Monday, 30 December 2013

The other side of the bongs

So, Christmas is over and the New Year is lurking perilously close, just out of sight but definitely there.  Waiting. The conveyor belt that is life is carrying me helplessly nearer the end of this old year and towards the yawning opening that is the New one and there's nothing I can do to stop it. Hence 'helplessly'. Nice bit of redundancy there.

This is an anxious time of year for me, as you might have gathered. You know me inside and out, Lord God, and so nobody will be more aware than you that my discomfort levels rise round about now. 

I have always thought that the New Year has such potential, but in my experience it rarely lives up to it. I have spent many years trying to find the perfect way to spend New Year and as the 31st bong-bong-bongs into the 1st with Big Ben's chimes it has found me in a variety of places.

I have been in pubs counting down the 10-9-8 with a few hundred other inebriated individuals looking for fun and company; I've been on London Bridge for the Millennium celebrations packed tightly together with a few million other cold and squashed people looking at the fireworks reflected in the Thames and the flashing blue lights of an ambulance as it tried in vain to reach a man whose heart chose the worst time ever to stop. 

I've been at parties with paper hats and party poppers poised for explosion as Big Ben chimes the big chime, and I've been on the sofa with one other precious person and a glass of champagne watching celebs act silly on the telly.

I've even tried going to bed at ten and sleeping through it more than once. I've found that this particular course of action actually has the most positive effect on mood on 1 January. It may be that it's to be recommended, but then it's a shame to miss it if New Year has such potential, isn't it?

The best one? I was once in Antarctica sitting on the deck of a ship on honeymoon with my husband (who else?) and we sat, party clothes bundled up underneath huge puffy jackets, hair squished under woolly hats and hands buried in pockets.

We were the only ones outside as a party went on below.

The icebergs loomed pale in the light from the windows and the only sound was the wind. The sea was inky black, the sky inkier still, with more stars than I've ever seen. The milky way was there in all it's cloudy glory and the stars of the southern hemisphere fascinated my amateur astronomer husband used to different sky.  Fireworks forbidden because of pollution, as the year turned into the next one, the Captain sounded the ship's horn - a long, melancholy wail that must have made the penguins jump. It was moving. That was probably the best way to see in the New Year that I've tried. 

But whatever I do, the moment passes and there's what to do next. The old year has gone and the reality is that it's the middle of the night - a night like any other - and the next day is inevitably an anti-climax. It's  now January, still winter, still cold/wet/windy/bleak/dank and there seems nothing to look forward to. The festive season is well and truly over and the decorations look out of place. 

What, then? 

Why does the New Year depress me and make me anxious? I think it's about letting go. As one year rolls into the next, I have to let go what's past. 

I'm not very good at this, am I? 

As the sort of woman who replays every significant (and, often, insignificant) conversation in her mind for hours afterwards wishing she'd said it differently and wondering what the other person thinks, letting a whole year slip from my hands is hard. 

For me, with a tendency to live too much in the past, New Year feels like the loss of something. A familiar year. Better the devil you know (Ahem. Sorry). The outgoing year feels like a battered old comfy sofa and I sort of want to stay sprawled on it rather than get up and walk through that dazzlingly bright doorway to who knows where.

I tend to favour licking the wounds of the outgoing year than looking forward to the new one. A new year is full of possibility, yes; but if your glass is half empty instead of half full then it's also full of hurdles and challenges and difficulties. It's a scary blank page, a white space. Unsullied. Perfect in it's untouchedness. And I'm about to stumble all over it and reach out with sticky fingers and mess it up.

See? I've just splurged out all my New Year angst. It's going to happen whether I'm all ready for it or not. That conveyor belt that I'm riding has no manual override. Well, there is, but only you control the button. 
'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.'
Jeremiah 17:7
And that's it, really, isn't it?

I trust you. 

I trust you to lead me into the New Year and I trust you that there is nothing waiting the other side of those bongbongbongs that we can't handle together. There's nothing there that you haven't seen already and there's nothing there that will surprise or shock you, even if it frightens the pants off me.

My confidence is in you, not in me. On my own I rush things, I speak too soon and too much, I make mistakes, I break promises, I don't do what I should do and I do what I shouldn't. When my confidence is in me, I come unstuck.

This coming year - I will trust in you.

This year I want to go where you want me to go. I want to put one foot in front of the other in the full knowledge that your footsteps are there already and there is no safer way to go than when I'm matching my stride with yours. There's no other certain way of getting where you want me to go.

Lord, the last few years have begun with a wonderful sense of anticipation and you haven't let me down. The anticipation is still there, but this year I feel a bit different; there's a scoop of trepidation too. I don't feel as if I'm leaping into the new year with much enthusiasm even though I have a strong sense that you're taking me somewhere. Part of me is excited but I'm a little wary as well. There seems so much to do. So many mountains to climb. Such a long way to go.

