It’s getting near that time again…

It’s almost the end of the year and I’ve decided this year to choose a single word to guide me through 2014. This word will have the power to nudge me in the direction of faith, and help me to let go and let God, and so set me free from all that holds me to the past.

To choose my word, I thought about what I needed, what I’m currently working on, and what I need to let go of. As always, my writing project ambitions are lined up for the coming year and January is extremely busy on that front. But I’m organised on that score… I know this because I’ve written a schedule out in my new diary to keep on track with deadlines, etc. Everything is lined up and ready to go and I’m looking forward to it.

An ongoing personal challenge in my life is my failure to combat the sadness associated with a ten year family estrangement, and this year (as last year) no reconciliation has come to fruition, so I already feel overwhelmed at the thought of carrying the heavy burden of hurt with me into 2014, and beyond.

Therefore, the word I have chosen for this exercise is ‘serene’ and to help me with this I am using the Serenity Prayer by St Francis of Assisi and a breathing exercise:


‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.’


Or to put it another way:


‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.’ (Proverbs 3, 5-6)


Although I have carried the Serenity Prayer in my diary for several years I neglect it sometimes and cause myself a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish. I am hopeful that In 2014, I will simply say the word ‘serene’ and it will prompt me to read it – at least once a day as well as each time I begin to feel maudlin, melancholic or plain old miserable about the situation. After saying the prayer to myself, I can then breathe in the breath of God and breathe out the negativity that’s causing suffering to my soul.

I suppose it’s a sort of New Year’s resolution, which are famous for being broken, but this is one I intend to keep – for the sake of my sanity – and how wonderful it will be for God to hear my soul singing with joy in 2014 instead of lamenting in despair.

With love and prayers to you all for a happy, healthy New Year.

Is there ever any good news?

I got to a point where I was almost ready to share a recent example of how being a Christian has changed me on the inside when the Flowers scandal erupted. It so disappointing and damaging to the church when people in powerful positions hit the headlines with their personal trash and weaknesses. Immediate judgement is cast upon the church (and Christians), as a whole, through the actions of that one person. It’s the same with any group. For example, how quick we can all be to judge homeless people as being drug users or alcoholics who, as I’ve often heard it muttered, ‘bring it on themselves’, and simply because we have seen examples of this being demonstrated by one or two homeless people. Tarred with the same brush is the cliché I’m looking for. Unfortunately, it is rare for any positive acts by Methodist Ministers, or homeless persons, to hit the headlines – because it doesn’t sell newspapers. 

If, as a people, we could read newspapers that tell of good news and glorify it in the same way as bad, we would counteract the forces of evil at work in the world to create a more positive balance; this could go a long way to knocking the devil off all our shoulders before he can get a foothold.

Oh, the example I was going to share about how being a Christian has changed me on the inside?

I found a purse outside a charity shop a couple of weeks ago. It had 6 x £1 coins and £95 in notes inside. My gut reaction was one of excitement about finding some money. A split second later I counteracted that response by asking the question, ‘what would Jesus do?’ 

There was a piece of paper tucked inside the purse with a bus pass (so it was a pensioner) with a phone number on it. I rang the number – as it had the same name on it as the bus pass – to say I was on my way to hand the purse in to the local Police station. 

The joy on the elderly couples’ faces when I walked into the station lit up the room. The lady whose purse it was gave me £10 because she was so thankful to get it back. It wasn’t necessary and I tried to return it to her, unsuccessfully. The warm glow in my heart at having turned the money in set me up for the rest of the day. Honesty really does have its own reward, though I have to say that I did enjoy spending the unexpected £10 windfall.

I’m using this incident as a small example of how I know that being a Christian has changed me from the inside because there would have been a time when I may have kept that money, especially if I’d been as skint as I was that day, but just by thinking about what Jesus would do, and knowing the answer in my heart, I couldn’t do anything else but hand it in.

I’m telling you this good news because it probably won’t hit the headlines: Jesus really has made all the difference in my life.

God’s Grace

This time last year I experienced a period of unrest and I wasn’t sure if it was related to a mild form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or simply that a special November birthday was almost upon me (I’m not telling!).  It could have been either of these reasons as both lend themselves to melancholy. Same thing now… with the dark mornings due to kick in, I’m overwhelmed with tiredness at having to get up for work when I could easily stay in bed, especially as I’ve felt I need more challenge in my work-based role lately. But then – once more – a birthday is also looming… so here I go again. I feel I haven’t done enough with my life and the older I become the quicker it seems to roll away – a bit like when the end of a toilet roll unravels itself near the end and you have to catch it quick before it hits the floor.

This mood spread itself into my time of worship at church last Sunday and I suppose I was feeling sorry for myself really when I said to the person standing next to me, ‘I hope we don’t finish with sharing the words of the grace. It feels false, like it’s forced upon us, especially as half the people in church don’t even say hello to the other half.’ Needless to say, we did finish with that… but the preacher stumbled on the beginning of it by misplacing a word – twice. So it was third time lucky that we spoke the words in unison. I knew this was no mistake. It was a lesson for me – from God. That may sound strange to those who don’t have a faith but you may understand where I’m coming from if you read on. (It’s about me not remembering that God is with me when I’m in the midst of these negative mood phases, and therefore failing to acknowledge His grace.) Thank goodness that He doesn’t give up on me, and sends angels to rescue and remind me, as he waits for me to ‘catch on’ again.

Angel number one arrived later the same day. I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen for a while who is a fan of my writing. She inspired me to continue with my current work in progress – the devotional book I’ve spoken of in my blog recently after I disclosed to her that I was at a standstill with it. I told her I want to revisit an experiment that has worked for me previously ie, creating prayers from sketches but I’m not good at drawing. I can’t seem focus on listening to God in the meditation method I use for simple sketching (well, I always know what my sketches are meant to be even if no-one else does!). My friend reminded me of my past experience with this in one of her art workshops and how I’d created a painting and subsequent prayer from that by simply letting myself go with a kaleidoscope of colour as I listened to God through music. This connected to a story I’d written the previous night about a kaleidoscope of colour and I felt inspired to use her advice as a way forward with the book. I went off to top up my supply of charcoal, oil paints and linseed to make a start on the blank canvas I’ve been keeping at arm’s length.

The next day angel number two stopped me in the street and we went for a coffee and a catch up – another friend and fan of my writing who, after deep therapeutic discussion about family estrangement and work related apathy (she is a trained counsellor by trade), inspired me further to continue with my devotional book project by saying my writing was a gift from God that I can utilise to inspire others. The off-loading was mutual, I hasten to add. She also had a few demons to exorcise.

The third day brought me angel number threea fellow writer and member of the Writers’ Circle who said she was looking forward to hearing my Kaleidoscope of Colour piece as she delights in my poetics.  

With these three cheerleaders in my corner how can I fail to make progress?

To top it off, I attended a New Wine event this weekend on ‘healing emotional wounds and memories’ (more about this another time) with two members from church. Another example of the grace of God that even with all my negative remarks about sharing the words of the grace in church, He still provided me with angels from that very place. 

And there’s more…

Just when I thought it was all over… my work-role related grace came after I’d been brought to my knees because my computer decided to die and its black screen took my files to its grave. I asked God to forgive me for not being grateful for the job I had, for not thanking Him for the angels He sends to lift me from my myriad of moods, for not thanking Him for providing me with all I need, and for not thanking Him for the gift of each new day of my life. You may not believe it but I swear it’s true – I prayed for fifteen minutes and about an hour later a chance conversation with a work colleague during a phone call connected me to someone who had software to rescue my files. I contacted him immediately and was merely talking on the phone about the problem when the computer screen came to life of its own accord – my files had returned and I was able to drag them onto a pen drive before it completely packed in. Coincidence? Answered prayer? Miracle? I believe it was a grace of God incident.

I’ve decided not to feel that I haven’t done enough with my life because I believe it’s the journey that’s important. Taking time to appreciate those unexpected moments of joy and small acts of random kindness that flow through our lives constantly is what makes it worthwhile. And what more can we ask of that journey but that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us this day and for evermore?

I’ll be sharing the words of this special blessing prayer with gusto in future because grace is a soul-thrilling concept and must be deeply appreciated.


Community Spirit in the Face of Tragedy

The events in relation to this reflective thought for the day may be old news now but with a stretch of imagination you can relate the analogy to anything of a similar nature.


There’s something about a tragedy that can bring a community together in a way that nothing else can. Two separate events recently perfectly highlighted God’s love for humankind in relationship to this.

The first illustration came from the fictional TV drama, Broadchurch, which had us gripped to our seats for its conclusion.  It was revealed to us that the person responsible for the murder of a young boy at the beginning of the series was a member of that close community.  

As part of the eulogy during the boy’s funeral, the vicar relayed to the small island community the message that God loves every one of us, and he talked about how God demonstrated this by sending His only son to pay the price for our sin. He said that we should forgive others as God has forgiven us, and even though forgiveness seems impossible in these circumstances we owe it to God to at least try. The final scene was set on the cliff top, above the beach where the boy’s body had been found, and the mother of the boy, surrounded by family and friends, lit a bonfire as a final farewell to her son. We were left with an image that was not one of tragedy, but one of hope, when householders along the shore line lit bonfires in succession, as a declaration of support for the family.

In the same week as this episode was shown, a second illustration to underline the message of God’s love came via an email. It had been sent as a round robin throughout Scarborough, North Yorkshire, as a response to the fatal stabbing of a teenage boy the previous weekend, the outcome of an alleged pre-organised fight. Nine teenagers had been taken in for questioning in connection with this. The email was sent in the wake of the aftermath, and offered a common place for people to gather to focus prayers of healing and peace for the victim’s family, friends of the murdered teenager, and also to pray for the young people involved. It was an open invitation to the whole town to come along and light a candle on the beach from a set time, near the place where the murder had occurred.

This simple act of lighting a candle (or a bonfire) as an act of prayer can serve as a reassurance of God’s presence in our times of trial. We do need be aware however that God is not responsible for the evil that happens in the world, and that he is there with us to help pick up the pieces when its consequence affects us. This is proven time and again through those He chooses to send as angels in our moments of need. In the two examples here, the angels were in the form of the fictitious vicar (via the writer of the drama series), and the sender of the email.  Both events portrayed hope, fictional and factual, through the action of one person who utilised an opportunity to instigate an idea. An idea that helped to bring a community together through an act of prayer, mutual support, and provide a way forward towards healing and, perhaps eventually, forgiveness. 

Psalm 147 verse 3 tells us that God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. But God also wants to save us from ourselves and therefore in Colossians 3:13 we are told to ‘bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ (NIV) Sometimes, that means forgiving ourselves too.

Seeking revenge should never be an option

© Julie Fairweather

They think it’s all over

I didn’t actually give anything up for Lent this Easter to show how serious I am about my faith – apart from writing on this blog (though as I have been too busy to even think about that, giving it up for six weeks counts more as a blessing than a hardship).

One thing I have done is work through the Gospel of Luke via Lent for Everyone by Tom Wright, which doesn’t finish until this Easter Saturday. I found it quite challenging facing The Passion, as I read the scriptures and the reflections each day, to look honestly at my behaviour in relation to my faith, and how I show Jesus to the world through that. Imagining myself as one of the disciples, or one of the crowd, in the situations portrayed in the book (as suggested by Wright) gave me a new insight into how God understands everything we go through, in real-life terms, because of what he did for us through Jesus Christ on the cross.

The whole experience has enabled me to link it in to current situations in my own life, especially decision making and choices as reactions to personal events, and how these relate to the story and the scriptures.

I have become closer to God this Lenten period and throughout Easter, knowing that he understands everything I am feeling at any given time or situation, because He has already experienced everything I have faced, am facing, or will ever have to face.

There was a beautiful explanation in the book about the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven. Put simply it is this: that Jesus goes up (to Heaven), the power (Holy Spirit) comes down, the kingdom (God’s) gets going.

God’s kingdom is about God running the world in a whole new way. We as Christians can’t just tell people about Jesus so they come to faith, we need to be receptive to the presence and the power of God so that we can be the ones through whom God’s kingdom comes.

‘There is an old Christian tradition that God sends each person into the word with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow.’ (John Powell, Through the Season of the Heart).

I pray that many more people have found themselves in God’s presence and power this Easter, and are ready to deliver their own special message to the world, for the coming of the kingdom.


Christmas Blessings

After my last blog bemoaning my agony at Christmas because of estranged family relationships, I feel honour-bound to counteract it in part.  I am taking the act of counting my blessings more seriously to turn the negative aspects of my Christmas expectations into positivity, by simply saying that through an act of kindness shown to me by a friend I have my mojo back.  Having someone rooting my corner at Christmas makes all the difference.  And the best thing is this friend isn’t just for Christmas.  Having a friend in my life who is there when I’m down and there when I’m not down is the one constant that I can depend on.

You’re probably thinking I’m talking about Jesus and, in one way, I am.  This type of friend is a great example of how a Christian should behave.  She imitates the love of Jesus through her compassion, empathy, her kind and caring ways, and her willingness to help with anything, no matter what, without judgement of me or others.  I think we can all learn something worthwhile from that kind of behaviour.

Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest examples of how to show the love of Jesus Christ to others.  In one of his many speeches he said:  “(we are) born to make manifest the glory of God within us because by doing so we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (based on an idea from ‘A Return to Love: Reflection on the Principles of A Course in Miracles’ by Marianne Williamson 1992).

I’m enjoying reading a children’s book at the moment by Jostein Gaarder called The Christmas Mystery that manages to capture the history of Christianity in simple terms.  It’s about a magic Advent calendar that tells how the story of Jesus was spread throughout the world.

A young boy called Jochaim tells the story in the present day, through the writings contained behind each day’s window of the old calendar.  His story is about a young girl called Elisabet who travels back in time to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.  The picture in each window portrays a character who joins the pilgrimage through the writings that day.  Every day, after each window is opened and the story progresses, Jochaim discovers the whole picture has changed – as he learns more about the mysterious stranger who made the calendar and of a young girl who went missing on Christmas Eve 40 years ago.

It’s an interesting narrative technique and the story contains many thought-provoking analogies to the Bible’s relevance in today’s real-life terms.  I am discovering some amazing insights into my own faith that I never thought about before.   The book has taken me on a personal Advent journey of rediscovery…  through the eyes of my child-self.   An added bonus is that the Advent calendar’s images bring back a happy childhood memory for me that I’d almost forgotten about. Clever stuff eh? There is so much in it to discover.  (If you know me personally and want to borrow my copy after the last window’s been opened – 24th December – please let me know via a comment on this post.)

A taster example: the wording at the onset of Day 17’s window… “many things have been done in the name of Jesus that Heaven is not very happy about…” (sound familiar?).  And the final paragraph ends that day’s adventure with Joachim saying to his parents:  “A Good Samaritan should have come to help them. Jesus wanted to teach people to help one another when any of them needed it.  For peace is the message of Christmas.”

It was this message that reminded me of the friend I spoke about earlier and encouraged me to count my blessings rather than dwell on things in my life that I (and Heaven) am not very happy about.  I aim to be more like my friend to others by being an imitation of Jesus through my actions… and thoughts too – because it’s thoughts that can drag us down sometimes and Satan really knows which buttons to push to test our faith once we’re down there.

To say I’ve been inspired by things I’ve come into contact with since my last blog is an understatement when I compare where I am now with where I was then.  I’m really focussed on Jesus and prepared for Christmas.  I’ve even bought a Christmas tree!

Just one thing remains for me to say and that is:  May you all have the kind of Christmas you’re hoping for.

Come Lord Jesus, come. 

The world is waiting for a love like yours.


Are you ready for Christmas yet?

We’re barely into December and already I keep being asked if I’m ‘ready for Christmas?’  I simply smile and, instead of saying what’s really on my mind, respond in the usual way with ‘oh I expect I’ll get caught up in the atmosphere soon enough.’  It’s because I don’t want to put a dampener on anyone’s Christmas preparations that I don’t come right out with it and say Christmas can make people miserable.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world and it is more common than we think to feel like an outsider looking in at Christmas – sometimes within your own family.  It’s probably because the commercial aspect of Christmas highlights the family unit as paramount at this time of year.  As a friend of mine once said, ‘For some, Christmas is a painful time of looking round the family table and being aware of absences, of looking back and remembering happier times.’ (Rev. Geoff Bowell, Scarborough Christian Fellowship).  These absences are not always due to death of loved ones either. They can be attributed to other loss, such as unemployment, homelessness, family estrangement – sometimes of many years duration.  The latter of these is true for me.

I make no apology for baring my soul here because, at the same time, I am hopeful for a solution.  My words are the silent prayers of my heart.  A personal prayer that maybe this year my brother will respond to the Christmas card I send him – thus bringing an end to years of bitter separation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the build up to Christmas. The buzz of shoppers, carols in the town centre, reindeer parading around Alma Square, buskers rocking round the Christmas trees spreading merriment.  I love the church activities, being part of a church family, meditating the Advent labyrinth, and waiting… for the comfort and joy that celebrating Christ’s birth means.  I hope that one Christmas Day I’ll awake to choirs of angels, surrounded in bright light, singing a chorus in celebration of the second coming of Christ.

Yet I’m also waiting in hope for my prayer to be answered…

I accept God’s love through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and believe that healing through forgiveness of wrongs (past and present) is a real possibility… for all. I rely on this truth to ensure that Christmas for me is a time to appreciate what I have and not dwell too much on what I don’t have.  I remain grateful for unexpected moments of joy and small acts of kindness that I encounter, which encourages a choir of angels to sing in my heart every day of the year.

I’d like to invite you to pause between your preparations during the Christmas season – when we are often so busy that, when we do find time to talk to God, as soon as we say ‘Amen’ we rush off to the next thing and don’t give God the chance to respond.  Yet, in the smallest gap, God is waiting.  He longs for us to hear His voice in that space.

At the end of this prayer there is no ‘Amen’.  Simply sit in silence and talk to God from your heart… and listen for his voice in the stillness.

Waiting for God

Dear God,

help me to find a silent space.

I say ‘amen’.  Then I think again,
and instead of rushing away
to fill my day with this and that,
I stop. I sit. I wait. I stay
to listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of my life’s busy, noisy clock,
and your voice fills the silent space.

Dear God,

help me to be still in the silent space.

I don’t say ‘amen’. I start again
because I don’t want to rush away
to fill my day with this and that.
I want to stop. To sit. To wait. To stay
and listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of my life’s busy, noisy clock,
as your voice fills my silent space.

Dear God, help me to listen in the silent space.

Dear God, help me to hear you in sacred silent spaces.


(PS.  I have to ask… are you ready for Christmas yet?)


All text © Julie M. Fairweather 2012 – unless otherwise stated

Big Issue

Some personal thoughts on forgiveness…

 It’s the toughest thing for humans to put into practice.

What if a person had only asked God for forgiveness at the point of their death?  Do you think they will be repenting of their sins after death, one by one, as the feathers are plucked out of their tar?

And what if God asked us – right here, right now – to count up all the feathers in our own tar?  Do you think it would take us an eternity?

 Chosen by Christ               

When You said that you chose me, I knew that it was true.  For only You could have met me here – in this place.  This place where You look upon me and see me as I am, warts and all.  Yet still You write my name in the palm of Your hand, still You choose me.

And You smile at me in this place, here and now, where I am so overwhelmed by Your mercy that all I can do is kneel before Your throne of grace, until my face touches the ground.

I pray and I wait in the sacred silence of Your unconditional embrace, that invites me to remain in Your love.  I know that when it is time You will prepare the way for me.  The way You planned for me before I was born.

(adapted from a published prayer by JMF 2012)

God, who shows you his kindness and who has called you through Christ Jesus to his eternal glory, will restore you, strengthen you, make you strong, and support you as you suffer for a little while (1 Peter 5 v 10.)   

(© 1995 God’s Word to the Nations)

 And finally…

Imagine God holding a set of scales.  One side is full of unconditional love and the other, unconditional forgiveness.  Both weigh the same and are balanced as separate things.  Bringing them together as a whole is what God means about forgiveness.  It is not just used as a measure for His forgiveness and unconditional love for us; it is also about us forgiving others, others forgiving us and us forgiving ourselves too.


It’s the toughest thing for humans to put into practice.

All text © Julie M. Fairweather 2012 – unless otherwise stated