Light in the Darkness

My daughter needed a Halloween themed costume for her ballet class, she described what I should make and said she wanted it to be really, really scary. Her costume was at an early stage where it could have gone two ways – light or darkness. She was adamant on darkness as it was more scary.

“You know….” I said “you know what is more terrifying than anything?”

“What?”

“Light shining in the darkness”

“Why?”

“Because when light shines in the darkness it exposes EVERYTHING and THAT is terrifying”

This simple conversation made it hit home to me the power and freedom we have been given in Christ; the incredible gift we have received that saves us from stumbling around in the bondage of utter darkness to walk free and fearless in everlasting light.

We are all born separated from God; spiritually dead. We live in total darkness, deafness and blindness. We go from having an inkling that something isn’t right within us to total brokenness and questioning about who we are. We wrestle with confusion, fear, guilt, shame. No coincidence that all these feelings are rooted in and only produced by lies. I’ve heard people talk of living with some or all of these crushing burdens and in some cases don’t even know why.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21

It’s no good measuring ourselves against people who have done worse in our eyes and concluding “well I’m a good person” because when we truly see ourselves in the full light of perfection Himself, God who is pure holiness, we ALL fall short. (Romans 3:23)

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

I spent a lot of my teenage years and twenties out clubbing. We’d spend ages listening to music and getting ready and drinking, making sure we didn’t cross that fine line that would result in a bouncer not allowing us in. Once inside, thumping deafening music would leave ears ringing for days and the only communication possible would be a signal to your friends that you were going to the bar. More drinks led to more loss in vision but then from across the room you see him. ‘Wow’ you think ‘who is this guy and why didn’t I notice him before!’

You stumble through the dry ice and blackness and shout into each others ears. Quickly breaking the pact you made with your friends, only an hour before about sticking with the girls, you spend the rest of the night dancing as if you and this man have suddenly been superglued together. Then the dj announces the last song of the night and as you admire the hottest human being you’ve ever seen standing in front of you, the lights come on. Now you see the truth and so does he!

Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but to free us, to rescue us from everlasting darkness and take us into everlasting light, bringing us from death to life. To free us from the bondage and punishment under the power of sin to having freedom and power over sin.

When we come to light himself, all our deeds are exposed, we see clearly who we are, who we have been, where we have been, who we were made for and where we are going. The truth shines so bright that all the lies are exposed. And because of what Jesus did for every single one of us at the cross we are not left terrified but met with loving open arms filled with grace. Amazing grace! And through the resurrection we are given new life, born again, not of flesh but of spirit. When we choose to receive this gift we are instantly sealed with the Holy Spirit, we have God Himself dwelling in us.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godchildren born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1: 9-13

God always gives us the freedom to choose, love always does and God is love. We can go on in futile attempts to cover our sin ourselves, working to be a good person or we can receive God’s incredible gift to us and rest in full confidence, covered permanently by Jesus taking it all for us at the cross. Do we go on in darkness or do we turn to him?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Advertisements

Make a Windmill

A few mornings ago my daughter came rushing upstairs with two icecream sticks and a piece of paper saying that she wanted to make a windmill. 

We sat together coming up with ideas and different designs and this is the result. Really simple and quick to make. It has now become the centre point to build further constructions around with building brick toys and has been named “The Windy Willow Windmill” 

You will need –

  • 1 small paper fastener (width – 2mm)
  • 100 craft lolly sticks (11cm x 1cm)
  • 2 icecream sticks (length – 9.5cm)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Drill (with 3mm wood bit)


1. Start with 4 lolly sticks and build a square base using the glue gun to secure the corners



2. Build up to 11cm high, occasionally glueing a row upright instead of flat. Leave to set.


3. Take 10 lolly sticks and glue them side by side as shown above. Make 4 sets of these panels.

4. Once glue is set, take 2 panels and glue onto the tower to form two sides of the triangular roof. 


5. With the remaining two panels, use the glued roof sides as a guide and mark where to cut to make the panels for the front and back of the roof. 

6. Cut x2 triangles with scissors and glue one panel to the back side of the roof. 

7. Take the two icecream sticks and position them as windmill blades, mark the centre point and drill through. Glue together making sure to avoid the drilled hole.


8. Cut two 2cm pieces of lolly stick and take the remaining roof side and glue them in place; central and halfway down  (as shown above). 

9. Take the blades and attach between the 2cm pieces with the paper fastener leaving it loose enough to spin. Secure the fastener at the back with the glue gun.

10. Glue the front of the roof in place. 

The Flesh vs The Spirit

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18

At the end of last year we began making some big changes so we could have a better balance in some aspects of our lives. During this time we had huge devastation hit our hearts. So much changed overnight and so much was changing along side this. It’s been seven and a half months since we left our old home and we still haven’t decided on a location that will work best that we can call home. This season of my life has felt like I have been stuck swimming against a rip tide. I can still see the shore but fighting against the current of many continuing hardships and getting pulled further out to sea. I’ve felt tired, drained and worst of all spiritually exhausted. 

The Flesh v The Spirit – this title has not left me over the months, I knew I was living this battle out and knew I was ‘Martharing around’ 

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

A few days before we left our old home, as it was my birthday, I chose what we should do that day and one was to join the church, which was linked to a playgroup the children and I had attended for many months, for a Sunday service. I was sad about leaving all that was familiar and worried about the unknown. The presence of God flooded that room so much so I was in tears, his love drenched my heart so powerfully and tenderly. The sermon was about our identity but a totally different message was imprinted on my heart, it was simply –

“Don’t be afraid to step into the fire”. 

I came away at full peace, knowing the future would be hard but it would be just great and that God had the details covered. 

I moved around many times in my childhood and adolescence, my parents worked overseas for long periods so school holidays were spent making sure I got to where I needed to be. I was 13 or 14 when I travelled from Leeds to London and checked into a hotel by myself, setting my portable alarm clock to make an early flight to Lagos. If staying in the U.K. I was either getting picked up, dropped off and journeying around the country to stay with relatives or family friends. I really relate to Paddington Bear because I always seemed to be lugging a suitcase around.

This type of living provided me with great emotional and physical independence but also a huge craving for a secure base. Fast forward twenty five years and I here I was feeling the same well into my adulthood. I didn’t want to step into the fire, I wanted to stay in my comfort zone at the perimeter, toasting marshmallows and enjoying the warmth of the glow. Anything but in the fire! But one thing I know is that God doesn’t keep us in our safe spaces, what he does do is keep us safe in the unsafe spaces. 

We made plans, plans fell through, circumstances changed and we hit stumbling blocks. I became more frustrated and more focused on making sure our children continued to have access to fresh air and countryside rather than packed tube trains and the rush of city life. All my creative materials and equipment are still in storage and with limited space to design and make this contributed to more frustration. Also without our old community we were having to and still having to forge a new one. 

I made myself busy being busy but I knew my worries were all of the world. Like Martha I was distracted by everything that had to be done. I was being carried off by my fleshly desires and I was not at peace. Still struggling against the tide, my moods accurately reflected my constantly changing and uncertain conditions; up and down. 

Then there came the day where clarity hit me like a ton of bricks. We were at a museum for the day and as we were leaving the family rooms into the main foyer one of my children refused to budge and was crying loudly. A staff member made a gesture to me that I should try and keep her quiet and I just snapped. I thought ‘wow in six years of numerous tantrums, I finally found the lady who can quieten a child mid one’. I was so cross and stormed over and let her know what she was asking of me was ridiculous. Turns out that a child *can* be quietened mid tantrum when they see their mother have a tantrum too! That evening I went over what had happened and truth smacked me right in the face; I was not at peace. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22

Here I was with all of God’s riches there for the receiving but I’d been led by my flesh. I felt just as the prodigal son when he realises his situation after eyeing up the food for the pigs (Luke 15:11-32). My planned letter of complaint turned into an apology letter which was passed on and received by the lady. 

Aren’t open arms the best? Even in times when I haven’t had the will to sit down and read scripture He has breathed His word into me. There are two verses that have been nudging me along over the last few months. The first, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:6

Even at the times I’ve judged myself too far gone and beyond help or hope I’m continuously reminded we can come boldly into his presence because we have been clothed in His righteousness. This can not be changed, it can never be taken away. It is eternal. The greatest gift!

The second verse that kept breathing into me was, “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matt 8:20 & Luke 9:58

Where was my home? Was my home dependent on my physical comfort, worldly possessions, security of a house and the continued presence of loved ones around? What happens when some or all of these are stripped away. Where was my Home? 

One simple prayer I found myself saying during these months was simply “Lord, bring me back”. It is never by our power to change or do the work but by His to change and do the work in us. 

I love love love the lessons the Lord teaches us in our hardships, how he draws us nearer to him. How every difficult circumstance is an opportunity to learn moment by moment and not rush through in frantic search of an escape. In the midst of this blazing fire he has shown me Home. He is home. We can’t even rely on our own bodies to keep us, as time passes they get older heading straight to inescapable death and decay but what joy that our spirits, forever been made alive in Christ, are continuously renewed day by day.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5

Earlier this year we took the steam train up Mount Snowdon, the weather was fine and we were excited for the breathtaking views ahead. As the train chugged along past jagged slate and startling a few of the hardiest looking sheep I’ve ever seen along the way, we entered the clouds. We stepped off the carriage and could barely see our hands in front of our faces. This wasn’t what I had expected! After a cup of tea and a sausage roll the clouds still hadn’t miraculously moved and it was time for our return journey. 


Strangely I left the summit as satisfied as if I had seen the view because while I stood at the top of that mountain staring into the fog, I saw so clearly how God’s word still stands, what ever situation we find ourselves in; fog or fire. The magnificent view was still there, beautiful, breathtaking and unchanging.


I’ve been as stubborn as a mollusc stuck to her rock and my stubbornness has been overcome by His patience. My grumbling softened by his grace. My worries smashed by the fact he is a good Father, all his plans are good and for good even when things don’t go how we think they should. As sure as the rivers meander to the oceans, all we go through; pain, troubles and hardships all lead to a place that is good, there is no other outcome than one that is good. It is the sweetest assurance. 

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

Roman 8:26-28

Death to Life 

I used to think about death when I had to courage to. It can’t be that bad I’d tell myself, EVERY person will die, and billions have already died. I wished mine wouldn’t be too painful or gory, slipping away while asleep sounded best. I tried to comfort myself that we probably just switch off for good, with no memory. The truth that I would never have admitted is that it terrified me. I side stepped the fear by trying to live for the moment, after all we never know when we’ll get hit by a bus, as the saying goes.

It’s been over a decade since I crashed to my knees on my bedroom floor and I gave my life to Jesus and instantly he took my baggage; weight I had no idea I carried lifted of my shoulders. Love saturated my heart. Peace. My desires started to change, behaviours that had once felt so natural to me repulsed me. Then three years ago I had the most incredible encounter with the Holy Spirit, my eyes were opened, my ears were opened and my heart was set on fire. I saw who I was, who I had been, and how Jesus sees me. The magnitude of what Jesus did for me, for ALL, at the cross hit me like a meteorite. I once lived wide eyed in utter darkness, stumbling around on the road to death but now the God of the turn around, the God of the impossible, the God who never leaves us or gives up on us, whose love for us displayed so clearly on the cross brought me from death to life. 
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

Light 

A couple of weekends back I met a woman sitting against a brick wall. We got chatting and she told me of her plans for the afternoon; she was really looking forward to a bath at her friend’s flat, which led her to make a specific request. I left and returned with the item she needed then asked her if she’d been to any of the churches and started to explain that they do so much during the week than just the Sunday service. She looked at me and her eyes shone so bright and before I could finish my sentence she excitedly whipped out a flyer of the church she goes to and said “I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Him”. She told me a little about her past, a very painful past. I was so blown away by her, she was so full of life, hope and peace. We had such a joy filled conversation and I was still marvelling about her as I sat back in the car that I had to take a moment before driving, I found myself smiling because she’d given me so much hope. It was such a great reminder that what ever our circumstances, God is moving. He is at work everywhere. In ways that continuously blow our minds. Life is messy, full of difficult twists and turns, there is so much hardship, pain, suffering and brokenness but when our trust is in Him he sustains us. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t stand a chance!
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

Clothed with Joy

My heartbreak in a box, on the wrong side of my womb. The depth of the pain is like none I have ever experienced but the joy of our Father’s love; soothing, unfailing tenderness in the most devastating of circumstances is what my heart can’t help but continuously sing about. The care, the comfort, the sweetest of visions, the attention to detail and love that I simply don’t deserve, who am I, little old me that our Mighty God could care so much! And *this* is how he cares for EVERY individual. 

Our tiniest’s remains were released after two months in the mortuary. We declined testing but the hospital tested anyway, then apologised. We chose a private cremation instead of a communal one. We didn’t use an undertaker and took our baby’s remains from mortuary to crematorium ourselves. I’d been shown ashes caskets that were hundreds of pounds, instead we bought a simple little jar. The mortuary provided a woven casket and one of my happiest memories is our daughters running around in the sunshine decorating it with daisies. 

That morning I’d been thinking about how “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”(Matt 4:4) and how this whole experience had me fixing my eyes on the unseen, how in my physical bloodied distress my soul cried out, my spirit flooded in love and my hand lifted deep in worship. The power of our Lord had me singing in an A&E ward! Only Jesus! He does turn our wailing to dancing! 

On our way back from the crematorium “You got the Love” came on the radio. I’ve heard it loads before but listening to it that day was the first time I heard the gospel in it-

“When food is gone you are my daily meal”

My daily bread. The bread of life. Jesus.

“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:50-51. 

What joy in salvation! What peace in the unshakeable, unfailing, certain hope. Leaving nothing to do but rejoice because “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

Jesus Loves You

A good friend of mine called over the weekend and we spoke for hours. He wasn’t having the best of times. It broke my heart at how thirsty he was so I told him all about how much Jesus loves him. He couldn’t get his head around this type of love. 

“Well what if I am [like this] or I do [this] or [that]?” He asked. 

“It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to how much you are loved, how much you are worth and how much you are valued” I answered. 

That night he went out to a party and called me the next day to tell me about it. It sounded a lot like one of the free parties we used to go to together. He said there were lots of travellers there and during the night a man came up to him and told him “Jesus loves you”. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised but he couldn’t believe it because only I had ever told him about Jesus, all through his upbringing he’d been told to stay away from “all that”. And on the same day I had told him how much Jesus loves him, a stranger had appeared at a party, in the middle of the night, amongst all the drink and drugs and told him “Jesus loves you”. 

I thought it couldn’t get more amazing to have the revelation of God’s love in my life but to see how it unfolds in the lives of others is something pretty phenomenal. People think that finding God is about finding religion, doing to please, trying, working and searching. Truth is God is pursuing us with such ferocious unrelenting love and meeting us in the places where we least expect. Longing for us to go from turning away from him to turning to him.