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We are all pilgrims on the narrow road to salvation and “Wanderings with God’ was written in the belief that it will offer my fellow pilgrims hope and direction in their walk with God. In it I share some of my experiences as I ‘wandered’ with God, both the nice and the not so nice, as I share my love of nature and how it helps me to get closer to God. I’ve always been fascinated by ‘spirituality’ and write, for example, of my own struggles to obey the Bible’s imperative to pray ‘continuously’. I also address such subjects as becoming aware of the continuous Presence of God with us in our daily lives. I try to address the difficulties of being obedient to the Law of God but also to share the value and benefits of always trying to find God’s will for my life. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Terry was a practising lawyer for 25 years before answering a call into the ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. As a Priest he spent time as a Prison Chaplain as well as a Hospital Chaplain before being appointed to parish ministry. A one-time law lecturer and subsequent tutor of theology, he is now retired from full-time ministry, lives in New Zealand and spends his spare time writing novels. This is Terry’s fourth religious book. ------------------- KEYWORDS/TAGS: Wanderings with God, wonders, God, Jesus, people, love, word, believe, Bible, good, cross, life, prayer, world, faith, find, John, Law, Presence, Holy, sin, forgiveness, today, Lord, Christ, understand, Peter, church, spiritual, Christian, brothers, relationship, family, Gospel, Paul, New Testament, choice, Grace, Jacob, sex, confession, death, creation, reason, Moses, die, Scriptures, Spirit, Game, Matthew, sinful, Africa, heaven, father, Wonder, Isaiah, verse, obey, Luke, Bob, opinion, justice, teacher, eat, Biblical, Reserve, sinners, New Zealand, clergy, Luther, Angel, Child, poor, Son of God, believing, argument, theology, demands, worship, school, Psalm, Mark, Almighty, Priest, future, grace, earth, fish, Mary, Bill, homosexuality, absolution, Christmas, Pharisees, so-called, pleasure, adultery, straight, Kingdom, Romans, Sunday, walk, Mkhuze, symbol, teach, Book, Rev, relationship, manipulate, Sacrament, Jeremiah, Hebrews, Creator, police, sexual, Martha, Israel, Devil, Lord, , non-believers, unforgiveness, struggle, Nathaniel, Zebedee, Jacob, freedom, preach, poison, Eve, gay, fundamentalist, interpretation, Righteousness, conservative, incarcerated, sacrifice, government, conclusion, blasphemy, fisherman, privilege, lesbians, teacher, serpent, satan, Phillip, Apostle, Genesis, repent
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Wanderings With God
Copy right © 2013 Terry Hayward
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) without the prior written permission of the publisher or author.
Published in England
Abela Publishing Ltd.
Sandhurst, Berkshire, England
ISBN 13: 978-X-XXXXXX-XX-X
First Edition, 2013
Most of the quotations I’ve used from the Bible in this book are from the First South African edition of the GOOD NEWS BIBLE published in South Africa by the Bible Society of South Africa. Other quotations are from The New International Version of the Bible contained in the programme E-Sword.
The creation story in the Book of Genesis has always held a great fascination for me and I feel drawn to it on a regular basis, especially the part about God walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. To me the picture Genesis chapter one paints of God creating, is too beautiful for words to adequately describe and I can never ‘chew over’, or meditate, on it enough. But it’s that incredible priviledge given to Adam and Eve of being able to just walk slowly with God, enjoying His creation but also just simply enjoying Him, that plays a huge part of my longing. I constantly ache for such experiences with God, and I feel this especially when I have the priviledge of seeing beautiful scenery outside of the concrete, mortar and bricks of our cities.
I feel this ‘wandering’ with God must be the most incredible experience ever, and even now writing about it makes that longing well up inside me. Not just being able to talk to Him, but walking with Him, mostly in silence, and every now and again discussing the beauty around me or even just thanking Him for including me in that beauty. And not just all that beauty out there surrounding me, but also the beauty within, for if I am indeed created in the Image of God and if He, in the persons of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, lives in me, then I too must be uniquely beautiful inside. Although I must admit sometimes I find this difficult to believe and find it much easier to believe that I simply have the inborn potential to have God’s beauty inside of me.
