Be still & know that I am God!

Worship Song: “Be Still” by Cat Lennox and Grace Bridgeman

We finished writing Be Still on the 1st October 2020 in time for the Sunday service on 4th October that was centered round a similar theme. A song for this season. But the truth is, the journey of writing this song actually started last year in 2019.
There was a lot going on last year – all the Gender Based Violence issues that were plastered all over the news, my own personal struggle within that space and a very difficult pregnancy – and I just sat down at the piano feeling the turmoil storming around in my head and wanting to bring it to God in worship. What did he want us to do in response?


There was a lot going on last year…

…feeling the turmoil storming around in my head and wanting to bring it to God in worship. What did he want us to do in response?


When I started to play the music felt tumultuous, like stormy waves crashing and raging and I couldn’t put words to all the emotions. I believe one way we worship God is bringing everything inside us to God, the good, the bad, the weak and the painful; not holding back but allowing ourselves to be honest and vulnerable. The music started to build up and then, suddenly, as if the clouds separated and a clear beam of sunlight broke through, I suddenly had the chorus spring to mind. The music changes to major. It quietens. It becomes more still and the words of Psalm 40 verse 10 were as clear as day: “Be still and know I am God.”

That and a small portion of the bridge was all that was written at that time. I tussled and sat with it, but I just couldn’t find the right words. Everything I wrote felt contrived and not a true reflection of what was meant or needed to be said. It was too convoluted. Too focused on the intense emotions and somehow missing sight of God.
While sitting with the song, the process of trying to write, became like a meditation for me personally on what it really meant to Be Still. I was still grappling with all that was swirling around in my head and God was encouraging me to enter into his promise of peace and rest within the chaos, within the center of the storm. I eventually resigned myself to not finishing the song and just enjoying what God was doing through it in me and would often just play the music of the verses and pre-chorus and allow myself to feel all the pulling and swirling and then sit with the chorus knowing
that God was there and asking me to choose him in spite of all the turmoil within me.


God wanted me to first go through the process of learning and growing in this area of being still in myself before I would be able to write it in a way that would honour him


Somehow I knew that the song wasn’t ready to be written yet. That it needed to sit and I needed to wait. Trust in God’s perfect timing. What I didn’t know was that God wanted me to first go through the process of learning and growing in this area of being still in myself before I would be able to write it in a way that would honour him. And so the song went on hold while I went on a journey of navigating this crazy world and learning to Be Still.

One of the big things I learnt to put in practice was that being still was a choice that we make inside ourselves, not carving out some quiet time in a peaceful spot. To Be Still meant choosing to look to Jesus and stilling the frustrations and worries and anxiety in my heart even when there is a very upset toddler shouting at you or you are so exhausted and overwhelmed and that important work deadline is looming. Being still is something we actively need to pursue, to look to Jesus and trust in him when it feels the walls around you are crumbling. I think too often we stop at the Be Still part of the verse but it says: “Be still and know that I am God.” I think that is key. In order to still our inner selves and know that peace that passes all understanding we have to get a bigger and better view of who God is. A deep, inner knowledge of God. Looking up rather than around. Not always easy and something that I continually have to work at, but after making that choice I have seen how God has slowly been changing my perspective about the many things that had been weighing me down.

 

So the journey continued until more than a year later, after I had just returned to work after being on maternity leave, and suddenly things seemed to click into place.
Brendan, our team leader, was talking about how he really felt that after the next sermon series we as a church needed to explore what it meant to Be Still and find rest in Jesus. All the staff were sharing how exhausted and overwhelmed they were feeling. How people within our church were feeling the same. Covid-19 and lockdown had thrown people’s lives into chaos: economic uncertainty, health fears and woes, stressful and completely different working environments… And in particular, as the initial quiet and shut down of the hard lock down started to fade, people were again filling their lives with “stuff.” We as a team really felt it was important to relook at everything that had come before lockdown and be careful not just go back to normal but really be intentional at choosing what we filled our schedules with. What was God asking us to do? What was God wanting us to let go of, reinvent, pioneer or restart? How could we use this opportunity to prune the unnecessary and unhelpful and make space for new growth or even new rhythms of rest?


it is in fact counter-cultural to Be Still


Brendan and I had a conversation about how it is in fact counter-cultural to Be Still. To place our identity not in how busy we are, what we do, our job or financial status etc. but placing our identity in Jesus. Trusting in Jesus, no matter how bad things get. I knew that this was the time for the song. It felt right and as I sat at home thinking about all the
things I had heard people share about how they were feeling and struggling and wanting to seek after God the words for most of the song just came. As has been my experience over the last few years, I cannot write a worship song that is intended for the use of my community in a vacuum on my own. It doesn’t always mean that I need to have other people write the words or music but it does mean that the words and music are written out of listening to other people’s stories and what God is doing and how he is convicting us within our lives. They aren’t my songs. They are his songs, meant for us. To strengthen and encourage. So before I could really finish the song I felt I needed to
sit with someone and really just let the song settle. Through circumstance, prayer and what I believe was the beginning of God-ordained friendship I went to sit with Grace Bridgeman. We jammed a bit and just worshiped together and then gave finishing off the song a go.

 

I still felt a little convoluted. I still had too much rattling round in my head and I needed to see more clearly what the core message of the song was. What was the main message I felt God was trying to say through it. Luckily, Grace is definitely one of those people that Proverbs speaks of “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:7) and so by the end of that session the song had taken more shape and I had a clearer view of how the song should be. She really helped me to sift through the many parts of the song and find what the core of what God was wanting to say through it really was. And it helps that she plays the piano and sings like an angel too.

I finished it off that evening and after waiting more than a year thinking the song would never be finished, suddenly within two days it was complete and ready for Sunday. And I felt, as always, that God really does know best and his timing is perfect. Not just for me. Not just for the theme of the service but God was going to use the song: Grace sent me this reflection: “Writing the song was the biggest blessing to me, in remembering in why I can be still and know that he is God because he is faithful and he enters into our lives. He isn’t distant. He is present. He is involved. He is interested. He is alive and he is faithful to us so we can be still. We don’t have to be anxious. He is good to us. He doesn’t shy away from the mess.” She went on to share that for about two weeks after helping to write the song she woke up every single morning at 2am with the lyrics just going through her mind. She was dealing with anxiety about
some situations in her own life and the reminder that she could be still even in that head space was
such a blessing.
I believe this is a song for this season of trial. I believe it is an invitation to be real with God. To really bring all the burdens and worries we carry and to take hold of his invitation in Matthew 11 to come to him and find rest. To learn from him and be unburdened. It is a reminder that God is FAITHFUL and that we are never alone. That we can be strong and courageous because he is with us and he is stronger than what we face. He is our refuge and our safe place and we CAN trust in him. And that we can be still and know him even when the storm is raging all around.


God is FAITHFUL… we can be still and know him even when the storm is raging all around


 

uTurn Microsite

The painting of the prodigal son and daughter hang in our church. A reminder of the good news about the great love of a reconciling God who forgives and restores. Jesus has the power to heal our relationship with Him and with each other. It is beautiful when our lived reality mirrors the kingdom represented in that story.

A building serving its community speaks volumes about real mission in action. Church of the Holy Spirit (CHS) in Kirstenhof, Cape Town, opened their doors to 10 vulnerable homeless women from the Muizenberg street community during COVID-19 lock-down. By partnering with homeless charity U-Turn, other churches and NGO’s, and with input from many in the community, these ladies were provided a safe and nurturing home for four months.

 

Having worked with the homeless for many years, Phinius and Katlyn Sebatsane lived at CHS with the ladies. Four months of intentionality, building community and creating a Godly space, lead to healing and rehabilitation. All 10 ladies have since, either been reconciled with family or found safe and secure places to stay. Many now want to help other women to find healing and a home off the streets.


“It shows, what treating people as the valued humans they are, can do for those who have felt like trash for most of their life. It was a community effort and what God has started here, I know will not end here.” Phinius Sebatsane (U-Turn)


This Life Online Magazine recently wrote on these New Friends and the Joyful Lockdown

 

ThisLife’s full story of the microsite can be viewed here: https://www.thislifeonline.co.za/new-friends-joyful-lockdown/

 

Reflections on Children’s church in 2020

The changing landscape of where, how and with whom we worship, has called for much creativity and flexibility, especially in families. I’ve been reflecting on the observation that it’s like we’ve been given ‘new wineskins’ and we have this chance to drink a ‘2020 more complex, but richer wine’, in following Jesus with fresh honesty and freedom. 


The ‘Sunday best mode’ has gone and in this time of crisis we are being called to grow a more real relationship with Jesus and each other, every day of the week, in our homes, with spiritual care primarily taking place in families.  


 

However, many families are shaking and feeling lost and discouraged, hardly enjoying the beautiful taste of Jesus. And too many of our precious children have not been safe and supported. This has called our ministry to listen closely to the ‘at this very moment’ needs of families and to discern who might be at risk. The quality of the existing relationships we have in our communities has determined our ability to be faithful in this and for sure, we have needed the Holy Spirit to inspire and direct us as we imagine what encouragement will look like if it is speaking to those needs.

 

The challenges of differing needs, for example, ‘the digital divide’ in our city, has made us use resources in new ways to try and include everyone. We have driven around communities with individual packs full of educational and bible-based materials, “WhatsApp’d” lesson plans with online links and activities, produced videos, set challenges, made phone calls, created a new ‘Families Service’ and more…

 


It feels like we might have been learning the kind of mission Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9 of ‘becoming all things to all people’ while continuing to preach the unchanging gospel of God’s life changing love and grace.


