Pentecost in the Garden

It has been a long time since I felt inspired to write.  But as I listened to the First Reading this morning while preparing to go to Mass, a couple of thoughts came to mind, that have compelled me to take to keyboard and blog once again.

“Acts 2:1-11”, they read.

“When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which there were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. …”

I had heard this passage before, and knew what happened next.  I had a vision in my mind of the Apostles, and experienced the feeling one does when one hears a strong wind blowing by… saw the tongues of fire… then my mind wandered straight to Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3:2.

“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning and yet it was not consumed.”

My mind switched once again to the Apostles… with tongues of fire resting on the head of each of them…. And yet they were not consumed.

I struggle to express my awe at the sudden understanding of what had happened with this event of Pentecost in relation to the burning bush in the wilderness at Horeb, the mountain of God.

Today, I struggle to express even my understanding, but I will do my best to share what I understood in that moment.

When Moses saw the burning bush in that wilderness, he turned to it… and God spoke to him.  God instructed Moses to put off the shoes from his feet, to not go near, for the place on which he was standing was holy ground.  God had made His presence known through something… a bush … and made the bush and the gound around it holy.

But here we are on Pentecost day, and God no longer made His presence known through a thing, but through the Apostles themselves.  The Holy Spirit had not descended upon a thing, separate from the people in the room, but upon the people themselves.

This was a seismic shift!

A shift which Jesus himself had predicted, ever so gently when he also confirmed to the woman at the well in Samaria that he was the Messiah.

My thoughts raced as I recalled the woman at that well.  Yes, when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, in the middle of the day, and asked her to give him some water… you know the story don’t you?

Just in case you do not recall, here is an extract from John 4:19-24:

The woman said  to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the father seeks to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

From the burning bush in the wilderness at Horeb, to Jacob’s well in that Samaritan City of Sychar, to that house in Jerusalem where the apostles were sitting, God had taken us through a change in His interaction with us.  It was no longer the burning bush or the temple that He made Holy and filled with His Holy Spirit, but the Apostles themselves … the tongues of fire rested upon their heads, not upon something else in the house in which they were sitting… and in so doing, opened the door for all mankind to receive the Holy Spirit so that we worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Yet, even in the midst of that incredible change… that incredible shift, there is something I recognised we should not lose sight of: that from the burning bush to pentecost, something remained the same… when God made his presence felt, he was always speaking to men and drawing us to Him, like a mother hen does her chicks, to keep them safe. 

In the event of the burning bush, God was giving Moses an instruction to save His people, Israel, from physical slavery.  Then at Pentecost, God was communicating through the apostles to the people in Jerusalem (and to all of us), instructing them (and us) to turn to Him, believe in Jesus Christ, and whorship the Father in spirit and in truth, so that we may be freed from the slavery of sin.

God spoke at the event of the burning bush after he made the bush and the ground around it Holy, then God spoke through the apostles whom He had made holy at the event of Pentecost… and when God speaks, He makes sure we all understand Him.

To me, the miracle that we often talk about in relation to pentecost is not so much about the apostles speaking in different tongues… after all Acts 2:7-8 says:

‘And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?…” ‘  

To me it is more a miracle of the people hearing God’s word clearly in their own language, irrespective of what language was being spoken by the Apostles.  To me, this is the power of one of God’s miracles that we celebrate today… that when God speaks, we understand Him clearly, in the language that we know today.

So today has been quite an incredible Pentecost Sunday for me – a day when I have gained profound clarity about Pentecost, understanding 3 powerful lessons:

  1. How God shifted His temple from Jerusalem built by man, to us, whom He Himself created. 
  2. That God speaks to us in a language we can understand… the communication of God to us is key in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
  3. That God’s message is for all people. Yes, in the miracle of Pentecost, God made it clear that He wants us all to understand His message clearly, irrespective of what our own native language is.

I pray that in this I have understood correctly. I pray that in explaining my understanding I have expressed it correctly, and that as I continue to walk in this beautiful Garden, God’s grace and truth continue to draw me ever closer to Him.

I am continuing my walk in the Garden, worshiping God to the best of my ability in spirit and truth… will you join me?

Come… walk with me in the Garden.

Sunset … in the Garden

Copyright © 2021, Ophelia Swai.  All Rights Reserved

Walking through the Garden

It is cold and dreary as I walk through the garden.  It has been this way for a while.  The fog is thick and I can hardly see a foot in front of me.  As I walk I seek a light to show me the way to a place that is warm and kind…. a place where I can find rest…. a place where I do not have to worry about what will happen next… a place where I can be taken care of and know that everything will be okay.

The trees are thick around me and I often find myself face to face with a tree trunk.  Then I have to back up and find a way around it.  The going is slow and laborious.  Not just because of the thickness of the forest and the heavy fog, but also because of the muddy, slippery and rough ground below.  When I am not facing up to a tree trunk, I am clambering over the root of a large tree, gingerly walking over overgrown bushes and creepers or pushing my way through some thorny bushes.

As if all this is not enough, sometimes, the bushes rustle… the tree leaves shake… the tall grass whispers… and I can sense another living being around me.  I fear because I cannot see what it is and cannot tell how benign or dangerous it is.  Is it an animal? … a snake? … a person? If it is a person, is it a friend? … a foe?  I know there are others in this garden too, but I cannot see them.  They could be close, or far away, but the fog is too thick right now for me to see them.

When will this journey end?  When will I get home?  How will I get there when I do not even know the way?

My only saving grace is the light……. yes…. the light.

You see, what I have discovered is that there is a light that shines in the garden.  It is bright when you turn towards it.  But when you turn away from it, you can hardly see, and it becomes easy to get lost or go round and round in circles… struggling and cutting through the brush in never ending circles until you despair… I know… I have been there.

Yes, in my time in this garden I have come to understand that if I do not follow the light, I end up in a place of the garden which is so much more difficult to navigate that I might as well give up getting anywhere near home. If I turn away from the light and not follow the light, I might as well give up ever getting rest.

So I follow the light as well as I can.  Sometimes I still stumble into bushes, and trees… sometimes I fall…but I know that this is way better than the other ways through the garden.  I know because I can feel how different this journey has been since I began following the light more closely.

As I walk, I notice that the trees are clearing away, and the fog is lifting.  Am I about to get home?  It is getting warmer and the ground below a little firmer.  The light is getting brighter too… and the air… just a little warmer with each step.

Finally, I get to a clearing… the light is bright and warm… the garden here seems manicured.  There are flowers everywhere, and …. there is a bench!

Walking through the Garden OS 2018

I breathe in deeply, taking in the warm air and enjoying the gentle breeze.  A few more people get into the clearing and we breathe a sigh of relief together.  We have found a place of rest.  They too had followed the light. Some even tell me that they had started off just following me, hoping that I would lead them to the right place.  It was not long before they recognized that I was following the light, and they too began following the light.

Was that what I heard moving close by some way back?

Anyway, this is a good place.  We sit and have fun together, play a good game, find time to share our experiences and learn from each other how to navigate the  safe way through the garden.  We are grateful for the light.  We spend the night and the next day at this beautiful place, but soon realize that this is not home.  We are not there yet.

Now that we have been in this warm place, we can see that we will only experience the full strength of the light when we cross past all the next stages of our journey through the garden.  We can now see that even though the light is strong and warm here, its brightness comes from further on through the garden.  The source of light is where our true home is.

So, one by one, we get up and start again, going forward, moving through another foggy part of the garden, towards the light.

Jesus Christ is my light. He shines His light for me to see my way in this journey of life.  He does this through His Holy word, the sacraments He has instituted through His holy church, the traditions of the church, the experiences and teachings of the saints who have gone before me, and the people He has brought into my life who guide and help and protect me.

I am grateful to God for showing me the light so that I may stumble less and reach safely home to him.  Yes… I may stumble, I may fall, but I know I can get up again with His help, and find the right way through the garden.

I am following the light in the garden to the best of my ability.  What about you?

Come… walk with me in the Garden.


Copyright © 2018, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Bring back Peace… in the Garden

It has been a long time since I wrote about the Garden.  Finally my heart has been touched enough to say something.  I pray that this writing blesses you, gives you hope, and brings you to thinking about a way through the darkness that I have seen in the Garden today.

I recently visited Europe.  After a long year of planning and saving, I took a short break, looking to experience something totally different from my everyday… maybe come back with some new ideas… and friends.

It has been a long time since I was last there… nearly 30 years.  But then I am not talking about the United Kingdom where I studied and subsequently visited more recently. I am talking about Europe.

What I saw and experienced shocked me. The Europe of yesterday, where the people were happy, confidently going about their business, confident in the fact that if they follow the rules and regulations, and do their best at their jobs and studies, they will be ok… the Europe of my childhood… that Europe is no more.

It happened only once, but when a lady who was at least 2 or 2 and 1/2 times my body size edged closer to the gentleman whom I assume was her husband, and then clutched his arm as we passed each other, it drove the point home. There was fear in her eyes, and I understood.

Europe … is afraid… and it made me afraid… for my own safety.

You see,  I am black… or chocolate as my father prefers.

I am lucky to have had open minded parents and open minded employers.  In fact, one of my former Caucasian employers once said to me… no one is actually white… we are all some range of cream or brown.

True… if I saw a truly white entity in the form of a human, I would immediately assume in fear that it is an apparition of some kind… in the same way, if I saw a truly black entity with only the whites of their eyes, and their nails and clothes showing, I would probably faint from fear.

Yet the world prefers to call me black, and others white.  So I will use the term that the world understands, for what it is worth… I am black. I only ‘discovered’ I was black during my first trip to the UK at the age of 24.   I had studied about colonialism, and had heard about racial discrimination, but … that is a story for another day.  So before that fateful day, the term meant completely nothing untoward to me. It was a term used to describe people of my descent… so what?

I am also a woman.  I was brought up to see myself first as a person, and only after that, recognize that ‘I am a woman’. That meant 1 thing to me: apart from matters of procreation, there was no difference between me and other members of the human species. I could do anything positive, go anywhere, and make a positive contribution to conversations, communities, humanity, my family and myself.. full stop… nothing more, nothing less.

Yet those 2 descriptions already highlight my ‘difference’ in the world I live in, and no matter what efforts my parents and caregivers put in to make me free, the world has made sure I understand that ‘I am different’.

To add to that, I have been brought up in a rather western way in a land not my own… it was not far from home, but the culture and lifestyle is different enough. So, as I was growing up, I was foreign…’I was different’… and when I come home, once again… ‘I am different’.  I do not speak the way they do, I do not think the way they do, I do not perceive life the way they do. ‘I am different’… somewhere in between…neither here, nor there… just ‘different’.

So, I know very well what it means to be a fish out of water… what it means to be set apart, or falsely accused for ‘being different’.  Yet, I am the person that I am, and my so called differences do not make me a danger to anybody.

Still, I know from my experience, that the rejections, false accusations and all manner of defensive actions are a sign that those around me fear my presence among them.  They have some fear even if only because my presence may somehow cause change in their lives. They are not ready for the change that I ‘represent’.. even if it may be a positive change. They are not ready for it because they do not perceive it that way yet.

