Real Life, Real Faith.

We’re heading towards the end of the third month of the year and I’m taking a moment to reflect on that New Year’s Resolution that I wrote about at the end of December – choosing to seek and celebrate happiness even amidst the hard times of life.

Well I have to confess I thought the start of the year was a tough one but actually, when I thought it would get easier as we headed towards spring it’s actually just got harder and harder. I just don’t remember when I last felt completely well – I’ve constantly got a cold or cough and last week my sinuses were so gunked up, I couldn’t breath properly and my head hurt when I moved. Mike, my husband has coughed and coughed since Christmas. The kids have been snot producers since September and also constantly coughing but it doesn’t seem to bother them so much.

But then over just five weeks our oldest had tonsillitis that turned into scarlet fever, then worms, then random tummy discomfort that was worse at night, then an awful case of chicken pox that culminated in a bout of severe abdo pain and vomiting for a night. Just as he started to pick up my youngest started with the nighttime tummy pain. Getting to sleep the whole night without a child or two needing me multiple times through the night seems to be a rare luxury.

As a result, finding and participating in happy amidst the hard stuff of life has felt increasingly challenging. I admit one night last week I just felt so low and despairing. I am grateful that this week I’m feeling physically better and so better able to handle day to day life despite my youngest now being covered in a mass of pox spots and my husband feeling pretty rough with the sinus virus I had last week.

It is this kind of experience of despair that has led me to believe that I am not an Evangelist – someone God has particularly called to share the good news of his grace filled love and redemption through Jesus. I’ve always seen myself more as a Disciple Maker – someone who teaches and encourages people as they continue in their relationship with God having already made that step of faith and acknowledging Jesus as the saviour of their lives.

However, recently, as I’ve become more and more convinced of the need of my friends and community, country and even world to know the love of Jesus, I’ve realised that the reason I don’t feel equipped to be an Evangelist is because I don’t feel my life lives up to what I’m ‘selling’.

If I’m trying to tell people that a relationship with Jesus changes your life what does it say to them when they see me struggling with my mental health or getting cross with my children, falling out with family or failed first marriage?

But if my faith is real to me, if I still believe in the love of Jesus and the importance of a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, despite the story of my life and it’s failings then that’s what I need to share. Because that’s reality. And real is what people need to hear about, not a story of false hope.

So this is me. I am far from perfect. I doubt and I question. I fail and I muck up. And I struggle at times to stay positive. But; when I choose to step out in faith, when I choose Jesus as my friend and put my trust in him; then more often than not I find life and hope, things fall into place and make sense. My muck ups and failings don’t have to define me as I have a Saviour who has made a way for me to be forgiven and made whole again. God is even gracious enough to sometimes use those mistakes to bring about something unexpectedly and miraculously beautiful. In Jesus’s life and teachings I find hope and justice, grace and love, and it has the potential to transform communities; transform my community, my country and the world. My heart so wants others to grasp and embrace that too.

And on the ‘not’ occasions; when despite crying out to God in faith I still find I’m really struggling, I’m not alone. If I reach out to the community of believers in Jesus (my church and wider Christian friends) then they pray and believe on my behalf and they show me God’s love in practical ways and hold on to me until I come out the other side. As a result the above still holds true even when I’m not feeling it and even doubting it.

I do have a calling to teach and equip people who have already chosen to walk their lives with Jesus as their friend and saviour. But I also have a heart that is full and breaking and longing for others to know his redemptive grace in their lives too. And my life story doesn’t detract from it; in fact it’s an example of exactly why it’s needed!!

I have been so grateful for all those who have supported and encouraged and prayed for me and my family over the past few weeks. I may have struggled to be happy within the tough stuff of life these past few weeks. I have been gifted pockets of grace and hope and love. And as the sun has shone a bit more and the days have been a little warmer I’m looking out for more opportunities to embrace happy in April.

Ditching the comparisons

In my last blog post I somehow found myself making a New Years Resolutions. I don’t normally make New Years Resolutions as I don’t normally find January the most conducive of months to try and commit to anything new. But this year I did, as I explored how it might be possible to choose to be happy even in the midst of hard circumstances.

So it’s now February and I’m pleased to say that despite, what has felt a really tough January, I believe I’ve done okay at keeping it. One of the things that has helped me has been trying to avoid playing the comparison game.

Being a parent is an absolute minefield when it comes to comparison. Is my child as good as his peers at reading, or writing? Is my child’s behaviour worse than my friends child? Should I be stricter? Should they be able to swim by now? Are they eating the right things? Does your child sleep through the night? Sharing with other parents is really important and something that was a massive loss during the pandemic. Hearing that you are not the only one battling with a particular development phase is such a comfort. But it’s a double edged sword because the reality is our children are all different and our family circumstances are different. There’s a real danger you can also tear yourself to pieces thinking you’re not parenting as well as the mum or dad next to you.

After some bad behaviour by our eldest at a birthday party a couple of weeks ago, Mike and I spent a whole evening (and a chunk of the night too) debating what we were doing right and wrong as parents and how our children behave and react to situations compared to other families we know. Now it’s not a bad thing for us to review our parenting style but we had to stop and check whether we were being fair to ourselves and to our children in our comparisons. Thankfully we had church the next morning and some good friends, provided some helpful perspective so we only lost one nights sleep to our worries on this occasion.

I took a bit of a down dip with my mental health during 2022 and one of the things I discovered was that I was comparing and judging myself quite negatively compared to other people, and particularly other women. I don’t think it was the cause of my sadness but it certainly didn’t help.

Oddly this comparison problem was being fuelled by what should be the positives of social media – the ability to follow various women doing some great work in leadership, in churches, in business, in counselling, therapy, coaching, raising children to know God. All really good stuff, ideas and inspiration shared and development programmes available to sign up to.

But I found that, instead of being inspired and encouraged to step up and out by these wonderful women I was following on social media, I was instead stepping back and retreating because I would never be as good as them, or I hadn’t got the capacity to sign up to the ‘development programs’ they were offering. I found myself doing the same at church. We are blessed across our four sites to have some really great preachers and I started to question why I thought I could take my turn at the front trying to help people learn more about God and His word for our lives.

When God told me to ‘get up off the mat’ last autumn, one of the things that He also reminded me was that He doesn’t want me to be any of these other women. He has called me to live, breathe, speak and act in the world as me – Katie. Yes there are things He wants to develop and grow in my life but there are things that I can uniquely bring to the world because of the way He has made me as me. Sure, there are things I can study and learn and improve, to help me write, teach, preach and parent better but God has called me to start doing all of those things now so God must see something in me that can make a difference to the world just as I am right now. And then as I do learn, grow and develop, I don’t have to try and replicate any of those fine women or men who inspire me – I get to fulfil God’s calling on my life as me. My job is simply to explore with God what that is going to look like within my set of gifting and failings, my family circumstances and geographical location etc.

As a result, over the past couple of months I’ve started to step up and out again a bit more. I’ve been seeking God’s direction and where I’ve felt his nudge trying to act on opportunities with confidence. The temptation to compare negatively is still there, but I’m trying to notice I’m doing it and check myself. I still follow the social media of the people I admire but I keep reminding myself that God has a plan for them and he has a plan for me. And I’ve definitely been happier for it.

If today you are are feeling discouraged in your worth, your abilities and contribution to life then please just take a moment and consider whether it’s because you’re unhelpfully comparing yourself to others rather than recognising what you uniquely bring to the world.

Then read these words and know today that they’re talking about you!!

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

Psalms‬ ‭139‬:‭13‬-‭16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Be encouraged, God knows you, your situation, your strengths and your weaknesses. He made you. And he loves you! And he has great plans just for you if you’re up for it!!

A Resolution To Be Happy

I don’t know there’s ever been a Christmas before where I’ve know so many of my friends struggling, either with being ill themselves or they’ve been looking after someone else feeling well under par. Covid, Flu, Step A, Scarlet Fever, wicked coughs and colds; this post pandemic winter feels hard work on our immune systems.

We were fortunate that, as a family, on Christmas Eve and Day we all felt well enough to enjoy the ourselves despite my two boys coughing their lungs out periodically. But the week running up to it, my youngest was on and off running a pretty high temperature and was far from his normal bouncing self. He turned down going to several different fun Christmas activities we’d had planned and chose to curl up in bed or on the sofa instead. My sister and niece had come down to the island for a few days and as a result of Toby’s illness I didn’t get to see them as much as I would have liked.

After an autumn term of one virus after another it can be tempting to feel defeated and declare ‘it’s just not fair.’ (In fact I have). And it’s tempting to ask when we’re going to finally get a run of good health? (Again I have done just that!). It’s tempting to wallow in despondency. (I’m doing my best not to do that!).

I’m sure we all know at least one person (if not ourselves) who just seem to go from one ‘disaster’ to another and regularly asks when they are going to get a smooth run at life? Socrates declared that true wisdom is to realise that you know nothing. But increasingly I wonder if it is also true wisdom to accept that life will always contain a challenge and that everyone is carrying a burden of some sort, either personally or with concern for another close to them.

Some peoples burdens are bigger than others, but once you get past the positive social media posts and spend quality time with anyone, you’ll find that there’s at least one thing in their life, and probably more, that is challenging them. It may be health worries, or concerning finances, practical challenges with property woes, death of a loved one, relationship discord, caring for parents, work stress, weight management, time constraints. And then there’s just the day to day stuff that can cause us to stumble; forgetting a coat when it rains, over cooking the dinner, stubbing your toe, the washing machine breaking, scratching the car, kids squabbling.

We may be able to look back, and with hindsight, identify periods of our lives where the waters were calmer but, even then, there would still have been lower level difficulties to navigate. And even if we had a period of dead calm we may well then have been struggling with the fact that life wasn’t exciting enough!

So if we accept this to be true; that life, for everyone, is a series of challenges, big and small; then why do some people seem to cope with it better than others? Well there’s many scientific and research based articles we could read to truly explore the answer to that question but two things strike me.

The first is that other people aren’t necessarily coping better than us – some are just better at hiding their struggles, like the serene swan that is paddling furiously under the surface of the water. The second is that some people have found true wisdom – they recognise that they are not alone, that everyone has struggles but they also recognise that struggle doesn’t exclude finding happiness.

If you’ve read my previous posts you will have probably realised I’m a fan of Nightbirde, an American singer, poet and prose writer who sadly died in February this past year. She came to fame through her appearance on America’s Got Talent where she performed already knowing she had stage 4 breast cancer with a survival prognosis of just 2%. When questioned about how she could give such an incredible performance given her situation, Jane replied that she had discovered that ‘you can’t wait until life isn’t hard any more before you decide to be happy.’

It’s a phrase that could be considered quite trite by those who don’t know Jane’s story. However, if you’ve read her blog posts, or followed her social media, then you’ll know that her decision to seek happiness was in the face of and amidst great sadness and suffering.

I’m aware for some, the choice to choose to find happiness is far from easy, especially for those who are in the depths of grief and for those wrestling with depression and anxiety. Although Jane chose not to wait for life to stop being hard before she chose happiness, she was the first to admit that some days are just damn hard and you will find yourself on the bathroom floor crying out to God – and that’s okay.

But it’s also okay even in the midst of personal mental pain and grief to experience moments of happiness. I know that when I was at my worst with my mental health battles that happy moments were actually frightening. I was afraid to acknowledge them and allow myself to experience them, in part because it would be overwhelming, but also because to do so might somehow be saying that how awful I was feeling before that happy moment wasn’t just as real or valid. If you’ve never suffered with depression then you’re probably reading this wondering what on earth I’m talking about – it seems so ridiculous that you wouldn’t want to allow a happy moment. But I’m guessing if you have suffered with depression you’ll know exactly what I mean. And if that’s you right now I just want to say I totally understand, I’ve been there. But if a happy moment comes your way then do try and be brave and let it shine a light into your darkness if only for the shortest of moments. It doesn’t invalidate the reality of what you’re going through, but it might, just might, be a small step towards one day banishing the darkness.

Nightbirde’s relationship with God and her faith in Jesus was a significant source of strength and inspiration to her and I’m sure she was familiar with these words of Paul.

I am not saying I need anything. I have learned to be happy with whatever I have. I know how to get along with little and how to live when I have much. I have learned the secret of being happy at all times. If I am full of food and have all I need, I am happy. If I am hungry and need more, I am happy. I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.

The Bible. Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)

In other translations of The Bible the word happy is translated as content. And maybe that helps because to be content doesn’t require us to have a massive grin on our faces at all times in the way that being happy might. And it’s notable that this choice to be content, to be happy, doesn’t have to be done in our own strength either. Paul’s ability to be content whatever his circumstances (and be sure he went through some rough times – see the book of Acts in the Bible) was founded in his deep certainty of the love and forgiveness of Jesus and his calling to share that love and forgiveness with all he met.

As we head towards 2023 with a world full of fear and heartache, and a husband full of the virus Toby has so kindly shared with him; I guess my New Year’s resolution is:

  • With God’s help, to proactively recognise, celebrate and even create moments of happiness amidst all the ups and downs of life this year.

Life is undoubtedly hard at times, but to wait until it isn’t hard to seek and enjoy happiness means to miss out on the ‘life in all its fullness’ that Jesus promised. But like all resolutions – it’s easier to keep them when you have people holding you accountable and supporting you to fulfil them – so over to you! 😉

Time to get up off the mat.

Somehow it’s been eleven months since I last wrote a blog post. 2022 has been a full on year; I started a new job in January and it was very much a ‘in at the deep end’ sort of experience. Even though I’ve still been part time, with two very full on preschoolers I’ve struggled to find much headspace. In the spring I preached at church a couple of times so I consoled myself I hadn’t been able to write because I was prepping a preach instead. But the preaches felt hard as I was snatching moments and although I didn’t disgrace myself it just felt I hadn’t been able to give my best. My last preach was Easter Day which was a privilege but I haven’t accepted an invitation to preach since for a number of different reasons. And despite having various thoughts I’ve wanted to write about I haven’t done it. Life has felt just too busy.

But when I’m really honest with myself about why I haven’t been writing or preaching, I think truthfully I’ve been struggling with a low level of depression. Not serious, I’ve been able to function okay, I do enjoy parts of the very good life I have. The underlying sadness has probably not been noticeable to most folks. But it’s been there, slowly eating away at my confidence and killing my ability to write. The busyness of life has undoubtedly contributed to how I’ve been feeling; self care has been pushed out, mental headspace has been lacking, quality time with Mike has been hard to come by. I’ve felt so tired.

At the end of the summer term I’d already made a decision to step back from a couple of commitments at church. I felt that doing that would give me a rest and some space to then commit to other things I felt more energised and enthused about.

But then I didn’t have the best of summers… I work for a school so in theory I had the luxury of six weeks off work and that should have a left me revived and ready to start a new term at the beginning of September. But it didn’t work out that way.

In reality I had to work a bit during the summer to keep on top of my job. A number of other things happened too over those weeks culminating in a two week holiday away where bad went to worse and I returned home feeling physically, mentally and emotionally broken. I dreaded returning to work and people expecting me to be bright and refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Thankfully in those few days before I started back at work I was able to share what had happened with a few trusted people who listened, were gracious, offered perspective and most importantly prayed for me.

God got me into a fit state to return to work but I was left still with big questions. I was wrestling with working out the truth of what had happened and the implications for my emotional and mental resilience, my practical abilities as a parent and in my working life and most fundamentally by integrity to lead and serve at church.

For several weeks I felt really lost but I kept seeking God and working my thoughts through with a few wise people. And then there came a week where God spoke clearly in several different ways, through different people and through his word (The Bible). There was a series of text messages and a really helpful phone call from a friend who God had been prompting to get in touch with me, there was a timely blog post from our senior pastor Simon Benham about ‘leadership and failure,’ there were specific Bible verses that just kept popping up again and again and the resounding message was:

“It’s time to get up off the mat!”

It wasn’t that the things that occurred in the summer were all resolved or that they were no longer important; it wasn’t that work was suddenly a smooth ride or that my underlying sadness was wiped away. No the word from God was that despite all of those things he wanted me to stop languishing in defeat but to get up and use the gifts he has given me to serve him – those negative things may hamper me but they don’t disqualify me because the power of Jesus working in and through me is bigger than them all. If I wait until I’m perfect and I’ve got everything sorted then I’m going to be waiting forever.

I’m not saying that I don’t need to work to resolve all those things. Far from it, I’m sure God wants to work with me in it all; but He’s saying that I don’t have to rush it, that I can take a step at a time, with His guidance and encouragement and timing. And part of that process is getting up off the mat and letting him use both my strengths and weaknesses to bless others, to bless Him and to bless me!

I was excited and enthused to hear from God in that way, but the reality is, that was a several weeks ago and it’s still taken me this long to write this post. And that’s because it then became clear the call was not to rush to the front line it was simply to get up off the mat. Life is still full and complicated, I still have two small boys with endless energy and who bring home an endless carousel of virus’s and bugs (I’m suffering my fifth since September). Head-space is still limited and I’m still tired! So instead I’m having to learn to accept my limitations right now and listen carefully to God’s guidance as to what to say yes to and where to say no, allowing myself to continue to heal slowly and gradually extend and push myself in His timing. And in the midst I’m choosing to try and live in one of the messages God gave me that week as he lifted me from the mat.


Because my Lord and God will be with me wherever I go!!

O Little Town of Bethlehem

I love Christmas Carols, singing them and hearing them. Being brought up in The Salvation Army I was playing them on a brass instrument in the streets every Saturday from a young age. There are joyful carols, triumphant carols, sad sounding carols, beautiful soul moving carols and really odd ones where you’re not quite sure what they are on about!

Today I just wanted to share with you why one particular Christmas Carol is on my favourite list.

My dad died two months before my 20th birthday. Many of my memories of him have already faded far more than I would like. But strongly etched into my heart and mind is his sense of humour and fun, his questioning mind and his faith and trust in God.

I remember one Carol service giggling with him about some of the verses in different carols. We decided that Once in Royal David’s City was a propaganda song designed to make children behave! We also puzzled over the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem and how daft some of them seemed…

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Bethlehem was apparently so packed with people that Mary and Joseph couldn’t find anywhere other than a cattle shed to sleep for the night. It doesn’t seem too likely that it would be lying that still and sleeping deeply. The town would have been full of hustle and bustle. And as a kid the concept of the stars moving across the sky seemed like it was out of Fantasia or another Disney offering.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to all the earth;
For Christ is born of Mary;
And, gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wond’ring love.

This all seems fairly sensible…

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven:
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him – still
The dear Christ enters in.

But at this verse Phillips Brooke’s seems to have lost all his senses…. He clearly had never been present or in close vicinity of a birth if he thinks that Jesus arrived silently. I’m sorry, but as amazing as Mary was in her faith of what God could accomplish in and through her, I struggle to accept that she didn’t make a single peep through all her contractions, that at that moment of birth as she felt like her body was going to rip apart she didn’t make a sound. We’re also meant to believe that baby Jesus didn’t cry at all? Yes he was divine, but he was fully human and I suspect that he knew he had to make himself heard when he was hungry, cold, wanted a cuddle or dare we actually mention it… pooed in his swaddling clothes.

But over the years I have become very fond of this Carol and not just because of nostalgic memories of giggling with my dad.

When I worked weekend nights for the Ambulance Service the 999 calls would flood in through the evening and still be going strong at 2, even 3 in the morning. A busy control room is a fairly noisy place, people taking calls, speaking to ambulance crews, liaising with hospitals and other emergency services, negotiating with each other over limited resources as well as various dispatch alarms and radio calls demanding attention. As shift manager you’re trying to keep an ear and eye on all that is happening. But generally by 3.30am things would start to quieten down and for about 90 minutes or so there would be some respite. The team could take it in turns to step outside and get a breath of fresh air. You’re aware that most of the world around you is in fast asleep. It won’t be long before the sky starts to lighten and the birds begin to sing but in that moment there’s a stillness, a space to take a breath.

It’s that sort of moment that I can now imagine in the first verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem. However busy that town would have been, however late the visitors stayed up drinking and chatting and sharing stories there would have come a moment, somewhere before dawn, when the hubbub would have died down and there would have been a peace and stillness, all the more marked by the contrast of the evening before.

As a grown up I now understand the science of stars seemingly moving across the sky but I’m also struck by the symbolism of those stars. They have been tracking their course across the sky, night after night, for thousands of years and now witness to a cosmic moment where all of humanities hopes and fears would collide at a specific place and time that would change the course of history as a baby was born.

Having given birth to two largish babes, I’m still pretty unconvinced by the notion that Jesus arrived on this planet in such a manner that no one could hear his arrival. However I remember so very clearly those early moments; the noise and adrenaline of the birth is over, little one has fed and fallen asleep. There is such a precious peace, filled with immense wonder that this perfect little being is here. It is this moment I now call to mind when we sing, ‘How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.’

God seems to have a habit of defying expectations, delivering his love and generosity in surprising and unexpected ways. He became Emmanuel – ‘God with Us’ – in a ridiculously understated way; hthe arrival of another baby into the world, something that happens many many times every day. And yet that birth and the implications it has for all of humanity has been told in paintings, stories, plays and songs for hundreds of years inspiring wonder and hope, tears and laughter.

O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell –
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Every year as we sing carols such as O Little Town of Bethlehem we’re invited to enter into and become part of that eternal story. We’re invited to to lay bare all our hopes and fears and receive the blessings of heaven into our hearts; we’re invited to receive the opportunity to be cleansed of the wrong in our past and to sing with the angels with joy from the bottom of our hearts as we embrace the truth that a precious baby came to turn our world upside down.

Jesus – Emmanuel – God With Us.

A Rebellious Audacious Hope

I was talking with my friend the other day about her recent visit to The Imperial War Museum in London. She’d only managed to make a brief visit but the exhibition on The Holocaust had made a significant impression. We commented that only making a brief visit was perhaps not so bad, as the enormity and reality of what this museum tells us about humanities capacity to hurt each other could be completely overwhelming.

We went on to chat about how, despite its sombering nature, studying our darkest history is so important in order to help us change the future for the better. And yet we also felt a strong sense that despite opportunities to learn from our past, humanity has a tendency to repeat its mistakes. We could point to events taking place in the world and observe that aspects of it appear very similar to something that has gone on before. It can feel quite demoralising.

We had to remind ourselves that history, and ‘The News’ often doesn’t record, report or celebrate the positives of the human race to the same degree as the bad stuff. And yet it can be found, even admist such horrific accounts as that of The Holocaust can be found stories of hope, sacrifice, bravery and faith.

I’ve been reading Barak Obama’s book The Promised Land. It’s a fascinating, if somewhat heavy going, account of how Obama came to run for President and the background to decisions that he made whilst in office. There are some really inspiring sections but mostly it again fills me with a strong sense of frustration, sadness and even anger that humans from individual level to nation states can be so selfish, violent and lacking in grace. In the face of this the fact that God thinks we are worth not only worth saving but also embracing in a loving relationship is just mind boggling.

However, within ‘The Promised Land’ there is also a fantastic phrase that has really caught my attention. The phrase is actually the title of a previous book, and a major political speech that Barak Obama wrote before becoming president but is also clearly an important value statement for the way he approaches his life and work – ‘The Audacity of Hope’.

The title of ‘The Audacity of Hope’ was inspired by the theme of a sermon entitled the ‘The Audacity to Hope’ by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright who in turn was inspired by a painting called ‘Hope’ by G F Watts. In essence these three men have all drawn on the deep hope that comes from a relationship with Jesus, a hope that audaciously says that despite experiences that might suggest otherwise, God is worth of praise, there is good in the world and change for the better is possible. When you have the audacity to hope then you are lifted from despondency and are also empowered to start being part of that positivity in the world we all so long for.

An inspiration to many around the world, including myself is singer-songwriter Nightbirde. I’ve referenced her before in my post ‘Living Life to the Full.’ Despite battling stage 4 breast cancer and living through some very dark times she has wrestled with God and found Him gracious; she has found a hope that she now shares with millions. She says,

Some people will call it blind denial, but I prefer to call it Rebellious Hope!

I love this phrase, ‘Rebellious Hope’ and I can totally see Jesus shouting ‘Yes! Love this! Bring it on!’

I also love what has also become another Nightbirde slogan:

Don’t you want to see what happens when you don’t give up?

When we refuse to give up working for good, seeking the health, wealth and happiness of others, aiming for the best and simply doing the right thing then our own lives and world begin to transform. When we refuse to give up and act with rebellious hope collectively then the impact can be significant.

But this kind of rebellious audacious hope can only be sustained when it is fed from a deep well.

Another amazing lady called Jo Hargreaves talks about rebellious hope beautifully in this Instagram post:

Check out Jo’s Instagram here

Advent is the period of the year we are now in; the run up to Christmas. It’s a period of preparation and waiting for the day when we celebrate one of the most rebellious audacious moments of hope – God coming to live with us, born into a tumultuous world as a vulnerable baby called Jesus. Thirty three years later that audacious rebellion took a surprising twist as seemingly hope was crucified with Jesus in an act of horrific torture. And yet hope rose from the grave because the hope that is God cannot be kept down, it cannot killed or buried.

It is that same rebellious audacious hope in Jesus that Watts, Wright, Obama, Nightbirde, JoHargreaves and so many many others all draw their strength and joy from, that gives them the strength to dig deep when the ‘lie of hopelessness’ threatens to disempower and disengage them and find a wellspring of hope that spills out to others.

This Advent amidst all the busyness; amidst the onslaught of ‘bad news’ I urge you take time to find Jesus in the manager and discover a rebellious audacious hope that can lift your head and transform not only your life but other people’s lives through you.

Let there be light!

I was born on the 21st of June; in the northern hemisphere it’s the summer solstice and the day of the year when we get the longest period of time between the sun rising and setting and the shortest hours of darkness. It’s also the date that signals that for the next six months the hours of daylight will get less and less each day. It’s not though until you get to the Autumn equinox on the 21st of September that you really start to notice the difference. On this date (and on the 21st of March) everyone in the world gets an equal number of hours of light and darkness! And from there on until the Winter solstice the hours of darkness are greater than those of daylight.

I’m not a big fan of the dark mornings and early nights I must say; maybe it’s because I was born into brightness. But there are two highlights that brighten up the darkness, quite literally – bonfire night and Christmas. I love bonfires, fireworks and Christmas lights. And I love the Winter Solstice because even though the hours of darkness are at their longest, from this day onwards every day gains extra minutes of daylight and the promise of spring is already in my mind.

Seeking and finding light in the darkness is so important. It’s about searching for and discovering a hope of brighter days to come. It’s about celebrating the truth that the dark cannot win. Introduce even the smallest candle flame and the darkness flees.

My husband and I have recently finished watching an excellent six part crime drama produced for the BBC called Vigil. It’s set in Scotland and on board a British nuclear submarine on deployment. As well as being a well crafted murder mystery story there are big questions raised (and not answered) about the need for and effectiveness of a nuclear deterrent. It’s also a stark reminder of the lack of trust between countries and the dangers humans pose to one another, a reminder that the world can be a very dark place.

If you pay even the slightest attention to ‘The News,’ the darkness really can close in around you as we are bombarded with stories of rape, murder, corruption, poverty, Covid-19, climate related disasters and more. If you’re like me then you probably find that to a certain extent you have to harden your heart, to avoid it taking you down emotionally and mentally. I read the news on my app to stay up to date but I mostly avoid allowing my emotions to engage.

I have to admit though, I’m not entirely comfortable with that approach to safeguarding myself. When we stop ourselves from engaging emotionally with the news then we effectively stop caring. And when we stop caring we’re unlikely to take action to bring about change, whether that be hands on action or by calling out to God in prayer. We stop believing that change is possible, that we can play a part in that change and that God is the God who overcomes the impossible, who brings light into even the darkest places.

It may be the darkness that you are facing is far more personal. Many people are struggling with things far closer to home; poor physical health, financial difficulties, aging parents, mental health struggles, the death of a loved one, bullying at work, shear volume of work, relationship breakdown. And we can become adept at hiding our pain and fear, sometimes even to those closest to us, making that darkness even more overwhelming.

In the midst of this dark reality I am so incredibly grateful that I am blessed with a spiritual faith through which light shines brightly. The theme of light, symbolising hope, truth, grace and redemption runs through the whole of The Bible; from the very first day of creation when God said, ‘Let there be light,’ to the very last two chapters of the last book where we read about the the things of darkness being banished forever and God being our direct source of light.

One well known passage about light in The Bible, traditionally heard at Christmas time, is from the book of Isaiah – a prophet speaking about Jesus many many years before he was born.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭(New Living Translation)‬‬

What becomes clear throughout this Biblical epic of light overcoming the darkness is that the light which we so hungrily seek for is Jesus. I’m not generally big on starting Christmas too soon but for some reason this year my heart and soul are already longing for this season of lights in the darkness. I love the decorations, the present giving, the music, christmas pudding, brussel sprouts and I love driving the kids round town spotting all the Christmas lights. But I also love the message of light in the darkness that the Christmas story brings to us.

John talking about Jesus in his book of The Bible, calls him ‘The Word’ and says this:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The truth that a miracle baby born to an unwed mother, laid down to sleep in a cattle trough because he was temporarily homeless and soon to be fleeing for his life as a political refugee could grow up to shine a light so bright that the darkness can never overcome it is a truth that brings hope to my soul. It’s a truth that allows me to face up to the darkness and give God the space to let his awesome light to shine out through me too.

So please forgive me for writing about Christmas already but with so much darkness about right now I’m going to keep seeking The Light and this part of Jesus’s story is where my thoughts are heading at the moment. With nine weeks to go to ‘the big day’ I’m sure this won’t be the last of my festive thoughts. 🎄🎄🎄

Valuing the undervalued.

Last week I had a visit to the dentist. It was for a filling; my third and final one since having my routine checkup appointment back in the summer and discovering the past two years had not been kind to my mouth. Past fillings were failing and needed replacing and the delay in being seen due to Covid restrictions meant they were worse than they would have been otherwise.

But I’m incredibly grateful I did manage to get up a checkup appointment and that the work has all been done on NHS terms. So many people can’t get an NHS dentist and the problem has got even worse since Covid came on the scene.

I’m also incredibly grateful that there are people who want to be dentists. It’s not a job I’d want to do, spending all day looking in people’s mouths. I know some private dentists probably earn a pretty good wage but I’m not sure even a decent amount of money could tempt me.

On a similar vein another vocation that I just don’t think I could do is podiatry. I have benefited hugely from people who work in this profession. My feet were once described by a podiatrist as ‘not well designed for walking,’ which is not great when they are such a key feature to our ability to walk!! I need custom made insoles to keep my feet stable and protect my big toe joints from further damage. I also needed the help of the podiatrists when I developed really bad ingrowing toenails after chemotherapy caused them to fall out. Eventually I had my big toenails permanently removed as I couldn’t face having to attend clinic every six weeks for them to cut my toenails for me! I’m so grateful to these people for looking after my feet but how they do there job day to day I just don’t know – some of the feet they must have to deal with just surely make even the most hardened podiatrist’s stomach turn.

I am very envious of people with beautiful manicured feet – something these toes will never be!

In fact the more I think about it, there are quite a number of jobs I’d prefer not to do and yet I’m super appreciative of the fact that there are people out there doing them. Many of these jobs are massively underpaid given the vital and important nature of what they do. I’m thinking of refuse collectors and carers of the elderly, of childcare workers and healthcare assistants, shop workers and hospital cleaners to name just a few.

When my niece was born the refuse collectors where my sister lived were on strike for 11 weeks. Eleven weeks worth of stinking rubbish built up outside people’s homes and for my sister that included a significant number of nappies. Sometimes it’s only when we no longer have access to a service that we really recognise just how important that service is.

Nearly all of these professions pay minimum wage and even if they pay more, it probably still doesn’t remotely reflect the value that we receive. I don’t think as a country we do very well at rewarding monetarily those that really do deserve far more than what we pay them.

It feels like there is something wrong when a Premier League Footballer can average a weekly wage of £61,024 (as reported in the 2019 Global Sports Salaries Annual Report), while a carer in an independent older persons carehome earns £344 (as reported by Skills for Care). Now I’m not saying footballers don’t deserve a decent wage, I’m not a big fan so I can’t really comment fairly. I’m sure football adds plenty of value to our country and many footballers are good people who do a lot for charity. But a decent carer, day in and day out, deals with some awful stuff whilst also smiling and trying to provide frail people with dignity and respect and I would argue should be on a far more comparable wage with a bloke who runs round a patch of very green grass kicking a ball.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other professions and salaries that I could be comparing. I suspect that someone could look at what I earn and claim that for what I do I’m rather well paid compared to the amazing ladies who look after my kids at nursery while I go to work. And somewhat annoyingly to some I’m not even going to start to propose a solution here in this blog.

But what I do want to do is just take a moment to stop, notice and simply acknowledge that I am deeply grateful to the people in my community, who undertake jobs that many of us don’t want to do and yet are so vitally important to our communities health, prosperity and wellbeing.

Politically I really don’t know where I belong. On some issues I find myself sitting in a left wing camp and in others I’m over to the right but for the most part I find myself in the middle ground because I find that the reality of life is far too complicated to be served by the ideologies of either camp that tends to present a polarised viewpoint. Over the past 42 years I’ve voted Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Independent depending on their policies at the time. In fact one election I voted one way for my MP and another way for my local counsellors! At the moment I struggle to know who is worth voting for and that causes me great sadness as I’ve been brought up believing in the importance of exercising my democratic right to vote.

However, while I am lost politically I am more than ever convinced that Jesus is the answer and the key to helping us value the undervalued. There’s a great passage in The Bible that is talking about how we need to equally value all the different spiritual gifts and roles that God calls us to within the church but what this passage has to say, I believe resonates strongly and has much to say for our communities and country as a whole and says it far better than me.

‭‭I therefore leave you with these words from 1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12-26‬ ‭as paraphrased by a great man Eugene Peterson in ‘The Message’

“You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body – that is who you are!

Life in all its fullness

It was about this time seven years ago I found a lump in my right breast. It wasn’t mega obvious and you could only feel it if you put your hand in a certain position. So having chatted to Mike we decided to wait a couple of weeks and just see if it was some strange anomaly that would go away. When it didn’t I made a GP appointment and once she’d finally found what I was describing we chatted through all the benign things it could be. But thankfully she also followed the proper protocols and made a referral to the breast screening service.

Just a week later Mike and I attended my appointment. I had a mammogram and from there was asked to go straight into see the Consultant Radiographer for an ultrasound. He decided that he wanted to take biopsies there and then and that’s when we first started to think that actually this might be something serious. Oh my gosh – in the grand scheme of things the biopsy isn’t that bad but at the time it was pretty painful and continued to be so for some days! He then sent us straight round to the breast cancer clinic that was running to speak with a registrar there. He obviously wasn’t able to tell us much as we’d need to wait for the biopsy result but when we mentioned we were about to book a last minute holiday he strongly advised us to hold off for the moment…

As there was still a possibility that this was just a benign cyst we decided we didn’t want to tell family and have them worrying for nothing. Equally it felt important to not carry this alone so we called up some wise and dear friends who lived on the island. At this point we didn’t actually know them well but we knew they were very much friends with God and people we could trust. We took our dog for a walk and then went round to their house, had a cuppa and shared with them our news knowing they would be on the case with God about it.

And then the wait began.

It was only a week but that’s a long time for your brain to run through all the ‘what ifs’. It felt pointless worrying about something that might not even happen and yet you can’t help starting to wonder about all sorts of things. I found focussing on God, telling him my thoughts and then turning my mind to praising him ever so helpful. But increasingly I was sure of what the test results would show but didn’t feel panicked or desperate about it – I believe that was God responding to my prayers.

A week on from scans and biopsies we were back at the hospital, it was Friday, and this time seeing a consultant – the wonderful Mr Babu. He broke the news that ‘the lump’ was cancer and that he wanted to operate on the following Tuesday. The whirlwind began.

We phoned my mum pretty quickly as we knew she’d still be at work and we wanted her to hear the news when she would be with others who she could talk to. We then set off to a pub for lunch as we were starving and we just wanted to eat and do something semi normal while we processed what was happening. We tried to phone my sister enroute and oops – we managed to tell her I’d got cancer and then lost signal!!!

Surgery took place on the Tuesday, into hospital at 7.30am in the morning and home again at 9.30pm. And then we had to wait again…

A week and half later I’m sat topless in a waiting room and the lead consultant Mr Sainsbury’s swans into the room. He announces that the surgery had gone well, they had achieved clear margins around the cancer, there was no sign of spread into my lymph nodes and that my cancer had tested positive for hormone and protein receptors. I would be having chemotherapy, radiotherapy, herceptin and hormone therapy. I commented that I’d read that breast cancer can be more serious when you’re younger to which he replied – ‘you’re 35? That’s not young,’ and whoosh he was gone!!

Thankfully the clinical nurse specialists were great and spent time with us going through in more detail what we’d just been told. The cancer lump that I could only feel had been just over 2cm in diameter. It was a grade 3 cancer which meant it was aggressive and it had reached stage 3 which meant it had started to invade my local blood supply but there was no evidence of it having spread to other parts of my body. We had caught it in good time but the plan was to make sure that there was no rogue cancer cells hiding out waiting to re-emerge and try and take over.

A rough few months followed.

Chemotherapy was hard, three weekly cycles with new side effects emerging with each round. There’s a long list of side effects that you might or might not experience – I think I ticked off nearly every one. My veins just wouldn’t take the damage being done to them by the drugs so I had a Picc Line put in. I got a DVT as a result so had to start giving myself daily blood thinning injections. My hair fell out but it turned out I have quite a good skull shape and wigs were hot and scratchy so I mostly rocked the bald look.

Radiotherapy was in some ways much easier but hugely tiring with a five hour round trip, five days a week for four weeks. I’d been told that radiotherapy is tiring anyway but on the back of chemo it was much simpler but still tough.

The impact of Herceptin was hard to measure as it was initially given at the same time as my chemo and later doses you’re still living in the aftermath. The hormone treatment I really struggled with – it’s medication I should still be taking but in agreement with my oncologist I’ve stopped, balancing quality of life against extending it.

Seven years on I still have regular checks but I’ve finally been signed off by the consultants and oncologist and the cancer has not returned. Against the odds I’ve had two babies (see Two Little Boys) and the memory of just how tough that time was had faded considerably.

So then why am I recalling this painful time now. Two people though have given me cause recently to pause, recollect and reflect on the details of that time. Much has come flooding back – wow, I’d forgotten just how tough it was. But I’ve also become conscious once again how fortunate I am to be here today happy and healthy and with two children.

The first is a beautiful lady called Rachel who earlier this year was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I have felt privileged to get to know Rachel a little during the past few months as we have messaged back and forth about her diagnosis and treatment. Despite undergoing a gruelling bi-weekly treatment regime, Rachel’s faith and belief in a God who is good and loves her shines through and inspires so many around her. My connection with Rachel has not only brought back many memories but has stirred in me again big questions around Gods ability and willingness to heal us physically. At some point I may have the courage and clarity of thought to write a blog post exploring my thoughts around healing!

Someone I’ve never met, but who has also given me much to reflect on, is a female singer called Nightbirde. Her name is Jane Marczewski and she’s been a contestant on America’s Got Talent. The clip of her audition in front of the judges went viral when her song and personal story and performance brought tears to Simon Cowell’s eyes and he pressed the golden buzzer to catapult her direct to the final. Check it out here.

Nightbirdes story and song have been so powerful to so many because she is a young woman living with metastatic breast cancer. It’s spread throughout her body and she’s been given a 2% chance of survival. But despite these minuscule odds and the impact of the treatment and disease that is attacking her body she shines positivity.

I think what has attracted so many people to Nightbirde is that this positivity doesn’t come from a place of denial, or gritted teeth determination (though I’m sure some days that must come into play) but is born in a real acknowledgment of how tough life can be combined with a decision to not wait for that to change but to embrace the joys that are present in the now. Even now as her physical condition takes a turn for the worse and she’s decided to pull out of AGT, something beautiful continues to shine through her. As so many people cast their eyes on the darkness of this world and in their own lives they are powerfully drawn to a story of hope, a story that offers light in that darkness.

You don’t have to look far to see where that beauty, hope and light comes from – Nightbirde would tell you herself – it comes from her relationship with God. That relationship is not dependent on Jane being healed in this world, though she fervently seeks that, her faith has been forged and proved in deepest darkness. Her blog ‘God is on the Bathroom Floor’ is so powerful – please do go and read it.

I’ve been so fortunate in my encounter with cancer, we found it early and I’ve made a pretty good recovery, I’ve not faced anything nearly as tough as Nightbirde or Rachel. However in the thick of it there were times of desperation, tears and wondering if we would get through it. However not once did I find myself questioning ‘why me?’ Or why as a Christian had God let this happen. I have never felt that being a Christian exempts you from the tough stuff of life.

A common misquote from the Bible is ‘the sun shines on the righteous,’ but Jesus actually says

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Matthew 5:45 NIV Bible

My faith in Jesus means I’ll encounter the same sorrows as anyone else. I don’t get an exemption certificate. But I do get to experience God’s Holy Spirit comforting and guiding me through the darkness. I do get to access His peace that passes all understanding. I do get the support and care of my church family. My faith reassures me that even if cancer takes my life on this earth that there is a new body and eternal life without pain and sorrow being prepared for me. My faith in Jesus means that even amidst the hardships of the present there is life in all its fullness on offer right now.

Carrot and Stick

We’ve just joined the Covid pandemic crowd of new puppy owners. To be fair having a dog isn’t a new thing for us. Until just over two years ago we had a choccie lab called Archie. Aged thirteen and a half he died when my youngest Toby was just three weeks old. With a fifteen month old and a baby life was full on and I still don’t feel we properly mourned his passing. However at various points we have acutely felt the lack of his presence with us and have really wanted to have a doggie as part of our family again. With two little people in the house no reputable dog rescue charity will rehome a canine with us and so we decided to take the plunge and get a puppy – something neither Mike or I have any experience with.

We have been recommended a really good book called Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy which has lots of training tips in it. The main premise is that praise is far more effective than chastisement. Positive reinforcement and encouragement for doing the right thing works far better than harsh words and admonishment for getting it wrong. So the idea is that if Harry wees in the house we make no comment – just clean it up throughly – but when he wees outside he gets lots of praise and treats. If Harry jumps up and bites we turn away and ignore him but when he sits calmly he gets lots of fuss and strokes.

It’s actually not dissimilar with young children. I’m not saying we just ignore their bad behaviour, we do deal with it but my two respond and behave better when we’re praising them for what they’re getting right. When we overreact to bad behaviour it does seem to exacerbate it.

I’ve been reflecting that actually as adults we’re not much different however much we’d like to think we’re all grown up and wouldn’t respond the same as a dog or toddler!

I’ve always found managing my weight a battle. A number of years ago my GP referred me to see a dietitian – at the time I was about fifteen and half stone. I went into the appointment positive but after being lectured for an hour on everything I must never eat again I was so depressed I came out, went to Greggs and bought a steak slice, a sausage roll and a cake and ate the lot – something I’d never normally do despite my weight at that time suggesting otherwise.

Not much longer after that I ended up at Slimming World. I was still given an eating regime but it allowed for treats and mess ups and it came with a big dose of encouragement, positive thinking, support and grace. I lost three stone at that time.

Earlier this year I had a telephone appointment with a specialist women’s health physio. She clearly knew her stuff and the advice she gave me made sense but her delivery of it was brutal. She made me cry and it felt what she was asking was going to be so hard to achieve. She took away a big achievement for me – running regularly – and basically told me that the condition I was in was a product of my own choices (to have children) and that if I wanted to change it then it was up to me to put in the hard work – if I didn’t then I’d have to expect to keep weeing myself.

Now I admit that every now and again we all might need a bit of tough love. But like dogs and toddlers I think we all respond better to encouragement and grace. A number of weeks later my physio assistant who has been working with me on exercises referred me for a face to face appointment with a different specialist physio so they could actually do a physical examination and assess how I was doing. And I am so glad she did.

For the past ten weeks I have been under Dawn’s expertise and guidance and it has been a completely different experience. She offers compassion and encouragement, she looks at the whole picture of my life and lifestyle and tailors her advice to fit in with that, seeing me as not just a woman with a pelvic floor problem but an individual with a lot going on. Yes my problems downstairs might be technically of my own making but Dawn acknowledges the miracle that having two children has been and is realistic about what can be improved while encouraging about what can change. She jokes and makes me laugh. Dawn recognises the importance of supporting my mental health in order to help my physical health and advised on how I could safely start running again. She makes me feel encouraged and hopeful and the impact is that physically I am getting there – things are improving!!

Sadly many people’s experiences of church has been of the tough love variety…. At its worst – “your life is a mess, you’re not welcome here until you sort it out.” Only slightly better is the, “We welcome you, God loves you but this, this and this part of your life is a mess – sort it out and conform to our expectations as quickly as you can or always remain feeling guilty that you don’t quite come up to standard.”

This is so at odds with how Jesus went about addressing people’s sins. It wasn’t that he lowered standards, he actually often raised the bar higher. With religious authorities Jesus could be extremely harsh in his criticism but for the individual seeking truth and life he has great compassion. He called them to a better way of life because he loved them and wanted a better life for them. He saw and addressed them as a whole person made in Gods image, not just focussing on what needed fixing. He built them up and gave them a hopeful vision of the future whilst also showing them the work needed to get there. He equipped them with what they needed to do that work.

And that’s how Jesus continues to work. Ultimately Jesus died to show us just how much he loves and values us just as we are. He rose from the dead and made that same power available to us to make changes in our lives. He gave us his Holy Spirit to work in us, give us a positive vision and empower us to take steps of change.

If your experience of church has up to this point in your life has been one of leaving you feeling unworthy, unlovely and like you could never match up then please accept my apologies on behalf of Jesus – that is absolutely not what He wants for you.

The church as God’s representatives here on earth should be copying Jesus’ example. At the core of who we are should be the offer of unconditional love, calling people to live better lives because they at God’s children and they deserve better lives. And that call should always be delivered with a extra dollop of compassion and encouragement.

As we look upon each other with compassion and grace, as we encourage and build each other up, we are far more able to empower each other to make the changes we need to live out the lifestyle that God calls us to both to honour Him but also to honour ourselves – His precious creation.

And in the words of Paul: