MY GARDEN

 

I love my little garden.

It’s no showpiece; nothing you’d ever see in gardening magazines, and it will never win any neighbourhood prizes. But it’s mine – I planted almost everything in it. There are two patches of grass, each the size of the proverbial postage stamp, separated by a rain channel.  From time to time, a crew from the gardening services comes and tidies it up.

Being a bit older than I was when I started putting plants in, I can only cope with ground covers now; no more digging and carrying heavy pots around. But groundcovers have their own charm – starry little flowers that make a colourful sight. When I took over from my daughter, who lived here before me, there were already two frangipane trees, bearing their heavily scented flowers, one pink and one white. Come, I’ll show you around.

In one corner, a golden shower creeper hugs the fence, sporting bright orange, trumpetlike flowers. Next to it – right next to it- a tall tea tree vies for elbow room with a wild rosemary bush, that has grown much bigger and wider than the size featured on the bag when it first arrived. It gets regular cutbacks, but refuses to stay slim. wild rosemary

Alongside the rosemary is a slender hibiscus. It used to be two, but when they were young, on a whim, I twisted the trunks together, so now they are forever united. The little Siamese twin blooms generously and the double flowers are a delicate pink, with a soft, parchment-like look to the petals.   

hibiscus  Beautiful.

Then comes the big, pinkblooming frangipane, scenting the air. I’ve hung a birdfeeder in it. Such pretty birds come into my garden to nibble, then sit on the fence and warble their thanks to the One who feeds the birds of the air – and I don’t mean me.

On the other side of Pink Frangipane is a skinny cumquat tree – the battlescarred warrior of the garden. From the time I planted it, years ago, when it was very young and small, it has been attacked by some really nasty pests. There were times it looked so dead, I almost threw it out. But, lo and behold, every time it would push out two or more little green leaves, and whisper: Wait. I’m still here; I’m not giving up. Well, now it has grown to over two metres, still skinny, with a wealth of healthy green foliage. The pests still haven’t completely gone, but their attempts are more half-hearted. There are no cumquats yet, but you know, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

There are also, between the groundcovers, a small rose geranium, and a fairly prolific gazania with flowers like jewels. There are a couple of rosemary bushes, one of which, sadly, has fallen over, snapped off near the root. No one knows why, but it might have been a trespasser vaulting the fence, which has happened before.

Right in the middle of one of the postage stamp halves, is my favourite – a little potato bush. The reason I like it so much, is that it always looks happy, constantly covered in tiny blue flowers; and even during it’s off season, it manages to come up with two or three blue offerings, as if to say: Smile, summer will soon be here.  potato bush

In the centre of the other half of the postage stamp, is a relatively recent addition- a gardenia bush. They are quite tricky to raise, but so far, I’ve harvested three white blooms. And to my mind, the fragrance of gardenias leaves all the others way behind. So here’s hoping for great things from this newcomer.

Coming almost full circle, the white frangipane is next to the front door, handy for picking the waxy blooms to decorate and fragrance my house.

                                                                              Lastly, a little way from that tree, between it and the creeper, is a huge Yucca plant, dwarfing everything else. This was not my idea. A friend of my daughter was moving house, and she brought the young plant in a pot, asking us to keep it for a short while. The short while became a long while and the next thing we knew, the Yucca roots had broken through the pot and gone into the ground; and over the following few years, it grew to the height of Jack’s beanstalk. I have no idea where it will stop, but what can I do?

I learn some good lessons from my garden. Lessons of perseverance in difficult times; to keep going even when I’m under attack, wherever it might come from. To freely send out the perfume of love and grace, without partiality. The potato bush never refuses to bloom because it doesn’t have a fragrance like the frangipane. The ground cover isn’t jealous because its flowers are not as showy as the gazanias. The wild rosemary doesn’t feel inferior because it’s not as tall as the tea tree, or as slender as the hibiscus. It’s content to be what it is. Each plant does what it was created to do, and together, they turn my garden into a delightful place.  Each in their own way, they all show the glory of the Creator, who designed each and every one, with its unique and breath-taking beauty.

frangipane2

I love my little garden.

THE TRUTH ABOUT FREEDOM

 

mandelaWe’ve heard a lot about freedom recently with the release of the Nelson Mandela movie.  And for most people, the word is associated firstly with being set free from a literal prison. We also talk about being free from pain, or from debt or finding freedom from a stifling relationship. And often, we long to be free from the rat-race of life.

But let’s think about it. What does it mean to be free? I can take medication and be free from pain, only to have it come back later. I can slip back into debt if I’m not very careful with my budget. I can leave one stifling relationship only to end up in another one. I can find that I’ve taken the stress with me to life on the farm. And if I go on doing the same dumb things, I can land back behind literal bars.  prisoner

So any freedom has a shelf life, unless we work hard to keep it operating.

But what if there is a freedom you don’t have to work at? A freedom that is guaranteed to last, without help from you. A freedom you only need to step into.

Maybe you’re thinking: I’m not in any kind of bondage, why would I need freedom? Sure, I have a bit of a debt problem, but I have a plan to work my way out of that. I’m not behind bars. I live a good life. I’ve just started a great new relationship…

Allow me to pose a few questions.

What makes you lie awake, unable anxiety

to sleep at night?

What gets your imagination going when your husband starts working later?

What makes your heart begin to race and your palms get sweaty, for no apparent reason?

Why are you uncomfortable discussing or even contemplating the death of someone?

The one word, the one emotion, that answers all these questions is: fear. We are all in bondage to fear. And fear shows itself in many ways. Fear of rejection causes us to try to please people, sometimes even at the cost of our own convictions. There is also a deep-seated fear of judgement, often unrealised, that shows itself in a sense of self-condemnation. Something many of us struggle with is the fear of loneliness. And then there’s the biggie: the fear of death; we push it down, don’t want to think about it, distract ourselves with everything that would prevent us thinking about our mortality. These are some of the chains that hold us captive.

Are you telling yourself you can handle all your fears on your own? Deep down, you know you can’t.

The good news is, there is a way out, if we are willing to take it.

There is a freedom waiting for you that nothing and no one can take away. You can have freedom from self-condemnation with a totally clear conscience. You can be free freedomof  the fear of rejection through a love that accepts you completely. You need never be lonely again because there is a friend who has promised never to leave you. And the fear of death can be wiped out and replaced by an excitement that looks forward to life beyond the grave.

So, where is this freedom found?

Jesus said: You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Which truth was He talking about? Your truth? My truth? Religious truth? The “truth” we get from the media? The “truth” we get from professors and scientists?  No, none of those “truths” is powerful enough to set us free – they don’t even agree with each other!truth

When Jesus was on “trial” before Pilate, the Roman governor asked Him a loaded question: 

What is truth? He didn’t know he was standing face to face with truth.

Jesus said: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

THE Truth. There is only One. If true freedom is what you want, you need to get to know The Truth – Jesus Himself. You need to check out His life, death and resurrection in the Bible, so you get the facts of the story straight; and, at the same time, ask Him to give you His freedom, and surrender your life to Him. You will experience peace and freedom that, without Him, you can only dream of.

                                                truth 1

 

 

R.S.V.P.

Have you ever been in a situation that you’re hoping would change, but time goes by and nothing happens?

Or been waiting for something to work out, but nothing seems to make sense?unsure 1

Maybe you’ve prayed intensely about a problem, needing a resolution, but the problem just gets worse.

It’s easy, in the disappointment, to get very discouraged; to feel God has let you down; to try and fix things yourself, or to just give up and give in to depression.

We try to work our way through by various means. We try to shift things around; maybe we write letters, or we call on friends for help. Perhaps we throw money at the situation; or we use our own common sense. Sometimes these methods work in the short term, but often they don’t. Usually, the results are less than satisfactory.

There’s an example in the Bible about a couple who used what, at the time, seemed like good common sense, but who regretted it later. Abraham and Sarah had a promise from God that they would have a son and heir. The promise seemed, on the surface, ludicrous, considering they were way, way past bearing children. And after the promise was given, they waited year in and year out, not getting any younger. So one day, they decided to look at the facts on the ground, and do the sensible thing. Abraham slept with Sarah’s maid Hagar, at Sarah’s suggestion, and she produced a son. Great rejoicing, because in their culture, that made the baby officially Sarah’s. However, God let them know that, actually, this hadn’t been His plan, and the baby He was going to send had not yet arrived. Sadly, their attempt to help God went on to cause many problems. Which always happens when we decide to stop waiting for Him.

Sometimes we get tired of waiting. Bear in mind, Abraham and Sarah had to wait for 25 years – he was 100 and Sarah 99- before the promised baby arrived. One can understand some of their frustration. Be careful of frustration, as well as its cousin, impatience; it almost always leads to action that brings regret. Maybe you sometimes think, why should I ask God for help in this situation? I can manage it myself. The answer is: Because we have an invitation from the Creator of the universe – which, one assumes, took a fair amount of wisdom, and maybe genius, to create -  to ask Him for wisdom. And get this: He says He gives wisdom to anyone who asks, anyone, and He will never complain about your asking, or make you feel a fool. In fact, He promises to give wisdom generously. All you need to do is ask, believe He gives it, then move. He will lead you the right way.

Sometimes it will involve waiting for things to happen. So wait. Don’t run ahead and try to help Him out. It can be a short wait, or it can take a lot longer than you think.  But it will be worth the wait.

Oh, and by the way, to be able to properly benefit from the asking, you really need to know God personally. And that involves another free invitation from Him. Again, you just need to ask Him. He has already taken care of the things in your life that come between you and Him. Believe that He has done so, thank Him, and then give Him an invitation, into your heart.r.s.v.p.

SMILE (A little bit of doggerel with a seed of truth.)

Life can be very daunting

With its sorrows and its pain,

And often we have no desire

To lift our eyes again.

We huddle in our misery

And wish it all away,

But there’s a simple remedy

You can apply today -

Just smile.smile 3

 

You may think that’s ridiculous

And it will never help;

But bear in mind, in giving smiles

You have to give yourself;

And it’s a proven factor

Known to brighter minds than mine,

That giving brings a miracle,

A touch of the Divine.

So, smile.

smile 4

Merry Christmas

I don’t celebrate Christmas, per se.

No, I’m not an atheist. Thankfully.  Life has no meaning if you take God out of it.

No, that’s not the reason.

It’s because I don’t care for its pagan roots.  I believe there’s enough evidence from research that’s been done into history to undergird the belief that Jesus was born during the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles. Which might mean the angel Gabriel would have visited Mary and she would have conceived the Son of God around the time people now celebrate His birth. Which is interesting. angel-mary2

The early Gentile church, in an effort to separate itself from the Jewish side, and draw in more paying members, decided to hook a pagan festival into its ecclesiastical practices. Hence Christmas is celebrated on the festival of a pagan god. Which brief tale explains to you why I don’t celebrate Christmas.

Having said that, let me remind you that I did say, at the start, that I don’t celebrate Christmas – per se. Which should tell you there’s a “but” in there. So here’s the “but”.

The facts (of history) are:  Jesus, the Son of God, Who came into the world to save it from itself, was born in Bethlehem. His mother’s name was Mary and His foster father was Joseph. And  hosts of angels announced His birth to a bunch of shepherds, who were tending the flocks possibly being raised for Temple sacrifices. That joyful heavenly singing, probably by a few million angels, must have been some celebration! He was laid in a manger, though we’re not told it was in a stable. A while later, wise men from the east did come looking for Him, following a star. They came to worship Him and bring gifts. We are not told how many wise men there were.

All this is reason for rejoicing and celebrating, wouldn’t you say?

Now, there are some in my family who feel as I do, and who don’t have anything to do with Christmas. But there are others who do the whole thing, trees, decorations, gifts, festive meal. These are all close family members. So what do I do?

I’ll tell you what my husband and I do.

Our family is scattered globally, but over the years, some of them have lived, and do live, close by. So, we go to their homes on the 25th, eat a simple festive meal, and enjoy their celebration with them.

In our own home, we don’t have a tree, or decorations. We do have a little nativity set, which we put out at the Feast of Tabernacles, then just leave out until Christmas.

All of which might sound to some of you like compromising our convictions. We don’t see it that way, because we feel that the reason for the celebration, Jesus Himself, knows our hearts. Our family don’t expect that we will join them. They leave the option to us. So we’re not doing it to “keep the peace”.  We simply want to live in grace with those we love.

So, to all of you who love that Baby, Who is Lord of all, and celebrate His coming at this time, Merry Christmas!

And if you don’t know or love Him yet, my hope is that, as you celebrate, you will discover Him for Who He really is. manger scene

THE PRICE

Peter Dodge walked down the busy city street. Deep in thought, he was oblivious to the traffic cacophony, and the human eddies that swirled around him. He didn’t often leave his quiet leafy suburb to come into this noisy bustle., preferring the tranquil atmosphere  of his home, where he could work on his justifiably renowned canvases. Art was his life, and the fact that his paintings were popular and found buyers was of lesser importance to him.

But several months back, his peaceful existence suffered a nasty jar, when thieves broke in and wrecked his studio, stealing several of his canvases. Most of those he could lose without too much sadness, but there was one loss that gave him anguish of heart.

Peter had painted what he knew was, to that point, probably his best work. It was a portrayal of his young son and daughter, playing among the beautiful trees in the garden. The grass had that emerald green that only comes after some good rains. The children were vivid flashes of colour against the green background as they pranced and played around the trees. children playing

Their laughter carried to him and his heart overflowed with love; he painted out of that love, pouring all of himself into what he did. When it was done, he felt a euphoric sense of achievement.

And now, it was gone. The police had never tracked down those responsible. And he had no idea what had happened to his treasure. ~Of course he could always do another painting of his children, but he knew it would never be quite the same. There are times and experiences in life that can never be fully recaptured – moments of intense joy or understanding that are there only once.

On this day, Peter had come into the city to see his lawyers. Something to do with the insurance of his home. Suddenly he stopped.  In his preoccupation he had taken the wrong turning. He found himself in a side street, along which were several small retail businesses. His eye was caught by a sign outside a shop across the street. It read: NEW and USED TREASURES. Curious, he walked across and peered into the window. Most of what he saw looked like rubbish, though there were a few valuable –looking articles as well.  For some reason, he stepped inside the doorway and looked around. Shelves lined two of the walls, and a man stood at a counter along the third. The back wall was covered in framed prints. As he scanned these pictures, his heart leapt, then raced, and his palms grew damp. There, on the lower left corner, at the end of a row, hung what looked very much like his painting. Only it had been badly defaced. There were black streaks across it, and it was crumpled and slightly bent. He turned to the man standing behind the counter,  who was watching him with a calculated expression.

“That painting”, he pointed, “the dirty one. Where did you get it?”

The man’s face was instantly alert, and he narrowed his eyes.

“I don’t divulge my sources, mate. Can’t.  Bad for business.”

“Alright. How much do you want for it?”

“Now why would you want a dirty old thing like that? Gentleman like you, you should rather get one of the others. Much better, clean and pretty.

“No, thank you. I’d like that one. How much?”

There was a minute’s silence, while the shop owner rocked back on his heels and studied the ceiling.

“Well now, seeing you want it so bad, and I’m told it IS original,” he grinned, “I’ll give you a special  price.”

Then he named a figure that was ludicrously high. Peter was stunned. Although he had sold his paintings over the years, he was by no means wealthy. The price was so high, he knew he would have to sell something in order to buy his painting, his own handwork! But what? The most valuable thing he had was the piano left to him by his mother.

pianoIt meant the world to Peter and had given him and his family hours of enjoyment. A tug of war began in his heart. Was it worth it? Shouldn’t he just start over and do another painting? After all, it was very damaged. But what would his family say? How could he get rid of his mother’s gift to him? Peter stood for a few moments in an agony of indecision. But in the end, the painting won. It was part of him, he had put so much of his heart and soul in it. Losing it was like losing part of himself. He must have it back.

So, he agreed to the price. Over the next few days, the business was done, painfully, of selling the piano. The price was paid, and he took his beloved painting home. And he spent the next few months slowly and expertly restoring it to its former beauty.

************

God, the Artist-Creator, has invested so much of Himself in you. He made you in His likeness, a work of art. And you are extremely precious to Him. But an enemy stole you from Him, and defaced that work of art. The price God paid for you was beyond description. He gave His greatest Treasure to pay that price, because He wanted you back with Him.  He looks beyond the dirty streaks and crumpled corners and sees the worth He places on you. If you will put yourself in His hands, receive His love and forgiveness, He will restore to you the beauty He gave you at first.

And that is why we celebrate the birth of that Baby in Bethlehem.

He is the Price God paid – for you.

baby swaddled

 

DAYBREAK

 

Can it really be called living        stony heart

When your heart is cold as stone,

Orphaned by love long withheld,

Forced to defend itself,  alone?

Mired in mis-trust, and suspicion,

Building walls to hide behind,

Closing doors to friendship offered,

Locked inside a fear-filled mind.

Fearful of yet more rejection,

Powerless to respond to love,

While, in spirit depths unfathomed,

Weeping for the love it craves.

 Best sunrise

Then, like early morning daylight

Flows across the eastern sky,

Warming, as the sun climbs higher,

Cold dark spaces of the night

The insistent love of Jesus

Irresistible as light,

Comes, warming, as the rising sun,

Cold dark spaces of the heart.

 (Photo: Courtesy of Joy-Anne Bromilow)

Green Hair Mermaid Photography