Amazing Grace

John Newton - Author of Amazing Grace
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“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” John Newton wrote those famous words, as he reflected on the day he was aboard his ship off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. It was being battered by a severe storm, there was a hole in its side and it was sinking rapidly but amazingly he survived.

Newton was born in 1725 in Wapping, London. He was the son of a shipping merchant Christian family. However, by many accounts, he was not the conforming kind. He renounced his faith, deserted a career in the British Royal Navy and joined the merchant ship slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean and North America. It is said that he would openly mock the Captain by, “Creating obscene poems and songs about him that became so popular the crew began to join in”.

When his crew abandoned him in West Africa, because of his extreme behaviour, John Newton became a slave himself but was fortunately rescued through the actions of his father. Later, commenting on his abuse and ill-treatment as a slave, he referred to himself as an “Infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves.”

John Newton’s near-death experience led to his gradual conversion to Christianity. He started reading the Bible and other religious literature and studied Theology. He reformed his language and behaviour and, although he didn’t give up the slave trade until 1754/5, he ultimately became an anti-slave trade activist.

In 1764, John Newton was ordained a Priest in the Church of England and made a curate at Olney, Buckinghamshire. He wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace” from his own personal life experiences to illustrate a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773.

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Few of us have such poetic abilities as John Newton but many of us have a past that we deeply regret. Many of us may also have found solace in the words of Amazing Grace as we reflected, repented and sought God’s merciful forgiveness.

How often have we found ourselves repeating the same wrongs, fallen into the same temptations and thought, why would God want to, “Save a wretch like me”?

God is a loving God. He does not leave us, we leave Him… “I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see.”

Remember, God sent His Son Jesus to die for, “Sinners;” you and me.


Love and Forgiveness
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One day a while back, a man, his heart heavy with grief, was walking in the woods. As he thought about his life that day, he knew many things were not right. He thought of those who had lied about him, back when he had a job.

His thoughts turned to those who had stolen his things and cheated him. He remembered his family that had passed on. His mind turned to the illness he had that no one could cure. His very soul was filled with anger, resentment and frustration.

Standing there that day, searching for answers he could not find, knowing all else had failed him, he knelt at the base of an old oak tree to seek the one he knew would always be there, and with tears in his eyes, he prayed:

“Lord – You have done wonderful things for me in this life. You have told me to do many things for you, and I happily obeyed. Today, you have told me to forgive. I am sad, Lord because I cannot. I don’t know how. It is not fair Lord. I didn’t deserve these wrongs that were done against me and I shouldn’t have to forgive. As perfect as your way is Lord, this one thing I cannot do, for I don’t know how to forgive. My anger is so deep Lord, I fear I may not hear you, but I pray that you teach me to do this one thing I cannot do – Teach me To Forgive.”

Sculpture of Jesus carrying his Cross.

As he knelt there in the quiet shade of the old oak tree, he felt something fall on his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw something red on his shirt. He could not turn to see what it was because where the oak tree had been, was a large square piece of wood on the ground. He raised his head and saw two feet held to the wood with a large spike through them. He raised his head more, and tears came to his eyes as he saw, Jesus hanging on a cross. He saw spikes in His hands, a gash in His side, a torn and battered body, deep thorns sunk into His head.

Finally, he saw the suffering and pain in His precious face. As their eyes met, the man’s tears turned to sobbing and Jesus began to speak.

“Have you ever told a lie,” He asked? The man answered, “Yes, Lord.”
“Have you ever been given too much change and kept it?” The man answered, “Yes, Lord,” and he sobbed more and more.
“Have you ever taken something from work that wasn’t yours,” Jesus asked? And the man answered, “Yes, Lord.”
“Have you ever sworn, using my Father’s name in vain?” The man, crying, even more, answered, “Yes, Lord.”
…the questions continued… “Have you ever?” The man’s crying was uncontrollable, for he could only answer, “Yes, Lord.”

Then Jesus turned and bowed his head. The man felt something fall on his other shoulder, he looked and saw that it was more blood. When he looked back up, his eyes met those of Jesus, and there was a look of love that the man had never seen or known before.

Jesus said, “I didn’t deserve this either, but I forgive you.”

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When I once suggested to a man that he must try to forgive the sinner although understandably, the sin was awful, he angrily replied, “Never, never”. I was very shocked, yet I could understand his terrible hurt.

If only we could turn back that clock!

However, Jesus turned the clock back for all of us. That’s also something we don’t readily accept. God is both loving and, today, merciful; talk to him.

The Haircut

Well trimmed haircut.
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A man went to a barbershop to have a haircut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began the task, a good conversation followed. They talked about many people and a multitude of subjects.

Barber shop sign.

When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.” “Why do you say that?” asked the customer. “Well, you just have to go out in the street to realise that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God existed, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned, children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things”.

The customer thought for a moment but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument! The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. The man was homeless and unkempt. The customer turned back, re-entered the barber’s shop and said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers don’t exist”.

“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!” “No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside”. “Ah, but barbers DO exist! What happens, is, people do not come to me”.

“Exactly!”- affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, exists! What happens, is, people don’t go to Him and do not look for Him. That’s why there is so much pain and suffering in the world.

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If we want something material like an iPhone or car, we generally need to go shopping for it and, if valuable, we must be prepared to spend a significant amount.

When we have bought our dream item, we must then take care of it. That’s likely to involve more time and more money.

So, the leading question! Why are many of us willing to give such special attention to material wealth but not to God? After all, the items we buy and cling to usually depreciate in value over time; God does not and His rewards are for eternity.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” (Matthew 1128-30)

Remember, God is loving and merciful, look for Him!

The Young Hippie

Word "Peace" etched in sand at waters edge.
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His name was Bill. He was in his early twenties and had wild hair, and he wore a T-shirt with holes in it, blue jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He was a brilliant student, but kind of esoteric; a very, very bright young man. He became a Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus was a church with a very well-dressed, very conservative congregation. They wanted to develop a ministry to the students but were not sure how to go about it.

Roses and bullets with the words, "Peace Not War".

One Sunday, Bill decided to go there. He walked in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair. The service had already started and Bill walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was completely packed and he couldn’t find one. By then, people were really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything. Bill got closer and closer to the pulpit, and when he realised there were no seats, he just squatted down right on the carpet. The people were really uptight, and the tension in the air was thick.

About that time the minister realised, from way at the back of the church a deacon was slowly making his way toward Bill. Now the deacon was in his eighties and he had silver-grey hair and a three-piece suit. A Godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walked with a cane. As he started walking toward the young man, everyone was saying to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he was going to do. How could you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid sitting on the floor in church?

It took a long time for the deacon to reach the young man. The church was utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes were focused on him. You couldn’t even hear anyone breathing. The minister couldn’t even preach the sermon until the deacon did what he had to do. And now they saw this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, the old man lowered himself and sat down next to Bill and worshipped with him so Bill wouldn’t be alone.

Everyone was choked up with emotion.

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When the minister gained control, he said, “What I’m about to preach – you will never remember. What you have just seen – you will never forget. Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some people will ever read.”

Every Mothers warning, “Your actions speak louder than your words!”

The Geese and the Snowstorm

Flock of Geese.
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There was a man who didn’t believe in either the virgin birth of Jesus or the spiritual meaning behind it and was skeptical even about God. He and his family lived in a farm community. His wife was a devout believer and diligently raised her children in the faith. He sometimes gave her a hard time about her belief and mocked her religious observances. “It’s all nonsense – why would God lower himself and become a human like us? It’s such a ridiculous story,” he said.

Goose in flight

One snowy day, she and the children left for church while he stayed home. After they had departed, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening.

Then he heard a loud thump, something hitting against the window… And, still another thump. He looked outside but could not see anything. So he ventured out for a better view. In the field near his house, he saw, of all the strangest things, a flock of geese. They were apparently flying to look for a warmer area down south, but they had been caught in the snowstorm. The storm had become too blinding and violent for the geese to fly or see their way. They were stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter, unable to do more than flutter their wings and fly in aimless circles. He felt sorry for them and wanted to help. He thought to himself, the barn would be a great place for them to stay. It is warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he opened the barn doors for them.

Three geese in flight.

He waited, watching them, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. No, they did not notice the barn nor realise what it could mean for them. He moved closer toward them to get their attention, but they just moved away from him out of fear.

He went into the house and came back with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread trail to the barn. They still did not catch on.

Starting to get frustrated, he went over and tried to drive them toward the barn. They panicked and scattered in all directions except towards the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where there was warmth, safety, and shelter. Feeling totally frustrated, he exclaimed, “Why don’t they follow me? Can’t they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm? How can I possibly get them into the one place to save them?”

He thought for a moment and realised that they just would not follow a human. He said to himself, “How can I possibly save them? The only way would be for me to become like those geese. If only I could become like one of them. Then I could save them. They would follow me and I would lead them to safety.”

At that moment, he stopped and considered what he had said. The words reverberated in his head: If only I could become like one of them, then I could save them. Then, at last, he understood God’s heart towards mankind… and he fell on his knees in the snow.

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God loved us so much that he sent his only Son into the world in the hope that we would follow his Gospel. What else could God possibly do to convince us?

This is a beautiful story with a powerful message for both the believer and non-believer. The daily actions of the man’s wife and children didn’t go unnoticed. To the contrary, everything they did, stirred the husband’s thoughts until, one day, he saw the light.

“Actions speak louder than words”.

God works in all of us. When in doubt, say a Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

God’s Sacrifice

Yellowstone National Park
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After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally fossilised in ashes, perched statue-like on the ground, at the base of a tree.

Hen with her chicks.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked the bird over with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had led her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the flames and toxic smoke would kill.

She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother remained steadfast.


How often have we been the receivers of similar selfless protection?

Our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, … numerous people around us are filled with goodness. They frequently, willingly and quietly help us, because they love us. Often we don’t notice how committed they are or take their everyday help for granted. Instead, we expect it!

Of course, Jesus loved us so much that he stretched out his arms and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Coffee Or Cup, Who Are You?

Coffee Break sign

A group of past University students, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old University Professor. Their conversation soon turned to complaints about stress in work and life.

Book Cover: Coffee or Cup

Offering his guests coffee, the Professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite — telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the Professor said: “If you notice, all the nice looking expensive cups are taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself, adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases, it is just more expensive and in some cases, even hides what you drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups… And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.”

Small cup of coffee resting on saucer

“Now consider this,” he continued… “Life is the coffee. The jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee, God has provided us.”

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Are you the coffee or the cup?

The way we look at life is crucial. If we want happiness, we don’t need a Ferrari or a country estate, but the basics are necessary. Our problems often start when we desire multiple cars, a mansion, holiday home… and the list goes on! When our never-ending priority is to reach the next step on the ladder of the material world, it’s likely we have lost our way.

God wants us to be rich in happiness; love ourselves, our family, his creation, today, our work… but most of all, He wants us to love Jesus, who died so we could live.

Live simply, love everyone, love Jesus.

Today, Will Be A Piece Of Cake

Cake and list of ingredients
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A teenage daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, “Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.”

Heart-shaped cake with strawberries and cream on top.

“Here, have some cooking oil,” her Mother offered.
“Yuck” her daughter replied.

“How about a couple of raw eggs?”
“Gross, Mom!”

“Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?”
“Mom, those are all yucky!”

To which the mother replied, “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!

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Life is a complex mix of trials and tests; sometimes they are enjoyable, sometimes a burden. Although we may not always like the individual parts, God’s personal plan for each of us will lead to eternal joy, assuming we accept His offer.

When you pray today, share with Him the ingredients that you don’t like as well as the things you do and await His beautiful, “Piece of cake.” Trust God.

Let The Little Children Come To Me

Statue of Jesus with children

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, “Hi.” He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

Book Cover: Come To Me

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was an old man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a roadmap. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. Hi there, baby; Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,” the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, “What do we do?” Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hi, hi…” Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.

Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, “Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo.” Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments. We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door.

Elderly Signpost - Silhouette of old man with stick.

“Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s “pick-me-up” position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man. Suddenly, a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their relationship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder.

The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain and hard labour, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.” Somehow I managed to say, “I will,” from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, “God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift. You see, ma’am, I never saw my child grow up. My wife and son were taken from me in an automobile accident when they were both too young. I was never able to get over it.”

I said nothing more than a muttered thanks and “I’m sorry to hear that.” With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.” I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, “Are you willing to share your son for a moment?” when He shared His for all eternity. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me of Jesus’ words:

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

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It’s often said if you want to see the face of Jesus, walk among the poor, seek out the destitute or pick up a child. Children don’t understand why they can’t talk to a beggar but beggars know why adults don’t want them to!

It’s amazing how our lives change when we become a little more prosperous; we prefer independence to sharing and go to enormous lengths to enforce our rights. If only we could forever see others through the eyes of a child.

I hear myself listening to Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to [Him]“! (Matthew 19:14)

Understanding Others

Post-it with the message, "Remember".
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Heavenly Father, help us to remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savouring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not just to those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.


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Everyone has their own story and their own problems. Unless we take the time to stop and talk to our neighbours we will never be able to understand or help them.

This cheeky story and prayer is a wonderful example of how we can communicate with God but, yes, we must show more respect in our language and tolerance.

Remember, our merciful God wants to be a full partner in our everyday life.