Time vs Money

Time vs. Money

The little one is asleep on his blanket; I watch his chest move up and down as I’m writing this. I look down at my tummy, with a brown line slowly fading, and I can hardly believe that he came out of there just five months ago.

It feels like I now have a physical reminder of time. This baby is turning into a boy, and in time, he will become a young man.

And yet I cannot help but think how “all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass…”  We too shall fade one day.  Our time as we know it will run out and there is only One Way into eternity. The question is, “Will we spend the little time we have laying up treasures in heaven or on earth?”

We have a choice.  We can spend our time accumulating earthly treasures in vain, always working for more, while what we already have is rusting away and gathering dust because we have no time to enjoy it.

Normal” is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car you are still paying for in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it. – Ellen Goodman

My heart skipped a beat when I read this quote because I know it’s true. I’ve been there - caught up in traffic, debt, and vanity. Credit changed the money game because the debt incurred to have what you want when you want it can destroy your life rather than enriching it. If “time is money”, as they say, one ends up stealing time from his own future for present pleasures.

When it comes to earthly treasures, we each have the power to set their value in our lives. Money only has power because we believe it does.  In reality it is nothing but pieces of paper with presidents printed on them.  Mammon can take the shape of our desires – he is flexible like that. And we have to remember that the enemy and mammon are one and the same:  if we put our joy in earthly treasures, we make it so easy for him to steal it, and we should not be surprised when he does.

I would lie if I said I did not wish I had more money in the bank, owned a house or a car or a new smart phone. I simply know myself well enough to know that it would not make me happier if I had all these things.  I’ve walked the road with God long enough to know that He is the only security I need. I’m also certain that those things might affect my ability to choose how to spend my time most wisely in this life I have been given.  It is wisdom to invest in heavenly treasures rather than in earthly treasures which become distractions in our quest for the “abundant life”.

It is a noble idea to think that if I had a fortune, I would simply “give it all to the poor”.  However, to be quite honest, I have to admit that I would probably hold on as tightly to it as I do to my little “man-to-be”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kingdom lately, about investing all I have and all I am into a “currency” with an eternal interest rate. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of an economic system where less is more, giving is better than receiving, risking it all is the way to gain most, and playing it safe is dangerous.  Only to realize that everything you thought you “owned” was never really yours, and every second is a gift that you can only keep if you give it away.  

The more I think about it, the more I realize how empty a life chasing after anything but God will turn out to be. We have to be careful of chasing dreams that start with the words: “one day if I have…”.   If there is one thing money and time have in common, it is that we will never feel like we have “enough”. 

Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day; For surely there is a hereafter, And your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:17-18

butterfly

Hope for the Broken

Dear Little Butterfly

I didn’t have the best of mornings. The washing had to be done and the little one started making some weird, irritating noises a few days ago that drives me insane. The internet doesn’t want to connect, the tablet screen is broken, and, for some reason, the neighbour’s cat thinks the washing area in the back is now his new litter box. (Not that you would understand any of that, but I’m sure you can imagine.)

At the same time, I’m really trying to be grateful and content with all things.  However, I now feel guilty because I am being so ungrateful.  Things are obviously not going so well….

Then, I saw you sitting there in the sun, struggling to flap your little wings.  When I came closer, you didn’t fly away, and you even allowed me to pick you up.  I saw that you had a broken wing,  and the reason you didn’t fly away is because you couldn’t.

I know that life hurts sometimes, and even if you know the right way, it’s hard to fly a straight course if you are broken. It’s hard to get up when you are really down.

So I lifted you higher to get a good picture – a reminder that just because someone hurts or is broken in any way, it doesn’t make him any less beautiful – and off you went, flying away.  Your wing still worked….all you needed was to be lifted up.

And I take a mental note instead of a picture because I know that it’s true of people too. When they hurt we do not need to fix them or just feel sorry for them. We simply need to lift them up and remind them that they can still fly. That the way their pain has shaped them makes them more beautiful. And that it’s sometimes simply the way they are shaped for their unique purpose.

I saw many other butterflies today, but God chose you to speak into my heart and to remind me of a butterfly revelation I had years ago… To teach me that even butterflies can get hurt and be okay.

Never think that you are too broken to be used….that you have to be perfect to be beautiful. Those thoughts do not come from a God who works it all for good to those who love him and are called according to His purpose.

Life can break us, but it can only steal our joy if we let it.

I pray that you will keep on flying and that He will keep on finding ways to lift you up so that you can spread your wings to do what you were created for, always to His glory.

