Friday, 15 January 2021

The Contrast

"Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.

However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless."
- Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

In these 2 verses there is a great deal of contrast in the images that Solomon shares. Perhaps this is why it is so revealing and challenging at the same time. Do you notice how he speaks about 'sweet light' and then 'days of darkness?' He also contrasts joy and meaninglessness. 

Solomon's overriding message to the next generation was clear - Life is a gift and we have little control over how things turn out, so let us enjoy what gifts God gives to us. 

This is so relevant for what we are experiencing at the moment during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. There seems to be no certainty anymore - darkness contrasts with moments of light and our joy is often threatened by meaninglessness.

The opening words of verse 7 are key for me today - each sunrise is pleasing to the soul - it reminds us that God has given us one more day to enjoy.

I am grateful for the purpose and love of Christ. It is in Jesus that I live, breathe and have my being.

Living in Grace


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Final list of books for 2021

I should have realised that I was not going to be able to narrow down my reading list to just 21 books for this year :) Thank you all so much for the delightful suggestions and comments. I truly appreciate the wide range of authors, genres and topics which are covered by your input. 

I have now compiled a list of over 50 books (see below), which have been suggest by you all - if I have missed out one or two, I am sorry for my error. I have already read a few of the books that have been mentioned, but I am still listing them because I believe they are great reads in any case.

If you are looking for something to tackle during this year feel free to see what other people are reading. Go for it. 

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

Living in Grace



1.      The War of the Roses (Stormbird) – Conn Iggluden

2.      The Choice - Edith Eger

3.      Missing Pieces – Tim Weaver

4.      Hope in The Dark - Craig Groeschel

5.      My African Conquest: Cape to Cairo at 80 - Julia Albu

6.      The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse - Charlie Mackesy.

7.      Dominion - Tom Holland

8.      Ragamuffin gospel - Brennan Manning

9.      A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water - Patrick Leigh Fermor.

10.  I'll Push You – Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

11.  Radical Optimism - Beatrice Bruteau

12.  Captivate - Vanessa van Edwards

13.  Knowing God - J Packer

14.  Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

15.  Finney lives on – V. Raymond Edman

16.  Man - The dwelling place of God - AW Tozer

17.  Wholly for God - Andrew Murray

18.  The Universal Christ - Richard Rohr

19.  God on mute - Pete Greig

20.  The Infinite Game - Simon Sinek

21.  The 11th commandment - Jeffrey Archer

22.  The smell of apples - Mark Behr

23.  The girl with seven names - Lee Hyeon-seo

24.  The Jesus I never knew - Max Lucado,

25.  Mr Men books J

26.  Overcomer- David Jeremiah

27.  American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins

28.  The heart's Invisible Furies - John Boyne

29.  Shrink: Faithful ministry in a Church-growth culture - Tim Suttle

30.  Gary Kirsten Autobiogrpahy

31.  The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry - John Mark Comer

32.  The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz - Erik Larson

33.  From the Holy Mountain - William Dalrymple

34.  The 4 Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz

35.  Who Moved the Stone - Frank Morrison

36.  Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine - Gail Honeyman

37.  The Evening and the Morning - Ken Follett.

38.  Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell;

39.  The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg;

40.  Who do we choose to become - Margaret Wheatley.

41.  The Boys in the Boat - Daniel Brown and Edward Wilson

42.  Of the Antarctic by George Seaver ( if you can find it !)

43.  Dining at the Masters Table by Paul D Norcross

44.  Ask for more by Alexandra Carter

45.  The book of longings – Sue Kidd Monk

46.  All the Light We Cannot see - Anthony Doerr.

47.  The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

48.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – Mark Haddon

49.  The Meaning of Night: A Confession - Michael Cox

50.  Edward Rutherford - London 

51.Washing of the Spears - Donald Morris


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Don't be idle

I have a confession to make: I struggle to sit around and do nothing!

I realise that this can be both good and bad, but it is something that I have had to understand about myself. Of course, there are times when I need to rest and sabbath, but I also struggle to allow time to be wasted. Maybe it is because I realise how precious time (life) is for each one of us. Today's reading really resonates with me, as it speaks about not being idle:

"Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both." - Ecclesiastes 11:6

I don't see this as Solomon glorifying busyness, but rather that we don't know how our 'planting' will turn out and if we depend only on that ONE activity, we may end up hungry. I guess this point is another way of reminding us not to put all our eggs in one basket.

We live with the tension of working for the Lord and trusting all our efforts to him.

"Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know." - Charles Kingsley

Living in Grace


Monday, 11 January 2021

Trying to figure God out

I had a stranger pop past the church today asking a few deep questions. One of their genuine struggles was trying to figure out why God would allow certain things to happen in our lives. I didn't really have a neat, short answer for them, but tried my best to help them figure out where God was in the mystery of life. As 'God-incidence' would have it, our key verse from Ecclesiastes 11 alludes to something along similar lines:

"Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things." - Ecclesiastes 11:5

The part of the reading that says 'the mystery of the tiny baby in a mother's womb' also relates to the miracle of how breath enters into the body of a baby inside a mothers womb. Some translations actually say as much. 

In truth, we just have to realise that there are too many things that we can't understand and may never figure out. Such is life! As we head further into 2021, I know that I will not figure God out, but I can get to know God more and more. 

Knowing who God is helps me to trust in the uncertainty of the events that unfold all around me.

Living in Grace


Sunday, 10 January 2021

No perfect conditions

There is wisdom in sometimes watching how things pan out and being cautious about the future. However, this can also be something that prevents us from taking risks and stepping out in faith. Taking a look at this passage from Ecclesiastes 11 one notices how Solomon understands this reality. The person who watches for too long, will miss the opportunity to plant seeds and ultimately reap any rewards.

"If clouds are full of water,
    they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
    whoever looks at the clouds will not reap."- Ecclesiastes 11:3-4

The Amplified Bible puts it like this:

"He who watches the wind [waiting for all conditions to be perfect] will not sow [seed], and he who looks at the clouds will not reap [a harvest]."

There are no perfect conditions for anything in life - we need to be able to seek wisdom, balance and faith, trusting that God will lead us onto the right path. 

Living in Grace


Friday, 8 January 2021

Life is a Psalm


The actual title of Longfellow’s poem is ‘A Psalm of Life’, but I have used a little license in changing today’s blog title to ‘Life is a Psalm.’

When we read the Psalms we notice that they are always honest; often contain stories of pain and suffering; include moments of celebrations as well as lament; show off the depth of the psalmist’s prayers and usually end off on a note of intense hope and trust in the grace of God. They (the Psalms) mirror our lives in so many ways and that is why I suggest we can use the phrase – Life is a Psalm.

Psalm 16:11 - You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

If you would like to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, I am including it here. Enjoy.

"Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Living in Grace


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Books for 2021

I suppose it is not a surprise to you, but I love reading. I managed to get through a large number of books in 2020 and am setting my sights on a lot more this year. As a way of discovering what you are reading and perhaps what you can recommend, I am creating a list of 21 books I would like to read this year. If you have some suggestions, please send them my way. I have had some great ideas already via Facebook, but I realise not everyone is on FB.

This is the book I am reading at the moment (see the picture) - it is a great holiday read and I love historical novels.

Remember that reading is not only good for our brains, but also wonderful for our souls (or so I believe). It can also help you fall asleep at night, if the book is very boring :)

Acts 8:30 - Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

"She read books as one would breathe air. To fill up and live." - Annie Dillard

Looking forward to you suggestions. God bless. 

Living in Grace


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Before you do anything...

“Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.” - William A. Ward

I believe that these words are true and helpful, especially as we head off into 2021 and beyond. There is so much wisdom in taking a little time to reflect before we end up "doing" something. Sadly, we don't always get this right and then we end up spending a lot more time and energy trying to fix our mistakes.

Proverbs 28:14 - Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Exodus 20:3 - “You shall have no other gods before me."

Living in Grace


Monday, 4 January 2021

Many eggs in one basket

Last year taught us many valuable and harsh lessons. One of them could have been not to put our hope in only one thing, because that could be snatched from us at any time. The old saying goes something like this: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." This usually applies to financial decisions, but it can apply to a lot of other things too.

Coming back to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, we note a similar sentiment from him. 

"Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you.
But divide your investments among many places, 
for you do not know what risks might lie ahead." - Ecclesiastes 11:1

For me, these words of wisdom speak about a few key things:

1. We need to work hard and in time we will hopefully be rewarded.

2. Dividing your "investments" in a few options is very wise

3. Risks and uncertainty lie in the future

4. Security for the future relies of wise decisions in the present and the trust in God's provision for the present.

May God bless you with the wisdom of Solomon as you begin this new year.

Challenges lies ahead, but God is with us.

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” - Zig Ziglar

Living in Grace


Sunday, 3 January 2021

Hope - Emily Dickinson

Here is a very intriguing poem called 'Hope - is the thing with feathers' by Emily Dickinson. I was never the best at Poetry in school, but I love the fact that HOPE never stops at all and that we can experience it deep within our souls.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me." - Emily Dickinson

"I wait in hope for your salvation, God." - Genesis 49:18

Living in Grace

Saturday, 2 January 2021

I can't promise you

I was given this lovely quote from Rev. Dr. William Sangster the other day. I think it is such a lovely reflection on the New Year and too good to be kept to myself. Enjoy it and may it offer us all some words to 'live by' in 2021.

"I cannot promise you, in the coming year, a new set of circumstances.
Indeed I anticipate for myself and for you, difficulties and disappointments
and obstacles and some pain – for that is life.
No year has dawned that did not contain them and if such a year did come 
it might be debilitating to the soul.
But in the Name of Him Who sits upon the Throne, 
I promise you that if you will receive Him into your heart and
if you will submit to His Lordship over you, you can have a new heart,
a new life and therefore a new birth.
I cannot beckon you away from the flinty path upon which some of you walk.
I am not commissioned to do so.
Those who follow Christ must travel a times by stony and rugged ways
but I do promise in grey times a new life in God."
- Rev Dr William Sangster. 1900-1960

May God bless us all as we embark upon the uncertainty of the next 363 days.

Living in Grace


P.S. My gratitude to Rev. Ralph Thornley for sharing this with me.