a cheap wash

21 06 2015

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This is real life. 

Does God ever speak to you while washing dishes?  Or doing the ordinary stuff?  My mind is being flooded with images. This one was so compelling I have to share it.

Dishes are not really one of my fun activities.  And I am Rather Particular with how they should be done. I like using a sponge with little abrasive bits on the one side and sponge on the other.

And I like them to last a few weeks. 

Today I took a new sponge.  And man, was I disappointed. 

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I had bought a cheap pack of sponges.  Sometimes these work out ok.

Today’s sponge was thrown away straight away.  It did not even make it through one wash.

 

It was so small in my hands, it really did not sit well. 

And then it came apart  as I was washing.  Just started coming off, bit by bit. 

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This cheap sponge could never do the cleaning it is meant to do.  It has no quality, cannot endure and is just rubbish, really.

For a while now, I have been praying for churches and the faith that is preached.  And feeling bad for the faith that I have been living. 

The compulsion today is that so many dispense a cheap gospel. 

It comes apart at the smallest sign of testing, does not even wash away sins. This kind of gospel is really a panacea for the mind, not a redemption of the heart and soul. 

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It is a cheap replica of the Real Thing.  Like an inoculation, it gives a little bit of the ‘infection’ so that one never gets The Real Thing.  It comes with a few easy words and sees the sovereign LORD as a magic formula, where one speaks a few incantations every day and the magic will work to sort out the difficulties immediately. 

Why this is so heavy on my heart is that I have such a compulsion in my soul that difficult times are coming.  Even more difficult than what they are.  I HATE that people go into churches and kill those busy with Bible Studies.  My spirit grieves for those killed and severely traumatised from the Garissa attack, especially those who were in an early morning prayer meeting.  It really pains me that so many are suffering in real ways for faith. But it is not the end.

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We have had our first really great weather since September over the last few days. It has been glorious!  I pulled out a mat, went to sit on the grass with this view and asked God to come sit beside me for us to just communicate. The sweet Holy Spirit did come.  I first just relished the sounds of birds, the vivid greens and the amazing water flowing down just nearby.  And the feeling came strongly.  Tough times are coming.  Just that.  Tough times are coming. 

This is where a cheap gospel is completely insufficient.  It cannot endure. 

When we understand what the real Gospel is all about it cannot leave us the same. 

If we know that it cost God EVERYTHING, and it cost Jesus ALL, we cannot stay in our cheap comfortable lives any longer. 

I do not want to go into the process  endured to win our freedom.  There is so much that has been said already:  go and explore.  Watch The Passion of the Christ.  Read the Gospels. look up online. 

But I do pray that you would understand.  Really grasp this. 

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 1 Corinthians 7:23. 

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So many churches have enslaved people to a human way of thinking.  The world is so full of people looking for security, comfortable living, prosperity and nice. 

These are great ideas.  they feel so good.

But I do not see them being the focus of the Real Gospel.  I do not even see Jesus encouraging them. Ever. 

Jesus called people to give up everything and follow Him.  Jesus paid with it all, giving an example for us to live like Him. 

He died to save us from all our sins. 

I am just starting to get that as I really meditate on it.  My heart is filled with anxiety, by nature.  I struggle with this in my heart and in my mind. 

And I am challenged to TRUST in GOD.  His Word says not to be anxious about anything.  That verse really really tugs at me.  It is not in my natural state to be like that. 

But with God all things are possible. 

A cheap Gospel says that it is ok to feel as I do, we all feel bad at times.  I should just do my best.

Jesus’s blood says that is rubbish.  I am to cling to Him, in all my weaknesses, and know that His grace is sufficient in my weaknesses.

My heart’s prayer is that we go beyond the cheap washes, that cannot endure. 

I pray that we find the Real Gospel, that cost our Saviour ALL.  When we are washed clean of ALL our sins by that blood, our lives are set free to be His image.  To live His way in His world.

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Life does not become easy. 

But the intimacy that is ours as we depend on Him (because there really is no other option in a shaking world) far surpasses cheap thrills, wishy-washy doctrines and really is an anchor for the soul. 

Living in obedience, even when things are rough, is worth it.

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And cheap washing scrubs are not worth it.  The expensive stuff is the only way, really. 

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each shaved curl is hard work

14 06 2015

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The Story of the Boat may one day become a book. 

Deon has been working on the boat for about six weeks.  He has long since dreamed of building a boat from wood.  And Leif, our late landlord, wanted to build a boat.  So Deon and Leif set out building together. 

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This itself was miraculous:  there were a few very rough planning sketches, neither Leif nor Deon understood each other’s language, they indicated width and length with gestures… but the process was on its way! 

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It would be Leif’s boat, as he had built houses, shelves, furniture, knives and birdhouses, but never a boat.  Leif’s health was fading fast, and often he would just sit on a chair passing tools along to Deon, but they had an amazing kind of contact in this process and each was helping the other to see dreams carried out.

If you have read this blog over the last month you would know that our dear Friend Leif left this world on Ascension day.  We pray that in the last stretch of time in the hospital, he was there for about ten days, that He was drawn to Jesus.  We had tried to speak to him, we had loved Leif but he brushed off every attempt Deon made to speak with him directly. 

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But one cannot leave a boat half built.  And Deon has continued to build.

It was special that at Leif’s funeral Deon and the boat were mentioned as a special kind of final journey that Leif made.  He never got too see this dream finished, but when we eventually get the boat into water we will have Leif very dearly in mind.

This week I have been reflecting much on the process of building, forming and shaping. 

It was the last week of school with the students for the year.  It is totally crazy to think that this year is over! 

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There were so many plans before:  I had missed being in a classroom for 5 years, and so looked forward to getting into relationship with these kids.  I knew there would be a few culture challenges and a few language difficulties, but I was so certain that I would face those challenges without too much hassle.  The last few years before our departure to Sweden had been so demanding, that we were certain that living in a first world country would be fairly easy by comparison. 

This week, and the last few, have been so tough for me to evaluate myself and us and fitting in and being part of this new world. 

The struggles have been more challenging than I imagined. 

Language that I thought I would manage in 3 to 6 months… ha ha!  I understand a fair amount, but totally misunderstand several important discussions and trip over my tongue by the second sentence in a conversation with any person! 

Teaching:  I had been considered a master teacher in my previous job.  Just as I was starting out in Sweden a book was written  in South Africa in which my supposed virtues were written of for a whole chapter.  I could handle this, right?  HA HA!! 

   The situation in Sweden is so very different, the way of thinking is so divergent that I often felt completely inadequate for the tasks of the day.  There is no feeling like a permanent champion in teaching! Ever!   Almost being reduced to slobbering blob-like amoebic matter by a six year old acting like a 2 year old-  For goodness sake- will do that to any teacher!  On some days I could not find big-girl panties big enough to “just put on my big-girl panties and deal with it!”  I felt like I was always playing some kind of catch up.  I felt like I let several of the kids down badly, just because we could not understand each other.  I felt like running away and crawling into a little ball under a tree to weep.  NO!  That would have been too cold and miserable because…

WEATHER… this African girl and this African boy have absolutely no idea why God has brought us from sunny African sands to this sun-shy land!  For goodness sake… it is the middle of June.  We have not seen the thermometer move above 14degrees C.  The Swedes themselves have been complaining at the overcast rainy weather (see previous blogs).  We are still living in winter clothes.  There have been a few hours of sunlight but not for 2 consecutive days since August last year.  This girl (and her man) have thought of running away to some sunny island several times! 

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We know we are in this place for God’s Kingdom.  We know that as only a sovereign God can do, He has taken Africans from their world to this funny little town in Swedish Lappland for His work to be done.  We had intended to make a difference for Him and to see amazing things happen. 

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But when we think we will be working for Him, He is working on us.

We went out to look at the progress on the boat again this week.  Deon is working alone now, has worked some particularly difficult planks into place along the bottom of the boat, and continues to do an amazing job of working away at the wood. 

Deon commented that each curl of a wood shaving was a sign of his efforts, his planing away part of the wood that is not meant to be there.

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As I am not as informed about woodwork as I should be, I had to google it to make sure.  The purpose of planing wood is to SMOOTH and LEVEL it.  each little curl is evidence of Deon having moved his hands, his energy carefully over each part of the boat.  There is not a single part of the boat that will not have been covered by his hands over and over again by the time he is done with making the boat. 

Right now, I feel a lot like the pieces of wood being clamped, messily glued, hammered, nailed and formed into  a shape that does not come very naturally to me.  Those long pieces of wood offloaded from a trailer a few months back had no resemblance to a boat!  But under the hands of those with skill the shape has been formed, the extra messy bits cut off and the final roughness and unevenness are being planed to the exact shape and surface that will be able to serve its purpose effectively. 

A boat that is not smooth and level is of no value at all.  It will never get anywhere.

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And, in any case, it is not the boat who makes itself, and it is not the boat who achieves anything. 

God reminds us again and again, He is the Master Builder and we are simply the works of His hands.  All our works can never be good enough.  And thinking we can do anything alone will simply make us feel totally incompetent.

But it is not by might, nor power but by His Holy Spirit that His Kingdom is built.  (Zech 4:6)  He holds the plane so carefully, constantly rubbing, feeling and testing.  There will not be a single part of our lives that His loving hands have not carefully covered again and again as he smoothes, levels and refines every part of us. 

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Each curl, each shaving away of self, is making for Him a vessel. 

We pray it will be a vessel to see Him moving forward and His kingdom advancing, where there would be so much joy even in the offering. 

We long to see Christ coming and totally reworking Vilhelmina.  Despite our weaknesses, our failings, that God would work.  that He would remove each curl of self, pride and deception and make of this town a place where He is completely glorified. 





oh, so much rain, dear! and, ummm, so many reindeer

1 06 2015

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Today’s newspapers stated that it has been the wettest May in Sweden since 1962. 

So the jokes have been flying: 

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“May has been cancelled due to technical problems.  Therefore we run the replay of March instead.  We do not know when the problem will be solved.”

The down side is that it is still very chilly, it is muddy and our longing for sunshine goes unmet.  The great side is that we live in an amazing forest which feels magically Hobbit-like with all the rain, all of a sudden everything has turned a thousand shades of green and the threat of millions of mosquitoes is yet unmet. 

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So I get to enjoy the many diamonds around in the form of glistening raindrops.

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And when there is any sunshine then the silver emerges. 

This is the new favourite for me:  seeing lingon, which has a gleam all of its own, glisten in the sunshine. 

One really needs to grab the opportunities when the sun shines, so we are learning how to do that. 

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Like going for walks at ten at night, when the wind might be calm. 

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Walking where reindeer, capercailie and little birds have walked just hours before. 

Another chance to grab is when it looks like the road will not be too muddy, so that we can grab a chance to walk for an hour or so, trying to get our legs ready for African bush walking in a few weeks. 

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Note a few differences… Sweden is a little wetter overall than South Africa! (Photo on left:  Vojmån River, Sweden.  Right:  Millennium Koppie, Lissataba, South Africa)  Footwear needs to be slightly modified to suit the environment.  Legwear too (It is JUNE and Deon is still not wearing shorts!)  We issue warnings for all to wear polarised sunglasses when we visit SA in 3 weeks.  Our skin has seen minimal sunlight.  we have never been THIS untanned. 

But we have done our first ‘klipsit’ (rock sitting) of the non-winter and we are glad for that! 

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We had the chance to visit Hallen, near to Östersund where Deon did sound for a conference again. 

What an absolutely adorable place! 

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This was the view from our bedroom  (for a few hours when the sun shone!)

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We stayed on a cattle farm just outside of town and got to enjoy a different kind of scenery to our dear forests and frozen lakes.  It is too cold for dairy cattle in Lappland, where we stay, but just 250km south there are rolling hills, cleared for agriculture, and happy lazy cows.  A huge lake (called the Great Lake!) surrounds the area and adds to the prettiness. 

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I had a most wonderful walk on Saturday, just chatting with my Very Best Friend and enjoying all the amazing gifts He showed me.

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And we found a really inviting little cottage…

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For those who know SA it felt a bit like the KZN midlands, especially when the rains came down again!

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After all this green, what can really only be described as flirtatious green, we can only feel as if summer may just be on its way!

And the reindeer?  (of the blog title…)

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On the grass just in front of the house.  And beside the house.

And all around the house.  Especially at 2am or 3 am, banging against the house, in groups of 15 or so.  (interesting experiences we have!)

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With little babies beginning to appear.

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(And show the same level of mental aptitude, and laziness, as the adults do…)

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And they are all over the roads.  Quite literally too:  we see several roadkills a week. 

We are certainly never short of amazing things to see and talk about! 

A loss that Deon and I have been mourning this month is the death of our landlord, Leif.  Although he had been ill, his death was far too soon for us.  The old man had become a special presence in our lives and we so miss just having him around.  He helped us to know a lot about this special little area we live in, he welcomed us as friends and we enjoyed meals and coffees together.  Deon especially misses his boat.building buddy.

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Life is always a whole lot shorter than we think it will be, isn’t it?  We need to grab all the value we can out of our lives, appreciate each other deeply and cherish people more than things. 

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Sunsets come all too soon, even in the north of Sweden where the sun is almost not setting anymore.