Thursday, 6 May 2021

Why is depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents?

Lie to your kids.
Long post but worth reading:
Erica Komisar, A psychologist recently published an article in The Wall Street Journal about how to help children overcome anxiety and depression.
I found it really challenging how she has emphasised the role faith can play in helping our children and probably adults too. Note: anything in [ ] is mine.
“As a therapist,” she began, “I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion.” This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.
A 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined how being raised in a family with religious or spiritual beliefs affects mental health. Harvard researchers had examined religious involvement within a longitudinal data set of approximately 5,000 people, with controls for socio-demographic characteristics and maternal health.

The result? Children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance was associated with higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation. [let’s hold this picture in our heads and reflect on the decline in church attendance in the UK and Ireland over the last 30 years and increase in mental health matters. Let’s also ask ourselves why, on average the church spends just 3% of its total budget on children and youth ministry in the U.K. Or why most youth and children’s workers ended up in furlough for many months during the pandemic?]
Read on....
She goes on to document that decline and its negative effects on children. “Nihilism [ the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.] is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being ‘realistic’ is overrated. [wow]
The belief in God—in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough—is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world.” But what if parents don’t believe in God? “I am often asked by parents, ‘How do I talk to my child about death if I don’t believe in God or heaven?’ My answer is always the same: ‘Lie.’ The idea that you simply die and turn to dust may work for some adults, but it doesn’t help children.” She goes on to prescribe offering children images of heaven—even if you have to lie!—to counter the bad images all around us in our broken world.
[In an age of broken families, distracted parents, global pandemics, school violence, knife crime, and nightmarish global-warming predictions the church plays a big part in children’s ability to cope.
Now at this point I offer a better solution than lying to your kids or even yourself.
Explore the truth of Jesus Christ.
He’s the rescuer, the one who frees us from guilt, pays for our sins, makes us new, gives us a future, the promise of eternal life and welcome everyone... EVERYONE.. with open arms.
If I can help you on that journey just ask. ❤️
I’m convinced the church has a key role in society today and following Jesus Christ is essential to living a full life]

Monday, 23 November 2020

The “average” Christian in the world

The “average” Christian in the world is not male but female, not white but black, third world, not first world, far more Pentecostal than Presbyterian.
The “average” Christian in the world today is a 22-year old black female. She has not been to our events or conferences, she has not read C.S. Lewis or John Scott; she has not read our Facebook posts or blogs and does not go to Starbucks or care one bit about alternative endings to Game of Thrones or if the latest lyrics from Bethel or Hillsong agrees with our confessional standards.
She is also the likely the vessel God will use to prophesy to the next generation. She’s not afraid of suffering either: Over 215 million Christians are persecuted with intimidation, prison, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ across the world.
What can she teach us today? Nothing.
Absolutely nothing. Why? because we would not listen! Some would have issues with a female teaching, others her youthfulness and others still her accent or cultural dress etc. Maybe for some it would even be skin colour.
So today she will lean into the power of prayer, the presence of God's Holy Spirit and the joy of the Gospel. She will endure hardship, embrace suffering, read the scriptures in small groups, sing in tongues and speak faith over fear. All of this while working long hours, no furlough, no political support, she will raise a young family and faithfully attending her church / small groups.
I have so much to learn!
Forgive me Lord when my form of Christianity is pathetically narrow and doesn’t not accommodate the global voices of these women and many others who are not like me. Forgive me when my view of the church is so self orientated. Help me to see beyond my borders.
Join me today in praying for such women and open our eyes and ears to the global church.
* 42% of the world’s population is under 25, half in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

* The median age of the global population is 28.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Some thoughts on Sunday no6 away from the buildings and larger community of church. #Lockdown

Thought for the day on Sunday number 6️⃣ away from the buildings and larger community of church.

Dear church,
Pray for your pastor. This is the 6th Sunday since lockdown and they are tired, and they need your support. They need more than a like on a  Facebook page or some technical wizardry doing the rounds on social media. They need loved and listed to and support and the word of God and revelation and something authentic. ❤️

Pray for your pastors. Treat them like real people not just a virtual entity. This isn’t an easy time, they are hurting, lift the phone, send a text, pastor your pastor and don’t hide when the 🎥 isn’t rolling. 

