A Christmas Present – In The Lord’s Good Time

kunesThe week before Christmas, I bought myself a present of 3 female Kunekune piglets, about 12 weeks old, from a breeder down south near Whangarei.

Their purpose is to help me with weed control – specifically an overgrowth of Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminosa), reaching seriously epic proportions in the rich volcanic soil all around my house. This weed is becoming a real problem here in NZ, wherever it gets a hold.  I’d been asking the Lord for a solution for months – no years – but not one solution I investigated seemed to be workable.   Frustration!

I’ve had Kunekunes before.  They are a delightful pig, smaller than the large commercial meat breeds, but the boars can tip the scale at 200 lb nonetheless.   A few weeks back I was led to look at a blog I wrote at the time, and the fact that Kunes eat wandering jew hit me in the eye.  Of course !!    At that time, the problem was less serious, which is maybe why it had slipped my mind.

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I knew from previous experience that Kunes need to be very strictly contained in their first days in a new home.  I carefully strengthened up a side pen to my goat race up at the shed, and when I got them home, installed them there.

It has been very successful, with the double advantage of getting me walking on rough ground again (now that I am largely pain-free and no longer limping – thank you Lord!).  So I carry feed up to them at least 3 times a day – water too, until I solved the problem of why the tap up at the shed was suddenly not working.  Now my legs are getting stronger again: one single solution to more than one problem.  Doesn’t the Lord love doing that?

So now swathes of wandering jew are being pulled out and fed to these little darlings by the sackful – the dastard weed goes in one end and out of the other comes great fertilizer – AND it’s not the least likely to sprout again!

It’s a wonderful solution, because normally the big question when you pull some of this stuff out is – now what do I do with this?  Every little scrap of this plant that is dropped or thrown on the ground somewhere, will grow as a new plant.  The only really successful solution I’d read was to put the weed into a 44 gallon drum, top it up with water and put the lid on.  12 months later voilà – some great fertilizer.  But I hate to think how many 44 gallon drums I’d need – or maybe a few water storage tanks?  And an impossible amount of work.  Hmmm…

Burn it?  The strictures on lighting fires up north here are massive, plus I’ve no desire to start a raging bush fire in the kikuyu grass.  So the wandering jew problem seemed insurmountable.  The only other option was to get a contractor in to spray the stuff – not guaranteed to be a success, and the cost and toxic chemical exposure potential are both pretty prohibiting.

So the cute piglets (growing like weeds on kikuyu, tradescantia and feed pellets) really are an inspiration – as well as being great fun.  I’m getting ready to let them down into my back garden, once I’ve tidied up the fencing, with unlimited access to grass and jew.  And ultimately I can rotate them around even more areas where the jew is flourishing…

This whole episode has been a huge lesson to me in the value of waiting on the Lord.  The wandering jew problem is of long standing – going back to when I looked after my mom with alzheimers full time – and one possible solution after another has seemed to be blocked.

How often has that happened to you, when steps you might have taken don’t materialize and then later, the solution comes along and you find yourself thankful that you waited on the Lord’s timing for that solution to appear and didn’t do whatever else you had in mind?

How many times have I thought to myself, “Maybe I should get a contractor in…”?    We often wait so unwillingly!  Or berate ourselves for ‘lack of action’.

The bottom line is, I could not have done any of this until I could walk pretty much without pain again – and that has happened only in this last 5 or 6 weeks.  Amazing!

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Patricia

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Perceptions of The Nativity

nativityI have thought much, this last few weeks during the run-up to Christmas, of some of our perceptions attaching to the place and circumstances of Jesus’ birth.

A lot of what we think seems to have come from the statement of Paul at Philippians 2:7 which says,   “…but he humbled Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”  From this we get ideas about Jesus, the circumstances of His life, and the details of His birth, that pervade the whole Christmas story.  We get the wrong impression that Jesus was born in undesirable, impoverished conditions.

Several years ago, I heard a very interesting viewpoint put forward by Pastor Robert H Shuller that while the innkeeper in Bethlehem has had bad press because he failed to find a lodging for Joseph and Mary, the stable they finally found to lodge in was probably a blessing in disguise.  Pastor Shuller pointed out that with a large number of people on the move to register in their own cities for the first Roman census, towns and inns would have been packed with all manner of people, making a crowded inn probably not the best place for the Son of God to be born.

