Saturday, August 19, 2017

Is It a Thoughtless Ritual?

I was just reading Leviticus 16 and before I could even finish the chapter I was struck by how often in order to be cleansed, the various "unclean" people or the defiled priest or the one who took the scapegoat out into the wilderness had to "wash with water." Wiping the dirt off, dusting off one's own clothing was not good enough. Water - a symbol of purity - was needed.

By the time the real Fountain had come to earth, the Israelites had forgotten the significance and symbolic meaning of the water. They were so engrossed in doing things right that they forgot WHY they were doing things a certain way. The meaning had been lost.

Isn't that like some of us? We eat right, but forget WHY we're doing it. It's like a young lady who was so proud of herself because at a new workplace a new colleague who knew nothing about her nor her beliefs offered her some biltong and her disgusted response was, "No way! I would NEVER eat THAT!" What happened to, "Oh, thanks for the offer but I don't eat meat?" How do we become so proud of our 'rituals' that we want to act like the pharisees who looked down on the disciples for not washing their hands while ignoring that the real Cleanser was the Man they were going to murder?

 Love, mercy, understanding, a gentle tone can be found in the same person who indeed would 'never' eat/drink/wear THAT if we remind ourselves of WHY do it and Who we are aiming to glorify. James reminds us to make a difference in how we react to people. Some need gentle treatment, others need to be grabbed from the fire. I would hazard a guessed that the ones in the fire who need grabbing are the ones who already know not to offer us biltong. The rest... Maybe we need to start by showing them the necessity of having the Cleanser, and not the necessity of our ritual acts of cleansing.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sabbath Thoughts: My Sabbath Tears

I'm one of those who everyone tends to come to for help-friends, relatives, strangers sent to me by friends, and acquaintances. But I tend to lose friends who are actually friends to me. Just this week, another close friend has left the country. And so, another shoulder to lean on is gone. And then everyone else's burdens overwhelm me while no-one seems to give a moment's thought to mine.

So what happens when there's no-one in my life to be strong and caring for me? No-one who will give me a physical or virtual hug and tell me they're always thinking of me? What will I do with those emotions when, like Christ, I'm craving human sympathy?

One Sabbath, I lost my composure. We were visiting a little church where I didn't know many people. Those who know me know that I've had chronic back pain since 2011 (Degenerated disch, mild scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis.) The only position that does not hurt is flat on my back. You can imagine the pain I'm in on Sabbaths when I'm anything BUT flat on my back for hours on end. (At least at home I can stop the dishes and come rest. Stop the playing and come rest. Ask the big children to feed the little ones and come relieve the pain.) But this Sabbath, like all other Sabbaths, I was faking it. Pretending I was ok. Well, I was just ignoring it really. You get to a point when pain is normal, when you stop asking God to heal you. So, there I was leaving the building, ready to get into the car. I had two friends walking out with me.

And one asked with so much concern, "How are you these days?

How's your back?"

I was touched. "No-one ever remembers my suffering because they're too busy telling me about theirs," I thought to myself. And I was in serious pain. I was tired of it. Tired of not being able to worship freely. I could not hide the pain, because her question caught me off guard and the tears came unbidden as I thought of the pain I was feeling at that very moment.

The mask fell off that Sabbath and because it did, my other friend got to see how bad it actually is. She finally realised that my life is pain. Pain is my life. And ever since then, she has mentioned it. The most recent time she wanted to come clean the house because of how my winter time arthritis "must be making your pain unbearable." My tears gave me someone who cared and did not stop caring despite her own problems. (And now she's gone. Oh dear.)

The other tears were over 12 years ago. Sabbath school in a village near Nairobi, Kenya. I'd been diagnosed with unexplained infertility. We had asked my medical doctor herbalist father-in-law to send any herbs he knew of that would help us out. But he was in rural Zimbabwe. They took ages to arrive.

(Oh first, let me say this. I believe our people have wisdom. We have knowledge of the right plants to use for different situations, just like the Amazonians do. We have wisdom that has been untapped by Western Medicine and I will never look down on our traditional health practitioners just because their natural remedies do not appear in a peer reviewed journal. I am an Afrikan.

Also. I have recently realised that maybe it was my hormones that were messed up. I did testing via an NHS GP in Britain and left the UK before receiving my results. I don't know where they fell on the continuum, when I called the receptionist she just said my levels were "ok." And the doctor in Kenya didn't test them again. A couple of months ago I requested they be tested and ja, things were not good at all but I improved them drastically in just three weeks just by using one specific tablet that I put myself on. If that can work, imagine how African herbs could help!")

Back to the story. One Sabbath, I was in a village church. No walls, no roof. Just a simple church with my brothers and sisters, having been invited there by friends we'd gone to UCT with who were Kenyan. I was infertile. Unsure what to do. Having tried and failed one type of infertility treatment (three times) and not able to do the more invasive types. I was grieving. But I hid it well. No-one knew. No-one ever commiserated with me. No-one said, "Let me pray with you." I had no Eli to intercede for me like Hannah did.

Until my tears. Little children, small children singing and reciting their memory verses in their childish voices and I thought, "But God, this was my dream. To have my children-both biological and adopted- singing for you with their voices that tug at my heart strings. Am I never to bear a child?"

I could not hold the pain in any more. The tears flowed unbidden. I was so overcome that I had to stand up and stumble out from amongst the benches so as not to call people's attention to myself. But our friends noticed. The wife later asked why I had been weeping. I told her my story. She was amazed that I was still 'functional.' "But by month 9 I could not take the burden any more! I had to get help with my inability to conceive. I went to see my husband's aunt. She's also SDA and a herbalist. Don't you want me to take you to her? You can't spend all this time in pain. Please, just try her."

And so I went. She gave us herbs. She didn't want any payment.

And a month later, I was pregnant. My Sabbath tears opened the door to my Samuel. A boy whose second name means "Jehovah heard."

If you happen to cry Sabbath tears one day, I pray that you too will receive the drying of tears that I received on those two painful Sabbaths.

Happy Preparation Day and Shabbath shalom.

Can the Curse Be Broken?

Originally typed on Thursday but ended up on a Lock Blog Interchange for some odd reason!


I know a family. Both parents, not with their original partners. None of the children able to be in one faithful, monogamous marriage with the wife of their youth, till death do them part. Not a single one.

It reminds me of the advice EGW gave of how the background should be investigated before one gives their heart to someone.

But, can't the curse be broken?

Are the children's children also destined to become heartbreakers? Is there no hope for such families?

I honestly don't know. All I know is that after everything I have seen, background does matter. This woman thought her husband would escape the curse. That he was different to the rest. That when he promised to be faithful till death separated him from her, when he promised that his affections and words only meant for her his bride would only be said to her and no-one else, he meant it and would mean it forever.

Alas...
He made another woman know that she was his every waking thought.

And devastated this wife was. "They're all the same, no-one knows how to be married to one person and to die with that person. Breaking hearts wherever they go. I should have never married him."

I don't know if there's anything harder in a marriage than to wonder if you were wrong in thinking God led you to that partner. It is so difficult to wonder if all along you were hearing God's voice but you actually weren't. God feels far away when you start to think you were never actually walking with Him.

I don't know if the curse can be broken. 

I do know that men from faithful parents can also become unfaithful, so choosing based on background is NO guarantee of anything.

I know that once more, another 'christian' man has fractured the foundation of his marriage.

How do we let go of Christ so easily when we owe our everything to Him? How do we do, say, write things that He is not pleased with while claiming to live our lives honouring Him?

I don't know, ladies.

I'm just tired. Tired of the pain, the devastation all these ladies are living with. Tired of the knowledge that today they're smiling, tomorrow a memory comes unbidden and the tears well up.

I'm tired.

Tired of the curse.

 It's bad enough when natural disasters or outsiders come to destroy. It's worse when it's those who promised to be joy-bringers who bring destruction and heartache.

I beg you. If your parents were either unable to stay married to each other, or stayed married but had hurt each other. If you have siblings who have broken hearts, break the curse by God's grace. Be the one who will be different. 

Stay faithful.

Never, ever let your wife (or husband, I've said before that I personally know a male who has been wounded like this) feel that they now come second best because you've put an enemy where s/he belongs AT YOUR CHOOSING.

You chose to marry. Choose to be and act married in every single way that God expects you to.

You can break the curse. You..and God.



Image from here 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Mother's Eyes

Last Sabbath, someone we visited in the afternoon was analysing our youngest and asked if we're "really going to keep him" and if we can't send him back to his foster family.

Why?

Because they see disability.

On the other hand, I see a child who without therapy has made leaps and bounds that shock the therapist each time I take him. "I haven't done anything! All the improvement is YOU and your love for him!"

I see a boy who despite his discomforts tries to enjoy life and the anxieties it brings.

I see quirks, not failings.

I see hope, not defect.

This mother's eyes see possibility, not disability.

So no, though it's not the first time someone assumed adopted children are dispensible, they're not.

Special needs parenting is an opportunity to grow even more into Christ's likeness. It's not a burden, it's a blessing

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sabbath Thoughts : Christ in My Friends

If there's any group that I believe has it 'hard,' it's women. We are the ones who are to have a "meek and quiet spirit," who are to dress humbly while the world dresses so differently (men in the workplace are generally as covered up as they've always been so choosing modesty isn't that different) and we are the ones who are to submit.

