First waking moments

How do you start your day?

Bible reading


Kids in your bed

Step on the scales

Straight to the kitchen to make breakfast and into the chores of the day?

What are those first moments of your day? Those first thoughts that run through your mind? We are creatures of habit and we are creatures of desire. We do what we desire and our hearts reveal our desire for love, for affirmation, for rest, security, peace and purpose from our first waking moments.

How we start our day can reveal how we settle our hearts, where we place our personal security, our sense of peace and our readiness for the day ahead, whether we’re ready to seize or just get through it.

So how do we start our days to console those worries, to assure our hearts, to affirm ourselves for the day ahead, and to start the day aright.
How we start our days can reveal where our heart finds its security….

Do our hearts find reassurance, find security, and peace with the number on the weight scales?

On the depth of conversation and connectedness with family around the breakfast table?

On the success of the previous day?

On the hopes of the achievements hoping to be ticked off this day?

On the quality of our Bible time and whether we’ve got that word or verse for the day?

On the intimacy of our prayer time?

On the busyness of our calendar this day?

Does our peace and readiness rely in the assurance of time to ourselves, or in the diary reassuring us of sufficient time with others, filling the empty hours of the day?

Does the first wake check of social media assure our hearts by giving us sufficient likes, kudos, messages?

Does that morning mental checklist calm and quieten our heart that we have enough things to do that day, speaking words of security to self doubt, ‘you are wanted, you are needed, your life is useful’?

Our hearts search around for a resting place from the first moment we awake in the morning and they will latch on to something to take hold, to settle and prepare for the day ahead.

But so many mornings, they are disquieted and troubled when our personal security is left wondering, anxious and adrift , unable to breathe easy when our actions prove dissatisfying and insufficient.

The calendar doesn’t look appealing, the scales speak out the word failure or out of control, the Bible time yields no special word or verse for the day, and our families offer no words of gratitude or recognition.

How we spend our first waking moments all too often set a course for the remaining hours of the days, and our heart’s desire for acceptance, belonging, security and peace search around until they take hold.

But there is a better way and this is how God begins your day;

You are accepted

You are delivered from the kingdom of darkness 

You are loved and never alone

You have authority to fight against sin

We awake every morning with our Redeemer Lord having already secured our heart’s acceptance, belonging and desire to be love. Our personal security from the first moments of our waking day to the time we drift off to sleep is secured by the accepting love of God and the sacrifice of Christ.

Our heavenly Father who speaks these words to us, based not on any words we do, who loves us on account of His gracious, steadfast goodness, who accepts us and secures us to him all on account of work already done for this and every day, on the precious and redeeming work of Jesus through his life, and on the cross.

Every morning you awake with your heart having all it requires to secure your desire to belong, to belong, to be loved, accepted and justified. All in Christ.

No number from social media post likes, diary commitments, scales can offer this.

No words, however precious, spoken by our loved ones, can satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts, the deepest needs of our hearts.

How you start your day has significance, it does matter. But only as an overflow of our heart’s rest and security already placed and assured in the precious truth of God’s justification of us already in Christ.

When we open our Bible, make our coffee, greet our children, prepare the breakfast, do the chores, when we pray upon waking, we do not seek the acceptance, security and love our heart’s desire, we awake already safe, secure, belonging to God, already justified.

We begin the day as we ended the last, as we spent the night, graciously, wonderfully, securely, eternally justified, already and always in Christ.

Christmas Continues

I don’t think I realised the trauma that I would be inflicting on my children by my household chores that morning. The end of the Christmas holidays last weekend meant I wanted a clean, clear house before term started, so away went the Christmas decorations. “I don’t want Christmas to be over. Why can’t we keep our tree up?”. Actual sobs and clinging onto decorations; they were devastated. Next year I will definitely need to plan ahead!
But that’s the point. I thought I was being highly organised, planning for the start of term. We’d made the most of family time, games, walks, rollerskating and cycling, and eating all the stocking sweeties and chocolate by the fire. I was ready and planned ahead for term time which lasted all of one day for the children in school. 

So Lockdown Homeschooling take 2. Now two things have struck me about myself in the whole 4 days into this new plan:

First of all, I thought I was a pretty willing homeschooling parent. I love my kids. I love family time. I’m up for this. Let’s go. I’m willing. 

Secondly, I thought I was able. I can do this. I was a teacher before and the girls are in Reception and Year 2. I’m sure I can handle the material.

You know what’s coming. I have actually found out this about myself:I am unwilling!I am unable!

I have humbly learned units are now ones and my pound sign is not the same as the teacher’s, and that some moments I’m just not up for another round of phonics snap. But I keep thinking of my children’s reaction to the Christmas decorations being boxed away, and how I’m equally prone to thinking Christmas is stored in the garage until next Advent season. But being confronted by my unwillingness and my inability, the truths and beauty of the gospel message so miraculously shown at Christmas have triumphed through. The decorations may be packed away but the truths revealed of who God is, through the Christmas season, continue into our Covid homeschooling, into our covid callings whatever situation we find God has placed us in now. 

For our God who is high and lifted up, who is God of the heavens and the earth, who is Lord over all, came down to be God with us. Our transcendent God above, came to reveal his immanence, that He is God with us. Coming down to show us the nearness of his love for us, the extent of his love and compassion, the closeness of the intimacy that he desires in loving relationship with us.

God’s transcendence proclaims he is mighty, he is great, but it does not mean he is ‘too great’ to care, but rather that he is too great to fail. The truths of Christmas that continue into covid lockdown: Our God is willing and he is able.

The depths of these truths cannot be shelved or boxed away until next Christmas. They remain with us as we leave the Christmas Season and continue into the calling God has placed on our lives, through Christmas and through Covid.  

He is willing and able to redeem and deliver. In Jesus, God revealed himself as one willing and able to heal lepers, to honour women who had lost all dignity and self worth, to calm storms, to restore the hope of mighty centurions and be near the bedside of little children and serving mother in law’s. He was willing and able to defeat the grip of demons on people’s souls, open eyes of the blind, reveal truth to little children and feed the hungry, he was willing and able to deliver us from the wages and curse of sin and triumph over death and darkness that should be ours. He was willing and able to save us to the uttermost, to awaken souls to life. 

