This year has been the toughest I’ve ever known personally.
It has been twelve months of struggling with mental health issues, significant loss and deep grief.
Brexit, Trump, politics, the world generally going bonkers and no way to get off.
It feels so overwhelming as to render me completely numb.
I’m so fragmented nothing feels real. Not always even sure on the surface that God is there, but occasionally catch glimpses of His handiwork and know that He must be here…. somewhere.
Let this truth sink in: God with us. Jesus chose to come to this crazy, sick, evil, twisted, despairing world. God with us. He came to bring peace. His peace reigning in our hearts regardless of what is going on around or within us. Peace with God.
Because He came that first Christmas, I have a Safe Place to run to and hide. Jesus is my Strong Tower where I and every part of me is safe and loved and known and wanted and comforted.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…
In Christ there is affection and sympathy. What does that mean?
Affection is showing love: a hug, a smile, a hand on the shoulder, holding hands. Every school day afternoon I see from my window a mum striding briskly ahead of her small son. I long for the day when they will walk side-by-side with that little boy enjoying his mum’s attention, secure in her love as she shows him affection.
Affection is warming and affirming. It makes you feel secure. You know you are loved.
This verse says God is affectionate to me. How?
Every time He brings truth alive in my heart, giving me assurance and making me feel loved.
When I have a supernatural encounter with Him and I enjoy His presence.
By a hug or prayer or prophetic word or blessing from a friend.
When He whispers to my heart to come outside because He has something to show me, He directs me to look up and see golden clouds at sunset, and says: ‘I thought you’d enjoy it.’
Each time He reaches down into the depths of me, healing and restoring what had broken into a thousand tiny pieces.
God also has sympathy for me. Jesus knows precisely how I feel because He was human too. He understands my weakness and my needs because He has been there.
Am I childless? So was Jesus.
Am I tired at times of sin and temptation? So was Jesus.
Have I been hurt in unspeakable ways? So was Jesus.
Do I get tired and achey? So did Jesus.
Because He sympathises with me, I draw near to His throne of grace with confidence, knowing that He will meet me right in my need. It’s real. When I’m dealing with situations and feelings too big for me, I know that Jesus is enough to handle them. He sympathises in a way that no one else ever can. He is real and authentic and strong.
Look at all I have in Him: encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship and participation, affection and sympathy. There’s no one like Him.
Undivided Heart by Lucy Mills is a thoughtful book based on a verse from Psalm 86 in which the psalmist prays: ‘… give me an undivided heart…’
In the first half of her book, Lucy explores what makes us who we are and what motivates our actions. She looks at the many different things that give us a divided heart: our drives and desires, issues, circumstances, boxes we squeeze ourselves into, social media, and labels we put on ourselves or allow others to give us. All of these things can limit us, create unnecessary burdens, and keep us from enjoying the abundant life God has planned for each one of us.
The second half of the book, Lucy considers what has motivated God’s people in the past (from the Bible) and looks ahead to our glorious future with God, and how abundant life is offered right now. Our incentive is to enjoy some of the benefits of knowing God now, not in a ‘health, wealth, prosperity’ way, but in going deeper in our relationship with God and seeing His kingdom come.
If kingdom is about the royal reign of God… then the ‘requirements’ of living under this reign emphasise how we live together under the kingship of God. … being generous… acting with fairness and justice, forgiveness and mercy.
In the kingdom, treasures are found in unexpected places, the poor are considered rich and the weak are made strong.
Somewhere, right now, two people with two different viewpoints are praying together in the name of Jesus, under the banner of love. Such is the kingdom.
Having an undivided heart results in God being so crucial to us that we are able to face suffering that has no answers here. Lucy looks at Job, and how God did not answer his ‘why?’ but gave him a vital encounter with Himself. God didn’t give Job answers, He gave Job Himself. Lucy also considers how Jesus – the Son of God – came to fully identify with us in our suffering. He became our sin so that we could have God’s righteousness. In our sufferings, God gives Himself.
In her final chapter, Lucy sums up what it means to ask God for a united or undivided heart.
An undivided heart is not soft, pink romantic snuggliness. It’s a fierce, focused, even suffering heart, which looks towards its one redeemer. A heart which longs and thirsts and waits.
Each of the twenty chapters is short. Included within most if not all of the chapters is a Bible verse or passage and a poem. Each chapter concludes with a few helpful questions to aid the reader in gaging where their own heart may be divided and how this can be changed.
I thought Lucy incredibly insightful in this book, which is uncomfortable at times and helpfully illuminating at others. I certainly had one or two light bulb moments in reading it.
I have given it 4* on Amazon. I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review for the book’s launch this week.
Why do we write? Is the world a better place because our words are in it?
