Saturday, 28 August 2010


We know that many people suffer from depression, but I suspect we've all got different ideas about what that means.... you've shared in previous blogs that you have suffered at different levels with this for a lot of years, what does it look like in general terms?
Its not just feeling a little bit fed up, or being a little bit sad. A lot of people think you have to be a really pessimistic person, but I don't reckon that's true. I would say I am pretty hopeful and optimistic, but struggle with depression. Similarly, you don't have to be crying all the time to be depressed (I thought this for ages). In fact, far from these negative feelings, for me one of the effects is for feelings to be suppressed to the point where they don't appear to be there. It has very real effects on my everyday life.

So, suffering from depression is not the same as being depressed about something - which I guess we all are from time to time?
That's right - it's a common misunderstanding - it can be frustrating, because people think that they just need to cheer you up, or distract you from the thing that is 'making you depressed' or to solve that specific problem for you. And when that doesn't work they become frustrated and expect you to 'snap out of it', 'get over it', 'put it behind you'.... But depression is not being depressed about an 'it'! It isn't simply being deeply sad about one area of life, it pervades life itself - even if there are specific underlying issues that trigger it.

Is it consistent, or do the effects have peaks and troughs?
Yes, it has peaks and troughs, though being on medication for it has helped level these out a bit, and dealing with some of the root causes of my depression is also helping lots.

So, when it's bad, what does that do at a practical level? Talk us through the nitty gritty.
There have been times when even doing the littlest tasks has been exhausting, with my brain working so slowly, it takes a lot more effort to manage to do anything needing thought and processing. It feels a bit like I am in a bubble and the world is moving a lot faster, I can't keep up. When I am very depressed conversations with people asking questions are very tiring, its not that I don't like people, its just that the effort to concentrate is a lot more. If people ask me questions or give me choices it is very difficult for me to respond, and takes me a lot longer to do. It is frustrating being unable to think. Sleep also becomes difficult, for me I often sleep very little when I am more depressed, taking a long time to get off to sleep in the night and then not sleeping when I wake up even though I am really tired. Most of the day then is not fun and a bit surreal. My relationships also become very hard work, as I mentioned, my feelings become numb and I feel very robotic. This extends to feelings for my husband and kids, which in the past has made me think I am very uncaring and not loving, and made me feel I am a bad mother and wife.

Because of the lack of understanding, I guess there are a number of ways people respond, tell us about that.
Yeah have had a few different responses myself, shall talk about three;
The dismissing it, 'you just got to get on with it' response
It kind of says, you haven't got a problem, it's just you. It adds to the guilt already felt (see above!) and makes me feel worse about myself and that I haven't been able to solve the problem.
The fix it all response
The person feels they need to provide an immediate solution to the problem; 'you could do this or that, this would help'. People are caring, and trying to help, but this approach takes away from me being a person who can choose a path to take. It subtley says to me that others know better, that I am an incapable.
The let me do everything for you, you are so inadequate and incapacitated response
Takes away from me being a unique person with a brain, and value, and choice; makes me feel helpless, hopeless, a victim...

What practical things have helped your depression?
  • People looking after my kids for little periods of the day. Learning to take time out. My husband looking after the kids for a week while I had a break.
  • For me going on medication while I try and work at the roots has really helped - it has provided the stability needed to face and deal with some of the underlying issues.
  • My husband understanding how it works for me and not suddenly panicking when I have a bit of a blip. (thinking everything is awful and that I need to be helped with everything because I am incapable of anything.)
  • You and Janet have helped me a lot by being a safe place to go and just sit without having to think or answer lots of questions, or allowing me to just have a quick sleep while you look after my 2 little ones. 
  • It is also really hard when people start to get frustrated and annoyed at me not responding to them in the timescale they are wanting. So people giving me more time to reply and not hassling me for an answer but just being caring and patient has really helped. Although I struggle to make choices when I am depressed I find it far harder if people decide and dictate what I am doing - it really doesn't help my depression!

The Wall
Tears welling up with nowhere to flow,
Trapped, held, shut off.
Hurt not expressed, twisting my insides,
Smiling, well rehearsed.
A mask,
Pain buried,
longing for truth;
bringing hope.

When I start to take a dive,
the battery dead and my head seems like lead,
you’ve shown me I need to give myself grace
And allow myself time to recover and rest.
For before I was listening to things that weren’t good,
that just overwhelmed me and worsened the flood.
And as my mind slowed, and I’d struggle to act
I’d call myself lazy, and daft, and a prat.
As if I could somehow, beat myself up
And that would improve things and waken me up.