He is willing now to equip you to deliver you to uphold you on your calling during covid. Past the Christmas season, his transcendence and immanence is the strength of your heart.

As you homeschool resistant hearts and will your own resistant heart, He is willing and able.

As you contend for truth in a world gripped by fear He is willing and able.

As you live out your calling as a wife or husband to your weary spouse, He is willing and able

As you feel the inadequacy of your own will, entrust your deepest inclinations, fears, desires, entrust the true state of your heart to His power, His might, His willingness and ability to transform and redeem even our inclinations and our wills and turn them towards Him, towards the things that He delights in. 

As you cry out to Him, Lord compel me to live in faithfulness, in willingness to serve you and those before me, entrust that our God transforms the hearts of his children to such an extent we become faithfully compelled and faithfully upheld. Children compelled to act in willing surrender to the praise and delight of our Heavenly Father, upheld by His sovereign power and grace. For our Father who did not spare his own Son but willingly and purposefully gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Let your hearts be strengthened by your God who is Lord of all and Lord with you..transcendent over all and immanent with you. The truths of our God and his continuing work of deliverance for his children, for you can never be boxed or shelved. Your heaven;y Father’s calling for you over Christmas continues to his calling for you during covid. The beauty, miracle and glory of who God is as transcendent and immanent Lord over us and with us continue still. Our God is willing and He is able. Speak to your heart these truths that can never be boxed or shelved, that can never be constrained by Covid lockdowns, that are never confined to one season of the year.  

He came down to earth from heaven

Who is God and Lord of all

Trust in the tried and tested?

“She’ll stay in her room till she confesses”, said Marilla grimly, remembering the success of this method in the former case….

This Christmas, I immersed myself in the world of the incessantly chatty, imaginative and funny Anne of Green Gables, and when I read the chapter of the story where Anne’s adoptive mother Marilla is attempting to wring a confession out of Anne, I had to laugh and cry at the same time. The depiction of the parent, so smugly using a strategy that worked so well a previous time to teach a child a lesson, this time proves futile (you’ll have to read the book to find out how) and the confidence in ‘tried and tested’, previously successful methods falters and wanes. 

How often do we feel like Marilla? Do we find ourselves thinking: That will work. It’s bound to. It did last time. I’ll apply that method to this child, that mentality to this situation, that time of day was a good time to ask I’ll try that again ….. only to find they don’t glean the same results. 

So we despair of the insufficiency of top ten parenting pinterest posts, exercise routines, BIble reading plans, SMART goals, even New Years Resolutions. Methods that have worked in the past, this time prove futile and don’t effect the change or result we were after. We attach such confidence in the process, goal, or method that we forget the changeable nature of the hearts involved, our own and others, the varying nature of situations, times of day, our own aging bodies! How quickly we bypass knowledge of ourselves, others and the circumstance in pursuit of the quick fix, tried and tested formulas. When our recourse to the same old proves unfruitful we feel frustrated and cheated by the method or system, because that’s easier than growing in our learning, in learning afresh what we need to pursue goals, or to parent our children.

Children have an incredibly strong sense of what is right. Something is fair if it is the same and no more do we see this than in the Christmas holidays! The same number of sweets, the same method of discipline, same house jobs and responsibilities. If the weary legs of a 5 year old are lovingly given a piggyback by a compassionate Father at the end of a long family walk, then surely the same goes for me, cries the 7 year old! The child doesn’t see the Father’s decision is made in light of knowledge of different temperaments, knowledge of seven year old legs able to endure more than those of a five year old, or backs that can withstand the weight of a younger child. The child doesn’t perceive and plan in light of and with love for differing sensitive and stubborn hearts. They just view match for match. Like for like. Often a Father’s decision is incomprehensible to a child’s perception, but the loving Father always acts with justice, love, compassion, and knowledge of his children.

The Lord’s Fatherly love for us, his perfect love for us that exceeds even that of the most tender and compassionate earthly Father we know, mean that his way of teaching us is always with perfect knowledge of us, and with the perfect righteousness of his character. 
He came down to bring us knowledge of him, to flood our darkened minds that resort to own tried and tested methods, to give us his perspective and see justice in his terms, to see compassion and care in a beautiful range of appropriate means for each one of his children our of his steadfast love and his never changing character. To see the height depth length and breadth of his love and the surpassing greatness of his knowledge. To bow before his infinite and perfect knowledge of his children and learn from him through our own and others lives each day, his gracious protection of each one of us, one by one. 

God revealed Himself as our wonderful counsellor, our master and teacher in Jesus. When He spent time with Mary and Martha, Mary delighted to sit at his feet, listening, learning, hearing and receiving from Him. Martha knew how precious this role was to her younger sister, calling out to Mary, ‘your master’ is here. 

Jesus is not only our teacher, He is also our lesson. Taught by Him to known Him. In his school of life, we are continually learning Him and His ways not as some abstract subject, but personally, intimately with Him as our teacher, speaking to us by His Word and Spirit. Teaching us to trust in His justice, faithfulness, His perfect unchanging nature. 

And when we perceive difference, or seeming contradiction, seeming injustice in His ways, when we are too busy as the sister preoccupied with her Father’s gracious compassionate carrying of her sister, He calls us to surrender our limited perception and understanding and enlighten us to his wise, caring, loving walk beside us, knowing exactly the load He has called us to bear, and knowing the steps He asks of us each day with Him at our side. As our loving, all wise and knowing Master and Teacher, he lovingly exposes our disposition to recourse to strategies and plans as our hope and confidence, and grows us in learning His ways are higher than ours, his knowledge and his counsel often incomprehensible but also wise, holy, and full of compassion and tender mercy for his children. 

Your Father knows you. He has no need for ‘tried and tested’ formulas of parenting. He takes no confidence in applying by rote the same strategies without thought. He lovingly guides and guards the way of His children, taking us through seemingly incomprehensible and changing schools of learning. But to Him alone who has full perfect knowledge of his children’s hearts, who acts in perfect accord with His own holy, righteous and wise character, to God alone we can entrust our ways. Entrusting that each step is marked out for us by our faithful loving God, always with us, always lovingly teaching us His thoughts are marvelously higher than ours, his ways mercifully higher than ours.

The Pathway to Peace?

I feel it staring at me every time I walk past. As I open my front door and come home again, there it is taunting me, nagging at my conscience. You need to sort me out. You promised you would. You’ve got to stop pretending I’m a sight to the eyes…. you know I’m an eyesore! This weed is the nagging of my conscience, the reminder of my procrastination and my deep rooted (pun most certainly intended) frustration and dislike of gardening. 

Today was the first day of the school holidays and I took advantage of bleary eyed exhausted children to tackle a whole load of jobs, cleaning the car, scrubbing the kitchen, sorting socks. But as I sit down to write this, the monstrosity of the weed in the front garden still needs attending.  It’s not that I haven’t made the first attempt, just that the results of that half hearted, marigold gloves and body weight alone attack affirmed to me that the job would most certainly require effort, time, and tools. 

I know the effect will be better, a prettier vista for me and the neighbours, be of benefit to the soil, but I’m also painfully aware how uncomfortable it will be for me. 

Until I do it, my conscience is pricked. I’m not feeling peaceful. When I do uproot it, there will be gritted teeth, frustration,  and resistance.

The pathway to peace will not be smooth. It will feel everything but peaceful.

I could turn my eye every time I walk past my front garden. I could gloss over the mess and chaos but it would never clear, uproot, or bring peace to my nagging conscience. 
The pathway to peace is not so peaceful and God’s work in our hearts, the uprooting of those stubborn weeds, thorns and briers in our hearts are often not half hearted, quick painless work. 

The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the establishment of his peace, is not a smooth superimposing of a veneer of calm onto a chaotic and messy situation.

It can require clearing, cultivating of the land, uprooting and de-weeding before the re-cultivating of the soil of our hearts can allow a sowing of righteousness and growth of fruitful crop. Part of the reason I’m so resistant to clearing the weed is I know it won’t be the last time it’s required of me. New weeds grow and the land needs constant attention, care, weeds uprooted and soil kept as healthy earth for beautiful plants to grow. The work of the Spirit in our hearts is graciously constant, persistant.

This advent we celebrate our Heavenly Father’s sending of his Son, the gift of the Messiah, the beloved servant, the chosen one of the Lord who he promised through Isaiah, the One who is our Prince of Peace. Jesus came to rule and reign in true perfect righteousness and peace, to restore and establish peaceful relationship between God and Man. The Prince of Peace came to liberate our hearts from the corruption and enslavement of sin, by taking our sin, and giving to us, clothing us with his perfect righteousness. He came to bring captive imprisoned hearts to peaceful freedom and liberation. But his mercy continues and His work and His heart for us led Him to send us His Spirit, to guard, protect and work in our hearts passionately, relentlessly rooting out all the stubborn resistance to his peace, all the chaotic compulsion to our old lives. 

The pathway to peace is far from peaceful.

Our marriages that may require painful conversations and uncomfortable admission of hurt caused, awkward and unsettling honest evaluation and painstaking conscious change of speech, action and thought. Striving for and from self will uprooted and relaced with spirit led sacrifice and surrender. 

Thorns of pride that require the needed digging of self examination and heart searching, the necessary words of honesty from friends and family stinging like anti weed killer, but working to unearth and soften those deep entrenched roots of our stubbornness. 

Or maybe those prickly weeds in our hearts may be walls of self defence we’ve built up over time. A guardedness towards others, an arm’s length approach to church family, a quiet or tight lipped fear of sharing our struggles, fears, or desires with others. Fear of rejection, condescension or being accountable to enact those desires, rid those fears. Safer to deal, to quietly get on and self preserve, self sustain. Seeming temporary peace has yielded a harvest of thorns that entangle. True quietness, trust, peace is the promise of our gracious God. It may take the work of his Spirit, may make us feel uncomfortably exposed as every moment of sharing uproots a thorn of self preservation, every vulnerable offering of conversation over church coffee is a scream of pain wanting to get home, every ‘I need’ or ‘me too’ spoken through gritted teeth. But each moment a re cultivating of the soil for the sowing of righteousness, quietness and trust. To yield a fruit of the Spirit rather than self. To grow in knowledge and worshipful, reverent, fear of the Lord instead of isolated self affirmation and a life of being afraid. 

The peace God brings to our hearts requires painful sifting, uprooting of weeds, decluttering and clearing of waste and pollutants from the soil of our hearts. The pathway to peace is not always peaceful, but our Prince of Peace has come, and he has not left us. 

If I were a faithful, knowlegable, consistent, patient gardener, my front garden would be a beautiful sight to my neighbours and a credit to the work of my hands. As it stands, it is a weed filled true representation of my negligence.

Praise our Prince in Peace, who is working in us and for us by His Spirit to make of us a beautiful display of glory and righteousness, to make of us a vision of quietness and trust in Christ alone to the glory of God and as a witness to the world. Our Prince of Peace came for us, died for us and ascended for us, sending us His Spirit to keep the soil of our hearts yielding that peaceful fruit of righteousness until the day he welcomes us to an eternity of delighting in him, our hearts perfectly abiding and living in peace with Him forevermore. To an eternity perfectly bearing his righteousness forevermore, a beautiful sight to others, and even more wonderfully, beautiful to our perfectly righteous Prince of Peace.

The Perfect Christmas Wedding

I don’t know if you have those memories that really stick with you, that crop up at certain times of the year? For me, it’s eleven years ago tomorrow, on 12th December 2009. I was standing at the front of a packed church and still remember the impact of everyone launching into this epic chorus of ‘O Come all ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant.’ I was standing next to a rather good looking young man at the time who was sporting a suit instead of jeans for once, and I didn’t scrub up too badly either in the most expensive, stunning dress I will ever wear. 

My husband and I opened our Christmas Wedding Service with this classic carol because of its bold and beautiful claims about who Christ is. Christ, God Incarnate, the word of God made flesh, The Creator of the world assuming a created form, the sinless Saviour coming to bear the flesh of fallen humanity, The Lord of heaven enthroned above descending to be God with us, God as man. Full God. Fully Man. 

Come and behold Him, the hymn declares, born, the King of angels. There is a reason that the incarnation provokes and stirs the worship and wonder of angels, wise men, and shepherds, there is a reason we cannot but sing ‘Come let us adore him‘.

In the gift of advent, the coming of God to man as man, this gift of the incarnation surely we come and behold more of Christ to warrant the kind of love, joy, victorious and triumphant rejoicing, tears of love and words and prayers of adoration that we could never even begin to offer this side of heaven. 

Surely we do don’t we? But, if we’re honest, does the incarnation immediately cause this reaction in us? Or, is it that part of our Christian thinking, our theology that comes out at advent and then retreats again for another 11 months of the year, apart from that part in the creed we say:

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary

But the joy and wonder of advent is truly a gift for the whole year. The coming of God as man has impact for us long after the nativities are over and the decorations packed away. 
We need to linger by the manger a little longer, heed the sign of the star in the sky allowing it to direct our hearts and minds to the miraculous mystery of this baby lying in a manger.

As we read and hear of the praise of the angels in the sky, let us allow wonder and worship to fill our hearts at what God really is revealing to us both about himself and about ourselves in the incarnation. Come and behold him born the King of angels. O come let us adore Him.

In the incarnation, God became man. The eternal Son of God was born. Let us behold here a glimpse of the outrageous pure grace of God in the incarnation. God became man, for man. The Son of God came down, left his throne in heaven at the Father’s side, out of pure love for the Father and love for you. From first to last, we are passive and grateful recipients of the outrageous grace and deep mercy of God, from Bethlehem to Calvary, from the womb to the empty tomb, God alone acts for the salvation of his people for God became man. 

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O come let us adore Him

Only the One who was fully God, who knew and lovingly submitted to the will of God the Father, who shared perfect unity of will with the Father and Spirit in the eternal joy and loving unity of the Trinity,, could restore to us the purpose of our lives in giving glory to God, and teach us so we might live in faithful knowledge of God. 

“No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”.
If Jesus was a mere man, he would not be able to have or teach full knowledge of God. The finite cannot contain the infinite. But as eternal Word of God made flesh, he came to bring us saving knowledge of the Father. The eternal word of God came to speak into the hearts of men the very word of God. 

On our wedding day, Ben and I made vows of commitment to one another, not only to love one another in sickness and health, to share all we had with one another, to lovingly, wisely, lead and submit, but to be one another’s. We promised to one another ‘I am yours’ and every day since and now on, we have learned the assurance, comfort and also some days the battle and pain of remembering and living with the reality that ‘You are mine’. In our stumbling, fallen, human way of loving one another, Ben and I have had seasons of, boasting in our vows, of feeling them tested, resisted, of being comforted and assured by them. Over the last eleven years, through much joy, and sickness, through times of despairing together and of one another, as we’ve born the burdens of broken bodies and minds, as we’ve joyfully, fiercely contended for one another in trials, we have not done it by our own strength, or power, only by the sheer grace of God. 

The same grace of God seen in the eternal Word made flesh. 

The same grace of God seen in the loving surrender of the Son to seek and save the lost. Seen in the all holy, eternal Son of God condescending to be born a baby. 

The same grace of God seen in the Light of the World coming towards a world entrenched in darkness, to pierce and flood the darkness of the pain and sin around us and within us with his life giving light.

The same grace of God who from the incarnation to the ascension of Jesus, from Bethlehem to Calvary, from the empty womb of Mary to the gloriously empty tomb brings us to our knees in worshipful surrender of God’s work alone to save us and sustain us. 

The outrageous grace of the incarnation that calls us to come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. 

I know I’m bias but I do love a Christmas wedding. And in the incarnation, God gives us a glimpse of his work on our helpless behalf, as He comes in all Light, truth, knowledge, power and loving surrender, all for the sake of those the Father has given him, whom he will never cast us, whom he advocates for now and sustains by his outrageous grace until the day He will welcome us as our faithful, most loving and all perfect bridegroom, delighting in us, his heart full of love as we come to the One who Came down for us, forever, clothed in the most spotless, stainless, precious dress of his righteousness, as his most beloved bride.

In the incarnation, Christ came down to seek his bride, to pledge his vows of faithfulness and love that we might hear from our eternally faithful bridegroom, Redeemer, Lord and Saviour, “I am yours, and you are mine.” 

This advent season, come and behold Him Christ the Lord, whose incarnation gives us a glimpse and foretaste of the most glorious Christmas wedding of history. 

O Come Let us Adore Him, Christ the Lord

The Triumph of his Art

Advent is the season of goodwill, peace to all men. The flooding of light to the world, indeed the Light of the World come. Advent is hope and joy and anticipation. It is confidence and celebration for our King has Come. 

So, bear with me and hear me out when I change the scene. When I repaint the Christmas card scenes and change the word hope for one of despair, the flooding of light, for a picture of utter consuming darkness….

Bear with me when I ask you….

Have you ever been in a situation that left you despairing?

Chaotic conflict spilling out in criticism.

Hearts hardening and retreating from one another. 

All endeavour and resolve to count the cost of calm and reconciliation, to grit the teeth and pursue forgiveness, a long lost pipedream. A fool’s endeavour. 

A despairing situation that leave hardened hearts battling for their own survival, gritting teeth in resolve of self will only to sink into a storm of despair. 

Bear with me for shattering the joy and hope and light of Advent. 

The light of the One who Came. The Light of the world who came to win hope peace and reconciliation for the world. For the world steeped to its very core in utter darkness. The Light of the World who came into despair. The Light of the World who came towards the hopeless hardened hearts of his children. 

At Christmas, we boldly proclaim peace, light, joy, reconciliation between men because at Christmas, we behold God become man come for man in all his despair and all the chaotic conflict. At Christmas, Christ came. 

The light of the World has come because the world of darkness was in utter despair.

He came. Fully God and fully man to redeem, restore, flood darkened hearts with light, fill our lives with purpose and call us to lives of holiness for God our Father. So what do we do when we find ourselves in those same storm filled, despairing situations? We allow the star in the sky to direct our hearts and behold in awe and wonder the baby in the manger, to come and behold Christ Incarnate and allow the gift of God himself to settle our hearts and speak to our despair.

Away despair! my gracious Lord doth heare

Though winds and waves assault my keel,

He doth preserve it: he doth steer

Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel,

Storms are the triumph of his art

……. Despair away

George Herbert, ‘The Bag’

What we could not do for ourselves, God had to come and do for us as God made man. Perfect man.

He battled against every temptation yet without sin. He faced every rejection, criticism, mocking, raised eyebrow and lashing. He knew what it means to feel weary, to have to go to his Heavenly Father in prayerful reliance to persevere in His will, to need the comfort of the Father because friends have left, slept, fled. 

There is no situation Christ does not share with you. 

The humanity of Christ Incarnate strips away all our protests that we are not understood that we are alone that we are isolated in the battle. He lived the life of man in the midst of a twisted and crooked generation. In human flesh, he battled every day against sin, evil, the devil and he conquered death and darkness in that body, flooding our hearts with light and allowing us to come joyful and triumphant to behold Him and adore Him who battles still with and for us in our fight against sin. 

There is no situation Christ does not share with you. 

No despair, no physical discomfort, family pain, relationship agony, no consequence and agony born by the sin of others impacting your life right now, this day, no grief over death that Christ does not sympathize with. He knows the grief and despair of your heart, your frustration in your marriage, your pain in your loss, your agony over unfulfilled desires. The longing you have for others to understand you better. The boat is reeling, its rocking, it feels like everything is about to be capsized into the storm. 

Yet Christ is not only with you in the boat, knowing and sharing in your suffering. 
He doth preserve. He doth steer. 

He is not only God with us, but he is Christ our forerunner, our champion, who goes before us, who has ascended and still works for us in the presence of the Father, speaking our name to the Father, advocating for us and praying for us through the storms. 

Though the winds and waves unsteady us to the point of collapse, he hears, he knows, he steers and we can trust that he is working more than we can abundantly ask or imagine through this suffering storm. 

Christ came down, assuming human flesh that we might have a great high priest who knows our every weakness, yet without sin, but he did so without diluting, leaving, or lessening any of his divine nature. The eternal Son of God became Christ incarnate, God with us as fully God and fully man. 

In suffering in storms, God is working His victorious purposes in you against darkness, sin , suffering. The Creator of the world, the One for whom and by whom all things exist, has full control over every sphere of this world, over every storm. Not one situation is outside his control. his reign. Come and behold him, Christ the Lord. 

And he is creating in and of you a beautiful image, restoring in you the image of his likeness, an image that bears to the world the radiance of the beauty and glory of God. 

You are his artwork displaying the beauties of God to the world. The artwork of the one who is the potter and clay. The storms are the triumph of his art. You are his artwork, his creation, his delight, his pride, signed belonging, made and created by him. You are his artwork, for whom he came down, and to whom he bids you still, daily, moment by moment to come still. 

Come to the one who came down for you, who came as full God and fully man to bridge the chasm, to calm the storms of the conflict, to reconcile the irreconcilable and to soften, purify and beautiful hardened hearts. For at the cross, at the storm of Jesus’ own life, we see the triumph of his work of redemption for us. His ultimate triumph against sin, the world and the devil. At the cross, at the depths of Christ’s own suffering for us, we see the triumph of his recreation, renewal, redemption of the world as he rose as Lord over all. Away Despair. 

George Herbert’s poem begins, Away Despair and calls us to set our hope on Christ who is our captain, not only with us and in full steering control of the boat in the storm, fully sovereign over your loss, your relationship conflict, your grief and loneliness, your battle against pride and anger, but he makes of the storms the very triumphs of his beautiful, heart satisfying, faith purifying, God-glorfiying art. Through this pain you’re in at this Advent time, know Christ as fully man and fully God who knows your every despair in this fallen world, who has triumphed and is your victory. 

Away despair                   

  …. Despair away

We can bid our despair gone, bid it away because our victory, our refuge, is in Christ. And wonderfully, mercifully, Christ our Captain, bids us come with all our despair, in the midst of the storm, because Christ Incarnate is God who Came down, who as fully God and fully man, the Word of God spoke the Word of God to us:

Come to Me

Hearts lit up

I can do it by myself. Mummy I know. Actually I knew that already. Don’t help me. I was about to say that. Yeh I knooooow. 

I just needed to find myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. I need to take time for me. It’s just not working for me anymore. 

The words of the self assured, independent longing 6 year old is not so different from the teen or adult desperate for self expression. 

We’ve all heard these words. We’ve all been the ones to say them. That self defensive assertion that we know, that we didn’t need another to clarify, to help, to suggest. From the child-led learning in the classroom to the gap years of self discovery, the films of proud independence and coming of age to the celebration of singleness as a time to redefine, focus on and attend to me and my needs…. we love a good journey of self discovery and self reflection.

As a teacher I have seen the impact of child led learning has in the classroom, as a friend the significance of that gap year, or time of singleness. None of these things are bad in themselves, but we use them, consume them to know, to discover ourselves, and we end up lonely and lost, alone in self affirming or self condemning introspection. 

As a Christian I believe wholeheartedly in self discovery: That we are made to know ourselves, to find out who we are and our true purposes in life. 

I believe wholeheartedly in self reflection, that we are called to examine our hearts, thoughts and lives, to reflect on our ways and consider our paths. 