 

Cheers!

Ros Fox

 

Hope for the future

 

The Future Sparks After School Programme update – Jenny Person

 

Future Sparks is an After School programme for children and youth  living in Westlake.

After School programmes provide learners with opportunities for enrichment in the academic, psycho-social and extra-curricular areas. Research has shown that After school programmes  reduce dropout rates in schools by motivating learners to stay in school through the sense of belonging and support given through personal relationships with tutors and this has a positive impact on future success of these learners. The vision for the programme is to continue working with the learners when they move on to and through their  High School years. This is a critical time when they move away from the safety of their local primary school and often have to travel long distances to reach their high schools. Dropout rates are unfortunately high, as a result of many barriers faced while attending these schools.

 


Dropout rates are unfortunately high, as a result of many barriers faced while attending these schools.


 

Future Sparks began in January 2020 with Grade 7 learners at Westlake Primary school, we enrolled just over  65 learners who became regular, enthusiastic attendees of the programme. A wonderful group of almost 20 volunteers  invested their time and energy into the programme, facilitating 4 sessions a week (Monday – Thursday) at the Primary school campus, using the hall and then classrooms for small group time. 

Each session was started with a healthy snack and register. On Mondays and Thursdays the learners focused on Math’s and English tutoring in small groups. On Tuesdays learners were able to choose one from  the following extra curricular activities: Drama, Singing or Soccer. On Wednesdays a life skills programme focusing on personal identity and growth was run by Ronald and his team.

The programme ran with high energy and great attendance for 7 weeks, there were some ups and down and curveballs to deal with as we adjusted the programme to suit the spaces and people we were working with. However,  with the increasing threat of the spread of Covid19 and imminent lock down we were  forced to stop the programme at the school.

 

It is hard to understand why a programme started in January, which ran for such a short time had to shut down, when we felt the call to start this programme so clearly in the latter half of 2019. But God knew this would happen, so we trust that through all the disappointment that we felt, God has a plan, and that we need to persevere and keep doing what we can, to stay connected to the learners.  

 


It is hard to understand why a programme started in January… But God knew this would happen, so we trust that through all the disappointment that we felt, God has a plan…


 

During the level 4 & 5 lockdown, thanks to a WhatsApp group which we had created for the parents we were able to communicate with the parents of our learners. This allowed us to hand out learning material for the grade 7’s that we could reach during the hard lockdown. We were not able to connect in a significant way  due to the restrictions, but we could at least provide something for them to do at home.  Once the grade 7’s were back at school we realised that we would still not be able to have face-to-face contact with them due to the Education Department restrictions on access to school property by outside groups. So we began to research what others tutoring programmes were doing during lockdown to reach their learners. It seemed that online tutoring through WhatsApp groups was the most effective way to connect although by no means easy or as effective. It took some time to get consent from the parents for their children to be contacted via cell phones, as this is a basic Child protection requirement. In the end we managed to get 50 learners into 8 WhatsApp groups to contact them and work with them twice a week. We were able to get maths material (videos and worksheets) from a generous Private Maths Tutoring company (Math&Me) which we could distribute via WhatsApp groups. FunDza (a non profit organization working in the literacy development) helped us through webinars to learn how to run reading groups using WhatsApp. So we began tutoring in August. This has been a challenging and new way of relating to the learners. Firstly, 50% of the learners do not have their own phone, so they rely on a family member’s phone which can only be accessed for use at a certain time, which makes it difficult to come on to the WhatsApp groups during the active time (usually 5-6:30pm on Mondays and Thursdays). Secondly data costs are a major issue for families who are struggling in the current economic climate to just provide for basic needs. There are also some learners who are shy and reticent in this online tutoring space. But we continue to try to support the learners and let them know that they’re seen and heard and that we are here for them.

 


But we continue to try to support the learners and let them know that they’re seen and heard and that we are here for them.


 

The Ubomi Charitable Trust was initiated and founded during lockdown, this is a legal Non Profit Trust entity that gives ministries inclusive of Future Hope ministry (formerly Future Life) the ability to fundraise more effectively for the needs of these ministries. Future Sparks is part of this trust.. A new Future Hope Ministries website was also developed by the team during lockdown and can be viewed here: https://www.futurehope.org.za/

 

Please pray for the Future Sparks programme, this year has not worked out the way we thought it would! But we’d so much like to continue our relationship with the learners in the years ahead, to nurture hope for the future and a desire for change by providing opportunities for growth in character and skills.  

 


Changing mindsets. Restoring hope. Re-imagining futures