“Don’t talk to me about evolution!” I exclaimed. I had just been watching MY OCTOPUS TEACHER. Now I am not a fan of watching sea creatures and neither was the person who recommended it as “the best documentary she had seen.”
For those who like me have never heard of it, here is a brief summary. It was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, not far from where I live and have often driven past. It depicts the year-long friendship between a middle-aged man and an octopus. It took months before a rapport was established, and the process was documented meticulously day by day. It shows the astounding intellect of a small octopus when confronted by danger and the extraordinary steps she took to evade it. As we would say, ”thinking on our feet!” She, like her kind, died after a year. Through this year-long experience, the narrator found peace. A very touching, memorable film.
In some ways it reminded me of this poem which I wrote after a visit to Paris in 2006 and is found in my book of poetry A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS.
JARDIN DES PLANTES
it was hot
an old garden
Jardin des Plantes
avenues of trees
they were all there
intent or talking
light of foot
or panting slow
with their teachers
near the swings
round the zoo
maps in hand
trudging to the
Grande Galerie de l’Evolution
dirty at their
digging flower beds
in the sun
and she was there
a nun at prayer
book in hand
against the ancient
for 270 summers
it had stood
in sun and snow
that embrace the sky
I saw myriad leaves
dark green and delicate
in such a pattern
I have never seen
and after that
I did not dream
God bless and keep you this new year
Christians worldwide will be singing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” on Christmas day. Others will be celebrating the “Festive Season” with parties and saying “Eat, drink and be merry!”
But this year will be different in many ways. A woman I knew years ago said to me, “When I go to a funeral, I look around and wonder who will be next.” And this year, that is something very real. It’s not only 83 year-olds like me who think that this year.
Christians live in hope. We know where we are going and Christmas is a joyous time! And many on the Festive Season side are going to be surprised by joy as the Holy Spirit gathers them into the sheepfold. Pray for them as they join us in singing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Tidying up piles of paper that I seem to accumulate, I came across this poem.
I go to church
bells are ringing
Joy to the world
the Lord has come!
Kingdom of God
with the birth
of our Saviour
sent by his Father
to proclaim the Kingdom
sent by our Lord
we proclaim it too
when Jesus trod
the dusty trails
from town to town
he cast out devils
ruled the sea
healed the sick
gave his life
for you, for me
are six years old
living on the street
staring into windows
other people eat
are very old
your family far away
no one to cheer you
on this blessed
imagine you are
standing on the corner
as you drive
Jesus called us
to do something
in his glorious name
Please see my new page CHRISTMAS!
Wishing you a blessed Christmas
I have been amazed, bored, whatever, while watching some TV shows –especially those dealing with the renovation of people’s homes, or restaurants – to hear the shrieks of “Oh! My God!” repeated like a drum beat throughout. Have they never heard of Wonderful! Beautiful! I’m so excited! Thank you! Unfortunately “Oh my God” is an infectious virus and if you are not careful you catch it! I speak from experience. (See Ex 20:7). But on another note, who is their god? Not mine or fellow Christians! Therefore, I can look and enjoy. But the line is drawn when the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is used. That’s the end of that programme. PERIOD.
For those of us who read fiction – and I am not talking about Christian fiction – I find a real problem. Many of the authors I used to enjoy, now use our Lord’s name in vain or describe things Christians should not read. The world is getting more evil and we are taught “to be holy, for I am holy”. How many pastors and church members have fallen through what they have read or seen? Porn is an addiction with dreadful consequences. The Bible says “the devil, like a roaring lion, walks around seeking whom he may devour.” No one is exempt- not me, not you. The Bible has the answer. ”Put on the whole armour of God” to resist the devil.
I probably sound like an old Mrs Grundy, but I have another issue: films. Again, I’m not talking about Christian films or good family films but about films which portray violence, seamy sex and even Satanism. It’s frightening what some producers will do for money.
We Christians would do well to remember the THREE MONKEYS: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
God help us
It was only many years after the event that I asked, “Why me?” I was seven, sitting in Sunday School next to Barbara. There was a guest speaker- a missionary who ran childrens’ missions in school holidays. They were great fun, games, singing, eating and interesting Bible stories. That Sunday the missionary asked us if we loved Jesus, and wanted to follow him and become a Christian, to stay behind and pray with our Sunday School teacher. “Come, Barbara" I said, “Let’s go.” “No!” she replied,” I won’t”. And she never came back to Sunday School. We are not robots. God has given us free wills.
So often, when sadness, trouble, old age or pandemic depression hits us when life was smoothly gliding along, we ask, Why me? If we are Christians, the answer will come in God’s good time.
It’s interesting to see how prominent people in the Bible responded to difficult situations.
Abraham was about to sacrifice his precious son at God’s request. He could have asked “Why me?” But he didn’t. He trusted God and it was “credited to him for righteousness”, and his son was spared. But what a test!
Joseph, thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and sold into slavery, never deviated from his faith in God through grave situations, adversity and imprisonment, until he rose to become second only to the Pharoah of Egypt, saving his family and Jews from starvation.
Then there was Moses, who in reply to God’s request that he return to Egypt and lead his people from bondage, questioned God and said “I am not an eloquent man, I am slow of tongue -whom am I that I should go to Pharoah?” So he asked, “Why me? As a result God sent Moses’ brother, Aaron, to be his spokesperson. Then Moses obeyed God and brought the Jews out of Egypt and was with them in the desert for 40 years.
Queen Esther, as a young Jewish girl, concealed her nationality and family on the instruction of her uncle Mordecai when she was taken by King Xerxes’ servants to the palace. They were searching for all the most beautiful girls in the land to take the place of Queen Vashti whom the king had banished. When as Queen, Esther heard that Mordecai was sitting at the gate in sackcloth and ashes, she sent a servant to enquire why he was there. Mordecai replied that the Jews were to be exterminated. He sent her this message: “Do not think that because you are in the King’s house, you alone of all the Jews will escape. Who knows but you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Queen Esther replied, “I will go to the King and if I perish, I perish.” Her bravery saved the Jews.
Ruth, did not ask “Why me” but left her people and went back with her mother-in-law from the pagan land in which they lived to the land of the Jews.. Both were widows. She said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God”. Ruth had to follow the reapers in Boaz’s fields to glean what they left in order to survive. It was a story book romance and she married Boaz, becoming the great-grandmother of King David.
The worldview of Christians is diametrically opposed to that of non-believers. This world is not our home. Our view is eternal. We live in hope. The world’s view is temporal - eat, drink and be merry and, just in case, do some good.
From an early age Jesus Christ knew the answer to Why me? As God’s Son he had been sent to lead a life of great suffering, where even his closest companions did not understand his mission until after his death on the cross for the sins of the world -and the agonizing hours when his Father forsook him for our sakes, for yours, for mine, for Barbara’s - if we will accept him.
Charles Dickens published his best seller, HARD TIMES, in 1854. It is a short novel and unlike the others, is not set in London but in a fictitious north England industrial town. It deals with the terrible working conditions of the poor, contrasted with the morally corrupt wealthy. There are hard times in every era!
This morning a friend said to me, “My son never reads or listens to any news. He spends his time watching comedies!” Another friend spends her time reading bad news and sanitising everything for most of the day! A young man I know, enrolled in a Harvard university course in the subject he intends to pursue. Another family, who had to cancel a holiday in France, moved in together for a few weeks. We read that sales of Bibles have increased dramatically which is very good news. COVID has woken people up to their mortality.
Fanny Jane Crosby (1850-1915) was a famous American hymn writer, who was blind but rose to great heights, became the friend of presidents, and was the first woman to address Congress. She, too, knew hard times. She wrote a hymn: ALL THE WAY MY SAVIOUR LEADS ME. I composed a new tune for it. Click here to listen and Click here to download.
But what did our Lord do when facing the ultimate hard time, his death for the salvation of the world? He went to a garden and prayed (John 17). First, he prayed, “Father, the hour has come: glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify you….that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
Then he prayed for his disciples, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom those hast given me”.
Finally, he prayed for “them also which shall believe on me through their word”. That is, he prayed for succeeding generations in hard times: for you, and me.
God bless and keep you
Christians are truly blessed. There is so much in the Bible to show how God encourages us. We are in the hands of a loving God and our perspective is not of this world. We live in faith and hope no matter what we may have to endure.
I have chosen some of my scores that you might find helpful at this time. Click on Music to find the links so that you can listen to them, or download them, on Musescore.com (free).
Do not fear
Give me strength, O Lord, I pray
THE LORD’S ENCOURAGEMENT - link here to the collection in Musescore
God bless and guide you
I like writing blogs, especially when it’s my opinion! Some blogs, however, do take some research and one has to weigh up different facts about the same thing. Because I like writing blogs, I’m going to do it more often. Years ago, before I had my own website, I managed one a week, so hopefully I’ll manage one a month- after all, if one feels one has something worthwhile to say, say it for a bit longer!
This new website is a gift from my younger daughter known for her carefully chosen gifts. It was certainly most welcome! My old website was tired and outdated. It was full of errors for example, the Singing Scripture Page was riddled with songs, new tunes, carols, hymns. Thank you for putting up with it for so long!
As you will see, there is no menu in this website, but dropdowns to pages which have links to relevant features in the page. Please explore! I hope you will enjoy it and find it useful.
I am fortunate to live with my husband, John, in a delightful resort for retired people. Everything is done to make life easy and a pleasure. The Clubhouse has an elegant restaurant and lunch can also be delivered to one’s apartment. There is a café serving tea and cake and light meals on a balcony overlooking a large pond with fountains and water lilies. This is not the only one. A stream flows through the property passing the various high blocks and forming other ponds and a waterfall. Herons and wild birds visit and Egyptian geese make it their home. Every year tiny chicks appear. Along the bubbling brook is a winding path where residents walk pampered pooches.
There is an indoor pool, gym, and sauna. There are clubs and activities galore, outings to beautiful farms and restaurants, speakers, evening functions and film shows. What a life! There is a care centre, which we don’t talk about, and an excellent clinic and home nursing service. Death seems to be a taboo subject.
I don’t have time for anything – I am too busy correcting my early music scores. But I am very interested in travel, although my traveling days are over. However, I am going very far away. One day I’m going to heaven. Permanently.
I have to pass through what the Bible calls “the valley of the shadow of death”. I am scared of the process and hope I won’t linger in the comfort of the frail care centre, but I am not afraid of death because I am a Christian and will be going to be with my Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus. At least my soul will be going there until on Judgment Day when Jesus returns, not as a suffering servant, but as Lord and King in all the glory he had with the Father before the world was. Then I’ll be given a new body designed for the new heavens and new earth that shall be created.
I believe this because I believe in the very well attested resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ: the resurrection that changed scared, hiding apostles into intrepid preachers suffering persecution and being martyred for their faith. They had seen the risen Lord, talked to him, ate fish he cooked for them beside Galilee and watched as he ascended into heaven.
Death and eternity is a vitally important subject. Young or old should consider it. After death we can’t make decisions. It’s too late.
ROOSEVELT PARK BAPTIST CHURCH
My father said, “Thank God for young people with vision! But now that you’ve decided, you must go for it!” This is the story which I hope will encourage other young people of vision…I wrote this letter to our second pastorate. They’d invited us and asked John to preach at the 50th anniversary service.
Greetings, Pastor, members and friends of Roosevelt Park Baptist Church! A
special greeting to any old and dear friends who were with us “in the struggle”
– for struggle it was! But our Lord is faithful and it’s wonderful to greet you
on this 50th Anniversary of the founding of the church! We’re very sorry we
can’t be with you – we would have loved to be here today but ill health has
caught up with us.
1960 found us in Johannesburg having left our first pastorate at Welkom so
John could complete a further degree. There was a Sunday school run by a
group of young people in the Emmarentia School Hall. They asked Rosebank
Union Church for help and the church paid us a small sum to do this for 18 months.
During this time we started a morning service, first in the hall and later
in a classroom with an old pedal organ given to us and with a few people –
once only three!- attending services.
When, after a year and a half we were due to leave, we felt called to stay.
Trinity Chapel, as we named it, was constituted as a Baptist church by these
young people and a couple of supporting friends. We were renting a large and
rather rundown house in Greenside and it was here we had young people’s
meetings (with dinner), Bible studies and prayer meetings. This house was later
bought as the manse.
Naturally the church wanted its own building as the Sunday school and church
attendance was growing slowly but steadily and we had started a BWA. But
more importantly was the lack of a Baptist church over a large area of several
suburbs. So the hunt for a suitable stand began and the city gave us the one on
which you are sitting today. It was the start of much activity on the part of our
small group as we began building the first sanctuary. The church had no money
and no backing but a great sense of calling, youth and enthusiasm!
One of our members was an architect and so we got going! The men built the
church themselves working until late at night and on Saturdays. When the roof
was going on they risked their lives levering long sheets of IBR over the high
walls while balancing precariously on ladders! While painting the interior of
the church, which had only one large window, they became affected by paint
fumes and had to go outside and lie on the ground laughing until the effects
Meanwhile everyone gave sacrificially and the women worked very hard too –
baking batches of fudge which they sold at work, running Saturday morning
cake sales in the street and jumble sales at the manse, collecting newspapers
and old bottles to sell, etc, etc. We also had to raise money for the furnishings
including a small electronic organ.
The completed, rectangular church consisted of an entrance hall, outside of
which was a tall metal cross, and the sanctuary, with a kitchen behind it. The
floors were of pavement grey cement slabs, the high walls painted white and
the huge window placed so that only the sky was visible. It was furnished with
solid wooden, modern pews, and with a red carpet leading up to the slightly
raised front on which stood a marble lectern with the Greek letters Alpha and
Omega carved on it. Behind this was a broad, lightweight sheet of white
curtaining falling from the ceiling to the floor. The sanctuary’s simplicity
conveyed a real sense of peace and the presence of God
It was a wonderful day when we opened the church with a marquee on the
lawn and the Mayor of Johannesburg present saying how amazing our little
group was, but all of us feeling how amazing God had been! It seemed nothing
short of a miracle.
After nine years at Trinity Chapel we had seen the church full at services and
well established and able to carry on. John felt led to teach theology and so a
new life started for us and our children, Sharon, Jonathan and Deborah. We
were sad to leave our little flock which had been so faithful and worked with
us. But our Lord had other plans for us and our church and we rejoice today
with you as we see how far you have come! May our Lord continue to be with
you all and bless you as he has in the past.
John and Merle.
ENCOURAGEMENT : A BRIEF MESSAGE FROM JOHN
“May the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess 2:16,17).
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what if we can’t summon up the courage? In many fields of endeavour the words “you can do it” can change the disheartened into the determined, and suffering into success. A well chosen word can rekindle hope and restore confidence. Serving Christ has its hard times. “Who is equal to such tasks?” exclaimed Paul. (2 Cor 2:16). His confidence and competence came from God (cf 2 Cor 3:4-6). Because of God’s mercy he did not lose heart (2 Cor 4:1).
The Bible has a veritable theology of encouragement based on God’s faithfulness and the assurance of faith, which generate “confidence and hope*. (Heb 10:19-34). “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us that so through endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Rom 15:4).
It is God who “gives endurance and encouragement” (Rom 15:5), and we have encouragement from being united with Christ (Phil 2:1), and it was from being encouraged by the Holy Spirit” that the churches throughout Judea, Galatia and Samaria increased in membership” (Acts 9:31). The Psalmist sang, “You, Lord, hear the afflicted and encourage them” (Ps 10:17). Paul experienced this, for Christian service can be lonely work. He tells that at his first trial “no one came to my support but everyone deserted me….but the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (2 Tim 4:16,17). Sometimes God encourages us by his rebuke, for “he chastens everyone he accepts as his child” (Heb 12:5,6).
Christians are meant to encourage one another. Paul who looked forward to visiting Christians at Rome “to make you strong” tactfully but truthfully added: “that you and I may be mutually encouraged”(Rom 1:12). The New Testament has a catalogue of examples. Christians ought to encourage one another regularly to save them from sin’s deceitfulness and from turning away from the living God through unbelief (Heb 3:12-14). Those with a special gift of encouragement should use it (Rom 12:8; 1 Cor 14:3). There is much we can do. In Hebrews 10:19-25 the phrase “let us” is used five times, for example, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”; “let us not give up meeting together”; “let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. Elders and preachers are responsible for encouraging believers by sound doctrine. (2 Tim 4:2)
Tychius was sent to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus for their encouragement (Col 4:8; Eph 6:22), while Paul and Barnabas visited churches over a large area “strengthening them and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:21,22).
If we are in the depths of despair, let our low point be our starting point for effective service through God’s encouragement!
ROSEBANK UNION CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG, now in its 4th building and situated in Hurlington,Sandton, is an active, thriving, multi-faceted church housed in an impressive modern complex. (www.ruc.org.za ) But like most things that succeed, it had an inauspicious beginning when a few like-minded Christians of different denominations decided to form a union church with a Baptist minister 107 years ago. The first church was a simple cheap structure nick-named The Tin Tabernacle. In 1919, Rev JE Ennals was inducted as minister and in 1926 the so-called Spanish Church was built.(The architect was Frederick Williamson). Rev JL Green was minister from 1942-1960. This is the period of the church in which I and my two sisters, one fifteen months younger than myself, the other eight years, grew up. It was also a time of church growth and consolidation under “JL’s”, as he was affectionately known, ministry. I do not believe the present church would exist without his ministry. There is very little mention on the church’s website of this important period. These are some of my memories. I have mentioned no names in case I leave someone out!
I had been christened at St Martin’s-in–the-Veld but during World War 2 while our father was serving in North Africa, JL visited my mother and at about 3 years old I started Sunday School at RUC in Cradock Avenue, just a short distance from where we lived. It became “our” family church and when my father returned he became a deacon and leader of one of the Sunday School departments for many years. I remember crying on my first Sunday and being carried around by a young teacher with a mass of curly white hair. She looked just like a big fairy to me! When I was 12 I became the pianist for the primary department and after 3 weeks had my own class of 6 little boys. Most of my pocket money went on buying flannel-graphs and cut out Bible characters to illustrate the stories. I met John, a theological student, at church when he came to preach and instead of going to the minister’s vestry, was sitting in the choir vestry when I arrived to put the choir books out as I did every Sunday. After church, walking home with my mother, I said, “I am going to marry him!” And we were married by JL in the Spanish Church a couple of years later! My sister was also married by JL in the church.
The church was particularly beautiful. Painted white on an uneven, patterned plaster surface with a red Spanish tiled steeply-pitched roof, it was linked by an arcade in front of a small hall forming, with a large hall opposite the church, a u-shaped rose garden, complete with sundial. In front of the church on one side was a tall bell tower with a square pitched roof that extended beyond the walls and was topped with a cross. One entered the church via a short flight of broad steps leading to an arched wooden door which opened into the middle of a vestibule. All the doors and windows in the church and halls were arched. The interior could almost have been an English parish church, with pitched dark wooden beams rising from white columns supporting the roof. One entered the nave with an aisle on either side. The nave led into the chancel. Before this was a high wooden pulpit on one side in front of the facing choir stalls with the organ pipes above. The centrepiece was a magnificent stained glass window of a cross. Below this was the baptistery for those who wanted to be baptised by immersion. It was covered by floor boards until required. I was baptised with my parents when I was twelve. There was a font for the dedication of babies where our son was dedicated by JL. One side of the church had lovely stained glass windows. I especially loved The Sower. The windows opposite had bubble-type golden glass through which the sun streamed during morning service showing the old oaks that grew on the border. This lovely church was demolished and a third church built in Rosebank in 1977.
The church was a closely-knit community, the centre of our lives. Much of this was attributable to the Greens. JL took a great interest in all aspects. When I entered the yearly eisteddfod for Sunday Schools, JL coached my solo. The adjudicator remarked “What a big voice for such a little thing!” The church had concerts too in which he played an active role. My sister and I were the star turn one year as we recited limericks learnt from our missionary uncle on furlough. One of these was, ”There was an old man of Peru who dreamt he was eating his shoe, he woke in the night in a terrible fright and found it was perfectly true!” We went on and on, the audience roaring with laughter! I often wish my youngest grandchildren and now my great grandchildren could have been born into such an innocent era. The second youngest Green daughter produced a play by the Young People in the large church hall. She cast me as the female lead “because I was the only one who looked like a duchess!” I can’t remember much about it except that when my father read the script, he objected vehemently to one line, “I won’t have my daughter saying that!” It was deleted. Thank God for Godly fathers!
JL visited his flock frequently and often stayed for a meal. He was our choir master too. He wielded a very disparate group of men into an active and friendly diaconate. He was a great reader and I often saw him sitting in their manse reading a book. His sermons were short but held everyone’s attention. Most of all, he created a feeling of great reverence when he stood before us in his dog-collar and black surplice. When I asked for baptism when I was twelve, it created quite a stir, many saying I was too young to make that decision. I remember him defending me from the pulpit.
Mrs Green did not have a hall named after her like her predecessor Mary Ennals (The small Mary Ennals’ Hall where we met for our young people’s meetings). As I remember her she was short, dumpy, unfashionable and with a knowing look in her eyes, but radiating kindness and hospitality. When the Baptist Theological College was established, she opened her home to students. John stayed with the Greens for a couple of years. Strange to say, I never bumped into him during that time although I had seen him once in Oxford Road when I was fourteen.
As children, my sister and I were often in the manse garden opposite the church with the youngest Green daughter. The back garden had a large orchard and we used to stand under the trees gorging fruit! There was also a long hatch for dear little bunnies. We could never understand why they disappeared and then a new lot came.
There were Sunday School picnics too at Gillooly’s Farm in Bedfordview. JL was always there. There were camps for the Young People on the Vaal River where we slept in tents, played rounders, swam in the muddy river, had delicious food cooked by an experienced Scoutmaster, sang and had a Christian message round a welcome fire at night and returned home, sunburnt and streaked with mud to gratefully get into a hot bath!
Like a true church, RUC obeyed Christ’s last command, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. Daughter churches were established during this period, in Parkhurst, Northcliff, Ferndale and Sandown. RUC helped the Chinese church in Johannesburg and missionaries who had gone out from the church as well as other missions, eg The Mission to Lepers. It was a comfort to my aunt when her husband was imprisoned in China. He was a China Inland Mission surgeon. (See: They Left All - under “Other Writings”). Several young people from my generation went into Christian work as missionaries, pastors, nurses.
May God bless Rosebank Union Church