Tag: guest blogger

Knowing God – Interview with Liz Carter

Knowing God – Interview with Liz Carter

1) What is your name and what does it mean?

Elizabeth is derived from Hebrew Elisheva and means ‘pledged to God’ or ‘God is my oath.’

2) Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do?

I’m delighted that my name means ‘pledged to God’. Through the years, I have more and more longed for God to be at the centre of my life. I hope and pray that my writing always lifts God high. Even though my life is one of pain and sickness, I am so grateful for the work of God in me.

3) If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

Apparently the root of Elisheva/Elisheba is ‘God is my oath’ and also ‘God is seven’ which translates as God being abundance, as satisfaction, even as our contentment (seven being a representation of abundance). This particularly resonates with me, having written a book called Catching Contentment! So I guess the prophecy for my name would be to do with God being my complete satisfaction, my desire, all I need, my everything. I’m up for that!

4) Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

Jehovah Shalom – God is our peace: I love that only in God can we find the peace that is beyond understanding.

Jehovah M’Kaddesh – God who sanctifies, who makes holy: I love that God is holy and worthy of worship, and that God is always making us more holy too when we allow ourselves to be open to God’s work in our lives.

Jehovah Rophe – God who heals: This phrase doesn’t simply imply physical healing, but a wholeness throughout body, mind and spirit.

5) Is there an experience/s connected with these aspects of who God is to you? If so, please share one if you feel comfortable doing so.

So many that it’s difficult to choose! I’d like to go right back to my childhood for this one: I was ten years old and at a Bible camp with my family and church. I was fed up because I felt poorly again. I’d always been the sickly child, always off school with lung infections and tonsilitis, and here I was again, feeling absolutely rotten. I stumbled off to my kids group anyway, having enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to miss it. Besides, others told me, I could just ask someone to pray for healing for me. I was hopeful, so after the meeting I asked my group leader to pray. As he did I didn’t feel physically better, but something else happened. A rush of peace blazed through me, enveloping my entire being. I knew I was in the presence of God, and the peace I felt right then was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Joy came with it, too. In that moment I knew I was utterly loved, but also that God was incredibly powerful and incredibly holy. In that moment, all three of those names I mentioned above seem relevant – God being my peace, God making me holy, God healing me – not in an ‘obvious’ way but doing a deeper work, a work that changed me then and has kept changing me since.

6) Have the names/ attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

I’ve been ill all my life, so I think I have always gravitated towards God as peace, and other attributes such as God being my strength and my comforter. I have come to relate so much more to God as my healer as my understanding of healing has become more nuanced, and my experience of wholeness has come through God’s profound work in my spirit and my mind. My understanding of the ‘now and not yet’ of the kingdom has informed how I see physical healing – it happens sometimes, a glimpse of heaven, but in general we live in the not yet, in the knowledge that we will be fully whole one day.

 Through the years I have more and more related to God as my one desire, as all I need, as the one who makes my soul and my spirit at home and at rest. As my sickness has worsened, I have burrowed deeper into God and found treasures in the darkness.

7) Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

The more ‘battle imagery’ type names of God are a bit more difficult to embrace – God as a warrior, perhaps. God as judge can also be more difficult. However, with both of these, a different perspective can bring freedom. God as warrior, setting us free from the bonds of the enemy, his power stronger than any evil. God as judge, bringing justice to the world, to every situation where injustice has been allowed to take hold, knowing the heart of every human who ever lived and exposing the evil around us, then bringing liberty to captives.

8) Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better?

I want to know all of God better. The more I know of God, the more I want, the deeper I want to go. I would love to know more of God’s holiness and justice – and I suspect that I will be greatly challenged, the further I go.

9) Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

That’s a difficult question, because I feel I relate to all three persons of the Trinity in different ways. When I worship, I am worshipping God as Father, Son and Spirit, as a whole yet as three – the great mystery. God the Father draws me close, making me feel loved, accepted, redeemed, yet also can seem so far apart –  holy. Jesus is very relatable – we know so many of his words intimately, we know how he acted, how he loved, how he humbled himself and sacrificed himself. The person of Jesus shows us the character of God.

I often feel closest with the Holy Spirit, simply because the Spirit has been given to us to assure us of the love of God while we are on this earth. Our sense of comfort, peace and God’s manifest presence are from the Spirit. The gifts we are given are from the Spirit, and the fruits that we develop in our lives in our process of sanctification are the fruits of the Spirit. When I worship, so often the Spirit moves, giving me a sense of God’s beauty and outrageous love.

10) How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us?

I think it can help us to focus in on some parts of God’s character, which can be helpful in different situations. Names of God can help us remember that God is strong, mighty, loving, powerful, compassionate, that he sees us, that he knows us, that he provides for us, that he longs for us to know him. We can remind one another that God is a father to the fatherless, that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that the Holy Spirit is the Great Comforter. In using names of God we can encourage one another and build one another up in faith, as we are reminded that God has so many facets and that there are names and characteristics of God which can be of help to us in all our seasons of life.

Liz Carter is a writer and blogger from Shropshire who writes about
finding treasure in God in the painful times. Living with long-term lung disease, she has learned a whole lot about what being ‘whole’ in God means, and particularly what learning to be content means. Her first book, Catching Contentment, was published by IVP in 2018, and she’s recently written a six week group study guide to be used alongside the book.

You can get her book, ‘Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied (IVP, Nov 2018)’ here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Catching-Contentment-How-Holy-Satisfied/dp/1783597402/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=catching+contentment&qid=1582568127&sr=8-1

Knowing God – Interview with Jemma Brown

Knowing God – Interview with Jemma Brown

  1. What is your name and what does it mean? 

    My name is Jemma Brown and it means precious gem which is very fitting as I was a long awaited baby! It took my parents 10 years to conceive me hence I’m my parents precious gem.
  2. Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do? 

    I think the most truthful answer to this is that it depends what mood I’m in.
  3. If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

    Something about being stronger than I think or stronger than others perceive. People often make assumptions about me because of my disability, seeing only the things they think I cannot do. There are some things I can’t do but I’m also really good at finding ‘work arounds’ and adapting.
  4. Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

    Elohim is definitely one that resonates with me significantly. It’s the meaning that our God is the ‘true God’ who is all powerful that we can put all our trust and hope in and that that same powerful God created everything in the earth, planets, stars and of course us. Our God is a creative God.
    Ironically for someone living with severe visual impairment, another name that resonates with me is El Roi, the God who sees. This is something I hold on to as I have faced so much discrimination and trauma as a direct result of my disabilities. God has seen all the times I have been badly treated and knows every detail of the struggles I have faced – He knows it all. Looking at this one from a different angle God also sees me in my entirety as someone living with multiple severe and enduring mental illnesses (Bipolar, complex PTSD and Borderline Personality disorder). I spend a lot of energy ‘masking’ in an attempt to fit in but I know God has seen all my pain and frustration and knows how much effort recovery has taken. He has seen me at my best and he has also seen me at my most mentally ill yet He never leaves me.
  5. Is there an experience/s connected with these aspects of who God is to you? If so, please share one if you feel comfortable doing so. 

    I think that I believe in a God that is all powerful and a God of truth which is really helpful when navigating the storms of life as I know that He is in charge of my life, not me, and He can be trusted. Most of my chronic illnesses are degenerative and will get worse over time, and my remaining vision will eventually go (I say eventually but no one really knows when) and that is a huge burden to carry. As medicine can’t ‘fix’ me, my future health is in God’s hands.
    When I am mentally unwell I find it very difficult to talk to others honestly about how I am feeling so often hide it. I take comfort in the fact that the God who sees knows all about my mental health and the ‘thorn in my mind’ (inspired by the book ‘A Thorn in My Mind: Mental Illness, Stigma and the Church’ by Cathy Wield) so I am actually never alone with the darkness as God is always there and sees it all.
  6. Have the names/ attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

    Yes – I think that is actually true for everyone, regardless of health or disability. As we walk through life, different names and attributes seem to have greater significance at various points.
  7. Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

    I identify a lot with the names of God and it was hard to pick out just a few to talk about so I don’t really struggle with any right now but I think it’s fairly fluid.
  8. Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better?

    All of it! Isn’t that the main part of our walk as Christians to draw close to God and to have a relationship with Him that evolves and deepens over time? I became a Christian roughly 10 years ago and since then, my desire is to know God more. Galatians 2:20 says ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’.
  9. Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

    I feel closest to Jesus as He knows all about my suffering, be that physical or psychological pain and trauma. Jesus was also very non-judgmental and went against the grain of the societal norms. Specifically, I’m thinking of when He healed the women with bleeding and made clean the man with leprosy. Both of these miracles were done for people who were cast out by society and considered unclean. Jesus touched them and changed their lives and that was pretty radical! I’m a bit like that. I’m wired to love people and love them deeply, not just my friends and family but the persecuted and cast out. I feel called to show the world a tiny bit of Jesus’ love (in that the love of God is infinite and whatever I do will only be a tiny part of it).
  10. How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us? 

    I think its important because it shows us that our God is HUGE and has so many attributes and looking into them specifically for this interview I thought of more and more ways I could see different attributes or names working together in my life and how actually, they all work together. Our God is awesome, powerful, loving, father, healer, I Am, kind, compassionate, caring, fierce, trustworthy… the anchor in the storm and so much more!

Jemma is a former journalism student who became a Christian at university during one of the darkest points of her life 10 years ago. Since dropping out of university, Jemma has volunteered her time extensively for guide dogs UK helping our with campaigns and media.

Jemma also uses her extensive experience of living with multiple disabilities in a number of advocacy roles including as a guest lecturer to nursing and medical students on topics like spirituality in medicine and PTSD. Jemma is severely visually impaired (blind) and also lives with Ehlers Danlos syndrome and SEMI (bipolar, BPD and CPTSD).

Jemma is a passionate reader of both fiction and non fiction and also loves social media. 

Knowing God – Interview with Emily Owen

Knowing God – Interview with Emily Owen

  1. What is your name and what does it mean?

    My name is Emily which, according to Google, means ‘industrious’ or ‘rival’. My middle name is Louise which, so Google informs me, means ‘famous warrior.’
  2. Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do?

    Perhaps, inasmuch as I do sometimes see my illness/disability almost as an enemy I need to work hard to rival and (hopefully) conquer.
  3. If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

    My friends jokingly – I think (!) – call me ‘Planning Queen’, so perhaps my name would be to do with liking to know the plan.  More seriously, perhaps ‘writer’ or ‘speaker’.
  4. Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

    That’s hard! I want to say them all! Today, I pick:
    Jehovah Nissi – The Lord my Banner
    Jehovah Shammah – The Lord is Here
    El Roi – The God who Sees
  5. Is there an experience/s connected with these aspects of who God is to you? If so, please share one if you feel comfortable doing so.

    As a teenager, my life underwent a huge change, as I suddenly went from being a fairly high achieving allrounder, to a person experiencing hospitals, operations and disability. In this whirlwind, I felt more and more defined by my symptoms, and less and less defined as me. During that time, during many times since, God did – and does – remind me that He sees me. He sees past all the damage illness has caused, damage I see every time I look in the mirror, and He sees me. That brings me great comfort.
  6. Have the names/attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

    I don’t think they’ve changed as such, all of God’s names are meaningful to me, but I’ve come to appreciate ‘El Roi’ more, as I mention above; to increasingly value being seen by God. To be honest, I probably took being seen by God a bit for granted: it never really occurred to me, until my life turned upside-down, and I didn’t want anyone – including myself – to see me. I didn’t think anyone would want to. And, as I said above, God showed me I was wrong! And I learned – and am learning – to actively live in the immense privilege of being seen by God.
  7. Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

    I suppose an obvious one for me to pick might be Jehovah Rapha: The Lord Who Heals. Despite specific prayer for physical healing, I’ve not been physically healed. Yet, as I live in this broken body of mine, each day I learn more of the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:16: ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’. I am outwardly wasting away and, at the same time, I am being inwardly renewed – even healed – day by day.
  8. Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better

    Maybe Adonai: Lord. Hudson Taylor is quoted as saying, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all”. To truly have Him as Lord in charge of every part of my life, to know Him as Lord in practice as well as theory, is a challenge and a goal.
  9. Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

    Probably partly because of my upbringing, in which I was encouraged to know and relate to God, I’d say God. As an adult, whilst I would still say God, I do find I feel closer to Jesus, too.
  10. How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us?

    I think that they help us pray to more of Him. If I were to only talk to my sister about clothes (perhaps a bad example, I’m definitely not a clothes person!), I would miss out on so much of who she is. She is more than a stylish dresser. What about her job, her humour, her interests and hobbies, etc? If I only knew she likes clothes, how would I know about our shared love of chocolate?! The more we know of God, and Who He is, the richer our relationship with Him will be. And that can’t be a bad thing, can it….

Emily Owen is an author and public speaker. She began writing following a medical diagnosis which turned her life plans upside-down and, among other things, left her deaf. 

After publishing her first devotional books, in the 30 Days series, Emily published her memoir, Still Emily. Her speaking, and more recent writings, combine her personal experiences with biblical teaching and reflections.

Emily is surprised to describe herself as a writer and speaker, but she has no hesitation in calling herself a fan of flowers, candles, purple, stars, and making her nieces and nephews giggle.

Daring to Give

Daring to Give

“But I can’t do that thing,” said the lady as she waved her arms around. She meant sign language. I had asked her if I could sit beside her in a church service, and share her books for the songs and readings. This would help me follow and, in the case of the songs, leave my hands free to sign them.

It is a privilege to guest blog for this site. I was asked to pick out a key way the church has played a part in my journey, and the above story sprang immediately to mind. Because it’s a story of someone doing what she could, despite at first being concerned about what she couldn’t.

Since I was diagnosed with NF2*, and subsequently lost the ability to do various things, including hear, people doing what they can for me have been vital to my journey. People who pray for me. People who speak clearly for me to lipread them. People who carry my cup of tea for me (I have bad balance). People who welcome me. People who are patient. And much, much more.

On a family holiday in the Lake District last August, we decided to climb up to a waterfall. On balance (pardon the pun), it would have been sensible for me to stay behind. But my seven-year-old niece came to me and took my hand; “I’ll help you walk.” And she did. For as far as she was able, and then her mummy took over. My niece couldn’t physically help me over the really difficult parts, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t help. She went in front and told me when there were rocks to avoid tripping on. She did what she could. The lady at church, and my niece, looked beyond what they couldn’t do to what they could. Acknowledging the ‘can’t’, and embracing the ‘can’.

After the service – during which I did share the lady’s books – I thanked her for helping me. She took my hand and, putting ’genuine’ into the word genuine, she said, “It was my pleasure.” It was my pleasure. She really meant it, I could tell. Helping me – yes, me – had given her pleasure. She hadn’t found me a nuisance, or an embarrassment, or an inconvenience.

Often, I can be apologetic, thinking I’m making life difficult for people, hesitant to ask for help. But, if I hadn’t asked, that lady would have missed out on saying ‘it’s my pleasure’ and meaning it. If I hadn’t accepted my niece’s help, if I’d pushed her away, then yes, I’d have missed out on the waterfall. But more than that, I’d have rejected her gift to me. And potentially discouraged her from offering to give to me, or others, in future.

  • Remember that our Lord Jesus said, “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.” Acts 20:35b

By daring to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to admit our weaknesses, we offer people opportunity for blessing. Opportunity to give to us, and so receive what is better. And, in a glorious paradox, as we offer that opportunity, we, too, are giving. We, too, are blessed. We, too, do what is better. And we become more and more caught up in the body of Christ, of which each one of us is a part (cf 1 Corinthians 12). Growing together.

  • In Him (Christ Jesus) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.. Ephesians 2:21, 22

How good are we at allowing others to give?

Emily sometimes describes herself as a professional patient. She has spent a fair bit of her life in hospital and knows more medical jargon than she ever wished to. Thankfully for her, this is offset by an amazing medical team.
Emily is an author and speaker. Most of her books have been written, at least in part, from a hospital/recuperation bed and, she hopes, are more accessible than above mentioned jargon. For more information, please see the links below.

Emily’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Emily-Owen/e/B01EWPKC9W?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1569511001&sr=8-1
*More about NF2: https://nervetumours.org.uk/what-are-nerve-tumours/what-is-nf2
Emily’s website: http://www.emily-owen.co.uk/

Gathering

Gathering

by Liz Carter

‘As we are gathered, Jesus is here…’ So goes a (slightly dated) worship song. It’s all about the people joining together, the congregation united in worship, the sense of harmony. The gathering.

But what if we can’t gather? What if the very word ‘gathering’ sends us into a great sadness, because the physical act of gathering with others is impossible for us?

I’ve lived with a long-term lung condition all of my life. Over the years, it’s progressed, caging me in further and further, robbing me of my career and those dreams of youth; dreams of travel and far-flung skies and running on lonely beaches, the wind in my hair. Some days now, I’d be lucky to manage a few steps before I collapse on the sand, spent and breathless. I live within four walls for weeks at a time – sometimes, even, for months, when infections have hit me particularly hard. On days like these I can barely gather myself, let alone with others. I cannot gather up my clothing or my home or my thoughts, and when visitors come my desperate thoughts remain unsaid in my pain-soaked exhaustion.

In the last year I’ve been very ill. I’ve been better over the past couple of months, but there were weeks and months on end when I didn’t make it to church at all. I didn’t gather together with others for worship. Does that mean Jesus wasn’t there? Does Jesus only show up with the gathered ones, the ones who can make it, the ones who are healthy?

Over the years, I’ve learned something about what gathering means, and what it means to come together to share life and to pray and praise. I’ve discovered that gathering goes far deeper than the physical presence of a few folk in someone’s front room.

The book of Revelation talks about a great multitude from every nation, every tribe, every tongue, every people, gathered together around the throne. They worship together all day and all night, clad in white and digging into the depths of who God is. I recently attended a seminar about worship, and the speaker introduced the idea that when we worship we join in with this song around the throne, this endless song which never ends. As well as that, we join together across cultures and nations, class and race divides, one voice around the world as we join together in the song which is always sung. This great harmony which climbs walls of hatred and oppression and shatters the bondage of poverty and injustice. Walls crumble as we join hands across our boundaries and barriers, and give glory to the God we love. 

Here is a real gathering. A gathering of millions upon millions, myriads upon myriads, of those gone before, those living in the groaning pain of the now, those waiting in agony and in hope. We can all join in the gathering, the weak and the strong, the lesser and the greater, those who have nothing at all. Because God cannot be defined by boxes of words or concepts, and because God longs to pour fullness of life on all of us, whoever and wherever we are – so certainly cannot be restricted to church meetings and festivals.

I’m so grateful that God is bigger than I know.

I’ve discovered something else about gathering, too, and it’s something I am so thankful for. I remember a time when I was in hospital with very painful and serious double pneumonia, and it was in a city far from where I lived. It was a lonely time as well as agonising; hours were struggled through and wrestled with without let-up and with few visitors. I felt un-gathered, with nothing to ground me or bring me into company with others. I wasn’t even allowed to leave my room, for fear of cross-infection, so I remained in my pen, walled in by my own body.

It was a time social media was taking off. I’d recently joined Facebook, and hadn’t realised the effect it would have on my life, in those early days of poking people and playing silly games with farms and fishes. In this time, I began to understand the power of online gathering, as people from across the world joined with me in my suffering, stood with me and prayed with me, joined hands with me and worshipped with me. Since then, I’ve gathered hundreds of times online with hundreds of people in hundreds of situations, and Jesus has been there with us, despite our presence being only of the cyber type. That’s why I’m so grateful for the work of YouBelong and other organisations that seek to gather people online, to build up and to encourage and equip people who perhaps wouldn’t be able to gather elsewhere.

So I gathered with the world and joined in the song, and I gathered with the online people and joined in with care and justice and peace and mercy and holiness. Somehow, in my un-gathered cage, I learned to gather more profoundly, and found God at the very root of it all, present by the Spirit in gatherings un-gathered and gathered, present with one and two and a million, gathering up my own pain in tender arms of love and rivers of joy.

Liz Carter is an author and blogger who likes to write about life in all its messy, painful, joyous reality. She’s never known life without pain and sickness. She likes Cadbury’s and turquoise and lives in Shropshire, UK with her husband, a church leader, and two crazy teens.

Liz is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied, which was published by IVP in November 2018. This book digs into the lived experience of a life in pain, and what contentment could possibly mean in difficult circumstances.