The dreams I have, even the ones that I am convinced that you've blessed, they seem so far away.

This morning in Sarah Young's 'Jesus Calling' I read:
'Enjoy the adventure of finding yourself through losing yourself in Me.'*
I read this and the New Year felt a little less scary.

I do have plans and hopes and dreams and ambitions and I know that you know what they are because you planted them in my heart. I know that your timing is better than mine even when I'm annoyed with you for not getting me there fast enough. I know that nothing is achieved without commitment and hard work and that nothing worthwhile ever comes easily. I know all those things. I believe that you'll take me a step closer this coming year.

But maybe the destination is not as important as the journey. The last few years it's seemed to me that you and I have been on a warp-drive trip together; you've been teaching me so much that at times my head has spun.  I know that you have more in store. I know that before I get where you want me to go, or do what you want me to do, you want me to be the person you want me to be.

So maybe the destination is not as important as the journey. At least not right now. Perhaps I can limp over the threshold of the new year holding onto your arm and leaning into you. Maybe I can fix my eyes on you so that your glory shows me the way and lights up the dark places on the way and shows me the potholes so I don't come crashing down. If the new year is a blank page then perhaps with you by my side you will give me the words to write on it.

I like the sound of an adventure if you are coming with me. I like the sound of finding myself - the me you created me to be. I like the sound of losing myself in you. In being so close to you that you rub off on me.

So close that I can reflect your light to a world that has too many shadows. I like the sound of inhabiting you, and you in me. Yes please, Lord God. I want all you have of that.

I'm wondering if starting a new year with quietness and deliberation and a confidence in something unshakeable is better than with a bang and a grand gesture and a flurry of dynamic resolutions.

You are the God of fresh starts. Help me to take off the fear and hang it up this side of the threshold, before I deliberately step through.

We're off on an adventure, you and me, aren't we?

I trust you.

Maybe the New Year is full of potential after all.

* Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, 2007 Integrity Publishers.

Edited and reposted from 2012 because it seems more relevant than ever. I trust you, Jesus. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Come and worship

I've always loved Carol Services. 

If I can hold a candle and the church is nicely decorated and there's a choir and a band and so on, so much the better. The other night I walked down the road to church and on the way I asked you if you'd speak to me. If I could spend time with you - and feel your Presence there with me in the candlelight. 

Oh, Lord, you answered that prayer. 

The carols weren't just carols. They weren't the same over-familiar tunes and words that we trot out each year and know by heart because we dust them off each Christmas. For me, in row six, sitting next to a man who didn't sing a single word - not a single word! - it seemed fresh and new. 

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the new born King

Oh, Lord Jesus. It was as if those angels were singing with us. The glorious company of heaven was watching the miraculous events in a small middle eastern town way back when and they were proclaiming the wonder of it for the very first time
Joyful, all ye nations, rise
Join the triumph of the skies

The very angels of heaven were singing to say, 'He's there! He's come to you! Can you believe it?'

As we sang the weariness of the day full of Christmas preparations melted away and I realised that I found a little bit of that joy deep inside. It's not a fluffy, light as a feather happy sort of feeling; no, it's a deep, weighty, full-bodied overwhelming thing. 

Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings

Light. Life. Healing. Don't we all need those things? How I need them; I am broken in so many places. And you are the balm to my hurts, the light in my darkness, the answer to my question. 

As the candle flame in my hand flickered and people's faces were lit up and made beautiful with the soft light, the music soared and my soul reached for you. 

Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Born that we might live and not die. Born to lift us to heaven to be with you rather than strike us down and leave us where we deserve to be.

Oh, Father. What mystery is it that you came to earth and poured deity into a tiny wriggling body. How amazing that a young girl heard your voice and said 'Yes, let it be as you say', instead of 'You want me to do WHAT?' 
How wonderful that a good man stood by his faithful young wife and raised a baby that wasn't his?  

He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all
and His shelter was a stable
And His cradle was a stall

And the Saviour of the world had his birth day among animals and shepherds and other odd visitors? (Yes, I know, the wise men came some time later, but you know what I mean).

There isn't a palace in the world that man could make beautiful enough for you. There isn't a cathedral or a landscape or a crown of jewels that befits your majesty - but you chose a little known town in the back of beyond for your entry. 

Why? Because you had a Plan. 

God rest you merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray

Yeah, let's stay merry, people! Let's not let anything dilute or diminish the amazing thing that happened. You came to rescue us. You loved us too much to leave us in the mess we'd created, were creating, and would go on to create (and it's quite a mess). You came to bring us home to be with you, because you loved us. 
O, tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O, tidings of comfort and joy

If that's not good news, I don't know what is. 

My God, it seemed amazing to me. Emmanuel - God with us. 

God. With. Us. Sing about it. 
Sing, choirs of angels
Sing in exultation
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above
Glory to God
In the highest
O come, let us adore Him

Christ, the Lord. A tiny baby. 

Why exultation? Exulting? Lively, triumphant joy. Celebration of success, not just happiness. This is a triumph, and the angels could see how profound it was. Everything would be different, now. It was a game-changer. The earth was transformed that night and most people down here were completely oblivious to it, but the angels weren't. 

It was a big deal.
Ding dong! merrily on high
In heaven the bells are ringing
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riven with angels singing
Hosanna in excelsis!

Riven! The sky was split across with the sound of the angels. Torn apart with the pealing of bells and heavenly host worshipping and celebrating. That must have been some sound.

Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth
Come and worship
Christ the new-born King

We came and we worshipped. The choir sang in harmonies that must have pleased you. The band played music that lead us into your presence and the old songs meant something new.

We got to play a small part in the anniversary of that earth-shattering day in history.

E'en so here below, below...

Even so, here below. In my church, at Christmas 2013. Me. Even me. 

Now to the Lord sing praises
All you within this place

And I closed my eyes (making sure that my candle was still vertical and not dripping wax on the floor or setting fire to anyone's hair or anything) and I remembered the way I saw you on your throne with the scenes of glory and majesty and power and gentleness and unending, dramatic love playing out in your heart and I lifted my small, substandard, stained one to you. 

I think maybe even if we manage to see beyond the turkey and tinsel and gifts and Christmas telly sometimes we get too wrapped up in the tiny baby in a manger and no-crying-he-makes and all that. Even with the benefit of more than two thousand years we might miss the big picture - this baby was God. The Creator and sustainer of life, in a bed made of straw born to a normal girl who believed and her bemused husband. 

Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord

Adored by the angels of heaven and adored by me.

The Word made flesh. God with us. 

Oh, God, thank you for my glimpse past the familiar and into the realms of worship. Thank you that I heard an echo of the angels song and you let me add my poorly tuned but enthusiastic voice to the heavenly host.

Glorious now, behold him arise
King and God and sacrifice
Heaven sings, Alleluia!
Alleluia the earth replies

God with us. 

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Amen and Alleluia. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

I saw you

I saw you. 

I haven't a clue whether what I saw was a glimpse given to me by you yourself, or a construct of my own from all the imagery and art I've seen - but it doesn't matter. One minute it wasn't in my head and the next, it was, in all its detail.

I saw you. 

You were sitting on your throne. I couldn't properly see because the light was so bright, so dazzling, but I knew it was you, and I was on my knees. 

Your throne was huge. Vast and endless. From behind and around it flowed the train of your robe just like this:

'...I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.'

Isaiah 6:1

Your robe flowed like a river flowing over stones. It rippled and moved all around me and off in all directions. It was a deep, deep red, a King's robe made of velvet or something. Rich and luxurious and constantly moving; a living thing. 

Looking up, (I was so tiny in this picture) I could see your hands on the arms of your throne. Relaxed fingers curving over the arms, short nails and callouses. A proper man's hands. When you lifted them in an open gesture of peace and welcome, I could see the scars on the paler skin of your palms. 

The light was coming from all around you and I could not make out your face. You were not silhouetted, even though the light was behind you - it was streaming from you. White light, dazzlingly bright, with refracted beams of all colours. I could feel the warmth coming as if I was bathed in sunlight, and as you moved the rays of sunlight danced, making patterns on the rippling robe all around me almost like sunlight through water. 

I could not see your face, but I could make out your shape. I caught glimpses of a crown of glistening white metal with jewels of all colours, but no detail. You were seated on your throne and your glory was all-encompassing. I wanted to fall on my face but I could not take my eyes from you. Indeed, your proximity rocked me back on my heels. I opened my arms wide and knelt, watching. Absorbing. 

And then I realised that there was so much more than an outline. I saw pictures in the light at about chest height - it was as if I was seeing your heart. I wish I was an artist and could draw what I saw, because I'm not sure that words are enough. I wish I could make a film with CGI and special effects, because it was constantly shifting. 

I saw a rapidly changing picture. The different scenes flashed past so fast that they were almost subliminal and so describing what I saw is difficult. 

There was an endless sea with the sound of crashing waves. I saw a million starts in a night sky, a sunrise, a desert with twisting sand-dunes, a jungle with brightly coloured exotic birds. I saw forks of lightning in a dark, threatening sky, with great claps of thunder, a roaring lion, an eagle soaring, a huge oak tree, a single red rose.

I saw a couple kissing, a field of corn, a newborn baby crying, a rainbow over rolling hills. There was a little girl in a red dress twirling underneath a shower of apple blossom. I saw waterfalls and towering cliffs and a dandelion clock, heard birds singing, the sound of wind in a silver birch. Icebergs calving, starlings swirling,  leaping flames, drops of dew, rapid cloud formations and shoals of fish in the depths of the ocean. 

It went on and on. It was awe-inspiring, frightening, welcoming, wonderful. I was delighted and unnerved. You drew me in, showing me your immense power, consummate gentleness, your creativity and strength. 

