Category Archives: Ministry

Are You About to Come Out to Your Christian Parents?

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Coming Out

In my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people, especially young people with Christian parents, I have so far looked at the matter from the point of view of the parents of the LGBTQ+ person.

Today, I want to share another piece by Susan Cottrell of ‘Freedhearts‘. Susan is a strong, loving and totally Christian advocate of LGBTQ+ people and especially of those who are young people still living with their Christian parents. In this piece, Susan shares practical advice and points out relevant considerations for young people who may well have to ‘come out’ some time in the near future. Click the graphic below to go to the article.

If you are a LGBTQ+ person who is considering ‘coming out’, then I would definitely suggest you read that article – it’s brilliant. Susan has a huge amount of experience in helping and standing alongside people in danger of rejection, either by parents or churches, for either ‘being gay’ or for affirming those who are. Personally, I don’t give two hoots what people think of me as an affirmer, but then I am not in a position where such people’s opinions make the slightest bit of difference to me. But I understand that for some people, the stakes are much higher, and this is why I have done this mini-series.

Be blessed. Grace and peace to you.

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Did Your Child Just Come Out to You?

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Coming Out

In this, the second part of my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for young people of Christian parents, I want to share with you the wisdom of Susan Cottrell, of ‘Freedhearts‘.

In this piece, Susan gives sound advice to Christian parents whose child has just ‘come out’.

You think it might never happen to you? Well, how would you know? Because if your child is an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) person, they might not feel able to tell you, because they know your views on the subject!

I would recommend all Christian parents read this article – not only ‘just in case’ your child does ‘come out’, but also to give you a better understanding of how Christian parents of LGBTQ+ young people can continue to affirm and support their child once they ‘come out’ despite what they think ‘the Bible says’.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

This is a real issue affecting real people, and we need to examine this, as a Church, in a Chrstlike manner.

I know a Godly couple whose daughter recently ‘came out’ and which caused much soul-searching in their congregation…and those people in that church have essentially been forced – by their circumstances – to learn how to continue in their acceptance of that precious young life. And, so far, they have done very well…they knew that child from a baby and nothing has changed, except that now they know something that God has known about all along.

So, I recommend you read the article – it will stand you in good stead should you need it!

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Dwelling Places

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series Fiona

The heart of worship is to draw near to God; to see more of Him; to desire strongly His Presence, to kneel (literally or figuratively) before Him and tell Him how much we love Him.

It’s eleven months since we lost my lovely wife Fiona. And Fiona’s heart was always that of a worshipper. Worship was our way of life, staying close to God and singing His praises whenever the opportunity presented itself πŸ™‚ As I said here, basically if there was any excuse for us to break into song, we’d be singing and making music in our hearts to Jesus.

As I have already shared in that article above, Fiona gave me this lovely Scripture from her favourite Bible translation, The Message – because she said it reminded her of me!:

β€œDon’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:18-20 (Message))

And I love that – β€˜Any excuse for a song….’ and that’s just what we were like together.

Fiona is, of course, now in that place where she can worship with the full, yet still increasing, knowledge of what God is really like. She is in His Dwelling Place – the place where He is – and likely worshipping her heart out. It’s what she did, and I have no doubt that it’s what she does. Worship is not only what keeps me going, but it’s what I believe Fiona has gone to. Have you any idea what a tremendous comfort that is to me in my bereavement?

And so, once again, the brilliant Terry MacAlmon comes to my aid. As I listen to this beautiful worship song, Dwelling Places, once again I am transported into God’s Presence. How lovely indeed is His Dwelling, because that’s where He is. So in a very real sense, as my heart rises up in worship with this song, I am worshipping with the angels and with Fiona in the Throne Room of Heaven. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Sitting at Jesus’s feet and basking in His Presence.

So, here’s the lovely song ‘Dwelling Places’, by Miriam Webster, sung by Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson. Be blessed:

Lovely are Your dwelling places
Thirsty I come after You
Jesus, my joy, my reward
Your love’s restoring my soul
Now I’m Yours and You are mine
And from my heart a song will rise

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
And my heart will follow wholly after You

Jesus, there is none beside You
Righteous, ruler of the earth
Nations will come and bow down
Name over all names
I sing You praises
And all that I can say to You is

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You

And my heart will follow wholly after You

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Praise Him!

I make no apology for including yet another Terry MacAlmon song on my blog, nor indeed for it being another number in which Shauna Chanda doubles the brilliance of the piece by leading with her amazing voice and obvious love for Jesus.

This one’s called ‘Praise Him‘, by Lynn DeShazo. As usual, let the song lift you as you agree with the singers (Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson) and, indeed, praise Jesus for all His goodness towards you.

Praise Him, Praise Him
Praise Him, Praise Him

We have assembled to praise the One we love
We join the chorus of the angels up above, oh yes…
They sing hosannas and praises to our King
So we lift our voices all together now and sing

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We are Your children, we’re here just to seek Your face
Lord we come boldly before Your throne of Grace
To love and worship You, and listen to Your voice
You are our Father, and how our hearts rejoice

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We love You, We love You
We love You, We love You

I love seeing the worship responses of the different people in the congregation. Some are actively singing with their hands lifted up. Some just standing and not singing, but just receiving. Some just sitting quietly listening, one couple sitting close together and just soaking in the worship. No self-consciousness at all, in fact; they are just concentrating on Jesus, each in their own way worshipping their Lord. This is simply beautiful, and it’s at times like that that I realise how much of an honour it is to have the privilege of leading precious people like these in their worship. This is beautiful worship, with beautiful music, to our beautiful Saviour.

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Rest In Your Love

This entry is part 16 of 18 in the series Fiona

This post marks the ninth month since we lost my gorgeous wife Fiona. Once again, like last time, it’s another musical post, to celebrate Fiona’s tremendous musical talent and at the same time to take a look at more of the tremendous Love of God that has kept me afloat for three-quarters of a year.

Fe and I used to sing a lot of songs together, sometimes with both of us singing, sometimes with me just backing her on the piano or guitar. One of our favourite songs was one that ranked in our ‘personal memories’ scale nearly as highly as ‘our’ song ‘Where you go, I will go‘, and it was called ‘Rest in Your Love’, by Phil McHugh, and recorded by Mo James, a gifted Leeds-based singer whose talent was sadly never really recognised nor developed as far as it could have been. The song is from her only album. More Love, released in 1982*.

I must testify that, for all our lives, we have rested in God’s Love. I have especially rested in that Love since Fiona died, for ‘underneath are the Everlasting Arms’ (Dt 33:27). That’s why I chose the top picture for this post: firstly to illustrate Fiona’s stunning, radiant beauty, and secondly to show little Lucy, our grand-daughter, ‘resting’ in Fiona’s love as she feeds her. This picture is such a good illustration of what this song is about – resting in God’s immense, illimitable parental Love. Fiona and I loved singing this song, and, in so doing, giving the testimony of the words that meant so much to us and which were so real in our lives.

This is why I have shared it in this post.

Here we are, then; Rest in Your Love, sung by Mo James.

It appears that the tempter never sleeps
It seems my best is always just out of reach
But I take comfort from the promise of Your unending care
I will rest when I reach out and find You’re there

And I can rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

It’s not easy to be human, You know that first hand
The flesh and the Spirit both make their demands
But here I am on this road of life, I’ve got to walk it through
And the best way is to walk it right beside You

Well I can rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

I’ll always need You, I’ll always need You

Rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

 


*Tragically, Mo died of a brain haemhorrage in 1999

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Giving up the Bible Debates

Recently, I have found, when reading my Bible, that instead of hearing the gentle voice of the Spirit, I have instead been feeling the dry, grating, harsh legalism from those harsh people with whom I have engaged in Bible debates. I have found that I can’t read the Bible without its passages being contaminated with the nastiness and horror of some people’s worldviews that, while purporting to be Christian, still are not reflections of the loving Christ that I know so well.

It’s time for me to step back for a while from all the Bible debates on the forums, and to let myself bask in the closeness of the Holy Spirit once again. Time for worship; time for just rejoicing in His goodness.

Even after my recent post expressing why I do these debates (for the upbuilding of the invisible, silent listeners), still I need to recharge every so often. I still need to learn to pace myself and to give myself space.

