Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hot. Topic.

I don't know why I'm even posting this as lots of the comments annoy me so much I can't even bear to read them. I'm just glad I live here and not there as it's much easier in the UK, genuinely. :-(

If I was a children's pastor in charge of WoompaLand (I didn't make that name up! Explore the full horrors of the link in the first line!), I know I would have left post by now.

I was quite tickled by this view "the nursery baby-sitters don't teach them anything, just make sure they don't die"...
That's an encouraging thought for those who run the creche.

Therefore I would never post a comment, would I...............?


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Living in grace not justice

Last November I attended a leaders' school of ministry (if you are near Oxford at all, and can possibly attend this event, do so!) with some folks from my current church and it was fabulous. The teaching there, on the whole, was not new to me however I needed to hear it and it hit me hard. Particularly about walking in the "grace place" (I forgive) instead of the "justice place" (its not fair)

Since moving here, more than ever I have come to really understand that I need to be taught in order to teach others. The minute any of us say: I know that or I know how to do that is the minute the warning bells should start ringing; I don't think any leader is exempt from being taught or open to suggestion. And to have a comment or a suggestion made to you (us) is also not a reason to go on the automatic defence ...well, I know that... or yes, I have done that before....

I remember in October 2007 being taught about the characteristics of a heart of stone - it comes back to me often - is that me? am I doing that? hold on, if I think that there is no way that is me, then is it possible that it IS me?
Most clearly I remember that hearts of stone prefer to "do" rather than "be" and find it hard to be corrected, taught or prayed for.

So I found myself being taught again pretty forcibly about not being in the place of "justice". Hard going, over and over again recently. Oh God, you know me so well. You know what I need to learn.

It's been 20 months since we moved city, This weekend we returned to visit our previous church, where we had been since our teenage years. Apart from clapping and cheering because we were announced as being back for a visit (thanks! we were mortified!!) I wasn't as emotional as I had feared but what was so noticeable was that from the opening bar of the first song, there was complete engagement from the congregation towards God. I'd describe it in a new made-up word: one-heartedness. Heartfelt shouts, cries, whispers, prayers as well as sung words. Quiet moments of congregational adoration towards God. It felt as if people weren't worried about what others think. How I have missed that. I think I noticed these things more because I have been away for so long.

I deliberately didn't go to drop my children off in their groups, as I felt that would be insensitive for my successor as I was hugged by a number of the children earlier and I know I couldn't just have snuck in and snuck out of the hall without there being some warm greetings from the older children (which would most definitely have made me bawl)

Anyway, I'd had a hard and disappointing week. I'd been broken to pieces and asking God for help to be in the place of grace (where disappointment and hurt is OK...we are to let that out!) and not in the place of anger and judgment. A couple of the prayer team prayed for me and one woman with a prophetic gift shared a very significant biblical example with me.

The Daughters of Zelophehad were five sisters in the Bible who lived during the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and who raised before Moses the case of a woman’s right and obligation to inherit property in the absence of a male heir in the family. Zelophehad's daughters argued before Moses and the other members of the court that it was unfair that they could not use their father's right to cast lots and that some provision should be made so they could inherit and preserve their father's name upon his inheritance. Moses took their petition before the Lord and received the following answer:

Numbers 27:7 "What Zelophehad's daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father's relatives and turn their father's inheritance over to them".

The daughters used legal means to get what was theirs. But significantly, Moses, whom they turned to, consulted the Lord.

Don't you love people who pray for you and utter not their own wisdom but ask the Lord what he wants to say? Not only did these verses speak very deeply into a painful and personal situation - but....six weeks ago I was given this passage to preach on - in June!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some SH reflections

Spring Harvest Week 1 - Skegness - been back for a week now, have read some team and parent testimonies for the week, and as my current employers release me for a week to work at SH, I think its always worth doing a little theological reflection on the children and their experience of God.

I have to say that this was probably the most challenging week at SH I have ever had from a leadership point of view; there seemed to be more children than I have ever remembered (in five years); either that or the venue is shrinking!! - we took up every available space for the 3 hours 15 minute programme. This means that children towards the back of the floorspace end up fiddling more, sitting on each other more, and risk stepping on more hands and feet as they exit to the toilets at various points in the programme.

Some of the individual pastoral groups were very full and the "rising 5s", the youngest children, 4 years 9 months onwards, seemed very little indeed and seemed to struggle to cope with the programme at times.

That all sounds negative. It isn't, but I think it showed that on a "bursting at the seams" SH week (which is what the even management want), space for the children's groups is tight. Littler children do need opportunities to run around and move about.

For me, yet again, the opportunity to care for some quite vulnerable children was an immense privilege. I was able to support to a family who had recently lost their father. All the children had opportunities to hear Father God speak to them and these two children heard God speak to them very simply and powerfully about his love and care for them. And when you hear children worshipping to the Father on their own without instruments and without adults singing - oh, you hear something of heaven.

I love how, on the first day, you have been unable to learn all of the children's names and by the end of the second day you know their names, about their pets and their brothers and sisters and some of their quirky character traits and family info. You know who will lose their coat every day and who is going to stay with granny at the weekend.

As a family, we managed to catch a little of the evening meetings, taking our youngest with us to the Big Top to hear Trent, who he is very fond of. The CD had been played fairly constantly on the way down to Skeggie. He's only 7, but we play music of various genres fairly constantly in house and car, so he's pretty up on his worship leaders. Ask him what Track 7 on Brian Johnson's "Undone" album is and he will probably be able to tell you. And he has sung himself to sleep with Matt Redman songs since he was about 2. He can also name Chris Tomlin songs from just one line from the lyrics!!

I have the utmost respect for SH in the whole realm of children and families. I have noticed what I would call an "intentionality about provision" with the Big Start and All Age services. I pray now for every child who attended SH - we know some came with quite significant hurts and from some very difficult situations but they met a God who really, really cares and asks people like you and me to do so as well.

It's not an easy to be a child in 2010. We're all needed to love on these little ones.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Word for Today

Psalm 34:18-20

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Spring Harvest

I have been working at Spring Harvest for some years. For two years I worked with 8s to 11s and this will be by fourth or fifth year working with 5s to 7s with Powerpack. It's an interesting and varied job and not a walkover - my whole family shares in this role and we come home shattered at the end of the week! But I always learn so much from my good friends Kath and Nick, Heather and Chris. Between them they have decades of experience in working with children and their families. They teach and model amazing truth in age specific ways and have real skill in working with children with Additional Support Needs.

This is the kind of week where I can sit at the feet of those who are fantastic at nitty gritty kids stuff; I can help with the pastoral and the theological but love to watch others in the areas I am weak at. I love to watch the sheer genius of the Powerpack guys who can hold the attention of 300 - 400 kids using such carefully crafted ways of responding to God.

Looking forward to it although in the afternoons I have a number of email-able work projects to finish and I have to write ten precis of books that have influenced me greatly.....erk. I know they have impacted me greatly but if I am going to be asked to describe the impact this, I need to organise my thoughts a little.

It's been a busy day, was at church from 9.30am onwards with a few hours at home this afternoon then home at 9 tonight. We have read, prayed, sang many songs, danced, watched, listened, baptised, been anointed with oil and received. I have had to stand in absolute awe at the incisive preaching by the SP. Challenging stuff with a huge response tonight. It was a privilege to watch people be prayed for all over the place. Dear God, continue to speak to hearts following tonight's awesome celebration of the resurrection. Today I've been reflective, awestruck, celebratory, broken (and more)... too many emotions in one day!

Second week of the Easter holidays I have some routine (!) interviews to prepare for and then we're around and about while I have five or six days off (a weekend AND a holiday Monday)

For the first time in twenty months we are visiting our previous church (April 18th): think this might feel not a little weird.

Will post a few updates from Skegness.

Friday, April 02, 2010


My daughter sobbed into my arms again tonight.
She is feeling sadness in ways I am trying hard to teach her to walk through, let go, give over to and walk through with God's real and tangible help. We spent a long time again tonight on this, asking Holy Spirit to come help us. I am conscious of the need to teach her that other people are suffering in much more tangible ways: like not having enough to eat or living in squalor; neverthless her pain is real to her and I would be hard hearted and foolish to ignore it.

But when she experiences hard things here again and again, its hard not to think: have we made a mistake?

An adult shared with me two weeks ago how they moved primary schools due to a parent's job and she was describing the pain her wee spirit felt as she tried to settle. She's 40, so this was 30 years later. It stabbed at me a little when she said it.

Please pray for us if you can - thanks!