That REALLY spoke to me.

So I would like to take the reasoning a step further.   When you look at the preparations for Jesus’ birth, His Heavenly Father went to great trouble to set the stage:

1)   The birth of Jesus’ forerunner and cousin, John the Baptist, was special in itself, because his parents were elderly and his mother barren.  God sent the angel Gabriel to announce the birth to the father (a priest of the temple).  God gave Zacharias a clear sign as proof, and also oversaw the naming of the boy.  (Luke 1)

2)   We also know that angels appeared to both Mary and Joseph concerning the birth of Jesus. Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would have the baby, and an unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to quiet his concerns about Mary’s pregnancy. (Luke 1, Matthew 1)

3)   The birth of Jesus was announced to the Magi, powerfully enough that they undertook a long journey from the east to bring Him gifts.  We are not told how they were told this, but it can only have been by some form of supernatural revelation. (Matthew 2:1-2)

4)   Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel and the heavenly host appearing to shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.  And before we write the shepherds off totally, let us remember that for many people in Israel, their wealth lay in their herds and so protecting their livestock was a high priority.  Think of David.

In other words, Jesus’ birth was announced both to certain wise and wealthy men who were prepared to honor Him (as the wealthy of His own country were not), and to men from the lower classes whom He came to save – men from the very occupation that He was to use as an illustration of His ministry in calling Himself  ‘The Good Shepherd’.  (Luke 2:8-17)

Are we to assume then in the midst of all this preparation that God somehow made a mistake in designating the place where Jesus was to be born and ended up with an undesirable result? 

That doesn’t make sense.

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Let’s look at a few other places where God made supernatural provision for Jesus:

5)   Because Herod had become aware of Jesus’ birth from the Magi, and was plotting to kill him, God took the following steps:

  • The Magi were warned in a dream not to return via Herod (who had asked  for directions so he could find the child), so they went back another way. (Matthew 2:7-8, 12)
  • An angel warned Joseph in a dream that Herod was looking to kill the child, and instructed him to take Mary and Jesus and flee with them to Egypt.  This he did, and remained there until Herod died – at which time Joseph was advised by an angel in a dream that it was safe to return.  (Matthew 2:13-14, 19-21)

6)   Towards the end of his life, when Jesus came back to Jerusalem for the last time, His need for a mount to carry Him into the city was met by the supplying of a donkey.   Clearly, there must have been a divine forewarning given to the owner of the donkey, so he was prepared to let it be taken and used by people who just turned up on his doorstep.   (Matthew 21:1-7)

7)   Later, when Jesus needed a place to hold the Last Passover supper with His disciples, His need was met in a similar way.  (Matthew 26:1-7, Luke 22:8-13)    Obviously, there are other examples.

So what does all this add up to?  I believe first and foremost we must stop demeaning the place and surroundings of Jesus’ birth.  Yes, there is simplicity and a message in it, but not the message we have been taking.

I’ve already made Pastor Shuller’s point that a room at the inn was unsuitable.   By comparison, the stable was a place of peace where God’s holiness and glory could shine out around this most special of births.   What a moment that must have been for The Father!   The animals that surrounded Jesus in His first hours were God’s creation – creatures that He loves.  They were and still are the innocent ones, with more understanding than we give them credit for.  And did I read in a recent publication where a man of God called them ‘dirty’?  Hmmm….

Remember, it was an innocent animal that had to be killed to provide covering for Adam and Eve after they sinned, and through all the history of Israel up to the time of Jesus’ death, it was animals that had to die as sacrifices for the sins of the people.

Now Jesus, the Lamb of God, had come to take that burden upon Himself.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news/

Black Night of the Soul – 2

black-night2-lionSo there I was, with all these worries about my mother’s alzheimers and the mental baggage weighing heavily.

I literally didn’t know any more what I wanted to achieve with my life.

