We died too

From the viewpoint of the kids, It started off as a game.
What happens when you close your eyes in hide and seek,
And when you open them, everyone’s gone?
It was only supposed to be for the summer
We were supposed to come back to you We were meant to grow up together but you hid and didn’t come out.
We tried to stay put
We could still see the smoke from your cooking fire from afar
We could still smell the fragrance of your stewed soup
We weren’t very far.
But summer turned to Autumn,
And winter came then.
We could no longer see your beautiful green fields
You’d hidden too well.
Did you still have your hands across your face?
Were you still counting the days?
We did too, for a while.
Hoping we’d open our eyes together after ten. But no; eleven and twelve came.
Years have passed now.
Pictures are faded memories
You probably try really hard to piece together our faces and remember.
I bet you ask pensively, “whatever happened to such and such?”
And when we come up in conversation, I bet you try with your might yo remember who liked to do what. Who was what age and which of us was your favourite and which one drove you insane.
That’s the thing about war; we are the survivors but we died too.
You grieved for us for a while, we did too.
Then it got easier to breathe and to imagine.
You probably created a fantasy land in which we all live happily ever after; we did too.
But now one by one those whom we love and who were loved by us pass us by.
And pretty soon the remembered become the forgotten.
How we would have given anything for more days with you.
Or at least one more minute face to face
At least one to say thank you for a lifetime of your love.
Because as you pass us by leaving us in this  pergutory state, it’s easy to realise, that all along while we survived,
We died too.

Begin to challenge your “I can’t”.

Here’s a question for you; what “I can’t ” do you regularly say to yourself?

Well, if  you’re anything like me, you probably have a list of things that you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t do. One of my biggest ones to date has been that I simply can’t ride a bike. And the saddest thing has been that because I have believed that for so long, I simply haven’t tried; until today.

Over the past few months, I have embarked on a challenge that has literally began to transform nearly everything in my life. Through this challenge I have seen my personal journey with God impacted in a way i could never have imagined. This challenge has even began to have an effect on my emotional and physical well being, which has spilled over into my parenting and has even positively affected my marriage.
It is a challenge that I am hoping that by the end of this blog, you, too, will take up with me.
Over the past few months, I have simply began to consciously challenged my long list of “I can’t”.

And as I did so, I have began to grow in courage, in confidence and in fearlessness. And while I’m still on this journey, because for me, it’s probably one that I’m going to be on for  a little a lwhile longer, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned so far.
For me, it began when one night I felt really challenged to begin ordering my home. I have always really struggled to stay on top of this throughout juggling home, full time work and a young family and would admire friends who could find time to keep on top of their houses but I had began to accept that for me, It probably wasn’t ever going to happen without the help of a regular cleaner.

But as I prayed with my husband one night, I really felt strongly that I should challenge that in me. Why had I been so ready to accept that I could never do it? so armed with a good book about how to have an orderly house and a week off work, my husband, children and I finally sorted out house out. It was the first time in a long time that I was happy with everything about my house. And I had shifted a huge mindset in my life that I had never thought would ever be possible. And even though I  was slightly doubtful about how long this change would last, I was nevertheless proud of myself for making a start. Six months later and our home is still well ordered, and the standards have stuck. The belief system I held about myself and my ability to be tidy at home was simply not true. Nor were the many excuses that I gave over the years, including being busy or having young children. When I began to challenge that mindset, so too, came the ideas to help me in tackling the obstacles.

Now you might be reading this and for you, this has never been an issue that you’ve struggled with- but perhaps there’s another like it- perhaps yours is that you have said to yourself that you could never lose weight- or that you could never get up early in the morning- or that you might never be able to eat healthily or exercise- the list is endless- but the issues are the same.

Let me ask you this- who told you that you can’t? Is that really the truth?

In the Bible, there is a similar scenario right at the beginning when Adam and Eve, the original man and woman are approached in the garden of Eden by the devil in the form of a serpent, questioning the truth of what God had told them. God had given Adam and eve full authority over everything in the garden and they could come and go as they pleased and could eat from any tree in there except from one- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had kept them from eating from it because he knew that it wouldn’t be good for them. But when the serpent questions them about it, they swallow the lie that they are actually being kept from the tree by God for a sinister reason and as a result they end up in a whole lot of trouble. They end up losing their place in the garden of Eden, sin enters the world And humankind begin a war with an enemy whose primary weapon against us is lies. And he loves nothing more than to tell you that you can’t do anything. That you are powerless and that you will always be the way you are now, without question.

The good news is that he is nothing but a liar and actually, the truth is, that through Jesus, who fought and won against this liar of an enemy, you can do ALL things; because unlike the devil, who is here to question whether you really can do it- I mean, you? Really? Jesus came, not only to help you to do anything that you were unable to do, including to turn your life around and begin to live a full life, which you absolutely CAN, he came to lend you a hand, to give you his strength and to help you to turn whatever you feel you can’t into “I can”.

After my success with the house I began to make a list of things that I have told myself that I couldn’t do and began to work through it. And little by little, I have seen some huge mountains begin to move. I have began to recover my voice and regain my confidence. And as I began to filter this list through the lenses of truth, the truth being that actually, I can do ALL things through Christ, it began to positively affect my marriage, my parenting and my self worth. So armed with that truth, today I went to learn how to ride a bike for the first time. It was beautiful- and although I am not fully there, I no longer believe that I can’t do it. And that goes for many things still on my list.

My question to you now is, what have you believed for so long that you simply cannot do? What would you attempt if you simply couldn’t fail? And finally, what is stopping you? Today, make a decision to challenge the lie that you can’t. because the truth is- that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. And if you don’t know Jesus, make a decision today to get to know him. Because He is waiting to give you strength today to begin to say, I can.

Want to know God?

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Mark 9:23- What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

Only remembered for what we have done…

Today we said goodbye to a great man. A man I called ‘grandpa’. Steve Powell was a great man because he embodied so simply, kindness, joy and LOVE.

I remember the first time I met him. It was Wednesday, 22nd July 1998 at London Heathrow Airport. He’d brought his entire family g to welcome my family and me to the UK. I was 14 years old.

Before this, his name had meant so much to my family and me- he had been the voice of hope at the end of the telephone. He’d rang shortly after the events of 1994 in Rwanda and had offered my family help to get out of the dangerous situation we were in; my dad declined the offer but was really grateful. Not many people were picking up their landlines and dialing internationally to offer help to a family they had never really met!

Later, when we’d finally fled our home, he’d rang several times but no answer had come. fearing the worst, he’d written a letter to my parents at our P.O Box in Rwanda in the hope that someone would pick up the mail and somehow get it to us. He’d enclosed a sum of £50 within it jut in case. Luckily, someone managed to collect the letters and knew where we’d headed. The money meant several months of food for us and the families around us who shared life in a refugee camp that spelled so much disaster for those with no outside help.

When he re-established contact with my dad in Congo, he’d set about helping us to get out of the terrible conditions of the refugee camp. He’d raised money through his large network of friends and we managed to get to Nairobi, Kenya, financing plane tickets for 6 children and 2 adults.

Once in Kenya, he’d kept in touch, and when it got unsafe there, too, he was there once again, this time in helping dad reach the UK to claim asylum. Once in the UK, they arranged help for dad including finding him a job and a place to live and connecting him with people who could offer advice regarding reuniting him with his family, now living in Swaziland.

For 4 years, Steve Powell was the voice of hope at the end of the telephone. His name was synonymous with love. He was patient, kind,humble, honoring, always protective, always trustworthy, always persevering. His heart of love moved others as well to the point of joining him in raising thousands of pounds for the family of a man he knew but whose faces they had never had the pleasure of meeting. For people who were so far away and and yet for whom he cared deeply anyway. Their plight became his plight. Their suffering his. And he was moved on their behalf enough to seek justice for them. And get them to a place they could call home. One woman and her six children. Too many people to help.

One day in 1998, this family- my family- finally flew to the UK and met Steve Powell. The man who had taken on so many challenges to get them here. He was no billionaire- he was just an ordinary man who loved much.  And he welcomed them home like family. And asked the children to call him ‘grandpa’.

“call me grandpa”, he’d said, on our first meeting at Heathrow Airport.

Today a reading of 1 Corinthians 13 was read so movingly by one of his grandsons. And then a song was played at the processional that went a bit like this:

Only the truth that in life we have spoken
Only the seed that in life we have sown
These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten
Only remembered for what we have done

For Steve Powell, what He has done is incomparable- what he has done, is choose to spend his life for others in love. And among the many, many good things that he has done is rescue my family and I from the pit of war. And he kept going until we were at home. Even then his kindness continued- we became grafted into his family. Until he was truly ‘grandpa’.

 He will always be remembered for what he has done.

 

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

Fading away like the stars in the morning
Losing their light in the glorious sun
Thus would we pass from this earth and its toiling
Only remembered for what we have done

Only remembered only remembered
Only remembered for what we have done
Thus would we pass from this earth and its toiling
Only remembered for what we have done

Only the truth that in life we have spoken
Only the seed that in life we have sown
These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten
Only remembered for what we have done

Only remembered only remembered
Only remembered for what we have done
These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten
Only remembered for what we have done

Who’ll sing the anthem and who’ll tell the story
Will the line hold? Will it scatter and run?
Shall we at last be united in glory
Only remembered for what we have done

Only remembered only remembered
Only remembered for what we have done
Shall we at last be united in glory
Only remembered for what we have done
Only remembered for what we have done

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the girl with the big destiny- don’t be afraid to be great. 

I want to speak directly to the girls who right now are fighting an internal battle. They know they are destined for greatness. They know they have more inside them. They have no problem believing that they are strong enough, pretty enough, worthy, even.when they close their eyes, their minds soar as they imagine more for themselves and their future. They are visionaries. Dreamers. Hope seekers and future world changers. But they are fighting an internal battle because they are afraid. They are afraid that they will be found out. That someone will find out how clever they are or how confident they truly are or how they truly think about themselves. That someone will discover their dreams for the world around them or that they actually haven’t got a low self image. That they look in the mirror and like themselves. That they eat what they want when they want without guilt of gaining weight. That they actually believe that the sky IS the limit and they can change the world. Like in the film “Coach Carter”, their greatest fear isn’t that they are inadequate, but that they are powerful beyond measure. And that their world around them currently has created very little space for girls like that.

Perhaps you know girls like this. They are part of your world. Perhaps you’re the girl currently hiding her talents and abilities in order to blend in and be acceptable. I get it. I understand. But if you are that girl or maybe you know a girl like that i want to speak directly to you. The world needs you. Your undiluted, unapologetic and outspoken you. Your clever, capable, unashamed you. We desperately need to know that girls like you are out there and that it is possible to be like that. For too long girls have dumbed down their abilities in order to fit in. If you’ve found yourself tempted to do the same, make a decision that you are no longer going to do that anymore. Because we are desperate to know girls like you. And that you are possible.fight the fear you feel and come forward. Speak up and say you have big dreams. And when you’re doing something great that you are truly winning at, please don’t excuse it. Begin to own it.Begin occupy your space without shame or fear. Be GREAT. Be amazing. And don’t apologise for it. The world we live in needs to know girls like you. And that YOU are possible.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marriane Williamson 

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.“- 2 Tim 1:6-9

I’m so close

Today was the start of the Ascension festival for orthodox Greeks in Crete and we had the unexpected pleasure of hosting said festival at our hotel,  which incidentally happens to have the oldest Greek orthodox church right on its grounds. Even now as the kids sleep they are being serenaded by the beautiful melodies of Greek worship,said to go on, on this particular night, into the early hours of the night. We don’t mind, it sounds lovely. And the kids are snoring soundly through it.

The festival happens each year here. 40 days after Easter, hundreds of worshippers descend on this church that is smaller than my children’s bedroom to gather and celebrate Ascension. 

Priests in their colourful garments together with dedicated nuns from the various monasteries and convents emerge and converge here, ready to lead travellers from near and far into communion with God. The stage is prepared early; the day before decorators come and repaint the white church and everything else around it; banners bearing the cross go up, bunting is hung and the statue of the virgin Mary is brought out by the gate. 

On ceremony day as the doors of the littlest church fling wide, the priests begin to take centre stage in their impressive attire, singing in latin to the spiritually hungry congregation gathering quickly around them with barely enough room to make the sign of the cross, which seems to be necessary every so few minutes..as we stand among the worshippers, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty in this type if devoted worship. People seeking after God with reverence. Men, women and children sign the cross as they arrive, then line up towards the offering box and pick up a candle, or two and enter the small church to light them and say a prayer, perhaps for themselves or for loved ones.

 We watch in awe as somber faces emerge, no doubt  contemplating the seriousness in the act of their worship. It is beautiful and moving. But it is all completely unnecessary. As i watch these wonderful people my heart is moved deeply by the spirit and by the sight of Jesus who is so desperately close to them, right now in their rituals. I wonder; do they see him? In the ceremonies of robes and intonated songs- of lost Latin tongues and beautifully laid tables- where is Jesus?

I close my eyes and i can feel him so so close. And yet here, in this place, he feels so far away. I wonder, when did it get like this? When did we move from a Jesus who walked with the disciples hand in hand, who sat and ate with people, who touched theur ailing bodies and washed their feet, to a Jesus who we worship like THIS- dressed in special robes and using languages no one can understand? Have we done that? Have we overcomplicated the simple gospel? Would Jesus walk into our beautifully decorated churches and feel welcome? I’m not at all criticising the authenticity of the worshippers hearts.

 Far from it. I see hearts desperately searching to connect with God and to have Him smiling down on them in approval. Like beautiful children longing for the gentle touch of their estranged father. Except he’s not estranged..he’s desperately close, so much so in fact that he became man so that we could finally relate to him.

 To see him and touch him. To know that he LOVES us. In our ritualistic worship- how close  is he? My prayer tonight as i listen to the dwindling voices of dedicated worship is that each heart here, my own included, will remember that Jesus so loved us first. He us not angry or in need of our veiled worship he wants us to come as we are and see him. May we remember to worship that Jesus. Because he’s not too far away. He’s so close. 

Make a connection 

I am more and more convinced that one of the enemy’s greatest tactic is isolation. There’s nothing he loves more than getting us on our own and once in that isolated state, reinforce how alone we are.

It’s the classic tactic found in the story of Adam and Eve. The serpent approaches Eve on her own, maybe because he knew there would be strength in numbers. It is always so much easier to say yes to temptation on your own.

And yet by complete contrast,Jesus is in the business of connection. Of unity. Of togetherness. Even long before Jesus’ birth, the prophets speak of a time when Heaven will send us an ‘Emmanuel‘- “God with us”. Because God’s intention was never for man- people- his people, to ever be alone.

So it’s no surprise that oftentimes we’ll find ourselves feeling alone. It’s a tactic the enemy will try and use against people in order to strip us of our effectiveness. And if successful, this tactic can remove you prematurely from the very space you were made to occupy.

And it starts so subtly, too. With a whisper telling you that your friends aren’t really your friends. That your church isn’t really the place you belong; that you have no business responding to THAT call from God to THAT big vision he’s giving you- i mean, who ARE you, really? You?

And on and on the battle rages, trying to isolate you into a thought pattern that is designed to get you feeling doubtful,disconnected and alone. And once in that place, you begin to talk yourself out of God’s promises. Maybeit’s just me. But if, like me, you’ve felt that way, i want to encourage you- it’s not God’s intention for us to be alone. We were made for  connection. First with our creator God and then to others.

Over the past few weeks I’ve felt disconnected. As a family we’re in a transitional place in many ways. We’ve found ourselves in a  strange place where some older connections that were once very strong, through no fault  of their own,  are naturally fading, while new ones that are forming aren’t perhaps as strong yet in the same manner but are worth investing into, which, we accept will grow with time. And so we’ve found ourselves feeling disconnected in many ways in terms of relationships and it’s left us feeling lonely, which is a strange and new feeling for me as I’m so used to being connected to lots and lots of people.

But in this very strange place, God has been teaching us afresh the importance of connection.

1) I  am strong when I’m connected to God.

When people go to the gym wanting Peter Andre abs  (still a thing?), they’re first of all taught the importance of strengthening their core. First their core stability, which are the deep internal muscles closest to your spine upon which stronger muscles that effectively build the outward abs depend on. Our relationship with God is like the hidden core stability. When that is strong, the stronger and more connected i feel. Ironically, the key to staying more connected starts first and foremost in alone time- but not with any human being, myself included- but alone time with God. From here I strengthen from the inside out and i am less susceptible to emotional injury.

2) I am strong when I’m connected to others.

Carrying on from the analogy of the gym, in order for me to get strong, i need some core strength. This is found in the the outer muscles that protect the spine and limit movement so as to prevent injury. Building core strength is like getting a support system of people around you that won’t be detrimental to your relationship with God but will work together to strengthen it.My core friends are few. But they are people who ALWAYS point me back home to Jesus. And i am strong when i allow these connections to strengthen.

3) I am strong when i choose to connect

The best way to combat disconnect is to choose to make a connection. I may not have as many friends as i used to have but all that means is that I’m perfectly placed to be a friend- because i know what it’s like to be lonely. So this month we chose to sign up to our church’s #100Homes initiative, which is all about getting to know people across the dinner table. It’s a great way to combat disconnect. In the times whenfriends are few around me, i choose to be a friend.

So with that in mind then, how is your core stability? How’s your relationship with God?

What about your core strength? Are the people in your life pointing you back to the Jesus?

Are there people in your world who are lonely? Could someone you know use some friendship?

This week, I’d love to encourage us all to make a connection. First with God, who is our everything. And then with others, who, like us, could use a little community.

John 14-16-18

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth … I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 

Matthew 28: 20

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. 

Deuteronomy 31: 6

Be strong and of good courage … for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Guest blog by Stuart Smith- Trial by Tithe (the principle of first)

I have never blogged before. That’s probably because I generally have a tendency to go completely off tangent. I start off talking about computer programming and end up talking about how carrots used to be purple with hints of ‘squirrel moments’ in between. But here goes:

I would describe myself as a fairly happy person; I really like to laugh and be silly and especially like to make inappropriate comments. My friends call these “Stuart jokes”. I don’t really like to take anything too seriously, which annoys my wife and most of the time, if something bad happens, my first thought is to make light of the situation.

I can take almost anything that life throws at me and laugh it off.  Don’t get me wrong; things upset me, but I get over these very quickly and I am soon making jokes about them.

But when it comes to finances, it is a completely different story.  If you want to hit me in an area I don’t find funny, it is to do with money. Every month, for years, it has been the same cycle.  I get paid, pay the bills and whatnot and then I always think, regardless of whether it is true or not, that we do not have enough money for the month. It is a worry that isn’t based on facts. It just happens. So as a result, I will not spend money unless I have to and most of the time it will be on essential things only.  At this point, a million things run through my head that make me crippled with worry-  Things like: what if we don’t have enough money for the kids to eat? Or what if I cannot put petrol in the car?  what if I can’t afford to get the bus if I can’t put petrol in the car?

My wife on the other hand is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes money.  she doesn’t seem to worry about it in the least. Last year, she asked me whether she could buy a some make up brushes by some company called MAC and I said, sure, why not, treat yourself, thinking in my head it will be about £5 or £10, so she brought them home and showed them to me and they just looked like makeup brushes.  the packaging looked fine enough and there were 5 different sized brushes in the box so I thought, yep, I must be spot on with my valuation of £5!  I then said:  let’s go get a Nandos without a care in the world, and felt no worry whatsoever about money.  I was really happy thinking that maybe I’d turned a corner when it comes to this area. And then I asked a passing question just for my curiosity about how much the brushes cost.

All of a sudden, the fear, worry and anxiety came flooding back!  And once again there went my mind:  “petrol to the Trafford Centre, ice cream for the kids, Nandos, MAC brushes…” and on and on it went…

I began to panic thinking it’s the first week of the month! We won’t be able to afford anything!  Why did I let her buy this? We’re going to lose our house!  The kids are not going to be able to eat!  we won’t be able to afford nappies! Why are carrots orange??? Aaagggghhhhhh!!

And I literally didn’t sleep that entire month and just buried my head in the sand (By the way ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand they would not be able to breathe) I would not look at the bank account at all as I feared that it would be showing minus pounds.

And this is basically what was happening every month.  I would start off ok, but by the second week I would be stressed.

It all changed at the beginning of this year, my wife and I began the year by setting ourselves new challenges based on the things that cripple us with fear. Mine was of course finances so after watching a good talk that my wife had found by Rob Morris on the matter, I set myself a challenge to tithe 10% of our income first, before anything at all was paid and before the security of whether we would be ok financially or not.  My head was saying all the usual things.  But I agreed to try it for 3 months and if at the end of the 3 months our finances were no better or worse, I would stop tithing this way and go back  of doing it my way” (My way consists of only tithing AFTER all the bills and other things had been paid).

So I took the challenge. In the first month, the car broke down. In my head I was like “see? the money we gave to the tithe could have paid for this!”. But then something amazing happened;   that day we got a tax rebate.  Now you could say that was a coincidence (and I did) but then the next month I got PPI refund on a credit card that I paid off years before.

n the third month of the trial by tithe, my wife and I were desperate for a holiday and like usual my response was “No, I’m not sure we cannot afford it”. But I really wanted to go so as I paid my tithe, I prayed and said “God, you have not let me down so far. Thank you for the extra money we have had, but I am asking very selfishly for some money for my family and I to go on holiday”.

Later that day, I got a letter from the Credit Card company that gave us the PPI back in February saying that there had been a mistake in the amount we had received.  My heart sank thinking we would have the pay back the money they mistakenly gave us. So I called and gave all my details and they said: “Yes, we have made a mistake in the amount owed for your PPI, you are owed an extra amount on top of what we have already given you!” Well, my jaw almost fell to the floor! I can tell you, we had an amazing holiday!

Even this month again money “owed” to us came through allowing us to do certain things as a family.

The moral of the story is; you cannot out-give God.  7 months later, I am still tithing first, and God is still coming through.  I would love to tell you that I don’t worry about money anymore, but I am still a work in progress. One thing I know for sure now though, is that however big my worry is, God is always one step ahead.

So if you are thinking of starting to tithe, I would wholeheartedly say, do it!  even if you start off as a 3-month trial.  and you will see for yourself that you cannot out give God.

And I would just like to end with this; many people think that bulls get angry when they see the colour red; but bulls are actually colour-blind.

Malachi 3:10

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it”.

Cuddle time

I love cuddle time. In our house the best cuddles are almost always spontaneous. But life is busy, so more often than not, cuddle time has to be intentional. We have to, as a family, intentionally decide to stop everything and make time for a cuddle. So sometimes my kids will hear me say to them ‘it’s cuddle time!’. And even though these cuddle times are planned, they are no less precious than the spontaneous ones.

Cuddle time is definitely my favourite time of day. Sometimes it is only a few moments  stolen in between others as we pass each other by, but other times, we sit and cuddle for lengthy periods of time,  while we watch a movie or simply just be, tucked safely under the covers, doing absolutely nothing at all. These moments are very precious to me. Even though sometimes, these moments come at the expense of something else. So today’s cuddle time was sponsored by my wonderful husband, who stepped in to make dinner when I suddenly decided that cuddle time would coincide with make dinner time.

But as I sat with my beautiful son on the sofa, Martharing while my husband Mary-ed- (actual, Biblical  terms, look them up here) but not complaining about it, I really felt a heavy presence of the Holy Spirit in that moment. In the last few days, I have been challenged to action in so many ways, and I am a doer so action I get, action I understand. Sign me up, please, YES! but I am not so good at resting. I struggle to rest. So much so that I have to have a ‘cuddle time’. But as I sat with my son in my arms, I realised anew the importance of rest. Of literally taking moments out just to breathe, and just to be. As I sat with my son, I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary, but my heart was being filled with fresh love for him that I literally felt like my heart could burst.

A few moments before our spontaneous cuddle time, my son was tired – and I mean, shattered. You know the type? When they are so unbelievably beyond tired that nothing, not even ice cream can comfort? yeah, that kind of tired. But it was 4:30pm – and too early for him to go to bed; but he was exhausted. And his way for coping with this type of tiredness is to lash out, at the end of which he lifts up his arms and says, ‘I want mummy’. I, of course, always lift him up into me and he calms instantly. But today, as I did so, he said to me ‘I want a big hug, mummy’. Awww…

And then I knew why God invites us to sit with Him like this. Because when I make time to sit with God in whatever state of mind I’m in, whether I am tired or weary or ready for action, he gives me rest – real rest. Rest, from which I can really feel his heart. Rest that comes from a position of his arms lifting mine and placing me right back on his chest. Rest that comes from a place of connectedness, closeness and peace.

I loved what happened today when my tired son sat on me for 30 minutes. I was so sure that he was going to fall asleep on me, which is getting rarer as he’s growing older. But instead he used that time to draw strength from our chill time. And when that time was done, I put him back down and off he ran, ready to play again. Ready for the rest of his evening. And like him, I must learn to draw my strength first from my father’s heart. To learn to sit and hear his heart beat as He restores my soul. To know when it is time to come to Him so he can give me rest. And to know that when he sets me back on my feet again I will be fully ready to run. And run, I will. But first, cuddle time.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

 

 

Selah

“Selah” is  a word that appears in two books of the Bible- Psalm and Habbakuk up to 74 times. Despite its frequency, there is a great deal of confusion over what it is supposed to mean.  One thought is that it derives from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.”

Another possibility is that it comes from another word: salah, meaning “to pause.” As a result, there is a belief that because of these two words that“selah” is therefore a musical direction to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the Psalms, which was the hymnbook of the Israelites.

If this is true, then each time “selah” appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, either to take a breath, or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise Him about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship.

This would encompass all these meanings—praise, lift up, and pause.

When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how “selah” could mean “to pause and praise.”

This is perhaps my favourite meaning, mostly because right now, I have so many reasons to pause and praise.

A year ago in May, my husband, children and I  moved from a home that we had lived in and loved for over 5 years. We had stayed in it, hoping to buy it and despite prayer and promises that this was to be our home, we were unable to secure it and lost it. I was devastated. But I have to trust that God is in control. Despite not knowing what His plan is for a home for us even now, I choose, with all my heart to pause in this- still very painful -time and say: ‘thank you Jesus’, whose plan is bigger than me, whether I see it or not. Selah

Two months after moving out of our much loved house, we were involved in a very serious car accident. The driver who hit us was drunk and careless and nearly took the lives of my beautiful little babies. It felt as though things were going from bad to worse for us and I didn’t understand why. But I remember very clearly as friends and family gathered around us, allowing to mourn and cry and be upset in that moment. And God, in his never ending kindness giving us real moments of rest during that terrible time; to heal, to recover and recharge. To this very day I cannot find the right words to express how held I felt during that very difficult period. All glory to Him. Selah

But as I lay on my hospital bed, unable to walk without the help of a zimmer frame (true story), I began to find healing in writing again. As I recounted the story of my family’s search for home as we fled from a very violent outbreak in our beloved country of Rwanda, God began to heal me from more than the physical wounds that were keeping me immobilised. Selah.

I set out to write the story for my daughter so that she will always know of God’s kindness to her mummy when her mummy was a little girl. It is an honest account of God’s protection and provision in the most unlikely places. I also wrote it in part to escape the devastation that I was feeling, when i realised that I couldn’t walk now or go for a run even, which i’d previously taken for granted or do most of the things that I was previously able to do without help- like being able to pick up my son for a cuddle or cook a meal for my family or jump in the car and drive. I wasn’t even sure that I was going to be able to ever get back behind the wheel- I was that filled with fear.  As doctors told me, one after the other, how long my recovery was likely to take, I could see very few reasons then to hope, let alone praise. But I do nowSelah.

When my mind was crumbling under the pressure of post traumatic disorder (PTSD) and I was reliving the scenes of the car accident each time I closed my eyes, Jesus powerfully walked into my room one night when I couldn’t sleep and began to heal me from anxiety, and spoke over me in a way that only He can and afterwards I was able to sleep again after nearly a month of insomnia. I now know Him powerfully as Healer. Thank you Jesus. Selah. 

Afterwards a friend began to read my story and loved it- the story that was intended for my daughter and not at all for the public-or so I thought!  Miraculously, my friend fell in love with my scribblings and so did a publisher, who rang me shorty after reading it, and while I was still recovering from the effects of the car accident,  offered me a contract to publish my story into a book. It is, to this day, the most surreal thing ever. One that I still struggle to process. But nevertheless it is part of this most incredible story that God is writing for me. Giving me beauty for ashes. Selah

In March, as I sat in the surgeons’ room of the Manchester Royal Infirmary’s fracture clinic to hear the words ‘we can now, with confidence, discharge you’, followed by the words ‘you may jog if you wish, but try not to run any marathons’- as I tried, with every fibre of my being to suppress jumping up and down in joy, it was God who had accelerated my healing process. Who was allowing me to run again. On the 22nd May, less than a year after I almost didn’t run again, I was able to take part in the Manchester 10k for the Boaz Trust, and I genuinely felt God run beside me with every step as He reminded me of the miracle of my healing. Selah. 

It is from a place of rest that Jesus was able to heal the sick and feed the hungry. he often went away to a quiet place to pray. We don’t read about Jesus being so overtired that He dropped the ball; and yet we so often do it in life, without really stopping and resting with him, before moving on to the next thing.

Lately I feel really challenged, especially for a many heart wearer like me, to learn what it  truly means to rest in God. To find times where I pause and calmly think about all that He  has done. And I know that there is strength waiting to lift me up when I finally do that. I wonder, what can you pause and be thankful about today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though Habakkuk was not written to be sung, Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace and sufficiency.

Elmer Towns, a Bible commentator and renowned professor in all things Bible in his book ‘Bible answers for almost all your questions’ put it like this:

“Perhaps the best way to think of “selah” is a combination of all these meanings. The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where “selah” appears. When we see the word in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” 

 

Why I spoke Up

I’m not a connoisseur of history- My husband will tell you a lot of the time, he has to correct my historical facts- I don’t know a lot about a lot, least of all American history but over the past week or so, I found myself unable to switch my heart off from what I was seeing and hearing.

I think a lot of it stems from the fact that I can empathise- as a black person, I have experienced first hand the pain of racism. And it is always shocking whenever it has happened to me. And I think the reason why it shocks me is because unlike some black African Americans, I don’t have to live with the culture of it all of the time.

So last week I found myself really disturbed by the plight of black people in America. And even though I am not American, it made me sad that many African Americans were expressing the feeling that they live under a different regime to the rest of the nation. Now I don’t know all the facts; but as a fellow human being, that made me sad.

A lot of the time, I watch the news and there is one tragedy after another and I struggle to understand- so, often times, I find myself unable to articulate any words or emotion and find myself falling silent, despite knowing that what I have seen is not ok.

But this time around, it was much harder to detach because more than ever, even in this country in the UK right now, racism is still alive. I got told the other week to ‘go back home’- I can only think the lady in question meant for me to go back down south because of my London accent- maybe.

When the shootings in America happened, it brought it home just how much more we need to be having conversations about race. Because unfortunately, whether we like it or not, racism is still alive even today and silence is not an option when it results in the devastating loss of human life on the scale that we are seeing on both ‘sides’ of this issue.

This week I have felt more than ever the need to speak up. Mostly because if this type of thing was happening not to me but to my friend, I would speak up. I would say something. I wouldn’t just stay quiet, I would tell everyone who would listen that something bad has happened to my friend and that my friend needed help.

Martin Luther King once said that “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”- Our voice, as human beings, as people, as friends, matters right now. Our friends in the USA, our black friends who have endured gross injustice for hundreds of years need our voice now more than ever.

When we don’t speak up, nothing changes. The same cycle is repeated over and over again- and I believe as a Christian that I am not only commanded to pray but also to ‘loose the chains of injustice’.

As I watched the news this week, I desperately listened out for voices of hope in this situation- sadly, when it comes to such divisive issues such as race, there are less and less voices speaking up about it. And sadly, the church has been the most silent.

But I believe that we are missing a trick here. Conversation and dialogue, especially at a time like this, is vitally important. Conversation isn’t possession of all the facts but to start a conversation with me at a time when I am facing  persecution because of my race makes me feel like you care. It makes me feel like even though you may not fully understand what I am going through, you are interested in me as an individual. It makes me feel as though my struggle matters to you.

And more often than not, conversation leads to understanding, understanding to compassion and compassion to action. But action can only happen when a choice is made, first and foremost to speak. If not to the public, then at least to me, the one who is going through it. And that is why, this week, I chose to speak up for the first time ever at a rally. To say it’s not ok. To say that even though I may not get it, I stand with those who are impacted.

My voice this week expressed that I am interested in having a conversation about this. And even though I have no idea what can be done right now in this moment about the complex issues of race that face us and inequality both in the UK and abroad, I chose to use my voice at this time to express my sadness at what I am seeing, to commit to seek understanding and to pray that compassion grows in me from that place that leads to the right action. But first, I must speak up.

Isaiah 58:9-12

If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again