The Reason Why

The Reason Why We Are Here

Every life is precious and planned
Skillfully knit together by the Masters hand.
Deep inside of wombs where no eyes could see
He created you and me.

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I know our purpose doesn’t always seem clear
But there is a reason why we are here,
Why our hearts are still beating,
And there will always be hope as long as we’re breathing.

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Because love will keep us alive
Far beyond this life
Through the love of the One
Who gave His only Son.

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The One who forgave,
So that we can forgive,
The One who gave us faith,
So that we could believe.

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It was never up to us,
And it will never be,
Because nothing we can do
Will truly set us free.

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We can rest in the cross
And trust that He will complete
The good work He began in us
As we become His hands and feet.

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We might have a long way “to go”
And we’re not promised “no sorrow”,

Only true love, that will drive out fear

Until that day when it will all be clear.

 

The Best Marriage Advice Ever

In two simple sentences, a single guy nailed marriage 2000 years ago. It wasn’t a theory, but wisdom straight from the heart of God.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Ephesians 5:22, 25

Those who are already married will fully realize the practical implications of these two sentences; those who are still single should not be fooled into thinking that this occurs “naturally” in marriage.  Though it may take many people a lifetime to yield to these words of wisdom, simple obedience results in peace, joy, unity, and strength in a marriage.

I will be the first to admit that I often struggle to submit, and I am afraid I am not very lovable when I resist…

For twenty-five years before marriage, I was being prepared by my family and culture “to leave the nest” and to become a responsible, independent citizen of society.  Furthermore, there were many dynamic women in my family whom I looked to as examples of strength.  Unfortunately, the men in my life did not match my perception of what strong leaders should be, especially in areas of life I considered most important.  My faulty understanding of leadership models only added to my misconception that men are weak, requiring me to be strong. 

Unlike millions of women throughout history, and in many societies and cultures around the world, I grew up as an equal to my brothers.  I had the opportunity to get an education and voice my opinions as a woman.  I could choose my own career path and even decide who I wanted to marry. In contrast, multitudes of women in the world today are still forced into submission, arranged marriages, and even slavery from birth because of their sex.   

After years of being groomed for independence, submission in marriage doesn’t come “naturally”.  Quite the opposite, it is contrary to the will of our flesh, so we have to choose to willingly surrender our own will to the law of love.  And, more often than not, we are not exactly sure what it means to “submit”.  The Bible is not as clear on the matter of submission as it is on love, and I cannot help but wonder if our own misunderstandings stem from our error in separating the two.  Consequently, men try to force their wives into submission when the Word commands them to “love” their wives, and wives resist submission when it is all part of the nature of love to submit to the Lord.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Paul spoke right into the heart of the problem when he told women to submit and men to love.  Normally driven by emotions, women have to learn to be led by the truth and practicalities rather than by feelings. To follow someone else instead of our own stubborn ways and to learn the art of when and how to keep our mouths shut is a challenge. However, simple submission brings respect and honor to our husbands which makes them happy and content, and the husband “blossoms” in the same way that a wife does when she feels unconditionally loved.  

Ah-h-h-h….I know that I still have a long way to go and a lot to unlearn and re-learn.  We know to do good, but we don’t do it, so we don’t reap the benefits.  In the end, it’s all about simple obedience.  Perhaps marriage was instituted by God to give us practical training in loving one another.  After all, marriage is ultimately a metaphor of our relationship with God.  If we struggle to submit to our earthly husbands in love, it might be a reflection of our struggles to submit to His perfect will and plans for our lives.  If we struggle to love our spouses, it is a sure sign that we are lacking in love and need to go to the Source for a new supply.

We might liken our life on this earth to a time of preparation to become a bride – the bride of Christ.  We are engaged to the bridegroom who has gone away to prepare a place for us, as was the tradition of the Jews.  After all things are prepared, He will return to claim His bride and take her to be with Him forevermore.  We might even say the marriage of the church to Christ is a “pre-arranged” marriage, planned long before we were born by the Creator of the Universe Himself.

Divorce is not an option to the Lover of our souls, neither would we desire to annul our engagement contract, or run away, if we could only comprehend the perfect love of God, our true “soul-mate” who alone completes us.

To submit to God is the only road to true happiness and true love.  Therefore, we should be careful that we do not give more power to our culture, society, thoughts, and opinions in shaping and molding us than we do to the Word of God.  As we struggle to maintain control as the “captains of our own ships”, pursuing our own happiness and pleasures in this world, we might be steering towards an iceberg and certain shipwreck.

