Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Occupation: Mother

"As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." (1 Thes 2:6-7)

My fingers hover over the keyboard. A flotsam of words drifts in and out of my thoughts, none lingering long enough to form a sentence. The wind has been put to rest and a merciful hush settles in the morning sun. The boys are exploring in the woods and all is peaceful on Inesi... A small alarm tugs somewhere at the back of my brain. I ignore it and close my eyes, listening for the words to come. Then I hear it again, this time clear, yet far. I am being summoned from the depth of the forest, and I frown, feeling irritated and disturbed. But something quickens my heartbeat, and I know - this is no fickle demand, it is an urgent cry for help.

I fly out the door, tripping over my feet as I rush down the slippery path to the dark mouth of the wattle forest. I distinguish two voices, a strong determined cry for help and a softer whimper, gasping and distressed. Bramble thorns grab and hook at my clothes, my hair, my hands. The path seems endless and the voices seem so near, but still I see no sign of those two beloved blonde heads. Finally the eldest breaks through the branches, out of breath, announcing that his brother is stuck in a tree and hurt. My heart sinks. "Please give me strength Jesus", I pray - "I'm not good at this". I wish for my strong and sure-footed husband to be near, knowing he would have it all under control in a minute, without a bead of sweat. But this is up to me, so I slide and tug, crawl and reassure my way into the depth of a thicket. The little one is dangling at a precarious angle from a branch, his feet shod in red gumboots, suspended in mid-air. Small white fingers are clenched tightly around the limb of a fallen tree, and I gently try to pry them loose. He shrieks and then I notice his track-suit pants hooked firmly on a small stump digging into his groin. I hear myself soothing in a low, soft voice and I marvel at how the voice makes me feel calm and strong also... 

Finally the tightly stretched fabric becomes unhooked, and I lower his limp and shaky body into my arms. He clings to my neck and we sit for a long time, just holding onto each other until the shaking stops. I feel his limbs over to see if all is as it should be and then, relieved and thankful, I start sliding out of the thicket with the "injured" one clinging to my front like a little koala bear. We stumble and fumble our way back to the sunlight and then sprawl out on the warm grass, praising and thanking and soaking up the warmth. The shudders cease and I look down, inhaling the spice and earth scent from the top of his head. Wet eye lashes lay gently on his flushed cheeks and I recognise the sweet sound of a sleeping child.

Mothers are seen to be gentle, selfless, soft, caring, patient and ever-loving. Ask any mother if that is a description of her, twenty four-seven, and if she is honest, her answer would be "No way!" A mother's love can be fierce, her temper a formidable torrent, her patience stretched to the point where it snaps like a whiplash. In ourselves we are not able to be the serene madonna with the benign smile, an infant at her breast, while the other(s) is/are bringing down the house. Why then does the word "mother" lie so soft on your tongue, sound so reassuring to your ears?

In the bible the word "mother" is used 152 times in the Old Testament and 85 times in the New. (NIV). A mother is the Bible's most honoured woman, and great stress is laid upon the influence of mothers. The love of children was deep in the hearts of the Hebrew women, and the mother was regarded with the deepest reverence. I think of Sarah, the beloved wife of Abraham, who was to be the Mother of Nations - ultimately ordained to lead to Christ, our Saviour. Her son Isaac, was born in her old age, against all odds. The Bible's first story of a miracle conception. Sarah's life was one of continuous trial, but through it she emerged as a woman of power, not in the worldly sense, yet one who was a dutiful and beloved wife and who finally became a favoured and venerated mother.

Mary, the most hailed and honoured mother of them all, was an uncertain teenager, chosen by God, not because she fitted the perfect description of a mother in His eyes. But because she was willing to let His will be done through her. Among Jesus' last words was to ask the disciple whom he loved (John) to take care of his mother. The son of God making sure that His earthly mother is taken care of by a man who never stopped believing in Him.

There is much to be said and written about mothers in the bible, and much to be learnt from them, but who do we draw our strength from each day when the challenges and demands come quick and fast and there is no time to draw aside to look for guidance. I have seen and known mothers who seem to embody all that we perceive to be a selfless, patient nurturer. Who pace the floor in the dark of night, gently cooing and graciously mopping and entertaining throughout the day. I'm not one of them. I have learnt how selfish I can be when the demands don't stop. How frustrated I become when things don't go my way and how unwilling I am to admit - I am not the "natural mother" I had dreamed of being. But since I really became a full-time mother, I have found a "Partner" who can be all of that for me and more.

There have been moments of rebellion, times of undue outbursts of anger and bouts of self-pity. Slowly but surely I'm learning to embrace what it truly means to be a mother. Paul says: "As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her children". The most important part for me, is not being like a mother caring for her children, but being an "apostle" of Christ. Then the burden of trying to be perfect is lifted, for He has already been and done that for us. In serving Him, we follow His commands, reflect His perfect love and humbly walk in His will. My children have got used to me suddenly clasping my hands over my eyes (or ears) and praying out loud for His help. (And for binding my hands when I feel like sending them flying out the window). The oldest now just says: "It's okay Danu, she's just talking to Jesus". There have been times where he senses that the situation is getting a bit out of control and then reminds me with a frown: "Mom, I think it is time to pray".

These two precious beings have taught me so much. I marvel at the gift of being a parent. The reward of carrying them under my heart and knowing who really placed them there. The reward of knowing that I may guide them on the way the Spirit of Christ in them already knows, and the joy of seeing them respond to it in such a pure and beautiful way. Reward and acknowledgement is something we are taught to expect from small. A mother does not receive a bonus at the end of another life-year of her children. My reward is a life hidden in Christ and sharing that every day with them is a joy unsurpassed. Teaching them the alphabet, how to brush teeth, good manners etc. can be tedious and draining. 

But sharing with them the truth that shines back through their eyes, seeing them discover the world that "God made", is an unending pleasure. It fills me with an effervescent joy that bubbles over until I join in the uninhibited dance of being a child again. A greatly blessed, highly favoured, imperfect but forgiven child of God!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Masterpiece in your Mirror

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."(Psalm 139:14)

After a cold gray day, the sun breaks through, reflecting brilliantly off every surface. The marvel of a new day, a new symphony to the Creator, surpassing every man-made sound ever conceived. Someone once said: "We stand in awe of a majestic mountain, marvel at the scent of a forest, delight at a cascade of rushing water, yet we pass by ourselves each day..." Ever stood in front of the mirror thinking "Wow, what a masterpiece"? Which is exactly what you are! The only part of creation made in the image of its Creator. We may be like grains of sand, minute in comparison to the vastness of the universe out there, but we each carry the imprint of God in our DNA. His Spirit in every fibre, tendon and vessel that throbs and surges with life. Not an elite group of individuals who fit a certain criteria or meet a specific standard, every man and woman who ever breathed. Each fearfully and wonderfully made...

Which is why, when I read about a project in progress in PE called the Matthew lunch, it rang true in my heart.

In a nutshell, the intention is to seek out the lost and the homeless, the destitute and the lonely, and for one day, treat them like the kings and queens that they are in the eyes of the Lord. They will be collected from wherever they are living, and taken to the Fountain Vineyard church who are hosting this event. There they will be able to shower and put on fresh clothing (which is currently being collected). The women can have their hair done, and be refreshingly made up. The men can have a haircut. They will each receive a brand new bible, into which their names will be written while a pastor, elder or deacon of a participating church prays with them. It was revealed to the man behind this project in an epiphany he had in his flat, that at that very moment that the guest's name is written into his or her brand new bible, (if they choose to commit their lives to the Lord) so the same angel that revealed this to him, would enter that person's name into the Book of Life!

There will be live music in the form of praise and worship musicians and singers. There will be a three-course lunch, during which time there will be several testimonies shared from people who have been down in the gutters and been picked up by God and put in a place to serve these unfortunates right here right now. There will be a testimony from a former millionaire who was humbled by the Lord and allowed to keep only R2000 of his wealth. Today God has built this man up again and his life is so much richer than it ever was before - because Jesus is his business partner. An amazing woman by the name of Tanya Cochrane will be flying down from Johannesburg (see her testimony on the website), to speak about her addiction to drugs and how the amazing love and power of God set her completely free! 

Graham, the man behind the project will testify about having been destitute and homeless himself. Each guest will receive a month's free food in the form of amazing soya meals that have become available in South Africa. Their details will be taken for the creation of CV's which will be put up on a website for free download and contact by anyone who might be able to offer them a job. After the lunch is over they will be returned to their places of abode, hopefully encouraged and filled with hope for a brighter future, having encountered the love of people saved by Christ, which comes directly from our precious Father God Himself.

During the day, the various testimonies that are given will be recorded, along with some of the praise and worship music, mixed and burned to CD's which will be given to each and every person that helped and those guests that leave contact details with them. It is their hope that these CD's will be played and will in turn sow seeds to bring in the lost and hopeless

These lunches will in turn pave the way to something called The Paul Project, so named in honour of the Apostle Paul. This project will seek to join the various ministries of the many churches of Port Elizabeth together, in order to increase each others resources so that they effectively have one Body of Christ. This can begin to pave the way for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and hopefully usher in the revival that is the hope of our country.

A beautiful vision? - I thought so. Through Christ, we are all heirs to the great Kingdom of God. Each one of us can be used to make a difference and bring this Kingdom nearer, right here, right now.