Thursday, 22 June 2017

On going to see The Shack

I went to see The Shack on Monday.

Now if by this point, you're starting to bristle....
and want to talk to me about it's theological soundness....
please,
stop reading now.

Because in the nicest possible way,
(obviously);
I don't really care.
(In love....)

After starting to emerge from the worst depressive episode I've ever experienced,
in 23 years of the illness,
and finally getting the courage to write again,
I've decided to give you my thoughts.
To 'speak of what I know' (John Gowans)
I offer you nothing more than that.

So, back to The Shack.
I read it back in 2008.
I read it as it is published,
as a work of fiction.

It spoke to my heart and my soul.
The idea that God:
Father
Son
Spirit
comes to us exactly how we need him in that moment
is one I can run with.

The film did the same.
Challenged me.
Inspired me.
Met me deep within.

There were times when I needed to suspend belief,
but that's what cinema is for isn't it?

There were moments of deep sadness,
as the story unfolded and God reminded me that He is right here.

In the thick of everything with me.

Loving me

Knowing me

Holding me

Then loving me some more.
Apparently He's 'especially fond of me,'

And there were times when I wanted to throw something at the screen.
Not just because of the cheesiness of the film at the beginning,
but also the narrator at the end saying,
'Mack lives most days with a sense of pure joy....'
Hmmmm......

So yes, I would say if you like cinema,
go and see The Shack.
It's not a deep theological offering,
but for me it has deep spiritual moments in it.
I asked God to speak through it
and He did.

How He did.

I left the cinema with
'My heart strangely warmed.'

In my experience,
particularly over the last 10 months,
God uses all kinds of people,
places,
things,
to help us come closer to Him.

If I can hear God through Frozen,
Maleficent
and Apollo 13
then you bet I can experience His presence very close
while watching The Shack.

Maybe you will too.
I hope so.

I'm praying his presence and power in your life,
right now.

Monday, 3 April 2017

On approaching Easter

I went to church last night.
It was the first time since mid-February.
Depression hit last September and hasn't lifted significantly since then.
After months of trying to manage it;
To work my way through it;
To pretend it wasn't really that bad;
I was signed off with clinical depression.

This blog post isn't to gain sympathy.
More, it's to be real about an illness I have had for most of my life.
It's not an easy thing to live with.
I have to constantly remind myself I'm not weak, but sick.

Lots of people don't understand.
I answer the same questions over and over about what I'm doing to help myself.
I try and smile as I answer, while inside I'm crying.
Imagine the injustice of being ill and people leaving you feeling it's somehow your fault?
You'd be better if only you would....

So my friends
This is me raising my head above the parapet and saying

Yes I have a chronic illness.
No, nothing seems to help at times.
Yes I'm on medication and in therapy.
I walk,
meditate, 
practice mindfulness, 
look for things to be grateful for,
watch what I eat
and rest.
No, at the moment it doesn't make any tangible difference.

But I'm hanging in there.
People with this illness are often very good at that.
I'm hopeful for better days.
I wake every morning in the sure and certain hope that Resurrection Day is on the horizon.
Maybe not today.
Maybe not tomorrow.
But soon.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

On walking Daisy into 2017

We walked in the opposite direction today, Daisy and I,
We set out on a longer walk than usual and chose a different path.

Beside the canal,
over some bridges,
through a few fields.

Having a bit of puff left,
we decided to go round the lake we often venture round,
but as we're wild things who can't be tamed
we went round the other way.
I know!

It was fun for a while
Darting robins
Trees from a different angle
Views of the lake we hadn't seen before.

I loved it.
Daisy?
Not so much.

She seemed happy enough for a while;
but didn't seem to recognise her favourite places,
or her usual watering holes.

Her piece-de-resistance though, happened at the car park.
At precisely the moment when she was supposed to wait while I put her lead on,
she thought it would be really funny to run off.
As soon as I got close she darted in another direction.

Every time.
For 45 minutes.
Well when I say funny......

This time of year we're bombarded with advice about changing our lives.
New Year, New You !!!! (exclamation marks not mine)

But what if the old you;
the one who works hard,
makes the best of circumstances,
cries,
laughs,
cries some more,
sometimes eats too much,
loves well, even though it hurts,
shows up even when they'd rather not;

The you of yesteryear
That you, was already pretty darned fine.

Not perfect by a long-shot,
but still here,
still showing up to do the business of life day after long day.

We celebrated Epiphany last Friday.
The visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus.
They were warned in a dream to go home 'another way,'
And I'm one of the legions who have preached sermons on those two words.

But this year?
This year I've decided harder, faster, stronger is not for me.
Different isn't always desirable.
Change is a challenge I don't aspire to.

Believe me I'm as surprised as you.
As the seed thoughts for this post started this morning,
I was going to suggest that gentle changes can be a good thing.
But after the debacle with Daisy, I've changed my mind.

This year I shall mainly be taking one step at a time.
I'll be busy forgetting what is behind me,
and not so much 'straining toward' but 'leaning into' what is ahead.

I'll be keeping my eyes fixed.
I'll be claiming the promises of the Father.
Join me?

'My child, I love you,
and as long as you're seeking my face,
You'll walk in the power of my daily, sufficient grace.'
(Laura Story)




Friday, 7 October 2016

Five minute Friday: Test

Friday.
The day when people are given a prompt and write for five minutes.
Today's prompt is TEST.

And so the test has come.
The moment of truth.
As I pause
and breathe
and open my mouth
in a new place
with new people who have barely known me two summers.

I've lived with this for most of my adult life
but you know it never gets any easier.

Hannah West describes living with depression when she feels well:

'The attacker that threatened my life still lives in my house.'

He has attacked me again.
And yet again
I feel I should have been able to stop him.

But the truth is that there is an inevitability to this horrible illness
which in my mind is a bit like Voldemort,
he who must not be named.

I am sick.

Yes I pray.
Yes I believe.
Yes I have asked God for healing.
Yes I live mindfully.
Yes I meditate.
Yes I try to have proper rest.
Yes I have work-life balance
Yes I exercise.
Yes I tick all the boxes that people think I should

Yes depression has struck again.

And the test?
To remember that this is an illness like any other.
And when the dust has settled I will get better again.
Maybe not today
Maybe not tomorrow
But soon.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

On asking for prayer.

We've spent 4 hours in the car today.
We'll be repeating the same journey next Saturday as it's that time of year again.
The time when teens and twenties give up weeks of their Summer,
just to make a difference in the life of a child.

This isn't some fancy camp.
No amazing excursions, trips out or extended time off.
This is a tough gig.
A camp for children from really hard circumstances who come for fun,
excitement,
a glimpse of love and life as they've never experienced it before.

As we dropped off our middle son,
our eldest son ran to meet us for one of those hugs that you think will never end.
A hug that says a thousand words that you don't have.
A hug that you hold until some of the strain starts to disperse.

As he whispered in my ear,
he told just a few things he'd experienced this last week.

And as a Mother I'm torn between the pride I feel at my sons,
and the other young people who are on the staff,
who give of themselves over and over;
Work tirelessly.
selflessly,
extraordinarily....

And wanting to take them home,
wrap them up,
and shield them from the tougher side of life
that they have seen this week,
and will surely see over the next seven days.

But they are no longer children.
They are young men.
And as I left them this afternoon
I am filled with awe at what they have committed to,
along with their friends,
and the rest of the staff.

As I drove through the roadworks on the A21
I felt a stirring to pray for them myself,
but also rally some support
for what they are expecting will be
an even more difficult week
than the last.

I believe in the power of prayer.
I'm praying that
'My God will supply all their needs;
(physically, emotionally, spiritually)
according to His riches in Christ Jesus,'

Will you join me?
If you're willing to pray for them,
please comment on the Facebook post so they can see.
Maybe tell them what you are praying for them this week.
Let's give them a treasure-trove to dip into when they are flagging.
Thank you my friends.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

On being on The One Show

Harlow was on The One Show last night.
I know!
We have a tic in the area.
It infects dogs.
They lose strength in their legs,
can't eat or drink,
and if untreated it's lethal.

Apparently it's a tiny little thing.
It's probably come here on another dog that's been on holiday abroad.
It's causing chaos.
Weakness.
Exhaustion.
Inability to function.
Pain.
And in one case, death.

Just a little thing.....
Amid all the beauty of the area.

Little things have a way of causing chaos.
One word.
One look.
One mistake.

It's not the big things I usually have an issue with.
Adrenaline tends to kick in, at least for a while.

But the little things?
They kill me.
Every time.

And before I know it I feel weak,
Exhausted
Unable to function.

Jesus said,
"Come to me...
All you who are tired from carrying heavy loads...
I will give you rest."

Come to me.
I will give you rest.

Not more criticism.
Or harsh words.
Or conflict.
Or hardship.
Or reason to shout rude words very loudly.

Just Him.
And you.
And rest.

I wonder if today you need to hear Him calling your name?
If you, like me, need reminding....?

He is there.
Waiting.
With healing in His wings.

I pray God's presence and peace in your life right now.
He's got this.
And you.
Trust Him.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

On not being a volunteer

We had a celebration at our church this morning.
In the event formerly known as 'Volunteers Day'
we invited everyone who contributes
to the life and ministry of Harlow Salvation Army,
to come to a service and lunch.

It was great.
We had seven people who had never been to worship before.

But it was a tricky one.
The issue of people not wanting to be known as 'Volunteers'
led to the re-naming of The Salvation Army.

I wanted everyone to know they were appreciated.
The bandsman who helped plant the corps 59 years ago,
The person who's been helping at lunch club for 4 weeks.
The lady from the charity shop.
The grandchildren who were remembering a terrible anniversary.

The commissioned,
the warranted,
the called,
the enrolled,
the unravelled,
the attenders,
the worshippers.

Those who serve because of faith.
Those who act because they want to make a difference.
All coming together in the beautiful mess that is church.

A church that wouldn't exist in the same way if they weren't there.
A church that is church, whatever day it happens, because God is present.
A church full of imperfect people who love each other and who love Jesus.

So what about you?
Are you a member?
Are you a volunteer?
Does it matter?

I hope it doesn't.

I hope you know how valued you are as part of God's family.

Be blessed.
Be a blessing.

'Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God.
Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer'

Philippians 1:3