Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm SO Over Christmas. And Presents.

PRESENTS. That's what we all look forward to on Christmas. It's the one chance to go overboard and make a wishlist of all the material things you have ever dreamed of possessing and which you didn't get for your birthday. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that 2013 was a bit of an awkward year (since so many thought that the world would end after 2012) but many people I have spoken to this holiday season have expressed a curious exasperation with Christmas. The phrase "I'm so over it," in conversation hasn't been uncommon.

I heard someone jokingly say " I would much rather just buy myself gifts because then I get exactly what I want."

While another guy asked me "What is the point? You buy gifts, you give them, you open them, next day it's like nothing happened."

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine musing whether there is any point in wrapping presents, doesn't it just waste time, energy and money? In my family especially, as my parents sincerely dislike shopping, we try spend as little time doing it as possible. On Sunday we went to Canal Walk and did the gift shopping before lunch and the grocery shopping afterwards, altogether amounting to about five hours. Today was used to wrap all those hastily bought presents, and tomorrow evening we open them. They stay in their wrapping less than 24 hours and except for Ester, we aren't the 'keep it pretty and recycle after use' category of unwrappers (Imagine paper shreds eeeverywhere.)

It is scary how quickly we forget how special Christmas really is. All the busyness around presents, decorations, family meals and Christmas carols takes the focus away from where it should be.  No wonder buying presents starts seeming dull, all the season’s festivity seems meaningless and the words of the Christmas carols sound empty.  

Sometimes it takes a fictional story to open our eyes to the amazingness of that true factual one. I found one on December 24th last year in a Finnish storybook that had been taken out of the Christmas storage box.

In the story young Sarah finds a letter for Santa from a girl in the poorer part of town, that Santa obviously had missed, and it's the day before Christmas! So she sets out to his workshop to deliver it personally, to make sure he gets it and the girl can have a happy Christmas. She arrives at the big mountain and explains the situation to the stereotypically happy and vibrant Mr. Claus in his brightly lit workshop brimming with toys. However, when she hands him the letter his expression changes to a little less trademark Christmas Cheer as he tells her this girl's letter is not meant for him but his brother. They go around to the mountain's other side and find a very different looking Santa. He is scrawny and sad looking with only cobwebs, dust and a few measly efforts covering the shelves in the cold, poorly lit workshop. 

They explain that there is a different Santa Claus for the wealthy children and the poor children. And while the one Santa can easily make presents for the wealthy children, the other Santa has nothing to give from. Sarah asks why the happy Santa can't help his brother out, and he replies "I can't, each gift in my workshop is already meant for someone. The only way I could give them to him is if the children themselves choose to give their gifts to someone else."
The sad Santa takes the letter and looks around at his workshop helplessly, "another year filled with disappointment," he shakes his head, defeated.

Sarah returns home, and on her way she is thinking. She receives a lot of presents from Santa; she saw some of them in the workshop. She knows a lot of her friends do too. Maybe she could give some of them to the kids in the poor area. Maybe if she explained the situation to her friends they would do it too.

And so Sarah goes around to her friends, telling them what she saw, and something amazing happens. All through the night letters pour in to wealthy Santa Claus from the children, letters like Sarah's who asks him to please give her porcelain doll (the one she had been waiting for excitedly for almost the whole year,) to the girl who's letter she brought to him earlier that evening. Poor Santa Claus has more presents than he has ever had before and the kids in the poor district have a Christmas to remember, all because of Sarah and her idea to give of what she had. At the end of the story Sarah marvels at the idea that by next year they'll have told even more people about the two different Santas, so just imagine, the workshop of poor Santa Claus might be even fuller than his brother's!

This story really struck a chord with me. For many of those children who gave up their presents this would probably be their first year ever that they don’t get everything they wanted for Christmas. And that was OK. They willingly sacrificed their own pleasure for others. And these are only children, probably under twelve years of age! Sarah knew what it was like to get good presents and she wanted everyone to be able to experience it. And through making her Christmas a little less comfortable, she probably had the best Christmas ever.

In the real world, how many people do you know who would sacrifice their own comfort, especially on a day like Christmas, for others? If only more of us would have the same revelation Sarah had, what a difference we could make in people’s lives!

Sarah knew what it was like to get good presents and she wanted everyone to be able to experience it. We know what it is like to get a good present. That is the reason we celebrate Christmas. God came down to earth in a human form, so we could never again say that he doesn’t understand what we are going through. He came to make a way for us to be with Him. He died for our sins, the evil in us which separates us from him, and gave us the gift of Eternal Life.

Have you ever had that when you come up with a brilliant idea of what to get someone as a gift, but when you give it to them they (after profuse thanking especially if they’re South African) start apologizing for not getting you anything. Even though you try explain that it’s “sooo chilled” and your reason for buying it wasn’t so they’d get you something back, the next time you see them they've gone and bought something for you. Leaves you with mixed feelings doesn’t it? Often it makes me feel like the gift I gave loses value because they’ve tried to repay it.

Well, with the gift of Eternal Life, you can never repay it. It is HUGE. And God doesn’t expect us to. He just wants you to accept it. Imagine buying (or making if you’re that talented) someone an expensive and meaningful gift, and they say “Oh no, I don’t want to take that.” Awkward situation, right! “Umm, I got it for you, there’s nothing much I can do with it, it’s especially just for you.” It’s like that with God too. He went through all of that, being human, dying on a cross, so that you could be with Him. That is the greatest gift ever given.

When you give and receive gifts this Christmas, don’t look at them just as material things. Look deeper! It’s not an obligation to give. It’s a choice. You get to bless others, you get to remind each other of the greatest gift of all that started on this special day over 2000 years ago, the gift of Eternal Life, the end of death! Sarah had received good gifts and she wanted to pass that experience on. We have received Eternal Life as a gift and the best thing we can do with that is accept it and share it, it’s meant for everyone!

John 3.16
For God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

If you haven’t accepted the gift of Eternal Life yet, it is so easy!

Paul says in Romans 10.9 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your Heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You can pray something along these lines,
“Dear God,I believe in you. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to Earth to die for my sins. Thank you that I can live eternally with you. I want to follow you. I want to accept this gift of forgiveness and life! ”

And I encourage you to go read the book of John!

Merry Christmas ^_^

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Are You Doing With Your Life?

The Potential (Increase)

Potential. There is so much of it in people, in LIFE.  

To original
On Friday when I left the house I noticed that my phone was in a pocket which I felt it had a high likelihood of falling out of. So, (while cycling, clever me.) I tried to take it out of that pocket and put it into a safer one. Obviously, and very ironically, I dropped it in the midst of the swap. The car behind me hooted as I slowed down and stumbled off my bike. (It was early in the morning and I was half asleep, hence my smoothness.) What I had thought was a "Hey get out of the way you crazy girl, I'm driving" sort of hooting turned out to be a very friendly "You dropped your phone! Let me help you" kind of one instead. The guy pulled over, came out, and while chatting away about "What a shame" and "Luckily it's a Nokia" he collected the scattered parts of the phone, dusted them off and reassembled them for me - all this before I had even properly got off my bike. 

"He must have had coffee that morning," I reasoned (with my unscathed Nokia in my safe pocket) as he drove away. "Or maybe he's just a morning person... A hectic one, with a love for noticing things early in the morning." 
This guy's actions replicated Christ, whether he intended to or not. He saw a need, and he jumped out his car, his comfort zone on a cold morning, to help. We are called by God to be alert and aware in our daily life. 

1 Thessalonians 5.5 says "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self controlled."  

There is so much potential in each moment of each situation of each day to be doing something for God. Are we? 

As I cycled on the word came into my head. Potential. It is there in the small moments of life. The fleeting conversations that occur with the people also waiting to cross the road. That short connection/smile with the drivers who let me cross the road (and a slightly different connection/stare down with the drivers who nearly drive me over because they have their indicator on, but still drive straight through the intersection...) The breeze is so fresh, especially now with winter coming, and bikers give each other a curt nod as they pass, like an acknowledgment that we're part of the same people. 
to original
But how about taking it one step further? Stopping for a moment longer to talk with the security guard, or giving a sandwich to the boy selling crafts on the corner. How about making an effort with the people we interact with on a daily basis on our commutes to work, school, home? My dad just told me about a co-worker of his who has taken the same 1,5 hour train ride to work every day for the last 20 years. They have formed a solid sort of club, every morning and evening the same men sit in that same carriage and play cards. What a way to impact people! If there is even one christian in that group, what potential to reach people!

Do you see what I am saying? Life moves so quickly, we are easily caught up in our ruts, easily left to auto-pilot, and we miss all the potential for dramatic outbursts from our ordinary life! Whether it would be helping someone across a road, or just a friendly smile in passing, we really should be looking for ways to increase our impact on our communities.Everyone wants to make a big impact, but you'll never know where even the smallest ones will lead.

I was in a tourist shop today at Cape Point, and they had these African symbol necklaces. The one with the symbol for life said 
  "May you live every day of your life."

Though it sounds weird at first, the more I thought about it the more insightful it became. 
May you live every day of your life. It's like that old song that goes "I don't want to live and just... breathe."

Make the most of every day!

Jesus says in John 9.4, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no-one can work."

I'm really feeling this sense of urgency for us as Christ-followers, because we really don't have a lot of time. Many of us don't see the opportunities because we are only expecting it to hit us in the face in the future, when we are older, or wiser, or have more time for that sort of stuff. I've been in and out of this thought pattern as well, and last Friday morning really snapped me out of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, today is the day! Don't wait for tomorrow. 
There is so much potential in each and every life. The question is will the lives use it?

P.S (Which shouldn't really be a P.S since this part is super important!)

We can't fulfill our potential by ourselves. We need God's help, and this comes in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in step with him, spend time with him, our eyes and ears will start to pick up the things He picks up, we'll get onto his wavelength and you might start noticing things around you in everyday life you didn't notice before. It's incredible what a difference God can make in a life!


Friday, February 15, 2013

True Love after Valentine's Day =]

    A lot of people battle with Valentine's Day. It's easy to measure your self worth by the amount of roses, chocolates or fb pokes that you get. Or the lack of said tokens of affection. 

I remember in grade 10, I had just started at a new school when Valentine's came up. You could send all kinds of valentine's to each other with little heart shaped notes attached and on the morning of Feb 14th they were delivered to each class. I was sitting there as they were reading notes and handing out heart shaped chocolates and pink teddy bears and I knew for a fact that at least some people in my grade knew I existed. But did anyone care enough to send me something? 

The last rose was handed out. It wasn't for me.  
One of the girls turned around and looked at the empty desk space in front of me and said;
"Shame; The new girl didn't get anything!" 
She said it loud enough to make the whole of purple house grade 10 tutor stop admiring their gifts for a moment and shift their focus on the new girl without a Valentine. Me. 

Although I did end up getting a rose from a friend later on in the day, I never forgot that horrible feeling from that moment in the morning. "No one cares about me." No one even cares enough to send me a card; let alone a chocolate or a rose.

I'm not sure when exactly I figured this out, but at some point it suddenly hit me:

Love isn't measured by the amount of roses you get from high school crushes.

This kind of love is fickle. Basing your identity in this leaves you empty because it doesn't last. We hope it does. We do all we can and live in a pretense that it is real. But we are human, we fail and let each other down. And we get our hearts crushed because we try to base our self image into these things. "If I just get this many roses then I'll be loved. Then I will be worth something." But the girl or guy who gave you that sweet poem and chocolates on the 14th and made you finally feel alive and fulfilled stops replying to your chats before the week is out. Human love fails.

But God's Love doesn't.

In fact, his love is so perfect and all-encompassing that if you took all the love in the world and concentrated it onto one person, even that would just be a mere fraction of God's love for  every. single. person. 
Crazy right?

Imagine someone you really love. So much you 'could die for them'. Would you? Maybe. But imagine that person hated you and didn't want to be anywhere near you, ever. Would you still take a bullet for that person? 

In the Bible, Romans 5.8 says that while we were still sinners, so while we were still going against God, hating him and wanting nothing to do with him, he loved us so much that he sent Jesus, God in human form, to die instead of us. For our sins. 

God's love never fails. 

I am convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.  (Romans 8.38-39)

When I started understanding God's deep love for me, the need for human recognition started to fade. I could base my identity in God, because He wont change. I can look to God's love for me and find my self worth in Him. He loves ME! And there's nothing I can do about it, nothing to make Him love me any more or any less!

And God is so much greater than anyone could be on Valentine's Day

A girl can organize you a candle lit dinner; but God gave you the stars

A guy can buy you a rose; but God crafted the flowers for you

A girl can sing a pretty song for you; but God has the birds chirp for you, the wind whistle for you, and the oceans roar out His greatness.

A guy can paint you a painting; but God gives you the unique sunset every day.

And God doesn't only stick around for Valentine's Day. He loves you more than you can imagine for all of eternity.


It's pretty crazy isn't it?