I Thirst

World Youth Day (WYD/JMJ) 2011 was the start of my relationship with Jesus. It was also the first time God began my journey of healing which is still ongoing to this day.

Years earlier, in 2009, my family was struck by…well I’m not sure what it was but we lost 4-6 family members in the space of six months. One of those people was my grandmother. If you’ve ever had a grandparent who made life so much better by just existing and showing you what unconditional love looks like then you’ll understand why we adored this woman. This made losing her so suddenly that much harder. After her passing I went on a vendetta against God. One thing you have to know about me is that I’ve never doubted God’s existence.  I had this understanding that God loved me, that he didn’t want to see me hurt or damaged so I in turn went out of my way to hurt him.

I would embrace whatever darkness and evil was in me. I was intentionally mean and cruel to others. I would go to church and spend most of the time daydreaming about things no one should be thinking about in the presence of God. And yet, in spite of my cruelty God didn’t give up on me. Instead he gave me a friend who saved me from myself and unknowingly set my journey of healing in motion.

Then came WYD 2011 in Madrid and I fell in love with the country and the people. The atmosphere was amazing and really touristy for the most part when we weren’t going for daily mass. But one night we had Adoration, and for those who don’t know this is where you sit in the presence of the Body of Christ and just keep Jesus company. If my facts are right it’s inspired by the moment just before the Passion when Jesus asked his disciples to keep him company and pray with him. So we’re sitting in Adoration in a massive church with hundreds of other pilgrims while an amazing band played music. A couple of the others fell asleep, some people were praying and I was just sort of sitting there.

In that moment, and I will always remember this, the Holy Spirit revealed himself to me for the first time. That wave of peace which exceeds all human understanding (Phil 4:7) hit me and I began to cry. Looking back it was as though the Spirit was saying “I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting and I’m sorry. I know you feel alone and broken and unwanted and I’m sorry but the Lord God, the lover of your soul is here with you, hurting with you and you will never be alone”. I balled my eyes out because I hadn’t even been saying anything, I can’t remember what I was thinking or if I was praying but I remember that feeling because I’ve felt it a number of times since then.

I’ve heard people talk about accepting Christ, being born again etc and I believe I was born again when I was baptised as a baby (there’s a story in there for another day). That was 100% the moment I accepted Jesus. God address the stagnant faith in my heart and I underwent my conversion. I realised how I’d been stuffing things into the God-shaped hole in my soul and how my grandmother was my idol. God began a great work in me that day, it was my River Jordan Baptism Dove descending moment and since then I’m a completely different person.

My WYD experience was my first Upgrade/Leveling Up as a Christian and since then they’ve been several more. I just look back on it and I can’t wait to go on another pilgrimage like that. I hope everyone can encounter God like I did that day because it’s one of those moments which changed me. Like my first Christian crush (ie an elder in the faith whom I look up to and admire) Judah Smith always says, once you meet Jesus and accept him into your life, you’ll never be the same again.

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I am Satisfied in….?

I am rarely ever completely satisfied with what I have. There’s always someone I can look at and think “Why can’t I do my hair as well as she does? Why can’t my skin be as smooth as hers? Wow look at those legs. If I had those legs I’d be a whole other woman”. It even creeps unapologetically into spiritual life; “Why can’t I pray like that? God, why don’t you ever give me those kinds of blessings? Well, I guess God just didn’t want me to have a solo career as a Christian soul singer/rapper/poet.”

It’s funny because it looks right into one of the basic features of being human; we are rarely ever completely happy with what we have when we are aware of the blessings of others. Now I have to point out, there is a difference between admiring the work of God in someone’s life (for example how he used a friend in teaching an atheist about the truth of the Gospel which leads to them being baptised) and potentially secretly envying them (for example wishing he had used you to take down the whole group of atheists and turn them into a Gospel street-preaching-choir). I mean really, everyone wants to be that person who leads a billion people to God…or maybe that’s just me.