Just a few short hours after I made the decision to do this, the following post appeared on the Unfundamentalist Christians channel on Patheos. And it was like an RAF air strike: right on time and right on target. Thank You, Lord!

This article is so perceptive and penetrating; it’s one of those pieces that you can immediately see is really outstanding. It describes things really well, so, why not take a look for yourself and be encouraged.

These are wise words, from a wise man.

If this is your burden, be released and be free.

Click here to go to the article, or click the graphic below:

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The Invisible Listeners

This post is written to those believers who write on the Internet about Grace. People who write to encourage others, to build them up, not tear them down.

I am a member of several Facebook groups where people of the Spirit voice things from God, things new and old. Old widsom, and new wisdom. Things for the building up of the Saints (Eph 4:12). Jesus Himself said that there was so much more He wanted to tell us (Jn 16:12), and this kind of publishing is part of that. Much of this stuff is the prophetic Word of God for today. You can tell by the fruits manifested in their readers that these words are bringing life to those that read them.

But there is also huge discouragement, and often even despair, for those who write. If you are one of these writers, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. On public posts, you are torn to shreds by (sometimes well-meaning) Religious people who don’t like what they read. The Scripture says that people would be offended by the message of Jesus, and this is for several reasons. Mostly, though, the offence is found in the simplicity of the Gospel message, where St. Paul simply preached Christ crucified. Jesus has accomplished all that is necessary for the way to be open to God, and He invites us into His Presence. And this is counterintuitive. We humans naturally feel that surely there must be something we have to do, some sacrifice we have to make, something we can feel, think, do or say that somehow will make God more pleased with us.

But, actually, no, there isn’t. He’s already more pleased with you than you can possibly imagine! And that’s what is so offensive to people: that nothing they can do – or not do – will make them any more or less acceptable to God.

And so, I would like to encourage all my readers here today who write for Jesus.

People like me, who share regular blog posts containing what we believe to be the truth about God and how much He loves us, and how especially fond He is of us. People who write occasional pieces just expressing how they are feeling and how God is meeting them right where they are at. Or people who just build up others by sharing simple, gentle encouragement, whether in forum replies such as on the Patheos website (my favourite channel being ‘Unfundamentalist Christians‘), or even just in gentle Facebook replies.

To all such people I would say this:

Listen: your posts are encouraging far more people than you realise!

You are blessing hundreds and thousands of people simply by writing your gentle words of Grace!

When I post on the Patheos forums, and my posts are torn to shreds by the Religious gatekeepers; the Pharisees, or maybe just those who are secretly uncertain of their faith and feel that my words shake their foundations – and reply with violence because they feel threatened – I don’t worry about it.

Because I know that my posts have been read by my intended audience – not the Pharisees, but those who are broken, hurting, feeling rejected by the prim-and-proper religious elite. Those of ‘different’ sexualities. Those who have received abuse at the hands of those who should have been healing them: corrupt church leaders; antagonistic judgemental people pointing out their ‘sin’; ‘Sin-police’; those who deem themselves ‘fruit inspectors’. I take these people on, not to try to turn them or convince them – God will do that for them in His own time; indeed, only He can do it anyway – but to let those thousands of ‘invisible listeners’ and ‘lurkers’ know that not all Christians are like those people who cause harm. There are indeed Christians who gently manifest the presence of Jesus in their writings, and, to those bloggers like me who want to be that gentle, I would say, “Keep it up!” You are touching many more people with God’s love than you can possibly realise!

I leave you with a comment that was sent me by a man in New Zealand, to encourage me about my other website, ‘VintageWorshipTapes‘. On that site, I restore and make available electronic recordings of old worship tapes from the seventies, eighties and nineties. The comment still moves me to tears even now. Here’s what he said:

“One day, when we are in His Presence, you will find out just how many people were encouraged by what you are doing”

Wow! And I think that’s today’s take-home message πŸ™‚

 

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El-Shaddai

This entry is part 15 of 18 in the series Fiona

Fiona and I always shared an irreverent sense of humour. And, despite having lost her, my sense of humour is still just as wacky πŸ™‚ Our outlook on life has always been free and flippant! Because we were (and are) both completely secure in our relationship with Father, we felt free to make jokes about our faith, sometimes to the consternation of other churchy types who were nearby – although to be fair, we didn’t usually use that type of humour in the presence of those who would not understand, because it would have made them uncomfortable. I sometimes think that people are afraid of God, despite 1 John 4:18, which speaks about perfect love driving out fear… sadly, then, there are many Christians – and people from other faiths too – who declare that ‘God has a sense of humour’, but whose ensuing fake laughter usually belies that belief. Lolz.

But not Fiona and I. We were wacky all the way, in ways I won’t share here because, well, I suppose you had to be there…

Now, here’s another worship song from our youth – El Shaddai, sung by the legendary Christian artist Amy Grant. And, for us, this song has a wacky story behind it. We first saw this song in the Dales Bible Week songbook for the 1985 Dales Week, entitled ‘Enthroned on High‘. But we didn’t actually hear the song at that time.

The ‘foreign’ words in the song are just some of the Hebrew names for God, and because of the sense of humour Fiona and I shared, and in the way that we always made irreverent jokes about absolutely everything, we decided for definite that the song was put in that Dales songbook in order to enable people who didn’t ‘speak in tongues’ to sing something that sounded foreign enough to pass as ‘tongues’. Some won’t find that funny. We thought it was bloody hilarious. And this is the first time I have made that public knowledge πŸ˜‰

And then we heard the song a couple of years later on a worship tape, if I recall correctly, and we loved it immediately.

I’ve put it in Fiona’s series on my blog, because it reminds me so much of the time we had together, the worship we shared, Fiona’s wacky sense of humour that complemented mine so well, and the great times we had singing it together, with me on piano and Fiona’s tremendous vocals. She was a lady of great talent and, over the months, I have sorely missed her pure, wonderful singing voice, and her gentle spirit coming through in her music.

And the song is indeed beautiful, and is well worth hearing. Released in 1982 on Amy Grant’s breakthrough album ‘Age to Age‘, this song was one of the numbers that made her famous. Here it is, with its lovely arrangement, great dynamics and excellent chord emphases along with Amy’s brilliant talent.

Enjoy!

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.
Β 
Through Your love and through the ram,
You saved the son of Abraham;
Through the power of your hand,
Turned the sea into dry land
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God Who really sees,
And by Your might,
You set Your children free
Β 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.
Β 
Through the years You made it clear,
That the time of Christ was near,
Though the people couldn’t see
What Messiah ought to be
Though Your word contained the plan,
They just could not understand
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of Your Son
Β 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
I will praise You ’til I die,
El Shaddai
Β 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
I will praise You ’til I die
El Shaddai.

– Michael Card/John W. Thompson

I’ll also relate another humorous story about this song. Fiona and I were once in our Church in Leeds when there was a guest lady who’d come in to perform an expressive dance, and she did it to El Shaddai. And she did it really well; it was very moving and expressive and spiritual and all that. Right up to the point where she slipped and did a spectacular comedy-accident fall, through the drum kit if I remember correctly, to the accompaniment of crashing cymbals et al. She was ok, but boy was it funny, and Fiona’s irreverent sense of humour came to the fore and I’m convinced she only narrowly avoided serious internal injury due to her attempts to suppress her laughter. I know it sounds bad to laugh at that sort of thing, but the young dancer was fine, as was the drum kit, and it was even funnier because of all the knights in shining armour who gallantly leapt to the young lady’s rescue, almost causing a further accident in their haste to render assistance.

And to the lady’s complete credit, she got straight back up again and carried on with the dance, bless her πŸ™‚

Anyway, there we go. A lovely song with lots of happy and funny memories for me. Fiona loved it πŸ™‚

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With Eyes For Only You

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series Fiona

The other day I heard, for the first time, a song that has utterly blown me away: My God and King written by Shauna Chanda and sung beautifully by her on Terry MacAlmon’s worship album, The Sound of Heaven.

At the moment, I can’t listen to this song without my heart bursting with worship, and often even weeping with the sheer weight of glory that falls upon me. Only three or four times in my life so far has a song had this effect on me, (the main one I can remember being When I Look into Your Holiness in 1983) and this song, My God and King, is one of those songs. It’s been a long time since a song has had such a profound impact in me; I can feel the Spirit reaching in to the deep places of my heart as I sing or listen to it, and I feel Him minister His deep healing of the wounds I have received over the last three and a half years of Fiona’s illness and her passing. This song stirs up the deep spirit of worship within me like no other I have ever heard, and in that worship is my healing in God’s Presence.

Fiona at our son’s wedding, September 2009

I love how the song describes that, for the worshipper, to see God face to face and to be with Him would be their dream come true. And this is partly why I have included this in Fiona’s series – because indeed her dream has come true and she now sees God face to face, and worships Him there. Her heart longed to be with Him. She never heard this song on this earth, but I bet she’s singing it right now! I can imagine her lovely soprano voice singing it; she would have loved this song, it’s exactly the kind of song she loved best. A beautiful love song of worship where I declare, and live out, that I have eyes for only my Jesus, my God and King – even, and especially, through the storms of life.

So, with this in mind, here’s the brilliant Shauna Chanda singing her song, with the inimitable Terry MacAlmon on piano. It is my prayer as I write this that this song will bring healing to you too, in whatever area you need it:

 

My God and King
To You alone I sing
You’re the face I seek
For all eternity

My God and King
To You alone I sing
You’re the face I seek
For all eternity

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

My God and King
Through the storm I sing
Covered by Your wing
This song of love I bring

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

You are my dream come true
Just to be with You
Now I see brand new
With eyes for only You

With eyes for only You

With eyes for only You

I have eyes for only You

– Shauna Chanda

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Lucy’s Song

This entry is part 13 of 18 in the series Fiona

Here’s another spontaneous post about Fiona, my lovely wife who tragically passed away from cancer last October.

What makes this post really special is that I am featuring a song in which Fiona is actually singing. Fiona recorded very few songs, I don’t really know why we didn’t really record much music together; I guess we were both always completely spontaneous πŸ™‚

So, this is a lovely little number called ‘Lucy’s Song‘, by Heather Pope, and we discovered the song on an obscure little tape called ‘Celebration – Things of Beauty’, (recorded in the 70’s) while Fiona was at University in 1982. The track I am presenting here is Fiona’s cover of that song recorded in July 1985. What’s especially wonderfully prophetic with this cover of Lucy’s Song is that it’s as if Fiona recorded it, half a lifetime ago, for our grand-daughter Lucy, who’s now 7. Lucy loved her Nanny Fe and was heartbroken when she died. This song is Fiona’s legacy to Lucy, telling her that despite life’s storms, and despite her Nanny Fe not being there for her, still her loving Heavenly Father holds her closely in His hands.

I think this is a song that Lucy will treasure.

I apologise that the backing track is a little out of tune; this is because this was one of my dad’s early forays into four-track portable studio recordings, as I said, in 1985, which back then was all done by adjusting the tape speed to retune the tracks, and it appears he got it a little wrong. But the vocals are the focal point here; Fiona’s voice is the higher, purer soprano while the lower, more smoky and husky voice is her best friend, Cath. Their voices always went so well together and it always amazed me that I should be so privileged to be able to make music with these two superb vocalists. Here we go then: Lucy’s Song, vocals by Fiona and Cath, backing instrumentals by Johnny Douglas (my dad’s stage name):

Lucy, when the sky is cloudy, smile
Lucy, when your mind is racing, rest awhile
For there is time for all you long for, time for so much more
And every day’s a new beginning for you

As the springtime turns to summer, so you’re changing day by day
And the rain has come to water all the land
And the drops of life fall heavy, sometimes they’re hard to understand
But your Loving Heavenly Father holds you closely in His Hand

Lucy, when you don’t know what you’re thinking
Lucy, when you feel that life’s too hard
Remember to give your cares and worries to the One Who loves you so
For every day He’s walking close to you

As the springtime turns to summer, so you’re changing day by day
And the rain has come to water all the land
And the drops of life fall heavy, sometimes they’re hard to understand
But your Loving Heavenly Father holds you closely in His Hand

Yes, your Loving Heavenly Father loves you and understands!

Lovely!

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