Words

A Blog - of sorts, news & passing thoughts....

Luke 6:45

'For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks'

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It is from this place that I seek to share and yet, even with the best intentions at heart, sometimes eloquence evades, the tongue gets cut, & letters of the alphabet stumble about in the roof of my mouth trying to form audible sounds.  As a woman who makes her living from speaking other people's words, I find it ironic that my own tend to get stuck & I often find writing my prefered way to express the inner depths.  Handwritten letters from loved ones have always been the way to my heart.  There's something about the presence of someone's handwriting in the palm of my hand that is like a warm hug. For me, if distance resides between us, it's the pinnacle of quality time spent together. I take delight in writing letters too - they are a lost but treasured art. 

Having been encouraged to put pen to paper & write a blog for years, it is only now that I find myself flitting my fingers across this keyboard in a hope that what tumbles onto this screen may inspire & ignite others when they find themselves lost for words ... September 2017  (back to contents)

 

Psalm 40:1-3

'I waited patiently for the Lord to help me & He turned to me & heard my cry.'

 

John 8:7

' "Let He who is without sin cast the first stone"...When the accusers heard this, they slipped away; one by one.'

Imagine, standing in front of those who are set to expose, humiliate and ultimately condemn you and then imagine the sound, as one by one, the stones held ready to stone you, drop from the accusers hands to the floor beside their feet. A plea for mercy answered, bewildered you stand, set free…

There are 2 stories in the bible that have been wrecking me recently. These stories speak of earthly judgement versus kingdom mercy. Perhaps these stories resonate so deeply because I’ve experienced the sting of judgement & hypocrisy, it’s what kept me away from anything to do with church for most of my life. However, my own encounter with God set me on an opposite path to religion, towards one marked with love and relationship.

Since May of this year, I’ve been developing a project with some young men in an HMP Young Offenders Unit and these 2 stories haven’t left me alone. The woman with the alabaster jar that she breaks over Jesus’ feet and is scorned for it (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:37-49, John 12:1-8 ) and the lady who is caught in adultery and who the Pharisees drag out to stone (John 8:3-11). Both times, the woman is exposed, humiliated, judged and condemned by those who do not understand the way of grace. However, Each time grace steps in and covers her, protects her, aligns her to the truth of who she is. That grace is recognised in Jesus. My experience of his love, his heart for the one overwhelms me.

 © 2018 Alex Fine

© 2018 Alex Fine

The young men I spend time with are now serving time for things they have got involved with. They are acutely aware of their circumstances and what led them there. Many people outside believe they deserve to waste away in prison for what they’ve done. That’s not my truth. I believe everyone deserves the same level of redemption and opportunity for change as we expect for ourselves when we fall short and miss our mark.

Yesterday in the prison Mervyn Mensah spoke to the young men of the masks we often wear to protect ourselves from truly being seen. Sometimes we also put masks on other people based on our opinion of them. Intentional or otherwise, we condemn them without walking with them.

I appreciate not everyone reading this believes in God or Jesus for that matter. That’s not really the point. The point is no matter where you are or what you’ve done, no matter what shame you carry or judgement that’s been made over your life, that’s not the final chapter of your story.

There’s an invitation to step into grace, it’s time to unmask yourself and one another. To walk free from who others say you are based on what you’ve done and walk into the full expression of who you were created to be; Flawless, priceless, significant. Your life is a legacy waiting to happen … October 2018 (back to contents)

 

Isaiah 61:3

'He will give a crown of beauty for ashes.'

The human body is an incredible creation of ingenuity, beauty and ability. If only we fully understood the intricate complexity of it, perhaps we’d take better care of it and, equally, think kinder towards ourselves.

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We queue around the corner for the next i-phone, coveting its high spec definition. We spend hundreds on the accessories to personalise it, protect it not realising that the human body – our body - is perhaps one of the most intelligent, intricate and capable design feats of all time. It comes in many different shapes and sizes, is fine tuned to work at just the right capacity at all times. It knows to feel, to empathise, it is truly unique and, with precision, made.  Why then, when our bodies will be with us from the moment we take our first breath to the moment we breath our last, do we often treat them with less regard then a small screen that sits in our pocket and will be replaced in 18 months’ time?  Why are we so hard on it, despise it, speak low of it, in some cases abuse it? When the battery runs flat on our phone we panic and yet, we’re the first to often neglect our body of sleep – those essential recharging hours necessary to keep it performing at its peak. We overload our memories, don’t clear the cache, erase the history, feed it with mindless images, poor nutrition and leave it to its own devices on the rat race of life. Then, perhaps exhausted and depleted, we pull out the illuminated screen from our pockets begin to scroll the pages of social media, devouring images of bodies that have been sculpted into one aesthetic acceptability – Adonis.  Instagram, Facebook, twitter; the 21st century oracles and just as the oracle has spoken, we pull our tired body from out under the covers, join a gym, push to the extreme, snap our reflection filter it, simply to get one more ‘heart‘ in our likes. One more affirmation.  But what about your heart? What’s really going on with that? Have we stopped to ask ourselves, to sit with it, to be vulnerable and listen?

This week is mental health week and while the above scenario is generalised, I’m sure each of us can resonate with at least one element; The hustle, the affirmation, post trauma, the empty quest to fill a void only wholeness can, the exhaustion.

As someone who spent her adolescence and early twenties battling with her own mental and physical well-being, and having recently qualified as a Personal Trainer, I am acutely aware of the emotional traumas and pressures that people face and the extreme lengths they go to, in order to numb their mental well-being in pursuit of ‘happiness’. I’m sure therein lies an oxymoron.

I was 15 when I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and admitted to an adolescent unit of a psychiatric hospital where I would spend the next 6 months under 24-hour observation and unable to leave my bed without an escort. I won’t go into the details of my stay or the onset of the illness but suffice as to say I became institutionalised and for the next 5 years I would be admitted several times to different hospitals. While the still small voice of me was screaming on the inside, Anorexia had suffocated the sound, swallowed me whole and absorbed my self-worth and identity. I became a statistic with a not too promising future. In fact, at 26KG I wasn’t expected to survive and if I did it was predicted my health wouldn’t be great. Aged 19, little more than bones and with the threat of being hospitalised again, this time under a section of the Mental Health Act, that small voice finally spoke. It said it would fight to live and fight we did.  The illness and recovery were long – another 10 years, frustrating and painful for all involved – particularly my friends and family, as I’m sure anyone who has experience of recovering from mental illness can also testify. However, several years after my recovery, I met a medical professional who took a case study of my medical history. Upon noting my journey, she settled down her pen, looked up at me and said, ‘It’s a miracle you are here and in the good health you are.’ I didn’t take these words lightly they surprised me - Seldom do we realise, when we are in the thick of it, just how ill we were. I rang my mum afterwards, who confirmed what the doctor said.  I don’t share this to bask in any glory, far from it.  I write this now as someone who has survived and made a full recovery to encourage those who may be on their journey or know someone who is, to keep going.  Don’t lose faith and don’t lose hope. There are people like me who may never know you who believe in you, who champion you. There are many more, qualified to listen, to offer professional support. It’s at these times that the little illuminated screen in your pocket becomes one of the most important tools you have in your armour to conquer the war the mind likes to wage with you. Dial that number, make that call, talk and let your heart be heard. It deserves to be heard, your heart listened to and your pursuit of happiness found in your personal well-being... October 2018 (back to contents)

 

Song of Songs 4:16

'Then may your awakening breath blow upon my life until I am fully yours'

Recording an audio bible has been a personal project close to my heart & a long time in the making so I am delighted to be able to share it with you now to download Internationally and to order as a CD in the US & UK

When I left California & returned to London I discovered that a female voiced audio bible is as rare as stumbling upon a unicorn.  I decided to right this wrong & contacted Brian Simmons' whose Passion Translation returns to the original Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek manuscripts to reignite the beauty & poetry that is sometimes lost in modern translations.  I shared my vision of voicing Brian's translation &, together with Broadstreet Publishing, we began a 12 month journey into making a dream an available reality. 

What's makes this journey more poignant is at the end of 2016, a friend asked me to write down all that I hoped to see God do in my life over the course of the next 12 months.  One of the things on the list was 'record an audio bible' - so here, as 2017 draws to a close & in His faithfulness, is Book One; 'Song of Songs'.  Coincidentally, before I was a christian, it was also the first book I ever read in the bible because a pastor told me - with a hint of mischief - that it was 'rude' & in my curiosity I wanted to know what on earth he was talking about. 

I laughed - it is far from 'rude'.  Whether you read it as two people in love or it speaks to you of Jesus' pursuit of you, it's undeniably elegant & passionate, enduring & wise, the way true love only ever can be ... December 2017 (back to contents)

 

Psalm 147:3

'He heals the broken hearted & binds up their wounds.'

Kintsugi

In japanese philosophy, Kintsugi "golden repair" is the japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage & repair as part of the history of an object, it brings value & worth to the imperfection rather than something to disguise.

Do not be ashamed of your story, your story is what created you. It has defined you.

I used to struggle with elements of my experiences, some had left physical 'scars', others left indelible memories. Most of the time I embraced my past but every now & then, on off days, I would get angry that I had experienced what I had & had physical marks that meant even if I'd forgiven & healed I still had markers on my body to remind me of a time that still seemed lost & yet to be fully redeemed. Sometimes this would lead to shame & I would look in the mirror & see the less than spotless history as a woman & a less than perfect reflection as an actress.  I would wonder whose story am I buying in to? My faith & relationship with Jesus is paramount to my identity but woe betide I get anywhere close to religion. Yet here I was buying into the religious condemnation of women & the fickle airbrushed industry I am a part of.  ...hmmmmm.... I needed to start singing a new song over me from a different hymn book ... One day while at ministry school I decided to ask Jesus what he thought of these marks I see every time my photo is taken or someone gets physically close to me & that question would rear it's head 'Am I enough?'  I kid you not what I heard in response was, 'I think they are cute' - far from the adjective I would have chosen.   While at this school, He took me on a journey regarding my past & revealed his perspective which was radiant,  full of hope renewed & a restored identity.  I was recently asked to share my story, the parts that used to make me feel less than qualified & far from redeemed & I found myself struggling to see me in it all. I had to go back to Jesus & ask him for his perspective 'Nathalie your story reminds me of your bravery, your ability to endure & your strength & your grace to rise above, you are my lioness'. I was floored; I am a woman who is both cute & fierce & whose 'broken pieces' radiate. 

I share this as encouragement to all of those who see themselves beyond repair.  'God doesn't call the qualified but qualifies those he calls' He sees the value in your story and He uses the cracks in your history for your calling & his glory (the gold) to breakthrough.

Your history becomes His story ... November 2017 (back to contents)

 

Proverbs 31:25-26

'She is clothed in strength & dignity & she laughs without fear of the future.'

What you believe you are is often not who God says you are.  I believe we are all fearfully & wonderfully made & yet circumstances & previous experiences can convince us of anything but the champion that resides within us all. Experiences can leave us jaded, doubting ourselves & battling insecurities that are nots ours to bare. Questions we ask ourselves:

'Do I measure up?'
'Do I qualify?'
'Am I enough?'

They become self limiting prophecies, keeping us in bondage to our past rather than propelling us into our destiny & calling. As life becomes increasingly non linear, we can often find ourselves battling where we are in life with where society's archetypal standards dictates where we 'ought' to be.

When I stumbled upon proverbs 31:25-26 I was still very new to my faith. I was a warrior who had been bruised & wounded, questioning where my value & identity lay. I was led to this scripture quite by accident (one of those moments when you're idly going about your business when something unexpected smacks you between your eyes & calls for your attention).  As my eyes settled upon these words, it was as if they breathed new life into me.  My circumstances looked far from dignified, my future looked overwhelming & my strength was faltering but God - in his mercy - had the perspective to flip all of that on it's head. 'Nathalie, this is who I say you are'.  It re-awakened the woman who had all been lost by experiences that had seeked to rob her of her strength, her dignity & her joy. 

Did my life change overnight? No. Did my self image suddenly rise from the ashes in a beautiful plume of phoenix feathers? No.  There was still work to be done but these 15 words set my feet upon a solid truth that my circumstances, good or bad, could not.

Herein lies my point. Who I am & who you are isn't based on circumstantial evidence. It's based on the intrinsic truth set within you at the beginning of time.

This is a simple exercise but if game, I invite you to quiet your mind & once you feel yourself settled, ask yourself who you say you are.  If it's self limiting, refrain from chastising but rather forgive yourself for believing this. This may be hard, don't be afraid of tears, sometimes when we recognise a limiting belief we have long held about ourselves it can trigger memories we'd seeked to forget.  When you are ready, ask God (if you don't believe in God then a positive force outside of you) who He/She says you are and wait for the answer. Perhaps the spirit will lead you to scripture, if not I am confident you will be given a word or an image that will bring life to you. It may take a while to see it but don't worry, sit there in the silence & wait upon it - it will come. 

When it comes, however, hard it may be to believe within your given circumstance, take that word & nurture it with all you have, let it take root so it's truth becomes you...because it is you. For some of you still, this may be hard to accept, but take faith, God is in the business of redeeming stories.  No one who desires it is beyond a testimony that shifts paradigms. Whatever your personal perception is of the bible, it is full of stories of people's lives being turned around. There is a beautiful example of a woman at a well, who is considered a social outcast & yet Jesus breaks with jewish convention to build a connection with her.  This one encounter changes the trajectory of her life & her testimony continues to impact people today. As pastor TD Jakes says about her legacy 'God could have chosen a politically correct, nice, clean woman, but that's not how grace works...Grace is often painted on the canvas of despair...'

Nothing and no-one is too disgraced, that's a world perspective but it's not the truth, you have been clothed in strength & dignity & are to laugh without fear of the future ... October 2017 (back to contents)