Tag Archives: Jesus

So, how’s your Easter weekend shaping up?

I should be in the kitchen prepping a feast for all the fam coming over later. I should be facing the agonising decision of which of my fancy clothes to wear for Easter morning church – because just like Christmas, if I’m not overdressed on Easter Sunday is it even Easter?

The Feast of Good Fridays Past
The Feast of Good Fridays Past

And then on Sunday I should be celebrating with my people before Feast Round 2 at my Nan’s – roast lamb, rice n peas, curry goat, fried chicken and crunchy potatoes. ALL THE GOOD THINGS AND SECOND ONLY TO CHRISTMAS DINNER.

Instead, celebrations have to happen via zoom. Family are only a few miles away but in this lockdown life they may as well be across an ocean. And I’m probs having lentils for dinner. No roast lamb. No fried chicken and no crunchy potatoes [insert all the crying face emojis here].

in the context of, you know, a global crisis, this is not a big deal. But even so, I’m just a little bit broken hearted at this Easter in a time of Corona.

Good thing Easter isn’t actually about the food or traditions but instead the gateway to life in all its fullness. A life that promises peace and hope and blessing through every circumstance, including, as hard as it might seem to believe right now, through global crisis and escalating death tolls.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5 v 4.

I never really understood this – how is it comforting when you’re can’t breathe, can’t think, on the floor in the depths of grief? But then I read this:

Maybe Jesus was simply blessing the ones around him that day who didn’t otherwise receive blessing, who had come to believe that, for them, blessings would never be in the cards. I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?" Nadia Bolz-Weber A Benediction

Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees [insert all the heart emojis here]. And somehow 'Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted' sounded more like hope and a promise.

I'm pretty sure we could all do with a bit more hope right now. There is grace here for all of us in this Easter in a time of Corona.

Blessed are those who mourn for you shall be comforted.

Blessed are the fundraisers facing gaps in charity income, for the funds shall come in.

Blessed are the furloughed for your days shall be filled with good things.

Blessed are the huggers for you shall receive allllll the hugs again.

Blessed are those for whom staying at home is not safe for you shall find security.

Blessed are those who are worried sick for you shall recieve peace.

Blessed are those missing sport for one day it shall return (My family have replaced all football discussions with random chat about cats. My father simply cannot handle this but I'm pretty sure its a just retribution for letting football monopolise family gatherings all my life).

Blessed are those trying not to freak out over how this will hit the developing world, for God will (please) have mercy and richer nations will look beyond their borders.

Blessed are the homeschooling parents for you shall figure out how to do long division.

Blessed are those making it through on the 80% for you shall receive all you need.

Blessed are the unemployed for you shall work again.

Blessed are those who plans and celebrations have been so unexpectedly interuppted, for there shall be space to re-make them.

Blessed are those struggling with the uncertainty of it all, for you shall find stability.

Blessed our are hospital caterers and cleaners and nurses and doctors and administrators and everyone else in the NHS that keeps it all going, for your people love you.screenshot_20200410-1049174866719997024794598.png

Blessed are the breadmakers for you shall perfect your sourdough (and when you do please let me know how because mine have always been a disaster).

Blessed are the small business owners for your customers will return.

Blessed are the stockpilers for you shall have peace of mind (and pasta for dinner).

Blessed are those having to remind their housemates that dogs are for life and not just for lockdown and even if that wasn’t true Battersea dogs home is closed at the moment so we can’t go adopt one right now anyway.

Blessed are the church leaders figuring out how to guide their people through a pandemic, for you shall recieve wisdom.

Blessed are those having to remind everyone to go on mute in group video calls for you shall have good audio quality.

Blessed are those having to teach their parents how to use new tech, for you shall receive patience in abundance.

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Blessed are the tired and lonely and afraid, for you shall be filled with life-giving radiance.

Blessed are the please-can-life-just-go-back-to-normal-ers, for this season will pass.

Blessed are those praying for the first time in years, for God is listening.

Easter speaks hope that all these good things are possible.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. Matthew 5 v 3 - 9 The Message

Friends, Beloved Reader, you’re blessed when you’re figuring out how to live through a pandemic, for God is with you.

Much grace and peace and virtual hugs this Easter x x

There's just something about blessing and benediction that gives me goosebumps. I think its got something to do with witnessing a love that calls down all the good things from heaven on behalf of someone else. So when I read this take on the beatitudes this week I wept - its just too beautiful. By Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Because, what if the beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try and meet to be blessed. What if these are not virtues we should aspire to but what if… the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus’ seemingly lavish blessing of the world around him. So maybe Jesus is actually just blessing people, especially the people who never seem to receive blessings otherwise.

I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees? Because I like to imagine Jesus here standing among us saying:

Blessed are the agnostics.

Blessed are they who doubt, who aren't sure, who can still be surprised.

Blessed are those who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information.

Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.

Blessed are the pre-schoolers who cut in line at communion.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.

Blessed are they who've buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean.

Blessed are they who've loved enough to know what loss feels like.

Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.

Blessed are they who don't have the luxury of taking things for granted any more.

Blessed are they who can't fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.

Blessed are those who still aren't over it yet.

Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who no one else notices: the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables, the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers, and the nightshift street sweepers.

Blessed are the forgotten.

Blessed are the closeted.

Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the under represented.

Blessed are the teens who have to figure out how to hide the new cuts on their arms.

Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like you.

Blessed are those without documentation.

Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.

Blessed are foster kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.

Blessed are those that make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.

Blessed are the burned out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.

Blessed are kind-hearted football players and fundraising trophy wives.

Blessed are kids who step between the bullies and the weak.

Blessed are those who hear they're forgiven.

Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it. 

Full post from Nadia here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/11/some-modern-beatitudes-a-sermon-for-all-saints-sunday/

So. How was your Christmas?

Mine was pretty much like the rest of this year – an absolute whirlwind of the loosely planned being usurped by the surprising. Though I learned the hard way that if you spend half the day holding small children and hefting a turkey in and out of the oven your arms will ache for atleast a week. Even brushing my hair is a challenge - sorry to anyone who has to be seen with me in public right now.

Christmas Joy: Getting to meet my 6-day old new favourite
Christmas JOY: Surprise visit from my 6-day old new favourite

I must confess, I was not ready for Christmas this year. I don't understand how its come and gone already, I'm still waiting for summer. I was the most Grinch of all the Grinchs and so reflecting on the reason for the season was not forefront of my mind. But what I did realise is that Christmas is all about abiding - Jesus came to abide (live/dwell) with us, so that we could abide (live/dwell) with him.

The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end of our separation from God. It changed everything. Jesus came to abide (live/dwell) as light in the darkness, offering us hope, peace and joy.

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God was no longer as distant as before. But here. Present. With us. Immanuel.

And just a few short decades later the death and resurrection of Jesus would change it all again. Giving us access to a home we could fully abide (live/dwell) in together. Forever.

But it’s not just for the future, if nothing else, this absolute madness of a year has taught me that abiding is also for right here, right now. This very moment. Here. Present.

Everyday in China I asked God for the grace to make it through just that day. And the next day I asked the same. And the next day the same again. But I think what I didn't have the words to ask for was this:

O Lord. Life passes by swiftly. Events that a few years ago kept me totally preoccupied have now become vague memories; conflicts that a few months ago seemed so crucial in my life now seem futile and hardly worth the energy; inner turmoil that robbed me of sleep only a few weeks ago has now become a strange emotion of the past; books that filled me with amazement a few days ago now do not seem as important; thoughts that kept my mind captive only a few hours ago have now lost their power and have been replaced by others... Why am I continuously trapped in this sense of urgency and emergency? Why do I not see that you are eternal, that your kingdom lasts forever, and that for you a thousand years are like one day? O Lord, let me enter into your presence and there taste the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, occupations and worries.... Lord teach me your ways and give me the courage to follow them. Amen." Henri Nouwen

This is what abiding this year has looked like - an invitation to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, occupations and worries. To live fully loved, at peace, joyfully, on a foundation of trust.

Is this what I've been doing all year? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (pauses to breathe and then resumes hysterical laughter) hahahahaha.

No.

I had to go to China and back to figure this out, let me save you the journey and the planet the carbon emissions. Turns out sometimes abiding feels like a picnic in green pastures beside still waters.tanguy-sauvin-3118-unsplash

But also, abiding can feel like being on a rollercoaster, holding on to the edge of your seat, both eagerly anticipating what’s next and dreading it, uncertain whether to laugh/cry/vomit/all three, wondering why you’ve put yourself in that position AGAIN and why no-one told you it was a bad idea, clinging for dear life/faith/sanity onto the knowledge that God is good and God is with you always even if it doesn’t feel like it, and praying it will all end soon so you can get off and return to life on terra firma.

Christmas, a solid reminder than wherever we find ourselves and whatever is going on God abides with us. Our choice is whether we abide with Him at the picnic, the rollercoaster or elsewhere.

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By Jessica Hagy
By Jessica Hagy
This simple diagram has led me to so much fun and gotten me in so much trouble.
I love comfort. I love not having to embrace the difficult, the stressful and the uncertain. And yet…
Life outside my comfort zone has taught me things I couldn’t have learned any other way. Life outside my comfort zone has developed my character and helped me to grow in faith and hope and love.
Life outside of our comfort zone is both exciting and terrifying. There’s always the possibility of failure with a side plate of embarrassment and wounded pride. But there's also adventure beyond anything we could imagine.
Ever been asked what you would do if money were no object? Apparently, retire tomorrow and travel the world with my friends is not the response people are after. But maybe the question is too narrow – it assumes our only limiting factor is finance. Perhaps a better question would be: what would you do if you trusted even just a little bit more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt?
Would we be bolder? More adventurous? More generous? More loving? More forgiving? More hopeful? Would we find it easier to ignore the lies of doubt, fear and worry? Would we be more willing to push the boundaries of our comfort zone?
Jesus said he came to give us life in all its fullness. A fullness which empowers us to make decisions based on faith and not fear. Faith that God loves us beyond our understanding and there's nothing that can separate us from his love. Faith that God is with us wherever we go - whether we're riding the wings of the morning, going into a difficult situation or even to The Gambia. Faith that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good - whether everything goes well or whether we have to rise from the ashes.

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Confession: This life outside the comfort zone is not the life I usually live - I like comfort, did I mention that already? Though occasionally, I dare greatly enough to start a chain reaction that means I have no choice but to leave my Empire of Comfort and embrace the terrifying, exciting, uncertain and unknown. Case in point: I've waved a fond farewell  to my colleagues and have quit my job with no plan  more detailed than 'travel/volunteer in the general Africa or Asia area.' There’s not much about this that sits in my comfort zone.
I keep being told I’m brave, I don’t know about that – brave, foolish, there’s a fine line between the two and given that it feels like I’ve set my life on fire and at least five times a week day hour I ask God what I’ve done and why I couldn’t be content to just be normal, it certainly doesn’t feel brave. Rachel the wild hippy with flowers in her hair would be disappointed at my inability to embrace this unknown. So here I am, currently navigating the outer reaches of my comfort zone – if anyone wants to come join me YOU’RE MORE THAN WELCOME - I have drinks, food and an epic playlist. The sunrises are amazing and the night skies are devastatingly beautiful. And I have a small idea of where we might end up. Everyone but my Nan and sister will love it!
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Sometimes I make myself sick because the very fact that I've written this post means I need to go out be be braver than I want to be. Well done Rach.
What would you do if you trusted even just a little more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt? Dare greatly team.

And so, dear reader, the year of endurance is almost over. Rejoice! Celebrate! Kill the fatted calf and pour the drinks! Next year I’m gonna be the Queen of quitting.
I’d love to have a nice shiny pearl of wisdom to impart to you, some eloquent revelation about endurance and what it means. But all I have is three words – stay with it.
Endurance is about staying with it when you’re tired, when you’ve run out of options, when you just want to give up and all you have left is an itsy bitsy teenie weenie tiny glimmer of mustard seed sized hope.

Stay with it – stay with doing hard and holy things, stay with believing God for impossible things, stay with brazen hope, just stay with God through it all in this season you are in." Ann Voskamp

2017 has not been my favourite year (17 is a prime number so we were already off to a bad start - prime numbers are selfish and I don’t like them). But if nothing else, this absolute non-ironic 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife kinda year has taught me that sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath, take your shoes off (it’s grounding) and choose to stay with God.
Endurance is about sticking with faith/hope/love through the minutes/hours/days/weeks/months that started with such promise but seemed to crash and burn despite your very best laid plans of prayers and intentions. Endurance is about sticking with it through the doubt, the fears and tears. Endurance is making decisions based on faith and not fear. Endurance is about staying with the hard and holy things. [Disclaimer: Endurance is not about staying with the abusive, unboundaried and destructive things. Run like you’re about to miss the last train home from those.]
Stay with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope – I JUST LOVE THIS.
The secret to endurance? It’s there, written to a people who were being beaten up, jailed and killed for choosing to follow Jesus. We endure by keeping our eyes on Jesus. The number of times I have had to relearn this lesson over the past 12 months is quite frankly embarrassing.
When we take our eyes from Jesus we can find ourselves looking at the situation and start to sink, just like Peter walking to Jesus on water. The weight of what we carry can seem too big. We forget that Jesus invites all those wearied and burdened to come to him for rest.
I used to think endurance was about continuing to move forwards  through the difficult things. But actually, maybe it’s sometimes just about staying on the course - sticking with faith and hope and love when absolutely everything tells you to give up.
Endurance is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego about to be burnt to death – “We know our God is able to save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not worship your idols.” They had brazen unashamed wild hope, and yet acknowledged that God might not intervene. They based their decisions on faith and not fear.  They had faith enough to keep believing, faith enough to stay in the race and faith enough to not let their situation dictate their actions “even if…”
Endurance is faith enough to stay with it. Faith enough to pray through the mountains in our way and faith enough to not be offended by prayers unanswered. Faith enough to say this:

I know You're able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don't, my hope is You alone." Mercyme

My prayer for you in 2018 is that you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope.
Stay with it babe. In hope and anticipation of the absolute JOY to come in 2018.
Much love x x

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12v 1-

So I managed to drag my sister out of bed for another Saturday morning run and even a bank holiday Monday one today too! This time she only thought she was going to die once. I call that progress. Although some old lady did overtake us a couple of times. Whatever. We got out of bed to run, neither of us threw up, fainted or cried. I call that progress.
This week I was reminded of how important it is to focus on running YOUR race.
No-one can run your race but you and you can't run anyone else's. So why do we spend so much time comparing our race to everyone else's?Quotefancy-806363-3840x2160
Running with endurance means we need to avoid distraction from constantly looking around to see where everyone else is and then stopping to comfort eat cake and compare our race, our lives, to theirs. We look at our shaky start on faltering legs and compare it to their solid and sturdy beginning. We look at how their path stays so straight and wanders far less than ours (THEY DIDN'T EVEN GET STUCK IN THE WOODS OR AT THE BAR). We look at how they didn't get distracted by Netflix and just give up for a while. We look at the numerous people cheering them on and compare it to the few who seem interested in our progress. We look at how easy they make it seem to run without breaking a sweat, melting their makeup, getting injured or slowing down.
I'm not saying don't look around at all - where would be without the cloud of witnesses, the encouragement of saints both old and new, those who ran before us and those running alongside us? I'm not saying don't look around and see those who may be struggling and in need of encouragement - cheer them on with banners proclaiming they have the X-factor too!
But to run with endurance, to not let comparison hinder us, we need to fix our eyes on our goal, on our purpose, on Jesus.
And so, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down (including comparison), especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12v1-2
So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong. Hebrews 12v12-13
ICYMI: We need to talk about Endurance - Part One here

I’ve never had any known enemies (well, apart from that one girl at school who mistook quietness for weaknesses – her mistake). But I recently overheard a conversation that jolted me from the verge of an exhaustion induced breakdown halfway across the Atlantic, to wide awake and brain running faster than a Concorde at the realisation that maybe I do have enemies.

“So, the UK are joining us in bombing ISIS now, so that’s good.”

I was in a travelling induced news vacuum when the UK government were voting on whether or not join the USA in bombing ISIS when I overheard a conversation between a couple of air stewardesses. I’m a peace loving almost hippy. I’d never thought about having enemies. Ones who stand against what I believe in and would take my freedom and even my life if I stood against them.

“So, the UK are joining us in bombing ISIS now, so that’s good.”

I don’t know what it was about how she said it. Maybe it was her sunny Californian accent. Maybe because she had just been talking about calling her parents and her nephew’s baseball game. But for some reason I sat up (not like I had a choice flying economy) and took notice.

“So, the UK voted to join us in bombing ISIS. So that’s good.”

Really? That's a good thing? Since when was bombing people a good thing? Since when was taking someone’s life a good thing?

Jesus told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 4:43-45). I don’t remember him saying kill them because they hate you, kill them before they kill you.

You can argue that it’s easy for me say that because ISIS haven’t driven me from my home, haven’t killed any members of my family and from thousands of miles away from the people and places they are destroying its easy to say don’t kill them.

I don’t pretend to know what the solution is.

But I do know that killing more people isn’t going to help. I do know that killing more people will only fuel the hate and anger of those who agree with ISIS both abroad and here in London.

I do know that standing by and just watching what happens isn’t an option either. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is.

But apparently there are some people I should be praying for - peace and a change of heart for starters.

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It's supposed to be simple right?...

Love God. Love people.

And then...

Serve refreshments after church. Live intentionally. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Seek first the kingdom. Don’t worry. Pray more. Youth group. Home group. Kids’ work. Be missional. Be a supportive friend. Be a supportive colleague. Honour your parents. Lead by example. Breathe & repeat. Love God. Love people. Serve refreshments after the service. Live intentionally. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Seek first the kingdom. Don’t worry. Pray more. Youth group. Home group. Kids’ work. Be missional. Be a supportive friend. Be a supportive colleague. Honour your parents. Lead by example. Oh yeah, spend time with Jesus.

Ever found that in-between all the things of life the yoke gets harder and the burden heavier? Ever felt like drowning someone in a sea of your to-do list when they ask you why you look tired?

No? Just me? Not likely.

I’ve heard the story of Mary and Martha a million times – literally, I’ve counted. But I’ve only just understood it.

As Jesus and his disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said “Lord doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her “My dear Martha you are upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her.”

Hold. the. phone.

There was Martha, slaving away over the hot fire trying to prepare a feast for Jesus and the many many people in her home. As the fire gets hotter and there’s more and more to do she notices that the person who would usually help her is casually sitting round listening to Jesus. Of course she would be frustrated. She was trying to serve God. It's not every day the Son of God rocks up to your house.

Last Christmas I gave you my heart but the very next day my Sister & I took control of our kitchen to avoid the usual Holmes family dramatics over an oven that's simply too small to provide food for 15-20 people (you just can't be dealing with burnt stuffing and soggy roast potatoes on Christmas Day. It's not acceptable). We delegated all meat cooking to various family members to do at home, smiled and told everyone that we had it all under control when we didn't have a clue what we were doing but it was teamwork only that got our feast to the table before New Year 2015. If my Sister had been sitting around while I was running through the kitchen looking for the pastry knife I would have been all the names of purple furious. So I can feel Martha's pain - the oven's hot, people are getting hungry, it's an important meal and there's no-one to help.

But Jesus turns to Martha and says,

“You are upset over all these details. There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her.”

Now I’m not sure Martha wouldn't have classed all her food prep as mere detail, but that's what it was.

So what was it that Mary has discovered?

Look back a few sentences - Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he taught.

Mary was spending time with Jesus. Listening to what he taught. Even though Martha was running around to serve Jesus - it was still just detail compared to spending actual time with him.

It's not that the cooking wasn't important. I'm not saying that we should stop serving God through activities at church, outside of church etc. But the main thing was spending time with Jesus.

So this week. In all the busyness of life I will try to remember that there is really only one thing worth being concerned about.

Because if the yoke isn’t easy and burden not light then surely we haven't received what Jesus offers.

Last last weekend I ventured into the wilds of Basingstoke-shire to see some of the East London crew.

It was a weekend full of the usuals and the unexpecteds:

The usual apprehension about trips to the country:  no street lights, axe murders hiding in the trees, no phone reception when being chased by said murderer, amazement at big open green spaces and seeing an actual live cow. A real cow. Not a burger.

Some of the unexpecteds: managing  to eat celery and mushrooms without crying, wifi,  & going for a walk by myself in the country without getting lost and/or murdered by a mad axe man (win win).

I was reminded of why I found leaving Bethnal Green so sad. I was reminded that my story, though important, is not the only one. Let me break it down for you...

Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus and their brother, Lazarus was dying. So they did the most logical thing when someone you love is seriously sick and you happen to have a friend who can heal - they sent Jesus a message to let him know. They probably hoped that Jesus would come right away and heal their brother – bringing an end to the pain and anxiety of Lazarus being on his literal death bed. (Read John 11 for the full story).

But Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus had died.

Four days late you could say. Four days of heart wrenching grief. Four days of pain and sorrow. Four days of so many tears you have none left. Four days of so many tears you think you have none left but somehow they appear from somewhere over the rainbow. Four days of wondering how Jesus could have stood by and let this happen to you. Four days of wondering why you even bothered to tell Jesus what was happening – because apparently it made no difference. Four days of wondering if Jesus didn't even care. Four days of people trying to say the right thing and making it worse. Four days of people saying the right thing and bringing some comfort. Four days of wondering what the future holds. Four days of wondering why it didn’t turn out as you hoped for with all your heart. Four days of unanswered questions. Four days of trying to remember that death is not the end. Four days of clinging to the hope of resurrection and heaven. Four days of heart wrenching grief.

Ever been there? Hope deferred and heartsick? Ever wondered why what you hoped for with all your heart is as dead as Lindsay Lohan's music career?

The thing about Mary and Martha was that God had a bigger plan than just healing their brother. God had a bigger plan than just restoring their family and ending their pain by bringing Lazarus’ back from the dead. Their story was not the only one.

Many people had come to mourn with Mary and Martha, and many of them were at the tomb when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As a result of witnessing this miracle many of them believed in Jesus. They were still talking about it a few days later in Jerusalem.

So when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick he could have gone straight away and healed him. And maybe only a few people outside of their community would ever have known – and maybe few of those would have believed that it was true.

But God’s timing meant many people witnessed the miracle of life being brought back to a dead man. Many people outside of their community heard about it.

It was never just about Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were part of a bigger story.

Ever been there? Hope deferred, heartsick and wondering why.

I would like to promise you that if you stick it out, just have a little patience, God will do the unexpected when you have lost all hope. Maybe He will. But maybe its just like my invite to Beyonce's next party - got lost in the post and never gonna happen.

Or just maybe you’re part of a bigger story that though painful will mean much to many others.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16v33

We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. Romans 6 (The Message)

The Stone Table
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe