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
  • Work pattern
  • Public image
  • 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…”. 

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A few years ago, I saw a meme that said “Dear Lord…” and then showed a big pile of Scrabble letters that were in a mess. If I could describe my prayer life to you right now, that meme would accurately describe it. Today I had one of those moments where my prayers were car-crashing into each other. I arrived at church in good time (this is unusual, make no assumptions here!), and from the minute I sat down, my thoughts were scrambled up. No prayer was coherent, I’d start a sentence and not be able to complete it before the next thought took my mind captive. The sheer weight of all the situations I’m carrying weighing down on me.  

“Lord, I need help with…” 

“Please heal Jo…”* 

“Do I need to be worried about…” 

“Tomorrow I have to…” 

“I’m not sure I can…” 

Not one sentence made sense. My brain was raising one issue after another with no space to think. I said to the Lord, “I hope you understand all of that because it’s the best I can do right now.” And in that moment, I had a deep peace that the Lord had understood my heart’s cry and that he will answer me.  

In Luke 8, the woman who was bleeding and came to Jesus, received her answer to prayer without actually saying any words in the moment of breakthrough. She may have prayed before the event, but scripture indicates that she doesn’t say anything to Jesus, she just touches the hem of his cloak and is healed. In the moment of the miracle she has no words to say, yet Jesus’s spirit knows her need and meets it.  

Hannah got to the end of her rope in her situation. Desperate for a child and being tormented by husband’s other wife, her endless prayers became cries where her mouth moved but no sound came out. The situation had driven her to the point where she prayed until there was no sound left to make. We know that Eli the priest actually thought that she was drunk because of her distressed behaviour. Realising that she was petitioning the Lord out of sheer desperation, he came into agreement with her and the vow she had made to the Lord to offer her child back to God. The result was her prayer being answered. I’ve had occasions where I’m screaming my prayers at the Lord; those are raw yet powerful prayers as they lead me to submit to the Lord’s will. When faced with an impossible situations, I’ve learnt that the best route is the Lord’s plan. 

The Lord can take our broken, messy prayers and still understand them. He knows what we are crying out for and can read our hearts and minds even when we don’t make sense. Our words and sentences may be crashing into each other or there may be no words at all, but the Lord hears and sees it all. These stories remind us that we are not alone in journey and that the Lord always answers are prayers even if the answers are unexpected. All he wants is for us to turn to him and ask for wisdom, mercy and for his will to be done in our lives. Be encouraged that your jumbled prayers make sense to Jesus.  

*The name has been changed for privacy here.  

Have you ever felt like you were being pushed onto a new path, but you didn’t know what the next step would be? An unexpected event comes along and changes your situation, and you have to learn to adapt quickly. For many of us the pandemic has changed all aspects of our lives, from the way we work to entertaining friends and family.  A few years ago, my life changed and I had to take my hands off the wheel and walk by faith not knowing what each day would bring. I went from having a grand plan to having to take each day as it comes; no great plan to ponder, and I felt like I was blundering around in the dark. I can remember thinking “how am I going to continue to be creative with all this mess around me?” and I feared that the days of making music, art and writing were over. I had to reaffirm my commitment to journey with God in whatever season I found myself in, and that started with trusting that he would guide me step by step. 

One of the first things I had to let go of was planning. I literally had to abandon it, because no matter what I planned, it wouldn’t happen. At first this was frustrating, and I began to think that I had done something wrong, that maybe I had made a mistake and was missing what God had said. It took me some time to work out that walking step by step each day wasn’t a bad thing, but that it would bring me greater freedom as I trusted God for his guidance and provision. This wasn’t punishment, it was a time to travel a new path so I could learn new skills; in one sense it was promotion as I graduated to a new season. I soon found that by giving into the new flow of life and going with it, God brought several opportunities to me that would never have normally crossed my path. The key was trusting that God would bring the right opportunities at the right time even though I couldn’t see further ahead with the plan.  

With abandoning the planning, I also threw out the measuring and analysing of success that had drained my life and made it laborious. There was no immediate plan for me to set as the ideal and nothing for me to measure against. This felt daunting and at times I felt lost as there seemed to be no direction, yet I learnt to see the value of what God was asking me to do regardless of what anyone else thought. We get obsessed with planning, achieving and succeeding, and by doing this we miss so much of what God has for us. I learnt that success is doing what we he asks us to do.  

In the process, I learnt a lot about God’s ways, and I discovered a whole new side to me; skills and characteristics that I didn’t know that I had.  Through trusting for the daily steps, I was able to develop myself without the pressure; there was no more confinement. I found more of God and in turn, more of me. By daring to ask God what he wanted me to do, I could become the artist and person that he wanted me to be. Ironically in the wilderness period of my life, I have created and achieved far more than in previous seasons. By being open to the Spirit’s leading and being obedient, I thrived in the middle of a famine and wilderness. 

When we look at the life of Joseph, we know that he had a vision of the far off future, however for thirteen years as a slave and a prisoner, he lived on a day by day basis. He could only see as far as his next task, meal or sleep, yet he trusted that each day would bring him to his divine destination. Strangely the day to day grind of the thirteen year period was a fast track training session in learning the Egyptian language and culture; Joseph also developed the character needed to work with Pharaoh. 

The crux of what I’m saying here is that obedience brings blessing and enlargement in our lives. Obedience is never easy and involves a high degree of trust on our part. If we choose to obey, we can experience so much more than what God has for us. Often his choice involves an acceleration of experience and skills that we feel unequipped for, however this is his way of preparing us for greater things to come. If we want to be unique and reach our full potential, we need to dare to obey and step out into the unknown. It’s not so much that our faith is blind, more that we trust that God can see where he is taking us. Our dependence on God’s plan will lead us to his glorious vision for our lives.  

I’ve been pondering on a word for the coming season and something that has come up again and again is the word JOY! We’ve all been through a difficult couple of years and now I sense that it is time to live with good expectation for the coming year. The things that have been stalled, damaged or robbed from us will be restored by the Lord. It’s a season of JOY! We are now in the first season of a new era. I asked the Lord to confirm this word and earlier today as I walked into Primark, the first thing I saw was this ornament. It was the last one on the shelf and it had no price: it was priceless! In the end the manager sold it to me for 50p! In reality, JOY is priceless and that’s want the Lord wants to give us this year; his priceless JOY.

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Starting Over Again… Five years ago I wrote this song very late at night! It’s a song about seizing the moment, accepting that change can be good and a fresh start can lead to new, exciting things.

New single! Starting Over Again was originally released only to my Helen’s Angels group. However, I’ve decided to release the song on the Bandcamp platform only on BANDCAMP DAY (today – Friday 3 December). If you download it on Bandcamp day, they waive their fees and I receive more money which means I can make more music! You can listen to the track here.

My full digital discography is available with 25% discount! You can download it here for £16.30. It doesn’t include my first two albums as they are only available on CD, but everything else from 2011 onwards is ready download…

We’re in a season where many of us are waiting for breakthrough in certain areas of our lives; the hardest part of breakthrough is the waiting period. While we wait, there’s often a series of events that bring the problem to a point of death. The seeming possibility of change disappears, and we realise that our only hope is God intervening; that is a good place to be! The waiting period can be far longer than we anticipate, but the waiting season is there to create a story far greater than we can imagine. The greater the waiting period, the greater the miracle. It’s as though the Lord waits for human reason, logic and possibility to die so that he can bring a supernatural answer to our situation. Something that we could never foresee in the natural. Something that blows us away with his goodness.  

We believe that our miracle is just about us and what we need or want in our lives. We get caught up in how our lives would improve if God would just act when we want him to and we become self-absorbed by focusing on our own needs. However, our miracle story has much wider implications than we realise. Family, friends, those that walk with us in our daily lives also benefit from our breakthrough. They need our story just as much as we do; it feeds them, ignites hope and germinates the seed of faith in them. As God shows off what he can do, it draws the attention of others and in age of social media, testimonies of God’s goodness influence a much wider audience than we ever realise.  

The delay in receiving your miracle could be so that as many people as possible can be reached with your testimony. 2 Peter 3:9 shows us that the Lord doesn’t want anyone to miss out on knowing him, and that he waits for everyone to come into a relationship with him. 

 “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.” 

We know from Jesus’ ministry that every time he performed a miracle for someone, it attracted the attention of the people around him and boosted their faith. His name became known through the life changing acts he performed, and his reputation spread far and wide. The Lord is all about mercy and wants everyone to be in a relationship with him. Your miracle might be just the very thing that brings someone to Jesus. It may also give someone hope that their situation can change too.  

We are currently in two spiritual seasons that celebrate miracles: Hanukkah and Advent. Both celebrate the expectancy that God will breakthrough into impossible situations with a miracle, and the very fact that 2000 years later we still commemorate both these amazing events shows us that God’s intervening power wasn’t meant just for those involved at the time. The stories of these events have been preserved for generations so that they may benefit from it. As we persevere through the waiting period, remember that your situation will help and develop others as well as you. Your miracle is so much bigger than you! So stand back and let the Lord do what he needs to do in your life to get the maximum glory, and the greatest benefit for you and for others too. 

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Twenty-four years ago I was given a promise by the Lord. I was walking across the common to church when the Lord started a conversation with me that would change the course of my plans for my life. At the time, (and being very young) I presumed that this promise would manifest quite quickly in my life, however as time went on, I wondered if it would ever happen. For decades I felt that I hadn’t reached the correct timing of this word as the right people and circumstances weren’t in place and quite frankly neither was my maturity, character or faith. I parked the word and assumed that it would be something that happened much later in life.  

Earlier this year, a series of closed doors led me to a dead end with seemingly no way forward. If it hadn’t been for a relative encouraging me to review that word from 1997, and a significant conversation with an old friend, I might never have considered moving forward into new territory. Sometimes the Lord sends a difficult situation into our lives to drive us forward to our Promised Land. Without that, we get comfortable in a place that is no longer suitable and it can rob us of reaching our God given destination. In Exodus 9, 10, 11 and 14, we are told that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart; this happened so that a) the Israelites were so uncomfortable they had to move and b) so that God’s glory could be displayed. The misery that Pharaoh inflicted on the Israelites literally pushed them to seek the Lord’s help and go after the Promised Land. In this we can proclaim that all things work for our good under God’s authority and will (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). The Lord quite literally gave me an “Almighty shove” that moved me into position.

The unfamiliarity and strangeness of the new can make us think that we’ve misunderstood the word. In recent weeks I have questioned what the Lord had said to me. Perhaps this isn’t what the Lord said? Have I got this wrong? Is this new season meant to be this difficult? Hebrews 11:9-10 tells us that Abraham was a stranger in the land that had been promised to him. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the place that was promised to him as home. The land was still occupied by someone else and wasn’t yet his, but the Lord clearly asked him to move there and set up home. Yet after he had settled in the promised land, the promise of a child was fulfilled, and the long time promise of many descendants began its course.  

I think what we can now see is that through the pandemic, the Lord has ended some seasons ended and begun new ones. He has moved people around and opened new doors. In my case, the new door was quite literally an old one that had been waiting for the right time to be opened. Although the new may not be what you’re expecting, in time the Lord will deliver what he promised. I am now in place, waiting for what the Lord promised me. And that’s the key, positioning ourselves to receive what was promised: mentally, spiritually and in some cases physically. The promise will not come about until we are ready to receive. There is a kairos moment for all God’s words and when the conditions are right, the timing becomes opportune.  

For Abraham, the timing was slower than he anticipated, and the new home was not handed to him on a plate. His promise may have been slower than he would have liked but in the fullness of time, it came to fruition and God’s purpose was worked out. If anything, this should encourage us that God is in control and that he always delivers on his word.  

Promises are not so much about receiving what was offered but they are about developing our character in order to receive what was promised. Equally our faith must grow to accommodate God’s blessing, and this is the most crucial part of the process. If we keep going under pressure, our faith develops greater than we can ever imagine, and that is God’s ultimate goal for us. All God’s promises bloom in the fullness of time. 

(Painting: Bright Rainbow Flower by Helen Sanderson White. Copyright 2021 Helen Sanderson White)

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One of the questions that I most commonly get asked is “when will I be a proper musician/artist/writer?”. In the artistic arena there is no defining moment when this happens. Unlike a lot of other professions, artistry isn’t just a job, it’s tied in with our identity. It’s part of who we are as well as what we do. Our reasons to create go beyond salary and career prospects; we feel compelled to create, make and perform: to shine a light on the issues that we are passionate about. This desire bubbles up inside of us until we satisfy our need to create.  The artistic spark within connects with the divine in order to channel the power of spiritual creativity.  

Sometimes you have to see yourself as an artist so that you believe that you are one. If we believe that we are made in the image of God, and he is the master artist, then we must reflect the artistry back to him. David had to see himself as king long before he ever was king, and Abraham had to believe that he was the Father of Nations long before he was a father.  Sometimes we have a sense of greatness within, but we don’t how or when that will be achieved in our lives. This calls us to trust that our sense of who we are will be filled during our life time. 

We must set aside other people’s views on who we are and what we do. To not be defined by the atmosphere and clamour around us. Someone else’s opinion can leave an imprint of a false belief on our identity, which can become a barrier to our artistic output. How many times have we believed that we’re not good enough to create? When imposter syndrome sets in, it steals our vision and denies our personhood. We can fall into the trap of needing to be ratified, commended and accepted by the creative community, rather than being able to do those things for ourselves. The best artists are those who have a sense of self coupled with independence; they are more likely to take risks and try new ideas whilst maintaining their integrity. 

Creative insecurity is driven by fear, in particular fear of opinion and failure. Mistakes and failures although painful can lead to being a better artist, they develop our character and help build a stronger resolve in us through wisdom and experience. Public and peer critique can also have benefits if we learn to filter out what isn’t necessary, and act on what is good.  

We can be under the illusion that money determines whether we are an artist or not. Yet some of the of greatest musicians died in poverty, case in point Handel who died penniless and largely unknown for his work. The Messiah was only a success after his death, and it written during a time when his friends supported him financially. Money is good for helping us create and access resources, but it can pollute our work if we are driven by financial gain. 

Creativity is a calling. There is a responsibility in everything we do that we represent and share the truth in an honourable way. Lots of people can create but those who accept the calling to “disturb the peace” and highlight different issues to the world through art have an undeniable vocation and position in society. The world needs those artists who undertake a journey of discovery and exploration for the sake of educating and helping others. They are the risk-takers, the pioneers, and mothers and fathers of new movements.  

It doesn’t matter whether you started being creative from the time you were small or if you find your stride during retirement. The artist DNA is part of you from the beginning; it comes to life at the right time to offer you healing, fulfilment and also bring hope to others. The truth is, you’re an artist from the moment you are born, from the moment you create, from the moment that idea germinates in your mind. You’re an artist from the moment you take that first breath… 

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We are standing at the edge of a new season. We’ve never lived in this way before, and we don’t know how life will work out over the next decade. There is still a lot of fear and anxiety coupled with “are we ready to move on?”. We are mourning for people, situations and things that have gone, yet longing to move onto a new season of joy and hope.  

Earlier this week I was reading Matthew 9:17 (CEV) when something struck me that I hadn’t noticed before: 

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined. New wine must be put into new wineskins. Both the skins and the wine will then be safe.” 

Safe. That’s something that we haven’t felt in a while. The Lord impressed on me that this new season is a new wineskin and that as we move with him into this new wineskin, we will be safe. Without knowing, he has been preparing and equipping us throughout this trial for the new season. Carefully drawing us closer to him and making us more tuned to his voice and leading. We have become flexible, and the shake up has helped us to see life in a different way. The shaking has removed things that we no longer need to carry and has helped us to retain only what we consider to be important. The old wineskin is finished and the old things can’t come into the new with us. We have mourned but we are being encouraged that joy is coming!   

What I feel the Lord was impressing on me is that the new wine that we carry within us, will be poured into a wineskin that is SAFE. Everything that we value is safe if we keep trusting the Lord. Things that are precious to us: our worship, communities, families and future are protected and secure as we continue to trust him. This may mean accepting hard choices and difficult situations, we may need to surrender what we don’t fully understand, but God sees things differently and we are protected in his cover. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) tells that God’s thinking is different than ours:  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 

    neither are your ways my ways,” 
declares the Lord. 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
    so are my ways higher than your ways 
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

If you’re concerned about your future, be assured that you are under God’s protection. He will not be pouring the old issues and problems into the new season, that has been left behind. What worked for us before, will no longer work now. He is always doing a new thing, and we need to be attentive to see what good things he is doing in and through us. I am not suggesting that the issues will totally disappear, but I do believe he is calling us into the new and giving us the invitation to join with him in what he is doing. The Lord only does good things that are in our best interest and if we move forward, we will see his goodness and grace in this new world. We need to dare to say, whatever happens the Lord’s ways are good. Be encouraged that the Lord sees the people, dreams and things that you consider to be valuable, and he will carry you through to safety on the other side. 

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