Fresh Start

OK, this New Year fits several categories…
And hopefully Successful

The year began with the news we have been wanting for three years. My wife has been offered a job in England. For three years we have fought our way through what has felt like a monster battle, a marathon of a race, where we have lost almost everything except our lives – and even that’s been touch-and-go at times.

It’s often felt like a “someday” existence, looking for hope. The writer of Proverbs said:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

Proverbs 13:12a (NKJV)

It’s certainly felt like that for us. So many times our hopes have been dashed or postponed. The torture has felt never-ending.

Depression. Heart-sick existence.

But then the year started with a call from England. An agency who had rejected her had a new person look at her CV and called to ask if he could put it forward to a hospital group he felt would be a perfect fit. We agreed, not expecting much as the group he mentioned had rejected the CV out of hand six months earlier.

The next day came the call to set up a Skype interview with the hospital the following Thursday. We agreed, and I taught my wife very hurriedly the basics of how to use Skype!

The interview went ok. I was sitting out of sight and found myself wincing at some of her answers to their questions. To be honest, had I been the interviewer, even making allowances for technology and nerves I’d have questioned if the fit was going to be right.

Friday morning, 11am South African time – 9am UK time – the phone rang. The hospital wants her so badly they are going to apply to be sponsors with the Home Office so they can employ her faster.

We were completely bowled over.

“But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12b (NKJV)

After 3 years, her ability has been recognised. The offer is there.

Exquisite doesn’t begin to describe the pleasure of that moment. Even being admitted to hospital the next day didn’t tarnish the feeling.

Of course, now we have a new marathon to run. Immigration to the UK ought to be a simple affair. After all, I’m British and we’ve been married over ten years. Nobody could possibly call the last few years a marriage of convenience. But paperwork is needed. The length of our relationship is, apparently, irrelevant to the UK. As is me being a British Citizen, because I don’t have an adequate income in Pounds. So the next part of the race begins.

But it’s a fresh start. There’s hope again. Suddenly “someday” has become “8 weeks from now”.

House-hunting, finding a suitable job to generate an income for me, organising the quarantine for our dogs, packing and re-packing boxes has become a daily ritual. Writing – which I feel passionately is what God has for me moving forward – gets pushed aside for the “practical” stuff.

It’s easy to lose sight of the truly important in the busyness of the business of moving our life to the other end of the planet. But writing, and when the doors open speaking, is what I know God has called me to do.

His timing is perfect. And He calls us to be fully alive – that is His Glory. Our success – whatever He calls us to do – brings Glory to Him.

So my prayer for us, and for anyone taking time to read this today, is to find His purpose for our life, keep Him at the centre of it through the teething time of a new beginning, and let Him lead us into success beyond our imagination!

Mythical Heroism…

The Mythical Hero. Lancelot, Arthur, armour shining in the sun, fearless and unbeatable.

Somehow we look for the White Knight who will ride in on the mighty steed to save the day. He’s a “Man’s Man”. All men want to be him, and all women want him.

He is relatable to by young and old, he has high position but comes from humble beginnings. Think of the young Arthur, mucking out the stables until his brother needs a sword and the only one is stuck in the stone, so Arthur goes and with no difficulty draws Excalibur from Merlin’s enchantment.

We look for the white knight. We tend to end up with less than we expect. Less of a white knight and more the Black Knight from Monty Python hopping around and completely useless at best.

We look for the Sean Connery “Arthur”, or the Richard Gere “Lancelot”.

Newsflash: The only place you find them is on the movie screen.

Not that heroes don’t exist. Far from it. You meet heroes of the Faith every day, you probably just can’t see it. They tend to look like nothing.

Take this guy I know. He’s a tough guy. And I mean a real tough guy. Works with his hands, manual labour mostly. Thinks with his fists sometimes. It got him into trouble once or twice. He carries a blade most of the time.

He carried it to Gethsemane…

Peter is a white knight, but to look at him? Probably smells of sweat and fish a lot of the time – not a pleasant combination. But he has an amazing gift for compassion. Look at him just after Pentecost. He’s on his way to the temple and a cripple cries out to him. Peter has nothing but the anointing he carries inside him, so that’s what he gives. The cripple dances into the temple.

And Peter probably still smells of fish.

I usually have a knife with me. I’ve carried one most of my life. As a boy I bought my first pocket knife at the age of about seven on holiday in Wales. Just a simple blade folded into a handle that had a picture of a Welsh lady in traditional dress. I used to use it to sharpen my pencil at school. I bought my first multi-blade knife in France on a school trip. A blade, scissors and a gadget for getting stones out of horses hooves.

Because I see so many horses…

These days it’s a larger and heavier blade. It’s a paramedic’s knife – no, I’m not a paramedic – with a single folding blade. In theory it’s for emergency use (or cutting biltong/jerky).

I make no pretense to be a “hero” of any kind, but in a country where there is so much crime at the point of a knife (South Africa), it makes sense to be able to at least make a show. I’m a reasonably big guy, so visual aids are a deterrent. And I really like biltong.

But I’m no Peter. Malchus would probably have been in no danger if it had been me there that day.

But that’s not the point.

We look at “heroes” these days and we see the undefeatable. The protagonist of most movies shakes off the bullet hole in their abdomen and continues to fight unimpeded, unstoppable and infallible.

That’s why the Marvel movies appeal to me. I loved “Civil War”. The characters all demonstrate their humanity. Flawed characters who struggle with internal conflicts but eventually overcome their weaknesses to triumph.

That’s why I love the Bible stories as well.

Hang on…

Yep, you read that right. I enjoy some of the Bible stories in the same way as I enjoy Iron Man.

No, that’s not heresy.

We spend a lot of time as Christians looking at the deity of Jesus. We imbue Him with the focus of the Terminator somehow. We became obsessed with Jesus setting His face as flint towards the Cross, and consequently we miss His Humanity.

Jesus was tempted, just as we are tempted. That means in every way.

Every way.

Anything you and I struggle with, Jesus had to struggle with. At any point Jesus could have given in to the temptation of sin because of His humanity, just as Adam did.

Adam gave in to the temptation to be “like God” because he didn’t see that he was already like God – created in God’s own image. Perfect. Sinless.

Jesus actually was God in human form, but that human form was as fragile and potentially corruptible as Adam was. He came and as a result of the Cross, Jesus would become ruler of all the kingdoms of the World – at that point handed over to Satan. Satan offers to give Jesus what He came for when he tempts Him in the wilderness. He had the chance to short-cut to the position of power by simply bowing down to Satan.

No need for the Cross.

No need for the agony.

All the power.

The temptation must have been immense. So much power offered for such a little action.

But Jesus the man turned His focus to the real mission – Salvation.

He could have taken the selfish route. He chose the path to the Cross.

Even on the Cross, Jesus has the temptation thrown at Him to prove who He is by coming down from the Cross by His own Power. He could have done. He chose not to.

He chose us.

Jesus is a hero. He overcomes the temptation to give into the desires of the flesh – and they were significant. Instead, He stays true to the path to Salvation of the entire human race – by choice. That’s heroic. Heroism in the purest sense.