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Friday, 30 March 2012

The Sound of Silence ...

Now anyone who knows me will testify that I can talk for Great Britain! LOL. I am also a 'debater' and love nothing more than a great friendly discussion with topics as wide-ranging as politics, religion, philiosophy, football and a numerous and one other things. Mention a topic and I can probably chip in a little. While I am extremely passionate and will hold my ground, I also hate it when discussions become unfriendly or hurt anyone. At that point, I think it's time to stop talking and begin joking - no discussion is worth hurt feelings or a friendship or an argument with a loved one.

So it often surprises people when they learn that what I love the most about being home is the luxury of being quiet. If you ever spend a few days with me, you'll find out I am more likely to be curled up with a great book or writing than I am to want to spend a great deal of time talking. Oh, I'll talk and laugh alright but I always say the more comfortable I am with you, the less I feel the need to talk.

The price for being a bit of a chatter-box is folks keep asking if there's something wrong when I am quiet. Or wonder why I might want a couple of days occasionally to retreat into time with GOD, with myself, with good books, with long walks or when I can psyche myself into it, the sheer freedom that running gives (despite the awful pain that goes hand-in-hand with that torture!! LOL)

Human beings are social animals but most of us also need some space to ourselves .. we need time to spend in our own head-space. I will often go for a drive heading nowhere simply to be alone with my thoughts - music blasting and driving a lil fast down an open stretch of road is one of my greatest mee-time - I pray, I think, I sing loudly along with the music, I've even been known to cry if something is upsetting me .. The important thing is I have total freedom to embrace alone mee-time.

I also write the best in the cool dark still silence of the night. No lights on, maybe a couple of scented candles flickering in the background, I yield as the blank screen of my laptop beckons me, draws me in, pulls words out of me - all distractions banished - no TV or music or any background noise disturbing the flow of thoughts that seek to rush to the fore. The union of of the pale white background of the computer and the flowing black font of my thoughts creating the symbiosis that is my writing.

My ideal evening at home would be curled up on the sofa, loved guy near-by or next to me, feet in his lap or head on his shoulder, reading while he watches TV, reads or listens to music, maybe watching a lil TV too, making a comment now and again, talking a lil when it matters, laughing and joking .. two souls connecting without needing to clutter it up with loads of chatter ...

For moi, that is the perfect sound of silence...

xx

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Hagar despised slave & the LORD who sees and cares (1)


El-Roi .. The Lord GOD who sees me .......


Do you ever feel unloved, unnoticed, unwanted? A victim of circumstances? Of birth? Of misfortune? Do things look like they might just be about to get better then they come crashing down around your ears again? Do you ever think that GOD might care about other people but He either thinks you are a 2nd class citizen deserving only '2nd class love' or quite frankly, He really does not care about you either.

Hagar must have had all these thoughts. Young and beautiful, she was given as a maid servant to Abraham and Sarah. For a slave, it probably didn't seem like too bad a gig - she was Sarah's personal hand-maiden so was probably spared the hard manual labour of other servants- her job was to wait upon and take care of her mistress. After her life in Egypt with its numerous gods for every circumstance, maybe she sometimes wondered at their strange belief in a one invisible GOD but they were kind enough masters- so live and let live eh? She more than anyone else was privy to her mistress's abiding sorrow at being childless. Did Hagar ever wonder why Abraham simply didn't take another wife? All men wanted sons to carry on their names and as strong and vital as he was, he was already over 80 - the chap clearly wasn't getting any younger.

