Monica: a quiet faith that shouted loud

File_000 (1)On Tuesday evening a group of my contemporaries gathered in a ‘mini-wake’ ahead of her funeral to celebrate the life of a friend, Monica Brewer. After a short, valiant journey (she didn’t like to call it a battle), she passed away early last week from a cancer that had been diagnosed a fast six months before.

She is not my first friend to die of cancer. She likely won’t be my last. But I wasn’t able to meet them to celebrate on Tuesday night. I was off doing something else. Something Monica played an instrumental role in my undertaking.

I was at my Bible College class. Should I wish, and most importantly should God wish, by the end of this course (a Graduate Diploma in Divinity) I could become an ordained minister. Which I’m certain God, Jesus and Monica are now having a jolly good laugh about in heaven. I don’t think that will actually happen, my being an ordained minister. I still swear waaay too much for that. But God does have a strong sense of humour, so I’ve learnt just to wait and see.

I met Monica through the She Business group many years ago, long before I became a Christian. Christianity was not what I expected in my 40s, and it took much wrestling and cage-fighting to figure it out. One of my wrestles was being a business owner and integrating my faith and work.  Soon after I was baptised in the river, I retained Monica as a business coach – totally unaware she had a Christian faith herself.

Monica mixed a no-nonsense planning approach, thanks to her background as an accountant, with a matriarchal firmness I enjoyed. As I said to her at the time, “I don’t need you to talk to me about positive thinking mindset, I need you to call me on my sh*t,” and she did.

She and I worked on developing and rebranding my communications agency. But as GJ&HS swept relentlessly through my life, she could tell my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted a Kingdom-business but I was a new Christian still figuring out the Kingdom for me, let alone a business. It’s like I didn’t know enough about my own faith then to work it all out.

One day – after one of those dangerous crazy prayers – an executive role in an international not-for-profit Christian mission presented itself.

I remember turning up to my next planning meeting with Monica, totally conflicted. We had spent months, after all, planning and structuring this new agency. I told her about the prayer, and what had happened 24 hours later. “I just got goose bumps,” she told me. “Follow this. The agency will always be there for you to pick up. God will do the rest.”

Of course, she was right. He did. With spectacular results. From her encouraging me to walk through that first door, I now find myself studying, writing and preaching. Plus a new opportunity that saw me launch the Ministry of Sex. Yes, you read that right. And no, I’m not administering that sort of pastoral care. Everyone calm down.

The agency has also been prepared for me to pick it up again. Whilst working in the mission, I ran it remotely with an awesome team. Was it a juggle? Yes. Am I ready to focus on it fully, now? Yes.

Monica was part of that too. Three years ago she helped show me how to run a Kingdom business that integrated my faith – I just wasn’t sufficiently mature in my faith to recognise it at the time. During our meetings, our laptops open at her wooden dining table, an overseas visiting pastor (staying with the family as he studied at Bible college) would wander in and out. There was my Kingdom business model. Love God, love what you do in business, serve where you can and do it for His glory. He looks after the rest.

Today was her funeral. I love that they read Proverbs 31, as it encapsulates her perfectly. A woman of Godly character, in successful business, full of energy, with strength in her arms. Facing a cancer diagnosis that she called a gift from God, her faith assured her. I don’t doubt she was clothed with strength and dignity – and she may not have been laughing at the days to come, as the Psalmist writes, but she would have been fearless.

Thanks Monica. The biggest blessing is knowing I get to spend eternity with you in heaven. Dancing, just as we all did leaving the church today, just as you asked.

God bless.




When God gets His groove on

For someone who likes nothing better than dancing for hours as a mental reset, I cannot hold a tune in a bucket. Yet, aurally and kinesthetically, music, lyrics and rhythm all combine in such a way to inspire, settle, open and soften my often too-barricaded heart.

Like most of us, music forms a soundtrack to my memories, actions and reactions. Dancing and singing for hours to Abba as a kid. Mooning over Mark O’Toole and Bono. Sobbing into my pillow as a confused prepubescent to John Waite Missing You, wounded by my favoured boy dancing with the taller, prettier girl at the school barn dance (barn dance, seriously?!) The heart-galloping slow dance at the school disco (finally, a disco) to Frankie’s ‘The Power of Love’. 73407_1705795166174_1276861220_1922123_6042004_n

Fifteen, and spreading my wings with edgier, older, and way-more unsuitable suitors. U2 edged out by Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen’s denim derriere and Thunder Road. Leaving school, and drag-racing motorbikes to a mix of Foreigner, Def Leppard, Queensrych and Rush. 80s big hair and shoulder pads replaced with black biker jackets and torn jeans. Moving to Ireland and coming full circle to U2 again, and adding in The Band and Van The Man.

Then it all went quiet

Somehow, in my new-age, yogic befuddled wanderings, I allowed music to escape my life. The only reason I can imagine was in my misguided striving for non-attachment I secluded myself from anything that made me feel too much. Overlay a brush with depression and I’d numbed just enough to forget how important music and lyrics are to my soul.

God hadn’t. Waking me with Jennifer Warnes’ at 3am, over and over. Tugging on my heart and head so I listened. As I journeyed to faith and church, it was the lyrics in the hymns that first snuck into my heart. As my head wrestled and resisted, it was the worship words and chords that buried in and kept whispering on a relentless loop.

Another soundtrack to life began unfolding. Every moment He calls me for growth, there seems to be a new song, a new lyric. I have learnt to listen.

“Darling, don’t be afraid…I have loved you for a thousand years, I will love you for a thousand more” shoved into my head relentlessly in the weeks after my Mum died. At the time, still new age and seeking, I put it down to a lovely sign of comfort from her and ‘the beyond’. Now, looking back, God was using grief and suffering as a megaphone. I just hadn’t quite accepted the frequency.

“Won’t you let me hold you, I just want to hold you, like Bernadette would do” waking me at 3am over and over during that life-altering Easter weekend.

During the Christianity Explored course, Good Charlotte’s Right Where I Belong suddenly resonated, even though I had listened to the Cardiology album for years without noticing the song.

Standing in church and the lyric ‘my Jesus’ in Man of Sorrows having such personal impact that I couldn’t sing for the tears that clogged my throat.

Even the timing of U2’s newest album made me smile. The band that had formed the soundtrack to much of my teenage rebellion appeared free in my iTunes and sang A Song For Someone to my cautious Christian heart.

Before Christmas, weakened at a cross-roads of marital pain and relationship growth, turning on the car radio to Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up and understanding the strength that truly backed me.

More recently, as I stepped carefully to forge a new path that blended work, life and faith, praying His will not mine, I would hear and see the lyrics of Oceans (Where Feet My Fail) almost everywhere. Shoved into my head to wake me at 3am (oh, there You go again), on Facebook banners until, finally, I downloaded the song as a reminder.

The hymns and lyrics of worship, the drumbeats that ask my heart to respond and my body to move, all point me to the personalised relationship that God seeks.

We all have our divine ‘love language’, I believe. Our own brand of ‘you-ness’ that God fingerprints as He knits us together, singing over us. Our own unique way of ‘getting’ Him.

Fearfully and wonderfully made, perhaps it lies dormant until the right lyric, the right melody, the right moment stirs our hearts.