Under the Spotlight

I have several friends (plus myself) celebrating the same milestone birthday in the next year, and Alex is the first of them. I met Alex when we were ten years old, which means we’ve known each other almost thirty years. One of the first things that stood out about her? She has a beautiful singing voice. Our music teacher recorded Alex singing the Carpenters’ “The End of the World” and I thought it was amazing. She would sing at the school’s Christmas and summer concerts, and later in churches. Our teacher introduced her once by saying she had a future in singing, and I agreed completely. I particularly love to hear her version of Hillsong’s “Just let me Say”, and when I wrote the song “One” (with a verse about enduring friendship), there was no one better to duet with.

We shared a difficult time at school, where we helped one another. Thinking of the silly stories we would invent got me through the days and made me smile. We always enjoyed writing together. Our longest play was about characters in the fictional village of Wilde. We wrote it over a period of years when we stayed at each other’s houses. I’m not sure either of us still has the whole thing.

I loved staying with Alex. Everyone was so friendly, I always felt like part of the family. One year, as new year’s eve approached, her cousin spent days with us, teaching us dances like “Saturday Night” and “The Time Warp” ready for the party. After the big night, Alex’s dad (who was so funny) said to me in his Welsh accent: “You were in time. Might’ve been pointin’ the wrong direction, mind”.

Alex introduced me to Queen when she came back after one Christmas holiday with a copy of their “Greatest Hits”, and my obsession with them skyrocketed after that. She also introduced me to Formula One. We both loved Murray Walker’s commentary, and our poem about an upcoming British Grand Prix made it into my local newspaper. In 2016, when I heard Damon Hill was speaking at a nearby hotel, I knew Alex had always been more of a fan than me and I couldn’t possibly go without her – a great night. When she supported the dominant Michael Schumacher, I felt sorry for his little brother Ralf. I’m wondering if that rivalry will resurface, now that Michael’s son Mick is in Formula Two and Ralf’s son David in Formula Three. They might race against each other one day.

It was at Alex’s church in Wales that I became a Christian. Nowadays I don’t hear her sing as much, although she is on the worship team at her church, far more proficient on piano than me. Alex spends a lot of time on her Worship Unlimited radio-show, and the accompanying Worship Unlimited Ministries website. If I release a new CD, she’s the first to play it.

Thanks, Alex, for being there through good times and bad. So many times you’ve championed me, but today I thought I’d give you the spotlight.


If you were to ask me what I find most difficult to overlook, this would be it: When a friend has lied to me. I think I find it so difficult because a friend is someone I’ve made the choice to trust. We confide in one another, and I value what they say. When trust is broken, that’s turned on its head. They’ve deceived me. Their action shows they don’t value my friendship, and they don’t want me as a confidante.

Jesus is no deceiver. He says: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” He’ll never lie to us. He’ll never break our trust, and as we saw earlier this month, He says to His followers: “Love each other as I have loved you.” This gives us a responsibility as Christians to be totally trustworthy. It’s not for us to keep up a pretence. If we’ve agreed to something, we should stand by that, or have the courage to be honest if we’re failing.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Sweet and Lovely

One of my friends is a Catholic and used to get upset that her mind wandered when she prayed. She once told a priest: “I think about my brother, or what we’re having for tea.”

This lovely priest asked her: “Have you thought of including those things in your prayers?” He encouraged her to talk to God about her brother, and thank Him for the food she had.

I think we can do a similar thing with worship: Not always; there’s definitely a place for those times in God’s presence when our focus is on nothing else, but when others around us are singing and our mind’s wandering, we can bring those wanderings back to God. I sat beside a good friend in church yesterday. I found myself thinking what a privilege it was to sit next to him and how I loved to hear him sing, and then I thought: “That’s how God feels about all of us.”

Song of Solomon is perhaps the most passionate book in the Bible. Written by King Solomon years before Jesus was born, it depicts the romance between Christ and His church. In it the Lover says: “Show me your face, and let me hear your voice. Your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
Whether in church on Sunday or in your lounge at home, imagine God saying that to you:
Your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”

The Love That Makes You Happy: “Gift of Friendship” Book-Review

Apparently Charlotte Bronte once said: “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures”, and I can’t help thinking she’s right.

Edited by Dawn Camp, “The Gift of Friendship” includes quotes like the one above and stories from Holley Gerth, Kristen Strong, Lesli Richards (my personal favourite) and many more. It’s released today, so go to this page to see more about the book. As with Dawn’s previous offering “The Beauty of Grace”, this is one to dip in and out of – to read and be encouraged, whether you’ve been blessed with gazillions of friends or a select few.

I wonder if there’s a book on friendship you’ve enjoyed.

“That’s not Apple Juice”

I was recently reminded of something that happened when I still lived with my parents. A friend (who’s also blind) had come to stay and she wanted a drink. I went to the fridge, took out the only jug I could find, filled a glass and handed it to her. She took a huge sip, made a funny sound and managed to say: “That’s not apple juice.”

I gasped. “What is it?”

“I don’t know, but it’s not apple juice!”

Later when Mum came in, she looked and said: “It’s cooking oil.” Who keeps cooking oil in a jug in the fridge ready to use a second time? No one else I know, but Mum did, and the apple juice was still in its carton on the table.

We can apply this story to Scripture/God’s Word. It’s sweet to our taste and the more we read it, the more familiar we are with its teachings. When we come up against something opposed to them, we’re then able to say: “That’s not Scriptural” and, like my friend, reject it before we swallow.

Do you have any funny stories that make you think of God?

The Blind Pleading the Blind: Perceptions

Other people’s perceptions can be difficult for those with sight loss. As an example, I go out for lunch quite a bit with a friend. One day, he was shopping locally and a shopkeeper (who’d obviously seen him with me) asked: “Are you a care-worker?” My first response when I hear of something like this is usually to burst out laughing, but then I think about it afterwards. By asking that question, they’re assuming I don’t have friends (like normal people), and if I’m out holding onto somebody’s arm, they must be my carer. This doesn’t give me much dignity and it’s awkward for my friends as well. Similarly, in this great blog-post, a visually-impaired bride-to-be is asked: “Who’s going to be a bride’s-maid then?” because she’s looking for a bridal shop, and the person has assumed she couldn’t possibly be the bride!

A few years ago, someone actually said to me: “You have physical needs; I have emotional needs”. This shocked me and I didn’t know how to respond, but I’ll tell you now I have emotional needs as well, and many times the emotional needs are far greater than the physical.

For me as a blind person, it can be very easy to get disorientated. (Put a blindfold on and try to find your way around your house to get an idea what it’s like without sight.) I found out relatively recently that my eye-condition affects my sense of direction, so it can take longer for me to get routes into my head. If I’ve practised a local route regularly, I’m fine with it, but if I’m walking it having not done so for a while, I can get as lost as if I was walking it for the first time. The problem is that when you get lost or feel nervous, strangers can treat you like you’ve got a screw loose. “Are you all right? You look confused today,” they say, in a voice loud enough for anyone nearby to hear. Um – thanks! The truth is that sometimes I can go out with complete confidence, but I can also have off days like everyone else.

I suppose another perception I don’t particularly like is a more general one: That people will want to be grouped together with those who are the same as them. There are various groups for people with a visual impairment. My local branch for the blind meets roughly once a fortnight, but as someone recently pointed out, there’s nothing in those meetings for the more active person. Not everyone wants to sit playing Bingo or listening to an entertainer, but some people might. For visually-impaired Christians, there are Torch Fellowship Groups or the Disabled Christians Fellowship, but personally, I’d rather spend time with people who don’t necessarily have disability in common.

So, to summarise this post, everyone’s different. Blind people are capable of having friendships/relationships and yes, even getting married! And we do have feelings, which can be hurt the same as anybody else’s. All these seem obvious to me, but because of my experiences and those of others, I thought I’d point them out.

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).

31 Jesus-Benefits: Companionship

“I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

Day 6 of Write31Days and as a single person who lives by myself, I’m particularly grateful for:

His presence – for having Jesus to do life with.

There are times when I’m down or perhaps having a bad night’s sleep, and I just want to snuggle with someone. Although Jesus doesn’t give me a physical hug, He’s there to comfort me. He’s there as I wash the dishes, watch a YouTube video, read a book or talk to a friend on the phone.

And when life’s difficulties loom large, it’s good to know I can access God’s throne-room through prayer and He’ll sustain me. Jesus has these words for the one who puts their faith in Him and enters the kingdom of God:

“The person who enters through Me will be saved and will be able to come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

A Special Week

I hope everyone had a good weekend. This week is a special one for Kristen, who blogs at Chasing Blue Skies. She’s one of those bloggers/writers you read, and you think of them as your friend (even though you’ve never met). Do you know any writers like that?

Anyway, Kristen’s written a book! (She’s already written a 31-day devotional for military wives, but this is a full-length, 10-chapter book for absolutely anyone.) And if you’re in the US, the paperback version releases today. I’ve been on the launch team and had the privilege of reading “Girl Meets Change” before its official release, and I’ve really looked forward to sharing it with you.

It’s a book about adapting to change, and includes personal and Biblical examples of people who’ve had to do just that. Perhaps you’ll learn something new about a story you’re already familiar with; I know I learnt something about the story of Lazarus when I read chapter 3.

You can go to this page if you want to read more about the book before you purchase, and why not send Kristen a message of congratulations on its release? While it’ll be an exciting time, we obviously don’t all have the same taste in books, but wouldn’t it be great if she had more positive feedback than negative? Let’s pray for Kristen and her family especially this week as her hard work finally hits the shelves.

March Moments

How can it be the end of another month already? But tomorrow the clocks go forward here in the UK, and we’re into British Summer Time, so here are a few takeaways from March –

Podcasts: Find out how an old-fashioned pager helped cancer-patient Andy, or have a listen to some of Shauna’s wise words on when to take your teacher’s hat off, and other parenting advice. I found it interesting even though I don’t have children at home to look after.

Quote: My blogger-friend Kristen wrote this before she went on holiday. “You have been neighbours and friends who bring over delicious casseroles of words and encouragement.” I liked that. You may not be the best cook in the world, and you may not live near enough to certain friends to share a physical meal with them, but a plate of encouragement in their inbox is just as good!

Blog-Post: My favourite this month included a video. I’ve read Annie’s blog, and more recently listened to her podcast. She comes across as such a fun person, full of energy and always smiling. I enjoyed hearing in one of her quieter moments how seriously she takes her calling to speak to women and point them to God.

Discoveries: I went to a Compassion coffee morning earlier this month. Not only did I meet some lovely people, I also learnt new things. Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard the story of the starfish washed up on the beach and about to die. A boy throws one back into the ocean and says: “I made a difference to that one”, but did you know this starfish story has a modern-day twist? Another thing: If you’re a sponsor, have you noticed the blue corner on all your mailings from Compassion? It’s distinctive, but more than that, it points back to Leviticus 23:22, where the Israelites are told not to harvest right to the corners of their fields, but always to leave something there for the poor. What a privilege to partner with an organisation that has such a heart for God’s Word.

Book: Finally, this I’ve put on my to-read list – “Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography”. I heard Jen and Craig talk about how his addiction affected their marriage. They sound a lovely couple, and I love to read about real people and how they’ve overcome. If you’ve read the book, what did you think of it?

Is there anything you’re taking away from March?