You were all-consuming. Endless and boundless.

There was a sense of life. Hard to pin down - but it was vivid; a living scene. You were giving me a glimpse of who you were; your very nature.

I thought I was the only one there, but I realised that I was in a vast, immeasurable space with countless other people all gathered round you. I was on the front row, and yet there were thousands in front of me and all around. All eyes were fixed on you. Some people were smiling, others with tears streaming down their faces, others eyes closed, basking in the warmth radiating from you.

I felt a flood of emotions. Awe, hope, fear, delight, joy, excitement, peace - but most of all I felt at home. 

I could stay there forever.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A letter to fill you in. Or not.

I'd like to fill you in, but I can't. I don't know what's going on myself. 

I haven't been able to write for ages, and in normal circumstances not feeding the BlogMonster regularly isn't a great idea.  I've long since let go of the blog stats - sort of given 'em up as a bad job. That in itself is something, I think, as a year ago I used to check several times each day, hungrily waiting to see the spikes get higher per day, week, month. These days I rarely bother checking, and the spam robot things keep the numbers ticking over. 

It's been a combination of busyness, other unwelcome things occupying head space and eating away at the opportunity to write, and then an overwhelming absence of inspiration when I do have time. The lack of inspiration thing is generally new to me as I have gone for almost three years now constantly on the lookout for things to write about and usually find that ideas queue up to be explored. 

It's not as if I'm in a dark place, spiritually. 

I went to a conference a week or two ago and it was amazing; a mountain top experience, I think you call it. God showed up and made His presence felt. It was awe-inspiring, beautiful, challenging, reassuring, moving, wonderful - and yet I haven't a clue how to write about it. 

It's too big. 

So I'm letting the words fall out in any old order and not worrying too much about how elegant it is or how much sense I make. I hope that by trying to explain, I might start to understand a bit more.

I've taken a song away from the conference as my song for now. It's by Hillsong, and it's called 'Oceans (Where feet may fail)'.*

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

And somewhere in there is my current confusion and why I'm struggling to write anything at the moment. 

At the beginning of the conference, I asked God in the pages of my journal to show me something new about Him, and something new about me. He answered my prayer. 

We sang.

'Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders - 
let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me...' 

Tears streamed down my face. He gave me a glimpse of how much my soul longs for Him; I could barely sing the words, so full was I of yearning, reaching to go further, deeper after Him. I tend to tie myself in knots about my motivations, my commitment, whether my heart is in the right place. The strength of my own longing overwhelmed me.

Lead me where my trust is without borders...

My trust definitely has borders. It has a clearly defined perimeter, I think. I think God showed me that my trust in Him is not complete. At the same conference, Danielle Strickland spoke to us powerfully about living outside our comfort zone, about waking up and choosing a boundless life, and there it is again. Boundless. Unconstrained. Unlimited. 

I've been reading a book with a friend for a while now; we read a chapter and meet each week to discuss it. We're reading Lysa Ter Keurst's book, 'What Happens When Women Say Yes to God?' It's been an uncomfortable read, and we're only on chapter three. Over and over again I've said 'Yes' to God, but I wonder if my yeses have been measured, limited. 'Lord, show me where you're proposing to take me, and I'll tell you if I'm following.'

Another wise lady whose words I usually devour as food for the soul wrote the other week about Heidi Baker, and called her 'possibly the most surrendered woman in the world.'  I mentioned this to someone and they said they saw Heidi speak recently. She related an anecdote about the time she asked God why so often when she tried to speak to Western audiences she found herself so overcome by the Holy Spirit that she fell down, unable to say anything, and yet at home in her ministry in Mozambique, it rarely happens?  She said:

'And God answered me. He said, 'In Mozambique they don't have a problem with pride.'


My trust has borders. I sometimes come crashing into the edge of my trust in God. And then what? I panic. I stand still. I pull up the duvet. I turn to my own plans and efforts, to a friend, to food.  

I want to walk upon the waters, but do I? 

I'm comfortable, and I don't really want to be uncomfortable. I like my life, in the main, apart from the usual everyday sort of niggles, and I know that I should complain a lot less and be thankful a lot more. I want more of God - I know I do - but I think maybe I'm counting the cost and backing away in case it turns out to be expensive.

I think my boat is pulled up high on the beach.

I ask Him to lead me wherever He wants me to go, but I am reluctant to set off unless I have a map and a guide book and an assurance that it won't get too choppy out there. I have my own ideas of where I want God to lead me and I fear that I interpret everything through the lens of my hopes and my dreams. I try to manipulate Him into my plan as if faith were a charm to be invoked.

Lord, lead me wherever you want me to go - as long as it's where I want to go. 

In the West, we have a problem with pride. 

I want to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus' outstretched hand. I want to be whole, full, overflowing. I know that the trivia that I cling to is nothing in comparison with the riches that God would like to give me. I know that my own plans are dwarfed by what He would have me do with my life.

