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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“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 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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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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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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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.

Hopeful Heart by Helen Sanderson White (Copyright 2020 Helen Sanderson White)

Earlier this week, while I was walking into the bank, a woman approached me and asked me outright “this won’t last forever, will it?”. While I was a little taken aback with her directness, I sensed an opportunity to speak the truth about hope and replied with “no, it will pass, things will get better”. And with that, she looked relieved and walk away. While it might sound flippant to say that in the middle of a pandemic, the truth is that everything comes to an end at some point and life moves on. The longterm effects of the stress of the pandemic can be seen in the nation’s outlook and mental health. Eurythmics once sang “everybody’s looking for something” and right now, we’re all looking for HOPE.

So how can we feel hopeful when everything around us looks bleak? Hope is something that has to be worked at; sometimes it flows easily and other times it seems far off and inaccessible. It is not some magical element that is unobtainable though. The truth of the matter is that we have to foster a hopeful and expectant mindset. Hope is sparked when we recall how something worked out well in the end, or we look on the positive side of a situation. We have to train ourselves to believe and expect good things for our lives; human nature tends to believe that bad seasons hang around forever, when in fact it is just a passing season. We live in a world where fear and negativity is prevalent, but if we believe that God is love then we have nothing to fear, as he has our best interests at heart and a plan for our lives. 

The media is full of hearsay, doom, gloom and negative views; provocative headlines sell newspapers but they don’t necessarily represent the truth. A huge amount of damage can be done by scaremongering: it divides and isolates community and focusing on despair will corrode the nation’s attitude and resolve over time. What we know from history is that the human race has survived some of the most horrific events; the human spirit has found resilience and strength to keep going. If you fill your mind with bad reports it will affect your perspective on life, and in the long term make you depressed, and to some extent this all becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You get out of life, what you put in. 

Everyday is one day nearer to the end of the season and new beginnings. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a time and season for everything; nothing is forever, and an end to difficult seasons will come in time. What we can do is work together to make things easier for each other. Spreading fear and gloom does nothing to help people, it leaves them in a place of despair and helplessness. We have a duty to ourselves and others to be agents of hope; the change starts with us. What we know from the Bible is that the Lord always comes through for his people, and he loves to bring new life to dead situations that have gone way past the point of no return. If nothing is too hard for the Lord, perhaps we need to remind ourselves not to limit him and his power. He can do far more than we ever dreamed of and that in itself is reason to have hope. If we hand our own situations and even the pandemic over to the Lord, we release ourselves from carrying the burden on our own and give him the opportunity to bring our chaos into his good order. Letting go requires bravery and courage but it leads to a place of peace, and in that peace is the small spark of gritty hope.

After five weeks of quarantine, the COVID-19 situation is no longer a surprise to the nation. We’re settling into new routines, ways of working and communicating, and accepting that life is going to be very different for the next few months at least. For some people life hasn’t changed at all: key workers are working harder than ever to keep essential services going, whilst others have found themselves unexpectedly unemployed. This has led many people to raise questions as to what this season in life may be all about…

For some time, I have felt that this is a season of rest and resetting. On an international scale, we’ve never had a period of time where so many nations have come to a halt all at the same time. We no longer need to travel to work, school or church. There are no social activities available to entertain us outside of our homes, and our travel footprint has been reduced to one trip a week to the supermarket. We now have to time to stop, think, reflect and enjoy where we are. There is no doubt that we will come out of this lockdown wanting different things in our lives, most importantly, a much simpler existence. The resting period is teaching us that there so many things in life that we don’t need: no non-essential items cluttering up daily living. Things that stop us being who we are, drain our energy, or divert our attention into needless causes. 

This is also a period of incubation. New hobbies have been found, new business ideas developed and there is space for artistic and creative exploits. Even the way we work, shop and reach out to our families and friends has evolved. Technology is almost struggling to catch up with us. There is no doubt there will be an explosion of innovation and development from this period of lockdown. But all of these things emanate from rest. The space to be able to stop, think and relax in order to let the mind wander and create. 

The reflection also helps us to let go of failures and hurts form the past. We have an opportunity to deal with the things that worry and hound us. If we let go of those things now, we will be fit and ready for a new season. Our “busyness” has stopped us from dealing with past issues and now is the time to be healing and forgiving ourselves and others. This truly is a time of divine reset, starting over and rebuilding from scratch. Forgiveness flows from resting in the knowledge that the past has gone, and resetting ourselves by letting go of the past. Forgiveness leads to a fresh start. 

Air pollution is at an all time low for the first time in decades, probably even a century. The earth is recovering from the ordeal that we have put it through. One of my friends commented that “..while humanity struggles to breath with COVID-19, the earth can breath for the first time in years.” An unexpected positive side effect from the lockdown is that our environment is cleaner and safer than ever; humanity is being forced to let the world heal and flourish. 

Although this period of time is frightening and frustrating in many ways, the outcome of resting and resetting life will benefit humanity long after this season is over. If you can take anything from this strange season of confinement, it’s the rediscovery of who you are, and the preparation for the next season ahead. A new season is loading, and this is merely the buffering while the season downloads. So rest ready for the reset. 

Photo by hammondgower.co.uk

It has been said that it takes a crisis for people to see what they truly value. Never has this been more evident in our generation than through the COVID-19 crisis. The national lockdown may have brought people to a stand still but also to a place of deep introspection on personal and national level. We are continually in awe at the NHS response to coronavirus, and as a nation, I think we can see how deeply passionate we are about keeping our uniquely funded National Health Service. In the past key workers have been treated with a lack of respect, however, their true value has now been seen: the least have become the greatest. 

We’ve also realised how complicated our lives have become and discovered that simplicity can lead to contentment. The fact we can’t go out or see our families and friends has lead us to rethink what is important in our lives. We’ve discovered that the internet is not luxury but a necessity in life; everything from schooling, work, business, and relationships has been diverted into online formats. I do believe that something good comes out of every situation. Sometimes it takes us a long time to see it but something good always pushes the ashes. In our crisis situation, a new world order is forming and to be fair, it is long overdue. 

The lockdown has hit the arts sector hard; most arts practitioners are self employed and the work has dried up overnight. The government has put together a package for self employed workers who currently are unable to work and the arts community has come together to support each other and provide new ways of connecting people together for projects. There has been a mixed reaction to this government deal, but to be fair an offer of financial help is better than no offer at all, even if it doesn’t come as quickly as we would like it to. I also speak from a very different point of view, in the last 13 years, I have had two major low points where my business collapsed and the circumstances that surrounded these low points were totally out of my control. There was no government help, no union support and a lot of colleagues fled. For me, the good that came out of it was a resigned resilience and I learnt who was really for me. It left me with a small but extremely committed group of friends and colleagues which is better than what I had before. If you’re going to work in the arts, you need to be resilient, focused and flexible. 

It was during these low points that I began to pray that things would change in the self employed and arts sectors. I do believe that the crisis we are currently in lead us to a new way of working and will also open the door for artists and musicians to campaign for a better working conditions and deals. The plight of artists has been publicly acknowledged and this platform will help to campaign for better working conditions and employment deals in the future. 

The necessity for the arts and its role in society has been brought to people’s attention during the lockdown. How many of us has listened to some music, read a book or watch a film or TV show during this time? Yep all of us. Without the arts, life would be dull, lack colour and also insight. Not only are the arts part of our entertainment, but they are also essential for good mental health, understanding concepts and culture, and provoking thought and conversation. The arts are often seen as frivolous and expendable, however they need to be protected for their philosophical and spiritual values. At some point everyday, we reach for something creative to inspire and motivate us. 

In recent years, the financial and management sides of the creative industry have been abused and ripped apart. Much of this is being exposed and brought to light; we’ve watched as major figures have fallen from grace and organisations have collapsed. Artists have had to work for free, and I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been asked to perform for free or to give my music away. Creative enterprises have been devalued to zero. Maybe this period of introspection will bring a realisation that this can’t continue; we have to build an industry that is sustainable and fair for artists. There’s an opportunity to raise up pioneers who are passionate about encouraging and developing a wide range of genres disciplines and creating new platforms. Whatever we feel about this dark season, it won’t last forever. The temporary cessation is harmful to the arts industry in the short term, but in the long term it could actually bring about good for creatives. 

I’ve waited a long time to write this blog; seven years to be precise! Seven long years. We all have a dreams of things that we would like to do and sometimes we get the opportunity to do them. The saddest thing is when one of those dreams is struggling and no matter what we do, it doesn’t survive and eventually dies. It can be a game changer; it affects your perspective on life and can make you retreat from other opportunities for fear of getting hurt.

In 2012, I was offered the opportunity to perform my songs with a jazz orchestra. It was a dream gig, I’d waited all my life for it and I was going to make it happen! The early discussions went well, and I was ever hopeful that the concert would take place within six months. However, over time the project began to disappear, no matter what I did I couldn’t make it work. The dream concert was long gone, and my music career seemed to be dead. I asked God to put it right and bring the project to fruition, but nothing happened. Things went from bad to worse, my business collapsed, my marriage failed and my living arrangements were insecure again. I never knew that life could go so low so fast. It all changed in an instant.

Last year, my colleague and long standing friend, Rachael Forsyth, contacted me and asked if she could pitch the project to an orchestra again and also do the jazz arrangements of my songs. My initial reaction was that it wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through all the disappointment again, however, that thought of “if I don’t try, I’ll never know” crept in and I decided to be brave and give it a go. Over a period of six months we plodded through arrangements and emails, and we wondered if it would ever come together. At one point it actually looked as though the whole thing would fall apart again and Rachael and I prepared ourselves that it might not happen.

But that’s not the way God works. He specialises in bringing dead things back to life. After seven years of waiting, wondering, praying and hoping, I will be performing with the English Jazz Orchestra on Thursday 14 March. I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but those prayers that I prayed seven years ago are finally being answered. Just because something looks dead doesn’t mean that it is. Sometimes God waits so things are better, the timing is right and our character has developed enough for us to deal with it. Sometimes he removes things that are in the way or that will destroy the dream, so that when the dream buds, it can flourish and grow without being choked. Although this seems strange, all those things happened for my good. That part of my life died so that better, greater things could come. Sometimes God allows these things to happen so that he can realign us with his plan for our lives and also his timing (which is never our timing!).

In another strange twist of events, I received an email today saying that a song I sent to a DJ three years ago, is now being played on his podcast this month. I’d actually forgotten that I sent it off to the radio show! It’s like the song was waiting for right moment.

So I hope you can join me for this amazing evening St Lukes Church in Enfield with the English Jazz Orchestra (ENJO)! Tickets are available here