My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA. I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.
During our last article, we journeyed through re-writing our story. While past events don’t change, our perception of them can. When we learn how to psalm, journal and reframe our memories, we can learn from past mistakes. We can grow very deeply so that in time we will not be swayed by difficult times. We may even thrive through them, since God’s hand is there. He walks with us through the hard times, and sometimes even carries us. Think of how the Psalms were written. Most of those writers endured difficult times, and deep disappointments. But they were given grace as they chose to trust in God.
Grace is something that is very prevalent in our faith as we choose to trust God and follow where he leads us. Sometimes following can include times were we endure windstorms in our lives. We’re going to journey through different kinds of wind – both in the natural world and in the spiritual world. The spiritual windstorms are similar to the desert experience I spoke on in an earlier week, although windstorms can definitely be more intense.
In the natural world, wind is one of the tools that the desert uses to take moisture out of the soil. You would think it’s the sun, but it’s also the wind. I’ve encountered wind in certain deserts and semi-deserts, such as New Mexico, Kenya, Argentina’s Patagonia and South Africa’s Little Karoo. It’s the wind that seems biting in the cold; and bracing in the heat. Apparently this same process of desiccation, can happen inside a freezer with an ice cube. Have you noticed that old freezer ice cubes are smaller?
In Canada, the windiest seasons are during transition – March is a windy season, perfect for flying kites… if you are bundled up for the cold. And November, it’s cool, rainy and windy – as the remaining autumn leaves of colour are blown off the trees.
In Worcester, the Cape Doctor wind is mainly a summer wind from the south, and there’s a winter wind that is mighty chilly. If the wind is strong, usually it signals rain. There’s also the warm “Berg” wind that is similar to Calgary’s chinooks. Tony recently shared with me something he had been teaching in his science classes, that wind is also essential for the earth: as water evaporates in one area, such as the sea, and accumulates in clouds, the wind blows the clouds to other areas that may really need rain.
I recently discovered why the Cape Doctor is given its name. The Cape Doctor is the local name for the strong, often persistent, dry south-easterly wind that blows on the South African coast from September to March – or spring to late summer in the southern hemisphere. It’s given its name because of a local belief that it clears Cape Town of pollution and pestilence. I’ve also been told that Brewelskloof TB hospital here in Worcester keeps its windows open for health reasons, because the wind is thought to clear bad air out of the wards. How many times have young children been encouraged to get away from the TV, or their video games? They need to go outside and enjoy the fresh air. So some wind is good. It’s a matter of how MUCH wind.
Wind has always been an important source of power – for example for ships before the age of steam. Pilots can do the same if they fly along the Jetstream. This means they can fly further with using less fuel. We live near a glider airport in Worcester, and in some ways it’s appropriate to have gliders here. The wind is often strong. Why not harness it? People still go windsailing, parasailing, and in sailboats in different waters.
One of the ways wind is harnessed now is with wind turbines. We’ve seen a few of those in the Eastern Cape. I’ve seen many more in the UK, Canada and in the American plains.
Wind can also be used to purify and clean. I remember a scene in an original Star Trek television episode, called “Mudd’s Women.” The women were used as a bargaining chip on a mining planet. One of the women, Eve, didn’t like what was going on, and she ran off into the howling dust storm, very upset. The lead miner rescued her, but they didn’t initially get along. They bickered. When the miner said that her cooking wasn’t that great, and that it tasted like his own, Eve said, “Well, you’re tasting some of it now. I couldn’t scrub off the layers of food.” He complained back that he had no water to clean with. She replied, “well, hang up the pots in the wind, and let the sand scour the pots clean.” Good thinking, Eve. Wind can be used to purify; although in that case, it included the biting sand. Sea salt can do the same if you’re on the edge of an ocean wind.
But wind is also destructive in higher velocity. The wind doesn’t have to be a tornado to cause intense or long-lasting damage. Strong winds can put plants in survival mode. I’ve seen the fynbos shrubs near Mitchell’s Plain, and near Cape Point. They are weirdly shaped, as if crawling away from the nearby Atlantic Ocean. I’ve seen other plants grow away from the wind in other areas, like Yorkshire in England, Patagonia in Argentina. In the high north of Canada and Russia, there aren’t any trees. The wind is too strong for them to survive.
Gardeners share that wind greatly affects plants throughout their growth. When plants are seedlings, slight breezes help them grow sturdier. If wind is at gale strength, it can damage or even break and blow down the strongest tree, sometimes crashing into someone’s house or car. Winter wind is especially damaging because plants can’t replace the water they lose, so they shrink and wither. So when the winds are destructive, you need a windbreak. You need a protective shield.
We need to make sure that the plants have protection, and can adapt so that they’re not always directly facing the wind. To be against the wind, as the Bob Seger anti-establishment song goes, is to act in defiance. This actually goes against survival unless understood as a short-term endurance test.
Just before we left for South Africa in November 2017, our neighbour gave me a novel about South African history called The Covenant, by James Michener. While many of the characters were not real, the stories behind them were based on real events and movements. Michener uses the Van Doorn family as one of the Afrikaaner voices through four hundred years. Free burgher Willem Van Doorn struggled with the wind damage to his attempts to establish long-lasting wine-producing vines. His colleagues said, “In their opinion, there could be no spot in this forlorn land where the winds did not howl.” But they showed him how to plant trees to give protection.
Willem’s Malay girlfriend encouraged him to plant differently according to the wind direction. Michener says, “But she was acquainted with growing things and said, “Willem, those vines are dying.” Willem replied, “Why? Why do they die?” She said, “The rows run the wrong way. The wind hits them too strong.” And she showed him how, if he planted his vines along the direction from which the winds blew, and not broadside to it, only the lead plants would be affected, which the sun would be free to strike all the vines evenly.” So if you know the direction of the wind, you can actually grow a stronger root system.
Spiritually, we also endure windstorms. Some of these are destructive – in the evil that assaults us. Evil comes in the form of human greed. It also is a malevolent spiritual force that seeks to harm. Jesus tells us in John 10 verse 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. The thief that Jesus describes, is Satan, the father of lies, as well as stealing. Supernatural evil gives strength and fury to the already awful human evil and rebellion. Mixed together, it becomes a horrible firestorm. You definitely need protection from that. This is where the spiritual windbreak comes in: the protection against evil. The Apostle Paul shares that our struggles really reflect what’s going on spiritually – not just face to face in the physical world. People can be deceived by the onslaught of evil whispers to their minds, and so they fall into all kinds of sin, big and small.
Paul shares about the armour of God in Ephesians 6 verses 10 to 18. He says, 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[e] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[f] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.[g] So a spiritual windbreak, is indeed, known as the armour of God. You can ask for this in prayer daily. Let the armour stand against the evil winds. Take shelter in God, although stand in him, don’t hide. Keep your focus on him in the midst of the storm. I’ve done this many a time, in encountering evil in different countries, as well as in my own life. Before I came to faith in Jesus, I actively participated in evil by fortune telling. I was in complete ignorance that this was evil, and so was right in the midst of the storm. I’m thankful that I was drawn out by the Holy Spirit speaking to me the year before I came to faith. I remember sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, wondering what I should do about my struggling art career, and crumbling life. I told myself that the following year would be the time to change my life. When I said that out loud to myself, I felt like a waterfall of love flowed over me. The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “Good! Now’s the time to find God.” I someone knew intuitively that he meant Jesus. So I began to search. The Holy Spirit began blowing the winds of God to me, so that I would be carried to Jesus in my search. I didn’t want to fight. Why would I want to fight pure love?
So I set my face towards God, and allowed the Holy Spirit to blow me towards Jesus like a sail. At the time I used a Star Trek metaphor and called it my holy tractor beam. Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit provides an escape from temptation and difficulty in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. He says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” It’s true – he does provide a way out of the storms. So Holy Spirit can help you set your face towards Jesus in the midst of the storm.
The Holy Spirit acts in different ways as he lifts you up. Like wind, he purifies – He also confirms and strengthens your inner conscience when you’re making decisions, and you choose what is right. He acts as a refining wind, in purifying our desires for good things and not selfish ones. One of the songs I used to sing in my Vineyard church days was the song “Refiner’s Fire.” It goes, “Refiner’s fire. My heart’s one desire, is to be holy. Set apart for you Lord, I choose to be, holy. Set apart for you, my master, ready to do your will.” That song is a prayer to be refined by the Spirit. You can through the Spirit, and faith, use life circumstances to grow emotionally and spiritually stronger.
The Holy Spirit also points you to truth, and gives you comfort when you are sad. In John 15, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Advocate, and the Spirit of Truth. He confirms and points to Jesus and the Father. He is also a woo-er, as he gently wins our hearts. He helps us grow in our trust of God. He is our source of strength. He certainly wooed me, and rather than condemn me for the evil I was doing, he just loved me and led me to Jesus.
I eventually came to faith in Jesus at a Holy Spirit conference. It was held at a Canadian Baptist church, and this was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for during my days as a seeker. Although I grew up in a church, it was a liberal one, and I did not know the way of salvation. But now I did. I let Holy Spirit guide me, like a friend, who became more, because he is God.
So I am thankful for the winds of the Holy Spirit – which can also blow strong. But that wind is pure love. I was in Toronto during the Toronto Blessing, and remember many times when I would be on the floor for hours. It was like a force greater than myself was causing me to be still, cry, laugh and receive deep healing in my heart. I remember Pastor John Arnott saying that a touch from God like this could do far more in one evening than months of counselling. I’m not knocking counselling, for I have a counselling degree. It’s a good thing. But the wind of God can change the way you think and feel about past memories, and bring healing. Forgiveness and love are powerful. So in a sense, the Holy Spirit is the REAL Cape Doctor. I pray that this may be the case in touching the hearts of all who live in the Cape, and well beyond.
So, as you stand in the wind, will you take shelter from the winds of evil, and allow yourself to be transformed by the wind of God? We need to set our face to seek him. He’s not far. He’s just a breath and a prayer away.
Lord, I ask you to open our eyes and our hearts to see and feel your presence. Still the wind and waves of bad storms like you did with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. You told them to be still. Cause us to be still, and to know you are God. Thank you that you are there in the times of transition, when it seems what we cling to, is blowing away in the wind. Surround us with your armour, and comfort us with your wind instead. Help us to grow in you.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you would like to hear an audio version of this talk, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the Coppleswesterncape.ca site, or click here. Then scroll down to #26.
Blessings and love!