Something lovely for the weekend: It is well

 

In 1873 Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna planned a family trip to Europe. They had tickets to sail from Chicago on the SS Ville du Harve. Horatio was detained on business at the last minute and so his wife and 4 daughter sailed alone with a plan that he would follow.

Part way across the Atlantic ocean the SS Ville du Harve was in a collision with an iron hulled ship and it sunk in fifteen short minutes. Two hundred and twenty six lives were lost including the lives of Spafford’s 4 daughters; eleven-year-old Tanetta, nine-year-old Elizabeth “Bessie”, five-year-old Margaret Lee, and two-year-old Anna “Annie”.

When the survivors reached Europe Anna Spafford telegraphed her husband, “Saved alone. What shall I do? “

Spafford left Chicago and sailed to Europe to meet her. The story is that as his ship passed close to the place where the girls had died Spafford wrote the words of a hymn, “It is well with my soul”,

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,a

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I wear a little piece of this wonderful hymn on a chain around my neck because I have come to know that it really is possible in every circumstance of life to find a quiet and certain place within, where it is possible to say it is well. Despite outward circumstances and enemies, troubling thoughts or chaotic emotions there is a still place in the turning world and an inner certainty that God is love and all will be well.

itiswell

By the time he wrote the hymn Spafford had already known troubles. A wealthy business man and well known Christian philanthropist he supported the mission work of the great revivalist preacher Dwight Moody. Spafford had lost all his property and investments in the Great Chicago fire of 1870. Prior to this he and his wife had lost a dearly loved small son to scarlet fever. Spafford was to experience further trials when Christian brothers and sisters from his own church denomination pressured him that his suffering and losses were punishment for some sin in his own life.

Eventually Spafford and his family left America to do pioneering work in the Middle East amongst communities from opposing faith backgrounds. They lived with other Christians in community in Jerusalem and provided food, shelter and education for the poor regardless of their religious background. Their work was famously fictionalised by Nobel prize winning writer Selma Langerlof and the continues today through the outreach projects run by the Spafford Children’s Centre.

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Four cups of tea and an omer of manna

teapot

Not everyone can start each day bright eyed and bushy tailed, a good breakfast, shower, teeth, shoes shined, out the door, on time. Some of us only really start to breath after the third cup of tea or a mug of stove top coffee so strong you could put it in the fuel tank and drive the car to work on it. Some of us hung the clean white ironed shirt on the back of the door before we laid ourselves down to sleep. But some of us will still be hopping round the bedroom searching for the other matching sock when all the front doors on the street have slammed shut and the cars have pulled off their drives and begun the compute. We know for sure we’re late again and throughout the brain fog we wonder if there’s a better way to start the day than digging in the dirty laundry basket for something passable to wear for a second day.

Maybe you have morning habits as regular as the 6.30 alarm on the digital clock beside your carefully ordered dust free bedside table. You never even want to lie in. A signed-up fully active member of the jump-out-of-bed-and-face-the-day brigade. Some of us are fumbling for snooze, whilst you are pulling on yoga pants and lacing up trainers for your morning run.

We cant all be good in the morning. But this said I am a convert to one rather lovely the early morning routine; a little sun rise habit that has become a blessing  for the very sleepy soul. The habit is this: a psalm in the morning and a little laying down of the cares and worries of the day in prayer, a real gift. And what is more, it can all be accomplished with out even getting out of your bed, if thats the way you would like to do it. And thats the way I like to do it. Because I like my bed and God never said that for prayer to work it had to be carried out kneeling on a hard floor in draughty half light of an un heated room.

Today some little threads came together for me, as I read and thought and prayed my morning psalm.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5.3

By first cup of tea I’d cheerfully greeted all the kids and made sure they had what they needed for the day. By second cup of tea I’d read a psalm and done some prayer business that needed my (Our) attention. I’d names the prayer things right out loud twice just so I didn’t forget. Just to hear the sound of a good confession break the dread of the day ahead. You bring a thing to God in prayer , you have to know you said it, he heard it and it’s safe in his hand. Watch what unfolds from this point, for what unfold from this point is all because of a a very precious prayer.

This is a writing day and by the third cup of tea I’d read a little and written a little and some ideas are coming together.

Wandering and grumbling in a place called the Desert of Sin, God tells the children of Israel that he will feed them. Every morning he will send them a bread from heaven but they must go out first thing to gather what they need, manna(Exodus 16). And he fed them as he feeds me. Something seen be made again out of something unseen.

tea

And I read some good things about mana and being fed, about trusting God and reading His word.

I read these lovely words, a story from Ann Voskamp,

Mama has the tea ready when I get there for prayer group and Bible study first thing in the morning … I, of course, come late. Like a foolish woman straight out of a 6am parable, still trying to trim her lamp, trying to remember her oil, trying to stay awake … Mama she hands me a cup of steaming tea, apple cinnamon, and tells me it’s Psalm 107 this morning and could I just read the chapter right out loud? Read it because it’s manna and you’ve got nothing to give if you haven’t gathered and you have to gather Word-manna at daybreak if you’re going to gain form it the daylong.

And these lovely words from Glennon Melton, her children’s sermon, good for grown up children too …

Remember how I taught you that one of the most repeated lines in the Bible is: ”Do not be afraid?” Today’s Bible story is one of my favourites because it helps me remember to not be afraid.

Here’s the story:

God called some people to do a really hard thing – to travel through the desert for a very long time, and they were hungry and tired and scared. Do you ever feel hungry and tired and scared?

I do. Lots of times every day, usually… continue reading here

I shared my encouragement from psalms on social media and later over my fourth cup of tea I opened my Facebook. It had been liked and shared.

You are my people, you early morning prayer friends. You who open the Word before the bustle of the day has begun, stalking around the hushed sleeping homes and seeking out that manna, gathering it up and bringing it home.

Because He cares for you.

What are you’re most vital morning habits? which good morning habits have been hardest to achieve? how do you ensure you have gather your early morning mana?

In which I have a bad dream

sleep

When Andy gets up at 4.30 to catch the early train I wake enough to know he’s leaving.  I’m on my own now and it will soon be time to get everyone up. This is when the troubled dreams begins.

One hour later I wake with a start and I’m sitting up in the centre of our empty bed and the room is black. My heart is racing; it’s so dark in here. As I register the detail of the scenario just played out on the cinema screen of my sleep I start to cry, which is ridiculous because I already know it was just a dream.

A nightmare is a vivid and realistic dream that causes significant disturbance to the person who dreams it. Common nightmare themes include not being able to run fast enough from trouble or falling from a great height. It is usual for individuals who have suffered from traumatic events to relive the events of their trauma in their dreams.  Not surprisingly, people who suffer from depression often report nightmares as one of their symptoms. Many sufferers of depression regularly wake exhausted form sleep and lacking energy to face that first part of their day because of sleep disturbance and scary dreams.

Psychologists think that depressed individuals have a tendency to ‘over dream’ because they have a tendency to over ruminate. Rumination is a pattern of anxious thoughts that focus on the causes and consequences of distress rather than on the solutions. Rumination can be a particularly difficult  habit to break and leads to significant anxiety and other negative emotional states. It could be that a depressed person dreams more because their mind is trying to flush out the negative effects of rumination so it is free to cope with the new day ahead. It could also be the case that this quickly becomes too much work for the weary brain and the depressed individual is locked in a cycle of bad dreams, sleepless nights, troubling states of emotional activity, introspection and more rumination. Anything that slows the ruination will help.

By the time I pick up my phone to call Andy I’m feeling a little calmer but thinking fearfully on past phases of vicious insomnia and recurring dreams: dreams that were so scary they stayed with me all of the day, more real than any of the events in my day time life. A significant feature of my own emotional landscape over many years.

I pick up my Bible and I read.

Psalm One is trees planted by living waters fresh leaved and full of fruit. Psalm Two has the raging nations stilled by the rule of God. But Psalm Three? I can’t remember, so I take up the book,

I lie down and sleep;

    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

 I will not fear though tens of thousands

    assail me on every side.

Psalm 3.5-6

Whilst I was counting bad dreams in, God was counting them out. Enemies that assailed me now fallen at our side.

Lord, are a shield around me,

    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

 I call out to the Lord,

    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

Psalm 3.3-4

My head is lifted a little higher now and I’m watching the morning grow light in my bedroom window. That familiar pattern of huge sky against red brick and the green grey branch of a neighbours ornamental spruce. Small birds sing loud and the voice of God, just as loud. I am stunned, in a jaw dropping blessed kind of way.

God speaks to me straight from the page in the inked marks of English language.

A scared girl had a bad dream.

From the Lord comes deliverance.

    May your blessing be on your people.

Readers may also like,

When we won’t talk about depression

Why we won’t talk about depression

Why we won’t talk about depression (Part 2)

At Martin Mere

Psalm 3.8

Something lovely for the weekend: Fullness

 

I’ve had the best ever first week back at school.  Three lovely classes to teach and so far so good.

Andy and I won’t be helping at the youth club this year. The truth is we really are getting a little old for such shenanigans on a Friday night. So he’s dropping the kids there now and picking up a bottle of wine on the way home. We have an episode of the West Wing to watch; last series, last episode. But before we watch that that we get to FaceTime with Peter all the way from sunny California.

Because I really do have that Friday feeling today,  I’m re-launching ‘Something lovely for the weekend’ with a great song that is on repeat here as a write.

The video I’m sharing features one of Pete’s friend, Liverpool based worship leader, Ian Yates and a song form his new Album DNA. This video comes with a number of personal mentions and gratitudes.

The video was made by Bara’ Creative a business venture belonging to Peter and his good friend Jack Cursham. Jack got married last Saturday and we all had such a lovely day celebrating with him and Fiona so I’m certainly pleased to be able to give them a little mention. I’d also like to give a little shout out for all my Liverpool friends, I love you very much and need to tell you that you did our Peter soooo much good. Thank you xxx

jackandfi

Finally, if you’ve ever been in a meeting where Ian was leading worship you will know he’s a natural. By that I mean there is no affectation, no personal agenda, no sense of performance or self promotion – just the endless possibilities of enjoying the presence of God with freedom and space for anyone and everyone whatever place they are in. Here is an open invitation to share in something precious from the heart of our Father God.

A Father God who pursued us in love, more than we will ever know.