Then one day, her life changed forever. Sarah burst in on her, ordered a bath for her, perfumed her, dressed her in fine clothing and thrust her into Abraham's bed! Hagar had become Sarah's tool in the 'i-must-have--a-baby' saga. Neither slave nor servants got much say, so Hagar's fate was sealed. The combination of vigour and beautiful youthful female did the trick and Hagar got pregnant rapidly. Soon Abraham was strutting around the camp like a bull in clover. Hagar must have felt a thrill of power. She had done something her mistress hadn't. Sure Sarah might be rich and beautiful, beautiful enough to still be be wooed by Pharaoh when she was in her 70's, she might have a husband who loved her, but she Hagar had something Sarah wanted desperately. It was she Hagar who had restored Abraham's manly reputation and vigour. Slowly her manner changed. She was no longer meek and timid, her feet dragged reluctant to obey when Sarah called her, and now Hagar looked upon Sarah in scorn. Hey, she wasn't even good enough to have a child. What was the point of BARREN beauty? Maybe if she, Hagar, gave Abraham a son, he would make her his concubine, as a lesser wife she would have rights and soon, she might even push Sarah out of favour.

Sadly for Hagar, before her fantasy could bear fruit, Sarah got fed up of Hagar's insolent looks and demeanour, complained bitterly to Abraham who did the typical guy thing of ducking trouble and told Sarah that Hagar was her property and she could do with her as she please. Suddenly, pregnant vulnerable Hagar was left to Sarah's not-so-tender mercies!!! There she was pregnant with the master's baby and yet he abandoned her to his jealous wife.
One month of Sarah's appalling cruel treatment and Hagar cracked. She couldn't take it any longer. Wrapping her pathetic little belongings in a cloth, she decided to flee back to Egypt. The cruelty must have been intense to make her brave this dangerous journey by herself. A few miles into the burning sands and even more burning Sun and the hitherto pampered slave-girl was struggling. Weary, dust-stained, hungry, tired and weeping, she was refreshing herself beside a desert spring when she heard a voice. To her shock, the stranger who stopped by her, knew exactly who she was. Calling her by name, he asked her where she had come from and where she was going.

"Hagar, Sarah's servant, where have you come from and where are you going?"
"I am fleeing my mistress."
'Return and submit to her authority' ..
Hagar gaped in shock and shrank back. This wasn't what she wanted to hear. Did he know the onerous task s Sarah made her carry out? How she kept her on her feet for hours, how she abused and terrified her? If it wasn't for the fear of making her miscarry, she knew her mistress would also have beaten her. Go back to that? No way, she would rather die in the desert!
But the Angel continued. 'God will give you more descendants than you can count. You will give birth to a son. Name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard about your misery. This son of yours will be a strong character, rebellious and wild like an untamed donkey, fierce and strong. He will go his own way and live at odds with his brothers.'

Now it might be hard for many of us to understand what this encounter must have meant to Hagar. Imagine owning the rights to nothing, not even your own body or thoughts, being owned by another, casually used as a pawn, nothing but a womb to be used solely for the benefit of others - owned, abused, ill-treated. But in the middle of this utterly hopeless existence with no way out, this slave-girl who thought no-one on earth loved or cared about her, suddenly had Almighty GOD pick her out personally and speak directly to her. He gave her a promise - she would have a son. Her son would survive into adulthood. Her son would grow up healthy and strong, fierce and rebellious - he would not have the broken down mentality of a slave but the independent fierce strength of a free man. He would be a harsh man forged by the hardness of the desert land that he would inhabit.

Hagar gave GOD a name that day. It might seem like an insignificant thing to many of us, but she I believe, is the only woman in the Bible who ever gave GOD a name. She called GOD 'El-Roi', The GOD who sees me. Hagar said poignantly, 'I have seen the One who sees me.'

GOD sees and HE cares. Hagar found the One who notices and loves even the most seemingly insignificant of us in the eyes of men. He stepped in, comforted her and gave her a promise she could hold unto even through the dark days of going back to her mistress. Her existence was going to be worthwhile. She might be a slave but her son would be free. She would have numerous descendants - GOD knew her name!!!

Hagar returned to Sarah as instructed by GOD and did have a son as promised. Abraham listened to her story, knew she had met the very same GOD who had called him, and despite slaves having no rights over even their own names, let alone being allowed to name their children, Abraham named their son Ishmael even as GOD had told Hagar.

