November News

I like Emily Freeman’s idea of highlighting things we’ve discovered during the month, so these are some of mine for November.

Song: I’ve always loved “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card, but haven’t found a similar one from Mary’s point-of-view that grabbed me emotionally … until this year. On a Christmas radio-station, I heard Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here”, and the words are lovely. If I took part in a musical nativity, I’d love to sing that.

Books: I’ve been getting into Song of Solomon lately – a book in the Bible about King Solomon’s marriage to a peasant woman, which makes me think of the church – the bride of King Jesus. Two books about the song have really helped my understanding of it. I heard about Dee Brestin’s “He Calls you Beautiful” in a Bible Gateway Email and knew straightaway I wanted to read it. It looks at the bride and takes her love in stages: The euphoric first-love; the wedding; the honeymoon … It’s excellent and well worth the money. In the book, Dee talks about James Hudson-Taylor – a man I had heard of at church, who founded a missionary organisation in China in the 1800s. She said Hudson-Taylor had only written one book – and yes, it’s a book on the Song of Solomon. “Intimacy with Jesus” is only short, with six sections and a study guide at the back, but it’s very good. I’ve read a section per day.

Podcast: This month one of my favourite authors, Annie Downs, interviewed Mark Lee – the guitarist from Third Day. You might remember I reviewed his book here awhile back. From reading the book I was impressed with his personality, and he came across just as well talking to Annie. This could also come under ‘Books’ because they discussed several. I’ve never read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, but their conversation made me want to read some of her memoirs, particularly the Genesis Trilogy, where she intersperses her own life-experiences with stories from the book of Genesis.

Films: You get Internet radio-stations now that play Christmas music all year round. I wish there was a TV-channel that did the same with Christmas movies, because I love them. I know; they’re very predictable. As someone said on Facebook, you get a love twist, some sort of misunderstanding and a happy ending, but they make me smile. My favourite of the modern films is still “The Twelve Trees of Christmas”, which from the title doesn’t sound at all like the kind of film I would enjoy, but it’s amazing. “Christmas in the City” is another sweet one I like to watch.

Quote: In my previous post, I mentioned a friend’s dad. Sadly, he had another setback with his health and is no longer on this earth. Jeff’s special and will be very much-missed. I’m glad for him that he’s with Jesus. I don’t understand why he had to go so soon, but a tweet from Lysa TerKeurst this last week has stuck with me. It said this: “We don’t have to have all the answers; we just have to stay connected to the One who does.”

As Advent and Christmas approach, let’s keep making that connection with Jesus, whose birth we’re remembering; who came into the world to show us what love looked like, and to give us hope of a future with Him.

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Nazarene

“After Herod died, an angel of the LORD spoke to Joseph in a dream while he was in Egypt. The angel said, ‘Get up! Take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, because the people who were trying to kill the child are now dead.’

“So Joseph took the child and his mother and went to Israel. But he heard that Archelaus was now king in Judea since his father Herod had died. So Joseph was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee, to a town called Nazareth, and lived there. And so what God had said through the prophets came true: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:19-23).

I’m reminded of a song we’d sing at my local Pentecostal church when I was a young Christian. I tried to find a rendition that included all the verses, and this one is absolutely great; you can tell their hearts are in what they’re singing. It may be an old song, but it’s timeless I think.

* * *

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me – a sinner, condemned unclean:
How marvellous, how wonderful,
And my song shall ever be:
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Saviour’s love for me
.

For me it was in the garden, He prayed ‘Not My will, but Thine’;
He had no tears for His own griefs, but sweat drops of blood for mine:
How marvellous

In pity angels beheld Him, and came from the world of light
To comfort Him in the sorrows He bore for my soul that night:
How marvellous

He took my sin and my sorrows; He made them His very own –
He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone:
How marvellous

When with the ransomed in glory, His face I at last shall see,
‘Twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me:
How marvellous, how wonderful,
And my song shall ever be:
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Saviour’s love for me
.

Immanuel

Today I want to share a song written by my friend, Kelly Wickham. I don’t know whether she wrote it with Christmas in mind, but I think it would be lovely on a Christmas playlist. It’s on an album called “What’s in Your Hand”, and you can contact Kelly via her Facebook page.

* * *

You left Your throne in heaven above;
Sent from the Father in His great love,
Into a world of confusion and strife –
You gave Your all so we would have life.

Immanuel, God with us,
Went from a manger to a cross;
Bore all our sins and defeated the grave –
With all that is in me, and all that I am, I’ll praise Your name
.

You came to this world so that we might see
The Father of Truth, and be set free;
Gladly You served and freely You gave,
But all You received was rejection and shame.
Immanuel, God with us

Jesus, I thank You for all You’ve done for me;
If You had not come down, I don’t know where I would be:
I would be lost and so alone,
Without any hope; with nowhere to go,
But You’ve made the sacrifice, and now I give You this sacrifice
Of praise – hallelujah!

And You will come again to this earth,
But not the same way You came at first;
Instead of a manger and stable so mean,
You’ll come in power and victory.

Immanuel, God with us,
Reigning in glory and lifted up;
Jesus – the name above all names –
For ever and ever, all of creation will praise Your name:
With all that is in me, and all that I am, I’ll praise Your name
.

Bethlehem

This is a song I wrote at Christmas 2007. My pastor had just preached on how Bethlehem is so small, and yet so significant. I had also watched a Christmas play with a line about a ‘New baby King’:
O tiny little Bethlehem, despised among the towns;
Out of you will come a King in humble circumstance:
He won’t cry in triumph for all to know His name,
But to those who seek Him, His power will be plain.

Just outside of Bethlehem, the shepherds could be found;
The angel of the Lord appeared, and glory shone around:
They heard the joyful tidings that Christ had been born,
And hurried there to find Him – the Shepherd of us all.

Wise men in a far-off land looked into the sky;
The shining star directed them to Wisdom from on high:
They knew to expect a new baby King,
And so they went to Bethlehem – to go and worship Him.

You may seem insignificant; you may seem very small,
But don’t forget what God can do; all things are possible:
He knows all your problems; He’ll take away your shame;
He’ll honour those who honour Him, and make His people great
.

If you’d like to hear the song, it’s on the album “Same Applies”. You can find it here.

Angels

There were angels throughout Jesus’ life. Gabriel visited Mary before He was conceived; a heavenly host bedazzled the shepherds at His birth; He was cared-for in the wilderness; strengthened at Gethsemane; an angel told of His resurrection, and maybe angels are with us in our lives more than we appreciate.

Several months before she died, my friend’s grandmother had a beautiful encounter. It was the middle of the night and there was no one else in the house, but she heard music. She got out of bed and stood in the hallway, thinking my friend had left a radio on that would disturb their neighbour. She was about to go upstairs when she realised it wasn’t earthly music at all; it was angels singing. She recognised the hymn, but couldn’t remember it later. All she knew was that angels had come to her.

I was honoured to be asked to sing at her funeral, and as I said in the song:
My hope is that one day in heaven we’ll meet,
And my hope is, forever we’ll be
With the angels, singing Your praise
.

As you can probably tell, Dilys (or ‘Nanna Dil’, as I called her) is very much-loved and will never be forgotten.

Discouragement

PMS. Need I say more? I’ve been feeling quite down just now, and couldn’t seem to lift myself up/make myself happy, so I asked for God’s help.

Praise.

That was the word that stood out, because it’s not exclusive to women or a certain time of the month. Everyone has days where they’re discouraged and feeling lower than usual. One of my friends gave me a set of CDs from a seminar he took some years ago. He said that when he was down, he would start praising God. “Thank You for this table; thank You for this chair …” From past experience I can say it doesn’t make problems disappear, but it does make the burden of them lighter.

At the conference I told you about in Manchester, the worship-leader sang a Matt Redman song. She sang it with such sincerity, I genuinely thought she had written it, but when I asked her, she sent me the link. I just love the words. Can you sing along with it?
What am I gonna do with this life You gave me?
What can I do but live for Your praise
?

April Alerts

I’m linking with Emily Freeman, as she and others share what they’ve learnt in April.

Book: A double whammy this time because Annie Downs’ “Looking for Lovely” came out on 5 April, but on her podcast (the best episode yet, by the way), she said it was part 2 of her story. Some great marketing there because I then had to pick up its predecessor, “Let’s all be Brave” (which I’d been meaning to read for a couple of years). I’m so glad I did. Its timing in my life was just right and I absolutely loved it. The new one took longer to get into and I gave it a lower rating on Goodreads, but only because it digs deeper and the beginning felt a bit heavy. I still enjoyed it overall, particularly the chapter about the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Watch: On Easter Sunday, I stumbled across the first in a series on the Salvation Army, and I’m really enjoying it. Who knew that comedian Paul O’Grady used to be a care-worker? He really is great with people. Christians don’t always get a good press on the BBC, but “The Sally Army and Me” is respectful, combining the outworking of their faith with Paul’s quirky sense of humour. Light-hearted and easy to watch, the last episode airs on Sunday.

Song: I went to a Stuart Townend concert this month with some of my favourite people, and the chorus of this song seems to have stuck.

Bible-Verse: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15) – the idea that instead of striving, we can put quiet confidence in God for our deliverance. I like that.

Blog-Post: Are you someone who’s convinced a church should be a certain size? Perhaps you’ll appreciate my friend Becky’s post, “Big Church Versus Small Church”. A pastor’s wife from New York, she makes her points well.

* * *

If you’re new here, I hope you’ll stay. I’m reviewing a book by Matt and Beth Redman at the moment, and I’ll look forward to sharing that with you next month. Thanks for reading.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Christmas!

Today I want to focus on something I’ve had a new appreciation of since being a Christian, and it’ll soon be here again:

Christmas!

The carol encourages us (whilst taking in the snow outside) to see in our mind’s eye Jesus, born for us here on earth. “Lo, within a manger lies ~ He who built the starry skies”! The meaning of Christmas, its very centre, is Jesus coming into the world as a tiny, helpless baby.

I remember 2001, going to church on Christmas Day. I loved it! My pastor asked us what time we got up, and someone (an adult, not a child) got up at five fifteen! Me and him were going through the same thing – our first Christmas with a church-family. Being around other believers on such an important day still holds a specialness for me.

“While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough” (Luke 2:6-7).

31 Jesus-Benefits: Surprise Gifts

Day 4 of Write31Days and what I love about God is that before you get to know Him, you couldn’t possibly imagine the things He might have for you to do.

He can give you giftings you wouldn’t have without Him.

I wanted to write songs before I was a Christian, but couldn’t. I even listened to a radio-series featuring people like Ray Davis from The Kinks. I hoped I might learn something, but it went over my head. Then, after becoming a Christian, I went to a song-writing workshop. Someone prayed for me at the end, and 3 days later I was in the shower and started singing a song I didn’t recognise: My first original song, “To do Your Will”, which you can listen to here.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

Thoughts on Fathers’ Day

When I was very small and couldn’t sleep, it was my daddy I wanted, because those were the times he’d pick me up and walk me round the bedroom, singing this song, complete with whispers of my name when it said: “The wind will whisper your name to me”. Though it’s sweet to sing to a little girl about clinging to the warmth of her tiny hand, what means most is the fact that he sang to me, and how it reminds me of my heavenly Father. Zephaniah 3:17 says: “He will rejoice over you with singing”. I think of both God and my dad when I hear that verse.

Another special moment came much later, when I was an adult (probably about 19 or 20). I still lived with my parents, so we’d spend time together as a family, but it was rarely just my dad and me. One night though, we went to our favourite spring on the hills to get water, and Dad surprised me afterwards by asking if I wanted to go up the highest of the hills. This wasn’t a challenge for me; I’d climbed it lots of times, but I always enjoyed it. He drove to the side where a footpath would take us to the top, parked the car and off we went. We were still climbing at about 9:30 pm. It was getting dark, and I remember him saying if one of us fell and broke our ankle, the helicopter would have to come and rescue us! Spending time with people individually is one of my favourite things, and I feel better in my spirit when I spend time with God individually too.

I don’t know what this Fathers’ Day will be like for you. Thankfully, my dad’s still here and can read these words I’ve written about him, but I know not everyone’s in that position. Maybe your dad meant a lot to you and he’s not around anymore; why not thank God for a special memory you have of him? Maybe you never knew your dad and struggle to give him any sort of honour; could you thank God that your dad helped bring you into the world, and for the people who have shown you love in your lifetime? Maybe you are a dad, who’d like to have more contact with your children; take comfort from this verse: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). As your heart is turned towards your children, you can pray that God will also turn their hearts towards you.

I pray you have a hope-filled Fathers’ Day.