The Middle Years

My wife and I got married 15 years ago this week. Shortly after, I wrote a short poem for my new bride:

Are there seasons to love, new months and years bring?
If seasons there are, our love is the Spring
A sapling still budding, fresh fruit on the vine
With roots planted deep in the well of Divine

Must needs there be Winter? I haven’t a clue
My prayer is to always be growing the New
But seasons can come, and seasons can go
Our love will remain, it will always be so

Though slowly, yet surely, this oak of the Lord
Will grow up precisely as it has been told
Till stands in God’s garden a tree strong and true
That brings Him a smile as He’s passing through

I suppose it’s natural when you begin something to think of the ending. But there’s something else I didn’t think of so much back then, something we’re living a lot of right now. It’s something you might call “the middle”, or in the words of the poem, that “slowly, yet surely” bit. Saplings may be full of exciting potential, and mature oaks of awe-inspiring strength, but it’s the transformation from one to the other that accounts for the majority of the life of the tree. And our marriage.

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Forgiveness Is Never Free

I promise I was there for my appointment this morning, but the queue was long.

They called my name, and I wasn’t even inside the door yet because of the crowd. So I waited around for 45 minutes until I noticed that the people who came in after me were being called, and asked the worker coming back from the toilet – he figured out what had happened and let me go next. But still, I lost 45 minutes this morning because they were eager to save 2.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much, but I’ve got bigger stories, about bigger injustices. Plenty of them. The times I’ve been blamed for things I didn’t do, the friends who betrayed me, the hard work and sacrifice that was never enough… if you’ve been on earth for a few years, you’ve got stories, too. Probably we could sit and tell them all night, if we wanted to. Maybe we do. It feels good to unload all the injustice of the world on a willing ear. It grants a kind of release, but the trouble with re-opening and bleeding through old wounds is that it doesn’t actually help them heal.

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Of God And Suicide

Guest post by Dan Oosthuizen

I used to think that God was there to give me things. Good health. A job. Harmony in my marriage. Getting a table at a nice restaurant on a Friday night!

The Bible does teach us that God is concerned with our material welfare, in the sense that He will provide us with what we need in order to do His work. So, I think that I was following a Biblical pattern when, having been unemployed for 18 months and then recruited by the civil service, I praised God with thanksgiving. Seneca and I organised a party at our house, and invited friends who had walked alongside us through that journey. We wanted to give thanks to God, and to do so by celebrating the blessing He had given us. That was a really enjoyable evening, and I think everybody felt the sense of joy and gratitude. One week later, at 7 o’clock in the morning on Saturday, September 5th 2015, I got a phone call that felt like a sledgehammer to the ribcage:

My sister, Mari, had hanged herself.

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I Won’t Fear The Finish Line

Last week I had a birthday. Yes, another one. I vaguely remember a time when birthdays were rare jewels of mythical wonder, but these days they come around fairly often and forget to bring balloons. Back then, my Birthday Buddy came with happy promises of greater freedom and privilege, but now he’s changed his tone and started to pick up the annoying habit of whispering about mortality and time. This can tend to dampen celebrations, but I’ve got something to say to the Birthday Bully:

I don’t fear you, because I don’t fear the finish line.

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Why Aren’t We All Zombies?

These are good years for the undead. They’re stars in some of the biggest blockbuster films, TV series, and book franchises, and make special appearances in many more. The fame is certainly more enjoyable for the Vampires than the Zombies, though, because Vampires love looking well, and Zombies don’t enjoy anything. Except brains. Their undying appetite for brains is legendary; they will do anything for a taste. They won’t even notice if they are shredded by machine guns or axes in the process, they relentlessly carry on with whatever is left to them, focussed entirely on their single objective.

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The Scent Of Hospitality

It doesn’t take long. You walk in the door and know within twenty seconds whether you’ve stepped into a comfortable home where you can relax and belong, or walked into a set of rooms that are evaluating and anticipating your departure. It’s almost as if you can smell it, even though you can’t quite put your finger on the scent. You know. Oddly enough, the outside couldn’t tell you. You had to cross the threshold. A house encloses an atmosphere all its own, an atmosphere you can only guess at until you’ve filled your lungs with it. I’ve been to warm brick mansions with flower-studded gardens where the other side of the door holds air that is stale, expensive, and untouchable. On the other hand, I’ve breathed in generous kindness inside shacks that let the sun in through their cracks, and sent the sound of laughter back to meet him. But that doesn’t mean it’s an income issue: I’ve also been to identical houses that shared the same street, yet behind their doors the air was radically different.

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No Mo’ FOMO

These days, the world is literally at our fingertips, connected like never before. We can get instant updates on just about everything – live sports scores from New Zealand, political manoeuvring in Washington or Brussels, and what our holiday-making friends are eating or drinking – right now.

There’s a gateway to all this excitement sitting in my pocket, and it’s vibrating…

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