I want to encourage us to be the best we can be in whatever genre we favour.
King Solomon urged the readers of his day to do with all your might whatever your hands find to do. Very applicable to writers! Go for it. Don’t be timid or half-hearted, full of doubt. If a thing is worth writing, then do it to the best of your ability. Believe in the gift God has given you. But don’t strive about it, enjoy what you do.
I was knocked out by some familiar words this afternoon:
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth PEACE to men on
whom His FAVOUR rests.
Every Christmas I’ve skimmed over this short song the angels sang thinking, ‘That’s nice.’
But this is incredible news.
God is so crazy about us that the only way He could show us what He’s like and invite us into a relationship with Him was to come to earth Himself. In Jesus, God became man (human mum, God dad), and spent His whole life showing us what God is like. Upshot of that is: we know God is nice and He likes us. He loves us passionately.
When Jesus was born, God offered peace to us.
Peace. Wow. Only recently have I discovered the seven-fold blessing of God’s peace:
This is God’s heart for us. Roy Godwin, in his book The Way of Blessing, asks what it would look like if this peace was evident in our home, family, street, church? It took me all of a second to realise the difference it would make – and ever since, I’ve been speaking out this blessing over the people I love and live near.
When Jesus was born, God was saying His favour rests on us. We are a blessed people. We all love a hero, whether it’s Jack Reacher, James Bond or Katniss Everdeen. Jesus is the ultimate hero. He is God, come to earth so that we can know what God is like. More than that, He became the Way for us to come into relationship with God ourselves by dying and then rising again. He took all the wrong stuff that we think, say and do, and served the death sentence that was ours, so that when we accept what He’s done, the Father will look at us and see the perfection and beauty of Jesus.
This is awesome news that makes me want to yell WOOO HOOOOO! It’s not just for Christmas, it’s for now 🙂
Last Wednesday I went to a dance as worship evening. I’d signed up for it a few weeks previously, then had a minor panic: ‘What have I done? This is my worst nightmare.’ I was always the kid in PE at the back of the room doing as little as possible in a very unco-ordinated, awkward sort of way.
Ladies in graceful, flowing costumes demonstrated and talked about portraying biblical truths in dance. I was drawn even while thinking, ‘But I’m not a dancer, I’m a writer.’
May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Hope is vital. Adi and I watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces when he and Will Hardie followed a WWII POW’s plans to build a caravan. It was incredible. Writing those plans and dreaming of being free again gave that prisoner hope in a very dark situation.
So it’s not surprising that God, in whose image we are made, is a God of hope.
I’m glad that it is He who fills us with all joy and peace in believing. Filling with all – that speaks of generosity, filled up with good things. I like Jesus’ description of a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. This is God’s nature: to give in abundance.
He gives all joy and peace in believing.
When God had broken in and miraculously healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME in 2010/11, I pursued Him for complete healing from migraines (these have lessened in frequency and intensity but not quite gone completely). Initially, every time I asked someone to pray for healing, they asked for me to be filled with joy. I remember one motherly lady saying: ‘You’ve not known much joy, have you?’
I had a normal happy childhood, but that lady was right. I was so fearful in general and busy trying to be in control that there was no place for joy or peace in my life.
As God chucked out the clutter of fear and control and whatnot from my life, He filled those spaces with His joy and peace. The most memorable time was when He’d delivered me of a spirit of fear, that night He filled me with joyful, belly-aching, rolling around on the carpet, snorting laughter.
Joy and peace are daily companions now, I’m thankful to say. That’s not to say life is hunky-dory and all sorted. I still need to discern fear (it can be subtle), or trying to be in control or whatever and deal with it before God. But He is my hope and He restores joy and peace. In fact, He increases it.
I think the more we walk in the Spirit, the more capacity we have for God. The more I allow Him to sweep out the dusty corners of my heart, the more room there is for Him. That’s how it feels to me anyway 🙂
It’s all by the power of His Spirit. Oh that’s such a relief. I couldn’t drum up joy and peace if my life depended on it. But He gives it freely and extravagantly by His great power. Woo hoo!
The God of hope wants us to abound in hope, having been filled with all joy and peace by the power of His Spirit. Hope is a prayer away, and He is generous to those who ask.
On Sunday 18th October 2009 my life changed forever.
A few months earlier, Adi and I had started going to Grace Church. One of the things I loved about Grace was that people spoke very personally to God and sang lovingly and adoringly about Him. Although we were all Christians, Adi and I could see they had something we didn’t. They taught about the Holy Spirit and used spiritual gifts in every meeting. They functioned naturally in the supernatural.
It was intriguing. I couldn’t deny that God was among them in a way I’d never seen before. Spiritual pictures and prophetic words spoke to the most secret parts of my heart. When someone prayed or sang out in a tongue, the meeting didn’t move on until the interpretation was given.
Adi and I had never had much teaching on the Spirit and, to be honest, we thought of Him as simply a ticket to heaven. We felt a little like the disciples in Acts 19 who’d never heard of the Holy Spirit.
I had lots of questions, and a good friend advised me to read through Luke and Acts and make a note of every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned. I couldn’t believe how many times that was. He was crucial to the plot. I was gobsmacked.
I was also reading Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Dr Deere came from a similar theological background to me and there was much I could identify with. Through the book, he took me on his own journey from cessationism (believing the spiritual gifts died out with the apostles) to baptism and moving in the Holy Spirit.
So on that momentous Sunday morning in October, I was ready and expectant to receive baptism in the Spirit. I invited Him to come while a friend laid hands on me and prayed. Joy bubbled up inside me and I began to pray in tongues. Looking at me, there was little physical evidence that I had received the Spirit. My right hand shook a bit and a few tears trickled out. But I knew He had come.
The next morning I tentatively tried praying in tongues again. Could I still do it? Was it just gobbledegook? To my relief, I could still do it. But I didn’t value this gift for months.
Since receiving the Spirit, it’s like everything is more colourful, deeper, more precious than before. It doesn’t make me a higher class of Christian or better than anyone else. But I’m more aware of God’s presence than I ever used to be. More and more I rely on the Spirit to help me. He is the best Teacher! He opens up the Bible to me, giving me understanding and making it real.
I adore how the Spirit tells my spirit that I am a child of God. I love the prayer language of tongues, what a wonderful gift this is. When I run out of words or my heart is too full for my English to keep up, I can pour out all my desires and longings and praise to God in tongues.
I’m so thankful to God the Father for His incredible gift. Some 2,000 years ago Jesus died so that I could be forgiven and brought back into relationship with God. He has given me a new heart and abundant life. The Father has placed the Spirit of Jesus in me so that I can have full assurance I am His child, and as a first instalment guaranteeing everything He has promised. The Spirit has given me spiritual gifts and makes me a supernatural being on top of all that.
All made possible because of Jesus. Thank You Lord.
As soon as I saw the Lent word prompt for today I thought of the verse in Colossians that urges us to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.’
The reason Paul (the writer of Colossians) gives is that my life in eternity is way more important than what is going on here on earth right now. He reminds me that in a sense, I have died and my life is hidden in Christ – hidden in His beautiful perfection. I now live for Him, and one day He’s going to come back and everything will be glorious.
I need this reminder. After the day I’ve had today, I was feeling tired and grumpy, and hadn’t focused much on God at all. It’s easy to think that this is all there is and get bogged down.
But it feels like enjoying a deep breath of fresh air when I lift my eyes to God and focus again on ‘things that are above’. This is where my certain hope lies: the reality that one day I’ll be moving into my Father’s house to call it home forever. That is where I belong. Here, I’m just passing through. In a hundred years’ time, my job and what happened today won’t matter at all. But my life in Christ is everything and that will still be going strong in ten thousand years’ time.
For years I struggled to sing the worship song Blessed be Your name by Matt Redman. I’ve discovered I’m not alone in this. It takes the words that Job, a man in the Bible, said to his wife when they had just received the horrific news that all of their children had been killed in a freak accident. Job’s famous words were: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’
On the terrible Friday afternoon when I lost our tiny twins, I was unable to face what was happening. It was too final. This was our only chance, barring a miracle, of having a baby of our own. I was unable to deal with the deep pain of loss, shattered dreams, and the finality of it. There was an unacknowledged sense of this particular pain never ending. Babies were delightful creatures that other people conceived. But not us.
And so for several years, I was unable to sing Matt Redman’s song without tears. Maybe for others they were just pleasant, biblical lyrics. For me they spoke of heartrending reality. God had given my life-long dream of twins and a few days later had taken it away.
But God is good. He really is. People say time is a great healer. Maybe. I’ve found God to be the best healer. He saw the grief I’d buried and the reality I’d felt unable to face and, when the time was right, He gently brought it to the surface. Together we turned and looked at the pain head-on so that He could bring emotional healing and wholeness.
I don’t know why He hasn’t given us children. I don’t know why He gave and took away. But I do know that He is good and trustworthy and loving and utterly faithful. The Bible says God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called by Him. I can question and scream and cry but I’ll probably never know why. Certainly not this side of the grave. But I hang on to the fact that God is good. Because He truly is.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.
I’m dedicating this post to our beautiful twins Two and Three, to my sister Gina, and to all little ones who have slipped away in the womb or been born asleep or whose lives have been far too short.