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

The Church

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

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

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

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

Grieve With Hope

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

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

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

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

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

He is risen!

The Greatest Gift

It’s a year since we found out our baby died early on in pregnancy. The grief has been searing, relentless and so crushing that at times my legs have felt like they may collapse beneath me. Over these months I’ve had so many conversations with people –

I’ve been told that I had a lot going on at the time and I was doing too much and not resting. And that maybe it just wasn’t the right time for this baby. And the suggestion that it may have been a good thing as I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the things I’d done since. There have been lots of taking deep breathes along side well meaning words. Truth is how ever much we desperately try to scramble for the right thing to say, there are no positives to death. Whatever age or time.

Going out with my daughters always seems to bring up two conversation starters;

“They all yours? Are you going to have any more?”

“All girls! Are you going to try for a boy?”

A lady on the bus had come up with the first opener and I told her about our baby, she asked when in the pregnancy and showed her relief when I said it was early on.

The lady doing my hair came up with the second opener. I told her about our baby. “Still, not as bad as my sister” she said and told me that she had three babies die late in pregnancy.

A sweet family friend in her eighties who was so distraught after her little one died she could never bring herself to go through being pregnant again.

“Any more?” one of the home ed mums asked me and this led on to the loveliest conversation as we both shared our experiences of our babies that didn’t make it.

The first time I saw death up close was through a window from the car where I’d been told to stay as it had been decided I was too young to go to a funeral. I watched as the miniature white and brass coffin was carried past.

So many more experiences and conversations that are not for me to share.

So many babies.

There is one conversation that had a huge impact on me. I was sat on the sofa sharing tea and biscuits and letting somebody know about our baby. I was talking about how hard the grief had been for both me and my husband and she met me at this point because she understood, it had been the same for her and her husband. I looked down and my heart sank and I started to feel little bubbles of anger growing bigger from the pit of my stomach and I just wanted to scream “but this isn’t the same, this wasn’t MY choice!”

I started to panic because I couldn’t pop these rising bubbles. I didn’t want to upset her but I didn’t know if I could hold my back my emotions. Then just like that my Prince of Peace rescued me, peace swept over me and draped a warm blanket of stillness around me. I looked up at her and I saw brighter than day how Jesus sees her. Loved. Treasured. Died for. So desperately longed for.

Truth scattered the lies like cockroaches in torch light as I was reminded we are all in this mess together; broken people living in a broken world. I hadn’t made the same choices as her but I was so so so far from perfect in how I’d lived my life.

I saw we were both dealing with the heavy consequences of death and I listened as she opened up about the grief she was going through. We had the same pain, our babies have left huge holes in our families.

So many babies.

I birthed my tiniest baby on Christmas Day, two days after I was told there was no heartbeat. The dark valleys of grief and the trauma of the physical process have not left me and neither has the incredible hope, peace, comfort, joy and love that was poured out to me and that is all because of one little baby given to us all.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

The greatest everlasting conversation we will ever have is the one God has with us. It has never been a question of “Is God speaking?” but rather “Are we listening?”

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

John 3:16-17

A love like no other that at our most destitute facing the punishment of death we rightly deserve, one we can never escape or work to pay ourselves. He took our place and paid the price on the cross. He took our sin, dealt with death by rising again to give us the free gift of eternal life.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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 4:9-10

The greatest gift we could ever receive from a Father who never gives up on us no matter how far we run and how long we hide. He made the way, the ONLY way that we can return to Him.

We have only two choices when it comes to being presented with gifts; reject or receive.

We Grieve but we Glory

While everyone around me talked grief, all I wanted to do was sing glory. I am very much part of the church but my family and I don’t go to church (apart from twice this year for my birthday and Mother’s Day). 

When I came across something Levi Lusko said – “we grieve but we glory”, it struck my heart so powerfully that even though reading books is not my favourite thing to do I had to buy his book immediately. Everything written in it helped to cement what was already in my heart. It was like receiving a reassuring and encouraging hug, like being in a room with everyone speaking a foreign language then suddenly hearing someone speak to you in your language. 

The grief is crushing and ongoing; twice recently I’ve been walking in the park with my children, the three of them were ahead playing in full view and out of the blue this awful, sickening, piercing anxious dread came over me, similar to when you lose sight of your child for a few too many seconds. It searingly reinforced what a gaping hole our child left here. Losing our little one early in pregnancy is the most devastating, traumatic, painful thing I’ve ever been through, but grief is not the whole story. I can also look back and continue to live each day in amazement because during this darkness I have experienced some of the most awesome and unforgettable moments of my life, some I never even imagined were possible, the tenderness with which God cares for us in the horrific times is beyond words. Every pain has been soothed, fear disarmed, whispers of guilt crushed, longing satisfied, despair destroyed because of the truth, the hope, the comfort, the joy, the peace and the overpowering love welling up in abundance as my weary heart turns it all over to the Lord. 

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