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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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.  

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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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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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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We talk a lot about the joy of open doors, fresh opportunities and a sense of a new direction but we don’t always mention the joy that comes from closed doors. In the last month two doors have closed for me, one unexpectedly, the other was not surprising in the slightest. As with all beginnings and endings, there are mixed emotions and more questions than answers. Confusion is normal in these circumstances but once we have come to terms with the decision, it can be a great release to have one less option to think about.  

Although these closed doors have different outcomes for me, they have both given me a sense of relief and a “what now?” question with them. We live in a society that actively promotes open doors and Christianity also shares this positive outlook for opportunity. However, the Bible is also clear that closed doors are a positive movement in our lives. The provision of the brook and ravens dried up for Elijah, so he moved on to the next calling which was helping the widow at Zarephath. Elijah was taken into heaven which released Elisha into a ministry that was far more powerful than his mentor’s ministry. Paul was shipwrecked and landed up preaching in places that he never would have travelled to otherwise. Ruth was widowed at young age but landed up remarrying and running a successful business.  

So what can we learn from a closed door? Although it may be disappointing, it’s not always denial. God is simply removing the choices that aren’t profitable or helpful for where you are going next. He refines our vision by narrowing down the choices. I always think that it is quite exciting when a door closes as it means the Lord is preparing the way to a greater door, the door of opportunity. He is refocusing our attention on what he wants to do next, this could be something we have been praying about for a long time or a surprise from the Lord.  

The hardest part of this journey is the corridor of “in-between”. Sometimes we can stand in the corridor waiting for a long time before another door opens.  We are happy to receive an open door, but the waiting period between a closed door and the next one opening, is where our faith is tested. The “in-between” is the place where we most feel like we want to give up; the pressure of believing for more can push our faith to the limits. This is an important part of the process, the growth and depth our of faith is more valuable to the Lord than reaching our destination. If we are to go through the open door, we must have the strength, wisdom and character to steward what is on the other side of it. These qualities develop best in unsettled times as the uncertainly helps us to cling to the Lord and develop the deep roots needed to support the growth. The waiting time is not wasted or fruitless, but an adventure in developing ourselves and our relationship with God.  

So when encountering closed doors, it helps to remember that they are closed to protect us from bad decisions, wasting time and paths that weren’t meant for us. They also indicate that there is something much greater and more exciting waiting for us, and that the preparation time is essential. If we wait patiently, a new door will open and our greatest moments will arrive.

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Many moons ago I started writing a series of blogs about being a resilient artist but the time never seemed right to publish them. I even wrote out an idea for a business called Resilient Creative but life took over and the idea stayed in a notebook. Then the pandemic hit, the world turned upside down and changed the arts arena as we knew it. One evening I was chatting to my long time colleague and friend Rachael Forsyth about the state of the arts and we pondered on how we might recover as an industry. She mentioned some thoughts she was writing about, I mentioned the previous blogs and voilà, we had a book idea. 

If you’re struggling to get back into the rhythm of creating, then How To Be A Resilient Artist is for you. You may be looking to boost your creativity in some way, to find a new way of working or regain some areas of your art that have fallen apart. You’re not alone, many people go through a “wilderness” period with their creativity. It’s all part of the artistic journey. Life is full of difficult twists and turns; recession, divorce, death, illness, failed businesses and of course, the unforeseen pandemic. All of these situations are tough for anyone working in business, however the unpredictable nature of the creative industries can make this a lot tougher. For others it could be that boredom and lack of direction has brought you to a halt and you’re now not sure how to kick start your enjoyment of playing your instrument or picking up your paintbrushes. These “wilderness” periods can be confusing, disorientating and draining. They also give us the opportunity to assess where we’re going and what we want out of life and ultimately, our music. The trick is not to let the “wilderness” journey overwhelm you but redirect you. 

This book is designed to give you some hope that your setback is only a season and not a life sentence! Better times will come and eventually you will feel stronger from what you have learnt through this experience. There are plenty of ideas to get the creative juices going, and stories of how we overcame obstacles and found a new way to make things work. It’s always possible to recover from the pressure and regain a rhythm of working and performing. 

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, this book has insights and tips on how to reinvigorate your creativity and regain your focus. Whatever season you are in, you can make a fresh start and discover the creativity within you. 

One area of life that artists are good at tracking is the change of seasons, not just in the natural world around us but in our life seasons as well. In the UK we are heading into springtime but there’s also something in the air of new spiritual season emerging. There’s excitement in the air!

I have been in a wilderness period for a long time; this season of my life has been about pruning and getting rid of things that I no longer need. A time of evaluation, contemplation and preparation in readiness for new life and waiting for opportunities and breakthroughs to come forth. Over the last few months, there have been signs in my life of a new season blowing in; little changes that seem fresh and unfamiliar. Often we feel the advent of a new season before it begins, and I certainly felt this change coming about 18 months ago. Recently, I have been offered some interesting opportunities from my music work; some things that I have waited for a long time to be asked to do. They are only small opportunities, but I realised the other day, that a prophetic word that I was given 5 years ago was beginning to show signs of fruition through these requests.

When we enter a new season, the old way of doing things no longer works. We have to move on and try new ways of doing things. The pandemic opened up a world of online concerts, church services and meetings in a way that we hadn’t experienced before. This for me was the turning point as I have been able to meet new people via Zoom without having to travel. It presented a new way of doing something I was well used to, but I had to change the way I worked to make it happen. It has broadened my audience and made meeting new audiences much easier for me.

These new music opportunities have made me excited about my work for the first time in a very long time! And I’m holding on to the things that God promised me many years ago and that he will complete the work that he started in me. Whenever new growth appears, we need to remember not to take our old wilderness mindset into the new season. For me, that means holding on to the fact that things are changing for the better and that there are great things around the corner! So rejoice with me, my season is changing! There is a season for everything, and this is a season to grow and flourish.

Last week I was interviewed by Victoria Park Baptist Church in Bristol about my song Where Are You God? This was used as part of their online church service and helped to inspire their prayers for the coming week. They asked me some deep, soul searching questions such as “do you think any good can come out the pandemic?” and we explored my reasons for being so honest with how I felt about the current global crisis. You can see the interview below.