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Showing posts from 2018

An apple a day

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For some reason, whenever I return to East London from Pietermaritzburg (or vice versa), I find myself contracting a bit of a cold.

We will shortly be heading back home to East London after a busy year and this got me thinking if there are any sure-fire ways that could prevent me from getting sick in the coming weeks.

My first thought was the old proverb: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

I then thought back to all of the advice I have received over the years about staying healthy: "Take your multi-vitamins daily," "stay warm when it's cold outside," "make sure you dry your hair when you get out the shower," etc...

Unfortunately, I don't have the one right answer and if I'm honest, I don't know that there is one. I think if there was any fool-proof way to prevent sickness, we would all be doing it.

We often seem to have a similar experience in our spiritual journeys and no matter how hard we try to prevent it, at various times o…

Baking a Cake

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I am not very good at baking cakes, but I am quite skilled at eating them.

While most cakes are extremely delicious, not all of the individual ingredients that go into baking a cake are all that tasty by themselves. If I walk into the kitchen and my wife is in the early stages of making a chocolate cake, I would happily stick my fingers into the pot of melted chocolate, but you wouldn't see me going near the flour or raw eggs in any kind of rush.

But something amazing happens when all of the not-so-tasty ingredients are put together in just the right order and quantity. After mixing all of the ingredients together and exposing them to extreme heat, they fulfil their purpose and form a wonderful new creation.

Our lives are also made up of a large number of ingredients, not all of them tasty, that come together to make us who we are.

Not all of life's experiences are enjoyable. Often we encounter difficulties or struggles. As we experience them, the taste is often disgusting. B…

True Beauty

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Those of you who know me personally, know that I am a gigantic Harry Potter fan.

On our recent trip to the UK, we were in the midst of Harry Potter country. Not only were we in the area where the movies were filmed, we also got to visit the places where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration to write these wonderful tales.

We made sure to use every opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Harry Potter fandom in the UK.
We visited Kings Cross station, the Warner Brothers Studios, Tom Riddle's grave, the coffee shop where JK Rowling used to write her books (The Elephant Room), many of the castles that Hogwarts was modeled after and we even got to ride on the Hogwarts Express steam train! Needless to say, I was in my element.
At the Warner Bros Studio Tour we saw how the film makers used amazing special effects to make brooms fly, dragons come to life and magic real. In one of the rooms (Shown in the picture above) they have a massive replica of Hogwarts castle that they used to film wide …

Heritage

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This past week, my dad took our family on a 10-day tour of the UK with the intention of hunting down our family roots and discovering the origin of the Taylor name.
It was an awesome trip and we got to experience some truly beautiful areas, making memories together that will last forever.

We spent a lot of time in Scotland viewing some of the majestic castles and villages that the Taylor clan used to reside in, some of them are still in good condition while others are sitting in ruins.

Throughout the trip, as we sat in the local pubs and the small living rooms of our Airbnb's, my dad shared the stories of the origin of the Taylor clan - wondrous stories about an abandoned, illegitimate child of the Cameron Clan who was raised by the local village tailor (hence the name), eventually becoming a fierce warrior known for his dark, relentless side when in battle. It is a blockbuster tale that would make a seriously good book!

This trip reminded me of my other heritage, that of my heri…

A God Planned Meetup

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This past weekend I had the most incredible experience. But let me start at the beginning...

A couple of months ago, my friend and mentor since 2007, Darrel Hofland, told me that he was planning on moving to the UK in October this year. I knew that we would need to plan a meet-up before he left as it might be a while before we had the opportunity to see each other again.

Darrel has been living in Somerset West so I decided to try and visit him there. I tried to book tickets to fly there from Pietermaritzburg, but none of our available weekends linked up.

We then found out that we would both be in Knysna at the same time in July and planned to meet-up there. Unfortunately, my ouma passed away that week and we had to postpone our trip.

He told me that he would be coming to Durban the week before he left for the UK which is closer to us, but I had already fully booked myself and had no way to get down to Durbs in time.

We realized that we only had one last chance to meet up and it would…

A personal touch of healing

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In Mark 7, we encounter a strange story of Jesus healing a deaf man with a speech impediment.

You can read the full story in Mark 7:31-37, but here is a brief summary:

A deaf and mute man is brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus first takes this man aside in private, away from the crowd, and then proceeds to stick his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. Strange right? Jesus then looks up to heaven and with a big sigh, says to the man: “Ephphatha,” which means “be opened” and the man’s eyes were opened and he began to speak plainly.

One could argue that if Jesus indeed had the ability to heal the sick, surely he could have just clicked his fingers and it would have been done? So why then do we read countless stories in scripture of Jesus healing people in a variety of different ways?

Here are a couple of other examples where Jesus uniquely healed people:
In Mark 1, Jesus shouts at a man to drive out an impure spirit and heals a man with leprosy with …

Keep Running the Legacy

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This year in South Africa we celebrated the 100th birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Although he is unfortunately not with us today, he left a strong legacy that will last for many generations to come. A legacy that perpetuates the values of peace, reconciliation, inclusion, passion and freedom.

The Mandela Marathon is an annual event that was inaugurated in 2012 to honour the life and times of arguably one of South Africa's greatest ever icons.

The theme of this year's Mandela Marathon was Keep Running the Legacy.

As I participated in the event on Sunday, I was inspired to experience many aspects of this legacy in action throughout the duration of the day. 
The route of the race is challenging and there were some tough sections where I was tempted to begin walking, but my fellow comrades encouraged me to push through the pain and keep on going, symbolizing the fighting spirit that Mandela epitomized with his life.
The amount of support from the many water tables along th…

Truth

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What exactly is truth? Can truth be proven? Is truth relative? When we declare to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, are we really claiming to speak the absolute truth or merely what we believe to be true?
For example, I personally believe that a true statement would be: "Water polo is one of the most difficult sports that a human being can play." Whereas, if you asked my wife the same question, she would unequivocally tell you that that statement is false.

Can my truth be different to someone else's?

I believe that it is true (see what I did there) what John Van de Laar claims in his book The hour that changes everything:
"What we believe to be true forms the foundation for every part of our being."This is why so many so-called religious leaders can seemingly justify their hate-filled motives behind their belief that what they are doing is supported by truth. Because they honestly believe, for whatever reason, that their version of the truth is the correct…

Worthless or Worthy?

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Last week a moving video popped up on my timeline about a homeless man in the UK named Andy. Andy bought a dog from a beggar and he explains how the dog (Bailey) brought meaning to his life and gave him a purpose to live...
You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1jUXnAnb7A
Andy, who was previously a heavy drug addict (Heroin and Crack) for 15 years, got to a low point where he was standing on the edge of a bridge contemplating suicide. But when he saw how his dog was looking at him and how much Bailey loved him, he realized that he could not leave his dog behind and so he made the decision to change his life around.
Something that Andy said has really stuck with me. He spoke about how as a homeless man, it is so painful when people walk past him and don't acknowledge him. 
"When you're stood there, hungry, and no-one is noticing you, just walking by as if you don't count, in your mind it convinces you that you are worthless."
He said that …

Lessons from the Knysna Forest Marathon

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In July, I was lucky enough to run the Knysna Forest Half-Marathon with some of my close friends and family.

The race consists of a grueling route through the beautiful Knysna forests and mountains. I had trained fairly intensely and was aiming to do my PB for a 21km run.

We stood around in the cold for about 2 hours before the race. This gave us time to psych ourselves up and get our minds around the mammoth task ahead of us. Needless to say, by the time the gun sounded we were quite antsy and ready to go!

After about 6 or 7 km's into the race, I suddenly realized that I had been so focused on sticking to my desired pace that I had completely ignored all of the beautiful scenery around me.

I looked around and enjoyed the views, but within the next km or so, I again found myself focusing more on the figures on my watch than enjoying the experience of being involved in such a prestigious race.

For the remainder of the race, I had to continuously reminded myself to take note of the…

The Key to a Happy Life

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What is the key to a happy life? It is a question that has been debated among psychologists, religious leaders and friends from all walks of life. (If you have come here for the answer, I humbly apologize about the misleading title, but you won't find it here.)

So many people believe that they know a fool-proof way to experience a happy life. 

One of the most common responses would be to become wealthy.
Some will claim that its all about having a healthy lifestyle.
Others will say it's about eating a lot of good food. 
Some will argue for a Zen lifestyle full of yoga and meditation. 
Others will debate that gaining plenty of knowledge and wisdom is the best way. 
Still others will just tell you in Bobby McFerrin's famous words: "Don't worry, Be happy." 
And if you ask most husbands they would say: "happy wife, happy life." 

There are many different techniques that people try in order to live a happy life.

Some Christians will claim that the key to a happy lif…

Hiatus

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I have taken a hiatus from updating my blog for the past 5 weeks.

We have just had a mid-year break at the Seminary and upon some reflection, I decided that I would use this opportunity to have as much of a break as possible, not only from academic work and preaching, but also from writing my personal blog and basically doing anything productive at all.

Usually during my academic holidays, I would use the extra free time to work on fun projects that I would not usually have time for during the term, such as writing or recording new music, helping out at my home church, catching up on reading, writing new material, etc.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I was forced into a situation where I was unable to do any of the above "holiday work" that I had intended to. A couple of days after arriving in East London, our family received the tragic news of my gran's passing. 
I was devastated. 
I had no motivation to do anything. 
It felt like the climax of a storm that had been br…

Edu-taining

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I can clearly recall a local preachers meeting that I attended a couple of years ago where one of the members commented that one should not use humour in their sermons as it dishonours the word of God and preaching the gospel is a serious affair.

I can't remember where he got his justification from, but it was well supported from various sources. This comment has stuck with me through the years and recently got me considering the way that we conduct our worship services.

I have been to many church gatherings where the sound and lighting shows have rivaled Coachella and the beautifully-edited, tear-jerking promo videos of the church's current events could very well have been produced by Steven Spielberg himself.

Is the entertainment factor a healthy addition to the church worship service or does it do more harm than good?Is there there a place for it in our churches? How much is too much?

Personally, I believe that God can work through a wide variety of worship styles: loud an…

Take a deep breath

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I have a habit of holding my breath whenever I am nervous or stressed. When I realize and take a deep breath, I can physically feel my body relax and my thoughts clear.

The last few weeks have been some of the most stressful that I have experienced in a while. I have had assignment submissions, exams to prepare for and car trouble upon car trouble.

Walking out of my exam this morning, I felt like I could relax for the first time in a while. I took a couple of deep breaths and could immediately feel my whole body relaxing.

It is amazing how breathing has such a calming effect on our bodies during stressful times. Professional sportsmen learn proper breathing techniques in order to perform under pressure and pregnant women are encouraged to breathe during labour.
NOOMA - Breathe (YouTube Link)
I love the way that Rob Bell addresses it in his NOOMA video titled Breathe. He explains that the Hebrew name for God is essentially 4 words that make up the vowel sounds of the Hebrew language: Yod,…

Until the first arrow hits

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One of my favourite fantasy stories of all time is called The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.

I have recently been re-reading the series and came across a quote by an army general which really inspired me:

"The best of plans last only until the first arrow hits, but a determined, unyielding commander can bring order to chaos by the way he holds himself." - Rodel Ituralde (The Towers of Midnight)
Most leaders would agree that planning ahead is important.
It is quite common, and natural, to put plans in place to try and ensure the best possible outcome in certain situations. 
The problem is that no matter how well we formulate our plans and think through all the possible scenarios we might encounter, something could always go wrong that could render our plans completely useless.
One of the distinctions between a strong leader and a weak leader is how they deal with change, particularly when it affects their original plans.
Often, when things go pear-shaped, it is not the action…

When life gives us lemons

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In the midst of some truly joyful experiences this year, Mel and I have had to also endure through a number of tough challenges.

Without going into too much detail, we have been faced with family feuds (not the fun game-show type); financial strain; academic struggles; burnout and far more car trouble than anyone would like to deal with.

Life has certainly thrown us its fair share of the proverbial lemons.

But all of this this got me thinking... Are we still able to see God's grace in our lives when things aren't going as planned?

It's easy to speak about God's goodness when the road is smooth. But when we encounter bumpy patches, we are quick to forget.

"God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!"
This age-old saying that we often recite in our churches is beautiful and true. But do we really believe the words that we are saying?

Do we truly believe that God is good all the time? Or only when things are going well?

Indeed, God was good when I was …

The God of Relationships

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On Monday, my wife Mel and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. It was an awesome time of reflecting and celebrating on the past two years of marriage together.

The reason I began this blog was to intentionally seek out and write about the harmonies of God's grace in the world around me.

There is no aspect of my life where God's grace is more evident to me than in my marriage.

This is not a post where I want to brag about how amazing my wife is (even though she truly is the best!) or a post where I reveal the innermost secrets of our marriage....

This is a post where I am acknowledging God's work and grace in my life through my marriage.

When I make mistakes and deserve to be scolded, Mel's forgiveness reminds me of Christ's forgiveness. When I feel sad or angry, Mel's ready, loving embrace reminds me of the Holy Spirit's comfort. When I get prideful or boastful, Mel's gentle rebuke reminds me of God's firm, loving hand and Jesus' humility. Wh…

Graduation

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It is that time of the year in South Africa where our social media feeds are flooded with graduation posts; from relatives, friends, old class-mates from school, and people we've never met whose photos were shared by mutual friends.

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend my sister's graduation ceremony at UKZN as she received her Masters in Hydrology. A truly amazing achievement!

It was the first graduation ceremony I have ever attended and I was struck by the overwhelming sense of shared pride and joy in the auditorium.

Even though every person was there for a particular person's achievement, there was a communal sense of accomplishment and appreciation for what each and every student had individually achieved.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." - Romans 12:15 (NIV)
But this is not always the case. How often do we do exactly the opposite of what this verse is saying?

Perhaps it is jealousy or possibly our competitive nature, or maybe t…

Lighthouse

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Today's post follows on from my previous post, Leave A Light On.

In his song with the same title, Tom Walker sings about leaving the light on for his drug-addict friend as a constant reminder that he will always be welcomed home. Here are the lyrics again:


If you look into the distance, there's a house up on the hill Guidin' like a lighthouse To a place where you'll be safe to feel our grace 'Cause we've all made mistakes If you've lost your way…
I will leave the light on I will leave the light on I will leave the light on I will leave the light on


In my last post, I shared that God uses a similar approach to us, that no-matter how far we stray, God will always leave the light on for us as a constant reminder that we will welcome be welcomed home into God's open, loving arms.

So this got me thinking... what is the church's role in all of this?

While God is the one who accepts us and welcomes us home just as we are, I believe that it is the church…

Leave A Light On

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British singer and songwriter Tom Walker released a song last year titled Leave A Light On.

The lyrics tell a heart-wrenching story of one of Tom's friends who is a drug-addict and is losing his life to the addiction.

Tom claims that he does not want to lose another friend to drugs and that no matter how dark his friend's life gets, Tom will always leave a light on to remind his friend that he is always welcome back home.

If you look into the distance, there's a house up on the hill Guidin' like a lighthouse To a place where you'll be safe to feel our grace 'Cause we've all made mistakes If you've lost your way…
I will leave the light on I will leave the light on I will leave the light on I will leave the light on
There is such powerful imagery in this song.
We all make mistakes. We all lose our way.
But no matter how far we stray or how bad our life gets, God will always leave the light on for us.
God will always be welcoming us back home with a loving embrace, ready…

Codenames

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I love playing board-games (If that came as a surprise to you then we obviously haven't seen each other in a while!)

I was recently introduced to a party-style game called Codenames whichis quickly becoming one of my favourites.

The game is set-up with 25 random words on a board in front of all the players. The aim of the game is for one player - the spymaster - to help his team members say certain words by giving them one related word as a clue. The team is rewarded for guessing correct words and punished for incorrect words. If a spymaster does their job correctly, they could link 3 or 4 words with one single clue.

I am not sure if my explanation does the game much justice, but I would highly recommend that you play this game if you enjoy (mostly) friendly rivalry with family and friends.

The difficulty in Codenames occurs when the spymaster is on a completely different line of thought to the other members on their team. They might be completely justified in their reasoning for…

Adoption

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During chapel this morning, the seminarians were given an opportunity to theologically reflect on our Easter placements, particularly the time that we got to spend with our families.
One of my fellow seminarians, Claire Banks, shared a story of how she and her husband finalized an adoption of a child this past week and how this experience reminded her of the relationship that Christ shares with us.
Listening to her speak about this experience, I was reminded of God's Grace for us as we are adopted as God's own children.
"In love, God predestined us for adoption as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will." - Ephesians 1:5 (NIV)
Adoption is such a powerful example of the love and grace that God has for each and every one of us.
In South Africa, when a child is adopted, they are given a new birth certificate with the surname of their new parents. When we are adopted into Christ's family, we are also given a new identity…

A Shared Meal

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"The Pharisees and teachers of the Law asked Jesus: 'Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?'" - Luke 5:30
Jesus spent his time on earth eating and drinking - a lot of his time.

Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus was either coming from a meal, at a meal, or going to a meal. It was often around a meal that Jesus' discipleship and evangelism took place.

There is something special about sharing a meal together.

I am reminded of this every time my wife and I get to visit our families in East London and every time we sit down to share a meal with friends. Whether celebrating a special event like Christmas, Easter, anniversaries, birthdays, or even just a quick catch-up session, God's grace is evident around a table of food and drink.

Sharing a meal is more than merely eating food together. A shared meal represents friendship, community, hospitality and grace.

Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard because he ate and drank with tax-collectors …

The Toilet-Paper Debate

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Image Source: Business Insider
The age old debate: Should toilet paper be placed so that it is pulled from over the top or from under the bottom?

It's amazing how heated the debate of this seemingly insignificant topic can get.

This made me consider how many of these "toilet paper" issues do we let consume us when it comes to our faith?

What is the best way to worship? Hymns or contemporary?
When is the best time to have church? Saturdays or Sundays? Mornings or Evenings?
Should Christians be reading fictitious books with debatable theology?
What is the right way to baptize someone? Full immersion or sprinkling?
What is the right way to serve/receive Holy Communion?

How often do we see issues such as these dividing religions, denominations or even local churches?

I believe that there are primary issues and secondary issues in our Christian faith. Primary issues are core to the universal church and deserve to be debated. Secondary issues are beliefs that we personally feel strongl…