Sunday, October 31, 2010

Who am I ~ Casting Crowns

Sometimes nothing says it better than a song...

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
Not because of what I've done

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love, and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours
I am Yours
I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quoting the Book vs. knowing the Author

“...Yet mere] knowledge causes people to be puffed up (to bear themselves loftily and be proud), but love (affection and goodwill and benevolence) edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature].”

“But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.”

It is not just Bible talk; it is a lifestyle. Do we impress or intimidate with our knowledge or do we share the love of God? What's the difference? It is in how well you know the Author of the Book!

I recognize that everybody has a different communication style and personality, varying levels of intellect and vocabulary, but one thing remains constant: the Bible without the God of the Bible is worthless, period. Do people get as far as hearing about a God who loves them and sent His son to die for our sins, or do they get lost in the maze of quoted scriptures, thinking that they either don’t know their Bible that well (compared to you) or will never know it as well? When we share the Gospel is the emphasis God or us? Do we edify or do we compete? The latter can easily cause the Bible to be nothing more than lifeless words, lost on some pages of just another book. But if we contain Jesus beyond our intellect, even if you are a cracked pot, how can you prevent His light from shining through and touching the life of another with His love? Bringing forth life is what God does. Don’t get in the way of that.

I’ve known people in my walk with God who have been very capable of quoting scriptures from the Bible that made me (for one) feel ashamed: book, chapter, verse, and even part a, b or c whether anyone cared to know or not. However, I have seen those same people not bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Somewhere on my journey of loving the Lord, I have lost my admiration and my respect for that. I have to agree with what I’ve once heard, that it is more important that you live the verses that you know, even if they are few, instead of knowing it all and not walking the talk. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the latter impress God either.

Over time in my relationship with God I have come across an increasing number of people who do not want to hear the Bible quoted to them. They often refer to those Christians as Bible bashers and I’ve seen many steer clear. I have also come across more people who look at someone quoting the Bible and not living the example – not just making mistakes, but a lifestyle of disagreement – and making the decision that they prefer the life they have instead and don’t desire to be like that Christian.

I have heard countless people feeling judged and condemned by the Bible for the way people wield their two edged sword, beheading and decapitating the very ones that Jesus died to save. They end up never knowing the God of the Bible, the God who IS love; Not that He loves sin, but who sent His son to die for the sinner so they may know His unconditional love for them. Maybe the wielding is done with the best of intentions, but ignorant nonetheless and most certainly destructive.

I have heard the Bible quoted to point out the sin of another, yet when the same person is confronted about a weakness or mistake of his own they quote the verses about letting he with no sin cast the first stone... What makes you superior to the one at whom you were flinging stones..? In the final analysis we are all sinners saved only by the sacrifice of an Only Begotten Son – Jesus – salvation by grace. Some make the choice to accept that sacrifice earlier, but it does not make you superior, neither to him who chooses it later or to him who never chooses it. (However, it will change the consequence that each one will experience as a result of their choice – undeniably so.)

I’m not saying that quoting the Bible is wrong, purse. I am questioning the motive of the human heart when we pull that black book out of our back pocket. Do you send a message of a loving, life giving God or something else that has more to do with yourself... judging another, struggling with own insecurities/low self esteem, self justification, trying to prove a point in a proud argument that really has nothing to do with God, etc...

Neither am I saying that knowing the Bible well is wrong. After all, it is our weapon of warfare. It is what you do with that knowledge that matters, and sadly the reality is that it is not always about God. Some people have Botox injections and buy a new car every six months, and sometimes Christians quote the Bible for the same reasons.

Bottom line: we are to love the way the God of the Bible does. That is every Christian’s highest ~ first and foremost ~ calling, and the Bible is there to help us learn all about that.

Personally I have become fond of those who teach the Word from the heart of God with simplicity and practical application; something I can actually do something with, instead of just impressive words. When you start off, “J-O-H-N 3:16.........” you’ve lost me. I am first and foremost concerned with what God says... the where is not the first priority (although good to note). It is an afterthought, something that can always be asked for or looked up. I want to have that personal experience of His presence and I want to feel that He is within my reach and not some “pie in the sky”, cold, impersonal Bible quote. John 3:16 doesn’t change my life, but the content of it does: For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die for my sins, and if I accept and believe it, I become His child and gain eternal life.

I have come to a place in my life where I want to hear God’s heart beat and I want to talk plainly and simply (yet truthfully)... I want to feel the joy and the warmth of His presence and I want to fellowship with Him, just like He did with the disciples when He used to eat with them and visit with them in someone’s home. I love the parables and stories. He told them life changing truths as if talking about the weather... plain and simple, and love just radiated from Him and many were transformed by it. The gospel is not complicated.

Sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible I think of a scenario where maybe a doctor has to share the news of a death of a loved one on an operating table. Plainly quoting the Bible is like the doctor who makes you feel like they’re talking about a kitchen utensil; cold, clinical and impersonal. You want to shout at them, beating a fist on their chest, “THAT IS MY BABY IN THERE!!! (or husband, or mother or father, etc...)” Another doctor will tell you the same news and you’ll feel convinced that they did all they could, pulled out all the stops – a sense of compassion that touches a deeper part of you, a sense of truly caring and sharing your grief – somehow comforting, even though it does not bring your loved one back.

I guess what this leaves me with is: When you “talk Bible” or tell others about God, what do you think their experience is of it? Do they get to the God of the Bible; do they hear His heartbeat through your words, or are their noses moulded imprints in the jell-o puffiness of intellectual knowledge about words on a page of some book about some important person somewhere and tomorrow they’ve forgotten where it is all written again... They tried too hard to remember the quote that they didn’t hear the rest... some guy called John... and something to do with a 6... or is it 16?... or something or other... oh well...

I long for the simplicity of the message of love and salvation. I long for the Bible to come alive when I read it – that it would stand up from the pages. In the same way I desire that it will be so for those that I share it with. I long that they will feel the love of the God that I’m talking about and that it will unleash something in them that will set their souls on fire with a burning desire to know this God that I’m so passionately enthusiastic about. I want for God to use me to show others that you don’t have to be smart or know the whole Bible; you can start with one verse and it can also change your life, as long as you grab a hold of the God behind it who is the Author of the change that His Word brings.

Lord, I want to know more so that I can feel closer to You. And as I get closer to You, may you increasingly radiate from me, that Holy Spirit will reveal the truths of your Word in me when I speak of You, but also even in the unspoken words of my life, and even when I stumble but my heart is right before you, use it somehow for good by Your grace to teach them one more thing about You. May they hear Your heartbeat and be curious enough to also want to come lay their head on Your chest to hear what I hear... A love like no other – one beat at a time!

*Note: For info... the intro is a quote from 1 Cor 8: 1; (Amplified & New Living Translation respectively)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rings and things

Every now and again it catches my eye (or something would happen to remind me) and I wonder to myself, “WHAT was I thinking?"

When I got married I didn’t own a lot to begin with. My husband had a fully furnished two bedroom townhouse. Whatever we had duplicates of, I sold mine. That left me with near nothing but my clothes and a few small odds and ends that you didn’t mind a duplicate of. Needless to say, when I got divorced a short while later, I walked out with next to nothing, but including the rings.

I purchased our wedding bands. Mine was very pretty, but inexpensive. My husband’s (on the other hand) was roughly five times the value. I bought it on account and was still paying off on it at the time. For some reason I had made up my mind that I would fight for the rings. Heaven knows what I was thinking... Maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t that made me to be so foolish. Nonetheless, in the end I got it alright! Now what am I supposed to do with it...? More than ten years later I’m still wondering. It never did give me back anything of what I had lost through that experience...

Every now and again I’m reminded about what really matters, and things are not it!

Maybe at the time I thought that I would somehow feel compensated for the prices that I too did pay for my poor error in judgement. Maybe I thought that it would somehow give me back some of my power, maybe even some of my identity. Maybe I wanted him to have some of his own medicine... feel what it felt like. Strangely enough though, it was nowhere near as satisfying as I had hoped it would be, and it most certainly did not mend the broken me. Maybe I just wanted to feel that I hadn’t completely lost after all.

Today I am grateful that that is one of the few reminders that I have of that painful season of my life. I cherish the lesson that I’ve learned from it dearly. Every now and again I come across someone who exhibits the same behaviour and I feel empathy for them; If they only knew what you only realize on the other side of your foolishness.

Having nice things is really great. I certainly have a few things that are dear to me, but on the other side of having owned much and having owned very little, and all the times that I’ve started over, I have come to realize some valuable principles about things.

Things don’t buy you love, acceptance or happiness. Having them can be cause for much enjoyment and fleeting moments of pleasure, but in and of itself, the moments (and the often resulting false friends) are just that: fleeting.

Having things and having no one that wants to enjoy the pleasure of it with you can cause much loneliness. The lonely will often not admit this though.

If the things you own stop you from making quality decisions for progress in your life, maybe you should stop to think and determine whether you’re still master of your things, or whether it is has become master over you.

Sometimes things become replacement comforts for the weaknesses in our lives or the flaws that we refuse to face, deal with or overcome. We mistakenly negotiate with “I” that just one more possession will replace the emptiness that “what if...?” leaves in our soul. It won’t. Joyce Meyer says it well, “Choose your pain.” We can either have instant gratification now and suffer the consequence and pain of unresolved matters later, or face the music and be able to move beyond it; sing a new song on the other side.

Things can never give you back what you’ve lost. It cannot replace a loved one who is gone, whether by divorce or death. It cannot replace a best friend lost. It cannot mend a broken heart, no matter how much you spend. It does not increase your worth, and it doesn’t make you any more acceptable (in the true sense of the word) to society. Things cannot give you that look that says “I understand”, and it cannot wrap its arms around you in a warm embrace. Things do not kiss it better and never responds during hour long conversations... Things don’t make you sincere and it does not give you wisdom. Things cannot dry your tears.

Things does not have eternal value. When you leave it stays right here... nothing more than a memory of ‘used to be’s’.

It reminds me of the rich young man in Mark 10 who asked Jesus about what he had to do to be saved. (V 21, 22) Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Having things was not his downfall, but rather the fact that his trust was in his things. Jesus knew this, and selling it would have set him free from the hold it had over his life, but the man couldn’t let it go. Things were the master of him, instead of him the master of it.

The secret that the rich young man did not know, was that if you seek first that which matters most everything else would follow. I like the way The Message says it, “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

I also have to add... as your heart starts steering toward what really matters, that which you want changes... You don’t stop wanting, but what you want, change.

I love what Peter says in Phil 4 - ”I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little..” and “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me WHO I am.

I have learnt a few truths about things since those rings... (not quite what I had in mind while fervently fighting over nothingness...) It has been a constant reminder to always remember what it is really about, and to spend my time and energy on what matters.

I’ve learnt much about the art of letting go – not all there is to know, I’m sure, but much nonetheless - and I’ve discovered more liberty than I have ever known till now! After all this time that ring is still just a ring... but I, on the other hand, am a new creation, singing a new song on the other side of it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Notification: Testing e-mailing subscription

NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that my blog does not seem to be sending e-mail notifications when new content has been posted. This is merely me testing it after having subscribed to it myself to receive notifications via e-mail. Please bare with me :) Thank you, Liane

Punctured illusions of grandeur

A fellow blogger found renewed comfort in REAL this week when she discovered the truth about some illusions of grandeur; illusions that she used to measure her own ‘mediocre’ efforts to. The truth set her free (even if it’s progressive).

She loves everything about food; preparation, presentation, hosting dinner parties with friends (or even just family), photographing it, writing about it... And eating it of course (*wink*) She doesn’t think that her photographs of her dishes look quite glamorous enough compared to some that she has seen in magazines/recipe books, etc. Her sense of inferiority was pleasantly warped when she realized some truth about how (so called) perfection is achieved. I’ve tried to select only the ones that provoked a “WHAT THE...?” response, and I quote:
• Motor oil, as a stand-in for unphotogenic syrups.
• Cotton balls, which, when soaked and microwaved,
perform quite nicely in creating the illusion of steaming-hot foods.
• Spray deodorant, which gives grapes that desirable frosty veneer.
• Hairspray, which can give (the appearance of) new life to a drying-out slab of cake.
• Spray fabric protector, to prevent the motor-oil syrup from soaking into the pancake, which has bursting blueberries artfully pinned to it in an aesthetically pleasing, yet random, scattering (still hungry?).
• Brown shoe polish, so raw meat appears to be just-out-of-the-roaster succulent.
• White glue, used instead of milk for cereal photos and for pie repair (that would be the pie actually filled with mashed potatoes, where a serving-sized piece is cut out, with the resulting opening’s edges slathered with lemon custard or rhubarb-strawberry filling).
I don’t think I’ll ever look at photographs of cuisine in quite the same way again, that’s for sure.

I’m sure that we’ve all done our fare share of comparing. We compare our bodies, hair and make-up to the picture perfect (photo shopped / air brushed) beauties in Vogue and Cosmopolitan. We compare our creative abilities to the Van Gogh, the Nigella, the Celine Dion and Versace of our time. We aspire to live in homes like on Top Billing and to wine and dine like Hollywood, and Nelson Mandela has a party with a thousand of his closest friends. Just how close does a thousand people get... Define close? Glitz and glamor makes for warm and fuzzy, but what about real?

What is it that we seek; what do we feel is amiss? We seem to be of the opinion that if we could only attain what we’re striving for we would be satisfied. What if you do get it just to discover that it is nowhere near how you imagined it? You might even feel that you don’t want it anymore. All for nothing! What drives us?
Which leads me to the next question: “At what cost?” What are we prepared to sacrifice in exchange for the illusion of satisfaction or fulfillment that we perceive we’ll feel on the other side? Sometimes the prices that we pay cannot be bought with money and sometimes they can be lost to us forever.

After years of comparing myself to others I’m finally starting to realize that the best yard stick is to be the best that you can be. I believe that excellence is important, and it is attainable. Perfection on the other hand is not. We are sadly mistaken if we compete and compare thinking that it increases our worth or that it will make anyone love us more; that we’ll finally be “good enough”. In fact, it achieves exactly the opposite. It robs us, cripples us and it sucks the life out of us. It takes away the very beauty that you have to offer that is unique to only you while you’re busy trying to equal or top someone else thinking, “If only...”

We need to realize that each one of us is already loved more than we can know or understand by a Heavenly Father who paid a dear price with His only Son to prove it! He loved us first, before we ever achieved anything. Every gift and ability is also from Him and He has given to each one differently. He encourages us to work with what we have and multiply it to its full potential, not the full potential of our next door neighbor; All so that He may be glorified. What a better way to do this than being the best you that you can be!

When you know how much you are loved and accepted in Christ, you can reach for the best in you for the right reasons and you should be able to enjoy it every step of the way!

It reminded me of my music teacher – now a dear friend. While I was studying music I started to realize that my creative ability was very much inhibited by my desire for perfection. It frustrated me. My music teacher often plays in front of audiences and she showed me a few ‘tricks’ of how she sometimes ‘cheat’ on sheet music, e.g. when she played a piece that required for her to turn the page. If she didn’t show me, I would never have known that even those who play so well don’t always play every single note perfectly. Even if they made a mistake, no one else knew, whereas with me it was an open display of disappointment. Instead of just playing along I really pointed out my own flaws. She taught me that it didn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Sometimes we need to remember what it is really all about. We need to learn to recognize true beauty instead of being too busy comparing to false ideas of perfection, all along probably wasting valuable time being miserable, while attempting to impress people who don’t even notice and don’t even care!

Isn't it just awesome every time you realize that what you have to offer is not so bad after all? And even more awesome when you actually start to like it!! You never know what is going on back at the ranch ... Rather spend your time being the best YOU that you can be!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

An empty margarine tub and a fork in a kitchen in Kansas

An empty margarine tub, an (all new to me) non stick pan on a (new to me) gas stove, a few farm fresh eggs (YIP, they still had dry poop on them), some flour, water, salt and baking powder, a fork and a stronger forearm later... we had pancakes!

Today was the first time I made pancakes in America. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but trust me, it is.

America uses their own customary measurement system (ounces for liquid, ounces for weight and miles). South Africa (same as Europe) uses the metric system (litres, kilograms and kilometres). For now, for me, cooking is NOT just cooking; it borders on rocket science. I’d be lost without the internet to do conversions. Lucky for me this recipe is very simple.

It used to be my grandmother’s recipe. I remember my dad teaching us to flip pancakes when I was still in primary school; I could barely see over the side of the pan back then. My dad used a gas bottle with a screw on cooker top. It always made me think of camping.

Traditionally (in SA) pancakes are often baked when it is cold or rainy out. It is a beautiful Autumn day in Kansas, but I don’t care; I’m finally giving that old trustworthy recipe a go; like taking a vintage car for a drive around the countryside.

America doesn’t understand the meaning of a cup the way I do, i.e. 250ml. I used to use one of my coffee mugs (in SA they mostly came standard in 250ml); no problem. A cup is all I need, really. After looking around for the smallest mug I could find, I noticed it hanging on the side of the cupboard: a set of measuring cups and spoons. It doesn’t have “1 cup (250ml)” printed on it. It just says “1 cup”. Strangely, it looked a bit small... haha. Oh well, here goes!

Mixing the ingredients together well is one of the secrets to good pancakes. I used to have a mixer with a bowl, designed so that when you let the mixer down into it, it would spin the bowl for you, allowing for everything to be mixed thoroughly. Before that I used to mix it with a whisk and some elbow grease, and before that my (then) husband and I took turns whisking it with a fork and some elbow grease. You get tired after a while. A fork sufficed nicely today, with some elbow grease, of course, but today I didn’t take turns with anyone; I did it a-l-l by myself. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered it, or maybe I’ve just grown stronger :)

Years ago I had the recipe jotted down on an old torn open envelope. Today I know it off by heart (with a note of it in my computer of course... just in case). On the envelope my husband made a foot note just below jokingly stating that he gets to have all the flopped ones. He loved my pancake that much; he wasn’t too lucky too often though; the recipe is just THAT good! :) Trying it out today, I thought of that; maybe today he would have gotten lucky. Whether he would have liked it or not... that was an entirely different question.

I couldn’t find a suitable mixing bowl... Oh no, then I wouldn’t be able to make the batter. Then I spotted the empty margarine tub. It was easy to determine that it was the perfect size. Hey, who needs a mixer if you have a lid? Isn’t mixing the same as shaking something about, just faster, more vigorously? I would soon find out, wouldn’t I?

Cooking on a gas stove is also a more new experience for me. I have done so before, but only a few times. Other than that I am more used to electric appliances. I have, however, been pleasantly surprised at how easy I had become used to it. You learn to judge the heat you need by the size of the flame, and it doesn’t take long to heat up at all! Low heat does not work well for baking pancakes. It is one of those times when you need not be shy about turning up the heat!

“The batter looks a little yellow to me; a little TOO yellow if you ask me,” I thought to myself. This was confirmed to be a problem when my pancake took on the texture and slight smell of scrambled eggs; Scrambled eggs with sugar and cinnamon...? Never!! Scrambled pancakes haha

Today there is no “by the book” way of doing it. It is just me, the batter, my gut and years of experience (and a pinch of courage to step out and try something new – I-M-R-O-V-I-S-E!)

A little bit of water, a dash of oil (in the pan and in the tub) and a bit of sizzle and three flops later we had PAN-CAKES IN AMERICA, ladies and gentlemen; courtesy of me! :)

Guess what we’re having for dinner, honey?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The cycle of life

This is the first piece that I ever wrote that was edited by a professional editor of a magazine; a dear friend of mine, David, and a proud moment for me for sure. How can I NOT post it to my blog?! Happy reading!

Cycling has always been important to Liane de Witt, and although much has changed, it’s provided a constant theme to her life.

I remember riding my bicycle – a white and pink Ralleigh road bike – to school when I was just 11, a suitcase strapped to the back containing my most prized possession: my books. I didn’t care that much for what was in the books; just that it was not my world.

I escaped often when I was young. I escaped from a home that was so filled with tension that I could not wait to ride off into the sunrise every morning. The warmth of it on my face gave me new hope for a better future. And in the afternoon it was my hour of tranquillity, riding home as slowly as I could without falling over. On my bike I could dream and those dreams had the potential to come true! And oh, did I dream big! On my bike my dreams had wings. I didn’t ride – I could fly!

I traded my bike for a moped when I was 16.Now my dreams could fly higher and I could ride faster. It’s more difficult to feel the sun on your face or the wind in your hair when wearing a helmet, but I didn’t care. It didn’t take away my ability to dream and anything was possible, looking out at the world through the visor. In another way that visor was also the window into my world. Inside that helmet was a safe place where I often cried, raged, dreamed... Others could see “through” my window, and yet they couldn’t see ME; my thoughts, my feelings, my vulnerability... I felt safe.

Then for a while I didn’t ride, I didn’t dream. I lost myself in difficult decisions, lonely circumstance and personal growth, until I realized one day what I needed: a new bicycle!

But times had changed. Cycling had become a ‘dangerous sport’. In place of training wheels, skinned knees and grazed hands were lots of protective gear and “No helmet, no ride”. But that was okay, because it was my heart that was skinned and I needed to ride again for it to heal. Bring on the helmet!

This time I was riding to let go: to let go of anger, to let go of frustration, to let go of sadness, of loneliness and to rediscover my beautiful self again. I needed to see beauty. I needed to feel warmth. I needed to hear a new melody and I needed to stop to smell the roses, even if they grew in someone else’s garden.

I needed to believe again that anything was possible and that dreams could come true after all. I needed a new song in my heart. On my journey I rediscovered myself. I found peace in the rolling of the wheels and the humming sound of rubber on tar, flying downhill just because I can! I could hear the birds sing again, I could see a blue sky and a new horizon. I could dream again that anything was possible, and I did!