MARRIAGE IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED

Today I received the following “What’s App” text from my husband:

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” —Ruth Bell Graham

I replied:

“We obviously have a happy marriage then—we both have to forgive so much all the time!”

God, repentance, and forgiveness are three of the most vital ingredients needed in a relationship if you are going to have a happy and fulfilled marriage.

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” —Peter Ustinov

We need to develop the habit of forgiveness and tenderness in our marriages.

When we announced our marriage, our home fellowship group at that time gave us a card with the following words inscribed on it:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” —Matthew 6:33 (NAS Bible)

That card hangs on the wall in our hallway and I often find myself standing before it reflecting on what those words mean in the context of a marriage.

Righteousness in its simplest form means doing what is right, just, and fair.

I often don’t behave towards my husband in a fair and just manner and vice versa—we both become distracted by our work, family responsibilities and what we are lacking in our own lives instead of concentrating on each other’s needs. When we start focusing on each other we find that our work, raising our children and our worries become far more manageable as we discuss them together and support each other. In other words, all these things—peace, communication, unity are added to us.

In the scriptures, Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed:

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” —Luke 13:18–19

Godly marriages, to me, are synonymous with the mustard seed.

The seed needs to be planted in fertile soil—our hearts need to be prepared to nurture and care for the heart of our spouse.

Proverbs 4:23 states “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Just as the soil needs to be ‘guarded’ against pollution and worms, our hearts need to be guarded against feelings of jealousy, anger, resentment, and boredom.

The seed needs to be watered and fertilized—attention and care need to be spent on it. The same is true of marriage. We need to spend time with each other, loving and building each other up lest the marriage withers and dies from lack of attention.

As we nurture each other in the marriage, our marriage can grow into a wonderful force and power that will be a safe haven, a place of shelter for our children and others to find refuge in and under. A place of shade, rest and peace.

Just as the birds of the air perch in the branches of the mustard tree, Godly marriages need to have branches that will support our children and other marriages.

Marriage should be a place of sanctuary and peace not a battlefield of resentment and anger.

The apostle Paul states very clearly that the kingdom of heaven needs to be present in our lives on a daily basis: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

Our marriages should be filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.

And just as Christ’s kingdom will endure forever our marriages need to endure till death us do part.

Originally written for Start Marriage Right and published on http://www.startmarriageright.com/

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LOVE HURTS…some of the time

 

Someone very close to me said some things to me recently that shocked me to my very core – I felt like I had been hit in the solar plexus. For a day and a half, I was left reeling.

My husband and I were celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary the following day – we had been so looking forward to celebrating this day, and yet, when we woke up in the morning, all we could talk about is what had been said to me the day before. I alternated between feelings of great despair, hurt, anger, pain, doubt, fear and a lot of self-pity!

We went out for tea that afternoon and in between taking bites of my muffin, blowing my nose and wiping the tears off my face I picked up a small sugar packet from the table and read the following on the outside:

“If you know yourself, then you’ll not be harmed by what is said about you.” 
Arabian Proverb

I could hear God saying to me:

“You know who you are. Your identity is in me.  I formed you. You are my child.  You are beautiful and precious. . You are forgiven. You are loved by me – that is who you are”

I felt a semblance of peace return and I started to wonder why I had reacted so violently to what had been said.

I think it was because this person had attacked the most vulnerable part of who I am – my motherhood.  Author, Elizabeth Stone, once commented that having a child “is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” – being a mother has left my heart exposed and defenseless.

I was incredibly strict when our older children were younger but through the years, as God has been working in my life and I have started to heal from the pain and rejection of my own childhood and as I have come to terms with my relationship with my own mother, I have made a conscious effort to change the way I parent and I pray constantly for God’s guidance in helping me to love and disciple my children.

They had also brought up, and embellished upon, things from the past.

As I have grown in God’s love I have asked my children for forgiveness and have admitted honestly that I made some huge mistakes when raising them. I was often angry and impatient and very insecure in my role as a mother. 

The attack had also come totally out of the blue.

This person had phoned me because they were really upset about something totally unrelated to what was said to me and I had been listening and empathising with them, when all of a sudden WHAM! The conversation turned without any warning and they proceeded to tell me things they thought about me that left me horrified.  I did ask Steve, my husband, and one other person who lived in the house at the time and they assured me that a lot of what had been said was far from the truth.

“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it” Nicholas Sparks

I find great comfort in the above quote.

Because of God’s intense love for us, His children, He sent His son to die on the cross and broke the heart of the Holy Trinity. Jesus’s love sacrifice healed the relationship between man and God so that man will live in eternity with Him.

Marriages that start out in love, often become marriages of hate but sometimes love can restore the relationship and the marriage is healed.

Love for our children encompasses parents and yet that love often has to deal with huge sorrow and heartbreak and despair when our children are hurting or choose wrong paths, and yet, it is that very same love that can restore and heal a parent child relationship.

“ABOVE ALL, LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY, BECAUSE LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.”
1 Peter 4:8

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MOTHER’S GUILT…

“Behind every great kid is a MOM who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it all up” – Author unknown

This quote just about sums up my feelings as a mother. Or at least it used too!

From the time our eldest child was about three months old, guilt took up permanent residence in my life. As we had child number two and child number three and they grew older, my guilt also grew – often in inordinate amounts compared to my children’s growth.  I felt guilty that I was too strict, that I curbed their natural exuberance and curiosity because I wanted them to behave perfectly at all times. I felt guilty that I was damaging them for life because of the way I behaved towards them. I felt guilty because I felt I was failing them.

I felt guilty when…the list is actually endless.

It has always been a huge paradox for me that I could feel like such a failure as a mother and yet have such amazing children!  The two just don’t go together.

Over the years, with God’s help, I have started to overcome some of this guilt and then this past weekend, whilst on a retreat, a lot of my guilt was laid to rest. The focus of the retreat was ‘The foot washing’ (John 13:1-17).

The night before Jesus was betrayed, He and His disciples gathered together for supper and during the meal Jesus got up, took off His outer garments, wrapped a towel around his waist and preceded to wash the feet of His disciples.

This was an act of humility, of servanthood, of love, of care, of generosity, of compassion.

Jesus then said Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14,15)

As I read this passage repeatedly in the stillness of the retreat weekend it dawned on me that all three of my children had these attributes – they all have compassion for others, they are generous, they look out and care for the marginalized, they care about the environment and the world they live in  – how can I be such a failure as a mother?

They are committed and prepared to serve others who are in need – where is my failure?

Their father and I have taught them about God and Jesus – why do I think I have failed?

Almost hourly since the time they were conceived, I have thought about them and prayed for them – why do I consider myself a failure as a mother?

(I am not alone in these feelings of guilt.  I have met far too many women who feel exactly the same way I do.)

A deep weight lifted off my heart and my mind as I realised that, actually I am not such a failure as a mother.  Yes, I have made some huge mistakes in raising my children, set them some really lousy examples at times BUT I have always loved them, prayed for them and taught them about their Creator and with God’s guidance and hand upon their lives they have grown and developed into the most amazing, awesome human beings.

It is finally time to lay the guilt at the foot of the cross, to live each day in newness knowing that in God’s grace He will guide, correct and equip me to be the mother my children need and when I do fail, which is inevitable, He will forgive and give me a second, third, fourth chance to make things right.

By labeling ourselves failures as mothers we undermine the awesomeness of our children.

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DIVORCE HURTS

As a child of divorced parents, I spent many years believing that I was to blame for their divorce.

I also blamed God for not answering my prayer to keep my parents together.  It was only as I grew older that I realised my parents divorce was their own decision and had nothing to do with God – His desire for them was to remain married but He gave us freedom of choice and they chose divorce.  I also realised that the divorce had nothing to do with me.  It was a decision they made independent of their children. The indescribable grief I felt when they got divorced eventually turned into anger and bitterness. I felt rejected and unloved, and had no sense of self-worth. This influenced the way I looked at life and the person I grew into.

The wonderful news for me and you if you are a product of a divorced or broken marriage is:

God has seen every tear that we have cried. In Psalm 56:8 it states:

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (NLT)

Isn’t that amazing? God has seen and recorded every tear we have ever cried and with compassion in His heart He has collected those tears and kept them, and us, close to His heart.

