Fresh Start

OK, this New Year fits several categories…
Marathon
Capable
Someday
Exquisite
Hopeful
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!

The Safest Road

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”

CS Lewis: The Screwtape Letters Ch 12

I’ve walked a fairly “safe” road the last few years spiritually. If you’ve read much of this blog, that may be a surprise to you as my writing tends to be from my heart but my actions in my daily walk get diluted by the issues of a daily battle, complicated by studying, working, married life and so on.

We all suffer these distractions if we are not careful. I lost sight of how blinkered I’d become until recently when my wife and I were forced to take several major steps of Faith. We made them tentatively at first, leaving the flat where we had been living for a year to move back in with my mum and finally making the decision to finally and definitely move to England as soon as possible. Within a few days of the final hard decision being made, and me declaring that “No matter what, we will move to England in the next three months”, my wife was contacted by a new agency, had an interview with a company she had previously been introduced to by another agency and rejected by, and offered a permanent job in Somerset to begin as soon as possible. The interview was last Thursday, the offer made on Friday morning, just nine hours later. We went out to dinner to celebrate Friday night and…

I was admitted to hospital on Saturday morning with a mystery infection in my foot that isn’t responding to prayer (first rebuttal attack as always), oral antibiotics, steroids or any other medications. My sugar control shot to pieces and so now I write from a hospital bed, not feeling even slightly ill, but told it could be quite serious. The phrase “e-coli” has even been thrown around this morning!

All I can do is laugh! I think it’s getting to my fellow inmates, but it’s nice to be the most positive voice in the room. I have things in common with everyone, some of which I can share – a love of motorbikes, a dislike of crashing motorbikes, quality and portion sizes of hospital food and how hard it is to sleep in hospital – and some of which I have been told in confidence, and I will not break that.

Something that has been hard for me in the last 24 hours has been to sit still. I don’t have much of an option here, but with my head racing at a billion miles an hour being forced to sit still is not a bad thing. I chatted to David, the chap in the bed opposite me, for a while this morning. Neither of us slept much last night but I found myself suddenly sharing a part of my testimony I’ve not spoken out loud in over ten years with him. I don’t expect to see a harvest personally, but it felt like planting a seed for the first time in years. I’ll leave it to God what happens next for him, but for me I found a sudden peace and stillness I’ve missed for years. Then I decided to open my Christmas Present to myself – a book of devotionals called “Knowing the Heart of God” by John Eldredge. Today’s passage was 1 Samuel 3:9 “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.

Apparently God has a sense of humour – but I’ve thought this for 30 years.

There is much to do before I can move to England. Our dogs must be quarantined for rabies and housed in suitable kennels for the duration. I feel dreadful leaving them for so long, but the upside will be having them with us or their twilight years as they are both over ten now, so for big dogs they are ageing now.

dsc00031Their father, Cadbury, died of cancer as a young dog, but their mum, Beamer, only passed a few months ago at the age oIMG_20160531_154122f 12.

Losing her was a shock for us, the picture to the right was only taken a few weeks before she died and she was still very much herself, just a loss of appetite. It turned out that was caused by liver cancer and she would have only had a few weeks left and they would have been very painful. Having watched Cadbury deteriorate over three weeks from cancer a few years ago we elected to not let her suffer.

What does this have to do with a safe road though?

Basically, we were tempted to take the easy road.

A week ago I was offered a small business in South Africa for no financial investment. A friend’s father has decided to stop his gardening business and I was offered the use, for a profit share, of: the pickup, several top-of-the-line weed-eaters (strimmers) and petrol run gardening tools as well as a generator and some electrical equipment. I have some experience from a few years ago in building and garden maintenance and the thought of a ready-made business is beyond enticing at a time when a white foreigner in South Africa is almost unemployable.

The offer came days after I’d made the declaration about going to England, and it’s incredibly tempting. It’s easy work for me – employ a couple of men to do the heavy work, do the business management and marketing stuff myself and a nice little business to keep things ticking over here. A month ago I would have jumped on the chance, but I felt something say “Hold Back!”

