The Human Heart

God is for you. God isn’t against you. He grieves the things that have hurt us, the people who did despicable things to us. He fights for us so to breathe truth into our lives where others may have spoken evil things over us. There is so much suffering in this world and man in his finite mind thinks if he were God he or she could fix the world in an instant. Heal all those sick children, strike down those who murdered. Man? What would you do? Would you be as just to your relatives as you would be to a stranger who committed the same crime? If it were all in your hands, would your world be fair? Would you heal the sick child of someone who had taken the life of yours? And how would you deal with your own wickedness? Every thought you had to steal or a flash of wanting someone else’s home, possessions, spouse? Every time you’d lied or used someone’s else’s body for selfish pleasure and discarded them like rubbish or your relentless thoughts of revenge. The times you tossed a coin in a cup but didn’t bother to even look at the person holding it or like me even crossed the road to avoid them. All the times you did the very opposite of lift up and encourage friends, colleagues, strangers or loved ones. Our disputes with neighbours, keying someone’s car, wishing someone dead. So are the depths of evil in our hearts and we haven’t even got to the crimes that break earthly laws.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

You talk of how God, in all his power would make it a perfect world. We, mankind, are so far gone, in every way. Our hearts are evil beyond repair. Even the very ‘best’ (aka sinning in ways that don’t seem as bad or obvious as others’ sin) of us fall short of a Holy standard.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

So God looks at the world he made and the people in it, he sees the sin and darkness in our hearts and He comes, the Word made flesh. The only one, perfectly sinless, who could take the sins of the world. And this he does in his death at the cross; stripped, beaten and bloodied by men and it didn’t stop there, worse still, the unthinkable, God’s wrath against our sin violently came down on Him. Jesus is plunged into darkness, God’s love taken away from him, absolute spiritual torture and agony and all so that through him he makes the only way for us to be right with God. He lovingly gives us a choice to accept salvation, the free gift of life in him so we never have to remain in eternal darkness with God’s face turned against us. All the sins of all people, everything we ever did, thought and said and will do, think and say, all our deserved punishment came down on Jesus. Because God is a god of justice, sin is dealt with, it’s not ignored or covered up.

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Acts 2:24

And God raises him because death has no power over him and only in him and through him we walk freely and free into new life with him, where our sins have been exposed by his light, the light of the world. No longer slaves to sin, no longer ruled by guilt, shackled by shame, harassed by anxious thoughts and all the ways sin permeates and wreaks havoc in our bodies, minds and spirits – ultimately ending in eternal death, both physical and spiritual, an eternity in the absence of God’s love, holiness, gentleness, truth, justice, peace, life, light, mercy, grace, hope, healing, comfort, kindness, joy.

“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 3:20-21

When God’s holy, wondrous light blazed over me, it was the first time I saw myself as I am. Not the good or kind person that I thought I was but his light exposed the very depths of my nature and in an instant I saw that I was the worst of the worst. I understood I was wicked to the core but also God’s perfect love was pouring over me, his amazing grace poured over a wretch like me! Sinner that I am I was loved and because of the cross nothing can ever stand in the way of his love for me. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 and he has made me new “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

We no longer scurry about in the darkness, oppressed and in bondage by sin but are born again. We are given new hearts, hearts that are able and desire to do the will of God, hearts that have tasted and are filled with the goodness of God and so grow day by day repulsed by doing, thinking, saying anything not of God. Jesus went through the hardest unimaginable journey so we could easily come home to him. This is the love of God, this is how much he loves every single person on this planet. This is love.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

Wake up Singing

Jesus wakes me up singing and one of the songs last week was Underneath My Feet (Red Rocks Worship). As I sang this song I remembered there was a time in my life when I would wake up crying, such was the angst in my heart. A time when I used to cower to darkness. A time when I had no control over my natural desire for anything and everything that raged against God. A time when the effects of traumas had such a grip around my heart that, unknowingly to me, they wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life. A time when I couldn’t sleep for night terrors, fear by night and fear by day, fear even over imagined things. Relentless. And the war is still on but now I have Jesus. At one word it all flees.

When flashbacks terrify, when panic grips, fear freezes, terrors haunt, there is only one name, one name that heals, one name that floods with peace, one name that rains joy, one name that has all power over darkness. Jesus.

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD” Psalm 40:2-3

30.10.19

Mountains

Mountains. We all face them at various points in life. How we choose to climb these mountains will make the difference in how much we enjoy the difficult journeys.

Most of my life has been a series of treacherous mountain ranges, I’ve wearily travelled through the black valleys of depression, faced the frightening jagged edges and avalanches of PTSD, the sweeping storms of self destruction, the fog and mist of abandonment and numerous blizzards of grief. My problems governed me, ruled me with fear, held me hostage, dictated how I lived and convinced me the best I could ever have was to work on myself to be able to manage my pain for the rest of my life. What a self-centred life sentence! But the wisest of man or darkest of demons can not contend with the supreme power of our Lord.

When we stand at the foot of a mountain, we beg for it to be got rid of or we plead for a way around it. We tend to limit God by our limited understanding. Impatient for answers. We ask why a righteous, powerful, loving God allows us to go through these terrible times. But our Almighty God doesn’t move our problems out of the way because he IS mighty. He shows us he is by safely, joyfully and peacefully leading us through them. When we put our trust in him, these difficult journeys allow us to experience his awesome power. A power that is far greater than can be described by human words.

It’s often these difficult times that break down our barriers and leave us so helpless that they push us to go from depending on ourselves or others to depending solely on him. When we open our hearts to know Jesus, not only in part with our problems but trusting him with our whole lives, we are set free. He freely gives us the fullness of life. He takes our burdens, extinguishes our worries, he shows us the footholds, pitches our tent, shields us from the storms, provides an abundance of healing and comfort, we can rest always safe and warm in his unfailing love.

God absolutely delights in every single one of us. He wants nor needs absolutely nothing from us. Love is not earned, it is freely given. He will never let you go, he will never leave you and he will always carry you through the storms.

 

FEAR

  

Fear has been regularly knocking at my door through the misdiagnoses, scans, appointments, prescriptions, referrals, medications, Internet self diagnoses and handling the increasing severity of pain. I had to get through a lot of opposition to get the right medication but got there in the end. I was praying for just one day of feeling okay, just one day! And now I’m so grateful to have had 2 weeks pain free. There are still tests to do and specialists to see but I’ve learnt so much on this journey. I’ve experienced fear that subtly creeps in, it starts off as a small pin prick but it’s venom spreads through the body so quickly and, with me, at the worst it ends with anger or tears. Sometimes I’ve felt too cross to ask God for help but I’ve known that he is my only help. When I haven’t known which doctors opinion to trust I know I’m already in safe hands. When I’ve let my mind run away with the dread of what could be, he has reminded me that it’s ALL good anyway. When I’ve struggled with daily activities he’s flooded my heart with sweet words of comfort, hope and peace. When a doctor has expressed their irritation towards me, Jesus has instantly healed the hurt; showing me that doctors are only human too, they may feel pressure in their profession and to love them deeply anyway. When I have felt out of control, he has drenched me with the security that he is in control. He has enabled me to be thankful for the miraculous way in which my body works and to see the multitude of things to be grateful for that always far outweigh the difficult stuff. I’ve learnt to lean on him for everything because he really does care about the smallest details in our lives. His comfort and peace in every circumstance is like no other. It’s all been so wonderfully faith building. So fear, what ever guise it taps on the window in; terror, anxiety, post traumatic stress…He gives us the power to flick it away like the annoying little gnat it is. We don’t need to be afraid or even need to exhaust ourselves fighting or trying to control fear, we need only be still, trusting in Jesus. When I feel those first ripples of fear, that is my cue to fix my eyes on our maker.  

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“Cast all you anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19

Love in the small print

  
There have been so many adverts for LOVE over the last few days as well as images representing hope, peace and unity but in some of the attached exchange of comments there have been sparks of hate. It makes me glad we don’t have access to our own private armies, we’d be launching attacks left, right and centre! 

How can we claim we love when we slam the door on people’s opinions just because they differ from ours? 

How can we claim to want unity when we divide by viciously telling people to go away when they hold different views? 

How can we claim peace when we are quick to call and respond to each other with horrid names? 

Everyone’s story is valid, no one is more important than another. We all have the ability and intelligence to accept or reject people’s point of view, that is our human right, but sometimes we throw out the person along with their opinions. Before discarding the person, LISTEN. Really listen. Listen to their story. Ask questions. Open up. Share. It’s so amazing when we break that first barrier and we don’t let our preconceptions get in the way. Fear puts up angry barriers, love breaks them down. People will always have different views and make different choices, those are the results of the incredible gift of free will. 

Like all of us I know how to love, but I am continually questioning – am I loving as fully as I could today? Is it “love” to shower it generously on my loved ones but then hold it back at someone who I feel offended by? One thing I know is that LOVE HAS NO PARTIALITY. What good are the big displays of love if we don’t have it written in the small print of our hearts? I think the difference I can make today is to make sure I am loving fully, make sure that I’m giving love in the small details of life. To love not only the people who are easy to love but the people who are difficult to love. I know this is only possible not by my weak and pathetic standards of love but but by keeping my heart entrusted to Jesus, who enables all that do to love like him – fully, powerfully and without limits, everyday allowing him to soften and mould our hearts to be humble, gentle and kind. 

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)

Words

Dear Friend,

As I walked home with my daughters, I was enjoying the heat of the sun and marvelling at what a pretty town we lived in. I felt lucky that we moved here. I took a deep breath and exhaled relief because I had recently come through one of the most turbulent few months of my life and everything was good again.

As I was crossing the road, I saw some people gathered on the other side. They took up most of the lowered section that’s built for wheeled access so I struggled to lift the buggy up onto the high part of the curb. It was no bother, I was in such a good mood that nothing was going to wipe the smile off my face.

The words you shouted hit me like bullets in my back. I was stunned. I felt nervous that some trouble was about to begin so I turned to make sense of what was going on. As I scanned the scene it struck me that everyone was still going about their normal activities. No one had even flinched. Then it sank in that you had aimed your comments at me. I tried to make eye contact with you to show my disapproval but when I saw you tip your head back with laughter my heart froze. I realised that the words hadn’t fallen out of your mouth by mistake.

Disapproval was quickly followed by disbelief. Disbelief was replaced with confusion. Confusion then turned into fear. An intense fear. Adrenaline took over and quickened my step, I needed to get my children as far away from you as fast as possible. I was shaking. I felt singled out, hunted down and very frightened. My heart was pounding and I felt removed from my body. I felt like I had been exposed and I desperately needed a pavement grey coloured camouflage to cloak us to escape your glare. I suddenly became very aware of my skin and I needed to disappear.

At a safe distance, I stopped to check my children were okay and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me that one was still asleep and the other too young to understand what you had said. More importantly, too young to see the real impact it had on their mother. I didn’t want them to sense that I was afraid. It was at this point I grew so angry that I thought to turn back to give you a piece of my mind. Had you not seen I was with children? I wanted to report you to the police. In my head, I scrambled for a witty one liner about you needing some geography lessons as I was, in fact, from a different continent than the one you had assumed. I wanted to mock you with the fact that I’m half English. As my anger spiralled out of my control I wanted to phone my husband and tell him that we needed to move and get as far away from this awful town as possible. I kept picturing you cackling behind my back. I was furious.

These horrid feelings were attacking my body and mind. But I didn’t want them to. I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to feel afraid and I didn’t want to feel confused. I tried to brush them off, pretend I felt fine. For goodness sake I am a grown woman, how could a few silly words get to me so much. But deep down I knew the weight of those words. I felt something change within and could foresee its effect on my self perception, consequently manifesting in the way I raised my daughters. I knew I couldn’t successfully mother them if I felt bad about myself. I couldn’t deny that I felt different somehow and I had no idea how I was going to deal with it. I felt sad as I faced and reluctantly accepted my new label, “Victim of Racial Abuse”.

Then I remembered Jesus. Instantly a warm gentle flowing of calm filled my heart and it became perfectly clear that those words that had come out of your mouth had not only intended to spoil my day but to do me long term harm. They wanted to fill my mind with negativity, anger and self hate. Their aim was to breed within me so I could never look at myself or others in the same way again. I smiled as I recognised and rejected those feelings with such ease, they have no place in my life. Confidently I told myself, “my heart has been filled with love” and love can never coexist with hate, fear, malice, viciousness or any other form of poison against our bodies. They are all lies and there is only one truth.

Now I am terrible at forgiving, it’s a struggle for me not to hold a grudge and those words you said really hurt. But when I felt Jesus’ love drench my heart then forgiveness became effortless, natural and instantly those horrid feelings were replaced with joy. A joy that carried me home that day feeling better and happier than before.

What you didn’t know was that when I was nine years old (probably not much younger than you are now) another boy used the same form of attack on me. He spat one word at me. I cycled home so fast that day and I never told a soul. I lay in bed, squeezing my eyes shut as I recited “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”, over and over. It didn’t work. I was still hurt. There began a journey of complicated self questioning that a young mind was not mature enough to handle.

It’s amazing, I never understood the impact that one word had on me as a child, until today.

From a young age I had been aware of my skin colour. My arm was always the arm classmates would compare their Summer holiday tan on. I understood that it was all natural children’s curiosity, it never had even a tinge of malice. It was the same type of fascination that occurred when someone turned up with a new Pop Swatch, new glasses, a Fanta yo-yo, a perm or their leg in plaster. I knew that this wasn’t the same. That word had struck me like a poisoned dart laced with a viciousness that seeped through my body and made me feel bad about myself. The colour wouldn’t rub off, yes I tried, so I was stuck with it.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I was brave enough to look at my skin again. I discovered there was a beautiful golden tone that ran through it. It looked healthy. There were tiny fair hairs on it that sparkled in the sun. Once I had recognised these qualities in my own skin, it wasn’t long before I started noticing others. I saw beautiful, rich, warm, smooth mahogany tones that shimmered in the light. Incredible pale translucent skin that was flawless. I saw skin splattered with freckles perfectly placed to highlight exquisite features. There were so many different skin types and tones and I began to see how much beauty there was in diversity. Once I’d realised this I was immediately transported back to the mentality I had as child; not to see colour. It’s been wonderful to witness this in the innocence of my children’s minds. When my eldest daughter was 2.5 years old she drew a picture of our family. She used a brown crayon for me and a pink one for her Dad and sister. I expected her to ask questions but she never did. It was just so natural and simple to her. She drew what she could see but she didn’t see that anyone was different.

So back to that sunny day to the moment our paths crossed. I have found that there is an undercurrent of hate in our world, and it will not breed and spread through me, however subtly it wants to. Vicious intent through words has existed long before you were born and I do not doubt that you are a good person with a good heart.

When I put my children to bed that night I said an extra little prayer just for you. I prayed for your happiness, that you would have wonderful people and experiences come into your life and that you would never be targeted by any form of hate. And if one day you happen to remember the moment you said what you said and maybe thought that it wasn’t really that funny after all, I wanted you to know that you needn’t feel bad about it. Please know that all is well.
I wish you good things.

Lots of love
From
The lady who, believe it or not, was once young just like you and who also thought she was a gifted comedian amongst her mates too.

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