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Saturday, August 09, 2014


Last night I went for a walk.  This is not ground breaking news!  But it was a ground breaking time.

I went to one of my favourite places.  I love it, because when I'm there I don't feel like I'm in the middle of a city...I feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere.  I love that no matter how many times I go there, I spot something different each time.  I love that it changes and looks so different in different seasons.  I love that it's so peaceful.  I love that I can walk for over an hour without seeing anyone else.  I love that I can hear birds instead of cars.  I love that I can get some space from a busy and pressured day and use that time and space to reflect, to pray, to just let my mind wander.

Last night, my mind wandered to Iraq.  It should have wandered there long before.  But if I'm honest, I hadn't let it.  

But as I'm walking round such a peaceful place, thanking God for it and enjoying it, I'm struck by how stark a contrast this is to what people in Iraq are seeing and experiencing.  People who, by nature of their faith and membership of the global church, are my brothers and sisters.  People who, regardless of their faith and worldview, are fellow human beings.

I've seen some horrific photos this week.  Gruesome, graphic, haunting.  I don't want to share them on Facebook, I don't want to see them ever again, I don't want to accept that they're real.  

In the context of a country which proclaims its democracy, is remembering WW1 and is proud to have learned lessons it can be hard to accept that such situations are really happening.

And so as I'm walking around in the evening sun enjoying some peace and quiet, I think, "Shame on me".  Shame on me for the times when I am scared to 'admit' (as if it's something to be ashamed of) that I'm a Christian because what? Because someone might tease me?  Because they might think I'm stupid?  Because people I like might ostracise me?  Shame on me for not acknowledging the news, for offering half hearted prayers.  There is an extent to which, simply to survive and avoid spending our days in a curled up ball of sobbing mess, we need to carry on as normal.  But we need to balance this against an awareness of what is happening beyond our little bubble.

People are dying.  They're not 'just' dying - they're being slaughtered.  Worse, I think, they are being forced to witness the brutal murder of their friends, family members - CHILDREN - because they are holding fast to the name of Christ.  Or because they simply will not lie by proclaiming the viewpoints of a religion they do not accept.

What would I do?

If I was forced from my home and stripped of my possessions.  If I had a gun at my head or a knife at my throat and I was asked to renounce my faith - what would I do?  If, worse, the weapon was hovering over a loved one - what would I do?

I do not welcome persecution and I wholeheartedly pray against it and for protection from it.  This is right.  But I must accept the possibility.  

Because, if I am not prepared to stand firm in my faith in those circumstances - then I may as well give it up now.  I didn't become a Christian because it is a nice way of life, because it helps me have good morals, because it opens up a new social group.  I became a Christian for no other reason than the fact that I recognise Jesus Christ as a real person in history who is also God, who died to save me from the sin I so clearly know is inherent in me, and who promises not only forgiveness, but an eternity with Him.  I became a Christian, and I remain a Christian, because I know and experience even in the hardest of times that life lived for and with Jesus is life lived to its absolute fullest (even though that's often not how it may seem).  

In fact, I became and remain a Christian purely by His grace - not by anything I do.

If God is who the Bible proclaims Him to be, and if He is who I've experienced in my life, then following Him is not dependent on circumstance.  It's dependent on who He is.  And if my circumstances don't change who He is...then my response should remain the same.  

And if He's not worth following in the face of intense persecution, then He's not worth following at all.

My dear brothers and sisters in Iraq know this in a deeper and more intense and frightening way than I have ever experienced - and still I pray I never will.  But I pray with all my might that if I ever do - I will have the courage and grace to stand.

And so as I'm walking, I'm also weeping.  I'm praying with words that are insufficient and sentences that are incomplete. 

"The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

I pray for deliverance for all who are suffering in Iraq and across the world (because, heartbreakingly, this may be the most extreme case but it's certainly not the only instance of persecution worldwide).  I pray that evil will be stopped.  I pray that if people are tortured or killed that by some extra special miraculous gift of grace they would not feel intense pain - especially children.  I pray that they would be given grace, and courage, and be reminded of the joyful, pain free eternity which awaits them.  I pray that they would keep their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of their faith.  I pray that they might even have the courage to love their enemies.  

And I pray that we British Christians would do the same.  I pray that we would be moved and stirred with compassion.  I pray that we would pray.

I pray that my sovereign God would move in works of definitive power at the right time to demonstrate His might and bring an end to injustice, pain, persecution, suffering and evil.  I give thanks that one day, one glorious day, there will be a new heavens and a new earth.  

I pray, then, that Jesus would return. And that until He does, He would enable us to stand firm.  And that, until He does, our gracious God would continue to have mercy and might even continue to save a people capable of such atrocity - and those who are not.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

White Noise

Hello, reader, and thanks for taking your time to see what I may possibly have to say here.

If you don't already know, then you should, that I am a Christian.  Not the 'I go to church on special occasions' type; the 'my parents / family are Christians, so I am' type; and not (hopefully) the 'I've got it all sussed and am perfect' type. If you know me at all, you should certainly know that I don't and am not!!

But I make that introduction to say this: Whatever your belief, religion, ideology - I hope that you will not ignore what is happening around the world today to people who call themselves Christians, as I do.  To people who believe the things I believe.

What is happening, is persecution.  Not the 'Ha you believe a load of nonsense!' type;  not the 'If you mention church/the Bible/Jesus to me again I'll knock your block off' type.  But the real, physical, barbaric type.  The type that means people in the 21st century, in an age of 'tolerance' are not allowed to practice their beliefs freely.  The type that means they live in intense fear.  The type that means they are imprisoned, tortured, financially destroyed...and even killed.

What if I'd been born in one of the countries where this was happening?  Would my faith be as strong?  Would I withstand what they are?  Would I have a job?  A family?  Would I even still be here now?

And what is my response?  Do I ignore it because it's barely, if at all, in the world's media?  Do I ignore it because it's too hard to comprehend?  Do I ignore it because it makes me feel uncomfortable?

So what then?  What can I do?  Just pray that God would be with them, right?  Surely if I'm a Christian and believe all I say I do, then I can just pray that and believe that and everything will be fine?  (And anyway if God was real he wouldn't let this happen, would he?)

I won't go into that here!  But yes, I do pray, earnestly for those Christians who are suffering - just as I pray for all who are suffering.

But sometimes, we just need to do.something.too.

And so this coming weekend, I'll be blacking out (not giving myself concussion - I don't wish to repeat that experience!)

I'll be following the lead of Open Doors Youth, along with four teenage (or nearly teenage) girls from my church.  We're giving up any form of technological communication / entertainment / media for 24 hours.  It's nothing, really.  It's the tiniest drop in the biggest ocean.

But it's a start.  It's a stand.  It's a way to raise some level of awareness.

Because, as Open Doors say - sometimes, the best way to make a to stay silent.

I don't expect you to sponsor us if you're not on the same wavelength (or even if you are...but if you are, it would be nice!).  All money we raise will go to Open Doors, to support and raise awareness of Christians who are living in isolation, poverty, and who knows what else.

But whatever your 'wavelength' - I hope we'll at least be quiet enough to start a discussion.

Thanks for reading.

You can donate here or text BLKT14 £ (And insert the amount you'd like to give) to 70070

**DISCLAIMER:  Before you say it, I know it and I'm already thinking it  - Christians are not the only ones suffering for their religious / moral / ethical / other beliefs and / or actions.  I know.  But this is our focus right now, that is all.

The world is broken.  Severely, entirely, in every way - although we still have much to be thankful for and enjoy...That's a gift, and the biggest gift is that it won't always be this way.  I have many more thoughts on this and I'll share them with you, if you like...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Searching for the hows and whys

Why is it, then, that the murderer turns to God at the last gasp minute of his life and is then afforded eternal life?

Why is it that those who lie, cheat, steal and otherwise do bad things (if not the worst of things) manage to get rich?  Or famous?  Or into positions of power?  Or all three?

Why is it that the wicked prosper?

Or, why is it that those who claim to be Christians but don't live like it seem to always land on their feet/have it altogether?

Why is it that those of us who try and put God first, who serve the church, who try to make our lives distinctive - why is it that we seem to struggle?  Why is it that we continually put ourselves out to serve others?  Why can't someone else be the dogsbody / peacekeeper / go between / person who always does the right thing for a change?  Why do some people breeze through life, while the rest of us get stuck in and get our hands dirty and work, work, work...?

(Tell me who you spotted first - the Pharisee?  the hypocrite?  the elder brother? me?)

The above questions raise deeper theological issues which can all be answered soundly with Scripture.  I know that.  That's not what this is about.  Neither is this meant to be a rant (been there...).  What this IS meant to be is an honest expose of my own heart (and, as such, the human heart - for I'm convinced I'm not alone).

What is it within each of us which claims such a determined right to be right?  Which so incessently screams, "That's not fair!".  Which is a perpetual 2 year old within us, stomping feet, irrational tears and screaming voice to boot?

Pride.  Jealousy.  Sin....the log in our own eye.

Because the thing is, when we live without our eyes fixed on Jesus (even if, ironically, we think they're more fixed on him than anyone around us) - we will encounter the above seeds of unfairness which, when watered further by our pride and determination to live by our own merits (even though we're convinced we know more about grace than those around us) grow into great big massive forests of bitterness.  And the cycle perpetuates itself.

Because, if we're actually living by grace, then the successes of those around us, the joys they experience, would actually give rise to joy and praise in our own hearts.  Because, if we're living by grace, we'll be praying that others - and, crucially, ourselves too - would run the race with eyes fixed on Jesus.  If we're living by grace, we will serve our family, friends, church - even strangers - with joy and gladness because we see service as a gift, an opportunity to bless, an occasion to share the gospel in a practical manner - instead of a burden, or a constraint on our time, or a threat to our own personal ring fenced space.

If we're living by grace, we will never tire of doing what is right...

There are real issues which can't be avoided.  Some of them are to do with personality - there are people who always say yes and people who are quite comfortable saying no.  There should probably be a happy medium.  But nevertheless, if we're not careful we risk losing people to burnout.  The right answer is ALWAYS to live by grace.  But the human heart is rarely right, at least not in and of itself.  This is why we need and graciously have been given Jesus.

But isn't it also why we've been given each other?

And so I guess we come to what this post is actually about.  It's a call - in the least judgemental way possible from a judgemental heart - to rise up, Christian.

When you feel like you're the only one pushing on to live for Jesus - lift your eyes.  Maybe you'll find that you're not.  (Or, if you are - maybe you'll see Jesus instead of your pride, and maybe you'll be encouraged to prayer instead of despair.)

When all is going well for you - lift your eyes.  Maybe you'll find that, for others, it's not - and your support is needed, and your sacrifice of time and energy will bring you more fulfillment than whatever great circumstance it is that currently gives you such joy.  Or maybe you'll find that others are joyful too and you can thank the Lord together, rediscovering the indescribable joy of fellowship.

When you feel like there's a need nobody else is meeting - maybe you're the one to meet it.  Not because you have the time or resources or energy or anything else right now.  But because the Lord has laid it on your heart (and even because, probably, you don't...)

When you feel like everyone else is involved in church in some way and has a 'role' - get involved.  There's always a way, and maybe those who do everything 'so well' just need a break right now.  Maybe they're cracking under the surface.

So, Christian (myself included!) - rise up.  Church - rise up.  To be 'church' is more of a blessing and a privilege than can be explained in the amount of legitimate space left to keep this a blog post and not a book.
To be church is many things.  To proclaim the gospel, yes.  But also to love, serve and support each other. To call each other and remind each other - DAILY - to run the race;  to keep our armour on; to be humble; to share our experiences, whatever they may be; to pray; to seek Him first; to be distinctive (by grace, not by works).

To remember that this life is fleeting, and that if the wicked do indeed prosper, it is for a short time only.  To remember that we are wicked, too.

To remember that there is more.  That we have treasure in jars of clay.  That all we have is a gift.

And that one day, we will stand before the throne.  We will sing 'Glory!'.  And so what we do now must be in the light of that.  Always.

So rise up, church.  Live by grace, stand by faith - and encourage each other.  Daily.

(Oh.  And be ready to accept that encouragement - even when your pride tells you it's the last thing you want/need...)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I really hope Santa isn't real...

Bah humbug. Would you believe I've been accused of that attitude recently?! 

 Whilst you can have no fear that I will be telling your children Santa isn't real, I kinda hope he's not. Why? Thought you'd never ask... 

1. I'm not nice. 
Really, it's true! Not nice enough, anyway. I try...but I don't always keep my promises, I don't always forgive (at least not easily), I don't always share and SOMETIMES (don't tell anyone) I've even been known to pout...

I'm not good at maintaining my nice-ness for any length of time. Not long enough, at least, to stay on 'the' list. So I worry that Santa won't bring me the coveted present. I know I should be on the naughty list and, yes, that makes me want to cry. 

Having said that, I know I'm not ALL naughty. I am good sometimes. I can be kind and thoughtful if I really put my mind to it. I can even stop the pouting if really pushed. And besides, I'm better than most people. I don't intentionally hurt anyone - I've never killed anyone, I don't lie, I pay my taxes (and fix my headlights when the police tell me to). 

So maybe I WILL make the list after all. But I don't like this pressure of not quite knowing what Santa's standards are. What's his measure of 'naughty' and 'nice'? How many nice things do you have to do to outweigh the naughty? AND, if you're being nice just to get on the list then does he count that or does he dismiss it as not genuine because you have done it with false motives...? (In effect, can Santa disqualify you...?)

I don't really feel I know where I am with Santa. I wish he'd either give me a very clear list of things to do to get on his nice list, or I'd rather not have to try and meet these ambiguous standards at all. 

2. He only comes once a year. 
I mean, really. He makes us work hard at being nice (and sometimes, it really is hard work isn't it?) and the only reward we get for that is presents ONCE a year? I feel deserving of rewards at least once a week for the effort I put in sometimes. And also, it's not like he offers any other help or incentives. It's quite a lot to ask really, in my humble opinion. (For the purposes of getting on the list, I am at least trying to work on my humility - and also, I don't want to insult him too much.) 

And besides, I LIKE getting presents. I like the feeling it gives me. I like the excitement. But it fades so quickly. Having to wait a WHOLE YEAR is excruciating. 

3. He keeps coming back. 
Forgive me if this seems contradictory to point number 2. Let me explain. I get tired of trying to be nice. 

You get to Christmas morning have presents! Hurrah, you've made it. You've been good, you're on the nice list, somehow your efforts have prevailed and good deeds have outweighed the bad (in other words, no matter what the song says, Santa can't have seen EVERYTHING you've done or thought this year...) 

But. It's boxing day. It all has to start again if you've any hope of feeling the same Christmas day joy again next year. Hang on. When does Santa start counting? When does he start his new list? Does he have Christmas day off, or is that when it starts again? If so - now wait - WHAT did I say / do / think yesterday.........??? 

4. I don't actually know who he is. 
When I think about it, why do I get so excited about a dude in a red suit who has no interest in my life for the rest of the year, apart from to judge me on whether I meet his criteria (whatever they are) or not? 

I don't have any sort of relationship with Santa. I don't know what he likes, I don't know what he doesn't like (as we've discussed, that's half the problem). I don't know where his house is (not precise co-ordinates in any case). He's not the sort of person you can drop in on for a cuppa. He doesn't share anything of himself with me. 

And so when I think about it, the idea of him knowing when I'm sleeping / awake is ever so slightly creepy... In fact though, to be perfectly honest I forget about him for 11 months of the year. All this trying to be nice all year to stay on the list business has gotten old now. I don't need to think about him. 

Until I get to December. And then think I'd better start. Y'know, just in case... 

Well. If you're a Christian, hopefully there's enough irony in this post for you to catch my drift. If you're not - I kinda hope the same is true for you! 

Because we all know that Santa isn't real (at least I hope you do by now if you've read this far - otherwise - oops!). I don't want to take away from the nice story. I have no real objection to kids thinking he is. 

But I object to Christmas being all about him. Because he is not it. He is not enough. 

If Christmas is just about Santa, and just about presents, and just about that warm fuzzy glow we get (mulled wine) - then pack up, go home, stop wasting your money, and bah humbug. Because really, if that's it, what's the point? 

There must be more. And the good news of Christmas is that there is. 

Because everything that Santa ISN'T - Jesus IS. 

The Jesus I know, the Jesus portrayed in the Bible, isn't a far off ghost or dead guy. He's not someone imaginary. He's not a stranger. He's real. 

And He's interested in everything about me. Not to condemn me, either. 

He's not keeping a list. He's dealt with all the lists you can think of. He's not a God of karma. He's a God of grace. And justice. And yes, the two DO go together. 

He's not around just once a year. He's always close. He's always near. He's always ready to carry my burdens. 

He doesn't need to keep coming back. He will, one day, when He chooses to bring this world to its conclusion. But for the moment, He doesn't need to. He's done it all. He died once, because that's all that was needed. His death and resurrection have dealt with everything that everyone who trusts in Him has done or will do. ONCE for ALL. 

So - I really hope Santa doesn't exist. Because he actually gives me no hope and no real lasting joy.  Santa is NOT joy to the world.

And I don't hope Jesus exists. 

I know he does. And I know that in this day and age that sounds crazy (to be fair, it's probably sounded crazy in every 'day and age'). 

But - what if...? 

Do some digging. 

Let that seed be planted. 

Find out for yourself. 

And...have a happy Christmas.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On feeling fenced in...

"I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices. I was made to be a victorious child of God. If I am in a situation where the temptation is overwhelming, I will have to choose either to remove the temptation or remove myself from the situation. I’ve learned that boundaries aren’t restrictive fences meant to keep us from enjoying life, but gifts from a God who cares about our well-being." Lysa Terkaeurst I am too broken right now to enjoy full freedom...(metaphorically and in reality!) Without causing damage to myself and others... but... one day...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh looky...I'm back...!! We'll see how long it lasts or even if anyone reads this but to give some idea of my motivation to get back on the blog, the quote below is something I rwad the other day which basically sums up a challenge I've been feelung for a little while...and I guess also a dissatisfaction with my general all too apathetic attitude...but also a frustration with feeling alone in wanting to fight for more...I'm well aware of needing to take the plank out of my own eye: but I also want the church (as in God's people) to rise up and fight, and to help me as I try! Guess for various reasons I'm not feeling that right now...but the below helped and if anyone's reading this I hope it encourages you too...let me know, it's good to be encouraged... "The call to integrity comes with the greatest force as I understand my accountability to God himself. I need to be careful here, for it would be a mistake to suggest that I serve God with fear, that I imagine him to be the great employer, the ultimate taxman. No, my accountability to God arises from my status as his child, and as a person redeemed by his grace to serve him freely and wholeheartedly. True, I am also accountable - as are all men and women - as a person created by him and morally responsinle to him. But my sense of accountability and therefire my Christian service is especially shaped by my response to his gracious call. This makes a huge difference to me. When i am tempted to become casual in my work or attitudes or to behave in ways which do not commend Christ I am cheapening the grace of God... We are secure if we build our lives on him. But there is more to be said. The question remains, how will we build on that foundation? Will we build with those things which are short lived ... or will we build with those things which are of lasting value...? One day the quality of our building work will be tested, and on that day will it survive or will it disappear in a cloud of smoke? The point is clear: how you build matters:how you live your life counts... That judgement day for Christians is not intended to cloud our hope or dampen our joy at the prospect of being with Christ. Rather, it is there as a stimulus to faithful service, a reminder of our obligation to live for Christ, to live our lives under his control and direction. How do I use my time and gifts, my resources and the many God given opportunities? All these things the light of the future. Will we look back on our lives and see that we have built only things that are temporary or will we have built something that will last, something for eternity? So it is a stimulus to faithful service, a call to be wholehearted in living for the values of God's kingdom, not building for personal and therefore temporary gain." Jonathan Lamb

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'll probably regret posting this...

Inspired by many things, this post. Sparked into action partly by this post:

you need to read that first!

beware some brutal honesty...i've pondered for a long time whether to post this. I want to do it in a spirit of contributing to discussion without fanning flames of indignation or pain or annoyance or anything else, so please take it as such!


Short of God Himself, I would say there a few things less praise-inducing (or attractive!) to a Christian girl than the man Bish asks if we could see in the post linked to above.

(having written that, I've decided it's not true. But the point of emphasis still stands – we really, really want to see Christian men like that!)

I'm tired of seeing young girls, friends (and myself) worn out in disappointment with Christian men who are not what is described. I'm tired of arguing against the temptation to turn to non-Christian men, because in actual fact they seem more manly (and, yes, caring...) most of the time.

I'm tired of young girls, women, friends, (myself) succumbing to the temptation to lead and control the godly men we know, instead of encouraging them in responsibility. I'm tired of people (especially men!) thinking I want to stay single simply because I get on with life and am not whiling away my days waiting for/desperately seeking out prince charming.

I'm tired of sin.

I'm longing to see Christians of the male gender be MEN not boys. I'm longing that they would love God with all their hearts and follow His Word, kneeling at the foot of the cross, all their days. I'm longing that should they choose to stay single for the sake of the gospel, that they would remain admirable and encouraging to the women around them.

I'm longing that should they choose to marry for the sake of the gospel, they would seek out their wife, under God's Headship and leading, (not making it obvious to all and sundry that they're desperate for a wife – that's not gonna make any girl 'chosen' feel special or loved or secure) and love her as Christ loves the Church.

I'm longing that Christians of the female gender would be women, not girls. That they would lean on their Father daily and allow His Holy Spirit to shatter their insecurities and need for control in all areas of relationships. That they would love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength...and allow Him to love them back with an even stronger, even more all-encompassing love. That they would use their single days for the sake of the gospel and the Church, not worrying whether these days will ever end but concerned only with Christ and His Kingdom. That if those single days never end they would know contentment and joy in God our Saviour. That if they find themselves in a relationship, they would work at it and see it not as a sense of security or identity but as a blessing and would seek to love and encourage the man God has given them to be a more godly man in word, thought and deed.

I long that the rest of the Church would stop silly match making games and careless talk about "maybe she likes him..." etc. That there would be proper, explicit teaching about relationships in the church - about how they are not our security, about how they can be great, but also hard work, about boundaries and godly choices, about divorce, about the roles of men and women in relationships and about how those who are single within the church can seek to fulfil those roles to the extent that they are brothers and sisters.

I long for relationships and marriage to be neither a topic addressed with cynicism nor as a state of being to be desired above all else in this life. I long for single parents (made such by death or divorce) to be supported in the church and made to feel at home and loved – not as though they are the odd ones out or (in the case of divorce) 'the ones who got it wrong...'

I want to see greater compassion and support for married couples from singles - instead of resentment. I want to see greater compassion and support for singles from those who are married - instead of incredibly unhelpful comments about how hard relationships are (ie you're 'lucky' being single) and/or how God is in control and/or "you should find yourself a husband/wife" and/or "oh you're 25 now...better hurry"

I want this in myself, I want this for my friends, I want this for the Church...I want this for God's glory. I want to stop feeling like I'm 'past it' in the relationships stakes or that there are no godly Christian men out there who I can respect enough to submit to and love and trust. I want to stop being cynical about marriage because of all the bad experiences I've seen my (Christian and non-) family and friends go through.

I want to get married. I want to have kids. There – I said it! But I refuse to believe that that is my aim in life, no matter what the world and the church and my family and friends may think/want/tell me. I will pray for that blessing, but I will not pine away my days by seeking it or making it an idol or wondering if every new Christian guy I meet could be 'the one'.

And I want to marry a man who understands that, who doesn't want me to make him or our relationship an idol. I want Christian guys to get this – that there are so many girls like me longing for a godly man to love them and care for them, even though it doesn't probably look like that at face value because, hey, we're getting on with life. We want the guys to dig a little deeper, to get to know us, to prove themselves worthy of our trust by showing an interest beyond what we show the rest of the world. Not because we're playing games, but because we've been hurt, because we're scared, because we don't want to mope, and because we're fighting with everything in us to put Jesus first, not marriage.

I want to know what it is, as a Christian girl, that I need to 'get' about guys!

I want to be a woman of God who cherishes Him first and foremost, who pursues righteousness, who seeks to further His kingdom...and who enjoys godly friendships with godly guys without any agenda or disappointment.

I want a lot...and yet not much. I want Jesus - and Jesus can do it all.