Sunday 31 January 2021

The month of love

February is known as the month of love! Valentines Day steals the limelight in this month and draws the world's attention to love. As much as we should pass our feelings and sentiments of love onto others, I do believe that we shouldn't limit this only to February. Perhaps this is the mistake we make - we assume that by sending gifts, buying flowers and writing romantic poetry (in February) we are somehow making up for the rest of the year.

As Christ-followers we are asked to love on a daily basis and this is the tough calling. Loving our neighbour for one day is doable. However, loving others for 365 days is the real test of our character. 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:37-40

Psalm 25:6 - Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.

“February - the month of love..?!!
No wonder the shortest one in the calendar.” - Dinesh Kumar Biran

Living in Grace


Saturday 30 January 2021

A dangerous prayer

I feel that the Covenant Prayer is arguably one the most challenging and dangerous prayers we could ever pray. Born out of the Wesleyan revivals in England, this prayer has been adopted in most Methodist communities around the globe. It is a prayer that we should never 'just' pray, but we should seriously reflect on the words and only when we are ready should we speak the words. 

Of course, this is not just a prayer for people who align themselves with the Methodist tradition - any believer can pray these words. After all, this Covenant prayer is a prayer of recommitment and surrender to the ways of Jesus.

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to do what you will,
rank me with whom you will:
Put me to doing, put me to suffering:
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you:
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the Covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. AMEN

Living in Grace


Thursday 28 January 2021

A Safe-house

I needed to be reminded of these words today. They are just a paraphrase of Psalm 9, but the words rested well in my soul. May they also offer you some encouragement.

"God’s a safe-house for the battered,
    a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
    you’re never sorry you knocked." - Psalm 9:9-10

I pray that we are not sorry for knocking on the door of God's heart.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 27 January 2021

Reflections on the loss of a great man - Mr Dave Beetar

I heard the devastating news on Sunday of the loss of a true role model and leader in our community, Mr Dave Beetar. Dave, the recently retired headmaster of Merchiston Preparatory School in Pietermaritzburg passed away over the weekend, due to Covid complications. His death leaves a huge void in the lives of his beloved family, as well his school community and even further afield.  

A few days on, I still can’t believe it is true. I try to shake my head, hoping to clear my mind and somehow wake up after a bad dream. However, just a quick glance at social media reminds me that the news is true and the man we all thought was immovable and unshakable, is no more.

After the initial shock of the announcement, I have been battling to process this wretched news. I tried to figure out the injustice of Dave having worked tirelessly his entire life (the last 33 years at Merchiston) and on the brink of his retirement, he is taken from his family and our community.

That is not fair!

In fact, those were my exact words in my complaint to God – “That is not fair! Why now Lord?! Dave still had so many more years in him. He could have done so much more for the world. Our world needs wise people to help us navigate through the turbulent waters ahead! Come on Lord!!”

Even having had that very vocal rant before God, I am still not feeling any better. Dave’s death has coincided with my reading of Ecclesiastes and the last few days I have been completing chapter 12. It is easy to get stuck on Solomon’s words in verse 8: “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.” And if I am allowed to be 100% honest – those were my sentiments exactly. What is the point, Lord!? Everything is meaningless! We work hard for our entire lives and then we are snatched away at some inopportune time. Surely, not Lord!?

As the mist begins to clear I am slowly inching towards the beginnings of acceptance, although I am sure I will have a few more rants with God in the future. I am sure that Dave would want us to pick up the broken pieces and to carry on living as best we can. So, I guess will slowly start to process the events of the last week and try to make meaningful sense of them.

On initial reflection these are some of the ‘lessons’ I want to take from this tragedy:

I want to honour Dave’s life by embracing my every breath as a gift from God.

I want to live my life to the FULL, in the here and now – not waiting for retirement or tomorrow to do something I love.

I want to be intentional about rooting out distractions in my life.

I want to pass onto others what God has given to me. It is only in giving of ourselves that we know the pleasure of God.

I want to be conscious of all the special people God has placed in my life – the people that make the journey worthwhile and who choose to walk alongside me.

A few years ago, Dave asked me to speak to his staff and to lead some prayers after a popular staff member had tragically passed away. I did what I could in the moment of grief and afterwards I remember how Dave and I chatted through some of our own deep emotions. Later, I passed onto him a little book I wrote entitled ‘NOW – Refuse to the moment pass!’ I had written this book after the heart-wrenching death of a friend and it seemed appropriate in that crisis to give it to him. Dave said he found it helpful and I know that he was already embracing many of the points I raised in the book. One of those quotes goes like this:

“Do it now. Do whatever you can right now!” – Thomas a Kempis

Dave was always ready (Ready Aye Ready is the motto of Merchiston School) to offer leadership, guidance, wisdom, care and compassion to all who needed it. Of course, he had to make some unpopular decisions in his years of leadership that they were always made with the greater good in mind.

So instead of trying to figure out why this happened to Dave, and the vexation of the situation, I am choosing to align myself with Solomon’s final comments at the end of his twelfth chapter: 

“Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

I think Dave would want that from you and I.

Rest in Peace, Dave.

Much love to Dave’s beloved family as they mourn the loss of a remarkable human being.

Living in Grace

Delme Linscott




Tuesday 26 January 2021

Last words

Coming to the end of his thoughts on life, wisdom and choices, Solomon gives us these profound words. Having read through the previous 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes they certainly sum up his sentiments neatly. 

"That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad." - Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

This is the best advice we could pass onto the younger generation, and those who still need to hear this advice: 

Let us have a reverence for God (a holy fear) and be willing to follow God's ways. In the end, we will all be judged according to our actions and I am grateful that my life will be judged by one person only - The Lord.

"The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else." - Oswald Chambers

Living in Grace


Monday 25 January 2021

Cattle prods and sticks

At first glance, people can be grouped into 2 general groups - those who are motivated by the 'carrot' and those who are motivated by the 'stick.' I am sure you know what I mean - some people like to drawn to do something by incentive, while others only work best when they are chased/prodded into action. Solomon realised this a long long time ago:

"The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep. But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out." - Ecclesiastes 12:9-10

I feel that this also sums up many people in faith circles and churches. Some believers need to be prodded into action, while others are self motivated and willing to follow Christ without needed the stick.

If you are honest, which person are you at the moment?

"One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Living in Grace

Sunday 24 January 2021

The Quester

In referring to Solomon in Ecclesiastes, Eugene Peterson speaks of him as "The Quester." It is an unusual term and one that is not often used anymore, but refers to the person who seeks out something (truth in this case.)

"Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth." (The Message)

"Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true." - Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 (NIV)

What is it that we are seeking at the moment?

Have we found Jesus Christ as the answer to all our seeking?

Living in Grace


Friday 22 January 2021

Silver cords and golden bowls

"Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it."
- Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

Okay, so what on earth is Solomon on about in these verses? What do silver cords and golden bowls have to do with us? What can it possibly mean?

Well, there are two schools of thought on this, with both of them reminding us of the fragility of life. 

First - the mention of silver cords, golden bowls, pitcher's and water wheels all possibly refer to the pulley systems that carried the precious source of water to the people. If these broke, then people would die of thirst. I think the image is helpful for us.

Second - it is thought that each of the items represents a part of the body that will eventually stop working as we near death. The silver cord represents the tongue; the golden bowl our minds/brains; the pitcher and pulley represent our hearts and internal organs. 

Either illustration helps us see that we should REMEMBER God while we can. While we still have our faculties we should worship the Lord and give him the praise due his name.

Living in Grace

Thursday 21 January 2021

Remember Him

If you are following this series of blogs from Ecclesiastes then you may be as surprised as I am with the different versions of chapter 12. I am going to include some verses from chapter 12 (v.5) and you will see what I mean. The overriding message is still the same for today - we must REMEMBER the Lord in everything that we do. Time is short and we need to honour the Lord.

"Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral." - New Living Translation

"....when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets." (NIV)

What does it take for us to Remember the Lord today?

Living in Grace


Wednesday 20 January 2021

No teeth

Today's reading is tragic and humourous at the same time. I suggest it is tragic because it is the way that each of us must go in our old age, but we also need to hold onto our sense of humour along the way. Solomon's very descriptive analysis of old age gives me the impression that he is speaking from experience - no teeth, aches and pains, losing hearing etc. 

What do you think?

Ecclesiastes 12:3-5 - "For there will come a time when your limbs will tremble with age, your strong legs will become weak, and your teeth will be too few to do their work, and there will be blindness too. Then let your lips be tightly closed while eating when your teeth are gone! And you will waken at dawn with the first note of the birds; but you yourself will be deaf and tuneless, with quavering voice. You will be afraid of heights and of falling—a white-haired, withered old man, dragging himself along: without sexual desire, standing at death’s door, and nearing his everlasting home as the mourners go along the streets."

So remember to eat with your mouth closed!

“I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.” - Albert Einstein

God bless.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 19 January 2021

Enjoy God

The final chapter of Ecclesiastes will help us to complete the circle of Solomon's rantings and advice given to the younger generation (and also to those of us older folk willing to listen) . He urges the youth to remember and honour God, even when they are young. Often people live their lives without any thought of God and then only turn to him later on in life - almost as a last resort. Solomon is impressing upon us all NOT to fall into that trap.

"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
" - Ecclesiastes 12:1-2 (NIV)

I love the way that The Message invites us to also 'enjoy' the Lord, as well as honour him. Many Christians understand the need to honour God and maybe even to fear him, but how often do we hear sermons where we are called to ENJOY the grace of God?

"Honour and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young,
Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes,
Before your vision dims and the world blurs
And the winter years keep you close to the fire." - Eugene Peterson 

Living in Grace

Monday 18 January 2021

Refuse to worry

"So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless." - Ecclesiastes 11:10

Here he goes again! Solomon comes to the staggering conclusion that even 'youth' is meaningless. I really feel sorry for him sometimes - it seems as if his depression was moving him deeper and deeper into a dark corner. 

When we read this last statement in the words of Eugene Peterson, it does make a lot more sense. The Message paraphrase states:

"You won’t be young forever.
Youth lasts about as long as smoke."

This now makes a lot more sense to me. All of us can remember our younger days as if they were just yesterday and we wonder where have the years gone. Solomon's message is very important for us to hold onto - life is short, so we should try not to WORRY and also to keep ourselves as HEALTHY as possible.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:27

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ...

What do you think?

Is it possible to quit worrying?

Living in Grace


Sunday 17 January 2021

Striking a balance

This verse has always been an intriguing verse for me - I have used it at many youth talks and confirmation services in the past. One of the things that Solomon manages to hold in balance is the notion to 'enjoy your youth', but also remember that you will give an account for everything you do. Read what he says: 

"You who are young, be happy while you are young,
 and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment."
- Ecclesiastes 11:9

There is a quote from Augustine that ties in with this scripture in some way, although it can be quoted out of context on occasion. Augustine wrote:

"Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good."

The part I have underlined is the part that is quoted as "Love God and do what you like!" Obviously, this is a dangerous thought if not tethered to some core foundation. I think that both Solomon and Augustine understood that if a believer loved God with heart, soul, mind and strength, that their actions would seek to please God in any case - therefore we should be at peace about our actions. 

How do you feel about these quotes today? Worth a little reflection I think.

Living in Grace

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