Hagar's GOD, the GOD of a seemingly insignificant slave-girl continues to see today - to as many as hurt, He is the One who sees your afflictions, who sees your pain, who sees your ill-treatment, who sees your barrenness, who sees the bills that cannot be paid, who sees your unemployed status, who sees your drug addiction, who sees your ill-health, who sees how you are despised and bullied, who sees your rebellious children who are breaking your heart, who sees you are about to lose your home because you can't pay the mortgage, who sees your heartbreak at being cheated upon, who sees your marriage that is violent and abusive, who sees your sorrow at being single, who sees you are second-best, broken into pieces, rejected, unwanted, discarded, cheated, abused, raped, beaten etc

GOD sees and cares. Today, He makes you a promise - Come unto ME all you who are weary and heavy-laden, collapsing under your burdens and suffering, Come to ME and I will give you rest. Come to ME and I will give you a promise for your life - I will show you the reason you have been created. I will reveal to you the purpose for your existence and above all, I will make you whole. I will shower you with love and affection, give you the free gift of salvation, give you peace that cannot ever be taken away, draw you into a relationship with me.

Often we ask, well if GOD really does care, why doesn't He wave a magic wand and make my situation all right. That's a question to look at in part 2 of this write-up but do you have any thoughts about why He simply doesn't? Drop me a comment and let's explore it together.



xx

Hagar despised slave & the LORD who sees and cares (1)

El-Roi .. The Lord GOD who sees me .......


Do you ever feel unloved, unnoticed, unwanted? A victim of circumstances? Of birth? Of misfortune? Do things look like they might just be about to get better then they come crashing down around your ears again? Do you ever think that GOD might care about other people but He either thinks you are a 2nd class citizen deserving only '2nd class love' or quite frankly, He really does not care about you either.

Hagar must have had all these thoughts. Young and beautiful, she was given as a maid servant to Abraham and Sarah. For a slave, it probably didn't seem like too bad a gig - she was Sarah's personal hand-maiden so was probably spared the hard manual labour of other servants- her job was to wait upon and take care of her mistress. After her life in Egypt with its numerous gods for every circumstance, maybe she sometimes wondered at their strange belief in a one invisible GOD but they were kind enough masters- so live and let live eh? She more than anyone else was privy to her mistress's abiding sorrow at being childless. Did Hagar ever wonder why Abraham simply didn't take another wife? All men wanted sons to carry on their names and as strong and vital as he was, he was already over 80 - the chap clearly wasn't getting any younger.

Then one day, her life changed forever. Sarah burst in on her, ordered a bath for her, perfumed her, dressed her in fine clothing and thrust her into Abraham's bed! Hagar had become Sarah's tool in the 'i-must-have--a-baby' saga. Neither slave nor servants got much say, so Hagar's fate was sealed. The combination of vigour and beautiful youthful female did the trick and Hagar got pregnant rapidly. Soon Abraham was strutting around the camp like a bull in clover. Hagar must have felt a thrill of power. She had done something her mistress hadn't. Sure Sarah might be rich and beautiful, beautiful enough to still be be wooed by Pharaoh when she was in her 70's, she might have a husband who loved her, but she Hagar had something Sarah wanted desperately. It was she Hagar who had restored Abraham's manly reputation and vigour. Slowly her manner changed. She was no longer meek and timid, her feet dragged reluctant to obey when Sarah called her, and now Hagar looked upon Sarah in scorn. Hey, she wasn't even good enough to have a child. What was the point of BARREN beauty? Maybe if she, Hagar, gave Abraham a son, he would make her his concubine, as a lesser wife she would have rights and soon, she might even push Sarah out of favour.