All that stood before me seemed to be the slippery, downward slope. Even my art, my true, lifetime’s Heartland, looked like a hopeless cause.   It was very hard – impossible even – to settle down and create a painting that I could not be sure of selling quickly, when I badly needed to establish an income ‘NOW’.

Desperate, I analysed my situation, and decided I couldn’t do anything about having to look after my mom, but I could maybe do something about my thinking.  What we think – consciously or subconsciously – is the key to what we get in life, isn’t it?   I knew that much.  I also realised the way I was going, there was a real danger of bringing about the very situation I feared most.   Scary.

I turned again to my favourite self-help books – by John Kehoe, as it happens. ‘Goals and visualising‘ were the buzzwords, but even that was beyond me.  After all the crashes, I had no faith in my ability to come up with sensible goals.  ‘Visualising’ was a bad joke, setting goals was a bad joke – not to mention impossible.  So I laid the books aside – they didn’t inspire me anymore.

Things were black and I knew it.

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Finally a plan formed, born somehow out of the barren waste of the mind:  get right back to basics, none of this fancy visualising, goal setting nonsense.  Focus totally on weeding out the brain’s incessant chatter from day to day, minute to minute.

This wasn’t taken from any book or self-help course of the day.  It felt like entirely my own plan (although looking back I’m sure even then it was born with the Lord’s help) –  so I asked for guidance and monitored my thought patterns rigorously.

Every time I caught myself worrying about the future and losing my home, I looked around for things to give thanks for right there.

I gave thanks for the sky and the trees and the flowers and the house I live in, instead of looking at all the things about the place that needed doing (and they were many).  I gave thanks for my pets instead of reflecting that maybe they shouldn’t be in the house, or chiding myself and getting upset because someone had made a mess.  I gave thanks for my mother – alzheimers or no.  I tried to pick up on every single negative thought and turn it into thanks instead of a stress factor.

I didn’t realise then that I was following words written by St Paul to the believers in Corinth:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5 – probably one of the most difficult letters he ever had to write.)

This is NOT an easy practice – it requires courage, concentration, much determination  and persistence, long term.  The brain loves wallowing in negativity and doesn’t like being disciplined – it will in fact try to make you feel like a fool for saying anything positive.  Yes, that happened to me, big time.

The answer is to just grit your teeth and say the positive, grateful stuff anyway, whether you believe in what you are saying or not – whether or not you feel like saying it, whether or not you feel like a fool.  Say it out loud, if possible.  The mental attitude will improve with practice, believe me.

I know for many people the idea of giving thanks does not go down well – they like to think that any good things they have are due solely to their own efforts.  That is a big mistake and is the root cause of dissatisfaction, limitations and unhappiness in life.

Believe me, gratitude is THE KEY to turning your life around, the key to improving your body chemistry and opening the door for more good things to flow in.   It is (as I found out later) completely scriptural, and I outline it here in the hope that this information will help someone else battling with problems and ingrained mental strongholds that seem completely overwhelming.

More next time

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news/

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Awesome Testimony

job-38-iiconThis testimony by Paul Gauvin will warm your heart.  What a story – honest, genuine and moving.

Here is a guy who by his own admission has never made a video before, and he is uncomfortable in front of the camera.  That makes his testimony all the more credible.

Paul is a young musician who about eighteen months ago had a life-changing encounter with Jesus that was completely unexpected and totally overwhelming.

Take the time to watch this through.  If you have not yet asked the Lord into your life, it will give you something to think and act on.   If you already have the Lord, you will rejoice in this testimony of His wonderful power and presence.

Thank you, Paul, for making this – and thank you for just being yourself.

Blessings.
Patricia
http://damascusroad.news

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After The Tempest

after-iiconIt’s just over a fortnight since my roof got barrelled by a tree.  At the time, I looked at the damage and wondered if the place would ever be the same again.

The guttering, the fascia and the soffit were smashed, and three runs of roofing iron bashed out of shape.  One of my rafters was damaged, and the top of a sheet of gib board inside the main bedroom had been cracked.

As I said in the earlier Tempest post, the damage was a whole lot less than it could have been, and when I think of the 3 ranchsliders above, 2 large windows below, the deck, and the deck railing all unharmed, I was and still am so grateful.

