Good Friday – Sunday's Coming

Good Friday is normally a day of great significance to me on a personal level. I normally spend it with family or friends. This year has been a bit different.

The battles my family and friends have been fighting are massive, and can appear insurmountable. There has been death, financial loss on a massive scale, severe illness and in-fighting within the family that has left division and wounds on both sides.

Hardly a way to begin Easter weekend.

I have spen the day asleep, sleeping from around midnight Thursday into Friday until after 6pm today. Now I find myself thinking about the year so far.

I am not happy in my job. It’s showing in my behaviour there. I feel it’s tie to leave in my heart but I see no clear path to move in. I hear no voice saying this is the way to walk in. Ironically, God seaks to me to give messages for my friends and family in encouragement.  Confirmation of their visions and dreams being from Him who made our paths, but not for myself. I can’t understand it. I habe no option but to concede that my own selfish desires are getting in the way. I look to my own understanding too much of the time.

A few years ago I had a near miss while I was swimming off a beach in South Devon. I love the ocean, and this particular beach is a great beach to swim at, no currents to pull you out to sea, just a gentle beach slope into the water. We swam out to a row of buoys and back then lay in the sun enjoying good company. It never occurred to me that the tide was coming in when we set out for a final swim before going home. We swam out to the buoys again, but the distance was much further. By the time we reached them I barely had the strength to hold onto the ropes holding it in place. As we set off for the shore again, I knew I wouldn’t make it. My breathing was laboured, my muscles screaming, and I couldn’t reach land. I didn’t have the strength for one stroke. Then a voice from behind me offered me help. A lifeguard had been watching over me and seen my struggle. Before I reached the buoy he launched a small powered dinghy and took a circuit round to approach me safely. I didn’t have the strength to hold the ropes on the side of the boat. I was heavy and exhausted. Easily the heaviest in the group (by over 25kg/50lbs). The rescue guard hauled me out of the water into the boat and took us back to land.

I feel a little like that now. Out of my depth, unable to pull myself onto the rescue boat that has come to drag me to safety. But it’s Friday.

Good Friday.

A friend posted a slightly fascetious comment on facebook which I take very seriously. Thank Christ for dying.

I agree. But not with the sentiment he made.

I see a truth in his statement.

Thank Christ for Good Friday, Thank Him for surrendering to death on a cross to save us. Our life-boat. For pulling us out of the the ocean of this world and setting us up with life.

Jesus died on Friday. But Sunday’s coming.

The Good; The Bad and The Ugly

No, this isn’t about th iconic Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western. If that’s what you’re looking for, well read on anyway – you have nothing to lose…

I am a man with simple tastes, for a first-world boy. I just want hot and cold water, fire in the hearth when it’s cold and a fan when it’s hot, my dvd player not to refuse to play my favourite disc (even though I’ve played it so often it looks worn out to me), a good cup of tea (after all, I am English) and an income enough to meet these needs.

Basic first world stuff.

Unfortunately, I no longer live in the first-world. No matter what the TV coverage of the soccer world cup a couple of years ago may have suggested, South Africa is in no way a first world country.

I earn around $800 per month – depending on the exchange rate – with the possibility of a monthly incentive of up to $300 on top of that. Assuming I make average incentive every month, the financial laws here would allow me to pay a mortgage bond of around 30% of my salary. So if I assume my average monthly income to be $1000 I can pay a bond up to $300. Sounds ok, until you examine the other facts:

  1. in the last 10 years house prices have almost tripled while incomes have not increased by half that. A house that cost around $40000 ten years ago is generally worth around $100000 now.
  2. Interest rates are around 9% – 10%, so the average person looking at a $40000 house 10 years ago has to look at houses in line with their income – they can now only afford a house of $75000.
  3. Electricity has increased dramatically as government forward planning didn’t account for the increase in demand. Ten years ago I spent around $15 a month on electricity. Now I spend $20 per week – after converting to cooking on gas.
  4. Rateable value tax on property is based on the house’s current market value, not what you paid for it. The result? Many people fall behind in their rates and water bills because of the increase in charges being more than the increase in income.

In real financial terms, the majority of people have significantly less spending power than they did 10 years ago. 

That’s the bad.

So far probably wondering what this little rant has to do with God, given this is a God-driven blog. Keep with it.

Here’s the ugly…

In the last few months, vinyard workers in the Western Cape have gone on strike asking for a pay rise to $10 a day. Miners and others classified as “unskilled” workers were fired on by police officials. People died. In scenes straight out of the apartheid era they were gunned down by police. Deaths were inevitable.
At the same time, the nation’s president has been accused of using public funds to build a new homestead for his personal use – not an official residence which will be passed to the next incumbent. Costs into millins of dollars diverted into the project. Yet he claims to be “in touch” with the people.

Here’s the Good:

God’s power is moving in this land. People are being positioned strategically for a new outpouring of His Spirit. Dormant believers are being activated, latent gifts unused in years but gently ticking away are being turned up to maximum. New skills are being discovered and revealed to God’s children.The fight may be intense for some of us, but suddenly there are warriors with a fierce heart around us, on our side. The storm hits, but we are supported enough to get through it intact.

There are Truths to overcome the facts:

  1. He will never let our circumstances dictate His outcome.
  2. Our abilities are not the issue – Our trust in His Provision is what matters
  3. Irrespective of the circumstances, God ALWAY has our best interest at heart
  4. The rates, taxes and fuel prices, the “shopper’s basket” and the buying power of the consumer is irrelevant. If God has given it to us, all we are charged with is receiving.

 So maybe this title shoud be “The Bad, The Ugly and God’s Still Good”

What do you think?.

Another Day, Another Heartache

It’s been an interesting 2 weeks.  This entry has more of a “story” than most of my writing on this blog, but bear with me. There’s a point to it all…

My wife’s Grandmother, lovingly known to us all as Mamma, passed away and her funeral was held – in Windhoek. Having applied for leave from my employer – who out of “respect” I’ll not name here – offered me the Friday and Tuesday off to travel from Cape Town to Windhoek by road. 1000 miles approximately. Each way. I pointed out that it had to be Friday & Monday. Thankfully, the management understood, and granted me emergency leave to attend the funeral.

It’s a long drive – around 15 hours. I actually love the road. The first time I drove it I was captivated by the beauty of the landscape, and the emptiness of the land.

There are so few corners in the road that my first thoughts were of the old Roman Roads in England, but they are way shorter than this one. The entire country is shorter than this road. The road is hypnotic in its sameness. It just blends into itself during the drive, the only changes coming as we pass a limestone quarry or as the light changes during the drive.

I drove up with my wife and her brother. The drive was long – no breaks setting off at 11pm and driving until the middle of the afternoon the following day, only stopping for fuel. I can’t sleep in a car – not for lack of trying – so by the time we arrived on Friday I was exhausted and had been awake for 36 hours straight. I slept for a couple of hours then we had what for our Namibian family was the third memorial service in a week. I didn’t follow most of it as the talks were all in Afrikaans, however although limited in speaking, I did manage to glean some of what was spoken as the minister spoke from Romans 8:18-39. It was a deeply moving service, for all my lack of understanding the language, the spirit of the service was as clear as crystal.

Saturday saw the funeral itself. Six hours in Afrikaans in the church and at the graveside. Didn’t understand the words, but the spirit was again completely clear. It was a beautiful and moving experience for a very special lady.

We set off to drive home on the Sunday, arriving Monday evening. I drove the majority of the homeward leg. While driving through the night is a stressful experience in itself, having a large bird of prey eating carrion on the road as you come round a corner, take off and fly head first into the bonnet of the car. It certainly woke me up. Hitting something big enough to disable a car at 140kph is a disturbing experience. Stopping and looking at the damage and realising God was protecting us from the impact is humbling. Just 1cm either way and the car would be undriveable. Closer to the passenger side and it would have ripped into the headlight and wing, crushing the wing into the wheel and causing the car to spin out of control. Closer to the driver’s side would have destroyed the radiator which would cause the engine to seize in short order. The only impact point where there would be nothing but superficial damage was the exact point of the impact.

I went to work on Tuesday, but was wrecked by the end of the day. On Wednesday I apparently called my manager, although I don’t remember doing so, I woke up in the afternoon. Thursday I went in again, and only got through the day by my wife bringing me bioplus caffeine tablets. I made the decision at that point that I was not fit to work and made an appointment for the following day to see my GP.

As we were settling down to rest in the evening we got a call from my sister-in-law. My wife’s brother had been taken seriously ill. We went through to their home where she assessed him and made the arrangement that she would sort out hospitalisation the following morning.

Friday saw my brother-in-law admitted to hospital and my doctor sign me out of work until the following Wednesday – officially diagnosed with stress and burnout. I thank God for the support he has placed around me. That His Grace has proven sufficient in strength to carry me this far, and to allow me to give support to my wife and her mother at this time.

I went back on Wednesday as planned, and although tired at the end of the day I had peace about being back. Thursday was a normal day, and then Friday…

Friday was raining. I suited up – anyone who knows me knows I’m a biker. Have been for 20 years. The problem with being a biker is on a wet road you’re vulnerable. For the second time in 12 months the bike slid out from under me – fortunately this time it was a low-speed fall.

For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:11-12

My wife, understandably given the firestorm she’s been through in the last few weeks, is not thrilled at me riding any longer.

I see something different. I have bruises, not broken bones. I have mild headache, not concussion. My rainsuit is undamaged, and the bike runs as though nothing was wrong. The most damage is one slightly bent footrest, which doesn’t interfere with the running of the bike at all.

The point of the story for me?

God keeps His promises. He never promised we would not know heartache, loss and suffering. He promised He would hold us through them.

Or as Paul put it:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,<sup class="crossreference" value="(CD)”> nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God<sup class="crossreference" value="(CF)”> that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39