Dear South African

Dear South African

It doesn’t matter where you live at the moment or what color your skin is, whether you decided to stay, or whatever your reasons were for leaving. If you are a South African you will always be reminded where you come from.  “South Africa” will always be the answer to the first (or second) question people will ask you when they meet you for the first time. If you live overseas you will write it on more forms than you would like to remember.

If you are a “South African”, it doesn’t matter if you think in English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Zulu, Xosa, or any of the other official languages. South Africa will always be a part of who you are. It’s impossible to forget the smell of “braaivleis”, the taste of ‘Rooibos’ tea, or the sound of the “vuvuzela”. The image of the “Big Five” in the Kruger National Park as well as the marvelous views from the top of Table Mountain will be engraved in your memory forever.

Perhaps we all have mixed feelings about the past, present, and future of our rainbow nation including a bit of pride, embarrassment, anxiety, fear, hope, love, joy, and regret. If we could we would blame it all on the history of a nation that was written in black and white with the word “apartheid” stamped all over it in red ink.

And while we are pointing fingers at everyone from Jan van Riebeeck to Jacob Zuma, we somehow fail to realize that our words and actions TODAY will be the history of the future. For it is a simple fact that our children and grandchildren will not be able to change what we do today any more than we are able to change what our forefathers did in the past.

I’m not sure if sitting in another country at the moment makes me more objective, or terribly clueless, about what is really going on. All I know is that it doesn’t make me any less South African.  I am simply tired of reading the bad news and negative comments about my homeland.

So, I’m writing this letter because I know beyond a reason of a doubt that there is still hope for South Africa, and there is hope for us….a hope that reaches far beyond the borders of a country and stretches into eternity.

I know that if you were born in South Africa you’ve had access to this hope unlike millions of people living all around me at the moment who have never ever heard the good news of the gospel. The only “hope” they have is to make enough merit in this life to be born again to a better state in their next life.

I also know that hearing the good news is only the first step. Perhaps you’ve heard all about this Good News, but you have never experienced it for yourself. Maybe you have even been hurt by the church or people who called themselves Christians…there are many “wounded lambs” that Jesus is reaching out to today. In South Africa, there is an 80% chance that you are one of those wounded lambs because most South Africans call themselves “Christians” while lacking the love, forgiveness, and power of Jesus Christ in their lives.

It’s also possible to take salvation for granted being born into a “Christian” home, baptized as a baby, and going through all the ceremonies of being a Christian without truly realizing what it is all about.  After all, if you manage to make it to church on Sundays and join some kind of study group or church activity, people will be convinced that you are saved regardless of how you live.

The truth is, this hope I’m talking about must be experienced to be understood….This hope that you find only in God is impossible to carry around in your heart without changing you and everything around you. As South Africans we have heard the good news, we simply need to see it. And others need to see Jesus when they look at us.

Having hope is easy, but sometimes living hope is hard - especially in a place like South Africa. It’s impossible to be racist and look like Jesus, to hate our neigbours and call ourselves “saved”, or to drown out the voices of the orphans and the widows by turning our worship music louder.

His way is the way of forgiveness, obedience, sacrifice, truth, faith, hope, love… and yet the burden is light because it has already been carried to the Cross. We simply get to be carriers of a Light that will shine brighter in the darkness. We do not have to be afraid because “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

One sure way to be disappointed is to put our hope in the next election, more false promises, better leadership, insurance policies, better security systems, or even moving to another country. Wherever we go, there will be troubles and problems. Being able to rejoice in the midst of trial and tribulations is the breeding ground for hope!

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so , but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:2-5

This hope “maketh not ashamed’: it will never fail us; it has never failed me.

To me South Africa will never be a place I left because I had no hope. It is the place where I found the only hope worth living for.

It doesn’t matter where you live at the moment or what the color of your skin is…I pray that you will become a beacon of hope to those around you, because, at the end of the day, where we are going is much more important than where we come from.

 

Doing Good for God

Doing Good for God

There is a kind of drive that can feel holy, and yet it’s nothing but pride — this feeling that we are supposed to be doing something great with our lives. Something that will “give God glory” while “making a name for ourselves,” which is simply to “bring glory to self”.  These desires are contradictory and do not align with one another.

Perhaps you feel that you should be doing something “great and worthy” with your life like planting a church, starting an orphanage in Africa or an NGO in Asia, or maybe writing a best-seller book about faith or some other spiritual topic.  Again, I wonder if God’s perspective of something “great” is the same as ours.

And more often than not, we may not even act on these grand thoughts.  Most of the time, we’re simply entertaining the idea but allow day after day to pass without taking even the first step to make it a reality.  Besides, we justify our lack of action by saying we do not have enough time, money, or resources to move forward on all of our good intentions.  Perhaps, we contemplate, that the right day and circumstances will finally come to make things happen.

