I feel like the word ‘blessing” is following me around this week. Since church on Sunday, it’s popped up in conversations with colleagues in work, chats with family/friends and then Evie’s devotional tonight (from her new book she was given as a prize at our Tribe Kids Takeover – great choice Pastor L!) had the title “What a blessing” and shared this awesome verse…
““But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”
Jeremiah 17:7 NLT
It goes on to explain in a lovely but simple way what it means to be blessed and as I was reading it I thought about this great wee tune from Rend Collective. When I’m having a rubbish day or I’m facing challenges that seem impossible I find it so hard to stay positive at times. But the lyrics of this track remind us to find strength and hope in our Constant Friend. Aren’t we are so blessed to have him by our sides through it all?
At our Tuesday Connect group at church last night we talked about living life with a “can do” attitude. It’s hard sometimes to see how we can overcome and achieve our dreams when our own internal voice and others around us fill our heads with “I can’ts“ or “You can’ts.”
God believes in every single one of us just like he believed in Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Esther – the list could go on and on… They may have seemed ordinary and unimportant but God took them and made them great. He gave them all a “Can Do” attitude and encouraged them and inspired them to do great things for him no matter what they thought of themselves or what others thought of them.
You see, no one else’s opinion matters, including your own doubt and fears – when God says we can then we better prepare ourselves for what’s coming next when we simply believe…
““Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.””
Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG
Ally McBeal was of my favourite TV shows when I was a teenager. It was really quirky, absolutely hilarious and at times the storylines were heartbreaking – but the best bit was the fab music! Last weekend I was talking to some friends about the importance of having a life verse or life verses to live by and to help us stay focused and encouraged. It reminded me of Ally McBeal because the main character and her chums all had life songs that they used to motivate them and help them through the challenges in life. At different stages of my life I can recall using that approach, inspired by the show, to help me through life by repeating a song over and over in my head. Sometimes the song would be a war cry to help me fight mental battles, other times a nice happy upbeat song to help me skip through life remembering how blessed I am and on occasions when I’m emotional it might be a song to help me have a good cry to clear my head and tear ducts!
I first heard today’s Worship Wednesday track a few weeks ago but when I heard it again at the weekend and I really listened to the lyrics I thought about what a wonderful life song this would make…
I got an Old Church Choir singing in my soul
I got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful
I’ve got a heart overflowing ’cause I’ve been restored
There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
If I sang this song to myself every morning and all day long and truly believed that line – “ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy” – how different would life be?!
When the craziness of balancing everything as a full time working mummy and wife hits me and sends me into a diva strop, wouldn’t it be fab if I could imagine that gospel beat and fight the temptation to allow someone or something to steal my joy!? Easier said than done though – when we face challenges it’s so easy to fly off the handle and forget how we should show gratitude to our Constant Friend for all that he’s done for us!
So I’ve been listening to this tune on my morning drive to work this week to get it into my head in the hope that I can hold on to my joy from Sunday to Sunday!
Until this week I had never heard of Andrew Stoecklein, the Lead Pastor of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California. Today I wept as I read the letter his wife penned just days after his death. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. I suppose the shock of this tragedy is that Andrew was a Pastor but then when you really think about it… we expect so much from our Pastors, they sacrifice so much of their lives and yet do we support them? Do we build them up? Or is it always a one way street? Are we always looking for them to show up with some big inspirational message to encourage us and to tell us that everything is going to be ok when they might be facing tough times and in need of encouragement or a shoulder to cry on?
My heart breaks for Kayla – her life and future have been turned upside down but she demonstrates so much strength as she continues to look to our Constant Friend to get her through…
To My Andrew,
It’s only been 3 days. Nothing can take away the suffocating pain I feel now you are gone. I miss every part of you, I see you everywhere. I replay the events of that fateful day over and over again in my mind wishing I could have done things differently. Wishing I could have held your hand one more time and prayed over you and told you how much I love you, how much I believe in you, and how God’s got this too.
You were right all along, I truly didn’t understand the depths of your depression and anxiety. I didn’t understand how real and how relentless the spiritual attacks were. The pain, the fear, and the turmoil you must have been dealing with every single day is unimaginable. The enemy knew what an amazing man you were. The enemy knew God had huge plans for your life. The enemy saw how God was using your gifts, abilities, and unique teaching style to reach thousands of lives for Him. The enemy hated it and he pursued you incessantly. Taunting you and torturing you in ways that you were unable to express to anyone.
Andrew I want to tell you from the depths of my heart and my pain I am so sorry.
I am so sorry you were so scared,
I am so sorry you felt so alone,
I am so sorry you felt misunderstood,
I am so sorry you felt betrayed and deeply hurt by the words and actions of others,
I am so sorry you were fighting a dark spiritual war virtually alone,
I am so sorry you were unable to fully get the help and support you needed.
I wish I had one more chance to hold you and cry with you and encourage you. I wish you could see the outpouring of love from people all over the world who have been impacted by your story. I wish you could hold your boys one more time and tell them goodbye. I wish we could go on one more trip together, just the two of us. I am not ready to say goodbye. I am so madly and deeply in love with you. Every part of me longs to be with you. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t function and I feel so lost without you. You were my life. I was so proud to be your wife Andrew. I was so proud to sit in the front row and watch you in your sweet spot on stage. I was always so amazed by you, every single day. You could do anything you set your mind to! You were handy, you made every home we lived in look beautiful inside and out. You were creative, you were funny, you were thoughtful, you were passionate, you had vision, you had charisma, and you were so special. You are irreplaceable Andrew. There will never be another man like you.
I want to tell you that I am never going to stop fighting for you. I will continue to tell our community and our world what an amazing man you were. Your name will be honored and you will be remembered as a hero. You fought the good fight, and I can only imagine the incredible place God had prepared for you when you walked through the gates of heaven. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to see your dad again, healthy and strong. I can only imagine how much joy you must feel now that you are truly free. I wish I could be there with you, celebrating on the streets of gold. But for now, I will continue to live for you. I will raise our boys to be men of God, just like you were. Your name will live on in a powerful way. Your story has the power to save lives, change lives, and transform the way the Church supports pastors.
I love you so much and I will miss you every single day for the rest of my life. When I think of you I will smile, knowing that I will see you again one day. Thank you for 10 wonderful years together. Thank you for giving me the gift of three beautiful blue eyed boys who all resemble you. Thank you for choosing me, for believing in me, and for showing me how to live fearlessly.
Until we meet again I will cling to my Father in heaven. He will carry me through every second, every minute, every hour of every day. I read a verse this morning and I know God is reminding me that even now, in the midst of my deepest pain that He has got this.
“Because you are close to me and always available my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.” Psalm 16:8 (TPT)
With all my heart and all my love,
I urge you to not only pray for this grieving family but to pray for your Pastors. Take some time to think about how you can help them, how you can encourage them and how you can take some of the burden from them as they give their all to serve God and you!
As I read this letter I thought of a beautiful song by JJ Heller that I hope encourages someone tonight.
Tonight, after we got the girls to bed I took the head staggers (Not sure how to translate this for non-NI followers! Lol) and cleared out my clothes! I’d been putting it off for weeks and my wardrobe had morphed into a ‘floor-drobe’. As we’ve family coming to stay this weekend I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer – my mother would have been horrified if she’d seen it (Sorry mum!). So everything else was put on hold, hubby stayed out of the way downstairs (sensible man) and I had a ruthless clear out – 3 bin bags later I’m ready to head back downstairs and continue on with the rest of the evening tasks. I’ll be honest, before I started I hadn’t a clue what I was going to share for today’s Worship Wednesday.
By refusing to put this massive task off any longer and facing it head on I feel like I’ve really accomplished a lot in a couple of hours and I’m well pleased with myself. It reminded me of a song that I heard just last weekend that keeps looping round in my head …
Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
Sometimes in life, we will face situations that require us to take time out, putting everything else on hold while we spend time alone with our Constant Friend – we might have a dozen chores waiting on us but if we really want to hear from him and seek his plans for our life then we have to be willing to…
Take a break from all the plans that you have made And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
I think the words of this song really give us something to think about and it doesn’t need me to elaborate any further. But let me share one final thought from the book of Matthew..
““Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Matthew 6:6-8 MSG
Just like I’m glad I finally did my wardrobe clear out – you’ll never regret setting that time aside to clear the stage and seek the Lord.
I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in Auld Reekie with hubby and the girls. I keep welling up just thinking about how fantastic it was. It wasn’t the type of summer holiday we normally organise – we walked for miles, did lots of fun activities and enjoyed quality time with extended family (last year we did a soak up the rays and spend the day in the pool type holiday in Portugal).
Edinburgh holds a unique place in our hearts, especially hubby’s as he spent a lot of time visiting his family on the Royal Mile in his younger years – and this trip was long overdue. From start to finish it was so very special; yes the girls threw a few tantrums and eating out was a little difficult at times when they didn’t want to play ball but we still had an awesome time. There were little moments that were so personal and emotional that I can’t find the words to describe them right now and I may never – I’m a real believer that sometimes truly extraordinary memories should be kept private.
Nine years ago today I met my handsome hubby – it’s a date that means a lot to us so it was lovely to finish our trip off this morning with a yummy brunch with the girls in one of our new found faves on The Shore in Leith (Mimi’s Bakehouse).
Fast forward to thirteen months after we met and we got engaged after a very romantic proposal just beside Nelson’s Monument on Calton Hill. You’re probably understanding now why this trip was so special for us. This morning I got to thinking about that tower built in memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson and it’s history. It was built in the early 1800s as a signal mast and a time ball was installed in 1853 to act as a time signal to the ships in Edinburgh’s port of Leith. I quickly fell down a rabbit hole of Wiki and Google links to learn more that led me to a quote from the man himself – six simple words but so poignant..
I cannot command winds and weather.
Evie’s favourite song at the minute is the track I’m sharing today – it’s been in my head for weeks but it spoke to me in a very special way today. We can’t change the weather, we have no guarantee of a smooth sailing every day – but our Constant Friend will always be there standing firm and guiding us through whatever wind and weather we face..
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness. I will follow You
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore
I’ve always understood the first part about the Lord being our lighthouse but it’s the last line of the chorus that touched me today. He’ll carry us safe to shore – God won’t just drop us any old place hoping for the best. He will carry us safe to shore and leave us exactly where we need to be.When I look back on my life, in fact even in the present, I can see the Lord carrying me safe to shore…
After a hard day at work I come home to my loving family who cuddle me and care for me. Mysafe shore.
When we get some time off from the craziness of life – the Lord blesses us with great adventures and a time to chill together as a family. Oursafe shore.
As we were about to settle down and start a family the Lord showed me the tree to climb just like Zacchaeus to set me on a different course with a new church family at House of Worship (that’s a story for another day). Our safe shore.
Our family home is a miracle in itself and the Lord was definitely moving during our house moving “adventures” (I’ve vowed never to move again after the experience we had but we got there in the end). Oursafe shore.
That day nine years ago when I set off paintballing with friends and met the man who would capture my heart, become the love of my life and an amazing daddy to my daughters – I know it was all part of the promise and plan my Constant Friend had for my life.My safe shore.
“ Lord , help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Psalms 107:28-30 NLT
We aren’t promised a life without storms but we need to be prepared to trust in the Lighthouse who leads us through the storms and offers us peace in our troubled seas if we let it guide us.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the friends and family that the Lord places in our lives. I’m truly blessed with a strong support system in my hubby, family and friends to help me through the crazy days and to make fab memories with on the good days. God never intended us to walk this journey alone, spiritually or physically…
“The Lord God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.”” Genesis 2:18 CEV
I was listening to this Needtobreathe song this week and it struck me that this is what friendship and love is all about. We should be taking the example of our Constant Friend in all of our relationships to strengthen each other and support each other through every high, low and in between. Because one thing we can be sure of is that we won’t always have an easy ride, there will be times when we want to curl up in a little ball and shut out the world but God meant for us to support each other.
Oh I can’t promise that a day will never come Where the ground beneath us falls out and you got nowhere to run Oh but you won’t be alone when the water starts to rise up No you won’t be alone my darling when the rains come
In Belfast we’ve seen a rise in suicides – it breaks my heart to think that someone could get to that point but in a world that is so self-absorbed, so full of pressures and unattainable images it’s increasingly common to find someone who doesn’t realise just how loved and special they are. Imagine if everyone knew they not only had a friend in Jesus but also a friend who will literally stand beside them and hold their hand no matter what they face.
Think about the words of this song and consider who in your life might need a hand to hold or someone to carry them for a little while just like that image in the well known Footprints poem. Why not reach out and let someone know that our Constant Friend has taught us to pass on the love and friendship that he offers us…
Take my hand when you can’t see the light
‘Cause I’m forever on your side
I will carry you every time
Because I’m forever on your side
“I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” Mark 11:23-24 NLT
As I read it back to myself when I hit send I thought about how often doubt creeps into my mind. Every day I question my ability to achieve the little things, the big things and my crazy dreams. But our Constant friend has told us we have to believe we can do it 100% – with confidence and absolutely no doubt.
Daniel in the lion’s den believed that the Lord would protect him.
Moses trusted God in the wilderness even at the bleakest times.
The shepherd boy David faced the giant Goliath with five little stones and trusted that he could bring him down.
Whatever ‘giant’ you’re facing today I hope you can find the confidence to believe you can conquer it. Maybe today’s Worship Wednesday track can be your rally cry – I know it will definitely be mine!
I’m gonna sing and shout and shake the walls
I won’t stop until I see ’em fall
Gonna stand up, step out when you call, Jesus