Life Interrupted

winter-598632_960_720Imagine this; you  have been working really hard at work and have not taken a break at all since the beginning of the year. About eight months into the year, you decide you just need a break, so you talk to your boss about it and they agree to grant you some time off.

As the weeks go by, the excitement builds up and you are already building up a list of things you will do while on holiday right from day one.

Finally that long awaited day arrives and that morning you quickly notice that there is a thick blanket of fog in the air. You literally can not see beyond a few metres from where you are and as you get to the airport your fears are confirmed… all flights have been cancelled!!! It suddenly dawns on you!! You might not get to do all the things you were hoping to do while on holiday!! You might not even go!!

Sometimes in life, things do not go the way we plan and life seems to go on its own course, different from the one we would have chosen for ourselves. In my view, the Christmas story, as it is popularly known, is an example of a story that didn’t go as planned.. well at least for Mary and Joseph.

What we know about Mary and Joseph is that they were engaged to be married. A modern day Mary would have been picking out wedding venues, perhaps she would have already “Said Yes to the Dress” and counting down days to her big day. We are told that during this time, Mary got a visit from an Angel declaring that she would give birth to the Messiah who would save people from their sins. 

Mary and Joseph were not officially married yet. What would people around her say if they found out she was having a baby out of wedlock? What about all their big plans for their lives? What were people going to say about Joseph? Surely this would be disgraceful to her parents!! This was a mess!! Why would God interrupt their lives like this?

Well we do know that Mary gladly submitted to God’s plan and the Saviour of the universe was born. Yes, I can imagine her early days with Joseph were nowhere near what she had envisaged but God was with her and Joseph and led them every step of the way.

Sometimes when we give our lives to God, our lives seem to take off in scary and unfamiliar paths and quite frankly God seems to be interrupting our plans and making us uncomfortable in the process. Let us be encouraged by the story of Mary and Joseph as well as other stories in the bible that remind us that God sees the bigger picture, can do incredible things through us and will get us through those scary phases of our lives. Above all, may we find encouragement from the fact that God can be trusted.

Like Mary, may we find the courage to respond as she did in Luke 1:38 and say, “Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me.” 

Not Average

I have come to the conclusion that society has for the most part succeeded in detecting our image. It has detected what an ideal human being looks like, how they should behave, how they should dress etc. I have no idea who came up with these “ideals” but there is no denying they influence the way we view ourselves and others and they influence greatly our expectations.

Please explore this with me for a moment. Is there not a benchmark height, body or shoe size above or below which one starts to seem rather strange or abnormal? But what does one do if they don’t seem to fall within the acceptable norms that society has set? What does one do if one has a slightly bigger nose than everyone else or is always the shortest person in the room or of a bigger stature than everyone else?

If you always fit into the definition of what society views as normal, congratulations. You may continue reading but this particular blog is for someone who like me has those above or below average traits by societal measure.

I am 175cm tall – 5.9 feet so quite tall and some people have in the past said to me, “You are quite tall for a woman.” Yes from a very young age I towered over most of my female friends and some men too and I have received countless reminders from people, of how tall I am. Quite frankly for a significant part of my life, I despised my height but the sad thing is that I couldn’t change it. This was me!!  As I write this blog I can’t help but think that probably this is why cosmetic surgery is so rampant these days.

The fact is, there are things about us that we cannot change even though we may want to in order to fit in better but the irony of all this is that these are the very aspects that bring variety and make us even more unique. In Psalm 139, the Bible reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Mark this; even the things that make us feel as though we are not up to standard at times.

Daily I am learning that my value and worth are determined by God, the One who created me. It’s an uphill battle, lots of pep  talks that need to happen along the way – some days better than others, but it is true, God made me beautiful just as I am. He created you as well – beautiful/handsome and unique you, just as you are.

If you can take away anything from this blog let it be that God loves everything about you and loves you just the way you are. Some of the imperfections you may now have may have come about due to the unfair circumstances of life like accidents but even then, He still loves you unconditionally. This you can count on 100%.

 

The Bereans

As you may already know, part of a bank teller’s training involves learning to detect counterfeit money. This study involves studying the genuine notes. They feel the notes, analyse the print on them until they are very familiar with the real thing. They never study the counterfeit until they are familiar with the genuine. This is because one has to be familiar with the genuine before one can spot a counterfeit.

Similarly, there is a lot of information out there about God these days. Books, sermons, social media posts – you name them. This is great, but, unfortunately not all of this information is correct although some of it resembles the truth.

With this in mind, I believe there is a lot to learn from a group of people known as the Bereans. The Bereans were residents of a city called Berea in the Roman Empire. Berea is today known as Veria and is located in Northern Greece. According to Acts 17:11-12, the Bereans were noble in that they examined the Scriptures each day to see whether what they were being taught was true.

There is value in familiarising ourselves with the truth and we owe it to ourselves to know God for ourselves and be able to give a reason for our faith when asked. The word of God, the Bible, is the best book to turn to in order to know Him more. The Bible has been given by His inspiration. In this book, we find revealed, His character and His plans for humanity.

The Bereans were noble for studying the Bible for themselves. By doing so, they were able to decide if the information taught to them was truthful. I want to be like the Bereans, do you?

You can study the Bible and learn about God and His lovely character. Start with a small achievable goal e.g. 5-10 minutes of Bible reading each day. As you read, remember to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and approach the word of God with eagerness, a willingness to be taught and open-mindedness. Ask for strength to live as God invites you to and ask Him to help you to be a blessing to someone today.

My prayer is that you and I will each day experience the freedom that comes from knowing and living out the truth. As the Bible says, “Then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

31 December

It was the 31st of December 2016. I had been looking forward to this day since September with much hope and expectation. I had a few down moments in 2016, but the mere thought of the 31st of December kept me going. Let me explain.

I had prayed about a certain issue for months and months but seemingly to no avail. In fact, there were times I would pause during prayer and ask myself if I was praying right. My prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. I was desperate for a solution or at least some reassurance from God that He was listening.

One day, kneeling by my bedside after having struggled through yet another session I wondered if anyone else was struggling with unanswered prayer so I did what some people these days do; I went on the internet.

I must have typed in, “dealing with unanswered prayer” or something like that when I stumbled into an article. The writer spoke of how he had offered with faith a specific petition to God and had believed that He would answer within two weeks and God answered within just one! This story reminded me of a dear friend of mine who had prayed to God for someone to buy their house by a specific date and for a specific price and God came through on the right date and it sold for just the price they were looking for!

As I was soaking in all these ideas I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was by divine providence that I had come across this article and that maybe I needed to pray specifically, with timelines and all. I had tried everything but this and surely if God could come through for those people, He would come through for me too.

So for the next 21 days, I fasted. I prayed that God would grant me my request. I was specific and petitioned God to grant me my heart’s desire by the 31st of December according to His will. I believed that since the 31st was three months away, this was way too much time since God would answer within minutes if He saw fit.

Fast forward to the 31st of December, I realised as I woke up that morning that my prayer had not been answered – well at least to me there was no evidence. All day I contended with the question, “Will I continue to trust and believe in God even in times where it feels He is not answering my heart’s desires, like today?” I asked myself what my prayers would look like going into 2017. Would I just give up or would I keep holding on? For how long?

Since then I’ve continued to ask questions which I must confess have given me a little ray of hope.  Questions like, “Can God be trusted?” “Does God love me?” and “Does He see the end from the beginning?” Yes, my faith has been challenged but I continue to learn a lot from this experience and each time I’m reminded that yes God loves me and yes He can be trusted.

Do you also face a similar situation and have prayed for months or even years for something? Is it for a job perhaps, or is it for healing or a broken relationship and for some reason God appears silent?

I’m making up my mind that even though I do not understand His plan or know the way from here I will trust Him. I hope you decide to join me on this journey of trust and the coolest fact is that we get to embark on this journey with God. The bible does say, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

Grace

A short while ago, days before I sat for an exam, I prepared a list of what stationery items I would need. I had them all listed – at least all the stationery items I could think of that seemed relevant for an open book Accounting paper. Ball point pens, ruler, highlighters, you name them.

The day finally arrived and as I made my way to my allocated seat I noticed a few other candidates unpacking their bags when it struck me! I had forgotten my calculator at home! How could I forget a calculator of all things?

Time was running out and I knew I had to act fast. I needed a calculator and there were no two ways about it. I remembered the words of an Invigilator I had come across before in high school as she strictly announced that she and her team would not be providing any stationery and that we needed to ensure we had all we needed before we walked into the hall. Was there hope for me?

Long story short; of course I would have needed a calculator and yes I found one just in time thanks to my Invigilators. It was all an act of grace. Grace – favour that I do not deserve (my definition).

Although I don’t think I will ever get to a stage where I can FULLY comprehend God’s love, this experience, though very simple, is one of many that helps me understand a little bit about His forgiveness, love and mercy. The Invigilators could have chosen not to help me and they would have been justified in doing so but they helped me anyway.

Perhaps you can remember an act of grace that was rendered to you in some way, shape or form. Perhaps it was an assignment that you handed in late and you walked away with just a warning, perhaps you wronged someone and they decided to forgive you. Whatever they might be, I hope these experiences will serve to reveal more of God’s love, mercy and kindness towards you.

Romans 5:8 reads, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Notice the verse says – while we were sinners, Christ died for us. This means that Christ took on this amazing act of love even when we did not deserve it.

Do you ever feel like you do not deserve God’s love? The truth is we all don’t, BUT the greatest news of all is that although we do not deserve it, God loves us anyway which is why He gave us His son.

So, are you looking for a second chance today and wondering if God will grant you one? The good news is God is extremely good at giving those and He loves us more than we will ever know and He will give us second chances if we accept His invitation. We’ve got to believe it!