Sadly for Hagar, before her fantasy could bear fruit, Sarah got fed up of Hagar's insolent looks and demeanour, complained bitterly to Abraham who did the typical guy thing of ducking trouble and told Sarah that Hagar was her property and she could do with her as she please. Suddenly, pregnant vulnerable Hagar was left to Sarah's not-so-tender mercies!!! There she was pregnant with the master's baby and yet he abandoned her to his jealous wife.
One month of Sarah's appalling cruel treatment and Hagar cracked. She couldn't take it any longer. Wrapping her pathetic little belongings in a cloth, she decided to flee back to Egypt. The cruelty must have been intense to make her brave this dangerous journey by herself. A few miles into the burning sands and even more burning Sun and the hitherto pampered slave-girl was struggling. Weary, dust-stained, hungry, tired and weeping, she was refreshing herself beside a desert spring when she heard a voice. To her shock, the stranger who stopped by her, knew exactly who she was. Calling her by name, he asked her where she had come from and where she was going.

"Hagar, Sarah's servant, where have you come from and where are you going?"
"I am fleeing my mistress."
'Return and submit to her authority' ..
Hagar gaped in shock and shrank back. This wasn't what she wanted to hear. Did he know the onerous task s Sarah made her carry out? How she kept her on her feet for hours, how she abused and terrified her? If it wasn't for the fear of making her miscarry, she knew her mistress would also have beaten her. Go back to that? No way, she would rather die in the desert!
But the Angel continued. 'God will give you more descendants than you can count. You will give birth to a son. Name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard about your misery. This son of yours will be a strong character, rebellious and wild like an untamed donkey, fierce and strong. He will go his own way and live at odds with his brothers.'

Now it might be hard for many of us to understand what this encounter must have meant to Hagar. Imagine owning the rights to nothing, not even your own body or thoughts, being owned by another, casually used as a pawn, nothing but a womb to be used solely for the benefit of others - owned, abused, ill-treated. But in the middle of this utterly hopeless existence with no way out, this slave-girl who thought no-one on earth loved or cared about her, suddenly had Almighty GOD pick her out personally and speak directly to her. He gave her a promise - she would have a son. Her son would survive into adulthood. Her son would grow up healthy and strong, fierce and rebellious - he would not have the broken down mentality of a slave but the independent fierce strength of a free man. He would be a harsh man forged by the hardness of the desert land that he would inhabit.

Hagar gave GOD a name that day. It might seem like an insignificant thing to many of us, but she I believe, is the only woman in the Bible who ever gave GOD a name. She called GOD 'El-Roi', The GOD who sees me. Hagar said poignantly, 'I have seen the One who sees me.'

GOD sees and HE cares. Hagar found the One who notices and loves even the most seemingly insignificant of us in the eyes of men. He stepped in, comforted her and gave her a promise she could hold unto even through the dark days of going back to her mistress. Her existence was going to be worthwhile. She might be a slave but her son would be free. She would have numerous descendants - GOD knew her name!!!

Hagar returned to Sarah as instructed by GOD and did have a son as promised. Abraham listened to her story, knew she had met the very same GOD who had called him, and despite slaves having no rights over even their own names, let alone being allowed to name their children, Abraham named their son Ishmael even as GOD had told Hagar.

Hagar's GOD, the GOD of a seemingly insignificant slave-girl continues to see today - to as many as hurt, He is the One who sees your afflictions, who sees your pain, who sees your ill-treatment, who sees your barrenness, who sees the bills that cannot be paid, who sees your unemployed status, who sees your drug addiction, who sees your ill-health, who sees how you are despised and bullied, who sees your rebellious children who are breaking your heart, who sees you are about to lose your home because you can't pay the mortgage, who sees your heartbreak at being cheated upon, who sees your marriage that is violent and abusive, who sees your sorrow at being single, who sees you are second-best, broken into pieces, rejected, unwanted, discarded, cheated, abused, raped, beaten etc

GOD sees and cares. Today, He makes you a promise - Come unto ME all you who are weary and heavy-laden, collapsing under your burdens and suffering, Come to ME and I will give you rest. Come to ME and I will give you a promise for your life - I will show you the reason you have been created. I will reveal to you the purpose for your existence and above all, I will make you whole. I will shower you with love and affection, give you the free gift of salvation, give you peace that cannot ever be taken away, draw you into a relationship with me.

Often we ask, well if GOD really does care, why doesn't He wave a magic wand and make my situation all right. That's a question to look at in part 2 of this write-up but do you have any thoughts about why He simply doesn't? Drop me a comment and let's explore it together.



xx

Sunday, 18 March 2012

I Am A Woman

I am a woman ...
Irrational, emotional, sensitive, illogical,
I am a woman ...
Intuitive, talkative, unshakable, unstoppable,
I am a woman ...
Weak, tender, gentle, soft-hearted,
I am a woman ...
Strong, steady, calm, down-to-earth,
I am a woman ...
Delicate as a flower, sturdy as a steel beam,
I am a woman ...

A tender word from you can brighten up my day,
Your frown can cause the sun to go down,
I am a woman ...

Loving you doesn’t make me weak
It strengthens me,
Crying doesn’t break my heart
It refreshes my soul,
Please don’t try to change me,
Embrace me,
I am a woman ...

Your woman.......
 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Rizpah - A story of pain and heartache, loss and redemption.


I love seeking out and studying the lives of minor characters in the bible; and Rizpah is seemingly a minor footnote in there. Her entire story spans less than 15 verses but what a story!  A King’s concubine, mother to two illegitmate princes, a powerful General’s love interest, a beautiful pampered woman who slowly loses everything. But when Rizpah was stripped of everything she had ever had, she finally found God. Her story is a beautiful one of loss and redemption.

Rizpah sounds like a survivor, a woman who depended upon her beauty and wits to survive. A concubine to King Saul, she should be a forgotten 'dot' in history, known as nothing but the ‘plaything’ of a mad King. Was she sold to Saul by an uncaring father? We do not know but we do know that in an age where ‘wife’ was usually the only respectable option for a good woman, Rizpah was just a concubine. However, despite this slightly tarnished start, Rizpah seemed to make a go of things. It must have taken great diplomatic skill to handle the paranoid crazy Saul, bear him two sons and keep those sons safe from his murderous rages.

But over a period of time, the fa├žade of her life was slowly stripped away. First Saul died in battle and Israel was plunged into civil war. Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, was a weak king and Abner the General of his army, (contrary to accepted tradition) made a move on Rizpah. Did Abner consider her valuable because of her two sons? Illegitimate they might have been (according to the law), but they were still illegitmate princes.

Whatever the reason, Abner turned traitor and died. Ishbosheth died. David became King and Rizpah faded into the background. Her story was seemingly over. She had lost a lot but still had her sons.

Then there was a three year famine in Israel – God said it was because while Saul was still alive,he had murdered the Gibeonites. When appealed to, the Gibeonites demanded not money but the death of seven male descendants of Saul.

So, Rizpah’s two sons were violently killed, not in battle but for revenge. Her princes were executed for no fault of their own. For the mother who had birthed them, nurtured them, encouraged them, breathed a sigh of relief whenever they got back from battle, saved them from Saul's mad tantrums, kept them safe in the years of Ishbosheth's weak reign and the civil war, the loss of her children must have been the final cruel devastating blow.

Yet Rizpah did not succumb to grief, despair or madness. She had a new mission - her sons were not carrion, they would get a proper burial. So for 6 months, she spread sackcloth on a rock and mourning, grieving & keening, watched over their bodies, day and night. She chased away the vultures during the day and stared down the wild animals at night.

For 6 long months, this woman, a former king's concubine, used to dwelling in luxurious palaces and having access to all the finer things in life, slept on the hard ground out in the open. Her bed was a hard rock, her bedding was rough sack-cloth, her night music was the howling of hungry prowling Hyenas. Exposed to the harsh elements, burnt by the sun, battered by the winds, shivering in the cold nights, with no shade, no human company, Rizpah began her journey to God’s heart.