However, as Christians, we want to lead people not to themselves but to the welcoming merciful refuge of God, to find satisfaction, purpose in Him alone. How then can we justify self awareness, self examination if the goal is Christ? 

The world is hungry and crying out for self discovery, for finding and fulfilling the deep desires of hearts, seeking connection and contemplation. A world resembling a classroom full of children all individualistically exploring their own learning, carving out their own ideas, but in isolated fragmented discovery as any conflict, any conversation over different viewpoints or methods are crushed under the weight of pluralism and its demand for quiet, shallow, hushed tolerance.  

We are coming up to advent, that time we come in wonder and awe and behold our transcendent God, our Creator who came down. God become man as the only one, as God-Man, who alone could bring man to God. In God’s giving of Himself to humanity, in humbling himself to the likeness of human flesh, he came  that we might truly know ourselves in the only way we can, in light of who God is. The light of the world has come and flooded the world with his grace, his redemptive works, and his outrageous mercy in drawing fallen sinful self into full, reconciled relationship and eternal union with the perfect holy God. 

God the Son became Christ Incarnate to flood his light into our lives and very selves, to the depths of our hearts, thoughts, desires and fears. His light exposed, came in truth and people reacted in awe, fear, anger, and worship. His light was so blinding and exposing that it allowed for no neutrality in its response, no room for the pluralism of its day. 
The light of the world has come shining His truth, His Father’s truth in the power of the Spirit, so that we can truly and honestly self discover and self reflect on the basis of truth. Without Jesus, our only accountability is ourselves and our self discovery and self reflection will certainly be self affirming, our methods in our learning will always be the best to us. How can they not be when there is no accountability?

In this light, by his Spirit working in us now and reminding us always of the words the Word of God came to speak to us, our God Immanuel keeps us self reflecting, keeps us self aware, keeps us growing, in joyful, free, loving fellowship and belonging with Him and with one another as His bride the church. This is true freedom, true self discovery, true purposeful living. Life lived to the full with our Lord who came not only for our salvation, but for our eternal secure belonging with God as Father, Son and Spirit, forever to worship, enjoy and delight in our reconciled relationship with our Creator and God. 

We cannot know ourselves in isolation. Life is not meant to be lived in a spiral and endless cycle of self discovery beginning and ending with self. Such a cyle will torpedo through relationships, using and abusing for self gain, shipwrecking all within our path that doesn’t fulfil our subjective desire of the moment, one that will change tomorrow. No, instead, we are made for relationship with one another and with God to love him and others. That is true freedom. That is true Spirit led spirituality. 

In the kingdom of God self discovery comes through self forgetting, abandoning self for the sake of others. Self discovery means surrender to Jesus as Lord, to the Word made flesh who came to proclaim the grace and hope that is found in Him alone. Self examination is the bringing of our hearts and our lives to the power of the word of God, to its words of encouragement, hope, blessing, judgment and conviction on our hearts. 

In our culture of self discovery, god is a tool to be used to satisfy criteria, meet demands, fulfill latest wishes like Aladdin’s genie in a lamp. The world says god is there to serve according to man’s criteria, a commodity to consume along with all others paths to self fulfillment and self discovery. 

But God is our Lord and Saviour who gave himself, revealed himself, who came down to reconcile us to Him, who alone and always acts for the redemption of his children who so helplessly cannot know what they want and need. Our God is a God who came to serve, who came to give His very self. God and man reconciled in the person of Jesus, fully God and fully man, the servant King restoring in us our true selves as we were created to be, children of God with lives lived to the full in joyful eternal fellowship with our God. 

In the world, self growth is offered through selfish pursuit of goals and desires, in our careers, relationship choices, use of time and money. In the kingdom of God, self growth comes from self control and self restraint as we allow the Lord Jesus to reign in our hearts, teach and guide and form us by his Spirit and word in delightful surrender. Dying to self as we give to others. Growth in gentleness comes with restraint of anger, growth in kindness comes in self control over possessiveness over our time as we love and serve those around us, our growth in joy comes in self abandon to the will of the Lord trusting in his good and wise fathering of us, rather than selfishly storing up temporary transient fleeting ‘pleasures’, in pursuit of true everlasting joy.  

In the world, the pursuit of self ends at shallow self, an endless spiral of introspective shallowness, fragile in its dependence on our fleeting and subjective emotions and needs, as we pass through relationships and leave them when they no longer fulfill, as we exchange experience and possessions for others when they no longer satisfy. The cycle of self can be lonely, exhausting and desperately empty. 

As we approach advent, let’s lift our hearts to our God who came down for us in all our helplessness and inability to do a thing to save find or know ourselves truly.

In the incarnation, we encounter an act of pure grace, our transcendent Lord who so loved the world he came to unite himself to us, bind himself to us and fulfill, satisfy every longing, to enrich and fill our lives to a fullness we can only imagine in part this side of heaven.

So, by this grace, let’s examine our hearts and reflect on all that the light of his truth and the word of God exposes there, knowing we do so as redeemed, loved, children in the presence of God our Father, in the name of Christ our elder brother, our advocate, and in the power of the Holy Spirit who is working always to keep us shining brighter and brighter like stars. 

Battle to be heard?

Our world is noisy.

It is loud in its declarations and proud in its boasting, so sure in its blaming, so seemingly gentle in its whisperings.

It doesn’t matter what the topic is, acceptance of others, acceptance of self, fight for right or gentle murmurings of apathy….. It is constant in its babbling.

It jostles and shoves others out of the way in the fight for the microphone, for centrestage.

Words working their way into unguarded minds, penetrating deep and unfiltered to the depths of hearts. 

Mouths quick to speak and minds ears and hearts so unguarded in their listening. Tuning in occasionally and latching onto the cries for ‘peace’, ‘hope’, even ‘reform’ that spill out from our podcasts, televisions and newspapers. Nodding in assent when our distracted ears pick up familiar language. 

Words spoken with such boldness and received with so little attention. Spoken with intention, meaning and purpose, these words flood our world, and we go through our days inundated with the thoughts and opinions of others. 

I love words. I believe wholeheartedly in their power. I believe in the power of words to transform and shape life, in their ability to renew and strengthen, and I know their power to devastate and inflict pain.

Even now I’m writing, and I write for purpose:

The forming of thoughts to words

My heart on a page, on a screen

Spirit joining head and heart, back to head, and spilling out into written surrender, vulnerability, release. 

Release, focus and articulation

Writing is reassembling and reforming, recreating

A meagre offering to be used, shared, cherished, discussed, refashioned and remolded. 

Telling of a story

Writing is a stream of consciousness, a spirit inspired letter of the heart, a thought, a list, a plea, a moment in time, a commitment, a testament an invitation, a gift to be shared, an experience to be enjoyed and given, a uniting of hearts and minds from writer to reader, delight and exploration of words and structure, a tumbling and spilling out, an overflow of heart and mind. 

I believe in words. I believe in their power. 

I believe wholeheartedly as Christians that we are a people of The Word. 

The Word of the Lord which came to his people through the inspiration of his Spirit, through the writers and prophets of Scripture. The Word of the Lord which came to his people as Incarnate Son of God, Christ, the Word of God, clothed in human flesh. The very word of God spoken by the very Word of God. As our ears endure the barrage of this noisy world, with its many words, Jesus assures us that as his sheep, we hear His voice, the voice of our loving Shepherd guiding us, speaking to us. 

These are the purposes of the Lord’s words:

The revelation of His character, his heart.

His word as perfect representation of who He is

Self disclosure of our Heavenly Father to us his children 

Self disclosure without weakness, without self deception, without malice

Self disclosure with full purpose and intent

To reveal all glory and honour and power belong to Him alone

To reveal that He alone is the Creator of all, fully sufficient in Himself and all else is created and dependent on Him. 

As the defender of our hearts, the revealing of ourselves and the hope of our souls

To be pure truth, and sweet taste to our broken hearts

To be the convictor of our disbelief

To be the light to expose the darkness of our sin

Our delight and joy; our hope and wonder; our conviction and our commands. 

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”Isaiah 55v11

There are so many voices, words spoken, muttered, heard and half heard in our days. It can be overwhelming and cause us to tune out, turn off the news, switch the podcast when we don’t hear something we like, tune in and out as we please. Our listening impacts our speaking. So we cut off one another in sentences in our jostling and fight for the microphone and we incessantly make our speeches to prove our points. Our mouths speak from the abundance of our hearts. Or maybe we parrot and mimick, take in words and speak them straight back, unfiltered, unprocessed, with no time to chew and ponder and question. 

The world is a noisy and loud place. It jostles and fights for that centrestage platform, bellowing messages into the microphone. 

But we are a people of The Word. 

God has created and intended our lives for fellowship, for relationship, full of speech and rich in words. Our words are for the building of relationship with God and one another, not for a time to shine on stage. He gives us his Word to be savoured, enjoyed, received and spoken, whispered, sung, and proclaimed. The Word of God passed on through the generations, accomplishing its purpose of bringing hearts to repentance and new life in Him, accomplishing its purpose of revealing the Saviour of the World, accomplishing its purpose of all glory honour and power given to the Lord our God. 

Rippling effects, always running through the onslaught of the noise of the world around, holding fast, breaking through, triumphing over every lie and false claim, every hopeless cry and transient message of the day, breaking down every opposition, scooping up and bearing repentant, broken hearts, giving the people of God new hearts, new language to be spoken, new words of life proclaimed. It does not need to jostle, its truths are steadfast. It does not need to fight, it is already victorious. It does not need to contend, for the Lord who speaks his Word will always accomplish his purpose. 

While shallow substitutes flood the language of our world, while written words of empty vain ‘promises’ line our bookshelves, and speak to us from our television screens, let us speak a better language. Let’s gift the world with the Word of God. The Word which God has called us not to mindlessly receive and parrot back, but to savour, pray, chew over, to ingest so that it fills and fuels all we do. The Word which we thoughtfully, attentively take in and allow to flood every part of us, embed deep within our hearts and build up a treasure trove of precious promises there, so that the word is truly near to us, to our lips and hearts. 
We are a people of the Word. So let us speak, for God’s Word will always triumph and fulfill its purpose. 

There are many words in the name of peace, but the Prince of Peace has come, clothed himself in human flesh. The Word of God, the Word Incarnate has come to reign in true Peace between God and man. 

There are many words in the name of comfort. Advice about relationship choice, magazines about home decor, podcasts on personal style and image, programmes and magazines proclaiming food is our comfort. But we have the one true Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who accompanies God’s word to pierce the darkness of our hearts and bring light and revelation of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

There  is an onslaught of words offering advice and guidance, through TED talks, steps to success conferences, youtube motivational channels, but there’s only one true Lord, Soveriegn of all, our God and Father who alone is Creator, who alone knows our hearts, plans our ways and steps and whose paths are always steadfast love and faithfulness. 
His mercy, grace and power go before us, his goodness follows us and love embraces us every moment of the day as we navigate our way through this loud, outspoken, noisy and desperately weak and needy world. 

The world is crying out. We hear voices on all sides, words refashioned, reformed, misunderstood and misapplied. 

But we have a Shepherd who promises his sheep will hear his voice. 

We have heard it straight from his lips, the Word Incarnate. 

The world is a noisy barrage of shallow fighting substitutes. Voices come and go with the seasons. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of the Lord endures forever. 

We are a people of The Word. 

Timely questions

As I scan my eyes around my living room, I can trace a history of our family life through the smiles and candid shots captured in frames. 

Photographs tell a story. They capture memories and they allow us to recall precious times. The looks of the moment held forever. 

The past brought to the present; Our present taken to the past. 

We love to look back, to linger in the past, to reminisce and reflect:

Whether it’s holding on to those children who seem to be growing so fast, willing time to pause and stand still, even go back;

Sweetly remembering the days you had time in your marriage to sit and talk for hours uninterrupted;

Lightening the mood by sharing memories of family holidays;

Reminiscing of life that felt and seemed far less complicated.

Life last week, last month, last year. 

There seems much comfort in this. Much joy to be gained, memories to be poured over and shared, but the lingering in the past can turn to longing to be back there and before we know it we can feel hard done by in our present situation. The candid shots, the captured smiles, the beauty of those framed moments around our house also miss out so much. We don’t tend to frame the times of pain, of illness, of despair, marital strife and nights of tears. Even if they happen to have been caught on camera, they tend to be stored away, kept out of sight, deleted from the files. We don’t reminisce on pain. Our telling of the past and our lingering there can be selective and it can rob us of the joy and purpose of the present. 

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”For it is not from wisdom that you ask this

Ecclesiastes 7v10

How often are we hearing this and saying this at the moment! Lockdown 2.0 of 2020 is upon us, and we are pining and craving for the pre-Covid days.

But as we ask this, we do not do so from a heart of wisdom. Is your heart like mine?

Does this question we ask come not from wisdom but from pride? 

Pride as I frustratingly wonder why my strategies for covid coping and lockdown living are not working better and serving me better

This questions comes not from wisdom but from fear.

Fear and worry about my comfort in this world, rather than my secure eternal hope in Christ

This question comes not from wisdom but from unbelief.

Unbelief in the sufficiency of God’s grace, doubting his providence, his sovereignty, his tender care and goodness through this all. 

This question comes from my lazy heart.

Not striving to pursue godliness and righteousness in these more difficult days. 

This question comes from my apathetic heart.

Forgetting that in suffering, in trials, God promises to refine our faith, deepen our desire for Him and renew us in the image of His Son. 

What is the family history we want to create in these days, as God’s people, His church? What moments do we want to capture? What are the questions of wisdom that the Lord is asking us to bring before Him during these times, this day, this moment?

Those questions that come from wisdom and I have heard spoken from the hearts and lips of beautiful godly saints in my life:

How can I serve you today Lord?

How can I taste and see your goodness now in this moment?

What are your plans and purposes for me here and now heavenly Father?

What is your will in this situation?

How can I walk in your ways and fear you instead of man, instead of this situation?

This is a time of seeking wisdom that comes from above that we might ask of this moment the questions that come from wisdom with hearts that are firm trusting in the givenness of this day from our good, all loving, all powerful and all wise God. 

This day, this very one, is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Open heart surgery

Was it the word lung bypass machine?

Or the family zoom call to the doctor?

Maybe it was the day itself, the message to say he had gone into surgery.

Two weeks ago my brother had open heart surgery to replace a leaking aortic valve and until the day of the surgery it felt so surreal. Up until that point, if allowing myself to think about it, I viewed the surgery as the obstacle, as the problem to be overcome. But the truth is, however significant, however potentially life changing, the surgery itself wasn’t the problem. It was the start of the solution to the heart of the problem, to the problem of the heart. 

Restoring, grafting, strengthening, res establishing the heart to function as it ought. That was the role of the surgery. It required self rendering to another, a giving and trusting of my brother to the skillful hands and expert knowledge of his surgeon. It required humility and a willingness to receive the healing needed. It now requires a renewed awareness of living in recovery, of being aware of the healing work done, the renewed state of the heart and the need for extra vigilant and watchful, humble, care. Open heart surgery necessitates a patient and careful submission to the healing process. 

“Only two people have seen the inside of your heart now!” Ever one to lighten the mood, my husband’s words to my brother, nevertheless brought home the reality that God truly sees. 

Our heavenly Father, who purposed our very existence, who created us in love, who designed and fashioned our every feature, knows us better than we know ourselves. He sees the hopes, despairs, he sees the sins we ‘secretly’ cover, the shame we would rather not think about, the desires and plans we have, the idols we worship, those things our hearts truly beat for, the joys and expectations we bring to situations and our relationships, the forgotten words that have taken root, the pride, blame, and guilt. All that we have suppressed or fear to bring to others for fear of rejection, the Lord sees, and His response is far from fearful retreat. The state of our hearts is never beyond His powerful, healing, restoring hands. 

For He is our creator. He knows our hearts, he knows what they are and how he intended them, how he would intend them to be and he is constantly working in us to renew us. His work in our hearts may seems like painful, wrenching, open heart surgery. It may feel like we cannot even take a breathe for our helplessness and weakened state. Yet his healing work, of coming towards us, of asking us to come to Him, to give Him his heart in surrendering trust is the only way that will mend our broken hearts. To confess to Him what He already knows and sees there, that we might be the willing patient in the hands of our loving, most expert, skilled Creator, willing to undergo some serious self examination, by His Spirit attend to and confess what is hidden in the dark places of our hearts, to recognise where they beat for self or other, to admit where they need renewing and strengthening because of our weakness to certain sins, is the beginning of the healing heartwork of our God by the power of His Spirit in communion with our Lord and Saviour.

He will bring our hearts to rest in him, content and strengthened in Him alone, to beat for him and filled with love for Him and not for self or other, or worthless thing. He made our hearts for His. He moves towards the pian mess brokenness leaks we’ve made and he works by His grace, His skilled creator craftsmanship and for His glory and our good. 

His work in our hearts can feel like painful, wrenching, open heart surgery. He breathes life in us when we feel choked and weak. He renews us, re establishes confirms and strengthens us by His grace. 

As we examine our hearts and respond to Jesus’ invitation to Come to Him, as we surrender to the healing work our hearts so desperately need, we do so by grace. The work is painful but it is not the problem. It is the diagnosing and healing of the heart of the problem, the problem of our hearts.

God doesn’t flee from our sin. He comes towards us. He sent His own Son who Himself gave His life willingly, who sight his eyes towards Jerusalem and the cross on which He gave His life for us. God created our hearts and He longs for them to beat with love for Him, to be strengthened by His grace and to give life to us. So whether we’re in the midst of that healing process, or need to come to God and ask Him to begin that work within us, or whether we are in the fragile recovery, let us keep our hearts with all vigilance, know them, examine them, invite God to strengthen and mend them, that from them might flow springs of life.