maybe God would give me a chance to read that book one day, so I could catch up on all the lost-to-memory conversations. I have a feeling that being with Jesus in heaven will be so amazing and God’s restoration will be so complete that I won’t even¬†care about it then, but still it is a nice thought.

It is not always such a nice thought to think that some of my days are written in a book too. Oi vey! Could you erase that one about a week or two ago when I was being so utterly selfish that my long-suffering hubby had to call me on it? Please God?

In one word

My friend Elaine posted something on her blog that made me think. She asked: What one word, phrase, or quote would you like to make a part of your life this year? The word Elaine picked was simplicity. You can read her post here.

As I mulled over her question, I thought of a word of my own that I would like to see in my life in 2009. Relationship. 

I have¬†dwelled on¬†that little word all day, and it has inspired me! ūüôā

I so often fall into the trap of measuring my worth by how much time I spend¬†serving others, living a perfect life, praying, or reading God’s word. All of these are great and necessary things.¬†But today, once again, I realize that more than ANYTHING, Jesus¬†just wants a relationship with me. Knowing that is so liberating! It takes away the pressure to perform, to do, do, do, and sets me free to simply be myself with him.

Jesus is my friend.¬†He likes me. He’s on my side of the fence. And he loves hanging out with me.

When I consider his character, how generous and merciful and full of grace and peace he is, I wonder why my heart draws back from him so often. Why do I pass him by so many times doing my busy-life thing?

 This year, I want to turn my heart towards Jesus more often and make being with him my most important priority. It is not something I want to work at and be-labor though. When my heart is open and aware of who Jesus is and that he wants to know me even more than I want to know him, it is easy to be with him. Pure and simple.

I read in Psalm 135 today that God has chosen Israel for his own special treasure. I always apply the bible to myself, and since I believe that all believers are part of the spiritual Israel, this goes for me too. I am Jesus’ treasure.¬†If¬†I take that a step further and bear in mind that Jesus himself said: “Where your treasure is your heart will be also”, then I can safely assume that God’s heart is totally bent towards me! ¬†Wow.¬† What a mind-blowingly precious thought.¬†

I¬†really hope that having a mindset of simply ‘hanging with Jesus’ and being in relationship with him, will create a cup-runneth-over scenario which will¬†help to make my other relationships work better. My hubby. My kids. My extended family. My friends. My church. My students and colleagues…the list is endless. I could do with some growth in all the¬†relationships in my life. ūüôā

What about you? Is there a word or phrase or quote that sums up your hopes for 2009? Wanna share?