So I asked for a few days to mull it over and discuss it with Rene. She reminded me of my declaration of Faith that we were going to England. Now the offer for England is there, and I’m working on not just the move, but also a series of Kindle books to publish via www.smile.amazon.com (that’s amazon.com but with a portion of your purchase being donated to the charity of your choice – mine is Andrew Wommack Ministries, but choose your own!) over the next two months for Lent, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost. It’s all happened so fast even my faster-than-normal brain is spinning!

It would be easy to say “let’s stay in Cape Town” and do the gardening and Rene stay in her practice.

Easy.

Safe.

But hunting lions is not easy, and it’s certainly not safe. I may be the first person in history to be leaving living in Africa to hunt his Lion!

My passion is Christ. I hope that is obvious from these scribblings. But I’ve found it near impossible to find a church I was able to integrate into here. I know it’s me, not the churches that’s the issue, but it still grates that it’s over ten years since I’ve been an actual member of a church locally. That’s not to say I’ve not attended, or that I’ve not had regular fellowship with other Christians, in particular my wife’s family and my dear friend Thuli Nkoyana (whose poem I published on this site here) without whose encouragement I may never have got this far with my writing.

But staying put is safe. At least, it seems to be.

If you get a chance to read Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Dream Giver” then do so. The story of Ordinary, from a land of Nobody’s who dreams of being Somebody is great, but the disturbingly accurate description of the land he comes from where the people go to their normal job in their normal car then come home and sit in their normal chair and watch their box for entertainment is such an accurate picture of society – all it needs now is to add in iPads and Tablets and it’s today’s society. Scary stuff.

But as Ordinary sets off to leave the land of Familiar to pursue his dream he encounters resistance from people he least expects it from. It’s the same for us. If we go after what God puts in our hearts to do it upsets other people’s lives as well as our own. Our sudden absence (or presence) in their life changes their familiar dynamics. I know my mum isn’t looking forward to us moving. She’s become very quickly adapted to our presence in her home and has stated how much she’s going to miss us. But sometimes we have to follow our dream even if it means disrupting, even hurting, the people we love.

The thing is, taking the safe road usually means moving away from God’s Will for our life. Satan doesn’t resist people moving in the direction he wants them to move in. Or sometimes the resistance is a token easily overcome. We exchange our grand, God-given vision for a smaller, more comfortable one. And we quietly sit in our comfortable life, taking the safe road, dying and not even realising it or living a fraction of what God had stored up for us.

Take the road less travelled. There will be risks. There may be dangers untold and losses unexpected, but the rewards are greater.

But be warned, there are things that will happen:

  • Friends will abandon you
  • Family will disown you
  • You will have to choose between your call and your day-job (if they’re different)
  • You are declaring war on an enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy you.

It’s hard on the front line of the battle. The pioneers who went West and settled America or South and settled Australia, New Zealand and South Africa faced unimaginable hardships. The men fighting in the trenches on the Somme a century ago faced death from the enemy and from the living conditions.

Some quit the battle. They turn back and look for the easier road.

But ours is not a road that is easy.

But it leads to the only truly Safe destination.

Facing the Past to Move into God's Future

We all have them. Skeletons in our closets that make us feel unusable. Things we wouldn’t want the people around us to know.

“Peter had an affair”. “John left his wife”. “Before she joined the church Anne was a prostitute”. “Alan embezzled to get where he is today”.

Maybe not as big, but we all have them. Events from our past that haunt us. Playing “doctor” as a child and exploring the opposite gender for the first time – or the twenty-first as an adult.

It’s the seemingly little things that haunt us. The accusations that come in the night when we’re alone. Our husband or wife asleep beside us and the guilt that floods our minds. Images real or imagined flood through our beings and we lose sleep. Actions whether taken or not haunt us as God’s Children. We feel the missed mark more acutely than the bullseye.

I remember very little of my childhood. My brother died when he was ten and I was 13, and the majority of the time we had together is more a memory of a memory. There’s very little clarity in my head. I remember the loss. The pain of losing Robin but not the joy of having him in my life.

I remember skeletons we shared with cousins and friends as small children do, exploring out of sight of adults the mysteries of our differences. Why did this cousin play with dolls and this one with toy guns? Robin died in 1985 and personal computers – although available – were things of luxury. We finally got one just a few weeks before he died and instantly all our friends wanted to come and see and play games on it. But mostly we went to other people’s homes and played traditional games.

Simpler times. No cell-phones or facebook to interrupt us. We played and explored as generations had done before.

Something happened as we grew up. Friendship got replaced with BBM and Whatsapp. Facebook dominates the time of the majority of the youth at a time when they need to find out who they are they are too busy trying to find out if Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears are wearing underwear. A few years ago in the movie “True Lies” (1994) a character laments that Axl Rose and Madonna are the one’s raising their kids these days, not mom and dad. 21 years later how much has that deteriorated. Now most parents might be happy for that influence instead of Ashley Madison…

The assault on the nuclear family in the media has been relentless. Pre-nuptuial agreements, contracts settling how equity will be divided in the event of divorce are routine contracts these days. The concept of “All my worldly goods with you I share” is replaced with an addendum “except the lake house in Virginia, the ski lodge in Aspen and the Yacht in Miami.” Marriages are entered into with the expectation of failure.

At a time when families are needed more we have fewer men capable of being real men because they have never been fathered themselves.

I was blessed that my grandfathers both survived the second World War, one as a minister on the Home Front – something he regretted to the day he died as he wanted to go to Europe and fight the Nazis, and the other as a Major in the British Army serving as a motorcycle outrider and accountant for the regiment with distinction gained for valour on the Normandy Beach assaults, D-Day, June 6th 1944.

The foundation these strong men left was passed down to me as an example of what a real man should be. Fearless in battle, both spiritual and physical, a protector.

Too many of my friends growing up didn’t have what I had. Parents had divorced, grandfathers had died and fathers had had no guiding influence because their own grandfathers had died between 1914 and 1918. Two lost generations dead physically or too traumatised to raise sons to be Men.

This is the past we must face.

This is what as Christians we must overturn.

The steady moral decay from the 1950’s through to today, removing Christian influence in schooling in the 1960’s, the rise of a powerful atheist minority who make a lot of noise while the Church stays silent has resulted in a world gone mad. Smaller wars like Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan, Desert Storm along with genocide in African countries and now ISIS and their atrocities added to “ethnic cleansing” in central Europe makes for a holocaust of slaughter that Hitler himself would be proud of.

We must repent of our past.

Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 53 years ago this year. He called on citizens to rise up and break the bonds of tyranny and segregation. Just 20 years ago my wife and I would be criminals in South Africa as I am white and she is not. I have been accused to my face of betraying my race by both black and white individuals.

It is a past we need to move beyond.

God has a plan for the future of Mankind. He called it “Incarnation”

He took our own form, lived a human life and died a human death so we could have a future in Him after His resurrection.

His plan for the future is what we need to remember.

My wife and I watched “Evan Almighty” recently. God appears in the form of Morgan Freeman and instructs a young congressman to build an Ark like Noah had been told to.

His explanation after a burst dam floods a housing project and the ark has saved hundreds of lives is that to change the world, all we need to to make one act of random kindness a day.

Act of
Random
Kindness.

ARK.

The simplicity of the message is right up there with the parables if we approach it from a Godly standpoint rather than an entertainment one.

What if God’s future were really based on building on Acts of Random Kindness? What if we could effect change simply by adopting a puppy or making peace with a neighbour?

That’s a personal dig at myself. I can forgive people who steal from me – and I do so easily. I have forgiven people who threw the first punch physically (even when I threw the last one) and gone on to have long friendships with them, but forgiving my literal next-door neighbour has caused me great anxiety. My olive branches have been made into kindling to start a new fire. After an attempted break-in on our property which sent our dogs nuts at three in the morning I went round to apologise and ask if they were ok as the intruder had jumped the fence between our properties. I left feeling like I was the bad-guy because his sleep had been disrupted.

Forgiving him has been difficult. And is a work in progress.

It’s also essential for my own growth. Unforgiveness is a cancer in the soul that prevents us moving to the next level with God. To move into the future I must forgive the ones who have hurt me.

All of them.

So do you. We all have the annoying neighbour, relative or acquaintance we can’t escape. Sometimes the easiest way is to decide to forgive, but to sever contact with that person. It’s not always easy. Especially when it’s family – believe me. But in the end we don’t need conflict in our lives. Conflict prevents God from giving us the Best He has for us. Forgiveness opens that door.

So face the past. Acknowledge it, but don’t hold onto it.

Move into the Future God has for you.

You’ll never regret it.
Mistake