The Next Right Thing

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”
‭‭(Luke‬ ‭23:55-56‬, NIVUK‬‬)

They rested. But was it Sabbath rest? Or the rest of grief? The tiredness of grief that must have consumed them immediately after the brutal death of their friend and teacher, Jesus. This is the part of the story that I so want to read, and yet there’s so little detail of what they did. Is this it? Is this all they did? Rested?

Holy Saturday – Day of Sadness by Hanabella

This is the bit of the story that is scant with detail, but anyone who has ever experienced grief or loss knows what came next. The fatigue. The loss of appetite. The tears for no reason. The isolation. How could they have rested, truly rested, and worshipped at a time such as that? How could they have participated in Sabbath rest and worship?

We see this played out in Frozen 2, when Anna loses both her sister and her friend. She sinks to the floor, barely able to speak. She sits alone in the dark, a metaphor for the isolation in your mind after loss. When she sings, it is with a whisper.

I’ve seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out
Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb
I follow you around, I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone

“You’ve gone to a place I cannot find … you are lost, hope is gone.” Words sun by Anna in the song Do the Next Right Thing. It’s a hint given throughout the film: when all seems lost, we do the next right thing. Yet, Jesus gives the same instructions. He tells them to break bread and to do it in remembrance of him; to drink wine, remembering his blood poured out for all; to worship their God, without pretense, and with their whole hearts. Despite their loss, despite the hopelessness they find themselves inhabiting, the women, we are told, do the next right thing. They entered the Sabbath and they rested in their grief.

Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don’t know anymore what is true
I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone
The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor
When it’s not you I’m rising for?

In the immediacy of losing Jesus, they must have wondered what happened next. Here was a man who’d taught them so much, proclaimed to BE the truth. The way. The life. But now he was gone. They had rooted their lives in his; where he went, they followed. Even until the end, even with the danger of being associated with this man, the women followed to the cross. And to the tomb.

In the same way, Anna’s life is rooted into that of her sister. She finds her truth and identity in being Elsa’s plucky but vulnerable younger sister. She’s not the queen, but by blood she is royalty. And when her sister is lost, Anna doesn’t know how to do the next right thing. Why? Because the one who guided her towards that thing has gone. I wonder if the women felt this despondency. How do we rest and worship when the one who guided us to rest and worship is gone?

But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing

They must have felt lost. Yet they had a deeper faith, rooted into a tradition of worship and rest found in keeping the Sabbath. They knew that Yahweh had delivered the people they belonged to out of Egypt and through the waters into new life. They had to believe that if they did the next right thing, if they stepped into the Sabbath to worship and rest, that Yahweh would deliver them out of this grief, through their tears and into new life. The life he had promised them. The life where they would no longer hunger or thirst.

Of course, this is the turning point in the song, where Anna’s voice strengthens and she starts to make a move. She becomes resolute in what she has to do next. If this were a musical about Jesus’ death and resurrection, one of the women would sing this. At this moment, though, they’d have been mourning and resting in the darkness of their own home for 2 nights and a day. They’d be getting ready to make a move out of Sabbath and into the next right thing: returning to the tomb to continue mourning.

And, with it done, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing.

That first Holy Saturday wasn’t just about darkness and isolation, grief and loss. It was also about Sabbath: rest and worship. Worship that no doubt included loud cries and wailing. Rest that no doubt included both silence and noise. Today, as sit in our own social isolation, I wonder if we have lessons to learn about how we rest and worship this Easter.

It was that line which made me first thing of the crucifixion story: “What comes then? When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again.” I instantly imagined Mary and the other women yearning for yesterday, mourning not just the loss of their beloved friend, but also the loss of life as they knew it. Life as they’d hoped it would be. Yet, they made a choice: to rest into their grief and loss. They made a choice: to wait and return to the tomb after a day of Sabbath. They made a choice, to hear God’s voice. To do the next right thing.


“Jesus, you’re worth it.”

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26: 6-13 NIV)

There is so much going on in this passage. So much. I imagine you could preach on it every year, just before Easter, and find new things to say even after 25 years. Why am I writing about it today, then? Well, it is half term, which means my daughter is off from school; it’s also reading week at college, which means I’ve potentially got space for extra studying this week. Yet, as anyone who has raised small children or knows anyone who has raised small children will know, that isn’t quite how it works.

I am not begrudging my just turned 4-year-old time with mummy, especially as quality time with mummy is actually quite hard to come by at the moment. Plus she’s about to go through all sorts of changes with starting school, then moving house some time next year, so I figure mummy time is important. Sensibly, I’ve enjoyed time with her doing different things each day, while I’ve also allowed a bit of time each day to get some work done. However, it’s now Thursday evening and I’ve spent the whole afternoon trying to do work to no avail.

At one point I had to be quite firm with her, as I had reached the limits of how many times I can be interrupted while I try to read my book. Realising that I wasn’t getting into the flow with the book (The Joshua Delusion for anyone who cares), I thought I’d spend some time on my talk for this Sunday’s All Age service. No problem, I thought foolishly. Once again, in she trots to miaow at me. Literally. She just stand next to me making cat sounds. Cute, right? Except now I have to start again. Again. So I’m cross. And actually, it’s unnecessary for all sorts of reasons but mainly because she hasn’t actually done anything wrong.

I apologise. We cuddle. She’s ok again. Yet I’m still cross. Why? Because my husband (saint in our daughter’s eyes) is sat upstairs able to just get on with doing his work. And in that moment, my heart burns with jealous anger. “Well of course daddy is beloved in this house! He never has to tell her to go away because he’s doing work!” I mutter. I’m then torn; I know I have a choice to make. I can continue to be annoyed and embittered. Or I can calm down. But how? How can I let it go (ironic, as that’s the song that’s blasting in the living room right now), when I’m feeling hard done by?

I remember, and know, that turning to God ALWAYS helps. I decide to read the Bible, largely because it means I can sit down, put my feet up and drink a cup of tea at the same time. And I don’t have to utter a word or a thought. So I open the pages of my Bible to Matthew 26, and read of Jesus being anointed in Bethany, shortly before he is betrayed, trialled and crucified.

What do I find there? This beautiful image of a woman, unnamed, willing to undergo public humiliation by doing something ‘foolish’: pouring away invaluable, expensive perfume. For what? Some man. The reaction of those present? Absolute astonishment and anger. “This could have been sold and the money put to better use!” they cry. They have a point. Jesus had spent his ministry up until this point teaching people to look after the poor. And yet, his reaction is of astonishment and anger too, but not to the woman. Instead he is dismayed by his friends’ response.

You see, in their response they say to the room, “Jesus, you’re not worth it. Jesus, you’re not worth this lavishing of perfume. Jesus, you’re not worth this anointing before your death.”

Whereas, the woman’s act says loudly and clearly, “Jesus, this is how much I think you’re worth. Jesus, you’re worth this costly perfume. Jesus, you’re worth more than what the world values. Jesus, you’re worth this act of devotion. Jesus, you’re worth me pouring away what I own.”

As I sat reading the passage, I pondered how in that moment I hadn’t only been cross with my daughter and my husband. I’d also been annoyed by my present circumstances: that I have no choice but to work from home and actively ignore my daughter, when I’d much rather say to her, “Stuff my work! I want to spend time with you.” Yet, what does this say of how I value Jesus? How I value his death? How I value his sacrifice? For a moment – just 10 minutes or so – my heart cried out loudly, “Jesus, you’re not worth it. You’re not worth the late nights and the early mornings. You’re not worth the time away from my daughter. You’re not worth this feeling of resentment towards my husband. You’re not worth it.”

Yet the woman’s actions and Jesus’ response show us that following Christ is the only option that is worth it; pouring out our whole lives for him is all we can do. So, my cup of tea is empty, but my heart is filled afresh, as I am reminded that following Jesus’ call on my life sometimes means pouring something away which the world calls valuable. Because he is worth it. And that’s worth remembering.

Psalms (again)…

Today at college we’re learning about the Psalter (collection of psalms) in the Bible. They’re so rich in language and imagery. In fact, Tom Wright argues that to ignore the psalms is akin to taking someone to the top of Table Mountain and them refusing to look at the view, preferring to stare down at their phone.

In their richness, they give us language to approach God with all of our emotions… particularly the bad and the ugly.

When I was at my lowest point postnatally, I wrote a psalm myself. It felt appropriate to repost it today. So here it is.



Isn’t this a beautiful creation we live in? A beautiful creation that we can take none of the glory for because it wasn’t created by us, but by God. God created the earth, all the beautiful views belong to Him and it is the same for us. A friend once spoke of it as name tapes: God’s name tape is on everything – you, me, our characters and personalities, our talents, the world and everything in it – and day by day we are guilty of covering up that name tape with our own. We are guilty of taking the glory that doesn’t belong to us.

“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” – Deuteronomy 8: 17-18.

We have no rights. Only responsibilities. If we are given everything by God then we have been allowed to have our gifts, talents and resources by Him – and that ultimately means that we have a responsibility to manage these things well according to His desires and purpose.

In Genesis 1: 28-30 we are given the earth and everything in it, we are given governance over the earth and in that we are given our first commission – to look after His creation. Psalm 24: 1 reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”. There is a constant reminder in the Bible of how the earth belongs to God and that we are merely stewards of His creation. And creation’s calling is the same as ours – to bring glory to God in heaven.

What is interesting is the ongoing question of, ‘why does God allow all these bad things to happen?’ Well… I don’t know. What I do know is that there are many people who die or who suffer as a direct consequence of our own humanity. Why? Because there are so many things which we could do to help in those situations, before the bad things happen. Why do we allow people to continually live on flood plains in Bangladesh? Humanity is destroying this earth as quickly as it can. Green spaces disappear as we want bigger homes, more space for shops and/or office blocks etc. If we can’t be bothered to use less energy, because it is (apparently) easier and more convenient to turn the heating on than sit under blankets, then how can we blame God for the things which happen as a result?

For me, creation is beautiful. It is a gift from God. And it is our responsibility to be responsible and look after it.

“From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea, creation’s revealing Your majesty. From the colours of fall to the fragrance of spring, every creature unique in the song that it sings, all exclaiming..

Indescribable, uncontainable, you placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name. You are amazing God! All powerfuluntameable, awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim, You are amazing God!”

– Chris Tomlin, Indescribable


What does worship mean to you?

When I was confirmed in the Church of England, back in 2001, aged 13, the then Bishop of Carlisle Graham Dow prayed over me. He prayed over each of us, as he laid hands on us, and later wrote the words that had come to mind in a book for each newly confirmed person. I remember that everyone else got a written out piece of scripture, or a couple of sentences, but I received just 1 word.


But what did that mean? What does it mean for me and my life?

When we look at the dictionary, worship is an act of reverence and devotion towards a deity. It’s interesting then, isn’t it, that we (members of society) worship football players, reality television stars, pop stars and other celebrities. We elevate ordinary people, who are skilled in some cases yet seemingly unskilled for the most part, to the status of god, and for what purpose? Why do we worship other humans? In their frailty and fault, surely humans are the least deserving of our adoration? Recent studies talk about the damaging effects of our celebrity culture, especially the filtered lives portrayed on social media. So why do we do it to ourselves?

We can appreciate the joy a well-acted film brings to our lives, or the range of emotions we can feel as we cheer for our favoured football team to win. But do we really need to worship them? Have they really done anything for us in our life that is worthy of Godly worship? Are they truly worthy of elevation?

God, on the other hand, has done everything for me. Recently we celebrated Easter and that moment of resurrection, that eternal moment of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, that wonderful, life giving, earth shattering moment. It makes sense to me, then, that I revere God, and I am devoted to him. My whole life is devoted to him and so, therefore, my whole life should be worship.

Sometimes I’m a good worshiper. Sometimes I’m terrible. A lot of the time it’s because I place things in the place of God, and inadvertently worship them. Chasing a higher mark in an essay; staying up to watch a film instead of reading my bible; thinking I’m responsible for any success. I guess we all do it, but it’s about recognising it and trying again every day. Until our whole lives are offered up as worship to God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1-2)


“This is my body, broken for you…”

Recently I was chatting to a friend, who has just become a mum to the most beautiful little boy (Congrats Team Parry!!), and I had asked her if she wanted someone from church to visit in hospital for communion. Her reply got me thinking about why I place such high value on the act of Holy Communion, and I thought I would share that thinking here.

I grew up in a fairly ordinary, traditional Anglican family, with my dad ordained throughout my life and my mum later joining him. We attended church each week and, when there wasn’t Sunday School, I took great delight in reading the liturgy alongside my dad, under my breath so only God and I could hear. From the age of about 7 I received communion, because my parents knew that I understood what it meant. I wasn’t confirmed until I was 13, but by that point I was away at boarding school and the thrill of reading liturgy and going up for communion had long since passed.

The school I attended, though Christian in its philosophy (and advertising), would not allow those who weren’t confirmed to receive communion. Furthermore, you could only be confirmed once you were 13, and so for almost 3 years I only took part in the communion part of the Anglican service when I was at home during the holidays. Perhaps it was just me, but at that time I became quite shut off during the spoken and sung liturgies, simply because I couldn’t take part in the fullness of it. And from there, I began to believe that communion wasn’t a big deal.

When I arrived in my current city for university (6 years ago in September!!), I attended a church where communion was part of the service once a month. Given my school experiences, this didn’t bother me in the slightest. I didn’t give it a second thought, and delved into the rich life of worship (spoken and sung) offered at this church. Right up until 19 months ago, if someone had asked me, “How do you connect best with God?” I’d have probably talked about sung worship, how singing and listening to others singing helps me to tune into God.

Not anymore though. I mean, singing still helps me to experience the full breadth of my emotion and feeling at that time. Music enables me to sob if I am feeling wounded or vulnerable, whilst also helping my spirit to soar and delight in the good times of life. Now, though, something else has taken the place of singing: communion.


Surely, it’s just bread and wine. Just some words.

It isn’t, though. It is so much more than just bread and wine. And I don’t mean in a transubstantiation way (though I respect those who do believe in that). 

For me, it is through eating that bread and drinking that wine that I am fed and watered. Clearly, a simple bread wafer and sip of wine will not fill and satisfy me. It would be ludicrous to suggest so. And yet, it does. Not physically, but spiritually. That broken wafer represents Jesus’ broken body; the wine his blood poured out. It represents the brokenness which allows me wholeness and fullness of life.

When Jesus broke that bread, it was a sign of what was to come. A sign of his brokenness. A sign of his sacrifice, for me. For you. For all of creation.

When I take communion now (weekly, at a new church), I am beyond thankful as I think of the innumerable ways God has shown me grace in my life. I am nourished spiritually, because of the act of communion. I am reminded of just how imperfect I am; so imperfect that the only way God could make things right again was to break someone perfect in my place. And I am reminded of the wholeness that I now experience freely, because of Him.

Why We Should All Still Be Singing Shine Jesus Shine

Returning from our final holiday walk in Northern Ireland, I had a text from a friend. It devastated me. I missed out on singing Shine Jesus Shine at church this morning. This is one of my all time favourite hymns and yet, so many people hate it (particularly, it would seem, my generation. I think, though, that even after 30 years we should all still be singing this song today. 

For me, I fell in love with this song as a child. Though I was young, I longed to sing and worship God and this song allowed me to do that. Partly because of its easy to sing, catchy melody, and partly because I understood the words. Too many other hymns used language I couldn’t comprehend. Even today, I find that too many songs that are sung in church are either difficult to understand at face value, or use vocabulary which is fluffy and ambiguous.

So, why should we all be singing Shine Jesus Shine?
“Lord the light of your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness shining.”

As we open our mouths to sing, we begin this song with a proclamation of the power of God’s love. This isn’t just the warm hug and cuppa with your best friend after a hard day kind of love. This love, God’s love, is so powerful that it is light itself. It stands out in the darkness alone, and shines brightly as a beacon of hope for all to see.

Last night I went to bed with the news of another terror attack in England. Less than 24 hours ago, mourners were attacked by suicide bombers at a funeral in Kabul, Afghanistan. Meanwhile, innocent children, women and men were gunned down by Islamic State (IS) as they fled the streets of Mosul. Throughout history, humans have hunted and killed each other. This period of history, our time, is no different. We live in a dark world. This song reminds us that God’s love shines brighter than the darkest times we may encounter.
“By the blood I may enter your brightness. Search me, try me, consume all my darkness.”

After we are finished proclaiming God’s awesome, powerful love, we move on to the second verse where we sing the above words. These serve as a reminder that Jesus died for us. His blood was poured out so that we, that is you and I, and every human throughout history, may come closer to him. It is a reminder that we are permitted to draw near and be made more like Jesus. God gives us an opportunity here, for us to be less like the dark world we inhabit, and more like his son: bright, brilliant, whole.
“Ever changing from glory to glory, mirrored here may our lives tell your story.”

Here we have, in the final verse, the outcome of us becoming more like Jesus. In the previous paragraph I wrote of how we have this amazing opportunity to become less like the darkness, and more like the light. If we do that, the end result can only be one thing: that we shine God’s light out to the world for them to see. We are able to, with God’s help, be reliable witnesses for him. Our lives can, if we let God’s light shine out of us, reflect the beauty of Jesus’ story.

Finally, the big one: the reason Christians around the globe will be singing this song today, particularly.

“Blaze, Spirit, Blaze.”

It’s Pentecost! Today we celebrate the fulfilment of a prophesy. We celebrate God sending his Holy Spirit down so that we can be witnesses for him in this dark and fallen world. Without this, we are nothing. This is God’s living spirit, empowering us and emboldening us to share God’s light wherever we go.

The chorus of this song is so rich and wonderful. In it, we proclaim God’s glory and ask for him to bless us and our lands. We ask God to set our hearts on fire, so that we may ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly’ with him. Finally, we ask for his truthful word so that there may be light in the darkness.

Sermon Writing

Every year our church holds a Missions Sunday, where our Mission Partners share stories from their work, we pray for them and a speaker challenges us about mission.

This year I have been given the task of preaching, and laying down the challenge. It’s quite daunting, but thenakfully God has spoken to me through a particular passage. So much so, that I sat down to write yesterday and the words came flowing out of me.

I was so pleased, as I had asked people to pray for me… and I had been praying. And finally I felt God saying, “This. Talk about this.”

But… things are never that simple. 

God has given me another word. A question in fact. A very challenging question. And a fabulous piece of scripture to go with it.

So, 6 days to go. Do I stick with what I’ve written? Or do I start again?

Mini Beasts

Today marked the beginning of a new venture, a part of my new mission as a mum. This morning we – a friend and I – put on church in a different way.

We welcomed under 2s and their mums* to church, where we had singing and a story. We had areas set up for them to explore, and we let them pick prayers from our prayer box. 

As our story was the creation story, we had a darkened tent area with electronic tea lights, for some quiet time. We had a paddling pool, to represent the creation of the waters, along with pebbles and lots of bubbles. We had cushioned green area, with many soft animals for imaginary play. All of the little ones (even the under 1s) enjoyed exploring these areas with their mums, and one little girl loved the water area so much she couldn’t help but go for a little paddle.

With much laughter, singing and play, our first Mini Beasts got off to a fabulous start. We are so hopeful that God will use this ministry to show the littlest of his children how much he loves them.

*Disclaimer: not just for mums and babies. Dads, grandparents, carers also welcome.

More Than A Mother

Since her birth I have taken time to ponder over the fact that I am more than this little one’s mother.

You see, I love her so very much, just like most mothers (and fathers) love their own children. But there is more to my identity. I wonder, what is my identity? Who am I?

It is something I long struggled with, as I battled demons in the shape of anxiety, depression and paranoia. My identity then was not good enough. I struggled to believe that anyone could like me, all that I was, and so I changed it. Slowly though, God brought me back to him. I met some wonderful people at my mum’s church who welcomed me in. And because I was living with my parents, who I knew loved me regardless, I began to let myself shine through once more.

It was only when I moved to Lancaster, though, that I really learned to love myself. I was living with beautiful girls, really and truly, the most beautiful girls you could meet. They were kind, honest, funny, hard-working, prayerful and so much more. I got stuck in at our local church, throwing myself into living a life of serving others in our community. I eagerly took notes during sermons, and my own bible study came to life. 

This weekend I travelled to York for a friend’s hen party. What a night! Aside from my keycard not working at midnight, and having to change rooms, leaving all of my belongings locked in the original room, it was a fabulous do. There was food, cocktails, bubbles, laughter, dancing and even a hot chicken slice. We had brunch the following day, and again much laughter and chatter. It felt wonderful to get dressed up in something that didn’t have a main function of being comfortable and accessible for breast feeding. It felt wonderful to talk about things like the EU referendum and inequality with someone other than my husband. It felt wonderful to let my hair down and be responsible only for myself and no one else. It felt wonderful to be me!

Then, on Sunday, we enjoyed time as a family at a friend’s BBQ, before I went to the evening service at our church. I was reminded once more of God’s goodness to us, and how he made each one of us special and unique. Before my daughter was born, the 7pm service was the one my husband and I went to; the service where I sang in the worship team; and the service which most of our immediate network attend. Obviously things have changed a lot, as we can no longer both go to this service, and we have to make more of an effort to catch up with friends at other points in the week. One of the things I have missed most is worshipping in the worship team at this evening service. I love to sing in worship to God, and love being in fellowship with the others in the team. Last night I got to join in, and I felt like myself again. I felt reenergised.

So, whilst I feel awful that my darling little one refused the bottle whilst I was away, I feel normal. I feel like me. Today has been easier – it’s far too hot, and she is teething – because I have had some time doing things I enjoy. It is surely an important lesson of the first time mum: do something for you, even if it’s small. It will make all the difference to your sanity and temperament.

You are more than a mother. And that’s ok.