Sunday, 21 November 2010

Mustard Seeds

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17.20
This week I have mainly been listening to a new album called Mustard Seeds, which is extremely awesome. Click on that link, get listening then read on!

At this point I should probably declare that I know the musician behind the album from university, I liked his music then and I like it now. The songs are both musically and lyrically strong and musically more interesting than a lot of the Christian music on the market, which can all sound rather homogeneous. Musically the songs are at times resonant of Nick Drake, at other times calling to mind church music of a more traditional and even ancient kind - harmonies hinting at cathedrals filled with Gregorian chant. The sound and scale of the album is quiet and intimate, allowing you to draw near to God and spend precious time in His presence, yet would also work in a more corporate setting. In the lyrics are some great promises and some great prayers, for example,
May your grace reform this church from a crowd of sinners to a holy loving force with your pow'r within us. May we yearn to serve and may we love with fervent hearts by grace restored.
Such a fabulous picture of what the church is and is becoming (from Designer, Refiner).

Rather than attempt to review the whole album I will just focus on the last song, To the God of the Broken Ones which has resonated with me and my life hugely.

To the God of the broken ones,
To the God where all hope comes from,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

To the God who is always there,
To the God who heals ev'ry prayer,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

Ever loving, ever Lord.
Ever faithful, ever more.
Ever gentle, ever sure.
I'm ever thankful, ever yours

To the God of unending hope,
To the God who calls us his own,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

To the God who will never change,
To the God who knows ev'ry pain,
We sing come heal us, come heal us

Ever loving, ever Lord.
Ever faithful, ever more.
Ever gentle, ever sure.
I'm ever thankful, ever yours

I love the rich promises and truths about who our God is that are contained within this song: truths that I can't hear too often, especially as it is such truths that help combat the lies of depression. My favourite of these promises and truths is "the God of unending hope" (which is really both a truth and a promise). In the midst of the storms of life it is so easy to forget that ultimately our hope lies in God himself and that He never changes, never leaves us, always loves us. This is a song that I sing as a prayer for my own life, as well as more generally for the church and the world. Moreover it is song that you can sing from wherever you happen to be, whether things are going well or whether nothing is going well, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour" (Habbakuk 3). As someone who frequently feels like nothing is going right I truly value such songs that help me to worship despite my circumstances, because the truth is God is always good and I need more of the truth.

I have found this album cheering, uplifting, calming, comforting and inspiring; I pray you do too.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Today I had a most exciting letter - to say that I was a runner up in Knitting magazine's "design a scarf" competition and that they wanted to print my pattern in their upcoming book of scarves!!!!!! I was so excited when I had read the letter that I was dancing around the kitchen in my pjs celebrating. Good thing the neighbours were out at the time. Pictures are available here

It means so much because I finally have an identity beyond that of a sick person, or a sick person who does a bit of knitting. I know such things don't really matter and shouldn't matter, but sometimes my ego gets in the way and memories of all my dreams and plans come back and I want more. I know being God's beloved child is infinitely more important, but I do like having a tiny bit extra. Perhaps it's the first step on the road to achieving things despite having ME and fibro?

In other news I also finished knitting the hat I've been designing to go with the scarf, just got the ends to sew in and the blocking to do and I can send that off (for the "knit a hat" competition). I'm rather relieved that this month's competition was for designing a draught excluder, since I feel no urge to design such a thing and so can have a break from manic designing! Deadlines are hard work with ME, you would have thought I would have learned that at university?

I also darned socks successfully for the first time today, my monkey socks which being knit in a pure wool with no nylon, had worn through on the heels. So all in all, apart from a slight crash (note to self - just because you have a few days of feeling a bit better don't try to cram everything you've been wanting/meaning/needing to do into those few days, it doesn't end well), today has been a good day. Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The anchor of my soul

A few weeks ago I watched a sermon DVD by Louie Giglio lent me by my lovely friend Becca and in it he was talking about how Jesus is the anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6). As he was talking about this I looked down at my knitting, sitting untouched on the sofa beside me, and the anchors worked in fair isle in the scarf I was knitting caught my eye. That 'God-incidence' made me smile, especially as the anchor motif and its surrounding peeries had caused me more trouble than any of the others put together.

Over the past few weeks, which have been full of ups and downs (mainly in my mood) and felt turbulent and difficult, I can really say that although I feel like I am thoroughly at sea, Jesus really is the anchor of my soul. Throughout, no matter how difficult things have been, no matter how horrible I've felt or how angry I've been towards God over the past few weeks, He has never let me down or left me alone or abandoned me.
"When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

"Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever" Psalm 73.21-6

He is always there, always with me, always patient, always loving, always kind, always ready to listen, utterly reliable. He answers prayers, He does not leave me, does not grow short of patience, even when I run out of patience with myself! He is true, faithful, unchanging, unshifting in a world full of shifting shadows. I can see why the Psalmists so often called Him "my rock".

Don't assume from this that everything is absolutely fine and sorted in my life, it isn't, not by such a long way. I'm still ill, still depressed at times, though my moods are gradually regaining some sort of stability. I still get scared for the future and anxious and bored now; I still feel terribly sad that I can't be at church. But somehow Jesus brings into this situation, when I allow Him, inexpressible love, utter forgiveness, complete acceptance of me the way I am, comfort and some glimmer of hope: a promise that things won't always be this way and I know that He keeps His promises. I suppose that's what faith is?

Of course there are times when I don't feel this way, when I don't feel remotely positive and praying feels like beating my fists against a brick wall and I feel a million miles away from God. But these are only feelings and hopefully by writing down the truth and by reading the treasury of truth - the Bible - I can remind myself of this, remind myself of the facts.

"Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 6.17-20

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

News from another world

Tonight I achieved my dearly held wish to make it to church for at least part of the prayer week. I'd forgotten how big our church building is - it has magnificent wooden roof beams on a scale that would today be prohibitively expensive.

God was deliciously, gloriously close and I really felt His love and Him with me, especially during the singing and the time of corporate prayer. Though I'm not sure I really know how to worship with others any more, it felt a bit strange, I suppose just from lack of practice, I'm not used to other people being there too.

I suppose I'm feeling so down and flat now because for a while I dared to dream and be part of another world that I don't usually have much contact with, then I got home and realised that I still wasn't part of that world and everything is still the same. It is like when you watch a movie and get caught up in the world of that movie; then it ends and you come back down to earth. For a while this evening, before fatigue, fever, panic and the tiles on the chancel floor making me feel seasick and weird brought me back down to earth, I dared to dream that maybe I was well enough for church. For about 15 minutes I felt fine, great even, I managed to stand through two whole songs and for a little while after that! But before I'd been out of the house two hours I was struggling to focus and stay awake and feeling physically bizarre (there is no other word for it).

The glimpse of the lives other people live didn't help either, I'm finding that the more I compare my life with that of other people the worse I feel about myself. It was yet another reminder that the church doesn't seem to have a lot of use for the ill or disabled, in order to serve in the church you need not only to be well, but turbo charged. And yes, I know how bitter that sounds. I know I need to stop comparing myself with others, for a start it's not comparing like with like. If I take life slowly and focus on each moment at a time, on the things I can do, then I can sometimes achieve some sort of contentment.

Sorry that there has been so much soul-searching on here lately: I've been having a very confusing time, quite turbulent inwardly and I don't have anyone to talk it over with, who I know and trust well enough and see anything of to talk about such things. And there has been so much inner turbulence and instability of mood that it wouldn't be fair to inflict it all on one person (though Catherine has stoically put up with plenty of it!). I think I shall start a private diary for matters spiritual, but still share some of what goes on here, partly to encourage and partly to educate anyone reading this about what it is like to be trying to survive as a sick Christian, or to make any fellow travellers feel less alone.

In the meantime I'm trying to salvage the good from the wreckage of tonight, wishing my mood were more stable and trying to ignore how much more of 'an ill person' the experience made me feel. Most of all I want to focus on God and how good He is, in spite of what a mess I am.