The Glory of Your Presence

We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.
Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. (Ps 132:7-8 KJV)

Here’s a gorgeous song by Steven Fry, performed here by the brilliant Terry MacAlmon –
‘O the Glory of Your Presence’.

In the presence of God, in the glory of His Presence, the very air buzzes and sparkles. For those who have the eyes to see, the radiance of God’s Presence is real and tangible. In that Presence there is healing; there is forgiveness; there is reconciliation; there is peace and there is Love. There is simply nothing like being in God’s Presence.

There’s a lot of fakery involved in some worship services. Some people actually try to ‘duplicate’ the Presence of God with things like quiet background music, lots of hype, whipping up the crowd, that sort of thing. But that’s not even a poor substitute. The Presence of God is unmistakable; once you have tasted of that Presence, nothing else will ever do; nothing can take its place.

Have a listen to this lovely song; ask God to make Himself tangible to you as you listen, and as you lift up your heart to Him. Bask in His Presence. Bask there long after the music has stopped! This is not hype; this is not me trying to ‘whip up’ enthusiasm. I have never once done that in all my years of worship leading, although I have seen it being done (and it has a certain emetic effect on me!) No, this is simply a ‘vehicle’; an ‘aid’, to help your spirit rise up in worship, and God will respond, because He loves it. He loves the song and He loves you; He loves your worship and He loves it when you enjoy it too:

O the glory of Your presence
We Your temple give You rev’rence
Come and rise from Your rest
And be blessed by our praise
As we glory in Your embrace
As Your presence now fills this place

Sadly, some people miss the point of the lyric, ‘So arise to Your rest’. Sometimes they even think that it can’t be written right, and they re-write the lyric from the third line as ‘Come and rise from your rest’ or similar, as if God has to get up off His behind and get into the music. But it’s not that at all. A simple examination of the context of the source verses in Psalm 132:7,8 shows that it’s about God coming into His resting place; His temple as it was back then, and along with His people. And [to] the ‘Ark of Thy Strength’; the Ark of the Covenant, which was supposed to represent God’s Presence. In other words, then, for God to come to the place where He belongs.

But in our time, we have the Holy Spirit within us; we are God’s Temple. We don’t need an Ark anymore. God’s resting place is with His people; (Ezek 37:27, Rev 21:3). Asking God to ‘arise to Your rest’ is simply asking Him to ‘inhabit the praises of His people’ (Ps 22:3 KJV); to come and take up His residence. Of course, He’s already there; the thing is that you become more aware of Him as you worship because you turn your spirit and your heart towards Him. And so we become aware of His power and His Presence. God is where He belongs; He has indeed come into His resting place.

Wow! What better reason to worship?



Thoughts and Prayers…

Yet another tragic shooting in the United States. And it has of course brought out the usual plethora of one group of people saying, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you…’ and, predictably, the other group of people who rant on about how valueless ‘thoughts and prayers’ are.

In the very same Facebook group (that I am a part of), I saw two consecutive posts, one saying how useless ‘thoughts and prayers’ are, and the very next post saying that this person appreciated the ‘thoughts and prayers’ that had been expressed for his situation.

Make your minds up, folks.

I know that some politicians and other professional apathists use ‘thoughts and prayers’ as a platitude. And I know that it’s sickening. I know, right?

But I also know that there are many millions of others who, appalled at the violence and suffering, do indeed hold up the victims of these crimes, and their families, in their ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Sometimes, when you live thousands of miles away, ‘thoughts and prayers’ is the best you can do. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but everyone has their own problems and worries and, while we do all we can to help – maybe send money and whatnot – the sheer fallacy of condemning those who ‘have thoughts and prayers but do nothing’ is fallacy indeed. What, do they want us to drop all our responsibilities and fly over to the disaster zone to help personally? What a ridiculous notion. I sometimes think that, in their rage, these people don’t even know what they are talking about; they don’t know what it is they actually want.

And let me tell you something. I have personal experience of the power of prayer. Here’s an example. I know someone who was having an extramarital affair. One night, Fiona and I decided that enough was enough, and we engaged in a thorough prayer battle about that situation, we kicked the enemy’s ass good and proper, and the very next morning the person in question called their spouse and asked to meet up to talk it over. That couple is now back together again and have been so for 25 years or more. The person having the affair ‘suddenly realised’ (at exacty the time we were praying) that this was not the person they wanted to be. Call it coincidence if you like, but it is my firm belief that this person changed their mind because we prayed. I have other examples too but that one will have to do for now. I want to get on with my rant.

My point is that prayer can change things. It is also especially galling that those who decry ‘thoughts and prayers’ are often themselves Christians who profess to believe in the power of prayer. Sorry, but yeah, right. I have actually stopped following one particular person’s Christian blog (and removed it from my recommended blogs/links page) because every third post or so he would continually rant about the worthlessness of ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Listen: Prayer is God’s way of empowering the powerless.

Who are we to say that ‘thoughts and prayers’ are useless?

How dare these people insult the beliefs and caring practices of countless millions of compassionate people, of all faiths and belief systems, all across the world who care enough to think and pray deeply and sympathetically about these poor people who have suffered so? For some of these compassionate people, ‘thoughts’ are the only thing they know how to give. For others, they can think but they can also pray – using the Godly gift that can move mountains. For most, indeed ‘thoughts and prayers’ are all they can give.

So do not belittle the care and compassion of the countless millions who are ‘thinking and praying’ right now for these victims and their circumstances.

You have absolutely no idea how ungrateful you sound.

And you have absolutely no idea what things God is prompting millions of unsung heroes, behind the scenes, to do right now.

Including ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Rant over.

[Edit]: And I must also add that my friend Darren has only today posted on Facebook this very thing:

“Of all the ‘actions’ that you can perform to influence and change another person’s life for the best, secret prayer is the greatest and most effective!”

Thanks Darren! 🙂



In this, the second piece in my series on the Stages of Spiritual Growth, I’m afraid I’m going to kind-of lay out right at the very beginning an overview of where this series is going, and indeed issue a bit of a spoiler! I’m not going to keep you waiting; I am going to explain up front what the various Stages are, and in later posts I will flesh out each Stage with examples and commentary. In this way, you can also do your own reading and research around the subject so as to be able to develop your own ideas and concepts that fit with your own personal journey, and then compare those findings with mine. I am actually not keeping any ‘secrets’ here; all the initial ‘cards’ will be laid out on the table and my own comments and ideas will follow in future posts, on the back of that. And remember we are all on a learning road together!

So, without further ado, here we go.

There are two, very similar, ‘schools of thought’ on the stages of spiritual growth.

