Sunday, July 25, 2010

Breathe, Mighty Breath of God

Mr HIWWC and I are preparing for a number of seminars and teaching times at CLAN Gathering this coming week.

I've been thinking and praying and reading and writing for some time about these seminars as they are difficult ones to hit the mark on (anything to do with children, parents, church and God encounters a myriad of views/opinions/theological beliefs and personal preferences - is any wonder some people stay clear?!)

I feel that in some ways I have so little to offer or give - each year CLAN has great speakers and experts in their areas and I seemed to "fall into" being asked to do these slots, mainly,(I think) after I was invited to give some feedback on children/family/church issues. The CLAN leadership listened amazingly and demonstrate such an open heart as they have asked us to lead what is a first for CLAN as far as I know - worship and prayer times for families altogether. Whilst this is not new to me personally; its something I have tried to create opportunities for in the two churches I have been in - I still feel very nervous - because ...well, because of a number of reasons!

My chain of thoughts just now:
> I am hidden with Christ - I am safe with him
> I can't do these talks and ministry times - what do I have to give? I'm so imperfect and sinful.
> I have nothing in myself, BUT FOR GOD, I have no strength of my own BUT FOR HIM.
(sinking to the floor quite a lot today to prevent those words becoming orphan words*)
>Come Holy Spirit, please take all my thoughts about the delegates who are there, what they need help with most, take all my scribblings, my anxieties about not hitting the mark, my pride about not performing well, take ALL THESE thoughts.
> Breathe mighty breath of God on all the notes in front of me, may we do what we do to an audience of one, to you.
> Breathe, breath of God. Bring life and hope through all I say and do as the words you speak always do.I love you, not because I need you, but because you loved me first and found me.

Come mighty breath of God
Move upon this place
Oh, mighty breath of God
Won't you come in power and grace?
(Chris McClarney)

*orphan thoughts often take the form of "woe is me" type statements i.e. they give vent to beliefs that are at odds to our standing as God's children

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unhappy Hipsters

Am loving this photograph.

The theme of the blog Unhappy Hipsters is "it's lonely in the modern world".
I'm not doing any theological reflection - just giggling!

I think Bad Vestments still ranks first for sheer hilarity courtesy of the caption writer(s)but this is coming a close second.

HT to Lincoln for this.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Daughters of Zelophehad

I preached this morning on the Daughters of Zelophehad, in Numbers 27, 36 and also in Joshua 17.

What a passage! I love these women, not least of all for the way they conducted themselves in the light of unfairness/inequality. As the law stood, they would receive nothing in the Promised Land - with no brothers or husbands; their deceased father's inheritance would not pass to them. They brought their case to Moses who asked the Lord, who said: "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".

Think of the reactions the Daughters could have displayed. I’ve thought of three:

1. They had challenged injustice - there was something that was so inherently unfair in a time where land and property was everything. Without it, they were persons without status. They could have meekly accepted that this was to be their lot and simply given up.

2. They could have – and here follows a heavy theological term - thrown a huge strop.

3. Or, a third option – they could have been very aggressive about their rights.

The daughters did none of these three things. This is such an important story as it demonstrates what I'm calling “gentle assertiveness”. I think this comes out of knowing the one to whom the appeal will be made.

The daughters understood that God cared about them.
This is the true mark of a son and and not an orphan.

Their timing was spot on – they had asked at the right time (Numbers 27), then waited (into the final part of the Wilderness journey from Moab into Canaan), then assertively issued a “reminder” to Joshua (ch 17:4-5) – and then received that which was promised to them - and this followed obedience – marrying right. (Nu 36).

They came before God with their request. They wanted a favourable outcome, but they didn’t want it against God’s will; against his best. Oh that our churches and communities become full of people with this same heart. We might be saying: I want this, I need this, there's unfairness at play fair (real or imagined; it matters not!) BUT ....your will be done O Lord.

I want to be like the Daughters of Zelophehad!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Father of the fatherless

This morning just after 1am, the man wanted in Britain's biggest ever manhunt shot himself after he was cornered on the riverbank in Rothbury, Northumberland. You can read about it here.

A guest-house owner, who did not want to be named, told the BBC: "He actually said, the one thing that sticks in my mind, 'I haven't got a dad'... and he also said that, 'nobody cares about me'."

My heart is breaking as I read this. I feel incredible grief in my heart like I haven't felt for a long time. Yes, this man committed murder. This man frightened and threatened innocent people. This man was addicted to steroids and probably suffering from withdrawal which may have affected his state of mind, but his final words exposed his heart. It sounds like, all his life, this powerful man with an impressive physique and demonstrative power and control over others - wanted to be loved by Dad.

I also feel angry. Angry at an enemy who seeks to kill, destroy, break up and tear apart family and take away fathers. I'm actually going to use the word "daddy" as it demonstrates the childlikeness and intimacy of that relationship. We have an enemy who wants to take away daddies. Daddies - Papas - provide security. They hold you when you're crying. They provide shelter and safety when you feel threatened. They speak constant approval over you but because they love you so much, they also discipline within appropriate boundaries. They're proud of you and a loving dad actually speaks these words out loud over you and demonstrably shows that with his affection.

But it's not just the enemy that takes away daddies. We have to shoulder some of the blame ourselves. We have a responsibility to resist the spirit of this age, to unclutter our diaries and prioritise being mums and dads to our children. We have to leave the office early with things undone. We resign from that important position. We may not be able to run that event. We who read this may feel that we do not have much control over our work hours but many people who are not Christians have left or changed jobs or career, dropped pay, travelled abroad or VSO'd - because they have felt that urge to change something. (watch Relocation, Relocation, Relocation for proof of this!)

I don't think many Christians intend for work to take up lots of their time but there can be an insipid and unseen force at play to make many Christian dads incredibly busy. Is this the enemy at work? Is it the flesh? Do we need to be needed? I don't know the answer to this but I know that at times within our own family we have felt a rollercoaster of busy-ness to be upon us (probably rarely but at certain times of the year, like June and December)and we have had to say "NO!" No more! Stop! Rest! Thankfully that is where we are just now :-)

There were three things I wanted to have achieved in June - one an event and two certain pastoral things - but as a couple we decided, no, they will have to wait - wrong call?? Maybe. I'm a pastor, after all. Aren't I to be constantly doing and available? But for space for our family to be? For time to draw a breath? Yes, right call. But I don't always make the right call.....

Over the last seven years in many settings (I want to be careful to say this is at national events and at residential activities as well as in local churches) children have come to me crying about not having time with their parents - but especially dad. Stuck in my mind is the child who wrote on a prayer wall: I pray that I would have more time with my dad.

But what do we do about this? Parents feel trapped. They don't need the voice of condemnation for that is the surefire way to feel trapped. They are in a job that requires long hours.

So what about a few wee practical tips from things I have observed in others and do myself:

* prioritise time with your own kids. Depending on how you do social life - consider this: Resist doing lots with other families or adults where our own children are diluted amongst other children. Consider dad/mum dates - taking one child out at a time for one-on-one: the folks I know who do this say it is of immense benefit, particularly where there are several children each requiring time and attention

* switch TVs/Wiis/DVDs off - ration and limit time on these from a young age (its harder to do this when children are older as they then struggle to find alternatives, whereas young children get into the habit of this) - talk together/play games together instead. I believe strongly that the fatherless generation now is not just about broken families where dad lives elsewhere but is about absent fathers - kids in another room, him somewhere else and little chat inbetween. Home, but absent.

*try family soaking times. This refreshes and invigorates parent-child bonds like nothing else I know. It staves off the enemy. He can't stand it. It brings a whole family into God's presence - sometimes we actually feel the room become different; like electrified in its presence, sometimes we don't but we have been quiet and still for 10 minutes and talked to God in prayer and listened to him; all of us together in our living room.

I first saw this in action at the Families on Fire conference in Toronto in 2006 which I attended with my 6 year old and in 2007 I hosted this conference in Scotland. The family soaking sessions got the most postive feedback of anything I have ever arranged or put on for children and families - read about it here.

To do this at home, all you need are 10-20 minutes, a CD player and CD, and paper, pens and Bible. Email me at if you want further informaton but believe me it's really easy to do and you will probably be amazed at how your children enter into this.

Two church prayer meetings ago I got the children to minister to adults and vice versa during a brief (20 minute) soaking time and it was incredibly powerful. One of my colleagues had popped out to the supermarket for drinks etc (it was an all night prayer meeting) and when he came back he felt like electricity in the air - and asked straight away what had been happening. Children were praying for their mums or dads and other adults and vice versa, I replied.

During soaking times, the prayers are not wordy and not even spoken, we simply rest in God's presence (some people don't warm to the word soaking so just change the word - there are many references to resting in God's presence, meditating on his greatness - see an excellent list of biblical references which I teach from here. Check out the FAQs on the right hand side of the page, particularly the one on Soaking and the Bible).

But back to Raoul Moat. I speak and write of these things because, as Mark Stibbe has written today on Twitter: "We are on a Wilberforce mission. We are after the abolition of fatherlessness and the reformation of fatherhood in the UK and beyond. This is why Father's House Trust exists. This is why we want to address fatherlessness. This is why we want to get a Father heart course into every UK prison". Please support Mark Stibbe as he has recently had inroads into no10 Downing Street itself to help shape UK policy. I feel an Esther "for such a time as this" is upon the Father's House Trust. Please do check the website out.

Christians hold the key; the truth and the life; the way to the Father is the way to be fathered.

In 2007 I wrote about this.

Godfrey kindly gave me permission to reproduce the words of his song then.

Mr HIWWC still sings it as a lament in worship (at our last night of prayer actually, 2 weeks ago). It feels like a song for our nation just now and so apt as I cry about those words from last night: "I haven't got a dad".....

Lord turn Your footsteps towards these ruins
We need You here...We need You here...
Our homes are broken
Our children are stolen
We need You here...We need You here....

Our God and King...Ancient of days...
Alpha Omega, Jesus, Saviour
Work Your deliverance in this place.
Yours is the night...Yours is the day..
No-one is greater...come Lord save us!
Work Your deliverance in this place...

Lord turn Your footsteps towards these ruins
We need You here...We need You here...
In these streets filled with darkness
Our children fatherless
We need You here...We need You here...

Godfrey Birtill
© Whitefield Music UK