And yet... 

I'm afraid. My trust is not without borders. I wonder how much it might hurt; what I might have to let go of, to lose. And I'm comfortable. 

And this is where a blog post like this ought to end with an inspiring conclusion. A breakthrough to share and encourage. Some wisdom along the lines of: '...and that's when I realised that... and now it's all brilliant! My confusion is a thing of the past!'


You know what I'm hanging on to? At the conference I went to a workshop about prayer and prophecy. We got into small groups and prayed for each other, asking God to give us a word or a picture to encourage each other. The room was full of the Holy Spirit. 

There were four in my group, so we each ended up with a card with three things from the Lord. I was moved to tears (again) by people's words for me. How could strangers have known those things that spoke to very specific circumstances in my life?  God is so gracious. 

But there was one word spoken to me by a lovely gentle lady that made no sense to me at all just then. She said that there was conflict in my life. She didn't know how or if it would be resolved, she said, but there would be peace. Shalom-peace, she called it. 

There would be peace, and victory. 

So I'm laying all this before God, and asking Him for the Shalom. 

The walking on water, the following, perhaps opening my hands and laying down the dreams that I am oh, so invested in and believing that He knows best. He knows me. He sees me. He loves me anyway. 

He knows what I will do already. He knows the beginning and the end. He will never give up on me and He won't let me sink; He'll keep my eyes above the waves. 

At the moment I just see a tangle of conflicting ideas, a mess of confusion and fear and the seemingly impenetrable borders of my trust. 

He sees a daughter who loves Him, who overthinks and worries, who lifted her hands with longing in her heart and tears on her face at the thought of walking across the waters to take His hand. 


*Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) 2013 Hillsong Music Australia

Linking with Ruth and Sabrina in the return of 'Letters To...' 

Monday, 11 November 2013

No understudy

'Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.' 
1 Corinthians 12:12

I'm familiar with this passage in the Bible.  When I was much younger we had all the jokes about who was the armpit and who was the spleen and so on, and now I'm older I'm still not too sure how far the analogy can be taken, but I take the point.

We all have different spiritual gifts. We are all unique, no-one less valuable than any other. A huge diversity of skills, personalities, abilities and talents. Together we make up the Body of Christ, with Jesus at the Head. Together, Paul says, we make up the whole. We are one through the Holy Spirit. If someone is missing, nobody else can do his job, because it is a job made for him alone. Each part needs the others to function and when we are all in concert we make a beautiful sound.

It's the 'all-working-together' thing that's the problem. We all interlock and if one cog gets jammed then sometimes the machine comes shuddering to a halt. I know well that if I have a sore thumb then I can't use the hand properly. If my knee hurts and I limp for too long, my hip starts to hurt too. If I put my back out, there's very little I can do with my day.

Quite often we bicker and squabble and and think we are more important than we are. We think we deserve more than our allocated part and try to be something else. We get resentful or critical and think that we could do a better job than someone else. Why are we never satisfied? 

I find it quite reassuring that the disciples had the same problem. They wanted to know who was the best and brightest. They wanted to know who would be sitting to the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. 

John 21:21
'Peter asked...'Lord, what about him?'Jesus answered, '...what is that to you? You must follow me.' (my emphasis)
What is it to me what someone else does? Why do I jostle for position and wonder if somehow I'm short changed? Why do I worry about what people think of me, of what I do, when I know that I am occupying the place that only I can occupy? Lord, I so want to do with my life what you would have me do. Sometimes I am full of purpose and sometimes I feel as if I'm treading water. Marking time. Vacillating.

Fibrillating. Like the heart does when it gets out of rhythm. Paramedics come crashing in and slap on two paddles and shout 'Charging!' and 'Clear!' and then whoof! the heart gets shocked back into a sinus rhythm (whatever one of those is, but I watched ER for a while). And then all is well again, but it was a close call.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm fibrillating. Immobile. Rabbit in the headlights.

But I have an important job to do because there isn't a redundant bit of the Body of Christ.
(I don't know about the appendix.  But that's probably being facetious.)

Charles Spurgeon took this idea of a collective whole to another level for me the other day. A beautiful level. An eye-opener:
'Each of God's saints is sent into the world to prove some part of the divine character.'
(Charles Spurgeon, The Daily Help devotional for iPhone, 43rd

Somehow, just by being me, here, in my little corner of the earth, day by day, I reflect something of your character. Some little tiny aspect of your personality is me. Not somebody else. How amazing is that? 

He goes on:
'In heaven we shall read the great book of the experience of all the saints, and gather from that book the whole manifestation and display of some position or other of God; a different part may belong to each of us, but when the whole shall be combined, when all the rays of evidence shall be brought, as it were, into one great sun, and shine forth with meridian splendour, we shall see in Christian experience a beautiful revelation of our God.'
Can that be possible?  That one day I might have a contribution to make in this awe-inspiring spectacle?  This is going to be an enormous canvas. I can't wait to see it. 

The other day I got a glimpse of the sheer scale of you, God; the vastness and the majesty and glory of you who holds the universe in your hand. Creator of billions of stars in billions of galaxies. If I think of all the people who have known you from the very beginning to the end of time - from Adam and Eve through to all the people who are alive today and love you the world over, beyond and into the future, all those not yet born, until the end of time  - that's a lot of people. 

And we are all unique. If Spurgeon is right (and I so hope that he is) each one of all these children of yours reflects a unique part of you. We each have a little facet completely our own. It needs a glimpse of the enormity of you in order to understand how such a thing might be true. How complex you are. How many different aspects there are to you. 

So I am intensely significant. Not only do I have a role to fulfil down here, now, in my life, but I have a part in this extravagant art project in Heaven too. I have a ray of light to add to the 'great sun' which will shine for eternity and make you smile.

So why do I wish I were someone else? I am made to be me. 
Why do I think that other people matter more than me?  You made me to be me
There's no understudy.

What is it to me what they do?  I must follow you.
'Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.'
1 Corinthians 12:27

Lord, help me to believe not in myself, but in the wisdom of you, who made me. Help me to see the honour that it is to do the job in this life that you have made me to do and not gaze about me wishing that I were an elbow instead of an ankle. Show me what to do. Give me enough light for the step I'm on and the courage to stride into the darkness, knowing that you won't let me fall. 

Give me a glimpse of that spectacular revelation that one day I'll be part of. It's going to be beautiful because it's You.

I'm working on my contribution right now.

Reposted from 2012 because I needed reminding. 

Image credit:  ashton_cogs3.JPG by doctor_bob from Used with permission.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Feeling sort of gorgeous

I did Katy's hair differently this morning. 

She wants to grow out her fringe. I said yes, because when her hair is wet and away from her face after a shower she looks even more beautiful than she does with those big eyes peeping out from under. 

She has short, dark, naturally glossy hair in a vaguely bob-like shape but she hates me brushing it. She loathes having it messed with and yet she was blessed with a double crown which means that her natural parting is like a donkey's hind leg. Her resistance to brushing and styling mean that quite often she goes to school with her hair pretty much as it got out of bed.

Wow. This is a profound post, isn't it? 

Anyway. The fringe. I said yes, because the more of her lovely face that I can see, the better. Today we crossed a bit of a Rubicon in that it became clear that it's now long enough to need the heavy fringe kept out of the way if she is to continue to see out. Let's see whether she's going to grow it out or have it trimmed back in again, then. Time will tell. 

I carefully separated out the fringe, brushed it together, put a twist in it and clipped it on top of her head with no less than three hairclips. Two blue and a pink. Some wispy bits came down immediately and I'm quite sure that the whole lot will be out on the playground by lunchtime, but she looked just lovely. 

I said so, Daddy said so, Grandma said so. Big sister sort of grunted, which Katy took for agreement as well. On the way to school, a neighbour complimented Katy on her hair and another Mum commented, 'Great hair, Kate,' as we passed by. Katy stood tall and flipped her hair about a bit, looking pleased. I checked her clips. 

Leaning down close, I whispered to her, 'You are gorgeous. Are you feeling gorgeous?'

Pink cheeked, she whispered back, 'Sort of.

We squeezed hands and walked in the school doors. 

A tiny moment. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing important in the eternal scheme of things. But I thought my heart would burst and I wanted to say thank you. 

I look at my daughters, both of them, and I am amazed at how beautiful they are. I suppose that I have to take into account that I am their mother, and so I would see their gorgeousness whether it was really there or not, and so I count myself lucky that they are actually gorgeous, and so I do not have to delude myself. But my point is, I love them with a ferocity that I didn't think was possible before I had babies of my own. 

I look at my children and I see their beauty.

I am your child, Lord God. I know that you look at me and think that I'm beautiful. You know how hard that is even for me to type, because for all I know about your endless love, and your inability to make mistakes, I think that you're wrong.

I'm not touting for compliments or asking for reassurance. I know what there is to know from a head-perspective. I tell my girls that the world's definition of beauty is not real and they should never measure themselves against it. I tell them that they shouldn't compare themselves to anyone else because everyone is unique and special and no two people are alike. I tell them that beauty is far more than good skin and good hair and slim thighs and a narrow waist. I tell them that they are beautiful just how they are and they should stand tall as princesses, for you are their Daddy.

This applies to me, too. I know it does, I know. I just can't seem to move the knowledge from my head to my heart. I look in the mirror and I don't like what I see. I compare myself with others and find myself wanting. I see the airbrushing and elongating of models on the magazines, the billboards, the television and still, I wish...

There's just a huge hole in me that needs filling. A deep, old wound that needs healing.

You are the Healer. In your time, Lord. 

I wonder if you ever try to whisper to me, 'You are gorgeous. Are you feeling gorgeous?' and I plug my ears, shake my head and turn away. For I am your little girl just as Katy is mine. And strange as I might find it, I know that you love me with a ferocity that makes mine for her look half-hearted. 

I'm glad that Katy started today feeling sort of gorgeous. Long, long, long may it last. I suspect she'll come out of school with her hair in her eyes and two out of three clips (if I'm lucky - we get through hairclips faster than biscuits round here) and we'll have to start again tomorrow, but I like that she went into school this morning feeling special. 

I bet you want that for me. I know that you love me, and you approve of me, and you look at me and see beauty. 

Abba, Daddy?

I would like to feel sort of gorgeous.

Monday, 28 October 2013


People have told me that when they meet me for the first time, I come across as being a very 'together' sort of person. 

I appear (I'm told) calm, self-assured and relaxed. 'Quietly confident' was how one person put it. 


I have no idea how this illusion came about, but an illusion is what it is. It has always been so. Teachers at school complimented me on my calm and orderly attitude and over the years, I've started to accept - indeed rely on - this impression that I give. 

Inside is a different story. If on the outside I'm cool blues and mauves and soft and reassuring tones of green, inside I'm a jumbled mix of clashing colours and pessimistic purple and grey overtones. 

I don't like crowds. Or at least, I don't mind crowds, if I am allowed to be anonymous in them, it's when I'm supposed to interact with them that I have a little internal panic. I don't much like groups of people ('Now, get into groups of about six or eight,' is a phrase guaranteed to strike fear into my heart) because such a group discussion makes necessary a degree of engagement. I don't know what to say to people I have only just met. I am not good at small talk.

A friend of mine will vouch for the truth of this as I am often found, limpet-like, at her side in territory that demands skills that I don't have (but she does, in spades). She introduces me, gets a conversation going, and then I'm sort of ok, but left to myself there's a good chance it'll founder.

I like one to one, and then usually with people I know. I am a creature of habit, routine, familiarity. My comfort zone is my well-worn groove. If I have to climb out I am looking from left to right for predators but it's unlikely that you'll notice. I appear to have it together. I can try hard and hold my own. I can do what is necessary. I can do it, but it wears me out.

So, the knowledge that I come across as together even when I am falling apart, is reassuring in a world where it is not always possible to retreat to a small room with a big window, books, coffee, and a computer with WiFi and stay holed up there indefinitely. 

I'm hoping one day to find that I've grown into my togetherness. I'll wake up one morning feeling just the same as always but I'll walk into a crowded room and find it easy - no - joyful to plunge into getting to know people. I will relish social situations. I shall be as together as I appear.

Until then, it's my secret.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday in a better late than never sort of way. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A safe place

Come to me, all you who are weary and weighed down. Come to me and I will give you rest. I will gather you to me and hold you close and you will feel my warmth, my strength, and the beating of my heart.

This is a safe place.

Come to me, even if you don’t think that you’re worthy.

I know how small you feel. How inadequate and inferior. I know how little you think of yourself, and I want to tell you something today. I know you’ve heard it before but you don’t believe it. I will keep telling you until it sinks in.

You are a masterpiece, just as you are. I made you, deliberately, carefully – there is nothing about you that is an accident. When I’d finished making you I looked at you and smiled – you are just right. You are my child and I am delighted with you.

Yes, you. Don’t look to the right and the left, thinking that they are more qualified, more beautiful, more talented, more gifted, better than you are. It’s not true. I wish you would stop comparing yourself with them. You are unique. Be yourself, because that is who I created you to be. It’s who I want you to be.

I approve of you already. Stop trying to earn my approval. You have it already. There’s nothing you can do to make yourself worthy of my love – it’s been done for you. Let my love wash over you.

You are accepted. You are loved. I know you through and through; I know what you did, what you said, what you think, and I love you anyway. I know all about the things that you regret, that you would do differently if you only had the chance. I know the very worst secrets – the things that shame you, frighten you, threaten to swamp you, and still I love you.

Come to me.

Come to me if you’re afraid. If you’re afraid of the future, or if you’re afraid of shadows from the past. Come to me, and I will protect you. I will take your hand and walk along with you and things are not so scary when I am by your side.

I know what you’ve been through and I know how tired you are. I know that you’ve kept going, and kept going, and sometimes you feel that you just can’t go any further. I know that you go to bed and sometimes wish that you could sleep forever, and in the morning you wonder how you’ll make it through the day.

Come to me, and know that you are safe here. You are understood. I see you.

Come to me if you’re sad. I see past the smile that you wear to disguise the pain. I see inside to the deepest part of you that doesn’t dare to hope any more.  I am reaching for you. Come to me. This is a safe place.

Come to me, if you’re hurt.

I know what happened and I understand your pain. I know what they said, what they did, what they didn’t do. I know that you’re afraid to trust any more because you’ve been let down too often.

Come to me if you’re grieving, if you’re broken, if you are convinced that nothing will be right again. Come to me if you’re at the end of your strength, for I have strength to spare.

Come to me if you’ve been betrayed, wounded, rejected. It happened to me too and I remember how it feels. I want to pull you close into me and whisper truth to you to counteract the lies. I want to hold your face in my hands and look into your eyes and breathe healing over you.

Come to me if you’re full of bitterness and hatred. Come if you can’t forgive. Just come. Don’t let anything keep you away. I’m not waiting for you to be perfect to come to me – I would have waited forever, and so I came to fetch you. To bring you home. To this safe place.

Tell me. I know already the secrets that you’ve hidden away, and I know how heavy they are to carry. Let me help you. Talk to me. You can tell me anything. Tell me how angry you are, how disappointed, how confused. Tell me about the injustices and regrets. There is nothing you can’t say to me.

People try to work out what they think I want to hear and then they bring me their prayers in sanitized bundles, but you don’t need to do that.  I know the things that you leave out, the stuff that you can’t find words for, or think that you’d better not say.

I want to hear what’s on your heart. You don’t have to pretend. There’s nothing you can say that will surprise or shock me. Tell me, and see how I can help.

There’s no point in pretending with me; I see you, I understand you. Lay it all down in front of me, no matter how messy and grubby and awkward. See how much better you’ll feel. You’re not alone.

You are never, ever alone.

You are safe, here. You can shout and scream and cry. I will gather up your tears and gently lift your chin and I will help you smile.  I will.

I am always listening. I love your voice. I just like being with you.  

Come to me, even if you’re full of doubt. I see the dark corners of your heart that are unconvinced, sceptical, fearful. I am not angry when you find it hard to believe. I’m just glad that you came. This is a safe place. I will not criticize you or laugh at you or berate you. You are welcome here. Come and learn more. Let me melt the hard bits and warm the cold bits.

I’m not angry with you. It’s ok. Come even if you think I’m not talking to you.

Just come and see what happens. Leave it to me.

Come if you can’t help it. Come if you don’t understand. Come if you’re not sure. Come if you feel worried, fearful, tearful  or defeated.

Come to me if you’ve known me for years, or if you’re still not sure who I am.

I know you, and I love you, just as you are.

I want you to hear me when I say that. Really hear me.

Just as you are.

When I look at you, I see my precious daughter. You think that I see your imperfections, your inadequacies, your smallness, but I just see my lovely, spotless child. I’m delighted that you’re here.

Lift your eyes to mine. Let me help you understand who you are.

You are a beloved child of the Living God. You are family. I love you more than you can possibly imagine.

Come closer.

This is a safe place. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Real People

Here's my entry for the ACW/BigBible #DigiFaith competition 'Christian Writing in a Digital Age'. 
It didn't win, but I'm delighted with my 'honourable mention'. I also received some precious feedback, for which I'm very grateful. 

So, waste not, want not, here's my entry:

Real People

I am alone. Just me and my computer.

Correction: there are two of us.  Jesus and me.  He sits next to me and He helps me bring the words out of my head. He sees my heart and he holds me tightly when I pour it into my writing. Joy, pain, hilarity, confusion. He inspires me; patient when I have to work hard to find my words and cheering me on when I can’t get them down fast enough.

He understands that I sometimes don’t know what I think or what I feel until I express it and He’s happy when I find peace by laying it all in front of Him. He laughs with me, cries with me, and He never leaves me.

I press ‘Publish’. It’s a personal thing, an intimate thing. Just me and Him.

Correction: The two of us and two billion internet users.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have two billion visitors to my blog, though the spam sometimes feels as if I do. What I have done in that quiet, understated moment with the ‘Publish’ button is post the contents of my heart by a thoroughfare where any of those millions of people might pass by.

Some do.  A few stop to read. Some of those realize what I’m about and back away rapidly. Some look and sneer; engage for a while then melt away to find other battles to fight.

A few reach out and take the hand that I’m holding out.

And those people are just as three-dimensional as I am. I might never meet them in person, but they are real, and their lives and struggles are real too. Sometimes that reality is reflected in my words and they might emerge from their anonymity and whisper, ‘Me too.’  When that happens my heart mends a little and our hands hold each other a little tighter.

Sometimes my new friends and I laugh together, for ‘Me too’ moments don’t only happen in times of angst or anguish. We compare notes and exchange wisdom. Much has been said about the superficiality and banality of online life but I have found the reverse; if you are real, you find real people. If you are honest, you are met with honesty. If you offer encouragement, you’re encouraged.

And Jesus smiles. He’s outside time, so moving with it is no problem. He knows the person behind each avatar and it’s as easy for Him to introduce us digitally as it is in the frozen food aisle at the supermarket.

He loves that He can bring together sisters and brothers from all over the world. It’s His Kingdom, and we are family, even behind our screens.

Read all the other entries at the DigiFaith website.

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