The Israelites, escaping the oppression of Egypt, followed God as He led them through the desert by way of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I love the picture this brings to mind as it gives me something tangible to hang onto in my wanderings with Him. It serves as a reminder that He is always there leading me if I can just keep my focus on Him and my eyes open for Him. I know that we Christians now follow Jesus so that we don’t have to follow a cloud or a fire, but nevertheless I chose this picture for the cover of this book, taken by us, during one of my wife and my visits to one of our favourite places in this world, the Mkhuze Game Reserve, because it is a reminder to me of God’s constant leading.
When I saw this ‘pillar of fire’ in the sky I felt again a deep and compelling desire to renew my following as well as my wanderings with God. As I’m sure you’ve all experienced, we all seem to have days when our walking with Him appears difficult, those days when it almost seems that He is deliberately hiding Himself from us. I love this book-cover picture because it is a reminder to me that our great Creator God never actually leaves us to be alone and is always leaving signs for us of His Presence for us to follow. Over the years I’ve seen many such signs in places such as Mkhuze and this is why that place is so special to me, not because I feel that it is more Holy than any other place on the face of this earth, but because it’s a place where I generally find it very easy to become aware of His Presence with me, even in my dry times.
Wanderings with God are in reality just a culmination, or a record, of some of my ‘quiet times’ spent with God over the years, a number of which I’m sure some of my ex-parishioners will recognise from some of the sermons I have preached. I suppose culmination is really the wrong word to use here because my quiet times will continue until the day I die and I am called home to be with my God, but the use of the word ‘result’ here would somehow sound a bit too clinical. Be that as it may, my quiet times with God would possibly be described by some people as ‘meditation’ and by others as ‘contemplation’. Whatever word works best for you, use that and just simply be with your God and let Him be God in your life. Dedicate those special times to Him (but more about this too later on in the book). The purpose of this little book is not so much to try to define one’s times with God but to share with you some of my own ruminations with Him during my quiet times in the hope that you will find this helpful in your own quiet times as you walk with Him.
I have felt compelled to write this book for some time now because life as a Christian is not always a bed of roses and the walk with God becomes more difficult when we have to traverse rough ground. Sometimes in my walk with God I felt a little bit like Elijah who cried out to God in despair when he thought he was the only one left who loved God, only to receive the assurance that God had kept for Himself several thousand others who had not bowed to false gods and false doctrines (1 Kings 19:10). Re-assuring as that should be, when I look around me at the people who make up the vast majority of the world’s peoples, I still despair and cannot help but feel that God’s true followers are becoming fewer and fewer.
Then I look at the times of Isaiah, writing hundreds of years after Elijah’s days, where he deals with this same problem. I prefer the Good News Bible’s (Today’s English Version) translation in this particular instance, where in chapter 30 (8 -11) Isaiah records my exact complaint:
“God told me to write down in a book what the people are like,
so that there would be a permanent record of how evil they are.
They are always rebelling against God,
Always refusing to listen to the Lord’s teachings.
They tell the prophets to keep quiet.
They say, ‘Don’t talk to us about what’s right.
Tell us what we want to hear.
Let us keep our illusions.
Get out of our way and stop blocking our path.
We don’t want to hear about your Holy God of Israel.’”
While it does help me to know that the people of today are no worse than those of past millennia, I still cry over all those beautiful people I see every day in our streets, and on Sundays in our churches too, who either don’t want to hear about God or don’t want to hear about the ‘tough love’ that we all encounter in our walk with Him. Too many Christians don’t want to be challenged by a Bible that demands sacrifices and only want to hear the ‘nice’ happy parts.
The expression, ‘elastic Christians’, appeals to me because I believe we need to be ‘stretched’ in our faith sometimes. Too many of our churches have become like the Laodecians (Rev. 3: 14) who were ‘neither hot nor cold’, but simply ‘lukewarm’, and all this so as not to upset or challenge parishioners.
