Tag Archives: faith

Wrestling

This is the script of my Going Deeper With God daily devotions for today. You can watch the video here if you prefer.

The Readings are Psalm 23 and Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone.

Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”

“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”

29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”

But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.

30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel.31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Even today the descendants of Israel do not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit.

When I was a girl, our Saturday tea times were spent watching tv, eating bread and dripping and watching the wrestling on ITV. Think Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus.  That was how life was, certainly in our corner of the world in the 1970s – we knew how to live!!

In those wrestling matches there was a lot of play acting, I suspect a lot of throwing the matches and it was more about the entertainment.

Today’s readings are of real struggles and a real wrestling with God.  Particularly as we hear Jacob’s story.  We’ve been following that story through the readings and now we come to the point of his wrestling with God.

This is Jacob the trickster.  He has misled and taken advantage of his brother, his father and his uncle.  Perhaps he is feeling he is about to get his comeuppance…

Jacob has taken his wives, servants, children and all his worldly possessions across the river.  But for now he is alone – Just him and God – and a struggle ensues.

Jacob comes out of the encounter limping.  He has struggled with God and he bears the marks of his encounter.

Are we up for wrestling with God?  Or would we rather have everything simple and straightforward – no struggle required?  I think faith worth having is a faith we’ve struggled with.  Until we have wrestled with what it’s all about and what it means to us, it remains an inherited faith, not one that will stand up under pressure.  It is very easy to trot out trite platitudes, but until we have wrestled we do not know if they stand up or not.

It’s unlikely that we will come away from a true struggle with God unmarked.  It is in the struggles that we are changed, that we are stretched, in the facing up to the realities of our lives. There is nothing wrong with wrestling with God, having an honest conversation, admitting our fears, where we are going…

Don’t be afraid of the struggle, for in that we will be formed.  Jacob came away not just with a dislocated hip, but also with a new name.  It was at that point he became Israel – and the rest, as they say, is history.  But without his willingness to wrestle with God – who knows.

Am I willing to struggle with God?  To wrestle over who is in charge?  How God will bless me?  What I need to let go of?  What I ought to be doing?  To let God touch me, challenge me, humble me and equip me?  Will I receive his blessing, his new name, his future?

As I reflect on bible passages, I like to put myself in the story and hear the voice of the characters.  So here is my voice in this.

Wrestling,
still grappling,
trying to gain the upper hand.

Searching,
seeking,
longing,
to be.

Still yearning
for that blessing,
not the stolen one,
but God’s blessing
on me
and my life.

And now you come,
I am marked,
forever,
by our struggle;
from now on
I am changed.

You call me by a new name,
a new purpose
a new me.

I have met God,
we have struggled,
I am renewed
and I am alive.

Struggling,
I wrestle with you Lord.

I search
and I seek,
I long for you to touch me,
to change me
to make me new,
in you.


I come to you,
knowing that answers are not always easy,
faith is not always easily come by,
that sometimes I need to wrestle
– with my conscience,
my selfishness,
my manipulative ways,
my wants
and even with you.

In the struggle Lord,
re-form me,
renew me,
rename me,
re-purpose me
and reassure me.

Bless me Lord
I pray.
Bless each one of us.
Meet us in our struggle,
touch us,
renew us
and may we know we are alive in you.

My hymn suggestion for today is O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,  such a beautiful hymn that ties together both Psalm 23 and Jacob’s struggles. It means so much to me of being able to trace God’s rainbow through the rain and the God whose love never lets us go, whatever the struggle. And this is a beautiful rendition of it:

New Books

I am delighted to announce that two new books, based around the work on this blog and some I found languishing on my computer have been published.

Introducing Voices Through Mark. Mark is the feature gospel in the coming lectionary year, so it could be useful for that.

Voices Through Mark journeys through all of Mark’s gospel from John the Baptist up to The Plot to kill Jesus.

We hear the voices of the characters encountering Jesus for the first time and the development of what Jesus means to them and the world.

Suitable for use as private reflection or in worship.

Price £7 plus £2.00 postage.

It is a bit early, but in this strange current world, who knows what might happen, so here is Voices Through Lent

Beginning with an Ash Wednesday appraisal of our lives in the light of the Ten Commandments, we journey together through Lent, hearing the voices along the way.

It follows the Lectionary readings for Years A, B and C from Ash Wednesday to Lent 5.

Each of the 16 voices stands alone, but weaves together to forma whole.

The pieces in this book are suitable for personal or public reflection and worship following the lectionary readings for the first five Sundays in Lent leading up to Holy Week.

I have copies available, or it is available directly from Moorleys, price £4.50 plus £1.50 postage.

I am doing a offer of both together for £11 plus £2.50 postage

I can also make the text of either book available as a PDF. Please contact me.

All my books are available from Moorleys, or you can order directly from me – please use the contact form below to contact me. If you live near me, I can leave one in the porch for collection or get it put through your door. Or as per the Eyam plague, goods and money can be left at the boundary marker!

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to do this and helped make it possible – and to those who support it.

Both Voices Through Advent and Christmas (£4) and Voices Through Holy Week and Easter (£4.50)are also still available.

Testimony – the 2020 Edition

This is the text of my Going Deeper devotion for today.

It is so easy to sit in church and think everyone else has got it together or is having a great life, only when we start sharing our stories together do we realise that others may have been in a similar situation to us, or are in that place now.  By sharing our stories we can help support one another and strengthen our faith and the life of the church.

We all have a story to tell.  Our life and journey are unique, but will touch on common factors with other people.  Our faith story is no exception.

In his brilliant sermon to us on Sunday morning, Trey Hall encouraged us to tell our stories -so, here is (part of) mine.  I did share this in written form when we first came to here, but this is an updated version.

When I left school I worked for our local church as part admin part outreach worker which really developed my call.  Fast forward to when our children were born and I was very fortunate to be able to be at home with them and was perfectly content with doing that and volunteering through church – until God had a different idea…

Thus, I became a Circuit Minister in 1999.  Aside from raising our sons, I felt as if I was doing what I was always made to do.  I loved it.  I got to meet all kinds of interesting people of all ages and talk about God with them, I had the massive privilege of being with people at significant times in their lives, I got to work with great people with God and we were doing some new and exciting stuff.  We were happy and settled.  It was hard work, but the blessings were immense.

Then in March 2005 I got proper flu.  Although the flu symptoms went after a few weeks, I was left with an awful chronic cough that also caused hoarseness, which is not much help when your voice is your tool, and breathing problems. I was constantly exhausted and had various other symptoms, but the cause was never quite pinpointed.  I visited various consultants and no one could really offer me a diagnosis or a real prognosis – but it meant my life had turned upside down.

I had several trial returns to work, fully supported by my GP and the Circuit, but wasn’t able to sustain it.  Eventually it was concluded that I was going to have to retire on ill health.  At 41 and with two teenage sons, this wasn’t quite how we had envisaged life going.

I guess it should have been a scary time, but I didn’t feel it.  Partly I was focused on being ill and trying to find a way to live with this new reality, but I never lost a sense of “we do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future”.  I felt such a strong sense of God holding me and holding whatever was to come, however unclear that seemed.

So we moved out of Circuit life.  I was left with the new reality of feeling that I no longer had a role.  I couldn’t do any of the things I used to love – not just work, but everyday life.  But still I felt that God had called me to something different, to be a Minister in a different way.

Unfortunately as the years went on my symptoms multiplied and it became clear that there was something very specific going on, not just post-viral problems.  I was able to do less and less.

Eventually I was given a diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is basically effects every part of the body that produces fluid.  This is a brilliant illustration of where and how it effects the body,

but for me as well as the lung issues, it effects my joints, balance and concentration/processing (if I don’t give a sensible answer it’s because I’m trying to process the question and what the answer is), as well as giving me dry eyes (with vision issues), dry mouth (which gives difficulty in chewing and swallowing) and awful skin.  I find sitting or standing for long hard work and struggle with energy, everything is an effort and I struggle if I try to do anything for more than an hour. I have little spare energy for anything I might want to do, having to concentrate on what I really need to do.  I also have to be very careful what clothes I wear so they don’t cause me any problems.  As anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with me will have noticed I am constantly drinking and putting in eye drops – and I have an assortment of other medications I take that try and keep on top of the symptoms – though nothing can cure it.  That is my reality.

Over the last couple of years as my symptoms have increased and effected more parts of my body, it became clear that I was struggling to live in a house and I wasn’t very safe on the stairs.  We are very fortunate to be cared for so well and were able to find a bungalow to live in.  That has made our lives so much easier and we believe that God has brought us here with a purpose and a place. 

Well… that was up until COVID-19 arrived in our lives, and the church had to find a new way to be.  Although COVID has had its challenges, for me it has also been an opportunity to rediscover my voice and my ministry.  I am so grateful to Sean for inviting me to be a part of the team that creates these Going Deeper devotions.  By recording slots in my own time and my own space and with the ability to record in tiny chunks and put it all together, I have been able to do what I haven’t been able to do for 15 years and publicly lead God’s people in worship and prayer.

So, just when I was wondering what I can do, what role there is for me any more, how God is going to use me, something new came along – and I am as surprised as anyone else.  My ministry has been in some small way, which to me is a massive way, been given back to me, my life, faith and spirituality have found a new path

The last few years have not been easy, there have been times when I struggled with not being able to do what I enjoyed or even the basic tasks. There were times when church was the place I most needed to be – yet the hardest and most painful place to be.  There will no doubt continue to be those times and on bad days it can be heart-breaking.  But God, his arms, his love, his hope and his peace have the only thing that held me together. God wrapped his arms of love tightly round me and gently held me.  God is in the reality of where I am and continues to work in and through it – and me.

I hold tightly always to the words of Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Fig trees may no longer bloom,
or vineyards produce grapes;
olive trees may be fruitless,
and harvest time a failure;
sheep pens may be empty,
and cattle stalls vacant—
18 but I will still celebrate
because the Lord God
saves me.
19 The Lord gives me strength.
He makes my feet as sure
as those of a deer,
and he helps me stand
on the mountains

Life does not look like we anticipated it would and is a struggle every day.  Having a chronic illness that effects every part of your body is exhausting and frankly mostly sore, but God is with us and continues to work. I may not be able to much physically, but God still is God. God saves me, holds me gently and gives me strength for what he calls me for and to.  God still calls and still uses us.

May we each know that in our lives.