The first is the ‘Six Stages of Faith’ (sometimes quoted as the ‘Seven’ Stages*), put forward by the late Prof. James W. Fowler.

James W. Fowler

Fowler’s Stages are fully described in his book, “Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning“. The six/seven Stages are:

  • Stage 0“Primal or Undifferentiated” faith (birth to 2 years)
  • Stage 1“Intuitive-Projective” faith (ages of three to seven)
  • Stage 2“Mythic-Literal” faith (mostly in school children)
  • Stage 3“Synthetic-Conventional” faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood)
  • Stage 4“Individuative-Reflective” faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties)
  • Stage 5“Conjunctive” faith (mid-life crisis)
  • Stage 6“Universalizing” faith, or what some might call “enlightenment”.

(Stages generated from Wikipedia article on James Fowler)

Each of these Stages, and the ages at which they are thought to occur, are of course generalisations – some people may not have all the ‘characteristics’ of each stage, but they are reached (if they are reached at all) in sequence since each Stage builds on the things learned in previous Stages. Some believers may not reach the further Stages at all, and the ages are of course different from person to person. These Stages are summarised in the following chart, along with a short description:

I would imagine that you may already be identifying with much of what you have seen in that chart…

The other school of thought is known as the ‘Four Stages of Spiritual Development’ and was proposed by the late Dr. M. Scott Peck, from whom we have already heard in the previous instalment of this series.

M. Scott Peck

Peck writes of the ‘Four Stages of Spiritual Growth’, and he does refer to Fowler, in passing, in an excellent [albeit abridged] version of his ideas which can be found here, and which refers to Peck’s book ‘The Different Drum‘ is where he expounds his ideas on his ‘Four Stages’. These ‘Four Stages’ follow a broadly similar structure to Fowler’s but are slightly more simplified. These are Peck’s Four Stages:

  • Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I.
  • Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them.
  • Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and questioning.
  • Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence.

Furthermore, Peck also argues that while transitions from Stage I to Stage II are sharp, transitions from Stage III to Stage IV are gradual. Nonetheless, these changes are very noticeable and mark a significant difference in the personality of the individual.

(Stages and that last sentence generated from Wikipedia article on M. Scott Peck)

I’d also make the observation at this point that Stage III can, in my opinion, be one of the points at which the person may go through a ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘. It certainly was for me. This also corresponds with Fowler’s Stage 4. The transition experienced during Stage 4/Stage III may be sharp or it may be prolonged, and will vary in duration from person to person.

Again, Peck’s Stages can be summed up in a chart:

Note that these Stages, like Fowler’s, are generalisations in a similar way to those described for Fowlers Stages.

Now, let’s marry up the two sets of Stages so that we can compare them, in yet another chart (which you can click on to get a zoomable image to make it easier to read). Here you can see how Fowler’s and Peck’s Stages overlap and compare with each other:

(Source for the above charts: )

I’m not saying that these ‘Stages’ are definitive, and (as I have already mentioned) they are to some extent a generalisation. But I must say that I can definitely identify with these Stages of growth in my own mind, and at the very least, these ideas should confirm for us that there are indeed spiritual growth stages of some sort out there, and that if we find ourselves changing under God’s guidance, we should not be surprised when we can indeed identify with some of the indicators of the Stages put forward by Fowler/Peck. So, when I am presenting and describing these Stages from both Fowler and Peck, I am not asking my readers to decide here and now (or indeed at any time) which Stage they are in – although I realise this is a natural tendency – nor am I encouraging anyone to feel ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ to other Christians because of the ‘stage we are at’. This isn’t about others; this is about realising that we are all on a journey, that these Stages do exist in some form or another in most people, and that this is perfectly normal and nothing to be afraid of. Indeed, I am not proposing that anyone be constantly mindful of the Stages and/or ‘trying to work out where we are on the scale’**. While introspection can be useful, I would far rather we are simply aware of these Stages as a perfectly normal part of personal spiritual development, as information that is useful in working out what is happening to us, but all the while still majoring on keeping our eyes fixed on “…Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2). He’s the important One!

In the light of this knowledge we now share, it is worth refocusing temporarily at this point and thinking about the effects that this knowledge may have on others who are at different Stages in their own walk of faith. St. Paul mentions something similar in Romans 14 where he talks about people whose faith is ‘weak’ (his words, not mine!), and not causing such people to stumble. I go into considerable detail on this idea in this piece. Please therefore remember to treat this knowledge as good and useful but at the same time potentially harmful to those who might feel threatened by it. Some people just aren’t ready to heare it yet. Jesus said in John 16:12 that, ‘I have so much more to tell you, but you are unable to bear it yet’. He was sensitive to the level of spiritual maturity in His disciples, and we should be no different in our attitudes towards our fellow believers. This is our chance to show Grace to others by considering them!

Anyway, as I have said, I will flesh out these ideas about the Stages of Spiritual Growth in future articles. In the meantime, I will leave you with the words of two wise men concerning the Stages we have just discussed, and relating to what Stage we ourselves are ‘at’:

“Once you say ‘higher level’ (regarding one’s level of spirituality), you appeal to the ego, and all the wrong instincts in people.”

-Fr. Richard Rohr

“When you begin to refer to where you’re at on your journey as a “deeper place,” “higher level,” “another dimension,” or some other such thing, you create a space where pride, arrogance, and superiority can thrive in the name or spirituality. No, we’re journeying, and on this journey, mountains are laid low, and valleys exalted. Every place is an equal place for the sincere, it’s just that we are never all in the same place at the same time, and tend to assume wherever we’re at is the place to be.

“The place to be is wherever you are”.

-Jeff Turner

*The reason that Fowler’s ‘Six Stages’ are also known as the ‘Seven Stages’ is because the first stage is actually ‘Stage 0’, at which point it could be argued that the person does not actually have any sort of faith because they are too young to be able to form one, and therefore it doesn’t count as a Stage of Faith because there is no faith present. This of course is different from person to person; my eldest son had a faith structure from a very early age. But that’s the explanation, at any rate.

**One writer puts it like this:

“It is really important to recognize that no one person actually exists in any given one of these stages. The stages are more like a tendency that can change over time – sort of like optimism versus pessimism, or being an extrovert versus an introvert. No one is 100% in either of these camps, and may tend more or less so according to changing circumstances. 

“So why do we study these stages if not to judge at which one a person exists? The real value of these stages is to understand what values, characteristics and traits are typical in spiritual maturity. They provide a roadmap showing which way is forward. Not all factors in our society (including many churches) strive to lead a person in a forward spiritual direction.”

