I didn’t expect to be releasing this song; I wrote it seven years ago for a project that has been long abandoned. This song comes from a collection that I wrote in 2014 about the ins and outs relationships. Despite not releasing it, earlier this year I felt the compulsion to do so as it seemed to be important and that it might be useful to people. The song examines the dissatisfaction that comes from wanting everything you see in the hope that it will be fulfilling and mend an already broken relationship. It was a response to a situation I was seeing unfold in a friend’s life at the time of writing.
I’ve never performed this song, and it’s been sat on my Laptop hard drive for awhile. When I went looking for it, I had one of those moments that every artist dreads, I couldn’t find it! I’m meticulous about making sure everything is backed up so I was quite surprised that I couldn’t locate the Logic file. I did find an mp3 of the demo though, and when I listened to the recording, it sounded dated and it didn’t express the vibe of the song well. I’ve created a more contemporary arrangement for the track, and all I can say is that not being able to find the original file has been a happy accident! The new arrangement is a much better interpretation of the lyrics, and represents the topic matter more clearly.
Sometimes when we create something, and we must lay it down for a season until it is the right time to be released to the world. Prophesying always takes place long before the prophecy comes to fruition. Wait for the right time to release your work; this way it will be the most effective physically and spiritually. So however this is for, this is for you…
Tonight (25.9.22) Rosh Hashanah begins: the Jewish new year 5783, a fresh start and reset in the spiritual calendar. This morning while I was driving to church, I saw a massive cross that the clouds had made in the centre of the sky. At first I dismissed it and thought that it was just a lovely cloud formation but seven miles down the road the cross was still in front of my car as though it was fixed in the sky. At that moment the Lord said to me
“the cross was the ultimate breakthrough”.
I knew that this was a sign for us in this new spiritual year, that the Lord is creating breakthrough in our lives personally and corporately. Just as the cross made a way for us to have a relationship with Christ, the Lord is making a way for us to move into a new season in communion with him. Obstacles that have blocked our way are being overturned, restoration of lost seasons and relationships will begin and there will be a resurrection of dead hopes and dreams.
In accordance with Ecclesiastes 3:1, the times and seasons are changing. Last Friday was the autumn equinox and we entered a new season in both the physical and spiritual worlds. Here in the UK, we have experienced a physical shift from the reign of Elizabeth II to Charles III; this was not only a seasonal change but a shift into a whole new era. I and others have sensed that we are about to experience many changes in society and across the world; some of this new era will not be easy and there will further unrest to come, but I believe that the Lord was reminding me that the cross offers us protection for a new season and ventures. Whatever happens around us in the world, if we look to the Lord for guidance and strength, we will experience the Lord’s protection. By living in faith that he is with us, we reject the fear that the world is living in. Whenever we feel afraid, we should focus on the breakthrough of the cross.
A few months ago, I heard the Lord say “anointing for change”. This new season requires a new anointing to carry us through to our Promised Land. When we commission people for God’s work, we traditionally anoint them with the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Isaiah 10:27 tells us that
“and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil…”
I believe that the Lord is anointing us for breakthrough to destroy the chains of the last season that have been binding us; this includes everything from relational, emotional, physical and spiritual chains. The anointing that Jesus carried enabled him to give us the ultimate breakthrough through the cross. I sense that he wants us to ask him for the anointing that changes circumstances for the better. Our lives are to be a living testimony of God’s goodness; as the anointing breaks out in our lives, it will attract the attention of those who do not know Christ and lead them to him. I believe also that the cross I saw today, is a sign that revival is coming across our land. This is not a time to shrink back and hide but to allow the Lord to unveil us to those who need God’s love. The anointing and breakthrough of the cross will bring many Kairos moments that will change our lives and those around us and bring us into alignment with the Lord.
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This morning before I arrived at church I had picture of a man returning from the dark to the light of the Lord. I sensed that this man has been walking his own path and ignoring what the Lord had been asking him to do. However he is now at the point where he knows he cannot live without the Lord and is making a commitment to Jesus and walking the narrow road. I sense the Lord is saying that many of our prodigals are returning to the fold. I was watched the picture, the narrow road and the light of the Lord became a lock and a key opened it. I sense that as these prodigals return home they will unlock promises that we have been waiting a long time for. New projects and ventures will be launched with their return, and the missing piece of the puzzle in our lives will be completed.
What I didn’t know was that this morning we would be studying Acts 9:1-19 in church, where Saul is converted on the road to Damascus and the Lord appears in a bright light to him. Saul’s conversion unlocked a new mission field for the gospel, as he carried the word of the Lord to the gentiles. His conversion and acceptance of his calling was the catalyst that brought massive momentum to the growth of the church. And this passage, supports what I saw on the way to church this morning!
If you are waiting for a loved one to return to the Lord, I sense that Lord wants you to know that is a doing a deep and permanent work behind the scenes, and that the fruit of this work is about to come forth in your loved one’s life.
I will do a painting of this picture at some point soon to mark this moment, but in the meantime here is a sketch to help you.
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I’m Helen, I think I’m 4ft 11in, but my kids are convinced that I’ve shrunk. I’m often described as quirky and a bit mad due to my anarchic sense of humour. I studied Theology at London Bible College (now known as the London School of Theology), and music at Middlesex University (where I met my lovely friend Rachael Forsyth who write and performs with me). I’m a musician, artist and writer living in Buckinghamshire, and I’ve taught singing and piano to children and adults since 1996. I’m obsessed with creativity and I like to write songs and music, create abstract acrylic paintings, and spend hours thinking about blogs I might write.
Tell me a secret about yourself…
I once applied for a job with MI5 and got an interview! I didn’t go for the job in the end because the security checks took over 6 months to complete, and quite frankly I needed a job immediately so that I could buy cereal and ridiculous shoes.
When was your first performance?
When was three years old, I told my parents that I wanted to sing at church. I think they thought that once I had sung in public it would put me off, however I sang at an Easter meeting and that was the beginning of many performances! I was so small that they had to stand me on a stage so everyone could see me. I started to play the piano when I was five years old, and I wrote first (terrible) song when I was about six (I didn’t release it).
What’s your greatest creative achievement?
A music teacher once told me that I had no talent and that I should stop wasting everyone’s time, so in 2011 when my song Do You Seek An Answer reached number one in the New Christian Music chart (in both the UK and Europe, I might add), I was pleased that the teacher was wrong and that I’d stuck to my plan! I learnt that you shouldn’t ever let anyone define you or limit what you can achieve, only God can define who we are and the possibilities of what we are called to do.
Tell me about your influences…
Too many to mention! But probably Karen Carpenter, I do think her best work was her solo album which she recorded with Phil Ramone. We can hear the real Karen, an artist who has matured and found her own style. Unfortunately, it wasn’t released until 1997, fourteen years after her death so she never saw the public’s fantastic reaction to it.
A love of music by female singer-songwriters and finding that I had a voice of my own has greatly influenced my work. When I was 18, I fell in love with Alanis Morrisette’s lyric writing and that gave me the impetus and confidence to write my own songs. Her brutal honesty inspired me and her ability to make just about any word rhyme, makes laugh a lot!
Judith Owen is an amazing songwriter and musical interpreter. Some of her arrangements of well-known popular songs are incredible and she loves to take traditionally male genres and add a female spin to them. Julia Fordham is also an incredible performer and songwriter and knows how to take the listener on an emotional and musical journey. The two albums that she collaborated with Larry Klein are amazing and are well worth a listen.
What do you think is your mission in life?
Well, that’s a big question. It has taken me a long time to work out what I should spend my life doing. However, I feel that the Lord has called me to lead a creative lifestyle, and to be an example of how to foster the routine of creativity in everyday life. Artists have a mission to represent God’s love and truth in artistic and diverse ways. What we create today, can help someone find hope tomorrow.
If you want to find out more about my creative projects or join me in this journey, check out my Patreon page. You can join from as little as £2 a month.
Tell me a something I don’t know about you…
I was born with six fingers on one of my hands. The finger was deformed and had no bone in it, so it was removed. I always wonder what my piano playing would have been like if that extra finger had been viable! The again, it might not have made any difference at all…
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Earlier this week I was feeling discouraged about my prayer life, mainly that I haven’t seen many answers to my prayers over the last year. Having moaned at God for his lack of communication, I decided to dig out my journal to see what I was talking to the Lord about this time last year. I always write down the situations and people that I am praying for, plus how I feel and what I think God might be saying. Looking back through last year’s entries was revealing; it’s amazing how much I have forgotten and how quickly life moves on. It’s easy to get caught up in the detail of everyday life and forget where I was a few months ago and what God has done for me.
This time last year I was asking the Lord for several things that needed his help and advice. Although some of the situations did not change immediately, over the last year things have slowly started to move and improve. Some of the answers were small and could have been easily missed, whereas others were much clearer. If I hadn’t had written down each incident and response from God, I would have missed what he was saying and doing. Looking back, I can see how he was working behind the scenes to bring me to the point of understanding what he was doing and what he was asking me to do next. And although the whole answer may not be fully visible yet, there are signs of change.
There’s so much more that comes with God’s answers; our mindset changes, I could see in the pages how my thought processes have changed and how I’ve grown in faith. My beliefs about who God is and his involvement in my life have changed for the better. He uses our prayers to develop us mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as well as bringing breakthrough to our petitions.
By journalling I can see God’s participation in my life, it encourages me to keep persevering and walking with him. By rejoicing at what he is doing, I remember to be thankful for what he has done. Our praise creates a way for God to do more in our lives as it keeps our hearts and minds in line with him. In Joshua 4:6, Joshua builds a memorial marking the miracle that God performed when they crossed the river Jordan. He did this so that future generations would remember their relationship with God and learn more about his character. God knew that the Israelites would soon forget this miracle, and that they would become focused on their daily lives, so he asked them to continue to rejoice at what he had done for them.
Journalling keeps us on track with our requests. Some situations require persistent prayer over a period of time; by writing down our thoughts and the changes we can see, we maintain our focus on our prayer requests. One of the most common reasons that we don’t see answer to prayer, is that we give up too soon or our commitment to asking for change fades away.
If you’re struggling with your prayer life, try writing down your requests and keep track of God and what he is saying. You may find it that you’re much further into the process of change than you thought.
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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
Life is full of different seasons: short and long, good and bad, boring and exciting. Sometimes we have control of the timing of these seasons, and sometimes they come and go as they please. The death of one season may mean that a lot of change occurs, but it can also mean that we’re entering a time of growth and self development. Whether the season ends well and badly, we need to enter the new era in the right frame of mind. Here’s a few thoughts on how to end the season well:
1. Complete unfinished business. It is important that we have no regrets when entering a transition period between seasons. Two years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about completing my Licentiate in Instrumental and Vocal teaching. I felt aggrieved as this qualification had previously been blocked by various issues, I’d been hurt by the situation, and I couldn’t progress without it. The thought of not completing this qualification was keeping me up at night, and I knew that God was saying that it was time to put things right. I needed to end a difficult time well by doing something for myself that put me in control and brought something good out of something bad.
2. Let go of dead things. Not everything (or everyone) can go into your new season with you. You might need to let go of your house, your job, or even some of your friends. As we enter new territory, we change and develop to fit where we are going; this means that certain things cannot come with us because they won’t fit or work in the new place. This can be hard to accept, especially when those around us don’t share the same vision and we know that our relationships are dying because we are changing. It would be unfair to take those people with us as they would hinder us, and we would hinder them from reaching their full potential too. It can be daunting to step out on our own or with a smaller circle of friends, but God is always with us as we pioneer into the new. At the beginning of Joshua 1, Moses was dead; as Joshua became leader of the Israelites, he had to let go of his leader, mentor and friend at the border of the promised land so that he could lead the Israelites into their destiny.
3. Accept that it might not end the way you want it to. Sometimes things end well, we feel we can leave fulfilled and with projects intact or friendships that will continue. However, there are times when a season will end with grief and disappointment. I always think that these difficult endings are there to help us leave quickly. There are places where we would linger too long if left to our own devices. Sometimes God wants to move us on quickly and the short, sharp shock makes us focus on moving forward rather than becoming distracted. One of my friends always reminds me to “shake the dust from our feet” as mentioned in Matthew 10:14 when dealing with discouragement. The same too can applied to exiting a situation; travel lightly and don’t take too much of what has happened to heart. Easier said than done, but if we become trapped by bitterness, a blocked heart and mind will make us miss what the Lord has for us.
4. You don’t need to have all the answers. When Joshua became leader of the Israelites, the Lord told him to get going and cross the river Jordan, after that the Lord gave him every place that he stepped into. The Lord didn’t say “here’s a map, I want you to go to X, Y and Z and do the following.” He just gave Joshua an initial command “go” and that if he followed the Lord’s word he wouldn’t fail. We’re often late leaving one season and entering the next because of fear. We want to know what the plan is, and what to do and when, but the Lord wants to build our faith and trust in him so he only gives us part of the details. This doesn’t mean that we’re under prepared, more that we’re in a good place to grow our faith and trust in Jesus. Each piece of the puzzle comes as we need it.
5. Make peace with the past. Whatever has happened cannot be undone: we have to live with it. If we make peace with our feelings, memories and actions, we enable ourselves to move on in a healthy way. If we learn from our history and mistakes, we are better equipped for our future. What has happened in the past no longer defines us but informs our future plans and choices. This helps us to forgive ourselves and others, and brings healing and freedom to pursue the new. You cannot move forward if you are always looking back.
Wherever you are at in the change of season process, keep moving forward and listening to what the Lord is saying. The preparation of our hearts and a change of mindset for the new is required to help us become all that the Lord wants us to be. Whichever way you leave this season, be ready for the next one.
I’ve been digging through my files recently, looking at unfinished projects and demos of unreleased songs. Some artists don’t share their demos and work in progress; however I think there’s great value in sharing my sketches and how they develop. Four years ago, I was involved with a project with the Buckinghamshire Archives commemorating the end of World War One in 2018. I wrote several songs but the one that was released as part of the project was Are You Coming Home? This song reflected on letters sent to soldiers from their families, and the eternal of question of whether they would return home safely.
There were so many different aspects of the war that I could have covered, but what really intrigued me was the change in workforce nationally. The First World War was the first opportunity women had to join the workplace and take an active role in industry for the war effort. Inspired by the idea that War Is Not For Women, I wrote a song looking at the social change and opposition that these women faced. Although they were serving their country doing dangerous yet essential work in the munitions factories or frontline medical services, they often faced criticism for leaving their domestic home roles. A debt is owed to these women, as a lot of the female workforce stopped working after the war, but they paved the way for future generations of women to have careers.
This was an unusual project for me; however, I enjoyed the historical backdrop as the research led to a new path of creativity. Often when writing songs, I look for enticing stories, and there were many interesting characters and tales from this period of history! Mostly with this topic, I wanted to honour the legacy that these women left behind. There are other songs that I am yet to record from this project, but for now here is War Is Not For Women.
How often do we pray for a situation and the results of that prayer seem elusive? It seems as though nothing is happening nothing is changing, and we are stuck in difficulty. There are other times when we pray, and the situation seems to worsen, and we wonder whether God has heard us at all. The reality is that conflict happens when we pray. We might not be able to see it, or understand what is happening, but our prayers are powerful and precious to God, and this attracts spiritual opposition. The enemy does not want us to receive the goodness of God and uses tactics to put us off praying. We know that prayer is so powerful that it attracts antagonism.
Praying to God was made illegal. In Daniel 6, we learn that praying to God was outlawed and that you could only pray to the King. If you were caught, the act was punishable by death notably in the lions’ den. But let’s think about this for a moment: praying was so powerful that it was made illegal. The effect of those prayers was bringing an outcome different to human agenda, and it was noticed by those who wanted to keep control of society and they attempted to block it. Most of us don’t realise how effective our petitions are, and that we can change the course of history through just one heartfelt conversation with God. But in Daniel’s era, the government knew what a relationship with God could do on earth, so they tried to get rid of it. Because the Lord wanted to bring glory to his name, he placed an angel in the lions’ den with Daniel, and as a result Daniel was unharmed and the edict to stop prayer was overturned. There are occasions when we make prayer illegal in our own lives. We can shut down our communication with God because we believe that we can solve the problem ourselves. We refuse to deal with our sin and unforgiveness and as a result our prayer life and walk with God becomes weak. There are also times when we believe that God isn’t all powerful and can’t fix the situation, and we sink into despair that he has abandoned us and that the situation won’t change.
Prayer can be delayed. The opposition can delay the answer. In Daniel 10, the answer to prayer is delayed by 21 days as the angel is detained by spiritual opposition. Daniel’s prayer was so powerful that the enemy tried to stop it, but it didn’t work. No matter how bad our situation is, the answer to our prayer is always on the way, it can’t be blocked or held back for long as God is more powerful than any obstacle. This should encourage us to keep praying and seeking God’s answer! It is quite incredible to think that a small prayer could cause conflict in the unseen spiritual world; it’s almost beyond our comprehension. Sometimes that conflict is visible to us as we experience pain and difficulty in our situations, other times it is happening behind the scenes and we can’t see it.
All of these things are direct assaults on our communication with God. All designed to induce fear, weariness and to stop us from praying. The Biblical passages tell us that none of the attacks succeeded in stopping prayer; God was victorious every time. If we can learn anything from these passages, it’s that our conversations with God are so effective that the enemy wants to take them out. Prayer is to be highly valued and protected; we should make the most of it at every opportunity. Why would satan attack something that is ineffective? There would be no point in doing that. We can take hope in knowing that we are taking part in petitions that are making waves, bringing change and inspiring hope.
The waiting time before the answer arrives may test our faith and resolve, but we become stronger from seeing the creative ways that the Lord answers our requests. And the Lord always answers us; it may be yes, no or wait, but he always answers. The sign of conflict in our situations should give us a clue to the size of the blessing on the other side of our prayer. If our prayers are being contested, that should encourage us that we are on the right lines and to keep going. In the passages from Daniel, the Lord always shows himself strong and is victorious on every occasion. One of the best ways to remind yourself of past victories with God, is to keep a prayer journal and note the answers you receive. When we remind ourselves of what God has done, we are encouraged to keep going and pursue God more. So don’t be alarmed by the way that a circumstance looks, or the opposition you are receiving to your prayers, or if you feel like quitting. Rest assured that God is at work to bring solutions to your life. Just keep praying.
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Do you start something and never finish it? Do create something beautiful and then never release it to the world? Do you have notebooks full of endless ideas, but they never come to life?
No one wants to talk about the discipline. It’s a word that has had a negative public image; it’s not on trend, it invokes ideas of mundane and laborious tasks. However, it is essential for artistry, and I do believe that it also goes hand in hand with confidence. When we discipline ourselves to do something, we are committing to the act, the project, the creation but also to our own personal growth.
There are different areas of artistry that need discipline (and many more besides this list):
Practise and learning
Releasing and publishing work
Discipline our skills and learning
Netflix, social media, housework all these things seem suddenly more important than practising our instrument or learning a new skill. Anything to distract us from what we’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes we get caught up in running a business and forget to hone the expertise that makes the money. The development of an artist is dependent on the frisson of the new; boredom can so easily set in and we lose our focus. Equally we need to discipline ourselves not to continually chase excitement but also finish off what we have started. Satisfaction comes from seeing a project through to completion and knowing that we did our best. With each project, there is a danger that we can reach a point where it seems ridiculous or banal; it’s not turning out how we expected and it seems futile. This where the discipline of pushing through the difficult stages and remembering our original vision and can help us produce the final product.
Discipline our commitment
Most problems come from having too many ideas and not enough time. We shoot off in different directions without finishing what we’re doing. It’s in the continual plugging away at a project, where we see the fruit of our labours; the commitment to see the project through to completion. I list all my ideas and then think about them for a while before actioning them. Usually 50% of the ideas I’ve jotted down, turn out to be notions that seem to be brilliant at 1am but in the cold light of the morning aren’t actually very good. Time and space help to whittle down the ideas into something viable and workable, and in the long run I’m doing myself a favour by not over-committing to projects I can’t fulfil or starting tasks that are ridiculous!
Discipline our confidence
Our issues with discipline often start with a lack of self-belief, we sell ourselves short even before we start the task. The eternal problem of “will this piece of work be well received?” knocks our confidence and that with a combination of a poor audience reception or lack of interaction put us off achieving our goals. I have found that if I put aside the questions and concerns in my mind before I start working, then I can create on the basis that it is either something that makes me happy or that my message is something that needs to be said.
For some, the lack of confidence appears when it is time to release a project. The fear of lack of support and failure looms, and the project sits on a shelf never to be used. There are also occasions when we create something but can’t figure out how to market it. The strategy to create a buzz evades us and the project doesn’t reach its potential. This is where we need to put our feelings to one side and take the plunge. Build an audience, learn how to market and then go for it. We need to plan further than completing the work; a point of publication is equally as important as the germination of the original idea. I have a small group of cheerleaders and who encourage me to keep going to release my work. They give vital feedback and share ideas that keep me on track. It is worth building an inner circle who can speak the truth when you most need it.
Is discipline essential for artistry?
Yes, if we want to be the best version of our creative selves and to produce the best work that we can. It’s not that discipline is onerous but rather that it is habit forming in a positive way. Our greatest achievements come from continually plugging away and seeing the project through to fulfilment. All the creative masters had to learn to dedicate themselves to their craft and its development; they have a wealth of work to prove this.
We often assume that our creativity is all about us, however there are people around the world who need what you have to say, paint, sing, play. It may be as small as cheering up their day, or as great as being a life changing experience. The actor, Bill Murray, once stated that a painting stopped him from committing suicide. We never know what some will take from our art, but we do need to hold it lightly and allow it to be receive by those who need it.
So if there is an area in your work that is lacking, it may need some direction and drive to bring forth the gold you are waiting for. Discipline may seem daunting but it leads to a greater depth and understanding of why we are creating.
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When we think of miracles of healing, it’s natural to think of these occurrences being instantaneous. We’ve all seen films where there is a “suddenly” moment and the character’s life is changed forever. We expect our petitions to be met with a grand act of healing that is life changing and immediate. The Bible is full of examples of Jesus healing people on the spot; all these acts were designed to point to the glory of the Lord. However, there are also examples of healing being a process that takes time.
I wanted to write a song that reflected my own experience of healing; one that was a journey of highs and lows, a continual conversation with myself and Jesus. One thing that I have learnt is that the Lord is never in a rush. He takes time to walk with us on our journey, stretching and developing our character, tenacity and strength. My own journey of healing has taken years, not because the Lord wanted me to suffer or because I wouldn’t cooperate, but because the Lord is gracious and patient. He allowed me work through the process at my own pace, patiently waiting for me when I wavered, and encouraging me as I made progress. Would I have liked him to heal me instantly? Yes of course. However, because of the journey that I have travelled, my relationship with Jesus is stronger and deeper, and I now know how to help others in the same position because I have direct experience of this particular situation.
The days, months, years of praying are not wasted; those prayers do a deep work within us. While we wait for our moment, the Lord is also changing us through our petitions. We gain far more than the healing we ask for; the miracle comes with the benefit of becoming more like Christ, an understanding that he alone is in control, and a dependency on him that gives a solid foundation to our faith.
We see a similar progressive healing in 2 Kings 5 where the Lord tells Naaman to bathe in the river 7 times to cure his leprosy. This isn’t instant healing, it’s a journey of faith as Naaman holds onto the promise of a miracle. At first, he was angry that his request hadn’t been granted with immediate effect, but we later learn that his servants encourage him to be humble and accept what he is being asked to do. We don’t always like the what the Lord asks us to do, but it always has a good end and benefit for us even when we can’t see it. In Naaman’s case, trusting in the Lord and doing what he was told to do produced his healing. This process inspired his faith journey and he learnt more about the Lord’s ways of doing things. The result brought about victory for Naaman, and glory for the Lord, and as a result the Lord’s reputation spread throughout the region.
When it comes to healing, whether it’s instant or a journey, the Lord wants to heal us. For some of us that will be in our lifetime, and for others it comes when we die and receive our heavenly bodies. Some of us are healed by the miracle of medical science and others by the miracle hands of God. If we learn to see the world through God’s eyes, we can see his hand working through everything. When it comes to learning about God’s ways, he says “I won’t rush you…”.