Our daughter has a very active imagination – her head is just stuffed full of princess adventures, imaginary farms and crimes carried out by Albert, an old neighbor of ours (Albert borrowed a bowl before he moved and never brought it back – according to Jenny he is solely responsible for everything that is now missing in the world!) In an effort to try and make sure she understands the difference between real and imaginary we have been playing a game in the car where one of us asks if things or real or pretend.
Yesterday as we were driving she spotted the radio tower on top of Elsie’s Peak, part of the mountainside around Fish Hoek. Talking about the tower I said that that was called Elsie’s Peak. Well she was just delighted to hear that. She shouted in excitement ‘Yes, that’s Elsa’s Peak, the Freezing one!’ Now her imagination has the whole story of Frozen set in Fish Hoek Cape Town!!!!!!
It is so easy to see how our minds are at the centre of our faith and belief. If we can get the truth right in our heads it affects everything – our actions and our reactions. We have to sift through out thoughts and put them in categories real & pretend, true & false.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Our minds are powerful places, and it is easy to let thoughts run away with us – run away into anxiety over fears, real or perceived, run away into condemnation that is not in line with God’s view of us. Jenny’s imagination reminds me of the need to sift and grab hold of thoughts that are not in line with God’s perspective of the world or myself.
Lord, help me to grab hold of my thoughts, to reign them in so that they are in line with Your truth.
I’m not sure if there is something wrong with my brain – songs easily get stuck in there – random songs that I haven’t even heard in ages. Currently my internal sound track is playing a peculiar hymn we had to sing in primary school – a bizarre hymn about dragons and knights. In fact thy hymn was a favourite of one teacher but also a great source of irritation to him trying to get us to sing about Dragons instead of Dragins. As this song has kept me company this week I decided to look up the lyrics to find out what on earth it was all about – was pleasantly surprised to see it has actually a really great message once you get past the dragons and ogres.
When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old
He was gentle and brave he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour he rode through the land
No charger have I and no sword by my side
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride
Though back into storyland giants have fled
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead
So let faith be my shield and let hope be my steed
Against the dragons of anger the ogres of greed
And let me set free with the sword of my youth
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth
We all have dragons and ogres in our life – whether they are real things that scare us or fears that our imagination has conjured up. Dragons of feeling a failure, Ogre of feeling useless, Giants of fear for the future. I’m not sure what the hymns writer has in mind, but I get the feeling that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gave him some ideas.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
So with this old song in my head this week I take courage to fight against Dragons, Giants and Ogres in my mind, exposing them to the light of Christ, whipping them into defeat by the Truth. Now, if only those Ogres could be a bit less scary!
If you know me or have read my blog you may be aware that sometimes my brain works in funny ways. Yesterday was a public holiday so I did a wee bit of Christmas shopping and as I was leaving the mall I discovered that I was humming a tune – but to my shock the tune I was humming was not a Christmassy song, but the National Anthem of Malawi! For some reason the Malawi national anthem tends to pop into my head more frequently than it ought. When I first heard it I was working in Malawi and I misheard the words. I heard the local school boys sing a line:
Put on each and every enemy – hunger, disease, envy.
But in fact the real words are:
Put down each and every enemy – hunger, disease, envy.
How amazing that a country should identify it faults and weaknesses in the national anthem. It is a prayer for help and an acknowledgement of sinful tendencies. Envy and jealously is such a big issue in Malawi and is at the root of witchcraft and corruption. I think the Apostle Paul would approve of the anthem – he was a big believer in acknowledging areas of struggle.
Romans 7:15-19 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.
The Apostle James also saw benefit in being honest with others about our struggles:
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
There is no shame in the fact that we struggle with sin – we are human and fallen, but what a pity that we are so proud that we keep our struggles to ourselves and don’t acknowledge our weaknesses so that people don’t see our faults and use it against us. We should instead take pride in God’s ability to help us overcome temptation and His Grace.
So what will your anthem be? Mine will be a prayer to the only One who can help me resist gluttony and pride – The One who forgives me when I fail. Not a pretty song, but a true one. What will your song be?
I really value truth, but there are different ways of speaking the truth – ways that hurt or ways that bring change. For the last year I have been struggling with how to speak truth in such a way as to bring change rather than to get backs up. Different campaigns are going on to challenge government not to legalize prostitution in South Africa, to get the media to be more balanced in their reporting, against questionable taste in advertising – all fantastic issues that I feel I should be supporting. So what is stopping me from jumping in and getting fully involved? Words. Sometimes Christians campaign in such a way that it makes people, including myself cringe. So what do I do – these issues are important so I can’t neglect them just as I am embarrassed by what others have said. I asked myself that helpful question: What would Jesus do?
I have noticed two different ways and tones that Jesus used His words – one that is harsh and confrontational and the other gentle. I also noticed that He used these different techniques with different groups. The harsh words were reserved for the religious – those who claim to be God-followers.
John 2:14-16 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
Yet Jesus’ behaviour towards the non-religious was much more personal and gentle. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes – he didn’t condemn, but his presence and gentle truth speaking changed lives.
Luke 19:1-8 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a “sinner.'” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
So maybe I should follow Jesus’ lead – speaking truth without compromise but in a way that doesn’t condemn or make people cringe. Now I guess I need to figure out how to get the law and policy makers to come to lunch!
Last night we returned home with bellies full of fish and chips to total darkness. As we drove closer to our house the streetlights were off and a few houses had glowing candles in the windows. With help of cell phones we found our way down the garden to our house and I went straight to where I knew I had put matches and a candle for such an occasion. Smugly I lit the first candle – a tea light in a beautiful Tyrone crystal lamp. I glowed gently in the dark, but didn’t give much light. I lit a second candle – a glass jelly filled thing. It glowed a bit brighter but the jelly started to gurgle and sputter like it may explode. Eventually I took the batteries out of my camera and clocks to put them in an ugly plastic light-bulb thing that lit up the room enough to read. My first choices of lights were pretty, but pretty well useless. Their beauty outweighed their function. My second choice was less beautiful, but fit for the job.
I woke up this morning to clocks that needed resetting with a thought in my head – what kind of light am I? Is my faith all about how I look rather than what I do? Am I the decorative candle, lovely to look at but in a time of need not so helpful or am I like my plain light, more functional than decorative?
Jesus said that we are the light of the world:
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
But how am I shining? Does my light bring light to others? Is my faith practical and functional?
Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
Does my faith walk bear the fruit of the light? Goodness, righteousness and truth?
I pray that my faith-walk is more practical than for show. That when ‘my little light shines’ it would be a light that brings goodness, righteousness and truth not just a warm fuzzy glow.