(From the website of Margaret Placentra Johnson)


The Stages of Spiritual Growth

The Christian Life is often described as being a journey. It’s a journey with Jesus; a journey of change; a journey of being ‘transformed’ into the likeness of Christ. We are actually intended – designed, if you will – to grow spiritually. And the Christian can walk secure in the knowledge that Jesus is the One Who will carry the work to completion:

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6 (KJV))

Now, if you ask any Evangelical Christian about God working change in a believer’s life, he will certainly agree enthusiastically with the idea. The potter’s wheel (Jer 18:1-6), the Refiner’s Fire (Mal 3:3), being ‘…transformed from one degree of glory into another’ (2Cor3:18); these are just three Scriptures that contribute towards forming standard Evangelical doctrine on God’s transforming of believers on an ongoing basis, and there are many more such Scriptures. This is a well-established part of the Christian life, and you won’t find many dissenters on that point.

But the thing is, many believers don’t actually think beyond this concept; they have no idea what this transformation will actually look like in practice – and in any case it’s also going to vary from one person to another. What Jesus works in one person is always, almost by definition, going to be different from what He works in another (Jn 21:22); we are all different and Jesus meets each of us at our point of need.

An example of part of this transformation process is undoubtedly the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, which I have written about before here and here. And since this Dark Night is not actually all that well known about within Evangelical Christianity (although more people are discovering it for themselves simply by going through it), many believers either give up the walk entirely, or they stagnate at that point and can grow no more until they pass through it, if indeed they ever do. Or they live with their doubts and questions and just accept them, but this is not progress in the transformative sense. In my old Evangelical circles, they always used to say that until you have let God do the work He wants to do at the moment, He will not let you progress any further until you’ve jumped that particular hurdle in your life. While I don’t believe that God is actually that two-dimensional, I do sort-of agree with the sentiment behind it in that until you have grown in a particular area, you can’t really make any more progress in that area because part of your ‘toolkit’ of essential background will be missing. But of course, Father is pretty creative when it comes to finding solutions to our individual hurdles, and He does offer us a path through – but still He prefers our co-operation. If we insist in sitting still, He will usually honour that, but your spiritual growth will be delayed in that area until you let Him do what He wants.

So, what does spiritual growth actually look like? Well, by definition, growth implies change. The believer’s attitudes, doctrines, belief systems, trust, faith, will all change with growth. Like with the Dark Night, one of the main obstacles to change is this: that this change is not always understood nor welcomed by fellow believers. The person may be accused of ‘backsliding’ or of ‘falling away’; he may be threatened with ‘hell fire’ if he does not return to his conformative ways; conforming, that is, with the beliefs of the group he is with at the time – church or whatever. In some ways, this is understandable as the group as a whole feels threatened by anything ‘different’; maybe they feel that ‘false doctrine’ may be brought in which will threaten their carefully-constructed faith/doctrinal/belief structure, and the whole thing will come crashing down like the proverbial house of cards. You can’t really blame them; in some ways it’s actually an animal herd-instinct kind of thing. But the simple fact is that someone undergoing spitirual growth will change. It’s the normal way of things. And it may leave the changing believer feeling alienated, rejected and alone. Sometimes this is exactly why some people simply live with their doubts or other change pressures; they want to conform, they have a fear of rejection and so they stay where they are. And the irony here is that many Evangelicals – I remember it clearly from my time under that banner – would say that ‘if you’re not moving forwards, you’re backsliding’. Personally, I disagree with their physics/navigation in that idea, but the irony still stands. And we should not be trying to please men – which is what the ‘herd instinct’ wants to do – but God (Gal 1:10; Jn 12:42-43, Lk 16:15)

But the thing is that, no matter what the believer’s acquaintances think, this change is real and it’s God that’s doing it. So what’s the answer? Well, as usual, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. What if Evangelicalism has become so insular, so inward-looking, and so suspicious of outside influences, that Evangelical Christians in general are unaware of what’s happening? What if, in fact, unbeknownst to Evangelicalism in general, it is a recognised phenomenon that spiritual growth implies (often radical) change?

Well, in fact, this is indeed the case. It is indeed well-recognised that an individual’s faith and belief structure should normally go through doubt, questioning, revision and similar changes. We are mere mortals; how can we ever imagine that we can understand the vast mysteries of God in one go? So, in order to make this stuff a little clearer, and to reassure my readers that this is indeed a normal part of Christian growth, I would like to advance the idea of the ‘Stages of Spiritual Growth’ in this series – which may span several weeks, or even months – and the instalments of which will likely be interspersed with articles on other subjects.

In this series, then, I will be exploring this idea of the Stages of Spiritual Growth, which is actually one of the most important discoveries/observations for a modern believer to be aware of.

To quote Dr. M. Scott Peck, from whom we are going to be hearing much more in this series,

“Just as there are discernible stages in human physical and psychological growth, so there are stages in human spiritual development… But I first came to an awareness of these stages through my own personal experience.

“The first of these experiences occurred within I was fourteen and began attending Christian churches in the area. I was mainly interested in checking out the girls but also in checking out what this Christianity business seemed to be about. I chose one particular church because it was only a few blocks down the street and because the most famous preacher of the day was preaching there. It was in the day before the “electronic church,” but this man’s every sermon was broadcast over almost every radio frequency across the country. At fourteen I had no trouble spotting him as a fraud. On the other hand, up the street in the opposite direction was another church with a well-known minister–not nearly as famous as the first but still probably among the top thirty in the Who’s Who of preachers of the day-a Presbyterian named George Buttrick. And at age fourteen I had no trouble spotting George Buttrick as a holy man, a true man of God. What was I to think of this with my young brain? Here was the best known Christian preacher of the day, and as far as I could discern at age fourteen, I was well ahead of him. Yet in the same Christian religion was George Buttrick, who was obviously light years ahead of me. It just didn’t compute. So I concluded that this Christianity business didn’t make any sense, and I turned my back on it for the next generation.

“Another significant non computing experience occurred more gradually. Over the course of a decade of practicing psychotherapy a strange pattern began to emerge. If people who were religious came to me in pain and trouble, and if they became engaged in the therapeutic process, so as to go the whole route, they frequently left therapy as atheists, agnostics, or at least skeptics. On the other hand, if atheists, agnostics, or skeptics came to me in pain or difficulty and became fully engaged, they frequently left therapy as deeply religious people. Same therapy, same therapist, successful but utterly different outcomes from a religious point of view. Again it didn’t compute–until I realized that we are not all in the same place spiritually.

“With that realization came another: there is a pattern of progression through identifiable stages in human spiritual life. I myself have passed through them in my own spiritual journey. But here I will talk about those stages only in general, for individuals are unique and do not always fit nearly into my psychological or spiritual pigeonhole.

“With that caveat, let me list my own understanding of these stages and the names I have chosen to give them…”

And that is where we are going. I will be examining why we feel and behave the way we do as believers, why we face so much opposition from our peers, and  why these changes in our lives can produce so much fear, uncertainty and division amongst people who love and care for us, and are fearful of, and disturbed by, the changes they see – fearful either for us, or for themselves. And I will also be hoping to encourage you by reducing or even removing completely that fear, and to help you to reassure others too in a similar way. And, who knows? It may even help us on the path towards reconciliation between the various warring factions of Christendom.

This is an exciting project for me, which I have been thinking deeply about for a long time, and it will be hard work, but equally it will be well worth it. I believe that education is a very important tool that can open up entirely new areas that we never dreamed possible, and that’s my intention with this series. You will doubtless find yourself reading certain things and thinking (maybe even out loud!) “Oh, yes! That’s exactly how I feel!” And in so doing, your eyes will be opened, your understanding increased, and your Christian maturity deepened.

That’s my prayer for you for this series.


Even More Quotes

“Faith is not believing in creeds, doctrines or dogmas; faith is trusting the divine presence in every moment”. – John Shelby Spong

“A woodcarver creates his masterpiece, not by addition, but subtraction. The more material he creatively and skillfully removes, the more beauty emerges.

“So it is with God-talk. Sometimes the less we say about God, the more His beauty is seen. The more we remove the generally accepted mythos, the more the Truth is revealed, even without being directly spoken”. – Jeff Turner

“When Jesus said ‘Do not worry’, He was talking about daily needs like food and clothing. If He’d been at all concerned that we were not worrying enough about our ‘eternal destiny’, He would have preached a whole lot more on hellfire and damnation, rather than about us simply not worrying about where our next meal was going to come from”. – Me

I think there can’t be any greater joy in life than knowing someone else’s life is richer because you lived – Rich Mullins

“Is your relationship with your loved ones based upon a book or what’s in your heart? It should be no different with your relationship with God”. – Barry Smith

“I don’t see the Gospel as something that makes your life a sacred experience, or that gives you a sacred life to replace the one you have. Rather, the Gospel is an introduction to the sacred nature of the life you’re presently living, and as an empowering call to live in harmony with it”. – Jeff Turner

“There are bigger issues in life than girls who date girls and boys who date boys” – Anon

“In fact, I believe that the biggest sin is in trusting in ouselves to jump through all the right hoops, in the right order, and at the Pastor’s command. Oh that’s such self-sufficiency, rather than relying on He Who began the good work in us to bring it to completion”. – Me

“The cross was not some kind of blood magic ritual that released the forgiving potential of a formerly mercy-withholding god, but rather an act of human barbarity and cruelty, that allowed for the revealing of the forgiving nature of an always already merciful God.” – Jeff Turner

“Adding your works (performance) to what Christ has accomplished for us at the cross as a means of salvation is an insult to God and the cross. Think about it!” – Chikezie Obika

“If morality is your way of living, you are living way beneath your privileges. Living by love in the power of the Spirit is true living and there are no rules–there are none needed. The one who lives by love will live a life like Jesus lived which is so far above living by rules the difference is like night and day!” – Mike Rough

“The murder of Jesus is a reflection of human, not divine, justice. The resurrection and revivifying of the mangled corpse of an innocent man is a reflection of divine, not human, justice.

“We are not as good as we think we are, and God is far better than we’ve been told he is”. – Jeff Turner

“That death is no longer the end has profound ramifications. Absolutely profound. Rather than spoon-feed you, I’ll just let you think about it for yourself. Ask yourself this question: ‘What attitudes would change in my life if death is no longer the end?’ If you think about this in any great depth, the results will change your life. It did for me”. – Me



From the Heart

Today, I’d like to share with you one of the best blog posts I have seen in a while.

Christy Wood is a lady whose blog I read regularly, and whose work I have shared several times on my blog before. Christy has recently been writing a series on ‘Finding God’, and, in this, the last article of the series, she writes a heartfelt piece full of longing for the Presence of God, and for a deep Relationship with Him.

Perceptive and encouraging, and at the same time written from the heart with a passion that is infectious, I absolutely love this post. Over to Christy (click the image below to go to the article):


Five Ways Jesus Challenged the Status Quo

Another blogger whose work I really like is Mike Douglas, who writes the blog ‘Getting Back to my Future’.

In this article, Mike describes a Jesus who would probably not be allowed in to some of today’s Conservative churches, particularly in America. Jesus did so many things that were repugnant to the religious people of His day, and sadly there are many people around these days who think the same way as those religious types, and who would treat Him the same way. Without more ado, here’s Mike’s article. The link to the original article is given at the end.

In the 70’s, it was popular to portray Jesus as a rebel, a revolutionary bent on changing the world. It was also common to portray Him as a hippie. Both images are accurate. I love seeing Jesus as a hippie who refused to bend to social pressure.

He was always going against the social and religious norm. I LOVE THAT! He touched lepers [think who in your world who is considered the most disgusting]. He called a tax-collector as a disciple [no occupation at the time had a worse reputation]. He also let prostitutes wash His feet, spoke to a Samaritan WOMAN, and healed a Roman’s servant.

Could you imagine a big religious leader getting his hands dirty with such people? For example, the Roman servant thing is like a good Christian church leader helping a terrorist’s child who needed assistance.

If you think of Jesus as a kindly hippie, it might surprise you that not everyone was a fan. While he taught about a loving God and urged people to love others, Jesus also told people to quit ripping people off and to get rid of the extra garbage in religion that made it hard for people to know God’s love. That didn’t always go over so well. It didn’t go over well because some were getting rich off it.

But He rejected the criticism. He countered with, ‘you have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men’.

Obviously, these types are still with us today, all the extra garbage remains, and many are still as resistant to changing as ever. And, there are still many people outside the religious ‘acceptable’ standard that need to know that’s not how Jesus was or how He sees you.

Let me tell you more about my hippie, revolutionary brother Jesus. He is so cool!

Here are 5 ways Jesus challenged the status quo.

1. Jesus rejected “business as usual”

In Jerusalem, he attacked the money changers, who were running a scam trading Jewish money for Roman money at a profit. He didn’t just chew them out, he physically threw them out. When a corrupt tax collector decided to follow Jesus, he returned all his ill-gotten gains and then some. “Business as usual” just couldn’t continue when Jesus got involved.

That kind of teaching made more than a few enemies among those who would profit from the status quo. But my hippie brother cared more for people than profit.

2. Jesus turned the religious laws on its head.

There were hundreds of religious and, honestly, ridiculous laws that the religious leaders had added to Scripture. They turned 10 Commandments into over 600 laws. Jesus railed against a religion that focused more on rules than people – more on rules than love.

For example, the Bible says Jesus intentionally healed people on the Sabbath, knowing it would violate the religious law. And the religious leaders hated it. Think of it, a man receives a remarkable and visible healing, yet the church leaders were upset that it happened on a Sabbath. That’s what religion creates.

Jesus scolded them for hypocrisy and corruption. In turn, they accused him of hanging out with the wrong kind of people. What self-respecting leader would go to parties with prostitutes and swindlers? They called Jesus a “friend of sinners,” and the crazy part is – he didn’t seem to mind!

Why Jesus hated these ‘extra’ laws was because they were so burdensome most regular people would just give up, thinking they were not good enough for Jesus and His Father. Jesus wanted them, and us, to know He didn’t feel that way. He reached out to those struggling and saved His harshest criticism for those held them down and ripped them off. That’s my hippie brother!

3. Jesus shunned politics.

If you think our politics are complicated, look at the time Jesus lived. The Romans had been occupying and oppressing his home country for a century. Some groups tried to appease them, others coexisted, and still others fought back. Among his disciples, Jesus had at least one rebel who was a hardcore Jewish freedom fighter.

He generally avoided the political—but he did talk about the kingdom of God. Some people would see that as a return to Jewish independence, with a God-ordained king in charge. But, as he explained to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

You see, Jesus didn’t come to make the world a better place as we would understand it. He didn’t try to reform the politics or change society. He came to replace it with the Kingdom of God. He didn’t come to take sides, He came to take over.

4. Jesus Had Women Followers

Today that has no shock value, nor should it. But it did in Jesus’ day. At the time, it was commonly believed that girls could not learn so were not given the opportunity. It was further believed that you were only born female because you did not mature completely in the womb. Seen as lesser value, they were treated as lesser value. Unfortunately, such attitudes still exist in some parts of the world today.

Again, Jesus blew that crap out of the water. That’s my revolutionary, hippie brother! Later, His disciples spoke often about the equality of all people.

Some think He may have had a circle of female disciples. The Bible mentions women followed Jesus to care for His needs. It was women that stood at the foot of the cross and it was women who first went to His tomb the day He rose from the dead.

5. Jesus made outrageous claims.

At his hometown synagogue, Jesus read a prophecy about a savior and announced He was it. When he scolded them for disbelief, they tried to kill him.

Jesus usually avoided blowing his own horn, but when people started calling him Messiah or Son of God, he didn’t correct them. When he healed people, he often asked them to keep quiet about it, but they rushed out and told their stories (who wouldn’t?), which spread like wildfire.

Yet Jesus also fed the fury at times. He once said, “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again.” The religious leaders treated it like a terrorist threat, but the temple he was talking about was his own body. He was forecasting his own resurrection.

Why did some people have a hard time with Jesus? He challenged their greed and misuse of people. That’s my hippie brother!

Has this post changed your image of Jesus? I hope so. He is so cool. Can you see why I love Him so?

– Mike Douglas

Click here to read the original article


A Magical Evening’s Flying

Well, after the wonderful night flight I did back in November, I went ahead and trained for my Night Rating to add to my Private Pilot’s Licence. I’ve already been flying on my new Rating, with my daughter Ellie – who absolutely loved the night flying – but I also wanted to go up again for some practice flying in order to consolidate my night training. Plus, I just love it!

I’ve tried to do more night flying since just after Christmas, especially wanting to take up my son David (who is also a Pilot), to let him have his first night flight, but the weather has been completely unsuitable for any kind of flying lately, let alone Night Flying, which needs a certain set of weather conditions in order to be viable*. But this week I was fortunate to have picked an evening where there was a ‘window’ of perfect flying weather, so off I went.

Here’s the aeroplane I fly, Piper PA-38 Tomahawk G-RVRL (“Romeo – Lima”), on the South Apron at Exeter International Airport, Devon, UK, which is where I fly from:

(Note: All the photographs in this post are fully zoomable; just click them to get the larger image)

I got there deliberately early so I could preflight the aeroplane in the daylight. I had her booked for a three-hour slot but that was fine – I wasn’t ‘hogging’ the aeroplane – as nobody else seems to want to do night flying at the moment. I don’t think they know what they’re missing… Anyway, ‘official night’ in the aviation world begins 30mins after local sunset, so I had plenty of time to inspect the aircraft and get her ready. For instance, in the above picture, the wing flaps have been lowered so that I can examine their condition, the hinges and control linkages, and check them for correct and symmetrical operation. You don’t just jump into an aeroplane and go flying! I have seen many Pilots – some of whom should have known better – simply check the oil and fuel and then off they go. But not me. I have a reputation for being an extremely safe Pilot and I want to keep it that way. I always perform a full (what’s called a) ‘Check Alpha’ on every aeroplane I fly. Every detail is checked, from the flaps to the fuel to the fire extinguisher to the first aid kit; my life depends on that aeroplane working properly and I leave nothing to chance, especially at night.

So, after preflighting the aeroplane, I started her up and ran the engine for a few minutes to warm it up a bit. As dusk fell and ‘official night’ drew closer, I performed all my power checks and pre-takeoff vital actions at my parking spot, so I’d be ready to go on time. This is the view from the Captain’s seat (the left hand seat) across the South Apron, just after sunset. Perfect for flying: good visibility, high cloudbase, and virtually no wind.

So, performing a night take-off, I climbed away from the airport and set course for Torbay, one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the local area. All these pictures were taken with my phone’s camera, and the light was pretty dim; the phone has made the pictures make it look lighter than it actually was. But then that’s better, because then you can see what’s there…

Here’s the view from over Dawlish, looking south with Teignmouth in the foreground and Torbay in the distance. The dusk sky was absolutely beautiful, as you can see:

Looking over to the north-northeast, the lights of Exeter are visible in the growing twilight. The Exe estuary is just visible as a lighter blue patch to the right of the picture.

A few minutes later, coming up on Torquay. Torquay is the ‘capital’ town of Torbay, in the area known as the ‘English Riviera’. You can see the Marina and harbour bottom centre, with the lights of all the boats lined up at their moorings. The next town around the Bay is Paignton, and the pier is easily visible, all lit up over the water.

Directly ahead, and on the opposite side of the Bay, is the fishing port of Brixham. Paignton Pier is visible to the right, and if you know where to look (on the zoomed photo) you can just see the beginnings of the flash of the lighthouse at Start Point. As you can see, despite it being dark, the visibility is tremendous, being able to see all the way to Start Point, the southeastern tip of Devon.

A bit of a different view, now; looking out to the east and over the English Channel. Each of those small white lights shows the position of a ship or boat on the water. And of course it’s darker in that direction.

A couple of minutes after I took this photo, I inadvertently flew into cloud. At night, it’s so dark up there that you can’t always see the clouds before you’re into them. Suddenly, you can’t see the ground anymore, and you are surrounded by a silver-grey flickering, billowing mist, illuminated by the flashing wingtip strobe lights on the aeroplane. But this is easily remedied in that you go straight on to instruments (which, at night, you’re doing for much of the time anyway) and do a gentle, level 180-degree turn out of the cloud. After only 90 degrees of turn, I was clear of the cloud anyway – it must have been only a small one – but in order to prevent any further cloud incursion, I descended 300ft or so in order to be sure I was completely clear of the cloudbase. This illustrates the sort of quick decision-making, forward thinking and real-time tactical planning that is essential in all flying, but particularly at night.

Over the middle of Paignton, now, this slightly blurry photo is of the main crossroads on Torbay Ring Road, known as ‘Tweenaway Cross’. The famous tourist attraction, Paignton Zoo, is just below the orange area at the bottom of the picture (the orange area is a supermarket car park (Morrisons)). Note how the little remaining light from the sky reflects off the aeroplane’s wing…

The night was completely dark not long after that shot. Although the moon was up, it was only just over half-full and didn’t really illuminate all that much on the ground, if anything.

Thoroughly enjoying myself, I was struck once again by the wonder of flight, and night flying in particular. This was the sort of flight where I simply didn’t want to come down!

It’s almost surreal, and, if you think about it, almost counterintuitive. Here we are, tanking along at what amounts to nearly a hundred miles an hour, over half a mile above the ground, and I can’t really see where I’m going, and yet it all works. Incredible! I suppose there’s nothing to actually run into up here; even other aeroplanes are easy to spot because, like mine, they have lights on them and also I have a radar service from Exeter Radar – kind of like an extra pair of eyes, if you like. But tonight, apart from a few airliners being directed in to Exeter, I’m the only aeroplane up here. It’s all very quiet and quite beautiful.

Heading back up towards Exeter from Torbay, I flew over Newton Abbot, and took this picture of the Penn Inn flyover, part of the South Devon Expressway. This is a long-awaited road that has transformed the transport links in this area, and it has been open for just over two years. Prior to the opening of the Expressway (also known as the Kingskerswell bypass), road users from Torbay and all the areas beyond had to queue through the town of Kingskerswell, adding at least half an hour to their journeys. This road has opened up the area like nothing else. And here’s what it looks like at night:

Finally, here’s a photo of the final approach into Exeter’s Runway 26, with all the lights and whatnot. This photo was taken back in December by my daughter; because I was by myself on my latest flight, I couldn’t have taken a photo myself at this point, having my hands full with the landing and all. Features to note are the approach lights (the yellow lights laid out like a Christmas tree) which help the Pilot line up properly with the runway, the green threshold lights, showing the start of the runway, the main flarepath lights which show the runway itself, and the short row of four lights to the left of the runway. These are what’s known as ‘PAPI lights’ (Precision Approach Path Indicator) and they show you if you are on the correct glideslope. Two white and two red means you are on slope, like in the picture. If you are too high, more of the lights turn white; if you are too low, they turn red. So four reds is way too low, four whites is way too high. Part of the night rating training is to learn how to land without the approach lights, and/or without the PAPIs, to help the trainee learn how to land at night in the event of failure of those particular lights, and also to learn how to land at aerodromes that do not have those kinds of lights (not all do). However, if the main runway lights are unserviceable, you’re talking diverting to another aerodrome because those lights really are essential for a safe landing. The others are just trim; they make things easier but they are not essential.

So, there we have it. An absolutely magical flight for me, some lovely photos (although flying at night does make it harder for the Pilot to do photos; better if he has a camera-armed passenger!) and a safe landing at the end. In fact, it was one of the best landings I have ever done, and in the dark as well! I think it’s going to take me at least a week to lose these euphoric feelings that happen when I fly, and especially at night. Walking back across the airfield from the aeroplane to the flying club, I was actually laughing out loud with the sheer joy of it all. Thankfully it is a huge, dark airfield, and there was no-one nearby to hear 😉

Once the nights get lighter, and night flying falls off the end of the airport’s opening times, I will be daylight flying again right up until the autumn. I will really miss night flying at that time; I really love it and to be honest there’s nothing quite like it. So I am going to get in as much night flying as I can before the cutoff around Easter!

Love it!

Header picture shows the Teign estuary all the way from Teignmouth to Newton Abbot, and the glorious sky beyond.

*Ok, I will explain: in night flying, I still have to fly under what’s called ‘visual flight rules’ or VFR. This means I still can’t fly in cloud (although sometimes I might inadvertently enter a cloud – like in this story – because you just can’t see them at night). For that reason, not only does the weather at Exeter have to be good enough for VFR flying, but also the weather forecasts at my planned diversion airfields, and the en-route weather to those airfields. Why is this more exacting at night than it is in daylight? Well, it’s because, in daylight, if you have a problem at your home aerodrome (say someone’s pranged an airliner and blocked the runway, or there’s a terrorist incident or something that closes the airport), in a pinch you can just land in a field if necessary; it’s called a precautionary landing. At night, you can’t even see the fields. As you can see from the photos in this piece, even when it’s still twilight, everything that isn’t a town or road is simply black and you can’t see what’s actually there. And so, in case such an aerodrome closure event occurs, you have to plan to be able to fly to another major airport that has runway lighting; in my case that would be Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff or Newquay-Cornwall. Or, if Dunkeswell are doing night flying, I could go there (it’s only ten miles away). So you see the planning and weather briefing has to be much more detailed for night flying. Of course, that’s all part of the training…

Talking of precautionary landings, one wag once told me that if you have to do one at night, you switch on your landing light (it’s like a small car headlight) and take a look. If you don’t like what you see, you switch it back off again… 😉



The Fight

It’s fifteen months ago today since my lovely wife Fiona left us to go to her Heavenly reward. A year and a quarter. My goodness.

I have to say that I feel like I personally died, figuratively, several times over the time leading up to her loss. By nature, I am an ideas man; a fixer, a problem-solver. I can fix anything. But I couldn’t fix Fiona. When you can’t fix something; you can fix everything else but not the thing that’s most important, it leaves you thinking you can’t fix anything else. Here’s a quote from a chap on the Channel 4 series ‘Escape’, who had lost his daughter at the age of one month old – “When you come up against a challenge you can’t win; you just physically can’t fix – I couldn’t fix her – no-one could – and that’s the thing that makes you wonder if you can do anything ever again.” I can so identify with that. This was something I couldn’t fix, and that’s hard for me to accept. In this post, I would like to try to describe what it’s like to engage in that terrible fight with cancer, and how I coped with it. I’m sorry to share this even at all, but I figured the message of hope it contains more than makes up for the darkness!

The Fight

Over the three and a half years of Fiona’s illness, my heart was battered so many times by so many colossal blows, like standing in the sea and being smashed by a series of huge waves: Fiona’s early pains in mid-2013, where, being a professional in the medical field, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on; the shocking diagnosis itself in early 2014 and feeling the ice water of terror running through my bloodstream (an experience I would not recommend); seeing Fiona waste away under the terrible effects of the chemotherapy; not knowing from one day to another what was going to happen; how long we had left. The uncertainty. The worry. The anguish. Seeing the girl whom I love beyond any other mortal person fighting the fear, the pain, the symptoms. Seeing her weaken and not be able to do the things she wanted. Living for all that time under the death sentence that is pancreatic cancer, not knowing whether or not she would be healed, knowing that the only human chance for her to be made well would be to have a brutal operation that could well remove the tumour, but an operation in which one patient in twenty dies on the operating table. An operation which she could not have, in any event, because the tumour was wrapped around too many important blood vessels thus making the tumour inoperable. An operation which, even after all that, gives only a 50% chance that the cancer will not return (I had a friend who actually did have the operation, and he died last year despite it). Living each day knowing that her condition could (and eventually would) suddenly deteriorate and that each day could be her last. Living with this constant companion of horror, of fear, of – as I said – the death sentence. It’s like being on death row together.*

Can you imagine the kind of psychological and emotional pressure that this creates for the patient, for her family, and for someone like me who was her prime carer? The weight of the constant vigilance for certain signs and symptoms that might indicate a serious infection (due to the chemotherapy suppressing the immune system), and the responsibility for making sure she gets the proper care in that event? In my lifetime, I have personally saved several people’s lives, from that of a girl I was going out with (before I met Fiona) in early 1982, whom I saved from being hit by a truck, to a friend in my car when I was driving and we were nearly forced off the road by a rogue trucker, to my own father in whom I diagnosed a serious, acute, life-threatening illness and got him to hospital just in time. But Fiona’s life I saved several times, particularly on one especially memorable occasion when my daughter Ellie called me home from work because her Mum was really ill, and I got home and took one look at her and knew exactly what was going on. Without our intervention right there and then she would have died within a couple of hours, that was how serious it was – a condition called ‘neutropenic sepsis’ – a systemic infection which simply runs rampage because the immune system can no longer fight that infection effectively. It just goes to show how amazing our (working) immune system is; every couple of hours there are infective threats like this dealt with silently and unobtrusively by our body’s defences, and we don’t even notice it! But when someone is immunosuppressed – that is, the immune system is degraded for whatever reason (in this case, the chemotherapy) – the chances of a lethal infection are quite high.

Another time, she was on a new chemotherapy regime and she had what’s known as an ‘adverse drug reaction’, a name that speaks for itself. Her heart rate went tachycardic (very, very fast, in this case getting on for 190-200 beats per minute) and if I had not called it, she would have died there and then. And this kind of thing takes its toll. What this stuff does emotionally and psychologically to a person, to a family, is beyond description. Unless you have personally lived through this sort of thing, you have no way of knowing what it will be like – it’s different for everyone – or how you will cope.

(Warning: This next section contains a couple of mildly medical pictures. If you’re squeamish, you might want to be careful 🙂 )

Well, each of us copes in different ways, and one of the ways in which many carers, partners and relatives care is by doing things to help. So long as the help is welcome (remember that the patient may not want to feel dependent on others, so there needs to be sensitivity here) then this is a good way to feel you are doing something positive. Helping with shopping, transport, cleaning, cooking, washing, writing to officialdom, and of course just being there when needed. I have the useful ability to be able to come instantly, fully awake at any time during the night, and that was really useful if Fiona had bad chemo side effects at night, so I could check her signs and symptoms with a clear head, and decide whether or not medical intervention was needed.

Also, although I am not medically-trained, I am, as I said, a professional in the medical field. For 12 years, I was in medical research, and I have now worked in pharmaceuticals for over twenty years, and for all my adult life I have been a trained First-Aider. For that reason, the nursing staff in the chemo ward were happy to train me to service Fe’s PICC line, which is a simply amazing bit of kit.

Allow me to explain. A PICC line is a ‘peripherally-inserted central catheter’ and is simply a plastic tube that goes into a vein in the patient’s arm just above the elbow…

…and continues right inside into the chest cavity, exiting in the superior vena cava, which feeds directly into the heart.

This allows us to administer things to the patient easily, like antibiotics, saline drips, fluids, and of course chemotherapy, all of which can be administered via the same route and without having to make any extra holes in the patient, which is of course painful, uncomfortable and not without risk, especially when administering chemotherapy. The PICC line also allows us to take blood samples directly as required, again without causing pain or discomfort to the patient. It’s all very clever and very useful, improving patient comfort no end.

But the PICC line needs to be ‘serviced’, and that means flushing it with saline and anticoagulant once per week; also the skin around the insertion site needs to be cleaned and the dressing changed weekly. Normally, this would mean a visit to hospital, or at least staying at home so that the District Nurse can come in and do the honours. But being able to service the PICC line ourselves, without ‘outside’ help, meant that we were free to go off on holiday (or even just service the PICC line at home when we wanted to, rather than wait in for the Nurses), and simply take the PICC line servicing kit with us – dressings, saline, syringes, sterile wipes, blood sampling tubes and what have you. I would say that, for us, this was the main specialised way in which I could help and free up a lot more time simply for us to be together. I have no doubt that others reading this may be able to use their specialist skills to help their loved one in a similar way.

Another part of the fight, though, was the pain of seeing my lovely lady wasting away. Fiona always had all the right curves in all the right places, but chemotherapy plays havoc with the body in so many ways, and one of these ways is the loss of appetite, and sometimes the inability to keep food down.  And so, Fiona lost a lot of weight over those years, as well as having much of her hair fall out. Notably, though, in many ways this allowed Fiona’s inner light to shine out all the more strongly. So far on my blog, I have posted pictures only of the healthy Fiona. I have not posted pictures of her as she was during her illness, because seeing those pictures brought back the memory of the horror and pain of those times. But now, thanks to talking these things over with my grief counsellor, I can look at those pictures more easily.

So today I have posted pictures of her, radiant, even with little hair and sometimes much thinner than she was.

So, why am I writing all this? Why all this talk about the literally life-changing illness that cancer is? Why describe all the horror, the adjustments, the changes?

Because in all this, in all the despair and hopelessness, I want to testify to the closeness and comforting Presence of Jesus. In all this stuff, all this horror, He was constantly there, letting us feel His Presence, letting us feel His peace, such that people commented on how ‘brave’ we all were. But this was the ‘peace that passes understanding’; the supernatural peace that comes when you know God has got everything under control, even if the eventual outcome is probably not the one you would have wanted. It’s not so much that God necessarily changes our circumstances; it’s more that He helps us get through them. Some would say, ‘Why use God as a prop? Most people cope without him!’ Well, I am not sure they do. How do we know that God is not the One Who provides the strength for people to cope even when they do not acknowledge Him? God causes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45); why not also His Grace, albeit unasked, to cope with our circumstances as they happen? Surely God draws near to the broken-hearted, no matter what their faith background, because that’s just what He’s like. Christians by no means have a monopoly on God’s favour; they are simply more aware of it than others.

As I have said before, I have a steady confidence that death is no longer the end**. I believe that I will see Fiona again. I also believe in God’s healing power and His ability to work miracles. I tried on two occasions to raise her after she had died, on the proviso that if God did choose to raise her, He had to do it without bringing the cancer back with her. But it was not to be; she has gone to be with Him and I am content with that. As I’ve said before, I would not now, even if I could raise Fiona from the dead from her ashes – which is something that I have not the slightest doubt that God could do – I would not want to bring her back. Although my heart was broken over and over again over the three years fighting the cancer, and in finally losing her, I would not ever want to pull her away from what she has now.

You see, God’s hand has been in this all along. In the midst of the suffering, terror, anguish, pain, horror and death, One has walked beside me Who has been through all that Himself. Jesus is no stranger to human suffering. But after all He went through, He was raised back to life. I believe that not because the Bible says it, but because I personally have experienced Him walking with me in everyday life. And if that’s true, then He is simply the forerunner, the downpayment, of the life after death – a new kind of life which is unimaginable to us now – and the demonstration and guarantee that death is indeed not the end. Knowing this changes a person’s entire outlook on life and death, and everything that goes in between.

It also gives us hope, which I believe is absolutely vital when fighting an illness like this. Hope is what keeps you going; hope is what you can hold on to even when the future looks impossible.

When you are first given the diagnosis, and there is little medical hope, still there is the chance – however slight – that something medical might be possible. New research is always coming up with new ideas and treatments, sometimes even actual cures. I should know; I was a professional in the field of  medical research for 12 years. This is not wishful thinking; this is what medical science does. We are always coming up with new things.

When medical science gives us no hope, still there is the hope that God might well perform a miracle. My readers know that I believe in this sort of thing; I have been supernaturally healed of things in the past, and I have been involved in others’ healings too. I have seen and experienced these things at first hand. That guarantee that death is not the end, that I mentioned above? The same Power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive and living right now in my heart and in yours (Rom 8:11). For God, all things are possible, even healing incurable conditions. Remember that for something to be a miracle, you have to have something that’s impossible for us to do ourselves. And that is in itself a real hope.

But sometimes the answers to your prayer are not the answers you hoped for. In this case, Fiona died. But still I have that hope – that I will see her again – because of the supernatural assurance I have in my heart of the Love that will not let me go; nor will He let go of Fiona. Again, this is not wishful thinking. This hope is founded on my own real experience of a real Jesus, in real life.

Finally, I want to share also this stunning testimony, which again reinforces my claim to my supernatural hope. I have a friend in America called Steve. Steve has been praying for Fiona and our family since hearing of her diagnosis in early 2014. Here’s what he wrote to me in response to my email informing him of Fiona’s passing on that day fifteen months ago:

“God woke me up this morning at 5:35am my time (about 11:30am your time), which is unusual. I felt He wanted me to pray, so I got ready and went for a walk. I felt an unusual burden to pray for Fiona this morning from 6:15 until 7:15 this morning. I felt led to pray for God to anoint her with His grace, and to help her finish her race well, to wrap her in His presence, and to strengthen her spirit – and yours.

 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. He is so wonderfully present, so kind, so engaged.

“I grieve with you, my brother. I am grateful for the times and the words and the faith that has passed between us over these last years.

 “I celebrate with Fiona, my sister, who receives her reward today.”

Steve didn’t know it at the time, but 7:15am his time was 1:15pm our time; the precise moment when Fiona died. Even at times like that, God’s hand is so obviously present.

Even though we can’t see it at the time, God’s hand is indeed on everything that we do. He takes a minutely detailed, utterly fascinated and absolutely loving interest in every detail of our lives, not in a creepy way, but in a getting-involved sort of way. I want to encourage you today in that I want you to know that nothing that you are going through, nothing you are doing, have done or is happening to you, nothing can separate you from the Love of God in Christ.

This has been my experience:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 8:37-39

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” – Ps 46:1 (KJV)

If you are going through a fight like this right now, be encouraged. God is so much closer than you think. He cares, and He holds you in His arms. And nothing and no-one can change that.

Header picture shows a radiant Fiona at Godshill, Isle of Wight, in July 2015.

*I know that my family, Fiona’s family, and our friends and colleagues all suffered too, each in their own way. And it is not my intention here to downplay that suffering in any way. But I am writing this only from my point of view, which is the only point of view that I can report on accurately. We each take these things, and process them, in our own way. I do not feel it is either my prerogative or my duty to make assumptions on what others were and are feeling. That is their story.

**That death is no longer the end has profound ramifications. Absolutely profound. Rather than spoon-feed you, I’ll just let you think about it for yourself. Ask yourself this question: “What attitudes would change in my life if death is no longer the end?” If you think about this in any great depth, the results will change your life. It did for me.


But Jesus Isn’t White – and Why it Matters

This is a great post by one of my favourite bloggers – Christy Wood – and I found the article to be very gentle, well-balanced and thought-provoking.

In some ways, it doesn’t really matter what Jesus looks like; it’s Who He is that’s important. But some of our skewed, modern mental images of Him can sometimes predispose us to think of Him in terms that just are not realistic, and thus can influence our attitudes towards our fellow humans. I will let you think of your own examples of this.

Meanwhile, this article by Christy really is outstanding and I highly recommend it.

Click the text image below to go to the article: