Monday 31 July 2023

Look to the Lord

"Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." - Psalm 105:4

Today's reflection takes us back to one of the lectionary readings from last Sunday. I was moved by verse 4, as it spoke to me of seeking God 'always' and not just when I feel like it. In truth, when we feel that our own power and strength is sufficient, we seldom look to God; however, as soon as we note that our strength is lacking, we are a lot quicker to turn to God. 

May we seek the face of Christ at all times - and may we come to encounter his everlasting strength.

Living in Grace


Sunday 30 July 2023

Keep watch, dear Lord

"Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary,
bless the dying, soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted, shield the joyous;
and all for your love's sake. Amen."
 - Book of Common Prayer

I have found this prayer to be very moving and helpful in my own journey. It is part of Compline (prayers at the end of the day) from the Book of Common Prayer. I love the simplicity, but incredible depth of the words in the prayer. I believe it is most useful when one doesn't have the words to pray, but we feel the urge to pray for others.

May it be a blessing to you and your family.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 26 July 2023

James the Elder - a committed follower of Christ

The 25th of July marks a day of remembering St. James, Jesus' disciple. To be truly honest, I didn't really know when this day was celebrated until this year, and it was committing to walk the Camino that brought me face to face with the life of James the Elder. In the scriptures we know that James and his brother John, were the sons of Zebedee and were called to follow Jesus.

"Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them..." - Matthew 4:21

He is called James the Elder (or James the Greater) not because he was more holy than the other disciple, also named James (son of Alpheaus), but probably because he was older than him. The story of his life seems to indicate that he was the first disciple martyred for his faith (by Herod Agrippa). You will find a record of this event in Acts 12.

What is interesting is that James has become the patron Saint of Spain, and this is where the link with the Camino comes in. Christians throughout Spain use the public holiday afforded to them on the 25th of July, to remember the life of James. He is supposedly buried in the city of Santiago, which is why millions of pilgrims walk these routes every year. It is hoped that as one undertakes the long journey to the city of St. James, that we would ponder our own faith and commitment to Christ. If called upon, would we be willing to lay everything down for the gospel and to follow Jesus?

It is true that James was one of Jesus' inner circle and we would do well to remember his life and sacrifice. 

"After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone." - Mark 9:2

Living in Grace


Tuesday 25 July 2023

Children of God - we are no longer slaves, but family!

One of the most profound statements made in the New Testament is that all people can become the children of God. Paul writes this in Romans 8...

"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." - Romans 8:14-17

In modern times these words don't seem to have the same impact as they would have had on the first hearers of the Good News. In a time when only people of Jewish descent were seen as the children of God (sons and daughters of Abraham), Paul invited all people to open their hearts to the Spirit and to become heirs of God.

May you be encouraged by these words today - we are children of the living God.

Living in Grace


Sunday 23 July 2023

I can't take it all in

Part of the Lectionary readings for this week focus on the beautiful passage from Psalm 139. In his paraphrase, Eugene Peterson sums up the splendour of God's love for us, but stating: "this is too much, too wonderful - I can't take it all in!"

"God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!" - Psalm 139:1-6

God's presence is indeed an amazing gift to us all. Sometimes we just have to shake our heads and marvel at the Good News - it is too much to take in.

Living in Grace


Saturday 22 July 2023

The gift of walking

A number of people have asked me what I have been doing during my sabbatical. My answer could include a lot of details and personal information, but the one thing I can confirm is this: I have done a lot of walking!

It seems that walking has been very good for my soul and my health. I have covered a lot of distance over the weeks of my sabbatical and each step has brough refreshing to my spirit. Of course, walking does tire you out physically, but it has the marvelous benefit of making you feel more alive and more in tune with God.  

If you enjoy walking, then you will know exactly what I mean - and it seems we are in great company too. Apparently, God was going for a walk in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were busy hiding from him (Genesis 3). Jesus was walking by the shore of Galilee when he encountered James and John (Mark 1).  

Soren Kierkegaard wrote...

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” 

Other well-known figures who speak highly of walking include: Stephen King, Anne Dillard, Charles Dickens, Bill Bryson, Thomas Jeferson, Hippocrates, and many, many more.

In time, I will share of my walking stories with you all, but in the meantime, may you be blessed! 

Living in Grace


Friday 21 July 2023

A new proverb

How do you handle delays? I am not the most patient, especially when it comes to things that I hoped would happen in a certain timeframe. In the book of Ezekiel, we see that the prophet offers a new proverb to the people of Israel, and it concerns the issue of 'delays' and the fulfilment of prophecy:

"Again a message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, you’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’ Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ 

Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled!’

“There will be no more false visions and flattering predictions in Israel. For I am the Lord! If I say it, it will happen."
- Ezekiel 12:21-25

We are reminded that although we have to endure frustrations and delays in our personal plans on this earth, God's plans will be accomplished without delay!

Living in Grace

Monday 17 July 2023

Hear me and hide me

The overall message of Psalm 64 is simply 'hear me and hide me!' The Psalmist calls out to the Lord, asking that his prayers would be heard, and that God would answer these prayers by hiding him from his enemies. 

"Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from the plots of evildoers."
- Psalm 64:1-2

Although our times are slightly different, we can still use this formula for our prayers - 'hear the cry of my heart O' God and protect me from my enemies.'

Thought: How can you use this prayer in your personal life today?

Living in Grace

Wednesday 12 July 2023

A Little Gate to God

"In the castle of my soul
Is a little postern gate,
Whereat, when I enter,
I am in the presence of God.
In a moment, in the turning of a thought,
I am where God is,
This is a fact.

The world of men is made of jangling noises,
With God it is a great silence.
But that silence is a melody
Sweet as the contentment of love,
Thrilling as a touch of flame."

These words are part of a poem written by Walter Rauschenbusch in the 19th Century. The poem is a lot longer than just these 2 stanzas, but the idea of the poem is in moving to a spiritual place (beyond the little back gate) where we can encounter Jesus and find that his presence changes us.

His words are rooted in the Biblical idea of drawing aside to pray and worship God - to have our own burning bush or Mount Zion moments. 

Living in Grace


Tuesday 11 July 2023

God is able

There is a beautiful verse in 2 Corinthians 9 that speaks of God's abundance and grace towards each of us. The more we read these words, the more they remind us of God's generous nature and love.

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (KJV)

I usually like to use the New International Version or even the New Living Translation when quoting the Scriptures in this blog, but there is something unique in the way the KJV speaks of how God is able to make 'all grace abound toward you.' What do you feel?

May these words bless you today. 

Think on them and allow them to change you. 

Living in Grace


Tuesday 4 July 2023

Blind courage

I have just finished reading a delightful book called Blind Courage. It is an autobiography of the epic trekking adventure of Bill Irwin. In 1990, Bill undertook the awesome challenge of walking the Appalachian Trail in North America. This adventure trail is over 2000 mile long (3600 km's) and crosses 14 American states. If this is not impressive enough for us, what is even more remarkable is that Bill walked the entire route blind! He needed the help of his guide-dog, Orient, but he managed to achieve what many seeing people can only dream of. It is an incredible feat.

At some point in the book Bill writes:

"I guess the Lord put me on the Trail with my blindness to let other people see what He could do. My job was to show up for work every day and walk as far as He gave me the strength to walk. God needed a weak man for that job, somebody who had to depend on Him for every step." 

There is so much in these words, and they could easily speak into our lives.

As we resolve to walk through our lives, may we learn to trust in the direction of our Lord.

Living in Grace


Sunday 2 July 2023

Resting in the shadow

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
- Psalm 91:1-2

While out running in the mountains today, I was reminded of this beautiful Psalm. It speaks of shelter and refuge and of placing our complete trust in God. 

As I passed a big rocky outcrop, a great shadow fell on my path, and I felt as if the words of Psalm 91 came alive for me. 

We can rest in God's shadow. 

Go in peace.

Living in Grace