Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sabbath Thoughts: Racism in the Church?

This topic is coming up in American church dialogue. But what about here in South Africa?

We have a way to go.

When I was in my teens, there was a bit of a war when the three church conferences started talking about undoing their divisions that had been based on race. Coloured, Black, White. *sad* But those talks became literal fisticuffs. It was bad. Some Africans said White worship was boring. (I'd wonder why we wanted to feel entertained) Some whites said Africans were poor and would reduce the tithe 'their' pastors would get. (Hmm,?I wonder WHAT made Africans poorer than them!) Some literally feared White people, others wanted nothing to do with Coloureds who were sometimes perceived as even more hateful than White people... It was BAD.

Before this.

When I was 13, we went to my step brother's wedding in Durban. Sabbath morning we went to church. We sat down, put our books down, started opening up our hymn books, and a deacon whispered something to my father. He got up. Gestured that we should all get up.

Apparently this White deacon in this White church had 'suggested' that we live 'their' church and attend the Black one that we didn't know about. His excuse was that we'd feel more "comfortable" there. I had not even noticed they were White. They were just my brothers and sisters in Christ. Or so I thought. It was horrible. How could so-called Christians literally NOT welcome visitors but instead ask them to leave?

Just recently during foot washing before communion, a friend from DRC was sincerely asked by the old White man he was washing, "Don't you feel privileged, being able to touch a white man?"

A friend of mine in Joburg went to an SDA bookshop. Arrived first after having walked for hours with her son on her back. Wandered around the shop looking for a specific book. Got no joy and stood by the door of an office where the White workers were seated, chatting. They ignored her. A white customer came in and they immediately got up and asked if she needed anything. My friend complained so they helped her. When she told them the book she wanted, they told her it was a very expensive book. She told them she knows exactly how much it costs and she wanted to buy it, not just talk about it.

I know some Black Christians probably harbour grudges against all White people for the past. And for  present racist attacks and slurs and treatment today. I've never heard of a specific case, but it must exist somewhere.

But there's the other side too. The elderly man who stayed in a church in which Black students started worshipping while his White counterparts left. A man KNOWN to be racist. A man who after his death, his own daughter verbalised how she would have NEVER thought her father would EVER love Black people. Yet he died loving and respecting them as equals.

I remember the old White people who would state that they REALLY wanted to understand what the other students were saying but couldn't. (Black accents) They stayed when others left. I remember the old man who loved us while his wife hated us. He stayed.

There was a woman who most of the Black students accused of being racist. She once invited a group of us to her and her husband's home for supper, cooking and insisting that we not wash up. If she truly was racist, she worked very hard at stepping out of her comfort zone that night and I'm proud of her.

There's racism in the church, no doubt. But there's also respect. There's a seeking of comfort outside of one's comfort zone. There's love where before there was hatred. There's trust where before was fear. There's forgiveness and an attempt at unity.

As Christians we should know exactly what Christ thought about racism and xenophobia and ethnocentricism. We would, if we were true Bible students. And when Sabbath comes round and we find ourselves sitting next to people different to us, I pray Christ's plea for unity rings in the heart. "That they may be one."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Are We ALL Liable to Cheat?

I was chatting with a betrayed friend this weekend, talking about someone we knew in common who had hurt his wife multiple times after over a decade of married life. All of us SDA. And he said, "HIM!? Goes to show how none of us is immune."

I don't know, hey. I beg to differ. For me, after 14 years of marriage, giving my attention and affections and romantic thoughts to any other man would be as likely as me going to Pick n Pay and buying myself a pack of cigarettes. I can for sure say... NEVER. I am immune to betraying the one I made my vows to in front of God, the angels and our loved ones. NEVER will any man believe I think highly of him and less of my marriage. NEVER will I ever have secret meetings with some man and my husband never get told by me. Honestly, the thought of being unfaithful  is repugnant to me. My immediate thought when a man flirts with me is, "Don't be stupid, I've got a husband."

That's the thing. I will NEVER forget that I've got a husband to whom my loyalty is due and with whom I built a foundation of integrity and trust. I can't imagine myself forgetting him nor my Creator. I can't. I would be tormented if I ever fell in that line. And that is why I will never understand the mind of a repeat cheat who claims to be Christian.

I don't think they understand themselves either.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Not God, It's Us

The "fiery serpents" that attacked the Israelites attacked them because of their ingratitude, complaining and despising of God's gifts. Yet what was Moses to do to bring life? Make a fiery serpent for them to look at.

It's the same God. It's our decision what He is to us. Death because of our actions, or life because we choose to look to Him and live. Life vs death. Same power to bring it to fruition. Our choice which one will be wrought in our lives.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Christian Mothering Guilt Needs to Stop

A couple of years ago, I saw a video in which mothers were asked what they thought about their parenting, and then their children gave their ratings of their mothers' parenting. The sentence spoken by my two year old daughter this morning reminded me of how different the mothers' perceptions were to the reality the children were experiencing.

I can't be everything. When I'm one thing, the other falls by the way side. When I'm cleaning, I'm not soothing or diapering. When I'm diapering, I'm not cooking. When I'm cooking, that tiny face has to wait to be wiped. When I'm sweeping and mopping, I'm not at the park playing. When I'm driving one child to occupational therapy, the others are at home.When I'm teaching, I'm not nursing. I have to be one at a time. Do one at a time. And if you're like me, keeping the house 'intact' is very important. But while cleaning and mopping, you feel guilty. "I should be playing, reading more books, singing..." Well, I do, at least. And I know others feel that guilt too.

But this morning as I was sitting with my youngest daughter playing with play dough and making objects out of it, she said, "Mommy is a good mommy. I love you. Come, hug."

That's exactly what those children said. In different words, but it had the exact same meaning. All we want is a mom that feeds us, clothes us, plays with us, makes us feel happy when we're sad. And our moms are exactly what we want. Our mothers are good.

Amarissa did not say I'm good ENOUGH, she just said I'm good. She - like the children in that video- finds nothing flawed in her imperfect mother. Sometimes we're so aware of the things we aren't doing, of the things we should be doing, of the perfect homeschool rooms online, that we forget that we are only human, and that no-one expects superhuman efforts from us. We are exactly what we should be. Any weakness, is covered by His grace. Any flaw, God overshadows with the good we allow Him to manifest through us. He makes us good mothers. Do not kill yourself trying to be what even He does not expect you to be, as if trying to follow the Law without Him. Rest in His love, and let your children rest in yours as well.

You are a good mommy. The ones who matter the most-the ones in your home, not the ones on Pinterest- know it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Staying "for the children?"

I heard from my male friend whose spouse has hurt him. And one thing that stood out to me was that HE was willing to endure, stay.."for the children."

I know a person whose husband divorced her after he cheated, and she is categorical that betrayed wives should stay.."for the children."

Every now and then, I see people stating that staying for the children is taking the easy way out. Firstly, I don't believe that. Once your beloved has betrayed you, none of the choices that you can make are easy. None of them make life 'happier.' Not immediately. You'll still feel the same pain, loneliness at the end of the day when you no longer have that person to talk to. But staying...

Staying is not easy and I will never tell anyone that it's just a lame decision.

 It's the ultimate sacrifice.

I've seen what my friends' young children have gone through when their father has abandoned them for another woman. Or when their mothers have had to leave their fathers. And it is painful. It is hard. It is traumatic. Those children are hurting.

It is not the easy way to try and prevent your own children from hurting like that. It's not easy because you give up being true to yourself, in order to help your children go through life a little less wounded. It means choosing to keep your pain secret so your children do not see how badly damaged you are. It means smiling when you want to cry. It means treating with respect someone who forgot what respect means. It means wearing a mask when you just want to be free and unencumbered. It means letting self die so your children can 'live.'

I don't know if I would ever tell anyone to stay for the children. I do know that I respect those who do and wish them only the best;.

I just wish people remained faithful so such difficult decisions didn't ever need to be made in the first place.

Adultery is cruel to the faithful spouse and cruel to any children they might have. And if you choose to live a more genuine life as a single parent rather than a silently crying betrayed wife, you are not selfish. Your children need you. A happy, fulfilled you. And being true to yourself is the best way to train them to be true to themselves too. Darkness and light cannot exist together. Sometimes the best is for you to leave the darkness and step into the light, even if that light means holding your children tight while they cry, upset that their dad had to drop them back at home with you instead of him tucking them in at night and sharing your bed. Those tears are not your fault. You are not the one who forgot her commitment to your family. Those tears are his fault. I'm just sorry you are the one who has to deal with them.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sabbath Thoughts: Resurrection, Tears and Steve Biko

I don't know what it is about his face, but every.single.time I see a photo of Cde Biko, it reminds me of my late uncle. My absolute favourite uncle (Though to be fair, I only had two uncles that I saw every December in the Transkei.) His firstborn daughter was my absolute favourite cousin and bestest best friend in the whole wide world.

They died.

Driving from the old Transkei coming for a wedding.

I will never forget driving out to places like Prince Albert, Leeugamka etc looking for their banged up car. I will never forgetting finding that smashed up Mercedes Benz with blood on the seats. The image is seared into my brain. The sorrow at their immense suffering before they lost their lives, the physical pain my surviving cousins and aunt had to deal with. My uncle alive at first, trying to get my cousins out the car but losing strength, losing life, "Andisenamandla." (I have no more power/strength.)
Looking at my two cousins and my uncle in their coffins and wishing, wishing so hard that they would wake up. Just open their eyes and wake up and make the world beautiful again.

That pain takes my breath away when it comes to mind. Which happens a lot when I look at Steve Biko's face, amongst other triggers.

Yet it happened in 1989. So long ago.

And this week we come to the commemoration of the abuse and torture and murder of Biko, who I believe would have made an upstanding and outstanding president had he been given the chance. And I think of the pain his family went through 12 years before 1989. The pain his descendants go through today. They were deprived of a loved one in a painful manner too. You can't ever forget, and the pain is forever. Though you learn to handle it so it does not overwhelm you.

God will wipe away our tears. Tears, therefore, are a part of this life till the King comes. They will never stop flowing. This week a friend was talking about how she almost feels sorry for me because (in her words) I'm a "true introvert." Which means, I keep to myself, don't go out and get loud, stick to a few tried and tested friends, but more importantly, I focus on THE BIG ISSUES. And the BIG ISSUES are generally sad and worrying and upsetting and painful. And she wondered how I cope in this world that is full of sorrow, grief, landslides in Sierra Leone and flooding in India that the media doesn't care much about compared to those in other wealthier countries, family and friends' suffering... Her worry is that I obviously feel a lot. And deeply.

But the up side is that I can also rejoice A LOT when there's good news. I can be happy with the happy and cry tears of joy at the fortunes of others. And that, that is what I look forward to at resurrection time. The hard parts, the tear-causing parts will exist no more. The sadness and grief caused to me and to others will no longer exist, so even if I still keep my introvert nature, there will be no thorns for me to grieve over. Only the fresh, sweet-smelling roses. There will be no manure needed for them to grow and bloom like is needed now. No need for a refining fire. No 'hard' lessons needing to be learnt.

Just joy.

Just beauty.

Just happiness.

The resurrection of our loved ones, especially of those we thought we'd lost for eternity but who we pray did meet Christ like the thief on the cross, will take away the depth of the pain their families feel today. Whether they will make it to heaven or not, the pain we currently feel, the internal tears we shed over them, over Bantu Stephen Biko and Raymond Zwedala, will no longer flow. There'll be too much joy, so much joy that it will overpower and overwhelm the pain that was.

Shabbath shalom, folk. The pain will end. We will find eternal rest for our sorrowing souls.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thankful Thursday: The Circle of (My) Life?

It's crazy. I just had a realisation this morning.

First, the background.

I knew from age 10 that I was going to be a wife. In my teen years, my career choice was built around me being a wife and more importantly, a mother. I wanted to do Medicine, but I didn't want to be a GP, I wanted to specialise. And my specialisation would have been in Obstetrics. But I knew that I did not want to study for all those years because that would impact when I'd get married, and also having a job in that field would impact my ability to be a present mother. Those sitcoms I used to watch convinced me that Gynaes always had to leave their families at the dinner table to go deliver a baby.

I also knew that I would adopt. At first, my 10 year old self pictured a mother leaving her baby in a basket at my doorstep with a letter asking me to take care of the baby. As I grew older and adoption became fuzzier, I figured that I would adopt an orphaned child-parents deceased.

Fast forward some years and I find a man who wants to marry me. (I was 18 at the time we met and he knew the very day we met that I was his future wife.) At age 22, I get married. And before that, the agreement was made. One biological, one adopted. I wanted a house FULL but hey, as a woman you are taught to submit, right? So, that was the agreement.

Except,the biology of my own body was letting me down. Big time. And this brings us to this morning.

I remember having stopped watching birth stories after having given up on ever having a biological child. I was now watching adoption stories-which was pretty useless as this was in England and adoption there is very different to here. We lived in a town in the county of Essex, and one night, the news guy stated that Essex was the unplanned and teen pregnancy capital of the UK. I remember getting so upset, "So what's wrong with me then? How come their bodies are working well yet some will go on to abort, to give their children up for adoption, to abuse them, yet mine is defective? Why am I not good enough to conceive but they are? What kind of joke is this that God allows THEM to fall pregnant when they don't even want to but I, with all my marriage and planning and dreaming, get nothing? How is this fair that there are all these unplanned pregnancies???"

This morning I realised that I did get my biological children.

And I also got the fruits of those "unplanned pregnancies." And with the ups and downs that involves, it's also full of blessings.

No more anger now. No more tears. I just wish all abandoned children could be kept safe and find families.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Are You A Survivor?

I meet so many 'needy' people. Survivors. Orphaned, abandoned by baby daddies, cheated on, abused... So many survivors that I spend so much time admiring them that I forget that I too am a survivor.

It only comes to mind when someone says they're scared to be put to sleep for a thirty minute procedure and I think, "Wow, you're an adult and you've never been under anesthetic? My first operation was when I was three and my most recent sedation was three years ago! You mean it's not that normal to have been in numerous hospital beds?"

Or when they complain that they're feeling awful and you ask why and what they're describing is the IBS I've dealt with for two decades and they've only dealt with it for 2 days. And I think, "Ja, I must be hardened. This is so normal that no-one even knows when I have a flare up. I just don't bother anymore."

There is lots that has happened either emotionally or physically that hasn't happened to others that has made me realise how 'bad' things have been. And yet, still I rise.

I know that some Christians are so moved by the plight of others that they forget to take an objective look at their own lives to see where they've come from.

And if you forget to look back to see how far you've come, how will you remember to thank God for having led you thus far?

Looking back shouldn't be self-indulgent. It shouldn't be to compare scars. It shouldn't be to boast. But it should happen. How else will you count your blessings properly if you forget the ones behind you? It's not about what you suffered, it's about how you are thriving despite the suffering. It's about Who got you through those dark days. It's about the One we should thank for having been our fiery pillar in the dead of night when all around was darkness and we never thought we'd see the light of day we are currently in.

It's about acknowledging that we survived the storm with the Captain still firmly steering on in the quiet waters..

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sabbath Thoughts: Celebrate Your Singleness

I look back Sabbaths past. It was a time of fellowship. Listen to sermons, presentations, then talk to friends. I never felt incomplete. God and His followers and my sister-friends were enough for me.

So why is it, that we have elevated marriage so much? When did the idea arise that women are not complete unless they are married? When did we start whispering, "Shame, she 40 and she's never been married?" as if somehow her life was less 'full?' When did we decide that God (and His followers) are not enough for other women, that there needs to be a man to bring about a certain level of joy that they are lacking and need?

When did the state of singleness equate to the state of lacking something?

That partner should be an addition, not the cause of. They should add to one's already-present joy, not BE the joy.

Please, celebrate godly singleness. Celebrate your girl friends. Celebrate the ones who are there when you are sick and there when you are healthy. Celebrate the ones who love you just as you are. I've seen the other side now. I've seen what happens when the cause of one's joy, when the one who was the joy, brings sorrow.
I have seen what happens when the one who brought joy brings heartache. And it is ugly.


If we first learn to live for God, we will learn how to live for -and by-ourselves. And when we truly know how to live for God and for ourselves, some of us won't even marry those men. We will realise that instead of adding joy to what is already a joyful life, they are sucking it out and pouring in pain.

Celebrate YOUR singleness. It is better than wiping your tears.

It is better than lamenting three children later, "I wish I had remained single."

I've never believed that 'marriage is  better than singleness,' but I have seen how sometimes marriage is definitely worse than singleness. I have read and heard about experiences and felt things that no daughter of God should ever have to experience at the hand of the one who vowed before her heavenly Father to be her joy-bringer. That celebration heralded a decade of misery.

I wish we could have been brought up to realise that our worth does not lie in how worthy some man out there thinks we are of their sometimes fleeting love. I wish we could have been brought up to see our value in God's eyes. I wish we could have been brought up to celebrate our singleness.

If you're unmarried and reading this. Enjoy it. Enjoy that season in which no-one has power to bring you to the brink of death.

Celebrate your freedom in Christ.

Celebrate your singleness.

(And if you are happily married, celebrate your happiness. Yours is a life to be envied by those whose joy has been marred for ever. A happy, faithful, marriage, is not common. Not anymore. We praise God where one exists. And yes, we celebrate that too.)