Fixed Lives

Fixed Lives tells the story of 13 people who were once caught in the cycle of addiction but who now are transformed. The stories are often shocking, always intriguing but fundamentally heart-warming.

Popular speaker and author J.John says, “To read this book is to come face to face perhaps uncomfortably with a lively, vigorous, full-strength faith in Christ: a religion of power, miracles and changed lives”.

Barry Woodward is one of those featured in the book. Barry was a heroin addict for 15 years. In 1996 a sequence of extraordinary events changed his life forever.

Barry founded a charity called Proclaim Trust. In 2013 Proclaim Trust hosted the very first Fixed conference. The conference was geared towards addicts, ex-addicts, recovering addicts and those with a heart for addicts. Among the hundreds who attended from all over the UK was Adelle Howells.

So often throughout Fixed Lives one is left with a feeling of hopelessness – how on earth could any of those people recounting their life stories ever hope to find a way out? The remarkable thing is that they all did. Adelle tells her story from when she listened to Barry speaking at that first ever Fixed conference…

“Before I knew it Barry was at the end of his talk, and then he invited people to say a prayer. Inside I was shaking: my emotions were all over the place. I needed to do this! Then Barry invited those who had said the prayer for the first time to come to the front. I flew from my seat and straight to the front. It was then that I felt the guilt that I’d lived with for years just lift straight off me. I was so relieved, and then I was filled with this amazing feeling of love. I’d been searching for that feeling of love all my life.”

Why not watch Adelle here.

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By Fixed Lives here or from your favourite bookstore or internet site.

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AFTER THE FALL

This week’s guest blogger is Dr Mark Stibbe  author of Home At Last

As readers of my books will know, in 2012 I had a moral fall which caused a lot of pain to a lot of people, especially those I love. In 2013 I came to my senses and owned what I had done and, like King David, discovered that godly sorrow brings restoration. Shortly after, I began to engage in a two-year process of counselling. About three months in, the Father began to open up a locked trunk in my heart – a trunk full of hurts of abandonment and abuse going back to my ten years at boarding school. Once opened, I began to see how the agony of being left at prep school on my eighth birthday, along with the abuse that followed, had caused me to board up my heart – so much so that I was later unable to show my emotions properly to those I love, nor enjoy joyful intimacy and express healthy empathy.

As I began to unravel all of this with my counsellor, and those to whom I am accountable, the Father gave me supernatural keys to unlock my chains. And not just my chains but other peoples’ too. My latest book, Home at Last, is my attempt not only to tell my story but to offer healing to the thousands who, like me, became disengaged and disintegrated at boarding school, often to the detriment of their marriages and families as adults.

I wrote Home at Last for two reasons: Firstly, because there is a growing awareness in popular culture of the emotional damage done at boarding school. Secondly, because there is no other book or ministry that is specifically dedicated to bringing heaven’s help to those suffering the agony of long-lasting boarding school pain.

My prayer is that it will bring freedom to thousands of people living with a long-term legacy of pain and that it will be used to bring emotional health to those wounded by their boarding school experience.

Dr Mark Stibbe

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The Migrant in the Mirror

This weeks guest blog is by Patrick Johnstone with Dean Merrill

The migrant crisis is bigger now than ever before, with some sixty million men, women, and children on the move. ‘We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,’ said António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

And I have news for you. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Our world is full of war, poverty, terrorism, corruption, failed states, and ecological disasters, all of which uproot people and send them searching for a better life.

Some people respond to the tragedy with a shrug. Others shed an occasional tear, particularly when confronted with heartbreaking images, like photos showing infants lying facedown in the surf, dead after a long, harrowing water journey. Still others respond with anger or fear, threatening to round up the outsiders and either send them back to where they came from or lock them up and throw away the key.

Today, followers of Jesus find themselves in all three of these emotional camps. I am writing to help Christians understand the challenges our world faces and respond to these challenges in Christ-honoring ways.

Them or Us?

If you’re fortunate enough to have a roof over your head and a reliable income, it’s only natural for you to think of today’s refugees as “those people.”

But let’s take a moment and look in the mirror. What do you see? When I look, I see an immigrant staring back at me.

It’s easy for us to forget that our ancestors probably looked like “those people” when they made their journeys from the old countries to new lands in Europe or the “New World.”

The United States is rightly called ‘a nation of immigrants’ but even card-carrying Europeans like me need to admit that nearly all of us arrived after the last Ice Age!

I am culturally English today, but I’m the product of immigration. My Irish grandparents emigrated from poverty-stricken County Cavan to England in 1899, where there were more opportunities for a young doctor and his wife. They were not the only Johnstones to scatter across the world in those years.

Flowing in my veins is Celtic blood, Dutch blood, Viking blood—and not a drop of English blood so far as I know. My boyhood schoolmates quickly seized on my obviously Irish name, ‘Patrick,’ and teased me mercilessly, even bullying me. To them, I was one of ‘those people.’

The migrants scrambling today to reach our borders are no different.

Immigrants and Refugees

There are so many terms being thrown around. So who’s who, and what’s what?

Immigrant: Someone who has relocated (for whatever reason) to a new country.

Emigrant: Same as above, only viewed from the opposite end—someone who has left for a new country. In 1933 Albert Einstein emigrated from Nazi Germany. He immigrated to the United States.

Internally displaced person (IDP): Someone who has fled their home but is still inside their country’s borders. (IDPs account for two-thirds of today’s 60 million on the move, in fact.)

Refugee: Someone who has left their home country to escape war, natural disaster, or the fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, or political opinion—AND has been registered as such in a receiving country.

Asylum seeker: Someone who appears to be a refugee but hasn’t yet been officially evaluated.

In the years after World War II, Europeans largely welcomed the war’s refugees. The same happened in the U.S. in the years after the Vietnam war. United States accepted more than a million refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

But today, refugees often receive a chillier welcome.

Are Christians Really More Negative About Immigrants?

I can understand why some people fear refugees and want to “throw the bums out.” But I’m surprised when Christians embrace that approach.

This article was excerpted from Serving God in a Migrant Crisis: Ministry to People on the Move by Johnstone and Merrill. Now available from all good bookstores.

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Almost exactly 21 ½ years old

This week we feature the second guest blog from author Emily Owen…

Pardon? What?

If it were possible to wear words out through overuse, I would have single-handedly rendered these two extinct.

But until I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old, I rarely said “What?”

Or “Pardon?”

In fact, they may have been in danger of extinction through lack of use.

The hearing in my right ear was perfect so, despite being deaf in my left, as long as I positioned myself correctly I could hear a proverbial pin drop.

And I was expert at positioning myself correctly.

I had to be, my innate nosiness demanded that I didn’t miss a thing.

Then, when I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old, “What?” and ”Pardon?” became my mantra.

Due to a condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2, I lost all my hearing. In my case (though not necessarily typically), overnight.

A benign tumour pressing on my auditory nerve had to be surgically removed.

When it left, silence moved in.

Slightly unexpectedly for me, when the tumour left it was accompanied by my confidence. I’d anticipated that I’d struggle, just not how much.

I didn’t want to leave the house.

I didn’t want to see friends.

I just wanted to hide from the sounds I couldn’t hear.

Gradually, very gradually, confidence decided to move back in.

One step at a time.

I was brave enough to leave the house.

I began to see friends.

I began to meet stranger’s eyes as I passed them, rather than pointedly stare at the pavement.

The day I not only met their eyes but said “Good Morning” to someone as we walked our dogs in the park was a momentous day indeed. And yes, I did hurry on so there would be no follow up chat – one step at a time…

It was not long before my two-word mantra grew. What and Pardon were joined by “No.”

Friends began to say, “you should write your Autobiography.”

I laughed. Apart from anything else, who would want to read it?!

“No.”

Then strangers began to say, “you should write your story.”

I didn’t laugh then. Outwardly, anyway. I was politer with strangers than I was with friends.

Still: ”No.”

I did begin writing.

Just not writing about me.

And that’s how I liked it.

Publishers suggested I write my story.

“No.”

I started speaking to groups about my story, many of whom suggested I write the book.

“No.” No, no, no, no, no.

But, in the end, beginning to lose count, I thought: ‘how many no’s does it take to make a yes?’

And I realised it was the exact number of no’s I’d said.

So, albeit reluctantly, I made a yes.

And I began to write my story so far.

If you want a synopsis well, I guess you’ve just read it.

If you’d like to know more, I’d be honoured if you read the book. I promise it’s not simply a more detailed description of the momentous day I walked my dog in the park (although, thinking about it, perhaps it could have been: Jasper was a very special dog).

My memoir is called: ‘Still Emily – Seeing rainbows in the silence’.

Life changed that day when I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old.

I didn’t only lose my hearing and my confidence.

I lost myself.

I lost who I was.

Eventually, through pain-full times, I came to realise that I was still there.

Still Emily will be published on May 11th 2016.

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Book launch in Leicester – everyone welcome! Details here.

Check out Emily’s promotional video here

Start with a Smile

This weeks guest blogger is Emily Owen author of her autobiography ‘Still Emily’ which is due for publication on May 11th.

Start with a Smile

I could hear.

Then I couldn’t.

Overnight, I’d lost my hearing.

All of it.

I was deaf (still am).

I joined the 11 million people in the UK who have less than perfect hearing.

When I eventually began to emerge from the shock and depression and scariness of sudden silence, I picked up my ‘surviving hearing loss in a hearing world’ guidebook.

Or I would have done, had such a book existed….

The first time I told an assistant in a shop, “I’m deaf”, she looked terrified.

It was like looking in a mirror: I was terrified, too.

Where did we go after “I’m deaf”?

Neither of us knew.

I knew I could verbally tell her, “I’m deaf,” because I grew up with hearing and speech.

She knew she could hear me say, “I’m deaf,” because, well, she could hear.

What we didn’t know was how to bridge the hearing/deaf divide.

How to meet in the middle.

How to co-exist.

Since that day, I’ve had two choices.

  1. Become a hermit.
  2. Compile a bit of a guidebook of my own.

Tempting though option 1 often is, I went for option 2 (most of the time).

The first entry in my guidebook says, ‘remove the full stop after “I’m deaf.”’

Here are three tips for (hearing) people when they are met with the terror of hearing, “I’m deaf.”

Three tips for removing that full stop.

  1. Remember to relax.

Unless you happen to have a PHD or equivalent in communication, no one expects you to be an expert in dialoguing with deaf people.

We get that you are probably out of your comfort zone when you meet us.

Believe it or not, so are we when we meet you!

We don’t automatically know how to bridge that divide either.

But let’s start with a smile.

  1. Remember that communicating is about getting a message across.

If you and I can work out how you and I can bridge that deaf/hearing divide, that’s enough.

I speak a bit of sign language. My god-daughter doesn’t.

One day, in an effort to get me to understand the thrilling-to-a-three year old tale I kept misunderstanding, she resorted to waving her arms around.

She was trying to copy sign language.

She looked more like an over worked windmill.

But the combination of seeing her lips and seeing the windmill actually helped me.

To my shame, I can’t now recall this story that so obviously rocked her little world.

But I know I understood it at the time.

I’m also pretty sure that not many people use the windmill method.

And that’s ok.

In our own way, message was received and understood.

  1. Remember that we’re all different.

So you met someone last week who was deaf? And they could lipread what you said to them? Well that’s great. But, guess what?

We can’t all lipread.

A bit like just because some people can sing Opera, it doesn’t mean everyone can.

Some of us who can’t hear prefer to lipread, some prefer things written down, some prefer sign language, some prefer typing, some prefer….

Obviously, unless possibly you have the aforementioned PHD, no one expects you to be fluent in sign language but we’re pretty sure you can write things down. Or type them into your phone.

A good way to get started is to write/type, “how do you prefer to communicate?”

*note the question mark, not full stop*

And don’t forget your smile……

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