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

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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.

I was Blind but now I See

  

Luke 24:13
Jesus walks along with two followers returning from Jerusalem but they are kept from recognising him. I love that he asks them what’s wrong because God’s humour really shines through here, it reminds me of the playful excitement of a parent when they’ve got you your dream gift but haven’t told you yet. The two friends are so sad, they can’t understand what has happened to the one who was to save them. They had heard the news “Jesus has risen” but it seemed like nonsense to them. I love the way Jesus pulls out their feelings by asking them questions. 

We have a loving father who doesn’t give up on us even when we have given up, who walks with us even when we are unaware that he does, who is here to listen and take our worries and problems and breathe on us the truth that overcomes the lies.

Jesus explains everything to them. When they arrive at their destination, Jesus goes to continue on. It’s only after they urge him to stay with them, inviting him in and Jesus breaks bread and gives it to them that “their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared from their sight”. Then it hits home that it had been Jesus all along -“Were not our hearts burning within us as he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us”. And even though it was late and they had wanted to get back home they couldn’t hold in their excitement and joy and immediately return to Jerusalem to share the good news with the others.

When you urge Jesus to stay with you, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour, he comes to live in you. Your ears and eyes are opened to him, he gives you the wisdom to understand his word and a new heart capable of doing his will.

In 2 Corinthians 3:16 we read
“But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”. Just one encounter with the risen Christ will change your life for eternity. There are no special words, no special place to be, no special praying position, just a heart that says “yes” to receive God’s greatest gift. Jesus is walking right along side you now, waiting for you to invite him in, longing with such joy to give you eyes that see, to enjoy the beauty of his presence now and for ever.