But the more that I tore blocks off myself,
the more unconscious I got, and the less things I felt.
And the more that I forced myself to do things
the harder it got and the more I was drained.

But now I am learning to live my life free
from the hurt and abuse that has so plagued me.
Free from the torment, condemnation and shame
that has held me so tight and added to pain.
So now if I have crashed because I am drained,
I give myself time till my strength is regained.
I don’t feel condemned when I can’t do it all,
for I need to care for myself through this fall.

And when my head slows and I can’t work at speed,
I don’t think a kick up the butt's all I need.
And I don’t think I’m lazy and try all the more
as it only exhausts and punishes me more.
And if it is early and I need my bed,
I just think that's ok and off there I head.

For I am a child, of a father of love
and he says that I am free from “have”
have to be this, must think this too,
beaten by things that I should be or do.
He knows my wounds are inside and though unseen,
like physical injuries they need time to heal.
So he says to me it is ok to rest,
to take time to recover, for he wants the best.

Inside, deep down, I know what I need.
And that the world and its labels I must not heed
For there is a small voice quietly speaking
Guiding my path past the voices condemning -
voices that say lazy, mad, stupid, emotional.
But the quiet voice speaks out truth
against these weapons that hold me down
Telling me that these are lies that I’m hearing loud
So If rest is needed, rest it shall be
And if space is required I shall take it freely

I was a Butterfly not flying free
The walls to protect, a prison to me
The foundation of fear, the walls of control
kept me in chains that had a strong hold
But the beauty was there, just hidden from view
Behind walls I had built from the harm done by you.
And that beauty you see cannot be kept in
though submerged in the darkness no colour is seen
For The love of the father is stronger than fear
And black turns to colour when light rays appear

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Catherine away at Ele's wedding, two of our daughter's married, son about to go to uni - made me think about this whole process of moving on from home in a healthy way.

Love, Paul writes, 'is not possessive', Genesis tells us that we should 'leave our parents and cleave to our partner'. Sounds like the mirror image of the same thing. Parents need to let go, children need to leave (may talk about cleaving in a future blog!).

Whole lot easier said than done! What does letting go involve - does it mean we can't give advice, that we no longer care? What does leaving mean? Setting aside years of relationship, long held values, abandonment?

I'm guessing - hoping, that 'no' is the answer to those questions!

I think as a parent, it's a gradual process. We start out having to do everything for our children; feed them, change them, provide for all their needs. As they grow, we set the boundaries, we don't negotiate - not because we don't respect or love, but because actually, amazingly, we do know best! But as they develop the ability to make choices, so, if we are wise, we begin to include them in some of the decisions. Of course the reality is that this means there will be times when our will is not always done! As time goes on we train our children in the skills that will enable them to live independently from us. Washing, cooking, buying, working, decision making, communicating, loving. And all through their time with us we model and explicitly discuss the values that underpin our lifestyle. Of course, the closer they get to being capable of independence, the more they will want to exercise it. Sometimes that will be painful. Waiting up for them when they are out later than you would like, with people you are not sure of...Often it will be a joy as you learn to interact with someone who will always be your 'child' but who is now also your peer.

Then comes that moment dreaded by so many parents. The day they leave for college, marriage, life outside the nest! Of course there is poignancy in the moment, but it should surely be characterised by joy! Isn't this why you had children? To see them independently walking into the world of adventure that is adult life - not to fulfil our own emotional needs? Now is the time to humbly offer wise advice - when it is requested. Now is the time to refrain from questioning, from judging, from attempting to continue to impose your values, your ways. Now is the time to take joy from every hesitant independent step - just as you did when they learned to walk! Not to be ever present, stopping them from falling, from learning, from living.

And children. You need to leave. Not just physically (sometimes not even physically), but from under authority, seperate from the emotional and spiritual umbilical cord that will otherwise restrict you to your parents. They are still your parents. They still love you, they still want the best for you. You can still talk to them, still have fun with them. But, whisper it, you don't have to fulfill their expectations any more. You are living your own life, not theirs through you. When they say 'I wouldn't do that' you should learn to say graciously 'I know'. When they seek to impose some boundary that 'is for your own good' you need to gently point out that you are an adult now, ready to take the consequences of your actions and growing in confidence of making good choices - or at least not expecting others to pick up the pieces if not! By word and deed, you must leave...

If all that sounds fraught and angst ridden - it doesn't have to be! It can and should be joyful - even in the midst of the inevitable 'ouch' moments! A time to celebrate parents - you did it, you got them to adulthood! A time to celebrate young adults - you survived your parents! Now you can build on that relationship, mutually supportive friends, encouraging and enjoying one another, supporting in the unique ways possible because of the years of proven love and understanding.

Release one another; physically, emotionally, spiritually - from our authority. Let go. It's what God does, it's what love does.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Ele's Wedding (Catherine on the right)
I want to be weaker. Weird thing to say I know, most people want to be better, stronger, faster :)

Most of the problems I currently have result from me trying to be strong. I actually use energy fighting God who is trying to work in and through me.  I have learnt to deal with things by putting on a mask of strength, building walls of control to keep on going. Avoiding things if they hurt. Trying hard to hold things in. Controlling breathing, closing my eyes, shutting things out to stop tears from flowing. Problem is these coping strategies also stop God from working, and stop me from being!

God says that his power is made perfect in weakness, in truth, the strong dam walls that I have built need to break, they are better off not being there, for then there is freedom, streams flowing without hindrance.

But how? Knowing the truth doesn't of itself set us free - it's living it that counts. Here's what I'm learning...

Weakness isn't dismissing things as not mattering, pretending things weren't bad, keeping up the mask, minimising things, ignoring things. This is just another form of control, controlling the situation to cope with it, and I have done that stuff superbly well most of my life. I'm slowly relearning it is ok to be 'weak', it is ok to be real, it is ok to open up my heart, it is ok to switch off my head and just be.

It's also not, being a doormat, allowing other people to dictate what we do in our lives, or allowing them and their expectations to define who we are. That can be scary. I've begun the process of rediscovering who I am, what my preferences are, what I enjoy doing, who at heart I really am and who I'm called to be. That can be pretty difficult for those around as they adjust to the new me - but it's also life giving - hard to love others as you love yourself if you don't know the self you are supposed to love...

Ultimately, I reckon true weakness is having no barriers between us and God. Weakness like that is simply us being vulnerable to a wholly good and loving God. It means being honest with him, allowing him into all areas, submitting our will to his ways allowing Him to work in and through us in his power and strength.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Results day. Day of reckoning. Years of work in the balance. No pressure then. What you really need is a calm drive into the school with something to distract you. Ok, put the radio on. 5 Live - sports news, should be fine.

Except the '5 live' bit is an interview with five students opening their results on-air. Not so distracting then. Never mind, let's just get there and get them then.

Now, what is that blue Subaru Imprezza doing in my lane? About 50mph is the answer. Never mind, he'll obviously pull back into his lane in a moment. Won't he? That'll be a no then.

I think wing mirrors and drivers doors are much over-rated. And the gouge all down the side of the car could be a 'go faster' stripe.

So, that's the distraction sorted then.

Finally at the school. I'll make some car related calls whilst you get your results... Oh, you're back already, can't tell anything from your face... But I can from the sheet of paper thrust under my nose...

Well done. Fantastic result. Perspective restored. In the words of my wise wife 'the car's just metal'.

In that well known philosophical book ('hithchikers guide to the galaxy') they have a device called the 'total perspective vortex'. It was invented by a man who was fed up with his wife telling him to 'get a perspective'. Anyone who entered the device was forced to look into the enormity of the universe and see their utter and complete insignificance. As the man said 'she wants perspective, I'll give her perspective'. King David put it slightly differently. 'O Lord my God, when I consider the work of your hands... what is man that you should even give him a thought....'

What's really important to you? What about the desert island test - you have 5 things you can take. What would they be? Or the martyr test. What would you die for - who would you die for?  That's who you are. Not the image you present, nor the person you long to be known as.

Here's perspective. In the light of eternity one thing matters. Have you been transformed by the love of Christ?

Great result, but it isn't A levels that ultimately define us. Nor the shiny new car, with or without go-faster stripes.

Catherine is on holiday - her sister gets married on Friday, I'm guessing if they have perspective, they won't be reading this blog - but just in case - have a great day!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


The Olive, pitted, anchovy filled, pimento pepper filled, stone in, marinaded in garlic, etc etc. In my mind none of the jazzing up can take away from the fact that they are deceptive grapes. Deceptive because I reckon they look like sweet fruit, and then you bite into them and euuuggghh, the olive taste hits you. It is one of the few foods I really don't eat.

Often things which are subtley different can take us off path in our faith. Things which have the appearance of something good actually are not. Olives are wolves in sheeps clothing. Deceptive grapes. Beware, often what looks like good is the enemy of the best.

Well, of course it is true that looks can be deceptive and for sure doing good instead of best is a common mistake. But olives? They are wonderful! They make the best oil ever, eating them makes you live till at least 120 and they taste great!

Sometimes it's not the item that is the problem, it's our perception. Sometimes we need to realign our taste... I reckon that's how the world works - it has molded us into ways of thinking about right and wrong so that now when we see what is really good, we see it as bad. Olives aren't bad - they're not deceptive grapes, they're just not designed to be sweet, they're designed to taste like, well, olives!

That said, I still think there are things that have the look of being good, but actually are tasteless or worse. For example:

The attractive, grape like fallacy that says the bigger the better that actually turns out to be an olive, sucking all energy into maintaining the engine of the organisation. Or the idea that we need 'quality time' with our kids, our partner, our God - meaning we don't have to spend lots of time with them. Or at a global level, the idea that we should have more and more, because then we would have extra to give to those who have less...


Fair points, still can't get the picture of olives as wolves in sheep's clothing out of my mind though... and to be honest I'm still concerned that we shy away from the 'mature' flavours of perseverance, self-denial, integrity and love and run to the seemingly sweet fruit on offer in the world; being economical with the truth, promiscuity, greed...

Actually I found the bit David wrote rather funny; reckon my view on olives is so entrenched that its going to take a lot of realigning of my taste though... maybe we need help from others to persist in getting us to realign our taste buds.... honest accountability maybe?

And maybe some of my pet likes that others find tasteless are actually tasteless or even poisonous - maybe I have it wrong - again, we need one another, iron sharpening iron - allowing God to define what is true and right.

Probably, it means deliberately inviting people with contrary views into our lives rather than surrounding ourselves with like-minded people. Then we can all benefit from thinking allowed...

Olive anyone?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The One About Gardening

...are the cause of me being on here!  I was chatting with David about blogs and worms on the Facebook (it was more interesting than it sounds - you had to be there), and replied to a question he had asked. Unfortunately the reply got delayed in cyberspace by a minute or two, and it looked like I had replied 'yes' to an entirely different question about me actually writing blogs!! So now it's payback on worms.

Worms if I am honest are slimy and a bit ugly,  but the work they do is incredible. They turn rubbish and waste back into something good in the soil, which then helps plants to grow and fruit. So I want to defend the humble worm (and use them to watch people scream when you hold one too close). Worms are not miserable! Like people! Some appear a bit ugly on the outside - the way they look, the way they speak, their behaviour... But if you press past the differences, the things that make you squirm, feel uncomfortable, or even a little scared, you realise that like real worms, they are a much greater blessing than you ever thought possible.

I've been helping a friend with her allotment - this year was the first it had been planted on. The soil is clayey and stony, a pain to dig. I did manage to plant some potatoes and some grew, but not as many as if the soil had been tended for years, was nicely broken down, and had had some of the stones taken out. Would love a short cut! Which is where weeds come in. Even weeds are good on the allotment - their roots can help to break up the soil and displace stones to the surface. Of course, once you have produce in the ground they are a pain and hinder growth, but when they are pulled up and composted, growth is helped.  You do need to do it early though, weeds are easier to pull up when just starting to grow. After a while they become established, their roots get deeper and bigger, and hands are not enough, a fork is needed. And if they are left too long, they can seed, causing more and more weeds to develop.

So I think weeds, like worms can be like us. Sometimes people we regard as weeds - out of place, unattractive - are used by God to break up things in our lives, to make us ready to bear fruit, to sift the stones. Sometimes problems or sin in our lives can be like weeds - the earlier they are identified and uprooted the easier. Conversely if it isn't dealt with early, more and more problems are created.

Was thinking about David's tomato plants, they really were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They even tried a kamikaze move off the window sill to escape, and now they have been transported to the depths of the brown recycling bin! They didn't really produce flowers, never mind fruit. They were in a room which got too hot, in pots which dried out and were too small for their roots, and didn't have the right things around them in terms of big enough sticks to hold them up, and they didn't have the sideshoots removed. Although the plants were watered, and fed, this really didn't help them much, because they needed more than that to grow properly, and to fruit.

Reckon we can go and be fed, and watered, but not really grow because other things are needed. We can be doing things which just aren't what God wants us to do (in the wrong place – in the tomato's case the conservatory being slowly baked when the sun shone, rather than outside) and so growth and fruiting is hampered or stopped. Small pots stopped the roots developing properly.

It's much easier to keep things the same, not to step out into the larger pot, but this constricts our roots and  growth. The roots become trapped in the pot, and start to strangle the food supply to the plant, and the growth gets less and less. Change is always a challenge. Even when we get planted into the bigger pot, like a  plant we can struggle for a little whilst the roots fill the larger space. But if we refuse to be in the right place, if we refuse the change, we risk ending up fruitless.

Are you in the right place, are you scared of worms, annoyed with weeds? Is God calling you to change?

In the beginning we were placed in a garden. Let's do what it takes to work together to bear fruit!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Live Event - Kingdom vs Church?

We had a great time at the inaugural 'live event' - thanks to those of you who were able to come and make it such a good time!

Here's a brief summary of where we got to - let's keep the debate going - and more importantly, let's do something about it!

Jesus kept talking about the Kingdom - that it was close, that it was coming, that it was good news. We decided that a kingdom was where the rule of a king was in place and that the Kingdom of God was good news because that meant the best King, the King with our interests at heart, would be ruling individually and collectively. It would mean justice, equality, an end to oppression, the reversal of all that the fall brought. We felt this was much bigger than the 'good news' we often hear - more than simple forgiveness, absence of guilt, cleansing from sin - wonderful though these are.

We recognised too that this kingdom was not yet in place - the rule of the king is not complete in any individual and therefore not in us collectively. Hence the prayer 'your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. Jesus taught that the infiltration of the kingdom would start small and slowly, that change might appear imperceptible, but that it was unstoppable evne when all the power of the enemy was ranged against it.

We saw a picture of this new kingdom through King David visiting villages (riding on a donkey), people preparing for his arrival, and his presence with them transofrming their lives.

If the kingdom is the rule of the king, what does the king command? That we should love and be loved by God, love ourselves and love each other with this same love. Church is simply any group of people with a common purpose- kingdom church would therefore be any group of people with the love of God as their common purpose. In short, church would then be the means by which we are encouraged to be kingdom individually and which models kingdom publicly. 'By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another'

This might sound simple, but has profound implications. Gathering together on a sunday might then be church - but it might simply be gathering together on a sunday. Having a BBQ with friends where you encourage and support one another in the love of God would be church. If there were people at the BBQ who didn't yet know God's love, all the better.

This definition of church pointed much more to genuine community than to institution, organisation or event. But this is counter-cultural (for us in the west). The reality is that material stuff makes us independent, we have everything we need, we lose the need for others, we impoverish relationship. In our culture we ring ahead to see if we can visit - it's often planned weeks in advance. But our need for each other, for community doesn't work like that. I might need to share something, want to point something out now, not in a weeks time... Yet spontenaity requires us to relax! To be more relaxed that people might see us at less than our best, might see our homes when they are messy, might encounter us as we are finsihing a row....

So how might this church work? Shared meals, shared possessions, shared, or at least open, homes even. What if we spent less time tidying, less time working, less time in the 'production' of church? We'd have fewer things, but would have more time for relationship.

Of course, size may limit this, you can't have very close relationships with lots of people, Jesus had 12 disciples, 3 close friends, one best mate.... Yet he also had a wide circle of friends - 500 by the time of his ascension and an even bigger group who would have said they knew him. Does this provide us with a model?

The reality is that if our group with common purpose becomes too big we end up closing off doors to newcomers and become a clique. We become stale, or institutional going to ever bigger buildings allowing more of the group to be consumers of 'church' rather than participants in family.

In such institutional church the focus can become on keeping the machine of the organisation going, with more and more volunteers needed to service the engine. It can lead to burn out of individuals, and to becoming less outward focussed for the whole because all the energy is going into the machine.

Whilst we all said that we enjoyed the big celebration event, that we needed somewhere to 'fill up' each week we wondered whether there is another way: living as light and encouragement to each other in the weekso that 'church' is a constant experience. We realised that this would be costly - no more pulling up the drawbridge, much less focus on what we have, much more openess about who we are, who we relate to and what we own. Church is no longer something that happens to us or which we assist in running. It is about us getting serious about obeying the King when he tells us to love God, love ourselves and love each other. It means we do what he inspired the writer of Hebrews to say 'Don't neglect meeting with one another...' - but not interpreting this as once on a sunday if there is no better offer, but as a constant invitation to be family.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Thinking allowed live event - tonight

All through the gospels Jesus declares the good news as ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’. He didn’t say that he was the good news, nor did he say that church was the good news - in fact, he talks about church only once. Yet down the years, it seems Christians put most of their time, energy & resources into this thing called church. Getting the structure ‘right’, servicing the organisation with roles, running a thousand and one ‘ministries’ inside it. Evangelism – telling & being the good news has degenerated into persuading people to come to church, to join the Christian rat-race.

What is the role of church? Is it the means by which the kingdom is established or the means by which it is made visible? What should it be really like? Where should it be? How should we live?

Thinking Allowed Live Event - tonight

Monday, 9 August 2010


It's a busy season at school. The roles are being handed out for the school play, winners are being selected for the various class awards and teams are being picked for the sports festival. Of course it goes further than that - who will be prefects, head boy, head girl. Who will be the boy that gets to dance with her. Nor does it end the day you leave school; who will choose me for life, will I get chosen for that job, will my potential be seen for that promotion?

For every role, every opportunity, there is an associated set of criteria; suitable, not suitable, tick, cross, yes, no, chosen, not chosen. We know how it works and it isn't always fair. Hard enough to cope with not being chosen when it's clear that someone else was better qualified. Harder when there's a niggling suspicion that favouritism or money swayed the day.

But what about in history, His-story? Some pretty big roles out there, what about those, what were the criteria, who got chosen?

Role: Church Planter
Location: Rome, heart of the world's only super-power
Criteria: Faith-full, well educated, socially adept, proven political operator, religous leader
Candidates: Peter (uncouth fisherman from the backwaters) or John (temperemental 'son of thunder')

We know the story. Somehow the criteria get bypassed. In God's kingdom, even when the uncouth fishermen tops this with violence, lies and denial, somehow God sees something that qualifies him. (John by the way gets a job that must have seemed equally unlikely - whilst the others were pioneering new ministries, he gets to look after Jesus' mum....)

So what about this one. A bride for God's only son. What does he deserve, who will God choose? Time to look in the mirror. He knows all the flaws that you know about, as well as the ones you haven't yet discovered. He knows those things that you see as disqualifications.

I can picture it now. A team of angels with clipboards and questionaires, analysing the candidates. As they look at each there's one or two ticks, but mostly crosses. They go back to God, sadly shaking their heads, apologetic that no suitable bride has been found. God looks puzzled for a moment and points at you. 'Haven't you seen xxxxxx?' There's a rustling of paper whilst the angel finds your score sheet and hands it to God with a gentle, forlorn shake of the head. God looks at the paper then laughs, tears it to shreds and says 'I choose because I love!' And that's it.

You are chosen.

Friday, 6 August 2010


I've been thinking about hope recently. Simon is in the Philippines, writing a blog about the team's experiences. Time and again they come across situations, poverty, injustice which threaten to break your heart. Catherine's last blog described a situation which many find hope-less - it is too big to deal with and leads to denial or other forms of defeat. Faced with difficulties, others seek to minimise the consequences - we've all got problems, you've just got to pull yourself together and get on with life.

I don't believe these are Godly responses to that which the enemy has done. They concede ground to him, they believe the lie that he shouts: 'I am stronger, God is dead, there is no hope'.

I believe there is hope - for everyone and every circumstance, no matter how humanly 'hopeless'. I believe it because in the darkest hours of easter there is the promise of Sunday morning. I believe it because in the depths of despair there is the cry of a baby....

Extract 22 from 'Mary's Diary'
At last, a moment to write! What a night! From pain and shame and despair to extraordinary joy. It seemed like he would never be born, couldn't be born, him too big, me too small. All that pain, seeming to go on forever, forgetting what normal was like. Just like these last months. More and more rejection, more and more pain - almost losing hope that I could ever have joy again. But here he is, joy to the world, the Lord is here. Jesus is here. God is with us.

Hope and my son were born tonight.

.... what situations are you facing right now that drain hope and leave despair? Illness? Bereavement? Children leaving home? Finances? Mid-life crisis? The past? Can I encourage you to listen with me for the cry of the child who is Emmanuel? There is hope. Believe it, reach out for his hand, let him lead you from despair to joy.