31 Jesus-Benefits: Familiarity

“From within the womb He called me by name” (Isaiah 49:1).

Almost at the end of this Write31Days series, and there’s one blogger whose posts I’ve found so interesting. Jessie’s an agent, so her 31 Ways to Snag a Literary Agent is a series that (in my opinion) any writer should at least look at. One of her posts is about endorsements, and it reminded me God had called me by name.

I’m known by God and others.

Earlier in this series, we reflected on Jesus – our ally in suffering and how He prays for us. Not only does this happen with Jesus, but with others too. In August, on the morning I was due to have a procedure in hospital, I checked my phone and there was a text message from Chris. She’s one of the best friends I could ask for. I was so touched that she remembered, then went the extra mile and contacted me on the day to tell me I was being prayed-for. Makes me want to follow her example and be that kind of friend to others.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18).

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Springboard Friends

You know the ones:  They speak and it launches you into something new and wonderful.  I’m thinking today about one of those friends in my life.  I’ve known her a long time – nearly twenty years, actually.  I met her when I was at school and it was her job to support me.  It proves even the appointment of staff can be prophetic, because she certainly has over the years – not only at school (helping to put my work into Braille), but personally as well.

 

Carol was the one who asked me one day as we walked into the gym:  “When you have problems, have you thought of praying about it?”  (I hadn’t, and didn’t think it was for me at the time.)

 

She was the one who phoned not long after I had left school to invite me to a Marilyn Baker concert, where I first heard this song.

 

She was the one I met at an event in 2000.  A new Christian, but our time together was so short, I didn’t have a chance to tell her, so I wrote her a letter.  I remember one sentence read:  “Although I don’t go to church, Christianity is now a huge part of my life.”  Carol could have kept the letter to encourage her in her own walk with God, but she did so much more than that.  Within days of me writing it, she was on the phone, inviting me to the house group she went along to on Wednesday nights, which got me into church.

 

Carol baptised me along-with my pastor.

 

She inspired one of my songs when I had just come home after a hard time, and she talked to me about a plant needing to be in the right soil.  She’s prayed me through difficult seasons and celebrated the good ones.

 

And Carol inspired something else, which I’ll be forever grateful for.  As we ate lunch one day in 2005, she told me about a conference she’d just been to – with Compassion.  My parents had sponsored with another organisation when I was growing up, so I was very interested in what she had to say.  The idea of getting letters to me personally from my child really impressed me.  Carol had told me the website-address, so I went and looked.  My first Filipino girl was Jennylyn and I’ve been sponsoring children ever since.

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Compassion have asked their bloggers to write this month about who (or what) first inspired us to sponsor a child.  If you sponsor, where did you get your inspiration?  If you don’t, will you consider investing in the life of a child?  I can’t promise that every child will open up to their sponsor and write screeds in their letters, but never doubt that what you put into somebody’s life can make a big difference.

31 Days of Song: “I Cannot Tell it All”

Confession:  I’ve hardly read any of your blogs this week, but I did come across one person to say hello to.  It’s another Amy, and like Amy last week, she’s also focused on the Bible.  Her question for these 31 days is “What does the Bible say about food?”

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So, time for another song and there’s a story behind this one.  My friend Mark Grove and his wife moved to Cornwall and in 2007, he and some of his contacts organised the first-ever worship event at the Minack Theatre.  They now hold the event there every 2 years, round-about the second weekend in May.

 

I can’t tell you what an honour it was to sing at this open-air theatre, carved out of a cliff, where you could stand on-stage and hear the waves in the background.  I drove down with Mum and Dad and we stayed a couple of nights in a caravan nearby.  The night before and during the morning, we heard the rain pelting down on the roof and wondered if the whole event would go ahead, but God has control of the weather and miraculously it did.  All around us, even in the nearest town of St. Ive’s, really heavy rainstorms; the Minack had 2 hours of perfect sunshine.  Gordon (the local canon) welcomed us and Mark’s worship-band were on-stage more than once, as were the Light & Life Gospel Choir from Helston, and right in the middle was me doing a couple of songs.  The Minack’s manager (Philip) was fantastic at sorting the sound and everything just went amazingly.

 

This is one the choir sang.  Their lead singer (I think her name was Debbie) was so enthusiastic that when I first heard this on the radio, I thought it was a bit slow because they’d put so much energy into their version, but I got used to it and now it’s a great praise song that brings back happy memories.

31 Days of Song: “I Love Lovin’ Jesus”

It’s ‘Friend Friday’ again; shall we do some more hellos?  I think so, because I’ve met a few bloggers lately and I love connecting with you all.  Firstly, Robin is doing a series on the wonder of womanhood (wow) and I particularly liked this post.  Amy’s someone whose blog I hadn’t read before, and she’s had the most interesting idea I’ve come across so far:  “31 Reminders from Eden”; why not picture yourself in the garden of Eden before they ate that forbidden fruit and see what words come to mind?  Crystal’s giving some tips in her series “31 Days of Loving my Husband Intentionally”, so if you’re after ideas on how to show love (in a marriage or any relationship), that could be a good one for you, and Elisha is doing a series on introverts!  So, happy reading.

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This is a song I heard at my friend’s parents’ house.  We’d just had Sunday lunch and were sitting in the conservatory with the radio on.  I wouldn’t normally have listened on a Sunday afternoon because it was a programme called “The Gospel Greats”, and as I’ve said before, I don’t usually like southern gospel; but we listened anyway and that particular week, they were featuring an album by The Crist Family (I’d never heard of them either).  This is one of the songs they played that really stuck out to me, and I’ve since bought it.  I just love how cheerful it is:

“I love lovin’ Jesus!

“I love praisin’ the Lord!”

“Anybody wanna say amen?”

31 Days of Song: “Never Alone”

Let’s start with some hellos to others participating in 31 Days.  One of my favourite writers is joining in this year with “31 Days to a Happier You” (thanks Holley; I think we could all use a few hints on how to stay in that contentment God wants so much for us), Annie’s challenging us in her series “31 Ways to Speak Love”, and Becky (a friend I met online) is participating too.  She’s often expressed her feelings on the blog by writing letters to her 4 kids, so “31 Days of Letter-Writing” seems to really suit her.  Those are the blogs I’m looking forward to this month.  Are you taking part in 31 Days?  If so, please link to your series in the comments so I can have a read.

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This is a song my cousin shared on Facebook.  She wrote that her mum sent it to her when she was going through health-problems.  I like to get to know my family and when I saw her post, I felt a little nudge inside to have a listen.  As I did, I could imagine God our Father singing those words to us – not just part of the song, but all of it.  I don’t know what you’re facing today, but as you listen, think of God singing this song over you and know that wherever you go, His love will stay with you and you’re never alone.

A-Z: Wrestling

I need to give Sue some credit for this post.  We met on the web through this A-Z challenge, and her alliteration theme seems to have wound its way in here …

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It’s been a week this week when things worked out well, but what about when you’re wistful and weepy and wondering what’s next?

 

I was talking to a friend once about someone who went through a difficult time, but instead of throwing a wobbly, he wrote a worship-song.  My friend called it an indication of his character – that he could write “Jesus, I love You Jesus”, and not a where-are-you-now sort of song.  It’s wonderful to have conversations like that.

 

What about you?  Which songs do you wander to, while you’re wrestling with feelings of hopelessness?  This one by Keith Green builds my faith and makes me want to smile, while this by Third Day wowed me enough to buy and then play it nonstop.  I love story-songs.  I know Third Day have written at least one song about people they knew, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this one was too.  It’s encouraging to be reminded in your desperation that you’re not on your own; God’s willingly come through for others and answered their prayers.  You might feel weak and wan and wilting, but remember one of my favourite promises:  “Your strength will equal your days” (Deuteronomy 33:25).  Don’t waver, but wait for the LORD.

Friend Friday: The man on the Platform

One of my friends blogged yesterday about how he’d reached ‘Platform 65’.  I love thinking what to do for people’s birthdays; some things happen, others just stay as ideas.  Well, one of my plans for this year didn’t quite work.  After reading one of Sharon Jaynes’ posts last month, I wanted to write down 65 things I appreciated about my friend ready for his birthday, but I only got to 47.  Don’t worry; I won’t list them all here, but I can do a few:

 

First, he loves Jesus and lives for His glory.  Of course, there are many things in our lives:  We’ve all got to eat; we’ve all got to fill our days with something … but if you can glorify God in it all, that’s what makes a person.

 

Second, well two things really, he makes me smile and he’s fun.  The church I go to now isn’t a posh church:  People just come wearing whatever they feel comfortable in.  Well, last weekend, I was out for lunch with the family afterwards and there wasn’t time for me to go home and change, so I wore a dress instead of the trousers I’d normally wear.  When my friend turned up to give me a lift, he said:  “Why have you got your legs out?”  It made me laugh, and Mum too when I told her later.

 

30 December 2004 was a very special day; it was when I started recording my first album.  Although I’d met my friend briefly before then, I’d never worked or spent time with him, but I was looking to make a CD, and on his website he wrote:  I’m born again, water-baptised, Spirit-filled, and God-anointed to work in music.  I’m not sure it says that any more, but I got so excited and thought:  “Hey!  What else do you need?”

 

One of my songs had a verse about how Jesus’ mother would have felt when He died on the cross.  My friend put a staccato viola into the song, but it made me giggle, and I didn’t want to sing ‘A sword will pierce your own soul’ to music that sounded so cheerful!  So I told him and he changed it.  When we got to the backing-vocals stage and I said it didn’t need any, he said:  “Are you sure?  We can always mute it if it sounds too joyful.”

 

And a final two things?  He inspires me/gives me courage I wouldn’t have had on my own.  It was him who said:  “Why don’t you start blogging?”  I hadn’t read many blogs then and my first posts were more like essays!  But now, thanks to other bloggers, I’ve learnt to keep them to 700 words at most.  As the Bible says, one friend sharpens another, and I’m so grateful for the times my friend has stepped in and helped me in my Christian life.  Yes; we need to love God first and with all our hearts, but we also need each other.

 

So, my birthday tribute to ‘The man on the Platform’.  He started his ‘Platform’ posts at 60; I very much hope to still be there at platform 90, and maybe by then I’ll have 90 points down on my list!

Friend Friday: A New Luxury

If you were to ask people what they were thankful for, you might get several answers at this time of year – warmth; a roof over our heads; food; clothes, but last night as I went to bed, I had a different answer:  Silence … absolute silence.  How often I must have taken that for granted!

 

I visited my friend yesterday and they were just moving her from one hospital-ward to another.  They’ve put her in a bed next to a lady with Alzheimer’s who’s half-shouting, half-singing.  “My my my my my my my …  Oh …  Will you leave me alone.  Get off!  Get off!” and she’s so loud, it’s difficult to have a conversation at times.  If this was me, I don’t think I’d cope stuck in a ward for days on end next to someone making all that noise, specially if my body was racked by seizures and after one of those I felt zonked-out and really in need of sleep.  If I was a millionaire, private health insurance would be one of the first things I’d invest in – for myself and those I love.  I want my friend to have her own room with an en suite bathroom, not to have someone in that state in the bed next to her.

 

Another of my friends suggested weeks ago that I pray for time to get together with my friend and talk, and visiting her in hospital has meant more time to sit and talk to her than I’ve had for years.  I’m very grateful for that unexpected answer to prayer.  My biggest prayer-requests at the moment are that she’ll get out of hospital soon, and that I won’t get a cold or anything while she’s in because I won’t be able to keep visiting her if I’m ill.  Will you pray with me?

Friend Friday: When you Need a Miracle

Exciting post for you today.  This is my best attempt at shouting it from the rooftops.

 

A friend of mine has a very rare disease (one of the symptoms being osteoporosis).  The other day, a Christian she knew invited her to a retreat for the day, which focused on healing.  She’d had a particularly difficult week and wasn’t sure how she’d take it, but she went.  On the way there, she was feeling really sick from the pain of old and new fractures.

 

A girl prayed for her, and she felt another hand on her head, then on her back.  She went from being in terrible pain to being able to touch her toes, and she said she had great fun at the hospital.  After convincing them to re-X-ray her wrist, they couldn’t work out how a wrist so obviously fractured 2 weeks ago could look like it had never been fractured ever!

 

You don’t have to get as excited as I did – standing up off your chair and waving your arms in the air, but will you praise God with me, and will you pray the other symptoms also go in Jesus’ name?  Thanks!

Friend Friday: Mates in the Mess

I have this friend (I wish she lived next-door). She’s not able to E-mail often now, but when she does I love to read them, and writing back can take hours. I go through her mail, usually finding at least 5 things to respond to. 1 or 2 of them take some thought, and a very long paragraph! Last week she wrote: “I don’t want a boyfriend now … Ok; I want one, but don’t want him to be a part of my mess”, and she listed some of her struggles.

That made me think, and I asked her a question. “If someone will love you in your mess, and not abandon you, surely that’s better than having someone who’ll only love you when things go well?”

Maybe you’ve had a health-problem for a long time and hate to think you’d be a burden. Maybe you’re unemployed, and feel you might struggle for things to talk about. Or maybe you look at others around you who seem to have it all together (or at least, more together than you do), and you can’t see yourself making somebody happy; surely another person would be a better candidate.

I deliberately picked those 3 so I could write truthfully that if you’ve struggled with any of them, you’re not on your own, but can I encourage you to think about this for a minute? If you’ll only allow yourself to be blessed once you’ve reached that goal of perfection, how long might that take! Instead, will you dare to let people in to your mess? I’m not just talking here about romance, but friendships too. There are plenty who’ll stand by you when life is good; far fewer will find ways to show you love even in the difficulties. These are true friends.

Do you have any stories about true friends? People you’ve let in to your mess? I’d love to hear them in the comments.