Sunday, August 22, 2010

The church and support for families

Many readers will have heard about the tragic deaths of eight year old twins Austin and Luke Riggi and their little sister Cecilia (aged 6). They were found stabbed to death in a rented house in Edinburgh after disappearing from their home in Aberdeen with their mother Theresa - who is suspected of their murder and remains sedated in hospital. She was found on the ground below the second floor balcony of the rented house, with severe injuries.

The children's funeral happened on Friday in Aberdeen. More here

So much about this story distresses me. The thought of two of the three children seeing their sibling die in front of their eyes. The mental distress and torment of a soul who took life away so violently. This family - one presumes - were well off materially. Dad is an oil executive. The family worshipped in the cathedral where the funeral took place, together, with the twins making their first Holy Communion there just 3 months ago.

Part of my pastoral ministry role is to support families so I can never blog about details. Suffice to say I am kept busy. But I continue to be moved by the opportunities that the church has to rise up in this area.

I am having lengthy and helpful conversations with social workers. We have respected one another's viewpoints and I have seen an openness I haven't always seen to accept us as upholders of morals and values (whatever you may think of those terms): and as people who genuinely care for and support individuals through thick and thin. I have had opportunities to train many parents outwith the church in positive parenting skills through Triple P and have people clamouring to get on the next course. Thank you lovely Health Board, for spending thousands of pounds on me some years ago for me to be able to show that our church genuinely cares for families and wants to support family life in any way we possible can.

Might it just be possible that we could help avert tragedy? Might it be possible that you and I can be the face of acceptance towards noisy, rumbunctious children, some with behavioural issues that don't fit the "sit quiet" stereotype, some with additional support needs that require money to be spent on the resources in the Sunday School room (there's a joke going on just now about me needing a substantial budget for cushions. It's like the guitar-strings and photocopying budget of the musicians - just plain necessary!!)

Could it just be that Christians living their faith out in family life, demonstrating a difference in the way they spend time together and ENJOY their kids, in thousands of streets all over this country, might just influence people suffering from desperate unhappiness and indeterminable stress in their family life that causes them to do awful things?

I believe that we can effect a change and I'm asking for this all the more when I feel grief over such news stories. Time for those raising children to be prophetically different!

Must read: Foundations of the Christian Family: John and Paula Sandford

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Consumer Church

I know I've posted this cartoon before but I want to post it again. It's by the Naked Pastor, David Hayward. I purchased this so I can post it :-) (legal bit!)

Consumer Church.
I'm fed up with it.

I want encounter with the living God.
I want a community that loves and cherishes me like I do to it.
I want to reach my potential without the fear of unrealistic expectations.
I want to be vulnerable without being judged for it.
I want to love the lost like there was no tomorrow instead of field complaints about structures.
I want to look out and not in.
I want to soak, bask, revel in the deep, deep love of the Father with people who long to do the same.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Spiritual Hunger

Wow, so much has happened since I last blogged.

I have spoken to a couple of hundred people at CLAN in seminars and family ministry sessions and been privileged to watch some very special times of prayer and interaction between mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. So the time was split into teaching sessions and "putting it into practice" sessions - I love this way of doing things!

Over the two days we covered some principles for raising children in the river of God, we looked at some practical ways to bring children into the heart of the church. I taught a little on how children can honour their parents vice versa. We did some prophetic activation amongst family members and in particular looked at the actual (not potential) skill with which children hear things from God. I saw some quite incredible pictures drawn by children in the family soaking time.

One 4 year old drew a tree with an acorn at the bottom. The acorn was clearly recognisable. He said "God showed me this tree when he was talking about me". I asked him if he knew what an acorn tree became. It becomes an oak and I read Isaiah 61. to him. What a special little boy! I love that he, a preschooler, didn't just draw any tree, he drew the one God showed him! His future is in the heart of that passage.

My only irritation post-an event like CLAN was that people said "oh yeah, your seminar was about kids". I feel something rising up in me (NOT anger, probably a little frustration) as the seminars were not just about kids. Its about preparing the church for the harvest to come. If we don't get this right - if we alienate the young and the generation of parents now who don't know how to teach and instill faith in their children - then we lose a generation. More than that, more than this being about numbers, we miss out on what children see with their spiritual eyes, their hunger for experience grounded in total practical reality; the way in which their prayers seem to touch heaven.

I showed a short clip from TACF's Fruits of Revival DVD, which records the ongoing testimonies and ministries arising out of the incredible 1994-to present day outpouring. The clip I showed had Trevor Baker, senior leader at the ARC church in Dudley, describing how he went out to get some prayer during the 1994 outpouring meetings. He describes (very honestly and with real humility) how his heart sank when a small boy came out to pray for him rather than one of the adults. He then describes the powerful encounter he had with God the moment the little boy prayed. Wow, wow, wow, wow.

The speaker on the final night of CLAN spoke about generations coming together and much of what he said, which I am not going to write in detail here (I need to buy the recording and listen to it again) really resonated with me - moreover, I felt affirmed.

CLAN was a really positive experience for us (Mr HIWWC did a little chunk of teaching on the heart of a dad) and I want to honour the leadership team for asking me and trusting me. I felt it was a real privilege to share what I have learned and tried out over the past seven years. We were welcomed warmly and encouraged hugely.

Today I ran team training for our week-long holiday club which starts on Monday. 80 children are coming from all kinds of backgrounds. I'm delighted to have a team of 30this year, with ten of them being really young teenagers. Four of them have just left the kids' programme and want to come back and serve - I'm really pleased about this.

But its a busy week. Pray for us and the other churches near me and you who are running holiday clubs. This is ours here

Last week it was my turn on staff devotions. I spoke about spiritual hunger. I have had a summer of contrasts - I've been in arid places and refreshing places. All part of the journey I think, like the people of Israel! But I know which one of these two places I'd rather be at.

The challenge I am facing - and we all thought about this as a team - is that we can't MAKE people spiritually hungry - its their choice - press in or stay distanced. None the less, I am re-reading the periods of "effusions of the Spirit" throughout church history and I am embedding myself in the stories of societal transformation that I was so into in the mid-90s when the Sentinel Group first released the documentaries: hunger and longing for God to touch the church in Scotland/the UK is growing, we feel it so desperately as a family, to bursting point sometimes. We're sure we're not the only ones.

Please post in the comments if you feel that too!