Wednesday 28 February 2024

What will you do with your one extra day?


Every four years we get to celebrate an extra day in the calendar. For those born on the 29th of February they have to wait an awfully long time in between their birthdays, but I am sure that many of them celebrate either side of this mysterious day :) 

As we take a moment to reflect on this unique day, it is rather profound that we get 1 extra day in this leap year - that is a whole extra 24 hours to enjoy life. So, what are you going to do on your extra day? (Or do you just see it as a normal day on the calendar?)

It is interesting that if we asked the question in a different way, we may think about things from another point of view. "What if you only had 24 hours to live - how would you spend that day?" 

I am sure that I wouldn't be sitting on my computer, or watching mindless TV series, or reading the classifieds, or worrying about petty matters. We would probably want to spend the extra day with the most important and valuable people in our lives! 

What do you think? 

Psalm 139:16 - Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 27 February 2024

A great cause

Sometimes we forget that the human heart is stirred by the call to a great cause! Perhaps we have even been a respondent to a huge request, that others thought was a little crazy. According to legend, when the Italian Patriot, Garibaldi appealed for recruits, he used words similar to these:

“I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor provisions:
I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death.
Let him who loves his country in his heart, and not with his lips follow me.”

....and people followed him in their numbers! 

In our Lent reflections, let us remember that Jesus calls each of us to follow him, and that our 'Yes' is not a guarantee of comfort, fame, wealth or even applause. Perhaps the only confirmed guarantee we are given, is that Christ is with us always.

This 'great cause' we are invited to become a part of, has already outlived all political heroes, super-powers, governments and entities. Belonging to the Kingdom of God, holds the promise of eternity, and this is how Jesus invites us to be a part of this:

Luke 9:23 - Then he said to all, “Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to me!

Living in Grace

Monday 26 February 2024

Contemplations for Lent

Thomas Merton was a prolific author, speaker, mystic, poet and theologian. His writing provokes us to reflect deeply on our faith experience and our journey with Christ. I feel that the liturgical season of Lent is a good time for us to use some of his words as a catalyst for our own contemplations: 

"In a world of noise, confusion and conflict it is necessary that there be places of silence, inner discipline and peace. In such places love can blossom. "

"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy."

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds.”

Luke 17:11-13 - "As they continued onward toward Jerusalem, they reached the border between Galilee and Samaria, 12 and as they entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, sir, have mercy on us!”

Living in grace

Sunday 25 February 2024

Letting someone else lead us

We are not good at letting someone else lead us. We usually like to be in control and to call the shots. Jesus makes it clear, that when it comes to being a disciple, we must choose to let him lead us. There is no other way:

34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. (Mark 8 - Eugene Peterson)

Thought: What do you find hard about sitting in the passenger seat? 

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

Living in Grace


Thursday 22 February 2024

Please Remember and then please Forget!

"Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good."
- Psalm 25:7-8

These words of David are beautifully honest but may also seem a little confusing at first. He is asking God to remember, but then he is asking God to forget. What is going on in his mind?

In truth, we imagine David standing before the Lord, about to be scrutinized and judged. David begs God to remember God's love and mercy - to focus on all the compassionate elements of his nature. 

And then at the same time he asks God to forget David's sins, especially the sins of his youth. Not to hold them against them and to offer his unfailing love towards him. 

Thought: I am grateful that God chooses to forget our sins, because of the work of the Cross. God looks upon his Son, Jesus and chooses mercy.

"Remember your compassion and grace, Adonai;
for these are ages old.
Don’t remember my youthful sins or transgressions;
but remember me according to your grace
for the sake of your goodness, Adonai." - Complete Jewish Bible

Living in Grace

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Learning to know when to speak.

So, as much as we need to learn the discipline of Silence, we also need to hold in balance the ability to discern when it is the right time to speak. As I quoted yesterday, Ecclesiastes 3 says:

"a time to be silent and a time to speak." (v.7)

I hope that Lent helps me to discern when the right time to speak would actually be! It is so hard to know when this really is, because I am often tempted to speak in the moment. Our world encourages everyone to have an opinion and many people 'speak' their minds without really engaging their brains, which can be disastrous. 