Did Rizpah scream at God? Beg Him? Curse Him? Cry before Him? Rue her life? Relieve her past? Offer vows of repentance & renewal? Whatever she said or did, her God hearkened to her cry. Six months later, David heard of Rizpah’s actions, and her sons bodies were rescued alongside their Father (Saul), Jonathan (half-brother) and five nephews, and finally all these men were buried in the family tomb. Because of a lowly forgotten concubine, King Saul also got a decent burial!

Rizpah did NOT give up. Despite the bleakness of her situation, the likelihood her condition would never change, nothing would ever happen, her discomfort & suffering, the hot relentless sun beating down upon her, the danger of the wild animals & biting cold & loneliness of the long nights, she did not leave. Her sackcloth displayed humility and mourning & her obedience was signified by not taking the law into her own hands and burying the boys herself.

God rewarded her. God mourned with her. God kept her safe and sane. God sat with her. God heard her. God wiped away her tears. God kept the heavens dry and free of rain because of the pain of a concubine - a woman valuable only for her beauty but not important enough to become a wife. A plaything for a king & conquest for a general (Abner) - never a wife but undoubtedly a proud loving mother until even that was ripped from her by the killing of her sons.

God heard her. God vindicated her. When her sons were buried, then the famine in Israel ceased. This is the second time that I know of that the Bible records that God kept a famine in Israel because of one individual.  Most know of Elijah (he prayed and the heavens were shut for 3.5yrs). This time God had brought the famine upon Israel for 3 year because of the injustice done to the Gibeonites, but even after the Gibeonites were handed the ‘compensation’ they demanded, the famine but continued for an additional 6 months until Rizpah’s sons were buried. One ordinary woman, possibly not considered totally respectable in the eyes of society, a failure in the eyes of others, became a woman who moved the hand of God to continue the famine on a a whole nation until she received justice.

All of us are extremely important to God. Our lives count to HIM. At this time when the hearts of many turn to death and resurrection, loss and redemption, let’s know that God sees our tears and hears our painful sobs. He is forever faithful and will come to our aid. Put your trust in God even if it seems like you have been abandoned and everything in your life is going wrong. TRUST GOD ALWAYS.



* Biblical references: 2nd Sam 21:10 – 14. 2nd Sam 3: 6 – 10.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Monkey and peanut in a bottle .. AKA letting go of what's in your hand to get what you want .. ..

A hungry monkey who liked peanuts came across a bottle with a solitary peanut in it. He immediately pushed his hand in the bottle, picked up the peanut and then clenched his fist to bring the nut safely out of the bottle. Then, to hungry monkey's delight, he saw a previously unseen high stash of peanuts  just ahead. Our monkey immediately sought to bring his clenched fist with the peanut in out of the bottle so he could have both the peanut in the bottle and the stash of nuts. 

However, there was a lil problem - monkey had to unclench his fist to get it out of the bottle but unclenching his fist meant losing the peanut in the bottle. Trapped monkey wanted the stash of nuts right ahead of him but also did not want to lose the peanut in the bottle. So greedy Monkey sits with clenched fist in bottle, holding unto solitary peanut while looking longingly at the huge stash of peanuts.

Moral of the story - 

Often you have to let go of the little you have in your hand to lay your hands upon the greater promise there is right ahead of you.

If you go into a situation relaxed, you only aggravate it by getting tense and trying to hold on. Let go of your tension, release what you are clinging to, and then having become relaxed again, reach out for the huge stash that's right in front of you.

When you find a situation with a tight bottle-neck, do not be quick to thrust your hand right into it because of a tiny lil peanut!! LOL

'Shine your eyes well' and before you 'settle' for that solitary peanut, make sure there is not a stash of peanuts directly ahead of you. : )

If you do not let go of the peanut in the bottle, you don't get to have anything - not the peanut in the bottle or the stash of nuts your eyes can only gaze at longingly.

Sometime, you simply have to let go of what you are desperately hanging unto to get what you really want. 

xx