Friday, March 28, 2008

This week.........

This week has allowed me to catch up a little on paperwork but also to spend time with an individual facing a personal crisis needing a lot of support, including my physical presence alongside her at some interviews with statutory agencies. I've been disappointed with the attitudes expressed by one or two individual employees (of nameless agencies!!) who most certainly need to learn how to talk to other human beings with understanding and compassion, and to drop the patronising tone.

I met with my co-ordinators team last night and hand-on-heart, this was a meeting I was looking forward to. I love being with them. These guys support me so much not only in the smooth running of all Sunday morning operations for all the kids, but with vision and direction - we really do come together to seek God; the practical side of our discussions took just over an hour and the rest of the evening we could pray for one another and for the children and families.

An incredible sense of PRIVILEGE swept over us again as we prayed - how we felt it! We honestly felt the Holy Spirit bring this right into our hearts! What an honour it is to work with children. ...we get to input into children, most of whom are devoid of cynicism and "that'll never work here" attitudes; most of our kids soak up EVERY good thing taught to them about God's character and attributes and want more experiences of God; they are hungry for him; they listen open-mouthed to testimony and story and then want to have it for themselves; currently our older kids are challenging many of their parents with their desire for reality and experience to go with stories and tradition.

George Barna (my current favourite author) points out that only a minority of teens are expected to remain involved in Christian churches after they reach the age of independence. He says, "Teens do not go to youth groups for music and games, and they will not attend 'adult church' for music and preaching. They demand transcendent adventures and supportive relationships. They need an outlet for their desire to have a positive affect on the world and to synchronize their inner drive to be needed with the needs of those in the world that have little." from Real Teens (2001)

He goes on to say that teens are "seeking a compelling experience".

This leads me to ask something perhaps more bluntly on this post than at any time before on my blog - are we - or let me personalise it - am I allowing children and young people to seek compelling experiences, free of my own parameters and limits, free from my cultural expectations and - dare I say it - prejudices? What does it mean when Jesus said "unless you change and become like little children....." ...could this possibly be one of the most provocative statements to challenge our way of doing church today (assuming we allow it to provoke us?)

Little children experience. Full Stop. They don't muse, ponder, weigh up, analyse or reflect. They run headlong into arms of love. They bury their heads in the father or mother or caregiver. They can do this physically and they certainly do this emotionally.
They receive love through this experience. This can bring nurture and growth or, if lacking, bring attrition and harm.
On this every psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, sociologist agrees.

And yet we have spent years inputting head knowledge into children.
It's time for a change.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More notches on the theological bedpost....

Two more assignments done; that's two more courses completed. I was fairly pleased with the results; they were on the Good to Average sliding scale of the CAS (common assessment scale). I'm never going to set the theological world aflame with my academic ability as I balance studies with everything else in my life. Seems like my high marks remain in the realm of Old Testament Studies and just perhaps in my practical placement - my supervisor was very kind in his halfway assessment :-)

I pick up another two courses mid April, one NT (Paul's epistles) and the final OT theology course. But before the middle of May I have 8000 words to write reflecting on my current pastoral initiatives taken with families and the pastoral care of new Christians, adults and children, within an intergenerational context; reflecting on this theologically and also demonstrating critical awareness of wider issues within my work context. Just a little task then.

Need to dig out my Ralph Neighbour cell stuff from a few years back......and take lots of reading to Spring Harvest. I'm working with 5s to 7s during the day again and I usually manage to get some reading done at night time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Last post was about joy; seems appropriate that this one is about mourning as we approach Good Friday.

We have three half hour meditations on Good Friday, 12, 12.30 and 1pm. I'm leading the middle one, from Mary's perspective.

I've been preparing using some music that sounds like a lament from deep within (by Alberto and Kimberley Rivera) and I'm finding sadness well up as I identify with Mary, losing her son who was, after all, "still her little child".

I had a miscarriage some years back and God's helped me with that more than I could ever ask or imagine. I am deeply moved by Mary's submission to the will of God, to lose the child she brought up and saw grow into an incredible human being.

God, meet with me as I remember that your death wasn't a neat storybook tale nor some romantic myth; but full of pain and sadness and separation from those who loved you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I've had a great day.
I'm just loving what I'm doing in work.
On the academic side, I really liked my last two classes, even though I found the time they took up were eating into other areas of my time.
My children were tired and kranky today big time (granny babysitting on Fri night = later night for them), but I've enjoyed them, more so this morning it has to be said!
Family cell at teatime tonight was - wow - amazing. Even though my little boy was - difficult. Then found out he was running a temperature!

Oh dear....I sound kind of tiresome to be around, don't I?
In chatting over my strengthsfinder results with another person, it was suggested to me that positivity, one of my themes, has a flip side.
It can annoy people.

I think I live and operate under a comment of blessing that was made to me when I was 14 years old. I'm quite old (but still in my 30s!) so maybe none of my readers will remember the band Heartbeat, who visited my church in 1984. I had just become a Christian and filled with the Holy Spirit in an amazing and dramatic way and I could just NOT STOP bubbling over, praising God, feeling loved, joyful and content. Even though lots of other parts of my life were not easy and straightforward and were causing me pain - my mum and dad, for example, were really unhappy that I was coming to church - I felt joy deep down more or less all of the time. This, folks - is the work of the Holy Spirit!

While Heartbeat were setting up, I was joyful and bubbly - I can't remember what I said or did but I remember thinking "these guys don't know me, perhaps I'm just being too enthusiastic" and I apologised to them for being uber-joyful. And one of the band said: "don't ever apologise for being excited about God. Always hold onto that". Those words really stuck with me. Makes you realise the power of the words we speak - and I would add - particularly the power of words spoken to what Bronfenbrenner calls "the developing human person" - children and young people.

Sure, I get grumpy. If I'm upset or stressed at work it's really clear to see. And my poor family will get the worst bits! But I find, in refuelling times with God, the deep joy returns. The wonderful dichotomy that exists for me as a Christian is that I can actually cry and feel sad (see Thursday's post) yet still have a deep sense of joy and excitement about the goodness of God shown to me. I am frequently moved to tears as a wave of gratefulness comes over me. Need a hanky every prayer time!

I find that this sense of joy is closely related to my devotional times with God. And in being obedient. Drop the obedience part, drop the sense of the presence. And I've been very disobedient in my time. These are times that I don't recall with pride and I remember them full well.

So (back to topic) - I think on that day in 1984 a word was spoken to me that was a word of life; that not only gave permission for joy, but encouraged and blessed the expression of joy. Words that brought life not death, blessing not curse.

What do you think - can people be so annoyingly positive that it's just too much?
Are there times when joy, excitement and happiness should be kept under wraps?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reflections on the past week......

It's Thursday night. I have experienced a lot of emotions in the past seven days, some tears, some joy and a very tangible sense of God's presence. It's actually been quite a week and, as usual, there's a lot I can't go into detail on.

In the past seven days I have worked my usual 0.7 of a week but also submitted two assignments to college. I'm always writing assignments right up to hand-in day, so last night was a 2am job as I really had to fulfill my job requirements during the day and then go to the business meeting at night. I'm not at work Mondays and Fridays usually but that's all gone out the window this term as I am working on a final practical theology placement till end-April.

I've been very sad this week at the death of an amazing Christian woman who would do anything for the love of children. She would really would do ANYTHING for you; and supported me in untold ways; phoning every Monday for prayer requests, helping look after babies for daytime alpha, ready to lend a hand to vulnerable mums I came into contact with. She'd babysit for folk I referred to her from the community who were under real stress and we prayed together for a number of them. Although she had been ill, her death came very quickly. Yet today at the funeral there was a real sense of the triumph of God; that death really has been overcome!

I was very touched at the number of young mums who came from our toddler group; who do not attend church but who wanted to pay their respects to a lovely woman who knew what it was to stick close to Jesus.

So that was today. I'm very grateful to the pastor who I sat next to at a meeting yesterday who naughtily kept me chuckling throughout the event we were attending. Respectful chuckling of course. He wouldn't have known how apt his comic interventions were .....waters of refreshing!!

I don't think he reads blogs but just in case
- this picture is for you ----->

The last two weeks have also been marked by a quite unusual sense of God's presence. As already hinted at in another post, God has been tangibly very near. I do tend towards the touchy-feely rather than the analytical "let-me-think...?-is-this-really-God" kind of approach but believe me, I've been in this game long enough to never live by my feelings (I feel a Nicky Gumbel moment coming along - faith, fact and feelings are walking along a wall. Who follows who?)

But I really enjoy feeling my Father's love and I never want to stop feeling that.
And if I don't feel it, I still know it to be true. I love him so much and am eternally grateful for all he has done for me. I've been waking up feeling so loved ...and humbled....I was at another event this week which started off with a prayer reminding us that we are miserable sinners. It was all I could do to not jump up and down crying out "I'm a child of God, made for the King!"

So I've been sad for and with friends this week, I've mourned and laughed, I've prayed my socks off over some issues this week, I've worked hard and now intend to rest; but I know God is very present.

Last year's atonement theory class was best summed up for a lot of us by this great quote from Karl Barth, when asked to sum up his theology, replied: "...Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so"

Yaahhooooo - a great theologian speaking at a child's level! Bring it on!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Just for fun......

Time for something completely different......

haven't done one of these for ages.
Just for fun - if you want to (but come on you lurkers! You can still stay anonymous)

Copy and paste the options below and then respond with your first answer (one word only!), in the comments section below or take it on to your own blog, tagging another five people if you like.
For an inner glimpse of who you really are!! (yeah right!)My response is in the comments.

facebook or bebo?

long hair or short hair?

creme egg or mars bar?

hills or beach?

Baptist hymn book or Tim Hughes?

Madonna or Kylie?

24 or Lost?

schooldays or world of work?

bagel or croissant?

alone or together?

I tag Guacamole Girl, Brodie, That Hideous Man, Amie and Graham.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Team, team and team

This post is really made with heartfelt thanks and thoughts of those who "labour with me" in kids and family ministry, in particular in the regular weekly activities that happen.

At every opportunity that I am humanly capable of (because I am human and I do run out of time and energy!) I try to praise and encourage people who volunteer with me. They are the wheels that make the motion happen! The local church is a place where we can serve, where we can experience team, where we can experience something of what it is to serve in ways that aren't just using words. I've just finished reading Bill Hybel's book about the power of volunteering; the joy that comes from volunteering, the massive impact that can be made by the things we do and the way a church can not only transform itself from self-centredness and consumeristic me-pleasing but transform society. The book is packed full of examples and encouragements. Do read it, if you are involved in any sort of team. Or want to be! :-)

I'd planned a lunch today for parents and children aged 8-11, sent out an information letter, tear off slip etc and did my best to estimate the numbers fairly accurately for the couple doing the catering after the morning service. As the number of bodies increased, we realised that, instead of 60, there were over 90 present! I really did pray an increase over the 3 soup pots, as did other team members - there simply wasn't enough there and guess what - everyone was fed. Thank you God.

Then the ABSOLUTE STARS (the 8s to 11s leaders) took 52 children away to play for 45 minutes while I introduced a new curriculum to the assembled parents.

I became somewhat indisposed after a short closing prayer made to dedicate this new curriculum up to God (if you were there, then you know what I mean; it wasn't planned for; like I would deliberately embarrass myself right in front of 50 watching parents!!) I got up to find that the 8s to 11s leaders and other supporters had washed the dishes, cleared the tables, put all the chairs away, were hoovering the floors, had packed down all my AV equipment....and countless other tasks. I love to see the outward manifestations of the presence and power of God but hand on heart I love just as much the warm feelings and sense of envelopment that comes with leading a team who serve; people who see a need and go meet it without being asked. Who understand what you need to have accomplished next and go work towards it with you - not for you - WITH you. It's like a deep, unspoken language. To me, it represents the Trinity; of mutual and unending interdependence, motivated by love.

Guys - if you're reading this (and I'll be writing to you during the week!) - I love you and appreciate you!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Experimental posting

I'm doing a preaching and communication course. I was given this recording of myself in December. I'm experimenting. Thanks to Talk Rhubarb for technical advice (and THM for technical advice two days ago!!)

My "teach" is in two parts, although it was delivered as one. I don't know how to edit two media files into one, without going into Quicktime (ha. there's an oxymoron!) I haven't the time for that!

part 1 is here. There is a 20 second period of quiet just after I start. I didn't fall asleep. Something happened to the recording. So persevere if you really want to listen to me! There are a few annoying emmms then they die out as I get going....! (think: express train and no stopping)

Then part 2 can be listened to here. Starts with a bible reading.
It gets interactive at the end with folks moving about so it tails off quickly.

It takes a minute or two to download, so a few people have asked me how long it lasts and what's it about. It's got lots of visuals but you can still follow it - it's about calling families to the task of evangelism together using the parable of the wedding feast; in partnership with the Holy Spirit who draws people to himself and with the Father, who goes out again and again and again to invite people to the banquet (Matt 22:1-10)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Coming soon .......

oh the embarrassment - just received an email from a church leader on the north of the city to say that they saw my smiley coupon on a very large screen at a conference at Holy Trinity Brompton on Saturday - on the new Alpha Invitation Promotional DVD being sent out to thousands of churches. I didn't know it was ready to be viewed yet! I was told May. I haven't even seen it yet!

A copy is coming up with the Alpha UK Director to be shown at the Scotland Vision Day on Saturday, so I'll squirm under my seat at that point (I always think I sound about 12 years old when I hear my voice played back)........

Monday, March 03, 2008

Kingdom Outbreak

I am attending a Preaching and Communication course organised by these folks and have been very struck by one fact; one we all know; about Jesus' mandate to preach good news, but when I let the realisation of this hit me again last week, it made an even deeper impression on me......

It's from this passage here: Luke 4: 14-20

Jesus preached - or taught - in the open air. I do like the fact that Michael Quick points out that there are nearly 30 words in the New Testamant to describe preaching. Makes me feel goooood - proclamation and teaching and expository preaching and telling good news are all kinds of preaching. So my playground/Costa chatter can all be construed as preaching in a non-confrontatinal form! But to my main point - Jesus' mandate was to bring God's word OUT THERE, not merely to us IN HERE. A couple of books have been referred to on the course and he who presents pointed out the authors assume that preaching happens within a church service.

Hold on, hold on, cultural context today is important. Many people may point out that the early church didn't have buildings where people came to sit and listen; interaction took place OUT THERE so therefore preaching happened OUT THERE - no buildings = street preaching?? Yet every little fact I discover in the Bible is there for a reason, therefore (watch out, here comes Lynn's hermeneutical thought!) my reading of Acts 2 illustrates that the disciples spilled out onto the street i.e. they were gathered in a private place (a house) where presumably words of instruction, encouragement and teaching were used and then they were OUT THERE in the street proclaiming God's words to the assembled crowd.

I've also been reading about the early Anabaptists, gathering in fields and woods to preach God's word, bring people to repentance OUT THERE (because they weren't allowed to preach in the churches; till this decision was they were seen as too subversive to be OUT THERE!) and then baptizing the new believers.

I ask the questions: is this something we have lost, to our detriment? Preaching the good news on the street or in the market place? And I press in further with this question: how can effective OUT THERE preaching be done in the post-modern, post-Christendom affluent West? What models work? What can we try? I have to say with all my heart that I believe it can only happen with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, as Paul said in 1 Cor 2: I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

People OUT THERE are fed up with words, words, words (maybe we're not IN HERE. We like words. They make us think and reflect). People OUT THERE need more. "So what?" they might just say to our words. Please note: I am not knocking preaching, my preaching-friends who read this. We need to be prodded, taught, challenged, inspired. But I wonder if something that was meant for OUT THERE and IN HERE has solely become for us IN HERE! People need to see the kingdom of God - I want to see the "now" come to pass. It *is* happening in all parts of the world. I love reading about Dream Teams in shopping malls in the USA and people coming to faith on municipal dumps in Mozambique (and as an interesting aside, children are also involved in all of the above. Contact me for more information if you're interested!)

And so was our theme on 10 Feb in the all age service. Take the good news out. Build our faith. Praying Acts 4:30-31 out together. Being people of all ages of faith and love and power, not of empty words. I showed the video clip (below) - please do watch this amazing story of an outbreak of the supernatural kingdom of God and preaching and conversion - and we all together, grasping people's individual names in our hands (those for whom we wanted to see a breakthrough), cried out to God for that which happened in one wealthy Californian town to be possible here - with our faith firing our vision of what the power of God, the powerful witness of the community of the family of God standing AND the preaching of the Good News can bring.