Imagine finding out you've been submitting to a man who wasn't submitting to God!? Your whole marriage becomes a sham and you start second guessing every decision. After all, he wasn't in the right place spiritually and was OBVIOUSLY making harmful decisions!
But I only know of one person - not a friend - who completely lost it. My friends have been different.

They have never lived the "throw his clothes out the house and burn the car" or whatever angry reaction the movies used to show. Instead, they have shared their burdens and been taunted by so-called friends and hurt by relatives. Yet still, they reacted with grace. Voices were not raised in angry slur and demeaning words about their husbands' manhood (this has happened with people I know but she wasn't a friend) and hatred has never sprung forth from their hearts, just despair, profound sorrow, despair and depression. One of my friends had a profile picture on whatsapp that stated, "What I've gone through would kill you." It's true. No way I could handle the different forms of emotional and physical abuse she has suffered. But still, she turns the other cheek, praying for him.

I have seen Christ in my wounded friends. I am in awe. They have not attacked, not besmirched their husband's floozies or sent them threatening messages (Yes, this has happened out there.) They have preferred to be broken rather than to break. To stay and try to overcome the hurt while looking in the face of one who broke their covenant. They have not hidden the look of sorrow that Christ gave Peter, but they are ready for their husbands to be broken by guilt and become better versions of themselves. Never have they spoken disparaging words about their husbands. Never. They've just detailed what has happened, and shared their emotions. Again, I am in awe.

Christ is in my friends. If you are one of them, or someone like them, your very brokeness is a testimony to the God Whose presence you no longer truly see in your life. I will never condemn you for not going to church, for I commend you for being able to draw breath each day while remembering to honour the Sabbath while feeling God left you. I am proud of you for having the courage to admit that your faith is floundering. That you find it hard to talk to God. The fact that you have never railed against God, never said an angry word against Him nor doubted His sovereignty means one day you will be able to heal your relationship with Him. He's not going anywhere. And I'm glad you are still around to see the Son shine when the storm of extreme pain and shock will be over. 

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why They (We) Struggle to Divorce Their (Our) Cheating Husbands

And so Eve was told, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee."

Love.

That pesky four-letter word. Love.

You can't turn it off when you need to, even when he isolates you from your friends and beats you because he says you're cheating on him when all along he's the one with the girls' numbers in his pockets.

Love.

You cannot let go of it even when you hate him for breaking your heart, your marriage, your trust, and your belief in true, happily ever after..love.

So, they stay. I should make it 'we.' I am part of the sisterhood and I value the sisterhood, which is why I can imagine myself maybe one day breaking down and having a chicken burger (I've been off meat for 17 years!) but I cannot ever imagine myself telling any woman's husband that "I've been thinking about you all weekend." Unless I mean him and his wife and whatever trial they're going through! I can't. There's a code you don't break-being the cause of another woman's pain. So, I'll say "we" when I mean the sisters whose hearts have been shattered.

We cannot do it. We find it very hard to just go off into the sunset and pretend they never existed. Now, considering the only person who doesn't have a child is the one who's not married, it's even harder for 'us' to pretend the men don't exist. There's that little thing called co-parenting that we would still need to do. We cannot move on and forget about them. There's the heartbreak we can't forget. The betrayal we can't understand and hope never to, for that would mean we'd done the same.

So, we limp along, in disbelief that this could ever happen to us. We hope it's just a bad dream that we'll wake up from. Then we hope the other woman will apologise and say she knows our husbands really love us and she was just a diversion. But... We don't know. But we can't leave. Because we still love them and want to believe that they really do love us, only us, and that the other floozy was just a floozy and not some new love. Limping along, we say "I love you" but even when we say it, we are thinking, "And I hate what you did. Do you actually love me or are you waiting for the golden opportunity to leave me?"

I remember someone telling me, "No, I'm not leaving. But if he brings a second wife to our home, I'm taking our child and giving the two of them space." Ahh, the joys of living in two worlds- a Christian man who looks like he wants to become an African polygamist. That's the pain of love. You'd rather have crumbs than have nothing at all.

Love hurts. And brings you false hope and paralysis.
And that is why some women (some of us) struggle to divorce their (our) cheating husbands.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Trivialising Women's Day

Too many people and businesses have trivialised and 'pinkified' it.

The erasure of the heaviness of our suffering continues.

The reasons for today have been lost in "celebrating women" today.

There's more respect for overseas suffering than for our own.

May the spirit of our grandmothers live on in their granddaughters.

God bless them for standing up for us.