Friday, 12 October 2018

Joy Story

Today I am giving my testimony at youth group, and decided to write it down to get it in my head. I also decided to share it with you all, because it's probably about time.

Q: What does your life look like when you're not helping out here on a Friday?
When I'm not at here, I am mainly doing a Masters in Creative Writing. This means I spend a lot of time starring out of windows hoping for inspiration, or travelling across town to find new places with different windows I can stare out of, and hope for inspiration.

Q: What was life like for you growing up?
I guess I had a bit of an unusual life growing up in that I lived in Africa until I was 12. My parents were medical missionaries working in Rwanda, and then Tanzania and Uganda, and then I was away at school in Kenya from the ages of 5-12. We moved back to the UK when I was in Y8, where I went to a local Cardiff comp.

Q: If someone asked you back then who Jesus was, what would you have said?
I might have said, "the Son of God", but the honest answer from my life probably would have been "irrelevant." Of course I never would have said that... but I did spend a lot of time thinking about big questions about God, and even wanting to live in a way that pleased him. But I never thought much about Jesus. I spent a lot of time feeling frustrated by how distant God felt, how hard loving him seemed and how some Christians seemed to be really joyful. I kind of scorned them for that joy because I thought they were unrealistic about the real world... but of course deep down I wanted that joy too. But I didn't get what Jesus had to do with it.

Q: So what changed for you, and when?
The big change came for me when I was 15. I went to a big Christian festival and there were a few things that happened that week that completely changed how I thought about Jesus, and therefore, everything. Firstly, I heard a talk where a guy was saying "there's a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus"...and I realised that I easily fit the first category, being an MK and all, but that I definitely did not know him. Secondly, for the first time in my life someone explained the cross to me and I understood it and saw how wrong I'd got God. I understood that at the cross all of my sin was dealt with, but also my shame. God wasn't stingy and grumpy, waiting for me to jump high enough. He was generous,  and kind. In Jesus, he had dealt with the whole burden of sin and shame. Seeing this made me realise how beautiful Jesus was to know.  And then I guess the third thing is what really blew my mind. I remember sitting in my tent crying, with this really strong image in my mind of Jesus standing in front of me, holding out his hand and saying, "Philippa- follow me." I was overwhelmed that Jesus would want anything to do with me, that he'd know my name, speak it- and want me with him! A year or so later I came across this bit in Luke 5, right after Peter meets Jesus. He sees something of who Jesus is and says to him, "get away from me, I'm a sinful man." The wonder of that passage is that Jesus knows he's a sinful man- but he calls him anyway, and uses him to build his kingdom. When I read that it took me back to how I'd felt in the tent- totally humbled and utterly joyful to be called, seeing the kindness of Jesus and thinking: why would you want anything to do with me!?  As I've been remembering all this I've just been struck again by the incredible privilege and grace of the call... I don't deserve to have Jesus know my name, let alone to have him call me to follow him! But He does. And that's what's so unrelentingly wonderful about him. One thing, anyway!

Q:What difference has knowing Jesus made in your life?
I guess the most immediate change was that I felt joy- sometimes bubbling over, sometimes still and steadfast- but I distinctly remember rejoicing in a physics lesson as I remembered- the way to God is opened up, my sin is dealt with, I'm loved! A physics lesson.  And I still feel it now- it's not always a rush of exhilarating emotion- but it is this unshakeable and glorious conviction that my biggest problem- my big old stinky pile of selfishness and sin has been dealt with, forever, by my Saviour who loves me. Before I'd seen Jesus I felt like God didn't want anything to do with me, but I could think why not. Once I'd seen Jesus I knew God did want everything to do with me, but I could not understand why. I saw him and saw my own unworthiness. But seeing his love for me inspite of that brought me great, unshakeable joy! Now I've had depression for most of my adult life, so I wouldn't exactly say the years since I was 15 have been sunshine, rainbows and lollipops, far from it (I mean I grew up in Wales so sunshine was always unlikely...) - but knowing Jesus has brought me joy. Whatever else is going on, I've been forgiven- completely forgiven and called by someone who loves me. Jesus.

Q: Who would you say Jesus is now?
Whatever the opposite of irrelevant is! It is baffling to me that I missed it (though I guess that is what blindness is!). He is the definition of relevance- the central character in the story of the world, the King of glory, Lord, Saviour, God. I mean, I cannot articulate his importance but thankfully he did himself. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." - and so much more. Read John's gospel to be staggered by Him! And the wonder of all this is that though He is reigning, though all reality is all about Him, though all of life finds its ultimate meaning in Him, He's also my friend.

"I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I might gain him..." Philippians 3:8 

Monday, 3 September 2018

He Does What He Wants

If this year has taught me nothing else, it's that there is nothing like signing yourself up for a Creative Writing MA for making you absolutely freak out and freeze up every time even the mildest thought of putting pen to paper/ fingers to keyboard enters your freaking, frozen head.

But here I am, hoping the thawing process has begun.

(Full disclosure: my sister's mother-in-law Heather has made the most amazing frosted blueberry cake - it's so fluffy I could die- and I have banned myself from eating any until I have finished this post.)

In addition to my writing anxieties, it's felt like a rough few months. In a number of ways, life has been hard. I don't know about you, but I find that every time I go through a tough patch I am baffled that my 'theology of suffering' is not more robust. But recently I have found myself, amid the turmoil, coming back to the thought: God does what he wants.

Life circumstances have felt ruthless at times and I have spent an inordinate amount of time (even for me) weeping, as I have tried to understand God's Sovereignty and the fall out of living life in a messy, broken world with a messy, broken heart. I've realised that I want things to be different, and the weight and rage of my disappointments have shown me how much I really resent the fact that I am not the one calling the shots.

Yesterday in church we sang: "be lifted up, be lifted up - as we bow down, be lifted up". I felt wretched as we sang, feeling the call to surrender to Jesus and his will as it seems to have unfolded this year, this lifetime. At least part of me wanted to bow down before the truth that God is God, and I am not. God, after all, does what he wants.

I am staying with my sister in Canada at the moment and we've had a number of heart to hearts. One day we walked to the lake near her house, sun beating down on us, shimmering water lapping on to the rocks.  Tranquil? Ha! Not so much. In these serene surroundings, (and not for the first time this summer) I railed (and wailed!) against the way God works, the way sometimes things play out so brutally, against the way, however much we fight for hope, suffering and despair seems so inevitable and inescapable. I said, "if I loved my friend I wouldn't work this way."  I talked about what it feels like to have your hope broken so completely that it seems beyond repair, how dreadful that loss is when hope is such a precious commodity to you. I said to another friend, "I trusted Jesus would catch me if I fell. But I feel like I've fallen, and all there is is brokenness."

And all these conversations ended with these words lodging heavily in my heart: God does what he wants. Every time it came to me I could feel my heart hardening around their truth, feeling them thud in my mind like concrete blocks: He doesn't need to explain himself to me; he made the heavens; he made me; he can ask whatever He wants of me, regardless of how costly it may feel.

Of course, this is true: God does what he wants. At the end of Job, God didn't sit down and tell him all the ways he had been working to glorify himself through his servant's faithfulness. He just said, "Did you make snow? Do you know when mountain goats give birth? Are you commanding the universe?" (And of course, like Job, my answers are no, and no, and I'm trying, but evidently no. So I too lay my hand on my mouth (Job 40:4))

But this morning as I was praying, I was convicted that I wasn't believing the full truth and felt I should look at the context of the verse my cling-to mantra came from.

It's Psalm 115: 3, and it was a real rebuke to me. It is actually given as an answer to a question.

The question is: "Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"

And verse 3 answers: Our God is in heaven; He does all he pleases."

What a rebuke to my heart that used those words as a way of saying, "I just have to endure the harshness of God." These words are written to challenge the question "where is God?" The psalmist is saying: don't believe the idea that God is  Sovereign and so therefore far off and callous and aloof  and harsh and entitled to do what he wants so suck it up, y'all. No, he says: our God is doing what he pleases, which is loving us.

God is not just "God". He is the LORD: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." (Exodus 34:6)

And of course who He is makes and enormous difference to what he wants. And what does the Lord want? This psalm is rich with declarations of it. What the LORD of the covenant wants, he boldly declares, is to be faithful to us.

The LORD does all he pleases so "he is our help and shield" (v9, v10, v11). The LORD does all he pleases so "he has remembered us" (v12). The LORD does all he pleases so "he will bless us, he will bless us, he will bless us" (v12, v13).  The LORD does all he pleases so he will glorify himself by showing us "steadfast love and faithfulness" (v1).  Again, God wants to help us and shield us and remember us and bless us and love us and be faithful to us. And hallelujah, God does what he wants!

