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,

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....


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,

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. 


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, 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.


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.


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


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

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thank you Bryanston Bible Church!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning"
(John 1:1-2)

When I think of Old Testament times and the efforts people had to make to access Scripture and understand Scripture, I feel so deeply grateful!   In those days, the people relied totally on oral teaching and the God-inspired leaders of the day. Later, however, these teachings were painstakingly written down and preserved over the ages for us today. Through the use of today's technology, the Bible and its teachings are literally at our finger-tips.  We have no excuse for ignorance. Are we even aware of how privileged we are? Isn't it incredible that we are be able to simply pick up a Bible, or log onto the Internet and read what God has to say to us? What a privilege!

The Bible - a unique collection of 66 ancient books - is so important to us Human beings.  Whether you like it or not, it provides the answers to life that we so desperately desire.  It is through these old manuscripts that we are able to come to know the great plan of our majestic Maker – our Father God, His incredible Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  We come to learn about the unique way which God has chosen to redeem us. We are His personally created creatures, He loves us and has provided a way for us to be in communion with Him.

Nowadays, with the Internet, we are able to simply do a Google search and access almost anything. There are many 'bad' things on the Internet, yet amidst this all lies some uniquely good treasures.

Last year, I had the precious privilege of joining a group of similar-minded people at a morning Bible School. With the backing of wonderful lecturers, we had the sole goal of reading through the whole Bible in one year.  I personally needed a better understanding of the foundation of my faith. It was an incredible year and yes, I did achieve this small milestone.  The experience taught me, however, that there is so much more to learn. Throughout our lives, we’ll continue to learn about the amazing workings of God,  and we continue search for more.  We’ll always have questions too…some will be answered, some will remain unanswered. 

The main message during my year at Bible School, however, is the enormous love that God has for us and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us in order to have a relationship with the Almighty. God understands our desperation and provides a way.  Bible School has allowed me to experience such joy in the Scriptures and to appreciate the absolute miracle of my salvation through Jesus Christ. I have so many people to thank, but today I need to make a special mention...

There are two main resources on the Internet which I continue to use – and for these I am extremely grateful.  The first one is BIBLE GATEWAY.  I regularly visit this site and often simply press 'play' to allow the Scriptures to wash over me. There are blogs, commentaries and various versions of the bible which only need a "click" of the button to have God's message in front of you. The bonus is that the Audios are absolutely free!  What a treasure...and I am immensely grateful.

The other incredibly valuable resource on the Internet is attached to a wonderful church that has a very special place in my heart. This is...

To go to BBC's website, please click HERE.

Both Bible Gateway and BBC have allowed me to gain a deeper insight into the Bible, to discipline me daily, to strengthen my faith and resolve to live a life that Jesus would want me to live. These resources have been there at the times when I really needed them...and I am immensely grateful!

But I need to highlight BRYANSTON BIBLE CHURCH specifically ... and I want to say a very particular and personal,  ‘Thank you!’ to those involved in this website.  I don’t think they know how valuable and helpful these resources are to me (and I am sure to many others). Thank you so much!

The wonderful thing about BBC is that I was BAPTISED there so, although I am a member of another church now, my heart often goes home to BBC. I download and listen to most of their podcasts, and am strengthened and inspired by them.  They are one of the Internet’s treasures.  I want to say a special thank you to Ross, Kevin and the video/podcast production team.  This ministry is absolutely wonderful!  THANK YOU SO MUCH! You guys are awesome, please keep up and be encouraged in the amazing work that you do for our wonderful Father.

I would like to encourage any readers of this blog to visit BBC’s website and explore the amazing resources which they offer.  Perhaps you'd like to join me in a prayer for them too:

“Father God, thank you for BBC! Thank you for their ministries and their outreach.  Thank you that I am able to access these resources, listen to them and feel Your Spirit move through them.  I am grateful for the teaching of Your Word. I know that many others may also benefit from these resources and I am grateful for the spreading of this ministry.  Lord Jesus, I pray that your Holy Spirit will invade all of BBC;  that through their pastors, YOUR WILL BE DONE!  Please guard their ministry against all evil and empower their elders, workers, helpers and congregants.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus.  Thank you, Lord.”