On Standing


I’m not much of a fan of blatant spiritual warfare. At least, not the “sound the trumpets, cast the nasties out IN THE NAME OF JESUS, do I hear an amen?” kind of thing. The last time anyone tried that near us, Rowan’s new t-shirt got covered in anointing oil and was ruined. He was quite annoyed that it didn’t come out in the wash. We think it was Mazola. But anyway…I’ve really always done my warfare by standing and resisting. It makes more sense to me. Yes, there are times when we have to be a bit more hands on and actively chase something away. But I find that most of the time, we are on far firmer ground by being quietly confident in our God, and indeed, in knowing exactly where we are standing, rather than trying to claim any more territory.

When the Moabites and Ammonites sent a vast army against him, King Jehoshophat did not jump, contrary to popular belief, nor did he wonder what he had done to anger a bunch of old fossils, but he enquired of the Lord. God spoke by his Spirit through a chap called Jahaziel:

This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” (2 Chronicles 20: 15-17 NIV)

And of course, he was.

This is a pattern that we see over and over again in the Old Testament, and perhaps unsurprisingly, brilliant bible scholar Paul is also fond of the instruction to stand firm and let God do the fighting. Ephesians 6:13 is one of the best examples, leading into the wonderful description we all know of the armour of God:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

There have been times in intercession, where I have felt led to stamp my feet hard on the ground as I’ve prayed, and I felt the power in this. It is always Spirit-led, and feels almost like a Maori Haka, the pre-battle dance that is more associated these days with international rugby. But in prayer at least, it is a taking of a stance, it says, “this is the line in the sand, and you will not cross it.” I know it might all sound a bit Gandalf (You shall not pass!) but it really does feel of the kingdom. We do not flee, the devil does that, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4: 7 partial NIV). We stand our ground. We know our footing. We have built our house on rock, and we are going nowhere.

Sometimes, in spiritual warfare, we do need to slip away quietly from our enemies, as Jesus did to keep God’s timing right, or we might need him to find us an escape route. But, more often than not, we do not run in, like Peter did just that once, with swords drawn, we simply hold the ground on which we stand, and are all the stronger for it.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt, photo from Pixabay

On Endings


As the year draws to a close, I am conscious that the Lord has been showing me over the last few months that endings are just as important as beginnings. Indeed we cannot have one without the other, just as we cannot have spring unless the winter precedes it.

Like a relationship, perhaps the old year is also something to end well, before we can begin a new one. Sometimes we have a tendency to run headlong into making resolutions and saying good riddance to the year gone by without having processed things that have happened, or examining where we stand.

Maybe it would be a good practice to keep stillness and silence for a while and look back over the year, taking it all to God in a prayer of examen, seeing what needs to continue and what may be safely left behind, learning before we leap onwards.

This is why we had 14 pieces on how we were not going to run Lakelight, before we started looking in this blog at what we are going to be doing. It is important sometimes to clear the decks, set things in readiness, dig out the foundations, and take a deep breath, before anything new can be set in motion.

This is especially true in our spiritual lives. How can we begin to love, if we have not ended hate? And how can we live peacefully, if we are still suffocating in anxiety? Of course, because the world is cyclical, love itself, along with peace, will help drive out hate and fear, but we have to begin with the (beginning of the) ending. There is no resurrection without crucifixion. I have found this palpable in my preparation for the writing ministry I believe I am coming into. I have had to let go of my intelligence, in order to receive wisdom. To loosen the hold on the strings of my ambitions, in order to begin desiring God’s will.

At the heart of all this talk of endings and beginnings is the idea of kenosis, or self-emptying, which Jesus lived out for us by taking on human form. It is another way of talking about humility, of realising who and what we are, in relation to an infinitely wonderful God, and then taking our very small place in the scheme of things.

So, 2017 has been a year of ups and downs, no doubt, for all of us. There have been beginnings and endings. Some people or animals we loved are no longer with us, this year has been the year of their passing. We will carry that heartbreak the rest of our lives. Some problems have started to show their faces, a diagnosis perhaps, or a troubling crack in a relationship, maybe even a doubt in our faith. Many things will never be the same again. Others are just beginning, a new love, a new venture, a new way of seeing.

2017 is the year that Lakelight began to take shape, becoming a website and blog alongside the vision in my mind. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for it or us in 2018, but I will trust in the God who knows our beginnings from our endings, rather than myself, who has trouble telling my elbow from, well, other anatomical parts. Thank you for being a part of this beginning. I pray that you will have a great ending to 2017 and a wonderful beginning to 2018. God bless us, every one!

Happy New Year!

On Christmas


It’s Christmas Eve, and all over the house, not a creature is stirring, apart from parents desperately trying to wrap everything, get as much prepared for the feast as possible, not wake the kids and make sure everything is perfect. They might flop into bed for a few snatched hours before the children rise bright eyed and expectant, sweet for a little while, but soon to become sugar-fuelled tornadoes.

Christmas has become a sort of monster, a festive mouth yawning wide with tinselled teeth, waiting to devour all our time, money and energy. For many in the west, it has become a time when we are surrounded by abundance, and yet cannot find the peace or the joy at the heart of it all. We know it’s there somewhere, maybe it’s the present that is buried right at the back of the tree, under all the piles.

For others, there will not be enough this year. There might be fewer presents. Someone who should be here is not. A job, or an opportunity may have got lost somewhere along the year, and honestly, it’s a miracle there’s even a bag of sprouts. Others are all alone, facing another special day with only the tv for company and a ready meal for one as their feast. Still others are too ill to enjoy anything, or are in hospital or deployed in another country.

Even for those who seem to have it all sorted, no matter how bright the lights, how big the turkey, how tall the tree, something is not quite right with all this. There is an emptiness at the heart of it all. We’ve forgotten why we are doing  it, and we all feel as though we are missing out.

I think we have been got at by the spirit of Anti-Christmas, which seeks to wrap nothing very much in a swathe of santa paper and glitter, to con us with tinsel, to distract us with bargains until we are dizzy with the meaningless expense of it all.

Oh, we all know what it’s supposed to be about, the joy of the saviour’s arrival, a little baby born in a stable, we know the nativity story and we might even be singing, or watching our children sing, some of the festive carols. We bluster about keeping Christ in Christmas and we bristle when we are made to say Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings, but do we have any real idea why?

The real scandal of Christmas, the truth that the enemy cannot stand, the reason that he tries to draw our eyes away with schmaltz and sparkle, is that the Christmas story is about the upside down kingdom of God. Christmas is about the impossible made real, the scandal of God incarnate screaming his new lungs out in an animal trough, the scandal, really of God’s grace, the foolishness of giving the world his heart on a plate, the unspeakable risk of it, the audacious vulnerability of birthing himself into poverty, into a place where the world will seek almost immediately to murder him: the pouring himself forth into our poor, stricken, greedy, violent lives.

It is ludicrous, and yet it makes perfect sense. Our holy God, accepting such smallness, the infinite restricting himself to the tiny. The Word becoming a speechless child. It paves the way for the Prince of Peace to be violently killed. It tells us that we serve a self-emptying, obedient, impossibly loving God who will risk everything, suffer everything, with us. Immanuel, the incarnation, born of a poor maiden, into a world that can’t even be bothered to make room for him.

The wonder of it is too much for our hardened hearts to understand, most of the time. We never come close to grasping it. We could meditate on it all year round and still be left shaking our heads in perplexed awe.

I don’t know how we can pass up the trappings and frippery of Christmas in order to actually focus on the real gift we are being given. Maybe we don’t need to, some of them, after all, are fun, and Jesus is certainly something worth celebrating! “What about the children?” or “We are doing if for the children!” is what we cry out in defence of our traditions. Well, that’s fine. But lets’ do the right things for the right reasons, for our children. Maybe we can simplify things a little, so that there is more time. Maybe we can give gifts where they are really needed. There are a million blogs out there today that will tell you how. I’m not concerned about that. We can all celebrate how we would like to.

All I want for Christmas is for people to be released from the pressure of the fantasy of the “perfect” Christmas, and into the truth that God is with us and God is for us. God is prepared to burst screaming onto a hay-strewn floor, prepared to learn to walk and talk, prepared to spend time with us, prepared to be vulnerable, patient, loving, kind, generous, in the face of our selfishness, prepared to suffer, prepared to die for us, prepared to give himself up for love even if nobody ever notices or even thanks him. He is prepared to be the child born to a couple far from home behind a hotel. He is even prepared to be the unseen miracle at the heart of a winter feast. May we each of us catch a glimpse of his holy humility this Christmas.  God bless us, every one.


”In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:


Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!


Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.


(Philippians 2: 5-11 NIV)

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt, photo from Pixabay

Running a Different Race


When I was at primary school, I was quite a good sprinter. I know that comes as quite a shock to those who know me. Sporting ability completely deserted me once puberty arrived, almost as though my body wasn’t big enough for agility and hormones. But when I was skinny and fast, I did pretty well at running.  I recall coming second a lot. Also third. And once, at a schools’ meet in Ramslye, not placed. But my primary school did a fun thing. Most of the races for Sports’ Day were bog standard. You came first, second or third, or you lost. And the same with the overall house cup.  But, right at the end, there was the Cake Race.

The house that won the Cake Race won for their house, not a trophy or a silver cup, but a piece each of slab sponge cake with butter icing the colour of the team. I remember one year that Cook (as in Captain James) had lost pretty much everything overall, coming in last despite all our best efforts. And then came the Cake Race, which was a relay race if I remember rightly (it was rather a long time ago). I remember being very motivated. Possibly also very hungry. But I was on the team, and we won. It has only just occurred to me that the icing must have been prepared right at the last minute and the correct food colouring mixed in, because minutes later, there we all were, stuffing our faces with a cake with light green icing (it’s not as gross as it sounds, honest – my American friends need to know also that in the UK our icing is what you call frosting).

And that victory snatched from the jaws of defeat was better than winning the cup. And winning cake for the whole house so that we could all enjoy it was better than a silver trophy. And being part of a team felt great.

God reminded me of this recently,  because it was a hard day. I felt dreadfully ill, which is not unusual, but very tiresome.  For a number of good reasons, I felt and still feel that life is extremely heavy. And in prayer, God showed me a piece of cake with green icing on it, and the memory of the year we won the Cake Race came flooding back. God’s encouragement is always so deeply sweet.

All my adult life, I’ve been running a different race to other people. I have not had a shot at the rat race, and most of the time I seem to come last.  The prize I’m motivated by is one that I won’t get to see in this life. Being a mystic is a rather lonely path at times. But I do know that I’m part of a team which is focussed on a different kind of winning, and who are happy to pass batons and share cake. I haven’t been able to run for 23 years as I write (and yes, I am counting), but I know that my life’s walk is no less beautiful for being slow, weary and mostly a wheeling. And I think when I sit down with my co-heirs at that banquet, there might well be slab cake with green icing on the table.


“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24 NIV – Paul speaking)

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay


On Not Being Twee

Apologies that there was no blog entry last week, due to ‘flu.

twee 2

This week, let’s talk about one of my bugbears. The unstoppable rise of tweeness. The tidal wave of saccharin we are constantly bombarded with on social media and, heaven help us, in Church and somewhere in most forms of Christian writing, all of which is, frankly, enough to give us spiritual diabetes.

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 NIV)

Twee lends itself beautifully to the meme, or the short status, as well as to song lyrics, prayers and poems. It is especially prevalent in blogs.  It is a deliciously sweet icing on life, that whilst often containing some truth, is dangerously shallow. If we are not careful, we can get suckered into the idea that this is where God lives.

We can smile and say, “Remember it’s darkest before the dawn,” to someone who is in a shadowy, difficult place, and it sounds good, it sounds true, even like it might be a Bible verse (it’s not as far as I know), we think it must be a comfort to them. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting to comfort someone who is struggling, that compassion needs to rise from a place that sees their pain and wants to hold space around it, to be a loving witness to it, rather than simply wanting to say a quick something that sounds like a solution, but is more about soothing our own discomfort at their pain, than actually helping.

So many of us (I’m sure I am guilty of this too) have spoken, posted, tweeted in this unthinking way, that merely absolves us, and makes the person we are talking to feel even more beleaguered. Why? Because it’s too trite, it’s not enough, it only loads guilt onto a person who cannot even believe there is a dawn, let alone has the strength to wait for it. Telling someone that what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger, whilst they are feeling like they would rather it did kill them, is not helpful.

Twee is akin to the half-baked theologies that dismiss suffering, that condemn the long-term sick and that have not the least idea of what it might mean to follow Christ fully, or with the understanding that not everything is going to be wonderful.  At its best, it is apparently wholesome drivel, at its worst, the emotional equivalent of hit and run. It is cousin to that most dreadful of Christian vices, meaning well.

Meaning well does not think about consequences, or indeed about anything enduring. When I recall difficulties I have encountered myself in the Body of Christ, most of the really hurtful things have been said or done by people who no doubt, meant well. They spoke out of bad teaching, often, or from motives that appeared selfless but were anything but; because meaning well is all about getting oneself off the hook, looking like we did the right thing, and rarely about being constructive, or truly compassionate.

And twee is one of meaning well’s worst weapons. It dives straight in, wounds deeply and is gone before you can turn around. Or it cheerfully states a half truth in glib gormlessness which glances off the truth with a resounding clunk.  This is the weakest of spiritual milk. And we need weaning off it. Solid food is waiting, but is anyone really preparing an appetite for what’s on offer?

Tweeness is like spiritual sherbert, it fizzes briefly on the tongue, but is really insubstantial. If we are going to be people of substance, of depth, of wisdom and above all of love, then this blasé stuff needs to go. Now, again, don’t get me wrong. There is a place for quoting wonderful Bible verses that encourage and lift up. Social media is made for the short and sweet, and memes work beautifully there. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with them. But it must be followed up with something else. There must be the resonance of deeper, tried and tested faith and biblical understanding, of character, behind and underneath the surface. My hope is that at Lakelight we shall be a little wary of the quick fix and the one liner, and be ready to set a more complete meal before the hungry.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Meme from the internet

You may be pleased to know that this is the last in our series of first foundations, where we have cleared away some of the rubble, talking about what we are NOT about, before we begin anew, articulating what we WILL be attempting to build.

On Not Dumbing Down


Within the first few pages of her classic children’s tale Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter describes the effects of eating lettuce as “soporific.” Take that same book to a publisher today, and they would whip that word out quicker than Clint Eastwood can draw his gun. When I was a child, I would love finding new words to investigate, and of course it still happens now. Some of my favourite words are “galumphing” “gobbledegook” and “lollygagging.”  And the reason Potter used this unfamiliar word? It was the perfect one to say what she meant. She was not being elitist, or showing off, just being a good writer. And that, for me, is the reason I will never “dumb down” any of my own writing.

Everything meaningful has layers. Every good book has characters who are flawed, complicated, surprising, just like real people are. Everything well-written contains nuances of meaning, subtexts and even references that are not all seen by every reader. That is one of the things that makes a piece of writing sumptuous or deep. It is also one of the things that make it most accessible, though that might at first seem contradictory.  But I feel that  the more there is to something, the more likely it is that each person will find something in it for them.  And I think that we can apply that to Scripture as well.

We get into enormous trouble when we decide that Scripture is simple, or has only one level of meaning. This is why prooftexting (using one piece of the Bible out of context to show something is true) can be very dangerous. Because the oral traditions of storytelling on which a great deal of the books that make up our Bible are based, are rich in meaning. They are often metaphorical as well as literal, full of analogy, poetic wisdom, and the depths of story and even myth, that most modern spiritual texts lack.  Our theology has become, in places, very one dimensional and exact, and this is not good for us or our Church.

Jesus understood this well, which is one of the reasons he mostly taught in parables. Even when he did preach a kind of sermon, he did not make things terribly clear. His words are mysteries full of depth, waiting for us to dive in and discover the pearls of wisdom and meaning.  He also doubtless understood that human beings are wired for story. It is how we pass on everything we have learned about life. Or at least it used to be.

Most of you know I am a writer and although I write what can be called “theology,” I also write a lot of stories, parables and fables. Because in these, I can express things that clarity and simple clinical meaning just cannot contain.  Even in my more scholarly moments (which are thankfully few and far between) I cannot help but use metaphor. Because this is the only possible way to approach the wonders of the Christ mystery. I also never hesitate to use a long word, if it is the right word.

I love the accessibility of Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrased Bible, because it helps bring people into the Word of God, but I should be rather sad if those people did not then go on to explore the wonderful translations we have. But I’m not for style over substance. I’m not a fan of the King James Version really, because although musical and elegant in many places, it was translated from the Latin and a lot of the original sense has inevitably been misplaced here and there. I would rather read the ESV or the NIV, given the balance of good scholarship and attention to literary language. I think that beauty has its own meaning and adds something unfathomable to the mix.

Pretty much everything I write flows out of prayer, whether that is contemplation, or meditating on texts, or the gifts of story or seeing that I receive. And so, finding the apposite words or expressions to communicate all of that can be quite a task. And the words don’t need to be long, and simplicity can be an elegant part of that too. Being pretentious is a terrible thing, that is not our aim! But what we will not be doing here at Lakelight, or indeed in our writing or poetry, is purposely making things shallow or transparent, or indeed, soporific, when they cry out to be deep, difficult or multi-faceted.  We believe in the richness of words to bring people into holy encounter, and will let them speak for themselves.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Picture from Pixabay

On Not Forgetting


Today is Remembrance Sunday, when we traditionally think on the sacrifice made by servicemen, women and animals in wartime, who have bought the peace we live in at a horrendous price. I am a pacifist, but it doesn’t stop me being grateful, overwhelmed and sad, at the sacrifices that have been made. I have every respect for those who laid down their lives.  This year, it’s all a little more poignant for me, as I am finishing up a novel I’ve spent 2017 writing, set in England during WW1. It focuses on the experience of bereaved women, but the research has been harrowing to say the least.

Another thing that has brought the reality of loss home to me is the recent discovery that my husband’s great grandfather died in France in March 1918. His name was Frank Hunt and his name is engraved on the the Arras Memorial at Faubourg-D´Amiens Cemetery.  He is just one name among hundreds of thousands of British troops killed of course, but sometimes just that one person and their connection to you, can be a revelation that opens up our compassion, when a heart cannot cope with the legions of deaths from both World Wars and more.

“Lest we Forget” is the constant refrain on Armistice and Remembrance Days. It seems impossible that we ever would. And yet, today we are still dealing with the phenomenon of Holocaust deniers, the rise of the far right, yet again, and the lack of respect on all political “sides”, for those who have fought, been injured or died for their countries. Even the very liberal left have their strange rhetoric about remembrance glorifying war, which is horribly disrespectful, I feel. One can be sad about the losses and grateful for the sacrifice without condoning violence. One can believe war is the wrong way to go about solving problems and yet still be respectful of the suffering of those who went to fight and die, often without any idea of the horrors they were being sent into.

We are still at war of course, a seemingly unending mess of bloody conflicts in the Middle and near East since the First Gulf War began in 1991. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Serbia, Rwanda and all those  conflicts, deemed somehow lesser by the media that we hear little about in our news stories, all the tribal conflicts and border disputes, and in a smaller way in our everyday lives, the wars between race, gender, sexualities, political parties, even church denominations.  Fighting, it seems, is in our blood.

But we should take heart that part of the human condition is also reflecting the Father’s character and the Son’s sacrifice. That wherever there is conflict, there are also diplomats, medics and chaplains. That there are always, somehow, people willing to stand up to evil ideologies and megalomaniacs. That there are always truth tellers, dream-mongers and peacemakers, like Gandhi and Desmond Tutu, as well as social activists seeking to bring about a lasting and level playing field, like Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day.  And when we remember the millions of people who have died in war, both military and civilian casualties, as well as those affected, traumatised, injured or bereaved because of conflict, we do well to honour their sacrifice, their losses and their journey. If we deny this, or choose to forget, we may never learn to change course. May we always remember, and let it lead us to do everything we can to foster peace.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Artwork © by R. R. Wyatt

On Not Being in a Hurry


One thing God never is, it seems, is in a rush. He is quite happy to announce plans to his people that will come to fruition in forty years’ time, or to his prophets, in hundreds of years’ time. The rescue for those in exile in Babylon was so long in coming that Daniel was the only one still bothering to work out that things were a bit behind schedule. Help does not always appear to come swiftly, and promised progeny can arrive so late in life as to be utterly laughable in human terms. Isaac means “he laughs” and though it is Sarah who is berated for laughing at the idea of a child, both she and Abraham did so.

The trouble is that we usually are in a hurry. And mostly this is because we are thinking in terms of the timescale of our human lives, which are so often nasty, brutish and short (as Hobbes would have it). God’s timescale is an overreaching and all-inclusive one. He is always looking at the eternal picture. As Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

Looking at things with an eternal eye is unsurprisingly difficult for us humans, especially if we aren’t really that invested in the idea of eternal life, more so if we are suffering horribly. We want the pain, the difficulty, the trials and troubles to end as soon as possible, so that we can get on with all that living we’ve got to do. We fail to see that sometimes that very pain and strife is the living we’ve got to do.

Paul puts our present troubles and lives in perspective: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 NIV) And lest we think he is guilty of not being grounded in reality, we must remember that some of the “light and momentary” problems he has endured up to this point include being shipwrecked, imprisoned, and stoned until his persecutors thought he was dead.

Our focus needs to be on the bigger picture, even when we are having a dreadful time. Paul wasn’t seeking refuge from his troubles. It would not have surprised him in the least to know he would die a martyr’s death. And whilst this is not what we should be seeking, because frankly there are enough torments in life that seek us out without us going looking for them, it should not throw us off balance or damage our faith in the goodness of God.

These verses and others like it are one of the reasons I tend to be a bit dubious of those who teach mindfulness as the most important basis for spiritual living. Jesus himself told us to only worry about today, and being present to what is happening right here and now is necessary, especially when it prevents us from concern and angst that isn’t helpful. But it is not only the present that is important, and it is impossible for human beings to exist solely in the now, however hard we might try. We are built for eternity, not in our physical bodies, but in Spirit, and looking at things with that in mind is important.

For one thing, it helps us to understand the mind of Christ that Paul tells the Corinthians in his first letter, believers have access to (1 Corinthians 2:16). For another, it helps us bear our trials to know that we do not suffer without purpose. God sees things differently than we do, and time is one of the ways this manifests itself. Waiting, patience, these are all part of the learning curve for Christians, or any spiritual seeker. When we feel God is taking his sweet time, we do well to remember the verse before the one I first quoted above, from Peter’s second letter to the Church in Asia Minor:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

On Not Being Perfect


All serious spiritual seekers will carry some version of Jacob’s limp or Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” It is often, but not always, physical, and it will show fully our weakness and humanity, at the same time as a deep well of grace. This is how we each carry the Christ wound.

For this reason alone, we should not look to the veneered teeth glinting in the spray-tanned face, but to the “scum of the earth” apostles (as described in 1 Corinthians 4), who preach God’s love from sickbeds, wheelchairs, poverty, crutches, depression and whilst admitting to their battle with alcohol, anger or jealousy. One of my favourite teachers, Brennan Manning, called us all in our loved imperfection, “ragamuffins.”

Broken preachers, who know their own brokenness well, who are unafraid of it, talk, not of their perfection, nor of how we might emulate them; but of how suffering and living in this hurting world can offer a gateway into knowing God and his unimaginable love. They know that instead of having reached the top of the ladder, they have learned how to stand at the bottom, holding it steady for others.

Jesus told us to “Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48 NIV) but before we gallop off into striving to be flawless, we should know that the word perfect here in the Greek is teleioi/teleios, the sense of which is much more about being mature and whole, literally “fully-developed,” than without fault. It is, as I understand it, an encouragement to be ourselves, to grow into completion, to be the best you or the best me that we can be. We can follow this instruction whilst still carrying an awareness of our sins and a desire to change.

Frequently the cross we each bear is the knowing of our own failings, and the resurrection life that we embody (crucially at the same time) allows God to shine through them. Like the risen Christ before Thomas, we can say, here, see for yourself: “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27 NIV)   My wounds are real, our teachers say with Christ, but even more astonishing is the new life that God has given me through them, and not in spite of them.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay


On Not Worshipping at the Front by R. R. Wyatt

altar-1436261_1920  Photo from Pixabay


Worship is about how we show reverence and adoration for God. God loves to hear us sing to him, he loves to hear us offer him praise and adoration. This isn’t a tyrant’s delusional order to be adored by an oppressed people, it is the desire of a supreme loving father, listening to the love of his children.

During our times of worship, we sing our songs to our God, to the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in blessed adoration, and as the office says, it is right to give thanks and praise. This should be one of the purist things on our journey with Jesus to the eternal love of God, it should come from the deepest level of our hearts, our beings and very souls. No pretence should be on show, the spotlight should remain on God, no voice should shine above others, or be hidden under a bushel. The tone-deaf should sing with the trained soprano as each will complement the other.

The problem is that something so basically pure and reverent, something the youngest child or elderly stalwart can take part in, can be easily tainted and abused by ego and by the turning of it into an idol, pulling the song from God to our own ends. This is wrong, and it breaks a bond we have with Him and tears us away from a joyful connection with our father.

I have been privileged to be a worship leader in many churches as well as being a musician in a number of worship bands and during those times I have made some observations about worship.


  1. The Prominence of the Band/Leader

Worship bands over the years have crept more and more into being the focal point of a church and worship leaders have leaned into the limelight, occasionally evolving into near popstars revelling in the adoration aimed, no longer at God, but at them. This is not to say all are like this, thankfully that is not the case, but even one is wrong. I have been in a church where the altar of Christ has become a table for guitar cases, the communion paraphernalia pushed aside. The altar moved aside to accommodate a band, the cross on the wall replaced by a multi-media screen as it seems song sheets and hymn books are no longer viable in this instant world. The leader stands centre stage, all eyes on them as they engage in the sack-cloth and ashes stage of worship, suffering from “look how pious I am” syndrome.

In case we have forgotten (and sadly, many of us have) the Altar is the reason the church building exists. It is the sacred meeting place between humanity and God. Once we start to diminish its symbolism or importance as the central point of our services, we have lost the plot.

I have long advocated for worship bands to be at the back of the church, unseen so that ego can be left at home, unneeded. In this day and age, almost all churches have PA systems so it doesn’t matter where the band are, the congregation will hear them. No need then to be distracted looking at a worship leader in order to be ‘led’ into connecting with God through song.


  1. Vacuous Songs

Some contemporary Christian music is of course both wonderful and beautiful. There are some truly God-breathed worship songs being written for inclusion in the band repertoire but sadly I feel that they are the exception rather than the norm.

Our Worship times have become a time of singing the ‘latest’ songs, songs that are at best vacuous, at worst unbearably clichéd and badly written. The whole has become formulaic, each song a careful recipe which keeps it identical to the last that was written and so on, and the worship times also follow an identical pattern. All of which, however well meaning, is actually drawing people away from an intimate time with God rather than into one. God doesn’t need worship leaders to lead his children to him, our hubris is such that we feel it is our job to do. Leading worship should be far more a servanthood role, facilitating the worship of the congregation.

Old hymns are treated as embarrassments these days. Some get the rock treatment and I have to admit a rousing, guitar driven rendition of How Great Thou Art can be great for the soul. But what a shame that all these wonderful, poetic, scripture infused songs and beautiful organ music so often have to make way for badly written pap. What a shame we are being deprived of this richness.


  1. Formulaic Worship Times

I have already mentioned about moving the band from the front of the church but what about changing the way we worship altogether? The formulaic Sunday morning times of worship have become stale, the amount of people that chat through worship is incredible. In my view these people are bored, not bored with praising God but with the never-changing cycle of songs, faux prayers and drops (where the band drop out so it is just the leader being prayerful over a quiet guitar or synthesizer), then back into a rousing song, rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

One of the best worship times I have ever been in was spontaneous and had no instruments at all. An old lady started singing Amazing Grace, and everyone around joined in, Christian and non-Christian alike, tears flowed and everyone sensed a real presence of God, something that often seems to be lacking on a Sunday morning.

Another great time of corporate Worship I’ve enjoyed is a style by Graham Kendrick, whose band I have had the pleasure of playing in, called Psalm Surfing. Singing through the Psalms with Spirit-led improvisation on instruments, singing the songs of God in a raw, unrefined way in the true untamed spirit of God. I like the untamed being a Celt, so of course this style of doing things makes sense to me.


In conclusion, my heart is not to tear apart the worship times, leaders and music from our churches, but to try and see a way to increase the value of genuine worship in church, increasing the connection to God and releasing the souls of the singers. I do feel a direction shift is needed and that God should return to the centre, as Matt Redman sang, The Heart of Worship. Let’s offer God some new songs but also get back to the hymns of old, sing again the Psalms, not fear lamenting or crying or raging. Let’s be untamed spirits giving ALL the glory to God.


John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”


© R. R. Wyatt, photo from Pixabay