Thankfully, I have been blessed by God to also experience and therefore know what it means to be accepted even though, or because ‘I am different’.  I chose by the grace of God to focus on the positive experiences, learn more about the people around me, take in what they do best, explain my point of view on what I know better.  I have been thus blessed with the greatest relationships with people of different walks of life. I have read somewhere that God can create good out of evil events/experiences, and I have experienced this many times.

Nonetheless, it is a painful experience to be rejected, ostracized, falsely accused or held separate just because of who you are…especially that part of your being which you cannot change… because you are ‘different’.

Yet, even those who have been rejected, also reject others… including those who have rejected them… and it might just get worse when they get ‘back home’. My point is that we are all ‘guilty’ of some prejudice at one point or another in our lives… so who is to point fingers?

Many of us separate ourselves because we do not understand, and so fear of the other builds. Thus when some rogue elements in one community cause pain to the other community, the lack of knowledge and understanding creates fear of the entire community with rogue elements. And the people of goodwill in the ‘guilty’ community end up also living in fear of reprisals and false accusations because they belong to the community with ‘rogue elements’.

The fear builds on itself and brings with it distrust, and other ills that can only escalate if something is not done to stop the evil it in its tracks.

Somewhere in the media, social or otherwise, I have seen it said that poverty and lack of education are the cause of the problems in Europe, West Africa, East Africa… Someone I know asked in consternation how a foreign person whom their country has hosted and brought up in peace and safety all their lives can turn on them and kill them so unfeelingly.

Somewhere else in the media I have seen it said that the problem is not poverty or lack of education, but rather, disillusionment of the middle class youth. Yes, the middle class youth who are well educated and really not lacking anything are apparently the ones going into war with the rest of the world… hmm….

No matter what the visible cause, I have learned something in my short life that I feel is at the core of all the perceived causes of the problems we are experiencing:  Where there is fear, evil prevails… because fear is not from God.

The fear is within our hearts and our minds, and it is palpable.

Something has to change.  Our first step towards a better life and future has to be to eliminate fear… in our hearts, our minds and our communities. The politicians cannot do this for us. They cannot eliminate fear no matter how many more security forces they put on the ground around our homes and schools and places of work and places of worship.

I have also learned that, where knowledge and understanding are lacking, fear prevails.

This is simple and basic and touches every element of life. If you do not know how to ride a bicycle, you will fear the bicycle. If you do not know who that other person is, you will have some element of fear regarding them and their intentions towards you and yours. If you do not know how to perform a task, you will fear doing it. The degree of fear changes from person to person based on life experience, but it is there all the same.

In my humble opinion therefore, while the politicians continue to do what they do best, our first step towards eliminating fear, and pulling the rug out from under the feet of evil, is knowledge and understanding of one another.  Not some superfluous knowledge scraped from some media report, but rather true knowledge of  the person next to you at work, and in your neighborhoods and communities who is considered to be ‘different’.

I am not just talking about race, or faith or gender… I am talking any kind of difference that has nothing to do with the heart’s intent of that other person. That difference which is part of who they were created to be or look like. That difference which is part of their culture or lifestyle.

I say this from my little experience in a world of being ‘different’.  When the other person understands my true intentions; when the other person understands my way of thinking; when the other person understands my misconceptions about their society or way of doing things, or culture; when the other person gets a chance to explain to me their way of doing things or their culture; when the other person gets a chance to explain to me their own fears about me and my ‘difference’; when we do this each with an open heart and mind, ready to take criticisms and explain ourselves without anger, seeking only love for one another, we powerfully weaken evil, and create peace.

So long as we are cognizant of what makes the  other hurt, and are willing to make the slight adjustments needed – even if it is only by being more understanding of their reactions – we open the door to peace.  When the other party does the same, we live in harmony.

Change will not happen in a day, a month and maybe not even in a year.  But when people begin to openly dialogue man to man, woman to woman, colleague to colleague, neighbor to neighbor, community to community, the false understandings and gaps that create so much fear begin to fade.  While politicians continue to work at the national and international level, we will have played our part in considerably weakening the chances of evil taking root or strengthening within our neighborhoods, workplaces, communities and cities.

We do not have to all become the same person… we just are better off understanding each other and our ‘differences’.

Yes, we will not suddenly all become members of one faith, or have the same perspectives or understanding or culture or lifestyle.. that is not the intention.  But we will greatly reduce the unwarranted sources of fear.  The peace that comes with this will shed light into the community bit by bit… and you know that light will always pierce through and overcome darkness. Someone just has to put on the light.

Many will not want to have anything to do with this suggestion.  Many will dismiss it out of hand as impossible. Others still will see its value and misuse it, causing pain to many.  But you who have goodwill in your heart, please do not give up hope for peace. Even if there are just 2 of you who are ‘different from each other’ and are both of goodwill, the feedback you take to your families will bring peace to them.  Through you and your families the spread of understanding that humanity needs will begin.  It will help to counter the false teachings that you or your children may be taught by some stranger of ill intent on the internet, or the street corner or the supermarket, or…

You and your family will know from a member of goodwill within the other community, the difference between truth and lies in their culture, faith, lifestyle, perceptions; and can reject the lies when you encounter them elsewhere. You can play a big part in protecting yourself or your children from being inculcated into a world of hate, and death… and you will have helped that person who is ‘different’ do the same for themselves and their families.

Am I being naive? Maybe… but something good starts with a single word or action, and the right intention in our hearts.

It may be tough to find members of the other community of goodwill. How will you know them? But I pray that all communities read this, pass on the idea, and the people of goodwill think and find a way to link with members  of goodwill within the other community … and begin the dialogue that is much needed.  So long as there is one person of good intent willing to start within a community, change will come… good and positive change.

