Category Archives: Treasures of the Garden

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.

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

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.

Building … in the Garden

It has been a long while since I lived inside that little corner of the Garden where the elephants roamed and the wildebeest held sway.  With many beautiful memories to be recalled, I look back and thank God for that opportunity.

I now live on another little corner of the garden … where the people roam and the birds hold sway.   A place where the beginning of my stay in the previous little corner of the Garden is refreshed in my memory… the days when work was done in a boiling hot container, finding the right staff was a nightmare, and the workload always seemed like the Himalaya mountain range… big and never ending, and well… almost insurmountable .  The days when a reprieve from the office container was in the form of a night in a tent … only a cloth away from the most ferocious of beasts… who may or may not spend a night outside … right next to the tent.

Yes, those days were sometimes terrifying, often exhausting, almost always thrilling. … and here I am again.  Only this time, I am more comfortable… in a house, not a tent, in an office building, not a container.  The only similarity between now and then, is that it is another beginning… when no one knows who you are, nor understands what you are trying to do… when the toil seems never ending … when getting the right team together seems a near impossibility … when the nights are spent wondering when the dream that started all this will all come together and become a reality… and the days cannot begin soon enough, yet sometimes come too soon.

I was recently asked about my life by a person I am just getting to know.  I completed my resume in about 3 or 4 sentences.  When I was through, he smiled and said: “You are a builder, you like to build things.”

Huh! I responded that this seemed true, but I never really thought of it that way. I have for  a long time asked myself why I always felt the need to torture myself by starting over and over again.  It suddenly dawns on me that when I felt that the project in my previous little corner of the garden was complete and only needed minor improvements or enhancements here and there, I actually lived in fear of … wait for it… boredom!  I actually lived in fear of repetitive continuation!  Yes, I rather leave that to someone else who has a passion for fine tuning the building. I rather go ahead and start another great and beautiful building.

So now that I know what one of my passions is, I can recall asking God for direction on my life, and over Easter the answer came.  But, if I am a builder, what exactly should I be building?  Teams is one of them… i really enjoy building teams that function well.  But more and more, I find myself attracted to building a business that is a source of joy to all those that have anything to do with it…. and that can be a business in almost anything.  Yes, now I find that instead of fighting the challenge and asking myself why I put myself through it, I should embrace it, because it is what drives me!  Step by step I know I will find a way through anything with God’s grace and saving help.

I thank God for showing me a part of myself I had not recognized, and pray that you who read this will find your answers from God as well.  Are you asking?  Are you listening? Do you already know?  Share with me how you found out and let others know the many different ways to peace in God’s great and beautiful Garden.

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2013, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Jumping Hot … in the Garden

I woke up to another day of sunshine. The sun always shines here except on very few occasions.  Sometimes it is so hot that I can only compare my experience to being in a cooking pot.  Yes, a cooking pot.  Parking your northern zone model vehicle out in the sun  in this corner of the Garden will definitely result in a burn on your hands and back.  The steering wheel is burning hot and so is the seat.  I actually  had someone jump off the seat today, all the while begging forgiveness for jumping out of the car when offered a lift.

Knowing what to expect, I sat gingerly… then put my hands on the steering wheel carefully… keeping my door open while my prospective passenger danced a jig around the car looking for a seat that was cooler.

Fortunately they did not seem to notice how hot the air was inside.

As I carefully turned on my ignition to allow the AC to begin to run, I tapped softly on the steering wheel to begin to get used to the heat… I was going to have to drive off soon and the sooner the vehicle cooled down the better.  No … don’t ask me about my back….

I finally drove off with my passenger seated in the back left, still exclaiming how the jumping around did not help, but thankful to have been helped out all the same.

… and so we both got to our various destinations, having experienced what God’s beautiful sun can do in my new little corner of the Garden…at the foot of the rooftop of Africa.

The freezer or the cooking pot… which would you prefer? 🙂

Come … walk with me in the Garden

Copyright © 2013. Ophelia Swai.  All Rights Reserved.

Life can be beautiful in God’s light … In the Garden

“42 When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual.

43 When the days of the feast were over and they set off home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it.

44 They assumed he was somewhere in the party, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances.

45 When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

46 It happened that, three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions;

47 and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies.

48 They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’

49 He replied, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’

50 But they did not understand what he meant.” Luke 2: 42-50 (New Jerusalem Bible)

… and neither did I.

For the longest time I have pondered and wondered at this action that Jesus took. Yes, he would be expected to want to share with others who know much about God, His Father in Heaven.  But … why could he not have told his parents that he would be staying behind?  Why did he not care enough to let them know so that they would not be worried? How could he be so insensitive?  Was he being a typical teenager?  Could he have been simply beginning to express his teenage need or desire for independence? Yet, he was expected to be wiser and more considerate than this surely?

