Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?

Trouble-maker. That was my impression when I first heard of Rabbi Jesus. He swept into Capernaum as if he owned it. His presence drew the sick and downtrodden from as far as Tyre and Sidon into our once peaceful town. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the fervent Pharisees came too, their somber, superior presence sowing nothing but disquiet.

I’m an upright and reserved woman and I tell you honestly that I didn’t like the sound of this rabbi and the rabble following him. Had Simon brought him home on any other day, I would have given my son-in-law a good tongue-lashing and suggested the rabbi finds another town to disrupt.

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Ancient words echo through the storm

Who would have thought that a global pandemic could teach me to trust God more fully and live for him wholeheartedly?

Initially, I was not personally impacted by the encroaching pandemic, but it didn’t take long before Covid-19 stalked into my life. The hospital at which my daughter is an Occupational Therapist began to see cases of it, and I felt a growing concern for her. A friend lost her father to the disease. My husband was retrenched as the economic repercussions of lockdown were felt. My youngest daughter’s ongoing battle with anxiety intensified and lead to her dropping out of University.

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Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?

On the day our sons chose a rabbi over him, my husband was furious.

I remember well how he stormed in, his expression darker than a sea squall, to tell me that some young rabbi had walked past the boat just as they were preparing the nets for the next day’s fishing. This rabbi stopped and looked at James and John, almost as if he knew them, even though Zebedee swore he had never laid eyes on the man before. Then the rabbi called out ‘come follow me’ as if he had every right to their time, hardly giving their father—who they owed their very lives to—a chance to object. What made Zebedee the angriest of all, was how quickly James and John dropped their nets and left him sitting there alone, without so much as a backward glance.

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Why are you so afraid?

I watch the sun dropping down to the hills and the shadows lengthening. Clouds on the horizon catch the orange and red tones of the setting sun. A small breeze, cool against my cheeks, ripples over the water, gently bobbing the boat up and down. It’s a welcome relief from the cloying heat of the day, hotter than any I recall from my years fishing these waters. But then sitting in a tethered boat as Jesus speaks to the crowd, isn’t exactly the same as sailing. I gaze out at the enraptured faces, softened by the last light of the day, and realise that despite the heat, none of us would have chosen to be anywhere but here.

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Where are the other nine?

It was Shimri who told me about a Jewish rabbi rumoured to have healed a leper. Of course I wanted to believe it to be true. Any leper would. But, when he told me that this rabbi Jesus had healed the man by touching him, I knew the story had to be false. No-one touches a leper.

No-one has touched me for years.

Even now I have to swallow back tears as I recall the last time Anatu drew me into an embrace. I wanted to warn her not to, but instead I cried into her hair, breathing in the smell of oil and nettles. When we finally drew apart and she held out the baby for me to cradle one last time, I shook my head. The risk was too great. Continue reading

Do you want to get well?

I lean against the pillar and stare gloomily out over the waters of Bethesda. Even in the shade of the portico, the midday heat accosts me. The press of people here—muttering or groaning or beseeching the angel to come—irks me more than usual. I have lain by these pools longer than all of them. Too many years to recall, in fact. I have patiently waited my turn to reach the stirred waters first, never doubting the power of the pool. Others have come and gone, some healed, some disillusioned. But I’ve always clung to the hope that my turn for healing would come.

It should have been today, but I was robbed! Fresh anger clenches inside me. Continue reading

A Season of Blessing: For the Anxious

Anxiety has been gnawing at me lately. It particularly loves the 4 a.m. time slot. Then, like vultures circling above a kill, the anxious thoughts loop around and around and around my mind. I can generally shake them off during the course of the day, but they return before the crack of dawn to wake me up with their intrusive clamouring. Continue reading

A Season of Blessing: For the Day

I’ll be honest with you … I’ve feeling a little fragile today. My family is in flux. Everything feels fragile—jobs and studies and my children’s future. Over the last week or so, a heaviness has settled into me that is quite at odds with my generally upbeat outlook on life. The mood doesn’t lend itself to the writing of encouraging blog posts, especially not ones that seek to bring blessing to others. So, I’m cheating a little. Instead of writing a blessing, I’m sharing one written by my daughter Nicole in 2014, when she was in Grade 11 at school. These words lifted something in me today and my prayer is that they do the same for you. Continue reading

A Season of Blessing: For the Lonely

‘All the lonely people; Where do they all come from? All the lonely people; Where do they all belong?’ These lyrics are from the 1966 Beatles song Eleanor Rigby, which became known as ‘the lament for the lonely’.

More than fifty years later, loneliness besets our society as never before. Statistics reveal that more and more people consider themselves lonely. One study I came across said that half of Britons over the age of 65 consider their television or pet their main source of company. And loneliness, particularly amongst the elderly, has increased during the corona crisis, as people are forced into isolation. Continue reading

A Season of Blessing: For the Young

This week, as we observed Youth Day in South Africa, I asked myself the question: what kind of world will we bequeath to our children?

The world we leave behind

In many parts of the world our generation has not succeeded. We have not made great strides towards eliminating unemployment. We have not built adequate systems to uplift and educate the poor or care for the vulnerable in our society. We have not done enough to protect our natural resources. We have not eradicated religious intolerance and extremism. Many of the leaders we elect are selfish, corrupt and unconcerned with anything other than their own power and prestige. Continue reading