If only we could get credit for all our good intentions.

Even if we are really willing to “give it all up” or to “give it all away” to do something crazy like moving to another country for “the sake of the gospel”, our idea of “a great sacrifice” may only be just a small baby step of simple obedience to fulfill God’s own plan, which is far greater than anything we could dream up.  As we learn to listen to His voice and walk in His ways, we begin to realize how our greatest visions are pale in relation to God’s plans for us and those around us. “Giving it all up” should be a basic part of any Christian’s mindset and is not reserved for a special few.  And whatever comes forth from our efforts should be to the glory of God and Him alone.

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  Luke 17:33

There is a lot of good that needs to be done, not for God but because of Him.  Simply because “God is good.”

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

One of the most important lessons I learned was during a very difficult time when I felt like I was failing as a Christian.  God showed me that nothing I can do will make Him love me more, and nothing that I fail to do will make Him love me less.

His love is unconditional and He is “in need of nothing.”

This doesn’t give me a grace card to do whatever I want in His name; it simply gives me the freedom to stop trying so hard to do good things out of my own strength and to trust that

He which has begun a good work (in me) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ

Whenever the focus is on my ability to do something it takes my focus off of Him. In the words of an anonymous African worker in the documentary “The End of Churchianity“: “God is not looking for your ability, he is looking for your availability.”

And wherever we end up going or staying, we have to realize that we burden ourselves by carrying our own baggage of theologies, ideas, and denominations with us to the ends of the earth.  In fact, God doesn’t need them wherever He sends us because He is already there. He was there long before us, and He will still be there long after we leave – doing what He does best….drawing people to Himself through His love.

The best thing we can do is to open our eyes and our hearts to what God is already doing where He places us and to pray that He will fill us with His Spirit and enable us to do what we cannot do out of our own strength.  Then, if any good comes out of our lives, which will be a miracle in itself, we simply get to point to Him as the source and reason.

The only way to be truly humble is to give all the glory to God.

Maybe we will get to plant seeds, but the growing process is always up to God. Maybe we will arrive when the harvest is ready and simply be part of the reaping process. There is no greater joy than to see others find the Treasure of life in Christ.  One may plant, another waters, but it’s God who gives the increase!

Yes. Let us do good,

“…and let us provoke one another to love and to good works.”  Hebrews 10:24

And let us not be weary in well doing:  for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Galatians 6:9

words

Words – A Letter of Hope

Dear Friend

I’ve never been more aware of the power of words.

Living in a foreign country….Learning a new language….Being a wife and a new mommy….Trying to keep in touch with friends and family I have not seen for years….Praying….Reading….Writing this blog.

Words matter!  That includes the words we read and listen to as well as the ones we speak and write, the new words we learn and the old ones we teach, the words that were spoken to us in the past, and the words we’re speaking into the future.

Sometimes we stutter and stumble, and other times we speak too fast, too much, too soon.

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. – Proverbs 17:28

Life is not a draft that can be edited.  Once uttered, a word cannot be deleted.  Interestingly, public speaking is one of the top three fears among people in general, probably because we fear the judgment of the masses regarding what we say.

On the other hand, while fearing to speak before crowds, we seem to have no fear at all in our daily communication with others when we complain, nag, judge, gossip, and vent our opinions seeking “disciples” of our words and thoughts..

We’re all guilty!  And I’m not pointing a finger, I’m raising my hand in confession.  As a writer and poet, it’s especially hard NOT to speak when words always bubble up in my head.  I’m learning that the harder I try to explain myself, the more I feel misunderstood. 

I’m also finding that unless I’m willing to be sensitive to the “language” of the people around me, I will be limited to superficial relationships because effective listening requires proper understanding.

Words only have power because they communicate a message. To be effective, words have to be bundled together with honesty and sincerity.  It doesn’t help to be “men pleasers” by saying what you think people want to hear because you will probably be wrong anyhow (and I’m still learning this every day).  The truth only hurts once, but lies hurt forever.

And the truth truly spoken in love doesn’t hurt half as much as a lie.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.  Proverbs 15:1

There is hope because words can encourage, inspire, and change lives, especially when the words spoken are not your own but the Word of God.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. – Romans 12:2

Our minds can only be renewed if “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

At the end of the day, our words reflect what’s going on in our minds and in our hearts.  Perhaps if we would choose the words we read and listen to more carefully, they would begin to transform our minds and hearts.

If my words don’t speak life and carry hope, there is no point in writing.

If your words don’t speak truth and carry love, there is no point in speaking.

My prayer is that you will count your words today and that your words will count.

Love

Dorette