Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Age Services (HT: ASBO Jesus!)

I have written this post in some way to highlight some of the issues being debated in a helpful and honest way over at ASBO Jesus today. Please check this cartoon out here (I love it!)- please do follow the link so I can honour the copyright and send the click that-a-way to Jon's own blog.

Reminds me of this one from 2006, which I insert on the contents page of any training packs I write for my volunteers :-)

Someone said in the ASBO jesus comments that there is no one strategy that works for every church and I agree with this to some degree. Here's some of my semi-serious thoughts on all age services. There are more under the label "All Age".
However, the following is non-negotiable, in my opinion:-

1. children should not be patronised
2. children should not be ignored
3. the attitude that WE lead the children and they learn to worship from us needs to be binned; the most honest, heartfelt worship to the Father comes from children. Look for the opportunities to incorporate this so that adults are touched/challenged/inspired (choose your own word!)
Check out the children's radical worship (I love to hear children shout worship. We did some very loud ones on Sunday there!) in the temple area in Matthew 21:15-16
I have seen some incredible things happen when children worship, including all of us as leaders kneeling before God and confessing a whole load of stuff because we (who were leading the kids' residential weekend!) watched as a dozen children fell face down in God's presence.They were experiencing God.
4. a strategy for including children should be part of the leadership's vision; you can do all the fantastic songs and creative arty stuff you want but if your pastor/leadership team don't support you and/or affirm the place of children then it makes following on from this much harder.
5. my final suggestion for a non-negotiable value is that the church leader/worship leader/person in charge of worship should be familiar with biblical texts not just on Jesus and children but on the responsibilities of the faith community to nurture faith and build a worshipping community (NB this is actually very helpful when thinking about worship services and new believers of any age. Why do we do what we do? What's the point of it?
More helpful information on this (perhaps?) in this entry.

Thanks Jon! What a great cartoon!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Prayer Request

I have been very moved tonight by the story of little Kate Macrae (HT:Learning from Sophie) - maybe you could join forces in prayer too.

Read her story and updates here

and then have a look at this amazing picture.

Matthew 11:25

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pictures of the Day - Thursday

Today - long walk in Glenmore Forest and later in the day, a visit to see Mercedes the Polar Bear at the Highland Wildlife Park.

I would have posted some of the photos from the latter but the children had control of the camera at that point and invariably photographed snow monkey's bottoms and red panda poo.

How jaunty would YOUR smile be in the crowded Mountain Cafe while your small son shouts loudly, whilst holding the camera: "Can I take a picture of you mummy quick because I need to do a fart!"

Picture of the Day - Wednesday

My picture of the day today isn't an outdoorsy one at all (back to that tomorrow though) as today was a shopping day (for me) and a cinema trip (for the family).
Up is an amazing film but I cried a lot; not just about the obvious sadness in an opening montage, but in the sadness revealed in the little boy's life. I can't watch any film with sad children in it - even if it is animated cartoon fiction - without turning it all over to God for the rest of the day to ask big order questions like "why?" "how long?" "Jesus bring healing" etc etc

Re: shopping while the rest went swimming - I just wanted a few hours to wander round the shops but seeing as this is a 5 week month I couldn't really buy all that much. Still it was therapeutic to have a wander without children and, of course, exercise self-control about all the lovely things I wanted to buy but couldn't in Zara. And same for the boots in Schuh. Mind you, its Clinique Bonus Time in Debenhams - a date I had been eagerly waiting (started Oct 16th) so I managed Something Nice :-)

I wonder what it's like to be able to buy exactly anything you want without having to think twice about it? Not like, in an ostentatious manner, but in that sense of not having to think about it, in that had I bought that £60 pair of boots then my daughter couldn't get a school coat.

I have never ever had the privilege of being able to buy exactly what I want without having to think about it. I expect most of us reading this are the same. And, while sometimes I think it would be lovely, I now welcome the kind of excitement that comes every month when the money has run out and God supplies in unusual and pretty dramatic ways. This past year has seen humbling to the point of fall-down-on-the-floor in hysterical incredulity with the revelation of papa who knows me so well and knows what I/the family need. We are trying our best to teach to the children that good things sometimes have to be waited for, or some birthday wants can only work if the cost is shared with other relatives, or holidays downsized in order that other things take priority.

We are so thankful for incredibly generous friends all round the country who have done so much to bless us - lend us their houses (like this week!), give us a shot of their cars, do lovely things for our children this year in the new place, or visit, write, phone, email and text so very frequently. Sounds quite like Acts 2:46 really.

God, your people are so very, very good. You're an amazing, inspiring Father and I love you so much.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Picture of the Day - Tuesday

There's nothing worse than someone jumping out from behind trees in a thick wooded forest to snap you as you pedal.....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On holiday.....

A sad day yesterday mixed with hope and joy.

I attended the funeral of a young woman who had helped me organise a children's choir one Christmas. I returned to my previous church for a beautiful thanksgiving service. She had been battling cancer for some months.

None of us left without hearing her songs in our head as one she had written one some years ago was played on a loop before the service began and after it had finished. It's chorus was: "our light and momentary troubles are leading us into eternal glory". Her voice was heard clear and loud over the PA system "running, got to keep on running...."

Pray for her work colleagues who turned out in large numbers and were incredibly moved by her faith and courage.

We are away for a few days to Aviemore so no blogging for a bit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Amazing Grace

That last post was far too long!

A short one now.

I posted a song by this wee girl ages ago.

Here is her latest song - she was still 2 years old when she sang this

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unlearning the Unhelpful

I have entitled this post Unlearning the Unhelpful after one of the afternoon sessions from my Vision day on 26 September. It's not out of a book (I know I do use books a lot to help me make a point but I always cite where information comes from and not take credit for things I didn't write); it's a list that came to me on Tuesday 22 September when I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what might prevent him from visiting our churches in greater power. He spoke to me about our love for those with wordly power and prestige; who can make things happen in our churches or donate time and money - and not those who are weak, without a voice and helpless and unexperienced and maybe even unskilled. He reminded me that Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away and yet he sorely rebuked his close friends; his disciples from preventing people bringing their children to him.

I would really love to share the points below more widely within my own church and I would appreciate prayer and guidance on how to do so. We have so much going on (exciting!!) that everything always has to compete a little for time, space and attention and I need to be sensitive to that. I feel tears pricking up in my eyes as I even just think for a second on the kinds of things that happen and are said over children and teenagers every single week in our UK churches.

Last week, at our pre-service prayer meeting, we gathered to pray for the preaching of the word in the service and its effect on the hearers and I felt something rising up within me: WHAT ABOUT THOSE OF US OPENING UP THE WORD TO CHILDREN? Can we be prayed for? Can our youth pastor's team be prayed for too as they teach from the word of God too?

Excuse the capitals, I wasn't angry; having been trained in theological college I utterly agree that preaching is an event where the Word of God is released, but don't the mentions of preaching and teaching in the Bible (proclaiming/declaring/telling/teaching/explaining/announcing.....there are many more!) have something to say about the dynamic relevance of opening up the Word of God to a wide variety of groups of people? I'm totally happy to be corrected and taught by other readers on this one; it is a genuine question I have and one I must ask my SP. He's a good instructor.

I am very grateful to the encouragement a fellow blogger has sent me recently to keep on going; in that they have recognised that there is something driving me, which, in their opinion, could be the missing piece of the revival jigsaw. To hear that from someone I haven't met, who is far away and in a different denominational stream, has meant a lot. Thank you!

Here, then, is my writings on Unlearning the Unhelpful. I post it in order that it may help the hundreds of readers who now visit each week; as you prayerfully go through it I trust that it will help you draw near to God as you renounce things that are not true and replace them with the truth.

I need to stress that there is no guilt in doing so; we live in a world that is FULL of unhelpful attitudes towards children and simply put, we get tainted with this. Today is a time to break free of these and come afresh to Father God to be re-energised with his wonderful heart towards children.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Things we may need to renounce:-

not seeing children as made in the image of God (seeing them as to be tolerated)

•thinking that we have nothing to learn from children

•not allowing children to express ideas and opinions (ignoring faith development studies, where children need to ask questions and test what we say against what they say)

•if we are teaching children, -not giving over adequate time for prep (these are all well known stories I know like the back of my hand) and therefore not allowing the Spirit to speak to our hearts as we read from The Word.

seeing children as bait: if we get them to come to church, we get the adults (the important people)

•believing that squirmy/noisy children are not listening in church when in reality they are taking everything in

not allowing children to experience God taking hold of their imaginations (hence the resurgence I think, of Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play, allowing children to enter right into the stories)

limiting children to our own experience, not allowing joy or sadness or excitedness or the experiential dynamism of the Holy Spirit

•being glad when they have left the service; seeing them as interruptions to our own worship

•if you are a kids' leader, seeing yourself as a babysitting service, missing out on the “main event”

•going “phew!” when children leave the room

•believing that all we need are lovely facilities and the best equipment and then children will be happy (and leave us alone to enjoy God as adults together)

•being a lone ranger and not part of a team

Here is a prayer of renunciation and repentance that I suggested could be used on the training day:

Father, I renounce the lie that _______________________________________
I am truly sorry and ask you to forgive me. I choose today to believe today that ____________________________________________________________________________________ (say here something that is the opposite of the lie that you have believed)

In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Children Seeing Angels

I am heartened by this little piece of research reported in The Telegraph, on children having "dreams with a religious connection" and about children seeing angels, reported here

I spoke about this very topic on the Vision and Training Day on Saturday and I am reminded of many of these occurrences in the past six years of pastoring children and their families. Here are some I have experienced - and I am only one person in one country....:-

A 4 year old drawing the throneroom of God, complete with correct number of creatures around the throne with the prerequisite number of wings.
A 5 year old who has been raised (in her mum's words) in a religious vacuum because of her own atheism, the child never been to church, did not own a Bible, never (at that point of P1) having had any RE lessons in school and yet asked her mum why Jesus had died on a cross. Her mum (not a believer) did not know how she could know this and we wondered if it had come to her daughter in a dream or a vision.
A 6 year old seeing a very tall angel in the church's meeting room and describing its position in the building to me.
A 7 year old seeing an angel in exactly the same position in the building and telling their parent, who told me, neither of them knowing that another child had described the same thing.
A 6 year old waking up in the morning to tell their parents that God had taken them up into heaven and showed them a golden city there. He described the colours he saw and then told his parents that God had spoken to him and said: "there is nothing in the sea that will harm you" (exact words. Not your usual 6 year old kind of words)

I am UTTERLY convinced that we need to release and expect such revelations in our children. Are these to be unusual prophetic manifestations? Perhaps. But perhaps more likely, I believe, is that we who parent, teach or train are to build EXPECTATION in our children; that God is living and active; that he wants to have a positive, godly, heavenly influence on our children's minds, because if he doesn't, then there is one who will. I hardly need to conduct a blog poll to ask how many of us reading this have or know of children who have bad dreams.

Readers, it's time to REDEEM our children's dreams and daydreams for God. Teach your child that God communicates today in all manner of ways. He really, really does. Please note that I will never undermine the importance of the Bible - anything God reveals in dreams and visions is to be tested and matched up against the Bible and in all of the examples I have come across children have heard and seen exactly as if written in the Bible.

Consider the words of the Jean Darnell prophecy given in 1987

The Lord is going to send a tremendous revelation of Himself to boys and girls in this country. Between the ages of nine and fifteen particularly, children will begin to have a revelation of Jesus. They will see Him, they will know Him, they will hear Him, He will speak to them. He will come to them in visions and dreams, He will reveal His word to them. They will be converted and filled with the Holy Spirit and gifted by Him. And they will start praying. They will be healed themselves, and they will start praying for each other; and there will be wonderful healings through these boys and girls.

They will not only be the children of Christian parents. The Lord is going to manifest Himself to those who are in non-Christian homes where there is no love nor real family unity, where there is no knowledge of the Lord at all: perhaps not only for one generation but for many generations no Christian person has been in that family. But Jesus is going to meet them and reveal His power and His presence to them and His love for them. When they start coming to our children and to our teachers and telling what they are seeing and hearing from the Lord, our duty will be to receive them and love them as they are- because they will be rough diamonds, and they will have rather unusual, un-churchy language. But their experiences will be real. Some of their experiences will be so unusual you may doubt them. At that point receive their testimonies at face value, give them the word of God, and teach them how to love: because these children will have ministries not only as children, but as leaders in their adult life, and they will bless your country and other countries. So receive these children, teach them. Those of you who teach Sunday school, those of you who have children in your home and neighbourhood whom you are concerned about, begin to ask the Lord to raise your level of expectation of what they can receive, because they are going to start hearing. And just like the adults, they will start hearing the word and receiving the Lord and being able to receive deep spiritual experiences in the Lord

We need to not only get ready, but to open our hearts to all that God has prepared for our children and young people. It's time to get ready, to get all hands on deck.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


I have had a testing two days. Anyone slightly close to me knows I have an *interesting* relationship with keys. I've already lost a set of keys for this new house we have been in since.....June.

I'm not going to go into it all suffice to say I have been locked out totally and utterly and had to take refuge in the manse (Tuesday) then ran out of petrol 50 miles away with no purse and phone out of charge (Wednesday) but in both of these cases my heavenly Father has intervened pretty hugely saving me from huge cost (thank you kind, kind locksmith) and using his people (the whole staff team for morale boosting, eddie, gary and joanne) because he loves me so. I'm rather dizzy at times.

Our family support group (a requirement for those on staff in this church) met also and brought such kind words from Father God to me; never a truer word was spoken by one of the group though, about there being a tug on my heart. She is someone I hardly have to say a thing to for her to know my mind. She is older than me and more senior in ministry terms. She is from another church, another city, another whole kind of ministry role but I so admire her prophetic ability that I learn from it every time. She is one person with whom I rarely have to speak and she knows what is on my mind.

I have a whole lot going on in my head and heart just now but this I know for sure; I want to be so close to Father God that lots of moments within this family are filled with worshipping and praying and talking and thinking. I don't think I am coping that well with some things coming my way, and I have been told as such too, which is hard to move on from. Oh to be instantly refined - but that was never promised us!

But my love (for the children here, for mums and dads desperately seeking more in every sense of the word, the Christians and the not-yet Christians) is growing stronger rather than waning. But the tug is for more...of more than I can or should write here. Pray as we work this out.

Perhaps you could post in the comments the answer to this question: what tugs at your heart?