Chapter One of the Great Story

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“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.

When we followed God’s call across the pond. We knew there’d be some sacrifice involved and knew there would be times when that call happens. Last week we heard Phil’s Grandfather (Pop) had deteriorated in health and was in his last days and asked the Lord to grace us with time with him. So we flew on a cramped flight, the Collins clan scattered around the plane.

We spent his last days with him. Talked about his life, about heaven, we prayed, cried, laughed. Pop slept through it all but we know he was listening.  And as Phil sat with his Pop on Monday evening, his final breaths were woven with Phil praying the Lord’s Prayer, until his last breath came with Phil’s ‘Amen.’

 

We woke yesterday to beautiful skies – reminded that his mercies are new every morning. We enjoyed a drive out to Church Stretton, and a beautiful walk over Carding Mill Valley in the Long Mynd. I love to listen to whisper of God in nature. And as I breathed the wonderful air I invited heaven to speak. The stunning landscape changed with the weather as clouds rolled in, the wind blew and sunshine surprised. CS Lewis wrote ‘grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’

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I looked at my family and rejoiced in the knowledge of a living, loving Christ holding us up.

We reached the top and made our way across heather-covered hills, within moments sheets of rain fell curtain-like around us. The promise of stunning views of the Welsh Hills were wrapped in fog.

I was absorbed by the grey beauty of the valley.

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And paused in His presence.

We walked from the hill, down into the valley, into the pain of more loss. Phil’s mom,Val, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Her pilgrimage here on earth over.  As we sat with her and prayed her into Jesus’ presence – the tangible love of God filled the room. Holy. So holy.

How she loved the Lord – feisty and stubborn, beautiful and childlike. A colourful rich soul.

In our disorientated state of grief. With weary heads and bodies, we are thankful for your love, near and far – we love how God uses people to heal people.

We are amazed with the favour of God’s timing. A friend described it as a ‘perfectly orchestrated piece of a very sad song.’

Pray for us, especially Phil, as we enter into a week of funerals and travel once more across the world to our other home, community and life.

We grieve with hope – knowing there’s no real end.

‘Til heaven – Nanny Val and Pop.

Love, Michelle xo

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Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

She ignored me in the church foyer…

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Hi friends!

How’s your summer?

We’ve enjoyed summer weeks of lovely family and friends staying with us from far-flung places such as UK, Cyprus, Seattle and Vancouver…the pic above was taken during a short break we enjoyed at Harrison Hot Springs.

I promised a few ‘wow’ thoughts – here’s another.

Phil preached a challenging sermon on offence a few weeks ago; combine that with John Bevere’s book and boom!

Isn’t it so easy to be offended? From a crime against us to ‘she ignored me in the church foyer.’

I am challenged to acknowledge how offence can affect EVERYTHING.

Offence is the thief of abounding love, of freedom, of joy.

Offence takes a hold of me and drains life from me.

Offence makes me self-centered.

It becomes my filter with which I view the world.

And soon enough – offence goes deep and takes root, and the root has a name.

Bitterness.

That toxic root becomes an acidic tree.

Oh and bitterness, not only affects me, but those around me.

If we let that bitter tree grow. We live life with a critical heart. We’re moody. Hypersensitive…

Fixating – because bitterness flourishes in the soil of justification. And as we replay the movie of scripted speeches and justified revenge – it becomes a blockbuster of bitterness.

And while we love to blame the one who has offended us – the only one who can take the purposes of God’s plan from me is ME, the only one who can take the purposes of God’s plan from you is YOU.

Bitterness travels in a pack, so not only our emotions – but also health can be affected too. Scientists have even concluded that bitterness, if left unchecked affects our hormones and immunity.

Offence and bitterness suffocate the life out of us – swallowing up the spacious places God has promised.

UNTIL we hear the Holy Spirit – the Counselor whisper – hand it over, hand them over.

But..but…

Forgiveness is the answer – it sets US free. We have been forgiven much.

Hand it over, Hand them over… To Him and see the promised LIFE released in you.

I wonder if you recognize some of those roots and fruits – I know I do.

Lord, give me courage to be honest. I give you permission to shine a light on who I am offended with, reveal unforgiveness or bitterness. Show me where roots of bitterness have taken hold, affecting me and those around me. Bring me into the promised spacious place as I release my offence and those offending me. AMEN.

You are loved,

Michelle xo

“Do not be afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal any unforgiveness or bitterness. The longer you hide it, the stronger it will become and the harder your heart will grow. Stay tenderhearted. How? Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. —EPHESIANS 4:31-32”

 

Sorry for being your biggest critic

 

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Friends,

Last week I mentioned ‘wow’ moments I had read or listened to. Here’s another…

 I read this quote by Abi Stumvoll

‘Stop criticizing your God-given temple (your body) repent (say sorry/change your mind) to every body part that you’ve spoken death to. Because when you speak life to yourself, you will bloom into it’

 Abi carries a great message of freedom after a life of self-hatred and insecurity – here’s a short summary for you with a few of my musings thrown in.

Many of us are our war with ourselves. We have an accuser who tells us everything we are not allowing a lie to wrap itself around the core of who we are. A violence against the truth. When we criticize ourselves we are criticize our Creator. The bible tells us when a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand. When the war is on against our body it prevents us from living in fullness of our true self. God is calling us to wholeness and reconciliation with ourselves – our mind, body and emotions.

Abi challenges us to say sorry to our bodies for the ridiculously high expectations.

Sorry for expecting perfection

Sorry for being your biggest critic

Crazy? No crazier than saying the constant horrible things about ourselves things day in day out. Isn’t it true that most of what we say and do to ourselves we would never do to another person?

What happens when you love something? You invite love back.

This will take intention and commitment – but let us not starve ourselves of love.

Let us unite with our God created selves and begin the habit of love.

Let us start speaking some love over ourselves, breaking a lifetime of loathing.

Let us agree with truth even if it doesn’t make sense – speaking truth out loud – there is power of life and death in the tongue. You might not ‘feel’ anything but the truth promises to set you free.

My prayer for you today is that you will allow God’s love to reach you as you embrace this truth. That you will go where you think love can’t. That you will hear what He likes about you. That you know what He loves when He sees you.

Declare:

I choose to love what you love. I give myself permission to shine. To be alive and vibrant with the life of Christ. I will not align with lies and the accuser. I will know the truth and the truth will set me free. Amen.

Bless you!

Love, Michelle xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.

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Friends,

Thanks for opening up my musings today.

A happy summer to you – look out for the Collins Clan news later this week.

For my next few posts I will be highlighting some wow truths (to me anyway!) that I have heard/read/experienced these past few months. I hope they will bless you and maybe even create some wow moments for you too.

Phil preached a great sermon on worry and stress from Philippians 4 last week. You can listen to it here!

‘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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.’

I had been meditating on this for several days when in the dark hours worry invaded my thoughts with force – taking me by the neck and rubbing my face in every possible dread filled scenario. Of course we know that the enemy, the accuser speaks one language. LIES. He comes to accuse and tell us everything we are not, and every scenario that will not happen.

In the midst of the onslaught I was reminded of the time I was with a loved one through a dreadful panic attack. During the out of control state I knew I needed to find eye contact so I held my loved ones face in my hands and began to speak life and truth and looked deep into those eyes that began catch the light.

In Philippians 4, the Greek word for worry that Paul refers to is an image of Romans killing – when they would take four ropes and four horses and pull the body in every direction.

Worry does this. It pulls us in every direction.Tearing us apart.

Philippians 4 offers us truths for displacing worry.

Adoration: Worship always beats worry. We are promised that the Lord is near.

Earnest prayer: He loves ours passionate, persistent prayers.

Thanksgiving: How can we not be a thankful people who have found healing and freedom?

So back to my dark hours. Jesus took my face in His hands and loosened the grip around my neck.

‘Look at me’ he He whispered. And as I gazed into the eyes of fire – words of truth and trust began to flow, because that’s what all of this is about TRUST. He reminded me of promises and reassured once more.

And peace descended.

….and I know when that moment comes again, when I’m caught off guard when trust is crowded out and I find myself face down again. I’ll find my face in His hands and hear Him whisper.

‘Look at me beloved’

Have a great week,

You are loved,

Michelle xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you hear the Cheers?

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Enderby Cliffs 

 

A few years ago I went to a trusted counselor/prayer person with one of ‘those’ secrets. I was expecting quite the dramatic time of tears and vomiting, but no, a lights on and truth telling changed everything.

Here’s what she shared:

As one woven by our Creator, we are designed with roots of character that define us. What often happens is that darkness – choices – life’s events can take this God given root and twist it.

Here are some examples of twisted roots.

  • You protect those around you with your silence over challenging behavior. Could this be your God given root of integrity is gnarled.
  • You are bolshy and arrogant – has your root of boldness been twisted?
  • You fear confrontation and allow compromise. Has your root of being a peacemaker wandered?
  • You have a tendency to bully. But God’s plan for you was inner-strength.
  • God has created you with a sensitive spirit. A characteristic easily distorted as you become bothered about a person’s thoughts and opinions. Often becoming the fear of man.
  • You are created in His image. Circumstances have forced an opposite opinion of your character and your body image.

The God-given roots of your created character need the truth of God’s word and LOVE spoken over them.

Lord, for some of us, this is a lifetime of habits

We choose to partner with truth today,

Give us grace for ourselves and help us to stop being our own accuser.

Show us your truth; show us how to unravel lies.

Untwist warped roots into your created image.

Reveal in us our signature self – the person you dreamed up before the foundation of the world.

You promise LIFE ABUNDANTLY

Let us tune into the cheers of heaven today.

Amen.

 

You are loved,

Michelle xo

But blessed is the one who trusts in Me alone;

the Eternal will be his confidence.

He is like a tree planted by water,

sending out its roots beside the stream.

It does not fear the heat or even drought.

Its leaves stay green and its fruit is dependable, no matter what it faces.

Jeremiah 17:8

 

Joining in today with….

Please don’t hug me (your way)

 

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Dear Church,

I enjoyed your service this week, thank you so much for the welcome.

You need to know it’s a big deal for anyone walking into a church for the first time – some more than others. So, I just wanted to point out a few things that might help you in understanding some of us who walk through your big glass doors.

Firstly, I realize why hugging is really important. You’re excitedly declaring ‘Welcome, come and be part of our church family.’

But you need to know…I can’t hug. Your way.

Touch repulses me, if you try and hug me my skin crawls, I actually want to vomit and my whole state becomes unbalanced. (You might want to Google sensory processing issues to understand more)

So, just for future reference, try not to presume everyone you meet is a hugger. When you get to know me well, I’ll show you my sign for hugging. And we can do that as I walk into the foyer rather than…well…what happened.

I really understand that eye contact is important; you show you are listening – you are giving your attention to me and no one else. The problem is, I can’t give you eye contact because my eyes sting and it feels like tiny hot needles are poking me. But please don’t think I’m being rude. I’m happy that you talking to me, I just don’t like you looking into my eyes. Into me.

Oh and finally, I know I got up and down a lot in the service. It’s not that I don’t like being there or I’m struggling with the message or I’m demonised! Restlessness is a side effect of the medication I’m taking, so, I get up and wander around until I settle. Easy? Sort of, depending the volume of the music is and how bright the lights are. It can be tiring being me sometimes.

Thanks for reading  – I will come back next week. I know it’s about us understanding each other and I know you have a lot of stuff going on that no one knows about. I can see that in you, really see it, it’s just that my stuff is more obvious…

I’ll close with my life verse from Psalm 139 that I love to encourage people with.

I will offer You my grateful heart,

for I am Your unique creation,

filled with wonder and awe.

You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;

Your works are wonderful;

I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.

I believe this. Do you?

Regards,

Hannah.

P.S. I also have Aspergers.  I forget mention it sometimes…

Some call it a day off…

One of the things Phil and I have always been strict with throughout the many years of leading church is our day off. We have always made sure we spend that day together – often including a nice breakfast somewhere and an ADVENTURE – now known as Monday Funday.

With the constant awareness of ministry needs, the many conversations, being mindful of our community – we ensure that Sabbath is taken. Because so often pouring out means we need to find some pouring in.

For us that means stepping out of our everyday world and finding space, exploring new and changing our landscape.

Finding a thin place to commune with our Creator

Mondays become a pilgrimage where we catch up, pray for our family near and far and dream big for our community.

Finding a creative space that walking inevitably offers

Today was ‘Enderby’ the home of the River float, Fish n chips, Drive in theater… and Enderby Cliffs.

 

We began our 2200ft trek and the first section led us to a cross. carved by the villagers of Oberammergau, Germany. A clear symbol at the beginning of the journey, one adorned with expressions of young love and graffiti.

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We began winding our way through shaded forests of birch and fir, switching back and forth up the mountainside. Invisible insects high in the trees, clapping their wings – the forest applauding.

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I took a bow, caught my breath and walked on, bumping into a silent snake and a distracted bee.

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Two hours of ascent brought us to sub-alpine meadows covered in Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Glacier Lilies.

The hike was well worth the view from the 180-degree viewpoint. A perfect blue sky dotted with storybook clouds offered views far south to Okanagan Lake and Vernon and as far north as Salmon Arm and Shuwsap Lake. As we sat in silence on the cliff-side ledge we ate our picnic, drank sweet English tea from plastic cups and ducked as swooping swallows swished passed our heads.

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After a while, we made our way down and our journey ended as it began – at the cross, we stopped again and I noticed a child’s scribble ‘Jesus was here.’

Hope you enjoyed a little glimpse of our life!

Blessings on your week,

Love, Michelle x

Isaiah 35 Voice – FOR YOU

Imagine the wilderness whooping for joy,
 the desert’s unbridled happiness with its spring flowers.

It will happen! The deserts will come alive with new growth budding and blooming,
 singing and celebrating with sheer delight.
…

So, with confidence and hope in this message, strengthen those with feeble hands, shore up the weak-kneed and weary.

Tell those who worry, the anxious and fearful, ‘Take strength; have courage! There’s nothing to fear.

Look, here—your God! Right here is your God!

The balance is shifting; God will right all wrongs.

None other than God will give you success. He is coming to make you safe.

 

 

A Week in the Life of…

 

 

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We all have those fears that travel down the road of morbid forebodings, mine often dance darkly around car accidents. So when I received a call last week from my firstborn screaming that she had been in a car accident it would seem that what I feared most had come upon me. And then to be first on the scene and responsible for calling the emergency services.My mind quickly raced to my own accident when I was 17 in my little yellow mini, as I heard the same words ‘girls you were fortunate to walk out of this…’

All that to say I am SO thankful to God, for peace over the could’ve been, for angels and for praying friends and family.

And what I’ve learned again that even in my most feared situations there He is in the midst. The promise of God for ALL of us ‘Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear, Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted (Psalm 23 Voice)

There is one author of morbid forebodings. 

And One ever present in the reality of pain and difficulty.

This weekend I chatted a guy who found a beautiful salvation through Teen Challenge. I talked with a Mexican man who after being in Canada for two days, was on the number 10 bus and saw a service was on at Willow Park church, got off the bus and came in. The first people he met were Spanish speaking, naturally, because God loves detail. This man soon found himself wrapped up in the love of His heavenly Father and declared ‘this is my church.’ I found myself surrounded with many cheering that our Permanent Resident status is granted (thank you Canada) I spoke with friends who had been to the accident spot to give thanks to God for protection. We saw healings as those who attended Azusa Now shared stories of the event, years of pain subsiding, back pain eased, sensitivity to sound and light gone. FOR REAL.

I found myself surrounded with many cheering that our Permanent Resident status is granted (thank you Canada)

I spoke with friends who had been to the accident spot to give thanks to God for protection. We saw healings as those who attended Azusa Now shared stories of the event, years of pain subsiding, back pain eased, sensitivity to sound and light gone. FOR REAL.

We saw healings as those who attended Azusa Now shared stories of the event, years of pain subsiding, back pain eased, sensitivity to sound and light gone. FOR REAL.

And.

I looked into eyes of desperation and saw hope deferred making sick hearts cry for help.

I was reminded to consider it all joy whatever I face and to be content, to turn my eyes upon Jesus look full in his wonderful face.

As we head into a new week I pray that you know love and grace poured into your soul,  that you know peace in the midst and his presence in every hidden space of your life.

Love, Michelle xo

P.S. Happy Birthday Mom. We love you! xx

A Beautiful, Resurrected Life awaits you : RSVP

 

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‘The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus Who was nailed to the cross. He is not here! He has risen from the dead as He said He would. Come and see the place where the Lord lay. Run fast and tell His followers that He is risen from the dead. He is going before you to the country of Galilee. You will see Him there as I have told you.” They went away from the grave in a hurry. They were afraid and yet had much joy. They ran to tell the news to His followers. As they went to tell the followers, Jesus met them and said hello to them. They came and held His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My followers to go to Galilee. They will see Me there.” Matthew 28:5

C.S Lewis calls it ‘The Strangest Story of all’

The Easter Story.

It’s all about stories.

Those ordinary ones who put Him there that day, the same men who went home to their wives making dinner, to their kids. Pilate…Caiaphas…Soldiers…those doing their job.

The nameless carpenter who crafted the cross. Doing his job.

These ordinaries remind me of the destructive darkness that lies deep… that we are all capable of. I am reminded that the cross dealt with that darkness and if I don’t deal with it then it deals with me.

It’s all about stories.

Your story, His story.

What will you do with your story? Do you live it for yourself. Or do you occasionally allow God an appearance.  Or do you take your story and fully immerse into God’s story.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. 1 Peter 1:3 MSG

Richard Rohr writes ‘Most of human life is Holy Saturday, a few days of life are Good Friday, but there only needs to be one single Easter Sunday for us to know the final and eternal pattern. We now live inside of such cosmic hope. Jesus trusted enough to outstare the darkness, to outstare the void, to hold out for the resurrection of the forever-awaited “third day,” and not to try to manufacture His own. That is how God stretches and expands the soul, and makes it big enough to include God.’

Today you are invited into the story of the resurrected life.

‘But Michelle – it’s okay for you to talk of this resurrected life, but really, is this story the answer to my life that feels so dead and dark? How do I leave my Holy Saturday life. How do I leave a tomb life. A life of darkness that I can’t find my way out of…?’

Invite Him in. Invite Jesus into your tomb – your mess – your dark. Allow him to lead you out. A resurrected life awaits you, a life of life.

And when the betrayal of Maundy Thursday, the darkness of Good Friday, the confusion, questions and the doubt of Silent Saturday inevitably happen in our lives – we can face them from the place of the resurrection.

We can face those days in the presence, promise and the peace of Jesus.

Happy Easter!

You are loved,

Michelle xo

 

Save Me!

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Palm trees are popping up on my Insta feed this week. Our youth team of 120 kids have been working hard, in between beach days and Krispy Kreme donuts, they have been blessing people on Skid Row and running a kids club in Compton. We cannot wait to see our kids and hear their stories. They’ll be home on Tuesday evening, continue to pray for them as they start their journey home tonight.

And today. Palm branches.

Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Jesus asks for a colt to ride. Naturally.

The desperate people, they ran.

The bustling crowds, they cheered.

The branches were waved.

Their valued cloaks laid out on the dusty ground.

Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in highest heaven!

Hosanna! Remember the paper palm branches we made in school?

Hosanna! Every year the same story acted out in assembly, I was one of ‘the crowd.’

Hosanna! We all know it means joyful exclamation of adoration. But it’s more than that, its  Hebrew meaning is save us or ‘Oh save us now!’ This crowd of oppressed people shouting hosanna, longed for salvation. Believing that this man on the colt would restore…

Lord remind us today. As we wave our paper palm branches and reread your story. As we shout ‘hosanna’- remind us salvation is ours – help us to fully grasp its true meaning: to be saved from danger, to be delivered, protected, rescued, kept from being lost, to be healed, and made whole.

But not just today, tomorrow and the roller coaster of Holy week.

And as you remind us of what we need to lay down, let us find amazing grace drowning our fickle ways, protecting us from saying Crucify Him.

Love, Michelle xo