In my wanderings with God I have loved most of our moments together, but there have been a number of times when I found what He was saying to me very difficult to stomach. But on all the occasions I have wrestled with God about the difficult bits, He has always overcome me and I have then had to struggle to be obedient to His Love and the demands of that Love. I have over the years slowly come to the realisation that if I truly love Him, then I have to accept ‘all’ and let Him decide what is best. I’d love to be able to tell you that I have experienced success in this, but that would not be true as I still struggle with some of His instructions to me. What is beyond any shadow of doubt, however, is that on those occasions where I have mostly managed to be obedient, the elation that His victory brings has always made the struggle well worthwhile.
I encourage you to know, and invite you to experience, some of my wanderings with God in the hope that as you also wander with Him, and wonder at Him, you too will come to experience His incredible Patience with you and will know His unsurpassable Love for you. I pray that you will see yourself in some of my wanderings and if you do, I give thanks to God that we can share experiences. May His Holy Name be always praised!
This book is not written as some sort of spiritual DIY. At no point do I think you will have an epiphany and suddenly be able to exclaim, “Wow, so that’s how it should be done if it’s all to fit together”. There are some chapters, like those on The Law and on choices, which might be construed as controversial. Even the chapter on Prayer, which is mostly around my personal struggles in those areas, you might find difficult to accept. But they are all chapters reflecting and recording some of my personal journey as I’ve walked with God and struggled with man, and so should be accepted as such. I sincerely hope you will be able to recognise some of your own personal struggles as you read on.
Auckland, New Zealand
By His Word, ‘Let there be’.
He created me too, His creature
When He spoke His Word and said
And I was.
And so to be obedient to His Word
I need just to ‘Be!’
What He created me to be.
And so I am.
I am in I AM
And I AM is in me.
I have been fortunate in that over the years I have had the pleasure and priviledge of experiencing many a conducted walk in a Game Reserve, accompanied by a Game Ranger. It has been the happy lot of my wife and me to be the parents to a son working in such a place. And with many good friends working there too, we have been privileged to be able to experience creation, as close to what it must have been for Adam and Eve, as is humanly possible. My wife and I have enjoyed the experience of accompanying the Game Rangers on different occasions when they were darting elephants to collar them for tracking purposes, when they were tracking cheetahs and painted dogs (Cape Wild Dogs) and even tagging vultures, and I will be forever grateful to our Game Ranger friends for these incredible privileges. All these experiences have left an indelible impression in my mind and also in my heart, a truly spiritual impression. What was undoubtedly the most memorable of all was those ‘walks’, or what I have always thought of as my ‘wanderings with God’, was the fact that I could choose to have such times with Him. My hope is that this book will enable you to also enjoy your own ‘wanderings with God,’ wherever your special place may be (more about this later in the book).
Early one morning, as soon as it was ‘legally’ possible, my wife and I left the village at Mantuma Camp in Mkhuze Game Reserve to drive down to Ensumo Pan where we intended to sit and pour ourselves an early morning mug of coffee from our flask. On our drive down to the Pan, we were privileged to be ‘held up’ by a herd of elephants crossing the road ahead of us before they headed off into the thick bush on the side of the road and we had remained with them until they disappeared from sight. With the sounds of breaking trees and the occasional rumbling tummies being the only evidence of their distant presence, we continued our drive down to the Pan.
We had only arrived in Mkhuze Game Reserve the previous evening and intended to spend the first few days of our ‘break’ on a sort of ‘mini retreat’ as we slowed down a-pace and got into the mood of the bush. As I sat silently in our little car gazing out over the vast expanse of the Pan, enjoying the antics of a pod of hippos snorting their laughter contentedly in the waters of the Pan, I slowly relaxed and began to quieten down. Sipping my mug of hot coffee and nibbling on a rusk I realized that we had indeed been fortunate that morning in coming across the elephants and also now as we sat with hippos.
It was great to be back in the Game Reserve, probably our favourite place in all the world. This was a place where we had come to really experience that ‘peace of God that passes all understanding’. As I looked around me I realised that the bush had so much to teach me about our Creator God. Most visitors to Game Reserves only spend a day or two in them and so tend to drive around madly looking for animals, for ‘the big stuff’. This aptly mirrors what our normal lives are all about. We are always looking for the ‘big stuff’ in our lives and our workdays, school life or whatever, and this consequent mad dash causes us to miss out on so much of life, which we simply overlook in our haste. We are so busy doing these ‘big things’ that we forget that everything we do, no matter how menial and unimportant they seem to be, should be done well, because then they are done for God.
Most of us like to do the ‘big things’ and the thought of doing the little things of a ‘Brother Lawrence’, such as washing the cups and saucers in the kitchen, is almost repugnant to us. We so easily forget one of the great lessons of nature, which is that in the greater scheme of things the lowly ant is no less important than the mighty elephant.
Sitting at Ensumo Pan that February morning as my thoughts ran hectically around my still busy head, sipping my first cup of coffee for the day under an enormous Fever Tree next to the water, I slowly began to relax and become aware of my surroundings. Although it was only just after six o’clock in the morning the weather was already sticky hot and threatening us with the real heat yet to come. I was truly grateful to be under that tree and realised I was going to be even more grateful later on for the shade. The humidity in Mkhuze is something to experience!
It was as I sat enjoying my coffee and the peaceful scene in front of me, that I came to the awareness that God had placed that particular tree right there next to the Pan, for just such an occasion as this. Not solely just for my benefit or to teach me a lesson, of course, but for the benefit of His whole creation. That tree was busy doing just what God had created it to be – simply to ‘be’ a tree. And what does a tree do, I wondered, but provide shade and shelter for not just me, but for all of His creation.
The tree was perfect for me and I was very happy to sit in its shade, but what about all the rest of creation appreciating it’s ‘being’ a tree. God created that tree to hold the soil together in times of flooding but also in times of drought when the soil cracked and moved. It was also created to be, for example, a lodging for ants and other little creatures that lived in the tree. The birds that sit in its branches also enjoy the shade but at the same time they feed off the tree as they peck into all the small holes in the bark for grubs and mites. The ants lodge in the tree but they bring their food with them into the tree and, like the birds that do their little poops in the tree as they sit there, they in turn fertilize the tree. All are, in some small way or other, interdependent and come to rely on each other without even realizing it.
And that’s just how our Mighty God works – He’s always busy caring for and about us, without our even realizing it. As the birds and the bees, the ants and other insects, are attracted to and feed off the flowers of the tree, they in turn also pollinate the tree and so life goes on. All this time the tree is there, just busily doing what it does best, simply being a tree!
This made me realise that even the most ordinary things of life, things we take for granted and more often than not don’t even notice, by their very nature have a spiritual essence that we all too often seem to miss in this rat race we live in. Not just the birds and the bees, and the squirrels in the trees, but everything can and should be a message to us of God’s love for His us and for His creation. The humdrum things of the kitchen, the pots and the pans, the broom and the vacuum cleaner, should all be treated with reverence as gifts from God to make our lives easier. We need to give thanks to our gracious, ‘giving’ God and learn to respect them as much as we respect the sacred ‘pots and pans’ of the altar such as the ciborium and chalice. All are worthy of service to God if used reverently and with love; not just love for the ‘things’ themselves, but with love for the creatures we serve as we use those ‘things.’ After all, ‘heaven and earth are full of the glory of God.’
One of the greatest struggles I have had, not so much with God but about Him, came to a head one day on a walk in the Reserve. My wife and I had driven up to Mkhuze Game Reserve after our Christmas services to spend a week or so with our son, and early on New Years day, before leaving to return home, I had gone out alone for a walk around the open spaces near the staff village.
Because it was the beginning of a new year I had just that morning read from one of my favourite Bible passages, the creation story from Genesis chapter one. I started musing over this Reading as I walked, and I tried to imagine ‘nothing’ and then watch as God created ‘everything’ out of ‘nothing’. My Oh my, but did this make my head spin! The Bible starts with those salutary words, “In the beginning God…” I couldn’t get passed that point, after all, “in the beginning” there was just ‘nothing’ but how do you imagine ‘nothing’?
Try to imagine nothing, and no matter how hard you try, you always come up with ‘something’ even if it is just fresh air. But the problem is that even fresh air is not merely ‘nothing’. Just let the air out of your car tyre and a scientist will assure you that that air definitely has substance, as you will agree when you smell it and feel it. Non-believing scientists tell us that it’s possible that ‘everything’ started ‘by accident’. Just look around you; does all the beauty out there look like an accident to you? In any case, those same clever scientists admit that an accident cannot just happen out of ‘nothing’, as there has to be ‘something’ to start it off, or to set off a chain reaction.
I decided that before my head actually exploded (no, this was not the ‘big bang’ theory), I would move on from that part of my morning’s Reading about God actually starting the creation process, a few verses deeper into the actual creation narrative itself. What an amazing experience that was to be for me. It was as though I were actually there at the time He spoke His word and I watched in awe as the world came into being. In my mind I visualised the earth appearing out of ‘nothing,’ and then watched the sky as it divided and the waters appeared, only to in turn also be divided. And then I saw the animals appear!
It was at that very moment that I spotted a little Duiker (a small antelope) crouching down behind some bushes. I recognised in this amazing creature of God, chewing gently and contentedly as it looked cautiously back at me with its big brown eyes, the story of creation. It was at that moment in the Presence of God, that I felt that for one brief moment I was actually looking into the Face of God.
I then, enthralled by the pure bliss that I walked in, felt a deep anger start to well up deep inside me as I thought of all those poachers, particularly the white-collared poachers sitting safe and secure in their ivory towers, making their fortunes out of the death of such as these beautiful creatures; such as this little Duiker. Making their money, not for their own or their children’s survival, but purely out of greed, to feed their bank balances, not their children’s tummies!
Those greedy criminals desecrating nature purely for their own profit and self aggrandisement make me sick to the stomach. Here I was in this beautiful Game Reserve where I had been so privileged to be able to be a part of God’s creation! A place where at times I felt that I had been granted that privilege of being able, in some sort of way, to look on the Face of God. Yet in that hallowed place I was ripped out of my comfort zone as I remembered all those horrid people thinking only about their own false god, their bank balances!
Some of us have the opportunity in this lifetime to feel the Holy at moments like mine, walking with God in His wilderness, and yet these greedy criminals are doing their best to deprive us of this particular opportunity to look at God at work, and all because of their insatiable greed for mammon!
Not too long ago a friend of mine, a Game Ranger from Zululand, asked me a very awkward question. He is a believer but he wanted to know why, if God is indeed Love as the Sunday school teachers taught at his church when he was a young boy, could they teach the children that only humans go to heaven and not animals. I’d never really thought about this before, because it was something that I’d never believed myself. Although I was vaguely aware that other people had also complained about this teaching, it had never got me thinking deeply about it.
I couldn’t help but wonder at the mixed messages we sometimes send, not only to our own children, but also to others new in the faith or who are struggling with their faith. On the one hand the Sunday school teacher teaches that the animals don’t go to heaven when they die, but when the family pet dies and the child’s grief demands answers, we tell the child the pet has ‘gone to be with Jesus’. My wife and I were preparing the Ranger and his fiancé for marriage and the preparation was almost derailed by that question, but that was good because it made all of us think and search the Scriptures for answers.
After looking at various passages from the Books of the Prophets, such as Isaiah (11: 6) where God foretells of the future Kingdom where the child will play next to the wolf and the lion without any problems, and the Gospel reading (Matthew 10: 29) where Jesus assures us that not even a sparrow will fall to the ground without God being aware of it, we all came to the conclusion that the animals were actually OK as to life after death. (See too Psalm 50 wherein God claims all the animals belong to Him). If God is concerned about a sparrow falling to the ground, surely He’s concerned about it’s death? Mark 16: 15 even tells us that we are to even go and preach the Good News to ‘all creatures.’ None of us were able to find any reference in the Bible to animals being dammed to some sort of eternal oblivion, or for that matter having their own separate sort of heaven.
Just as there is nothing Biblical about the different human races having separate heavens, so I believe it was out of just this sort of false reasoning that the creators of apartheid had come to their beliefs about ‘separateness’. Paul also, in various passages in the New Testament, such as chapter eight of the Book of Romans, tells us that ‘all creation’
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