As John Piper writes, "our salvation through the death of Christ for us hangs on this: our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases."

So as I keep limping a long a path that feels harsh and steep, I am trying to remind myself that God doing what he wants is not bad news, but glorious good news. These words can be a soothing balm rather than a weighty slab. His will is to be steadfast in his faithfulness and love towards me: to be my help and my shield and my source of blessing.

I am praying that, even through tears, Jesus gives me humility enough not just to surrender to a God who does what he wants, but to trusting which God this is who does what he wants: the faithful to the covenant LORD.

The LORD is not a God who needs to have what real love looks like explained to him. He is Love's definition from deepest eternity. He is Love's source through all ages. He is the Lover of Israel: patient and faithful and redeeming and patient and faithful and redeeming. He is the God of Calvary's Love: mysterious beyond fathoming and faithful unto death, the crescendo of Heaven's sweetest songs and most triumphant anthems, the redeemer of Hell's greatest darknesses.

How foolish of me to think I could teach him about love.

In the coming days I imagine I will need to, time and again, throw myself on the One who binds up messy, broken hearts and this messy, broken world, reminding myself that He does what he wants, but that what He wants, by the unfathomable mystery of the grace of His perfect character, is to be covenantally, generously, infinitely faithful to a wretch like me.

I'm praying you'll know Him too. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Call of Joy

In The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon writes to a junior demon to berate him because his human has recovered from a period of spiritual dryness. He writes,

“And now for your blunders. On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there- a walk through countryside he really likes, and taken alone. In other words, you gave him two real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as to not see the dangers of this?  The characteristic of real Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real and therefore, as far as they go, a touchstone of reality. How can you fail to see that a real Pleasure is the last thing you out to have let him meet?”

In 2018 I’ve been reading through the works of C.S. Lewis, and what has struck me time and again is his deep conviction that God calls us to joy. All joys are an overflow of the Joyfulness of God, and they come to us, as a free gift through Jesus, the source of every joy.

So, I decided to write a list of things in my life that call me to joy. And maybe as you think about them he’ll call you to joy too.

But a couple of caveats before I begin:
  • I am not feeling particularly joyful right now. I’ve felt pretty anxious and angsty all week, so please don’t think this is coming from a place of self-satisfied shiny radiant ease.
  • This is an incomplete list.
  •  Sometimes there are no other joys in our life but Jesus himself. Recently as I’ve found the battle for joy a little harder, I’ve been struck time and again by the fact that Paul’s command in Philippians is possible: “rejoice in the Lord always.”  Sometimes our sorrows outweigh all the smaller calls to joy, but in Jesus, there is always basis for rejoicing. That call goes out to those in prison for Jesus, to those who have losses only the New Creation will restore, to those who have faced what seemed to them to be worst case scenarios. But that’s a different blog post.
  •  I hope that delighting in all these joys are fundamentally reasons for delighting in Jesus himself- the Giver of all good things.

1)      Music. Songs that remind you of when you were younger and even more of a mess, songs that remind you that there is other joy and other pain beyond your own, songs that are beautiful and harmonic and cause your heart to swell with a thousand emotions that lie beyond the scope of words. Songs you can dance to, celebrating the fact that dancing is an exercise in not taking yourself too seriously and indulging in self-forgetfulness because who actually cares if you look daft when you are soooo in sync with Chumbawamba’s vibes (entirely hypothetically of course). Music calls me to joy, and points me to the God of harmony.

2)      The sun is a call of joy: sunrises that fill up the skies with all the best colours and in a different combination every morning and sunsets that however good your filters are you can’t possibly be captured in a little Instagram box; their glory far exceeds their capacity to gain you likes and the warmth of the sun and the fact that is makes things grow. And things grow!  And the sun turned up to volume 11 so that skies become super blue and piercingly clear and behave as though you were a fool to ever imagine a cloud could belong there. And the sun being turned down to low so that at a certain hour on a certain day even the most appalling human architecture looks interesting, or hopeful.

3)     Beverages: your first sip of coffee on a morning when you have felt only tired and then it’s warm and tasty and immediately a comforting promise that the day will happen, as other days have happened- and maybe it will be better than you expect it to be. Cups of tea: the cup that was made for you by someone else, the cup that accompanies a hopeful chat, the cup you’ve been dying for, the cup you have time to enjoy every single warm sip of, the cup that comes with a cream tea and sings “Saturday” and is all the sweeter because you know you have a whole pot of it. And the pot is pretty.  

4)      Children. There’s something joyous about entering a smaller world where what really matters is the right way of brushing a hedgehog’s hair or where delight means having a whole 50p to spend on whatever sweets you want. 

5)      Books. I mean, books bring me joy before I’ve read a word- just their being there is like having countless little doorways to countless exciting new worlds at your fingertips. And sometimes the doorways are beautifully designed covers that convey something of the wonder of joy or reality or hope or whimsicalness or hilarity of the world you are about to enter, and sometimes the covers are dull and dumb but then you open them up and you’re suddenly standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon or in a mysterious train carriage or in a submarine under siege and somehow the fact that the doorway gave you no clue makes being in there all the more exciting. Books! Books that don’t really win you anything other than the pleasure of having read them, of forgetting yourself for a while and entering another world, another life- maybe it’s older or harder or maler or easier or similar but the key is that even if it is like yours, it isn’t yours! 

6)      Outside. Let's start with flowers. Just that there are flowers are a big indication to me that God is for my joy. They come in so many different sizes and colours and smells and they bloom in different seasons and they expand towards the light with sometimes ridiculous enthusiasm and they are relatively cheap and significantly cheerful and they transform a room from just a space in to a home that humans want to hang out in. And I suppose connected to flowers are trees, and insects, and rivers and just the whole of outside that you step out in to and are reminded that your little world really is just your little world- that the sky is still the sky- a large dome that has encompassed countless little worlds through the years and little lives that kept going and loving even when it was tough. And the sky is an umbrella over all of the excellence of nature. And on that note- wellies. I mean, surely wellies are made for sheer delight. Wellies say- we’re going to get muddy but WE ARE GOING ANYWAY, because mud, mud GLORIOUS mud.

7)      Laughter. I really think that laughter is a beautiful testament to the fact that the world is good. Even when life is at its worst, sometimes laughter can creep up on us and overflow with something that makes us a little more self-forgetful, or relieved, or aware that at the centre of the universe is Unspeakable Joy, not misery, that ultimately will overcome everything! Obviously not everything funny is godly. But there is so much in the world that reminds us that we were created for delight: the doddering of a toddler in to a serious interview about trade in North Korea, the sassiness of cats, the comments on a Nifty video where they rightly get rinsed for showing you how to make a bathmat our of your own underwear… (To quote C.S Lewis again: “Those who call for Nonsense find it comes.”)

8)      Things going well that don’t always go well, by which I mean- the joy of knowing that today your boiler isn’t broken, today your clutch hasn’t gone AWOL, today you have your voice, today your headache is better than it was yesterday, today you did remember milk, today work wasn’t in every way terrible, today your phone stayed charged for as long as you hoped it would, today you didn’t burn your dinner, today there wasn’t a traffic jam, today you didn’t get a massive dollop of Nutella on the middle of your new white blouse. Oh the countless joys we might have in those very things that are such kicks in the teeth when they fail to show up. 

9)      Sleep. You sleep for 30 years of your life. This means for 30 years of your life, in practice at least, you had a correct perspective on yourself- that the world would keep on turning without you, that giving yourself rest matters, that God is running the show in gracious kindness even when you are out for the count,  that some days really just need to have the “switch it off and on again” approach. 

10)   Learning about things you find interesting just because you find them interesting: why William Blake wrote Songs of Innocence and Experience; GDPR; the ten year history behind the outcome of a 1990s court case, why the French Revolution was more effective than the American one, how Alanis Morrisette became famous (she once supported Vanilla Ice in concert); how and why people are able to live in incredible subterranean homes, why killer whales seem to go psychopathic in captivity; how to say "I'm sunbathing" in Malagasy ("Mitanin andro aho", FYI) ; how to knit stripey baby hats; how to swim front crawl faster; how to take better photos or where the best places are to go to take good photos; how to make an origami dog (without losing your mind) and so very, very, very much more.

What are some of the ways God calls you to joy?

(I am asking you so that you answer in the comments. My brother read my blog for the first time the other day, and nearly commented, but then didn’t because he saw that no one else had so thought it actually could not happen. LOL!)

Monday, 26 March 2018


“The President has been assassinated.”

My mum’s anxious words cut through the blur of warm recollection and bright anticipation that made up the atmosphere of a typical holiday morning. It was immediately clear from my parents’ subdued attitude: something had changed; the President’s death meant war.

Most of my memories of Rwanda belong in the haze of heady nostalgia: I remember lining up for birthday party photos on the veranda steps, racing around the garden with slopping buckets mid water fight, scouring the depths of the dressing up box for just the perfect wig. I remember clambering over the hot corrugated roof, scaling the heights of frangipani trees, then avocado trees, then kapok trees, adventuring on my bike down red-mud roads. Rwanda days were days of tea parties in the bushes, of hide and seek in the wilds of the mango patch, of wheelbarrow rides and banana tree planting with our gardener-friend Manueli until we were all helpless with laughter, of splashing around in the lake at the bottom of the hill until the sun sunk low in the sky.

The weight of tension that characterised those months fell almost immediately. The eerie quiet hung heavily, its suffocation always descending oppressively after any skirmishes disturbed it. The morning was warm, but the village was empty.

After that, my memories come in glimpses and looking at them is like trying to grasp shards of a broken image, a breaking image.

We saw houses burning ominously on the opposite hillside; the sight made my sister sick.  There were odd- and increasing- snapshots of desperate fear. A frenzied man pelted through our garden, his reckless urgency unfamiliar and disturbing. Another morning I found a man cowering in the darkness of our spare room- trembling, humiliated by fear, eyes brimming with a plea for mercy.

There were nights sleeping away from home for safety; anxious discussions with other families; gunshots; tangible, severe tension. Brutal nights were followed by hollow, haunting mornings. Guttural wails of mourning echoed around the valley; there were reports of incomprehensible violence, there were death threats, there were deaths. And then there were clear instructions from the Embassy: Brits must leave.  

We had half an hour to pack our things.

I couldn’t decide which of my Sylvanian Families I should pack. I remember looking at the villagers- hedgehogs and ducks and bears laid out on my bedroom floor, little lives frozen in the unremarkable ordinariness of their being. The decision of which to bring with me was impossible. The pressure, the urgency, the fear made the very act of deciding futile. I left them all behind.

Once we left, there was the tension of the journey: we drove through multiplied checkpoints, the Union Jack taped to our windscreen as our refuge, we hoped, from the surrounding fray. Members of our convoy were threatened by soldiers and the sudden blast of a puncture added to our strain. We feared for our lives and those of who remained; wretchedness permeated our exit: how were we able to leave when so many we loved had no choice but to stay?

In the July after the war broke in April, our family had come back to the UK for a few months. Someone had lent us a house in Virginia Water and my abiding memory of that time was the heat of the summer’s drought, the palpable tension of uncertainty, and countless letters scattered across the breakfast table: one envelope might contain words of relief; another letter might turn to slate on reading, an unbearable burden of devastating news.

The radio emanated reports of mass exodus, of countless deaths, of callous atrocities, a low drone of statistics and generalisations. But each bulletin brought to mind particular faces we had known and loved and trusted.

We longed most for news of Manueli and his family. But letter after letter came, and none of them gave us hope that our closest friends had survived.

This is just a prologue. I stood on the shore of these events; the experiences were memories for me before the real storm broke over most people in this conflict. My age and my parents sheltered me from many of the horrors, and the privilege of my position protected me from many more.
More than a year after we left Rwanda, we set out on another tense journey.

Since the war, my parents had been working in a large refugee camp to the East of Rwanda. Reports had come that another camp was opening up on the border with Zaire, and with them came a minute by-line of optimism; could Manueli and his family still be alive? After some investigation my mum discovered: they were.

We travelled across miles of rugged terrain, our Landrover churning red dust in to the humid air, leaving us in a ruddy cloud of uncertainty. We were accompanied by an armed guard, there to protect us from notorious bandits that occupied the intervening miles. Our stomachs lurched with the turbulence of the rough track and with the restless anticipation of being reunited with our friends.

My first sighting of the refugee camp was overwhelming. Suddenly, the vast East African horizon was punctuated with endless blotches of unnatural blue. The rolling green hills suddenly became a sprawling sea of UNHCR sheeting, tarpaulin patchwork city as a refuge for thousands and thousands of families, united by their obligation to escape. Each tent contained its own stories of fearful desperation. 

It had rained that day, and all the moisture of an equatorial storm hung in the air. As soon as we clambered down from the vehicle, the smell of earth filled the dense air. Immediately we were surrounded by a throng of children, who milled around us and one another, bubbling over with energy and life. We set out to find the family, weaving through the rows of tents, accompanied by this lively new entourage.

When we got there they welcomed us in; there were embraces, smiles, laughter, warmth: praise to God that we’d been reunited. Manueli’s eyes shone with laughter, as they always had, as he made space for us on the floor of his makeshift home that was comprised of nothing more than sheeting and straw.

We had not been there long when it became evident that they were preparing a meal for us. In the camps they had daily rations. Once my mum had calculated that from the quota, each refugee would have been assigned five kidney beans a day.

We were a family of five who had had breakfast and no doubt would have another meal later on that day. My parents were desperate not to, but at Manueli’s absolute and delighted insistence, crouching in his refugee tent, we ate the meal he had prepared for us.

Manueli’s family had not been able to leave quickly; they had not been able to swiftly find safety elsewhere. They had walked for fearful miles, in constant danger- bewildered, horrified, surrounded by incomprehensible brutality. They'd experienced betrayal and many who survived slaughter died of starvation on the road. They'd finally got to safety in a vast refugee camp of plastic sheeting and rationed handouts and yet when a wealthy Western family came to visit, they shared them with us.

They had even gone to their neighbours and collected spoons, so that there'd be enough for us all to eat their food in the way Europeans did. They welcomed us with warmth and love and overflowing kindness. Whether or not I knew it at the time, as I crouched on the floor of that tent eating someone else’s rations of potatoes and beans, I was taught that generosity is not about how much you give, but about how much is left over once the giving is finished.

We stayed for a while, and then, again, we left.

We travelled back to our roofed home, had warm showers, probably ate again and then went to sleep in our secure beds.

Sometimes when I look back to this afternoon, I find anxiety begins to eat away at the memory. Did I turn my nose up at the food? Did I scrunch my nose up at strange smells? Did I ask for more? After I’d eaten did I get bored and moan that I wanted to go home? I worry that somehow my childishness or my selfishness trampled over the beauty of a moment that taught me more about hospitality than I have learnt in the twenty years since.  

As time has gone by, I’ve found that the abundance of Manueli’s robust generosity has made it impossible for me to pity him. His generosity and love have made an even deeper impression on me than the wretched injustices of war and the world. Although insecurities about my thoughtlessness or my privilege lurk in the shadows of that memory, I can’t dwell on them for long without the rays of Manueli’s kindness scattering them away.

Manueli gave like all who are truly generous do- with delight, with hope, without any expectation of repayment other than the enjoyment of the gift. Had I been so foolish as to ask for more, he would have been thrilled that I’d found the meal so tasty. That afternoon remains a good memory, one of the best of my life.

On the noticeboard of our computer room at home, we have pinned a photograph that we took of Manueli and his family in the camp that afternoon. The image is faded now, specks of the colours have peeled off, there are creases towards its edges. But the photo tells a story of humanity. It has become for me a litmus test of what really matters in life. Light pierces the holes between the straw and the sheeting and the majority of their possessions are visible- a pot, a plastic bag, the mattress they are sitting on, the clothes they are wearing, and one another.

And Manueli is smiling- his broad, generous, radiant smile.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Six Posts on Depression and Hope

Here are a few posts on depression that I thought might be helpful to put in one place.

1) Bite- Sized Advice for Days of Darkness: I wrote this post whilst sat in a mildly helpful seminar on depression, trying to figure out what I really needed to hear amid the darkness.

2) Bite- Sized Advice for Friends of the Depressed : this post is largely based on observations of what I've found helpful (and what I haven't) when things have been tough.

3) He Will Do Good Anyway: this has been the bottom line when I've felt pretty rock bottom; when even trying to grasp some shred of truth seems to be beyond me!

4) God Has Spoken to Us: I wrote this post while I was on sick leave for depression: so I was definitely in the pit, but I did find these words extraordinarily comforting.

5) Hope on Hopeless Mornings: when I'm aware of everything I am not, I am inexpressibly grateful for all God is!

6) Dear Depression: This is a testimony of my life with depression, and of Jesus' power to redeem.

And if you fancy more....

Bite- Sized Bible for Bruised Believers: a thirty day devotional, with all the posts written with the experience of depression in mind- and of course Jesus, who is the One stronger than depression.

Hope they are of help to you or loved ones in the battle: a battle that, however it may feel, is temporary. Winter turns to spring, darkness turns to light, night turns to morning, mourning turns to joy.

Big love,
Philippa xx 

Friday, 29 December 2017


Made any resolutions yet? I thought about a few... thousand. 

Somewhere in the middle of my list of go-to methods for becoming a better exercised, better read, better disciplined, better fed, altogether more chilled (!!) version of myself, I was relieved to remember that my hope for this year is not what I resolve to do or be, but the LORD.

He has made steadfast promises, and His unwavering resolve and delight in keeping them are my brightest hope for the New Year, the reason I can look forward to it with joy.

Here are a small selection of those things He has promised for the coming year: 

I will be with you. Whether this year is better or not, whether you shake free that belligerent, bessetting fault or not, whether you make it to the gym or not, whether you feel like I am with you or whether it feels like you are alone, every day and every night of this year, I will be with you.

I will love you. Abundantly, extravagantly, in ways that will stagger and surprise you. However you love me, be it in blazing flames or as a smouldering wick: I will love you. I will love loving you. Long before you've muttered a prayer or picked up the Bible, long before you've made it to church, long before you even want to love me, every day of this year: I will love you.

I will help you. When there's nothing left within- look to me: I will help you. When you think you're all over it- look to me: I will help you. When no one else will, or can, I will delight to be your strength and your hope. Every day of this year, I will be your ever present help in trouble.

I will forgive you. I will be faithful and just, and the cross will be enough- for the year's most floundering attempts at goodness and the year's most profound failures. Where resolve doesn't win and instead greed does or despair does or sleep does or selfishness does, I will remember the cross, I will remember the covenant, I will remember your Mediator, my Beloved Son and with pleasure, I will forgive you.

I will give you rest. I will. As you peer in to a frantic new year where countless demands yap at you to eat less, exercise more, scroll less, read more, introspect less, chill more, as you deeply desire to be a thousand things you are not now, as you try to carve out a peaceful path for yourself in being a better version of you, remember that whatever your resolutions might give you, I will give you rest.

I will make all things new. Tenderly, creatively, redemptively, exhaustively. When you feel like everything is predictable or miserable or futile; when you've tried and tried and feel like all you've made is a mess: I will make all things new. When this year looks like another year heavy with heartache and foolishness and oppression and pain, I will make all things new. When the world is breaking, when rulers are raging, when the wounded are weeping, I will be making all things new.

I will glorify my name by being who I am. I will bind up broken hearts. I will set captives free. I will hear prayers and answer. I will deliver. I will give food to the hungry. I will uphold the cause of the oppressed. I will be faithful because I cannot be anything else. I will love being faithful.

I don't know what I'll be doing in 2018, but I know what God will be doing: He has promised. 

These are the resolutions that matter. These are the resolutions that make for a Happy New Year. 

Happy New Year!

Check the promises: Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 46:1; Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 11:28-20; Revelation 21:5; Psalm 146 and many more... 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Brightest and Best: Advent Reflections on Jesus

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth

Happy Christmas, folks!

Thank you so much for following along with these advent blogs. For ease, I've put them all in one place, below,  so you can go back and read any (or all) you've missed, or re-read any you enjoyed. Each post is stand alone so dip in and out as it suits you and pass on to anyone who might be encouraged by them. 

I hope you all have a gloriously happy Christmastime, filled with Jesus, who is brighter and better than everything. 

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning; 

Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid!

Much love,


Jesus: God's Comfort. 

Jesus: Spring in Our Winter

Jesus: Giver of Rest 

Jesus: The Ultimate Garderner

Jesus: Son of Mary 

Jesus: Cousin of John

Jesus: The Brightest Dawn

Jesus: Our Brother

Jesus: Manger-Messiah

Jesus: Good News For All

Jesus: Song of the Angels 

Jesus: Wisdom of The Ages

Jesus: A Better King

Jesus: The Best King

Jesus: God Made Man

Jesus: The Salvation of God

Jesus: God With Us 

Jesus: Man of Sorrows

Jesus: Joy-Sharer

Jesus: Silent Saviour 

Jesus: Death- Defeater

Jesus: Hope of the Earth

Jesus: Eternal King

Jesus: God's Gift 
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