I’ve never been musical but I love music and I can’t hold a note but I love singing – my two year old has held her hand over my mouth in the past to shush me! In the last few weeks I’ve started a new habit of getting up early and going for walks to enjoy the good weather and quiet time with some worship music before the craziness of my days takes control. It’s a great way to start the day and thanks to Spotify I’m stumbling upon some awesome tracks I’ve never heard before or old tunes that I haven’t heard for years. The one that has captured my heart this week is actually a track that I kept skipping past on the Hillsong album. If I’m honest, I just didn’t get it up until now. Then on Monday morning as I marched around the leafy avenues at 6am it hit me – I get it!
I think this quote from local boy (I pass by his former home on my morning walk) C.S. Lewis sums it up well …
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
It was only when I stood in awe of the beauty of creation in the morning sunshine and truly appreciated how miraculous our God is that the words of today’s Worship Wednesday really made sense to me…
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
As I looked around at how everything has it’s place and everything is beautiful in its own way, it felt like creation was obeying God. In that moment I could feel every living thing around me sing and worship him but it took me to stand in a certain place, at a certain time with a certain perspective. What an awesome God of miracles we serve – he spins so many plates and never takes his eye off any of us for a second. I struggle keeping two princesses in check – imagine having to watch over every living thing?!
The song goes on to remind us that we will face storms and dark times but God accepts that we aren’t perfect, we will fail and we will fall short but through him our billions of imperfections can fade away if we choose to put the past behind us and accept his grace…
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I
What beautiful lyrics to describe the sacrifice of our constant friend and what we too can overcome if we look to him as an example.
Now instead of skipping this song I keep hitting the repeat button. An added little quirk for me is the fact that God took this amazing songwriter Benjamin Hastings from our wee city of Belfast and blessed him with an almighty gift so that he could touch hearts and lives. We are all designed by God in our own precious way, no matter where we are from or what we’ve done, no matter how many billions of times we fail – he is always there with open arms encouraging us all to reach our full potential through him…
It’s been a long, challenging day and I was really contemplating not posting my usual Worship Wednesday blog. But then I remembered the song I had in mind for this week and I chuckled to myself while realising there was no better time to share it!
It’s easy to praise the Lord and be happy when everything is going well for you, isn’t it?! But what about the tough days; when you’ve worked 11 hours and come home to find head lice in one of the kids hair – delaying bed time by an hour, or you get a Dear John letter for that job you really wanted, or when you’re still grieving for that lost loved one and it’s one of the not so good days. (Only one of those describes my day, I’ll let you guess which one.)
Whatever you might have faced today, however traumatic or trivial – we all have difficult days that push us to our limits. Friends and family may try to be sympathetic but let’s face it, not everyone can understand what you’re experiencing or how bad those days are if they’ve never experienced anything like it themselves. But there’s one person who will always be there with you – who endured suffering and pain when he sent his Son to die for us on the cross.
As a Christian one of the hardest questions to answer when challenged is – but why does God allow bad things to happen? Don’t worry – I’m not going to even try to answer that one tonight.
But I do know something – even in the hard times, we should look to the Lord for strength and love. We don’t need to understand it, we just need to have faith and remember…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT
I recall a few years ago struggling to find joy when we seemed to have a constant stream of problems facing our wee family – moving house brought drama and stress, we had someone make ridiculous accusations against us and a family member was made redundant. It would have been easy to turn on God and blame him for letting us down but that wasn’t going to help and wouldn’t have been fair. Instead I clung on (with my fingertips) to my faith and hope in my Constant Friend to help me through the issues and bring me out the other side. So today’s track is a reminder to keep looking up and trusting even if…
Evenings in the ACF house usually consist of me cooking our Hello Fresh dinner (yes we’re addicted now!) while having a sing song with the girls in the kitchen. Tonight our Jerk Chicken was being serenaded with tunes from The Greatest Showman movie – if you haven’t seen it you really should! While dancing about and singing it struck me just what an inspiring story it is – don’t worry I know it’s not entirely true and P.T. Barnum was a controversial figure but the life lessons in the movie really are worth looking at a little more.
Firstly, in the movie he’s a man with a dream – a vision far beyond what anyone thinks he can achieve. But he believes in himself and his ability to do better – always looking for the next step up the ladder on his mission for greatness..
Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
Do you lie awake at night and think about the world and it’s great potential – what could be achieved if only we pursued our dreams and vision for the one who saved us and brought us out of darkness?
In Matthew 17 we hear how the disciples tried to heal a demon-possessed boy and Jesus explains to them how their self-doubt stopped them from doing what was possible through him…
Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?
“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell the mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”
Matthew 17: 17-18 & 20-21 MSG
As one of my fave singers growing up said, “You gotta have faith” – if you don’t believe in what you can achieve then no one will. Will we have set backs? Yes! Will we doubt our abilities? Yes. Will we question the vision we have? Yes.
But we need to believe in the power of our Constant Friend and trust that with him alongside us anything is possible through us when we are fulfilling our purpose and fixing our eyes on building the kingdom and glorifying him.
As P.T. Barnum starts to bring others onboard his magical adventure the movie continues with a track called Come Alive…
Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up to the sky
And it’s open wide
Doesn’t this remind you of what Jesus taught us in Matthew 5…
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing our the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket do you? I’m putting you on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5: 14-16 MSG
We are called to Shine – to come alive and to spread the wonderful message with the whole world. We aren’t called to be quiet church mice that tiptoe into church on a Sunday, sing a few hymns and then quietly return to our desks on Monday morning. When you look around your city, your nation or the world does it not seem like there are movements and people everywhere fighting for a cause or sharing something they strongly believe in on a daily basis? But where are the Christians? It’s time we got out from under the buckets, stood up on our light stands and shared the generous love of God with everyone we encounter.
But then – that makes some of us uncomfortable doesn’t it?! I’ll put my hand up – I struggle at times to be bold with my faith. I attended a lovely workshop last week with a group of wonderful creative ladies from all walks of life. I’m not good at shouting from the rooftops about my God in person – I’ll happily share on facebook and talk to people I know about my faith but standing in a room of strangers I felt a little vulnerable. I think I was worried about offending anyone or facing people who may have had totally different views from me. Silly I know, but I was really stepping out of my comfort zone – and you know what? It was empowering!
As I talked about my vision for ACF and where I wanted to be in 20 years time I felt my heart beat a little faster and it really got me excited about my dreams and what I could achieve if I have faith and can channel a boldness to shine and come alive!
That takes me on to my favourite track from The Greatest Showman…
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
The scene where the circus performers burst into the room full of snobs gets me every time! The passion, the belief and the bravery – proof that what people may say or do to us means nothing.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.
Matthew 19:26-29 NLT
In the movie, P.T. Barnum brings together a group of what would have been deemed ‘freaks’ – but in them he saw something no one else did and he gave them all a chance to shine for him.
We might look at ourselves and think that in this world we are nobodies – but to God we are “somebodies”, he sees past the bruises and the broken parts. What we used to be doesn’t matter to him, he sees warriors willing to fight and shine for him. He offers us treasures far beyond anything this world has to offer – by serving and honouring him our reward will be eternity.
So think about your dream, your mission and the message you want to share with the world – we shouldn’t be embarrassed, we shouldn’t be apologetic and we should believe in who we are and what we are called to do. Let’s keep marching on to the beat of the drum, bursting through the barricades while remembering… Anything is possible!
My heart breaks every time I hear on Facebook or in the news of another life lost to suicide. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for the families and friends left behind – questioning themselves and what they could have done differently. But mostly I think about those who felt they could no longer continue with life – what must they have been facing and feeling to believe the world would be better without them?! Then I think about the world today – a world full of hatred, full of people competing to be better – it’s everywhere isn’t it? There are so many people in the world that are so focused on the material things – the size of their car, value of their house, their 3 holidays abroad a year (when did holidaying abroad become an essential instead of a nice treat!?) – and it’s all about status and how good everything and everybody can look on social media to compete with the rich and famous.
When did the world become so selfish and self centred?! When did we stop worrying about our neighbours and our friends – ignoring their issues or challenges because we’re too busy worrying about our selfies and ourselves! Don’t get me wrong, I can’t fix the overwhelming mental health issues in our community but if we all tried a little bit harder to take time every day to spread love surely we can make a difference?! It’s lovely to see so many people share on Facebook after these incidents that their doors are always open, that if anyone needs them they will always be there for a cuppa and a chat. But isn’t it time to stop being reactive and be proactive?
Jesus didn’t sit in a palace like a King and wait for people to come to him with their illnesses and problems – he went out into the world, actively seeking those in need and sharing the important message of love and what it truly meant. There are few people in the world who haven’t at some point come across 1 Corinthians chapter 13 (a letter from Paul to the church of Corinth) but today I ask you to read it again in this version from THE MSG thinking about how easy it is in life to find ourselves doing the opposite of what he suggests love is..
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything, Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG
It’s easy to go down the list and think of instances when we did the opposite of what we should isn’t it? I’ll be the first to admit – I see that girl walking down the street and think how nice it would be to have a figure like hers, and I’m pretty sure I can tick the “Fly off the handle” one – I’m working on it! But if we ALL at least tried to follow these instructions every day in life with everyone we encountered, not just the people we like – wouldn’t the world be a better place?
And that everyone bit is important – we can’t pick and choose who we love – Jesus loved everyone and was happy to encounter all kinds of people not just those with a high social status. In fact, I think it’s fair to say he actively went out looking for those furthest from God and embraced them. He had his principles, if he was walking the Earth today, he’d likely be backing the pro-life campaign, I doubt he’d have been marching in the Gay Pride rallies from the City Hall and I think we know what side of the Same Sex Marriage Debate he would have been on. But that wouldn’t have stopped him reaching out and loving EVERYONE in his own way – whether he agreed with their politics or beliefs he still would have been prepared to give his time to share the love and amazing grace of God with ALL.
I strongly believe everyone is entitled to their opinion – just because someone doesn’t agree with my stance on something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t love them – but that works both ways. How many Christians face persecution because of what they believe?! But if we take this description of love and really truly put it into action then our personal beliefs and opinions shouldn’t matter. We can still love each other and look out for each other while agreeing to disagree on certain topics without worrying about coming under attack.
I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s songwriting – I remember watching a movie about The Carpenters as a kid and loving their tunes. So today when I was thinking about this post I came across a track that really backed up the message I wanted to share. The song was first released over 50 years ago but the words are so relevant today.
As I reread the lyrics and 1 Corinthians 13 together I noticed the word mountain appeared in both…
And if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
We will face mountains/challenges in life – and the scripture reminds us that it is important that we move mountains not for self-promotion or to gloat but with one motive – pure love!
While in the song we hear the singer asking for no more mountains – we’ve enough to face to do us forever. Instead of building more challenges and problems we should focus on love, for everyone!
Look, we don’t need another mountain
There are oceans and rivers
Enough to cross, enough to last
Until the end of time
What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love
No, not just for some, just for everyone
In our hearts, and in the way we behave, we have all we need to make the world a better place – we just need to stop being reactive and be more proactive with it. Be more patient with your child who is simply looking for your love, even at 5:30am, sacrifice some of your precious “me time” to grab a cuppa with a chum who is facing a tough time, notice the family who are struggling and going without – help them, and that colleague in work who does your head in sometimes – bite your tongue and focus on working as a team. We all have mountains to climb but we shouldn’t have to do it alone.
Ten years ago I climbed Ben Nevis with a group from a local cancer charity. I went on my own with the group as my friend pulled out at the last minute and I didn’t know the majority of the people I set off up that mountain with (N.I. being a small world I ended up knowing 3 people through my brother) but it was a team effort – no one got left behind. Every single person encouraged their neighbour and as a team of complete strangers we got up that mountain because we were all there out of love for our loved ones who had either fought or lost their lives to cancer. Love is the most powerful weapon and if we use it for good who knows what we can achieve!?
You might have your own favourite version of this song but I found this beautiful Missi Hale cover from the Boss baby Soundtrack to share with you all as i thought it was filled with the emotion I’m trying to get across …