The perfect love of God love is easy to submit to; voluntary submission makes us more lovable.  Love and submission are therefore intertwined. 

Do you also struggle to submit or to love?  Then, let submission be an expression of love.  We all need to encourage one another to be better companions, wives, husbands…. and to ultimately prepare ourselves to become the bride of Christ without spot or blemish.

Photographer: Michelle van Wyk

What I have learned from travelling...

What I Have Learned from Travelling

There is something exciting about going to a new country… new people to meet and different places to go that can keep us looking forward to new sights and adventures, whether it may be white beaches and palm trees, snow-covered mountains and rivers, or unique foods, flavors, and aromas. There is a world full of possibilities, just waiting to be discovered.

And then, you wake up one morning in a cheap hotel on the coast of South East Asia only to realize that white beaches and palm trees cannot heal a homesick heart.  All the fascinating strangers in the world can never replace “your people” or “your culture”.  And if you could choose to eat anything in the world, you would probably choose your favorite home-cooked meal that your mom used to make for you…if you only could.

You look in the mirror, and the only familiar face in the city is staring right back at you.  That can be a lonely and discomforting experience, especially if you don’t like yourself. In moments like these, we need to know that God is with us, and that He will never forsake us.  His enduring love for us enables us to love the familiar face in the mirror as well as the multitudes of strangers around us, no matter how “strange” they may be. 

I have learned that if one does not have peace in his heart, which only comes from knowing God and His forgiveness, he won’t find it anywhere else.  When we remain strangers to Him – separated by sin, guilt, and shame – peace with ourselves and our surroundings is unattainable and elusive.

If you hope that money, a new job, a loved one, or some new destination will one day make you satisfied and complete, you will be disappointed.  And all the while you are running after greener pastures elsewhere, you will be not be able to appreciate the beauty of your own backyard.  Jesus was very clear about setting priorities for contentment and happiness: 

Seek first the Kingdom

Perhaps you feel stuck because you always wanted to travel the world, but you have to raise your family first.  Or, maybe you’re travelling the world all by yourself and you would give anything to be raising a family instead.  Remember that you may be living someone else’s dream.  Enjoy and be content in where you are right now.

Many have witnessed the beginning of an awesome sunset and totally missed the full impact of nature’s performance by scrambling for a camera to snap a photo to share with others.   Instead of “capturing” the moment, it slips away and is lost forever. 

I have learned from my travels that:

·         Travel does not provide an escape from personal flaws and failures

·         Being in a new country only changes where we are, not who we are

·         Having a blank page to write on doesn’t make us new

·         We can never run from God…He is everywhere

I am grateful that no matter where I am, I need to go the same distance to get on my knees to acknowledge God’s presence.

Not only is His name written in the sky and embedded in the ocean, He is in the details of His creation, in every flower petal and fragrance that comes forth.The whole firmament declares His existence and presence.

And somehow, He is always ready and willing to help us sort out our messy lives…God with us.

I know that I have much to learn… including a new language, culture and way of life…but for now, I simply hope to learn to be present in the moment, to be grateful, and to make the most of what I have and where I am…to savor the moments of life while God is changing me into His image.

Complaining never solved anything

Complaining Never Solved Anything

“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord:  and the Lord heard it;  and his anger was kindled;  and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.” – Numbers 11:1 

Ouch.

I wish God could not hear me these past couple of weeks.

If having to walk through a desert with only the clothes on your body and one kind of food to eat for months is not enough reason to complain, then I am SO guilty…

Vietnam has its challenges, but compared to a desert, it’s an oasis. With a backpack full of clothes and a variety of food to choose from, having to sleep in a hotel every night is the last thing on earth I get to complain about.

And yet, sometimes, life feels hard: when your body struggles to adjust to a new environment and your stomach rumbles a few complaints of its own; or, when you’re not able to speak the local language to say you need a bathroom or a glass of clean water.  Sometimes it’s difficult to keep on walking with a tired body and a weary soul.

“We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:  But now our soul is dried away:  there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.”  – Numbers 11:5-6

We complain “with this manna before our eyes” or, like we would say in Afrikaans, “met die witbrood onder die arm” because it’s easy to believe that things were better where we came from than where we are now.  We tend to forget all the reasons why we left “where we came from” and all our complaints about that place.

We all know that complaining doesn’t solve anything, and it doesn’t please the Lord. However, before we know it, we reveal our lack of faith to ourselves and those around us by the negative words that slip through our lips uncontrollably.

The Lord often reminds me that I’m just as guilty of the sin of complaining as the children of Israel were ages ago.  My complaining is evidence of my lack of faith in God’s faithfulness.

We have so much to learn from the prophet Habbakuk, who said: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord , I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Complaining takes our focus off of the wonderful work of God in progress, causing us to miss something beautiful in the moment.  Instead of amplifying the glory of God’s handiwork through thanksgiving, we remain blinded to His work by focusing on the situation around us rather than looking up to the One who is able to save us from all our troubles.

Vietnam

Perhaps it’s time for a new approach, and a prayerful one at that, to pray for eyes of faith fixed steadfastly on the One in whom all things are possible….in the One who can change what we see and how we see it. 

What if we tried to find more things to be grateful for instead of complaining?  What if we asked God to show us the root of our complaints and discontent?  And what if we asked Him to change our perspective so that we could see that He is able to turn ALL things into good for those who love Him?

If my stomach aches, it’s possible that I ate something that disagreed with me.  In the same way, if my spirit is troubled, I need to examine myself to find the trigger.  More often than not, there is a solution to every problem if we look for one rather than wallowing in despair.  

We are not isolated (think of the connectivity of the internet!), and even if we were, it would simply challenge us to be more creative.  We can always ask a friend for advice, and Jesus is that friend that sticks closer than a brother!  Our relationships, especially with our partners, would also improve if we complained less and encouraged more. 

I would like to challenge you to take your biggest complaint this week and seek a solution instead of focusing on the negatives. 

Also try to find at least one thing to be grateful for in your current situation that would not have been possible if you stayed in “Egypt”. It may not seem easy at first, but I know it will bring good results in your life, and it might just be the breakthrough you’ve been hoping for :-)

”Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

Feel free to share it with us…

 

The butterfly

The Butterfly Effect

Almost two years ago two of our best friends died from cancer in the same week.

They were both in their late twenties. Energetic people who loved life and had just as much going for them as they had to offer.

Being a physical therapist at the time I was surrounded by people in pain and hurting on the inside.. The world seemed more broken than ever and I felt hopeless knowing that there was not much I could do for any of them.

One night I was crying and praying that God would show me what to do.

Through my tears I saw a picture of caterpillar – and somehow I knew that caterpillar was me. It was spinning itself into a cocoon. Spinning and spinning in an attempt to break away from this world and all that is within it. There was a feeling of expectancy, like something was about to change radically.

Time passed. I am not sure exactly how long a metamorphosis takes, but it was perhaps the same amount of time. Enough time to be transformed into something new; almost like a “second birth”.  And out came the most beautiful butterfly I have ever seen, together with the words: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

At first the butterfly looked a bit confused. What do you say? What are you supposed to do when you are a butterfly? How do you use your wings to fly?

The answer came in a clear and simple voice, repeating itself over and over again; “Just be a butterfly, just be a butterfly, just be a butterfly”.

 The butterfly effect

 Photographer: Leon Skinner

Then the other butterflies came. They were even more beautiful than the first butterfly, flying gracefully towards her. The striking thing was that there was no jealousy, selfishness or pride amongst them. They encouraged and inspired each other in a way that had love written all over it.

Many caterpillars were still on the ground. Unlike the butterflies, they were filled with envy, hate and pride. Some of them mocked the butterflies and spread lies about them. Others admired the butterflies, worshipped them even. Perhaps deep down they knew that they were meant to be butterflies too.

I could see that the butterfly was still a little bit confused and easily hurt by the caterpillars’  words. She was even physically trying to drag them to a better place.  This only left her tired and hurt, without getting them anywhere.

“You are not supposed to carry them”: the simple voice spoke again. “You were never supposed to carry them. Just be a butterfly”.

The butterfly looked around and saw that some of the caterpillars were also starting to spin themselves into cocoons. Whatever the other butterflies were doing were obviously more effective. She saw them flying around whispering gentle words that only the caterpillars could hear.

When she moved closer to hear what they were saying. The message was so simple that even a child could understand it. (Almost like the gospel.)

And off the butterfly went, whispering into the caterpillars ears and praying that they will repent: “You can be a butterfly too. You can be a butterfly too. This is what you must do…”

I’ve learned that is not up to us to save them, to carry them to the Cross. We cannot change them any more than one butterfly can change a caterpillar into a butterfly.

It is impossible for us to turn ourselves into butterflies as well. We simply get to choose not to conform to this world and to ’be transformed by the renewing of our minds’.

In essence we are all the same. But we need to be changed radically if we want to play a little part in this transformation of the world.

We need to ‘just be’, who God created us to be. And to spread the truth that will also set them free. This is our purpose.

Our lives are fragile and fleeting. It might be even shorter than we think.

Let’s not waste it!