Jesus came into this world “to BIND UP the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, ….to COMFORT all who mourn, and PROVIDE for those who GRIEVE…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of GLADNESS instead of MOURNING, and a garment of PRAISE instead of a spirit of DESPAIR” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

God is our HEAVENLY FATHER and Jesus our COMFORTER.

Divorce is a death – a death of the future as a family, the death of dreams that were dreamed, the death of the life your parents planned for themselves and for you.  You need to grieve and acknowledge that pain but then you need to hand it over to God and ask Him to reveal to you His new plans for your life.  Ask Him to give you new dreams to dream…

The sooner you start to forgive your parents and to hand your sorrow to God the sooner you will start developing into the incredible person God has made you to be.

As an adult I posted a poem, written by my sixteen-year-old self, entitled “I never knew you” to Facebook.  Within days it had been shared numerous times and received hundreds of comments.  I wrote it to my father but never sent it to him.

It captures the loneliness and pain of divorce and gives voice to how we, as children of divorces often feel and there is comfort in knowing we are not alone.

Always remember, however, that if you allow Him too, God will bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of ashes’.

I NEVER KNEW YOU

Just because I’m not with you,
Does not mean I’m not here.
Just because I am a child,
Does not mean you can forget me.
I’ve got a right to know what you are doing,
I’ve got a right to expect to be loved by you.
I want to be part of your life,
I want to be needed by you.
But you will never need me,
You are too self-contained.
Just because I’m not with you,
Just because I cannot share your life,
Does not mean I don’t love you,
Does not mean I don’t need you.
Sometimes I watch a father and a child,
Laughing together,
At something only they can see.
We will never be able to share that kind of feeling,
Because I don’t know you and you don’t know me.
And it’s too late now to understand each other,
Because when we meet,
We are strangers -and yet- you gave me life.

“The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8)

Originally posted on CCE EXCELLERS:
https://christianchildrensempowerment.com/Excellers/2018/08/02/divorce-hurts/

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I HAD THE KEY, I JUST DIDN’T USE IT…


Today a colleague and I had to attend a safety meeting for a company we do work for.

We arrived on site only to find that my card had not been activated so my colleague went through the security barrier and left me the vehicle keys so that I could sit in the bakkie (pickup) and wait for him to finish.

Unfortunately, he handed me the wrong key and I could not unlock the vehicle as there was no button to push, so I stood for an hour in the icy wind and freezing cold.

He finally came out of the meeting and I met him with the following “well, these weren’t much use” as I handed him back the key.

He calmly walked to the vehicle and unlocked the passenger door for me with the same key!

We were in one of the older work vehicles and it still had an ‘old-fashioned’ key – no buttons to push – you physically had to put the key in the door and unlock it!!

Up until the last few years all vehicles we drove had similar keys but I have become so used to modern technology that it didn’t even enter my mind to insert the key in the door lock.

I had the right key in my hand, I had the knowledge how to use it and yet I still spent an hour feeling miserable in the freezing cold!

How often isn’t that the case in real life?

We are in the right relationship, we know how relationships should work and yet because we have become so used to responding in a negative way  we continue to be miserable in the relationship.

We have the right child, we have the tools to disciple that child but because they are not responding in the way we want them too we stop making the effort to disciple with patience and care.

We have the Bible (the key) in our hand, we have the knowledge available to us to live a joyous life but we continue to be miserable, downtrodden, worried and guilty.

I had the right key in my hand and the knowledge how to use it but I have become so conditioned to modern technology, the ease of just pushing a button that I stood in the cold for an hour instead of being snug and warm in the cab of the vehicle.

Maybe we need to stop listening to all the ‘modern’ ways of how to live in a relationship, how to raise our children, how to be a child of God and start going back to the very first key ever given to mankind – the Bible. And a second key – Prayer.

“’And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever doors you lock on earth shall be locked in heaven; and whatever doors you open on earth shall be open in heaven!’ (Matthew 16:19)
To all who believe in Christ and obey His words, the Kingdom doors are swung wide open.” (LAB)

You hold the keys in your hands, don’t stand in the cold.

P.S.
The guys in the workshop and my husband had a really good laugh!!

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SPIRITUAL MALAISE…

For the past few weeks I have been suffering from  ‘spiritual malaise’. I love the word malaise as it describes exactly how I have been feeling – ‘dissatisfied, unhappy but feel unable to change, not knowing what is wrong’.

The past year and a half has been the most challenging time I have lived through thus far -illness, death, travelling, business and personal challenges.

I have lost all joy of life and I wake up facing a day of drudgery, filled with ‘struggles’ and a sense of hopelessness.

I have allowed these emotions to grow and take root and have put it down to the fact that I am tired, have had a stressful time and basically, I seem to be going from one ‘blow’ to the next.

And then this morning I read these words: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) AND it struck me that I am actually not suffering from ‘spiritual malaise’ but am in fact suffering from ‘self-pity’ which I have allowed to grow until it has infiltrated every part of my life. I have left my heart unguarded and allowed the world to creep in.

Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” John Gardner 

My reality is no longer based in God but in my circumstances and feelings.
My spirit is in disagreement with God because I have begun to question ‘why me?’.  As Believers in an all-powerful God our question should be ‘why not me?’

We have no business as Believers to wallow in self-pity, in doubt, in fear, in worry.

We have the living Word of God which gives instruction and direction for each and every challenge or dilemma we may find ourselves facing – death, sickness, addictions, adultery, financial ruin, rebellious children…  If we would but open the Bible we would find guidance and a solution for everything we may be facing.

Lord, we pray that when we start to feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we would turn to you in prayer.  We would seek your Word that we may gain understanding and instruction. Please forgive us, Lord, when we fail. Amen

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BE PREPARED…

“God will, generally speaking, not compete for our attention. If we will not withdraw from things that obsess and exhaust us into solitude and silence, He will usually leave us to our own devices.”  Dallas Willard

One of the major stumbling blocks in the majority of our lives today is that we are all too busy and do not have time to prepare our hearts for life’s interruptions.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart…” Matthew 15:18

On the 1st May 2017 I rushed my husband, Steven, to hospital and after a CT scan and a lumbar puncture were performed, the doctor came into the room and told us that they suspected that Steve had meningitis and a brain tumour. Steve turned to me and said: “That’s quite scary” (which I thought was a bit of an understatement) and yet, the first words out of my mouth were “He is a good, good God. That’s who He is. And we are loved by Him, that’s who we are”.

No-one could have been more shocked then me to hear those words come out my mouth.

I had just been told that my best friend of 26 years, my soul mate, my husband, the father of my children may have a brain tumour and all I could say was “He is a good, good God”.

The weekend prior to this my youngest daughter and I had attended the Hillsong Colour Conference.  We had spent the weekend praising God, listening to His Word being expounded on by Godly men and women and praying – the theme song on the weekend had been You’re a good good father, it’s who you are, And I’m loved by you it’s who I am. 

During the week that followed I had continued in an attitude of praise and God, unknown to me, was preparing my heart for this interruption. God’s Word had begun to take root in my life and become a reality “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7).  I knew in that moment that my God, Steve’s God “would never leave us or forsake us”

There are numerous ways that we can prepare our hearts and minds for when life interrupts us – through tragedy, illness and even death.

Number one:  Read and study your Bible on a daily basis

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Number two:  Spend time in prayer and meditation – not just in the morning and evening but make it a habit to speak to God at all times.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)

Number three:  worship and praise God

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;  give thanks to him and praise His name. (Psalm 100:4)

Praise and worship is an act of faith and God always honours our faith in Him.

Number four:  meet together with other Believers on a regular basis

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  (Matthew 18:20 )

ROTOP:

Number five:  read about and study the lives of Godly men and women.

“Write down all these things I am going to do, says the Lord, and seal them up for the future. Entrust them to some godly man to pass on down to godly men of future generations.”  (Isaiah 8:16)

One of my many mentor’s is Oswald Chambers. This is a man who died in 1917 but his writing has influenced my life and my faith in a wonderful way.  There are so many wonderful Godly men and women we can learn from.

Number six:  be still

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm46:10)

Lord we pray that we will be prepared at all times for our lives to be interrupted by life, that we will consciously slowdown in order to prepare our hearts and that, during the times of interruption, we will be able to praise your name.  Amen

(Extract from a talk given at ROTOP, Cape Town, 25/04/2018)

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