The next step is forgiveness… but that is a story for another day.

For now, it is time to light a candle of peace in the Garden… heart to heart, mind to mind. I have lit mine… will you join me?

Come… walk with me in the Garden.


Copyright (c) 2015, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.



Kipoo… in the Garden

Kipoo was dosing off to sleep.  He felt he deserves the rest. It had been a long and tiring season last year with all the visitors trudging all over him to take one last look at his receding hairline.  Yes, his receding hairline.  He never thought it would ever come to this. He was always so proud of his wonderful snow white crown.  But now it was slowly fading away… along with all the glory of his yesterdays.  No more would he be able to stand proudly among the rest of his peers as the tallest, most handsome one, with that awe inspiring crown of white on his head.

He has been privy to conversations about his receding hairline.  Apparently the only solution is some growth activator called tree.  It is said that this growth activator was what had kept that crown on his head for so long.  Kipoo just could not understand it all.  How come that growth activator was not there anymore? He is sure he did nothing to remove it.  What had his people been doing with it?

Then he thought…. it must be Mawenzi’s fault.  Mawenzi must have become jealous of him after that incident so many years ago.  Yes, maybe Mawenzi was at fault.  After all, that incident was related to fire, and fire requires wood, … and does wood not come from tree?

As Kipoo lay on his bed, he began to recall the events that culminated in that incident, way back when… he was not so young, but certainly younger than he is now… and boy was he handsome then.

It was a time when the people in his territory were so much fewer.  As the chief, he knew his people, and he had been able ensure they took care of their environment.  Things have changed a lot since then.

Anyway, at that time he had a friend called Mawenzi.  Mawenzi was just as handsome, and just as tall.  Mawenzi was the chief of the territory next to Kipoo’s.  They were good friends, but Mawenzi had a little problem.  Kipoo could never understand why Mawenzi was always coming to him for embers of coal from his fire.  He thought it was strange, but then, this was his friend, so he let it be for some time.

Now, Kipoo has always been a patient one,  known for calmly and silently watching his surroundings and letting things be.  But after many years of this behavior, Kipoo just had to ask Mawenzi: “My friend, why is it that you always come to get embers from my fire to start your own fire?  Why is it that you cannot start your fire from your own embers?”

Mawenzi was startled, and looked down with embarrassment. He never thought Kipoo would ever ask him this question.  As Mawenzi looked down, Kipoo looked at him with concern.  “Mawenzi,”, he said, “what is it that you cannot tell me?  You make me worried when you look down like that.  What is the matter?”

Mawenzi sighed.  He took a deep breath, and sighed again.  He stood up and said, “My friend Kipoo, if you do not want to give me any more embers from your fire, just tell me.  All I want is just a little coal to take with me to my home so that I can cook for myself. Why is that becoming a problem for you today?”

Kipoo did not like this response.  He felt that Mawenzi was not being honest with him, and Kipoo was beginning to get angry.  A simple explanation would do, but instead Mawenzi was trying to make him feel guilty about not giving him something that did not belong to him.  He pushed Mawenzi harder for an answer but Mawenzi would not tell him.

Kipoo sat still and thought, “If I do not give in to him, we will lose our friendship.”  So, he decided to give Mawenzi the embers of coal, and then find out the truth another way.

When Mawenzi had gone, Kipoo followed him quietly to see what he would do with the embers and what it was that Mawenzi was hiding from him.  When Mawenzi got home, Kipoo hid, and watched Mawenzi start his fire and cook his meal. As Mawenzi cooked, Kipo became hungry.  He should also have been cooking his own meal, but was now here watching Mawenzi cook.  The food Mawenzi was cooking was smelling really good, and Kipo almost came out of his hiding place to invite himself to Mawenzi’s meal. Surely Mawenzi would be happy to see him?

But he stopped himself. He still had not accomplished his mission, and today he had decided he was going to get to the bottom of the embers story. As Mawenzi ate his food, Kipoo licked his lips… hungry.  Boy was Mawenzi enjoying that meal!

When Mawenzi finished his meal, Kipoo got up to return home.  Kipo felt that this mission had proved to be a waste of time. But… suddenly, Mawenzi stood up and facing the fire, urinated all over it! He was putting out the fire completely!

Kipoo was livid!  “What?!”, he thought, “Is this what Mawenzi has been doing all these years?! Putting out his fire and then coming to beg me for embers from my fire?! Surely Mawenzi knew better than that!”

This upset Kipoo too much. A hungry man is an angry man they say, and without thinking, Kipoo got out of his hiding place and confronted Mawenzi.  Kipoo was angry, and Mawenzi was angrier still.  Mawenzi could not imagine that his long time friend had the audacity to sneak up on him and peep into his home like a thief.  There was an altercation, and then a fight.

Kipoo was too angry to remember that this was his friend, and eventually he picked up a big stick and smashed Mawenzi’s head with it.  Mawenzi’s head was shattered.  Gone was that wonderful crown of white on Mawenzi’s head.  Kipoo stepped back, waiting for Mawenzi to come back at him, but, wounded, Mawenzi could not fight any more.

Kipoo left Mawenzi’s home triumphant, he had won the fight, but he had also lost a friend.


Now, many years later, Kipoo’s hairline was receding, and soon he would end up almost as short and ragged as Mawenzi.  How would he, proud Kipoo, stand up among his peers again?

He turned on his side and thought: “If only, if only someone would bring back enough of that growth activator called tree… if only…”

As Kipoo fell asleep, he prayed that God would bring more growth activators so that the crown on his head would grow back again.  He would be ever so thankful. “Maybe God will guide those people who are visiting me to see my receding hairline to do something… “, he thought, “maybe they will bring more growth activators to him… maybe… just maybe…”

Come… Walk with me in the Garden.


Copyright © 2014, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.


Kipoo is the local pronunciation for Kibo Peak of Mt Kilimanjaro.  Mawenzi is the second tallest peak on Mt Kilimanjaro.  The incident between Kipoo and Mawenzi is an adaptation of a folk tale of the Chagga people who traditionally live on and around Mt Kilimanjaro.

Growing for Life … in the Garden

Sunrise and a new Life ... In the Garden

Sunrise and a new Life … In the Garden

There are no elephants around me these days….nor are there any giraffe. The closest I can get to any wildlife are birds, squirrels and bats. Of course the domestic animals are always there… to remind me of the fact that I am in human territory now… the goats, sheep, cows, pigs and … yes… those pesky little geckos. The bats squeak so loud I have learned the sound they make, and I can now differentiate between the geckos and the squirrels. I never thought I would ever come to know the sound of a gecko… or a bat … but there you go.

This brings me to the various perspectives we have in life. So much of our life perspective depends on the environment around us, that we become part of the surroundings without ever knowing. When the environment teaches us that something is good, we accept it… because it is the norm… or perhaps because it is more the norm (or safe?) to do what the society does in order to be accepted by it.

Yet, often, that very environment, that very society that we use as our sounding board for what is right and what is wrong, can be the source of our failure, the reason why our lives are more difficult than they need or ought to be, the reason for us to end up losing our souls.

When I was living in that little corner of the Garden with all the larger wild animals, I only saw the big ones… yes, I noticed the smaller ones and tried to learn something from them as well, but they just could not match the larger ones in stature and obviousness of their presence. I could see them clearly… they stood out in front of me large and clear, and so I took my lessons and joy of the beauty of God’s creation from them. Thankfully they had positive lessons to share.

Yet, little though they may be, the little ones have lessons to share too. I still struggle to see those lessons since they spend so much of their time running away from me or being in my way at the most inopportune moment, that I find I do not learn from them… like we often find the lessons from God to be perhaps?

As I watch the squirrels run and chase each other from tree to tree and along the fence, I realize that even though they are wont to digging up my yet-to-germinate seed from the ground in this little corner of the Garden (much to my frustration), they are still God’s beautiful creation …much loved by Him… and they know how to play.

But what does this teach us about our environment, our perspectives and the ruination of our souls? Much too often the loudest noise in our community or in society takes up our greatest attention. Much too often the loudest sound comes from that which is not rooted in the truth of God. Much too often, because the noise founded on falsehood is so loud, we think that the majority are in agreement with it, and that in order to survive, we have to conform to it. … and so begins our journey into darkness in spirit.

Yet, if we stood still for a moment to truly understand what the noise means, its implications for us, our society and our relationship with God, and whether it is teaching us a good or bad lesson. If we stood still and took the time to find out whether those closest to us really agree with the loud noise or are also silent victims of the noise … silently shaking inside and wondering when, if ever, someone will come to rescue them from this falsehood.

All I know is, that God sees, God hears, and God rescues those who turn to Him, whether in this life or in the next. And so my friends… a loud noise is sweeping the Garden today. It is loud and abrasive, and brings with it the end of life, in faith, in wisdom, in health and in the very essence of creation. I urge you to join me… choose life today…. chose life in marriage… and in the womb … as God created us and commanded us to live.

A sign of Life ... in the Garden

A sign of Life … in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2013, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Spot them … in the garden

From spot the elephant to spot the cop! Oh dear Africa… Both can be quite nice and friendly or quite dangerous to your physical life or your spiritual life, as they threaten you over a threat you never posed to them or to their/the community laws.

Yet still, they are the creation of God. We pray that we may learn to live in harmony with one another… in the Garden.

Come … Walk with me in the Garden.

Speaking in tongues … in the Garden

For a long time now I have been rather quiet… I have been on a journey. Growing in business and growing spiritually.

I have a special message for you my friends, for it is not right to be given a candle that is shining brightly and then hide it under the table.  It is a big one … perhaps to make up for lost time 🙂  For some of you it will be hard to take, but I pray that you  at least read it and pray about it so that God can show you the way.  Do not hate me for my understanding, but rather use it to grow yourselves in your relationship with God … in your relationship with the Holy Trinity, One God.  Our walk in the Garden is after all a journey, yes?

To begin with, let me tell you my story… maybe this will give some the excuse they need to dismiss this message, but it is good to let you know how I came to this message… at least the parts that make sense.

For a long time I have been in consternation and even afraid of the phenomenon of ‘speaking in tongues’.  My greatest anxiety has always been: ‘how does one know that they are speaking a tongue guided by the Spirit of God and not any other Spirit?  How does one know that they are speaking through the Holy Spirit of God and are praying to God rather than abusing and blaspheming, particularly when they have not idea whatsoever what they are saying?

When I speak of ‘the phenomenon’ I am talking of a group of people praying together and then going into a spiritual state  almost in unison, but some a little later than others and all uttering sounds that neither I, nor they understand…. sometimes standing or sitting still, sometimes trembling, sometimes waving hands, sometimes moving around in an uncoordinated fashion…

Many stories abound of foreigners from a distant land walking into a church where the people are praying and speaking in tongues, only to come out looking startled and asking why there are people in the group who are speaking out against Jesus in their (foreigners’) language.

As I sat down one day to begin my Saturday afternoon activities, in the hope of getting a lot of work done before the end of the day, this phenomenon came to mind again. I remembered once again the lesson I had learned about how the apostles spoke in tongues (Acts 2).  At that time, there were many visitors in Jerusalem from many countries who spoke many different languages.

