DAY 471: “I’M SO TIRED!”

 

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How often don’t we hear the remark “I’M SO TIRED!”?  Tired of the traffic, tired of the crime, tired of TV, tired of politicians, tired of the Springboks! St. John records an occasion when Jesus was “wearied with his journey”.  After his conversation with the woman at the well we see the TIRED Christ. He was hungry. The dust and heat of the road had made him footsore and worn out.

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He was glad to sit down. He knew what it was like to feel TIRED. He was not a machine, a mechanical iron man unaffected by human feelings. He experienced weariness, but also overcame it, so that when the Samaritan woman came, burdened with all her troubles and problems, he was able to help her. She could go on her way rejoicing.

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Renewed strength is always a gift from God. Isaiah says that “those who wait upon the Lord” shall receive this gift. “They shall mount up with wings as the eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”  Paul could answer those who boast of their hardships and tell them without complain that he knew what it felt like to be “in weariness and painfulness”.

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Twice he mentions this to others. “And let us not be weary in well being for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”  He goes on to encourage his listeners: “Be not weary in well doing.”  These words of St. Paul are an echo of what Jesus said: “Come unto me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

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By rest he did not mean idleness, apathy or exemption from work. He meant refreshment and new strength. When I was a world traveller my good friend Lin Crowe from Philadelphia in the U.S.A. gave me good advice “Make time for R & R (Rest and Recovery)!”  I call it Sabbath living.  Jesus did not tell the woman to go away. He didn’t say he was too tired to talk or that he wanted to go off for a power nap.

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I think he has a special word for those who cry out “I’M TIRED!”  When the disciples returned to the well they expected to find Jesus famished and exhausted. But there he was … eagerly engaged in conversation. Body and spirit had been strongly replenished. TIRED as he was, he had been busy transforming the life of the woman at the well. In that life giving act of unselfish service, strength had come to him.

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Can we not argue that there is a TIREDNESS which springs from selfishness in the lives of people today?  Many are depressed and TIRED with life.

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Yet for those whose concern is with others, who look further than themselves, there is freedom from such anxiety. The sacrificial life of Jesus, a ransom for many, was subject to excessive demands.He knew what it was like to feel TIRED, but he had the secret of renewed strength.

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Spare a thought for all who are stressed out today. Over-committed, they feel that they no longer have the energy to keep up with the demands of the everyday. The Season of ADVENT encourages us to make time for God, space for prayer and reflection and room in our lives for spiritual sustenance.

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Every time I look at the Advent Candles I also look at the Cross. The symbols remind me to look deeper and unearth the treasure that will last when all else has faded away. It is treasure such as this that Jesus promised to those who follow him. Those who are TIRED can renew their strength. Why not give it a try?

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DAY 470: THE HALF DONE LIFE

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What a gift eyesight is. Twice a month I head off to to the Helen Keller retirement home in Pinelands to present a “happy hour” of sing along and story telling to many who struggle to see the world around them. As we interact, I often think of the way in which Jesus was particularly concerned about the plight of those who were restricted in their field of vision.

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St. Mark records an example of such concern in the eighth chapter of his gospel. A blind man is brought to Jesus in Bethsaida (“the house of fishing”) and his sight is restored. Jesus went out of his way to bring about a complete cure. In the telling of the story we note that there was a period when this man was HALF CURED.  At that stage he insisted that he saw “men as trees, walking”.

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In other words, what he saw was vague, blurred, like “trees in the wind with their branches moving”. He could not focus properly. This condition was not good enough for Jesus. He could not be satisfied with a HALF ACCOMPLISHED TASK. One of the problems of LIFE is that it is HALF DONE. Half cooked food or a half accomplished musician? Think of the half-educated person chattering incessantly without a proper understanding of his subject or the do-it-yourself enthusiast who inflicts permanent damage on original parts.

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What about those who have a HALF FINISHED (incomplete) faith? At war with themselves they constantly find fault with their neighbours. There is unhappiness because of an incompleteness in their faith.  Their faith is still at the HALF WAY stage. There is no real dedication. Only a stubborn unwillingness to enter that realm where sacrifice will be required of them. We witness a refusal to go the second mile, to do that which they do not want to do.

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Not being willing to lose our lives for the sake of Christ, we shut the door on life in all its fullness. This decision creates THE HALF DONE LIFE.  We miss out on abundant life. The Advent season, tries to resurrect the much needed spirit of completion by focusing on hope, love, joy and peace in the lead up to Christmas.

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Remember how judgement was passed onto that HALF FINISHED church at Laodicea?  “I know your ways; you are neither hot nor cold … you are lukewarm … and I will spit you out of my mouth”. Yet in spite of their condition, the last words of Jesus to this were not of condemnation but of praise: “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any person hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with me”.

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So it was in his treatment of HALF CURED people. He did not leave human beings in that condition. He affected a complete cure. “After that he put his hands again upon his eyes and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly”. By the touch of Christ, this man was able to see perfectly. Not only was the blindness gone, but also that imperfect HALF WAY stage when the vision was blurred had disappeared.

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How clearly do we see as we live out our days? Are we blind to the good in those with whom we live and work? In our blindness, do we see only their faults? Or is our outlook blurred? Is it because we are not really concerned about goodness and evil? Or have we allowed the the healing hand of Christ to open our eyes and experience new meaning and a sense of wonder of what’s in front of us?

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Who can forget the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus? There is joy in being born again. All around there are realms of unexplored beauty and unexplored service. THE HALF DONE LIFE is no more! Such is the gift of God in Christ.

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DAY 469: FAITH AND INSPIRATION

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On the journey of life, there is a constant danger of looking back, especially when the travelling is hard. To live in the past, whether our record is one of which we are proud or ashamed, is merely to exist.  We extinguish the sparkle and the zest from living.

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How many of us fall into the trap of constantly recalling the “good old days”.  Those of us over sixty (yes, that’s me!) continue to sing with Bob Dylan that “the times are a-changing … again!”. Deep down in our hearts, we know that we are climbing up a ladder and (in the words of Stephen Covey) “it’s leaning against the wrong wall”. We yearn for FAITH AND INSPIRATION. Let me change gear and put it differently. I know, for example, some people who confess that  “They can’t swim”. They are quick to explain their handicap which invariably boils down to an unhappy experience in the water.

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How often have I not seen the same people after a period of application and instruction overcome their earlier fear? Their confidence has returned. They are thrilled with their swimming. Their lives have become an acted parable of FAITH AND INSPIRATION. Then we cross the road. How depressing are those who continually regale others of their squabbles and unresolved conflicts. Their attitude seems so far from the ever forward looking Christian way of life.  It lacks the FAITH AND INSPIRATION that leads to transformation.

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St. Paul describes an athlete fully extended, reaching ahead, straining everywhere to increase his speed. There is nothing half hearted in the effort of this athlete. How out of place is this image in the realm of sport. When our high earning players simply kick the ball (possession) away we want to hurl our TV bricks at the screen. We vent our feelings in sarcastic epithets and vicious curses.

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Compare the dismal display of the Springboks on their overseas tour this year. We don’t understand half hearted performance; we know our players are better than this. New Zealand has set the bench mark on the world stage and Ireland proved that the All Blacks can be beaten. The Irish played the perfect game and fully deserved victory in Chicago … of all places. The same applies for those who try to take the Christian faith to the next level.

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If we half heartedly drift into church when we feel that way inclined; read the Bible irregularly according to the fluctuations of other interests, or pray only when we are in the mood for prayer – we make a farce of the Christian way of life.

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Finally, observe that the Athlete (sportsperson) has only one object in mind. In St. Paul’s day it was customary in an athletic contest for the prize to be set in a conspicuous place. There it was, a source of INSPIRATION, the goal of his endeavour. As he competed, he was single minded, having no distractions “I go straight for the goal” said St. Paul. There is simplicity in the life of the Christian.

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When Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked “Who is a Christian?” he replied simply: “A Christian is one who has the spirit of Christ. This is the only theology.”  In that brief answer, he did not wander into abstract abstraction, but pointed straight to the goal – to Christ, the one who declared Himself to be “The Way, the Truth and the Life”. With renewed vision we look to the One who is the author and finisher of our faith. “With hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead .. we go for the goal – that our steps may be in the way of life everlasting”.  Who needs FAITH AND INSPIRATION today?

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DAY 468: ADMIT FEAR

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People who voted for  Donald Trump argue that he answered their fears about the future. Not many of us want to ADMIT FEAR. We have been told to present a brave face in times of trouble. Keeping up our appearances, we convey that all is well, when we know it is not. The Trump vote brought home a strong message. People are scared. Anxious about what’s happening in the world.

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Deep down in our hearts there is a persistent gnawing uncertainty as to what may happen somewhere on the road ahead. Our fears may not be political. It could be that our FEARS are about our physical condition. Will we ever be well again?  Able to leave the hospital ward and be with our own family?  What about that persistent pain which just doesn’t want to go away? Is there an incurable disease steadily tightening its grip?

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How about those FEARS about our inability to cope with life’s demands? The FEAR of advancing years when perhaps we shall be a burden to others. Or the FEAR of the future? Becoming a victim to temptation and the laughing stock of others?  Consider the real FEAR of what may happen to those whom we love. Perhaps we are in denial. The return of the nightmare of alcoholism or the heartbreak of domestic unhappiness looms. We find it hard to ADMIT FEAR.

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The City of Cape Town has imposed severe water restrictions on all who live in this beautiful city. It’s only the tip of the iceberg. Where the rains have failed, drought stricken districts across the land force us to ADMIT FEAR. We expect the worst. The prevailing atmosphere is sinister and silent. Grass is scorched and blackened. Dwindling stock huddles around boreholes.  Soon there will be no water.

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What a difference water makes to the land and the spirit of the people when the rain comes. I remember a farming friend from the Cradock region who said to me at boarding school “Mark, you have no idea what a difference rain makes!”. It’s the story of life. What a difference it makes when we have an unknown road to travel … to know that someone has already been on that road.

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How often haven’t I heard stories of young people changing schools? Moving from unhappy surroundings to places of contentment. Instead of being timid and AFRAID, feeling lost and unwanted, they thrive. They are at ease because they discover a friend who goes out of his way to show them around the buildings and the grounds.

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In no time they are introduced to new friends, and the new life which they dreaded is now filled with interest and adventure. Someone in the new school prepared the way. So too, in the school of life. Before going to hospital we meet someone who has had the very operation which we face. ADMIT FEAR?  We learn that someone has travelled the road ahead which we FEAR and that all will be well.

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ADMIT YOUR FEARS? God is one who has preceded us along life’s way. His grace is prevenient. He is not only at the beginning of the road; He is also at the end of the road. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that whatever circumstances they find themselves in, however severely they may be tried, they must not forget that God is there already. This was my mantra during the years of meeting the future in the inner city: “God is still here with us. Just inviting us to do new things in his name!”.

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Even when pilgrims complete their earthly journey and look to the future wondering what lies beyond death, there is no need for FEAR. On the very last night of his earthly life Jesus helped his disciples ADMIT THEIR FEAR. “Let not your hearts be troubled … ”  Give it some thought and revisit his promises.

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467: THE STRIFE IS OVER

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I can still hear the piercing shrieks of my sister Jeannie when we locked her in the toilet of the Plumstead Manse in Palatine Road on Guy Fawkes night and threw in a lit jumping jack cracker through the window. She had a voice!  Her screaming to my teasing still makes us laugh at an event which took place more than 60 years ago!

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We’ve all been there before. Watching kids play; observing what they sometimes do to each other makes us assume that this unruly behaviour means the end of their friendship. “They won’t ever talk to each other again” is our eyeblink response. But then we take a second look.

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Soon after … the tears have changed to laughter!  Before long the two kids are skipping along hand in hand like a couple of newly weds. How quickly the child forgets and forgives! THE STRIFE IS OVER!  But of us?  When we have been wronged do we brood over injustices, harbouring resentment which robs us of our sleep and peace of mind?

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Or can we utter our Lord’s prayer sincerely … “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?”Jesus is quite adamant. “Except we become as little children with their quality of forgiveness, we shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” I think he appeals to the child within all of us. In real life, the child is sensitive towards the feelings of others. That awareness translates into the realm of unseen, intangible emotions.

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Remember the retort “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”?   Pa …. leeeez!  We always remember the tone of the words and how the event made us feel. Were they expressed harshly or in kindness? We can also identify with the signals of human behaviour. All it takes is a smile or a wink to turn things around. Think of how we respond to a scowl or a smile.

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Let’s examine this close bond of awareness and sensitivity towards others. Early in life it can be weakened or broken.  Think of the burdened priest and the Levite who couldn’t care less about the plight of the man who had fallen among thieves. How sensitive are we towards our felllow travellers on life’s road?  Time and time again God has stretched out his hand to us through people in need and we have passed them by.  THE STRIFE IS NOT OVER!

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I went searching for a patient in an afternoon of hospital visitation. It took a young intern to recognise that I was struggling to find my way. Her friendly face and gift of uninhibited friendship assured me that she was a veritable mine of information regarding the layout of the hospital. Such is the way of Jesus. Those who thought they understood him never quite knew where they would find him. They learned to expect the unexpected. More than often they would find him talking to those on the margins of society; alongside the poor.

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Are we imprisoned by prejudice?  Who have we befriended recently? Do we have the quality of childlike friendship which reaches out beyond the bounds of suspicion and ill will – even bordering on hatred for being despitefully used? Evil is harsh and real in life. We cannot pretend that it does not exist or that it can be avoided. We all have our crosses to bear.

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Jesus was no stranger to suffering. His days were not only sunshine but also days of cloud. Yet the darkness of facing evil could not extinguish the light that radiated from him. He whose life was lived in the shadow of the Cross said “In the world you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. In his name, as Christians, we claim THE STRIFE IS OVER.

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466: PITCH YOUR TENT

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December is a time when many people go camping in South Africa. People who can’t afford fancy holiday accommodation PITCH THEIR TENTS in affordable camp sites dotted in and around river banks and shorelines. St. Paul, a tent maker was able to speak from first hand experience about PITCHING TENTS. What can we say about this activity?

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In the first place, a TENT is a symbol of change. It is impermanent – scheduled for a limited period. Our sojourn at the camp site is only temporary; soon we will move on. Road workers living under canvas on construction sites know that they will not be there permanently. When their work on that section of road has been completed, they will go else where.

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St. Paul called moving on a symbol of life. We can track and trace this pattern throughout the Scriptures. God is always keeping us on the move. Because of God’s call, Abraham left his ancestral home at Ur and “went out not knowing whither he went”. When Moses was occupied with the pastoral concerns of a shepherd in the wilderness, God spoke to him from the midst of a burning bush and called him to Egypt to serve his people. The call came to Amos, the Shepherd farmer on the lonely hill tops of Tekoa to leave his flock and go to the city.

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When we turn over the page to the New Testament we read of Simon and Andrew as fishermen casting their nets into the sea. Jesus calls them to a new sphere of work “Follow me”. At one time, Saul set out to destroy the church. His schemes were wrecked and his course was changed. He moved on and became a new person. This is the way of God.

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Life as we know it is all about movement and change. When Bob Dylan sang “The times are a-changing” he forced us to look long and hard at the world round about us. We are doing that big time as the world adjusts to the results of the American election. I always come back to Dylan’s observations and ask myself “How do we meet life’s changes?”. The changes that time brings? The clock simply does not stop. It keeps on ticking. Halloween 2016 has become history. So too has All Saints Day.

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How sad to see those not adjusting to the changes – the elderly pretending (wishing) to be young, constantly moping over the past, wishing to have the old days back again.

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In the second place, a time will come, inevitably, when the tent will be taken down. We will move on. We do not always know when this will take place. All we know is that our earthly TENT can be taken down at anytime. I think there is an authentic note of Christian conviction when in the marriage service couples say “’til death us do part”. Inevitability is a fact of history. We all move on. That in the fullness of time God came and PITCHED HIS TENT among us.

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“The word”, says St. John “became flesh and dwelt among us”. Jesus knew the limitations of TENT life. His own TENT was taken down at Calvary, but that was not the end, for death had no dominion over him. He ascended to his home made by no human hands. The Christian faces the taking down of the earthly TENT with calm confidence, knowing that life’s pilgrimage does not end in death.

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Finally, in the third place, as he prepares us for the adventure, may we learn to face life’s changes on the journey to our true home in God.

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May his Spirit enlarge our vision and give us a fuller understanding of his creative hand at work. May we come to a knowledge of truth that our fleeting moments of life may be used for high endeavour. It begs the question: Where next will you PITCH YOUR TENT?  That thought certainly gets my motor going!

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DAY 465: BE STILL!

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One of the major causes of road accidents (other than alcohol) today is fatigue. Often drivers, anxious to complete their long journey overestimate their stamina. They choose to ignore the regular pit stops along the road and speed on and on until their reactions are so slow that disaster overtakes them. The real tragedy is that life could have been saved.

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The Psalmist writing of the journey along life’s road says “BE STILL and know that I am God”. His words imply that there is a certain type of knowledge which we can only acquire if we are STILL. How many tourists, for example, have missed so much because of their impatience. Some travel too fast and are in such a hurry “to see” everything. Others cover the same ground but go slowly stopping at intervals.

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They wait and watch. Slowly a transformation takes place before their eyes. Visitors to game parks, for example, spot animals camouflaged in the bush simply because they had been STILL.

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There is a member in the Mossop congregation at Little Mowbray who regularly heads to the Rondebosch Common to take pictures of bird life. Such knowledge comes only to those who are prepared to BE STILL and silent. He has learned the art of silence and is able to interpret the flight paths and habitat of birds on the common.

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Photographers know how to stand motionless and wait for the moment in silence. It depends on the way we are trained. In our cities we see people rushing here and there concerned about all sorts of things.

 

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When I was at boarding school in Grahamstown our chaplain illustrated a well known story that came from the side walks of New York. He asked us to use our imagination and took a silver coin and flipped it into the air.

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We listened to it drop on the tiled Chapel floor and compared ourselves to the commuters in New York City. “As it dropped on the pavement, passing pedestrians attracted by the sound stopped to see where it had fallen”. I wanted to shout back at the preacher “I see what you mean!”. The same Hebrew word wish the Psalmist uses meaning “BE STILL” is used in a previous Psalm (the 37th) and is translated “CEASE”. The words being “CEASE from anger and forsake wrath”. In other words “CALM DOWN!”.

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When angry we act impulsively and without knowledge. When our rage has subsided and we become sensible again, we go to those we have hurt and ask their forgiveness saying “I’m sorry I lost my temper and said all those nasty things!”. BE STILL! There is a calmness about Jesus that stands in such striking contrast to the conduct of those about him.

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I think of his calmness in the storm and his invitation to be still and consider the glory of the wayside flower. In so doing we have faith restored. Have we learned this secret? Or are we stressed out, quick to take offence at what others say?  Rushing about in a vain attempt to cover our inadequacy? Constantly talking instead of listening in conversation? Snappy or moody when we can’t have our own way?

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If this is happening, maybe its time to BE STILL!  Pull off the road at one of life’s stopping places and make time for rest and recovery.  And in the quietness turn to him who alone can grant us strength for the road ahead and that peace which the world cannot give. We do well to remember that God’s voice was not heard in the earthquake, fire or storm but in the STILL small voice of CALM.

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People of faith insist that we are set in a universe filled with the glory of God. Yet speaks to us in the humility, the faithfulness and the friendship of others – especially in the One who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.  BE STILL!  When last did you put that into practice?

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DAY 464: BURDENS

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We all carry BURDENS sooner or later in life. The weight of disappointment over what is happening in our country (and the world!) cannot be ignored. Overwhelmed by the intangibles of heart and mind, our anxieties turn into stress and deep depression. We worry about the future of South Africa, our children, health issues, escalating violence and shrinking finances.

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Think too of our favourite sports team or player. Fear of defeat (loss, failure) haunts fans like a sinister shadow at all hours begging the question “What has the word of God got to say about our strained nerves?”.  How many times haven’t we cried out “Why should this happen to me?”. BURDENS? I think there is a human tendency in all of us to use self pity as a means of gaining sympathy from others.

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St. Paul had his own BURDEN to carry – his thorn in the flesh. We are not sure what it was – it may have been recurring fever or eye trouble.  Whatever it was he was never free from it. Yet he never used his BURDEN as an excuse for self pity. Paul knew that every Roman soldier had to “shoulder his own pack” – i.e. carry his own BAGGAGE. Like a true soldier of Christ he carried his own pack without complaint.

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Paul also went on to say “Bear one another’s BURDENS and so fulfill the law of Christ”.  While the Roman soldier was responsible for carrying his own pack he was not simply an isolated individual. He was also a unit of the Roman army, and wherever he went, he carried the army’s good name, its reputation and tradition.

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Today we see the same patterns surfacing on the rugby field. “Play as a team” … we shout at the Springboks. “There are others beside yourself!  Don’t let the team down!”. While it is true that we are all separate individuals with unique personalities, we are inextricably bound up with others. We would not be alive were it not for other people. Think of the food we need to keep us alive. We depend upon the labour of others for that.

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In the whole process, it takes only one individual to upset the apple cart of production.  Whether we like it or not, we are all involved in the lives of others as they are in ours. Jesus went out of his way to carry the BURDENS which weighed heavily on the shoulders of others. Whenever he saw a case of need along life’s road, he intervened. He restored sight to the blind, healed the cripples, cleansed the heart of evil – always thinking of others – giving his life as a ransom for many.

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What about those of us who claim his name? How much concern do we have for others? How many BURDENS on the shoulders of others have we helped to carry recently? It is in losing ourselves – forgetting our BURDENS as we help others to carry theirs – that we find our true selves. The words of the Psalmist rings out clearly to our present situation.

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In Psalm 55:22 he sings “Cast your BURDEN on the Lord and He will sustain you”. Soon we will enter into the Advent season. Reminding ourselves that “God is here” – with us in the midst of life – sharing our problems and carrying our BURDENS – if we allow him to do that.

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A famous preacher tells the story of a small boy straining to carry a large stone across the yard. His father was at hand and said to his son “Why don’t you use all your strength?” “But I am” said the boy. “No you are not” said the father, “you have not asked me to help you!”.  Jesus taught us to tap into the resources of his Kingdom by remaining in constant communion with his Heavenly Father.

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This is a world in which Christ is risen. He is still the companion of every road. Waiting to intervene.  burdens8

DAY 463: BRIDGE BUILDERS

013Every time I cross a BRIDGE, I think of Detroit City. Some years ago Rev. (Pastor) John Hice (pictured above) opened the door for us to spend three months in Michigan State.  We moved in alongside the people who live there and discovered first hand what it means to be “the church in transition” in the United States.

072I recently logged onto the Royal Oak Website and examined the progress of the plans that were hatched during our visit. John and I built an imaginary BRIDGE between Cape Town and Detroit, promising to protect the “world parish” principles of partnership and ecumenical intent.  This blog is a product of that ongoing relationship.

1 Spirit of DetroitJohn has since moved on and we still keep in contact with developments in Detroit City. Last night was Halloween and the event in the United States is almost bigger than Christmas. It’s turned into a fun filled inclusive festival which is also starting to grow in our city life.  Here’s my next door neighbour sharing in the fun.

bridge-buildingIn these days of easy travel we tend to forget the importance of THE BRIDGE and BRIDGE BUILDERS. Here in South Africa we think of one of the most picturesque routes in our country, the Garden Route, winding along the coastal areas of the Western and Eastern Cape. I love this picture which I took of the Storms River Mouth in the heart of the Tsitsikamma Forest

Suspension BridgeSomething of our debt to the bridge builders can be assessed when, for example, we stand on the Storms River and Bloukrans BRIDGES and survey the deep chasms beneath.

Storms River Bridge

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So in Christ as St. John tells us the eternal word became flesh and dwelt among us. In other words God himself BUILT A BRIDGE between heaven and earth. The way St. John describes the building of this bridge is IMMANUEL, which being interpreted is God with us.

Practise Faith2As I look back over my years of ministry I give thanks to God for so many people who have BUILT BRIDGES in my life. They have given a helping hand and in their acts of kindness made clear the truth that “God is here … tangibly present … active in our midst”.

bridge-building1This is God’s world. The Scriptures reveal that he BUILT BRIDGES with people, especially the outcasts – the foreigner, the leper, the blind, the lame, the poor and the socially despised. This task of BRIDGE BUILDING is the work of all those who claim allegiance to him. Let’s not forget that the head of the early church had the title of PONTIFEX meaning BRIDGE BUILDER.

017What about those of us who call ourselves Christians? Are we engaged in BRIDGE BUILDING today or do we merely stand idly aside and leave chasms unspanned? What are we doing to BRIDGE the gaps in society today? Are we putting ourselves out to understand those who do not think as we do? What about going the extra mile to show genuine friendship? Why is it that so many who claim the name of Christ reveal so little of his spirit?

Image0282What is our reaction to those whom we do not like and with whom it is so easy to quarrel? Do we allow our feelings to master us and let the old enemies of intolerance and prejudice have their way? Or are we cultivating the art of discovering that there is good even in the worst? In St. Paul’s words “fixing our minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good!”. This is BRIDGE BUILDING. Ever reaching out to all who are in need.

Happiness8May God grant us the courage and strength to not only BUILD BRIDGES , but to cross over and return enriched by the Spirit of new life … which the journey brings.

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DAY 462: THE PROTEA

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The name PROTEA goes back to Proteus in Greek mythology. He was a minor god who had the power of assuming different shapes. The naming of the PROTEA was a stroke of genius by a Botanist Carl Linnaeus, the son of a Swedish pastor. He determined that there are over fourteen hundred species identified in THE PROTEA family. So much diversity is to be found in this flower.

 

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No wonder our national floral emblem – THE PROTEA – has been adopted by our sports teams – especially the Cricketers. In South Africa we celebrate our diversity and seek that which holds us together “as one”.  St. Mark records that the risen Christ appeared to two travellers in the country “in another form”. As we dig deeper, so much variety is found in the personality of Jesus.

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To the doctor he is the Great Physician; to the farmer he is the sower; to the educationalist the great teacher; to the preacher the Word of God. He spanned the generation gap. He was friend of little children and the comrade of the elderly. He transcended race, class and sex. As St. Paul put it,  what ever our age, sex or circumstances may be, we can meet with Him.

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The secret to the friendship revealed to us in Christ is that love has no age limit. His generous hospitality caters for all. Jesus tells the story of the head of a household who was able to meet the needs of all because “from his storehouse he took things old and new. Is this the quality of our attitude toward others as we deal with the challenge of diversity?

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Have we something good for everyone irrespective of age? Or do we simply avoid the traditional in this high tech world because we are irritated with old fashioned ideas and ingrained habits. Or are we annoyed by the high energy of the new that overwhelms us with pace and change? To learn of Christ is to discover treasures of his kingdom, both old and new.

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The other day I enjoyed going down to the sea again. I love to look at the motion in the ocean and hear the sound of the waves. The surfer in me says that we may listen to weather reports and forecasts – always hoping that conditions will be favourable. But we cannot be sure until we are actually there to see “what’s happening” for ourselves. Changing wind, currents and tide fluctuations do not remain the same. There is always something that is new.

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The combination of the old and the new is a picture of life. Jesus taps into the thought and invites us to discover for ourselves the treasures of difference. When we adjust to both the old and the new “we are learners in the kingdom of heaven”. As we learn of him the treasures of his creation open our eyes. We ponder on his way of love. THE PROTEA helps us to put that into practice as we try to meet the future in this country.

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In an age which is impatient with history and devalues tradition (the old) we must (in our diversity) remind ourselves of what has been given. All that makes us who we are. However, a lack of openness to the future (the new) into which God is leading us can force us to not only run the risk of not perceiving but also not attaining what it is that God wants us to become.

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Think about it. We now live in an age when ideas move about the world at the speed of light and whilst Christians might be separated by thousands of miles in spatial terms, we are connected and thinking the same thoughts. There is unity in the diversity of the world round about us. THE PROTEA lives! We must never lose that vision of of what life can become in South Africa, nor stop working for it.

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