Posts Tagged ‘ biblical teaching ’

‘Daniel, a man greatly beloved’

DadMy father was not an educated man. Forced to leave school at the age of 16, he joined the then South African Railways and Harbours, where he worked until his medical retirement during his early 50s. My father never wrote his matric exam, nor did he ever obtain a degree or diploma.

But none of this ever mattered to me. As far as I was concerned my father was the best daddy in the whole word. As a little girl there was no safer place than in my daddy’s arms, nothing broken he could not fix, no problem he could not solve.

My father’s life was, and still is, a classroom for me. Not in matters of philosophy, science, or maths. No, the lessons I learned from him were far more meaningful and indeed, precious.

The first lesson my father taught me was God’s Word. As a tiny baby, the moment I began to talk he taught me scripture, beginning with his favourite passage, Psalm 23. To this day, it is one of the first passages I turn to for comfort during times of trial.

My father strongly believed in rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rather err on the side of conservatism,” he would say, “than distort the truth for the sake of liberal appeasement.” He taught me to never be afraid to take a stand for righteousness, especially where the Church was concerned.

My father taught me about generosity. He gave all the time, to almost everyone he came in contact with, simply because he loved to do so. An avid rock-and-surf fisherman for many years, his favourite fish to catch was shad. He would bring it home, clean it, cook it according to his own recipe, and then proceed to share it with as many people as he could find. The kitchen freezer was almost always packed with fish my father had previously caught and he would give it away whenever anyone came to visit, or when he went to visit someone. He did the same with practically everything he cooked and baked, and he cooked and baked often; it was another of his favourite things to do.

My father taught me about compassion. He could not bear to see a woman or a child hurting. During one of his many stays in hospital, I visited him, and took along his favourite snack at the time – two Chelsea buns and a coke – as a special treat. At the next visiting hour I noticed that the food was gone and asked if he had enjoyed it.

“No,” he responded. “I gave it to that little boy in the bed in the corner of the ward. His family live too far away to come visit him. Please, go and see if he’s okay.”

Another time a man knocked at the door of my parents’ home. When my father opened the door the man asked if there was any bread to spare because he was hungry. My father told him to return in an hour and then proceeded to cook the man a hot meal.

My father taught me about service – to God and others. He served the Lord’s Church in many ways from the time he and my mother became Christians in 1956, the year they were married. As a member of Queen Mary Avenue Church of Christ in Durban, he taught the teenaged boys, while my mother taught the girls.

While my brother and I were still very young, he was transferred to Kimberley, where there was no Church. This did not deter my father. He led a worship service for the four us every Sunday. From this I learned the importance of attending Church, even when there were no other saints to fellowship with. After our family moved to Pretoria in 1969, we placed membership with this congregation, where my father was often asked to lead the singing. He loved to sing, especially songs of praise to God. He sang them when he was happy, and when he wasn’t in a good mood, which wasn’t often, he whistled them. So many hymns we sing every Sunday remind me of my father, because he either led them or they were one of his many favourites.

My father loved to work with his hands. He could take a piece of wood or metal and lovingly fashion it into something beautiful and functional. When the congregation purchased the property in Ashlea Gardens, my father helped to build the building. As a child, I remember spending many a Saturday here while my parents, along with other members, worked on the site. I watched this building grow from its foundations to what it is today. The floor tiles my father laid in the passages and classrooms are still there. Years later, he installed little boxes behind the pews to hold the notes for our Loveliners ministry.

My father was happiest when he was serving others. There was no task too menial he would not do, and no time too inconvenient, even if it was the middle of the night. He never failed to respond to a call for help, no matter where or when it came, or from whom.

He was always there for his family, through good times and bad. To my mother he was more than a provider and protector; he was a soul mate. “She is my better half,” he liked to say.

To his grandchildren he was a loving Grandpa who spoiled them with toys lovingly made with his own hands, took them to the beach, played games with them, gave them treats, and even tucked them into bed at night. When he heard of Keenan’s recent engagement to Janine, his immediate response was: “I have become a Grandpa again, overnight.”

During my father’s long illness I received many messages of support from friends, family and brethren in Christ. I could not but help notice the common threat that featured prominently among them all. “I remember when your father did this for me…”; “I remember when your father helped me with that…”; I remember when your father gave me…”.

Even those who only knew him for a short time spoke of his gentleness, compassion and kindness.

These are the godly principles my father taught me. This is the legacy he has left for his family. For this reason, Dad, Grandpa, we are proud to be known as your children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and we shall strive to carry your legacy forward in our own lives.

I shall miss, so much, Dad, your fish and chips, Chelsea buns and last calls for coffee, but the knowledge that you no longer have to bear the excruciating pain you suffered for so many years fills me with joy, and the certainty that I shall be reunited with you again, in a little while, gives me perfect peace.

You epitomised Matthew 25 – you fed those who were hungry and thirsty, took in strangers, gave to those in need, visited the sick and in trouble. You practised “true religion”, as stated in the book of James, because you took care of widows and orphans. As Paul urged the Galatians to do, you never “became weary in doing good… to all people”.  You did all these things for no other reason than you loved to do it.

Because you did so many things for others out of love, you were loved by many in return. For this reason, I can confidently echo the words of Christ when He spoke to your biblical namesake: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved.”

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What’s good about being adopted?

This question was asked of me recently by an adoptive mother, following a talk I presented to an adoption support group on the myriad painful emotional issues adoptees have to deal with over their lifetime.

For a few moments I was silent as I tried to think of an answer.

“That’s a difficult one,” I said eventually, playing for time while I frantically searched my brain for an answer.

Then I thought of the Bible story about the man born blind (John 9:1ff). Jesus’ disciples asked Him whose sin – the man’s or his parents’ – had caused him to be born blind.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

It’s a heavy cross we adoptees have to bear, but my journey of healing has showed me that we can use it to glorify God and further His Gospel, as the apostle Paul did (Philippians 1:12).

He also encouraged the Corinthian Church with these words:

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

and went on to say:

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

It is important to note, however, that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen so that He can manifest Himself and others can learn of Him. For example, an innocent person being killed by a drunk driver is certainly not part of God’s plan or His will.

But God can use situations such as these and turn them into good. As He did with Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers (sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?).

Despite all the hardships Joseph had to endure while in Egypt, he remained faithful to God and eventually became a high-ranking ruler of the country. In time, he was  reunited and reconciled with his family and saved his countrymen from famine.

Thus he was able to say to his brothers:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

God is fully aware of the pain that results when babies are placed for adoption, but because He has given us free will, He doesn’t interfere with our choices. He can turn that pain into something beautiful, however, as long as we remain faithful to Him and wholly submit our lives to His will.

It’s a wonderful, liberating promise.

Rina Bowes – A Virtuous Woman

A tribute to my beloved mother-in-law, who passed away peacefully on 26 August 2010, after suffering a severe stroke on 3 August 2010.

Who can find a virtuous woman whose worth is far more than rubies?

Her name is Catharina Cornelia Bowes; Rina to her family and friends, Ouma to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to her children and their spouses – Mommy.

She will be remembered as a faithful and devoted wife to her husband, and a joyful mother of seven children, to whom she not only gave life, but lovingly and tenderly moulded each one’s individual personality, instilling in them all a good measure of the humanitarian and Christian principles by which she lived.

Never needing to adorn herself with the latest fashions or trendy cosmetics, Mommy glowed with an inner beauty that personified the attributes of love she radiated – patience, kindness, humility, peace, gentleness, unselfishness, forgiveness and compassion.

Consequently, people were drawn to Mommy’s loving temperament and generous nature. To anyone in need she was always prepared to listen and provide a word of encouragement and not surprisingly, she had many friends. Some turned out not to be friends at all, but abusers of Mommy’s kind-heartedness, yet she never rejected one of them or turned them away when they were in need. Without a malicious, spiteful or vengeful bone in her body she shied away from all forms of conflict and in her humble, submissive way would do everything in her power to bring about peace, even if it meant sacrificing her own dignity and wellbeing.

Her husband trusted her completely with the affairs of their household and as a full time wife and mother, Mommy’s hands were never idle. She rose early each morning to tend to her family’s needs and with such a large one to take care of, there were many. Seldom during the day did she have a moment to herself.

Because she loved her children so much, Mommy was not afraid to mete out discipline when it was necessary. Woe to the child who tried to borrow a few pennies from her purse without asking to buy sweets, secretly sneak out of the house to visit a friend, or feign an illness in an attempt to get out of going to school. But no one could ever argue that she wasn’t fair.

Raising seven children on a single income was not without its challenges, but not once did they suffer physically or mentally during their growing years.  Mommy sacrificed much for them, never hesitating to give up her own pleasures to ensure their comfort. Indeed, at meal times, after serving her family supper, it was not unusual for Mommy to retreat quietly to the kitchen to eat her own meal – a slice of bread and a cup of coffee.

Later in the evening, when the children were asleep, Mommy would spend the quiet time mending clothes, darning socks and knitting – never for herself, always for her family and often, even for others.

As her children entered adulthood and chose marriage partners, Mommy welcomed each one into her family without reservation, freely giving them her love and making them her own. She was always there to nurture and support their dreams, or give a gentle push when they ran out of steam.

After her husband died and she had seen her youngest child comfortably settled in his own home, Mommy, for the first time, sat down to rest. To her family she had become more than just a mother, mother-in-law and ouma, but an integral part of everyone’s lives.  She had taken care of so many for so long, and now it was her turn to be spoiled.

Treating Mommy was just as much fun for the one doing the treating as it was for her because she indulged in each experience with childlike delight, finding great joy in the simplest pleasures.

But nothing made Mommy happier than having all her children gathered around her. Getting the whole family together for a special occasion was no mean feat, and if someone was unable to make it for some reason Mommy would never fail to mention how much she missed them.

Now it will be Mommy’s place that is empty and we will be the ones talking about how much we miss her. But she has left us with a beautiful gift. All the love we shared and all the fun we had with Mommy have been replaced with wonderful, happy memories – of lappies and bonks, blokkiesraaisels and television soapies, Dream chocolates, Liquorice Allsorts and lazagne, trails of crumpled tissues, gentle admonishments of “Ag, jy’s laf” and exclamations of “Ek kry die piep”.

Along with these beautiful memories, we have the assurance that even though Mommy’s life on earth is over, today her spirit lives anew with God, where she has gone home to share in His glory for eternity, and is waiting to meet up again one day with her children in Christ.

Today and always, Mommy, your children rise up and call you blessed. Many women have done virtuously, but you surpass them all.

A powerful purpose

I stumbled across this image on the Internet recently and immediately associated it with my adoption.

“You were an answer to prayer,” my mother said to me when we discussed how their adoption of me came about.

Her statement caused me to catch my breath as I felt my heart skip a beat.

I was an answer to prayer.

Imagine two people praying to the Almighty God – the Creator who spoke the world into existence – for a baby and they receive you. Wow. God choosing me as a gift for someone – that in itself is a gift – to me.

Truly, God meant it when He said:  “Can a mother forget her baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you” (Isa 49:15).

And He didn’t. When my birth mother decided she couldn’t keep me and wanted to ensure that her baby girl was given to a happy, Christian home, God looked down from Heaven, saw my mother and father and said: “This baby for that couple.”

The fact that my father had always wanted a little girl with brown eyes and blonde hair had everything to do with it.

Adoptees are a gift from God to their adoptive parents. That you were given to them specifically is no accident. God had a definite purpose in mind when He caused you to come into each others’ lives. Even if your adoptive situation was not a happy one, it’s important to know that God can turn any evil into good to suit His divine purpose – if you allow Him to by submitting to His will.

It’s Powerful stuff. And it’s ours for the taking.

Go on, take it.

Striking back at the black hole

Stress happens. All the time. And it’s not uncommon that just as one stressful situation resolves itself, another develops to take its place. Often there are two, three or even more to be dealt with simultaneously. For previously diagnosed depression sufferers this can make that deep, dark, black hole look increasingly inviting and the urge to crawl back into it too tempting to ignore.

Sometimes I am tempted to sit on the floor and let all the painful emotions surrounding my adoption completely overwhelm me. All the unfinished business, the unresolved issues, the unanswered questions. I have to work extremely hard every day at keeping them at bay, and sometimes it just becomes… exhausting.

That’s when I feel that black hole looming ever larger and larger. And it looks so enticing. It seems so peaceful in there. So quiet. Far away from all the pressure. All the stress. All the stuff. Like a thick, warm, wooly blanket. I can almost feel myself being pulled closer and closer into its looming folds, until eventually my legs are dangling inside and it’s only my fingers clinging tightly onto the edge of the hole that are keeping me from letting go and falling… falling…

That’s when I know I have to waste no time in heading straight for my Safe Place, my “refuge in times of trouble”.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want,” I recite to myself over and over again. “Tho’ I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil.”

And then the one that gives me the strength to claw my way out of the hole: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

And as I move farther and farther away from the gaping blackness I begin to feel it. The fear dissipating, and I am left with peace. “My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you…”

And as I breathe Him deeply in, so that once more “in Him I live, and move, and have my being” I hear Him whisper: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

And as I slowly exhale I know that I am safe. And I can see the hole for what it really is. A black shroud of despair where there is no light, only endless night.

And as I continue to “renew my mind” I am once again reminded that “without Him I can do nothing.” But with Him “all things are possible” and I no longer have to fear. I can see my adoption for what it really is: a gift from God to my parents, a gift of eternal salvation to me. I am blessed.

Misunderstood and reviled

The publication of an extract of Someone’s Daughter on Parent24.com has caused quite a stir, judging by some of the comments posted by readers.

Even though the positive comments far outweigh the negative, when I first read the latter I was very hurt by their intensity.

“You are a terrible disgrace”, wrote someone who signed their name as ‘?’, accusing me of seeing a lucrative story to write and shame my parents about. “I think you are selfish and saw a story to write about that would make people feel pity on you,” he/she delcared.

“Pull yourself together”, stated ‘casino’, while ‘turbo_superboss’ wanted to know why I was “so ungrateful and angry” at my mother for not telling me.

Of course, I know their comments are based on ignorance. None of these people have read my book and are judging me without knowing all the facts. Yet I still felt hurt, misunderstood and unjustly criticised.

At the same time I was aware of a sense of familiarity to all of this. Then it struck me. Jesus experienced the same unfair judgement and misunderstanding while He was on earth (Luke 17:25) and especially when He hung on the cross. Although He had every opportunity to defend Himself, and with God’s power in Him was more than capable of doing so, He chose not to.

Like my critics, Jesus’ attackers could not (or would not?) see the full picture and consequently, completely misunderstood His message.  Yet, despite all of this, Jesus asked His Father to forgive them for their ignorance just before He died. What compassion, what mercy!

Jesus also warned Christians that they would encounter persecution for His name’s sake: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

The lesson for me is clear. I should expect criticism, but I must show compassion and forgiveness, just as Jesus did. I may have finished writing Someone’s Daughter, but God’s teaching and healing continues. What a blessing.

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