Church you need to open up your bible in locked down homes and let the Holy Spirit out. People need Jesus not gimmicks. People will remember who stood with them when it got tough. Come on! Let’s do this Church! 👊👊

Dear Pastors,
Pray for your people. This is the 6th Sunday since lockdown and they are tired, and they need your support. They need more than a like on their Facebook page or some technical wizardry doing the rounds on social media. They need loved and listed to and support and the word of God and revelation and something authentic. ❤️

Pray for your people. Treat them as individuals not just a virtual crowd. This isn’t an easy time, they are hurting, lift the phone, send a text, pastor your people and don’t hide when the 🎥 isn’t rolling. 

Pastor you need to open up your bible in locked down homes and let the Holy Spirit out. People need Jesus not gimmicks. People will remember who stood with them when it got tough. Come on! Let’s do this Pastor! 👊👊

We are in this together. 

🙌’Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’🙌
Ephesians 3:20-21

Friday, 4 October 2019

Five big life lessons I learned over four weeks:


Four weeks ago today and a visit to the doctors ended up with a trip in an ambulance to the Royal Hospital. Reason? 

Potential heart attack.

It started three days earlier in Heathrow Airport at 7:15am. After a few busy days and an early start I was looking forward to catching up with friends at an annual retreat when I began to feel a tight pain in my chest, dull heavy ache in my left arm and needing to take occasional deep breaths. 

No fun.

I got some water and Aspirin from Boots and sat myself down in the airport thinking; This is gonna kick off! I might be having one!!

The pain didn’t get any worse than a 3/10 but I just didn’t feel right. I made a decision, (right or wrong) that if it gets to 5/10 I’m calling 999.

Over the next few hours the pain would come and go but never went above 3/10. I was in good company and I gave the lads a heads up that I was feeling a ‘bit fragile’. Wednesday and Thursday was much the same and feeling tired. 

Now back home, on Friday morning I went to the doctors. They wired me up to the ECG. They were not happy. Something didn’t look right on the ECG.

I wasn’t expecting to end up in an ambulance but off I went. 

Thankfully the reports were all good. Blood pressure, 3 blood tests, lungs x-ray etc. clean as a whistle.  At 5 pm I was sent home. What did they see at the doc’s? No idea; possibly a faulty reading on the ECG or maybe an answer to prayer enroute to hospital. 

So what was it / is it??

Inconclusive, possibly viral and/or a little bit of exhaustion/ stress related. (I think both). I didn’t go home healthy. I was still getting the pains in my chest, arm and tiredness.. until yesterday my first pain free day. I have still a few heart tests lined up at hospital but I now feel I’m finally on the mend. 

So the last 4 weeks i’ve had to take my foot of the gas, rest, listen to my body and make some lifestyle changes. I haven’t been off ‘sick’ I’ve just prioritised my world and I am deeply thankful for the Crown Jesus team, my family and close friends who have been a tremendous support.

Yesterdays was the first day I have had no chest pain. This morning a went for a gentle jog. My first exercise in 4 weeks. I haven’t posted about it on social media etc. I wasn’t going to either but then this morning I sensed in my spirit that it was important to share with others the lessons I have learned and the context of those lessons.

 5 lessons 

1, I was believing the lies everyone else says about me: ‘I am a machine.'

I have a reputation of going 110miles an hour, spinning lots of plates and pushing myself to the max.
Over time I started to believe the lies everyone else says about me; even my doctor. ‘You’re a machine’ heart rate 38 bpm at rest, run marathons with 8 weeks training, long cycles with little or no training, staying up to midnight, up at 6am doesn’t eat until 3pm most days but drinks 4 coffee’s. Out 4 night’s per week doing ministry and only taking 1/2 day per week. 

It’s sheer madness. I’m forever telling, even preaching to others to rest but I think I don’t need it. I was a hypocrite! I’ve been believing the lie and thinking:  ‘i’m not like others.’ I’ve got this.’ True: I do have a fierce capacity to work at another level. But I’m not a machine. 

When you are in Heathrow Airport and you think you might be having a heart attack… you suddenly realise. I’m human. 

Oh the frailty of life!

2, I have an unhealthy work ethic. 

No one forces it on me, I don’t do it to get approval from others. It’s not bad theology, it’s not bad leadership models or things I have inherited from parents. Its not that I think Crown Jesus needs me etc. It just me… I need to change my thinking on this. 
Here is an example:
Some years ago I heard Dr Dave Smith give a lecture on ‘The life of George Whitfield.’ It was brilliant! Dave’s last slide said this ‘George Whitfiled died at age of 56 having worn himself out in the Lord’s service!’ Everyone in the room was saying ‘wow! I don’t want to die at 56 worn out’… everyone except me! I was thinking ‘awesome! What a way to go!!’ You see what I mean? Unhealthy work ethic. Iv’e got to simple switch off more, including social media.  

3, My quiet times became a to-do list. 

I enjoy reading, praying, studying, reflecting and these encompass what may quiet time looks like; or at least should. However the last 18 months unhealthy habits have creeped in. As a result my 6am became a to-do list:

Finish the book

Prep for the sermon 

Plan, plan, plan.

Over 18 months my quiet time had been 1 or 2 degree of course and over a long period of time I am off course.  I was still praying but distracted by lists.

I now need to recalibrate by quiet times.

Over the last few weeks God has been teaching me about Sabbath prayer. ‘Be still…Rest…Shalom.’ (you can read more on Sabbath prayer in Roger Foster’s brilliant book simply called ‘Prayer.’ P98)

4, My diet and exercise has been shot to pieces. 

Three year ago I was at the gym regularly, cycling twice per week, jogging weekly and in the mountains once per month. This year: I cancelled my gym membership (too expensive) I’ve cycled maybe 10 times. I’m still ‘fit’ in comparison to others but it’s not just the physical it’s also the mental benefits. I need to look after the three of me: body, mind and spirit. I need to get that back. 

5, Embrace suffering.

‘The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest  challenge to the Christian faith and it has been in every generation’ John Stott. 

Why God puts us through stuff is complex but there can be no doubt for me that the greatest lessons I have learned in life have not been in the mountain tops but in the valleys. God seems to use suffering to break our legs and make us lie down in green pastures. For that I am deeply thankful. I’m learning to embrace suffering. It has a purpose. 

Action plan for me: 

Rework my diary. I will now be off every Friday (if you are reading this help me out by protecting my Fridays). 

Eat breakfast.

Say NO more. If I say no please don’t be offended.

Get to bed earlier a few nights per week.

Sabbath prayer every morning.

One coffee per day, the rest decaf.

Accessibility: One of my biggest problems for me is being too accessible. e-mail, text, What’s App, Facebook Messenger, Insta Messages, Twitter private messages the list goes on. There will now be fixed periods in my day when I access these and times I will be off the radar.  If you want any ministry related stuff it MUST go via the Crown Jesus office. I won’t be saying yes on a text etc. Louise is my P.A. she picks up all e-mails and manages my world.

Exercise five days per week, cut back on the junk food and drink more water. 

Finally: find a little bit more time for me. I’m gonna learn to be a little bit selfish without feeling guilty. 

Hope this little blog helps some others. 

Please look after yourself. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

I am a former Foetus (fetus)

I am a former Presbyterian. Even saying that feels weird because it is so close to my heart. I'm deeply thankful for that period of my life. I wouldn't be what I am today if it wasn't for that moment in life. There is a very natural close bond and deep-rooted connection. As a consequence; I am quick to defend them and ask people to think twice before cutting them to pieces. I understand everyone's experiences is different, I'm not judging anyone…  I simply want to take a moment to celebrate my past and I want the world to know I'm cheering them on! I'm proud to be a former Presbyterian.

I am a former Firefighter. Even saying that feels weird because it is so close to my heart. I'm deeply thankful for that period of my life. I wouldn't be what I am today if it wasn't for that moment in life. There is a very natural close bond and deep-rooted connection. As a consequence; I am quick to defend them and ask people to think twice before cutting them to pieces. I understand everyone's experiences is different, I'm not judging anyone…  I simply want to take a moment to celebrate my past and I want the world to know I'm cheering them on! I'm proud to be a former Firefighter.

I am a former Foetus (fetus). Even saying that feels weird because it is so close to my heart. I'm deeply thankful for that period of my life. I wouldn't be what I am today if it wasn't for that moment in life. There is a very natural close bond and deep-rooted connection. As a consequence; I am quick to defend them and ask people to think twice before cutting them to pieces. I understand everyone's experiences is different, I'm not judging anyone…  I simply want to take a moment to celebrate my past and I want the world to know I'm cheering them on! I'm proud to be a former Foetus.

Saturday, 1 June 2019



I was not what you would call a ‘baby person’. I wouldn’t jump up and down with excitement at the sight of a new baby, neither would I ask their weight or what time they were born at and I wouldn’t huff if I didn’t get a cuddle. Babies all looked the same to me and behaved the same; they ate, sleep, cry, wind and pooed. If a friend or family member had a baby I would do well to remember the sex and name, to be honest all the hype was just wasted on me I’m afraid.

When my wife became pregnant with our first son, all that began to change as something slowly began to awaken in me. I’ll call it my paternal instincts as I am not sure what else to call it but it was a nice warm feeling mixed with responsibility and duty. I would ride my motorcycle and all of a sudden feel like my family could suffer if I had an accident, I felt vulnerable. I began to watch baby programmes on T.V and even read books on fatherhood. I asked Pastors and church leaders for advice on managing my time between family and ministry. I liked the changes that were happening but I was however a little anxious, how would I cope with sleepless nights and nappies. My dad, so I am told, never changed a nappy once on his three sons. How times have changed; now a man is expected to fulfil all the duties of a women with the exception of breast feeding (thank God!) Apart from a baby in Romania (on a mission trip) I had never changed a nappy and that was just a wet one; what would I do with a stinker? There was every chance I would vomit over the baby.

The Ultra sound scan at 14 weeks blew me away. Some people told me I would see the baby’s head and body, others said I may not see much at all just a grey blob. Marcus Berkmann writes in his book entitled ‘Fatherhood’ that ‘this looks like a photocopy of a photocopy of an artist’s impression of a stoat’. So I didn’t go with any great expectations. All I wanted was a doctor to say that mother and baby are doing fine. But baby Noah decided to put on a show for mummy and daddy; we could see his hands, arms, legs the outline of a face and he wriggled and moved when we wanted him to and posed for a photo at the right times. Now all that was very cute but seeing the heart beat left me in awe, the beauty and wonder of human life. To be honest sometimes the doctor would point at the screen and say, “that’s the baby’s leg” and I would look and give a nod of agreement when I couldn’t make out anything, but other times when he would pause the screen I was mesmerised as I watched and saw the shape of our tiny baby. But the picture of the heart; seeing it beating on the screen, knowing that the baby was alive and well, that just made me want to throw a party.

Fast forward 13 years and he’s all grown up. He’s a best mate, but he’s not like me: He is good at maths, I only used maths to count from 501 down and end on a double 16. He can read a big book in one week with ease. I struggled to read a bi-weekly edition of the Beano in two weeks. He is good at long distance running, I was a sprinter. He is patient, me!? Lol. His temperament is not the same as mine.

He is not like me.

Last night in the prayer event for #JustOneBelfast at C.S Lewis Square I watched Noah. At the opposite side from me I could see him join hands with strangers and pray over our city… My heart skipped a beat as I heard a whisper in my soul: ‘He is just like me.’ ‘He’s made in my image, I put my Spirit within him. He’s just like me.’ After the prayer event I watched Noah and his sister laugh and jump around under the statue of Aslan and again I hear that whisper: ‘He’s just like me.’

Dad’s: let’s be carful we don’t make comparisons. To try and make our children fit our mould. They are your kids but they are not here to fulfil your unfulfilled dreams… and let’s never say ‘why can’t you be a ….. like your dad.’ Study your kids. The greatest gift you can give them and yourself is not riches, but revealing to them the love of God and releasing them to form into His likeness.

Thank God he is not like me. 


Love ya Noah Mitchell for who you are.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Anointed Impulsiveness: 2019, its time to go to the roof! (Mark 2: 1:12)

2019: It’s time to go to the roof! (Mark 2: 1-12)

Anointed impulsiveness

The word 'impulsive' refers to actions done or commitments made quickly with very little thought or planning behind them. In such cases there is almost no time gap between when an idea occurs and the point at which you carry it out.

Most people learn as they mature that their first impressions are not always right, their strongest instincts cannot always be trusted, and their deepest passions must not always be followed. It’s a kind of healthy self-distrust. However we must never allow our maturity and self-assessment to make us dull or mundane and remove the racial wonder and action of anointed impulsiveness.  

Haste is generally bad practice. When you always have to act immediately, you reveal an illusion that everything depends upon you. "If I don't act soon, my whole life will fall apart. If I don't move now, I lose everything.” This is often faith in yourself and your ideas not in God’s ability to deliver. 

The opposite of impulsiveness is to consider: To consider is defined as: 'to think carefully about something, typically before making a decision.’ Jesus said, "What king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?" (Luke 14:31). This is good advice!

The most important lessons from my M.A. studies was (and i’ll use the fancy term): Critical Theological Reflection. In other words, don’t be reckless and hasty but rather consider, reflect, speak with others…just wait out for a wee bit. Let some time pass. Don’t act immediately. In Crown Jesus Ministries when an important decision is to be made I will often say, let’s sleep on it…give it 24 hours. 

Now I’ve put those paragraphs in place at the start so that my thoughts for 2019 will not be understood as poor advice. 

As I read through stories of revival, miracles, supernatural works of God and multitudes coming to faith in Christ, I see people who are deeply connected with the Holy Spirit and willing to be more than predictable. They are not prepared to wait any longer for the committee to pass the request to another committee. They are not reckless, they simply have an anointed impulsiveness and they know it is time to go beyond the walls of buildings and beyond the walls of our thinking and go to the roof!

When the four men brought their disabled friend to Jesus the house was full but they were not satisfied to simply take him to a meeting, they wanted to bring him to Jesus. They had an unction and an urgency that said ‘This is our time, this is our season’ and the Holy Spirit quickened them into anointed impulsiveness. When Jesus saw their impulsiveness he considered it an act of faith and from it flowed forgiveness, healing and a supernatural witness.

For 2019 may God give us all wisdom, great courage and the ability to move into action. To move from un-anointed impassiveness to anointed impulsiveness.


So how can you know when to move and when to wait? 
That is inexplicably linked to your intimacy with the Holy Spirit thought prayer, fellowship, bible study, accountability and your daily public witness. check that list before you climb. 

Bible Text:

Mark 2 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Gods Chosen Vessel: A prophetic picture of hope in times of brokenness. Smithereens.

The smithereens prayer. (God's Chosen Vessel)

A picture and word placed upon my heart for  2019/20

I was praying, when I sensed the Lord give me a picture: 

It was a stunning glass vase at the centre of a living room, light went into it in one direction and sprayed out from it, illuminating the whole room.

The glass vessel was crimson red with a mix of deep blue:  it looked like Italian Murano glass. 

As I looked closer I could see that it was made up from tiny bits of glass that had been put back together like a mosaic. Around the floor where other broken pieces in different coloured glass. 

In my vision I asked the Lord what is that made of?

And I heard these words

Smithereens: Our best pieces are made of smithereens. Before light can shine though them, these vessels must first be smashed to smithereens. It is a painful moment and a slow process to rebuild them but it is the way of the cross, the way we choose for our light to be carried into the darkness. The glue, the crimson and blue colours; they represent us.’

That is all I heard. 

I  spent weeks marinating in these words, thoughts, the picture and what it means:

With limited editing skills I tried to recreate the picture for everyone to get the idea. But my picture doesn’t do it justice. the light was shining out was much brighter 

This is what I understand from the words and picture:

Here is a great mystery; our mistakes, suffering, chaos and pain can all be used for His glory and purpose. Nothing is wasted, like the fragments of bread gathered into baskets after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus is illustrating that he wastes nothing. 

We are free to live as broken pieces on the floor, damaged with guilt, sorrow, fear, deep heavy burdens, the unknown, our minds playing over and over the things we could have done differently, the things we wish we had never said, the relationship we could have handled better, the moments we failed… or we can give them over to Father God, invite his healing and chose to see those broken moments as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to recover, and to evolve into something that radiates Christ. 

We are broken, we hurt, we cry, we bleed, we suffer but in doing so God creates endless possibilities for us to shine for him. 

What are you walking through?

In these moments you must give the broken pieces to Jesus. He can not only heal but shape and transform and bring his light to the world.

You are never gonna look like yesterday again. You must choose:

You can either stay broken on the floor or be rebuilt
You can either shut down or let Jesus in
You can remain a shattered dream or become a vessel of light and hope for others. 

As I look at those who have had the greatest influence on my life they are made of the same thing: It’s not steel but tiny little fragments of broken glass that have been masterfully shaped by God.

The finest vessels in the world are merely smithereens placed in the Father's hands. 

My prayer:
That this will make some sense to you and that you will be encouraged and healed. May the light of Christ shine thought you today.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first.”


Some words from the apostle Paul to consider:

2 Cor 11: 

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever.

Phil 3: 
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas lessons on grief and suffering from my mum.

Two days ago I was at a funeral. Two days from now and it is Christmas day… and right now I’m feeling the tension of both. 

Yesterday I was with a lady who lost her son this year. She just wants to stay in bed on Christmas day and wake up in the new year when it's all over. 

I get that, I feel her pain. 

My mum was a widow, in her late 40’s with three teenagers. I was 14 and facing my first Christmas without dad. That shouldn’t happen.

For many Christmas is not a red sack of surprises and joy but an unstoppable black locomotive train. Hurtling down the track and loaded with a cargo filled with sorry, pain, grief, regret, fear, anxiety and despair.
How did my mum manage? 
I was too young to appreciate it back then…but there are three things that stand out:

1, She celebrated what she had. 

Suffering has a way of altering the trajectory of our lives; gut wrenching, traumatic moments that rob us of tomorrows plans and force us to recalibrate what we have. Mum loved her boys and that first Christmas without dad she poured her life energy into the three of us. We opened our presents, went to church, she cooked the dinner, watched T.V and found some time to laugh and smile. She stood like a superhero against that locomotive and invested her day into her family. She fought the sadness… I remember her crying in the kitchen and I’m sure in private she cried a lot more but she would not allow grief to overcome her and more importantly her boys. She kept focus on us. 

2, She invested her life into helping others who also suffered. 

This was her life-song. She would get the bus to visit someone in hospital, walking to a sick neighbour’s home, go shopping for an elderly relative. She would sit with broken people, listen and love them. Pain and suffering unite people in a unique way. Group meetings like are special places where you are reminded that you are not alone. A room full of strangers and one word like ‘cancer’ galvanises people into deep communities that you only find through pain. There is always someone you can bless: your pain, your suffering is a curse but it can also be a kind of gift to others. 

3, She found God in the brokenness. 

Not immediately, but in time… God began to answer her prayers and she began to hear his voice and find His hand in hers. The locomotive never stopped pulling up at her station but she learned not to unload it and wallow in it. She suffered in many ways in her short life but in every circumstance she began to know his presence in ways I have yet to experience. Mum found God in a valley of grief and pain that makes my mountain top moments superficial in comparison. He is ‘God with us’ in every situation, every place and everyday including Christmas. 
C.S Lewis put it like this: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

What is the picture? 

The picture is of a native American rug. 
Traditionally the weaver leaves a blemish, a few strands lose at one corner. They do this because they believe that it is in the blemish that the spirit enters. 
I like that thought. 
And so my prayer for you all this Christmas:
Be thankful for what you have, find someone to bless and be open to The Holy Spirit invading your life through the blemish of pain and grief. 
‘Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call Him Immanuel.’ Which is translated ‘God with us’ Matt 1:23