I really enjoy the preaching of Judah Smith. His style speaks to me because even though I’m Catholic and I like that cool, calm and structured way of worshipping, when I go and speak to anyone about anything pertaining to the Bible or Gospel or God, all the characters turn into gangstas. I don’t know, I think in my mind when I describe them in this way I understand what I’m saying a lot better. I’m not quite polished at using that fancy rhetoric, and especially when I’m speaking to someone who has minimal knowledge about anything involving my faith I find it connects better. I’m not trying to make the Bible sound hip and I’m not drowning it in glitter because have you met Jesus? He’s already the coolest guy I know and the Bible’s an awesome read. That’s where I feel Judah and I are similar. We are both wannabe gangstas, he’s just more popular than I am. Anyway, I’ve been reading his latest book ‘Life Is____’ and it’s great. At one point he wonders how happy we would be if we had no information about our friends and neighbours, and I think that has some truth to it.

The other night I went for Bible study and I was feeling good, ready to share my testimony and tell everyone how God had blessed me that week. I was practically buzzing and my heart was singing silent psalms of praise to the Father. As we went around the circle the tone of my heart was pretty solid until we arrived at one person. She told us about how she had been in communion with Jesus during the weekend. She described how she had locked herself in her room and actually forgotten about the outside world because she was just enjoying being with Jesus, talking to him, singing, revelling in his presence. And little me sat up in my seat wondering why God never called me to do that. I wanted that too. It’s happened before with so many other situations where someone wins a prize or brings out the big guns during fellowship bringing everyone in awe of God, and sometimes I think to myself and wonder why my blessings are always so much smaller than everyone else’s. Ironically before I even knew about their blessings I was feeling pretty good about mine. I was feeling invincible. I felt adored by God. Jesus was my anchor and the Spirit was my sail.

My friends and I often acknowledge how humans are rarely ever happy with what they have. We always want someone else’s hair or eyes or complexion or height when God’s already given us a pretty sweet deal if only we looked into ourselves a little more rather than at others.

God is just and after Jesus he really doesn’t have favourites. He is a just and fair God even when we don’t always see or acknowledge it. Besides, no two relationships are identical. The way I relate to God is different from every other people and it mainly consists of an occasional tug-of-war, one-sided arguments, sulking, and lots of smiles and laughter. My day of communing with God may look different to yours because we are different children at different stages of our spiritual development.

Keeping this in mind I’m going to try a bit harder to be thankful in all and every situation he throws my way. When it’s my turn to win a ruler and a friend’s turn to win a bicycle I’ll be happy with my ruler and happy for my friend and their bicycle. It’s just another thing Jesus has to help me sort out; to first be satisfied with him and then be satisfied with everything he gives me. After all he knows best.

The SuperChristian

Are you superChristian? Image source: https://peacefulchristian.wordpress.com/
Are you superChristian? Image source: https://peacefulchristian.wordpress.com/

One of my good friends is Muslim (I only state this so early on because it’s something important to the point of this post). We connect on a number of levels; we’re both from Southern Africa, we work together on our uni’s YouTube channel, we live at the same college, we’re both obsessed with anime…we click. For the summer holiday I went home while he stayed at uni.

When I got back we were both happy to see each other. We were chatting when he suddenly exclaimed with the Lord’s name and that upset me. Immediately I told him not to disrespect my man JC and he asked me what was up with me, had a gone to Christian Camp during the holiday? This wasn’t relevant but I asked him to respect me and so he said he would. Later that week we were in a meeting for our uni’s media team (the one which runs the YouTube channel) and somehow the conversation shifted to the point where someone said something about Jesus. My friend laughed, added to the joke and looked at me. I wasn’t pleased but I wasn’t prepared to make a spectacle of myself. My friend, bless his heart, isn’t always able to read social cues and out-loud stated that they were making ‘JC jokes’. I think the others in the room could tell I wasn’t pleased so we resumed the meeting. I thought because he is ‘a man of his own faith’ he would be compassionate but he persists so I just remind myself of Galatians 6:7 (Do not be deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap), not in a malicious way but in a God doesn’t need me to fight his battles for him.

Weeks passed and this friend fancied a girl. He told her how she felt and when he explained it to me he described her as ‘super Christian’ who wouldn’t date anyone who wasn’t Christian. In my mind I totally relate with her; if anyone wants to go out with me God himself must ordain it first and if we’re not on the same page with that then I can’t commit myself. What got me though is how, when someone actively speaks their faith, I assume he calls them super Christian or asks if they’ve been to Christian Camp (I wish! Who doesn’t love Christian camp?).

It makes me wonder about the experiences he’s had with other Christians. Did they not actively speak their faith, or call him out when he disrespected it? How must they behave that it’s odd for him to hear a Christian stand by their beliefs and how many other people must feel the same way?

Lately I’ve been thinking about a quote from St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” I use this as a bit of a mantra in my day to day interaction with both Christians and non-Christians but my friend’s words have made me wonder if I’m not putting that across. I think I’m still a bit of a spiritual adolescent eating mashed potatoes and mushy peas (ref Hebrews 5:12-14) and I pray for God to show me what kind of ministry he wants me to do. I was offended by the idea that I had to have gone to a camp to want to actively implement my faith but at the same time I think it may have been the wake-up call I needed.

Prepare your slippers ladies and gents! Image source: http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/Ruby_Slippers
Prepare your slippers ladies and gents! Image source: http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/Ruby_Slippers

I’m not a super Christian. I’m just a child of God, heir to the kingdom, ambassador for Christ, Proverbs 31 woman in the making. I’m only just learning the importance of remembering bible verses and being able to spit them out in conversation. I’m imperfect but Jesus has made me so much more than I knew I could ever be and he’s still working on me. I’m just a bride of Christ, doing what I can to emulate my hero (Jesus duh!) and if an outsider can’t see that or thinks there’s something weird about me wanting to be that then I need to pull up my socks and brush the dust of this world off my sparkly red slippers.

I’m going to a city lined with gold, transparent like glass (ref Revelation 21: 10-21) and I need to make sure people know Jesus has given me that and hopefully (God willing) my friend will be thirsting for a free ticket to ‘Christian Camp’.

Gracious Grace

I’ve been reading Judah Smith’s book ‘Jesus Is____’ as of late and I have to say, it’s brilliant. I am biased though because I have a deep appreciation for Judah’s way of preaching. God revealed him to me last year when I was going through a dark patch and he does have an aura which speaks to my heart. He’s a brilliant example of a man of God.

The book explores the various things that Jesus is, e.g. love, merciful, etc.. In a chapter of his book he discusses grace and how Jesus is grace. Grace is one of those aspects of faith which had surrounded me my whole life but until I was out of my comfort zone and the word was being tossed at me I had to investigate what this grace thing is. I suppose for each person grace has a different definition. Even for me the meaning evolves and fluctuates depending on what’s going on in my heart.

For now I’ll define grace as knowing and acknowledging that Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and his love for us, means we have been forgiven our sins eternally through his mercy. Your definition may differ from mine and that’s alright, why not share it in the comments. While I have this definition God’s grace has been blooming for me fairly regularly and sometimes I even realise it.

I was reading ‘Jesus Is____’ yesterday and I had a bit of an epiphany. Remember that sin I said I struggle with? That one sin which pops up when I least want it and I’m foolish enough to slip away from holding Jesus’ hand. I slipped again last month and looking back I felt nothing, I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel dirty, I didn’t feel clean. I just felt average, and that terrified me. Usually I end up feeling disgusting and filthy. I feel guilty and hated and dark and like I’ve just dragged Jesus’ name through the mud.

I was so used to condemning myself and making myself feel like trash. I would pull an Adam & Eve and try hide away from God because I just wouldn’t feel worthy. I felt like he would strike me down at any moment because I was wasting his time and wasting oxygen by praying for forgiveness. I hated myself as much as I hated my sin.

Reading about grace yesterday made me realise something. Over the past few years my relationship with God has grown and improved so much. Heck, I was praying at the bus stop and I’m sure I made the people around me very uncomfortable but I didn’t care. There’s still a lot of growing room and I look forward to the years to come, but looking at the old me and how I am now my heart is glad for how far I’ve come. I’m still only an adolescent spiritually but even that is a blessing because I’m not an infant any more.

What was revealed to me was, even as a mere adolescent, God’s grace is constantly on my life and in my heart. My self-condemnation was me not believing I had grace. I was stuck in the idea that I had to force myself not to sin to make God proud. I’m not saying not trying not to sin doesn’t make God proud but I was trying out of my own power and not letting him lead me. When I sinned and I didn’t feel anything I believe that was because I knew I wasn’t condemned. I was disappointed in myself but I knew God would be with me and I didn’t need to worry about it. He doesn’t condemn me so who am I to condemn myself?

I don’t know, I guess that’s just a little testimony for me. Before I couldn’t comprehend the concept of grace or why it was there. When I was merely aware of it I believed it just meant I was forgiven and still needed to do the right thing to make God happy. Now I’m at a place where I try to give Jesus the reigns and I follow him. Sometimes I fall but he holds out his hand every time and like a child I run to grasp it.

