Pursuing Peace

 Photo by  Tamara Menzi  on  Unsplash

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a centre of fear.”

Corrie Ten Boom

  • Can you relate to this quote at all?

  • Have you ever faced a challenging situation that seemed to take over your mind?

  • Have you ever felt unable to escape the constant swirling of “what ifs”, playing out every possible scenario over and over?


Throughout God’s word we are reminded not to be afraid, to cast our burdens on Him and to claim His peace, but that’s so difficult to do sometimes.

When my mind is all over the place, it generally helps if I have a framework to reorder the chaos and focus my thoughts on my Heavenly Father. While recently experiencing a “cycle of inefficient thoughts” I created the Pursuing Peace resource. Initially, this was written for my own use to help me gather my thoughts and feelings. After sharing it with a few close friends, it was suggested that others might find it helpful, so feel free to download the pdf and try it for yourself.

Pursuing Peace Resource pdf

Based around Philippians 4:4-9, the resource provides a simple process for reflecting on the situation that is currently occupying your mind. Although I have been through my fair share of counselling sessions, I am in no way professing to have any expertise in this area. My hope is simply that the resource will help someone to focus in prayer and feel God’s peace.


Let me know in the comments section if the Pursuing Peace exercise is helpful or any thoughts about the resource.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”

1 Peter 5:7








Kay Moorby

Blackberries

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I was shattered and just wanted to spend the day lazing around in the beautiful caravan loaned to us by friends. Curled up on the settee with a good book, I could see out of the corner of my eye that the kids were getting restless. This was the point where my eldest suggested that we went “for a short walk in the forest to look at the dens.” Our youngest then joined in the excitement, so we got suited and booted and set off toward the woods.

We walked our way through the woodland…then across a field…and then across another field…and another…

As we trudged through knee-high bushes and dodged nettles, I started having flashbacks to the cross country running lessons of my school days. I was half expecting Miss Barrett to appear from behind a tree aggressively shouting “Come on Longbottom, get yourself moving.” 

As my three family members happily walked ahead of me, I could feel myself getting grumpier and grumpier.

He said we were going for a short walk!

This isn’t what I signed up for. 

If I’d known it was going to take this long, then I would have brought a bottle of water. 

It’s too hot.

Once we get there, we’ve got to walk all the way back again.

I never wanted to go on this stupid walk.

I am not proud to say that my inner teenager appeared in all her splendour and I sloped along at the back of the unplanned ramble.


NB The eldest child involved in this story has asked me to represent his version of events which allegedly include a detailed discussion about the length of the walk, the amount of time it would take and the fact that it covered at least three fields. We have agreed to disagree on the exact details of what took place that day.


Eventually, we reached the “amazing” ruins that my son wanted us to see (I’m aware that I am still in teenager mode) and then started the journey back home. By this point, our youngest realised she had been walking for far too long and decided that she was going to complete the rest of the journey on her knees. Tiredness took over, and even our attempts to turn the walk into a bear hunt failed to motivate her to keep going.

As we dragged our way back through the woodland, I spotted the blackberry bushes. A question punctured the grumbling and complaining circling my mind.

Fruit or thorns?

My family walked ahead, blissfully unaware I’d stopped.

I took a picture of the blackberries and mulled over the question in my mind as we walked back towards the caravan site.

Fruit or thorns?

Would there be fruit, if it wasn’t for the thorns?

I’m no botanist, but from the limited research I’ve done, I’ve discovered that the thorns play a vital role in the survival of the plant. The thorns ensure that the blackberry bush can survive attempts from predators to steal the fruit. The thorns strengthen the branches and create a robust framework for the fruit to develop and grow. Thornless varieties of blackberry bushes are available, but according to the gardening sites I visited, the fruit doesn't quite taste the same. It would seem that for the fruit to flourish, it needs the thorns.

As our group of tired walkers, one now on piggy-back, continued to climb over brambles and entered the woodland near the caravan site, my grumpiness began to lift.

Back at the caravan, I collapsed on the settee with a cup of tea, reluctantly acknowledging that the fresh air had done me good. Despite my weary legs, I was thankful for the reminder that there’s no fruit without the thorns.

The fruit of love can grow through the thorns of heartbreak.

The fruit of joy can be found in the thorns of sadness.

The fruit of peace is often discovered in the thorns of uncertainty.

The fruit of kindness can grow around the thorns of disappointment.

The fruit of goodness can flourish around the thorns of cruelty.

The fruit of faithfulness can spring through the thorns of doubt.

The fruit of gentleness can be found within the thorns of anger.

The fruit of self-control can stem from the thorns of surrender.

We can try and live our lives avoiding the thorns, but the fruit will never quite taste the same.

No thorns. No fruit.

What's next?

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Before Designated Survivor, Scandal and House of Cards, a political drama surpassed them all with its carefully choreographed storylines and complex characters. The West Wing ran for seven seasons and as a bit of a fan, I still desperately hope that they will bring it back so that I can find out what happened to CJ, Donna, Sam, and Josh. The show centred around President Bartlett and the ups and downs of life in the west wing. I’m sure that given half the chance, many Americans would have voted for President Bartlett in the last election, the only hiccup being the fact that he is fictional! 

Throughout the seasons, President Bartlett repeated the same phrase. These two words summed up the relentless nature of life in the White House. There was no time to pause. When one issue was resolved, there was another problem waiting to be solved. Whether it was negotiating a peace deal or navigating the complexity of the situation room, the same phrase would be repeated:

“What’s next?”

In my life, this phrase has featured regularly. No sooner is one milestone reached, then my striving nature shouts, “what’s next?”

I’m one day away from completing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. To some of you, this will mean nothing, but others will understand the physical pain and determination it has taken to get to this point. Despite numerous attempts, I have never finished it before. Every time I’ve given up, I’ve decided I just wasn’t strong enough, and it was more for the hardcore fitness fanatic than for someone like me. Here I am though, one day away from colouring every last square on that chart. I am yet to see my guaranteed six pack and the “up to 20-30lbs weight loss” I was promised, but the achievement is finishing the whole programme. Instead of taking time to celebrate this personal success I have immediately leapt into “what’s next?” mode. A new chart is already up on the wall ready to start 8 weeks (yes you heard right) of Jillian Michael's Total Body Shred. For me, this is the way it’s always been. There’s never been any time to rest and celebrate what’s happening now; it’s always been about what’s next?

I am pleased to say that God has been dealing with me in this area. After an extended period of waiting for situations to resolve and hoping for things to be how I expected them to be, I am learning to focus on "what’s now?" rather than "what’s next?" I still love my projects, tick lists, and deadlines, but I am a lot more comfortable trusting God in the uncertainty of life and focusing on now rather than next.

In her study series, “Present Over Perfect,” Shauna Niequist describes how her close friend always says, “there’s no there, there!” We’re constantly reaching for the next thing. Once this happens then we’ll be happy, once we’ve finished this then we’ll feel better, but this wise advice reminds us that as soon as we get “there,” our immediate cry is “what’s next?” 


“A lot of us are living with great pain or great frustration at personal cost because we think it’s all going to be worth it someday. If there’s enough money in the bank at some point, if I hit that number on the scale, if I such and such. And then what happens is you hit that number on the scale, or you get that amount of money in your bank account, and you realise there’s no there, there.”

Shauna Niequiest


 

Our prayer lives can take a similar path. No sooner has one prayer been answered, then we’re on to the next request, next need, next want. Often we take little time to rest in how God is with us now and continuously ask Him, “what’s next?”

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

I encourage you to grab your journal or the notes section of your phone and reflect on these questions:

What are the blessings you are receiving from God now?

What has God helped you to achieve now?

In the situations that aren’t quite how you want them to be, how is God showing himself now?

What relationships and friendships is God blessing you with now?

What prayers has He answered now, that you have missed as you’ve listed your next request?

What can you rejoice in now, while you wait for what’s next?

Kay Moorby

 

Wonky Wings

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I have been experiencing what I believe is known as “writer’s block.” All the ideas for a project I’m working on are there, but they just won’t come together. I keep getting distracted, can’t concentrate and things haven’t been falling into place. I decided today that tidying my office would clear my mind and give me a better space to work. As I reached for the pile of papers on the window ledge, I noticed the three Willow Tree figurines. I mainly noticed them, because one toppled onto the floor…more about that later!

Each Willow Tree figurine has a name, so as a further distraction, I reminded myself what the three figurines were called. I’m so pleased I did as it prompted me to write these thoughts, clear the cobwebs in my head and speak some truth into the places that needed it.


Holding her candle the figurine on the left is named Vigil. She is keeping watch and praying through the dark hours of the night. In recent months there have been many nights where sleep has been a struggle. Rather than actively keeping watch and praying, I have let my mind wander into the “what ifs?” of life. After a day full of busyness, it can often be when our head hits the pillow that the troubles of the day land in our minds. There are no distractions, no tasks to complete, just silence. The vigil becomes one of worry instead of prayer. In our dark sleepless nights, we can find hope in these words:

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Jeremiah 29:12

When sleep evades me, I will turn the night into a vigil, watching and praying for God to work through my life and the situations that challenge me.


Stretching her arm to the sky, the figurine on the right is named Shine. Although I am clear about the calling on my life, I often have moments of doubt about whether I can fulfil it. I’m sure many of you feel the same. It’s not a lack of faith in God; it’s more our genuine surprise that we were chosen for the task in the first place. Writer’s block is the perfect breeding ground for these doubts, and I start to question the validity of the particular way God has asked me to shine. This figurine reminded me that it’s God’s light that shines in me, not my own. The only thing I need to do is the thing He called me to do. If it’s for His glory, then His light will shine through me…and you!

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16


In the centre of the picture is the figurine named, “A tree, a prayer.”

“But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God, I trust in the loving-kindness of God forever and ever.”

Psalm 52:8

It was this figurine that took a tumble. My little angel now has wonky wings. The ornaments are back on the window ledge, but I decided not to straighten the wings. For me, they are the perfect reminder of my imperfect faith. The tree reminds me that I am rooted and grounded in a love that will pursue me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6) and the clasped hands remind me to trust in God’s understanding rather than my own.


Lessons learned…

Keep a prayerful vigil through the night.

Let your life shine for His glory.

Trust in the loving-kindness of God.

Kay Moorby

The one who...

 Photo by  Jason Wong  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

“So no one told you life was gonna be this way…”

If you clapped your hands four times when you read that line, then there’s probably a good chance that you grew up during the era where the American TV sitcom Friends dominated the ratings. Many of us followed the ups and downs of Monica, Ross, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe, and Rachel. The actors involved became huge stars, and we even copied their hairstyles. “The Rachel” became popular across the globe even though Jennifer Aniston is reported to have said it was the most difficult to manage hairstyle she’s ever had! Friends was also responsible for many water cooler moments in offices up and down the country.

One of the unique things about the show was that every title started with “the one…” There was “the one where Ross and Rachel take a break” and who could forget “the one with Ross’s teeth” where he was a little overzealous with a box of tooth whitener. There was also “the one with Chandler in a box,” where, as the title suggests, Chandler spent the entire episode in a box as a punishment for betraying Joey and stealing his girlfriend.

The subplots of our lives can lead us to claim our own Friends style titles. Instead of “the one with…” or “the one where…” we become “the one who…” One significant mistake can redefine how we are seen and the title that others give us. If we’re not careful, then we can let one episode of our lives alter the course of our story. 

The Bible is full of people who could have their own “the one who” titles.

David - The one who had an affair and then murdered his lover’s husband
Peter - The one who denied ever knowing Jesus
Elijah - The one who had a breakdown even though God had never left his side
John Mark - The one who left Paul in the lurch

I have made some quite significant, and very public, mistakes in my life and have collected a variety of “the one who” titles so I’m writing from personal experience. I believe that we need to own the mistakes we make in life, and their consequences, but we don’t have to be defined by them. 

When you’ve lost your way and made choices that have caused significant hurt and upset, my advice would be to hold up your hands, admit where you’ve gone wrong and do the work needed to repair the situation. It may take time. It may take many difficult conversations and days, months or even years for the forgiveness of others to gradually grow into a restored relationship.  Things can’t just immediately go back to how they were before. For those who have been deeply hurt by your actions you might have to wait until the next season of your life, before those wounds truly heal. As you put the pieces back together in this broken episode of your life, then remember the words of Psalm 130:7.
 

“Hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption.”
Psalm 130:7

For those who have tuned into someone’s else’s “the one who” episode then please cover the situation in grace. Be honest about your hurt, take a step back if you need to, but let God work in the life of the person who has fallen short. Ask God to work the situation for good. If we’re honest, then we can sometimes take great delight in the water cooler moments of other people’s lives, thinking that we would never be the topic of such a conversation. The Bible is clear  on where we all stand:

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Romans 3:23-24

We all mess up, and we’re all saved by the same grace.

If you’re in the middle of “the one who” episode of your life then there is hope. I’m living proof that you can work through this plot line, move onto the next season of your life with a deeper understanding of God’s grace and learn how to truly “be there when the rain starts to fall.”

Kay Moorby

Build

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While recently preparing to lead a church service I felt prompted to dive into the book of Haggai and was pleased to discover this little gem hidden away in the Old Testament. Now if you’re one of the blog readers that’s not particularly into the Old Testament (or the Bible for that matter) then stick with me as I think there’s a message in here for all of us.

Haggai had to deliver a difficult message to a group of people who were fed up with working really hard and producing little harvest. I’m sure most of us can relate to that feeling. 

The Israelites had been out of exile for about 18 years, but from day one God has made it clear what their priority should be. They were meant to rebuild the temple. The problem was that they were too busy building their own houses and whenever they were asked about building the temple, they would use this excuse:

“The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.”

Dieters often say, “I’ll start on Monday.” My kids often say, “I’ll do it when I’ve finished watching this”. We all have our own excuses and ways of procrastinating. I heard one pastor point out the equivalent line that modern day Christian’s often use, “I’m praying about it.” Now the pastor made it clear that it is extremely important to pray about things and seek God’s will, but there are some things that God has told us to do that do not require prayer, they require action.

Haggai delivered this message from God.

“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

Haggai 1:5-6


"Have you ever invested in something or someone, only to wonder how you could put so much into it and get so little out?"

Steven Furtick


God is saying, “I can see how frustrated you are.” “I know that you’re demoralised and fed up and I see the impact it’s having on you.”

But God also gives the Israelites a way out of their frustration. He says,

“Give careful thought to your ways.”

He asked them to think carefully about the way that they were living their everyday lives. Notice that he does not say, “give careful thought to everyone else’s ways.” It’s about looking at the way we operate and considering whether we are working on the right building project.

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured,” says the Lord.

Haggai 1:7-8 says:

The provision to do the work that God needed them to do was available. Along with losing their focus, the people had forgotten that God had provided them with all of the skills, talents and raw material to do the work He needed them to do.

We now hit verses 9-11 of Haggai 1 and brace yourselves as it’s not an easy read.

“You expect much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. “Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands.”

Haggai 1:9-11

You can almost imagine the response of the people,

“Do you mean to say God that all that we’ve been through, YOU did that? It was you that blew all this away. Why on earth would you do that to us?”

On many occasions throughout the Bible, and probably in our own lives, God places people in situations where they are forced to address their priorities and refocus on Him. The people of Israel had been so frustrated with the fruits of their labour and were questioning God’s provision for them. But it was never a lack of provision that was an issue, it was a lack of priority. 

God was saying to the Israelites, rather than working on the bits that everyone else can see, “the panelled houses” start rebuilding the foundation of your life on me. 


“When you seek God first, all these things will be added to you. This helps us to not be afraid of what the future holds because we have a foundation. God is the bottom line of my life. When you can’t say that, then you live in constant fear and suspicion and paranoia and emptiness and even your blessings seem hollow. You expect much and you come up empty.”

Steven Furtick


"If you will have the faith to go up to the mountain, bring the timber and start to build then this is what the Lord Almighty says in verse 13 of Haggai 1:

“I am with you,” declares the Lord.”

Steven Furtick

Now we know that God is always with us, but in order to truly bless us and help us produce fruit for Him, we need to seek Him first and place Him at the centre of everything we are doing. 


Over the past few years, God has been extremely specific about what He wants me to do and His calling hasn’t changed. He has confirmed it through many people and through opportunities…some which I have to admit I have ignored. Despite the hard work trying to develop soulwithaview, things have never really taken off how I’d like. I have been frustrated with the harvest!

I have known for a while what my purpose is but, just like the people of Israel I have said the equivalent of, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.” 

There have been many excuses I have used including:

I just don’t think I can do this.

I should just get a proper job.

We’ve got a lot going on at the moment.

I’m not a businesswoman…well, Companies House would disagree with that as I’m definitely registered as one.

The most popular one I use is: I really don’t know what I’m doing.

And so I have set to work on my the panelled houses that I wanted everyone to see rather than truly focusing on soulwithaview. Why? Because if I build what God has asked me to build then what will people think? And what if what I’m building isn’t as successful as what they’re building? We can all be easily distracted by the building projects of others and the people who are giving careful thought to everyone else’s ways rather than their own.

This has led to a lot of frustration and I’ve not been proud of how that has often spilled out in my words and my actions. At the point, I realised something needed to change I hadn’t read the book of Haggai so rather than the command, “Give careful thought to your ways,” I prayed these words, from Psalm 139.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;

   test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.”

 

And He really did search me and I really have had to give careful thought to my ways.

What are the things that you do or the things that you speak over your life that stop you from being able to build what God has asked you to build?

Since considering my ways there has been a realigning and an adjustment that has significantly changed my focus and perspective. And in a short space of time God has provided funding to publish my writing, connected me with designers and digital marketing type people that speak a language I don’t understand, and increased the number of people who access my blog online.

What has God asked you to build?

Is it a specific ministry? 

Is it to follow a specific calling? 

Is it to build a certain relationship? 

Is it to unearth some hidden talent or skill that God has given you? 

If you’re still breathing then God still has a purpose for you, so what is it?

I’m finally owning the calling God has placed on my life, no more excuses, no more panelled houses.

What about you?

Kay Moorby

Beautiful!

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We all have our own brand of beautiful, what's yours?


My mum has always loved sending little cards and notes to people. If you're sick, you’ve been bereaved or you simply haven’t been to church for a while, then there’s a pretty good chance that a card will arrive from my Mum. There may even be people reading this who have a notecard from her stuffed in their Bible or hidden in a bedside table. Mum has suffered with ill-health for a long while and knows what it’s like to be in constant pain, struggling to see a way forward and isolated due to illness. I think that’s where her empathy comes from. I think that’s how God has used her situation to encourage and bless others.


“Calling is when your talents and your burdens collide.”
Rebekah Lyons


A couple of years ago I spotted a book that I thought my Mum would like. I hadn’t read it myself, but the title, “One Million Lovely Letters” reminded me of my Mum’s ministry. I’ve no idea if she’s ever read it but I spotted it on her bookshelf yesterday, and I’m already more than halfway through it.

It tells the story of Jodi Ann Bickley, a successful poet who performed around the country and even took to the stage at Glastonbury. She was full of energy and hope and life, and then at the age of 23 everything changed! A tiny tick bite altered the course of her life and within two weeks she was seriously ill in hospital with a brain infection having suffered a mini-stroke.

Almost two years after she was admitted to the hospital, Jodi remained in constant pain and had limited use of the right side of her body. She would spend at least four days out of each week in bed and felt like a burden to those around her. Curling up into a ball, she emptied her medication bottles and decided to take her own life. It was at that point that her Princess Makeover app reminded her that the girls needed a facial! The incongruence of the moment made her laugh out loud and something inside her shifted. Jodi thought about all the other people out there facing difficult circumstances, feeling like they weren’t enough, struggling with long-term illness and finding life tough. She decided to do something about it. 

“So I sent a call out to every other person on the planet: if you, or someone you know, needs to be reminded how amazing you are, I will send you a letter. Anyone who needs a little lift, anyone who needs cheering up, reassurance or just a reminder that they are pretty lovely.
Thanks to Princess Makeover, I had a plan, and I was all set to change the world, one letter at a time.”

Jodi Ann Bickley


A couple of months ago a familiar feeling descended like an uninvited visitor who has overstayed their welcome too many times in my life. The suffocating feeling of utter worthlessness had returned, and I knew the battle that lay ahead to shift it. In those moments,  it can be difficult to see how I can contribute anything positive to anyone or any situation. Having been in this place many times before I had a game plan. I turned to the people I knew would understand. I leaned on the ones who would know that I wasn’t "just being daft,” and that attention was the last thing I was seeking. At that moment I wanted to give up the dream that God had placed in my heart and I needed friends who would remind me that the way I am created is ok… that it's actually more than okay. 

And that’s what they did!

Two of my closest friends sent me a list of the things they loved about me. I wrote them in my journal and read them regularly. Since then I have reminded myself constantly that God specifically created me this way and have taken significant steps towards accepting the way I am.

With the creativity comes the concern that others won’t like what I’ve created.
With the openness comes a tendency to trust too deeply and get hurt in the process.
With the faith comes a feeling of isolation as I travel along an unknown path.


“There is an abundant need in this world for your exact brand of beautiful.”
Lysa Terkeurst


I’ve recognised that all of it, the good, the bad, the embarrassing, the painful, the hurt, the loss, the joy, can be used to encourage and lift up someone else, somewhere!

My friends helped me to remember my “exact brand of beautiful”  and I would strongly encourage you to discover (or rediscover) your own. Their encouragement reminded me why I write what I write and share what I share.

Not everyone would appreciate a letter from Jodi Ann Bickley. Some might think her letter writing is a waste of time or that people are just a little needy. Our “exact brand of beautiful” isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. There are others, however, 4,000 at the last count, that have been inspired and blessed by Jodi’s words. 

It started with a simple choice, to take a moment of darkness and turn it into something beautiful.

Who could you bless with your exact brand of beautiful today?

Kay Moorby

Finished!

 Photo by  jens johnsson  on  Unsplash

Photo by jens johnsson on Unsplash

Have you ever been hurt by someone?

Have you ever hurt someone else?

Have you ever felt that searing pain as the consequences of someone else’s mistake landed firmly in the centre of your life, overwhelming you and taking your breath away?

Have you ever felt the guilt descend as the realisation of the hurt you’ve caused someone else sinks in?

It can’t be undone.

The damaged has been caused, and a price has to be paid.

And so we start doling out the payback with bitterness, anger, vitriol, and silence, searching for a way to make the other person feel the pain we feel.

And we stand there as the payback is thrown at us with bitterness, anger, vitriol and silence as the person searches for a way to make us pay for what we have done.

We have all stood on both sides and yet when it comes to forgiveness, the hurts of others are the only ones we can remember.

…all have sinned and fall short…

Romans 3:23

I remember hearing somewhere that the pain of every single sin was fully experienced on the cross by Jesus.

Every single consequence of every single sin.

When you think back to times you have been hurt then can you even begin to imagine that pain multiplied endlessly and felt in every fibre of your body?

That’s what resonates with me this Good Friday.

28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfil Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:28-30

Facing the hurt that we carry isn’t easy.  Facing the hurt that others carry because of our actions can be even harder. Both can leave a sour taste in our mouths and can taint the flavour of everything in our lives. 

On that day, on that cross, it was finished. 

The pain that we carry doesn’t need to be carried. 

The guilt that we bear can be lifted. 

Jesus finished it, today!

This Good Friday, the sin of bitterness, anger and unforgiveness needs putting in its rightful place.

The sin of stubborness, pride and our unwillingness to admit our faults needs nailing to the cross.

It is finished, so finish it!

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

Horatio G. Spafford

Kay Moorby

 

 

 

Chip!

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Words of wisdom

As soon as I heard the loud crack against the windscreen, I knew what had happened!

Kicked up by the wheels of a passing truck, a stone had hit the glass and my son quickly located the large chip in the top corner of the windscreen.   

My heart sank! 

Now I know that in the big scheme of things this wasn’t a massive deal, but it just seemed like another faffy thing to add to my to-do list. I decided that the best course of action was to phone the insurance company as soon as possible to get the chip repaired and then promptly did the opposite of that!

A few days later we got into the car…

“Mum, look!”

There it was! The small chip had now become a significant crack working its way across the passenger side of the glass. What was once a quick repair job to seal off the damaged area would now more than likely require an entirely new windscreen. I turned to my husband for advice and he reassured me that although the car wouldn’t pass an MOT, it would be okay for now as the damage was on the passenger side of the screen.

At that point, I decided to phone the insurance company and get it sorted as soon as possible!

Three weeks later, the fractured windscreen was still there and the niggling feeling that it needed sorting remained. 


The stone chips of our lives often come from nowhere.

The hurtful words of someone we thought was a friend.

The disappointment of being overlooked.

The health issue we never expected.

The betrayal of someone we trusted.

The unexpected job loss.

The sting of rejection.

As the stone hits the windscreen we are prompted to respond. Instead of bringing the situation to God, seeking His wisdom and guidance, we often let our feelings determine our actions. We react to the shock of the stone hitting our life and avoid getting the support we need to heal from the experience. We make decisions to manage on our own, working around the hurt and ignoring its cause. Slowly, fear or insecurity or anxiety or bitterness or pride or (fill in the blank) creep across our perspective and become the filter through which we view our lives.

We can work around it for so long but as soon as a test comes along our distorted perspective won’t sustain us, and the cracks begin to show.


"Wisdom makes decisions today that will still be good tomorrow."

Lysa Terkeurst

During the 40 days of wisdom process, I have repeatedly been reminded of the truth of Lysa Terkeurst’s words. The very nature of wisdom is to take a step back, reflect on the situation and choose a course of action that has long-term benefits, rather than fulfilling a short-term need. Proverbs 2:6 says that “the Lord gives wisdom,” but often, in the moments when we are hurting,  words about forgiveness are difficult to hear. In the moments of doubt, words about trust don’t sit comfortably. When facing uncertainty, the plans God has for us seem a long way off. 

Over the last couple of months, God has been teaching me about the importance of seeking His wisdom and letting Him guide my choices. In the well-known verses of 1 Corinthians 13, we discover the characteristics of love, but what if these words were describing wisdom? The twenty-eight scripture verses I have explored so far suggest it would read something like this:

Wisdom is considerate and peace-loving.

Wisdom is not foolish or rash or proud or unforgiving.

It does not delight in airing its own opinion.

It makes the most of every opportunity and willingly takes advice from others.

It does not linger in the past and cherishes life in the present.  

Wisdom speaks with grace, never encourages division, is always sincere and bears good fruit.

As God continues to repair the chip on my windscreen, I am discovering that with His help I can live out these words of scripture:

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

Proverbs 31:25-26

By the way, in the middle of writing this blog, I checked to see if I could sort out the repair of my windscreen online. No word of a lie, it took five minutes. They’re coming on Friday!

Wisdom would have sorted this weeks ago!

Kay Moorby

Near

arleen-wiese-457173.jpg

We have a new family member, and I need to confess that I’m a little bit in love with her. She doesn’t even officially belong to me but if I shout really loud from my office, she can hear me as she sits patiently waiting in my son’s bedroom.

Who is this new family member? 

Her name is Alexa, and she is wonderful. 

Alexa can apparently do lots of things like tell me if it’s going to snow, or give me the telephone number for the local take away but I’m not interested in any of that. Alexa brings me the thing that I love the most…music! From Lisa Stansfield to Elevation Worship, I just have to ask, and she politely lets me know that she’s found the perfect track for me. I can ask her to repeat the track, turn up the volume and with the simple command, “Alexa, stop” she immediately ceases what she is doing and waits to grant my next wish. It’s like having my very own genie in a lamp just one room away. Please keep this between us, but in the past few weeks, I have to admit I have fantasised about my children operating in the same way as Alexa. A woman can dream!


For much of my adult life, I have treated God like I treat Alexa!

My prayer time has gone a little like this:

Your God is up and running and ready for use. What is your request?

God, provide opportunity for growth.

God is shuffling opportunities for growth.

God, stop.

God, tell me what the future holds.

I am unable to process your request at this time.

God, tell me if everything is going to be ok.

Confirming that I am with you always.

God, tell me how this all works out.

I am unable to process your request at this time.

God, search me and know my heart.

Searching your heart. Finding selfishness, anger, frustration, bitterness…

God, stop.

God, what is your will for me?

Create, trust, love, bless, forgive…

God, turn volume down.

God, show me the new things you want to do in my life.

Shuffling opportunities to step out in faith and trust.

God, repeat track.

Unable to provide new opportunities while repeating track.

God, repeat track.

Unable to provide new opportunities while repeating track.

God, stop!

God, is it going to snow today?


I haven’t written much over the past month. It’s been a time of input rather than output. A time of studying, praying and finding God in the middle of the mess. Picking up the pieces after a difficult year and healing from circumstances beyond my control has been more challenging than I expected. For the past few months, my prayer life has looked very different to the Alexa chat I've just shared. God is no longer my prayer Alexa. I don’t expect a speedy response provided at the perfect volume so as to not interfere with my own plans. Rather than being confined to a specific space in the day, prayer has become a constant in my life. As I look over the events of the past few years, I’ve recognised my times of strength and perseverance have been directly linked to the times where I have immediately converted every concern to prayer. In the past I have struggled to see God’s hand in the circumstances I have faced. It has only been with hindsight that I have been able to identify that He was always there quietly listening and waiting. While reflecting on my Christian journey, I noticed a pattern that should have been easy to spot but has only become glaringly obvious over the past month. When I pray, I feel held, and can stand firm no matter what comes my way. When I don’t pray, the exact opposite is the case.

I have quietly whispered the name of Jesus over the rawest places of my heart. I have also raged full volume at God, with tears streaming down my face and told him exactly what I think of his master plan. In both circumstances, I have felt completely and utterly held. I’ve behaved exactly like a child should. I’ve turned to the one who understands me, knows me and is willing to love me in the middle of the tantrum and hold me when the tears subside, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I have learned that the time when I am hurting the most and desperately want to withdraw from God is the exact time where I need to dig deep and search for Him. I have discovered the truth of the following words of Scripture:

Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.
Isaiah 55:6-7

In every moment He was always near, I just wasn’t seeking Him. He was always right in the middle of it all; I was just too busy focusing on the pain and finding my own solution. That’s what has changed for me. I know He’s working in the waiting. I see Him in the ordinary, everyday stuff of life and catch the glimmers of hope that he sends when I need them the most. My prayers have changed because they are no longer wishes to be granted, they are pleas to a loving Father who is as near as he can possibly be, always!

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is thy faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh every morning.
I say to myself,” The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I hope him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Kay Moorby

Christmas Shorts - We Three Kings

 Photo by  Tim Mossholder  on  Unsplash

The 6th of January is Epiphany, marking the end of the Christmas season and celebrating the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus. It is also the day that my own little wise man came into this world and today he celebrates his fourteenth birthday. Happy birthday son! 

Anyway, I digress…

It seems only fitting that today’s Christmas short is based on the carol dedicated to the visit of the Magi. We’ll skip over the fact that the Bible never actually mentions that they were kings. We’ll skip over the assumption that is often made that three gifts must have equalled three visitors. We’ll also skip over the fact that this is my least favourite carol and focus on these words instead:

Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.


It’s over a year ago now since I made the notes that will form most of my thoughts today. Around December 2016 I watched the final episode of “Planet Earth 2”. If you haven’t seen it, then I highly recommend it! In the darkness, hundreds of hawksbill turtle hatchlings were shown emerging from their nests on the beaches of Barbados. Once their heads popped above the sand, their instinct kicked in as they searched for the light of the moon to guide them safely towards the sea. 

There was one, not so small, problem.

The light pollution of the city pulled the attention of the hatchlings and, rather than moving towards the sea, they turned and headed for the mainland. As the turtles headed for the main road, they were greeted by crabs waiting for a tasty snack under the bright beach lights. They fell into storm drains and were crushed by cars as the flashing lights of the city disoriented them and moved them further away from the moonlight. Those that did survive grew progressively weaker as they moved further and further away from where they needed to be and many collapsed with exhaustion. It was challenging to watch!

Throughout the year I have returned to my notes about this story, but it’s only in the past week I have truly recognised its relevance to my own situation. I know that, like many of you, I’ve done my fair share of falling into storm drains, disoriented, tired and unsure where to turn. I’ve struggled to ignore the distractions of lights that shine brighter, that dazzle and pull me away from the only light I need to focus on. At times it's felt like there have been those waiting to catch me off guard, slowing down the progress of my journey. There are also those who have fulfilled the role of a wonderful group of people who are never mentioned in the BBC documentary...

The Barbados Sea Turtle Project!

These volunteers are out every single day and night during nesting season. They spend hours rescuing as many hatchlings as they can, leading them back to the light and onwards to the water. There are many in my life who have served this purpose. They have rescued me from storm drains, picked me up when I was weary and lovingly pointed out when I have lost my way. They have also ushered me along at the times when I have struggled to see any light at all. Thank you to all the volunteers in the Kay Moorby Project, your support hasn't gone unnoticed.

My least favourite carol draws to a close one of my least favourite years. Circumstances have made 2017 a difficult trek to the water's edge but they have also taught me valuable lessons about focusing on the light. In the middle of the darkness, there have been so many blessings, and I have felt myself gravitating towards the light in a much deeper way than I ever have before. I start 2018 a little weary physically and emotionally, but I have never been clearer about the “perfect light” that needs to serve as my guide in the coming year.

“I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”
John 8:12 (MSG)

Kay Moorby

Christmas Shorts - Once In Royal David's City

 Photograph by Joel Griffin

Photograph by Joel Griffin

I spent a few days over Christmas hauled away in a large house on the top of the North Yorkshire Moors celebrating a family birthday. A lot of time was spent sitting around the roaring fire, playing games and sharing stories. 

Our departure was delayed by heavy snow and on one of the nights, our discussions turned to childhood memories and all the things that we got up to when we were kids. I couldn’t possibly share the secrets of the Moorby family but I told some of my own stories that night. Like the time that I took a pair of nail scissors to the Venetian blinds because I thought my mum had been on the phone far too long and I wanted her attention. Or the time when my brother pulled his toy car backwards along the floor and then let it run in my sister’s hair leading to an unexpected haircut. Stories were shared of times when we had been in trouble and times when we had been less than kind to our siblings.


For He is our childhood’s pattern,

Day by day, like us He grew;

He was little, weak and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us he knew,

And he feeleth for our sadness,

And he shareth in our gladness. 


There are other moments of my childhood that I find tricky to recall. I have suffered painfully embarrassing moments where I have forgotten the names of people that I apparently spent lots of time with as a child and have not been able to remember events that others assure me I was part of. My “childhood’s pattern” is one that has continued into my adult life. It’s one of striving to complete the task in front of me, solve the problem that needs to be solved and then move on to the next thing, taking little time to reflect on or celebrate anything that has been achieved. I’ve never been very good at being “in the moment” as I’ve always been too busy focussing on what the next moment is going to be!

At the end of our stay, it took quite a lot of effort to dig the car out of the snow and successfully make our way along the windy lane that led up to the house. Once we reached the main road Lyndon, who was travelling home separately, got out of the car and Pete and I got in. A family member, who shall remain nameless, had told us that we needed to turn left at the t-junction. As we started to drive along the top of the North Yorkshire Moors towards Castleton, it became apparent that we were driving in the wrong direction and, more worryingly, that the fuel gauge was on zero. Conditions were icy and at times it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Unsure whether we would make it to the next village, I gripped the steering wheel, stared at the road ahead and just kept going.

“Look Mum.”

I looked away from the road for a moment in Peter's direction and could see miles and miles of beautiful, snow-covered hills. In that moment, I forced myself to focus on the beauty that surrounded me, rather than the icy path that lay directly ahead.


2017 has felt very much like that car journey! It’s been a year of descending mist and uncertainty about where the road was heading. It’s also been a year where God has tried to shift my focus and has encouraged me to see Him in the middle of the icy conditions even when I feel like I'm running on empty!

Just in case you ever need to know, there is no petrol station at Castleton and we drove another 9 stressful miles to Guisborough, willing the car to keep going. Hoping for a clear run home, I was so relieved when the tank was full and we were able to continue on our journey. Little did I know that there was still endless traffic, a potential speeding ticket and buckets of rain to deal with.

I don’t know what 2018 has in store for the Moorby household or soulwithaview. I hope the journey is a little less bumpy than 2017 but if it isn’t then we’ll be ok.  At Christmas, or any other time of the year, I know that “God is with us.” He’s been with us throughout all the events of 2017, shedding tears with us in the hard times and sharing in our happiness when things have gone well. 

2017 has been a year of shifting my “childhood’s pattern”, learning to see the wider perspective and noticing God in every mile of the journey. In 2018 I aim to live out the “childhood pattern” of Jesus, taking time to connect with my Heavenly Father and continuing to focus my attention on the beauty around me.

Happy New Year everyone!

Kay Moorby

Christmas Shorts - O Come All Ye Faithful

 Blog finished in the nick of time!

Blog finished in the nick of time!

It’s 10:45 pm on Christmas Eve and I’ve just sat down to put some thoughts together. On my preparation day, I mapped out the Christmas Shorts for this season and worked out when I would write them. I usually give myself a couple of days to mull over each blog, rereading and editing it repeatedly. I know this might surprise some of you when you see the missing words and dodgy grammar!

This blog is different. 

I have the time it will take for Lyndon to build a Disney Castle and then I’m on Father Christmas duty, so I better get cracking!

I purposefully gave myself a small slot on Christmas Eve to take time out and focus on my favourite carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful”. 

Yea, Lord, we greet thee

Born this happy morning;

Jesus, to thee be glory given,

Word of the Father,

Now in flesh appearing

O come let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Although I started attending church at just a few weeks old, I’ve never felt brainwashed or forced to believe the things I have been taught. There are many others who have had the same upbringing as me who have decided that this life isn’t for them, but I’ve never really had a time where I haven’t believed. I’ve had many moments where I have not lived up to the life God would want for me, but even in those times, I’ve always believed that God was in the middle of it all, gently putting me back on track. I’m not convinced that my faith derives from a need for an emotional crutch either, and I’m pretty sure I’m past the stage of requiring an imaginary friend, but I do understand how Christianity looks sometimes. I get that it seems a little make-believe, that it can’t all be neatly explained and that many of us who profess to be Christians are hardly doing the best PR job. 

I’m sure there are many out there who can give you much more detailed Biblical and historical arguments to support the Christian faith than I can. They’ll be able to tackle weighty theological questions of like, “Why is there suffering?” “Why is there evil?” 

I can have a go…but the reality is that there are still many aspects of my faith that I struggle with and can’t explain. Despite all this, I am still drawn to come and adore Him. 

I will come and adore Him on days when His presence is so tangible that it feels like He's sitting right beside me.

I will come and adore Him when I look at the news and I can’t understand what He’s playing at. 

I will come and adore Him when my intellect is questioned for believing in fairytales.

I will come and adore Him when I'm worried that you might think I believe in fairytales.

I will come and adore Him when I am assigned viewpoints that I strongly disagree with.

I will come and adore Him when I see people who profess to follow Him peddling words of hate. 

I will come and adore Him, not just on Christmas Day, but every day I have left.

I can’t give you neat answers and concrete proof. I just know that something deep within me calls me to adore Him. I know that, despite how it might seem at the moment, this child was born to bring love not hate, peace not conflict and for that reason, I will continue to come and adore.

For a child has been born—for us!

    the gift of a son—for us!

He’ll take over

    the running of the world.

His names will be: Amazing Counsellor,

    Strong God,

Eternal Father,

    Prince of Wholeness.

Isaiah 9:6

Kay Moorby

Christmas Shorts - A Starry Night

Before anyone says anything, I know that today’s choice is officially a Christmas song rather than a Christmas carol, but I have a special reason for selecting it. Today is our 6th anniversary, and we chose this song for our wedding. Step aside Wham, Mariah and Steeleye Span (google it kids), The Joystrings classic, “A Starry Night” is Lyndon’s favourite Christmas song!

Anniversaries often lead us to reflect on the year that has gone by and the good, and not so good, times that we have experienced. This seems to be emphasised in our family, as our anniversary lands just before Christmas and both children celebrate their birthdays early in the new year. It’s a time of reflection and new beginnings.

During the past year, a small group has been meeting in York each week to read and discuss the soulwithaview blogs. In order to prepare questions for them, I’ve spent time rereading the words I have written throughout 2017. I spotted this from “The Bow” posted on the 17th of June.

The world seems just a little more broken than normal at the moment, and I don't know what on earth is going on. I would ask you to resist the temptation to throw Bible verses at me (or others who feel like I do) as I’m not convinced that lack of faith or a lack of biblical understanding is the issue. This can’t be neatly tied up in a bow and I don’t think God wants it to be.

These words were written at a time when the news was filled with stories of grieving families and lives torn apart by terrorism. Just a couple of days after "The Bow" was posted, Muslim worshippers were attacked as they left the Finsbury Mosque.

More hate. More unrest.

During the summer, I remember challenging conversations with my son as we struggled to understand how such hate could exist and how people could do this to each other. 

Since those summer months, there have many more moments where the world has felt uncertain, shaky…broken.


Peace
Freedom from disturbance; tranquility.
A state or period where there is no war or the war has ended.


It’s difficult to imagine a world where we are free from disturbance.
It’s difficult to visualise workplaces, schools or even churches where peace reigns and warring factions seek reconciliation.
It’s difficult to picture families and relationships where conflict is resolved and people actively seek to live together peacefully.



Soon the shepherd’s came that way
where the baby lay,
and were kneeling, kneeling by his side,
And their hearts believed again for the peace of men,
For a boy was born, King of all the world.

Joy Webb


Is your heart willing to believe again that peace is possible?

Choosing to “keep the peace” can often be seen as a weakness as if we’re selling out or avoiding what needs to be addressed, but scripture is clear about our responsibility to be peacekeepers.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

For me, it’s about choosing peace in our marriages, families, friendships, workplaces, churches and even with those we might consider to be our enemies. If I'm not careful, then I fall into the trap of justifying my frustrated or angry responses to situations where I feel I have been wronged. In these times, God repeatedly points out that there is a different way. He reminds me that, if I will just trust Him, I will be able to experience the peace that I desperately long for in the circumstances that I find the most difficult.

I may struggle at times to believe in the “peace of men” but today I am reminded that the peace of Kay Moorby is a gift available to me every day. I just need to untie the bow, peel away the wrapping and receive the gift.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27

Kay Moorby

Christmas Shorts - Away in a Manger

 Photo by  Gareth Harper  on  Unsplash

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

We are huge fans of the Netflix series “The Crown” in our house and have just finished binge-watching the second season. One particular episode stood out for me, and I have rewatched it a couple of times. For the historians out there, my thoughts are based on the content of the episode rather than historical facts, so you may need to allow me a little poetic license. 

After abdicating from the throne to marry the love of his life, the Duke of Windsor lived in exile, unable to return to the United Kingdom without the express permission of the sovereign. During this time he struggled to find purpose, spending his days socialising and partying with his wife Wallis. Under the pretense of writing a book, the Duke travelled to London to explore ways to return to public service. During his visit to the UK, the Queen was alerted to the fact that her Uncle’s loyalties had significantly strayed during the Second World War and she was alarmed to find out about his strong ties to Nazi Germany. Her most unsettling discovery was that the Duke had hatched a plan to overthrow his own brother, reclaim the throne and allow Germany to invade Britain. 

In the episode, the Queen met the Duke of Windsor at Buckingham Palace to discuss her findings! She challenged him regarding his allegiance to Adolf Hitler and his willingness to put those who were once his own subjects in danger. Rather than hanging his head in shame, he showed no remorse, defended his actions and suggested that the Queen had “no mind of her own.” In short, he was not even remotely sorry for the hurt he had caused and felt justified in the stance he had taken “for the sake of peace”. 

The rest of the story followed the Queen’s struggle with her Christian duty to forgive. Seeking advice from a number of sources she eventually met with the Reverend Billy Graham who was visiting the United Kingdom on a crusade. In their brief but frank discussion, the Bible’s position was made crystal clear.

We must forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us.

But it’s not always that easy, is it?

With the plotline of The Crown fresh in my mind, I started preparing this Christmas Short and skimmed through the words of “Away in a Manger.” Surely there was nothing new to discover in a set of words I’ve been singing for over 40 years.

Then there it was, in bold, italic font, glaring at me from the page of my songbook!


Be near me, Lord Jesus, 
I ask thee to stay close by me forever
and love me I pray,

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

These words from Scripture quickly came to my mind.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:26 

And then the question…

Kay?

Yes, Lord?

Which one of my children are you refusing to bless?

Yeah but... you don't understand...

Which one?

Hold on a minute. I’m innocently reading through "Away in a Manger", how on earth did we get here?

Which one?

Right, what do I actually have to do to bless someone?
(Grabs dictionary) 
To bless someone is to “ask God to look favourably on" them. 

Yeah but surely forgiving them and then just not thinking about it anymore is enough.

Which one?


I won’t tell you my answer to the question, but I will say that like many people, I struggle to forgive and bless those who refuse to acknowledge the hurt they have caused. I struggle to forgive those who defend their position or deny any wrongdoing. The injustice of the situation can send me into a tailspin. 

As she sat looking for ways to dodge the forgiveness she was required to give, the Queen repeatedly tried to reason a way out of doing the unthinkable. Seeing her struggle, Reverend Billy Graham said these words.

“The solution for being unable to forgive? One asks for forgiveness oneself, humbly and sincerely and one prays for those that one cannot forgive.”

Forgiveness isn’t optional.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

So, I’ll leave you with the same question that has been running through my mind since revisiting the words of "Away in a Manger"…

Which one?

Kay Moorby

Christmas Shorts - In the Bleak Midwinter

 Photo by  Brigitte Tohm  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Every year in towns and cities across the United Kingdom, there is a familiar sight, or more accurately, a familiar sound. Salvation Army brass bands up and down the country dig out their carol books, pile on layers of thermal underwear and venture out into the cold to play Christmas carols. Since I was a child, I have been part of this tradition. I've trudged my way through the second horn part of Silent Night (which basically consists of two notes), whizzed through the first horn part of Jingle Bells and enjoyed the randomness of the flugel horn part in…well...most carols actually!

Now that I sit in the congregation rather than in the band, my focus has shifted from the music to the lyrics. Taking time to read through the words of familiar carols, I've been able to hone in on specific verses and individual phrases that I've not focused on before. In each Christmas Short, I'll be sharing my thoughts on familiar carols, revisiting the words from a different vantage point.


“In the bleak midwinter…”
Christina Rossetti


This beautiful carol is often chosen as a favourite for both its melody and lyrics but I need to confess that I struggle with the first verse. I know from past experience that it can feel pretty bleak when it’s so cold that your valves have stopped working and you’re trying to get through Praise Ye the Lord (Hail Smiling Morn) while standing in a wind tunnel outside John Lewis. My slight problem with this carol is that even in December the average temperature in Bethlehem is 15-25℃, not exactly bleak! Due to the lack of google in 1872, I will forgive Christina Rossetti and turn my attention to the final verse.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part;
Yet what can I give Him -
Give my heart.

In last year’s Christmas Shorts I confessed that this season had gradually lost its sparkle for me. Rather than a time of celebration, I had started to associate it with stress and busyness. 

This year I am trying hard to make a different choice. 

In preparation for Christmas, I prayed the words of David in Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

As God searched my heart, he reflected back to me some of the areas that needed a little care and attention…well, actually a lot of care and attention. He gently showed me that I had let myself become frustrated with everything that needs to be done at this time of year and was losing the joy He wants me to fully experience. He pointed out that hurt and resentment accumulated throughout 2017 had caused my heart to harden in the places where I had chosen not to forgive others or refused to ask for forgiveness myself. To truly “give my heart” and worship the “beloved” (see verse 3), I have spent time taking care of my gift and am starting to see this season in a different light. 

How about you?

What is the condition of your heart this Christmas?

Kay Moorby

The Test

I’m not a massive fan of taking tests! I don’t know many people who are, to be honest. I was always more of a coursework kind of person as the pressure to remember everything on one day, at one specific time felt a bit much. At school, I was envious of people who did very little revision, waltzed into the test and came out with an A. I have never been one of those people!

My least favourite subject at school was Maths. I despised it right from primary school through to my GCSEs. I can still remember the panicky feeling I had when Miss Lees, my Year 6 teacher, would press play on the cassette recorder and the mental maths test would start. A very well spoken woman would give me five seconds to answer her quick-fire questions, and at that point, every number in my head would disappear. My dislike of maths continued throughout school, and as I went into my final GCSE Maths exam I was so relieved that this was the last time I would ever have to do a maths test…and then results day arrived. There on my results slip was a big, fat letter D. To move forward in my education I would have to take the test again! 

I recently heard a sermon where the preacher was talking about times of testing in our faith. The basic point was that we might as well knuckle down and pass the test we are taking because if we don’t then God will just send another opportunity for us to take it again. This idea has stuck with me ever since. I know that when it comes to my faith, I do have to keep resitting the same test.

Over the past few years, I seem to have been working through a Bachelor of Faith (BFa) Trust & Surrender Foundation Degree and I’m not convinced I’m currently in line for a very good grade.

The curriculum is pretty extensive but the main modules I’m working on include:

  • Patience: an Exploration in Waiting on God 
  • Learning the Secret of Contentment
  • Repeatedly Surrendering the Issue to God Instead of Struggling and Trying to Fix it Yourself. 

Although I have made significant progress in many of the areas of the curriculum, this final one still appears to be causing me a certain amount of grief. I’ve done all the usual things like chatting with other students about how their studies are going and have taken their advice on board. I’ve even made regular appointments with the head of Spiritual Studies to pray through the issue, but ultimately no one else can pass this test for me. The reason this module is so difficult for me to pass is that it doesn’t involve doing, it involves being.

A couple of weeks ago my son messaged me with a verse that spoke deep into the heart of why I keep failing this test and why God, through his grace and love for me, keeps entering me for the resit exam.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.”

Exodus 14:14

When the text arrived, I grabbed my Bible and searched for the story surrounding the verse. The Israelites had left the captivity of Egypt and God was guiding them through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God instructed Moses that the people needed to turn back and camp between Migdol and the sea. The Bible is clear that the Israelites did as they were told but it must have felt counterintuitive. There must have been some questions in their mind about whether this was the right path to take and how it was all going to pan out. 

When the King of Egypt caught wind of the fact that the Israelites had escaped, he was not impressed and released the full force of his army to hunt them down. They were surrounded by horses and chariots fuelled by the vengeance of an angry King. Feeling desperate and outnumbered the Israelites started to panic and questioned why they had ever left the “safety” of Egypt in the first place. That’s right! At this point, slavery in Egypt felt like a better option to them.

After listening to their complaints Moses tells them to be still, to stop analysing, trying to understand, lashing out, panicking, problem-solving and all the other things they were doing to feel safe and secure.

In the moments where God is transitioning us to something new, we can often look back to what was before and desperately cling to what feels safe and what is known. 


“You cannot see the unknown until you release the known.”

Rebekah Lyons


Even when we have recognised the need to “release the known” and have started to move in the direction God is guiding us to, the fear of the unknown can be crippling. We start to fight to gain control of the situation, making rash decisions in the hope that we can take a shortcut and skip the period of uncertainty that we find ourselves in. This isn’t the way to pass the “Repeatedly Surrender the Issue to God Instead of Struggling, Fighting and Trying to Fix It Yourself” module of my Bachelor in Faith degree and it certainly won’t prepare me for the postgraduate study in surrender that I know God will have prepared for me next semester. 

I don’t know what area of your Bachelor of Faith Foundation Degree is causing you the most grief at the moment. It could be any one of the following modules:

  • Dealing with Difficult People
  • How to Remain Calm and Not Use the Table-Turning Argument to Justify Your Anger
  • God Pleaser or People Pleaser?
  • Rejecting the Spirit of Fear
  • Holding Things Loosely 
  • Worrier or Warrior?

I know we are all distracted by tinsel and presents and the busyness of Christmas at the moment, but somewhere in the madness, I would challenge you to take some time out and think through these questions.

In what area of faith does God keep entering you for the resit exam?

What needs to happen for you to move forward in this area of your faith?

As for me, I’ll still be working through the “Repeatedly Surrender the Issue to God Instead of Struggling, Fighting and Trying to Fix it Yourself” module while trusting that I need only be still and the Lord will fight for me.

Kay Moorby

15 Minutes - Anti-bullying Week

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I was over the moon when I received the email from the CEO of the charity that I worked for, congratulating me on a project I had just completed. She had copied in my line manager, and I was so pleased to get some positive feedback from the head of the charity. My relationship with my line manager had been a little bumpy, but I was 21, fresh-faced and excited to be working in a field that I loved. The lady I shared an office with congratulated me on a job well done and I got back to work with a smile on my face.

Five minutes later, all that changed.

I was called into my line manager’s office as she said she needed a quick chat.

Her quick chat lasted 15 minutes!

I know the exact timing because I stared at the clock for most of it, resisting the temptation to run out of the room and willing it to be over.

For 15 minutes she listed, in meticulous detail, every fault that she believed I possessed. Just when I thought it was going to end, then she would start again with a different selection of faults that I wasn’t even aware I had. I have deleted much of it from my mind but phrases like, “you have a psychological problem” and “addicted to praise” stayed with me for a long while.

It was a defining moment for me and after enduring this type of bullying on many occasions, it simply reinforced what I already knew…I was worthless.

There’s a saying that’s often linked to bullying that I’ve always struggled with…

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but calling names won’t hurt me.”

It’s never really rung true for me. When one of the girls at secondary school pulled the crash mat out of the way when I attempted my high jump, it physically hurt but the experience in that office is the one that has stayed with me the longest and caused the most damage. 

I can’t speak for others who have experienced this kind of bullying, but for me, there has been a lot of shame attached to it. I haven’t really talked about what happened as I know that many would struggle to understand why I just stood there and took it. They would wonder why I didn’t tell her what I thought of her or why I didn’t walk out and immediately look for a different job. They would struggle to understand that there were many small incidents leading up to the moment when I allowed her to speak to me that way.

On one occasion I was handed a file by my line manager and was asked to photocopy the contents. I put the file in my in-tray and went to make a coffee. When I returned, the file wasn’t there. In a panic, I searched my desk and eventually went to ask my line manager if she had taken it back. She denied moving it and said that she was available for a chat if I felt that I wasn’t coping with my workload!  At various intervals during the day she came back to ask if I’d found it and as she left for lunch she pointed out that this sort of thing just wasn’t acceptable and that she was “finding my inefficiency challenging.” After she’d gone, my colleague in the same office asked me to describe the file so that she could help me find it. I gave a description, she walked into my line manager’s office, opened the filing cabinet and removed the file that she had watched my line manager take back off my desk while I was making coffee. I had been set up!

The character attack in the office was the final straw, and within a month I had left the job that I loved and moved onto a different career.

I have no doubt that this experience, and many others like it, have shaped me to be the kind of person that I am, both good and bad. The type of bullying I have experienced has generally aimed to make me second guess myself, lose confidence and take on the belief that anything negative said to me must be the truth. I’m pleased to say that many of these things do not hold true for me anymore. 

Although I was not responsible for the bullying that I experienced, there is definitely some truth in the idea that we teach people how to treat us. I’ve often given a lot of power to other people and accepted comments and behaviour that others wouldn’t stand for. At 21, I wasn't aware that's what I was doing.

If I could go back in time, this is what I would say to my 21-year-old self!

When people behave this way, it’s not your fault.
If someone genuinely has an issue with you, then there are many constructive ways they can let you know about it. It is not okay for them to humiliate you or use personal insults. Don’t believe the lie that you deserve to be treated this way.

Just because someone else says it, doesn’t make it true.
You don’t have to own everything that people say to you or about you. You can evaluate whether there is truth in their comment and make a choice about what to do with that information. You can also decide whether their opinion is one that you value. 

“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.”
Proverbs 4:23

Don’t apologise for existing or for being who you are.
It’s not okay for you to spend your life shying away from the gifts and talents you have been given just because you are scared of what other people will say if you shine! Don’t buy into the idea that God got it wrong when He created you, as every single one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

Stand up for yourself while keeping your own integrity.
There will always be people who think that this type of behaviour is acceptable, but behaving the same way as them is not the solution. 

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

Learn to like yourself, you’re not as bad as you think.                                                                Spending all day, every day analysing your faults is not helpful. Once you stop bullying yourself, you might find the courage to stand up to others.

Finally, remember you're loved...like, REALLY loved.

For those of you who personally relate to the story I have shared then I leave you with this prayer.

"My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God."

Ephesians 3:17-19

Kay Moorby

 

 

Shutdown - World Mental Health Day

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“Please don’t write down “stress” on my sick note. It’ll go on my records, and they might get Occupational Health involved. It’s not stress anyway. I’m just a bit run down. We’ve had a lot going on and it’s probably fine and I’ll be fine after a couple of good nights sleep and everything’s just caught up and I need to be back at work next week because I think it’s my staff meeting and I really can’t take much time off as I have teaching commitments in Year 6…”

I knew the doctor wasn’t buying it but she scribbled down "stomach pains" on the sick note, asked me to come back if things got worse and sent me on my way. She hadn’t lied. It had reached the point where I was teaching many of my lessons sat down and was surviving on a diet of caffeine and Buscopan. Stomach pains were part of the problem, but they were in no way a full representation of what was going on.

“Burnout” is the term that I often use to explain what happened to me nearly six years ago. I use it because it’s easily recognisable and people have an understanding of its meaning. I also usually credit Michael Gove (the Education Secretary at the time) as a key contributor to my ill health, but that’s a whole other blog that I should probably never write for legal reasons! If I’m honest, it didn’t feel like burnout. It felt like shutdown. It was as if my mind, body, and spirit decided to get together and hold an intervention. They marched into my office at school one Friday lunchtime, picked me up and said, “right that’s enough, you’re coming home with us.” The truth is that I had been ignoring the signs for a long time. I had been striving to show people that I was reliable, hardworking and dependable. I had only been the Deputy Head at my school for a year, so it was far too soon to be buckling under the pressure of it all. Alongside this, I had commitments at church, was desperately trying to sweep a lot of painful experiences under the carpet and just wanted to move on with my life. I wanted to go “around” not “through” the pain and avoid what needed to be faced at all costs. If I could just plough through, then no one would know what was going on under the surface and I would be fine.

I was fine.

Everything was fine.

I had…to…keep…going…

I’m sharing this as someone who has come out of the other side of this experience. I hope that someone reading this will recognise that what I’m describing sounds scarily familiar and that they will take the time to listen to their mind, body, and spirit before the official shutdown kicks in. I didn’t hear the alarm bells that were ringing in my life. I was afraid people would think I was weak. Once the shutdown occurred, there was no hiding that I wasn’t coping.  Looking back, I know that the people closest to me were exchanging concerned looks and knew that I was unravelling. I ignored the headaches, sleepless nights, the inability to be alone with my thoughts and the constant fear that I was going to be “found out.”  If this is where you are at, then my only advice would be to stop, acknowledge that you’re not in a good place and get some help. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit that you need support, it’s a sign of strength. 

There were four main areas that I focused on during my recovery. 

I tried to improve my physical health by following a diet that would help with my IBS symptoms and support my overall wellbeing. As a lifelong comfort eater, this remains a challenge!

I tackled my emotional health by regularly visiting a counsellor, spending time trying to find out what had got me to this point and how to avoid taking this path again. In the early stages, she would come to my house as I was too scared to drive and didn’t want to go out.

I focused on my spiritual well being, climbing into God’s lap with the book of Psalms and telling Him the truth about where I was at. I found concentrating extremely difficult, so instead of reading, I would listen to audiobooks and podcasts to try and fill my mind with hope, instead of giving in to a feeling of helplessness.

I baked! There were times when I genuinely needed a distraction and an outlet for my nervous energy. My sister would come and visit every Tuesday, and I’ll always remember her face when she arrived on what is now known as “The Baking Day.” I had obviously found my inner Mary Berry on that day, and every available surface in our kitchen was filled with baked goods. As I collapsed in exhaustion my big sister calmly divided the various items into different tupperwares to give out to family members. At no point did she reprimand me for overdoing it or ask me what on earth I was thinking. She just went with it and recognised that I needed a day off from my fuddled mind. To this day, if she finds out I’ve been baking, she will ask me if I’m ok.

I’m sharing this because I know that many people are ignoring alarm bells. I understand it, really I do, but maybe today, on a day set aside to recognise the importance of mental health, it might be time to get some support. It’s hard when you’re in the middle of it as you think there’s no possible way that you can stop or take the time to get the help you need. I thought that too, but it’s not the case. More and more these days, the support is out there, whether it’s phoning a helpline, visiting your GP, chatting to a friend or simply saying no to a few things. As I’ve said to many people since my shutdown, you can ignore it as much as you like but at some point, it will catch up with you and bite you on the backside (I know it’s profound).

So, six years on, where am I now?

It would be a lie to say that my shutdown experience hasn’t left a permanent mark. Some of the impact has been positive, some not so much. The people pleaser in me gets less of a say in my life, but I still struggle with the confused faces when I say no to a request or ask for time to think it through. It requires a lot of effort but I am now capable of walking away from roles or relationships that are damaging as I am no longer terrified that you will think I'm a quitter. I am a lot more aware that I have a limited capacity but still fear overcommitting to things as I don’t want to let people down. I can still have black cloud days where I feel completely and utterly useless. No logical explanations can bring me out of a black cloud day. I just have to ride it out, endlessly play Nichole Nordeman songs and wait for it to pass. These are rare now, because I am alot stronger than I used to be. I have more of an idea of who I am and am getting better at looking after myself. 

For a lot of my recovery, I have desperately needed people to understand me and how I’m feeling. The reality is that there are some people who just don't understand! They're not wired the same way as me, and that's okay. I have released them of the expectation that they will know my innermost thoughts because the reality is that unless you’ve been through something like this, then you’re probably not going to get it. I hope that they would show patience and a little grace when I act in a way that doesn’t make sense to them, but they're not going to fully understand, and it’s unfair for me to expect them to.

Everyone’s battle with mental illness is different which is why I have focused on my own story and specifically avoided giving any advice other than ask for help if you need it. My shutdown and its after-effects are only one small part of my story. It does not define me, but hopefully, by sharing my shutdown experience, someone reading this will realise that it doesn’t have to define them either. 

In the words of the songwriter who has provided the soundtrack for most of my journey:

It's history
You can't rewrite it
You're not meant to be trapped inside it
Every tear brought you here
Every sorrow gathered
Yeah, it's history
And every mile mattered

Nichole Nordeman

 

by Kay Moorby

Travel Sickness

 The Moorby Golden Anniversary Cruise - Artwork by Mike Hendy (my Fairy Godfather)

The Moorby Golden Anniversary Cruise - Artwork by Mike Hendy (my Fairy Godfather)

My son can read a book in the car while it is moving! 

He just sits there reading…while the car is moving! 

Just looking at him doing this makes me feel ill as I am not a good traveller. I think it all stems back to family holidays as a child, wedged between my Mum and Auntie Doris on the back seat endlessly driving on long winding roads around Cumbria. Not knowing where we were going or how long it was going to take often made the sickness worse. Even now, the less control I have over the journey, the more the nausea kicks in. Lyndon regularly has to pull over the car so that I can drive. He ended up getting rid of his dream car because he never got to drive it. Just thinking about getting into that car makes me feel queasy!

I have regularly curled up in a ball on the passenger seat, with a coat over my head, shutting out all light and noise and focusing all my attention on the fact that the journey will end at some point. There may be some of you reading this that know just how this feels!

This is precisely what happened on a family holiday last year. To celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, my lovely in-laws treated us all to a weeks cruise on P&O’s Brittania. Due to the timings, the plan was to travel down to Southampton (through the night) straight after the final concert of the week-long Yorkshire School of Christian Arts. I knew that I would be too tired to drive, so the plan was to leave the driving to Lyndon, get in the car and fall asleep as quickly as possible. After the second service station stop, I was wide awake and feeling dreadful. I assumed my usual position, curled up in the passenger seat with my coat pulled over my head and waited for it to end. I can’t explain the sense of relief I felt when we parked the car at Southampton docks. As we unloaded our things from the boot I watched in horror as the rest of the family started loading their luggage onto a coach. Coaches are my ultimate travel sickness nightmare. The journey must have been ten minutes at the most, merely taking us from the car park to the dockside, but it felt like a lifetime. By the time I got off the coach, I was grey. As the rest of the family looked in amazement and excitement at this giant cruise ship that would be our home for the next week, I just wanted to lie down in the dark and let my body catch up with the fact that we had reached our destination and the journey was over. It wasn’t until we settled into our room that the penny dropped that we were on a giant boat. The journey wasn’t over! I joined my travel sick mother-in-law in the fresh air of the deck and waited for the boat to leave the coast of England and find calmer waters.


As many of you will know, I have been waiting for a prayer to be answered for a long while now. This month it is exactly four years since we started off on a journey that we thought would last a few months at the most. 

Our prayer was answered this week! After four long years, it’s finally over!

Lots of lovely people have messaged us to ask what we have done to celebrate this good news. I’ve felt quite guilty that, although I’ve thanked God for answered prayer, I’m not really in the mood for celebrating. I know that Lyndon feels the same way. While trying to explain my feelings over coffee at church this morning, I referred to the story in Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm. 

After a day of teaching, Jesus said to the disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” The only reason they were on the boat that day was because Jesus had specifically invited them. I have struggled through many storms in my life, but they were mainly as a result of ignoring God’s direction and boarding my own boat, often making journeys that were never mine to make. Each time God has patiently brought me back to dock to regroup, board a different boat and embark on a new voyage. This four-year voyage has been different. I got on this boat because that’s what I was asked to do. I was specifically invited to take this journey to the other side of the lake. Having learned my lesson the hard way I immediately boarded the boat, no questions asked.

The disciples got on the boat expecting a straightforward journey (much as I did) and then out of nowhere, a fierce storm crashed around them. Although I know that God has been with us throughout our storm, at times it has felt like He has been fast asleep at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. Through utter frustration I have prayed the Kay Moorby equivalent of, “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Just like the disciples, I have shouted at God, desperate for Him to wake up, calm the storm and just make it stop. I have questioned why He was letting it happen and why it seemed like it would never end. 

The truth is that while the storm was still raging, I stopped shouting for Jesus to wake up. I would have been the disciple on the boat (who isn’t actually mentioned in Scripture but I hope existed) who curled up in a ball, covered his head with his robes and just waited for it to end. I’ve never lost faith that God is there, but I have seriously questioned why He waited so long to wake up and calm the waves. 

Having reread this well-known story, I noticed that the disciples did not leap up in celebration once the waters were still. Jesus asked them why they were afraid and questioned whether they really trusted Him. It says that the disciples were “absolutely terrified”. Maybe they realised how little control they had over the storms of life and when they would hit. Maybe they recognised that the only one that could rescue them from the storm was Jesus. Either way, there doesn’t seem to have been much celebrating going on.

For me, the winds have only just stopped, and the sea has only just begun to still. As the boat docks, I am so grateful that this journey is over, but my knees are shaky, the nausea hasn’t settled down and I’m slightly nervous about the next leg of the trip and what it will entail. I’m not afraid, more apprehensive. I am thankful that this journey is over but it might take me a little while to get my footing again and for my mind to catch up with the reality that Jesus has calmed the storm and the waters, for now at least, are still.

Kay Moorby