Monday, March 28, 2011

The illogical - the birthing place of faith

The title of this post was spoken over me just over two weeks ago after a phone call from a friend we haven't seen for over 2 and a half years. This phone call followed a one line exchange on facebook. He is a wise, wise man with a prophetic ministry. He knows what he's talking about with regard to doing the unexpected and unusual! The illogical, not the logical, is the birthing place of faith. Stable and straw. Fishes and loaves. Water and wine. Cross and resurrection...

More remarkably, this guy did not know anything of my thoughts and dreams about the future. The things I would like to see happening. The things I have loved doing and want to do more of. I'm at a place this week of stepping back in wonder and amazement at watching what God is doing amongst people who don't know him yet, to woo them and draw them in.

Just this week in my second Alpha contribution of the day (Morning then Evening!) I had the absolute pleasure of dancing (yes, DANCING!) with grown women (in a hermetically sealed room, doors and window blinds)to a song by Nick and Becky Drake. To protect the innocent I can't say much except that this was a small alpha group and I was the only one who had been part of church for any length of time yet following a comment about how, six months earlier at the holiday club service, a guest had said that the song "That's How You Made Me" had stirred up so much emotion in her that she wanted to investigate more into this ONE who had made her. She said it was such a happy song, it made her want to dance and I just found myself saying: "well, shall we?" (N & B are always on my iPod and we have speakers in our meeting rooms!!)

We danced and danced and God's presence came in this room (blinds drawn!!), I was crying out for joy and we all danced. We danced for joy, we danced with joy, we danced and experienced joy in a deep place.

Later that day, I was the speaker at the evening alpha course on one of my favourite topics - healing. We looked at the character of God to heal in the OT, we examined the mandate given to us in the NT, we looked at healing in church history and finally we looked at the values behind praying for healing. I had received four words of knowledge. I always say that these *might* be right, or they might not be! There were five people there so I reckoned we might be able to pray for one or two of the conditions (and one of them was a word I didn't recognise!) All of them were claimed!

And once the first person had experienced some relief of pain I got them to pray for the next, and so on. I was so touched when one guest said: "But surely I'm not qualified to pray?" He said he received immediate relief from an aggravating symptom and when I suggested it, he was keen to give praying a heart melted when he asked if that was OK as surely he wasn't qualified? I explained God's grace and how we are qualified through Jesus. There was more than one of us in that room with tears in our eyes as we watched someone who might have never prayed before in the name of Jesus for another person's physical pain. His prayer was simple, heartfelt, and (to my mind) prayed with child-like faith.

And so it's been a week where things have happened that I neither planned nor expected. At the same time I have felt deep, deep child-like joy like I haven't experienced for quite a while. The two seem inextricably linked.......

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Abandonment and Children

Yesterday I listened to Mark Stibbe speak about healing abandonment and the orphan heart condition. It was a great day (apart from the pews/greyhound stalls. For 6 hours.)

The author Jacqueline Wilson came to mind so clearly. Not because I was thinking about anything in her past (honest! the leaders' day was about me examining myself!) but because I found my mind turning to the young who are hurting in THIS country, who feel grief stricken and abandoned. How could the church help? What might I be able to facilitate? I was thinking about a meeting I have set up between a secular charity that supports Young Carers and a couple of our missional expressions (MEs). The charity had asked me if they could refer young children and teenagers who are caring for a sick parent to us for love and support. We'd love to help.

This contact has made me very excited about the increasing role the church in Britain could have to drive forward a manifesto of love, without conditions (you need to do this for me, come to this church service for me etc), simply demonstrating the love the Father has shown to us. One of my most favourite topics of conversation with people who are not yet Christians is to honour them in their role of being mum or dad - to thank them for allowing us to look after their children at our clubs/parties/summer club, with genuine feeling I love saying that we just want to support them in the hard task of being a good mum or dad. And I know we hold key information to heal up hurting hearts to make parenting even easier and better. I'm longing for MORE opportunities to show Jesus. I walk through the playground less often now as my children are getting bigger, but enough times in a week to pray for mums and dads waiting on the most precious possession of theirs to hurtle out the doors....

In addition, for children and teenagers who are hurting, what could I write or do one day in future years that would be a resource or a help to them? How could I spread the message of what God thinks; how he longs to heal and help. I was thinking about my links with social workers and my many years in education, and I was letting my mind have blue sky dreams.

But then I thought of how I would love to talk to Jacqueline Wilson, interview her, in order that I could understand her writing better. My daughter devours every book that she writes and she is discussed and studied in class. She has tapped into something that children identify with and writes in a style that engages them.

A central theme in many of her books is that of abandonment. Her characters find themselves in dark circumstances, facing up to the fact that the grown-up world offers death, divorce, abandonment. They feel grief, rage and pain as a result. She is known for writing about the powerful emotions children feel with immense truthfulness rather than treating children as little creatures inhabiting their own sweet world.

There are some fascinating discussions on the Mumsnet forum regarding JW books...but that's an aside!

My daughter recently read the book "Hetty Feather" and was desperate for us to visit The Foundling Museum in London in our February break. We did and I found it such an emotional experience. I would urge any blog readers to go there if you can, its hidden away (use the website to help you get there) and quite small, but immensely moving.

More than 4,000 babies were left at the Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1760, and a small object or token, usually a piece of fabric, was kept as an identifying record. The fabric was either provided by the mother or cut from the child’s clothing by the hospital's nurses. Attached to registration forms and bound up into ledgers, these pieces of fabric form the largest collection of everyday textiles surviving in Britain from the 18th Century.

The process of giving over a baby to the hospital was anonymous. It was a form of adoption, whereby the hospital became the infant’s parent and its previous identity was effaced. The mother’s name was not recorded, but many left personal notes or letters exhorting the hospital to care for their child. Occasionally children were reclaimed. The pieces of fabric in the ledgers were kept, with the expectation that they could be used to identify the child if it was returned to its mother.

The textiles are both beautiful and poignant, embedded in a rich social history. Each swatch reflects the life of a single infant child.

I found it hard to hold back the tears as I walked round this exhibit and I felt the Father say: this abandonment has marked this city (London)

Yet allow me to honour the charity who started the Foundling Hospital. Coram. Founded by Captain Thomas Coram, a philanthropist who wanted to provide care for children left dying on London’s streets, Coram is believed to be the UK's first ever children’s charity. Their pioneering work attracted some historically significant patrons including the artist William Hogarth and composer George Frideric Handel.

Hetty Feather, in Jaqueline Wilson's book, was in the care of the Foundling Children's Hospital in the 1880s and it remained open till as late as 1954, when the Children Act changed what children needed from charities. A move to see children placed with families rather than in institutions re-orientated the work of the charity.

Coram's website says: Over 270 years later, what we do makes a real difference to children. Our adoption service has one of the highest success rates in the country. 98% of parents on our family support programmes say that our work brings positive change.

Father, thank you for the pioneering work done by people who loved children and who still continue this today. Please bless the charity in their task of helping human beings to flourish.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Everybody wants to change the world, but no-one wants to teach Sunday School

This is a very stirring post.

Huge thanks to the person who sent it my way.

"Teaching Sunday School may never be sexy. But it is one of the most valuable, sacrificial, and yes, radical things you can do for a church. So when they ask for volunteers next session, you—yes, you—should consider it."