Thursday, September 3, 2015
One of the greatest heartaches a woman can experience is the inability to have a child of her own. Not every woman longs for motherhood, but for women who do and who month after month are disappointed they have not conceived, the pain they feel is cruel and unrelenting.
On top of that heartache, a woman in Old Testament times was burdened by the common belief that childlessness was a curse, a sign that God was angry with her, as well as by the sense that she had failed her husband. After all, every man longs for a son, an heir, someone to carry on the family name.
Played out against this backdrop is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read, the story of a woman we meet in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah was one of Elkanah’s two wives. This is how the author introduced her:
Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. — 1 Samuel 1:2
Nothing more needed to be said.
Adding to Hannah’s pain was the cruelty of the other wife:
Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same. — 1 Samuel 1:6-7
That kind of ongoing pain changes a person. It either draws her closer to the heart of God, who understands suffering, or it makes her question His love or even His very existence. What did Hannah choose to do in her darkest night? This heartbroken woman knew where to take her pain:
Hannah got up and went to pray. — 1 Samuel 1:9
And she prayed with such passion that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. Hannah wasn’t drunk; she was desperate. She told Eli,
I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. — 1 Samuel 1:15
Hannah could have become bitter toward Peninnah, toward Elkinah, and even toward God, but instead she cried out to Him in her pain. May we do the same.
Let your pain drive you to your knees, for there you will find your greatest strength.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
One made it in life; the other one disappeared into the darkness.
What made such a vast difference in their outcome? They were both young women, same racial background, same marital status (widowed) and had the same opportunity to advance in life.
I was counseling my young maid, and used this Bible story on Naomi, Ruth and Orphar (Book of Ruth) to help her understand the opportunities she had in life and how important her choices would make in as far as how she would progress.
There are many reasons why one would find themselves in an environment far from being easy-going or comfortable. Some didn't get the opportunity to get a better education and for some being a maid is the only job there is, even with a good education. Sometimes employment choices are very very limited.
The maid to Naaman's wife was there by virtue of being captured from her homeland by Naaman's soldiers. (2Kings 5) But, I am sure that after she had directed her master, Naaman, to the Prophet Elisha so that he could be cured of his leprosy, she must have been rewarded with a promotion! Her chatty self and unwillingness to be bound by anger and bitterness over her captivity earned her respect and recognition within the household of Chief Commander Naaman. A man so great, yet cursed of leprosy.
Ruth and Orphar were faced with the same sort of situation. Naomi was not the best person in life to pin one's hopes on. Orphar saw that picture and quit 'wasting' her time and quickly went back to her old past. Ruth on the other hand, felt that it was better to move into the gloomy and unknown future than to go back ten years into the past!
Orphar is not the only person who goes back into the past. A lot of us do that. We fear the unknown; we refuse to see the positive or potential in our present predicament. The past seems the best option because we have been there before. What we don't know is that the past has moved even further beyond than we thought. What we were then does not balance anymore to what we are now ten years later. We go back and we find our past little life way too small to fit in and we sink into despair.
A couple of years ago I decided to visit the old village where I grew up as a child. I left that village when I was about fourteen years old. Thirty five years later, I decided to revisit my childhood memories. In my mind I had vivid pictures of the five roomed 'big' house we lived in, the 'large' courtyard that bordered our 'huge' maize field, the 'big' shops near our house, the 'wide' road that ran down to the primary school I had attended. I even pictured the 'very long' distance between the verandah where we used to sit in the daytime and the gate facing the 'huge' road to school. My little feet always used to get tired of being sent to close the 'heavy' gate at dusk.
So off we went with my friend to visit my childhood treasured memories. To this day I regret ever making that visit. I was better off with what I thought I knew than what a shocking experience I put myself through.
I got to the small gate facing a dilapidated small house bordered by a courtyard barely five metres from the fence. It took less than a minute to walk from the gate to the verandah and into the house. The new occupants actually welcomed us by the small shops situated by the narrow dirt road we had come by! Touring that small five roomed house must have been something like how President Nelson Mandela felt when he went back to Robben Island to recap his memoirs! I felt so lost and out of place in that little spot I had treasured as a big lovely place in the sanctuary of my heart for years. Even when I would become ill, I would dream of that lovely place and know that I was going to be well. That brief afternoon visit stole that fantasy away from me and it has never returned. All of a sudden I had become such a giant who had lost the only little space available!
That is what happens when we try to go back in time. Very little, if not nothing, will make any sense. A local drama was once aired on our television for over some months and the theme was on looking ahead, not backwards - "Chiramba wakatarisa mberi kwauri kuenda".
This made the difference in the futures of Ruth and Orphar. Ruth focused her eyes on the future and hoped for something positive to come out of it, while Orphar took her big feet to her small spot in her past. Look ahead not backwards.
Jesus Christ said, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62). So then, even in our Christian walk, we must never be seen as people that go back into the past. Lot's wife (Genesis 19:15-26) did that, and she turned into a pillar of salt, never to ever move again! Now, isn't it such a pity that one would be delivered, set free, and made to run towards safety, only to be enticed by the burning old city to turn back and lose what they had almost gained!
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
The Lord satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. Psalm 103:5
What makes one feel youthful? If we would take a survey, I am sure we will come up many varying answers. Some would attribute feeling youthful to a good night out with good company, good food and perhaps good music to allow for dancing. That would most certainly take some edges off one's monotonous lifestyle.
But alas, some of us are more of hermits and prefer indoors and a quietish lifestyle. Even if you drag us to the dance floor, the feet by nature will only go as far as pretending to move to the music!
But thanks be to the God who created us; He knows how to satisfy our years with good things, so that our youth is renewed like the eagle (Psalm 103v5). The bad things in life do come, but we thank God for bringing us the good things so that we can heal and enjoy life yet again.
I had never been to a beach until recently. I used to picture a beach from the movies I have watched; where semi-dressed flirting young men and women would parade their almost perfect bodies. And so I would wonder what the big deal was all about. In any case the beaches seemed to be overcrowded anyway; with no privacy at all; as if anyone needed it!
So as I was standing by my hotel room window early one morning, just gazing across the beachfront, I was struck by the quietness of the beach and the serene atmosphere of the Palm trees by the water front. I could imagine how the Lord Jesus could wake up very early in the morning to walk by the beach and spent hours of quietness and reflection. I imagined him walking down that beach, speaking quietly with the Father and praying for lost humanity. As the gentle morning breeze moved his garment, I could also sense the same gentleness move his heart as he agonized for humanity.
After my late breakfast, I decided to take my own walk along the beachfront. For nearly two hours I walked; sometimes taking time to stand by the bridge to watch the surfers and sometimes sitting by the water edge just to observe the pattern of the moving waters. There was a ship far off and I wondered about its occupants and the nature of their business.
Then as I resumed my walk, I saw a young man seated by one of the benches. He looked clean enough as well as intelligent, but what struck me was his worn out clothes and the satchel from where he was taking out small bottles of food to eat. I wondered what his story was? Had he somehow got stranded in a foreign land? Silently, I prayed for him; that God would touch his life and lead him back home. And I prayed for many of our sons and daughters lost in a foreign land while trying to earn a living. After that, I just kept walking the beachfront singing quietly in my heart and praying about whatever the Lord brought into my heart. More people were starting to gather by the beach, but I was vaguely aware of them as I continued with my prayer walk.
In conclusion, I have come to realize that the good things God uses to renew our youth, could be in seeing new places, meeting new friends, gaining new thoughts and insights and given the ability to share them with others!
Friday, August 7, 2015
The Baptist Women World Conference was held from the 18th to the 21st of July 2015. It was held at The Indaba Hotel and Conference Centre in Fourways, Johannesburg, South Africa. About 1,000 women from across the world were gathered at this five yearly international event.
We kicked off the event with a welcoming dinner at the Indaba's Boma Restaurant, followed by a march into the conference hall by all the nations represented. Africa, being the host, had the largest representation.
During the course of the leadership conference which ran from as early as 7am with the morning devotion to as late as 10pm, the women could just not get enough of the worship, teachings, testimonies and interaction. The theme of the conference was 'Arise, Shine' based on Isaiah 60:1 "Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you." (New Living Translation)
“When we rise up as the women God has called to serve in our families, churches, communities and nations, God will rise up and shine through us”, said the outgoing President, Mrs. R. Contreras.
In her opening message, she challenged us to think back on the past five years that had gone by and how our lives had been changed. She herself reflected on Psalm 90:1 ( Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations), and commented on how God had groomed her in her five year presidency and took her to many nations she had never dreamed she would visit.
The theme for her five year term was, 'In Step with the Spirit' based on Galatians 5:25. And to put the two themes together - "when we step ahead in the Spirit, we will continue to arise and shine". For the light to shine, there has to be darkness, the President continued to reflect. We are called to shine in a dark world. When we look at our countries, our communities, we see the darkness. And that is where we are called to shine. The Lord put us where we are, so that we can arise and shine. Our light will be what the world will see and the glory of the Lord will be revealed to mankind.
We also cried with our sisters as they shared the difficult periods their countries had gone through, and in some cases were still going through. Some of the words shared by the sisters were, "Sometimes when God takes us into troubled waters, it is not to drown us, but it is to cleanse us. God takes us in our grief, carries us and uses us in our situations to reach out to others". One testimony was of a sister who lost her son tragically. Barely two weeks later, a family in their neighborhood also lost their son in a road accident. As she grieved for herself and this family she heard the Lord telling her to arise and go and be with that other family. She mustered the little bit of strength she had and prayed for the Lord to give her comfort so that she could also comfort this other family. (Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another. 1 Thess 5:11)
Again we cried as the women from Nigeria shared on the plight of the 276 Chibok girl students abducted from their boarding school by the notorious Boko Haram Muslim extremists. Some of the girls were murdered because they would not renounce their Christian faith. Some were tortured until they lost their minds and the majority of the girls are still wandering in the camps of the guerillas as forced soldiers or mistresses.
Sisters from Liberia were with us and they shared the horror stories of the deadly Ebola virus which nearly wiped out their nation. Life came to a deathly standstill as the airports closed, with no one coming into Liberia or going out. Schools closed and businesses closed. Death was in the homes, in the streets, in the hospitals, everywhere. Some familes lost close to ten members within weeks. Both the poor, wealthy, affluent, young, old, including the health workers were dying. And yet even in those scary situations, there were those who risked their own lives and stepped outside their homes to go and offer assistance to those infected and helpless.(We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Cor 4:9-10) Then finally as nations prayed the Lord opened the airport and help came through. Now the nation of Liberia is not just existing; but the grace of God, is living triumphantly!
It was not all tears. We had our big pie of learning from the Word of God. We were taught from the women of the Bible who faced challenging situations but arose with courage and prevailed. Like in the case of Abigail when she acted wisely and quickly to deter David from killing her family (1 Samuel 25).
We were also encouraged as women to take leadership roles in the church, community and nation. Priscilla was one woman noted in the Bible (Acts 18), who took her leadership and mentoring role seriously. Alongside her husband Aquilla, they mentored Apollos, a very learned man of God. Together with the Apostle Paul, she and her husband were instrumental in starting the church in Corinth. The role of women in the planting of churches or in church leadership is sometimes downplayed but we were encouraged to search the heart of God concerning our ministry from such women as Priscilla. Theological overviews must not restrict us; we must arise and shine for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
S Shed off impurities. Shake off hindrances. Strip off bondages
H Holy Spirit. Eph 5:18. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Without Him you are useless. No matter how lovely or modern the lamp is, if there is no oil inside to light it, it is useless. (the bridesmaids in Matt 25:1-13)
I Illumine your corner. Focus your light depending on where you are spiritually or intellectually.
N Now. Here and now, arise and shine. Be like Abigail and don't waste time or resources.
E Encourage and Evangelise.
If I do not give a bit of my testimony I wouldn't have done justice to this newsletter.
‘And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’. 2 Tim 2:2
There was a room reserved all day long for prayer and we were encouraged to visit it. But some of us just could not find the time to go there. So it came to pass that during one free session my friend and I decided to visit the prayer room; more out of a sense of guilt than anything else. We counted ourselves as prayer warriors and had not yet been to the prayer room! So off we went.
The room was manned by one lady who welcomed us and pointed us to the two maps of Africa which we had been told were to be the prayer 'sites'. Another lady was already walking on one of the maps, while praying and wailing so loudly I wondered if I was ever going to hear myself praying.
I stepped on the other map and very quietly started to pray for the countries of Africa. I was going to be dignified about this and respect the solemnity of a prayer sanctuary. As I prayed and walked that map, the Spirit of God reminded of the night two days before traveling to the conference. I was gathering my travel items for packing and putting them by a side bed while listening to a gospel music recording. I kept replaying the music, while stopping to sing along and dance to one particular song. The Shona song referred to Jesus as he walked the roads, the wilderness, the river banks, the wells, the graveyards-----looking for lost souls, touching them and delivering them from sicknesses, demon possession, blindness, hopelessness and giving them new life and hope.
So as I prayed and walked that Africa map in the prayer room, I 'saw' the Lord Jesus walking with me, agonizing over Africa, weeping over those traumatised Chibok girls and stretching his hand and healing a nation that had almost been wiped out by the ebola virus. I 'saw'him reach out to the women of Africa as they struggled with domestic violences, health challenges matched by drug shortages and inadequate hospital facilities if one could even afford it. Poverty was rife, with food shortages and with the majority of breadwinners being unemployed. These prayer items including the dominance of Islam in North and West Africa and its threat to Christianity were presented in the nation's report by the President, Mrs Dhlula.
I do not know when that other lady stopped her praying and wailing, but the sound I recalled hearing was of a camera taking pictures. By then I was kneeling down on the map of Africa no longer able to pray but just sob uncontrollably for my beloved Africa.
Women, we must arise and shine and do what we must do for our God, for the sake of the generations to come. Amen.
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Keep me burning ‘til the break of day
Friday, May 29, 2015
I watched a movie many years ago and it left a deep impression upon my heart. A little boy, new in the neighbourhood, got lost. He had gone to a shopping mall with some friends, but due to the large crowds was somehow separated from them.
It got dark before he could be reunited with his friends. Some kind people took the little boy to the police post. When they asked him where home was, the boy could not give them an answer, saying he had not yet memorized the street address. But he could remember the church building in his neighbourhood. He went on to describe the church structure and the cross sitting on top of the building. He also recollected the shining lights on the cross, which were most visible at night. Then he said to the policeman, “Sir, if you could just take me to the cross; I will be able to find my way home”.
An elderly sister in our church recently lost her husband of many years to a very sudden and short illness. Totally lost and devastated she cried, saying that all she wanted at that moment was ‘just to go home’. Where was home, we asked; since we thought that she was already at home.
Home is where the heart longs to be. It is a place where you feel protected, safe from dangers and the unwelcome surprises of this world. Home is where we feel wanted, loved and have a sense of belonging. Home is among familiar people and friendly faces. Home is where you can go when all else falls apart. It is a sanctuary, a solace, a hiding place.
I grew up in the village. The small school was many miles away from home. And because my little feet would get too tired from the walking, my parents therefore asked some relatives living nearer the school to take me in. But as school holidays slowly approached, I would yearn for home, to my own family.
Home means different things to different people at any given time. The little boy needed to find his family’s home; and I longed to be reunited with my own family. But my sister at church longed to go home to the Lord, where her husband had just gone to. She could not bear the thought of being separated from him.
We all at some point in life get to a time when we search for more than just a local location. In times of sorrow, distress, ill-health and broken dreams, the heart takes a journey of its own to a place where it can find healing and hope. Where is that place?
The lost boy gave us a clue. ‘Take me to the Cross, and I will find home’. The Cross has the power to mend, heal and restore any brokenness.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Friday, May 22, 2015
My prayer starts from a dream I had recently. In the dream I saw myself in a rural village setup, walking with a little girl. As we got to the rural road leading to town, I remembered something I should have carried with me. The road was not far off from the house we had just left. So I asked the little girl to stand by a tree and wait for me as I ran back to get the item. Rural roads are almost always deserted of traffic until the once-a-day bus passes by.
I meant to be in the house for about five minutes or so; but for some reason I delayed for nearly half an hour. When I eventually came back to the roadside, the little girl was walking down the road and crying after me. Somehow, she had lost sense of where I had disappeared to and was looking for me down the road. I called after her but she kept walking down the road crying. Then I woke up.
Heavenly Father, I pray for the child in my dream who most probably represents some young person somewhere who is aching in their heart because of the loss of their parent or parents. The loss could be a recent one or could have happened many years ago. But they seem unable to come to terms with the loss or find peace and comfort in you. They feel abandoned, lost, with no one to care about their welfare. Those who were supposedly family, relatives or friends seem to have also abandoned them. The memory of their parents has been forgotten and they also feel forgotten.
Hear this young person, dear Father, when they cry out in pain. Speak to them and let them know that you care; and that you love them. Let them also hear when someone close to them is calling out to them, offering a hand of strength and a shoulder to lean on. Life can become a jungle when there is no one paying attention. Sensitize the family and friends and let them hear and see the deep need in this young person’s heart. Stretch out their hand in love and allow this young person to see this and respond positively.
In Jesus’ name we pray.