After the Holy Spirit of God has descended on the Apostles in what looked like tongues of fire, the Apostles began to speak about Jesus, and each foreigner heard their own language being spoken.  The consternation among the foreigners was in the ability of the apostles, to know and speak these other languages.  The miracle of the Holy Spirit was in giving the apostles the skills to speak other languages instantly, and the courage to speak about Jesus openly even in the face of persecution.

Key points to note in this event:

  1. The apostles spoke languages that were understood by other people who were in the crowd they were talking to.
  1. There were other people in the crowds that were meant to receive the message who understood the languages spoken.
  2. There was a giver of a message in a language previously unknown to them, and there was a receiver of the message in the same language whom God wanted to receive the message, and who previously understood that language i.e. the language existed among men of flesh and blood already.

That is the central message that I get in the miracle of the apostles speaking ‘in tongues’… that all mankind will be able to hear God’s word in their own ‘tongue’.

Later on (1 Corinthians 12, 14), we see that St Paul writes of speaking in tongues and how there must be an interpreter in their midst to convey the message being sent.  The understanding of that message from St Paul needs clarification.  St Paul clearly meant for people to make sure that there was clarity in the message for all members of a community when any one of them was speaking in tongues.  He was enforcing the key elements of the miracle of the apostles speaking in tongues, which was that there had to be a recipient of the message from the Holy Spirit of God, whether the person speaking understood the ‘tongue’ they were speaking or not.

It was because he understood this key element of the miracle of the gift of speaking in tongues that he insisted upon an interpreter being present to interpret the words spoken by the person with the gift of speaking in tongues.  It was because he understood the essence of the gift of speaking in tongues that he taught that it is essentially for the benefit of the ‘unbeliever’ in the community who did not yet know about God and who would realize the power of God in this gift – the person who did not yet know about Jesus Christ and therefore whom God wanted to reveal Himself to.

In my understanding the ‘unbeliever’ at the time was often not from the community of those who already believed, therefore was likely to speak in a different language, hence the power in being able to speak in their language instantly through the gift of speaking in tongues.

He also understood that it was imperative that the words spoken by the person speaking in tongues be found to be words that are understood by mortal men in languages previously understood by mortal men.  This was so that when the words were interpreted, the foreigners understand the message and acknowledge the power of God… those whom God wanted to reveal Himself to.

But he took it a step further by insisting that there be interpretation to the language of the community so that the ones who knew about God would also be in a position to acknowledge the message as having been their own experience of God as well, or learn more about God from the message.

Thus the message would be useful to the foreigners, but also to the community even as the leaders and perhaps the community itself confirms and verifies that the message was a true one.

The message had to be useful to someone within the community.

The message had to have a recipient who is made of flesh and blood – mortal man – who is not the same one speaking in tongues.

The message had to be interpreted and understood at the same time it was conveyed.

The message had to be spoken in a language previously known to mortal men.

Yet, St Paul in the same chapter 14:21 says: ‘It says in the written Law: in strange tongues and in a foreign language I will talk to this nation, and even so they will refuse to listen, says the Lord.’

The use of tongues and language in the same statement is certainly confusing.  So I looked up the reference St Paul was making.

Yes, it is mentioned in the written Law which we now call the Old Testament in Isaiah 28:11-12.  When we look at this Word we find a different translation for the phrase ‘strange tongues’:

Isaiah 28:11 ‘Now, with stammering lips and in a foreign language, he will talk with this nation.’

Isaiah 28:12 ‘He used to say to them, “Here you can rest! Here you can let the weary rest! Here all is quiet.” But they refused to listen.’

It seems that the word ‘tongue’ and the word ‘language’ are perhaps used interchangeably.

However, there is a key element in the message of the two writings: The one who speaks in a strange tongue and the one who speaks with stammering lips are both speaking with some kind of difficulty. The one who stammers has a difficulty with their speech process, but when you listen carefully you will hear what they have to say.  The one who speaks in a strange tongue speaks words that they are not familiar with, but if the recipient of the message understands the words they will understand what the speaker is saying.

The bottom line is that at the end of the day, there is a human being who receives the message and understands it, no matter how it was conveyed or what physical or spiritual state the conveyor of the message was in.  The words are not spoken for nothing.  They are spoken for a human being to understand.

Another key element is that the person who is speaking may have some mental impediment with the speech, either has some difficulty with what they are speaking because they do not understand it with their minds, or with being able to speak it, but there is always a recipient who is expected to understand what is being said … with their minds.  The key here is to the one who is speaking, what they are speaking is strange. They can hear it, but may be unable to pronounce it well or understand themselves with their minds.  They can however understand in spirit what they are saying.

On the other hand, the recipient of the message is a person, to whom what is being spoken is not strange. The words spoken are familiar and so to them the message is clear. The words spoken are a tongue only to the person speaking and through whom the Holy Spirit is speaking, not to the person to whom the Holy Spirit is conveying a message.  The same sounds are a language to those who are supposed to receive the message because the sounds are familiar to them.

In my understanding therefore, when St Paul spoke to the Corinthians, he was pointing out that there must be a giver of a message and there must be a receiver of the same message and both are here on earth.  And whoever speaks in the name of God must speak in a language that others around them must understand.

The gift of tongues that the Apostles received was not a gift to allow them to have a special connection with God, but rather for them to send a message from God to the unbelievers, the foreigners who had not yet heard the good news.

And Isaiah 28:12 is telling us that through the message that God conveys, we are taught where we can find rest, where we can bring others to find rest, the peace that only God can give.  Through the message conveyed through the Holy Spirit, we are shown where and how we can receive the peace of God. Peace … quiet … not shouting, disquiet, confusion or anxiety, but the peace of God.

So then, why is it that the speaking in tongues phenomenon as we know it today is so enticing and has captured so many?  Why is the ability to speak in a language that is unintelligible to oneself and to others, has no hope of interpretation because the speaker has no intention to try and interpret, so widespread among the Christian community and churches? I mention the churches not because I have anything against them, but rather because this is where I have seen and heard of the practice.

And as the birds sing while they fly in the air, and chirp as they sit on the branches of the trees outside, this is the understanding I have received, the candle that I have been given, that is lit and shining brightly.

We all yearn to be special to the ones we love, and more importantly, the ones we look up to.  We want to be special to our parents…we want to be special to our older siblings… we want to be special to our grandparents … our spouses.  And so we do what we can to make sure we are noticed by them.  We do what they want, we obey them, we do special things for them, we try our best to attain and keep a special connection to them that says to us that we are special to them.  In fact, if we do not receive this reassurance we stop giving, become angry … make mistakes … go to extremes … make decisions we eventually regret. This is a fundamental element of life, and growing up.

So when we discover God, or are taught about God… when we finally understand that God is a loving and forgiving God, whether it is because of a negative event that God has healed, or because of some other way that we come to know God, we immediately begin to yearn for God to show us how special we are to him.  Does He answer our prayers?  Are we sinning too much for God to forgive?  Did we obey what God has taught us? Do we have a special connection with God?

Yes, a special connection with God. When we reach the point of seeking a special connection with God, yes, we pray, but also we seek other ways in which we can be specially connected to Him… and it is at this point that confusion sets in and we are taught how to do this… by speaking in a language that only God can understand, for this is the way that makes us special, to God, before God, and before man.  It makes us special like the Apostles…. hmmm… confusion does not come from God, does it? Or is this not confusion?

No more is it about the community we are in and how we can share God’s message with one another.  No more is it about a message that God is conveying to His children… it is now all about ‘me’ and ‘my relationship with God that is unique … special’.

No big problem with a unique relationship with God, so long as we are also cognizant of our greater community.  No problem … until it is so unique that ‘only He and I know what we are communicating’, and yet ‘I myself do not know what I am communicating to God, but the ‘Holy Spirit’ knows what it is I need that I cannot express in human words’. Hmmmm….

When God speaks to us, He speaks in a language that is clearly understood either by us, or by the person to whom God is sending the message through us.  Why then would God need or want us to speak to Him in a language that is not clear to anyone within our reach?  It is the search for individual gain to the exclusion of all else and all others that leads to this… a path of selfishness in the spirit.

… and because we are now so special to God and have a special connection with God, we can do just about anything… including making others do what they did not plan to do themselves… because our special connection to God makes us powerful. Yes, power, the second trap in the gift of tongues phenomenon as it is practiced in many Christian communities.  No, this did not start today.. it started with the Corinthians… and St Paul’s writing is a lesson to us to learn from their mistakes and use God’s gift correctly.

You see, by being special to Dad or mum or brother or sister or husband or wife or son or daughter or grandparent or our boss, we know we become powerful… we can do almost anything and get away with it… we can ask for almost anything and we will receive it.  The power of a special connection to God is almost edifying.  How powerful can that be?  Look at what the apostles and prophets were able to do…was that not because of ‘a special connection with God’?

Yet God tells us continuously and repeatedly… He loves everybody, yes, even those that have sinned and continue to sin.  He loves everybody equally because we are all His creation.  This does not mean that He does not abhor sin, but means that He knows that with every opportunity to sin, each and every one of us has the opportunity to overcome sin and return to Him.

Yes, God knows that with each step we make and each decision we have to make, we have the opportunity to turn back to Him even when we sin and so He loves us and is guiding us continuously.  Oh how wonderful life would be if we would just listen to Him.. in His Holy Word.  Because when we obey God, just obey Him, He has made special promises to us that He will fulfill.  That is the true and correct ‘special connection with God’ – loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength; and loving our neighbors as ourselves, and as Jesus loved us.

In the end there is no need for a special connection with God that gives us power beyond other human beings… only a love for God that is beyond human understanding, that brings you closer to Him in faith, in obedience to God in our daily lives, and in prayer.  Love for God and love for our neighbor…  that is the best connection to God that we can live. After all, does God not know what we need?  Does the Holy Spirit of God need to speak to God through our mouths for God to understand that He speaks on our behalf?  Is the Holy Spirit of God, not God that He has to go through us to reach God our Father in heaven?

Let the Holy Spirit of God speak for us with a sigh too deep for words. It is enough … so long as we live our lives as God wills, in faith, obedience, love and honesty.

But when God deems it fit, and has a message for us to give to those within our reach, and uses the Holy Spirit to speak through us to them, let us pass on the message correctly, seeking guidance from God and the leaders He has granted us, and trusting that with the right intention, and with the grace of God we shall indeed make God’s Holy word known and understood by others. When God gives us the words to speak through His Holy Spirit, those words we speak will be understood by someone and so be interpreted correctly.  For those of us who obey and pass on the message? Through this gift, the blessing and joy of being a conveyor of God’s message for a moment is ours to receive… for a moment.

Fortunately for us, in today’s world, those within our reach are global, our community is now global. We also have the ability to record our words and find out their meaning from translators all over the world, before we pass on the message to the rest of our communities – to those within our reach that God has granted to hear His message.

St Paul’s message was clear – when the Holy Spirit of God grants a person the gift of speaking in a tongue they do not understand, they should make sure they have someone to interpret the words for them, for the message is not from them to God, it is always a message from God, to man.

… and when we get the interpreters we will know whether we spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit of God or not. If those words cannot be interpreted in a language known to a ‘foreigner’ on this earth, or if the message is in conflict with God’s love and Holy word, then we should know we need spiritual help, guidance, prayer and healing.

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

The Sun is still beautiful in the Garden

The Sun is still beautiful in the Garden

Copyright © 2013, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Bible passages taken from ‘The New Jerusalem Bible – Pocket Edition’.  Published 1990

Enough … in the Garden

Ophelia Swai's Blog

So, how many times have you ever stopped and said:  “Enough… this is just enough for me.  I do not need or want any more than this.  My heart is satisfied with what I have and have enjoyed today… it is enough.”

The Zebra and wildebeest were going about their eating, playing, resting, walking, courting in peace.   The humans were going about their running, preparing, helping, serving, organizing, transporting, looking, eating in peace … each in his or her own little space, right next to each other in the Garden.  Once again, I acknowledged that this was a truly wonderful place to be… and only God could have created it as it is.  Even with man’s perceived effort in building his niche in the garden, only God could have made it so that man and beast could live so closely in peace.  Only God could have planted the idea in…

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Free falling … in the Garden

Now that I believe that I am in a safe place, I realize that I have been in free fall for the last 18 months or so. I wish I could say: ‘like a cat that has jumped off a tree branch, knowing where it is going to land and how, and confident that it will land safely’ … but I can’t.

The free fall I am talking about is more like:

Woa! Woosh! Oh no! That looks like quick sand! Bang!  Ouch! That hurt! … where am I going?  Why does it feel like I am heading nowhere? … or somewhere not very nice? … oh! thank God! … that looks like a rope … God has thrown me a rope to save me!  Thank You God! If I swing out towards that rope, I will be carried safely to a safe place….

Aargh!  that burns! I am too heavy to carry myself… why can’t I hold on to the rope? I am falling!  God help me! …. Oh… I have too much baggage from the past?   I need to throw it off? ok… Now when did I let go of the rope again?  Ok, there it is, let me swing towards it and try again… ok, maybe if I hold on tight I will be able to carry on safely this time… no! No! I can’t hold on, what is going on? I am still too heavy!’

So I learned to throw off the baggage from the past, the baggage of materialism, the baggage of village-centric superstition, the baggage of independence and self reliance, the baggage of pride, the baggage of trying to be part of the world, the baggage of being holier than the world… the baggage of fear, the baggage list seemed endless… and so I have reached this place.  I am not sure what other baggage I still have on me, but I think I am close to landing.

And as I cling to God, I know I need to throw off all unnecessary baggage so that I can be lifted up high enough to see and get to that safe place where God is taking me… A journey with less baggage and during which, and at the end of which I can be better able to obey God and do all He wants me to do in my daily life.  A journey with that much less baggage that allows me to be ready to receive those blessings that God has in store for me. Meanwhile, I shout as loud as I can to those around me about how great a lesson God is teaching me and how wonderful the experience of being lifted up by Him is, when I resolutely relieve myself of so much unnecessary baggage.

Do you feel like you are falling?  Is it time you got rid of some unnecessary baggage and held on to God instead?

No, it is not going to be easy, you are likely to encounter scratches, bruises and hair raising moments.  No, there is no shortcut.  No, you will not be able to sleep your life away, you will still have to work hard from day to day for your daily bread.  Holding on to God, just means that you put God first and so do your best at doing whatever you do in uprightness, so that God’s name is glorified.

It is hard to hold on to God when your hands, heart, mind, life are chock full of so much baggage.  I am so glad God has shown me to throw out all that baggage.

Wanna join me?

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2013, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Out of focus … in the Garden

It was another Sunday afternoon. It was the beginning of the year and was rather warm… no …hot!

Fortunately, there was a slight breeze rustling the trees and giving the impression that it just might be cool.  It was quiet .. except for that distant sound of a praying group that seems to be playing the music rather loud … and the cockerel that seems to think it is morning every 10 minutes… ‘wake up! … it is morning! .. time to get up and do something! … let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! … he seemed to be saying.

Only it was now 4:30 in the afternoon and in fact the day was almost done.

Something seemed to be wrong with the cockerel’s body clock … rather like ours goes off sometimes.  Yes, those of us who want to just keep going, never stopping for a break, never stopping to spend some me time, never stopping long enough to recognize that the time to go has past, and it is now time to take a break.  And much like the cockerel drives those around it crazy, so do we, with our insistence on the urgency of the matter as though it were in fact a life and death issue… when to others, there are more important things that matter.

The cockerel was clearly not understanding what was happening in its surroundings and was giving a false alarm every 10 minutes or so.  It sounded confused, and many simply wanted it to shut up.

Are you like this?  Are you focusing on the wrong things in your surroundings and life?  Are you looking at the big picture or are you only noticing that thin ray of light coming through the cracks, and feeling the pressure to do something about it right now!  Are you constantly putting yourself under pressure, sounding the alarm for action lest there be certain failure in getting your daily bread?

Or have you instead stopped for a moment… just long enough to recognize that it is God who gives? Have you stopped long enough to recognize that running longer and putting yourself and others under pressure  more and more does not necessarily allow you to reap and enjoy those benefits you are running so hard to receive?  Are you losing sight of the vision … the real reason why you are doing what you are doing… to live a better life?  Have you stopped long enough to remember God, pray and even recognize the blessings that He is giving you already?

Yes, hard work pays, and is necessary… but so is some rest… just enough to allow you to re-focus on the right things, pray to God for guidance, and gain the wisdom and strength you need to forge ahead successfully, peacefully and in harmony with your environment much like the wise old elephant strolling peacefully through the Garden.

Young elephant on the age-old path - in the Garden

Young elephant on the age-old path – in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden.