Andrew Peterson in Concert

15 July @ 8pm

(Doors open 7.30pm)

Scrabo Hall, Mill Street, Newtownards, BT234LN

Tickets available at the door.

Andrew Peterson is a Christian singer / songwriter, storyteller and award winning author from Nashville, Tennessee. Since his last visit to Northern Ireland in 2013 Andrew has been writing books, releasing albums and playing sold out concerts across the United States. While his most recent album, The Burning Edge of Dawn, debuted at no. 2 in the American Christian Bllboard Charts, his ability as a wordsmith and his determination to pursue the heart of God despite the brokenness of everyday life give his music an authenticity and richness that sets it apart. This year Andrew will be accompanied by the ridiculously talented Family Band, made up of his sons Aedan and Asher, his daughter Skye and his wife Jamie. Don't miss it!!

The death of Death

Every day, down through the centuries, people with heavy hearts have stood around open graves and lowered the bodies of their loved ones into the ground. Today it is our turn to perform this ancient ritual, yet the familiarity of the act does little to still the emotions that jar and clash inside my heart. Grief. Joy. Longing. Pain. All clamouring for a moment in the spotlight, determined to take their rightful place.

She was a remarkable woman, this grandmother of mine. The way she knew and remembered every story you told her, long after you had forgotten it yourself. Her steadfast faith. Her ceaseless prayers. Her generosity. Her gentle smile. The endless supply of unconditional love. She touched lives quietly and without fanfare, leaving behind many whose stories are richer because she crossed their path.  

With a faith that was forged in the fires of heartache and trial she was no stranger to the scars death leaves in its wake. While faith was always the anchor for her grief, it was not unusual to find her with tear-stained cheeks in a quiet moment. Despite all she knew of resurrection and hope, the wounds of sorrow ran deep and she was not afraid to whisper an accepting yes to grief.

Today we will do the same.  

Yes to the waves of sadness that will take us by surprise in the days to come.

Yes to the moments of longing.

Yes to the tears that accompany the resurrection of long buried memories.

Yes, because this grief is the cost of loving and being loved in a broken world.

My friend Sam Smith recently wrote this message to my daughters; “It is what it is, but it is not what it shall be”. There is no denying the sadness we feel in this moment but, at the same time, there is no holding back the joy of knowing this grave is only a small part of the story.

If she taught us anything, Granny taught us that death is not the fearsome enemy he wants us to believe. She taught us how to look beyond the fresh mound of earth and, even in the presence of grief, choose to live in the light of the resurrection. For all the loss and heartache she carried, she never surrendered to despair. The hope which burned within her would not allow it.

She knew that if we claim God in the good times, we must trust him in the difficult times. She taught us with her words and with her life, clinging doggedly to Him as her physical strength began to fail. Even in her final hours, stooped and weary, she gave us glimpses of the faithfulness of God that have forever changed my understanding of death.

On Wednesday, the day before she died, I abandoned her usual reading plan. The passage for that day just didn’t seem appropriate. Quietly disappointed that God would let her down like that, I turned instead to 2 Chronicles 20 v 17, simply because it was the verse I had been reading with friends that morning.

“You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.”

At some point in the early hours of that Thursday morning, Death made his final advance. As he took the blow that should have sealed his victory, he found instead that he had fallen on his own sword, freeing her forever from his grasp. As she slept, the God who promised never to leave her fought the final battle on her behalf. The outcome was never in doubt. That is the enduring impact of the cross and that is the heart of the God who was faithful to the very end. 

Two days later we gathered to pack away her things. The wheelchair and the walking frame. Glasses and hearing aids and her clock for the blind. There was a note of triumph in the room as we filled boxes with these once vital belongings, now cast off like a winter coat on a spring morning. Piercing through the grief came an intense longing for a place I have never been. A familiar stab of joy that came without warning and set my soul ablaze with hope.

I know that grief will fight on in the coming days. Longing will come without warning. Pain will cast its long shadow. However, in the end, only joy has the power to remain. As Francis J Roberts said, “We are not in the land of the living facing death, but in the land of the dying facing life”. In her final couple of days, Granny began to talk about music she thought all of us could hear. In the silence of the nursing home she heard singing. Not just singing but loud, beautiful singing. Choirs of people praising God. Perhaps, in hindsight, we should have guessed.

At the end of The Last Battle, CS Lewis gives a glimpse of what life will be like for his characters now that they have finally made it to their true home.

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

The truth is, the body we are placing in the ground today is just an empty shell. Granny is more alive than she has ever been. We grieve for ourselves, for the loss and the parting, but for her there is only bright, resounding joy. Knowing what we know, holding on to what she taught us, how could there be anything else?

We love you, Granny. We’ll see you in the morning and you can be sure there will be stories to tell. 

To my girls, on your baptism

To my beautiful daughters,

Last night in our church, surrounded by so many of the people we love, I watched you stand up together and publicly share your faith in Christ. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I cried. Not just last night but countless times over the past week. I cried again this morning as the reality of it hit me.

You know that I cry easily and often. It's been that way for a long time. Happy things. Sad things. Beautiful things. They all make me cry. You've been around me for long enough to know that. However,  as I reflect on what took place last night, I want to take a moment to explain why the emotion that has overwhelmed me this week has a deeper root than I suspect you fully understand.

I know what it means to follow God and I know that sometimes it is hard. I know that we live in a broken world with sharp edges which pierce your heart and leave you breathless with pain. I know that sometimes the questions in your head scream so loudly you can barely think. I know that who you want to be is rarely who you are and that the reality of it can all too easily drag you down. 


I also know that God is faithful. That, despite the failures and the pain and the disappointments, He can be trusted with your heart. I know that, often when you least expect it, He will surprise you with joy that is richer than anything you have ever felt before. 

I don't know what life has in store for you. If I could, I'd wrap you up and protect you from every shadow that falls across your path. I'd fight every dragon and banish the darkness with words of love. The truth is, amongst the rich tapestry of life, there will be dark days. Days when you feel lost and alone, adrift in a world where you don't quite belong. I need you to know that my tears are not for the heartaches you will face, although I would spare you them if I could. I cried because I was overwhelmed by the absolute certainty that you are going to be ok. I don't know what you will face, what choices you will make or how long I will get to walk beside you on the road but I know this: The God you have trusted has been faithful to me through every moment of my life and He will be faithful in every moment of yours.  

I knew I didn't deserve to sit there watching as my deepest prayers were answered. Your Dad and I have failed you so many times. You see the side of us that no one else sees. You know that we are far from perfect. You know that we argue sometimes and that it's not pretty, that I can be unreasonable and unforgiving. You know the things we do can contradict our love for God. Yet, despite our stumbling, God has managed to captivate your hearts. We see that in you and we are deeply grateful. My prayer is that you remember our flaws, not so that you can copy them but so that you will always live with the freedom of knowing that God still uses imperfect people.

I was reminded again yesterday that we are not the only ones who love you. You have so many people in your life who are cheering you on, supporting you and standing beside you. We are so thankful for all the friends who have had the courage to show you what it means to live as part of a community of God's people. Never forget the lessons they have taught you. As you grow, don't be afraid to be extravagant with your love, just as they have often been with theirs. Just as God has always been with us.

As I listened to you speak with confidence and watched you step out of the water dripping wet, yet grinning with happiness, my heart was pierced with a joy so deep it almost hurt. Whatever you achieve in life, whether great and noble or seemingly insignificant in the eyes of the world, I need you to know that nothing will ever matter more than this choice you have made to follow God. If you only ever remember one thing I have told you, remember this: To pursue God is to pursue life. Out of that one choice, repeated in the countless moments of every day, will flow a life that is full of purpose and rich with joy, even in the shadows. That, above all else, is our desire for you.

~ Mum

Carving out rhythms

Sometimes you have to be intentional about the path you take. When I was a child, my parents had a good friend who often skied with us. He approached every slope in the same way. Regardless of the contours of the mountain, the visibility or the presence of blind ridges, he pointed straight down the hill, picked up as much speed as he could and hoped that it would end well. I always looked on with a sense of horrified anticipation. With his balance entirely at the mercy of the terrain, every turn carried the real possibility, even the likelihood, of a spectacular crash. His style was chaotic, risky and volatile.

In contrast, I loved to watch the skiers who had grown up in the mountains. Each turn looked effortless, yet I knew enough about skiing to realise that the clean, perfectly formed lines they left in the snow were evidence of a lifetime of training. The instinctive shifting of weight that seemed second nature was born out of endless hours on the hill. Turning. Carving. Again and again and again until the line between body and skis became blurred.

One of the lines from JJ Heller's "This Year" has been stuck in my head since the start of the year.

"Let's fight a good fight, train our eyes to find the light and make this year the best one yet."

Train our eyes to find the light. The pace of 21st century life does not lend itself easily to the rhythms required for that kind of training.  Sometimes it seems that every waking moment is held hostage by phones and clocks and pick-up times and meal preparation. An endless list of good things that so often banish the best things to the "maybe someday, when life calms down a bit" list.

It turns out that this problem has more to do with the human heart than the century we find ourselves living in. Right back at the beginning of His journey with the people of Israel, God placed rhythms into the life of the nation. Markers to return to again and again, forcing their days, weeks and months into a pattern which would draw them consistently into God's presence, whatever the circumstances.

There is something deeply calming about being intentional in the way we come to God. Intentional about the place. Intentional about the time. Even intentional about the words. Carving out gentle rhythms that train us to listen for the voice of God. 

Our relationship with God was never meant to be shaped by our emotions and our circumstances. I sometimes wonder when we bought into the lie that we have no part to play in our relationship with God. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that we can work to make God accept us. The fact that God embraces me in my brokenness, simply because of what Christ did on the cross, is an unshakeable truth that holds me firm when everything else gives way. 

The difficulty comes when we try to apply that same principle to knowing Him. His love for us is a constant, immovable force which surrounds us whether we squander it or live in the good of it. 

Knowing Him intimately is a choice. 

It's easier to believe that we can sit back and wait for God to show Himself. The hard work of pursuing Him in His Word, or waiting for His voice in the silence, or choosing obedience when it is not convenient are sometimes exactly that; hard work.  Some days, it's all we can do to show up. Yet, over the passage of time, these countless daily choices form the rythms of our weeks and months and years, carving out patterns that draw us consistently into God's presence and train us to listen for His voice, whatever the circumstances.