Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hey pastor would you like a cigarette?

On the right Billy and his brother Gibby

Today I joined with others to remember the life of my Uncle Billy. A difficult day for the gathered family and friends. Very poignant to see a number of his grandchildren carry him to his final resting place in the Inverallochy & Cairnbulg Cemetery.

My other post about Billy talked about our shared love of Aberdeen FC but we also both liked a good laugh. He was born on April the first, April fools day, and some say that was the right day for him!

One of his "wind-ups" stands out to me. Back in 1976, the local AOG church had just appointed a new pastor. A young guy of 26 from Exeter named Roger Blackmore. As so many of the men in the church back then were fishermen it was customary for any new pastor to go through the initiation of going to sea in one of the trawlers.

So my dad invited Roger to travel to Peterhead with the rest of the crew by minibus. There, the fish were landed and sold very early on a Saturday morning then the boat would make the short trip back to Fraserburgh.

We travelled around the villages of Inverallochy & Cairnbulg picking up all the crew in a well-worn routine. First, Jimmy Love, then Alex, on to beacon cottages where Billy got in and Jim the cook who lived just across the road, finally fellow Dons supporter Charlie. With all the crew onboard it was time to head of to the manse to pick up Roger.

Roger hopped on sat down and settled in. Before long Billy tapped Roger on the shoulder and offered him a cigarette which Roger politely refused having never met this man before in his life. To that Billy fell about laughing finally saying, "Well you wouldn't have lasted long here if you had taken it."

Although Billy was only the occasional churchgoer he knew enough that smoking, drinking, dancing and going to the cinema were seen as the unpardonable sins at our local church.

Later he told me that he had shared some of his wisdom with Roger the new pastor.

You see Roger it's like this, for the first 2 years the church will idolise you. Then for the next 2 years, they will criticise you and then for the next 2 years, they will scandalise you.

Sadly Billy had not been given the greatest impression of the church by us who are part of it. Even more, sadly it turned out to be too near the reality for comfort.

Hey, my Uncle was far from perfect and like me, he was his own worst enemy by opening his mouth and putting both feet in it. But as I look back to my time growing up before I left home my memories of him bring a smile to my face.

I don't get to see our first love Aberdeen FC very often nowadays but no matter the ground I am visiting, Villa, Leamington or even MK Dons he is never far from my thoughts.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Uncle Billy my footy buddy

Uncle Billy front right. Next to his mum and dad, Bill & Mary, and his brothers and sisters Gibby, Christine, my mum Elsie, Joan & Mary

On Saturday 21st December I received a message that my Uncle Billy had passed away at the age of 80.

I left home in 1982 for college at the age of 19 and have only paid short visits back home since so have not regularly kept in touch with my extended family. But growing up, Billy and I shared a great love - Aberdeen FC.

It started in 1975 when he took me to my first match at Pittodrie. Accompanied by his dad & my didie, also called Bill, we set off on the 40-mile journey to Aberdeen. As was to become part of so many of our trips we were dropped off at the bottom of Pittodrie Street by my Auntie Margaret and we headed off for a pie and our seats in the main stand.

Two-nil down at half-time with a certain Joe Harper anonymous, it didn't look like the Dons and I were going to get off to a great start. But King Joey turned up in the second act, scoring a hattrick and we headed home smiling from ear to ear. Sadly it was the only game we attended with my Didie Bill, whom both me and my uncle are named after, as illness restricted his movements till he passed away in 1976.

Over the next 8 years, we crisscrossed Scotland each Saturday, often going far too fast in Billy's 3 litre Capri Ghia, watching our beloved team. Those years coincided with what was probably the most successful in Aberdeen's history. Our first trophy win at Hampden under Super Ally. The near misses under McNeil and then the golden era of Fergie. The league at Easter Road and Scottish Cup glory with the smiling Tattie! But, even through those never to be repeated heady days, we were often known to get back to the waiting car, only to throw our scarfs in the boot with disgust and say that is it, we are never going back! (Usually against Morton and Andy Ritchie:(( )

Back then Billy smoked a lot and often said that because of those long car journies even though id never touched a cigarette in my life I had smoked hundreds.

(I will come back to cigarettes in my next post about him.)

The memories come flying back, stamping our feet on the old wooden stand in Hampden as we closed in on the league cup. Aberdeen - stomp - stomp - stomp. Bent over a radio at Easter Road praying that the ref would blow his whistle in Celtic match. Rushing to the car to hear sportsreport. Stopping in Perth on the way back from Glasgow for chips. Watching McLeish of all people curl a shot into the top corner of Ranger net at the final like he was Jairzinho. My constant companion was Uncle Billy.

Thanks, Uncle Billy

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The quiet leader

In his book The Tortoise Usually Wins, Brian Harris describes the typical profile of a leader and then turns to the quiet leader:

By contrast we have usually benefited from leaders who work quietly and conscientiously to ensure that their organization flourishes and grows. They include others in their decision-making, but aren’t swayed by every voice. They know where they are going and won’t be sidetracked. They affirm and recognize others, especially noticing the contribution that each makes and helping ensure that it is both acknowledged and optimized. When the going is tough, they see things through. They always knew they had signed up for the long term, and that even the best years have a range of seasons. They are quiet leaders, and those who follow their lead feel a sense of security in knowing that they are there.

Thankful that I get to follow and serve a leader who is the epitome of a quiet leader, Mark Sherratt.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

A sketch of a prophet for today

A beautiful sketch of a prophet, 

 So, class of 2011, standing on Mount Elijah and looking toward Zarephath, what do we learn about ministry that might be called prophetic? This: you have to trust in God’s ability to create out of the most unpromising raw material a community of mutual caring. Like Elijah, you have to be willing to be called into a desperate situation, with no clue as to how to improve it. 

Like him, you have to go among strangers, as needy as you and even more clueless, with nothing more substantial to offer than a word that you trust is from God. Like Elijah, you have to go to people who don’t seem to know God at all, and risk everything on God’s ability to speak into their profound deafness—the deafness not just of individuals but of a whole culture. 

You have to trust that God’s Word and Spirit can awaken in them a capacity for generous and faithful action, so they will make your work fruitful in that unpromising place. 

 Elen Davis (Preaching the luminous Word)

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Who has God given you to preach to?

A reminder for us preachers to know their congregation:

There is the one who can’t stop thinking about suicide. The one who experiences his own sexuality as a guilt of which he can never be absolved. The one whose fear of death is only a screen behind which lies his deeper fear of life. The one who is in a way crippled by her own beauty because it has meant that she has never had to be loving or human to be loved but only beautiful. And the angry one. The lonely one. For the preacher to be relevant to the staggering problems of history is to risk being irrelevant to the staggering problems of the ones who sit there listening out of their own histories. To deal with the problems to which there is a possible solution can be a way of avoiding the problems to which humanly speaking there is no solution. 
 Frederick Buechner (Telling the truth)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Righteousness equals...

Which are the days that have furthered you most in the knowledge of God—the days of sunshine and peace and prosperity? Never! 

The days of adversity, the days of strain, the days of sudden surprises, the days when the earthly house of this tabernacle was strained to its last limit, those are the days when you learned the meaning of this passion of “Go.” 

Any great calamity in the natural world—death, disease, bereavement—will awaken a man when nothing else would, and he is never the same again. We would never know the “treasures of darkness” if we were always in the place of placid security.

Oswald Chambers

Righteousness = peace + quietness + confidence (forever)

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭32:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Worship: a new kind of beauty

When human beings with diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, tastes, expectations, desires, priorities, peeves, admirations, and needs join their hearts and mind and voices and actions in unified worship of the one true God through Jesus Christ a reality has come into the world that is beautifully fitting - it befits the power and the worth of God, whose glory can win such humble, self forgetting praises from a diverse people .

John Piper (Page 35 Expository Exultation)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

His particular treasure....

Jim Elliot was one of five missionaries killed in 1956 while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador.

Jim met his future wife Elizabeth whilst at college. Although a relationship was not on the cards for them at that time as their service to God was their main priority. Following college the both served in Ecuador but on opposite ends of the country.

In the end the did marry but in the intervening time they wrote to each other regularly. Many of these letters were kept and now belong to their daughter.

Today I read a few lines from one of those letters from Jim to Elizabeth (Betty).

Now I am a mess.

“You are his particular treasure, Betty, something he paid for at a terrific cost to his own person. . . . He is bound to display you to principalities and powers as a trophy of his searching. . . . Meanwhile he keeps you for himself, hidden away, forming you in secret ways that you don’t understand. Much the same as I keep your letters . . . so he keeps the pious for himself.”

Read the post by her daughter here

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Held captive by Insiderness

This post by Seth Godin set me thinking about my experience with the church. 

Trapped by the incoming

The incoming is coming to you because a while ago, you did something brave and generous and risky. 

Incoming is great. It’s a reward for your impact. It’s a chance to serve and to make a difference. And it enables you to go to work every day. 

If you spend all your time dealing with the incoming, though, you’ll have no time and no energy to create the next thing. 

Every successful organization that has ultimately faded away via irrelevance has failed for this very reason.

It would seem that for some reason in church over time our natural (or should I say our unnatural drift) is towards the inside rather than the outside.

Most of our money is spent on the insiders
Most of our staff is focused on insiders
Most of our volunteer roles are focused on insiders
Most of our energy is spent trying to keep insiders “happy” rather than finding outsiders to welcome
Most of our discussion is around theological theory rather than embracing those who can’t understand what we are talking about but know they need help

It takes purpose to go against the flow to reattach to the core of our mission.

To seek and save the lost....

The apostles refused to be trapped by the inside problem of racial discrimination, set Godly men to lay down Godly principles, and carried on with the mission.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

When death is a better opportunity than life...

In the 1990s, several key leaders of the church in Iran were killed. One of the most famous martyrs, Mehdi Dibaj, gave a defense before the Islamic courts prior to his death that has become a rallying cry for many Christians in Iran. Dibaj declared:

I would rather have the whole world against me, but know that the Almighty God is with me; be called an apostate, but know that I have the approval of the God of glory. . . . Life for me is an opportunity to serve him, and death is a better opportunity to be with Christ. Therefore I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honour of his Holy Name, but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus my Lord and enter his kingdom sooner, the place where the elect of God enter to everlasting life

Desiring God read more

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Get off the couch and gather round the table

St Francis had the table laid upon the naked earth as was his custom. And when meal lime came, St Francis & St Clare sat down together, and one of the Brothers with the companion of St Clare, and next all the other brothers, and they humbly took their places at the table. And with the first dish St Francis began to talk of God so lovingly, with such depth, so wonderfully, that the divine fullness of love descended upon him, and all were enraptured in God. And while they were thus transported with eyes and hands lifted towards heaven, the people of Assisi and Bettona and in the neighbouring towns saw that Santa Maria degli Angeli and the whole convent and woods, which then were at the side of the convent seemed to be in a great blaze.
St Francis and the foolishness of God p66

A few random unconnected thoughts
  1. The table is possibly the greatest and underused tool that we have to build community & make disciples
  2. Us charasmatic / Pentecostals dont have the corner when it comes to the supernatural 
  3. “Worship” can never be contained in a building or a time, it needs no music just hearts enraptured by and directed to Jesus.
  4. It almost sounds like a “small group” I’d go too! Lol

Monday, April 01, 2019

Mother’s Day Musings

Was meant to publish yesterday but somehow didn’t, but the thought transcends Mother’s Day :)

In February 2000 as we all looked forward in hope to a new millennium, my world changed with one phone call from my dad. My mum, or as we would say back home - mam, having survived a scare with cancer a few years earlier the doctors were confirming the devastating news that it was back. A hastily arranged flight up north to Aberdeen followed, to be greeted with the news as I arrived at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, that this time there would be no cure. The next couple of weeks was spent at our family home with my dad caring for her as her health slowly deteriorated.

I have many private memories of that time as we took turns sitting at her bedside throughout the day and the long nights. But two things I can share that sums up much about my mam.

One of her brothers came to visit and said to her, Why you Elsie? His thought process was that my mum, in his mind at least, had possibly lived a good life and why was this happening to her? Quick as a flash she shot back, Why not me? Living a good life or being a Christian did not give her a pass from illness but following Jesus assured her of comfort in the dark times and a guarantee of an eternity in heaven.

As my mam grew sicker and drifted in and out of consciousness she often would say “I would like to have done one more year”. At first, I wasn’t sure what she meant but then discovered that it was about the Sunday School at Cairnbulg AOG. She had started teaching a Sunday School class as a teenager and continued ever since. Taking out a few breaks when her kids were born she had served for 39 years and she would have liked to have made it 40 years as teaching children about Jesus was so important to her.

Amongst a host of other things, my mam demonstrated to me what trust in God and faithfulness to His cause looked like.

Thank you mam.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The age of the laity?

Our era has been called “the age of the laity”, and indeed, recent decades have seen an increase in the appreciation of the laity’s contribution to the body of Christ. Yet much remains to be done. Through Baptism the laity are full members of the bod of Christ, with rights and responsibilities in their lay vocation. But to often, ordination to the clerical state is the source of power in the church, and lay people function at the SERVICE OF, or in ANSWER TO, priests - a situation which clearly needs to change.
St Francis and the Foolishness of God (p56 c1993)

Written as a reflection on the gospel centred communities formed by St Francis a millennia ago. So in 1993 and even more so in our leadership obsessed church of 2019, this old Saint has something to teach me. Unfortunately, even recently I have succumbed to practice that has created a gap between what he would have called clergy and laity. 

I need to think of my vocation as much more equipping the “saints” than leading the “saints”.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to EQUIP the saints for the WORK OF MINISTRY, for building up the body of Christ,”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Like it or not, the life of St Francis, presents us with startling paradoxes. An enormously free and spontaneous person, he nevertheless adhered faithfully to the institutional church; a fully alive human being, he embraced suffering; a true lover, he chose celibacy; born into relative affluence, he practiced a literal poverty. 

St Francis and the foolishness of God (p8)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Journey of the ordinary in the story of an extraordinary God

Scott Sauls in Irresistible Faith.

According to Jesus, there is and always has been a group of ambassadors endowed with the resources to nudge the world toward peace, healing, wholeness, and flourishing. These ambassadors are unique. They are equipped to be less dependent on the strength of the human spirit, the intelligence of the human mind, and the moxie of the human will. They are called to lean instead on the strength of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of God, and the determination of God’s vision to bring about peace, health, wholeness, and flourishing. 

Included among Jesus’ ambassadors are academics and scientists and celebrities and politicians and movers and shakers and such, to be sure. 

But in addition to these, Jesus also includes those like himself who aren’t part of the world’s elite clubs, VIP lists, and manifestos. These are people like Amos and Bathsheba and Peter and Mary the mother of Jesus, easily dismissed as “weak” and “common” and “foolish” and “low” and “despised,” but who, time and time again, find themselves right in the center of God’s strategy to bless and heal the world:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast. . . Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Cor. 1: 26-30) 

According to the One who created and sustains and intends to renew the world, the answer to the world’s woes includes ordinary men, women, and children who have been awakened to their place in the Story of an extraordinary God.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Take my life...

The most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth, For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and and almost incurable” 

- John Piper 

(A Hunger for God, 18).

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee,
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart; it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Francis Ridley Havergal

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Irresistible Community.....

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner. 


Let love be genuine. . . . Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. . . . Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. 


What do you run on?

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. . . . God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.

C S Lewis
Mere Christianity

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

I am not my own

The from now on to live for him.

That I am not my own, 
but belong with body and soul, 
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. 

He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood, 
and has set me free from all the power of the devil. 

He also preserves me in such a way that 
without the will of my heavenly Father 
not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, 
all things must work together for my salvation. 

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me 
of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Divine & Heavenly Purity

Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view, that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. 

This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception—which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him; to live upon him; to serve and follow him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. 

I have several other times had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.

Jonathan Edwards 
The Works of President Edwards, (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1881), 1: 21-22.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Ending up in Holland when you planned to go to Italy

At the moment I am reading The Magnificent Journey by James Bryan Smith. I’ve found it an enthralling and challenging read. But today I was caught off guard by a revelation by and a story shared by James. 

If you know our family you will know in recent years that we have discovered the reason for many of the limitations I have faced in my health and body have be caused by inherited chromosomes that were faulty. For me these limitations have not had a dramatic impact to my life, apart from stopping my football career with Aberdeen FC long before I could walk! lol

However the chromosomes I have passed on to my daughter causing CMT and another that I can’t even say the name of, are having a significant impact to her life. Disability wasn’t a destination or a path that I hoped or dreamed of for my daughter. Today I discovered that James, the author of this book also has had an unexpected journey with his daughter and chromosomes. Below is an extract from the book including his story and that of a mum whose child was born with autism.

Our daughter Madeline was born with a chromosomal disorder. We had been planning for a healthy daughter and all that goes with that, such as normal growth and development, watching her one day walk and talk. We did not get that. Things did not go as we planned. Instead, we got something different. At the end of the first year of Madeline’s life, someone gave us a piece written by Emily Perl Kingsley, who had a child born with autism. She compares this unexpected change of plans to having your vacation plans changed: 

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip—to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.

You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” 

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. 

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around . . . and you begin to notice Holland has windmills . . . and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts. 

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy . . . and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away . . . because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss. But . . . if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things . . . about Holland.

Supremely happy forever!

Heard and said the first part of this prayer many times but thinking the second part that I’m not sure I’ve heard before is even more profound. Especially the last stanza! 

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed 

Courage to change the things which should be changed, 

and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. 

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time, 

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it, 

Trusting that You will make all things right, 

If I surrender to Your will, 

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next. 


Saturday, February 02, 2019

The Secret of Joy

One day whilst out walking with St Francis of Assisi one of his fellow monks, Brother Leo, implored him to teach him what perfect Joy was. Here is what he said:

If, when we shall arrive at Saint Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, “We are two of the brethren,” he should answer angrily, “What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say”; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall—then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Take courage...

Just down the road from me is the village of Olney where John Newton served as minister for a substantial part of his life. A little less well known is William Cowper, a man who was often found in the teeth of depression. John cared for William, even moving him into his house for long periods of time. 

John encouraged his friend to write hymns with him which would not only help to communicate biblical truth to his congregation, but also as a way of helping William totake a small step out of the darkness that seemed to torment his soul.

Below is a post which appeared on Desiring God about William and one of his famous hymns, God moves in a mysterious way!

New Year’s Day, 1773, marked a decade since depression nearly snatched away William Cowper’s life. 

 The mental agony tortured him so severely ten winters prior that he was locked up in St. Alban’s insane asylum after a botched suicide attempt. While there, he stumbled upon a Bible that the asylum’s Christian director had strategically left open. His eyes fell upon Romans 3:23–26, and the glory of Jesus Christ chased the shadows from his soul. 

 But by the beginning of 1773, successive blows had left Cowper staggering. His brother died in 1770, followed by two of his cousins the following year. In 1772, neighbors’ whispers suggested that Cowper’s relationship with his landlady was something short of innocent. The grief and the slander soon gathered into clouds too dark for his sanity. And so, as Cowper walked through the fields after church 246 years ago today, Cowper “was struck by a terrible premonition that the curse of madness was about to fall on him again” (John Newton, 217). 

 But before night fell on Cowper’s soul, he sat in the light of his remaining sanity, took up his pen, and wrote a hymn that has strengthened generations of staggering saints through their various shadows. Take Courage Cowper’s hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” is a song for every saint who sits on the edge. It is a guide for all who do not see fresh hopes rising over the horizon of the new year. It is a confession of faith in the face of darkness — one that flickers with enough light to carry us through whatever midnights this year brings. 

 At the heart of the hymn is a simple exhortation: “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take.” Take courage. Take courage when the clouds come thundering toward you. Take courage when the coming days seem covered in shadow. Take courage when you cannot understand God’s ways. But why, we ask in the valley, should we take courage? Throughout the rest of the hymn, Cowper gives his reasons.