If we look at the example of Jesus, we notice how he remained silent in some crucial moments, but at other times, he was willing to speak with great authority. Here are two examples:

"But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” - Mark 14:61

"The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life." - John 6: 63

Question: Do you have a process that helps you to discern when to speak and when to be silent? How can we get better at learning this discipline?

Living in Grace


Monday 19 February 2024

Learning to live in silence.

The Desert Fathers (and Mothers) believed that Silence was one of the safest ways to God. They believed that our words often got us into more trouble than we bargained for, and so remaining silent was a discipline worth pursuing. One of these Desert Father, Arsenius remarked:

"I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent."

Wow, how true are those words!? Remember that time that you blurted out those words and immediately started to regret them? 

The writer of Ecclesiastes also knew that there was an appropriate time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3).

Lent is one of those seasons, where we are trying to pay attention to the voice of God. In tuning into the words of the Spirit, we will need to practice holding our tongues at times.

Thought: How easy/hard is this for you to do?

Living in Grace


Planted or buried?

"Sometimes when you're in a dark place you think that you've been buried, but you've actually been planted." - Christine Cane

John 12:24 - "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

On our journey to the agony of the Cross, let us remember that Jesus's death and resurrection, changes the way we look at our troubles and losses. What may seem like a loss to us, could just be the foundation of something marvelous in the future. 

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal." - Eugene Peterson

Living in Grace


Sunday 18 February 2024

A prayer for Lent

I really enjoy this season of Lent, as I feel that it heightens my awareness to the things of God. Of course, this is not something that we have to only experience in the Lenten season, but we can encounter this at any time during the year. However, there is something profound in knowing that millions of other Christians are also praying, seeking, reflecting and listening for the voice of God.

In reading Psalm 25, I was impressed by the honesty of David's prayer in these 2 verses:

"Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,” - Psalm 25:4-5

These 3 words give us a clue into the heart of David's faith and willingness to surrender to the sovereignty of God. Even as a King himself, David was humble enough to ask God for wisdom and strength. 

  • Show me
  • Teach me
  • Guide me
“Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person's seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next.”- Elisabeth Elliot

Living in Grace


Saturday 17 February 2024

I trust in you

As we take a moment to reflect on Psalm 25:1-2, we note David's resolve to place his life into the hands of God. I don't believe this was a once off event for him, but rather a renewal of his commitment, probably as a result of a crisis in his life.

"Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! – NLT

  • As you and I go deeper into Lent, perhaps we could think on the areas of our lives that we haven't surrendered to God as yet? 
  • Are there circumstances in our lives, where we are deciding to place our full trust in God's grace?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” - Ernest Hemingway

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.” ― Paulo Coelho

Living in Grace


Thursday 15 February 2024

A service for Valentines Day?

While fetching one of my kids yesterday, I explained that I needed to drop him off at home quickly, so that I could rush to the evening service. Without thinking, he replied: "Since when did we start having services for Valentine's Day!?" 

After chuckling to myself, I told him that it was not a service for Valentine's Day, but rather an Ash Wednesday Service. To which he responded: "Oh yes, I forgot!" 

And so, in our brief conversation, we stumbled across some powerful realizations:

1. Ash Wednesday is NOT like Valentine's Day in many ways, but it does celebrate the greatest act of Love ever revealed to humanity. 

2. Love is not something we only 'speak of', but rather what we show with our actions. "For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son..." (John 3:16).

3. Lent is an important time in our Christian journey, precisely because our lives are so hectic, that we easily 'forget' to lean into the promises of God.


What are taking up (or giving up) in Lent, in order to help you remain focused on Jesus Christ?

Living in Grace


Tuesday 13 February 2024

A season of reflecting

As we begin a season of reflection, fasting, listening and praying, it is good to remind ourselves why observing Lent is a helpful practice. Of course, it is not something that we have to do, but I always find deep value in marking this period with intentionality. 

For those who argue we don't need to observe Lent, I simply respond by suggesting that focused prayer, fasting, scripture reading and meditation, are all biblical practices that help us to commune with our Lord. Whether we do it in this season of the year or later on, it doesn't really matter. However, in my experience, Lent is a precious time that prepares my heart for the life-changing message of the Cross and Resurrection. 

"Lent is a call to renew a commitment grown dull, perhaps, by a life more marked by routine than by reflection." – Joan Chittister

"The real question of the Lenten season is how will I clear out the junk and garbage in my life so that I can be restored to God in some fresh way? What are the disciplines that will open up space for God to create a clean heart and new spirit in me?" - Ruth Haley Barton.

"Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him." - 1 Chronicles 16:11

May this Lenten season be a period of renewal, grace and a deepening of your faith.

Living in Grace

Monday 12 February 2024

Tuesdays with Morrie

I have just finished re-reading Mitch Albom's classic, Tuesdays with Morrie. In this moving story, Mitch connects with his old University professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is slowly dying with Lou Gerig's disease. As they meet together for these remarkable conversations, Mitch discovers so much more about life, death and everything in-between. 

As one reads deeper into the book, you also begin to wrestle with the bigger questions of life and how one can live a meaningful life.

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” - Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Colossians 1:10 - "so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God."

Living in Grace


Wednesday 7 February 2024

Do all that you do with love

I found the following words from Therese of Lisieux to be moving, as well as challenging:

"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love."

"Perfect love means putting up with other peoples shortcomings, feeling no surprise at their weaknesses, finding encouragement even in the slightest evidence of good qualities in them." - Therese of Lisieux

1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I am away on a seminar for this week, so if you don't receive a blog for a few days, this is the reason why. God bless you and thanks for your support of this ministry.

Living in grace


Tuesday 6 February 2024

Fixing your eyes


If we want to walk in straight line (relatively) it is best to have a fixed point to aim towards. The temptation to go off course is great, unless we can keep our eyes on this point. 

“No ploughman ever ploughed a straight furrow looking back over his shoulder.” (William Barclay)

As we walk into the future may we keep our eyes on Jesus - he is the best 'fixed' point we could ever as for.

Hebrews 12:2 - "... fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Living in Grace


Monday 5 February 2024

What is your "but"?

What is your "but"? 

Just before you think I have lost the plot, let me explain by sharing this scripture: 

"Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:61-62

One of the people that Jesus asked to follow him, seemed interested, but needed to go and do something other things first. His reply could have been summed up as the "yes, BUT....." response! 

In my experience, when our hearts are fully committed to something, they rarely add a 'but' into the equation. They are willing to go, no matter what?

Question: What is your 'but' at the moment? What is stopping us from being fully committed to Jesus?

Living in Grace


Saturday 3 February 2024

Leader or follower?

When we look around the world at the moment, we see a dearth of good leadership. It is true that we need inspirational leaders in order to get us into a better place, as a planet, but I feel that we also need to be faithful followers of God, in order to stay focused on higher values and principles. 

The following story says a lot about us as people, at the moment: 

S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, "Are you a leader?" 

Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, "No," and returned the application, expecting the worst. 

To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower." - S. I. McMillen.

Jesus called us to follow him first, before we ventured off into our own version of leadership. 

"He said to another man, “Follow me.” - Luke 9:59

Living in Grace


Thursday 1 February 2024

Climb into my skin


"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ...until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

When Atticus Finch spoke these words in Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, they resonated with many of us. How often have others spoken about us as if we didn't exist, or their unkind words have left us feeling wounded? 

When someone wants to truly understand our pain, or our unique circumstances, they are simply saying: "I am willing to climb into skin and live your life for one day! Then I will truly understand what you are going through!"

This is truly a gift - to have someone who is willing to do this, is a great blessing.

On the other hand, for us NOT to be willing to do this for others is very tragic. We imply that their lives don't matter and that we have not got the time of day for them.

Thankfully Jesus showed us a different road to walk.

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right. " - James 2:8

Thought: Have you walked around in anyone's skin lately?

Living in Grace