Grace and peace, brothers and sisters.

They walk among us

God is love. You are His angel

Each day my views of the world are reshaped and transformed by the touch of the Lord in my life and the lives of those around me. One concept which I believe I’ve finally begun to grasp is the concept of angels. Most of us are familiar with the concept of saints and how the Bible describes us all as saints when we believe in God and follow the ways He has set out for us (some are just recognised by the church more than others but we are all saints). I’ve been touched enough to believe that in the world there are scatterings of angels from whom resonate the warmth and love of heaven; an unearthly kind of joy and happiness and love.

If you ask anyone who knew my grandmother they would say that she was a clear example of an angel on Earth. She could speak to anyone and everyone and at her funeral there were politicians, diplomats, civil servants, nurses, doctors, unemployed people, gardeners and maids all present because she had managed to touch each of them with a heavenly love and acceptance. Ironically, to the average human, her name was Angelina which means ‘little angel’. Like I’ve mentioned before I no longer believe in coincidences and while this cannot be given as an example of unquestionable action by God I do think that He had it planned out that way.

The reason that I was struck by this concept of angels on earth is because of a woman I happened to meet. When you first meet her or see her from a distance one wouldn’t think that she’s a Christian, she just doesn’t fit the mold we tend to have in our minds. She has long black and pink hair, laughs louder than most and has a past which only a character in a novel could bear. She has been blessed with the same heavenly presence I felt radiating from my grandmother years ago and she doesn’t seem to know it. Last night we celebrated a birthday in the city and on our way back we met a man in his 30s. Everything about him screamed trouble, drugs and a little bit of crazy. He looked like a punk.

This woman, let’s call her Jane, struck up a conversation with him. First she asked about his lip and tongue piercings. Then she asked about his age. Then his sexuality which surprised both me and a friend we were with. As their conversation progressed we were ready to step in and pin him to the ground if it came to that but there they sat, across from us in the train talking like old friends. I didn’t want to eavesdrop but from what I picked up he was a homosexual man who had encountered a lot of pain and rejection in his life, and there was Jane, talking to him ‘on his own level’, as a friend and reformed drug addict herself. Occasionally the name ‘Jesus’ would touch our ears. Suddenly, to our surprise and the surprise of the others on the train, he burst into tears. This man who had seemed so confident, cocky, crude and funny was crying. Something about the scene made me feel so broken. Before I knew it Jane was crying too and then our friend joined in the tears. There was this man who had gone through so much pain and turmoil, being told that he was something that he really wasn’t, having grown complacent in his own imperfection. There in that train was someone who was telling him about God and Jesus, the 3-in-1 who love him more than he had ever known before. He was being given another chance instead of just being written off like he had been his whole life. A stranger had made him cry.

I won’t say that he was immediately converted and was singing Alleluia in the train from then on but he was touched by something, on a level which we as people may never fully comprehend. God had sent this person who had spoken to him in a way he had possibly never been spoken to. Everything in me had said to keep away from him but there he was sitting across from me, hugging this woman who had experienced so much of what he had. It may be one of the most out-of-this-world things that I have ever witnessed.

Apart from this man Jane spoke to bikers, drunkards and who knows who else over the course of one night and while not all of them may have been convinced they did hear about Jesus from someone who loved him. It’s not always about who loves Jesus though, the emphasis I want to place is on this person, so loved by God, that He has entrusted her to preach to the broken without actually preaching to them. She has done so much in her life that would put off so many people but she is the kind of Christian whom Jesus loves; imperfect, a smoker, a drinker, a friend, a servant to his Gospel. She’s the brand of person that I would like to be when I’m older but I know that the plan for me may be a different one.

There is a purpose for each and every one of us. God has made it so that we may use the talents He has blessed us with in order to serve Him as best we can. For Jane and for my gogo it’s through talking to people. His plan for me is probably something different or something similar. God has a plan for each of us and when we live that plan, I do believe that we radiate His glory and we too become angels.

One day, today and for the rest of my life, I’d like to make Him proud and be the earthly angel He intended me to be. I pray that you may find that gift of the Holy Spirit in you as well and that together we can glorify Him.

Praise the Lord O my soul! Worship His Holy name. Sing like never before, o my soul, I worship your Holy name!

God bless you