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

Parenthood & Faith

Parenthood & Faith

I’m only two months into ‘parenthood’ and I’m already surprised how much I have learned about the Father’s heart for us.  In order to be good parents and guide these small human beings through this life, we first need to be guided.

If our walk with God is real, it will provide footsteps for our children to follow.  Footsteps of faith will lead them closer, as we also grow closer, to Our Heavenly Father.  Parenthood and faith are journeys, and every journey starts with a single step.

  • Both journeys begin at birth.

Without a birth, it’s impossible to be a parent. Without being “born again” it’s impossible to be a true believer.”Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3

Being reborn is not the “repeat after me prayer” you prayed once in third grade.  Birth is a memorable, breath-taking, life-changing experience.

  • And your life will change.

It’s impossible to stay the same if you learn to love someone else more than you love yourself.  The change might be hard and slow.  The chipping away of selfishness and pride doesn’t come easy.  However, if a true encounter with love doesn’t change your life, nothing will.

  • It’s all about love.

Love is so much more than that wonderful feeling of holding a newborn in your arms.  Love is God and God is love: this is the basic equation for life.  Without Him, we are simply not capable of loving.  We have a lot to learn about love, and if we desire to learn, both parenthood and faith make great Teachers.

  • Do it by the Book.

It’s one thing to be religious, to know your Bible and theology, and to follow rules and regulations. It’s something else to have faith, to trust in the Unseen, and to have hope in God. It is possible to know all about something without experiencing it.  It is also possible to experience something without knowing everything about it.

In the same way, we can read many books, blogs and articles about parenthood and even more about faith without actually experiencing one or the other. In a relationship, it is not about head knowledge…it’s about the one-on-one experience.

  • Every relationships is unique.

The most foolish thing we can do in regards to personal experiences is to compare. There is no perfect formula to achieving a good relationship. Developing a personal relationship is like a journey on which you either grow closer to your companion or further apart. You also have to make an investment of time to secure a relationship.

In the wise words of Dr Anthony P Witham: “Children spell love T-I-M-E”

It’s also true about our relationship with God. We must choose to take time for Him.  We have to choose to make Him our top priority.  Our Heavenly Father doesn’t force His love on us.

  • We have the freedom to choose

Just as we want our children to make good decisions as they get older, we need to make a decision every day to keep on choosing to follow Christ. Parenthood and faith are not about one great decision but rather choices and decisions we make every day. 

  • Sometimes we will make bad decisions.

This is also how we learn. Very few bad decisions are fatal. Our children will surely grow up regardless of our mistakes.  God is a loving Father who does not reject us because of our failures and mistakes. If we’re not too proud to admit our shortcomings and confess our sins, He pours out His love, forgiveness, and healing.

  • Sacrifices will be part of the journey.

In order to hold our children, or to hold on to our faith, we have to let go of many earthly things. Our reward will be little arms hugging our necks and treasures in heaven as we live this life in the Light of the greatest Sacrifice of all!

Perhaps Our Father gave us children because we need to be reminded on a daily basis that we need to become like children….

“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

….And that we are His children.

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26 KJV

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Luke 11:13 KJV

fifty shades

Black, White.. or Fifty Shades of Grey

Dear Friend,

We live in a time where the lines are getting blurred a little bit more each day, making it hard to choose a side and stay on it.

It’s impossible to stand up for something without resistance, because the gravity of society is real.  You need supernatural strength to swim against the stream, and it’s so much easier to float, to simply go with the most popular opinion or to say nothing…to shut your eyes and pretend that you’re not seeing anything… to close your fists and convince yourself that you do not have to do anything.

Because if you stand up for something you believe in or if you stand up against something you know is wrong, you’re “judged” as being “judgmental”.

If you pursue something with all your heart, even those leaning in the same direction are often quick to call you a “radical” or “freak”.

If you choose a side – any side for that matter – it will be easy to find hundreds of articles on the internet to back you up as “research”, and those of the opposing view will likewise have an equal stash of “research” to support their side of the matter.

If you add up the time you spend doing this “research”, you will realize how much time is wasted sitting on the side-line rather than engaging in the real battle.

And because we’re spending so much time in grey areas, we’re trying to justify grey as a color in it’s own right although deep down we know it’s simply a mixture of black and white.

If something that was white becomes grey – no matter what shade – it’s easy to make it black. On the other hand, making it white again is not so easy.

I could as well have said, “hot”, “cold” or any degree of “lukewarm”.  It’s the same concept.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:  I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” – Revelation 3:15-20 KJV

There is no time to experiment with “different shades of grey”, trying to see how far we can deviate from the perfect “white” of the Light of the World and still claim to be living in it.  If we take the time to even think about whether we should read a book or watch a movie that we know is so far from God’s will for our lives, we’re playing with fire.  Our eyes and ears are the windows to our souls.

Our only Hope is standing at the door knocking, and we cannot let Him in halfway. It’s all or nothing….hot or cold….black or white.

We’re called to live holy lives and to be light…to be white.  And yes, we need His light to shine into our own dark places first before we can become guides for the blind.  Otherwise, our sinful nature which is easily tempted with black ideas and willing to experiment with the dark side will rule and reign, making us feel more comfortable living in the grey areas where our sins are not revealed.

Today I would like to challenge you to make a choice and take a stand to throw the door wide open and let Him all in!  He alone is able to wash us and make us whiter than snow and change us into His glorious image.