Soar

I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety related pain. For the past week I’ve been having constant pain in my chest, it wasn’t indigestion and tests yesterday confirmed my heart and lungs were good. For the last three days I’ve been experiencing pain in different parts of my body, it feels a bit like I’m getting beaten up by an invisible man. The pain itself feels like my brain has recorded every physical pain I’ve felt in my life and everything is just malfunctioning and coming on one after another. So, for example, I’ll get pain exactly like when I fell and scraped my arm as a child followed by an ache across my stomach then a sharp lung pain like from chest infection followed by dull backache, I can feel every pulled muscle every bang and bruise. Tennis elbow will suddenly come on, then a previously healed shoulder injury will keep flaring up and then waves of pain down the backs of my legs and arms with constant pricking of pain on random parts of my body. So bizarre!

Anyway I’m lying in bed now resting and the word “soar” breathed into my heart. How good is Jesus!

But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.” John 14:26

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” Psalm 46:1

I love the Church – One Spirit

Last Spring we had a weekend away celebrating a friend’s birthday. On the Sunday I woke early and having looked up some churches, by googling “Jesus in…” and scrutinising the “welcome”, “about” and “what we believe pages” to make sure they lined up with scripture, I narrowed it down to two. Three of my children came with me.

By the time I’d found a parking space and got the children out of the car, the service had already begun. I peered in through the door at the back. The room was full. Everyone was standing and all I could see was a sea of silver hair. It was quiet, too quiet. “Oh no” I thought, I’ve made a mistake this isn’t going to be toddler/child friendly. A few years back I’d taken three age three and under to a service at a beautiful medieval church with spectacular decorations and heady Christmas scents. We were the only young family in sight and as we shuffled along the pew an older lady looked at us and leaned into her friend and said “well this should be interesting”.

Well, I wasn’t sticking around at this church, I turned around and signalled to the children to head back out the main door, maybe we could make it to the other church. But as I walked out the Holy Spirit turned me one eighty degrees and led me in. I tentatively walked back to the entrance of the room, the people were still standing and this time instead of looking and listening, I saw and heard. I saw that the people were stood up in prayer, and members of the congregation were, in turn, praying out loud. They were praying in the spirit. It was the most beautiful sight and sound.

We walked towards four empty seats at the back and sat down. A lady in the row infront turned and gave us a warm smile. As we stood to sing, another lady produced some baby musical toys, a flag and a tambourine and gave them to my children. We sang “Your Presence is Heaven to Me”, fifty or so voices, one guitar, all for Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sound more beautiful.

We were then invited to the children’s room were there was an array of crafts, toys, activities, drawing and colouring materials and snacks. The children happily played while I sat nearby and caught the sermon, which happened to be on Expectancy. Physically surprising but spiritually unsurprising my home Church was also to preach on Expectancy in the weeks after.

After the service my children ran up and down and weaved in and out of the rows of seats while I chatted to a couple of people. I was invited to stay and have lunch. While tables were being laid I learnt that this church hadn’t had any young families in for years, the only other child I had spotted was someone’s grandchild. All their children had grown and left the area and they were praying for young people to come. Now it made sense how joyfilled they were to see my children squealing, jumping and twirling all over the place.

They hadn’t had children in in years but they were ready, ready with the box of instruments, crafts, colours, stories and snacks. This was expectancy. This was Amen. I was so moved by the faith I saw in this small church in a little old building in the off season of a seaside town. We sat and enjoyed the most delicious ploughman’s together and I was greatly encouraged from conversations with a lady and a couple.

As the children and I returned back to the cottage to join my friends and rest of my family, I marvelled at all I’d seen. I love the church, I was home even though I was away from home. I am born again, born of the spirit and born into a whole new worldwide family in Christ. We walk this life with the faith we have been given and these faith filled spiritual prayers are not earthly prayers, they are powerful, fruitful and unfailing.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Hebrews 11:1-2

I Love the Church – Jesus

I’ve shared the gospel with a man who was a vicar, a man who was taxi driver and a spiritualist church member and every single Jehovah’s Witness who has come to my door. A fortune teller invited me in to her hut to show me some handmade jewellery, we spoke about the unseen and what truth is, she said there are many ways and that all are right. I said there is only one truth, Jesus, he is the way, the only way, at this she physically shoved me and the baby I was carrying out of the door. I’ve prayed at the bedside of one close to death, in his last days and old age his heart softened to the gospel. I’ve commanded spirits causing psychotic issues to leave a lady who was homeless. I have felt a golf ball sized arthritic swelling on someone’s knee shrinking under the palm of my hand on praying for healing. I’ve had countless online conversations with people about Jesus; speaking truth into areas where there have been religious lies. I’ve been called all kinds of names, been ridiculed, even accused of harming my children because of my faith.

Jesus, blazing bright the extraordinary in me and through me. Who am I? I’m the most ordinary individual! The Holy Spirit has taken me on this wild adventure and it’s only just the beginning.

In the Autumn last year I received news that a family friend had made the trip to the UK, fallen ill with a stroke and was in hospital. She had little support. During our holiday we were able to make the journey to see her. As I was praying in the car, I asked Jesus what she needed. My mum had given me a list but I just felt there was something more. I prayed about this and the word ‘Slippers’ came. Slippers? We stopped at a supermarket and I picked up a few toiletries and there happened to be the biggest display wall of slippers I’d ever seen! I didn’t even know her size or what style she would like. ‘Jesus which ones’ I prayed. I took a dainty pair down and put them in my basket.

Arriving at the ward, the lady who I’d known in my childhood was sitting in bed. I arranged all the bits I’d brought for her and spent some time with her. As I spoke to her, my arm stretched out over the bleak ward filled with the elderly and sick and I showed her the expanse of a beautiful horizon and said ‘the world may have forgotten you but the Lord hasn’t, God loves you.’ I prayed healing over her. When it was time to go, she began packing up all the things I’d brought for her to give back to me. I assured her they were for her. Then she picked up the slippers and looked at them. She looked at them for a long time. And as I quietly watched her face, she softly breathed out one word, “Jesus”.

In the days later I contacted a nearby church, a Church that shone Jesus, and I asked if someone could visit and just be there for her. A lady rang me saying she would go. She did. She sat with her and talked with her, text me and called the visit a blessing.

This is the Church. The body of Christ.

“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Colossians 1:18

I Love the Church – Blazing Light

The end of Summer came too soon last year and the main reason for this was the incredible beach mission we went to every day for two weeks. There were events for all the family and holiday clubs for children aged 0-18. My daughters happily skipped to their groups; sang songs, learnt dance routines, did crafts. There were parties, water fights, family fun nights, children’s choir performances and so much more. One fortnight, over ninety volunteers, a hundred and forty hours of free activities and hundreds of children attended.

At one of the afternoon events a volunteer, who had been involved with the mission for three decades, stood and spoke to all about the love of God in Jesus Christ. We were all outside and it was a beautiful summer’s afternoon. My son was running around at the back and as I was trying to keep up with him, I looked up and the big tree in the middle of the grounds was ablaze and all I could think was “this fire can be seen for miles around”, God’s love blazing in communities through the church.

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11

Where would I be without Jesus?

I’d be a mess. I’d be angry most of the time, at myself and anyone who was close enough for me to take it out on. I’d be broken inside; chasing every numbing high that could soothe the helpless pitiful feeling. I’d crumble when thick darkness flooded over. I would still have outbursts of self harming. Grief would have overtaken me. I would have sabotaged my marriage a long time ago. I’d be hounded by abandonment and PTSD, consciously and unconsciously it would rule my life. I wouldn’t be able to muster up an ounce of forgiveness. I would be a survivor, not an overcomer. I wouldn’t cope with being a mother because all I’d crave was to be mothered. I would spend so much time nursing my hurts that I wouldn’t have anything left to give. Giving wouldn’t even cross my mind. I would have no desire to control my tongue, I would still be spewing thoughts and talk of all kinds of evil from my heart. I would have no control of what my flesh desired. I’d be cowering to all the demons day and night. Depression would play Russian roulette with me. I’d be held hostage by all forms of fear, scream inwardly and regularly wake up crying. I’d be spiritually dead in the darkness speeding towards my grave. I’d have no idea what deep unshakeable love, peace, freedom and joy was. I would live looking like I had it all together. But Jesus, my rescuer, my healer, my hope, my home, my future, my restorer, my strength, my freedom, my peace, my joy, my gladness, my eternal life. He loved me when I didn’t want to give Him any room in my heart, loved me when I rejected Him, He loved me when I laughed at Him, loved me when the cross was a load of foolishness to me, loved me when my lawless heart chased, did and thought anything that it desired. Loved me until the crushing pain of choosing life without Him became too much and the moment I called to Him He took the burden off my shoulders, scooped me off the rotting floor led me to an open place, gave me the mountain top view of my living. He breathed life into me, poured joy over me, opened my eyes to see, unblocked my ears to hear, gave me a new heart, put His Spirit blazing inside me. Jesus changed EVERHTHING

Are you ready?

Find a mirror, take a breath and breathe onto it.

News of a beautiful baby born and more joy with another arrival. A midnight phone call, coma, ongoing critical care. A message received, illness, treatment, recovery. Waking up to the news of the death of a loved one. 5 lives. 12 days into July.

Are you ready for what is to come?

My soul was pressed yesterday and in that pressing a song erupted from deep within “we thank you for the cross”. Thank you Jesus you did not leave us in despair, darkness, bleakness, blackness, dead in our sin. I rejoiced singing at the top of my lungs because what a Father we have. Thankful we have hope, peace, joy, love, truth, light, a future and an eternity in His perfect presence.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

We are good at making plans, booking holidays years in advance. Finalising our retirement plans. Talking of tomorrow as if it’s a given but we can’t even secure anywhere near the next millisecond of our lives.

How much thought have you given to what will happen to you when you die? What ever conclusion you have come to, are you certain?

Are you certain?

Are you certain you will be reincarnated? Are you certain you will be floating around in the atmosphere? Are you certain you will disintegrate until no trace is left? Are you certain you will go and sit on a fluffy cloud with loved ones? Are you certain you are headed for heaven? Are you certain there is nothing more? Are you certain that no one can ever be certain of what comes after death?

We see that our bodies decay, so what about the part of ourselves that we don’t see physically? Our spirituality? The unseen. Do we just switch off? Does that part of us even age and decay? I’ve heard a few over 90’s say they still feel 19 inside.

We are on this earth for a little while then we are gone. A mist that vanishes. Life is short and death is certain, I plead with you to be certain about who or what you have put your trust in when you take your last breath.

I know that lies cannot uphold, so when we put our trust in a lie it will crumble at the slightest testing. Truth stands firm and is unchanging.

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6

With truth comes certainty. Truth floodlights every single lie. There are many lies but there is only one truth. Truth is a person, his name is Jesus.

Take a deep breath and breathe onto a mirror. Your life is a mist. Here and then gone. If you desire to receive life, in this short life and for eternity, then simply ask Jesus.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

The Secret Place

As the glimmers of a new season start to appear with the first snowdrop or copper coloured leaf, the Lord leads us into the new. What a gorgeous time it’s been waiting on Him and reclining in the secret place. Refreshed and renewed.

Eighteen months ago I wanted to write on Truth in time for Christmas but I found I couldn’t write and share from a place of overflow so I didn’t. One word that breathed into me during that time was “rest”. “Okay Lord,” I said “I’ll rest for January, that’s really sweet of you. I’ll have a newborn, it’s good to rest.” But then I struggled to write again. Okay I’ll write on Truth for Easter. Again no overflow. I questioned whether the Lord had left me, (of course not! Deut 31:6!). Of course I could have written on Truth from my intellect, but that never measures up to writing from wisdom. I wanted nothing less than to write from the complete overflow of Jesus. Months of wilderness, moments of thick blackness and a rising of deep issues. Jesus was stripping away the world from me, He was gently untangling the deep knots I had made into his perfect knit. All the moments I believed Jesus had pushed me away (because life had got hard) he was actually drawing me in to be near to Him. To just be still.

As I live, breathe and sing the gospel, I’m amazed at the extraordinary encounters he sets up in my very ordinary life. Humbled when total strangers start to talk about the deep issues on their heart. I’ve spoken to so many people over the years telling of his great love for all and reflecting His passion for the hearts of all people. Through it all the Lord was letting me know he hasn’t forgotten me, He delights in me, He leads me to meet him in the secret place. As a mother calls her children in from the garden, he was calling me back in to tell me how much he loves me. He wipes my face, tends to my wounds, builds me up and makes me ready for new places. He places scriptures in my heart as I sleep peacefully then He wakes me up with songs.

I was throwing my son up in the air the other morning and always for the first throw his eyes are wide for a split second when he realises he’s left the safety of my hands and then he squeals with joy to fall back in them, again and again with less and less fear, putting his arms up for me to throw him up one more time. He was giggling as I squidged him and kissed his cheeks and neck over and over. I saw so clearly how God loves me. Where ever He throws me, He’s got me. He just can’t get enough of me. In His arms, in the secret place, it’s the relationship that matters and comes first. Everything then overflows from the beauty of just being with Him.

The Church

Who knows that terrible boredom in a church service? The type of boredom that makes you want to peel your skin off and the dread that rises as you realise that the sermon may actually never come to an end.

We walked into an old church a few months ago and the children had such fun playing in the pews, singing round the alter and reading from the pulpit. It was a lovely sight as only a few days previously I had been praying that I wanted my children to always feel at home in any church they entered. I was brought up very familiar with church environments and my children are not as we don’t go very often. This long season of my life has really taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Not to rely on tradition, religion, nostalgia; the smell of old hymn books, the creek of oak pews, soft light through the stained glass. All lovely and good but the church is not made from mortar and stone, it is made of people (1 Peter 2:5) Church is not an activity to be done each week but it is who we are. My place in this season is not within the physical walls but outside of those walls ready with the Good News. Good news which everyone is invited to receive, those inside nightclub walls, sat beside supermarket walls, hanging around sitting on walls, surrounded by marble walls, trapped behind prison walls, confined to religious walls, those who have built their own walls and everyone who is yet to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34.8) because through Jesus, God has smashed down the wall that kept us from him, the wall that blocked our hearing, took away our sight and darkened our hearts to Him. Once we receive His gift of salvation we are given a new heart, a new spirit, (Ezekiel 36:26) our hearing and sight is restored and His word is then welcomed balm for a softened heart and not painfully boring arrows rebounding off a hardened heart.

For a long time I thought Church was about weddings, funerals, Sundays, Christmas and Easter. But Church is every day, every second of the day; hallelujahs in the car, blessings in the street, forgiveness all round, lavishing love on enemies. Bringing healing to the hurting, grieving with those who grieve, worship in hospitals, singing praise in crematoriums. The church is one family that spans across continents and denominations, breathing in scriptures, speaking His word, living life spirit led and fully free, walking in power over all darkness. Hearts blazing in inextinguishable light. Our brokenness exposed. Shedding our old nature and walking in the new. Having everything in common with someone we just met because we have the same Heavenly Father. Praying for each other. Pouring out gifts that have been poured into and over us. Overflowing with immeasurable joy through all circumstances and always ready to give an account of the hope we have to anyone who asks. (1 Peter 3:15) Church is new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), coming boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) , thankfulness for every blink and breath and fully resting in and reflecting His glory.

“ But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

Grieve With Hope

A lovely little surprise at my Birth Afterthoughts meeting when the midwife said I could look through my hospital notes if I wanted. And there it was, my baby’s name, my beautiful, strong and shiny one always reminding me of how much love, hope, joy and peace we are lavished with in the midst of the darkest of horrors. The best is yet to come. Only Jesus. King of Kings and Lord of Lords, HE turned my mourning into dancing. No one cradles us in our anguish like he does. The ongoing care and attention to the smallest ripple of anxiety to the excruciating heaviness of heart, in my weakness his strength never fails to gently thunder in.

There is no better place than “Lord I don’t understand what is going on but I trust you. Thank you” “Lord I’m afraid but I trust you. Thank you” “Lord I feel so sad right now but I trust you. Thank you” “Lord it hurts so much but I trust you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you” and scripture that breathes into our souls at the exact time we need it; When my womb and arms ache for my baby – “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

When I’m afraid it was it something I did?- “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10”

When I fear it will happen again – “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

When I think of the horror of the death that took place in my womb – “he is risen” Matthew 28:6

He is risen!

John 3:16

I first heard the good news watching Jesus of Nazareth on an old VHS tape that a family friend had left at our home. I was 4 or 5 years old and at the crucifixion tears began rolling down my cheeks. Deeper than the horror of the scene, there was something about what this mysterious man did that moved me deep in my soul. It wasn’t until my mid twenties I crashed to my knees alone in my bedroom, the without-reason-hollowness in my soul so suffocating that all I had left was to cry out to the Lord. He came for me. I’ve heard the good news written on an advertising lorry parked on the side of a motorway, I’ve heard it on toilet cubicle door graffiti, on a comedians audio cd, on the underside of Forever 21’s bags and during times when people make fun of the cross. I sit and watch in quiet amazement how my children eagerly request “the one where Jesus dies” in the storybook bible. I watched how a son delighted in sharing the good news at his dad’s funeral. As a bishop spoke at the royal wedding at the weekend, millions of people heard the good news.

GOD LOVES YOU. The source of love, love himself. Loves YOU. Love so big that no earthly words could ever describe. He is the one you are searching for. He is the missing piece. The refreshing breath. And the best surprise of all is that all along we think we’ve been the ones searching but all along it’s been God pursuing us with powerful galaxy shattering relentless furiosity.

Whether you hear the good news and shuffle uncomfortably in your seats, laugh at the absurdness, roll your eyes, raise your eyebrows, whether you are religious or not religious, on a spiritual journey, whether you have mocked or mock Jesus, whether you are a good upstanding member of society, whether you’ve never done a single thing right in your life. Whether you mumble through the Lord’s prayer on autopilot or have never heard of it. Whether you’ve never set foot in a church or when you do you just want to bash your head against the pew in front because. this. endless. droning. from. the. vicar. is. really. never. going. to. end. Whether you’ve been forced into a religion, escaped one or weren’t brought up in one. Whether you’ve been jaded by oppressive religious authorities or told God doesn’t love you because [insert any number of reasons a human can hatefully control another human]. If God has not measured up to your expectations, if he’s never answered you or you want nothing to do with him. If you’ve openly or secretly hated all the god bothering and bible bashing nonsense you come across. If you don’t know the commandments or if you’ve done or not done some or all of them. If you don’t understand how God let those people get away with the things they did to you or someone else. If you are angry, hurt or strong. The homeless, the hungry, the accomplished, the terminally ill. If you just feel nothing. If you feel it’s too late. If you are filled with lead-heavy guilt and shame. If you are entangled in a web of deceit right now. Whether you are caught up in the occult or dabbled with the demonic. If you are harassed and held hostage by fear, if you can’t find the way out. If you are just plain tired. The adulterers, the losers, the Mr and Ms perfects, the rich, the lost, the lonely, the religious scholars, the confused, the broken, the charitable, the imprisoned, the good souls, the addicted, the famous, the forgotten and ignored. Who ever you are, where ever you are, what ever you are doing right now, whatever you have done or not done YOU ARE LOVED and this is for you, his love can not be earned but it is a free gift to receive.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17