Just Zoë, Just Life

Category Archives: God is Good

This is the spine-tingling Taizé that was echoing through my head last night. The words are wonderful:

Bless the Lord, my soul,
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul,
Who leads me into life.

‘Who leads me into life’… wow. Sometimes there are not words to express the depth, or the height of this union, this life with Christ. My mind is blown. I am in awe.


I have just had an interesting encounter with some more of our <ahem> delightful new neighbours. A woman banged on our front door at half past ten at night and loudly demanded that I move my car, “Because it’s blocking the road and no one can get past!”

I was very puzzled by this. When I had parked my car, my dad, who is visiting, dropped the children off from his car and drove straight past me. And his is a big car, so there was definitely room. I walked outside and saw that no, my car remained as it had been, but some great lummocking car had parked right beside mine on the opposite side, effectively blocking the street.

Shouty Lady demanded I move my car. I said I had parked my car before the other one. How long had I lived on the street, she asked, “because everyone knows you don’t park there – it’s illegal!” (indicating my car). I replied, calmly but firmly, that how long I had lived there didn’t matter. I had parked first. I had not parked illegally. Shouty Lady threatened to call the police. I said, still calm but firm, ok, call the police then.

Then another lady, who is the only neighbour to have actually spoken to us since we arrived, came over to me. I don’t know if she was there all along. She spoke gently to Shouty Lady in my defence saying it wasn’t my fault, that the other person had parked wrongly. Shouty Lady continued to threaten to call the police. Kind Lady looked worried, and walked over to knock on another front door, saying to me, “It’s just… they’re not answering.”

“I didn’t park blocking the road.” I said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

“I know you wouldn’t.” Kind Lady said to me.

Grateful for this much, and desiring to stop Shouty Lady from being more and more Shouty, I agreed to move my car. I fetched my keys and pulled away. Shouty Lady stopped threatening to call the police, got into her car and pulled away. As it is a one-way street, at the end I turned right so I could double back on myself. Shouty Lady turned left.

By the time I got back to our street, there was nowhere left to park. My anxious husband was stood outside waiting. I wound down the window and said crossly, “I’ve moved out the way, and now they’ve buggered off all gone – but where am I supposed to park? The only space is two-minutes walk away and it’s dark and I’m not walking on my own in the dark!”

My dear Frank, in his wonderful, gentle way, said, “I’ll lock the door. We’ll only be a few minutes.”

So we hurried round the corner and onto the next street, where I had seen a parking space as I drove past. I hated leaving the children in the house for even a few minutes. If HRH had discovered us gone he might have panicked. He didn’t. We were back in no time. All’s grace, to quote Ann Voskamp.

And funnily enough, all is grace. I had been listening to some wonderful Taizé music just prior to all this. I confess if they’d caught me earlier in the day I may not have been so yielding. So I thanked God for His goodness (I had the Taizé echoing through my head the whole time) and puzzled over the very obvious lesson that had just been demonstrated to me.

I smiled and asked God, “What was that all about?”

And I think I understand the answer. It’s a very pertinent answer to some very pointed questions I have been asking lately. Questions that get right to the heart of what Looking Like Jesus is really like. Here goes:

As Christians, some of us are very good at demanding we are in the right (e.g. the recent petition against the changing of the definition of marriage). The letter of the law backs us up in this belief.

But we forget about kindness.

We forget about mercy. We forget that, although we meet at this point in time, the other person has travelled a very different path in life to ours, even if, right at this moment, they are there, in the same place, at the same time. What was that American Indian expression – something about ‘walking a mile in another man’s moccasins’? Jesus himself says ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. Am I getting too esoteric here? I’ll try to stay straightforward!

Jesus, when He interacted with people, never let mercy and compassion be overruled by the letter of the law. He knew that none of us – ever – manages to stay sinless. He was the only one. And yet, the One who was always sinless does not act in condemnation and wrath to the sinners he meets, he shows them kindness, warmth, mercy, even the gift of friendship.*

If you are a Christian, consider, for a moment, do you spend more time being right, or doing right?

Can you walk away, even when you know that technically you are not the one in the wrong, because being kind matters more?

 *If you’re wondering who it was Jesus was telling off (because he did go round telling some people off in no-nonsense terms) – it was those who had the outward appearance of godliness, or those in positions of authority, who were not living up to these outward appearances, though they were making sure those lower than themselves were made to pay for wrongs, or their situation in life. I won’t stick myriad bible verses in here – it’s all right there in black and white. If you haven’t read any gospels before, I’d suggest beginning with the Gospel of John, maybe using The Message version, because it is easily accessible http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=MSG.


Be blessed 🙂



Addendum: After discussion with a trusted friend and Frank, we decided that maybe The Good News Translation is easier to read than The Message, and that the Gospel of Mark, being the most compact, might be better for anyone new to the bible. So here’s a link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+1&version=GNT

I have been humming this song this morning. Cheered me up no end 🙂 Lovely, rousing song. I nearly became a soldier in the Salvation Army a few years ago. Then I went and joined the Baptists… There are some things the Sally Army do so very well. This song is one of them:

To God be the glory, great things He hath done.
So loved He the world that He gave us His son
Who yielded His life, an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gates that all may go in.

Praise the Lord!
Let the earth hear His voice.
Praise the Lord!
Let the people rejoice.
Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the son
And give Him the glory,
Great things He hath done!

To all my readers: have a blessed day – may you walk in grace 🙂

Adrian Plass is one of my all-time favourite writers. His books have seen me through some very dark times. Sometimes, humour reaches the places other things can’t, especially when you’re very low. His mix of speaking and writing, particularly using humour to minister to hurts, is what I aspire to for my own life. I am currently reading ‘A Smile on the Face of God’.

Anyway, pondering our efforts to find a new church since we moved, I recalled this wonderful poem:

‘I take my problems to the altar, but my steps begin to falter,
And I feel as if I’m starting to fall
For it’s hard to recollect the proper way to genuflect
Upon arrival in a Pentecostal hall.
And I really want to share it, but know they’ll never wear it.
And the question in my head is underlined.
But just as I am saying “Who on earth invented praying?
Hallelujah in the back of my mind.’

To read the rest of the poem (before I violate copyright!) by the inimitable Adrian, click here:


For less than a fiver a week you can be a hero!

Just Zoë, Just Life


I received a letter from my little sponsored child today! Marleth writes to me and her letters are filled with drawings and humour and snippets like ‘I like the smell of coconut soap’ and ‘I love my sister’. At the top of the letter she has drawn a very happy-looking mermaid, and a giant toadstool and two equally smiley caterpillars. Her letter is full of normal little girl stuff. And I, thank God, have been part of the process of giving her that. Marleth tells me she is well and that she was able to buy some clothes with the money I sent her as a gift. I have come to the conclusion that my little gifts, sent with the monthly letters, are keeping this little girl clothed. Her letters are so full of sparkle these days, far more than when we first began as sponsor and sponsored. We have…

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We are still tremendously busy trying to sort out our teeny tiny house and everything that goes with it.


Meantime, a brilliant post from Shaun Groves:

Gabriella is in her first year of middle school. She’s just got a toe in adolescence and already with the tears? And I think Really? Geometry is so traumatic for you? Seriously? That grumpy guy with the locker next to yours is ruining your day? Ruining?

And I also think You want real problems? Move to Nairobi or Kolkata or Kempala.

Then the neck of my guitar snapped. And the van didn’t pass inspection. And the hot water heater burst. And all of it this week.


And I think Really?…

Click here to read the rest: