Salvation, independence and a deep grief….

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Isaiah 30:15 “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me – the very thing that you have been unwilling to do” (The Message) 

In the past I have loved this verse – in other versions it speaks of in “repentance and rest is salvation, in quietness and trust is strength”.  I loved the fact that it spoke of strength and salvation and quietness and trust until suddenly this scripture, as phrased by Eugene Petersen took on a new meaning for me.  This morning I read a devotional by Rob Stegmann which spoke of the fact that God was grieved by man’s wickedness  and his heart was filled with pain (Genesis 6:6).  (Rob’s writing can be read here : http://robstegmann.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/broken-heart)

Then I reflected back to Isaiah 30:15 and…

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GENUINELY WITH: Nyanga, cows, traffic lights and the working part of me

Today I got to climb back into my ‘professional’ skin again after a 4 month break from working in my field – the field where I am comfortable and things seem familiar.  I know I can run groups.  I know I am competent as a therapist.  I know I am able to work cross culturally –in fact I love working in teams and communities that are diverse. 

Today started with a drive to Nyanga, down Wetton Road.   Wetton Road which becomes Govan Mbeki Road is filled with of reminders of my first social work job ever.  I drove over the bridge where I did my first community research as a newly qualified social worker (Assessing a feeding project so that it could be grown into a new season).  I still smell peanut butter sandwiches on chunky brown bread when passing that piece of road.

Signage along Govan Mbeki Road indicates Brown’s Farm, Philippi, Gugulethu, Hanover Park and Mannenberg:  All communities that make up a part of the Cape Flats.  Mannenberg is the site of Ross Kemp’s documentary exploring gangs.  It’s also perhaps one of the most notorious communities in the Western Cape due to the high level of gangsterism.   Nyanga, my destination community, is just past Mannenberg.  In the background to all of these communities are beautiful mountains – in any given direction – not close by, but as a part of the horizon.

This morning I watched 3 HUGE cows enjoying the sights and sounds of the morning traffic from the traffic island.  Who knows how long they had been sitting on that traffic island next to the traffic lights? I saw packs of dogs scavenging, couples pushing shopping trolleys across a road, many micro-enterprises, refuse piled up against “informal” housing and mini-bus taxi’s everywhere.

The group of healthcare workers that I work with (or more specifically consult to twice a month) are part of an amazing healthcare center, in Nyanga. Our meeting room is on the 2nd floor.  From my seat this morning I could see the clouds rolling in over the mountain, groups of unemployed men (or gangs I asked myself?) chatting and others going about their daily activities – this all happening to the background sounds of taxi’s hooting and dogs barking.  My own internal process was assimilating all these things, whilst my professional person was listening, facilitating, summarising, reflecting and planning.  The group I have been tasked to work with has much to teach me, as much as I hope to be able to support and assist in containing & growing them.

Cape Town is often said to be a place on its own – not quiet Africa really.  This morning I could have been on any part of the continent.  Cape Town is only a place on its own when you not able or don’t see the fact that 20 minutes from the beautiful suburb where I live a stark contrast exists.  I know this because I have never had the traffic stopped on my side of the bridges, by a cow with an engorged udder and bloated stomach.  I know this because this morning the harsh face of inequality in Cape Town struck me again. 

It’s amazing knowing that I get to be a part of people living in, and doing amazing work in challenging circumstances.  It was good being back in a place that felt familiar and yet I know that I have much to learn about.  It was hard knowing that I get to climb into my own car, and drive away from the realities that the team I work with face daily and are still called to speak hope, life and resilience into others.  Nyanga was cited as the most dangerous township in South Africa in stats released in 2012 – see more here: (http://yazkam.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/nyanga-township-is-cape-towns-murder-hotspot/)

This past week I have had 2 conversations with women working in different communities and the question repeatedly asked wasHow did I get the life I did and some of my colleagues and friends theirs?

The places I missed while not living in Cape Town were these communities. The children and families whose realities I want to be a part of seeing shift live in these communities.  If we want our rape stats to change, we need focused intervention WITH these communities.  Not for them.  Not against them.  WITH THEM.  That means that while I look at professionally developing my work space in Cape Town, personally I need to work out what it means to be “with”Genuinely “with”.  If I don’t work that out, then the working part of me really won’t matter much in the bigger picture.  

 

Broken Heart

This was a part of what hit me hard yesterday…followed up by a Torah Bible Study exploring what it means to Blaspheme last night……definitely a theme of the day…

Ancient/Future Text

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As Christ-followers we are committed to allowing the Bible to shape our lives, our way of being-in-the-world. We also recognise that the Bible gives us access to God, to understanding both who he is and what he desires for our lives. And, it is this latter idea that I’d like to reflect on in this devotion.

Sometimes the image of God that we have is informed more by what we want (or even need) God to be than by what the Bible actually says about God. We typically think of God in abstract terms such as, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, etc. While these terms are informed by parts of the Bible, there are other parts that present a different perspective on God, for want of a better way of putting it, a flesh-and-blood perspective. These passages force us to rethink our understanding of God and invite us into a deeper…

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Salvation, independence and a deep grief….

Isaiah 30:15 “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me – the very thing that you have been unwilling to do” (The Message) 

In the past I have loved this verse – in other versions it speaks of in “repentance and rest is salvation, in quietness and trust is strength”.  I loved the fact that it spoke of strength and salvation and quietness and trust until suddenly this scripture, as phrased by Eugene Petersen took on a new meaning for me.  This morning I read a devotional by Rob Stegmann which spoke of the fact that God was grieved by man’s wickedness  and his heart was filled with pain (Genesis 6:6).  (Rob’s writing can be read here : http://robstegmann.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/broken-heart)

Then I reflected back to Isaiah 30:15 and had to (painfully) acknowledge that my hard fought for independence, the pride I had in having managed my life thus far was actually an idol.  It was a silly effort to save me.  It was something that bought God’s heart pain and my refusal to acknowledge that actually, this was and is something that I am struggling to relinquish and give over to him, deepens that pain.   Especially in a season where I am being asked to rest in God and trust a process – a process that is filled with risk and feels totally out of control.   Despite this being confirmed over and over and over again by different people in different parts of the country, of my world, who have no connection to each other – I kept saying yes, BUT… resting is one thing – but aren’t we called to active rest. Aren’t I supposed to be looking at options, you know actively committing our days to God and pressing into things while we wait for him to open or shut doors?  Things don’t just happen.  God honours our intentions and our actions not sitting around reading all day – and my rent doesn’t get paid by my perception of resting.   Yes, if I look at the motives and my heart intentions, I am challenged.

Actively resting in God means that when I want to say:

“Yes, but practically what does that look like?” the answer is:

  • Whose story is this?  Yours or MINE?
  • Are you on MY team or am I on yours as a resource?
  • You trust me with your soul and its eternal being – and yet you can’t trust me with the here and now detail?

You have forgotten I AM THE PRIZE – your “practical what does that look like” means to remember that you practically see ME.  Not the need, not the unknown. Me.  Your independence separates you from me.  You can’t hear a voice you are not willing to listen to.  Seek me with ALL your heart and then you will find me.   When you come looking for me, and want it more than anything else, I will make sure you won’t be disappointed (Jer 29:13 – The Message).

I have caused God deep pain.  Me.  Alexa.  The woman seeking to take on injustice and find ways of helping people see that they matter.  I have caused God pain.   Yet in the midst of this Isaiah (30:18) states:

“BUT God’s not finished.  He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.  He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.  God takes the time to do everything right.  Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones”