Common Sense and Other Essentials

We’ve often heard the following advice from our Victorian State Premier, ‘Commonsense is what should guide everybody’. It’s made me ask these questions: Is that always the only approach in every situation? Can everyone use gumption well? And do we usually possess all the information to help us make a wise decision?

I found a few definitions. One applies to my first question. ‘Common sense is the ability to see beyond the rules and apply intelligence to a situation. It might be about knowing when to break rules for the purpose of complying with more important outcomes’. We’ve been told to ‘stay home’ during this lockdown, but in an emergency, like the storm that hit various suburbs here last week, people can choose to leave home to get help. In a compassionate society, that’s common sense!

During our overnight curfew, a man told the roadblock police that he was ‘taking rice to his children’. Maybe the $12,000 cash, or the illegal drugs in his car, are now called ‘rice’? That answers my second query, and fits this definition: ‘Commonsense is developed by being more aware, and reflecting on situations before making a decision’. Surely he knew he’d be caught in the quiet streets in the middle of the night. No commonsense.

Another is, ‘Commonsense is based on human compassion and respect for yourself and others.’  It reminds me of a young autistic man I heard talking about interaction between neurotypicals and people who have Aspergers Syndrome. He said, ‘Just be kind’. How wise. That’s also in the list of fruit that the apostle Paul said the Holy Spirit will give to us (Galatians 5: 22). 

The Premier’s statement was made in the context of Victorians deciding how to obey the rules that the government had put in place to protect us all from the spread of the coronavirus. He cited the couple who made a 200-kilometre round-trip to ‘do exercise’, instead of staying closer to home, as instructed. People like them had caused us all to be limited to exercising only in a five-kilometre range from our homes. Did they think about the consequences of their actions?  No commonsense. 

I remember my father helping me with my maths homework. He wasn’t well-educated, but he was clever. He couldn’t understand why the teachers wouldn’t accept the ‘obvious short-cut’ he’d taught me, unless I’d shown how I’d arrived at the answer. He was a man full of common sense; what teachers might consider cheating never appealed to him. 

A while ago, our grandson was struggling with a face mask, until he discovered he was eligible for an exemption. A permit from his doctor was all he needed. That applies to my third question.

I believe the person who has commonsense is observant. They pick up tips to carry in their mind like valuable treasure, and bring them out when needed. They don’t ignore good advice. 

The opposite of commonsense is foolishness. Jesus told a story showing his opinion of stupid people. In Matthew 7 we have a series of his wise teachings. You may remember the final one about the wise and foolish men. The sensible person built his home on the rock. But what sticks in our minds is the graphic picture of the foolish man who erected his house on the sand. All that hard work, and what a mess after the floods!

Jesus finished by saying, Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock – Matthew 7:24.

Will we use commonsense and choose to obey what Jesus said?


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Falling but not Failing

Can you imagine David, King of Israel, as an old man? Perhaps he’s sitting with his grandchildren gathered around him, plus his favourite servants, his old soldier-friends, and close family. He’s reciting Psalm 37; maybe singing it. He wants them to know the way to live well. 

Songs are such a valuable way to remember important truths. This week I was repeating verse 23 of that same psalm. I’d learnt it as a song many years ago, and it came back to me exactly when I desperately needed its words of encouragement:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his ways…’.

That sentence gave me strength. In fact the whole verse made me think about many things.

When Eugene Peterson translated Psalm 37:23 into The Message Bible, he didn’t use the words ‘good man’. The single word he chose isn’t in common use these days, but I really like stalwart. Its synonyms are strong: staunch, faithful, committed, devoted, dedicated. Dependable, reliable, loyal, stable, and hard-working. They describe a person whom David admired. And so does God.

In my mind, I see ‘good man’ standing tall. His name is Stalwart. David personalised his examples, not only as Wicked and Stingy, but Righteous, Generous, and Good – or Stalwart. That last one gives us plenty of virtues from which to choose if we want to be good. Which one would you select? I want to be all of them!

The next part of the verse says, ‘… though he fall, he shall not be cast down…’

Now that’s hard when you’re going along at a brisk pace, and before you know it, down you go, with a concrete path coming up to meet your falling body faster than you expected. That was me last week.

As I lay there for a mini-second, I wondered, ‘Is this going to be like it was six years ago when I fell and broke my hip, and couldn’t get up? I knew I had to try this time, so, like a toddler, I scrabbled up onto all fours, and managed to rise. There was no-one in sight, so I put one foot forward, and with lots of praise to God for his promise in the rest of that Bible verse, I proceeded to complete the other half of my daily walk. My ribs were a bit sore, but I was upright. 

Now, do you know what those last inspiring words are? They’re a wonderful reassurance that says: … for the Lord upholds him with his hand. 

Over that last kilometre, I kept going, longing to reach home so I could tend to any injuries. On the way, I wondered if I should see a doctor, but decided I couldn’t possibly have any broken bones because here I was, walking. All the way home!

Then it was time to begin preparing our hot dinner, so I set to and did it. I stayed up all day, but by evening I was feeling shaky. I think God was suggesting a good rest would be in order. He believes in rest, but not on a lonely path way out beyond the electricity pylons! 

That was last Thursday. I’m sporting some bruises, one grazed knee, sore ribs that are healing, and a song I can’t get out of my head. Here’s The Message Bible version:

Stalwart walks in step with God;
    his path blazed by God, he’s happy.
If he stumbles, he’s not down for long;
    God has a grip on his hand.

I’m sure you’d like to read the whole psalm and enjoy God’s hand around yours. 


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Numbers or Words

Learning the twelve-times-table as a child in fourth grade, I wasn’t only discovering about a dozen eggs, a quarter being three, and half being six, I was imbibing a truth that God put in place for us to learn about himself.

When I learnt the piano, I didn’t realise how much of God’s personality was involved in the music. What multiplication! Every melody has a pattern.

Right now in our State, we’re being inundated with numbers: how many new cases of COVID-19 have occurred since yesterday, and sadly, the total deaths, with the age of each deceased person. We can choose to hear God’s voice in all of this, or allow our lives to descend into chaos.

Take the game of cricket for instance. It’s full of statistics: how many runs in a short period of time, how many balls bowled, the number of overs. Followers of the game love them! The ABC sports writer, Geoff Lemon, wrote: ‘For all the apparent immutability of mathematics, words may yet explore places that numbers cannot’.

The Bible is full of lists. God had a reason for each of them, but I like to think the words are the most important! Moses wrote: God created the earth by what he said. And John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, said, In the beginning was The Word. He was talking about Jesus, who was present at creation, participating in it all.

I’ve always loved the 55th chapter of Isaiah. (Read it and enjoy it for yourself!) I especially hang onto these words about what God would do for his people:

So you’ll go out in joy,
    you’ll be led into a whole and complete life

~ Isaiah 55: 12 (The Message Bible)

In other translations that last phrase is ‘be led forth in peace’. That’s what peace is: a whole and complete life! In everything God does, there’s abundance and integrity! 

In our Bible, the dramas, the parables, the letters, the gospels all speak to us. That’s what words do for me. Perhaps it’s calculus that grabs you. I don’t get excited about numbers like I do about ideas, but I need to accept that God does speak to us through numbers. He has more than one way of communicating with us; he’s a speaker and a multiplier. We shouldn’t limit him. Depending on the way he’s made us to be like him, he reveals himself, his personality, his wonderful attributes, through his innate character. Whether he’s speaking through numbers or words, or any other way, he’s always in control, producing an amazing harmony in our lives.

Our part is to listen. Whenever we begin to comprehend that it’s his voice bringing good news, we need to turn from our busy activities, and wait. Whether they’re facts in the form of numbers, or coming to our inner ear by means of words, God is showing himself to us.

I’d like to finish with some more of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway … everything’s free! …  listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you … sure, solid, enduring love… Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand …

I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work… the words that come out of my mouth (will) not come back empty-handed … they’ll complete the assignment I gave them …  

The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song’ … a living and lasting evidence of God.

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a unique name

As my father held our toddler on his lap, he referred to my mother as Grandma, but Mum swiftly reminded him, ‘I’m Mar Mar’, she said proudly. ‘That’s their special name for me’.

In later years, our son asked me if I would mind if he called me by my Christian name. I replied that it was a privilege to be able to call me ‘Mum’. He never asked again!

We like to think our name’s unique, but looking online for family and friends, it’s amazing how many ‘twins’ I’ve found. Some parents try to give their child’s name an original spelling, unknowingly burdening them with problems in the future! How many odd pronunciations have we heard from teachers who have never heard our name spoken?

I had a friend whose first job was as a receptionist in a funeral home. One day the director had to go out and he left her with specific instructions about a client who was expected to call in to view her deceased grandfather. When the young woman arrived, she showed her to the back room where he was laid out, and left her to mourn in private. My friend had barely returned to her desk when the girl came running out, ashen-faced and crying, ‘That’s not my Grandad!’ The man she’d seen had the same names as her grandfather, and had died on the same day! What a shock. My friend never forgot that experience.

As a teenager, I won a prize in a newspaper competition. The results came to my school, but another girl, who unknowingly shared my name (except the middle one), was called to receive it. She was honest enough to say she hadn’t entered the competition.

Recently, I was in the doctor’s waiting room and he came out and called my first name. I  followed him into his room and when he examined the papers on his desk, he exclaimed,  ‘Sorry! Wrong Lynette’. I returned to my seat while another lady was called in my place! I was next…after her!

These incidents show how unoriginal our names can be. In family history research, it’s handy if William or Mary is used repeatedly over the generations, but it’s also useful if you’re looking for a person with an unusual name.

Have you ever wondered about the name that Jesus promised to give his children? He said it will be a name we’ll recognise and will be written on a white stone, and he’ll hand it to us personally. This was what Jesus said the Spirit would say to the overcoming people in the churches:

I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name – Revelation 2: 17  (The Message Bible).

I’ve been studying these words lately and found a few historical theories about the meaning of that stone, but none seemed to fit. Of course, the apostle John’s ‘Revelation’ is full of symbols, and they can be interpreted from other parts of the Bible. I’m reminded of the fact that Jesus is our ‘bread’, or manna. We live, because he lives in us.

In the same way, our new, secret name shows us who we really are: to him, and to ourselves.  It’s a wonderful gift to be able to relax ‘in our own skin’, as they say, and be the person we’re meant to be.

And who are we? We own the life of Jesus in us: his love, his good standing with his Father, and more! What amazing potential is in our new name!


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Gratitude in Hard Times

It might seem as if things have got out of hand in the world right now. People are crying out for healing, for peace, and for freedom from the overwhelming pandemic that’s been flooding over most nations. I know it’s hard, but there are many things for which I can still be thankful. Here’s a small list I compiled this week: I can hear the birdsong. I see daffodils blooming, their bright trumpets reminding me of heavenly music. Our camellias provide me with picking flowers for the house, and the perfume from the daphne bush brings back memories of my father who planted one when I was a child because he knew I loved it.

I can’t go shopping for new socks for my husband, but I do have wool and a needle to darn the holes which his toenails have bored through the toes! We’re again in lockdown, but we have a computer, an e-reader and a telephone to keep in touch with the outside world. Our garden provides us with fresh vegetables, and weeding to keep us fit! I’m able to go for a walk, and offer a smile or say ‘hello’ to people I pass. And Maurie and I have each other! Millions of people lack these things and more, but I’m glad for what I have.

Last Sunday, after our online church service, we ‘virtually’ met with some other members and shared our blessings. The pastor said he’d received an email from some Christians in Africa. They’d heard things were going badly in our city because of a worrying spike in COVID-19 cases here. That email was sent about 2 am African time. They were awake and praying for us! How blessed we felt!

Earlier, I was thinking of what happened in Noah’s time once he was safe on dry ground after being stuck on the ark during the flood. He hadn’t known how long his family’s isolation would last, but when he was eventually free to walk around on the earth, he sacrificed a clean offering in thanks to God, who absolutely loved its beautiful aroma.

When I checked the story again in Genesis, I found that God had said something to himself at that time; something that’s still a promise for us.

The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done’ ~ Genesis 8:21 – New American Standard Bible.

In most English translations of the Bible, this passage is identical, saying that God was pleased with the aroma. But I like the word ‘soothing’ in this version. I think it’s really nice to know that God was soothed. Perhaps Noah was also soothed by the aroma of the burning sacrifice he offered to God. The giver is usually blessed in the giving.

And with this promise, we’re also blessed. We can recall it when we need comfort. God didn’t only say it to bless himself; he also said it for our benefit. A blessing is sometimes called a ‘godsend’. He made that promise for our well-being – so we could prosper, thrive and flourish. Even in drought, natural or spiritual, he watches over us and keeps his word.

Maybe we all feel we’re in hard times right now, but God’s promises are eternal. No matter what happens, he’s faithful. His blessings are greater than any hardships we might experience, and my heart overflows with gratitude to him.

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Following the Paths Ahead

Near our home, there are many huge electricity towers where no houses are permitted. Park-like areas have been created underneath and many walking paths run through them.

I try to walk every day, and to keep it interesting, I prefer to go in a different direction each time. Since we’ve recently been more confined at home, I’ve gone exploring and have been amazed at how extensive these networks of footpaths are. They run for miles and lead to interesting destinations.

The first time that I did a long walk through some of them, enjoying the trees and the playgrounds dotted here and there, I went so far that I wondered if I might be lost!  It seemed lonely and I didn’t want to run out of energy before I found my way home. No-one knew where I was and perhaps I’d have to ask for directions … that’s if anyone were about. But I remembered how God had encouraged me once before. (See my post – ‘Never Out of Contact’).

I eventually entered a lovely park with Australian indigenous plants, and thought, this might lead me home. I saw a small group of people in the distance, using some  playground equipment. When I reached them, I asked the young woman, ‘Would you be able to tell me the easiest way to get to Duff  Street from here?’

The lady looked at me for a few moments, and I wondered what she might reply, but she said, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t live around here’. But she pulled out her mobile phone and showed me a map! Praise God for maps and mobile phones!

By way of explanation, she said, ‘We’ve come here today to look at a house to buy’.

‘Why did you choose this town?’ I asked.

She smiled and said, ‘We thought we might be able to find something that we could afford’.

‘Where do you live now?’ I asked. Fortunately she wasn’t put off by my questions and said, ‘We’ve recently moved here from Perth and we’re staying with my father’.

‘Oh’, I said. ‘My daughter lived in Perth and loved it there. She missed the sun when she and her family returned to Melbourne’.

The lady called her young daughter by name, and said, “We’re feeling the cold, aren’t we?’ Then she turned to me. ‘She’s been complaining about having to wear so many clothes here!’

By this time I thought I should be getting on my way, so wished her all the best in her house-hunting, and soon found I wasn’t far from home after all.

Since then I’ve often thought of that lovely young mother and her children and I’ve prayed that they’ll find a place to call home. I’ve also wondered if I should have asked her about joining a church in her new community and offered directions to ours. We have many young families and I was sure she’d feel at home there.

Will I meet her some time in the future? I hope so. Even if another person befriends her here, I can pray that they’ll be the best one for her. I’m so glad I followed the right path that day. God knows where our footsteps should go. He’s even given us these words of encouragement in the Bible:

But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. ~ Job 23: 10 -11.

I want that to be my constant prayer: walking all the time with God. How about you?

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Trust In Our Father

Recently, like some other older people, I’ve been facing a few tricky health issues. I’ve talked to my Heavenly Father about them, and asked what I should do regarding medication, exercise, tests, and, believe it or not, how he wants to deal with it all! I know he does miracles. I know he’s given amazing abilities to medical people and scientists, but I’ve felt somewhat confused as I’ve thought about the plan that God has for me. I know for sure that he does have a plan. Not just something that will fit my current situation, but an eternal, special purpose for me. A plan that will show everyone else what he’s really like.

Going through some of our family photos today, I was thinking about all this, and came across a couple from our granddaughter’s wedding. On that morning, as she was getting ready in her parents’ bedroom, the photographer, Megan, snapped some fun scenes.

I looked at the background of them, the participants, and their emotional involvement in the day, and I noticed one message there. Can you see what I saw?

Is it the half-completed renovations, the potential drama, or the humour? Some fathers might tease their daughter and go too far with their fun. What if he moved too close and slipped? Would he care if she walked down the aisle on his arm in a few hours time with a patch of shaving cream on her beautiful dress, just because he hadn’t taken enough care with his tomfoolery? Would that grey top hat make him look any better or more responsible?

Yes, all these aspects are there in the photo, but the most wonderful thing I see is the relationship between Peter and his daughter. Amber trusts him completely! In fact, she’s entering into the joy of the moment!

What a wonderful privilege to have such trust! Trust by the bride, yes, but the father holds her trust; it belongs to him. She knows him so well, and he doesn’t have to doubt if she’s relaxed about his intentions with that white stuff in his hand! We don’t just have trust in a person, we give them our trust. And so it is with God.

I thought about my health worries. Was I really trusting him to do his glorious best for me? Do I know him well enough to believe that he has my most important interests at heart? And can I trust him to do what is most valuable for everyone else in my life? Have I actually given him my trust?

After all these years of walking with him, surely I know I can trust him. But lately I’ve sometimes looked in the wrong direction. My thoughts have been on myself, my worries, and so-called potential dangers. How beautifully he draws me back to himself, showing his love and care for me. And not just me, but all his people.

Like Amber with her father, I can trust him to shelter me under his wings. When I see these images from the wedding album, I’m thrilled at the way my heavenly Father has used them to comfort me and to keep me trusting in his loving care. I’m not the only one who’s nervous. Many others are the same in these days when the world is being shaken with horrendous challenges.

But God’s given us His promise:

He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield ~ Psalm 91:4Christian Standard Bible

Let’s all remember –  including me – that he’s there for us.







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What If I’d Been There?

So often, when I read my Bible, I wonder how I’d think and behave if I were actually present in the story. Would I act in the same way as the original participants, or would I choose to be different? It’s hard to know for sure. We’re living in a modern era now, far removed from life as it was in the days of Jesus, or King David, or Moses.

At the moment I’m reading King Solomon’s book, Ecclesiastes, and it’s amazing how his words fit our times. Take this verse for instance:

Wisdom is better than warheads, but one hothead can ruin the good earth ~ Ecclesiastes 9: 18 – The Message Bible.

Here’s how it reads in the Good News Bible: Wisdom does more good than weapons, but one sinner can undo a lot of good.  

In these days of the pandemic, most people are being sensible and acting for the benefit of all the members in their community. But a few careless ones are pleasing themselves, making life difficult for everyone else. There will probably be pundits in the future who’ll have an opinion on how we’ve behaved in our time, and they might be right. But they could also be wrong!

As Solomon said, The quiet words of the wise are more effective than the ranting of a king of fools ~ Ecclesiastes 9: 17  (Msg).

Below is a poem I wrote years ago. Maybe you can get into my head as you read it and wonder along with me: ‘What if I were there when Jesus lived among the people in Jerusalem and faced challenges that would test his disciples as well as him?

What If I’d Been There?

When they gathered for the special meal that evening in spring,

what if I’d been there;

not merely on the sidelines,


but into everything?

When they argued who would be the greatest of them all,

what if I’d been there?

Would I nominate myself,


I had the highest call?

When Jesus knelt before each one, began to wash their feet,

what if I’d been there?

Would I have drawn my legs away,


his servant heartbeat?

When the Master opened up the truth, exposed the stark betrayal,

what if I’d been there?

Would I have searched my heart for hate,


all that would entail?

‘My body for your life’, said Jesus, as he passed around the bread.

What if I’d been there?

Would I have understood his words


us his sacrifice was in our stead?

His blood, like wine, the seal upon the covenant, would lie:

a new one that he made with us,


And like the Egyptians’ eldest sons,

God’s first son would also die.

When the others said they’d never leave, would even die his death,

what if I’d been there?

Would my voice be raised with theirs,


‘…alone he would be left?’

Before they walked into the night, a holy hymn was sung.

What if I’d been there

and heard his voice, like a prelude,


accompanying my own?

In the garden would I have stayed awake to hear his dreadful prayer?

What if I were there?

Would I comfort him and wipe his tears?

What if I followed after him and braved the leaders’ ire?

What if …? What if I …?

What if I were there?

But now I know he prayed for me.

In his mind I was there.

He ensured this meal would take me back,


he’ll return by God’s decree.

© Lyn Thiele

Luke 22: 14-46

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A Stirling Discovery

As I walked down our hallway one evening, I noticed a small brown piece of rubbish on the blue carpet runner. A shirt button? Maybe a lump of mud from the garden? I bent to pick it up. It wasn’t part of the normal detritus that enters our house via shoes and paws. When I turned it over, its surface reflected the ceiling lights like fine diamond dust. Beautiful! It would make a nice addition to a pressed-flower picture. ‘What is it?’ I asked my husband. ‘A seedpod off the tree next door. I probably brought it in on my jacket’.

Aha! That’s where those seedlings originated. The seeds blew in and took up residence in our garden. I’d noticed the little plants before, and suggested Maurie could pot them up until they were ready to give to a friend who was establishing a larger garden. I’d thought they were weeds! Mmm – pittosporums. Producing seeds isn’t their only use. A step to our roof for the resident ringtail-possum is another! She’d probably knocked off a few pods to grow a garden for her descendants to use – they’re fast-growing trees! They’ve become popular hedge plants in our country, although their native home is New Zealand. Other pittosporum species hail from various parts of the world, but the first ‘James Stirling’ plant was brought to Australia by Frank Lucas in 1972, and in the years since then, he propagated hundreds of thousands of them. He named the original tree, but no-one seems to know who inspired him to give it that title. Maybe it was Sir James Stirling, the first Governor of the colony in Western Australia?

Regardless of its derivation, I couldn’t help reflecting on its dainty seeds. The pretty rosettes, with their shiny hidden depths, look as if someone has taken a fine brush, dipped it in lacquer, and flicked it onto them. The way they reflect the light reminds me of the words of Jesus to his disciples:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this; as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket do you? Now I’ve put you … on a light stand – shine! … be generous with your lives … you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven – Matthew 5: 14-16.

I’ve thought carefully about those words of Jesus. Surely he wasn’t telling them to brag about their good deeds so people would think they we’re great. Of course not; we’re not allowed to put ourselves on a pedestal. So I began at the end, where he said people would understand our Father in heaven when they saw our good works. How would they know to do that?

Well, if we’ve been talking to people about our Father in heaven, or praising him for what he’s done for us, and then we go on to do things for them that he likes to do, they can easily make the connection: he’s our father. All our good works are likes his great deeds: loving, kind, patient, gentle, faithfully creative, perfect for each person. There’s no purpose in walking around in the dark in this world. All those things light the way to a beautiful, light-filled life, so everyone knows where they’re going.

Like the pittosporum seeds that attract many birds, animals, and possibly bees, to their gleaming surfaces, we’re also meant to be productive, glittering and beautiful, showing people everywhere what God is really like.




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The Friendship Books

Have you heard of The Friendship Books of Francis Gay? I have a small collection, some inherited from my mother, and others which were gifts from dear friends. They’ve been a blessing to me and those with whom I’ve shared the writer’s thoughts.

Francis Gay died in 1977, but the books are still published in time for Christmas, so people can begin reading them on New Year’s Day. For every Sunday, there’s a scripture which stands on its own, anchoring the week ahead. The rest are stories that people sent to Francis, and some experiences and observations he and his wife made during their lives.

Lots of people enjoy a devotional to read each morning or evening. What I like about these books is that they highlight humble lives. Even the famous people are all shown in the light of their natural humanity, their humility. And I also enjoy the tricky jokes of the little boy who shared them with his kindly neighbour!

Francis Gay was Herbert Leslie Gee’s pen-name. An ardent Methodist, he wrote about his travels in his home county of Yorkshire. My mother loved his books; I recall seeing one in the bookshelf when I was a child. He also wrote for children, and about World War Two’s Battle of Britain. Another of his books focussed on hymns; most included Christian themes.

Over the years, I’ve occasionally checked my collection in December to see if the dates of any of them match those of the up-coming year. If so, I’ll use that volume as a daily reading once again. I’ve learnt so much from the simple stories – everlasting truths that I’ve taken to heart and shared with friends. I’m reading the 1981 volume this year.

One day, years ago, I was feeling sorry for myself. I’d received some bad news. The shock of it so filled my mind that I didn’t read my Friendship Book entry. The next day, I turned back to it and realised I wouldn’t have absorbed it if I’d seen it the day before. I still remember the way it spoke to me then. It was about Victor Hugo, who had a habit of going down to the sea each morning and throwing stones into the water. When asked why, he replied, ‘Not stones … I’m throwing my self-pity into the sea’. What a relief to be rid of that burdensome malady! I imagined doing it too, and it helped me.

The Bible’s a bit like God’s Friendship Book. He’s included stories we can relate to when we’re down; hymns that lift us up to praise him, and lyrical songs our bodies can dance to. There are many instances of people in the Bible – King David, Job, Moses, and more – who experienced times when they felt God was expecting too much of them. Self-pity tricks us into thinking that our own bad attitudes are friends we should keep. After all, shouldn’t we deserve better?! Only God can deal with our self-pity, but we have to let him. We need to be prepared to live without it – to throw it as far away as we can.

I have a feeling that James, Jesus’ brother, knew self-pity well. He wrote, Take the old prophets as your mentors. They … never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard … of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail – James 5: 10-11 – The Message Bible.

Will we relinquish our self-pity? Permanently?



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