Wednesday, 18 December 2019

The Compassionate Jesus

Christmas can be a bittersweet time.  

Amid the merrymaking and twinkly lights, beneath the festive music and the media exhortations to make this a perfect family Christmas, for many people (myself included) this can be the hardest time of year.  Where there is loss, loneliness, brokenness and bereavement, this time of year can dramatically heighten the pain.  And where there is illness, homelessness, and a constant struggle to live, it can be hard to summon up any kind of Christmas spirit.

I'm heartened that Jesus didn't come to a perfect, happy place.  He came instead to a troubled place; born in poverty, effectively homeless, amongst a people living under oppression, and with his parents forced to become refugees shortly after his birth.  No easy start for him.  No silver spoon.  This was his choice. He came right into the heart of a messy, fractured world.  He understands that life's not perfect; that life can be gut-wrenchingly hard.

And that gives me hope.  

At a time when we celebrate the mystery, miracle and wonder of God-made-small, there can be huge undercurrents of sadness for some.  And this has nothing to do with Jesus.  Rather, it has everything to do with familial and cultural expectations that this season should somehow be a perfect, happy and harmonious time.  And of course, life's not always like that.  Which makes it tough for those for whom 'happiness' feels distinctly elusive right now.

As we move through these coming days, many whom we meet will be shouldering deep, hidden pain behind their smiles.  Some will be secretly at breaking point.  So let's be kind, as Jesus was.  He was always, and everywhere, compassionate. Let's celebrate His birth by spreading kindness and love, by being patient and gentle with everyone.  These gifts cost nothing and might be a greater gift to them than we will ever know.

And if this post speaks directly into your own situation, allow yourself to be gentle with yourself, whatever that means for you.

This post comes with my deepest love to all my readers.

May we all have a Compassionate Christmas.  


Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Dwelling more deeply

Have you seen it yet?

It's selling phenomenally well.

Help someone to deepen their prayer life in 2020 by making them a gift of this new book, 

'Dwelling in the Psalms'.

The psalms are an outpouring of unrestrained emotion to the One who won't be shocked by any of it; to the God who wants to hear it and who wants to be intimately involved in every detail of our lives.  They are prayer of the highest order.  They hold up a mirror to our deepest feelings and that's exactly why they remain so relevant today in this very different time, context and culture from when they were written.  

And that's why people are finding that this new book resonates with them.

If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth a look.
It was a privilege to write it and I'd love you to pray with it.
And it would make a great Christmas gift!
You can find it on Amazon UK and at my online shop.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

A gift for the weary

Ever wished you could step right inside the gospel stories?

Need some help to do that?

Look no further!  The Pathways to Healing series of CDs will enable you to do just that.   Based on scripture, they combine narrative poetry and guided meditation with prayerful questioning and relaxing ambient music.  Our intention is to produce a series of 10 recordings: no 1 in the series is available now, and no 2 will be released in the New Year.

They are CDs to be experienced, quietly, expectantly, deeply; a perfect antidote to the pre-Christmas stresses or a perfect gift for the weary.  And the first has won high praise:
"A wonderful CD! It leads the listener on a journey, touching their deepest fears and worries with peace, forgiveness and the presence of Christ."
Pam Rhodes
"Take Up Your Mat" is a great gift for any Christian friend who needs a bit of a boost.

Available from Amazon UK and my online shop

Take a look now  …  before you forget! 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Praise for Dwelling in the Psalms

People are saying some lovely things about 'Dwelling in the Psalms'.

This feedback comes from a recently retired chaplain -

"It's such a treasure trove, full of jewels and precious gems; so full of Godly wisdom and truth.  Inspiring. Comforting. Challenging. Thought provoking. Encouraging."
 If you haven't seen it yet, do take a look - 150 contemporary interpretations, devotional reflections and accompanying prayers, based on the entire collection of Psalms.

Available from Amazon UK, my web-shop and all good Christian retailers.

It would make a lovely gift for Christmas; or why not treat yourself?

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

New book! Available now!

My new book is launched today!

A new resource for ministers, churches, retreat houses and individuals. ...  in fact, for anyone who prays!

With an emphasis on healing throughout, the book comprises a contemporary interpretation, devotional reflection and accompanying prayer for each of the 150 Psalms in the Bible.

Available from Amazon, my webshop and all good Christian retailers.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Dwelling in the Psalms

In 2018 I reflected with the psalms for six months, whilst recovering from major surgery.  Nothing could have prepared me for how my convalescence would change me.  It's impossible to pray the Book of Psalms from start to finish without being significantly impacted by the experience.  I mined their depths and unearthed their treasures.  And I revisited the whole of my life along the way.  I worked through incredible heartache and immense joy, through deep angst and profound gratitude, and through every possible emotion in between.   This new book is the result.

The psalms have taught me their lessons.  I have discovered that some of the most helpful and healing prayers happen when we’re real with God.  Far from being 'unholy', emotions like anger, bitterness, depression and fear can carry us onto holy ground once we express them to God with full force.  And the psalms have taught me much about clinging and singing.  I have learnt the value of clinging to God with tenacious trust through whatever life throws at me.  And as I have pondered, with the psalm writers, on the miracles of history and the wonders of creation, worship and praise has come alive in me.

If you'd like to see the psalms from a fresh perspective you can pre-order the book here: I'll send you a signed copy at a postage-free special offer price of £12.  

It will be in the bookshops from October 17th, priced £12.99.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

All Things Through Christ

Two years ago, the thought of needing two new knees was, to put it mildly, a daunting prospect.  Really?  Do I have to go through this?  Isn't it just a bit of niggly arthritis?  Is there not a simpler solution?  All these and more were the questions I levelled at the surgeon.  His answer, when it came, was emphatic: you need two new artificial knees.

Little did I know then what was to lie ahead.  All I could see were negatives; the things I'd have to cancel, the retreats and conferences I'd no longer be able to participate in, the limitations of recovery, the people I'd be letting down, and the uncertainty of it all.  

I never could have imagined what the fruits of that time would be (apart from a matching pair of metal knees and, hopefully, the ability to walk pain-free!).

So here I am, two months on from the second surgery, and in awe at what's about to be launched: a new book - 'Dwelling in the Psalms'.   In six months, following my first operation, I reflected and prayed with a psalm a day, starting with Psalm 1 and ending at  …  the end!  And Kevin Mayhew have transformed my words into this beautiful book.

In the early days after surgery, when even rising from a chair required the most gargantuan effort, Philippians 4.13 became my mantra:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".  Not too surprising then that this prayer was birthed as I reflected with Psalm 21 ...

I thank you
for blessing upon blessing
of answered prayers:
I lift my praises to you,
for you have been my strength
in the past
and will be so
in the future.

Keep me
from the temptation
of striving to resolve things
help me
to surrender all my struggles
to you,

Remind me
again, and again,
that I can do all things
through Christ
who strengthens me.     Amen

Could 150 prayers like this help you,
or someone whom you know?  
Would you like to read the associated reflections too?  
And 150 contemporary interpretations of the psalms?  

The book's available to pre-order here and will be in Christian bookshops from October 17th.

'All things through Christ' image credit: AK & Co

Friday, 20 September 2019

Mothering God

Continuing to share some extracts from my forthcoming book, Dwelling in the Psalms, I'm looking today at Psalm 131.  

The psalms are shot through with powerful imagery, some of it brutal, much of it angry, and some of it beautifully tender, as in this psalm:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don't concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its 
     mother's milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
                                                                                 Ps. 131:1-2 NLT
It’s hard to think of a more peaceful picture than the image of a young child quietly resting in its mother’s arms. In the early days of life, a baby cries loudly and often for its mother’s milk; it regularly needs the nourishment, the comfort and the reassurance that suckling at the breast gives. In time, the baby grows beyond that stage of its development and anxious crying becomes replaced by a calmer contentment. This simple psalm gives a picture of that quiet contentment; an image of a child who feels safe and satisfied, resting in the presence of one in whom they have absolute trust. They are secure in the arms of one who only has their best interests at heart. It’s a beautiful illustration of the peace and confidence that God wants each of us, his children, to have in him. As Mother Julian famously said, ‘All will be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.
Mothering God,
thank you
for your tender care;
thank you
that in your presence
I am always and forever

Teach me 
each day
to live as your child,
to rest in your arms
and to let you
hold me through life.

And should I be afraid,
quieten my soul.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

God of my restless nights

Twelve months ago, I spent 150 days pondering and praying with the psalms.  It was interesting, uplifting, inspiring and many times downright frustrating.  How exactly do we relate today to psalms which speak of vicious snarling dogs and fierce enemies, of people scavenging for bones and scowling like coyotes?  It's not easy, is it.  These graphic images in Psalm 59 were written by David as he was being hunted down; they were a plea for help from a man with a price on his head.

Most of us aren't in that situation.  But we all sometimes have fears and worries which can literally haunt us.  When we begin to read the psalm from that perspective we can begin to see how it might speak to us personally.

This is my short reflection based on that psalm, from my new book, 'Dwelling in the Psalms':
Night time. Often the hours when difficulties trouble us most.  Twice in this psalm we read of David's enemies: 'They come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets.'  The repetition of this verse gives emphasis to its importance. Who amongst us has not wrestled through sleeplessness as our thoughts have churned relentlessly over fears and problems.  

The context of this psalm is different.  David was physically under attack, but the psalm can nevertheless speak into our own individual fears, the things which keep us awake at night. It reads like a psalm of anger, but the reality is it’s a psalm of faith: three times David speaks of God as his refuge and his tower of strength.  Like him, if we hang onto those words, 'But as for me, I will sing about your power', we can learn to sleep securely, leaving our fears with God, in simple trust.
and my prayer:

God of my restless nights,
God of my churning fears,
God of my racing heart,
protect me.

With your power, 
still me.
With your presence, 
fill me. 
And with your peace, 
indwell me.

With each new dawn 
and through 
the long hours of the night 
I choose to praise you.

Amen                                                                  You can pre-order the book here!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

150 holy mornings

My new book, 'Dwelling in the Psalms', is a contemporary interpretation for our times; a modern reflection on the ancient texts, pin-pointing their relevance for today.

This is how it came about ...

150 days.
150 psalms.
150 holy mornings.
150 wrestles for understanding.
150 searches for inspiration.
150 insights.
150 prayers.

Recovery from surgery providing the space.
              Intention becoming discipline.
                              Ancient texts revealing their wisdom.
                                             Struggle morphing into a love affair.
                                                               Challenge becoming joy.

                               It was a privilege to write it. 

                               I pray you'll find it healing to pray with it.

It's coming soon!

Do email me if you'd like to express an early interest in this book.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

A New Book - out soon!

I'm excited to share the news that my new book, Dwelling in the Psalms, will be available in a few weeks time.  

Sometimes the most unexpected promptings of God can prove to be the most powerful.  Holding a proof copy of my latest book in my hands, I can hardly believe that I wrote it.  It emerged during my convalescence from major surgery as I meditated with a psalm a day.  And I couldn't be more pleased with it.
"This book evolved. I didn’t set out to write it. It wrote me. It wove its way into my heart quietly, subtly, insistently. Once it started to emerge, it wouldn’t let me go."
Comprising 150 contemporary interpretations of the psalms, with accompanying reflections and prayers, it draws out the potentially healing context of the ancient texts.  It was a deeply healing journey for me as I wrote it and my prayer is that it may be the same for others as they read it.

I'll be sharing extracts in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, it's available for pre-order from the Kevin Mayhew website.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Enhancing your Easter worship

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of a magpie when it comes to collecting helpful quotations, images and poems.  Maria Kondo could have a field day decluttering my office.  It goes with the territory of being a retreat leader and a writer, I guess.  In my world, I find I can never have enough new and different resources; things which spark my imagination and bring new insights.  And I guess that's true for those of us who lead worship too.  Different perspectives are always helpful when we're opening up the scriptures.

So, if you're still looking out for poems or meditations to enhance your Easter services, I might have the answer. The Gift of a Cross is just such a resource.  With seventy meditations, following Jesus from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem through betrayal and crucifixion to death and resurrection, this will enable your listeners to explore the story of the cross from the inside out.

Copies are still available from here at the knockdown price of £3.50.  I'd love to send you a copy.
You can get a taste of my Easter meditations on my poetry page 

     They hardly noticed
     the blood splashing red onto earth
     as the dice
     rolled, tumbled
     and bounced over dusty ground;
     the Christ
     above them:
                   Extract from 'Jocular Game'

     Have a truly blessed Easter.


Thursday, 7 March 2019

Where would I have stood?

Anam Cara, on their album 'Peace and the Spirit' have a beautiful song entitled, 'Where would I have stood?'.  It's a good question to ask ourselves and it enables us to see the gospel stories through a different lens.  What was it like to be there?  How might I have reacted?

The stories become so familiar that we easily forget that Peter, Mary, Judas and all the others where in so many ways just like us, living alongside Jesus and yet nevertheless often struggling to make sense of his teachings.  They made mistakes like us, felt shame and joy like us, often found it hard to understand what was going on, frequently questioned what Jesus was doing.

If we could speak to them today how might they tell their story?  Many of the reflections in my book, The Gift of the Cross, attempt to answer that question.  If you'd like to look at the Passion narratives from a different perspective, you can get a copy of the book here.  For a limited time, it's on special offer at £3.50, with free postage.  I'd love to let you have a copy - especially today: World Book Day.
 An extract from 'The Rooster'  ...

         No, no Master,
       not I:
       I'll never deny you.
       You'll always have my loyalty.
       He'd turned my life around, you see,
       this man.
       I used to be a fisherman:
       a hard life, that was.
       And now here I was
       following him   ...  ..

For an even more immersive experience of being face to face with Jesus, you might like to try meditating with my Pathways to Healing CD, available on my shop page.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Pivotal Moment

'Sacrifice' by Lindsey Attwood
            I've got
            the strongest feeling
            in my bones
            that this
            is a pivotal moment in history
                                  ...   ...
                                           Extract from 'Insight'


We're generally only aware of pivotal moments, moments in the past which made a significant difference to the future, after the event.  Jesus' death on the cross was surely the supreme pivotal moment, the 'hinge point of history', as Max Lucado describes it.  It was the event which brought fulfilment to Jesus's words that he had come to "set the people free" (Luke 4:18) - by enabling them to be forgiven from all that crippled them; guilt, remorse, shame, everything!

What a gift!  What a pivotal moment!  
the bright hot glow of flaming torches
fuelling the atmosphere of tension
but, the agony of the earlier Gethsemane moments
Jesus reflected
only calm acceptance:
his coming death
his very reason for living.               Extract from 'Arrest'

Jesus struggled with his calling at Gethsemane (and who wouldn't have done?) but he ultimately faced the cross with calm acceptance.  But how hard it can be for us to accept what Jesus has done for us - and to live into the freedom of forgiveness and new life.

How pivotal Calvary is for our own lives depends to a large extent on how deeply we allow ourselves to engage with the reality of all that it involved.  Imagining ourselves inside the story, as if we were actually there, can be extremely powerful and the meditations in 'The Gift of a Cross' could act as a springboard to help you to do that.  If you haven't picked up a copy yet, it's available here.  I've reduced the price to £3.50 because I'd love you to be blessed by it.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Special Offer for Lent

Are you  ...  wondering how to journey prayerfully through Lent?  ...  hoping to have a fresh look at the Easter story?  ...  wondering what it was like to be there, alongside Jesus, in those days leading up to his death?  ...  looking for new resources for this Eastertide?  ...   wanting to buy someone a meaningful Easter gift?
Look no further.
I'm pleased to make available my Easter book, The Gift of a Cross, at half the usual price and with free postage.
It's available here at the special knock-down price of £3.50.
Here's a taste of the contents ...
                   And heaven
                   held its breath.
                   A living, human cross
                   hung heavy
                   at the still, mute
                   turning-point of history
                                           ...   ...
                                           Extract from 'And Heaven Held Its Breath'
Where else can you buy seventy meditations for not much more than the price of a cup of coffee?
Go on  ...  treat yourself this Easter!