We Don’t Know God Until We Meet Jesus

My Dad used to drive me back to boarding school bellowing the most ridiculous made up song, a jolly song about going back to the boarding house. The song was purposefully jolly because my heart was not and it did work to make me smile only until I spotted the boarding house looming in the distance. I remember those journeys, at seven years old sitting in the front with the seat belt crossed over my left cheek (no booster seats in those days). I would inhale the smell from the seatbelt, trying to mentally stockpile every last homely scent I could before dormitory life. The seat belt always smelt of my Mum’s perfume.

A little over a decade later I watched my Dad’s chest rise, fall and rise with his final raspy breath. The ground went from beneath me, shock suspended me in mid air, a never before heard groan erupted from my inner most being, the pressure of grief forced the tears. My legs had broken into a run and when I was found, I was called back in to say goodbye. The curtain was drawn around us. He was gone but there was a glow in the room, a gentle warm, comforting glow. I’d been visiting my Dad in the cold, clinical hospice ward for weeks, there had been nothing warm or cosy about that building. I concluded this strange warmth was just what happened when people died, it was maybe how they said goodbye.

Sixteen years later I met Jesus. I was at home on the landing stood facing at roughly a thirty degree angle to a chest of drawers. I was asking God how do I stay close to Him. The reason I was asking this was because it had just been the most spiritually eventful weekend of my life; I’d been baptised with fire, and witnessed a love like I never knew – powerful thunderous, cool, gentle, ferocious fire. I’d met with the source of love, love Himself and just like I recognised my Mum’s perfume on the seatbelt, I now recognised that the warmth at my Dad’s deathbed wasn’t my Dad but the loving, gentle presence of my Heavenly Father. I had also had the wind of the Spirit powerfully blow into me blasting my eyes and ears open and instantly filling me with truth, instant understanding about things I’d never known before. The once old, dusty, impossible to understand bible became alive, one whole love letter that now made sense, every word illuminated my spirit. I saw in the spirit realm – more real than everything we see with our natural eye, I saw the things that go on behind the veil. So after all these things happened I was longing to stay in the fire – to stay in God’s presence, so I was praying “God how do I stay close to you?” And the instant I asked this Jesus appeared in front of me with such joy and laughter, and the instant I responded “Jesus!” He was gone and everything began bursting into sense. My experience meeting Jesus was very similar to the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:31

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”

So I’m standing by my chest of drawers in shock, wonder, delight, amazement and with the fullness of joy. It was Jesus all along! Everything, even the most precious people and things in my life just paled into insignificance, every part of me began to ache to be with Jesus, I wanted to leave earth and be in heaven immediately. I saw my whole life laid out and instantly recognised where Jesus had been during it. The poem “Footprints” I’d had on a bookmark when I was a child at boarding school suddenly made sense. He’d been with me the whole time, I’d just never recognised Him. His fragrance had been left all over my life. The amount of love notes God had left me that I’d dismissed or ignored, I was simply too blind to see! Even through my wild years of devouring every earthly offering to try to fill my emotional, physical and spiritual desires, in my drunkenness, my drug induced highs and comedowns, my immense pride and uncontrollable lust of the flesh, wherever I was, whatever state I was in, He’d always been knocking on the door of my heart. I had always thought I was the one who was trying to find the answers or to work out what this life was all about but now it had become clear as day that He was the one who was chasing me, my whole life.

I was brought up in a Christian religious setting, Church every Sunday and Christian schools, all those droning services, chapel, assemblies and RE lessons, but I had never understood the cross or even had anyone explain it directly to me or even explain who Jesus is. I knew Jesus was a big deal but didn’t know why. My parents were religious church goers and they never once spoke to me or told me about Jesus (let that sink in – they went to church without fail every week!). I actually first heard the gospel watching “Jesus of Nazareth” on a VHS tape that someone had left at our home. At five years old I remember watching the crucifixion scene and I saw there was something more going on than the violence and bloodshed, I didn’t understand fully but somewhere in my heart at that really young age, I responded deeply because tears began to stream down my face. But it was only in meeting Jesus that instantly I knew Him to be God, His authority and power can not be denied. The light of His presence instantly revealed in me an understanding of the cross, His light had exposed the extent of my sin, the absolute rottenness and filth so permeated and deep at the core of my being. Sin that wasn’t able be broken down or even written as list, sin so beastly and all consuming which had felt completely natural to me and which I had absolutely no control over. Here I was, stood in Holy light and like Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” And just like Paul in Romans 7:4 “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” And just like “Amazing Grace” that goes “a wretch like me”, “I was blind but now I see”. I stood with my rottenness exposed by pure holiness but remained covered in love, the consuming fire of love, grace freely poured out over me, all because Jesus died for us at the cross. I understood the enormity of of my sin and the enormity of what He’d done to set me free and I was overcome with great joy and thankfulness.

And since that day I’ve been shouting His name from the rooftops and telling anyone who’ll listen. Jesus is here with you! He loves you. You are continually on his mind. There is no condemnation in His voice. Turn around and step freely into the full fragrance of His glory.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Revelation 3:20

Rejoice

From Moses, Hannah, David, Isaiah, Mary to the “numerous as the stars” people of the Lord, the song of our hearts has never changed because our God has never changed.

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” Malachi 3:6

Something not covered in nativity plays is that when Jesus was born, King Herod wanted Him dead. Unable to hunt down the messiah baby he ordered the death of every male under two years of age in Bethlehem and surrounding areas. Warned by an angel of the Lord Joseph took Mary and little Jesus and they escaped to Egypt during the night. Prophesy after prophesy was brought to fulfilment and night raged as Light came into the world, the war was on.

The One who spoke the universe into being walked the earth as one of us. And right on time, night was allowed it’s way, Jesus was innocent but attacked, the One who was sinless was put to death by the schemes of religious leaders because of His authority, the threat to their religious traditions and for being the one before Abraham, the “I Am” – God himself. Then the time came, the time that was predestined before the beginning of the world. Jesus hung on the cross taking the battering of God’s punishment for the sins of mankind. All our sin, the depths of our depravity, the filth of our hearts was put on Him. Only until He could proclaim “it is finished!” did He choose to give up His spirit. He battled with death, leaving it defeated as He was raised to life, powerfully fire paving the way for resurrection life for all who believe.

We rejoice everyday for the gift of Jesus coming as one of us (John 1:14). We rejoice everyday that our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). We rejoice everyday that death has been destung, death has lost its poison that is sin and sin’s increased power through the law; (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). We rejoice at the fulfilment of the law in Christ, that we don’t strive to do God’s will but we have a new nature, and now it come easy, freely and lightly to us (Matthew 5:17 & Ezekiel 36:26) We rejoice everyday that this life is not the end, that we have a future better than we can ever begin to imagine (Hebrews 13:14). We rejoice everyday at the magnitude and goodness of God’s love (Romans 5:8) and the multitude of ways He shows up, time and time again in every area of our lives. Christmas and Easter are two days that highlight what God has done but we carry all he has done in our bodies, every single day blazing the glorious good news through our lives. And not subject to time, circumstance or even death, from generation to generation the Spirit continually causes our hearts to rejoice.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

The Big Question

The most important question in the existence of humanity.

“Who do you say I am?”

In Matthew 16:13-16 Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

On a walk during the Summer the children and I kept coming across these words in chalk “Jesus loves you”. It seemed someone else had added “hates” and “is not real”. It brought the verse above to mind.

Is he a character in an ancient fairytale. A historical figure who died a long time ago. A magic man. A wise man. A mad man. A good fellow. A liar. The leader of a religious group. A statue. A good example. The butt of many jokes. A worn out doll in a manger. A popular swear word. A stained glass figure. A mysterious man at the centre of religious icons. Some guy on a crucifix on jewellery. The false messiah. The son of God. An angel. A God. A prophet. The messiah,

the Son of the living God.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

I Lack Nothing

How good is our God, the living God. The God who sees, hears and speaks. Not like the gods of our fleshly imaginations or works of our hands. He is bigger than the universe and the buildings of worship, greater than our minds can conceive. No one escapes troubles in this life but in the midst of trouble He is here, our Immanuel, not asking a single thing from us but giving us everything we need and more than we could ever ask for.

We have big brutes of enemies, relentless demons whose only mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Enemies too powerful for us to withstand, but the Lord, right in front of their wicked eyes lavishes us with such great love, putting them to great shame.

His goodness follows us around, literally chasing after us! Love, light, peace, joy, hope, wisdom, understanding, healing, faithfulness, kindness, and life chasing us every second of our lives even to the decrepit places we love to hide. How He is so powerful, so mighty yet at the same time so patient and gentle is beyond me – a soft cosy ferocious consuming fire.

As my heart was singing this morning I saw that it’s the revelation of God’s love that changes everything, when we know and hold on to how much we are loved by Him everything falls into place, our souls become steady, we find ourselves in lush green pastures. The valley of the shadow of death is like quiet waters to us.

For some of us God’s voice is a distant echo in our noisy hearts. Turn and run with all your might to His call, allow Him to thresh all the thorny distractions and smash down the hardened wall. Come into the beauty of His voice, in full surround sound glory. Every child needs and longs for the voice of their perfect Father. We try to listen for it in our earthly fathers, they may let us down. We seek it in our lovers, they may desert us. Maybe we try to find it in our friends or followers but they don’t even know everything about us. But there is One who knows every intricate detail of hearts and it’s only His words, like healing honey that reach the depths of our souls with His words “With you I am well pleased”.

Amen

Love, Light and Life

If you have seen a light yet cannot distinguish it from the darkness, you have not seen the true light. The light always exposes the darkness and its deeds, exposing what is unholy. A false light bounds you still in darkness unable to distinguish between the light and the darkness.

“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

We are taught and given power by the Holy Spirit to test every spirit, (1 John 4:1) we are to test every word that comes out of the mouths of people, including those who preach to us in church. We don’t just receive everything that is spoken to and over us. If a preacher veers away from the truth, we know it immediately.

Now we know the devil does not appear as the worldly depicted menacing pitchfork wielding figure. We know he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Beautiful, powerful and blazing with light. The giveaway essence of his character is that he is a liar (John 8:44), unable to speak the truth but instead takes it and twists it. And just as with light and darkness, we recognise lies because they are exposed by the truth. We know the truth because we know Jesus, who is the truth.

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:16

Every morning Jesus wakes me up with songs, one morning I woke up with a beautiful melody, nothing strange there, but the words of the song were “guilty as the rising sea, you are guilty, you are guilty” I immediately knew this wasn’t the truth (Romans 8:1, Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 1:18) in fact, it was an accusation using part of the gospel (the heart of God displayed in Christ and written in His word). Yes we have been found guilty for our sin but, even though religious folk would like the story to stop at condemnation, we have been redeemed in Christ through His death on the cross and by His resurrection we have been powerfully breathed in to new life. It really is good news!

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

When we make the decision to turn from our ways to Christ (repentance) we pass from eternal death to eternal life, being born again (born of the spirit – John 3:6) and immediately we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). The Holy Spirit highlights all things ungodly. We are given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) natural desires we once revelled in suddenly become unnatural and repulsive to us, these changes continue to be revealed in us for the rest of our lives here on this earth. He opens our eyes and ears so we see things as they are in the daylight, both in ourselves and the world around us (natural and supernatural).

“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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 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 3:16-21

Joy is a Gift

When all my prideful, rebellious ways are smashed to smithereens and my soul is slumped on the floor with no where left to go is when God steps in. It’s as if those are the moments that I allow God complete authority to do his work in me and through me. Our flesh tries and tries but it never gets us very far. We can exhaust ourselves reading all the books and downloading all the apps about how to train ourselves to be better. To militarise our lives so we can have some sort of control over parts of our character that we are not pleased with, but it’s long, exhausting, all consuming and never leaves much room for anyone else.

Last week while I was rushing around the house, okay, storming around the house picking stuff up and collecting empty toilets rolls. My husband decided that this was the perfect time to give me some constructive criticism. “You’ve been really grumpy and you’ve been telling them off a lot”. Are you kidding me? I’m clearly at my limit here, apparently the designated family empty toilet roll collector, I’m overwhelmed, I’ve missed two of my zoom classes, I make my bed every morning only to return after breakfast to find it turned over and my duvet thrown out of the window into the garden (okay its never like that but it always feels like it). I had spent a good hour spot cleaning blue paint, everywhere I went there was blue paint on the carpet, no whistling while I worked here but instead, while frantically scrubbing, a muttering and shouting “why!” “How!?” “Common guys you know not to bring paint up here!”

While making dinner, the baby shrieked and before I’d even turned around I assumed his toy had been taken and told my daughter off. In fact she had been trying to help him. I apologised.

I lay in bed that night, having found a splodge of dry blue paint on the sole of my slipper, and with my translation of the words of the earlier constructive criticism playing over in my head “you are rubbish, you are doing a rubbish job” Then all the memories of all the times I’ve been an awful person to be around flooded into my head. “What’s going on, Lord?! Help me” I prayed.

At breakfast the next morning as my porridge was getting stuck at the lump in my throat, I burst into tears and apologised to everyone in my family for shouting a lot and all the times I’d not been fair. Everyone immediately protested, gathered round me, called me the “best Mummy in the world” and began to list all the reason why. This was so sweet but still didn’t fix the problem. How was this going to be fixed? Then I thought about joy, I thought about when Jesus fills your heart with joy it breaks through all situations. Even on grey days everything sparkles as if in the sun. Have you noticed when you’re down you can’t even appreciate beautiful views or birds in the trees? Everything sort of becomes colourless.

Now, miraculously, I lost the thirst for alcohol a long time ago so couldn’t even soothe myself with a bottle or even take anything else that could dull my mind, so I prayed, I left it all to Jesus, I took all my faults and burdens to the cross and trusted God with his plan for my life. Trusted that he could fill me with joy. I remembered the powerful, inexpressible joy of Lord even in the darkness of grief and also how I used to “Pray and Play through the Day” when the children were smaller.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,”

Ephesians 5:18

I told my husband that I’m powerless to permanently change myself, to not be a “grumps” as he calls me. I just can’t do it. I explained that life was like walking through the desert and I keep having to be refreshed by the one who freely gives the water of life (Rev 21:6) If I don’t get this real drink then my spirit lays parched and my flesh reigns with all its deceit.

“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”

Romans 7:19

So I boldly approached the throne of grace and God met me and refreshed me with love. You see, sin makes us want to hide and try to fix things ourselves. I’m especially good at blaming others or pretending to myself that it’s really not that bad. But prompted by the Holy Spirit’s loving conviction, I decided I wasn’t going to give myself a break on this, I wasn’t going to be kind to myself, I wasn’t going to make excuses but I was going to depend on the only One who can forgive and change my heart and desires.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9

Sin weighs us down and separates us, not only from others but from God. Sin is actually death’s sting. It chokes us with guilt and smothers us with shame. In a life saved it grieves the Holy Spirit. From the moment we turn our backs on sin and turn toward God, He gives us new heart, He puts Godly desires within us and we start to lose the taste for former things of the world, it is a supernatural heart change. He does the work and He does it so gently and lovingly, not condemning us but filling us with the things that truly fulfil; He works on the deep things of our heart; our desires, addictions, adulterous affairs, illegal activities, our lying tongues, our vindictive ways. He fills us in the spirit so we no longer thirst after these things in the natural. He’s continuously transforming us to be like Jesus, even while we sleep! It’s pressing and painful at times, but each trial big or small we come through singing His praises and marvelling at His great love.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Hebrews 12:11

So I sit here and write this recovering from a pulled hamstring and sprained ankle from running, egg and spoon and three legged races with my family, and remind myself I’m running the big race –

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

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

Reading the Bible

Two months ago I finished reading the bible, it took 26 months. I’m not a big reader, I absolutely hate reading, the first thing I do with a book is flick through to find pictures. Years ago I tried to read the bible because I was intrigued, I started at the beginning but didn’t even make it past Genesis 1. It was big, old and boring. Some snippets I randomly read were lovely, some frightening and I couldn’t make any sense of it. But then I met Jesus and my heart was changed. This time I read with such excitement, starting at Matthew through to Acts then Revelation and then the letters. Finishing the New Testament I began the Old Testament at Genesis through to Deuteronomy continuing with intervals of the later OT books, then finishing with Psalms.

This incredible book is no ordinary book. Some say it holds secret codes. Others say it’s just a load of fairytales. Truth is you can be the greatest bible scholar, the most respected theologian, attend church religiously but still not grasp it’s meaning. It’s possible to know the bible inside out, read it daily but be as the Jewish leaders that Jesus told “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40

But it was never intended for human wisdom. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. In our spiritual blindness and deafness, to which we are all born, it makes no sense to us. But God who loves you, who can not stop lavishing you with the best gifts freely gives you the eyes to see and the ears to hear. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” James 1:5

The whole book is centred on the greatest gift you will ever receive. It shows us the love of a Father who never gives up on us when we rebel, run, fail and fall time and time again. Who cannot stop giving us incredible gifts, who is righteous and just. We see a Father who is faithful in his promises, displaying his incredible love for all at the cross.

In poetry or songwriting, readers can come to many different conclusions about the meaning of a poem or song. But the only person who can ever give you the truth about it is the author. We know that “All Scripture is God-breathed” 2 Timothy 3:16. The big question is are you willing to go to the author to receive life?

I now call the bible the greatest love letter. Somebody asked me what I’d do when I finished reading it, my reply “read it again and again and again of course!” Same as a love letter!!

As I came towards finishing reading the bible, I began to wonder what the last verse I would read would be and it couldn’t have been more perfect; I was overjoyed when I read Psalm 150! What joy there is in his presence that our hearts overflow with praise now and for all eternity!

Annoying Christians

I’ve been around countless Christians my whole life, when I was younger there were a few that I found a little annoying. Funnily it wasn’t the ones who pointed out my faults, it wasn’t the ones who shoved the bible in my face, I could handle those people by laughing or walking off. No, the ones that really annoyed me were the impossibly calm and kind ones. They glided around as if everything was perfect in their lives. They were always smiling, kindness and peace endlessly shone out of them.

I remember sniggering at how boring it must be to make so much effort to be good all the time. They were nice, too nice, but I didn’t want to be around them, I lived my life at the other extreme of their lifestyle.

In my early teens I chose to stop going to church which I found either boring or cringey. I spent the next decade living to fill my life with everything I could. Hangover after hangover, comedown after comedown. I lived for me. I needed constant refuelling, more nights out, more holidays, more stuff, more experiences. Then one Christmas I found myself alone, my mum was out the country and unexpectedly feeling lonely I opened a bible (yep that’s how lonely I was!) and this verse jumped out at me –

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” Isaiah 66:13.

Those words shot through my soul like a lightening strike. Freaked out I slammed that bible shut and didn’t go near another one for over two years!

Because of my upbringing and because I believed in God I always labelled my self as a Christian. What I now know is I was a big hypocrite; I knew of Jesus but I didn’t know Jesus and had no desire to know him. I had long outgrown the sweet childhood stories I heard about him.

In my twenties I was at a point in my life where I hadn’t made any plans. As I had time to reflect I felt really tired, not physically but internally. There was a strange empty longing in my heart. I didn’t understand it because there was no obvious reason. I turned to the self help section at a book shop but was overwhelmed by the titles and every book became relevant as I’d experienced a lot of hurt in my life, but this emptiness was more than that, I went home empty handed.

Soon after that, I was alone in my bedroom and all the feelings imploded, I was done, broken I fell to my knees and I made a pretty scary decision, I cried out to God “I am ready for you to take the lead in my life”. I was a mess and I felt so sorry. Instantly I felt an enormous burden release from my body. A huge weight that I wasn’t even aware that I was carrying lifted off me! Then love came flooding into my heart. Beautiful, powerful, pure love. Wow. The ache in my heart disappeared. It has never come back.

At the time I didn’t realise the small changes that started taking place but looking back now I see my faith started to grow, I also started losing the thirsts for once strong and embedded desires – things that I’d depended on for happiness no longer had a hold on me. I even had the urge to read the “dusty old boring impossible to read” bible, it suddenly felt comforting to me. I didn’t understand most of it but I found hope in Jeremiah 29.11 and although I didn’t know the deeper meaning at the time, I trusted the promise of it.

Soon there came a major turn around in my life and within a year I became a mother and a wife. I thought I was in the home straight of life;- settled, sober and best of all I was secure in the knowledge God loved me. I was content. A few years later life turned bad, really bad. I started praying again, desperately. My faith was tested, I was broken and in a very dark place, I had nothing left in me but to trust God and wait. He showed up in the most mighty, incredible, no words could ever fully describe way! (However helpless a situation feels, God ALWAYS turns it around for good, at his perfect timing). I came out of the most difficult time of my life in absolute awe of how wonderful our Lord is, stunned at the incredible turnaround of my situation, completely forgetting the pain and trouble. His love, his power, his beyond perfect explanations, his wonderfulness overpowered the darkness. He breathed truth into me that exposed every single lie. He showed me an incredible love and attention to detail in my life in ways I couldn’t possibly begin to describe, a love that I definitely did not deserve.

The presence of his perfectness instantly exposed the depth of my imperfectness, the destructiveness of my vast sin and, most humbling, was the fact I used to categorise sin but it became perfectly clear that God does not categorise sin the way we do, it’s one category! I am utterly imperfect but incomprehensibly loved.

I begged to be wrapped up in this incredible love forever, powerful as thunder and so extremely gentle. I begged God to just take me with him, words that I never thought possible to come from me, a woman with a husband and children who I love so strongly. So I asked “if I can’t come with you now how do I stay close to you?” And suddenly my heart flooded – “JESUS” – and as if someone flicked a switch – I was able to see Jesus. As if an invisible screen had been lifted, I saw where he had been all my life, how he had always been there waiting for me, even through the times I had rejected him and laughed at him, it became crystal clear what he had done for me and I fell head over heels in love with him. What joy!

I now understand what peace that surpasses all understanding means and the joy in all circumstances. He really is the light of the world. Jesus never just said “hey I know the way, psst I know the truth, life is over there… ” he said “I AM the way, the truth and the life”. “I AM” !

Something strange also happened – I started to read the bible again but this time I understood it’s meaning. The book that was old and dusty and not easy to understand suddenly became alive and read like the most beautiful love letter. I had been given sharp fresh new ears to hear and eyes to see what God was saying. I finally understood what the guy who wrote “Amazing Grace” was talking about – “I was blind but now I see”! Life became so bright, I never even realised I was in darkness before light came in. I started to see strangers the way God sees them, totally precious and loved beyond measure. My heart became calm, totally content with an abundance of joy, continually being drenched in a constant love that has me singing and dancing and wanting to shout about Jesus from every roof top. He’s Alive!!! He loves you!!!! So much!

Now I see that God’s love is not to do with our efforts in being “good”, or practicing religious duties or trying to change ourselves. It is not by our efforts at all. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less. No matter how far we run, he is patiently waiting for us to turn back to him. He loves us and has made a way for us in Jesus. We need do nothing else, absolutely nothing else, but trust in him. 

“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.”

John 3:16

Real Love

When I was five I would curl up on my dad’s knee. If I really concentrate I can smell his work shirt; the soap and sweat mixed by the Lagos humidity. His hands were like giant’s compared to mine. I was entranced by the magic of cigarette smoke as it whirled up, danced and disappeared in the air. I would press my ear to his chest, listen to his heartbeat and then find mine with my palm and try to match it’s beat to his. I felt so safe, warm and calm as my head rose and fell with every breath he took. This is my earliest recollection of feeling loved. When I was 18 I held his frail hand, desperately clinging to his fast fading safety and protection. I watched his silhouette as his chest filled with air for the last time. I somehow made sense of the movement of the nurse’s lips and the world dropped from beneath my feet leaving me suspended, lost. I ran out of the room and an unfamiliar noise was released from the pits of my being. I felt an almighty pull in a place in my heart that I had no idea even existed. Then it dawned on me, our heartbeats could never be synchronised again and I calmly walked back to his bedside. The curtain was drawn around us and I kissed his forehead. The cold clinical atmosphere filled with a glowing warmth that filled me with an incredible feeling of hope and an overwhelming feeling of love. It was beautiful. It was perfect.

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My granny was the first person to make me feel special. She wrote my name on a small card and placed it on a placemat, next to a Christmas cracker, on a beautifully dressed table in a big room full with family. She never mentioned my shyness, never made me feel awkward for not eating the vegetables on my plate. Her house was always safe, warm and smelled of lavender. She drove fast on the motorway and there was always a tin of sweets in the glovebox. She loved birds and could make marmalade. After dinner she would break up chocolate into a bowl and leave it on a side table next to me. We spent evenings playing scrabble in front of the fire. I was fascinated at how she could knit without looking. She was the first and only grown up who I wanted to talk to so much it felt like I could burst. She would take me out of the bath and wrap a huge warmed towel around me and sing Rub-a-dub-dub. She would give me Kim’s favourite ball and let us out onto her perfectly manicured lawn and tell me he had missed me which delighted me. She always made sure that I had a tuck box full of treats to take back to school. She sent me typewritten letters and handwritten postcards that radiated warmth. Reading them today still makes my heart warm. She always kissed me good night, made sure I was warm enough and left a blanket incase I wasn’t. Her presents were simple and thoughtful. She made delicious meals and then told me she had put carrots in. I’m laughing now because I’ve just realised what she was doing! She is the reason I stopped being fussy and why I have the confidence to hold a conversation. I couldn’t stand it when she died. One of my remaining childhood toys is a teddy she let me choose from the toy shop. He’s missing his red ribbon from his neck and he is sat at the end of my daughter’s bed. Writing this has made it clear how much of her has shone through in the way I mother my children. My granny provided one of my deepest experiences of motherly love.

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I soon discovered a love that no one could take away from me. Safety, warmth and happiness. I felt accepted, free, at one with the world. I finally felt truly loved and I loved everyone. My cheeks hurt because I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy. I wasn’t scared of dying and if I was to die what better way to go than this! This incredible feeling tingled through my arms and my legs. Waves of elation rose and flowed through my body and exploded from the top of my head. I could fly!
The come downs got worse and worse. It took more effort to reach any kind of state that helped me numb my heart. My newfound love hadn’t become weaker, I had become a maniac. The feeling of it’s “love” leaving me was like sitting cold and naked in a drained bathtub with a head full of tangled barbed wire trapping echoes of laughter and bass. I couldn’t bear the internal pain as well as the two facedness of whatever substance I saw in the palm of my hand. I had been tricked. Synthetic love was a clever little lie.

I have prayed since I was a child. During the time mentioned above there was only one prayer I said at the start, “God please don’t let this kill me”. I didn’t do much praying after that. Prayers like asking to pass exams when I hadn’t put the work in, praying to win on a scratch card, praying to be a day girl instead of a boarder. I had never got the answers I wanted. I once prayed to be born again, I recited all the right words but nothing happened so I shrugged my shoulders and felt I was probably not worthy.

One prayer changed my life, it was an ordinary day and I crashed to my knees. I was hopeless. I was done with life. I had failed. I had such internal torment but I wasn’t even sure why. Yes, I’d experienced bad things but who hadn’t? I had friends, family, health, a good life. On paper everything seemed fine. There was just an emptiness in the bottom of my heart I couldn’t live with. I was at home and I crashed to my knees and said the biggest and scariest prayer of my life, “Lord, please help me, I can’t do this on my own anymore. I’m sorry for all the wrong things I have done. I want you to take control of my life. Please, please, please help me.” I meant those words with everything I had. I was fully prepared to change and give up my life and anything in it. I was done with making stupid decisions that had resulted in emptiness. Suddenly, I felt a heaviness physically lift from my soul. The guilt, the burden, the heavy heart. Feelings I didn’t even know I was feeling rose from my body and disappeared. Just like that. Gone. It brings tears to my eyes because it was such a powerful release. I felt love pouring into my heart. A great love. It was so pure, I don’t have the gift of vocabulary to ever fully do justice to it because it was greater than anything I knew of this earth. This was my first experience of God’s love.

Have you ever seen the Elephant Melody scene in Moulin Rouge? That was exactly how I imagined my future husband and I to feel when we met. It was nothing like that, there was no singing or fireworks, instead a quiet, inexplicable and intense connection, the more I got to know him the more it felt like broken or disconnected pieces of my life were slotting into place. It was calm, natural and effortless. All was blissful for three years into our marriage then out of nowhere we were in our first storm.

This time last year I didn’t think there was much chance of us still being together now. We had gone from being the best thing to happen to each other to the worst to happen to each other. A marriage in crisis really is one of the loneliest places to be. I found myself praying again, desperately. I knew I had to be patient in these turbulent times but it was hard, I was convinced that after the difficult life I’d had that I was doomed to brokenness. I didn’t deserve a happy ever after. Old haunts, worries, intense self destructive thirsts came flooding back. I told myself I wasn’t even a good enough mother to hide my sadness from my children, surely they were better off without me. Many evenings I drove up to the cliffs and fantasised about the drop. The blackness seemed so inviting. Months passed and when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did, again and again. I cried at the horizon. I begged and pleaded “Where are you God, where are you?” I prayed and waited but nothing. I eventually decided I would turn away from God. He had answered my prayers for a family and a future but why was my marriage falling apart? This was a cruel trick, surely. Maybe it was a punishment? How could he ruin my life like this? But when I pictured my life without God all I could see was a bleak desert, cold and loveless. If it was true, if God really didn’t love me anymore then I would sit at his closed door because to be outside his closed door was better than a life without him.

The misery and rows continued. Our home became unbearable, we were strangers to each other, we circled one another emotionally wounded, a seething hive of eggshells and raw nerves. Utter confusion at how we had turned into enemies. We talked, we resolved, but every positive step got crushed. A mere word would splinter into foriousity. We were at war with each other day after day. Month after month. We faked happiness mid quarrel when realising we were being observed by our children. We avoided one another but to make arrangements on what the best was for them. Separation seemed to be the lesser of two evils. Marriage counselling expensive and with no one to sit with our children, impossible. The lure of divorce was everywhere I turned; quick, easy, cheap, and everyone seemed to be successfully doing it.

Then came our worst day of fighting, I sat on the kitchen floor clutching the phone after calling the Samaritans. “Martha’s” voice had been a welcome distraction but she couldn’t fix anything. Through the tears I repeatedly whispered, “Where are you?”.

My husband returned home with eyes still filled with hate. The rage between us continued so I walked out and went and sat beside our youngest daughter sleeping in her cotbed. I hung my head and lost hope. I conceded our family was well and truly broken. It was then that an incredible, vast, powerful, magnificent feeling of a love so pure, so brilliant, so wonderful descended into our home. The power felt like that of thunder, the room felt engulfed in a roaring fire but somehow the ‘flames’ were cool and gentle. It was perfect, perfect. So perfect. I was drawn back to the room I had angrily abandoned my husband in and we sat together into the night.

After a Church service the next morning, our lives had changed. The things we were fighting about hadn’t changed but everything had been fixed. Just like that. A permanent resolution that we could never have even come close to conceiving. Since that day our love has deepened and grown richer. I would have thought it madness or impossibility that I could have loved or felt loved by my husband more than I did the day we married, but that is what has happened. The depth is astonishing. We are now so strong in our union.

I was stunned for days at this sudden turnaround, but happier than I have ever been in my entire life. I will never forget that moment, the magnitude of purity of love that appeared. Have you ever seen elderly ladies singing to Jesus to take them home? That’s how I felt, the love I experienced that evening was so big, pure and perfect and safe I wanted to dance in that feeling for ever. Again I don’t have the words to do it justice. Divine intervention. Miracle. We are so blessed, so grateful and so happy. We have a new deeper understanding of one another and ourselves. We have the tools to move forward. I have a newfound and even greater respect for marriage and feel truly humbled to have been blessed to be in this position. Marital love is the greatest love of another person I have ever known. Marital love with the help of The Lord has been the most incredible and profound experience of my life. Just like that, he brought comfort, help and peace to our home.

In the weeks after I took a long hard look at my life. I remembered back to crashing to my knees and the certainty I felt of being prepared to change. I felt ashamed because I had to face the fact that in the years after I had reverted to my former ways. Old habits really do die hard. I thought back to the moment my Dad died, the sudden warmth in that room wasn’t his special way of saying goodbye to me after all and it wasn’t what happened when everyone died, it wasn’t a special sign he’d gone to heaven. I now recognised that presence. God was watching me then, letting me know that even though I thought I’d lost everything, he was there for me. Suddenly a well known poem I’d long admired finally made perfect sense, they weren’t my footprints in the sand.

My first child. The moment the blue line appeared, love drenched my soul. I felt deep inside there had been planted the most precious gift. I was protective of our baby from that moment. I even stopped swearing because I didn’t want it infiltrating through to my womb. When I first saw those little eyes blinking up at me I grew wings, I felt I could face an army of a thousand men if they dared to harm a single hair on my child’s head. I wondered where more love would come from for my next child, somehow it multiplied and again for my third! Limitless, unconditional. In the moments I look at my children the love rushes through me, their eyes stun me into a heavenly trance. Warm, real, beautiful.

I have said a prayer, in my head, every day without fail for each of my children from the moment I knew I was pregnant. Only recently have I started praying out loud with them but I hadn’t spoken to them about Jesus because if I’m honest I didn’t feel “qualified” as I am still learning myself. I had always been under the impression it was best left to the professionals like RE teachers at school or Sunday school. If I’m really honest, I’ve always felt a bit shy and rubbish at praying out loud. The other month my daughter had not been very nice to her sister. I explained to her how it might have made her feel. I put my hand on her chest and said it probably made her feel sad in her heart but it is better when we feel happy in our heart. Out of nowhere she asked if we could say a prayer. I was completely taken aback. She had made the connection. Our bedtime prayers had been the most basic prayers “Dear Lord, thank you for our warm cosy beds and help us to have a nice sleep. Amen” that was it! Nothing complex! I immediately knew she had experienced the warmth of Jesus’ love in her heart from when we had been praying at bedtime. And there was my answer, I didn’t need to teach her or explain it to her because just by sharing a simple prayer with her she had already felt it and her heart was speaking for itself. I knew in that instant she had experienced the joy of all the love she was ever going to need in her life. That is Love. Bigger than me. Bigger than anything I could physically provide for my children while I am here. Everlasting.

The love that I have experienced from Jesus this year has been mind blowing. It has changed my life. Feeling the absolute perfection and grace of his presence seems to have exposed the many imperfections in myself. Becoming a mother made me lose my thirst for swearing, drinking and smoking, now I have the joy of Jesus in my heart I have lost the thirst for all that is not of him. I thought I was a fairly good person on the whole, yes I’d done stupid things, regrettable things, but I wasn’t bad bad. How wrong was I! I need working on on a daily basis! On a minute by minute basis most of the time. Like a photograph slowly exposing, the more I seek to know Jesus, the more I feel his almighty love, the more my many imperfections rise to the surface and the more I am humbled by his magnificent grace. I’ve noticed that when my children know they’ve done something wrong, they cover their eyes with their hands or hide under a cushion, it made me laugh one day because I realised that’s what I did with God, the things I do and have done wrong, I try and hide, ignore and bury them hoping they’ll disappear! I have learnt that nothing is too shameful, embarrassing, or bad for God, nothing. He corrects with Love. This is exactly how I am striving to be with the upbringing of my children. I am learning from his gentle corrections. I have certainly learnt a thing or two in my behaviour as a woman, in my relationships with the people around me. I fall so short of the perfect beauty of Jesus’ love and everyday I am still learning to be guided by him in my heart.

God’s love is the greatest love I have ever known. I have learnt that it is up to me to make the effort to nurture my relationship with Jesus. He would never barge in on my life because he is love, of course love doesn’t force it’s way in. He is there the moment we say his name with our whole heart and from there everything is easy. He makes it all easy. He provides the answers, heals all the pain. Brings joy in devastation. Turns tears of grief into tears of happiness. There are many many lies, he is the truth. He is waiting patiently around us until we call, flowing in us the millisecond we do, perfect, forgiving, so forgiving, gently guiding. His is real love, we can’t see it, we can only feel it. It drenches our hearts making us want to do better, to live better and to love better.

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Jeremiah 29:11

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Matthew 11:28

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Proverbs 3 v5-6