Wobble averted?


I knew it was coming but it had some nerve to appear in full regalia five minutes before the Christmas Day service. At first I thought it was just pre-service nerves but it wasn’t – by the end of the service my confidence was in tatters and I was a puddle, muddy and blue.
For a few days prior to Christmas I had been holding onto the hope that it was exhaustion; not being able to focus on anything and wanting merely to sit quietly staring at the wall. However I couldn’t sit, I had too much to do. So I rationalised as I so often have that it was just tiredness.
Sunday after Christmas I was preaching again but it was just pants. I felt sick before, during and after, completely and utterly that this is it. Finished.
But I have been in the desert and the pit often enough that I have coping skills for staying there and equally coping skills for getting out.
Yesterday was day one, Monday December 29th, 2014 is the day I will mark down as the day I held my hands up to the Lord and asked for deliverance from the pit. There is part of the job that I have to do, keep busy, get physically tired, read scripture, pray and spend time outside breathing in God’s beautiful clear air.
I had to prepare a talk for Castleisland and take care of my two cared for people, cook dinner, make lunch, get some messages, make something for the meeting in Castleisland so I just added in a 3 mile walk with Lorelei thinking that would be enough. Life doesn’t ever work out how we want it and my hot water system exploded pouring muddy water all over the floor.
Chaos ensued but I have to single out the level headedness of one DL, who came to my rescue, thanking the Lord for good Christian men and then a plumber of impeccable pedigree sorted out my pipes.
So no baking, no putting on preacher clothes, my day was spent on my knees cleaning mud and water. Arriving at the meeting covered in muck and bought confectionery, I didn’t know what to apologise for more.
But I delivered the message without notes (for the first time) and although short was well received. R. didn’t fall asleep, always a good sign!
My confidence is still low, but I am not in the pit anymore, I refuse point blank to wallow in depressive tendancies – so easy to sit in the miry pit. If I succumbed to it and sat in it, it would be only to fulfill a self-prophecy of failure, to self sabotage – because I know and am affirmed as recently as last night that this is not God’s plan.
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
John 16:33 NIVUK

Dressing for weather talking

Written in November 2013…

Dressing for weather talking

Everytime I try to smarten myself up someone makes what I consider to be an inappropriate remark. I have struggled with this through the autumn, this year more than most because it has been suggested that I do need to smarten up.

The great thing about oversized hoodies and baggy jeans is I don’t have to think about my size. It can change quite comfortably a stone up or down and I don’t need to think about it. I have given my weighing scales away, addressed my eating or non eating issues and I am comfortable with the whole thing until…

Someone says something.

And then it begins. It is not really about what they say, it is about me and my reaction to the comments. I don’t want my clothes to be a barrier to people but equally I don’t want it to be about the clothes.

A really good friend of mine and I went to various charity shops to work out what would be smart without being sexy for me. One of the first things I tried on was a worsted wool skirt suit. It was like a child playing dress up, it was not for me. So then I tried on every skirt in the shop in my size range and they looked horrible or I did or some kind of combination.

In doing it though I discovered I still have some mirror work to do. Sometimes I still feel like I want to be invisible to the entire world. I know that is not THE PLAN, but when people make remarks about clothes it is not about clothes to me.

When I preach I am vulnerable, with no hiding, it is I who have to speak for ten or so minutes in an engaging way that doesn’t put people to sleep but allows God’s message be delivered appropriately.

Yesterday I wore my attempt at smartening myself up to preach in and then ignored the clothes. Because for me they are not important. My usual commentator said nothing. Progress. So maybe I made it, smart-ish and not sexy.

But I offended someone yesterday and now I just feel so bad. Actually I potentially offended five people. I know that the first two have accepted my apology for swearing, the second two have accepted my apology for being really late. The last one though, the offense is going to be there.

Reflecting on this, I realise that people now see as I am the person who preaches, they don’t see the person who worries about people commentating about dress. People who only know me now see, for the most part (without the occasional return to default like on Friday night) see someone confident, comfortable in their skin, who chats away to whoever.

“Look at you” someone said last week “Are you the same person who didn’t open their mouth at …”

But people who only know me now, don’t get that back story, they just see me smiling, chatting and making mistakes, upsetting people without realising it, offending people when no offense was intended. Blundering into situations like a bull I suppose.

So feeling really bad for offending someone and although there is nothing I can do about that one offense because to apologise would probably inflame the situation. But going forward how do I address it and what does it make me immediately think of doing?

Jacking it all in (again) no that is what the “me” wants to do. If I don’t do anything I can’t offend can I?

Talk about the weather. Weather talking is non offensive and maybe some people need just weather talking. I know I am very good at it for my perspective, sometimes I don’t want to get past the weather. But that is not what I am called to do.

Carry on regardless, I don’t think that is appropriate either, I have to learn to pick up on visual, verbal and non verbal cues as to when to only weather speak and when to relax into normal conversation but remembering to avoid glib remarks that may cause offense.

We never know where people are at. I think even saying that I am past child bearing days hurts people who can’t have kids and I know cos it bloody hurts me every time I think it. It has taken me years to be able to hold a newborn baby, cos I immediately think of all the babies I never had and desperately wanted. But medical advice is medical advice.

Anyway I will aim for balance, and try to work out what that is.

Children Carolling

It gets me every year,

It pulls me in

Pulls me down

It is like swimming against a tide

Just for a day or two

Just whilst I remember what my feet are on

Just while I breathe in His goodness and strength.

There are many hymns that irk or irritate me, some are old but most are the modern choruses that encourage a euphoric experience but I look at the people and watch the euphoria pass them over. This is not a judgement, it is viewing people in love and where they are at. It is not about singing in key, or beaming in some transcendental trance, or waving arms, or clapping. The music carries a certain amount of people on a journey, but generally it is the music not the words. I like hymns with words, I like to see good, solid theology laid out so even the simplest of folk (me) can get a glimpse of God’s unfolding story for me.

At Christmas time we sing old carols that tell out the story of the birth of Jesus from the perspective of the writer of the hymn, so their culture & theology is imprinted on the lyrics. For example the English lyrics of the Zither Carol call Mary undefiled, whereas older carols don’t shy away from the virginity of Mary. James Montgomery in his “Angels from the realm of glory” gives the gospel message as well as the birth story getting to the crux of why Jesus came, although for me the words of the verse relating to the wise men is amazing. James didn’t go the “king” or “wise” route, he chose the word “sages.” John Byrom wrote of “God incarnate and the virgin’s son” around the same time that Charles Wesley wrote the advent hymn “come thou long expected Saviour.”

Some of the carols use words and phrases from their own time, “In the bleak mid winter,” talks of moaning frost and we berate these English speaking carol writers for foisting their world view on us but in defence we have to look at carols like the Huron carol, Canada’s oldest carol that speaks of hunters and wooden lodges. It is taking the story of Jesus’ birth and putting it in a context that the singers of that time would relate to.

It is all well and good to trawl through a hymn of carol and pick holes in it because we think we know better in this age of google and t’internet and we are encouraged to do so but we need to balance other people’s imperfections with our own. We are only going to hear maybe ten or twenty carols in any given year and fashions and fads help in our choosing which ones to sing. This year “Silent Night” is being sung as the backdrop to violence in movies and television programmes, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is associated with  shots of birth pains, ending as a baby is successfully delivered. Lighter programmes will have “Deck the Halls,” which would be hard pressed to find a “Christian” strand in it.

But every year, no matter what the fad or fashion, one carol gets me.

It gets me because of its errancy

Its error in what babies do

Its error in Jesus being somehow different to other babies needs and wants

Its error in suggesting Jesus is the only baby who does not cry

There are, unfortunately, many babies in this world who have learned that crying makes no difference.

This is not about Jesus, God incarnate, this is about the babies who are unloved, neglected, left wet, dirty, thirsty and hungry.

Every year I cry at the impossibility of hurting a baby through deliberate intervention or by ignorance. And I think of my own children and I think of my own childhood.

This year I got through singing the carol without crying out loud, not even a welling up the eyes. I have coping strategies in place I don’t look at the words, I look at cornices or walls, I count bricks in my mind, I marvel at the sculpting of plaster. I distract myself.

But the words came to me later, and I cried.

I sang the old carol in the privacy of my own home and allowed a bucketful of salt water to cascade.

Bless all the dear children in your tender care, O Lord, protect them from the evil that people do.

As we sing carols and look forward to Jesus coming again, pause and think of all the children in the world that are enslaved, raped, brutalised, beaten, killed, tortured and those that are neglected, hungry, thirsty, unable to voice what is happening to them. Think of how far this world has come that it can dehumanise a baby, a child, a teenager. Have we come far at all?

Jesus was born in a smelly, dirty room, in non sterile conditions and he was loved. He cried and he was fed, he was protected. He was loved, and as time moved he began to teach of God’s love for us all. So after thinking of the babies, think of the people who do such things, pray for them, pray that they turn to Jesus, pray that they ask for forgiveness, pray that they accept that forgiveness and live lives transformed.

It is not about pulling me down to their level

It is about how do we show them the way up onto the solid ground of faith

It is about not judging,

It is about loving

As Jesus did

As Jesus was

As Jesus is

And how Jesus will

truth & lies

Smell of ash

Fills the grate

Long after the fire

Long after the warm

It stays to remind

To fill a hole of longing

It lies

Ash has no love

No happy clappy warmth

It just sits


Smell of pine

Fills the room

Tall needles permeate

Tall branches flourish

It comes to speed up

To make us all busy

It lies

Pine has no love

It is withering, dying

It just dies


Sound of babe

Fills the air

Angels shout

Shepherds run

Quick to see

Fast to witness

Truth arrives

Word becomes flesh

Long journey – heaven to earth

Incarnate Emmanuel


God with us

Failing Health

Run to God! Run from evil!

Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life! (MSG) Proverbs 3:5-12 excerpt

I have bucked the trend and come out as an extreme. This is not surprising. I expected this. Two and a half years ago I spoke to a good friend and mentor and said this would probably be where the journey ended. They replied, “No! That is your past. Now you will pass this test.”


I have been holding onto that sentence for two and a half years. But today I discovered that I am not in the normal limits.

Praise the Lord!

I am uniquely made.


I expected my unhealthy past to skew the results because the questions were about past and present. I expected that although I knew I was healed there would be some remnant of unhealthiness that would make me unacceptable.

But that is not what has happened.

A normal distribution curve has a lot of “normal” people in it and then at each end there are rare cases. I am a rare case.

I think I should take the results at face value rather than as the computer decided.


Actually I am freakishly healthy and the computer did not like this one bit. The computer said “No!”

The computer said “people cannot be this healthy”

The computer was not happy at all.

So the test is voided, I failed.

Not because I am a psychopath or sociopath or have some other mental health disorder that makes me unsuitable.

But because the computer cannot handle the Holy Spirit healing a person.

I have been healed enough to make me a useful vessel for God to use, the scars still show because they are useful.

I know I failed the computer’s test but I came out of the results beaming because it was confirmation of what I know to be true.

Computers cannot compute the intervention of the Holy Spirit, God is bigger than computers.

I mean if he is going to put moonbows in the sky and rainbows on dots of clouds, there has to be a reason.

I could retake the test, but I believe the results will be the same, it was my gut reaction to the questions and I took half the time allocated, I didn’t pore over the questions I just answered them bam, bam, bam.

I am a kintsugi vessel, remade – scars showing, ready for use, fit for purpose and changing all the time.

Computers don’t know everything. God does.


Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honour God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
a father’s delight is behind all this.

Proverbs 3:5-12 (MSG)