Saturday, March 31, 2018

HAPPY EASTER?



“HAPPY EASTER!” many will say.

Let’s be clear, tomorrow is a really important day to me and many other believers around our precious planet. Tomorrow will also be a day where Facebook and other social media explode in a frenzy of good wishes.

But often, I don’t quite know what these well-wishers mean? Especially those who dispel the Christian faith? 

What do you really mean when YOU say, “HAPPY EASTER!”?

Please don’t get me wrong: I REALLY desire to wish you a truly ‘HAPPY EASTER!’!  But I don’t want my own wish to be lost in this huge cloud of imminent social hysteria. So I feel compelled this morning to explain to you, my precious friends, exactly what I mean when I say,

"HAPPY EASTER!"

I’m not wishing you tons of Easter eggs (although this is indeed tempting); or the madness of wishing others a ‘Happy Easter’; or the thoughtless frenzy of gluttony....

 Instead, I am wishing you a quiet contemplation of the real meaning of EASTER and RESURRECTION SUNDAY. This could be life-changing...

I wish you the joy of the gift of Jesus Christ. May you understand His immense sacrifice (available to us all) – the forgiveness of everything we’ve ever done wrong (and will continue to do wrong). I pray that you may experience His incredible, infinite love.  May you understand that He truly LIVES! Yes, HE LIVES and he really, really LOVES you! 

He is indeed present in our world. He comes to us in the form of His Holy Spirit which he gives to believers as a gift. It is to help us along our embattled paths. You just have to look to the heavens on clear night to get a glimpse of His incredible creativity. He is available to all of us who believe in Him. You are not alone!

Like you, I have searched for meaning my whole life. I have found peace and certainty in my faith in Jesus Christ (the Son of God).  My belief takes expression in the way I seek to live. I seek to follow in His footsteps. I seek to let His light shine in the things He asks me to do  (one of them being this text, for example).  Most often I fall sorely short. He then challenges me again to come to Him and talk – like a Daddy lovingly guiding His child. We are not alone!

This thing called life is a constant learning process for us all. In my case, it’s my willingness to surrender to the will of my ‘Counselor’; the Holy Spirit.  I am His child and, hopefully, my life will bare witness to His grace and Majesty.

“Resurrection Sunday” is one of the most important celebratory dates in the Christian calendar. It is something I actively participate in and try honour. It has very specific Biblical meaning - the true meaning of “HAPPY EASTER!”  It is what I seek for everybody.

So here is my "HAPPY EASTER!" wish for you, my dear friend…

          I wish you love and joy; a true understanding of what the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ is to our world.

·         I wish you to be filled with His love, forgiveness and a brand new life, in Him. A clean slate!
·         I wish you assurance of your importance to His Kingdom and your welcoming into the family of God. You are important to Him – he made you! (Ps 139)
·         I wish you to feel utter joy as you, by the grace of God, receive His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life.
·         I pray that you will somehow believe in the miracle of Jesus Christ’s resurrection (which, yes, is beyond earthly understanding!). This belief is a gift given only by the grace of God to those whom He calls. Yes, He calls YOU!
·         I pray that you will come to understand that, no matter what, ‘God has got it!’; that the battle of this life has already been won; that He genuinely understands your circumstances; that you are allowed to call yourself a child of God when you believe in Him.
·         I pray that you will immerse yourself in the hope that is ‘Jesus Christ’ and also the community of God’s people. That you will be able to celebrate the true meaning of EASTER!

   
In summary, Jesus Christ was a historically real person. He lived in this world about 2000 years ago. His life, death and resurrection have been documented in many, many books. So too has His grace of forgiveness and New life in the believers who follow him. Seek Him! You surely will find Him!

“HAPPY EASTER dear friend!” May you be blessed out of your socks!”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

SPIDER!


It was about 3am when I opened my eyes and reached for my glasses. I gingerly crept out of bed for a nature call. My eagle-eyes scoured the walls to locate my eight-legged-spider 'friend'. "Oscar"- as I have now named him - was nowhere to be seen... Relief poured through my body.

After completing my nature call I crawled back into bed. Hubby was awake by now, so he too followed his own call.

After returning to bed, dear hubby casually announced that "Oscar" was above my dressing table mirror and was settling in for the night. I leapt up and out of bed.


 "Huh? What! Where?"

The news left me wide-eyed and rattled. How had I missed him? The hairs on my neck fluttered wildly . I was wide-awake by now. It was time for action. 


"He must go!" I demanded flatly.

"He's harmless," Les countered sleepily.


"No, it's either him or me!" I said firmly.


I dashed to the kitchen to fetch an ice-cream container. The dogs too were awake by now and matched my energy. They danced in delight. 


"Here, you do it," I handed the container to Les. Hubby let out a sigh, thew back the duvet and took the container. I retreated around the corner to watch from a distance.

By this time Oscar was happily sashay'ing across the ceiling in the dressing area. His hairy legs were long and agile I shivered visibly as Les slowly marked his movements and raised the upside down container towards him. Suddenly the spider leapt out in alarm, off the ceiling and fell, almost in slow motion.... onto Les's bare back...!!!


"Eeeeeeek !" I screamed.


The spider then bounced off Les's back and fell firmly to the floor. I jumped in panic.


As non-Nonplussed as ever, dear hubby bent down calmly and edged the creature into the container. He casually replaced the lid on top and lifted Oscar up to escort him outside, into our atrium.


"See, it's not so bad," he grinned widely.


"Speak for yourself," I muttered as I set about closing all the windows and doors firmly.


Before long, hubby reverted to snoring the night away. I reached for my crochet hook and crocheted into the darkness...... Urrrrg!

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Think about such things..." : A tool against despondency


During the past two weeks, I have really battled with the side effects of Bell’s palsy.  Half of my face has been left paralyzed and I have had sporadic pain, difficulty eating and drinking, eye problems and generally having to try do things differently.  Despite all this, my biggest challenge has been to guard against the despondency that threatens to descend on me at times like this.  It is a dark cloud waiting to happen.  I have to discipline myself to rely on God’s spirit and His word.  It’s not always easy – especially when you can’t read properly and your eye remains out of focus. It’s at times like this that passages of the bible, which I have memorized, wash over me…and I am grateful.

About a month ago, our pastor challenged our congregation to memorize Phillipians 4:8. But it appeared that people had difficulty with this challenge. I wondered why. It reads:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
(Philippians 4:8)

It’s a long list.  But Paul instructs us to “Think about such things…”.  Why do we have difficulty remembering the list? The answer is simply because we DON’T ‘think about such things.’!

Never-the-less, I set about finding a way to remember the verse and came up with a tool (which may also help you, dear reader).  I set about painting a mental image of symbols representing the various ‘things’ that Paul asks us to think about. Whilst doing this, I realized that if I, indeed, did ‘think about these things.’ There was no space to think about anything else.  There simply wasn’t any space in my mind for despondency to creep in. 

So, today, I’d like to try and share my own mental picture of the ‘things’ which Paul asks us to think about. They are simple drawings, but perhaps it will help you too?  Perhaps you’d like to consider sketching your own, personal mental picture of the ‘things’ Paul asks us to think about?

Let's begin...
1.        WHATEVER IS TRUE: In my mind, TRUTH is represented by the Cross of Christ.  Not only is it a ‘T’ for TRUTH, but in the cross, all theTRUTH of the world is revealed; God’s plan for mankind and the redemption of his flock through His Son’s act on the cross all those years ago. This is truth...think about it!


2.       WHATEVER IS NOBLE:  When I think about NOBILITY, I think about God. We just have to think about all the Biblical descriptions of our Lord – His majesty, His all-knowingness, His glory, His beauty, His judgement, His mercy and forgiveness…the list goes on and on.  The fact that the world has been created by Him and that we are in the palm of His hands makes us understand our position.  In my picture, I have a hand coming from the heavens reaching down to the cross.


3.       WHATEVER IS RIGHT:  In my picture, I represent ‘RIGHT’ with a ‘tick’ at the foot of the cross.  This represents everything that stands for what is right.  Jesus spells this out in the Sermon on the mount.  His Spirit in us also ministers to us as to what is ‘RIGHT’ and what leads to RIGHTEOUSNESS.



4.      WHATEVER IS PURE: PURITY again, is at the foot of the Cross – in this case represented by the Mother of Jesus and the virgin birth.  It is also at the foot of the cross that we are washed clean by the blood of Jesus…and made pure.



5.       WHATEVER IS LOVELY: If we look out from the hill where the cross stands – away from ourselves – we look over Gods creation and His anointed people.  It is beautiful.  It is LOVELY!


6.       WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE: Again, looking out from the cross to the road leading to the cross, we see many things that are ADMIRABLE, and we can ‘think about them’.  In my case, I admire Simon of Cyrene (and many others) who carried the cross of Jesus . But we can ADMIRE many things – those people who have contributed to the wonderful story of God and the world.


7.       IF ANYTHING IS EXCELLENT OR PRAISEWORTHY: At the top of the road leading to the cross is the WORD OF GOD – the BIBLE! Through the painstaking work of the saints and the people of God, the Bible’s message has been preserved over the years and brought to us.  People preach it, write about it, study it, meditate on it…and internalise the wonderful messages which are brought to us in its writings.  This is definitely EXCELLENT AND PRAISEWORTHY - worthy to be thought about!


So, if we meditate and ‘THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS’ as in the Philippians verse, there is no more space for negative thoughts to enter our minds.  It truly is a beautiful tool and I would encourage you to draw a picture of your own – with symbols in it to represent these THINGS which we should be thinking about

Sending lots of love and prayers for you,
Caryl

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bell's palsy: Day 10: "I'll praise you in this storm"


It's Day 10 of my Bell's palsy. 
.
After a week of intense physiotherapy, steriod and antiviral tablets and numerous supplements (at times, 30 tablets in one day), I strapped up my sagging face and lay down on my bed.  I felt battered and aching.  I pulled the heated wheat-bag closer and rested it against my cheek.  I closed my eyes and repeating the beautiful words that our Lord, Jesus had uttered on the cross:

"Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit..."
(Luke 23:45)

Although these were Jesus' dying words, they have become my mantra over the past ten days.  They symbolize everything about my faith.  This life is no longer about me - I have died to self.  It's about what the Father wants to make of me and my life.  I surrender. Each morning, as I open my eyes, these are the words I repeat:

"Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit..."
(Luke 23:45)

And amidst these storm, I will continue to praise my beautiful Lord, 
Jesus Christ....


---xXx---

Dear reader,
The above song, by 'Casting Crowns', was sent to me by my beautiful, encouraging daughter, Robyn.  It has blessed me enormously.  I pray that it will bless you too.

With love, in Christ,
Caryl




Friday, October 2, 2015

Bell's Palsy: Day 8: "He leads me besides the still waters..."


I was contemplating what God wanted me to write about this morning. 
Writing is my therapy, but what does God want me to write about?

 My mind drifted back to ten days ago - the wonderful weekend spent together with my fellowship group at the quaint little holiday resort called 'WYNFORD HOLIDAY FARM', in the eastern Free State, South Africa. It's a treasure of a place - tucked away amidst the picturesque mountains that border Lesotho; a little gem that provides a great escape from our busy lives.  The bonus is that it has a Christian ethos and the management and staff attempt to subtly encourage guests to relax into the beauty of their surroundings.  Some folk choose to simply pull up a chair and take it all in.  Others grab a book from the 'honesty library' in their reading room.  

Wynford staff treat their guests like family; they provide good, wholesome meals; teas and cookies under the thatch lapa of the summer house and clean, comfortable rooms.  There is no cellphone signal in the area which makes it even more appealing - no disturbances at all. Instead, it's a weekend to enjoy God's beautiful creation, or to sit quietly in the chapel and take in the view of the majestic mountains.

At night a trillion stars dot the heavens and the 'Milky Way' shimmers in all its glory.  In the morning, birds herald in the dawn and the sounds of the farmyard animals add voice to this Eden. There are a number of beautiful walks too.


One morning, we were walking quietly along the river bank - our group scattered out along the path. It was so peaceful.  I turned to a friend:

"This reminds me so much of Psalm 23...'walking beside the still waters'," I said.  "Have you considered the part where it says,' He MAKES me lie down... to RESTORE my soul'?"  

"That's interesting..., " was the response.  "I never thought of it that way. But its probably true.  There are times where God FORCES us to take a rest."

How ironic! Four days later I was struck down with Bell's palsy. 

---xXx---

There's not much one can do about the effects of an attack like Bell's Palsy except to accept the blows as they arrive.  You are left with a paralyzed face, an eye that refuses to shut, a tongue that does its own thing, a nostril that won't flare and an ugly frozen expression that refuses to budge. The only positive option is to focus on adapting to one's 'new normal'. It's time to learn how to eat, drink, talk, blink, live...in a whole new way. One reaches for anything that offers the possibility of relief. Often, nothing works. Instead, I have had to resort to simply lying down and surrendering into the company of God. It's time to pray for the people I care about and to meditate

Yes, God is certainly MAKING me lie down! And something inside of me says , 'It is right'.  I have the honest hope of restoration; the love of friends; a Christian family that is far wider than I ever thought, and the all-important opportunity of embracing God's glory amidst my affliction. Without the Lord by my side, I would most certainly be a mess - crumbling like a leaf in the clutches of winter.  

But its not that way at all.  Although the paralyses is unchanged, the birds sounded brighter this morning.  I made muffins too - to give to friends and I'm looking forward to my REST during the day. It's obvious that I am being instructed to take it easy.

---xXx---

I pray that God draws close to you to, dear reader.  That you too are able to surrender into His loving arms.  Allow Him to deal with whatever is troubling you - in the full knowledge that "He has got this!". May you also find the true meaning of the gift that is offered by our amazing Lord Jesus Christ. My prayers are with you at this time.

Have a wonderful, happy and blessed weekend. With love, Caryl

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

BELL's PALSY: DAY 5 - 6 : The happy heart...


The past 6 days have been surreal! I have really battled to come to terms with the cold, lifeless mask which constitutes the left hand side of my face.  I've had difficulty eating, drinking, speaking and sleeping (with an eye that refuses to shut on its own, and dries out at the most inconvenient of times). Literally - nothing moves on that side of my face! While the right side of my face struggles to retain its known expressions (and make up for its unwilling partner), the result is a distortion that can be frightening to people who see me. It can be funny too, but that's another story.

This is my new normal.

The easiest way to cope with the disability that comes with an attack of Bell's palsy, in my opinion, is to take stock of one's reality. It's time to accept a 'New Normal'. In a flash, everything changes. Now comes the hard work of adapting to life around it..

No longer does my face reflect the kaleidoscope of emotions that I feel.  Behind its steely facade hides the compassion, love, encouragement, peace and joy of my Lord which I seek to convey to people that cross my path. My desire is always to be a light (admittedly a little one) for the good news which is Jesus Christ. But my face no longer reflects my contagious smile, my knowing glances, my surprised moments. Joy, fear, love, hope, peace, fear are all  wrapped up in my face's icy clutches - locked away, gathering dust.

Despite the imprisonment of my own smile, my domestic worker smiled and said to me today,

"You look happier. You must be feeling better."

It got me thinking. What has changed for her to see that in my face? What does she see?

Well, its simple - my heart is happier! I'm more at peace with what has happened - more in control, more focused on the fact that this is all part of God's plan for my life. We know that 'all things work for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Solomon's proverb has also held true over all this time:

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful...."
(Proverbs 15:13)

I think it's time for us all to take stock of our hearts, don't you?
 


Sending lots of love to you, my special cyber-friends.
Caryl

---xXx---

I would like to convey my sincere thanks to all my friends for your wonderful messages of love and support over the past few days. Your kindness - reflected in so many ways - assures me that God's family is alive and well.  God bless you all!

Monday, September 28, 2015

DIAGNOSIS: BELL's PALSY: Day 1-4

In a moment one’s whole world can be turned upside down. I’ve always known this fact, but never fully realised it until last Friday morning.

I’d just climbed out of the shower and was busy drying myself off when I noticed that my face felt oddly un-synchronised. There was a tingling in my cheek and my eyes weren’t working properly. I leaned over and peered into the mirror above the dressing table. I tried to blink but something was amiss. My smile too had become distorted.  My pulse started to rise as fear took over
.
Perhaps it will go away, I thought.  But it didn’t. The symptoms were becoming more pronounced by the minute and I started to get very scared indeed.  Should I wake my sleep-deprived-vet-student-daughter? Was my condition severe enough to ask her to take me to the hospital? Was I in the early stages of suffering a stroke?  I paced down the passage, testing various facial expressions. Was this my imagination?  I paced more and then past her room.  She opened her eyes, lifted herself off the bed  and looked at me.

“Are you ok, Mom?”

 “I don’t think so,” I said and burst into tears.
------x X x-----

The biggest thing about an attack of Bell’s palsy is the fear. As the victim, one has no idea what is happening. The symptoms are very much like a stroke?  There are more questions than answers. How bad will it be? Am I dying? Is this the life-event that I’ve always dreaded? Life stops in that moment...

Once I was at the emergency room and the ECG, blood tests and MRI were completed, and the diagnoses confirmed, I could relax a little. At that point, I simply felt gratitude: that I wasn’t dying; that my daughter was around to help me in this moment; that I had received prompt and professional care; that there is hope for a full recovery. But the attack has left devastation in its wake.  The whole of my left side of my face is paralysed.

It may take a while to recover and I also have to get accustomed to my new look – a totally lopsided face with no feeling on the left hand side; an eye that refuses to shut without manual manipulation; impeded vocal ability; a nostril that feels thick and an altered way of drinking and eating. I have to use a straw to drink and I have to be very careful not to spill the more solid food items in my attempt to get them in my mouth. I am not very “pretty” to look at either, and I feel nervous of people’s reactions of horror. I feel constantly thirsty – probably from the medication: anti-virals and cortisone tablets.  But I have my first physio appointment this afternoon. Hopefully this will be the start of a full recovery.

“Dr Google”  reassures me that most patients obtain full recovery – the majority over a couple of months. And then there is also my faith – what does God require of me now?

It’s day 4 today and I feel a lot more upbeat.  I’ve had so many beautiful messages of support, and there are many people praying for me. I feel humbled and grateful to be part of such a large family of Christ. The bible verse which keeps me constantly uplifted is the one at the top of this post.  God has got this! 

I have to accept that there are some things in life which are out of my control. It is at these times, that God challenges me to follow him in my affliction; to accept His love and to believe in His promises and the plan He has for my life. I am in awe of my Lord – how He remained close beside me in the past few days. I feel cocooned in His loving embrace.  In response,  I pray that, in my affliction, I can represent the amazing hope that is in our risen Savior: 

Jesus Christ is Lord!

May God bless you today, dear reader. May you feel His gentle, loving Spirit, wherever you may be. With love, Caryl