Tag Archives: Prayer

Y’all I have a confession. My name is Rachel and its been 38 days since I last wore mascara.
I understand there are some serious issues people face in life but can we please just focus on me for a minute? #alleyelashesmatter
I figured the heat would make any makeup just melt off my face. So given that I didn’t want to end up looking like The Joker I didn’t bring any makeup. But now every time I look in the mirror I wonder why I look so tired and since when were my eyes so small. O woe is me.

princess diaries

So, I’ve made it over a month! I was asked what makes Gambia different from the UK. My answer - EVERYTHING:
The weather, food, people, public transport, cars, languages, social customs and norms, clothes and fashion, trees, animals and insects, electricity, bread, signs, shops and shopping, cooking, water, tea, taps, smells, noise, roads, houses, buildings, flowers, music, internet reliability, washing machines or lack thereof, church, sense of humour, landscape, grass, time, money...
Sittin' on the dock of the mangrove creek
Sittin' on the dock of the mangrove creek
Maybe this is why I’m crawling into bed at 9pm barely able to keep my eyes open. But God is good and I’m getting used to it. I’m even starting to feel like I’m getting a handle on much that happens at the clinic:
Monday is general clinic day – anyone and everyone comes to see a nurse and/or doctor.
Tuesday is antenatal clinic – sooooo many pregnant women. We’re the only health facility in the area where women can have an ultrasound scan.
Wednesday is paediatric day – you can hear children crying all the live long day. It starts when they get weighed at registration and goes on and on and on and on. Even my dead frozen heart of stone feels sorry for them.
Things I am yet to get used to:
  • All the goats, sheep, chickens, cows, donkeys, cat and dogs wondering around the health centre compound and casually strolling all over the main road. Apparently they all have owners and can all navigate their way back home.
  • Always feeling under-dressed. Clothes with loud patterns and colours are life to me (had you noticed?!). But these women are on a level I can only dream of. sibanor-june-2012-047
  • Getting a text every time its time to pray (5 times a day). Managed to somehow activate the PrayerTime function of my Gambia simcard.
  • Lack of interest in Brexit. Apparently not everyone in the whole wide world cares about UK politics.
  • Using cash all the time. Def no chip and pin or contactless out here in Sibanor. Wages are often paid in cash, and so is everything else. I've been told of some remote villages further up country where even cash is rare – most people are subsistence farmers and barter/exchange goods.
  • Lack of interest in the royal wedding. I legit had to explain who was even getting married. Apparently not everyone in the whole wide world cares about the ridiculous that is the UK monarchy.
  • Lack of access to McVities Chocolate Digestives in Sibanor. May or may not have spent the weekend going on a 160km round trip to the city, on seven forms of van/car/pickup truck, primarily so I could stock up on said biscuits. (Update: have eaten all the biscuits, now planning next escape to the city).
Hope you're all enjoying the bank holiday.
Evidence I am turning into my mother 105: Can't help but take photos of all the trees and all the flowers. THEY JUS SO PRETTY THO.
Evidence I am turning into my mother 105: Can't help but take photos of all the trees and all the flowers. THEY JUS SO PRETTY THO.
P.S. I haven’t found Wakanda yet, the search continues
PPS. There's still time to earn my undying love and devotion: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rachel-holmes 

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Generally speaking, all my ideas are brilliant. I am not boasting - this is a fact.
Climb a mountain? Quit my job and set fire to my life without a plan of how to actually put the fire out? Dye my hair blonde? Yes, YOLO and what would Beyonce do?
I rarely regret my brilliant ideas because they are, by very definition, brilliant.
But, every now and again I find myself questioning my sanity and wondering what under heaven led me to that particular questionable life choice. A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat in my ‘cell’ in an old convent entertaining such a line of thought daily.
I was on a silent retreat based on the teachings of a long-dead Catholic Priest called St Ignatius of Loyola.  I'd kept coming across books and articles referencing his teaching and he seemed to have an intriguing take on what it means to follow Jesus. So, I figured I had nothing to lose from finding out more. As for the silence, I’m a good listener and committed introvert. I so looked forward to no small talk over meals and time to hear my own thoughts. I thought the silence would be a rather giant and delicious piece of cake I’d delight in eating over the course of the seven days of the retreat.
Hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha*stops to breathe* ahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahaha*cries JT a river of almost hysterical tears*hahahaha hahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
O how the mighty do fall (off their chairs from laughing at their own naivety) and question their supposedly brilliant ideas.
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Home for the week.
Turns out, it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But it was so worth it. I will spend the next days/weeks/years pondering the many things I learned and the many new questions raised. I am so thankful my sanity took a backseat and let my curiosity drive us outside of my comfort zone.
Disclaimer: It wasn’t complete complete silence. For about 30 minutes every day I met with a spiritual companion who, lucky for them, got to listen to all of my rambling and helped me make sense of it. This 30 minutes was life saving. Also, we had two hours of teaching each day. And Mass. And prayers. And so we heard people talking, we occasionally contributed and we sang. But most of the day we didn’t speak, not even over meals – which could have been incredibly awkward but I ditched awkward a few years ago and life has been exponentially better since.
Silence. No phone, no internet, no TV and no radio. And yet you hear everything else – birdsong, doors closing, doors opening, mud squelching, cutlery scraping plates, wind, waves and rain.
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Let's escape to the beach beach. Let's go get away.
Things I missed:
  • Laughing. Surprisingly, I missed this the most. Sure, there were small things that raised a smile but not much to make you actually LOL. Not laughing was sad and painful and isolating. Apparently, I dearly love to laugh.
  • Being called by name. As the poet once said, what is in a name? Being known.
  • A week of Winter Olympics - whats not to love about an international platform for sports you didn't even know existed?
  • (Things I conveniently avoided: my sister's Birthday; Valentine's Day)
It wasn’t just the silence that was tough. The teaching raised some challenging questions that couldn't just be glossed over. Ignatius was all in:

Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will – all that I have and possess. You Lord have given all that to me. I now give it back to you O Lord. All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with your grace, for that is enough for me.

So, between the silence, the challenge of a life surrendered to God, trying to put out my life-on-fire and figuring out how to get the person sat opposite at lunch to pass the cheesecake without asking them, it was a tough a week.
And yet, I think you should do it too. There were 15 of us on the retreat, we found it hard in difficult ways but not one of us regretted sticking it out.
I learned so much about the goodness of God. I learned so much about the everyday gifts of life that I simply accept as standard and don’t even see. I learned so much about who I am when I’m stripped of many of the things I delight in. My understanding of my OneWord was turned completely. I have many questions about church unity and the lack thereof. I may even have started to put out the fire that is my life.
Don’t tell me you’re scared of what you might find in the silence. You don't face it alone, right by your side cheering you on, giving you strength when you think you've run out, and preparing a feast is the God who loves you more that you can possibly know and who cannot wait to meet you in the silence.
Dare greatly, friends.
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Three days later and I almost don't believe it happened - and I was there! If I didn’t have photographic evidence I’d be pretty sure it was a hallucination brought on by my latest sugar detox (yep, back off evil refined sugar and SUFFERING). I'm talking about this:

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This is Minsoo. He is one of my favourites. He lives in Seattle and before Sunday the last time I'd seen him was seven years ago in New Zealand. He is part of my YWAM fam and was fortunate enough to be on the same team as me for the three months we spent in South Africa. He is one of the last people I thought I would see on Sunday - if you asked me to name 100 people who I thought I might have seen I would have ranked Beyonce, David Cameron and Darth Vader as more likely.
So there I was, walking home from church thinking about what to have for lunch and feeling a little glum because sometimes the weight of the world’s hurts are just too real. I’ve been trying to be less available (long story) and so my phone isn’t always with me/don't often check it. But thank God (literally) I did it because otherwise I would have missed out on The Most Random and Unexpected Sunday Afternoon of My Life. In amongst the messages checking I hadn’t been caught up in the London Bridge attack (thank you concerned friends, your love is not unnoticed or unappreciated) was this:

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I literally stopped walking and stood there for a good couple of minutes, with my mouth hanging open catching flies, rereading the message to check I understood. And once I realised that in fact a good friend who I hadn’t seen for seven years was only a 25ish minute train journey away I pretty much ran the whole way to the train station. And within the hour I was running/walking quickly in a way that doesn’t attract undue security attention across the North Terminal at Gatwick toward one of my favourites! Thank you Jesus for great train connections, and for my stealth skillz that meant I didn't get tackled by security.
I still can’t quite believe it happened. We got to spend the next hour or so catching up on seven years of life. Apparently I am more outspoken than I was seven years ago - ha!
I had no mental preparation for this. Which is maybe why, a few days later, I am still wondering how it even happened - admittedly I haven't been very productive this week.
Have you ever been there? Ever had something so incredibly unexpected, unpredictable and uncontrollable happen that you just stop and wonder how you ever came to be there and how it ever happened?
On Saturday I’d been reading a book which talked about Pentecost and the people being amazed and perplexed when the Spirit came and people were able to speak in a multitude of languages without having ever learned them before (Acts 2). Amazed and perplexed has summed up the past few days.
And you know what, amazed and perplexed is a pretty good place to be. Amazed and perplexed fills your heart with gratitude and your soul with faith. Amazed and perplexed fills you with hope and excitement for what might happen next because surely anything is possible?
Surely we could all do with a bit more of the amazing and perplexing, unpredictable and uncontrollable in our lives - because surely anything is possible. So I think I'm going to start praying for the amazing and perplexing. Join me?

red sail boatDisturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.
 I first read this 6 years ago. It's been my favourite ever since and I've even written a re-mix or two and re-post it nearly every year. It was most likely written by Francis Drake over 400 years ago (apparently the poetry buffs are still arguing about it). As we get into the stride of 2017 it seems important to pray and ponder it again.

Happy belated 2017!

Yeh, I know, given that its nearly February it’s a bit late to be bringing out New Year - but it would be rude to pretend like it hasn’t even happened.

How’s your 2017 kicked off? This pretty much sums up mine:

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1st January 2017, 2am Victoria Station and my first train of the year is cancelled. I'm trying not to read too much into it and take it as a sign of the year to come. It did get me thinking about how I could use the my commute better and now I'm almost thankful for train strikes. Almost.

They're giving me a daily opportunity to practise all those good things like, grace, patience, forgiveness and compassion, that come so unnaturally to commuters. Every morning before 8am I've had more opportunities to be loving and gracious than the rest of the day put together.

Since April last year, industrial action has led to delayed trains, cancelled trains and some days just no trains at all.

When I set out each morning I know there's no guarantee I'll fit on the train, let alone get a seat. I generally spend 45 minutes to an hour squished into someone's armpit, strengthening my core muscles trying to not fall over and straining my arms trying to hold on to my laptop and lunch.

And this could be after I've spent an hour on a freezing train platform trying and failing to cram onto a train.

I know what you're thinking – your train is late, it's hardly the end of the world, aren't you overacting just a little.

Well YOU WEREN'T THERE. YOU DON'T KNOW.

During the past 10 months of train drama, some people have quit their jobs. A few women have taken early maternity leave. Others are spending less time with the families and more on child care as they're late home so often.

I witness some kind of argument between passengers at least once a week. And my anxiety is through the roof.

Those of us who managed to get a train eventually arrive at work, or back home, tired, grumpy and RAGING AT ANYONE AND EVERYONE.

Which is rather unfortunate for your family, friends and colleagues, who inevitably end up taking the brunt of it.

But enough is enough. After reading Hebrews I realised that maybe if I fixed my eyes on Jesus, I could turn my commute frown upside-down. It's actually been simpler than I thought.

Rather than claim the rare vacant seat right next to where I'm standing I (sometimes) choose to let others sit down – it may seem small but actually, having a seat makes all the difference to your journey.

Instead of pushing and shoving I can choose to get the next train instead.

I can pray for other people in the carriage – chances are they aren't enjoying the commute either and have a challenging day ahead.

And when I'm feeling brave enough I can even make eye contact and smile at someone else witnessing the struggle.

Those not of London may find that strange, but breaking the First Commandment of Commuting ("Thou shalt not acknowledge thy fellow passengers") is not an easy thing to do, even when you're reading their newspaper.

The Serenity Prayer is my new mantra. There really are some things you can't change or control. It's given me a small insight into what it's like when your voice is not heard and you're powerless to change a situation. Which has renewed my motivation to support those whose voices are ignored or silenced.

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I've realised a few other things I can do, too.

Text encouragement to a friend (on the days I have space enough to move my arms and reach my phone).

Leave that negativity on the platform and not moan about my journey when I get to work/home, there's no need to drag it around the rest of the day.

Pray for people whose biggest challenge of the morning isn't getting to work, it's finding strength to overcome mental and physical challenges involved in just getting out of bed.

Forgive the rail bosses and union representatives who can't seem to reach an agreement.

Forgive friends/colleagues/family who make jokes and flippant comments about the strikes when they JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND.

All in all, train strikes are giving me an opportunity grow in love and patience and all things good. I'd be lying if I said I'm enjoying it. I'd be lying if I said it was easy. But here's to perseverance and character building. Joy.

This post originally appeared on Christian Today

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.

A problem shared is a problem halved, right?

And a problem prayed is a problem taken to the throne room of heaven, by none other than Jesus himself.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a friend and start praying.

Disturb us, O Lord,
When we are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord,
When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, O Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas,
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Francis Drake, 1577

You really need to see it. It’s just ten images of Syrian refugees with their most important thing.

For those of you who dismissed the link the first time here is it again: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21939840

It reminded me that behind the headlines of body counts and outside of the politics of interference from the west are Real People. 

Actual real people - mind, body and soul. 

Real people who have had their lives violently interrupted and ripped apart.

Real mothers and fathers who worry about the futures of their children.
Real school children whose education has been stopped.

Real business owners who have left behind their livelihoods.

Real children who fight and argue with their siblings.

Real people who get ill and tired and scared.

Real people who had roots in the family, friends, neighbours and community they love o so dearly but had to leave behind.

Real people with hopes for the future clouded by the worries of today.

Real people who hope that change is coming. 

Real people.


Not just ‘Syrians,’ a group of people ‘other’ than us. Real people.

Change a few circumstances and it could have been us, forced to leave behind everything we know for life in a refugee camp.

There are thousands of these real people. Thousands of men, women and children. Thousands of mothers, wives, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins and daughters. Thousands of fathers, husbands, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins and sons.


When confronted with something so big and with such a high human cost I often get overwhelmed by not knowing the best way to respond. I have learned to do two things: 

1. Pray. Even though it often doesn't seem like much prayer takes the problem to the throne of God - there is nothing more powerful.

2. Support the people paying the cost - usually through an organisation that know what they're doing.

3. If the global scale seems outta reach then find out if you can do something on a local scale.  

Reach out your hand. The least we can do is try and support these real people: /http://www.tearfund.org/en/news/press_releases/dec_launches_syria_crisis_appeal/

Pray. Petition. Seek Peace.

Disturb us, O Lord,
When we are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord,
When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, O Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas,
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Francis Drake, 1577