Having a ‘Sound Portrait’



Yeah ok I know, and it is about as whacky as it sounds! I mean how on earth does one have a sound portrait done?! Well for a start it’s a lot quicker, and I would wager a lot more powerful, than a painted portrait. 

So, a few weeks ago I was delighted to be able to go along and find out what a ‘Sound Portrait’ was for myself. I’d heard about them previously as a couple of my friends play in the Christian worship group ‘Epiphany’ who do them. They are a group of incredibly gifted musicians who play a range of instruments, and sound portraits are just one part of what they do, but they have played them at places as diverse as The Ideal Home Exhibition and the National Portrait Gallery!

So, I went along not really knowing what to expect, sat in a lovely comfy lounge at the home of a friend, whilst 5 or 6 musicians just played over me. As I understand it they literally play what they feel God is saying, so it is a portrait of how God sees you, just in music rather then in picture. Nothing planned, no score to follow, they just play. And I can’t tell you how powerful it was. It wasn’t odd or strange or uncomfortable, although I know people feel a range of emotions and feelings when they are played over. For me they began with something quite busy and I instantly knew God was speaking! In fact I thought it quite funny really. But then, well then it calmed down and the music developed into the most beautiful melody I could imagine. I’ve put a clip of it above and it might not sound so amazing to you listening but I guess it’s my portrait and to me it was just perfect! As I listened I had my eyes shut and I was so amazed at the feelings and sensations I felt. From wondering how on earth they could produce something like this, to being overcome with emotion, to thinking wow, is this how God sees me? and then I felt him speaking…

It’s incredibly hard to describe what it feels like, the musicians move around you and are quite close so it’s very personal, and the only phrase I could think of is that it felt like the music was flowing through my soul. I imagine that sounds a bit ‘super-spiritual’ but it’s really the only way I can describe it!

As they played I felt all kinds of things but one thing that was the most powerful was it was like God was calling my destiny out of me as they played. Again I know that may sound odd, but it was a feeling, a beckoning, an encouraging, as I listened, I just knew what God was saying, it was prophetic in a way, a moment of stepping into what he has for me. I don’t even know what that was, there wasn’t something specific, just a knowing and a calling. I once had an experience of hearing God sing my name and it felt a bit like that. Funny as I was just writing about names a few days ago, but there is something powerful in that, in the hearing of one’s name. Like when you are talking to someone and they actually use your name in conversation, it kind of stands out, like an emphasis on you, they are talking to you and focussed on you, it’s not just a random chat. I don’t know if this makes sense as I said it’s so hard to describe! But I want to try and give an essence of what it means or how it feels, although I’m sure it’s different for everyone. Anyway if you ever get the chance to have one – do it! 

It was interesting also hearing them play for two of my children, one of them in particular has a love of jazz and blues and the first thing they played was that! and as I listened and heard what they said afterwards (as they share anything they feel God saying) I was amazed at how they had him spot on!

God of course speaks in many ways so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he can work in this way through a bunch of faithful people who has gifted in music, but it really did take me my surprise. Anyway if you ever get the chance to have one – do it! 


Is Prayer Offensive?

Ok so it’s late. I should be asleep right now, it’s been a long weekend but I have so many thoughts going round my mind that I have to write…

Last week I wrote about prayer via Twitter in Hashtag Prayers. I was musing on how people who wouldn’t label themselves as ‘religious’ will still turn to simple prayer in times of need. It is interesting then today that news has broken of a new and simple ad from the CofE which shows people saying the Lord’s prayer, that has been banned from UK cinemas as it ‘might cause offence’.

The media is of course awash with opinion on this. Giles Fraser (who I rarely agree with!) writes a great piece here and even Richard Dawkins has waged in saying the ad should be shown, saying this:

“My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”

I’ve just had a lengthy debate on Twitter about it myself, and as always I turn to the blog to express my frustration so here’s a few things just to think about based on the comments people have made so far…

  1. Freedom of Speech. Is this a matter of curtailing our free speech? Well actually not as far as the cinema is concerned. Their reason for ‘banning’ the ad was that it carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences. Well that’s what they say but I feel sure they don’t give quite so much concern towards other ads. I’m sure we can all think of things we’ve seen at the movies that may not be 100% appropriate to the audience. Especially as this ad was given a ‘U’ rating by the Cinema Advertising Authority and the British Board of Film Classification, the lowest rating there is.
  2. We are a Christian Country. Well again, I’m not sure we can officially claim that any more, can we? After all stats show the number of Christians attending church is regularly declining, right? However… we still have a national church which plays an important role in the life of the country in many ways, but even if we just look at the local church, be it in weddings, funerals, times of need and difficulty, still, people turn to the church in their thousands. It is part of our identity in Britain. In fact it’s amazing when churches are to be closed or things changed, people come out of the woodwork in their support, they speak out in support of their local church.
  3. This is an ad about prayer, not about the church or religion as some have said. Look let’s not beat about the bush, of course it’s a Christian ad, it’s from the Church of England, but it is a focus on prayer to go with their new initiative ‘Just Pray’. As I said in last weeks post, many people turn to prayer, turn to God in time of need when they otherwise wouldn’t. I am very comfortable with my faith and I will always offer to pray with people in need. Few are the occasions where people say no. Most, even those who ardently profess no faith, are touched by the offer and are grateful for the input when often nothing else can be done.
  4. The Lord’s Prayer is offensive (or could be). Ok so let’s just think about this. This is a prayer that many many people outside the church know. It may have been learned in school, or even in places of work, said at civic occasions, national events and more. It is said with affection, with honour, with pride and with emotion, by many of no faith and one. It has brought comfort to those in times of need, when nothing else can be done, in times of trial or grief, people can be embraced with it, encouraged. Those with dementia will join in with the familiar words, recognising something of their life now so confused. Those suffering with ill health receive a visit from a Chaplain or Vicar, they listen as words of liturgy are spoken over them and then they hear the familiar words they have heard before, joining in with the lines they remember. A family is dealing with the grief of a loved one, they don’t want a ‘religious service’ but they do want the Lords Prayer, ‘because she believed in something’. This is so much more than ‘just a prayer’.
  5. Prayer is a waste of time. Well I beg to differ, but then I would, of course. As previously mentioned, for so many it is a thing of great comfort. Is it so harmful to remind people of that? Sometimes I wonder what on earth is happening to our world. Wars, people blowing themselves up with the express intent of killing as may as possible, governments cutting benefits that enable people to live, to stay alive. We may rightly ask where is the God of compassion and love? But for now, what can we do when we can do nothing? We can at the very least, pray. Anyone can. It requires no skill or theological education, we can just speak to the Lord. Is it so bad to just give people a gentle reminder of that very fact?

Lastly I point you to a post by Stephen Croft, Bishop of Sheffield who highlights some amazing truths in the prayer…

Creativity within…

The theme of last weekend’s Premier digital conference was Create. If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know creativity is a key theme in my life and it was so great to hear people talking about how we can all be creators, how we can all express ourselves and release some creativity.

So. I can draw, I loved art at school, I was good at it and I went on to become an artist selling my work and run2015-11-14 21.58.58ning my own gallery. However, english? not so much. I remember a teacher once saying to me that my writing was (something like) boring, predictable and unoriginal. Ouch. Now this isn’t a rant at teachers at all, but really teachers, you have a responsibility! I grew up thinking I was unacademic and no good at main stream subjects like english and maths. But you know what, school isn’t everything. I now have a degree in history of art, have run my own business, am currently studying theology and, just won runner up blogger of the year for my writing (it may of course still be boring, predictable and unoriginal but now I have a prize for it, so to my english teacher, ‘in your face’!).

So where am I going with all this other than sounding a bit boasty? Well, here’s the thing, we are all creators. Yes all of us. As an acreation1_SMALL2rtist I used to be really frustrated when people said to me, ‘oh I wish I could draw’. Because at school, where you learn to be creative, that’s what you get taughthere’s a still life, draw that, or do a portrait of yourself, so if you can’t do that, then you are ‘rubbish at art’ (& art teachers, I do know things are now a bit more encompassing than that!). But art is more than that, it is an expression of ourselves, a release of emotion, a portrayal of something within us. Everyone has the possibility of releasing what is inside of them, in fact I think people should find a way to do just that, it’s so valuable. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, sounds like, reads like, it’s just for us, for you.
Now, I can draw something like looks like what it is but my favourite thing when I
was working most was to produce big abstract canvases. Into them I poured out my feelings, emotions, vision, pain, and yes a bit of my soul. At PremDAC15 I went to a seminar by Rev Ric Stott, a Methodist minister and artist. He was very inspiring and one thing he said was that ‘painting is an excavation of the soul’. Wow what a line. Like it’s personal but not entirely within our control, it’s like a process that has to be done, to find the gems, to find truth or hidden treasure. But deep, intrusive and even with an air of violence.


My husband is a musician, so for him music is his creative outlet. On creativity he says that everyone has their own creative outlet, a ‘go to’ place. So when you write or play or create you are inspired to do so in the way that feels right for you. When downs4he writes a song he says he writes from the feeling he is experiencing. Embodying it, feeling it, releasing it. Whether that is from feeling love for someone or something, to a sense of frustration or anger, or a place of the realisation of God’s grace. So those feelings are part of the expression, which I think means it is more real and authentic. Some of those songs never see the light of day, just like some of my pictures, drawings and prayer doodles stay in my sketch book or behind closed doors, they are too personal but they were, are, valuable to us.


We all have the ability within us to create, in different ways and not to be held back by words that have been spoken over us or by those ‘I can’t’ or ‘I’m no good at’ thoughts.  Ok so you are not Grade 5 at the piano, you can’t draw a person, you can’t spell (neither can I, that’s what spellchecker is for) you might be ‘unoriginal or predictable’, it might be stick men, it might be ‘chopsticks’, but who cares?! Let your feelings your inspiration, your emotion pour out of you. Have courage and be creative…


Hashtag Prayers for a Heartbroken World…


I don’t know about you, but when things happen of such vast incomprehensible magnitude that we are shocked to the core, my response is to pray.

I pray because, to be honest, I don’t know what else to do. Sometimes there is nothing we can do. I mean what can we say in response to the news of Paris, or Beirut, or Syria? What can be said of those 132 innocent lives that were lost so violently in Paris? or to those killed by the Beirut bombs or those fleeing indiscriminate horror in Syria? What can we say when we don’t personally know someone involved? We still stand shocked. We are uncomprehending. We are scared. We wonder why.


What can our response be? 
There is nothing. Nothing that can make sense of it all.

Even if we know who did it, or why. Even if we know how & where they planned it. It still makes no sense, because no person in a sound mind would do that in the name of God, or for any other reason.

There is no sense to be made. So, we flounder. We share our shock in tweets and posts and conversations, we add a pic to our profile. We read never ending conjecture-filled news reports.

But still no sense can be made. We weep with incomprehension.



This weekend #PrayForParis has been trending worldwide and not just amongst those with faith. Why is that? I think, because we all want to do something. We just don’t know how to respond. It happens time and again, when something like his happens, a ‘pray for’ hashtag starts and people jump on to it. I’ve prayed for, and with, a lot of people over the years and I can only remember 2 who said they didn’t want prayer. Just 2. Whatever people believe, in times of great tragedy, fear and heightened emotion, they want, hope even, that there is something greater, someone greater, who can make sense of it, who can reach those who suffer and mourn, who can comfort and guide all of us who struggle to comprehend. Whatever ‘God’ means to any of us we need him to intervene. And if perhaps we can’t bring ourselves to pray, perhaps asking someone else to, or even just sharing a hashtag, can be enough. After all I believe that prayer can be many more things that just words shared aloud. So why not a simple hashtag? The hashtag #PrayForParis has been retweeted over 10 million times in the last few days. If God hears our prayers then he has to be hearing us crying out to him right now for our heartbroken world…

What’s in a name?

Some rather rambling thoughts on names, identity and who we are….

Last week I walked up a volcano. Sounds rather exotic but if I’m honest it was essentially a large rock covered in stones. A rather dramatic rock with stunning scenery, but, nonetheless a rock.

IMGP3854When we reached the top we found there was a huge crater waiting to be discovered. Now cooled, solid and approachable it was a valley of stone and in the very bottom a small patch of life. An oasis of green, and vegetation, starkly standing out against the arid and barren surroundings. But it was not this that drew my eye, it was instead the rather geological graffiti which littered the crater, as visitors from across the world had left their names or patterns in stony form. ‘Wales’and ‘Tina’ stood out rather comically across the crater in huge letters, laid out in pebbles and rocks. I wondered what made someone want to spend so much time and some risk, leaving their mark in this way. Unlike spray paint this was not damaging the surroundings and I guess could be removed but perhaps with a significant amount of work!


Last year we visited the museum of London which features an old prison cell preserved behind Perspex, leaving us able to read the centuries old carvings which occupants had left on the wooden walls. Names, dates, rhyme, all featured in this place where one cannot imagine someone wanting to be remembered.

Here in this crater the effect was the same, names littering the plain and providing a rather interesting landscape to read. Buy why do we do this? Is it human nature that makes us want to ‘leave a mark’? As a child I wrote my name on a wall in chalk at a visitor attraction. My dad was enraged and dragged me to the owner to apologise. I was frustrated and cross, I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. It was just chalk and I’d only written my name, what could be more natural? How many times have you doodled your name whilst on a lengthy phone call?


When the angel told Mary she would have a child, he told her the name too and with it also, shared his destiny. 

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

The same with Zechariah, when told of his future son, he is told the name, John, and his future is foretold. Moses, whose original name we don’t know, was given his name by Pharoah’s daughter who found him, and it means ‘drawn out’ as he was drawn from the water. Perhaps this also shows something of his destiny as God draws him out for his purpose, to be used for God’s kingdom…

Names often were linked to something of the time something relevant, or even of the persons future. Rather like someone calling a Christmas baby Holly for example.

Perhaps our human desire to write our names or leave a mark is really about calling out our own destiny? In leaving a name so publicly on a mountain or in graffiti we are leaving a part of us there, stating a fact, declaring our identity even. Is it perhaps a reassurance to ourselves as much as a sign to others?


IMG_0389One of my daughters decided to join the stony list and spelled out her own name. It looks huge in this picture, but from the top of the crater it was an illegible speck, in fact to be read from that far away it would have had to be 30′ tall! Which makes me think again of how we show our identity to others.

For some that’s in overt behaviour: being loud, wearing a certain style of clothes or mixing only with a certiain people group for example but for others even a lack of obvious or overt behaviour tells of who they are too. Clearly for us, our identity is not just in our name and I’m sure there are not many who can pinpoint their name as spelling out their destiny either so why is it so important to us?

I don’t have an answer I’m really just thinking as I write but I am rather fascinated by it… what about nicknames, people who change their name, choosing your child’s name? hmm, perhaps I’ll think on it some more… love to know people’s thoughts on it though…



Selah (again)


I’ve been slightly obsessed with the word selah for a few years now. It really came to my attention at a Hillsong conference & I can’t even remember why now but it was something one of the pastors flagged up at the time & I couldn’t get it out of my head.

We don’t truly know the meaning of the word, but the description I favour most is one that suggests a pause or rest, a break in proceedings. Probably a musical term or an indication to musicians, it features throughout the Psalms and one can imagine perhaps a stop to take a breath before continuing.wpid-img_20151103_163655.jpg I’ve written about it before but as I write now I’m languishing on a rather luxurious sofa with the dramatic sound of crashing waves, falling just feet away ringing in my ears. A gentle breeze is blowing overhead meaning that the heat of the sun is delicious, rather than overbearing. This holiday has been a long time coming, waiting as we have for months for my back to be healed sufficiently. I’m not sure we’ve needed a holiday more than this one (As a family that is, I spent months resting of course!).

But as I lie here that word selah is running through my mind again. Pausing. Taking a breath. It’s not often that I get to do that. God has been speaking to me more and more about rest and I’ve written about it before, but even as I try to work that into my day, my week, there is something so necessary about a complete and utter rest. I don’t need to cook, or to clean, or to think about deadlines, or plan who has to be where and when. We have no agenda, and in fact already our tentative and gentle plans have given way to a rather slothful existence!

Like many I’m sure, I cannot competely rest at home. There is always the distraction of housework or plans, the ‘to do lists’ on the fridge, the school run looming. Yet here none of it matters. The rest is more complete. The headspace is cleared and the mind has time to wander. I was going to nap for a hour as the kids are out but instead I find I’m unable to and I’m just lying here listening to the waves. Just lying here. It seems so decadent and yet all I’m doing is allowing myself space to breathe. An hour to lie down and do nothing, except of course as my mind has space, the imagination is free and I find my brain thinking on things long-shelved. And hence I end up writing…!


But I think that is part of it, having time to think. So many things get shelved and we never come back to them. It’s so important to take time to just be, with no agenda. I’ve felt so creative this hol because I’ve not planned to do anything and so when taking a wander, or lying in the sun, those shelved things have come back to me and I’ve taken time to think them through.

I wonder what God was doing before he created? We know he rested after but did he rest before too? Were there millenniums of God just being, letting his mind come up with crazy ideas, wonderful designs, amazing creations before he actually did it? Of course we can’t know but I feel sure that some of the best idea in history have come from a a place of rest.

I am reminding myself as I listen to these waves, of that rhythm of work and then rest. reminding myself once again that I must take this with me, to make time in my day and my week to get that complete rest and alloy myself space to think and to breathe and to be…


So after a month of solid blogging I’m taking a few days off! If I don’t respond to comments, be patient, I will do next week!

Here’s a nice autumn picture for today… :)