I got in touch with a roofer who lives over the road, and he got in touch with a builder.  But before they came, I had the arborist back to deal with another tree behind the house that was potentially even more dangerous than the Banksia had been – one of 5 fancy conifers planted by my parents in the 70’s on the edge of a stand of cryptomerias.

Four of these conifers were already gone – one blown naturally and three others I got taken down about 9 months ago.  But THIS conifer was the big problem.  It was as tall as the cryptos, had all its weight on the outside – ie facing the house, and being in close proximity to the roof was definitely not going to be easy to deal with.

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It would be perfectly true to say the tree came down exactly where it was planned to fall.  But that bland statement overlooks the breath-stopping display of tree climbing and branch cutting that preceded the final felling. It was at this point, when I looked up from the back porch at the naked trunk of this tree, that I truly realised how dangerous it was.  (The bottom of the trunk in this photo is masked by fallen branches.)

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A cable had been run from the trunk, through a pulley attached to a tree on the opposite corner of the garden and down the side of the house to a vehicle that would exert a pull in the right direction.

A scarf was cut, wedges were placed, and with the final cut and co-ordinated pull from the cable, the tree went down as planned.  Thank you, AB Trees, for a magnificent job!

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Over the following days, the buider and roofer came and went, getting in supplies, stripping off the house debris, and rebuilding the damaged section of the roof.  The builder is coming back to do a small cladding job for me on the back of the house, and to take away the building rubbish. I am very pleased with the job they did.

Men will be coming to cut up the trees and take them away for firewood.  As usual, I’m not sure exactly when.  (Aaargh!)    Meantime the back and front gardens are like a bomb site – full of fall-out and ringed trunks.  And I’m supposed to be getting this place ready to put on the market!

Trust in the Lord…

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One of the great things about this whole episode is that it has put me in touch with some good tradesmen.   Well – “In all circumstances give thanks…”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

And at least when the wind blows I don’t have that worry anymore.

Patricia

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Trust In The Lord

trust-iiconHow often do we hear this phrase?  Almost to the point where we brush it off without thinking too hard or without really applying it when we should.

Then when big trouble comes along, we start scrambling around looking for worldly resources and human help.  It’s as if we look upon the supernatural powers of the Heavenly Father as something not really strong enough to cope with the physical issues of this important human life that we lead.

How wrong is that?

The problem is not that God’s arm isn’t long enough to reach into our lives – it is that we do not ask properly.  James knew the answer to this.  Speaking within the wider context of human desires he said:

You do not have because you do not ask.   When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  (James 4: 1-3)

We either fail to ask because we do not trust God, or we offer prayers that are in fact laundry lists of the things we want.  How rude!

If we genuinely submit our lives to Him, then He will ensure that our needs are met:

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”   (Proverbs 3:5-6)

In fact, He knows what we need before we ask Him – and it isn’t always what we think we need, either.  And therein lies the bind.

Are you really willing to hand your life and your needs over into His care?  If you are not, if you want to keep control, then He will simply take His hands off and let you carry on.   That is when people complain that their prayers are not being answered.

Remember that Jesus said, “ For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.(Luke 9:24)  

Jesus wasn’t saying He expects everyone to die physically for Him – he was saying we need to die to the things in our lives, to our selfish desires and self-important egos.  And THEN we will find the joy, peace and victory of a life in Him.

That   Takes   Faith   And   Self-Discipline.

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Artwork and Products available in my Damascus Road Gallery. Or click on the images.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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The Tempest

tempest-iiconThe September (spring) equinox is approaching.  Equinoxes for us are times of strong gales.  Well, it’s started already.  We have just had about 3 days of very strong winds and rain.  Never a good combination.

On Friday night things came to a head.  As I sat up in bed at about 9pm reading, I heard the unmistakable sound of a tree folding up – the crackling, the slow whoosh.    This was followed by several very loud thumps and bangs.

A tree had fallen, most probably on my roof.

It was very dark and to be quite honest, I was almost afraid to go look – afraid of what I might see.  I live alone, so no-one else to send, no ‘moral support’.  Except for the Lord.

I picked up courage and the small torch.  It felt a bit like ‘putting on the armor’ (Ephesians 6: 13 -17).  Venturing out through the carport, I could just make out a great deal of foliage piled up against the lower house wall about 10 feet from where I had been sitting.  Something above banged from time to time in the wind.  Obviously, the main damage would be up there, and I wasn’t going to investigate.  At least the rain had stopped for the meantime.  “Get back inside”, I thought, “there’s nothing you can do right now.”

A swallow from under the carport decided morning had come and fluttered about my head, drawn by the torchlight.   It flew with me into the entrance hall, so I shut off the house light and went outside again, hoping it would follow.  It did – whew!  Nice to have the company, though, in a time of stress – a message from the Holy Spirit, perhaps.  “Yea, the swallow has found her a nest and the sparrow a place where she may lay her young –  even at thine altars, O Lord.”  (Psalm 84:3)    I really shouldn’t let these birds nest in my carport, but I do.

Back into bed.  The only thing to do is wait on the dawn – and seek His face.  With all my heart I reminded The Father that He was still on the throne and very much in charge (He didn’t need that reminder, but I sure did).  I prayed that whatever had happened, I would thank Him for his mercy and see His hand in the event.  I prayed that the rain would hold off (more forecast for Saturday).   I carried on praying in this vein and finally fell asleep.

Morning came.  At least the wind had dropped.  I felt strangely calm – if a bit shattered.  Gathering up courage again I went outside, asking the Lord to be with me.

Oh yes – it wasn’t good:

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Photo taken 7.30am – I have outlined the upper foliage of the tree.

What next?  It’s Saturday morning.  I have no insurance, so can’t ring a company and hand the issue over to someone else to deal with.  Just hope I can afford this without totally running through my small reserve of funds!

Something had to be done right away.  It was still only about 7.30am and it sure didn’t feel good to ring people at that hour on a Saturday.  But I rang my neighbour over the road, who has agreed to do some paid chainsaw work for me.  No reply, so I left a message.  Then I rang an old friend down the road.  He was out but I got his partner.  She was brilliant – gave me the names of an arborist (new to the district) and a roofer.

I rang the arborist and he came right away.  A very nice guy called Brian Fletcher of A B Trees, with heaps of experience and an ethic of service to the customer.  What a nice change!  What a miracle – it can be very hard to pin down contractors up here, as my father found over 40 years ago and I have found many times since.  It’s something to do with fishing and boating, and trying to stack up as many jobs as possible :-).

Chopping branches as he went, Brian walked up the trunk onto the roof and started cutting back up there to get the weight off.  The root ball was then supposed to lift the tree slightly and make it easier to deal with.  That didn’t work and he found this very tall Banksia tree in fact had precious little root run.  Thank goodness I hadn’t known THAT over the years!

Brian mounted his next strategy from the veranda, cutting back stubs and branches further down.  One nasty moment came when the tree settled slightly, but in fact it couldn’t move very far.

Then back down to ground level where Brian said the only option now was to undercut the trunk, and let the top part fall. hoping it would not do damage on the way.

I told him I was going to pray, and shot into the house praying strongly, calling upon the Lord to have His hand on this last episode.  The chainsaw howled.  Then silence, followed by two loud bangs.

Back outside, I peeped round the corner.  Brian was smiling.  “You did well there,” he said, “It dropped just where it was supposed to and fell neatly parallel to the house.”  Glory Be!!

He took out a silver fir I had foolishly planted nearby, years ago, and ringed up the trunk of the Banksia.  Then we went to have a look at another problem tree that he’s going to deal with next week.   It was all over by 11am.

I can’t count the number of things I need to be grateful for.

Although there is damage to the roof, guttering and soffit, that is actually in quite a good place for repairs.  The concrete veranda and wooden railing are unharmed and not a single pane of glass was broken.  Truly amazing for a house that has 3 ranchsliders all along the front upstairs, and two large windows down below.

Praise You, Heavenly Father!  Not only for your hand on the accident and the clean up, but also for sending such a good contractor!  Please go with me now on the next stage…

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

“It was good for me to be afflicted
    so that I might learn your decrees.”   (Psalm 119:71)

And it still hasn’t rained.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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