JOY // Guest post from Ben Hollebon

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from a friend of mine – Ben Hollebon.

 

 

I love making films. It’s one of those things I just enjoy in every part of the process. Capturing that clip that you know is going to solidify your story when it comes to the edit is so satisfying.

I love God. Spending time with Him gives me peace. I can’t describe in words the reassurance His everlasting faithfulness brings to my life.

I ask God for stuff in prayers. I know it’s a bit cheeky and they’re not always things that I necessarily need, but I ask anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it works that you ask God for something in a quick prayer, He snaps His fingers and suddenly there’s a fanfare outside as the National Lottery pitch up at your front door with a nice big cheque for a few million. I think God is cleverer than that. He is interested in our hearts desires and giving us gifts; but these gifts are not meant to be held tightly and relished by ourselves alone. Instead, they’re meant to be used to glorify His name, His grace, His mercy and His love.

God gave me a gift last year. It was pretty amazing and I can tell you now – it made me rather joyful. He gave me the gift of a brand new job; one that I didn’t know existed, one that I wasn’t looking for, and in fact one that wasn’t even advertised. My wife saw a job advertised on Twitter (she’s never on Twitter and what are the chances she was on just as this was tweeted?). I went for the interview and didn’t get the job; but they told me there was another job, that wasn’t being advertised yet that they thought I’d be perfect for. So I came back a month later and interviewed successfully for it.

What do I do now? I make films for The Church of England. I work up in Westminster and get to communicate stories of the God I love through the medium that I love. God wants us to be fulfilled through His provision.

This Remembrance video, used in many churches and across Social Media is one of those Ben made.
Pretty cool right? God knows my hearts desires and wants me to be fulfilled in life; but He also challenges me to use the good things He provides to make a difference in this world. This isn’t just a “nice gig” nor is it God giving me a break and moving on. I feel called to work here and with that comes the responsibility that what I am doing is for God’s Kingdom. 

My joy this Christmas is knowing that I have a God who not just knows my every need, but finds ways to meet those needs in ways I could never have imagined. My God can literally find the perfect job for me, where I can use the skills He has blessed me with to communicate His Gospel each and every day.

And my God is your God; is our God; is THE God who loves us all immeasurably more than we could ever imagine.

I wonder what gift He has waiting for you to unwrap…

 

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Ben Hollebon works for The Church of England Communications Team at Church House in Westminster. He makes films and loves all things digital. He even got shortlisted at the Jerusalem Awards this year. He is married to Pollyanna and together, they have a cat called Herbie.

 

JOY // Guest post by Amanda Robbie

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from Amanda Robbie, otherwise known as ‘The Vicar’s Wife’.

 

 

Where is joy when life is grey and dull, when life is hard, when life is just boring and feels like an uphill journey?

Last year I was given a beautiful Christmas decoration.  It’s made of twisted twigs and is decorated with tiny red seed-like beads. The twists and turns and clusters of beads spell out a word. The word is JOY.

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In difficulties and sorrows, when we are striving to live for God in a godless world, when we are battling against our own sinful nature and against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, that is when we sow tears. Often it’s just tiny tears of disappointment and discouragement. Although sometimes there are great buckets of pain and struggle.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

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Psalm 126 compares tears to seeds, sown by God’s people. And we see that those tear-seeds grow into sheaves of grain, and God’s people end up singing songs of joy, bringing in the harvest. I can’t say that’s how I usually see my difficulties and battles : that God is growing something with my tears that will start me singing.

So, as I face daily challenges, inside my heart and outside in my life, I want to remind myself that I will reap with songs of joy. And if I will sing songs of joy in the future, I can begin to sing them now. As the tiny seeds spell out JOY in my Christmas decoration, so tiny seeds of tears will grow into great songs of joy over the harvest that the Lord is gathering in.

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Amanda Robbie is a former designer of sewage works who is now a vicar’s wife in a multicultural urban parish in the West Midlands. She likes writing and baking. but not filing or clearing up. You can find her on Twitter @thevicarswife or (somewhat erratically) on her blog .

Joy Guest post from Ros Clarke // ‘The Enemies of Joy’

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from Ros Clarke, who I have chatted to in the online sphere for a while, and was delighted to finally meet her at last year’s Premier Digital Conference. I am also slightly jealous of her job ;)

 

 

Joy.

It comes, if we are lucky, in the moments. We find it in snapshots of smiling faces. We grab at it in snatched seconds of pure happiness.

It’s overwhelming, all-encompassing, saturating every part of our being. It fills us and overflows from us.

And then it’s gone, as the worries of the world press in on us again.

Because we are surrounded by the enemies of joy:

FEAR

FAILURE

WORRY

STRESS

COMPARISON

It’s a wonder that we ever feel joy at all. And yet it is only when we can forget all these and be free that we ever experience pure, all-consuming, childlike joy.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Paul considers joy to be something attainable for all Christians. Rejoice, he says! Rejoice in the Lord, always! Set aside your fears and failures, your anxiety and stress. Stop those destructive comparisons, and focus on the Lord.

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The Lord is near and we may present him with all our concerns, our worries, our problems. In return, his transcendent peace will guard our hearts and minds.

In that peace, we can rejoice. We can find the joy that lasts longer than a moment. The joy which can outlast our troubles. The joy which transforms our lives.

Rejoice in the Lord. Always.

Again I say, rejoice!

 

 

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Dr. Ros Clarke is the Online Pastor in the Diocese of Lichfield. She can usually be found hanging out on Twitter or Facebook, if she isn’t Instagramming her life or filming for Youtube…

 

 

JOY guest post // Naomi McBain

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Naomi McBain. Naomi is a friend of mine who has nurtured my faith in amazing ways, over the years. She also runs ‘Hope’, a non-profit organisation building confidence, creating a future for families and communities, find out more here.

 

It’s taken a while to get down to writing this blog as joy has been a concept I have had tussles with on and off for many a year. Don’t get me wrong… it isn’t that I have had a bad life making it hard to understand joy, or even the absence of a deep joy in worship and growth in faith. I got the concept that joy is a deeper thing than happiness; indeed there have been many occasions when I have felt I am soaring in the strength of Jesus and His deep peace, my hunger for Him, a driving force as I sought to know Him more, to plunge to deeper depths in His abundant kingdom of blessings. My faith led me to go places that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone. This was equalled by the presence of God showing up, to light my path and provide my needs. There has never been any doubt in the Lordship of Jesus since I gave my life to Him 28 years ago, nor a let up that there is always more to find.

So what was it you were tussling with then Naomi I hear you asking… sounds like you were rocking and rolling? My issue… the consistency of joy; passages like “the joy of the Lord is my strength” or “I’m content no matter what my circumstances” challenged me as I faced times where others seemed so much more together, when I struggled to worship or make sense of what the day was bringing me. Where despair, comparison, unanswered prayer, and hopelessness in the promises I felt for things to come drove me down. I was coping on the outside but inside doubts and low confidence, lack of self worth and inferiority were speaking loud. Joy was far from me. Faith and belief in Jesus took me to his feet in prayer but joy gave no light or hope of comfort or strength.


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So what changed?

Circumstances I was in meant I saw the true power of the bible at work, certainty came in the sufficiency of Christ in me and I saw, for the first time, what it was to wear the white robes of righteousness. The certainty that comes through His grace and the joy he takes in having me surrendered to Him in loving others for the enrichment of His kingdom in their lives.

Now passages such as Habakkuk 3v 18… “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation” ring out from the page and cause a flood of worship and praise and delight in the goodness and passion Jesus has for me. I have a clearer awareness of how loved I am. Even though circumstances haven’t changed, and there are still challenges and mountains to climb, there is a joy in my core that wasn’t there before. I am able to enjoy the spacious expanses of the green pastures as I still myself and truly know He is God, taking joy in just being with Him for no other reason than hanging out with the most amazing person ever. The conquering king, my saviour, for whom nothing of my life goes unseen and nothing is bigger or beyond Him. The vibrancy and colour of His kingdoms ways are a sight to be seen, full of light, beauty, love and abundant life in the river of His delights.

I thank Him for His goodness, grace and mercy and pray that these words inspire hunger and hope to others needing a fresh insight into a deeper joy in Jesus. There is always more!

‘Still Emily’ book review

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I’ve just read ‘Still Emily’ in one sitting, on holiday surrounded by people, and have had to stem the tears pricking my eyes on more than one occasion. Emily’s story touched my heart, not with tears of sympathy but of love, of admiration, and in some sense, of understanding.

Emily began life healthily and despite what could now be seen as warnings, the shock of an NF2 diagnosis at the age of 17 was huge. This condition would go on to rob Emily of her hearing, her balance, ability to walk and more, yet she has refused to give in to the condition, not willing to be defined by it, and continued in her walk with God, perhaps closer than ever might have been.

(Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) is a disorder that causes tumours to grow on the body and throughout the nervous system. Depending on where they grow they can cause conditions like deafness, severe balance problems, facial nerve paralysis, spinal cord compression and swallowing difficulties.)

‘Still Emily’ is a movingly honest memoir of Emily’s journey with NF2. Of the highs and lows – of which there are many, including the moment at age 17 when Emily’s family said goodbye to her as she lay in a coma, not expected to wake up. Like the times when she has been robbed of her sight for a period as well as hearing, in order to allow her eyes to rest and recover as they work harder than ever. I’m not sure I can begin to image the isolation and fear that must induce.

It is also a story of a family thrown into turmoil, but choosing to respond in love. Choosing to support, choosing to demonstrate the love of God in the face of adversity, united in their faith. Christian faith is of course a theme than runs through the book, not in an ‘in your face’ way, but in a gentle undercurrent, God’s presence and faithfulness the foundation in this inspiring story.

As anyone with a long term condition will know, it can be hard to remain always positive, even with God at your side, and Emily is honest about this, but also reminding herself, and us the readers, to focus on the bit that can be done, not the bit that can’t, as she recalls learning to sit again, able to do 20 mins at first but not the half hour she hoped for. The subtitle to ‘Still Emily’ is ‘seeing rainbows in the silence’ a choice that Emily has made – to always seek the moments of joy: ‘I choose rainbows. Every time. Even when they are invisible, I carry on looking…’

One of the things I love about this book is the truth that we are all worthy, no matter what we can or can’t do. A simple reminder that came to Emily when all she could do to help a fellow patient in hospital was press the ‘call nurse’ button, but in that moment, that was what was needed. This was something I too learned when recovering from back surgery last year, even in the tough times, in suffering and in the moments when we feel useless, helpless and alone, that to God we are perfect and he can use us all, whatever the circumstance.

This is a book about endurance, the faithfulness of God and above all, hope. In endless operations, physio and appointments, in pain, in disappointment, there is still hope.

 

‘Still Emily’ is available now from Malcolm Down Publishing, priced £7.99.

 

JOY // Guest Post from Katie Stock

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Katie Stock. 

 

 

 

In my experience joy is an elusive state, something I observe in others, catch glimpses of in myself but can never quite grab a hold of.

Joy is mentioned 179 times in the Bible. Trees declare it. Men shout for it. Widow’s hearts sing for it. Joy permeates throughout Scripture.

The thing that all of the peoples, individuals and trees (!) experiencing joy have in common is that their joy comes from an experience of the presence of God.

Wherever God is there follows joy.

Then why do I not experience this? Do I not experience God’s presence? Do I not pray enough?

I certainly don’t pray enough. I experience God’s presence but not in a complete sense.

Joy is still elusive.

It is elusive because I am broken. I was broken at birth because of my fallen nature. I continued to be increasingly broken as I grew due to the sin of others around me. I continue to be broken due to my own sin now.

I struggle to experience joy. I know I’m not alone in that. But, rest assured, one day I will experience God’s presence in its unbridled entirety. Then we will all experience joy like never before. Then our broken bones will rejoice and we will be made glad with the joy of God’s presence.

 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Psalm 51: 1-8

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Katie Stock

Katie is a fundraising copywriter at an international NGO, theology postgraduate, Mama to the delightful Miss F & Miss T and wife to the inexplicably handsome Boy (her words!). Katie also won ‘Young Blogger of the Year’ in last years Premier Digital Awards for her rather fantastic Theology Bee blog – do check it out.

Joy // Guest Post from Jacqueline Peart

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Jacqueline Peart who I met when we both did the Woman to Woman show on Premier Radio earlier this year.

 

 

 

What Joy Means to Me!

It’s a real joy (no pun intended :-) to be sharing a guest blog on Apples of Gold. Jules and I met at Premier Christian Radio where we were both guests on the Woman to Woman Show with Maria Rodrigues. Within a short time, it was clear that both Jules and I (and Maria of course :-) were real ‘joy carriers’. During the show, we discussed some sober topics and yet there was still room for laughter as genuine warmth filled the air.

So, the question I was asked to address today is, what does joy mean to me?

Joy is a fruit of the spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22, and if I could capture its essence, I would say it comes from within; it is a gladness and a warmth; joy is alive and I believe it is a strength and a choice.

I decided to start writing this blog right after unexpectedly receiving some sad news because I wanted to be sure that what I was getting ready to write was authentic and achievable.

Can I tell you? It is and it was!

You see, happiness is dependent on things that ‘happen’ to us or around us, but joy is resident, it doesn’t go and come depending on our emotions or circumstances. Joy is alive irrespective of life’s up’s or down’s; and despite receiving sad news – as I write – I still choose joy; and in choosing joy there is hope.

I write poetry and inspirational thoughts and several years ago I wrote a piece called, ‘Are you a joy carrier or a joy quencher?’

Joy carriers have the ability to transform an atmosphere or a situation. They can see the glass as half full and they transfer the joy they carry to those around them. Joy is and should be contagious. Those who come into your presence weighed down with the issues of life should be able to draw from that ‘joy-well’ and leave carrying their own joy.

However, ‘joy quenchers’ have the distinct ability to sap your energy and joy. They see only half empty glasses and, equally, they have the ability to change an atmosphere that was once joyful to one stifled by ‘sorrow’, the antonym of joy.

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Jules, Maria & Jacqueline at Premier Radio

The bible says in Nehemiah 8: 10 that, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, and I can say I am living proof of this truth. The Joy that comes from the Lord continues to by my strength!

So, what does joy mean to me? In a nutshell it means carrying something that has the ability to ignite, lift, encourage and build up self first and then others.

If you’ve identified yourself as a ‘joy quencher’, get around some ‘joy carriers’ and allow their joy to impact you. Read books about joy, find scriptures on joy and find what makes you smile.

You’ll be glad you did!

 

About Jacqueline Peart

Jacqueline is the founder and CEO of Jacqueline Peart International Ministries a charity birthed with a mission to ‘transform lives through wholeness.’ She is an ordained minister, inspirational speaker, poet, mentor, entrepreneur and author, who is known, loved and respected for her honesty, openness and ability to ‘keep it real,’ as she teaches and ministers.

Jacqueline is the author of a number of books including the book series ‘Inspirations for…’ a collection of inspirational thoughts and poetry, ‘Will the Real Women of Destiny Please Stand UP? Study book on the life of Rahab and the ‘Wholeness Equation’.

As well as speaking nationally and internationally, she runs a training and development business, ‘Training With Purpose International Ltd’ (TWPI), offering high quality training and development solutions to church and secular organisations alike.

You can find her on Twitter @jacquelinepeart

 

What Coldplay taught me about joy // guest post on JOY by Sam Hailes

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month I am delighted that we have a post from Sam Hailes. Sam is a writer, deputy editor at Premier Christianity Magazine and an avid tweeter – follow him @samhailes or on his Facebook page.

 

 

Prior to 2009, you’d be forgiven for snorting at my decision to put the words ‘joy’ and ‘Coldplay’ in the same sentence. Up until fairly recently, the pop-rock band were known primarily for their ballads. Early in their career they penned ‘The Scientist’ which included the lyrics, ‘What if I got it wrong / And no poem or song / Could put right what I got wrong’. The somberness seemed to reach a peak with 2005’s ‘Fix You’ where lead singer Chris Martin croons ‘Tears stream down your face’.

Something seemed to change circa 2009. Off the back of their gloomily titled album Viva la Vida / Death and all his friends, the band released Mylo Xyloto and suddenly the 4 piece burst into life, dancing around stages singing about (para para para) Paradise. There was even a song on that album called ‘A Hopeful Transmission’. Things were looking up.

Earlier this week I found myself inside Wembley stadium with 75,000 other Coldplay fans. We sang, we danced and we celebrated. We belted out lyrics about ‘cathedrals in my heart’ and ‘oh thanks God, must have heard when I prayed cause now I always want to feel this way’. It was a party atmosphere. There were fireworks, balloons and lights. The latter shone everywhere – not just from the stage but also from our wrists.

lights_coldplayI believe that experiencing a Coldplay gig is in many ways a foretaste of the joys we will experience in heaven. Obviously there are differences (we won’t be worshipping Chris Martin, and there’ll be less drunk people). But when you’re standing in a stadium with thousands of other people, all singing the same songs, you do catch a glimpse of something beyond yourself. It’s almost a religious experience as you’re caught up in an atmosphere that’s bursting with joy and celebration.

All of this is to a large degree ineffable. But Chris Martin may well agree with some of my sentiment. He’s from a Christian background and once said, ‘I definitely believe in God. How can you look at anything and not be overwhelmed by the miraculousness of it’.

The miraculous of life is something most people don’t take time to consider. I was struck recently by a comment by American comedian Pete Holmes who said, ‘We live on a planet, and I’m sick of no one talking about it!’ It’s so easy to forget the miraculous nature of the world we live in.

But Coldplay seem to have grasped this. The miraculous comes through in their songs. At one point in the show, Martin sang, ‘I think I landed where there are miracles at work’. It reminded me of Martin Luther’s comment ‘The world is full of everyday miracles’. The world is a miraculous place to live. As human beings we need opportunities to marvel at the beauty of the world we live in.

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There were without doubt moments of joy in Wembley stadium this week. But whatever feel-good-feelings I may have encountered there are only a taste of something much greater. I’ve often heard it said that happiness is momentary and is dependent on (good) circumstances. Joy, on the other hand is everlasting and will run regardless of circumstances. I think there’s a lot of truth to this.

At one point in the evening, we sang, ‘under this pressure under this weight / we are diamonds taking shape’. As a Christian, I take great joy in knowing that when the brief moment of happiness contained in a 2 hour gig finishes and the pressures and weights of life come, God is shaping me. And he’s not shaping me despite these pressures and weights. He’s shaping me through them and because of them.

In the words of Coldplay’s ‘Kaleidoscope’…

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent as a guide

 

 

 

More Joy from God

Ok so as you must know by now ‘Joy’ is my one word for the year – read about why here.

I have seen reminders of joy everywhere and just feel God’s gentle nudging at times not to let his joy be robbed away from me (in what is a slightly stressful time!). So imagine my delight when I saw this poster…

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AND… not only that but it’s for an event in the town we are moving to, so the words I first saw are JOY and LEWES ! seemed like a little reminder from God that his plans for us are perfect.

But that’s not all, then I noticed the dates on the poster – 25th June is the day I get ordained and 26th our first official Sunday at Trinity! I was so excited when I saw that, it was like each time I saw the poster God showed me something more.

And then this morning I noticed that the posters (which we had only seen in Lewes) are now on the roads around where we live too!  I cannot fail to be reminded of Joy every day at the moment!

God is so good…. :)

Guest Post on Joy //

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have an anonymous post but you can find out more at the author’s blog here. I am so grateful to her for sharing some of her story, and for her absolute honesty and inspiring faith.

**trigger warning, this post contains some of the author’s story of abuse**

 

Roughly 2 years ago somebody approached me who’s now a very dear friend of mine and suggested I could find my joy in the Lord and that nothing was impossible in him, well at that time I just wanted to tell her where to get off, and what she could do with the Lord’s joy!

Now the reason I reacted like this was because all I could see in my life was utter hopelessness and I felt worthless in the world so there was no room for feeling joyful in my eyes.

The fact that I was severely depressed, had daily suicidal thoughts and rarely even got dressed out my pyjamas to even attempt a new day was a big problem to start with for me.

These problems started from birth as I was brought up in an abusive and violent home and as a young lady I was subject to sexual abuse and horrific rape so how on earth could I even contemplate joy or even know what it was?

The past two years have been a big turn around for me as my dear friend never gave up on me and kept gently dropping little things in about her Lord and saviour and I could see it beaming from her.

I started to find out about Jesus for myself, dared to trust, have faith and began the process of breaking my walls down and letting the Lord into my life in a big way.

I have learnt what joy is and my joy comes from Jesus every day

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My Joy comes from looking at how I have been healed in magnificent ways and that the horrors of past don’t define who I am anymore.

My Joy comes from seeing and helping others find Jesus for the first time and being set free from what’s holding them back.

My Joy comes from knowing that I’m a daughter of a king who lavishes his love over me.

My Joy comes from knowing I’m protected and can seek refuge in Jesus.

My Joy comes from seeing how I’ve changed so much and know it’s only because I have Jesus and have put my total dependency in him.

My Joy comes from knowing I have been saved from my tormenting thoughts of suicide and I now know I’m of worth.

I’ve learnt in a very big way that when you put your trust and dependency in Jesus there is so much to hope for, to be joyful about and most of all I can now smile…