Of all the issues surrounding his disappearance, the worry he caused his parents concerned me the most… especially with the knowledge of how they had to run away in the night to a different country in order to save his life when he was born!

… so there has been this missing link in my understanding of this reading until today.   Eureka indeed.  The Holy Spirit of God spoke and I finally heard.

Luke – 2:49 “ … Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ parents Mary and Joseph were worried.  Today I learned that the 3 days of searching for him were symbolic of the three days it would take for Jesus to rise from the dead many years later.  But more importantly for me, I finally understood that the entire episode culminating in the words in Luke 2: 49 as always was not just a lesson for his parents Mary and Joseph, but for us all.  It is a profound message and lesson.

 Mary and Joseph had no reason to be worried … because so long as Jesus was in His Father’s house he was safe.  Simple… Jesus was safe because he was in his Father’s house, in his Father’s hands, in his Father’s protective care .. in fact, not just while he was in the Temple. It was not yet his time. He knew it, he was confident about it, and he wanted his parents on earth to begin to be confident about it. Nothing would happen to him before the time laid out for him to suffer and die for the sake of mankind. Everything was in God’s hands… there was no need for them to worry. That was his message and lesson for them.

… and that was his message for us… so long as we are in God’s hands, walking in His light, doing His will and obeying Him, nothing will happen that is not allowed by God in God’s time.  Challenges will come (not may, but will), but by being close to God, and open to His counsel, guidance, wisdom and grace, every challenge will be understood and may even be an important lesson in the journey of life towards God’s heavenly kingdom.  Every challenge will be overcome and be easier to address than we ever thought possible.

It is truly that simple… so long as we too are in our Father’s (God’s) house we are safe.  The key is to obey God and do all we do according to His commandments and will… as Jesus was doing… sharing his understanding and knowledge with the well educated in the faith to their astonishment considering his tender age.. he was beginning to show the world who he was, and he was starting early enough to make it clear even to the skeptics that he was different… even as he taught his parents and us all, this profound message of the safety of being in His Father’s house:

That by being in God’s presence in our lives, the struggle, the pain, the challenges, will be easier to bear, easier to address until peace good health in mind, body, spirit and soul come back to us once again. By putting ourselves consciously in God’s hands we actually give Him room to take care of us and keep us safe. It is our choice… to try and do it ourselves and be consumed by worry about all manner of things… or to live in God’s presence and let His Holy Spirit guide us safely through it.

This is my missing link finally found.  Do you have a missing link?  Do you want to find it? Share it with us… send us a comment in the Garden.

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Life Can Be Beautiful in Gods Bright Light ... in the Garden

Life Can Be Beautiful in Gods Bright Light … in the Garden

Copyright © 2012. Ophelia Swai.  All Rights Reserved.

When you think you know what God wants you to do … in the Garden

The afternoon was hot as usual … the continental music playing on the iPod rhythmically.  The smell of rain came too late… the rain was already coming down.  Some thunder was rumbling in the background… and a deep breath of fresh air was in order. Ahhh.

Yes, it was a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Much had been done that year.  Much work towards a goal that seemed to never arrive as deadline after deadline passed.  Definitely with progress, but not as much as expected.  Maybe I had too high an expectation.  I wanted this phase of the project to be complete soon so that I could work on the next phase … the more exciting phase… where the real work began… where the idea either came alive, or crashed to the ground and reminded me once again that I am a mortal human being.

Yes, I was sure that what I was doing was right.  That God would be happy with the path I had chosen for my life and I prayed I would succeed in doing that which would glorify His name in my endeavors, in my own small way, one little bit at a time.

But in the back of my mind, I understood that my contribution to the fulfillment of God’s purpose for me in life was not defined merely by my wishes and desires, but guided by the will of God and His workings in my life.  I had learned this before… that when we think we know what God would want us to do, we need to think twice and pray for guidance.  Often, His will is quite in another direction… often, His will for each one of us is right within our grasp.  You are maybe even already doing it, but don’t consider it anything special.  But the way in which you put your heart into it and your love for others in it, makes it your special sacrifice that God loves and is happy with.

Using your gifts to survive and Glorify God - in the Garden

Using your gifts to survive and Glorify God – in the Garden

Are you looking for what God wants you to do?  Look around you.  The answer is right there in front of you… use your talents and do the best you can in God’s light, lovingly and earnestly.  See how God works through this.

Do join me in God’s beautiful Garden … pray that God will guide your paths to the fulfillment of His unique purpose for you each day of your life.

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved

Accountability … in the Garden

I was thinking about my experiences and encounters recently, which have been vastly different from those I had in that picturesque little corner of the Garden where I used to live … yes, the one with all the exotic wild animals.

Anyway, sooner or later, something has to change, and so began a new life in a corner of the Garden that is not quite a town … not quite a village, but certainly much more filled with human beings than animals.

I got to this corner of the Garden and thought it was time to build me a little place to work during the day – my new office.  It was a journey into the unknown because not only was I getting something built for the first time in my life, I was doing it the hard way – acting as my own contractor and getting different teams to build different elements – with the help of a very kind engineer thankfully.  It is almost done, by the Grace of God, but not without its challenges.

You would think that doing the finishing would be the biggest challenge, but in this case, plastering the walls was it.  Aside from plastering over many sockets completely and not wanting to have anything to do with rectification of the same, one thing struck me about the leader of this particular team.

He laughed at my system to keep track of what materials were taken out of the store, and to have whoever took materials out sign for it… and then 2 things hit me all at once.  They hit me so hard I reeled and nearly fell over.

‘I had seen this before!’  This was a classic symptom of leadership accountability failure. The first thing that hit me was that the leader of the team was the source of his team’s behavior.  As a leader is, so shall his/her subjects be. This is age old wisdom.

The second thing that hit me was that he did not want to be held accountable for anything: neither the materials and any issues that arose with their use, hence the resistance to records and requisite mockery of the system to uphold it; nor the workmanship of the work that was being done, hence the complaints about water, tools, corrections and everything relating to the work.  It had to be someone else’s responsibility as far as he and his entire team were concerned.

As I slowly recovered from the shock, the question that kept cycling through my mind was: ‘how did I end up with this in my project?!’

No, he never owned up to his responsibilities, but that is a different problem.  Today I just ask the questions … How many times do we pass the buck of our failures to someone else?  How many times do we fear that we will fail and begin making a fuss even before the project has begun?  How often do we do something that we don’t really want to, and so do a shoddy job just to get over with it?

Yes, we are all different, and we do have different skills and levels of understanding of different things. That is why it is so important to find our true talents and passion (not hobby), and make sure we are honest with ourselves and strive to be the best we can be at everything that we seek to do. It is only by God’s grace that we can find this place where we can be the best we could be … for He knows how He created us.

I turn today to God to guide me along the way even as I look inside myself and work hard to make sure I am following the right way.  I turn to God to guide me in being honest about who I am and what I am capable of doing, first with myself, and then with others around me.

Will you join me?

A different place ... in the Garden

A different place … in the Garden

Come … walk with me in the Garden

Copyright © 2012, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.

Following the way … in the Garden

It was one of those rare Sundays when I gave myself a treat and went out on a game drive.

The wildebeest were back in my little corner of the Garden, walking steadily towards us in a single column not more than 4 deep.  The ones at the front of the herd looked pretty young and I wondered how they new the way.

Suddenly, they stopped.  The whole herd of millions of wildebeest could not move on.  The leaders  had just simply stopped.

A few wildebeest were beginning to scatter off the column in search of more grass to eat, but some strong looking wildebeest who seemed to be playing the role of ‘crowd controllers’ would not let them go far.  Running from one side of the column to another, they gathered the wildebeest back into the path, seemingly oblivious of the fact that in fact the column had stopped.

My game drive guide was telling me that they had probably stopped because they could not find the path any more and so did not know the way.  They were waiting for some direction from the older generation, he said.  It did not take long for the guide’s words to come true.

When a few of the older wildebeest broke off the column the ‘crowd controllers’ did not stop them.  They were not too far behind so it did not take them long to get to the front of the migration and start the herd moving again.

It was a fascinating spectacle to see. Not only did they clearly know where they were going, they had rules of behavior, leaders, crowd controllers, and respect for the knowledge of the older generation.  These rules that they seemed to abide by kept them together, safe and in existence in the largest numbers of a single species in all of creation apart from mankind.

God’s awesome creation was teaching me something again…. Everyone has a positive role to play in this life, including the so called ‘older generation’ or ‘old people’. The wildebeest understood the importance of rules of conduct for their own safety and well being, and respected the prompting of the ‘crowd controllers’ to get back in line.

Which brings me to us.

How many times have you said to yourself or to someone else: ‘rules are there to be broken’?  How many times have you felt that the regulations are an unneccessary restriction just made to make life more difficult?  How many times have we all complained about corruption in upper echelons of government, and yet been quick to give an officer of government a little something to speed things up or let us go? … perhaps out of fear that the system ‘does not work and you are not likely to get what you deserve any other way’?

Who is responsible to stop the rot that prevents us from living in peace, and well being? Who should start first?

No, I will not give an answer today. While the wildebeest ‘crowd controllers’ had their role to play, we each have our internal controller – our conscience granted us by God Himself. Each one of us knows when we are going the wrong way … before man and most importantly, before God.

It is time to make a stop to the rot in our society, and get back on the path to peace and well being, each person in their own time and space, each person making a little difference… and with the loving help of God surely we can make a difference?

Will you join me?

Come … walk with me in the Garden.

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