Dancing Daughter

DegasBallerinapuzzle

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.

Brennan manning, Abbas Child

My tiny hand gripped the smooth pine barre as I stretched myself from the tip of my toes to the top of my head; wishing myself taller I willed my body into the arabesque posture, only to be snapped out of my daydream by the brutal tone of my ballet teacher who reminded me that I should be practicing fourth to fifth position with the rest of the girls in a perfect row. I was one of the 7 young girls lined up in pink shiny leotards, black leather ballet shoes and tight buns in blonde nets sat neatly on top of our heads; our images multiplied endlessly in the huge mirrors that filled the walls. My teacher told me I would never make it as a professional ballerina because I was too short, and even though I was eight years old she could tell by my physique that I would never be tall enough.
Still, I dreamt. And even though my heels always ached and my tummy filled with nerves, she would call out that my neck should be more extended like a swan, bottom squeezed in, tummy tucked and shoulders back and stop wriggling! I hated my ballet class, yet I was so desperate to go back week after week. I was so desperate to prove that I was wonderful and surely my teacher was mistaken. I dreamt of being on points and performing in The Nutcracker. During my dreaded classes, the 5 minutes of free dance is what made me come alive, that was what I was living for. The tedium of being in line diligently would dissolve as I would dream myself into a Degas painting; I filled the stage gloriously, the spotlight lit me up like an angel as I spun in pirouette’s and twirls.

The ballet phase surely faded, it was never meant to be, and my pernickety ballet teacher was right; I grew to 5 ft 2 and I would never be a famous ballerina. Throughout my childhood I was always drawn to the stage; I loved to perform. I loved Drama and studied Theatre at University. I performed at The Edinburgh Festival, it sounds marvelous but actually was a bit of a flop. Not that I was terrible but my heart was never fully in it. I was never excellent; I was good, but not excellent by the world’s standards, I was always pretty average. Or to use another word: Satisfactory.

One of my school reports during my primary years said I was Satisfactory at everything! In every subject I got Satisfactory, and I will never forget the joke that was made that I was Miss Satisfactory. I thought it funny but deep down words carry weight and they get lodged in our subconscious and before we know it they become us. The lie that what I do became incredibly important. My identity was being shaped and I learned the lie that we must be great at something and succeed in something grand to be worthy. What we do, rather than who we are takes centre stage.

Have you seen the film Florence Foster Jenkins? It’s recently aired on the BBC. Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant do well to bring the poignant story of this eccentric lady to light. Florence was an amateur soprano, she became famous for being what Steven Pile claimed, “The world’s worst opera singer, no one before her or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.” Unbeknown to the general public Florence was dying from Syphilis, she had money and connections in high places, she believed she was wonderful, even though she was a terrible singer she promoted herself. Her doting husband, Frank Jenkins tried his very best to protect her from “the mockers and the scoffers” and continued to encourage her to believe in herself despite the criticism. Frank loved her unconditionally and he would do anything to protect her from the ridicule that would eventually be her downfall. Her desire to be loved and admired by many was eventually what took her to her grave. What a heart-wrenching story! Frank’s devotion to her was profound, his adoration for who she was, was clearly more important than what she did.

The world has told us that what we do is who we are. But should our value be in who we are not what we do? I belong to my beloved Father and I am his beloved child and what I do or how I do it places no value upon who I am. I can dance before him in the most ridiculous fashion and he dotes on my every move. I can make a huge mess of things and he just smiles. Just as my little boys are so desperate to show me their moves and grooves my heart melts because to me they are perfectly imperfect, their quirks and mistakes just make them even more adorable. And so it is with God, he values our relationship with him far above our successes.

I’ve lived my life so far with such a desperation in my heart to be good at something and when I feel I’ve fallen short, I’ve felt despair. But, a new thing is rising up in my heart, a new song, and that is that I have finally discovered something that I am good at, and it’s not a good dancer, mother, wife, teacher, writer, speaker, cook or even a friend. It’s not for the world to judge. It’s better than that.

I’m good at faithfulness. I’m a prodigal daughter and I came home. And since I came home to the loving arms of my Daddy God I haven’t let him go and no matter what happens to me, no matter what calamity comes my way my faith grows stronger. I know that as I dance into the arms of my beloved, He adores my every move. He’s proud and pleased because I have given him my whole heart and I am faithful. And sure enough because my Daddy is creative, (He is the Creator after all) I too am creative and some of the things I create are good and some might even be grand, but that is by the by.

For what really matters is who I am and whose I am. And when I close my eyes, I’m dancing in an entirely different court. I lose myself in pirouettes and twirls and I am wonderful, and as I look up to see my father watch in adoration, He has the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen, they are like pools of piercing fiery blue, so full of love for me, so full of affirmation that when I look deep into them I begin to see myself. My true self. For I am His and He is mine; everything outside of that is an illusion.

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Crazy Diamonds

rough

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.

Search for them as you would silver;

seek them like hidden treasures.

Proverbs 3:2-4

Diamond is formed under insurmountable pressure and at a heat no man can synthesise. At depths of over 100 miles into the Earth’s mantle, these shiny, radical rocks have been growing since the beginning of time. They reach the earth’s surface through volcanic eruptions traveling at rates of up-to 30 mph hidden in pipes known as kimberlite, a volcanic material keeping them locked in its natural form.

How awesome is that? I’ve been home educating for 4 months now and my boys and I are loving learning in a whole new and practical way. The text-book is a thing of the past as we now launch ourselves like crazy diamonds upwards into the big wide world that is now our classroom. Wow, it feels like I have just rediscovered my boy, a shiny rock of incredible strength hidden in kimberlite. The heat is intense, and the pressure is on but my heart is full to overflowing.

We would rush out of the door in a wild frenzy every morning to get to school on time, and then I would pick up my son looking like he has been in a pressure cooker all day. With a perilous look in his eyes he would literally steam out of the school gates and up a tree before I could catch a breath, and don’t get me wrong, he is still up a tree… in fact his tree climbing has gone to whole new wild and wonderful level. But now we get to chill in the fresh of the morning, we get to play, read, write and create at our own pace. He loves to learn kinaesthetically, so we’re out and about every day and although these crazy diamonds do send me wild on a daily basis, I feel like I’ve got my boy back; I’m cracking open the kimberlite, and this quality little rock of a boy is in the palm of my hand.

I’ve known deep down my boys are not quite cut out for the status quo, but my life so far has taught me that it’s so easy to ignore that deep call within; it’s almost as if our instincts have become extinct in the world today. We deafen ourselves to ourselves, in the crazy heat of the days that catapult us at vast speeds with distractions left, right and centre no wonder we can’t hear ourselves think. We’re muffled and buried in a digital world. It takes so much will power to switch off the phone, move away from the screen, take a deep breath and listen.

I’m learning slowly but wisely to listen to myself. I’m discovering who I am and who I’m made to be. I’m under great pressure, and sometimes it feels like way too much, but I can feel myself being thrust upwards and I can see the light. It’s time to listen in the stillness to what my heart is saying, to what my children are saying and what our souls are yearning for. It’s time to listen to what the still, small voice whispers gently in the depth of my being.

I’ve always been drawn to the quirky creatives and I’ve always had a heart for those that don’t fit in. Probably because I’m somewhat quirky and creative myself. Yet, I’ve been striving my whole damn life to try to fit in…Why? I have never quite fit in, but there’s still a part of me that wishes I was ‘normal’ but hey, what on this crazy earth is normal?

When I married my extraordinary husband I was totally blown away by his brilliant and beautiful mind. It was only years into our marriage we discovered he has autism but that in itself was like digging deep to find a striking diamond in the hard ground. I’m so thankful to finally understand that his beautiful mind is formed differently to mine. I’m so grateful to finally be enlightened and have the power to create an environment so we can all flourish and grow; there’s so much power in this knowledge, there’s so much healing in it.

I’m tired of hearing people say they don’t like labels. I’m all for the labels and I’m not apologising for it. It’s time we stopped trying to ignore people who are different. Labels are not always damaging. Labels can be liberating. It’s time to accept people for who they are. Perhaps the problem isn’t the people who might be exhibiting ‘selfish’ behaviour but rather the rigid, unperceptive expectations that we put on them. Instead of making judgements about the man who didn’t look you in eyes at the party, the woman who didn’t smile at your joke, or the rude and uproarious child who can’t sit still in church or conform in the supermarket, perhaps we need to develop some discernment and grow a bit of grace.

I’m done with ‘normal’. It’s time to celebrate and honour the unique people who have been massively misunderstood for far too long, it`s time to make allowances and give grace upon grace, just like Jesus does with us all. We’ve come a long way from lobotomies and mental institutions, we’re marginally more inclusive these days; but, for those who are high functioning and neuro-diverse we are NOT inclusive enough. I’m done with striving to be like everyone else and I’m done with trying to fix what I can’t fix and that includes myself and my family. As the lovely quote by Alexander Den Heijer   goes…

When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.

Labels give breakthrough and exoneration and I’m not apologising for seeking them out for my children if necessary. The amount of high functioning children and adults with ADHD, PTSD or ASD (the list goes on…) that slip through the net without diagnosis is heartbreaking. I was a high school teacher for 9 years, I​`​ve seen it happen. The more I research ADHD (check out: graceunderpressure.blog)​ I’m outraged at how tragically misunderstood and unaccepted it is in our society, regardless of the fact that it is the most well researched and proven mental health condition in history. However, let us hope that the recent ground breaking research into brain development will shed a bright light into our children`s future.

It angers me when people make snap judgements about the behaviour of children. Misunderstanding is devastating. It has devastated my husband all his life and as I discover the wonderful minds of my children and even my own quirks and why I’ve always been a bit different, I realise that the characteristics we can be painfully insecure about can actually be our blessing. As Paul Scanlon so wisely put the other day,

If you misunderstand someone’s struggle, you will misunderstand their strength.

So me and my crazy diamonds are on a journey of discovery. We’re digging deep to find beautiful truths about who we are and who we are made to be and we are gloriously and unapologetically different. Our ‘differabilities’ will take us far as we channel ourselves like brilliant diamonds catapulted at full speed to the earth’s surface. And I’m proud to say that we are the real deal, we are pure, natural and unique… Oh, and just for the record, we are not ‘well behaved’ nor are we meant to be!

Are you feeling under insurmountable pressure today? Are you living in unbearable heat and not knowing how to handle yourself or the people around you that might behave in ways that don’t quite fit what we think should be ‘normal’? Can I encourage you my friend, no-one on this earth is ‘normal.’ Certainly, all behaviour must be addressed, but how about with a little more understanding and a whole lot of grace. We are all floundering around with our hands in the dirt, but if we are willing to be still and tune our ears to the deep call within, we will find hidden in dense gravel, inside the sparkling earthy blue kimberlite, the costly, shiny rock of a diamond that we are all made to be.

Blood Red Sky

redsky

My eyes turned to the blood red sky, cast like the bloody back of a scourged man bent and excruciated. His broken face pushed into the dust as they (we), nailed him to the wood laughing and scorning in unbelief.

The sky, beyond beautiful revealed the stripes of my saviour; cut in colours of fire my heart skipped a beat.  I knew in that moment, in my brokenness and sin, he was calling me back in a sweet, gentle voice, yet in a painting so violent and beautiful I could not help but surrender.

My mouth tasted bitter from the night before as I walked through the streets of Manchester on an early summer evening. My heart was heavy as I looked up at the stripy sky, a heart shred from the internal self harm I had done to myself over and over. Sleeping with the enemy and drinking his poison my body was done for, my soul wrenched open, the world had crucified me and although I kept going back for more… I knew this time it was different.

My spirit has been awoken, I could see Jesus in the fire. Unharmed and waiting with arms open, his hands with holes of light and blood washed clean. He was bright, white and with eyes so kind, loving and piercing that they could break the strongest and hardest of men. Even men of terror.

Ten years ago I gave my broken heart back to Jesus. I learned that there is only one God that loves without measure, that he is more powerful than the darkest power on earth, he is brighter than the sun and can extinguish every evil. He is not a tyrant or a terrorist, he does not kill to purify a race or religion, he does not hate. He is Love, he is the light of the world and he is opening the skies. His angelic force is without number, he is both in and out of time. His heaven is real and he will return, in fact He’s on his way.

God does not pay back evil for evil, he is not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth god. He does not punish, he does not get revenge… he dealt with that on The Cross. That’s the whole point of The Cross. He died for every tragedy that has ever been and every tragedy that will be. His blood has set us free.

Is this too much blood talk?

Too much Christian craziness?

Craziness is suicide bombing, craziness is extremism and hatred in the name of God.
Truth is that there is more to life than the cataclysmic reality of what we see on the news today. Truth is that we are not doomed. Truth is God is full of love, that is why he created this earth and all of us in it.  Every good thing comes from him. God is love. And perfect love casts out all fear.

So let’s drop our weapons and look up at the sky, it’s blood red and beautiful. By his stripes we are set free. God has already dealt with every brutal tragedy and will deal with every kind of terror. And I pray for those lost in the deep, dark grip of extremism and I pray that they are stopped in their tracks and that they fall to their knees and surrender to the One True God that can save them.

I am praying for Manchester today, the city where I was born and born again and thank God for this precious place. And I pray that the people who have lost their loved ones find the peace that is not of this world, I pray for broken hearts mended and an infusion of hope and light so bright it will light up the darkest places.

‘Look, He comes with the clouds of heaven

And everyone will see Him,

Even those who pierced Him.

And all the nations of the world will mourn for him.

Yes! Amen!’Revelation 1:7

Into Something Beautiful

“We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis.”

LeeAnn Taylor

 

butterfly

 

My wild and wonderful son ran full speed into the door frame. He hit his eye and shrieked in pain laying crumpled in a heap on the floor. I ran and held him close and whispered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” and kissed his eye and hugged him tight. When he calmed down a little, he looked up and said, ” Why are you sorry mummy? It’s not your fault.” I smiled and said, “I know, but I feel sorry. I didn’t cause the pain but I feel sorry and wish it hadn’t happened.”

It struck me that this is how God feels as a loving Father, he is sorry for the suffering we have to endure here on earth. Even though he doesn’t cause it, it breaks his heart to see us suffer and he wants to hold us tight when we are hurting.

I think the biggest question in all of history is not- is God real? The biggest question is- is God good?

I’ve pretty much believed in the existence of God all my life, but I’ve not always believed in the goodness of God. Sure I have said he is good a thousand times and never have I thought him a tyrant, but I have without realising it thought that because bad things happen and he has the power to stop them then it must be his will. I have somehow morphed him into a God who loves us but sometimes he stands back, arms folded and watches us suffer because we need to learn from the trial. Many people might nod their head and agree with this, but over the last few years and especially in recent days I have come to realise that this is a distorted view of my loving Father. In fact it’s a dangerous view of God because when I think like this I shut the door to intimacy with him and it’s in his affection that I find the joy and peace that I need to endure the trial in the first place.

God is a good, good Father and it breaks his heart to see the world suffer. It breaks his heart to see his children sick, it killed him (literally on the cross) when we fight each-other, wage war and suffer horrendous trials that come in too many different forms to count.

When we believe the lie that he’s letting the trial happen to teach us a lesson we shun the very spirit that is there to redeem us from the trial. We shun the very promise that he works all things together for good. If we let him, he morphs everything dark into something bright and beautiful. And in that redemption we simply have the benefit of being refined in the fire, morphed into something beautiful. Out of the ashes we come out stronger, wiser and more beautiful than before because that is the grace of God working everything for good. But, never should we think that it was his will to begin with, that he planned the trial on purpose. Yes of course he knew that we would hit the trial before it happened but this doesn’t mean to say he wanted this. Instead, thankfully by his amazing grace he is able to prepare our hearts for the suffering coming our way and he is ready to equip us with what we need yet he is so painfully sorry about what we will encounter.

If my precious son had not hit his eye I would not have sown love and grace into him in that particular moment, and those seeds sown into his heart in turn will lead him to reach out to someone else in need one day. Every seed of love sown has a knock on effect. The butterfly effect. A beautiful metamorphosis is taking place. But, this doesn’t mean to say I am glad he hurt himself in the first place. That is ludicrous. And so it is with our loving Father. He isn’t glad when tragedy strikes, it isn’t some twisted plan to make us stronger… but out of every accident, every mistake, every suffering, he is there with open arms ready to hold us tight, kiss our wounds, give us strength and morph us into something beautiful.

Kaleidoscopic Heart

Kaleidoscope-Love-Heart

”For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken. It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.’ DH Lawrence.

 

I woke up on Sunday morning by the raucous cheers of my merry-making boys. I felt weary, my body heavy, a head full of cold and a flawed heart; a heart not ready to pour gentle grace into my precious family. I only had just short of an hour to feed the boys breakfast, get everyone dressed, shower, dress myself, change a nappy, gather snacks, feed the cat and get to church on time in a somewhat military fashion.

The sky looked unpromising as my husband turned the worship music up to drown out the inharmonious sounds in the back of the car. I’m usually excited about going to church, but on this day I really didn’t want to face people and I really didn’t feel like I had the energy to raise my hands to God and be thankful. Lately I have been pondering my past and the journey of my life and I have felt some wounds re-open, ones I thought had healed. TD Jakes says, ‘I am reminded of what my mother used to say, she would take the band- aid off, clean the wound and say, “things that are covered don’t heal well.’

As I entered church already feeling exhausted, the music began. I felt ashamed, exposed, even though no one knew how I was feeling I wore that smile that said I was fine. I held my youngest tight as he wrapped his little legs around me like a little security blanket, and I began to sing. At first I began to sing dutifully, but as I closed my eyes and thanked God for my life and my family and the fact that I am in His house and no-longer lost, a joy began to well up in me. I was reminded that joy is not a feeling, it’s a fruit, a fruit of the spirit. His Spirit. His joy. I began to feel His joy for me. I am his joy. I felt the eyes of my heart begin to sharpen, I began to feel my cracked heart fill with light.

I pictured myself at the edge of the sea and I began to wade towards the waves, I felt brave and wonderful. Angels surrounded me as they flew above the surface of the  crystal clear water, the most amazing blue I had ever seen. The sun shone on my skin and I felt an incredible love fill me from head to toe and my heart was visible like glass, cracked but still in shape, shafts of light shone through. The surface of my heart was like a prism of many colours and stunning mosaic swirls. I realised that even though my heart feels fractured and I don’t always understand what is going on and why certain things are happening to me, he was reminding me that he lives in my heart, he lives in my pain, my heart is His dwelling place and although I carry a lot of hurt from years and years of walking on a rocky road, He is the One that holds it together and although it feels broken sometimes, it isn’t shattered, it isn’t smashed to pieces…

It is cracked like a kaleidoscope of brilliant colours and If I hadn’t lived the life that I had lived then I wouldn’t see this beauty and it is an honour to allow the brilliant and beautiful light of my living God shine through this broken vessel, through these stunning swirls and beautiful cracks. In this perfect moment I saw that my heart is not fully mended and perhaps it never will be, perhaps I will forever hold this hurting heart because my heart is way too sensitive for this broken world I live in, but one thing I do know is that as I live with my lovely, cracked kaleidoscopic heart I am beautiful and I carry a joy that will never go away and when I meet my saviour face to face I know my heart will be whole.

Just as the worship music came to an end my lovely friend began the meeting with a word from God. As she began to talk my heart leaped as she shared that a few days earlier she was stood on the beach and as she took a deep breath at the water’s edge the anxiety that consumed her disappeared, and how this is a picture of how Jesus is ready to calm our fears and fills us with his peace.

I love it how God meets us exactly where we are and sometimes in the most unexpected places. He’s even willing to turn up in my crazy imagination. I love it how not one of us ‘has it all together’ whatever that means. We are all a work in progress. No matter how dark or broken someone’s heart is; Jesus doesn’t judge. He is waiting full of unconditional love to enter each dark crevice and fill them with his shafts of light and turn each hurting heart into something bright and beautiful. No matter how black and broken a heart might be, like a lovely, dawn- kaleidoscopic within the crack he turns each crack, each dark story into something utterly amazing.

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Whose Skin Are You In?

 

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I stole a rare moment of solitude after settling my boys to sleep. I watched the sky darken and sobbed into the blanket I had wrapped myself up in; my heart ached as I had an honest conversation with myself. The truth is there is not one person on this earth that truly understands me, who has seen my whole story unfold. Not one person on this planet really knows me completely and the depth of how I feel.

But before you get your violins out, this is not a cry for pity. In my moments of sorrow there is One who has walked around in my skin; One who has worn my shoes; One who has suffered unimaginably to know me better than I know myself, and he lives and breathes inside my heart.

During my years of teaching English in a high school, I had a recurring dream. I couldn’t see the end of the classroom as there was an endless sea of children sat at their desks that I couldn’t reach. This dream reflected the struggle I had to help every individual. I didn’t like having to control a room of students using an authoritarian approach, I battled with having to condemn their ‘bad’ behaviour.

I will never forget one young lady who drove me to distraction, she had the power in her fragile little body to dominate the entire class. She was unbearably misbehaved, she respected no authority and would laugh in your face if you tried to lord it over her. The more wound up and angry you got the funnier she found the whole situation. She was infuriating, but I will never forget the day she made me so cross and I blew my top, for a split second she looked like a frightened little lamb.

I went home that day in a flood of tears because I felt like a failure. I knew that this little girl in her 14 years of life had suffered unimaginable abuse. This young girl had experienced anger her entire life. This delicate girl had never known love. It was heart breaking. I knew this because Jesus opened my eyes to see her pain.

I wanted to talk to her, hold her, tell her she was beautiful. She was good at Art and during my English lesson I wanted to say to her, ” I know you don’t want to do this, so why don’t you sit where you like and paint me a picture, paint me a story.” I wanted to say, “you don’t have to follow the rules”and ” It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the grades.” But of course I would lose my job if I did that.

The heart-rending fact is we live in a society where so many hurting children are misunderstood. When I meet foster carers and adoptive parents, I’m amazed by what they do. It is truly beautiful. To take on a little child, with all their brokenness and behavioural difficulties and pour unrequited love into them, is just truly inspiring. This is true love. This is sacrifice.

Thankfully my son is from a stable home, he’s loved and cared for, he hasn’t been subject to neglect or abuse, so no great harm is done when he gets a telling off at school. Some of our traditional ways of doing things are valuable, correction is crucial but sadly in this day and age one blanket way does not fit all. Sadly we have no idea half the time of the complexities of each individual in the room.

We are here on this earth to love the unlovely. That is the paramount reason for being. Loving the child that has a major meltdown and screams in your face, “I hate you.” Loving the adult who takes from you and gives nothing in return. Loving the parent that abused you, the neighbour who judges you or the boss who rules with iron- the one you can never please no matter how hard you work.

Can you love them? Can we do this? Can we love our enemies? Yes we can, through the blood of Jesus we can. Through supernatural forgiveness we can. Because when we sink low to our knees and ask God to show us through his eyes the love he feels for that person, it will make your heart explode. He can show you their journey, their story, their pain and suddenly this giant before you is no longer a monster but a delicate child that through their own suffering is doing what they only know how. As Jesus cried out on the cross, Forgive them father, for they know not what they do, and so it is with our enemies.

We were born to relate. To have compassion on the suffering, to reach out to the dying, to discern why they do the things they do and love them anyway. We were born to love the unlovely and God didn’t leave us alone to work it out in the dark. No, he sent his son as the greatest example, to die for the most despicable people on earth. Not only to set them free and give them a chance to change but even if they choose not to, he gives us the power to love them anyway.

There is nothing more moving than watching radical love take place. Gary Ridgway was guilty of killing 48 women, making him the biggest serial killer in US history and as he stood on trial the family members got up and told him of their heart ache and how much they hated him and wished him dead. Ridgway’s expression remained cold and unrepentant. However, one gentleman got up and said,

“there are people here that hate you, but I’m not one of them. You have made it difficult to live up to what I believe, and that is what God says to do and that’s to forgive, you are forgiven sir.”

At that moment Gary Ridgway broke down into tears for the very first time. How was this man able to show mercy to such an evil man? This kind of forgiveness can only be done by the supernatural power of God. The gentleman that nervously stated, “You are forgiven sir,” I’m sure did the hardest thing he had ever had to do, but doing so released him into a peace and a freedom that nothing on earth can give. He saw this murderer through the eyes of God, through the blood of Jesus. This gentleman would have seen that the criminal before him would not have committed such horrific crimes if it wasn’t for the unspeakable torture that he had suffered in his own life.

Jesus opens the eyes of our hearts to see. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put so well, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” When we turn to God on bended knee and ask to see through his eyes and to walk around in his skin, we suddenly find ourselves wearing their shoes and we no longer feel the hatred that was building up inside us. Instead we are flawed with an overwhelming love for the one who needs their saviour, a saviour who longs to wear their shoes and walk around in their skin, who knocks on the door of their heart saying, “let me in.”

The Eye of the Storm

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I awoke at 4am this morning to hear the wild wind howling like a pack of angry wolves; I quickly jumped out of bed to close the window as a fearful shiver tickled my spine. A few hours later the ferocious wind continued to howl wildly in the woods as I walked the boys to school. I had to catch my thoughts and take them captive as images of fallen trees swooped down to take our little lives.

I looked up to see the bright moon swallowed by grey and unrelenting clouds, a downpour was inevitable as we rushed through the school gates. My wide eyed son asked me if we could go to America to see a tornado and, “what is it like inside a tornado mummy?” I explained that it’s actually calm. The eye of a storm is still. I told him that that is what Jesus is like, calm in the storm. And although we cannot see him, like we cannot see the wind, we can feel him and see his power at work. Half listening he bumbled into school with an excitable heart and a head filled with dreams of tornadoes and hurricanes.

As I walked away I looked up to see a bright and beautiful rainbow arch the black sky, light rain kissed our faces as I was reminded again of God’s promise and his protection. Even in the face of adversity I am secure.

I don’t know about you but the news of death seems to linger so closely in air these days, weather devastation, disease, terrorism…our world is full of unrelenting bad news and if we’re not careful to keep the peace, our minds can be consumed with fear of death.

Death is such a baffling concept when I think about it too much, the thought that we can be here one minute and gone the next is so strange. Gone where? How can we be alive, breathing, seeing, hearts beating and then not. How can this be? As a Christian I now cannot fathom the thought of not being, not living, because even though my heart will stop beating I will continue to live. My soul and my spirit move on. My body is the only part of me that will die and then I will get a new undying body in heaven.

To an unbeliever my faith may sound ridiculous but to be honest the thought of life ending in tragic emptiness to me does not make sense. Life is too incredible and intricate for it all to just simply be a pointless accident.

I’m too far into my journey of faith and the revelation that life here on earth is fleeting, to think that all we are is a body that happens to be able to produce life and love and feel and be able to kill and hate and hurt. We are too creative and thoughtful to be like animals and we are too passionate, loving and dangerous to be accidental. I believe we take life here on earth too seriously (as though this is all there is) because at the end of the day life is more than this life on earth.

When I was travelling in Cambodia I visited The Killing Fields where Pol Pot (a genocidal tyrant) and the Khmer Rouge were responsible for killing approximately 2 million people. I visited the torture chambers where the blood stains were still covering the walls and the torture instruments still on display beside the torture beds. I saw the trees on which the people were hung upside down and tortured to death in the most barbaric and horrific ways, I saw a glass Wat of a thousand skulls and mass graves with bits of bone and clothing still inside and do you know what conclusion I came to that day?

I was on a journey back to God. I had lived my life without him for long enough and I needed answers to why such horror can possibly exist. I carried a broken heart that day, for what I could see before me, but also for the heart ache and hurt I carried in my own life, and as I stood beside the mass graves and as I sat outside this museum of death at 10am in the morning, not a bird would fly by. I bought a beer from a man on the corner and I drank the beer and wept and wept because of the suffering in this world and instead of saying the same old line,

“How can there be a God to allow such horror to take place?”

I looked up at the sorry sky and I saw the truth.

“How can there not be a God? How on earth is it possible for there not to be a God?”

A God to justify the horror, the pain and suffering. A God that went through the worst and most unimaginable horrific suffering of mankind as he took upon the sin of this world, he died for every genocide that has ever taken place, he died for every disease, for every terrorist attack, every death, every heart broken, he took it all and sacrificed himself because he loves us so much.

I realised that day, at the side of the road, drinking my beer for breakfast that there is so much more to life than what we see with our naked eyes. His heart breaks with us. His heart was broken on the cross. He felt our suffering and bled and died to set us free and life here in this delicate and unpredictable world is full of hope.

The God of the universe came to set you free from a life of hopelessness and although there is no promise of a perfect life here during this little time on earth, there is a promise of forgiveness, unimaginable joy, a promise of healing, redemption and the most wonderful of all, a promise of eternal life. Even though the storm is raging and the wild wind is howling and your life could literally seem as though it is falling apart; there is a peace to be found, a calm place in the eye of the storm and in this resting place is a man named Jesus.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4-5