Rejoice

A couple of months ago I found myself spiritually lacking, the fire had gone, the comfort had gone, the overflow of joy was no where to be found. I felt lost. I felt like God had abandoned me. I blamed him for the tough journey I was facing. Why couldn’t life be straightforward, I succumbed to the fact that the pattern of my life had never been straightforward so what did I expect now. I was down on every aspect of my life. I whinged to God about it all and even complained that me and my family don’t go to church and I felt left out. But even in my angry rants and my sorry self pitying painful state, I couldn’t shake off the hope, the light, the certainty and the excitement that the turnaround was near. I waited on his word. 

It is such a good and impossible-to-comprehend feeling to have everything come crashing down around and to feel so weak but to have a well of hope bursting from the centre of your being, to sing praises in the pain because God is good, his plans are always good, every rocky path leads to a place that is good. 

I took the children to a free community event, after crafts and play we sat in a tea room tent. A group of belly dancers were performing and I was shrinking into my seat hoping I wouldn’t get called up to participate. After the audience participation was over, a man was introduced and began to tell his story. He articulated everything I had been feeling and his words sank so deep into my soul that tears uncontrollably started running down my cheeks. I felt embarrassed I was crying in a room of strangers and wanted to leave but no sooner than he’d put the microphone down I stood up, approached him and told him his words had really spoken to me. He spoke such words of sweetness and encouragement to me, “yes of course you can pray for me” I answered and he very simply prayed peace over me. He gave me a big hug and reminded me to always speak truth over myself. The next day I had a renewed strength. 

When we are in the wilderness we become acutely aware of our spiritual need, nothing and no one can satisfy but God and through the trials our faith is strengthened. We long for deeper and cling on harder and grow stronger to stand firmer than ever before. I love Psalm 63:1 David writes “my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you”. Jesus is always pulling us closer, he is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2) It’s so easy to get comfortable where we are, but He never leaves us stagnant, he lovingly disciplines us, guiding us in the right direction. He continually draws us in more so we get to know him more intimately, positioning us perfectly so we can see the unraveling of everything he has already laid out before us, leading us further into spiritual maturity. 

The weekend before last as I walked along a pier I got talking to a woman and as I was about to leave she pulled me back and prayed for me, she prayed with such power and authority about deep things that I hadn’t told her or anyone. As I walked back to the shore I couldn’t help smiling because that is the Church; in tea rooms, on piers, all over the place. The body of Christ, one in spirit. He in us.

The trials will come, the temptations will come, the spiritual battle is on but it’s not an ordinary fight because we are fighting from victory ground and “the weapons we fight with are not not weapons of the world” as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:4

So “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 

How did you wake up this morning? 

How did you wake up this morning? With sunshine streaming through the windows? Anxiety filled? With shouts of “Mummy!”/ Heavy with grief/ Excited for the day ahead/ On a pillow still wet with tears/ refreshed/ exhausted/ Having everything you ever dreamed of/ frustrated /angry at the world/ in a tender and loving embrace/ Still drunk from last night/ discovering an unidentifiable human snoozing next to you/ the happiest you’ve ever been/ shaking in the grip of addiction/ hurt/ isolated/ afraid/ lonely/ with wonderful plans for the day/ drowning in struggles / wanting to sleep and never wake up/ not knowing how to get out of bed let alone make it through the day or with everything just perfect?

However you woke up this morning know that Jesus will meet you exactly where you are. You don’t need to move a muscle, all you need to do is ask.

Unfortunately some religious institutions, our conscience or when we put our faith in the opinions of men or human traditions it makes us feel we have to dress up in our “Sunday best”, try to be a “good” human, bury our mess and struggles. It convinces us to use our every effort to change our behaviour, it can crush us with strict impossible demands, it can confuse, divide, anger or isolate.

Putting faith in religion can be so overbearing or leave us feeling total desolation in the absurdity of rituals.

The good news is you don’t have to make any effort at all. So however you woke up this morning, if you want to know Jesus, just simply ask him. You don’t need to try to change yourself or hide or disguise because we have a God who doesn’t mind meeting us in the mess, he is ready to heal, ready to turn our lives around, his love for you is bigger than any problem, shame or pain. He has dealt with it all once and for all at the cross. He will meet you wherever you are right now and wake you up in a way you’ve never been woken up before. 

“This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:4

Made to Praise

The last ten days has seen us go to A&E twice, 2 emergency doctors appointments and I had my long awaited maxillofacial appointment which was great news (the bone in my affected jaw now looks even better than the healthy side). As one child recovered from a chest infection, my other daughter came down with one. My husband then got struck with a virus. I also had a flashback yesterday, my first in 2 years and it was so much more positive than my previous one.

Through it all my heart keeps leaping with gratitude. I feel we are all resting in this warm blanket of goodness.

Walking in a hospital corridor last week, a tremor of fear rose in me and my helpless heart leaned into the Lord. Fear was extinguished on his words “I’VE GOT YOU”. Such peace, wondrous peace. I’m so thankful for his heart bursting, soul igniting, truly unconditional love that is equal for every one. I will never be able to get my head around this kind of love, steady and unfailing.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:

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

Peace 

The week before last I got the children ready, packed some snacks and drove to A&E. I became extremely ill whilst there and they put an IV in, thankfully the children got to play in a great toy area next to my bed whilst we waited for my husband. A few hours later I was allowed home. The next day I was back at hospital as I was getting worse. I could barely walk. It was a noisy busy Friday night at the emergency ward and while I was lying on a bed being poked, tapped, prodded by doctors, I smiled as I silently prayed – “What ever happens now, what ever path my life takes – I am yours”. Such wondrous peace fell onto me. The peace that surpasses all understanding. There is no better place to be than in his care. I was so weak with pain but so safe in his arms. We have a wonderful Father who cares for us, cares about every last detail, knows our fears and worries even before we are able to express them. Every circumstance becomes joy filled when we depend on him. Life will throw us curveballs, ordinary Thursday mornings may lead somewhere we weren’t expecting, we may get blindsided by bad news but when our full trust is in Jesus then it is all joy; his warmth, his comfort, his presence, his love is awesome! It astounds me every single day. I have been making good recovery from a kidney infection and have been marvelling about the words of Psalm 23, because lying helpless on that hospital bed, I truly was lying in green pastures, I was being led beside still waters and my soul was being refreshed. 

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

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